Changeling rested in the maintenance tubes that connected each of the decks of
the Imladris. The encounter with
DeLong had been only the second time that he had ever been surprised.
He had gotten used to encountering much looser morals in some of the
other missions the Link had sent him on. He
would not make that mistake again. Some
of his spies had learned of the Jedi through stories told by Nylan Bridger.
The Link had decided that before the two cultures made contact, they
would ensure their complete dominion over the New Republic by exterminating
their greatest threat: the Jedi.
For that matter, they equipped their foremost assassin with the ability
to sense a Jedi, and the prowess to destroy that Jedi.
all been well and good. The Jedi
were easily detectable, and the non-Jedi were ignored.
Until Assassin, in duck form (he preferred avian creatures) encountered
Carlos DeLong. A non-Jedi, but
Assassin sensed that DeLong could, somehow, gain access to the Force when it was
absolutely necessary for his survival and the survival of his team.
That made DeLong more of a threat to the Link than any Jedi Master could ever
have been. He was unpredictable in
what he could do. Therefore he had
to be eliminated.
Assassin had plenty of time. Right
now he had to go and finish off Nylan Bridger.
Then he would continue his campaign of genocide against the Jedi.
Crawling through one of the many maintenance tunnels traveling
the Imladris like veins that went to every part of the
Troy Nexus cursed himself for going along with the idea.
Meoss, the security com officer had told Troy of some
and strange happenings in the maintenance tunnels and air
Meoss had always kept Troy in touch with all that went on
the ship, giving him a better idea of the security level.
"What am I suppose to be looking for again??" said Troy still
to crawling around in maintenance tunnels with tons of
circulating around him. "You
tell me Chief! All I know
something's messing with the wires and machinery and I'm just
to find problems while you check them out." said Quinton in
safety of his own control room that was connected to all the
sensors, computers, and cameras throughout the ship.
helps a lot. If this is just
another crazy feeling you got, then
better pay off or I'll be looking for a new security com
said Troy before hitting his head on a low metal plate
from the tunnel ceiling.
The comlink at Troy's side beeped, and laying on his back he
at his com and pulled it to his mouth, still recovering from
blow to the head. "What is it
now??" "Troy?" came
of his long time friend and fellow commando Carlos DeLong,
found the saboteur." Forgetting
about the pain, Troy's
cleared and focused on his voice, "So Who is it?" "It's not
It's more like a what. It's a
shapeshifter that just tried
closer than I'd hope to get. When I
blasted it, it liquefied
into a Air Duct before I could stop it." Carlos explained in
yet urgent voice. "What??
Meoss you hearing this?" said Troy
through the many ways of dealing with a shapeshifter.
same problem with their kind back on the Imperial Scout Fleet
dealt with aliens to often. "All
of it Troy!" said Meoss
asking, "What floor you on Carlos?"
"Level 15." Pulling
sensor radar throughout the air ducts, Meoss scanned the area of
15 and found a fast moving object going through an air duct
the training gym. "It's on
it's way to the training gym. No
in there cuz it's been refurnished. I
got the room closed off
remote. You guys want in
"Yeah. Someone's gonna have to stop it.
Meoss, get on that
and close down all the air ducts after it gets into the
Gym, then get security with electro stunner rifles there.
If you'd care to join me. I think
we got a shapeshifter to
said Troy already heading towards the Training Gym through
Stepping out of a maintenance hatchway onto the Training Gym's dark
Troy looked around at the mist that covered the ground.
had no lights, and had been kept cold by orders of Troy to slow
the Shapeshifter, and the electro stunner rifles to electrify it
state easier to be handled. Flipping
on his com Troy whispered
it, "Meoss.. Where is it?". "It's
in there, I think it's trying
the door open." Suddenly a
sound of metal against claws came
across the room. The sound
continued as the shapeshifter had
itself into a Rancor, not full size, but big enough to start
open the door. It had been caged in
the room and wanted
Pulling out his blaster, Troy looked at the blaster realizing
was about to do. Shoot at a 3 story
bag of tooth and claws.
his attack, Troy grabbed his duel sabers. Flipping
dagger size dark blue sabers, Troy ran towards the beast and tore
it's lower legs, cutting behind it's kneecaps.
in agony before loosing it's balance at the liquid fluid
the shapeshifter's natural form. Rolling
around in a liquid
Troy watched as it regathered itself and reformed into a insect
humanoid. It's arms were thin and
long, claws here hands
suppose to be. It swung at Troy
with it's arms, and as pieces
chopped off by his saber, a sharper and longer claw would
the old one. Catching the light out
of the corner of his
Troy saw the Training Gym's door slide away, and shadows
blasters came into the room and flipped on the lights of
and the Shapeshifter cut away at another, drawing blood for
and taking off parts of the beast.
Nylan floated in the dark peace of unconsciousness, but was not truly
unconscious. As soon as he sensed the shapeshifter looming above him, he
struck out with the Force, using it to separate the shape shifter into its atoms
and binding those atoms so the creature could never become whole again....
He came awake with several people standing over him.
