A/N Okay, this is the last post! I hope you aren't disappointed, my twenty-five or so readers who have followed this all the way through. Thank you! And thanks to everyone who reviewed, especially Bookworm! It really warmed my heart. Please do remember that this was the first fanfic I ever wrote, and my writing has improved a lot since then. Hope it satisfies you, anyway!
TIE fighters! Caeben lit a blue streak in two languages, Kyell occasionally throwing in the colorful phrases he'd learned in the Rebellion while Jae sat stunned and speechless, mentally going through his list of mechanics' curses. An entire squadron of TIE fighters headed straight toward them.
"Arra, the quad guns," Captain Matock finally said urgently. "Take Tallen with you." The two disappeared. "Jae, stick with me and let's see what you can do with the turbolaser. The targeting is already on to those fighters—I'll handle the grenade launcher."
Kyell bolted down the ladder and into his seat, throwing on the restraints as he studied the controls. Over his shoulder and through two gravity field changes Arra was already blasting away, howling his pleasure with the upgraded laser gun.
Adrenaline kept Kyell from collapsing, but the stim-pill had completely worn off now. Pushing away the effects of all those interrogations, he grabbed the controls, lined up a TIE fighter, and blew it out of the sky. The quad gun was working at twice standard energy and repeating speed.
Kyell tracked another TIE, chasing it to the other side of the Wind, where Arra took care of it, roaring a battle song. Kyell continued triggering his quad gun again and again, and he managed to destroy three more fighters within the same number of minutes. Some of the TIEs' shots were still getting through, but the deflectors, working at three or four factors above standard, were handling it without a problem.
The young Rebel quickly jerked out four more shots at another TIE fighter, and the last one clipped its nearer wing. The fighter whirled away toward the planet, pulled by Crenellia's gravity well. Kyell Tallen wasted no time, but turned to another fighter coming toward the Wind. One of Caeben's grenades took it out, and Kyell realized with a shock that they had destroyed the entire squadron.
Meanwhile, Caeben's evasive action had kept Jae clutching he edge of the control board with one thin hand, fighting nausea brought on by whirling stars as he struggled to man the turbolaser. At last he got enough used to it to actually aim, only to discover that it was too late. There were no TIE fighters in sight.
"We got 'em all," Caeben said, grinning triumphantly. "You can relax."
But they were now in range of the moon base.
"Emperor's dark heart!" Caeben swore reflexively as the tractor beam locked onto them.
Jae sagged in his seat. It was all over. All his effort and planning and hard work was for nothing. He was afraid he would vomit.
Kyell appeared in the cockpit, pale and excited. "What's going on?"
"Tractor beam," Caeben said in despair. "It's all over."
"No, it can't be." Jae rallied his resources as Arra entered the door. "There must be a way."
"Throw on all sublight power," Kyell said. "Full away. If you've got everything upgraded like Arra told me, it might be enough to break through. This is only a third-rate little garrison, after all."
Caeben threw all switches as far forward as they would go. The engines hummed with the gigantic amounts of energy coursing through them. The seconds ticked by as the four companions sat tensely and listened to the straining engines. Jae silently begged his soldering to hold together. Just a little bit longer, a little more power . . .
Kyell sat at the dataport and began piecing together a code. If this didn't work, perhaps a little virus in the Imperial databanks would at least exact revenge for the Empire's newest victims—them.
At the last second before the sublight engines overheated, they broke through and shot away from Crenellia and the moon. Instantly the planet hailed them.
"Sylel Wind!" It was Mynan Shelpion. "Sylel Wind, surrender or be destroyed!"
"Forget it, Imperial scum!" Caeben whooped. "We're gone and you can't catch us!"
With that, he pulled on the hyperdrive levers. They burst through in a kaleidoscope of stars, hurtling into the pearly safety of hyperspace. They were free.
Free as the wind.
A day later the Sylel Wind drifted in space a few parsecs from Crenellia while her crew put a new course into the navicomp. Kyell Tallen was returning to the Rebellion with three new recruits and a marvelously upgraded freighter. Right now, though, the young Rebel lay in the med facility, resting after being treated for malnourishment and dehydration from his imprisonment.
"How are you doing, Kyell?"
Kyell opened his eyes to see Jae standing over him, thin face glowing. The young man smiled and sat up, pulling his little brother into another embrace. "I couldn't be better, Jae. It was worth it all to get you back."
Jae drew away to look at him. "Why did you come back to Crenellia? There was no reason to."
"Oh, there was plenty of reason. I found some of Shelpion's files while slicing, and when I saw you might be alive. I could think of nothing but finding you. And now I have." Kyell reached out to touch a fading bruise on Jae's cheek. "I wish I could get my hands on that Kaltyk, though. Arra told me how he treated you. How are you feeling?"
"I'm fine. Caeben and Arra have been taking good care of me while you were getting better. Arra says I won't need any more azhali treatments—my back is almost all the way healed."
"Good. And thanks for rescuing us, by the way. Caeben told me all you did, working yourself to the point of collapse."
"What else could I do?" Jae squeezed Kyell's arm. "You were in trouble, and I could help."
The young Rebel's face darkened. "And I couldn't do a thing." He brightened suddenly. "Except for that virus. While Caeben was whooping over the com I shot it to the Imperial databanks. Hopefully that's causing trouble for Shelpion."
Caeben's voice came over the ship com. "Brace for acceleration. We're about to re-enter hyperspace."
Immediately the ship lurched beneath them, throwing Jae into Kyell's arms and pressing both against the bulkhead for a moment. In moments the grav field compensated, and the brothers found themselves sitting on the bunk, their limbs still tangled together.
"Thanks for the warning," Kyell said dryly.
"We aim to please!" Caeben replied mischievously, then shut off the com.
Jae laughed and playfully struggled to escape as his brother held tight and tickled him. At last he pulled away and rested by Kyell on the bunk, flushed with exertion and breathing hard. Kyell put his arm around the boy's shoulders and held him close. They had both been alone and orphaned for too long. Jae leaned on his brother and found that the loneliness, his constant companion for over five years, was gone at last.
"Where are we going?" he asked, more to hear Kyell's voice than for any other reason.
"To join the Rebel starbase at the edge of the galaxy. After our escape from Hoth, we set up there." Kyell was silent awhile. "When I went to Crenellia I never thought I'd be bringing back two smugglers and their ship."
"Arra's decided that the only way to rescue Woothiramilla is to join the Rebellion, and Caeben has his own grievances against the Empire. They're decent beings—they wouldn't survive in a Imperial galaxy. Besides, Shelpion probably has bounties out on all four of us by now."
"No doubting that!" Kyell chuckled and hugged Jae's shoulders. "Come on, let's go give that Caeben Matock of piece of our minds for pulling that 'warning' on us."
Jae laughed and followed his brother out.
Governor Shelpion had demoted Anlessic and half the moon base personnel, but it was not enough. He wanted the Wind back.
And he was not going to get it. Shelpion paced back and forth, muttering to himself. He was cut off from the galaxy, for a brand new virus was playing havoc in the computer system, and the techs were helpless against it.
The governor stood at his window and shook his fist at the stars, but he could not catch the Wind.
No one can, after all.
It is free.