Mark Williams David Williams
AS THE BATTLE RAGES OVER THE BACKWATER DESERT WORLD OF JAKKU, THE VAUNTED BLADE SQUADRDN FLIES ITS B-WING STARFIGHTERS AGAINST A DECIMATED IMPERIAL WAR MACHINE. HAVING PLAYED A CRUCIAL ROLE IN THE BATTLE OF ENDOR BY DESTROYING THE IMPERIAL I-CLASS STAR DESTROYER DEVASTATOR. THE FEARLESS PILOTS ENGAGE IN ANOTHER HEATED CONFRONTATION IN THE ONGOING GALACTIC CIVIL WAR...
战火肆虐偏僻的沙漠行星贾库。大名鼎鼎的刀锋中队（Blade Squadron）穿梭在战场上，以其B翼星际战斗机对抗已是强弩之末的帝国战争机器。这支无畏的队伍在先前的恩多战役(Battle of Endor)中击沉了“帝国I级”歼星舰（Imperial l-class Star Destroyer）蹂躏者号（Devastator），立下奇功的他们再次投身于银河内战之中，加入了另一场激烈的战役……
"All available ships, concentrate your fire on the engines of the Ravager. Repeat, concentrate on the engines-"
Admiral Ackbar's words were still ringing in Gina Moonsong's ears as she keyed her comm.
耳机里阿克巴上将（Admiral Ackbar）话音未落，吉娜·蒙桑（Gina Moonsong）就打开了通讯器。
"OK Blade Squadron, you heard the man." Moonsong tightened up her squadron's formation as the B-wings swooped in to attack the Super Star Destroyer Ravager, flanked on either side by their X-wing escort. She found herself keeping a particularly close eye on the X-wing piloted by Braylen Stramm. Given how much Kuat had depleted their pilots, he'd remained with the squadron; they needed every able-bodied pilot on deck.
Officially, their relationship was strictly professional. In reality, though, it was more complicated than ever.
Fanty's voice cut through her reverie:
"Fifteen seconds out."
"No TIE fighters, just capital ships." Lieutenant Sandara Li's contralto echoed over the squadron's frequency; she and her wingman Johan Volk rolled in to cover Moonsong's approach. Gina smiled grimly as the Ravager's aft filled her cockpit window. To her surprise, there was almost no return fire-the vast ship was beset from too many directions to worry about a small squadron. And there seemed to be some kind of issue with its drive-system... the craft was shifting course at an unpredictable angle.
But that wasn't Moonsong's problem.
Her problem was finding a way to make it even worse.
"Stand by to fire ion cannons. Transmitting targets in three... two... one. Weapons free! I repeat, weapons free!" The B-wings of Blade Squadron unleashed a withering barrage of fire, scoring multiple hits on the drive systems. Moonsong hung back, allowing her pilots to take their shots and peel away. It wasn't until after Stramm and her wingman Fanty cleared the area that Moonsong started her own attack run. There was an undeniable pleasure in delivering the coup de grace, and as the squadron commander Gina reveled in it. Moonsong reduced her speed, lined up the engines and let loose with everything her B-wing had. She was rewarded with orange blossoms of fire and molten debris as the Super Star Destroyer pitched and heaved. Gina's readouts were going haywire; there was massive EMP interference, and what little she could decipher made no sense: had someone unleashed a tractor beam on the enormous ship? What was going on? She swerved away but there was nowhere to swerve; all of a sudden, the Ravager was losing traction and plunging toward the planet Jakku below. Leaving Gina right between the two.
She heard Ackbar's voice echoing on override across all channels: "Soldiers and pilots of the New Republic! The dreadnought Ravager is down-it falls to Jakku! Beware debris and take cover!"
-and then the admiral's voice was cut off by a sudden explosion that sounded like it was right next to Moonsong's head. She wasn't sure if she had taken a direct hit from a laser, or if a piece of debris had smashed into her B-wing-but whatever clobbered her had collapsed her shields, and knocked out her maneuver drive. She was drifting dead-stick right into the debris field of the crashing Super Star Destroyer. She managed to bring up the auxiliary power, but the readouts told her she was past the point of being able to punch out. She was already in the grip of Jakku's gravity; all she could do was try to redirect her B-wing to bring the craft in line behind the dying Ravager in a desperate attempt to use the giant craft as a heat shield for re-entry. All her sensors were now in the red; alarms were warbling right next to her head, and she smelled acrid smoke. But through those alarms she heard a voice:
"Gina! Gina can you hear me?"