One he didn't recognize, the others he knew.
Carlos, Troy, and Baron, and another man.
Nylan moaned softly. "Get
my cousins," he croaked. "And
then get me to bed." His eyes
slid shut again as he slid into a Jedi Healing Trance....
turned to Bethan now and said, " Which one's real?"
shook his head, but kept his eyes focused on the Nylan standing, looking him
over with his scanner. Nylan now
began to walk toward them saying, " It's me, Nylan.
The shapeshifter tried to pose as me to get to Indy."
seemed to be considering this when suddenly Bethan's left arm shot up as a hand
trigger popped out of the device on his forearm.
Catching it in his hand, he brought his thumb down on the trigger
launching a disc shaped object with some kind of energy field surrounding it
from the slit in the front end of the device on his arm heading straight at
Nylan. The disc passed through
Nylan as if moving through water, though the disc did seem to cause him some
pain. The disc now reversed
directions and came tearing back once again passing through Nylan and reentering
the device through a slit in the back.
now showing much anger, reached out transforming his arm into a tentacle which
wrapped around Bethan's throat lifting him into the air and slamming him against
now reached for his blaster, only now picking up the situation, but as he was
about to fire, the shapeshifter released another tentacle that knocked the
blaster away and slammed Baron against the wall at the same time.
meanwhile had found that he could not break the creatures grip and reached for
his knife in an attempt to cut the tentacle in two, but it only ended in vain as
the knife passed right through.
barely conscious, Bethan reached for the device on his right arm and pointing
his arm toward the shapeshifter, hit the panel just as he went unconscious.
The device emitted a pulse that upon hitting the shapeshifter, caused it
to coil in pain, then it released Bethan who fell to the floor barely breathing.
The shapeshifter now grabbed its head as it began to revert to its
blobish form. It then took off down
an air vent fairly slowly, as if it could barely concentrate, leaving Nylan,
Baron, and Bethan unconscious in the hallway.
Bethan came to, he found himself in MedLab, several faces staring over him,
including Troy Nexus. Troy quickly
said as Bethan began to try to get up, " Easy now, you took a beating.
Now do you remember what happened?"
was still partly out of it, but he nodded, though the whole picture wasn't in
his head just yet. He mumbled,
" Couldn't breathe. Tentacle
wouldn't break. Hit the panel on my
alpha nullifier, then it's a blank."
paused, then said, " You hit the panel on what?"
more awake now replied, " My alpha nullifier.
It temporarily shuts down the higher functions of the brain.
Most wake up after an hour or so. Real
effective on Jedi. Must have hurt
now said, " How'd you know you weren't shooting at Nylan?"
now got to his feet and stretching some said, " I figured that if the
shapeshifter was unconscious, it wouldn't maintain its human form, besides,
Nylan was too beat up from the last time to take it again."
now ran into the room and said, " Sir, there's been another sighting in the
a stroke of luck that the Changeling hadn't reached Nylan earlier.
It had been moving toward the Jedi's location when it had been surprised
by Troy and Meoss. While fleeing
from them, it had taken a wrong turn in the tubes, and had wound up in the
practice gym. It had turned itself
into a rancor and had tried to claw its way out of the gym, but Troy and Meoss
had attacked it. The Assassin was
beginning to figure that this might be his last mission.
Strange, he had never failed before.
Why were these Jedi so different?
ran toward the gym. He hoped that
Troy and company could handle the shapeshifter, but he figured that they needed
all the help they could get. He
heard grunts and shouts as he neared the gym, and found Indy and a few others
just arriving at the door, blasters drawn.
Carlos drew his DT sword and charged in with the rest of them.
stopped short as they saw Troy fighting this large spider-thing. Blaster bolts and sword swipes joined in with his lightsaber
in a concentrated effort to blast the shapeshifter into a mudball.
But it just simply flowed with the shots and swipes.
liked you a lot better when you were a duck," Carlos said.
Changeling had managed to dodge most of the attacks, but it was being worn down.
Unable to kill the Jedi in the room, the Assassin flowed into a pool of
fluid and drained down the vents.
Scuttlebutt had passed around about a spy, traitor, something like that.
Dack considered himself all right, since he was virtually one of the most
powerful force-users in the galaxy, with his peacekeeping powers. Hey, he could
emit concentrated bursts of energy from his hands, breathe in the vacuum of open
space, punch and kick rapidly at a time, and also hover over any planet's
surface. But, he didn't talk of it much. It wasn't that he tried to keep a low
profile, it was the fact that he was never naturally one to brag.
More rumors had passed through that the traitor was targeting force
users. A shapeshifter, he had also heard. He decided to watch his back often...
Dack winced as the sparks flew from the end of his hydrospanner.
He had been working on his A-wing, modifying the weapon alignment, when
he heard a scuffle.
It had barely echoed in the hangar. A small shuffle of feet. Dack rose
from his work, and looked around in the dark hangar. With a strange
stomach-lurching feeling, he decided that maybe that working on his A-wing this
late wasn't good...
Then, he spotted it.
