Title: X-Wing: Knights of Plooma
Authors: JediMara77 and Lane_Winree
Genre: Action, Humor, and lots of Awkward Sexual Tension
Timeframe: 18 ABY, between the Corellian Trilogy and the Hand of Thrawn Duology
Thanks: To George Lucas, Tim Zahn, Mike Stackpole, and Aaron Allston
Theme song: "A Little Less Conversation"
Summary:Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade are recruited by Rogue Squadron to assist in diplomatic negotiations on a backwater, neutral planet where Old Republic Jedi are still revered. To their utter dismay, they are forced to pretend that they are married...for two very long weeks.
The New Republic Delegation:
Luke Skywalker - Jedi Master
Mara Jade - businesswoman, captain of the Jade's Fire, sometime Jedi apprentice (when she feels like it)
Captain Corran Horn - Jedi Knight, Rogue Nine
Major Hobbie Klivian - Rogue Four
New Republic Military and Support Staff:
General Wedge Antilles - Rogue One, Commanding Officer
Colonel Tycho Celchu - Rogue Two, Executive Officer
Major Wes Janson - Rogue Three
Captain Gavin Darklighter - Rogue Five
Captain Inyri Forge - Rogue Six
Major Pash Cracken - Rogue Seven
Captain Myn Donos - Rogue Eight
Lieutenant Ferys Soldam - Rogue Ten
Captain Dorset Konnair - Rogue Eleven
Flight Officer Eris Rusarian - Rogue Twelve
Talon Karrde - information broker, captain of the Wild Karrde
The Plooma Delegation:
Jon Gemar - Ploomian Ambassador to the New Republic
Valara Lissiri - Director, Ploomian Security Force
Murray Dyartes - Intern, Ploomian Security Force
Fiolla Flotto - Jedi Historian
"Any idea what this is about?" Corran Horn asked.
Wedge Antilles, Commanding Officer of Rogue Squadron, offered a noncommittal shrug. All he'd been told was that General Cracken needed to speak with him and Corran as soon as possible. "Cracken obviously wants the Rogues for something. I assume it's some combination of PR worthy and dangerous. He'll emphasize the former but in reality it's far more of the latter."
Corran raised a brow. "The fact that I know you're speaking from experience frightens me somewhat."
"Be frightened, Horn. Very, very frightened."
Wedge stretched his arms, trying to get comfortable in the hard-backed chair while they waited patiently in New Republic Intelligence headquarters. Fleetingly, he struggled to recall an instance where he had escaped from Cracken's office with good news. Usually any orders from Cracken involved either himself or his entire squadron being sent to dangerous stretches of the Galaxy to engage in affairs that were borderline impossible and decidedly deadly. Take Coruscant one year, wrestle away a backwater world known for its arms manufacturing from the Imperials another year. They all had the same starting point—a visit with General Airen Cracken, head of New Republic Intelligence.
"The General will see you now," the perky secretary said from across the waiting room.
Within seconds, Wedge and Corran were shuffled into Cracken's office, seated in front of his rather ornate looking desk.
"Thank you for arriving so promptly," Cracken said, peering over the top of the datapad in his hands. "I trust you'll want to skip with the pleasantries and get straight to the point, General?"
Offering a faint smile, Wedge nodded. "If you would be so kind."
Cracken reached for a control panel on the side of his desk, depressing a few buttons. The lights in the room dimmed and the holoprojector at the center of the desk came to life, displaying a rather nondescript looking temperate world.
"This is Plooma."
Wedge blinked, turning the name over in his mind a few times. "Plooma? Are you sure that's not some sort of..." He trailed off, rubbing the back of his neck. "Data entry error?"
The NRI director merely gave him an expressionless stare in return for a few moments before continuing on. "The Ploomian local government has expressed interest in aligning themselves with the New Republic and, I can assure you, the Senate is quite interested in securing their allegiance. Plooma is naturally rich in a key resource."
"And what would that be?" Corran asked.
Cracken shook his head. "That information is classified right now. For the sake of this conversation, we'll call it unobtanium."
"What kind of a stupid name is 'unobtanium?'" Corran asked, earning a sharp glare from Wedge.
"Needless to say, the Senate is quite insistent that we put on a good show for the Ploomians. They want to capitalize on this interest to ensure they commit to the New Republic."
Corran crossed his arms over his chest. "This all sounds easy enough to me. Why drag the Rogues into this?"
"It's not the Rogues specifically this assignment calls for," Cracken explained. "You'll play an important part, but I asked to meet with you two for a reason." He turned off the holoprojector and returned the room's lighting to its normal state. "Plooma isolated itself from galactic politics prior to the fall of the Old Republic. Our preliminary investigation of their culture indicates that they still hold the Jedi in rather high regard. This goes far beyond the respect the Order has earned throughout the New Republic. For the Ploomians it's more of a hero worship."
