I wasn't originally a commando with Red Omega. I'd been a pilot, I was an Intelligence agent. When High Command saddled me with a commando team, I balked. I protested. Sure, Red Omega was a good team with a good core of people, but they weren't my kind of people. I didn't hang with the commandos. I hung with the pilots; that was my crowd when I wasn't on assignment. Sure, I understood the vitality of the mission I was assigned, I just didn't understand why I needed commandos. That would become too clear. I was handed my briefing papers and sent to the Corellian Corvette Trust Me, the HQ for Red Omega. On the shuttle ride over, I studied the profiles of the unit's various members. I knew a few.
Colen Marr was the commander of the unit, a young major who had defected from Imperial service as soon as he graduated the Imp Academy. The pilot for the team was Rayn Miller, I knew her brother Ryan from my time on Hoth. Cari Kisick, the comm officer, was a familiar name, she had been responsible for the escape of the Remember Derra IV from Anoat 3 just after the siege of Hoth, I knew her brother Terel very well. Ilinniwara was the unit's deep forest Ranger, a runtish Wookiee who apparently had a life-debt to Lyn Tapper, the unit's sniper. Medic Istil Corna was a young woman I'd befriended on Hoth, where she was a lonely new recruit who'd never seen combat. We had bunked together, with another friend of mine. The demolitions man for Red Omega was Cyban Orne, whom I didn't know but understood he was very good at what he did. From what I understood, Red Omega was a tight team where everyone trusted everyone else. I wondered how they'd react to me. I only personally knew Istil well, but I had met both Rayn and Cari and found them likable. I didn't know anyone else.
Our mission was a dangerous one: We were going to liberate Rebellion prisoners from Akrit'tar. Several were needed for the coming strike at Endor. At first, I didn't want to take the mission. I had planned to return to flight status so I could fly at Endor against the Death Star there, with Rogue Squadron, as I had before. High Command decided to change my plans when they ordered me to join the mission. Just like High Command to do that to me.
The shuttle rocked slightly. "Lieutenant Rendar?"
I looked at the young pilot who was flying the shuttle. I fight back a smile. He was older than I was by at least two years. "Yes, Flight officer?"
"We've reached the Trust Me, Lieutenant. You're free to disembark."
I nodded, gathering up my gear. "Thank you, Flight Officer. May the Force be with you."
The young man smiled. "More so with you and Red Omega, ma'am."
I smiled back and walked off the shuttle. A young woman, about nineteen, met me in the hangar bay. "Lieutenant Rendar?"
I nodded. "That's me."
"Lieutenant, I'm Milan Reide, Major Marr's aide. The Major wants to see you right away. Avan can take your things to quarters." The young woman nodded to a man nearby. He took my things. I followed Milan through the corridors and up several levels until she directed me into an office. "That's his office, Lieutenant. Go right in, he's expecting you."
I pressed the door control and walked into the room. I stood at attention for a minute. "Lieutenant Tag Rendar reporting as ordered, sir."
The Major's dark eyes studied me intently. "Hello, Lieutenant. I've been expecting you."
I nodded. "I had presumed you would have been, Major."
He studied his datapad. "I have to say, Lieutenant, there really isn't much information in your file. Why is that?"
"Most information on me is restricted, sir."
The Major frowned. "I can't see why that is, Lieutenant Rendar."
"You're not meant to, sir. Can we get down to business, please?"
He studied me for a few heartbeats more, than motioned me to the seat in front of his desk. I sank into it, and he began to speak. "I suppose you know that we are going to stage a prison break."
I nodded. "Aye sir. Akrit'tar."
He nodded gravely. "Do you know why, Lieutenant?"
I inclined my head. "It was my understanding that it was to get Alliance prisoners out of Imperial hands before the Endor mission."
He sighed. "That's correct, Lieutenant. I'm glad your informed, at least. Our squad-we've had some bad experiences with bad intel and bad agents."
I smiled. "Well, I'm not one of those, Major Marr."
