A huge smile spread across Corran Horn's face. He was looking at the list posted outside the briefing room that detailed the first five scheduled flight tests of the new X-wing. He was scheduled to pilot the first flight. The test would be a simple one, studying atmospheric handling and capabilities.
Corran had been working closely with Luke and Cheriss for the past two weeks. He had spent much of his off time helping Luke train the fledgling Jedi as well as improving his own skills. Cheriss was a natural. She had the greatest potential Corran had seen since Kyp Durron a few years earlier.
The three had spent a great deal of time, expanding upon their understanding of The Force. In Corran's mind, Luke had come a long way since he had attended the Jedi Academy at Yavin IV. Luke's ability to teach and adapt his teachings to each individual had improved greatly. Corran found himself much more at ease and willing to accept Luke's teachings.
The excitement on base had been building rapidly over the last few days. The new fighters were due to arrive any day. The pilots felt that they had learned as much as they could with the generic exercises they had been participating in. They would not be able to accomplish anything more until they knew the specific mission goal. Unfortunately, neither Luke nor Wedge had any kind of details about the attack portion of their mission.
The pilots had just finished lunch when Wedge's comlink beeped with a message. He was informed that Home One had just arrived in orbit and that they were deploying twelve heavy transports to bring cargo down to the base.
When people noticed that Wedge was on his comlink, the room fell silent and those gathered looked at Wedge expectantly. Wedge put away his comlink and stood. "Well, it looks like our new toys have arrived."
Before the words were even out of his mouth pilots jumped up, leaving half-eaten meals, and ran towards the hanger area. Luke walked over to Wedge and the two headed off towards the hanger.
"Like kids on their birthday, huh?" Wedge said to Luke.
Luke smirked. "You are just as excited as they are. You might be able to keep it off your face, but I can still tell."
Wedge shrugged. "Could never fool you could I?"
Luke shook his head. "Nope, not even before I began my Jedi studies in earnest."
The two laughed as they entered the hanger. All the members of the two squadrons were gathered. They peered out the open doors to the frozen landscape outside in front of the base. Twelve heavy transports had landed there. As they watched, crews began to unload large repulsor sleds. Upon them sat large wooden crates. The crates were so large the gathered pilots figured that fully assembled X- wings sat within them.
The sleds were brought into the hanger and the crates were offloaded into the open spaces. Since only about twenty-five percent of the hanger was being used by the squadron's X-wings there was a lot of room for the new arrivals.
After all the cargo was off loaded and the mundane supplies were stored, the transports left the planet to return to orbit.
Once the transports had gone, the crews left behind as well as the Rogue and Wraith maintenance crews, began to open the twenty crates around the bay. They peeled away the first crate to reveal an X-wing fighter; a new Incom T-65XF X-Wing Space Superiority Starfighter. It was beautiful. The only detail that made the pilots cringe was that the fighter was painted the same bright orange as their flight suits.
The gathered pilots began to surround the new fighter scrutinizing every inch of it. Its basic design was very similar to the T-65AC4. The only easily apparent modification was the addition of a small ion cannon to each of the S-foils. The cannon folded into a small recess in the S-foil when they were closed so that the barrel extended out from the foil. When S-foils were deployed out, the cannon folded out to hang directly below the laser cannon. The other improvements were not apparent to the naked eye.
There had been many invisible modifications and improvements to the fighter. Primarily those modifications increased the fighter's shield strength, firepower, fuel efficiency, range and overall speed and handling. From only the specs, the pilots believed that their dream fighter had arrived and by the looks of the spacecraft, with the exception of its current paint scheme, they were correct.
Wedge looked at the happy faces of the gathered pilots. "Ok, people. Let's allow the maintenance people to do their job. Captain Horn, looks like your first flight will be tomorrow at 1200. Colonel Celchu and I will be flying as your chase."
Corran nodded. "Yes, sir!" He grinned enthusiastically.
Wedge picked up a datapad that had accompanied the first crate. He glanced at the information it contained. "I will be assigning fighters this afternoon. We'll give the maintenance crews a chance to get things settled. Then this afternoon you'll have to opportunity to come back and set up your fighter to your liking. Also be aware that even with the upgrade to your astromechs they will still need a chance to integrate their systems with the new fighters. I recommend you bring them along."