She could, but as the comm died, it became clear Stramm couldn't hear her. She wanted to tell him she was sorry, that they should have ditched this whole war and made for some world where no one had ever drawn weapons... but now it was too late. The G-forces were hauling her down toward blackout; the prospect loomed before her almost inviting, like some kind of ultimate solace. But she fought for consciousness-and then stopped fighting gravity; instead, she vectored down and past the Ravager. They were well beneath the heat of re-entry now; all she had to worry about was surviving the crash-not to mention crashing in a place that didn't promptly get smashed by millions of tons of falling metal. She made some guesses on the fly, used the little power her ship had left to accelerate well past its safety limits, the craft shaking like a leaf in the winds of atmosphere. A vast ceiling of falling metal loomed above. Desert stretched below. With her last breath of consciousness, she engaged the auto-landing sequence...
* * *
It was a steady sound; like a drumbeat, or somebody tapping the inside of her skull. As her eyes opened, Moonsong realized that there was some strange looking bird pecking at the glass of her cockpit. She unstrapped herself and activated the emergency explosive that blew the canopy clear. The bird took off just in time and flew away with an annoyed squawk. Moonsong unstrapped herself, pulled herself free of the wreckage and stepped out into a wilderness of sand. She didn't know much about Jakku, nor had she ever planned on finding out. The place looked like a wasteland. It was a hell of a place to make a last stand.
Especially since half the sky was on fire. Miles away, the huge wreck of the Ravager sat like a volcano, spitting plasma-charged steel and smoke into the air, while the sand all around had been blackened by its impact. Looking back at her wrecked B-wing, Moonsong realized it was a miracle she was alive, but she seriously doubted that was going to remain the case for long. She pulled off her helmet and thermal gloves before disconnecting the controls for the suit's systems. She felt more than a little conspicuous in her red flight suit
She quickly discovered that the B-wing's survival kit was destroyed and if you didn't count the signal flares she carried-which she didn't-then she had absolutely no weapons.
Of course, things could always get worse: the distinctive whine of TIE fighter engines high above brought her to her feet and running. She ran up the side of a dune and dived for cover behind a cluster of rocks as the TIE fighters swooped in, firing wildly and quickly turning what was left of her B-wing into a molten heap of burning scrap. So much for honor among pilots; it seemed that neither the New Republic nor the Empire would be taking prisoners this time. She watched her beloved ship burn and took a deep breath. No comm, water, survival supplies, homing beacon. But heading in the opposite direction of the gigantic funeral pyre of the downed Super Star Destroyer seemed like a good start. She folded her lucky flight gloves into her suit and started walking. At least she was still walking...
* * *
Moonsong was burning with thirst. She estimated she had trudged a good ten kilometers or so from the crash but still had no point of reference to tell her where she was. Darkness was falling fast and she was more than a little concerned about sleeping out in the open. She scurried up the side of a particularly high sand dune and peered down into the valley below-to find herself looking down at the shattered remnants of an Imperial stormtrooper camp.
Moonsong ran down to the scene of carnage, and carefully sifted through the remains of the dead troopers. Whatever had done this had made fast and terrible work of the squad. But Moonsong was intent on turning their bad luck into her good fortune and went to work scavenging through what was left of their equipment. She found a canteen of water-she didn't care it had belonged to a dead guy, he wouldn't be needing it. As she drank, she unclipped an E-11 blaster and a utility harness, then strapped on the utility belt, and unfolded the weapon's stock for maximum stability. She flipped the select fire switch with a degree of satisfaction. Maybe things were looking up.
And then she heard something behind her.
Moonsong spun around to find herself face to face with a teenage boy in a torn flight suit.
"Don't shoot!" he said. And then, the challenge code: "Thunder!" He looked scared as hell. Moonsong slowly lowered the weapon but kept her finger on the trigger.