He nodded uncertainly with a sigh. "Well, Lieutenant Rendar, I suppose we have a briefing to make."
"I think we do, sir."
As he rose, his eyes were suddenly drawn to the weapon at my belt. "Lieutenant," he began slowly, "are you a Jedi?"
I smiled ferally. "You're not supposed to know, sir."
He looked at me sternly. "Lieutenant, any special talents that you have are talents that I should know about-"
"Sir, I only use my skills in the Force when I have to. It's better not to give them away," I lied. The truth was, I had a problem with Force usage. If I used too much, the results were not good. I tried not to use my abilities a lot for that reason.
Marr frowned. "Well, then..." he sighed. Marr was young-maybe twenty-three or twenty-four-and a Major. I was almost sixteen and already a Lieutenant with a file that was, for the most part, restricted. I detected a slight amount of jealousy in him; I was in a position from which I could possibly take command of the mission and I was at least five years his junior. "We have a briefing to get to. Follow me, Lieutenant Rendar."
We set out down the corridor and finally stepped into a briefing room. The commandos were seated in chairs, talking amongst themselves. Marr cleared his throat and strode to the front of the room. I slid into a front-row chair and listened as Marr began the briefing.
"You might have noticed that we have a larger group for this operation. We will have five additional officers for this mission, being the crew of the Remember Derra IV: Lieutenant Terel Kisick, Angel Blacksaber, Ishara Kordare, Michelle Djinn; and our Intelligence liaison, Lieutenant Tag Rendar." He brought up an image on the holoprojector. "Most of you know Captain Ryan Miller. For those of you who don't, his file has been downloaded into your data pads. He is a target of high priority."
There were waves of confusion rippling through the Force in that room. I'm sure I was the only one who knew why Ryan was important to the Alliance...Angel might have known, maybe even Cari, but there was no sure way to tell at that moment.
Marr gave us the data on two other prisoners that were "must finds." He ended by saying, "if we have the ability to rescue other Alliance prisoners, we are to do so. Get your gear packed. We'll be talking to the Remember Derra IV into Akrit'tar. Meet there in an hour." Marr allowed his gaze to rest on each other us before saying, "Dismissed."
Some of the commandos left. Cari, Rayn, Istil, and the crew of the Remember Derra IV remained and approached me as I rose. Terel gave me a big hug. "It's good to see you again, Tag."
Istil nodded. "I've missed bunking with you."
I sank back down into my chair. "I'm sorry about Ryan, guys. I really am."
"Tag, why is he so important?" Cari asked me.
I sighed. "What I am about to tell you," I said slowly, "is so classified that if this was to get out, the entire Alliance could be utterly wiped out without explanation on the part of the Empire.
"Ryan was sent into Coruscant, to make contact with a few of our Intelligence agents there. He stole a copy of the Emperor's itinerary for the next four months. This information is known only by a select few within the Imperial hierarchy anyway. Only Ryan, of the whole Alliance, knows what the Emperor's movements will be for the next four months.
"There are only five people in the Alliance that know about Ryan's mission aside from him: Mon Mothma, Leia Organa, Crix Madine, Airen Cracken, and I."
Looks of astonishment registered on each of their faces. I rose abruptly. "I have to get my gear stowed. You should too." I pushed past them, and made my escape into the corridor.
Our insertion into Akrit'tar went well. We got in, tripping no alarms. Finally, we made it to the high-security area of the prison, where we were ordered to trip alarms. We did, and while Cari, Cyban, Istil, Terel, Angel, and I worked to free our targets, the others held off the stormtroopers that had begun to attack the front entry. I unlocked one cell door, freeing a battered and bruised Ryan, who struggled to his feet as he saw me and began toward me. "Tag-" he half choked and stumbled as I rushed to help him. "There's a guy in the next cell-can't be much older than you-he's in bad shape. Go help him. I can make it on my own. Give me your blaster."
