Title: Deadly Sunrise
Author: Kathryn Olsen
E-Mail: AlaraV@coruscant.net
Category: The Rebellion
Summary: Although the Battle of Endor had many heroes, many of them weren't
recognized. This is the story of a few of them.
Website: None
Rating: G

Captain Michel Cath shut off the holoprojector. "All right, everyone.
You heard what the Admiral said. We're going in behind the X-wings, as
usual."

There were a few groans from the A-wing pilots assembled. "We're
jumping in with the Liberty group. The B-wings will be with the group that
includes the Medical Frigate and the Headquarters Frigate. The X-wings will
be with Home One. We'll take our orders as they come. Nothing's definite
except our destination and our basic mission plan. Any questions?"

A dark-haired girl in a black flight suit stood in the back. "When
do we get our ships? I was pulled from an X-wing squadron and I'd rather
have some log time in my A-wing before I entrust my life to it."

"The fighters are in the hangar. They just got in today. Your serial
numbers are on the side of them. Take them out any time before we hype out
of here. We won't have time to personalize them or paint your kills on them
but if you make it back, I'll do the paint job myself if necessary."

Some laughed at that. "Any other questions? Good. Unlike the last
three weeks, you're not allowed to get sick, injured, or go insane. You'll
need a physical every other day between now and when we get out of here.
If there's anything amiss, I won't hesitate to pull you off the duty roster.
For now, good luck on the New Sun Campaign."

Aileina Varsch, the girl who had asked the question in the briefing,
stood and stretched languidly. She shot a bemused look at her husband, Eric.
"This ought to be interesting. You ever flown an A-wing before?'

"Once, at Gall. I'm qualified, certainly, but I prefer Y-wings.
What about you?"

"Escort duty a few years ago, just before Hoth. I like them for
the space. Much roomier than an X-wing cockpit, more streamlined than a
Y-wing, faster than a B-wing. And they have ion cannons--an added bonus."
She yawned. "I'm going to go test-drive my ship; anyone else want to come?"

Eric nodded. "I'll race you through the Fleet."

"You're on."

He wrapped an arm around her waist as they exited the briefing
room. He rubbed a hand along her slightly protruding abdomen. "I assume
Star Fighter Command knows about your condition."

She grinned. "Of course. Besides, I wouldn't miss this for the
world. I have the feeling this will be a turning point in the war, either
way, and I have no intention of using my 'condition' as an excuse for
duty."

Eric guided her into the turbolift and keyed in the hangar level.
"Aren't you a little frightened?"

"Come on. We'll get there, Antilles and his hotshots will blast
the thing, I'll fire a few shots at it so I can take some credit, and
we'll come home."

"You really think it'll be that easy?"

Aileina laughed. "No, but I'm not about to jinx the squadrons by
prophesying doom."

"Touche."

The turbolift doors open and they stepped out into the hangar.
"Stang," Aileina breathed in awe. "I can't wait to get into one of those."

Eric nodded. "I heard rumors that these are hand-designed. Some
omen of luck. Each has a different style, same basic pattern."

"So, basically, if we die out there, at least we do it in style?"

Eric grinned. "That's the idea. We'll just have to stay alive so
we can sell it to a museum."

Aileina scanned the hangar. "There's mine. I'll see you in the
void."

She pulled her flight helmet off the rack and strode across the
bay to her fighter. She set the helmet down and pulled up her hair into
a loose braid. She pinned it up and shoved her helmet on. Her hand ran
across the fuselage. She shivered involuntarily. A new fighter always
thrilled her.

"I thought you'd like it."

Aileina whirled and bowed. "Madame, a pleasure as always."

Mon Mothma smiled. "I heard you were on the roster and thought,
as the only Chandrilan pilot, you should go into battle surrounded by
our elements. The planetary crest is painted on the wing, there's Chandrilan
wood used for the paneling, and the controls are in Chandrilan Basic. You'll feel right at home."

"Thank you. How many others are involved in all this?"

"There are seventy crewers on various ships, and two medics, myself
and you."

"Then we'll have to be especially memorable, of course."

"Aren't we always? Good luck, Captain Varsch. We'll all need it."

