- Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Gr
- Date: Feb 2007
From the book
Snug in the X-wing simulator cockpit, Colonel Gavin Darklighter, Rogue Squadron's commanding officer, flicked his right thumb against the ring he wore on that hand. Apprehension gripped him, but he knew there was no sense in stalling a second longer. He glanced over his shoulder at the R2-Delta astromech droid sitting behind him. "Okay, Catch, run the simulation designated 'skipchaser.'"
The little gold-and-white droid tootled pleasantly, and the simulator cockpit came alive with lights and data scrolling on the primary screen. Despite the years of refits the little droid had undergone in Gavin's service--including requisite memory wipes and programming upgrades--it always greeted him with a brief summary of the weather on Tatooine and Coruscant. Gavin appreciated that little bit of pleasantry, which is why he'd not traded the droid in for a newer model--though the Delta upgrade had been most welcome for speeding up navigational computations.
The biggest change in his relationship with the droid had been its name. In the early days he'd called it Jawaswag, figuring that any Jawa would love to have the droid. Later, after the Thrawn crisis, a group of Jawas had tried to steal Jawaswag, but the droid had fended them off and actually hurt one. From that point forward Gavin had taken to calling the droid Toughcatch, which had just become shortened to Catch.
The simulator's visual field filled with stars and then an asteroid belt, into which Gavin guided the X-wing. It felt much like the old T-65s Rogue Squadron used to fly when he'd first joined the Rebellion, but the T-65A3 model was a couple of generations advanced over the original models. While not as slick as the new XJ model, the A3 had improved shields and lasers that boasted improvements in accuracy and power. The peace reached with the Imperial Remnant meant that there were few competent foes to test the new fighters against--and the fighter had proved quite lethal when unleashed on pirates in the Rimward regions of the New Republic.
Gavin glanced at his primary monitor, but nothing was popping up as a threat. He punched up a supplemental data plug-in that expanded the available target profiles. "Catch, give me biologicals down to the size of mynocks and anything that appears to be moving erratically or on a course that is beyond norm for orbital debris."
The droid whistled an acknowledgment, but still nothing showed on Gavin's screen. He frowned. What is it I'm supposed to be seeing? It makes no sense for Admiral Kre'fey to have given me access to this simulation if there is nothing out here.
Gavin hesitated for a moment. He knew that his idea of what made sense and a Bothan admiral's idea of same could be vastly different. Many times he'd had to deal with Bothan manipulation of himself or his command, and most of those times had been a disaster. Yet, despite the Kre'fey clan having a negative association with Rogue Squadron because of events over two decades old, Gavin had found young Traest Kre'fey to be remarkably straightforward in general, and very much more so when dealing with the Rogues.
The primary console beeped, and a small box appeared around a distant object on the X-wing's heads-up display. Gavin selected the object as a target and glanced down at its profile and image on the secondary monitor. At a quick glance it could have been mistaken for an asteroid and dismissed easily, but to Gavin it looked far too symmetrical. It reminded him a great deal of a seed--a bit bulbous in the middle, but tapered at both ends. The rear had a couple of recesses in it that could have hidden propulsion exhaust units, and a couple more up front that could...