Dack recoiled back as a small duck waddled up to his feet. The two
exchanged a short stare. The duck was looking far up to the taller man. Then,
the duck's eyes began to glow red.
Dack stepped back. The duck started to grow, shift..... shapeshifter!
The duck-now-turned-beast loomed over Dack, now over four feet taller
than him. Dack instinctively lowered into a fighting stance. Nothing was said
for several seconds, both sentients eyeing each other with anticipation. Then,
the creature attacked.
The bigger shapeshifter's claws flicked out, lunging towards Dack. At the
last second, Dack dodged. Pulling a safe distance away, Dack threw his hands
back and charged up some energy in the palm. The mammoth creature lunged again,
but was met with a huge burst of blue energy in the chest. With a loud snarl,
the beast was plunged back, hitting the hangar floor, and writhing in pain. The
energy dispersed all over his/hers/its? body.
With a hateful look, Dack began to hover up over the ground. He recoiled
in disgust and blasted the creature again with energy. The shapeshifter's howls
changed into a loud yell of anguish.. a humanoid yell. The huge form of the
beast changed into something with smaller arms and legs. Shapeshifters needed to
concentrate on their work at hand.
Just then, the doors to the hangar opened, and the lights came on...
God, it's here again. I used to love these days, but now I realize why my
parents never really liked theirs. Birthdays suck. I'm at the bar today, and
I'll probably be here tonight. I don't think anyone knows it's my birthday, and
I don't care. I just want to gracefully and quietly add another number to my
This is giving me time to reflect on the past couple of weeks, between
missions. I've gone through a wedding, a dangerous confrontation with a ghost of
my past, a shapeshifter, a bar brawl, a chance to see Indy in bacta, a visit by
Indy's whole family, (one at a time of course), a chance to relearn my piloting
skills, and I even managed to shoot down a few members of Rogue Squadron in the
sims! (Thanks Mike) Man. If that's what goes on between missions, do I really
want to go back into another one? You bet! It's gotta be safer than sitting
I wave the bartender over for another drink.
responded to the resounding cry for assistance in the gym that was now coming
over the intercom every two minutes. He grabbed his lightsaber, and a blaster,
and shot off toward the gym. A group of other officers were there with him as
the gym door slid open and they rushed in. Someone hit the lights, and the sight
of Troy battling what appeared to be a rancor that grew limbs back invaded his
attention. This must have been the shapeshifter everybody was talking about, the
saboteur. But how do you capture one?
Man, it's cold in here. I guess this might make the shapeshifter weaker,
but he only seems to be stronger under these conditions.
How are we going to KILL this thing?
Life was dull, at least when all you have to do is sit back and watch
some computer screens. Thank god Mike had come to Stormlight, Deadmeet would
have gone out of his mind. After
the first day Deadmeet brought mike down to the more "sophisticated"
holo room. The ones that you can actually feel the holograms.
Mike was impressed, especially since the standard holo's on ships just
projected images. So Deadmeet
punched up his favorite battle and with drew his lightsaber, now it had a
heavenly blue glow on it. "Nice," Mike said, "Yea, Iíve had a
little time on my hands so i figured I wanted a different color than the
After killing all the holo enemies 3 times and only coming out with a
small scratch from were one of them turned a blaster on Deadmeet and he didn't
turn around in time, they felt pretty good.
Once again after having Mikes spicy Chicken stir fry and complements
pouring from Deadmeetís mouth about it they played a game of sabacc and went
to check on the ship. "Enyo," Deadmeet said to his modified R2,
"What is the current completion of the ship?" Current ship status is
at 50 % completion. Super structure finished, main hull 50%, interior armor 70%,
weapons/shields/docking bays not yet begun. "Thanks Enyo," Deadmeet
said, "Well, we got 3 choices, A: We
can start doing manual labor on the ship ourselves, B: We can begin
manufacturing more droids to speed up production, or C: We can go to sleep and
see how far along it is tomorrow." "Hmmm," he replied, " I
vote a little of A, a little of B, and a little of option D." Deadmeet
asked, "What's option D?" "Me going back to the ship, seeing
Indy, training Slate, and seeing if the next mission is about to start."
Deadmeet considered, "Hey works for me, like i can really stop you. I'll
just work on more droids tell you get back." And with that mike vanished
leaving only a slight wind were he stood.
sat in the MedLab now, letting the doctor finish going over him. It had banged him up some, although hardly enough to take him
out for more then an hour. He had
heard the shapeshifter was either cornered or dead, either way, it would be good
to have this behind him. He had
told Troy everything he needed to know, though he had kept one thing out.
The clincher as to how he knew which one the shapeshifter was. He had
felt normal to him, while a Jedi would have sent bells off in his head.
It was better this way he figured. Most
people here don't know him, or don't like him, or both.
To allow them to know that he could sense a Jedi would add to their
distrust of him. Yes, better they
not know. Bethan's Survival Code:
Rule 7, " Never let anyone know more about you then necessary."
they would only think that he was sent to kill off the Jedi onboard.
Such missions were suicidal, and he would never accept such a contract.