* * *
A week later, they were called for launch. Aileina hastily pulled
on her black flight suit, a reminder of her Imperial days, then plaited
her hair up in the usual way.

Eric had been in a different part of the ship when they were called
on alert, so she didn't see him until she arrived at the hangar bay.

"Hey, you look calm for a person about to face death straight in
the face."

Aileina wrapped her arms around his neck. "Not straight. I'll have
a few wings of fighters blocking my way. Besides, what's the point of
worrying? If I die, I die." Eric grimaced. "It won't be that easy for
the survivors, of course."

"Yes, but either one of us or both of us will be there to console
them."

Eric hugged her fiercely. "If anything happens to you, I'll kill
myself."

Aileina grinned. "Make sure I'm dead first. One of my old boy friends
did that without making sure my ejection seat was in the fighter when it
imploded."

"I'll keep that in mind."

He kissed her and for a long moment, they stood there, ignoring
the squadrons' protocol on Public Displays of Affection. Then, Eric hugged
her again, not letting go until the third time Cath gave the signal to
get to their fighters.

"Do me a favor and kill a Star Destroyer for me."

"Me too." She offered a half-smile. "On second thought, I'll kill
four, one for each year I've known you."

Cath gripped Eric's shoulder and steered him away. "Come on, Varschen.
The war will be over by the time we get launched."

Eric grinned at Aileina. "I wouldn't mind that a bit."
* * *
"It's a trap!"

Eric broke off, frantically dodging the fleeing fighters. *What
in the hells of the Sith?* He couldn't get any readings, probably sensor
jamming, which meant they were in a lot of trouble.

That instinct was enhanced by the fleet of Star Destroyers in their
escape path, lorded over by the Executor. "Sithspawn."

"Green Squad, report damages."

"We lost Seven and Twelve in the retreat. Anyone else have complaints?"

"I'd like to complain about the large number of enemy ships in
front of us."

"Save it for debriefing. Concentrate on staying alive and evening
out the odds."

Eric heard Aileina laugh shortly. "Easy for you to say."

"I have orders from Gold Leader. Engage those fighters and watch
out for the Destroyers. We may be charged by a nerf herd, but first we
have to deal with the dauber wasps and make sure they don't poison us to
death."
* * *
Aileina went into a barrel roll, spiraling through a flight of
TIEs, firing madly and hoping it wouldn't get her killed. She took out
four fighters before her wingman vaped the other two.

"Thanks, Tycho."

"I'm just being a gentleman." She banked and swung down through
the cloud of fighters. "Tycho, is it just me or are the Destroyers looking
way too vulnerable?"

"What, are you nuts?"

Aileina frowned. "Hear me out on this. They have the Imperial Fleet
here, they've got the Executor here, and we're attacking the biggest project
in Imperial history. EIther they've all suddenly defected, including Darth
Vader, or there's something they're waiting for."

"Like what?"

The Liberty suddenly vanished in a bright flash. "That blast came
from the Death Star..."

"Tycho, you just got your answer."

"Not the answer I had in mind," he muttered.
* * *
Eric pulled off his flight helmet and tucked it under his arm.
The casualty lists were being posted in the pilots' lounge and he wanted
to be there to alleviate his fears.

The battle had been both a disaster and a turning point. Millions
had died on both sides. Thankfully, it had included the Death Star crew.

Aileina had gone EV shortly after General Calrissian ordered the
A-wings to create a diversion in the Death Star run. She'd cleared the
station, then gotten shot out of her fighter less than five minutes later.
Eric had been too preoccupied to check with Control to see if she'd been
saved.

"Lieutenant Varsch?"

Eric turned. A female medic stood there. "If you could come with
me..."

Eric grabbed her arm. "Where's my wife?"

"In intensive care. They wanted me to bring you so you could be
with her."

Eric sighed. "Lead on."

Aileina was conscious, moaning. She'd been placed in a containment
field, since she was allergic to bacta. "Can't you give her painkiller?"

"We did. She's severely injured. Apparently, she tried to punch
out, but the canopy didn't open. She hit it full-on at about 100 klicks
per. Normally, that isn't that fast, considering the speed of the fighters,
but the human body doesn't see it that way. The transparisteel shattered
and she floated free, but she has a flayed chest, a skull fracture, broken
sternum, both clavicles, her arms, her legs, and her spine. If she recovers,
she'll be paralyzed from the chest down unless we can do reconstructive
surgery. And for good measure, she had oxygen deprivation and severe
lacerations."

