Hours later, after three hyperspace jumps to make sure that the Aggressor wasn’t following them, the convoy and its starfighter escorts arrived in the fringes of the Sullust system. Spread before them was the largest massed Alliance fleet in the history of the Rebellion. Whistles and sounds of admiration could be heard on the comm.
“I knew that a call was put out, but I didn’t know how extensive it was,” murmured Aidan. A little more than a dozen Mon Calamari cruisers formed the core of the fleet. The largest of these was the Home One. 3,800 meters long and able to carry 10 squadrons of starfighters, it was the pride of the Rebel Alliance fleet. There were a few Dreadnoughts, also known as Rebel assault frigates, along with a couple of Carrack cruisers. Nebulon-B frigates and Corellian corvettes formed the rest of the vanguard. A single Lancer-class anti-starfighter frigate hung in formation with the other frigates and corvettes. A flotilla of armed freighters also mixed with the cruisers. As the Knights looked on, a Mon Cal cruiser moved forward enough to reveal, in pride of place, three Star Destroyers. A Victory-class, an ancient Clone Wars-era Venator-class, and the Imperial Star Destroyer Alliance that the Knights had helped liberate from the Imperials less than a year ago.
“Something’s up,” said Duo Matting from his black X-Wing, “There is no way that the High Command would risk gathering this many ships together, this deep in Imp space. Something’s way wrong with this picture.”
“I’m sure Command will tell us what’s going on when we board the command ship,” said Aidan as they closed in on the Home One, the flagship of the fleet.
As soon as he climbed down from his X-Wing Aidan grinned as he spotted someone he hadn’t seen in a long time.
“Wedge! Wedge Antilles!” he cried. Wedge turned and jogged over to where Aidan was standing at the base of his fighter and the two embraced briefly, after all they were men.
“Whooo! Looks like our Captain’s found love at last!” came the voice of Duo Matting from his X-Wing.
“Keep it up Lieutenant and I’ll have you spaced to fight the Imps with your pilot suit and your big mouth!” snarled Aidan.
“So you found yourself a Wes Janson as well? Force, let’s hope that they never meet or we’ll all suffer for it,” moaned Wedge.
“Yes. So how’re the Rogues? Is it true Command had you guys break up?”
“Yes, but there’ll be time for that later,” aid Wedge as Ru and Simms ducked under the wing of Aidan’s X-Wing, “Now’s the time for settling in and getting reacquainted.” As Wedge greeted Ru and Sims, Aidan cupped his hands and yelled his pilots who were beginning to disperse across the busy and crowded hangar bay.
“Knights, get your gear stowed and get some rest! I get the feeling that we’re all gonna need it.
The quarters assigned to Knight Squadron on Home One were communal so the pilots were forced to unpack together, a situation that lent itself to stubbed toes and hands and not enough free space to go around. Sovach roared as Ixgil accidentally kicked him on his way past.
“Heavyarms says watch where you’re going and that he hates this bed,” said Duo who had somehow, somewhere learned to understand Sovach’s native tongue. Indeed the poor Wookie’s feet stuck about six inches over the end of his assigned bunk.
“A ship this big, they should be able give us paired quarters at least,” said Xandris, a slight hiss in her voice.
“Yeah! Remember the Alliance?’ said Kellis Wessiri, speaking of the Imperial mk. II Star Destroyer they had helped liberate from the Imps and then had bunked on for a couple of months as it had run missions behind enemy lines.
“Now that was living in luxury! A lot better than the hovel I had back on Ord Mantell,” commented Duo.
“What I want to know is what the Alliance High Command is doing with this many ships here? What are they planning?” asked Lara, shaking loose her midnight-black hair from the ponytail she wore it in when she was flying. Lara had defected to the Alliance during the course of the Knights’ adventures onboard the Alliance.
“I’m tellin’ ya, we’re going after Coruscant!” said Duo.