Wedge looked around for questions. He received none and dismissed the gathered pilots.
The first flight on the T-65XF the next day was a complete success. The rest of the testing phase of the craft went by without any major problems. During that time the pilots familiarized themselves with their new fighter and its capabilities.
Everyone was impressed with the speed and maneuverability of the new X-wings. They could best a TIE Interceptor in both maneuverability and speed with ease. However, it still had the durability and reliability of their beloved X-wings.
Luke Skywalker sat in his new X-wing with R2-D2 behind him. This was the last flight trial in the initial testing. Each flight was composed of an X-wing XF and a standard X-wing. The two squadrons were each composed of five T-65XFs and five T-65AC4s as they performed advanced maneuvers in the space surrounding Hoth.
Luke had just completed his last set of maneuvers and wheeled the fighter back towards Hoth when a Victory Class Star Destroyer emerged from hyperspace on the far side of the system. Luckily, Home One was on station above the planet. Just as Luke keyed his comm unit to inquire about the new arrival, a wing of TIE Bombers poured from the ship's launch bay.
Luke quickly released the transmit button and waited. "Rogue and Wraith Squadrons. Imperial Star Destroyer Fury has entered the system and is deploying TIE Bombers. X-wing XF's are to engage the incoming bombers and the remaining X-wings are to return to the base to recover the prototype fighters. They are then to rejoin the fight," a controller's voice ordered.
Luckily the bombers were still twenty klicks out and that allowed the Alliance squadrons some time to organize. Wedge's voice came over the comm unit. "X-wing XFs form by pairs as follows: Rogue Leader and Rogue One, Wraith Leader and Rouge Nine, Rogue Three and Rogue Five, Wraith One and Wraith Two, Wraith Three and Wraith Nine."
The XFs were beginning to break into pairs and turn to engage the dupes when Wedge spoke to the departing X-wings. "Rogue Four, Rogue Leader. Take command of the new group when you arrive planet side. Break everyone into pairs and come up to reengage."
Hobbie's voice came back, "You got it, Rogue Leader."
Luke saw Corran form up on his wing as they flew towards the incoming bombers. Luke switched the weapon's selector over to proton torpedoes. Luke reached out with the Force and could feel Corran doing the same. He could feel the anger and aggression of the pilots flying towards them.
Luke acquired a target and when R2 sounded a solid lock he fired. With the torpedo speeding away towards its target, Luke turned the fighter hard to port and switched to lasers. He pointed the nose of his fighter towards another incoming flight of TIE Bombers. When he was still quite some distance beyond normal firing range, he reached out and allowed his senses to guide him. Luke squeezed the trigger and shot bolt after bolt of lasers into the flight of TIE Bombers destroying all four before they even came into normal firing range. He glanced at his sensors and noticed that Corran was just now engaging the flight adjacent to the one Luke had just destroyed.
"Good shooting, Wraith Leader," Wedge said through his comm unit. It always amazed Wedge how well Jedi could perform doing anything. No time to dwell on that now, Wedge thought as he fired a proton torpedo at the leader of the next wave of bombers. Wedge followed the torpedo in while he switched to lasers. The torpedo found its mark and the dupe exploded brilliantly.
Wedge had swung in on the tail of one of the bombers when they fired their first salvo at Home One. A second salvo immediately followed. Wedge looked at his sensors. The remaining twenty-eight TIE bombers had sent a stream of fifty-six torpedoes towards Home One.
As Wedge looked on in horror, he saw the turbo lasers of Home One desperately trying to shoot down the incoming torpedoes. Wedge began firing over the dupes in an effort to hit some of the torpedoes before they were out of range. Two of the torpedoes exploded as Wedge's lasers intercepted them. The rest headed on towards Home One without further intervention.
Cheriss pushed her fighter to maximum speed as she followed Hobbie toward the shattered flights of TIE bombers. They were reforming and setting up for another attack run on Home One. The astromechs aboard each fighter in Hobbie's elements received targeting data from his R2 unit.
Cheriss selected torpedoes and brought the target box over the bomber she had been assigned to target. Sabre's beeping grew steadier and quicker until he sounded a solid tone and the box in the HUD went red. Cheriss squeezed the trigger and set a torpedo lancing toward the dupe.