Eric sat down hard. "She will live, won't she?"

"Hard to say. She miscarried; it was inevitable with that much
trauma. We'll just have to wait and see."

"Can I talk to her?"

"She won't be very responsive, but it might help to hear your voice."

"How long will she be in the containment field?"

"We've just repaire the skull fracture and now we're setting the
bones before we use the bone-knitters. After that, we'll move her to a
repulsor field so she won't feel anything from contact.

Eric watched silently until they finished and moved her to the
repulsor field. They went to tend to the others and Eric moved to her
side. She was still beautiful under the breath mask.

She looked up at him, her face contorted with pain. "Hey," she said
hoarsely. "I missed you."

"You're looking good."

"Banthaspit," Aileina said, smiling with effort. "I look like I
tried to punch out and had to go through four layers of transparisteel
to do it."

"You look better than I do."

She coughed. "That's nothing new. Did we win?"

"Yeah."

She let her breath out. "Good, then my death won't have been a
waste."

Eric kept his face straight despite the pain he felt. He mustered
a smile. "Stop being fatalistic."

"I wanted you to know I've always loved you and I cherish the
times we've had. I'll always have wondered how our lives would turn out.
We would have had so much fun after the war, raising our children, settling
down to a quiet life on Chandrila, dying of old age."

"We still will."

She grinned. "Will you let me finish and die in peace?"

"I'll let you finish, but you won't die."

Aileina's head rolled to the side. "That's what you think. It's
not like I can control it, so neither can you. It happens to us all eventually.
The fact that it'll happen to me at the age of twenty-three doesn't make
it easier or harder for anyone involved."

"You're talking pretty much for a person with a flayed chest."

Aileina reached up her hand and touched his cheek. She stopped
smiling. "I love you. The rest is in the file you'll be getting shortly."

She moved her head and tilted her chin. Eric leaned down and kissed
her as gently as possible. He could feel her trembling, felt her tears
underneath his touch.

Eric looked away so she wouldn't see the uncharacteristic tears
in his own eyes. *Sentimental fool.*

He looked back in time to see her close her eyes, then go still.
She had slipped away. The heart monitor wailed and he leaned down to kiss
her one last time as the medics finally returned.
* * *
Aileina stood as he remembered her, with a grin as wide as a Hutt
on her face. She was dressed in an off-duty uniform, her hair tousled, her
arms bare, her face shining with perspiration.

She straightened and her smile diminished, then disappeared. "Is
this thing working? Eric, if you're watching this, I'm sorry for your loss.
I hope it's as hard for you as it will be for me, knowing I left such a
wonderful life behind. It's about a week after the ground mission left and
we'll probably be called to launch any day now. I have the strangest feeling
that one of us is going to die and, if this is delivered, you know I was
right." She smiled vaguely, sadness still apparent in her eyes. "You owe
me drinks and a night to ourselves for that."

Her voice cracked at that last familiar quip. She covered her face
and her shoulders shuddered with sobs. Eric stared, distraught at her
unfettered emotion that she'd always been so reticent to reveal.

After a few minutes, she looked up and attempted a weak smile.
"If I have time, I should edit that part out. It's bad for my image.

"I'm hoping we won the Battle of Endor. I probably made some very
pseudo-heroic gesture or just got plain stupid or unlucky. Probably all
of the above.

"I'm not saying victory justifies my death and the thousands of
others who undoubtedly perished before it blew. Not at all. Nothing in
this war makes up for what we have lost along the way--innocence, life,
ideals, compassion, and our 'soft sides.' The only good thing that will
come of this is justice for the oppressed and a free future for our children.
I don't know about you, but those seem like worthy causes to me.

"I hope you have a wonderful life and find someone who comes close
to loving you as much as I do, because no one can surpass that mark. Along
the way, look back on how you got there and remember me. I certainly have
since I met you. You have made my life worth the annoyances, both great
and small, and given me indescribable joy. That makes you a pretty decent
guy. Goodbye and remember the strange little Imp who loved you."