They wouldn't believe that though, and they would never quite understand
why he was really here. They were
too naive, still seen too little battle. He'd
lived for fifteen years, with a new mission, new settings every week, and the
Imladris felt slow compared to his old lifestyle.
only knew him. Then they'd not only
never question his loyalties again, but would know that he's the one guy they'd
want watching their back in a firefight. He
could always open up, show them right now what kind of person he was but... no,
no he couldn't let anyone in. Couldn't
let them be hurt. Rule 4, "
Keep your enemies close, and your friends out." And these people, as much as he didn't want to believe it,
would have to become his friends.
Lara was here. Then things would be
all right. But she was the past and
it needed to be buried. No one
would ever know about his greatest tragedy, his guilt, and that was that.
shapeshifter had managed to escape Dack's attack about an hour before.
He was quite infuriating that way. He
spent that last hour in the maintenance tubes, resting in a fluid state and
recovering. These Jedi were the most difficult opponents he had ever
encountered. There seemed to be
only one way to destroy this collection of Jedi:
destroy the Imladris. He
started to flow down the tubes toward the engine room.
the Aurora Force had been given specific sections of the Imladris to cover.
By sheer coincidence Carlos had been assigned to patrol the engine
section. As he walked into the
engine room to finish his last sweep before the next shift took over, the first
thing he noticed was Chief Engineer Captain Batah Charazan lying on the floor
out cold. The second thing he
noticed was a humanoid form hunched over the controls, setting the engines for
Get away from there!" Carlos
shouted as he ran toward the intruder.
intruder turned toward Carlos and started to melt away.
The Changeling was striking again, and looked to be in top physical
condition. Carlos was in pretty
good shape, but he was beginning to get tired from all the patrolling.
He had fifteen minutes before he would be relieved from his post and
could go to bed. It would be a very
exciting fifteen minutes.
Haven't you had enough?" Carlos asked.
DeLong. I still have my
mission." the Changeling
hissed as he flowed away from the panel and turned into a large man.
Carlos steadied himself and drew his blaster as he faced the Assassin
down. He drew a bead on the
Changelingís head and fired. The
shapeshifter simply flowed aside. Carlos
threw the blaster away and began to attack the shapeshifter hand-to-hand.
He was a master of teras kasi, but he also knew its less known armed
variant, teras ki. The shapeshifter
avoided all of his blows, and got in strike after strike as he wore Carlos down.
Finally, with a hideous laugh, the shapeshifter flung Carlos into the far
wall of the engine room. With an
evil gleam in its eyes, the Changeling approached Carlos, its arms turning into
sharpened blades. Impossible
adrenaline level in Carlos soared of the scale.
Special sensors built into his ring recorded this, and the ring took the
appropriate action. Its stone
glowed with a green light, and Carlos's eyes took on the same aurora.
He felt the Force flow through him.
He knew that he had to stop the Changeling, now.
With a loud cry he charged at the enemy, all his strength restored.
The Changeling tried to flow away, but Carlos grabbed him with the Force
and did not allow him to transform. Carlos
dealt blow after blow, each one powered by the Light Side, each one destructive
to creatures of the dark. If anyone
had been there, they would have seen his arms and legs move in blurs as he
pounded the changeling back into the power core.
In one final blow, Carlos knocked the changeling backward onto the main
engine. The radiation surrounding
it crackled and sparked as it flowed through the shapeshifter's body.
It let out one final scream and then fell forward, dead.
Carlos breathed heavily, his body weakening as the Force left him, as the
thousands of years old mechanisms in his ring deactivated.
1, complication set #6
Nylan woke up on the couch in his cousin's quarters.
The rooms were quiet, empty. He
stood up slowly and rubbed his forehead. He
wandered through the corridors, feeling much better than he had before. He caught some rumors as he wandered the decks--about Legend
Wing, about the Echo Raiders, about a new run coming up....Nylan immediately
marched to the CO's office and volunteered to ship out.
Slate fired at the target. He
was happy to learn that he was as skilled with a blaster as he had been as a
member of CorSec's upper ranking academy cadets.....
Indy gathered her slicer's kit together.
She had a bad feeling about the upcoming mission, but she'd do her best
anyway, because doing her best would keep them all alive.
She closed her eyes, trying to shake the dread that was creating a ball
of lead in her stomach....something bad was going to happen, she just knew it.
sat in a sim now, flying his X-Wing through dog fight after dog fight.
He had decided to get a little flight time going since he had heard
rumors of a half ground, half space assault, and he was planning on spending
plenty of time on the ground, where they'd need him most.
been raising the levels until they could go no higher, but still he found them
too easy. He tried other scenarios
but it was no use. Something about
the sim was bothering Bethan too. As
real as it was, he missed the feel of real space below him, the real feel of the
chase seemed gone. Perhaps it was
just that he hadn't been in a sim for three years, but he doubted it.
out now just as Mike and Indy entered the room.
Instantly Bethan's eyes narrowed as Mike said to him, " Hey Bethan,
nice job with the shapeshifter, want to run a sim with us?"
shook his head saying, " Nah, I've been in here for the last three hours.