"Lightning. Who are you, kid?"
He gave her a crisp salute.
"Temmin... Temmin Wexley, Phantom Squadron." He didn't look old enough to shave, let alone fly an X-wing, Moonsong allowed herself the ghost of a smile.
"Well, Temmin Wexley: I'm Lieutenant Gina Moonsong, Blade Squadron. Is your comlink still working?"
"Got a blaster?"
"Sure." Temmin pulled his DH-17 and checked the charge. "I've only got one spare power pack though."
"What about provisions?"
"Most of my kit was destroyed. I got this though..." Temmin dug deep into a flight suit pocket and pulled out a pair of nutritional supplements. Each bar could sustain a human for up to three days. The downside was the terrible taste. Though at this point Moonsong wasn't complaining.
"Well, at least we won't starve. We've got to link up with the ground forces if we're ever going to get off this rock."
"Yes si-I mean yes, ma'am-"
"Call me Gina. It's easier."
* * *
Moonsong took the first watch while the kid slept. Though that was really just a way to make sure he got some rest, because as soon as he woke, Moonsong skipped her watch and got them on the move instead. She figured they could make some real distance before the sun came back up. The kid seemed sullen and stayed quiet. Moonsong figured a little talking might ease the time and lower the panic factor. Too bad she was terrible at making small talk.
"So, um... what happened to the rest of your squadron, kid?"
"They're still up there fighting. But...some of them are dead. They were my friends."
"I've lost good friends too," she said. She touched his hand gently. That was when she got a glimpse of his face in the starlight. "But they're not the only ones on your own mind..." It wasn't a question, just a statement. But still he hesitated...
"No... I mean, yes. I mean, I hope my mom's okay. She's a pilot too."
"No kidding," Gina paused. "Are you Norra Wexley's kid?"
"She was at the Battle of Endor," said Temmin with something close to awe.
"So was I, actually."
"Yeah, but did you fly a Y-wing into the Death Star and out the other side?"
"That'd be a negative."
"Well, she did!"
"That means she's a survivor," said Gina with a confidence she didn't feel. "Which means you'll see her again. I've got friends I want to see again too..." Moonsong's voice faltered as she thought about Stramm. She decided there and then that if she ever saw his face again she would tell him everything and see where the cards fell.
"Do you hear that?" Temmin asked.
"Hear wh-" But before either of them could react half a dozen figures popped out from behind a rock with weapons drawn. One of them called out the challenge.
"Thunder!" Moonsong let out a sigh of relief-they were friendly.
"Lightning!" Weapons lowered as the New Republic soldiers closed around them. One of them noted Moonsong's rank and gave a perfunctory salute.
"Lieutenant, I'm Sergeant Agarne, Third Recon Group."
“中尉，我是第三侦查组（Third Recon Group）的阿格尼中士（Sergeant Agarne）。”
"You're a sight for sore eyes."
"We don't have much time. Group command is over there. He'll explain everything."
"Roger that. Lead the way." The group double-timed it over a few dunes to a rocky area where a squad of soldiers were digging in.
"Downed pilots to see the group commander," said the sergeant.
"Thank you, Sarge," said a voice from down in the trench. "Do me a favor and double check our lines of fire again." Agarne gave a curt nod and headed off to check the other soldiers. The group commander climbed out of the trench and faced the two newcomers. Blue eyes shone from within a scarred face.
"I'm Major Ranz," he said.
Moonsong saluted. "Lieutenant Gina Moonsong, commander Blade Squadron. This is pilot Temmin Wexley. If you don't mind us using one of your comlinks we'll get out of your hair and leave you to do your job, Major."
But Ranz shook his head. "Sorry Lieutenant, we're under orders to maintain radio silence until we make contact with our target-and even if I could give you a comm there's so much EMP interference, you'd need a full blown command-and-control sat-uplink to get through all the chaff."
Moonsong shrugged, burying her disappointment. This was war, nothing went as planned. "What is your target?"
Ranz gestured at the scrublands up ahead. "In about 30 minutes, an Imperial supply convoy is going to roll right through that pass. If they're able to reinforce Golga Station, they might be able to mount a counterattack that could make this battle drag on regardless of what happens upstairs."