With her first shot on the way, she quickly selected her secondary target. Almost instantly Sabre indicated a good lock and she fired again. She looked back up and saw a wave of torpedoes rushing towards the dupes. She watched her first torpedo track its target. It impacted solidly, leaving a cloud of particles where the bomber used to be.
Cheriss yelped with glee at her first kill. A moment later, her second torpedo slammed into the other TIE, shattering it. She worked to calm herself and get back to business. She appraised the destruction the barrage of torpedoes from her element had caused.
She was getting her emotions under control as Hobbie turned his fighter away from the decimated TIEs.
Wedge was looking down at his sensors as he turned back to engage the dupes. He noticed ten X-wing XFs ascending from Hoth's surface. The fighters unleashed a similar barrage of proton torpedoes destroying most of the remaining Dupes. When Wedge discovered the dupes were no longer a threat, he turned towards Home One just in time to see a tremendous explosion as the TIEs' torpedoes struck the cruiser.
It appeared that the gunners aboard Home One had managed to intercept some of the torpedoes, but not nearly enough. Fires burned on the bow of the ship and it was obvious that the bow shield had collapsed under the impacts of that many torpedoes. Home One turned its bow away from the Imperial Star Destroyer and headed towards its exit vector. Wedge pointed the nose of his fighter towards Home One and keyed his comm unit. "Rogues and Wraiths stay in the pairs you are in and assemble to escort Home One out of system."
The X-wings had just formed up in a defensive ring around Home One when two ships slashed across her nose as they emerged from hyperspace. An Imperial Star Destroyer Mark II and an interdictor cruiser. Wedge's sensor screen updated and identified the two ships as The Cobra and The Enslaver respectively. He saw TIE Defenders start to pour from the launch bays of the Impstar Deuce.
Wedge groaned, "Just like the simulation." Wedge sighed and keyed his comm unit, "All fighters break and engage. Fire at will. And may the Force be with you."
Cheriss turned her fighter to follow Hobbie towards the incoming TIE Defenders. Her chest tightened with fear. This is just like the simulation that had killed her and her squadron mates over and over again. She caught herself and took a deep breath. She quickly went through a relaxation technique she had learned from Luke and Corran. She centered her feelings and reached out with the Force. She watched in her mind and on her sensors as the flights of fighters slashed past each other, firing almost continually.
Cheriss centered her sights on a TIE Defender as it flashed by and let loose a quad blast of both lasers and ion cannons. Most of the shots missed but a laser bolt hit the shields just as the azure lighting of her Ion cannon impacted and arched across the ships surfaces. Most of the ship's systems failed in a hail of sparks as Cheriss turned her fighter to follow. She shifted her lasers to single fire and turned off her ion cannons. She fired again, her lasers lancing the ion engine housing. The craft exploded and its twin engines spiraled away from the shatter hull and exploded. That's number three, she thought excitedly.
Cheriss turned her fighter back to take her proper position on Hobbie's wing. As she turned, she saw a Defender moving into firing position on his tail. "Rogue Four, break down!" She shouted as she filled the space around the trip with sizzling laser bolts. Hobbie's X-wing broke down and away from the Defender, which followed the X- wing directly into Cheriss stream of lasers. The bolts pummeled and collapsed the trip's shields. Cheriss turned to follow the fighter as it tried to break her pursuit. She fired again and saw the bolts impact the ships upper hull. The Defender's top solar panel vaporized and the stricken fighter spun out of control towards Hoth.
"Nice shooting, Wraith Four!" Cheriss heard Hobbie say excitedly over the comm. "That's four! Almost there." Cheriss smiled as she heard the words. It was nice to know her wing leader was paying attention to her progress. She indulged in the feeling for a moment before she realized that now was not the time to pat herself on the back.
She quickly repositioned to follow Hobbie as he pulled his X-wing through the bottom of a Split-S to reengage the TIEs. He came in behind a TIE Defender that was on Ooryl's tail. The defender had odd symbols painted all over it. Cheriss did not recognize them, but they made her apprehensive, as if they meant something sinister.
Hobbie fired but the defender rolled quickly away and came back across Ooryl's tail hammering him mercilessly. As Hobbies lasers began to track truer the trip was forced to break off its pursuit of Ooryl. They glanced over at Ooryl's X-wing, relieved it showed no damage after the barrage had finished. "Rogue Ten, report." Cheriss heard Hobbie say through the comm unit.