I should get going."
now jumped in, taunting Bethan to a degree, " What's the matter, afraid of
riled Bethan. No one was going to
call him a coward. " All
right, half an hour, but then I'm out of here whether we're done or not."
chuckled some and said, " OK, and don't worry, this won't last that
long." They all then got into
their machines and the challenge was on.
minutes had passed now, and they were on their fifth round.
Indy was standing outside now, having been downed by Bethan for a fifth
straight time. Mike and Bethan were
tied two a piece and neither were willing to fall short of the other.
Mike was in pursuit of Bethan now, if it could be called one.
Every time Mike was about to get a clear shot, Bethan pulled away, spun,
or found some amazing way out of it. Experience,
was definitely on Bethan's side here.
now dove in, trying to catch Bethan off guard.
As he turned to get the shot though, he found Bethan had slipped behind
him and was firing. Mike dodged
with great skill, but had the left tip of his wing hit, causing slight damage.
The evasive maneuvers continued until Bethan hailed Mike and said, "
Sorry, times up. I got to go."
then got out of the sim as he shut it down and thanked both of them for a
wonderful time and left. Indy
turned to Mike now and said, " Well, what do you think of him?"
Mike said as he nodded his head some was, " He's good, I'll give him that.
His social skills may be lacking, but he's definitely good."
Mike tried to suppress the fear in his gut as he got himself ready for
the next run. Mike had had a
vision, a flash of fire and excruciating pain before nothingness.
He turned on the mini holorecorder on the bedside table and began to
record a message.
"Indy, if you're hearing this I'm dead.
I wanted you to know that i loved you and i will always be with you.
The ruby on the necklace i made you has a portion of my soul within it.
There's so much i want to tell you, but i haven't the time on this
recording. I want you to accept
your heritage and start training as a Jedi, i know you've forsaken the Force,
but you have so much potential and I don't want to see you waste it.
You will sometimes get feelings of my presence, that is because Iíll be
there with you, at least in spirit. I
love you..." Mike switched off
the recorder and went up to the Imladris bridge.
He watched the sensors as a capital ship jumped in, 2 kilometers long, 1
wide and a half high, it looked a little like a Calamari Cruiser, but bigger and
more symmetrical. mike thought to
himself "Good, they're here" Mike
thumbed the comm on a nearby station. "Cruiser Waterdeep, welcome, pull on
up alongside." The ship that
arrived was a MC-100 Cruiser, the flagship for Legend Wing.
It was going to back up Aurora on the upcoming mission.
"Hey Mike, haven't seen you since the wedding, how you been?"
Mike sat down at the comm station and transmitted.
"Not bad Alex, you?"
"Can't complain, you got one beauty of a ship here you know?"
Alex was referring to the Waterdeep, one of the most advanced capital starships
in the galaxy. "All those training rooms you thought to put in are
great." Mike smiled, he had redesigned the interior of the ship and
outfitted it better for a group of fighter jocks with many training gyms and
simulators, LW pilots were the best in the cockpit, why shouldn't they be in top
"I thought you'd like it, you guys all ready?" Mike asked,
needing to know whether AF had top shape backup.
"Most everyone else is in the training sims, we're as ready as we'll
ever be." Mike smiled, Alex
sounded enthusiastic, that soothed the fear that had nestled itself deep in
"Okay, Iím gonna go log some sim time, see you in the cockpit
tomorrow Alex." Mike turned
off the transmitter, but waited for his friend's reply.
"See you then." Alex replied.
Mike left the bridge for the sim room and went through his preflight sim
rituals, even being a Sedith master, he still had a few luck charms, every pilot
worth his salt did. Mike uploaded
Hawk's memory and programming into his data storage computer, just in case
something happened. He plugged Hawk
into the sim and hopped in. A
practice ruin was already in session, but Mike decided to join, virtually all of
the Auroras who were flying tomorrow were working in the sims.
Mike got into the thick of things and enjoyed himself, relishing the
workout. Mike finished the sim run
quickly and stretched before the next one was gonna start.
He figured he should get himself in top flying shape, the ground-pounders
were counting on him for air support. He stayed in the sim for hours until he was satisfied with
Mike left the sim room and headed for the gym, it'd also be good to work
up a good sweat and get tired so he would be able to sleep soundly.
He picked up his ebon staff and took off his shirt.
he went through a few rounds with a training droid and waited for another
humanoid to show up to spar with...
walks down to the sim room where a couple other pilots were training.
Tweak my R-5 into the simulator and pop open the hatch and jump in. "Cozy
thing, Tweak get this thing started up on a escort sim." The droid respond
in a couple of trps and beeps which roughly translated into" Yeah Yea
trying hold you banthas." The hatch closes down, and everything goes dark
for a moment before the buttons, switches, and screen lit up to fill the room
with a eerie glow. Soon I was in a mission protecting the Waterdeep. I spent a
good 3 hours in there before Tweak told me to get out. So I pop the hatch and
get out, I head down to the mess keeping to myself, thinking about how weird
Mike sounded. When I reached the mess I got a bantha steaks and some sorta mush.
