The squad had returned, nobody was hurt, just some minor damage to some of the A-Wings, Miranda was pleased. No one would die under her command. She would make sure of it. Dal was wrong, survivor guilt would not touch her life. She would win through the war. It's only a matter of time, she thought. The Emperor's dead, Vader's gone, and the Empire is falling apart. This war might be over in a few years, maybe even sooner, she thought hopefully. She had been in the Allinace since the Battle of Endor, almost two years ago. Not one of her friends died while she flew with them. She grinned, she was immortal, and so was everyone else under her command.
    "All right, heads up, we have a new mission to fly," Dalsuna had stepped up to the lecturn to give another mission briefing, "We've got unwanted Imperial activity on Palidor. Intelligence reads maybe two squads of Imp fighters on the ground, with one trooper division. Our commandos are going in ahead of time to take out the troops. We are covering their exit in case something survives. We're only buying time for the main strike force to arrive and deal with this, so our goals are to destroy as much Imperial equipment and buildings possible," Dalsuna looked over the thirty six collected pilots and leaned on the lecturn, "Quick hit and run, shouldn't be any big problems. Questions?"

*           *            *           *

    "Rapier lead here, we are commencing our initial pass over the complex," Miranda banked from the clouds and dove. The Imperial complex was a small collection of buildings, there was a small landing field with a number of TIE Interceptors parked on the ground.
    "Rapier squadron, hit those parked fighters before they get airborne."
    "I see them, commencing attack run," a flight of A-Wings broke off from the squadron and strafed the airfield with laser fire. When the smoke cleared, only scrap metal remained, burning in the fires created by ignited starfighter fuel.
    "Resistant, what's your view up there? How many of the fighters did we get?" Miranda queried.
    "Rapier lead, we show 24 TIE Interceptors down, and clear-," the voice broke off, "correct that, I have new contacts, lots of them."
    "Saber lead," Dalsuna spoke up, "how many, Resistant?"
    "Readings still coming in, looks like Three squads, I repeat Three six fighters inbound on your posistion."
    "I copy, Rapier Squadron, Saber Squadron, close it up, we've got incoming, IFF tags them as TIE Advanced," Dalsuna looked behind his X-wing. To his aft, his squadron had formed up. Off in the distance, a squadron of A-Wings formed up in a combat spread.
    "Lock missles and fire at will, this is going to be messy."
    "TIE Advanced? Out here in this backwater world?" Miranda asked.
    "Cut the chatter, here they come," Dalsuna said. Twenty four missles and torpedoes erupted from the two squadrons of fighters, turning the horizon into a line of flame as they hit the Imperial fighters. Seven burning balls of light fell to the ground below. Then there was chaos.

*          *           *           *

    "Captain Losoda, may I sit down?"
    "Of course you can, Sir," Miranda was halfway done a salute when Lucas Stark waved her off, "No need for that, I just having a chat with my favorite pilot," Miranda cocked an eyebrow at the General's statement.
    "Perhaps you're misinformed, I'm not a pilot at the moment," she was leaning back, stirring her drink absently.
    "No, I ain't wrong, you a pilot. You're almost my favorite," he grinned, and she couldn't help but smile. He had that kind of effect. She almost broke down and felt herself flushing with warmth.
    "Now that's the Miranda I seem to remember meeting all those months ago," Lucas beamed, "where has she been?"
    "Lost, she still is," she shifted, started fidgeting, and decided to change the subject, "So what brings you here today?"
    "I was wonderin why you're not flyin, seeing you can tickle the treetops with your A-Wing,"
    "I-," she paused, she had no answer, "I don't know."
    "I know what you goin through, I'm cool with it," he paused, "but you gotta move on, every pilot lives with survivor's guilt. It happens in war. It's fate, and there ain't nuthin you can do but put it behind you and move on."
    Miranda looked into the subtle vortex that was created by her absent stirring, lost in her thoughts. "I was so wrong Lucas, I though we were immortal, I thought nothing could happen to us,"
    "You're were young. I see a bunch of cadets that thought the same as you come out of the academy every month. Combat changes em. War changes all."
    "I was so wrong. I thought the war would be over when we killed the Emperor, that the Empire would just fade away, and that would be it, nothing to worry about, no more attacks, no more fighting, no more dying."
    "You ain't the only one that thought that. I'll bet my stripes that more than half the galaxy thought that."
    "I just can't go on knowing I killed my squad," her hands shook, "I killed my friends."
    "You stop thinkin like that. You didn't kill none of em, the Empire did. You just out to blame it on yourself because you thought none of you would die. You still think you were supposed to protect em."
    "They didn't have families. No one who cared. All they had was the Resistant. That's all I had. Dal, taking care of me when our parents disappeared. He-They-We, were all family," she started shaking, tears were coming, but she didn't have the heart anymore the shed them. She could barely sit straight. Ten months of near neglect had take their toll on her. She had stopped eating properly weeks ago. She had grown frail, her glowing green eyes sunken and dark, no longer glowing with their radiance.
    "Miranda, you got half your ship and fleet command staff bent over to help you. Your own brother says it wasn't your fault. What do you say we get somethin to eat, and we go down the the sims and you get sometime in. I'll buy you a drink later," Lucas gave her another grin, and she couldn't resist, her radiant smile made another rare appearance as she nodded.
    "We got a date then,"
    "I wouldn't go that far," she scoffed.