"Rear shields down to eleven percent. No structural damage," Ooryl responded.
"Wow," she heard Hobbie say, his words mimicking her thoughts. The X- wing XF was living up to the expectations and more. She looked over to Home One and saw that the ship was in severe danger. The Impstar Deuce was pummeling her and even though she was returning the damage, she was looking the worse for wear. Fires were burning along most of Home One's bow.
Cheriss turned her fighter to follow Hobbie as he pursued the sinister looking TIE Defender. She would be there to back up her wing leader. And be in a position to make that Defender number five. Making me an instant Ace, she thought as she excitedly tapped her fingers on her control stick.
A flash of light drew her attention. She looked up to see a ship emerge from hyperspace. It was another Mon Calamari cruiser, the Mon Remonda. Four Corellian corvettes followed her out of hyperspace. Home One turned her bow towards the incoming capital ships as they moved to engage the Imperial forces.
Cheriss turned her attention back to the swirling dogfight going on around her. She extended her senses to get a better grasp on the battle. As she did, she felt the presence of another Jedi. However, the presence was dark. She could tell it was the pilot of Defender with the strange symbols painted all over the hull. She drew herself in as Luke and Corran had taught her. She did not want to alert the person to her presence.
As Hobbie and Cheriss pursued the fighter, it skittered and danced in front of them. Cheriss felt a presence in her mind. At first she thought it was Luke, but then she realized in horror that it was not. She felt every fear and inadequacy she had ever known begin to well up inside of her. Cheriss imagined every horrible death she had narrowly escaped while blastsword dueling on Adumar. She felt the sting of her failure as she tried to learn to fly, but her dizziness and nausea kept her from becoming a pilot.
Cheriss' eyes rolled back in her head as she began to lose consciousness. Blood dripped down from her ears and nose. She felt as if an unseen force was crushing her. Her breathing was labored as an invisible hand closed around her throat. She saw she was heading out into open space as the world turned black around her.
Luke felt a disturbance in the Force. Luke quickly fired a quad laser shot at the Defender he was pursuing, vaporizing the fighter whose shields Corran had already weakened. He reached out with his senses and felt the dark side power surging from one of the trips. He quickly rolled his fighter in the direction of the disturbance. He checked his sensors to make sure Corran had followed him.
Luke accelerated the X-wing to its maximum speed and began firing at the Defender at maximum range. Corran joined him in sending a barrage of lasers and ion blasts at the TIE. Luke reached out with his senses and surrounded Cheriss with an aura of light and healing. Luke felt the tendrils of dark side power retreating from his light. Luke continued to fire furiously at the TIE Defender landing several hits on its shields.
Luke felt grave danger as R2 signaled there were two concussion missiles coming at his fighter. He fired one last time scoring a hit on the defender, doing significant damage but not destroying the fighter then turned his fighter to avoid the incoming missile. Luke saw the damaged defender turn and retreat towards the Star Destroyer Fury.
Luke maneuvered his X-wing through some severe twists and turns to avoid the incoming missile. He felt the missile exploded well behind him, drawing only a little power from his rear shield. He turned his fighter to pursue Cheriss. "Artoo, contact Sabre and have him bring their X-wing to zero thrust. Let Hobbie know what you're doing." R2 beeped and acknowledgment as Luke heard Hobbie's voice through his comm unit.
"Control, this is Rogue Four. Wraith Four is injured and we need an evac shuttle to tractor her and her fighter in." Hobbie requested.
A voice came back through the comm. "Wraith Leader, this is Mon Remonda Control. We will dispatch a shuttle as soon as the fighters deploy."
"Acknowledged," Luke stated as he reached out with the Force. He sensed Cheriss life energy. She was hurt but still alive. Hobbie slowed and held position near her X-wing.
Luke watched as fighters began to pour out of the Mon Remondas launch bays. He watched the TIE Defenders turn and head out of the system. The interdictor powered down its gravity wells and within moments the remaining Imperial ships escaped to hyperspace. Luke glanced at his sensors to see none of the Rogues nor Wraith had been shot down. Both Star Destroyers and the Interdictor had escaped, but fourteen Defenders were destroyed.
