“How bad were our losses?”
At the other end of the comm channel, Izra Dargan grimaced. He looked no worse for wear except for a cut above his eyebrow and some soot on his face. “Six pilots and almost a squadron’s worth of fighters. Ten more wounded to varying degrees and another squadron’s worth of starfighters damaged, but repairable.”
“…no ma’am, I don’t have an ETA for it to be fixed. Lieutenant Bullian is down there working on the hyperdrive as we speak.”
Commander Dorrin Drake stood on the bridge of the Legacy, looking far to in control for the way he actually felt as he stared at a split-screen image of Admirals Indiana Bridger and Karen Wood.
“And what, exactly, did he say was wrong with the hyperdrive, Commander?” Karen looked none too pleased at being informed that the tough little Acclimator would be out of commission. Continue reading
Nylan tried to smother a yawn and took a long swallow of caf, glancing at Indy. “Looks like Tag was wrong about Janet making it up here.”
Indy shook her head, still watching the feeds from Aten-Re. “First time for everything. Go to bed, Nylan. Rather have you sharp for tonight than keeping me company now.”
The Jedi considered this and glanced at the chrono. 0657. He could hit the sack for a few hours…she was right. Better he be sharp when he was actually on the watch later than falling asleep in a chair behind her.
“All right,” he said, and got up. “G’night, Admiral.”
“How do the feeds from Aten-Re look?”
That was it. No preamble. No good morning, no admiral on deck. Indy was suddenly there, in the dim of base ops’ night watch. Nylan was too tired to even feign surprise. He was getting too old, Jedi or not, for these thirty-six hour days.
“I wish you didn’t have to go,” Indy murmured, sliding her arms around his waist and burying her face against his chest. She listened to the quiet thudding of his heart as Mike folded his arms around her, inhaling deeply the scent of her hair. The wind keened outside the covered hangar. The transport stood about twenty meters away, on the rain-sodden tarmac. It was due to depart within the next twenty minutes, and he had to be aboard. If he wasn’t aboard, he’d never make the military transport dispatched to Wayfarer to take him and other personnel out of the sector, back to their postings.
Howie took a moment to ponder Indy’s words. Essentially, he was being offered a second chance. The opportunity to rebuild the life that he’d left behind all those years ago. On the other hand, he was going to have to fight a new war against a new enemy. The decision wasn’t going to be one he was going to make lightly.
He’d heard about the Vong, of course, but what he did know was limited mostly to what he’d caught on the holonet. News reports, hastily thrown together docuholos and the odd word of mouth encounter overheard from random barflies (which offered little more than wild rumours as to how they lived and what they did to the worlds they invaded). Whatever was true and what was false, Howie knew that they posed a serious threat to the New Republic.
“I’m not sure how deep you were, but there’s a war on, and for once it’s not about the Remnant. I put out a call to get everyone I could back here, but I’ll be damned if I got as many as I’d hoped. A few are tied up, can’t leave their current postings for reassignment. Few I couldn’t find—I’ve got Tag on that, now, thank the Force she’s back—and then a few are dead. You were in the latter category.” She stood up and began to pace.
The hell were they thinking? How low can we stoop? She exhaled quietly through her teeth, pinching the bridge of her nose. “I need experienced commanders. I’ve got children. When we signed the peace with the Remnant…most of the veterans retired. I didn’t blame them—I still don’t. But they were replaced by a generation that’s half trained and wholly unready for what we’re looking at.” She managed to smile. “Hell, I’m not even sure that I’m ready for what we’re looking at, to be honest. But it says a lot that one of my best commanders is someone I chased out from under my desk when he was five.” She stopped pacing, stared out the window for a long moment, then looked back to him. “What do you say, Major? Want to get back in the saddle, or do you just want to be some sort of grunt on the front lines, in the trenches—wherever they end up being?”
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?”
“Sir? Should we inform the admiral?”
Nylan Bridger didn’t bother to look up from his boards, monitoring communications, taking a slow sip of his cup of caf. “Who’s officer of the watch, Mr. Carelli?”
Tag was perched on the corner of Indy’s desk when the admiral walked in, juggling an armload of files and her own caf cup. Indy blinked at the other woman a moment, then shook her head.
“You still remember my lock code.”
“You still haven’t changed the overrides,” Tag corrected.
She leaned in the doorway, arms crossed across her chest, watching him as he rolled up articles of clothing, stuffing them into his duffle bag. Even after so many years after he quit being a pilot, he still carried the long, cylindrical duffle bag meant to fit neatly into the small cargo compartment of an X-wing.
“When’s your transport leave?”
“Couple days,” he answered, stuffing another shirt into the bag before looking up at her. “You’re in uniform.”
It seemed like years since Janet had visited Indy’s office, so much had happened in the mean time. Once news was swapped and briefings on the current state of the war had been hashed over, the two women kicked back over a cup of caf and reminisced. After so many years and so many missions together, there were innumerable stories to call to mind, comrades to remember, and plenty of laughs to share.
But before they could get too comfortable, Indy’s comm went off. As she took the message, she smiled at Janet. “Two more back into the fold,” she told her.
She scrubbed her hands over her face, mumbling a quiet curse to herself, then raked her fingers up and through her hair, exhaling slowly as she marched herself into base operations. Nylan looked up at her mildly from where he was sitting, dressed in the same robes he’d worn the night before, then offered her his mug of caf.
“Whose idea was it to not tell me that an advance force took out the Fifth?”
Sleep had come restlessly, elusive for hours despite her exhaustion, and now she awoke cold, shuddering and sweating, twisted in her covers. Rain pounded against the windowpane, thunder rolled above, rattling the house to its foundations with its deep growl. Arilyn squeezed her eyes shut, not wanting to be awake but knowing unbroken, dreamless sleep would continue to escape her grasp.
Thunder rumbled in the distance, sun rising like blood in the sky. The rain would come soon, the ache in her knee told her that. She stood by the window and watched quietly as Chase and Slate set off on a morning jog, heedless or uncaring of the coming storm, putting feet to pavement.
Arms slid around her waist from behind and she sighed quietly, smiling up over her shoulder at her husband. “Admiring the view?”
“How does it look?”
Robyn sighed, hanging up her jacket on the rack by the door, avoiding her husband’s gaze for a moment. He’d been waiting for her—she was late getting in. She shook her head slowly, finally looking at him. “Our defenses can’t stand up to an assault like the one against Xenen. They just won’t handle it.”
William Scarlett, governor of Conceli VIII, winced visibly. “What can we do about that?”
She shook her head. “I don’t know. Request a detachment of NRM forces, I guess, to keep an eye out for trouble. Get our evac plans in order. The military-grade reports that are being disseminated…”