I played around with the food before it grew cold and I left it there for some
droid to pick it up. I head down to my quarters. I reach them and head in, I
strip of my clothes and hit the refresher. After that I fell asleep on my bed.
In my dream I see a battle, then I see fire and death. I awake with cold sweat
running down my forehead.
A squadron of mixed craft, mostly X-Wings, dropped out of hyperspace
within two klicks of the Imladris. The
markings on them were mixed as well, but the markings on the lead fighter were
unmistakable--an icy orb with the Alliance Crest and crossed lightsabers laid
across it. The Echo Raiders had
There were several members of Aurora Force in the hangar, preparing for
the mission, when the squadron arrived. The
craft set down in a tight formation, wingtips to noses.
Indy looked up from where she perched on top of her X-Wing, getting Nylan
acquainted with its modified controls and systems.
She waved to the woman who climbed out of the lead fighter.
Commander Tag Rendar waved back, then shouted.
"Hello, the Imladris!"
One of the deck-techs, someone by the name of Martieneco, waved.
"Hello, Commander Rendar! That
*is* you, Commander, isn't it?" The deck-tech grinned.
Indy frowned, perched above the cockpit of her fighter, but Nylan smiled.
He looked up at Indy. "Jack
Martieneco was on Hoth with us. The
"that *is* you" joke has survived."
Indy still didn't understand, but she didn't push the subject.
She walked to the end of her S-foil and dropped to the floor, crossing
the deck toward where the Echo Raiders were congregating.
Nylan followed her after a few moments.
Tag was deep in conversation with Troy, who'd just come on-deck, so Indy
looked at the pilots that had accompanied her.
She recognized one of them--Captain Astrid Burns--and that was all.
Nylan walked up smiling. "Hello,
"Nylan!" One of
the Echo Raiders exclaimed. "Where
the frig have you been, you mynock?"
Nylan grinned. "Here
and there, Zephair, but I'm here now."
Indy continued to look confused until she caught part of Tag's
"...had to drag most of the original unit off of other duties or out
of retirement to get enough flyers...glad you called, though...not any
Indy's expression brightened. No
wonder she didn't recognize anyone!
"Hi Indy," Astrid remarked.
Indy shrugged. "He's
got to be around somewhere, Astrid. Are
these the original Echo Raiders?"
"In the flesh," one said.
He was tall, with gray eyes and brown-gold hair.
He extended his hand. "Lieutenant
Jax Darel, at your service." He
kissed her hand as she went to shake his.
Indy flushed. "Lieutenant,
I feel compelled to inform you that I'm a married woman."
Jax colored and released her hand. The
other Echo Raiders laughed.
Nylan clapped Jax on the shoulder. "At
least she's not an Imp spy, Jax!"
Jax turned a hawk-eyed stare at Nylan.
"Don't say it."
Indy crossed her arms and studied them all.
One of the pilots was a Trandoshan, another a small Wookiee.
The rest were human, but seemed to be from various worlds.
She could peg the one that had spoken first as a man of Commenor, simply
by his manner, and then there was another man in the group who looked so much
like him there was no possible way they could not be family.
Then, there were three that reminded her so deeply of Morcant that she
was willing to lay odds that they were Alderaanian.
Two were unmistakably Corellian, and looked like twins.
There was another pair that she couldn't place to a world, but were
unmistakably brother and sister.
Tag motioned to the Echo Raiders. "Captain
Nexus, these are my original Echo Raiders.
Astrid Burns, Jax Darel, Ryan Miller, Cari Kisick, Rayn Miller, Terel
Kisick, Ivy, Ben Balekin, Ilinniwara, Syyn Warchock, Keth Balekin, Kath Balekin,
and Zephair Warchock. They--"
her gaze caught Nylan and she stopped short, falling silent.
She stood and stared at him, her entire body rigid.
"Excuse me," she said quietly, and walked toward her X-Wing.
Troy looked at Nylan. "What
was that about, Captain Bridger?"
Nylan shook his head. "I'm
not really sure, Captain. Perhaps
she had given up on me as dead."
"Captain, she's flying in this assault.
I suggest you get over there and explain yourself."
"That I will," Nylan said quietly, and walked over to Tag.
Troy turned to Indy. "Indy,
will you please show the Echo Raiders to the empty ready room and to the block
of barracks open on deck six?"
Indy nodded, and began to lead the Echo Raiders away, glancing back over
her shoulder at the two other Children of the Chintar'fin'na'cah, standing by
Tag's fighter, staring at each other.
stepped into the hanger to get ready and to his surprise there was his fiancť
I missed you so much."
sat with Astrid.
So you brought all the Echo's huh?"
In the flesh."
Well you ought to spend some more time here I really missed you."
couldn't believe all the Echos were here. It had been ages since he had seen
them all in one place. As he went to sleep he had a horrible dream. He saw
Alderaan and saw it explode. He saw a face and in the background a light saber.
