First, those interested in reading Iris Bailey's original short story "Retribution" can find it at http://downtime.echostation.com/fanfic/index.htm. Second, I feel that a warning should be posted about some of the content in this story. It may not be appropriate for all readers. Within lie depictions of torture and its effects on the human body. There are also a couple of sexual situations. If you are a child or can't handle reading explicit violence, do not read this story.
There are three people who were essential in the making of this book, and I would like to take a moment to thank them. First and foremost, Iris Bailey. It is only with her kind permission that this story is being posted at all. "Retribution" was such a great story that I just needed to know more details...so I made them up. Thanks for your support, Iris!
Secondly, Kelly Grosskreutz. Thanks for letting me share my work and returning Corran to the wonderful character he should be. It would have been an injustice on an Imperial scale to have left him the way he was in those Jedi scenes.
And finally, Kanwal Saluja. Without her this story would not only be confusing and inconsistent, but unfinished as well. Thanks for your patience and encouragement, Kanwal. I couldn't have done it without you.
The characters that have appeared in previous Star Wars novels are property of Lucasfilm, Ltd. Captain Amaryl Assay, Admiral Tesh Dorass, First Officer Azzeh, and the name of Tycho's droid belong to the author. Any other characters presented here that have never been seen in a Star Wars novel are property of Iris Bailey. Do not repost anywhere without the permission of the author!
General Wedge Antilles (human male from Corellia)
Colonel Tycho Celchu (human male from Alderaan) Rogue Leader
Major Wes Janson (human male from Tanaab) Rogue Twelve
Major Derek "Hobbie" Klivian (human male from Ralltiir) Rogue Eleven
Captain Corran Horn (human male from Corellia) Rogue Nine
Captain Gavin Darklighter (human male from Tatooine) Rogue Six
Lieutenant Ooryl Qyrgg (Gand male from Gand) Rogue Ten
Lieutenant Myn Donos (human male from Corellia) Rogue Seven
Lieutenant Inyri Forge (human female from Kessel) Rogue Eight
Flight Officer Rekdon Pinkar (Devaronian male from Devaron) Rogue Two
Flight Officer Arata Voran (human male from Berchest) Rogue Three
Flight Officer Varnestra (Mon Calamari female from Mon Calamari) Rogue Four
Flight Officer Rehm Shra (Sullustan Male from Sullust) Rogue Five
Major Bror Jace (human male from Thyferra) Rogue Plus
Rogue Squadron Support Personnel
Captain Nawara Ven (Twi'lek male from Ryloth) Rogue Control
Shi'dora (Twi'lek female from Ryloth) Chief Mechanic
Whistler (Corran's R-2 astromech)
Marca (Tycho's R-5 astromech)
Gate (Wedge's R-5 astromech)
Jawaswag (Gavin's R-5 astromech)
New Republic Military
Admiral Ackbar (Mon Calamari male from Mon Calamari) Commander-in-Chief of New Republic Armed Forces
Major Ajene Tuvora (human female from Contruum) Special Forces
New Republic Intelligence
General Airen Cracken (human male from Contruum)
Captain Garik "Face" Loran (human male from Pantolomin) Wraith Leader
Lieutenant Kell Tainer (human male from Sluis Van) Wraith Five
Elscol Loro (human female from Cilpar)
Sixtus Quinn (human male from Ord Mandel)
Crew of the Pulsar Skate
Captain Mirax Terrik Horn (human female from Corellia)
Crew of the Errant Venture
Captain Booster Terrik (human male from Corellia)
First Officer Azzeh (Mon Calamari female from Mon Calamari)
Crew of the Paladin
Captain Amaryl Assay (human male from Thyferra)
Moff Lathel Tchlinda (human female from Fondor)
Admiral Osiel Turpa (human male from Commenor)
Commander Jarice Cright (human male from Coruscant)
Lieutenant Tonar Heblon (human male from Saluja 4)
Admiral Tesh Dorass (human male from Kuat) Commander of Qsartun Fleet
The canopy of Wedge Antilles' snubfighter opened with a hiss, releasing the atmosphere from within. He removed his helmet and ran his fingers through his sweat matted brown hair, reveling in the cooler air of the hanger. The whine of repulsorlifts cut through the hanger and the smell of hydraulic and cooling fluids rose to his nose. There was a chaotic flow of people throughout the hanger common when a squadron arrived. All of this was familiar to him and more than a little comforting. There was no place that he felt more at home.