"So that explains why you asked for Horn," Wedge said, pointing his thumb at his fellow Corellian. "Doesn't explain why you need the rest of my squadron."
Cracken seemed to hesitate for the briefest of moments. "Plooma is situated a few systems away from Bastion and the heart of the Imperial Remnant. It's believed that they also have a vested interest in mining the planet's unobtanium—"
A snicker from Corran briefly interrupted him.
"—And given that they are within striking distance, we believe there is a distinct possibility that armed conflict may arise."
A frown formed on Wedge's face. "You know, General, this is starting to sound awfully familiar. Far-flung, isolated planet with resources both the New Republic and the Imperial Remnant want, strange hero worship, and the potential for the situation to get ugly in a hurry? If you cross off Plooma on these mission parameters and replace it with Adumar, I'd swear that I've already done this before."
"At least you probably won't have to wear a dress this time, sir?" Corran added, earning another cold glare from Wedge.
"I admit the intel you were given for Adumar wasn't up to our normal standards," Cracken said. "I assure you, we've gone to great lengths to ensure this won't happen again. While there is a chance the Remnant could involve themselves in our delegations with the Ploomians, we don't believe the risk is too significant. The Rogues will merely be there as a precaution."
Doing his best to refrain from sighing, Wedge offered a nod. "Very well. I think I've got a grasp on what you're asking of us. Is there anything else we should know about?"
"Nothing pressing, but there is one task that needs to be accomplished before you can depart. Per Senate regulations, the diplomatic envoy will need to be staffed by four members. It's been requested that two more Jedi be added to this mission, in addition to Captain Horn. I will also insist that another Rogue be added to the envoy. I'd like a military presence down there."
"I don't count?" Corran asked.
"Not if you keep bouncing back and forth between Starfighter Command and the Jedi Order, Captain," Cracken countered. "Given that you will be in charge of this operation, General Antilles, I will allow you to select the additional diplomatic staff."
Standing, Wedge snapped a half-hearted salute. "I'll have a set of names forwarded to your desk as soon as I can."
With that, Wedge and Corran left the Director's office.
Wedge fully understood why the Rogues were being asked to participate in this assignment. He was aware of how important it was for the New Republic to secure the allegiance of a planet such as Plooma given the resources it had to offer. Still, Adumar had left a foul taste in his mouth. Being shot at by the Imperials and the locals on what should have been a blue milk run assignment hadn't been enjoyable in the slightest. His last diplomatic mission had been bad enough, but this time NRI and the Senate were dispatching his entire squadron.
Cracken could rationalize and minimize all he wanted, but if this was truly a low-risk mission then another active-duty squadron would have been sent in place of the Rogues. The threat the Imperial Remnant posed to diplomatic relations between Plooma and the New Republic must be greater than what the Director was letting on. Unfortunately, the mandate and assignment had already been handed down. Wedge may not have liked his marching orders, but he would carry them out to the best of his abilities.
"Have anyone in mind to fill out the delegation?" Corran asked.
"I've got one," Wedge said. "I think I'd like to ask them in person. I'm open to suggestions for the second vacancy, though."
Corran rubbed his chin. "I might have someone in mind. I'll get in touch with them and let you know their decision ASAP."
"Sounds good, Horn. I think I'll venture off to speak to my person as well," Wedge replied, and they went their separate ways.
Corran took a seat at the comm terminal in Rogue Squadron headquarters. It had been only a few hours since he'd spoken with Wedge and Cracken, and he'd spent most of that time deliberating on which Jedi Knight should accompany him to Plooma. When Wedge had first proposed the idea, his thoughts had immediately gone to one person in particular. Corran had initially dismissed the thought, thinking it ridiculous, but the more he thought about it, he knew it was the right decision.
Still, that wasn't going to make this any easier.
Grimacing, Corran input the personal comm frequency that had been provided by his wife, Mirax. A few moments later, a red-haired woman with a scowling expression and hard green eyes appeared on the screen in front of him. "What is it?"
Corran grinned at his friend's typically harsh demeanor. "Hey, Mara. Catch you at a bad time?"
Mara Jade's expression immediately softened as she recognized her friend's voice. "Corran! Hold on one second." He saw her move to flip a switch, and then her eyes locked with his through the HoloNet connection. "Sorry about that. I had the visuals turned off. Skywalker's been bugging me lately."
"Ahh, that explains it," Corran chuckled. Luke Skywalker, the galaxy's only living Jedi Master, had been doing his best to convince Mara to complete her Jedi training since they'd first met almost a decade ago. Corran had met Mara at Luke's Jedi Praxeum seven years earlier, but she, like him, had left before her training was complete. While Corran had later completed his training and become a Jedi Knight, Mara was still running around in the smuggling circles and doing her best to avoid her obvious destiny.