Luke heard Wedge's voice coming through his comm unit. "Home One Control, this is Rogue Leader. What are your orders?"
Admiral Ackbar's gravely voice came back with a response. "There has been heavy damage to Home One. Rogue and Wraith Squadrons stand by for orders."
"Rogue Leader, acknowledged," Wedge answered. "Rogue and Wraiths, deploy in a defensive screen around Home One. Report any significant damage."
No replies came for Wedge's query. Luke watched as the rescue shuttle positioned itself near Cheriss' X-wing and began tractoring it towards Mon Remonda. Luke watched as it neared and a ship emerged from hyperspace. It was a Super Star Destroyer with markings of the New Republic. Luke's sensors labeled it the Lusankya.
" Rogue and Wraith Squadrons, this is Home One control. Recover aboard Lusankya is Launch Bay One. Rescue Shuttle Tydirium recover aboard Lusankya then return to Mon Remonda." The controller's voice ordered over the comm unit.
"Acknowledged, Control," Wedge responded as Luke turned his attention towards the Lusankya. Luke watched as two squadrons of X-wings, a squadron of A-wings and a squadron of Y-wings deployed from the launch bays. Some of the X-wings wagged their wings as they passed Rogue squadron.
The group of X-wings approached the Lusankya and lined up to land. Luke followed the others into the bay and guided his fighter to a quick but successful landing. He told R2 to shut the fighter down and open the canopy. Luke jumped out of the cockpit using the Force to guide him to a soft landing on the deck.
Luke ran over to where a med team was lowering Cheriss' unconscious body to the waiting repulsor couch. Luke could feel that she was still alive but very weak. The attack that was made on her was nearly fatal. Had it not been for Luke and Corran's interference Cheriss would most likely be one with the Force.
Luke, Wedge, Corran, Tycho, Janson and Hobbie followed Cheriss and the med team to the infirmary. The med team took her into the ward and prevented the pilots from following them inside. "One of the doctors will be out to speak with you as soon as possible, sir. You'll need to wait out here until then," one of the med techs said to Wedge on his way through the door.
Wedge looked to the gathered pilots, then spoke to Hobbie, "What happened out there?"
Hobbie shrugged. "I don't know. One second she was fine the next she was flying straight ahead and wouldn't respond to comm calls. About that time General Skywalker had his Artoo unit communicate with hers and cut power to her engines before she drifted further into space. I covered her until the rescue shuttle arrived. I did several flybys to see if I could see anything wrong with her ship. I found nothing."
"That's because the damage had been done to her," Corran said just as Wedge was about to ask more questions. "There was a sith in that Defender."
"A sith?!" Wedge snarled.
"I am afraid so. He nearly killed Cheriss before she knew what was happening," Luke said. "He is strong in the ways of the Force."
"How are we going to be able to deal with someone like that?" Wedge asked.
"We'll have to take care of him," Corran answered gesturing between himself and Luke. "Now that we know he's out there we know we need to search for him."
"What did he do to her?" Tycho asked looking a little pale.
"He tried to choke her to death, using telekinetic powers," Luke answered. Tycho shivered. No one needed more description or discussion since everyone gathered had heard of Darth Vader doing the same thing to enemies and incompetent subordinates alike.
"Well, it looks like we wait." Wedge sighed. "Luke, I assume you and Corran are going to wait here." Luke nodded in response. "Call my comlink the moment you hear anything."
"Sure thing Wedge." Luke smiled encouragingly. "She'll be fine, don't worry."
Wedge smiled and he and the other pilots headed off to their quarters.
Cheriss felt nauseous and dizzy as she opened her eyes. A horrible pain seared her throat as she swallowed and turned her head to look around. The world was tinted pink. She looked around and saw Luke and Corran smirking and waving at her. She realized she was floating in a bacta tank.
She tried to clear the fog of pain from her mind and relax. When she had partially succeeded she reached out with Force to Luke and Corran. They heard her call faintly. *What happened to me?*
*You were attacked by a sith, who was flying one of the TIEs.* She heard Corran speak strongly but soothingly back to her.
*You are safe now and healing,* Luke reassured her. *You need to work to heal your body in addition to what the bacta and natural rest are doing for you.* Luke's voice in her head was incredibly soothing. With each thought, she grew more relaxed and comfortable.