His very own lightsaber. he say the face and recognized it as the dark Jedi he
had confronted on Lantare. He awoke in a blazing sweat. he looked over and saw
Astrid sleeping and thought to himself " somebody on this ship had
something to do with my familyís death."
Tag turned and stared at Nylan. "Why
didn't you contact me?"
"I...." Nylan just
shook his head. "I'm
Tag sighed. "I thought you were gone forever."
Nylan shrugged. "I almost was."
Tag looked at the ground, then up at him.
"Where have you been, Nylan? You've
been gone for a year and a half. We
gave up on you as dead."
Nylan looked away. "You
don't want to know where I've been."
"I hope that you don't think that we can just start over where were
before," she said. "Because
Nylan's face fell. "Why
"Because I've gone on with my life," she told him.
"I've found someone else."
Nylan's eyes burned. Somehow,
somewhere, deep in his heart, he had always believed that Tag would wait for
him....now he saw that no matter how much the woman cared, he *had* been gone
for too long, and that had effectively destroyed their relationship.
"Can we still be friends, Tag?"
Tag smiled gently and hugged him. "You're
my blood-brother, Nylan, and that's far more than a friend."
Nylan took her hand. "Can
I buy you a drink?"
"Before a mission?" Tag
laughed. "Oh, Nylan, you know me too well. Of course."
The pair of ex-lovers headed for the bar.
the Imladris had resumed some semblance of normalcy after the defeat of the
Changeling. The damage that had
been done to the engines and the fighters had been repaired.
The Claw, however, had not been in such good shape.
had spent the better part of an afternoon crawling through his ship, fixing
busted cables and cut wires. The
ship looked like a bomb had gone off in it.
He found out that he was not as good with a welder as he was with a
blaster. Or maybe it was the fact
that he was still shaken by what had happened.
Not the fact that he had almost been cut to ribbons, been forced to die
with the knowledge that he had failed to save his friends, but the fact that he
could feel the Force when in serious trouble had him...spooked.
Granted, it was a feature that could surprise his enemies and friends as
much it had him (he wondered what the Krayts would think of this development),
but the way in which he had found it out was disconcerting.
He wondered what else the ring could unlock, what its secrets were. Then he had to stop thinking about that and test Peregrine.
He reattached the last two wires, crossed his fingers, and flipped the ON
What on earth happened!"
to see you back, Peregrine. Some
saboteur deactivated you and trashed the Claw.
Not very well, though. The
ship is back in one piece." And
a good thing, too, Carlos thought, if the rumors I've been hearing are true.
Peregrine's Claw would be joining the action, but without Carlos at the helm.
Once again, Peregrine would be flying the way he was designed:
sat on the floor of his room now in a meditative state, legs crossed, hands
slowly moving through synchronized motions
His thoughts were focusing on the mission (or what he knew of it) and
those involved. The Echo Raiders
were in his thoughts now. This
would be another first for him. The
Changeling had been new to him, and now this would be the first time he'd be on
the same side of the Echo Raiders and not fighting against them.
seen them in action before once some time ago ( he couldn't remember exactly
when) and he'd barely made it out intact. This
Nylan he had saved seemed to know them, and that would require further inquiry.
mind drifted back to battle tactics, strategy, and then suddenly, he was in his
dream again, watching the capital burn from space.
He broke out of his meditation now and tried to clear his head.
Unfortunately, the image wouldn't go away, so he got up and headed for
down and ordered a drink. Then
looking over to his left, he saw Nylan sitting and talking with one of the Echo
Raiders. Tag was her name? His drink arrived now and he decided to go over and join
them. This would, after all, be the
perfect opportunity to learn more about Nylan's connection to the group.
over to them, he could hear them talking about old times in the Echo Raiders.
That did answer one question, Nylan was a part of them it seemed.
Bethan now said to the pair, " Is this a private conversation, or
may I join you?"
looked up at Bethan and recognized him from when he destroyed the Changeling
replicant. He then said, "
Sure, you helped me take on that Changeling, so I guess I can make an exception.
By the way, never caught your name."
Leitbur, Bethan Leitbur. And you're
Nylan Bridger, and if my information is correct, is Tag Rendar."
nodded and said, " Well you're informed.
How long you been here?"
now turned toward Tag and said, " Less than Nylan here has. But not by much." He
knew Nylan was a Jedi, and the very fact angered him, but he knew that this was
another one who he shouldn't mess with unless necessary.
continued, " Where were you before that?"
responded, " I'm an ex-mercenary. I
seemed angered by this and said, " A mercenary?
Never liked them much. They
took out some good pilots of ours, and have no loyalties."
jumped at this slightly and said, " Tag, that's rather rude to say to
put his hand up toward Nylan to let him know not to bother and then said, "
It's all right Nylan, I usually get that response.
I also know just how good those pilots were that went down since I have
flown against you once."
almost leaped from her seat to strangle Bethan, but Nylan restrained her, though
Bethan could see that Nylan had the same thoughts.
He then continued, " Had we known it was you we were going up
against, we would have demanded more money for it. I myself almost didn't survive.