A technician put a ladder up against the smooth gray surface of his X-wing. He left his helmet on his pilot's couch and clambered up and over the side. As he descended the ladder, he glanced down the side of his ship, at the long lines of kill silhouettes stenciled there. They ran most of the length of his cockpit in several rows of varying lengths. The technicians who painted the tiny ships had long ago given up trying to represent each and every fighter that he had shot down, so each fighter represented a squadron's worth of kills.
Running alongside those images were the two Death Star representations and more than two dozen half and full capital ships, including several Star Destroyers. But to him it didn't show that he was an exceptional fighter pilot. They symbolized the many years that he had been fighting for the Rebellion, now the New Republic.
Too many years, he thought.
"General Antilles?" Shi'dora, Rogue Squadron's Twi'lek chief mechanic, approached him from the rear of his ship. Her lekku, commonly called brain tails, swung loosely behind her as she walked across the hanger towards him.
"Did you have a good trip, sir?" she asked. She ran her hand along the stabilizer of the lower S-foil, watching as her techs started to go over Wedge's ship. When he did not reply right away, she turned to look at him. "Sir?"
"Sorry, I was just thinking about how many years I have been doing this." He shook his head as if to clear his thoughts. "Yes, everything went smoothly. Very routine. Quite dull in fact."
"Good. That means less work for us then." She smiled, but when Wedge did not return her smile, she leaned in closer and looked straight into his eyes. "Have you been performing self diagnostics while stuck in hyperspace? I have heard that humans have a tendency to over think things."
She continued to look at him with her dark ruby colored eyes. Wedge resisted the urge to look away. "There's nothing wrong with a little self-evaluation. And speaking of diagnostics, could you look at the port horizontal booster and power couplings? I got a red light on the flight back."
"Yes, sir. I'll have someone look into that immediately." She turned around, tossing him a casual salute, and moved on to the next fighter. She knew that he obviously wanted to change the subject and knew better than to press the matter.
He started towards the exit that led to the rest of the facility. The main base on Coruscant was one of the largest in the New Republic. It spread across dozens of immense buildings, housing not only hangers and operation centers, but also a large part of the military personnel. It was on this base that Wedge had an apartment that he called home. And that was where he was headed.
Crossing the hanger, he nodded to Tycho Celchu, Rogue Squadron's second-in-command. The Colonel nodded back, confirming what they had discussed before landing. He would take care of the squadron details and report back to him later.
Wedge glanced at some of his pilots as he headed out, trying to gauge how they were feeling. Over the last few months they had been reduced to escort duty when they should have been out in the thick of things, defending the New Republic. They were escorting freighters from one backwater system to another and shuttles from ship to ship. They had been very effectively pushed into the background. Only Wedge's return to their ranks had brought their morale back up to acceptable levels. He had been away from the squadron for eight months, leaving Tycho in command. I was off playing General with the big ships.
It was not until his return to the squadron a few weeks before that he realized how much he had truly missed flying. While in command of various battle groups or capital ships, his time in a cockpit was limited. And even when he did fly, it was usually in a shuttle or transport. It was at that point he had begun to reconsider the direction his career was taking. He had thought long and hard about it, going around in circles for days and finally ended up back at the place he had started. Rogue Squadron was the only answer.
He had asked, no, begged, Admiral Ackbar to return him to what he was best at, the command of a fighter squadron. The Admiral had been forced to agree to his proposal, especially since no new assignment had yet been found for him. He asked to be transferred back to Rogue Squadron.
And here I am.
He was proud of Rogue Squadron and all they had done, even in his absence. Since he had rebuilt the squadron that Luke Skywalker had founded, they had accomplished much. Including the defeat of Ysanne Isard, almost single handedly taking Coruscant, or Imperial Center as it was called then, from the Empire, and freeing the bacta producing planet Thyferra, averting a plague that would have killed billions. They had been the elite squadron whose name alone put fear into their enemies. They had been given the perilous missions, missions that some said were impossible.
He smiled at the thought of Gavin Darklighter, the youngest pilot in his group, stating in a briefing before yet another difficult mission: But impossible is Rogue Squadron's stock in trade.
His smile died as another of Gavin's comments came to mind. And now we're baby-sitting.
Some of his pilots had taken their new duties as an insult, while others couldn't comprehend why they were being so underutilized. He tended to agree a little with both. And he didn't feel that way because he was Wedge Antilles, Hero of the Rebellion. He knew that his people could be much more useful if they were out in the thick of things, making a difference in the war against the remnants of the Empire and various Moffs and Warlords. Others may think that was egotistical, but he knew it was the truth. He knew that his pilots deserved better than this.