*         *          *          *

    "This is Rapier 11, I have one on my tail, I can't shake him," the worried voice of eleven came over the comm, "I'm over the lake right now, I'm surrounded, I got four on me, get em off!"
    "Rapier lead here, I'm already there, hang tight, Velis, I got them," She squeezed her triggers and sent lasers into the pack of TIEs maneuvering for a shot on her squadmate. One of the TIEs exploded, and fell into the lake, spashing up a mixture of metal, fire and smoke with a giant plume of water and steam. "Rapier lead here, I have one on missle lock, I have clean tone, missles away. Aquiring new target, engaging with blasters," another TIE exploded, and the missles fired at another over shot their target, but wandered back into her laser sights. The third TIE of the furball fell into the water. Miranda laughed with glee, a loud snap yanked her out of her personal bliss and she climbed to gain altitude. The last TIE had fallen into a posistion behind her and was bent on avenging his wingmates. Miranda juked left, causing the TIE to miss again. She rolled and pulled hard back on her stick, causing her A-wing to pull into a dive. The TIE was still with her.
    "This guy is beginning to tickle my Wampa," she hissed. She dove in between the trees surrounding the battle site of the lake. Blasters hit the trees to the left and right of her as the TIE fired at her from above. She found shelter in a canopy of trees to find her persuer had droped directly behind her. She pulled hard back again, tearing out of the trees, the TIE right behind. Her shields were weakening, it would only be a matter of time. She banked hard, pointing her craft back towards the lake. She corkscrewed her craft, climbing at the same time, the TIE remained behind her, missing by only fractions of a metre. They were over the lake again, and she dove, looking for speed. The TIE was again persistent.
    The water was getting closer and closer now. Miranda looked back once more, to check the distance of her attacker. 100 metres, timing is cruicial, she though. 50 meters, no time to blink. 25 meters, steady now. 15 meters, she triggered her countermeasures. A flare shot out from the back of her A-Wing and sent the TIE Advanced spinning. At the same time, she dropped the throttle and pulled hard on the stick, pulling her fighter out of the suicide dive. When she was pointed back in the air, she punched the throttle, throwing all her power into the engines. The TIE, still spinning, hit the water at full throttle. The bent solar panels buckled and bent upwards from the force as the ship plowed into the water at terminal velocity.

    Glasses clinked together as the members of Rapier Squadron raised their glasses to their Commanding officer. "To the Lady of the Lake," Velis exclaimed, her voice filled with joy. The thought of death had never crossed her mind. All the members of Rapier Squadron had scored another victory without losing one of their own.
    "We're un-beatable. No one in the Empire, or the Galaxy can stop us!" Miranda exclaimed.

*           *            *            *

    The sky was dark, her displays were clear. The familiar hum of the engine was almost soothing. She opened her eyes. Miranda checked the displays of the simulator once more, and left the docking bay of the platform. Her thrusters pushed the A-wing out. The simulator rocked from side to side as the gravity changed. Her stomach protested. She took a deep breath. I'm in a simulator, there's no real danger here, she thought to herself. The cockpit grew less confining as she took another breath. No one can die in a simulator, only in those death traps we send out in space, she tried to calm herself. Her heart was pounding inside her chest, almost blurring her vision.
    "Alright, Captain, you seem to be doin fine," the IronMan's voice came through with a slight hiss of static. An X-Wing pulled up beside her, inside, Stark waved, flashing another one of his grins. Miranda had her eyes closed, concentrating on keeping her stomach from turning inside out. She opened her eyes, and signalled for the target drones to come in. In the next half an hour, her abilities made their appearances through her deteriorated exterior. Her moves were slightly clumsy, but otherwise they were ones that only an ace would make.
    Excellent, Lucas thought. She might make it out of this yet.

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