I will say this though, I would never want to fly against them again
after my last experience, and I hold a high respect for them."
calmed down now slightly and Nylan seemed almost shocked.
This was the first time he'd actually talked to the man, but he'd heard
that he was anti-social and had no respect for others, and this was definitely
not the man he'd heard about. He
decided therefore to accept the compliment for what it was.
though, was still suspicious. " If I may ask, when was this?"
leaned back in his chair now and thought for a moment, then replied, " When
I'm not sure exactly. I flew so
many missions so frequently that I can't remember dates of particular missions
too well, but I remember that it was an attack on a convoy, and you were
escorting it. We took heavy
casualties though, Wait, that would
mean it was before the Battle of Endor because my entire team died there except
for me, and I went solo after that."
seemed to recall the mission now, and believed his story of respecting them.
This was a very strange ex-mercenary indeed.
conversation went on for several more hours now, with the subject flowing away
from Bethan and that mission to other things, and when they concluded their
conversation, Nylan and Tag left leaving Bethan alone in the bar reflecting on
the conversation. " Perhaps
not all force wielders were so bad after all?" he thought.
Then he shook his head and thought, " Nah."
Larah was walking out of his shuttle, surprised there was no one to
him onboard. In the landing bay, he saw several X-wings, three
and two Shuttles. Suddenly, he heard a voice coming from one of the
like if someone was welding something.
he yelled and got near the X-wings, and so far saw no one.
here?" He walked slowly under an out-dated X-wing nose.
could feel that there was someone there. he walked slowly toward on one of
X-wings, as suddenly he saw someone turning his head toward him.
there" he said.
he now saw that it was a woman. She looked down her X-wing's S-foils
he said and walked toward the back of the craft, until he was standing
Larah, Call sign Ambious" he said and put his bag down on the floor.
Lieutenant Indiana Bridger Bullian," she said, "But friends call me
to meat you Lieutenant" he said and saluted with a large smile.
flatter me, mister Larah," she smiled and hopped of her X-wing, "A
for a mere Lieutenant".
I am new here," he said, "And I do need someone to show me
well" she said "I think we have some time before our next mission.
guess that excludes the option of taking a nap" he smiled and took up his
never been to a Calamari cruiser before," he said as they left the
bay, "It's huge".
been to a VSD?" she asked.
he said. "And hoping not to".
have" she said.
were you doing onboard a VSD?" he asked in surprise.
blood sister commands a battlegroup and the VSD is their flag ship".
VSD in the Alliance?"
The VSD 'Echo' was capture in a skirmish and refitted as the Flag ship
'Echo Raiders' battlegroup".
one your blood-sister commands."
been to normal ISDs though. They are much smaller the VSDs".
what were YOU doing on an ISD".
used to be a spy for the Alliance. I was almost shot to death one day in
shuttle and so I decided that if I don't want to end up like my parents
better learn piloting officially in the Academy".
happened to your parents?" she asked.
were both spies for the old Republic. One day, when they were about
return to base with stolen battle plans, their shuttle was shot from
and there was nothing they could do. They died that day".
sorry" she said.
OK. I never felt the change. They were never there for me anyhow".
OK" she said as they entered a weird dark room.
Bar" she said. "The perfect place to forget about your fights, battles
looked at the room quietly. Near the sabacc table he saw a few people
two people sitting next to the bar, another woman sitting alone,
people standing next to and old holo-projector jukebox.
walked toward the two man near the jukebox and Krig followed her.
guys" she said to them. "I'd like to meet Krig Larah".
can call me Ambious" he said after a short handshake with each.
this is my husband, Major Mike Bullian, and my older brother,
to meet you" Krig said and put his hands into his pockets, his
drawn aside revealing his Lightsaber.
looked at the metal cylinder for a second and then back at Krig.
you too" mike said.
looked at Krig. "You are a little old to join the Aurora Force, aren't
Krig said, "I have been spying for the alliance for a few years".
Slate said. He was sure that there is a somehow traumatic past inside
new man. He could see it in the way he acted.
it was nice meeting you. Maybe I'll see you guys tomorrow" Krig said
about to turn to the bar.
think you'll be seeing use much earlier then that" Mike said.
tell me!" Krig said.
shipping out" The three of them said in unison.
I'll see you around then" he said and turned to the bar.
the bar, he saw a lady sitting alone.
me another one" she said to the bartender.
pay for it" Krig said. "Get me one too".
you" she gave him a big smile. "Gibai Antion," she said,
Larah" he told her and they shook hands. "Just arrived today".
fly, Krig?" she asked him as they got their drinks.
I'll take it that you too" he said and paid the bartender.
I do". she said.
maybe we'll fly together sometime" he said and finished his drink.
wait" she said and smiled.
brown eyes, and a long black-red hair.
somehow reminded him of his little sister. He wished he could one day
her and reunite with her. He always wondered what happened to her after
big brother died. He was adopted by the Starhovers, who started
him how to be a Jedi, but she could never be found.
alive though. He could feel it. It was just a matter of time before
he will find her. Or maybe, she would find him.
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