Howie exhaled a long, loud sigh. He’d not thought too deeply about the years that had passed since he’d been pressganged into black ops. Also, he couldn’t go into the details of every mission he’d been on, so he decided to stick to the main points. It was good to know that at least a couple of things hadn’t changed. It somehow didn’t surprise him to discover Admiral Bridger still in command after all these years. Still business as usual in the Aurora Force.
He began. “It all began after a lot of the old squads were downsized and absorbed into each other. Cutbacks and whatnot.” He didn’t want to mention the losses Redstar squadron had suffered over the years. Some of those deaths had been pretty wasteful and needless. Hell, his squad CO had been killed by a faulty air conditioning unit in his quarters.
They’d kept him waiting, and for that she was going to have to apologize. Or was she? By all rights, he was a dead man. If he was who he said he was. She’d have to have Tag check on that, but when she’d left her meeting with Janet, Tag had still been in with Les and that was one conversation she had no intention of disturbing. Indy rubbed her face. Had she apologized for keeping Al waiting? Of course not. He’d reappeared in her cousin’s house. There hadn’t been any waiting.
Good rule of thumb, if you want my immediate attention…reappear in my house. She blew out a breath through her teeth and looked at Nylan. “This isn’t some sort of trick, is it?”
Janet had come away from her meeting with Indy feeling somewhat lighter of heart, held together for a while longer by a friend’s embrace; her mind removed for a time from things she’d rather not think about by discussing business at hand – namely, a galaxy at war. Les, too, seemed less burdened after his private meeting with Tag Rendar. She didn’t press him about what they had discussed, but gathered from what he did tell that Tag had agreed to take him under her wing. Inwardly she breathed a sigh of relief, felt a glimmer of hope in the midst of a fear that gnawed at her incessantly. All she wanted now was to have her son back, for their family to be whole again. It was, she knew, too much to ask – but ask she would.
The Kartuiin Sector enjoyed relative peace–save for the occasional pirate attack on convoys and minor trade disputes–since the truce with the Imperial Remnant in 19ABY. Circa 15ABY, Admiral Indiana Bridger had been promoted to commanding officer for all New Republic forces in the Kartuiin Sector. The main base for these forces remained at Xenen, despite its distance from the sector capital at Kartuiin. Tegan Dargan-Cannele was reelected to the governor’s chair in 24ABY after an absence of several years (she stepped down as governor about a year after the liberation of the sector from the Empire). The sector has enjoyed positive relations with both the New Republic, of which it is a member sector, and with the Imperial Remnant.
Peace was shattered with the Vong attack at Sernpidal, felt by every Jedi across the sector—and with it came a screamed warning from Ion Qel-Droma that the storm they’d felt the brewing of was finally here. A force of Yuuzhan Vong launched their attack at Xenen at the same time both Wayfarer station and Shay Memorial suffered a catastrophic loss of long-range communications, a loss orchestrated by a rogue intelligence agent bent on murder and revenge. The agent was apprehended through the intervention of the former XO of Ice Squadron, Robert Drake, and heralded the return to active service of General Rendar. The Vong attack was barely replused—this thanks to the fortituous, unexpected return of the Five Star Legacy ahead of schedule (this is, at least, what’s generally believed. The Vong force did quite a bit of damage before withdrawing.) and the arrival of the AFFC Fourth Fleet (which officially did not exist). In the meantime, the Golgan system was being hit by Alexander Kerensky and his Vong allies—a fact that would become clear in the coming weeks, when Natasha Kerensky arrived on Xenen to beg the help of her father’s friends in defeating the monster he had become.
In the wake of these attacks, Aurora Force commanding officer Indiana Bridger sent out a blanket message to all former members of her unit, both still on active duty and retired. “I know that we all thought that we’d won our war, won our battles, earned our peace. That peace is shattered, now, and it’s time to bring the family back together again.” She offered full reinstatement for anyone who had retired and promised to attempt to get anyone reassigned back to the Aurora Force who requested it. Some returned (including Janet Skyy and the believed-dead Al Grentarii). Some have not (such as Carlos Delong).
The Vong are still stirring in the Kartuiin Sector, and the worlds and units assigned there have begun to brace for an assault they know is coming, just not from where, or how, or when. Even amidst the planning and restructuring, there have been celebrations, such as the marriage of Cay Bel Iblis, captain of the Legacy to Eagle Squadron XO Mary Bullian. The Vong were apparently annoyed at a lack of an invitation to the event, however, destroying General Kosura’s AFFC Fifth Fleet and cutting Aurora Force’s naval power by 65%. The ships will not be replaced and the Republic is already making sounds about pulling more ships from the Kartuiin Sector, which is rapidly becoming viewed more and more by the Senate on Coruscant as “expendable.”
It’s less than a month before the Battle of Ithor, and the Aurora Force is at war.
Flanked by his armed escort, Howie entered the base’s main entrance. Had it really been a decade since he had last been here? Much had changed and much had remained. The general outline seemed as familiar as ever, but there appeared to have been new buildings added that he didn’t recognise immediately. Various new departments had clearly been set up for a variety of purposes. Howie noted a brand spanking new office under construction for something called the “Personnel Support Service”. With all the new regs in this day and age, Howie wouldn’t be surprised to find an office dedicated to paperclip standarisation.