And although Corran would never say it to her face for fear of dismemberment, everyone close to them knew that she and Luke Skywalker obviously held pretty strong feelings for each other, being that they both antagonized the other so well.
He suppressed that thought and focused on Mara's curious expression. "Anyway, I bet you're wondering why I called."
"Yeah, you could say that. What's going on? Mirax mentioned you needed my help with something?"
"Yes…actually, it's not just me, really, but all of Rogue Squadron."
"Oh?" Mara raised an eyebrow.
"Actually…all of the New Republic."
"Oh, yippee," she replied sarcastically. "Go on."
"See, there's a planet interested in joining the New Republic—Plooma."
"Plooma?" Mara repeated incredulously. "Are you making this up?"
"Do you think I could make up a name like that?"
"Good point. Continue."
"As I was saying, Plooma is interested in joining the New Republic. Apparently they've got lots of natural resources that have been relatively untouched, one in particular that is very hard to find, so of course Intelligence wants to swoop in and woo them to our cause."
"Okay, sounds reasonable. What's my part in this?"
"Well, see…" Corran struggled with how to say his next words. He remembered vividly all the blow-ups Mara had with Luke about her Jedi training, and didn't want to incur Mara's wrath. She may not be the Emperor's Hand anymore, but she still had a very short temper.
He decided the direct approach was best to use on Mara Jade.
"Plooma has been isolated from the rest of the galaxy since before the fall of the Old Republic. They managed to stay out of galactic affairs during the Empire's rise to power and the Civil War. As such, they still very much revere the old Jedi Order."
"Okay," Mara said cautiously. "Again, where do I fit in this?"
Corran sighed. This was going to be difficult. "Do you remember the Adumar situation a few years back?"
Mara's eyes widened slightly. "Yes…"
"Intelligence thinks that a similar approach would work well here."
"Let me guess—but using Jedi Knights instead of pilots."
Corran wrinkled his nose. "That's basically it, yeah."
"And my part in this would be…?"
Corran grimaced at the iciness of her voice. "They're sending me since I'm part of Rogue Squadron and a Jedi. General Antilles requested that I ask another Jedi of my choosing. I'm choosing you."
Mara stared at him for long seconds. Corran struggled to hold her gaze without flinching.
"I'm not a Jedi Knight, Corran," she said, her voice deadly soft.
"I know, Mara, but you're close enough that the Ploomans…Ploomians…whatever they're called…won't know the difference. You're the first person who popped into mind."
"Yeah, and why is that?"
"Because if I'm going to have to sit around and participate in boring diplomatic negotiations, I might as well go with someone interesting." She almost cracked a smile at his statement. "See, you agree with me! Everybody else is so boring," he practically whined.
This time, Mara did smile. "Why don't you invite Skywalker? He would love to be a part of your little diplomatic process. Plus it would be a Rogue Squadron reunion."
"No way. I like Luke and all, but being stuck with him like that would be a perfect way to subject myself to lots of boring Jedi Master lectures."
"Whereas with me you could spend your evenings drinking and playing sabacc?"
Corran grinned. "You got it."
Mara gave him a friendly laugh before turning all business again. "As lovely as this proposition sounds, I just can't commit to this right now. My shipping business is starting to take off and I can't leave it to go gallivanting across the galaxy with Rogue Squadron."
"Aw, c'mon, Mara, surely you've got people who work for you. And I'll even ask Mirax to help you out while you're away. You know she'd be more than willing to assist you."
"That's all well and good, but it still doesn't change the fact that I don't want to go advertising myself as a Jedi when I'm not."
"Why not? You afraid Luke will find out and pester you about it?"
Mara's green eyes shot daggers at him, and this time, Corran did flinch. "I can't right now, sorry. I've got better things to do, and besides, this mission sounds like it has the potential to go horribly wrong. Talk to you later, Horn."
He saw her arm move, but he spoke up before she could cut the connection. "You sure about that, Mara? You wouldn't want me telling anyone about the lightsaber incident, would you?"
Mara's arm immediately dropped and she sat up straight in her chair. "What did you say, Horn?"
Corran leaned back and threaded his hands behind his head. "You know—the lightsaber incident."
"I remember," Mara ground out. "What about it?"
"It would be a pity if someone important were to find out about that…someone, say, like Master Skywalker?"
"You wouldn't dare."
"Oh, I would dare."
Mara narrowed her eyes at him, and Corran could see her weighing her options. He smirked. "It's such a fun story, too. And I think that Luke would be most interested in hearing it, don't you think?"
She glanced to the side, taking deep breaths while she mouthed out counting to ten. She turned back to him, giving him the coldest of stares. "Fine. You win. But if you think I'm going to make this fun for you, you've got another thing coming."
"Of course you'll make it fun, Mara—remember, lightsaber incident."