“And I think that you haven’t had enough sleep lately,” said Triton from his bunk directly across from the braided pilot, “You obviously aren’t thinking straight.”
“No seriously! It’s the only logical answer as to why Command has built up such a large force.”
“Matting using logic? May the Force have mercy on us all,” snorted Chang derisively.
“Okay then, listen to this. The Imps are spread across the galaxy looking for us right? So Command decides that this is a perfect time to assault a high profile target? And what target is more high profile and important to the freedom of the galaxy than Coruscant itself?”
“Your theory is good, but it lacks several important pieces of information,” said Halin, the first time he’d spoken since the convoy escort mission.
“Oh? Then why don’t you enlighten us,” grinned Duo.
“First off, the sector fleet for Coruscant consists of 57 Impstars, reportedly led by a Super Impstar. That’s more firepower than this fleet could hope to bring, even if every ship in this fleet was a Mon Cal cruiser. You also forgot the Golan defense platforms with their proton torpedo launchers and the planetary shields, which, by the way, are strong enough to deflect ANY bombardment. In short, this fleet would be overwhelmed long before the Coruscant defense fleet arrived.”
“Okay okay, we get your point. But if we’re not going after Coruscant, what else is there? Corellia? Fondor? Kuat? Sluis Van?” asked Duo.
“My guess is that the Empire’s built another Death Star and we’re going to destroy it,” Halin said simply. Thick silence descended on the entire group. Even talkative and flirtatious Xandris was staring at Halin in shock.
“Whoa, don’t even joke about that,” Duo half-whispered.
“For all our sakes I really hope I’m wrong about it,” said Halin.
The next morning found Aidan catching up to Wedge just outside of the briefing room.
“Did you get the message as well?’ he asked by way of greeting.
“Yeah,” said Wedge simply.
“I can’t believe it! How could the Empire build another Death Star so soon? And why didn’t Intelligence find out about this sooner?”
“Well we didn’t find out about the original Death Star until it was almost too late,” said Wedge, “I suppose you can thank Ysanne Isard for that.” Aidan felt a lurch in his stomach at the mention of the feared Director of Imperial Intelligence. A moment later it was driven out of his mind as he and Wedge entered the briefing room. Dozens of Rebel officers and leaders milled about, mostly Alliance brass and squadron leaders. Aidan recognized Mon Mothma one of the leaders of the Alliance and Leia Organa. Han Solo and Lando Calrissian were also present, seated close to the large holoprojector in the center, accompanied by the wookie Chewbacca. He also recognized several Generals such as Riekken and Madine, as well as Admiral Ackbar, one of the Rebellions’ first legitimate admirals. He also recognized a familiar face that he hadn’t seen in many years.
“Commander? Commander Farrell is that you?” The man he was talking to turned and gave Aidan a once over then cracked a tight-lipped grin
“Rookie One, I didn’t expect to see you here, though I’m not surprised after what you pulled. Liberating Star Destroyers lends itself well to your reputation,” said Commander Farrell in a rough voice. Farrell was a middle-aged man with graying, black hair and an air of stern resolve about him. He had served in the final battles of the Clone Wars and had served the Empire loyally until certain distasteful missions forced him to defect. Turning back to Wedge, Aidan said, “Commander Farrell was one of my instructors just before I was assigned to Blue Squadron.”
“Actually it’s Colonel Farrell now,” remarked Farrell.
As they sat down with the Colonel to await the start of the briefing on the Death Star situation, snatches of other conversations drifted over to them.
“Well look at you, a General!” said Han Solo to Lando Calrissian. Taking in the dark-skinned man’s new uniform.
“Someone must have told them about my little maneuver at the Battle of Tanaab,” said Lando with a knowing grin.
“Well don’t look at me pal. I just said that you were a fair pilot. I didn’t know that they were looking for someone to lead this crazy attack.”
“I’m surprised they didn’t ask you to do it.”