I forked over the weapon as he drew himself erect and stumbled toward the fighting, Cari at his heels and then under his arm. I whirled toward the next cell. "Istil, get over here!"
"Rayn, Angel, Michelle, Lyn, Ilinniwara! Take our people back to the ship! We've another ride out! Terel, go with them, and take Captain Miller with you!" Marr shouted.
"I'm not leaving!" snapped Ryan intensely.
Marr replied heatedly. "Get out of here, Captain, there's nothing you can do for us!"
"I'm not leaving!" Ryan told him, and snapped off several shots.
Rayn, Ilinniwara, Angel, Terel, Michelle, Lyn, Tapper Karr, Krensky Danes, Andrew Luvlin, and Kirina Taltiz disappeared. Marr shouted at Istil and me. "What are you two doing?"
"Springing other prisoners!" I shot back. "You worry about getting us that ride out!"
"Cari, Gamma plan, execute!"
Cari crouched immediately behind our line and pulled some comm equipment from her gear pack. She began punching in commands.
Meanwhile, I'd managed to get the door to the cell that stood next to Ryan's unlocked. I forced the door open and sent Istil into the darkened and cramped cell. I turned and joined the firing line, squeezing in between Ryan and Cyban, as Istil continued my work with the doors.
As Cari shouted, "Ride reports arrival!" I was hit, a bad wound in my right shoulder, then stunned in almost the same moment, and spun dizzily into darkness.
Suddenly, I jerked awake again. I was strapped into a chair in the cockpit of an Corellian YT-1300 freighter at a deactivated station. My shoulder ached dully, and I looked down at it. It was swathed in white bandages and itched maddeningly as only blaster burns can. I drew on the Force and began to speed up the healing process. My left hand unstrapped myself unconsciously, and as I rose from the chair, only then did I realize that the pilot was oddly familiar. Instinctively, I slid into the co-pilot's chair.
"Oh, you're awake now, are you?" Tie had asked mildly.
I stared at him dumbly for a few minutes. "Tie-I-I-"
"Thought I was dead?" He laughed. "Not hardly. Just gone underground for a bit. Black ops for the Rebellion and all that." He glanced at me and grinned infuriatingly. "Just got called back to the regular service a few weeks ago."
"I never thought that you-" I cut myself short and smiled. "It's good to know you're still around."
He sighed. "I don't bear all good news."
"Alla and Darren. They've gone missing."
"Oh yes," he sighed. "I've been looking. I know they're some of your best informants, Tag. As far as I know, Katal's all right..."
I shook my head. "That life," I told him, "is behind me." I hope. "Thank you for giving me the message about Alla and Darren, though."
"Don't mention it. Look, uh, Istil said to send you back to the lounge when you woke up. Didn't say why. You should go do that."
I only half heard him, thinking about one little cantina on Hoth where I had seen so many friends, old and new. "Hmm? Oh, the lounge, right." I rose. "I'll be back up here in a few minutes. Where are we headed, anyway?"
"Mos Eisley, " Tie told me, stretching his arms up gripping the top of the cockpit then let go. "As per the orders I received from Mon Mothma herself. From there, who knows." Tie's little R2 unit, left over from his days of flying backup for Rogue Squadron, had rolled into the cockpit.
I gripped his face in my hands and kissed him full on the lips. "Thanks, Tie. Don't know what I'd do with out you."
The droid beeped and held the beep for a second, then stopped.
"Does this mean you'll marry me?" he asked.
The R2 unit started beeping again.
I laughed, remembering our long-running joke from Hoth. "Maybe."
"Make sure you don't tell your boyfriend you did that."
The droid had shot out a small needle and poked Tie in his arm.
"Ouch!" Tie rubbed his arm, then looked at me. "I won't if you won't."
I gripped his shoulder. "Thanks again, Tie."
He nodded. "Yeah, yeah, get going. I'll be waiting here, killing my R2 unit."