*We will work with you to help you heal.* Luke motioned Corran to the door. *We'll let you rest for now, however. We'll be back in the morning.* Luke smiled.
*Good shooting out there kid. You got four, almost an instant Ace, nice first time out.* Corran waved as the two Jedi left the med bay.
Cheriss waved weakly at her two departing friends. A feeling of disappointment crept in as she felt her eyes begin to flutter closed. Almost, that is always the way with me. I get so close, but always fall short, she thought as she slipped back into unconsciousness.
Cheriss spent the next few days healing in the bacta tank. She had extensive internal injuries caused by the attack from the Dark Jedi. However, with the help of the Force as well as Luke and Corran she healed quickly and thoroughly.
Each pilot took some time out to visit her, either individually or in groups. Tycho, Hobbie and Wes spent almost an hour there, giving her little gifts and words of encouragement. They were so proud of her accomplishments during the battle and did not hesitate to tell her so.
The day following the ambush at Hoth, Admiral Ackbar arrived on the Lusankya. Home One had suffered an incredible amount of damage before her attackers were driven off. She was being taken back to Mon Calamari to undergo repairs and Admiral Ackbar moved to take command of the Lusankya and conduct the operation from the Super Star Destroyer.
During the days immediately following the battle, each and every aspect of it was gone over in the debriefings. The overwhelming opinion was that the T-65XF was the best fighter any of the pilots had every flown. It was faster, more maneuverable and better armed then the T-65AC4. Its shield capability and resilience made it a pilot's dream. Two of the craft had taken nearly full hits from concussion missiles but had suffered no damage. The impacted shield did not even fully weaken.
When Cheriss was discharged from the medical ward, she immediately went right back to training with Corran and Luke. She worked to strengthen herself and practice the skills that she would need when they eventually confronted the Sith again. Her perceived failures in the battle drove her even harder than before.
Admiral Ackbar had several briefings during the first few days to outline what was known about the piece of the Imperial Remnant that had attacked them. Admiral Huscte Guffris led the group, which was a small task force charged to control smuggling and criminal activity in the outer rim. His service record was nothing spectacular in either direction.
It was suspected that the Admiral and his task force were destroyed several years earlier. They reported an engagement with a large pirate band and were not heard from again, until about a year ago that is. At that time, the Admiral began making daring raids against the New Republic and non-imperial systems. Little else was known about his operation except that he had two Star Destroyers; a Victory Class and a Mark II along with an Interdictor Cruiser; the Fury, Cobra, and Enslaver respectively.
He also had a planet side base on Tentrill III. Admiral Ackbar was waiting to receive one more intelligence report detailing the planet's defenses and base layout. Then the final assault planning could begin.
After a month of seemingly endless waiting, the reports finally came in and the operation was about to begin. Wedge had managed to make use of some of that down time to try and get in touch with Iella. Since they had been under a communications black out for so long, he was anxious to make sure she was ok.
He pulled the few strings he had. Corran also contacted a few friends of his and between the two of them finally were able to find out some information. Iella was on a very minor undercover mission. She was expected to return to Coruscant in a few weeks. It appeared Wedge's worrying had been unnecessary.
All of the pilots had been gathered into the briefing room aboard the Lusankya. They chatted excitedly among themselves waiting for the briefing to begin. Cheriss was sitting in the front row with Corran discussing lightsaber tactics. Even though she had not made her own yet, she had been given one by Luke to train with and use until she could rectify that. Her loaned lightsaber was one of the artifacts recovered by Luke and Tionne during their investigations into Jedi history. It was believed that the lightsaber had been constructed just prior to the beginning of the Clone Wars. However, its owner and history remained a mystery.
The pilots all came to attention as Luke, Wedge and Ackbar entered the briefing room and made their way to the podium at the front of the room. When the three reached the podium, Admiral Ackbar motioned for everyone to be seated.
"First, I would like to congratulate you all on your hard work performing the necessary trials for the new T-65XF. I know it was not easy, but you all made it look that way." Ackbar led the gathered pilots in a round of applause for themselves.
"With the success of those trials, the decision has been made to test the X-wings XFs in a full-scale combat operation," Ackbar stated.