"Be on Coruscant in a week. I'm sending you some preliminary information now."
"See you later, Mara. And don't forget to bring your most diplomatic of outfits."
"Oh, go kri—"
Her reply was cut off as Corran severed the HoloNet connection, grinning profusely at no one in particular.
This was going to be a fun trip indeed.
It had been a long while since Wedge had been to Yavin 4. The last time he had seen the forest moon was the result of a trip to visit the infant Jedi Praxeum with Qwi, or as Iella liked to call her, the One Thing Corran Horn Was Right About. Well, there were other things Iella called her, but those weren't exactly appropriate things to say in polite company. They weren't exactly appropriate things to say in front of a briefing room full of war hardened pilots, either. Perhaps the quickest way to bring out Iella's wrath was to simply mention the name Qwi Xux.
Admittedly, everyone that had told Wedge that it would never work out between himself and Qwi had been right. He probably should have listened to Corran all those years ago. And Wes. And Hobbie. Not to mention Tycho, Inyri, Gavin, Kell, Face, Myn...
Shaking his head, Wedge dialed his flightpath for atmospheric approach. Before long the cloud layer gave way to Yavin 4's treetops. In the distance, he could make out the ancient temples that had once served as the Rebellion base of operations. A chill ran down his spine as he recalled the frantic escape they had made following the destruction of the Emperor's first Death Star. With the nearly complete loss of Red Squadron, Wedge had been folded into Renegade Flight under the command of Arhul Narra. Before long the flight would split in two, forming the early incarnation of Rogue Squadron.
Had that really been eighteen years ago?
As he approached the ground, Wedge kicked on the repulsorlifts and cut back power to his thrusters. Skillfully he eased his X-Wing into the Praxeum's hangar and set down with the gentlest of thuds. Wedge went through his power-down sequence before keying for the canopy release. Almost immediately he was hit with a rush of hot and humid air, bringing back even more memories of his time on the moon. They all had been eager to get away from the stuffy atmosphere. Then they wound up on Hoth.
"Well, I can't say I expected to see you drop by today," a familiar voice called from the ground below.
Wedge grinned and undid the straps holding him to the flightseat, peering over at Luke. "Well I was in the area and thought I'd pop in to say hi. Think you can bring a ladder over here?"
"Sorry, we don't have starfighter ladders here," Luke said. "I prefer my students get the chance to practice using the Force to decelerate their falls."
"Of course I am, I'll have one wheeled over for you."
Twenty minutes later, Wedge was seated with Luke in the rather spacious mess hall. Most of the students were apparently busying themselves with their studies, leaving Luke with a rare moment of downtime. For a long while they merely talked about everything and nothing at all. Luke asked how Iella and Syal were doing. Wedge told him that they were fine and they were expecting a second child later in the year.
"So why are you really here, old friend?" Luke finally asked, propping an elbow on the table.
"What?" Wedge asked defensively. "I can't pay a visit to my former boss and check up on him?"
"Not when you're commanding the Rogues. Or are you back working for Ackbar again?"
Wedge rolled his eyes, "I'm with the Rogues. Actually, that's why I'm here."
Luke raised a brow.
"How would you like to get away from here for a little while?" Wedge asked. "Nothing much, just some diplomatic nonsense. Go in, shake a few hands, put on a show, return home as heroes of the New Republic. Or something."
"And if this is so routine," Luke said, "why are the Rogues involved? Isn't diplomatic escort a little beneath your skill sets?"
Wedge rubbed the back of his neck. "Well. There is the little fact we'll be going to a world that may or may not be on the Remnant's wish list right now."
"Hence why the Rogues are involved."
"And why you're asking me."
"Well, that and the fact that the planet we're trying to recruit reveres the Jedi Knights," Wedge stated.
"Reveres Jedi Knights?" Luke repeated. "Well, that would be a nice change of pace."
"Exactly," Wedge smiled. "The planet is called Plooma—"
"Plooma?" Luke echoed skeptically.
Wedge shook his head. "Yes, Plooma. I said the same thing. Anyway, NRI wants to use Jedi as part of the diplomatic envoy, to get in good with the Ploomians."
"And as the head Jedi, you thought you'd ask me?"
"That about sums it up," Wedge said. "Cracken assures me the chance for conflict will be low, but it would be nice to have another former Rogue involved. So how does a paid vacation away from the daily rigors of the Jedi Academy sound to you, Luke?"
"I don't know," the Jedi Master replied with a shrug. "I can't just up and leave. I've got responsibilities and things I have to—"
A shout from the hallway interrupted him. "Master Skywalker! I think Kyp broke his leg again!" Luke winced, rubbing his thumb and forefinger over his temples.
"Third time this week," Luke grumbled. "So...when can we get going?"
"Would now work?" Wedge responded.
"That'll do just fine."