I walked down the corridor from the cockpit to the lounge. Sprawled in the seats around the games table were Cari, Ishara, Istil, Cyban, and a terribly weary-seeming Ryan. Two ragged, liberated prisoners lay curled on the two bunks, one flat on his back and the other curled on his side. "Where's the Major?" I asked.
"In the cargo bay, with some of the other prisoners," Cari reported, one arm slung across Ryan's shoulders protectively, as if she'd never let him out of her sight again.
Istil got up and came over to me, her eyes on my wounded shoulder. "Let me take a look at that."
I shook my head. "It's all right. Jedi healing and all that. Why did you want me to come down here?"
Istil laid a hand on my left shoulder and motioned to the man laying flat on the bunk, his face obscured by shadows. "The man you freed. Go see him. Look at his face."
I gave her a funny look and walked over to the bunk and squinted at the man's face. It was hard to make out his features. Istil walked over to the wall and touched a light panel. Suddenly, all of the shadows were chased away, and I gasped as I took in the young man's visage.
"He was in the cell that you popped before you joined the fight. He hasn't been awake since we found him. He's in bad shape, Tag. The sooner he gets a bacta dunk, the better."
I touched the cheek of Nylan's pale face. "I wondered," I said to no one in particular, "where he'd gotten to. I hadn't heard from him in so long..."
And then, suddenly, he shuddered with a deep moan. Hazed green eyes blinked open slowly. A scraped brow furrowed. "Tag? Is that really you?"
I smiled, tears gathering in the corners of my eyes. "It's me, Nylan." My expression became one of concern. "What happened?"
"Got caught...in a sweep..." he told me brokenly, his hand sliding out from under his thermal blanket. I wrapped mine around it. "...it was on Contruum....Some of Cracken's crew...hadn't gotten out and...I was supposed to help them...they got off, and I...I got caught....Never told them anything...not one word..."
I squeezed his hand gently. "I know that, Nylan. I know."
His hand disengaged from mine and reached for my face. "My Jedi..." It then suddenly fell back. His eyelids fluttered. The shakes were hitting him.
I bent and kissed him gently on the lips, then rested my cheek against his for a moment. "Sleep now. You'll be all right." I turned away, stunned. "Take care of him, Istil. I'll be in the cockpit."
Behind me, Istil nodded, and I heard her turning to get her medical kit, which had been tossed carelessly into a chair. I returned to the cockpit and dropped into the co-pilot's seat. Tie took one look at me and asked, "What's wrong?"
"Nylan's down there," I told him quietly.
"Nylan? Your Nylan? Nylan Bridger?"
I nodded. "Get me in contact with our Tatooine cell. Who's the head of that now?"
"Freq 772345, head is Zelda Winward. Contact phrase is 'Why are you still on that blast furnace of a world?' Response should be 'It's home.'"
I looked over at Tie as I keyed in the frequency. "How is it going to feel for you, Tie? Going home, I mean."
He shrugged. "I hope that Huff Darklighter's got a grip on himself instead of everyone else's credits. I hope Jabba the Hutt's not ruling the roost anymore, which I'm pretty sure he is. I hope Wuher's still working at Chalmun's Cantina. I hope Mos Eisley's still slimy. All in all, I'm not sure how I feel about going home."
I smiled at him and then keyed open a com channel. "Modified Corellian YT-1300 to Winward cell: Why are you still on that blast furnace of a world?"
"It's home," a voice answered. "Who is this?"
"Lieutenant Tag Rendar, late of Rogue Squadron. I'm on my way in with Tie Covell and a dozen or so others. Have your bacta tanks ready, some of them are hurt pretty bad."
"Understood, Lieutenant. We'll be ready. Winward cell out."
I then noticed that Tie's R2 unit had disappeared. "Where'd your R2 unit go?"
"I took him apart."
"If you did that, where are the pieces?"
I laughed. It was good to be among friends again.