Wedge noticed Captain Corran Horn climbing down from his green and black fighter. He was speaking to a nearby tech, making sure that his R2 astromech, Whistler, made it safely to the ground. Next to his wife, Mirax Terrik Horn, there was nothing that Corran cared more about.
Corran was about the same height as Wedge, which was a shade shorter than average. His light brown hair and intense green eyes made him one of the more hologenic of the pilots in the unit. He had been through a lot in his time with the squadron, but it had led him to his wife and to the truth about his heritage. Corran's grandfather had been a Corellian Jedi Master, and he had discovered that the "gut instinct" he had often relied on was his own growing sensitivity to the Force.
Lieutenant Ooryl Qyrgg, his Gand wingman, crossed from his ship to talk to Corran, so Wedge kept walking towards the hatchway, giving them a casual wave as he passed.
Continuing on his way out, Wedge saw Gavin Darklighter climbing up and over the side of his fighter. He felt a dull ache in his chest as he saw the expression on the young man from Tatooine's face. It had been about a year since the death of Asyr Sei'lar, the Bothan pilot that Gavin had planned to spend the rest of his life with. He made a mental note to speak to Tycho on what to do to try and get Gavin turned around.
Wedge smiled at and returned the salutes of several other crewmembers before reaching the exit. Overall he was relieved at what he saw. His pilots seemed to be in good spirits despite their current duties. Of course, the five days of downtime they were about to enjoy couldn't have hurt either.
Wedge finally reached the hatchway and returned the salutes of the New Republic guards posted there. He kept his gait casual, but he couldn't wait to get to his quarters and strip out of his sticky flightsuit.
As he walked down the corridor towards the turbolift, he ran a hand across his face, scratching at the stubble on his chin. He felt weary all over, more than he should after such light duties. He was amazed how tired he could feel after sitting in his cockpit for hours doing very little. But it wasn't only that. There was something more.
Shi'dora was correct in her assessment that he had been doing a lot of thinking during transit. On his way back to Coruscant, something had occurred to him. Today was his thirtieth birthday. He had completely forgotten about his own birthday. And as he sat in the solitude of hyperspace, he realized that the more he thought about it, the more turning thirty was really starting to bother him.
Am I getting too old for this?
It was a thought that kept coming into his mind more and more often of late. His birthday was just the latest event that had turned his mind to that subject. He knew that being a hotshot pilot was a job for the young.
And just when did you stop thinking of yourself as young?
He knew that being too old to be a pilot was not the root of his problem, especially since there were pilots in his own squadron, and of lesser rank, who were older than he was. It was almost as if it masked other feelings that he had suppressed.
Feelings of regret?
Wedge had been with the Rebellion for most of his adult life. He had smuggled for them and actively joined them after his parents had been killed when he was sixteen.
That's nearly fourteen years I've devoted to this way of life!
He had lost everything that had been important to him on Corellia, leaving a void that was hard to fill. Smuggling, then joining the Rebellion, had filled it to a point, giving him a sense of belonging that he craved. But now Rogue Squadron was all that he had left that he really and truly cared about.
He shook his head to try and stay clear of those thoughts. Feeling sorry for himself was not something he wanted to do. He had chosen to join the Rebellion, no one had forced him. And he could have left at anytime had he really wanted to and he hadn't. But he was unhappy, there was no denying that. He just hoped that it did not show on his face. And he prayed that no one had figured out that it was his birthday.
Most pilots didn't like to celebrate their birthdays. It was a superstition that stretched back millennia, he was sure. And there was no group more superstitious than pilots. The problem with birthdays was that they celebrated life, and it served to remind every single pilot that there were many comrades who never again would celebrate another birthday.
Not to mention you never know if you'll be celebrating yours again.
No, he decided he just wanted to be alone for a while.
He stopped abruptly in the corridor. "I must be losing my mind!" he said aloud. "Yup, people will be saying 'Remember, General Antilles had that breakdown? That was really sad. He seemed like such a nice, stable man.'" He took in a deep breath and let it out slowly, then resumed his course towards his quarters, shaking his head most of the way.
Wedge finally made it to the quarters that he kept on base, more by habit than by conscious effort. He opened the door and walked in, letting it close automatically behind him with a swoosh of hydraulics. He made sure to lock it.
He crossed the smallish room, stripping off his flightsuit as he went and tossing it over a chair. Reaching his one transparisteel window, he dialed down the opacity until he was in semi-darkness, then headed straight for his bunk.
He knew he should clean up a bit and get something to eat since it was only around mid day, but all he wanted was to sleep. To sleep and to be alone. He fell face first into his bunk, and his thoughts began to fade away.
But one word echoed in his consciousness even as sleep overtook him.