“Well who says they didn’t but I ain’t crazy. You’re the respectable one remember?” At that moment a chime sounded indicating the start of the briefing.
“Let’s see what they have to say about this whole Death Star thing,” murmured Aidan as Mon Mothma stepped forward.
“The Emperor’s made a critical error and the time for our attack has come. The data brought to us by the Bothan spies pinpoint the exact location of his new battle station,” she said as a holoprojector in the center of the briefing table activated, a hologram of a forest planet and the orbiting Death Star appearing directly in the center, “We also know that the weapon systems of this Death Star are not yet operational. With the Imperial fleet spread throughout the galaxy in a vain effort to engage us, it is relatively unprotected. But most important of all… we’ve learned that the Emperor himself is personally overseeing the final stages of construction of this Death Star. Many Bothans died to bring us the information,” she said with grave solemnity, the look in her eyes seeming to dare anyone to make light of the Bothans’ sacrifice.
Stepping back from the table she gestured to one of the Mon Cal officers that had been standing off to the side.
“Admiral Ackbar please.”
The orange-skinned Mon Calamari admiral was dressed in a white uniform that looked to be tailored specifically for the officers of the Mon Cal warships.
“You can see here the Death Star orbiting the forest moon of Endor. Although the weapon systems of this Death Star are not operational, the Death Star does have a strong defense mechanism. It is protected by an energy shield which is generated from the nearby Endor moon.” As he said this, the hologram showed a yellow stream of energy project up from the moon’s surface and envelop the battle station.
“The shield must be deactivated if any attack is to be attempted,” he said as the holo zoomed to focus on the Death Star itself, “Once the shield is down our cruisers will create a perimeter while the fighters fly into the superstructure and attempt to knock out the main reactor.” As he finished, a blue dot flew through the station and into its central core. To add extra emphasis the Admiral shut off the holo just as the dot reached the center. Aidan leaned over to Wedge.
“As if the trench run was bad enough! Now they want us to fly inside that thing? Have they taken complete leave of their senses?!” he whispered fiercely.
“Shh,” hushed Wedge.
“General Calrissian has volunteered to lead the fighter attack,” said Ackbar gesturing towards Lando.
“Good luck,” said Han cynically, “ you’re gonna need it.”
“General Madine,” said Ackbar gesturing towards the General who stepped forward smartly.
“We have stolen a small Imperial shuttle. Disguised as a cargo ship and using a secret Imperial code, a strike team will land on the moon and deactivate the shield generator.” As the General said this murmurs began to break out amongst the crowd.
“Sounds dangerous,” commented C-3PO.
“Wonder who they found to pull that off?’ asked Leia. She got her answer a second later as Madine said, ‘General Solo? Is your strike team assembled?”
“Han Solo, a general?” asked Farrell quietly, “This is interesting.”
“Uh, my team’s ready but I don’t have a command crew for the shuttle yet.”
“Rargh!” said Chewbacca.
“It’s gonna be rough pal, I didn’t wanna speak for ya,” responded Han. At another emphatic roar from the wookie, Han turned to General Madine with his famous Solo Grin fixed in place.
“General,” spoke up Leia, “count me in.”
“I’m with you too,” called out a voice from the briefing room entrance.
“Hey, it’s Luke!” said Aidan nudging Wedge. Indeed, Luke Skywalker, dressed in a black tunic, walked down the steps and embraced Leia as Han and Chewie got up to greet their old friend.
“I’d say that things are about to get very interesting,” said Wedge with a grin. When the ruckus from Luke’s arrival quieted down, General Madine continued.
“Our starfighters will be divided into five fighter wings. X-Wing Red Group, Y-Wing Grey Group, A-Wing Green Group, B-Wing and X-Wing Blue Group, and Gold Group led by General Calrissian. Additional starfighters will stay behind to safeguard the fleet. Any questions? No? Then report to your duty stations. May the Force be with us all.