Six hours later, we set down at Mos Eisley Spaceport. Our wounded were off-loaded swiftly by the Winward cell. Luckily, I had spent enough time with Tie so that I had accidentally once left some of my clothes aboard the ship, clothes he just didn't have the heart to throw out. So I donned these clothes, and he and I headed into the city to check out the local club scene. We headed for Chalmun's Cantina. There, apparently, Tie spotted someone he knew and left me in charge of ordering our drinks. Flashing my fake civilian ID at the bartender, Wuher, I ordered a lomin-ale for Tie and a Whyren's Reserve for me. I leaned against the bar luxuriously and kept a discreet eye on the patronage.
"Amber Dare!" A voice suddenly said from in front of me.
My gaze snapped toward the speaker. Amber Dare was my civilian identity, supplied by General Cracken, the Targeter, and Rebel Intelligence. I smiled as I saw the face of the speaker. It was my fellow intelligence agent, Astrid Burns.
"Annie Chrostov!" We embraced.
She spread her hands. "Where have you been, Amber?"
Read: How's work? I replied, in code phrases as well. "Oh, here and there. A few runs with Cove Lord from Sullust to here. Very profitable work, if you ask me."
She got my message immediately, I could tell. "Oh. See anyone I know?"
Read: Who'd you spring? "Bridger Nyce, for one. Uh, Ryan Carey, we met him on Coruscant, remember? I think that was it..."
"You saw Bridger Nyce? What's he up to?"
Read: Nylan Bridger?! Is he all right? "He got himself into a barfight and got beat up. He'll be OK after a few days in a bacta dunk."
Tie suddenly appeared at my shoulder, a woman with dark hair in tow. His voice dropped extremely low. "Tag Rendar, Astrid Burns, I'd like you to meet Mirax Terrik. She runs for us a lot. Mirax, while we're in the bar and in the city proper, these two are Amber Dare and Annie Chrostov."
She nodded, and smiled. "It's good to meet you two." She winked at me. "You look like Wedge."
"Yeah, I know. It's good to meet you," I remarked, watching one particular hooded and cloaked unsavory-seeming type that had drawn my attention.
Astrid made a bit of elaboration on my remark as I noticed the one man I'd been watching coming toward us.
Suddenly, he was there, at our sides. The hood came down slightly. I gasped. "Darren!"
"Shut up," Darren Kip hissed at me. "Just shut up, Tag. You're not safe here. There's-"
Suddenly, there was the sound of a bottle crashing and shattering, and Darren stumbled closer, dazed from the blow. "Ow."
That was when the free-for-all started.
A man came rushing at me. I slammed the heel of my hand into his neck. He crumpled. Next to me, the others fanned out. I drove my elbow into the stomach of another attacker then kneed him in the groin. Mirax and Astrid stood back-to-back, fending off attackers as Tie tried to keep some drunk Rodians off of Darren, who was struggling to his feet against the bar. My gaze shifted sharply as a hand fell on my shoulder, grasping it harshly. I seized the wrist of my attacker and flipped the female Quarren to the floor.
I whirled and used the Force to send three attackers flying back in several directions, away from Darren, who was still dazed and otherwise occupied with a Duros who'd attacked him.
Suddenly, my danger sense flared, sending adrenaline coursing through ever blood vessel in my body. I came whirling around, my spread hand impacting an attacking Bothan in the jaw. I followed with a foot to the belly, and then a knee to the chin. The Bothan slumped to floor, insensate.
I wasn't ready to draw a blaster. That would only make things worse, and I knew it. I was good at hand combat, though. I could hold my own. My lightsaber hung heavy in my inner jacket pocket, where it was nestled with my blaster. I wouldn't pull it out, either. The lightsaber, too, would only cause more trouble. More trouble that it was worth.
Meanwhile, Astrid, Mirax, and Tie were making a formidable team as they protected each other's backs.
My shoulder plowed into the chest of an irate Bith, who toppled. I came around at my next attacker with a roundhouse punch that sent her reeling.
My danger sense then went haywire. "Astrid, Tie, Darren, Mirax, they're going to start shooting! It's time to book!"