Wedge stepped forward. "The operation that we are about to outline for you is going to be a combined operation between the Lusankya battle group and the Rogue task force. The Lusankya battle group will be responsible for two missions. First, to engage and destroy the planetary defenses, Admiral Guffris' capital ships and space bound defenses. Second, they are going to stage a ground attack designed to pull away the majority of Admiral Guffris' ground forces."
Luke stepped forward and activated the holoprojector, which displayed a large fortress like building. The fortress sat on top of a jagged plateau. "This is the stronghold of the planet. We will be entering the facility through these doors." Luke hit a button on the holocontroller to show a set of metal doors embedded in the rock at the foot of the plateau.
Luke continued, "This is also the most likely location of the Dark Force Adept working for the Admiral. It is possible that this individual is not working alone and has apprentices or other adepts working with him. However, we won't know any more until we arrive on planet."
Corran stood and addressed the commanders, "How are we planning to deal with this potential threat?"
Luke looked at Wedge and Ackbar but they motioned him to field that one. "We have considered the possibility of asking for aid from some of the more experienced students from the Academy. However, it has been decided that we will not be exploring that option. First, none of the possible candidates has any military experience or experience with operations of this type. Second, New Republic Intelligence does not want to bring any non-military personnel in on this mission because of the need for security concerning the XF."
Corran nodded. Searching Luke's surface feelings he could tell that this was not his vote, but he had been overruled. Corran smiled and reached out to communicate with Luke. *That's what you get for not asking for a promotion when agreeing to this assignment.*
Luke turned to look at Corran and smiled in response, shaking his head and chuckling softly.
Wedge failed to notice the exchange between the Jedi and continued his part of the briefing. "Our portion of the mission will be to deploy Wraith Squadron onto the ground in preparation for an assault on the base compound. For this, both squadrons will deploy from the Lusankya before the final jump into the system. We will then jump in separately in our X-wings."
"The Lusankya, with her task force and fighters, will draw the Admiral's forces into battle on the far side of the planet from the base. In addition, we will deploy a large ground force that will make its way towards the base. These two engagements will serve as a distraction for the main infiltration of Wraith Squadron and will aid them in the clean-up phase of the operation," Ackbar interjected. He then turned to Wedge and motioned for him to continue.
"We will delay our jump so that we arrive in system after the fleet battle has already begun. We will jump in system and make our way down to the planet as rapidly as possible. At that time both groups will land and Wraith Squadron will begin to make their way towards the base. Rogue Squadron will remain hidden on the ground to provide support if the Wraiths are discovered and air assets are deployed against them. If they enter the base undetected, they will transmit a code to inform us of that. We will then deploy to join the battle. Our primary mission will still be to support the Wraiths even after they have infiltrated the base.
"Once the Wraiths are on the ground, they will be responsible for doing as much damage to the command and control capabilities of the base as possible in preparation for the main ground assault. Second, and more difficult, they will be expected to eliminate the sith threat within the base." Wedge nodded to Luke, Corran and Cheriss. "This will primarily be their jobs. I don't want the rest of you trying to be heroes against him or they. If you do, we'll just be adding your name to the list of honored Rogue and Wraith dead. I don't want to be adding anyone's name to that list during this operation," Wedge said.
The pilots nodded their consent and understanding. Wedge looked around the room to see if there were any questions or comments. When he saw none, he continued, "There will be on minor change to the Rogue Squadron assignments. Corran will be flying with Myn as his wingman. Gavin will assume the position of flight leader and Ooryl will be his wingman."
The four pilots nodded. "Myn and Corran will be landing in a forward position so that Myn can provide sniper support. Their mission parameters will change by moment. General Skywalker and I will be deciding based on the situation what they will be doing. If neither of us are able to give orders, Captain Horn will have a lot of leeway to perform the mission as he deems appropriate."
"We will be running some simulations and training exercises over the next week. We are scheduled to begin the assault in nine days. In the meantime, maintenance will be painting the fighters and making sure they are completely ready to go. Any questions?"
"What is the paint scheme going to be?" Gavin asked.
"We will be painting them a dull black with New Republic and squadron heraldry. We will need them to be easily camouflaged while we are hiding in the forest."
"Any other questions?" Wedge looked around and when no one responded
he dismissed the group.
Continued in Part Four