Quickly, I created the illusion that Astrid, Darren, Mirax, Tie, and I were two Wookiees and three Camaasi, escaping the fight quietly. Astrid, Tie, and I pulled Darren toward the Rebel cell's headquarters, despite his protests that he was all right, and Mirax headed off to her ship to hop planet as soon as possible.
"Darren Kip, where have you been?" I hissed at Darren.
"Here and there," he replied, swallowing hard.
"I thought you were dead."
He grunted. "Wasn't."
Astrid frowned. "You look like you could use some time in a bacta tank, General."
"I'm not a General anymore," Darren groaned. "Just a freelancer."
"Where's Alla?" Tie asked.
Darren shook his head. "In hiding-ohhhh..." He squeezed his eyes shut and nearly collapsed in pain and dizziness so strong that I could sense it. I winced. I was also dizzy from my use of the Force. I'd been toeing the line lately, pushing my abilities to the limit.
"I'm fine," I told Astrid, whose voice was concerned. My attention returned to Darren. "Looks like you'll be spending some time in the sticky tank whether you want to or not."
Darren made a face as we came into the cell's headquarters. We made our way to the small medical station where we handed Darren over to the medics.
"Tag, do you want to go get some caf with us?" Astrid asked me.
"I'll be there in a little while. I have to check on Nylan."
Tie and Astrid both shrugged, then walked out of the med station.
I walked toward one corner where there was an unoccupied bacta tank and some patients resting on beds. I spotted Istil, still at Nylan's side. I came up behind her and rested my hand on her shoulder. "How is he?"
She glanced at me for a moment, then back down at Nylan. "Still not in very good shape. He's next up for a dunk. Hasn't been awake since we were on board the ship, when you were with him." Istil shook her head. "They can't keep him in for long enough. Bacta's in short supply, and they're trying to conserve. Half duration for most people, unless they're really bad. Then sometimes more."
"What will Nylan get?"
"Half," Istil answered. "But that'll be enough to get him past some of the things that're wrong with him. Should I go tell the medics that he's ready?"
I nodded. "Why not?"
She turned and walked away, toward the tank, as I stepped closer to Nylan.
Almost immediately, his eyes blinked open. "Tag?"
I shook my head. "You're sensing for me through the Force, aren't you?"
He smiled weakly, and I knew he was.
"You should be working on healing yourself, not keeping tabs on me." I kissed him gently on the cheek. "I just came down to see you before you got dunked."
I nodded. "Yeah. Get back to sleep, huh? Being conscious in a bacta tank isn't fun, or so I've heard."
"Will you be here when I get out?"
"I'll try," I told him.
" 'm-kay." His eyes fell closed.
I allowed my hand to graze his cheek, then turned away, nearly running into Istil. "When will he get out of the tank?"
She shrugged. "Twelve hours, maybe eighteen. It all depends."
"I want to know when you pull him out. At least ten minutes in advance, I want to know."
Need to get out of here, I thought. Smell's beginning to make me dizzy. Someone tapped me on the shoulder. "Lieutenant Rendar?"
I turned and looked at the young man.
He held out an order packet. "These are for you, ma'am."
I sighed. Apparently, the action wasn't through yet.
For the night, however, it certainly was.
Story Credits and Disclaimer:
Tie Covell, Alla Karrde, and Darren Kip are all former (or current) role-players on AOL. Tie helped me out with the scene aboard his ship, along with SproutGuy.
Astrid Burns, the members of Red Omega, and the crew of the Remember Derra IV are friends of mine as well.
Mirax Terrik was created by Michael A. Stackpole for his X-Wing novels.
Tag Rendar created and copyright Erin Klitzke ©1999. Star Wars is copyright Lucasfilm Ltd. 2000. All of my fan fiction is copyright 2000 by Erin Klitzke.
Tie Covell, Alla Karrde, and Darren Kip are all former (or current) role-players on AOL. Tie helped me out with the scene aboard his ship, along with SproutGuy.