"A supply convoy." Wexley looked around at the rebel troops. Some of them were wounded. All looked tired. "That sounds like it would be well protected."
"It will be. I expect at least one re-enforced company of stormtroopers to be traveling with it."
"Where are the rest of your men?"
"You're looking at them. Yesterday we had a full company."
"You don't honestly think you're going to be able to take out a heavily armored Imperial supply convoy with a dozen men do you? That's suicide."
Ranz laughed mirthlessly. "Didn't they say that about taking down the Death Star? Look, we have our orders. You're welcome to some supplies if you want to make a run for it, but we're about a hundred kilometers behind enemy lines with nothing but thousands of angry stormtroopers between here and Base Alpha. It's up to you, Lieutenant."
It wasn't really much of a choice. "Count us in," she said. She glanced at Wexley. "I hope you know how to use that blaster, kid."
Then she turned back to Ranz. "I'd like to suggest a plan," she said.
* * *
The six Imperial Troop Transports skirted across the sands at 20 kilometers per hour. They were unbuttoned, with a single trooper sticking out of the top hatch manning the craft's main gun. Ranz waited until the very last second and gave the signal.
六辆帝国运兵车（Imperial Troop Transport, ITT）以每小时20公里的速度在沙漠中行进。这支运输队疏于防备，只有一个士兵从顶盖中探出头，操纵着主炮。兰兹一直等到最后一秒，才发出进攻信号。
"Now!" The scouts detonated a jury-rigged cluster of power packs buried in the sand as the second transport passed over it. The ITT rose into the air on a pillar of sand and fire, then flipped over onto its back and split open, spilling supplies and troopers in all directions. The ITT behind it desperately turned, skidding to a halt as it impacted with the wreckage. The lead transport stopped and spun its dorsal turret, spitting cover fire in all directions as the stormtroopers poured out, ready to meet their enemies. The remaining transports pulled into a triangle formation and stopped. On cue, Major Ranz and his New Republic troopers leapt from their spider holes and opened fire on the rear ITTs. Half a dozen rockets turned the rear transports into flaming coffins for the stormtroopers that had yet to disembark-but it didn't take long for the remaining Imperials to form a skirmish line and return fire. They even managed to deploy a heavy weapons team which struggled to set up a tripod-mounted blaster cannon. The surviving troopers from the front of the column raced to reinforce the rear and face their attackers... just as Ranz had anticipated.
"Now!" he shouted.
Moonsong, Wexley, Sergeant Agarne and three of the squad popped out of their hiding place at the head of the column and tossed the few remaining anti-personnel grenades they had before running down firing at the few troopers outside the command ITT. Moonsong felt the heated air of near-misses, did her best to forget just how naked and exposed she was to the enemy's fire as she reached the ITT first and yanked a dead stormtrooper out of the smoking cockpit. She smiled as she saw the intact communication gear on the vehicle's dashboard. But that smile quickly disappeared as she realized the long range comm-dish was damaged.
"Temmin! We're going to have to align the dish manually!"
"I'm on it!" Wexley climbed atop the vehicle and pulled out his multi-tool to quickly unscrew the fitting that held the dish in place. An explosion went off nearby and Wexley fell from the ITT like he'd been hit by shrapnel; Moonsong somehow managed to focus anyway, keying up the coded channel to Fighter Command that piped her voice in directly to Admiral Ackbar's command ship Home One. Third Recon Group had no such access, but Moonsong did-and she had managed to persuade Ranz that even if the letter of his orders stipulated that they couldn't break radio silence until contact with the enemy had been made, well... that still meant that once contact had occurred, any and all signaling was just fine. It was a technicality, maybe, but it was one that might yet save all their lives. Sergeant Agarne poked his head in as blaster fire strafed their position.
"Pick up the pace, Lieutenant! They're on to us and we can't hold them off for much longer!" Moonsong climbed out of the cab firing wildly as she made her way to the wounded Wexley.
"Ok trooper, up and at them!" she shouted at Wexley. "I haven't given you permission to kick off!" She was relieved to see that he hadn't been hit-the blast had merely stunned him. He groaned as Moonsong pulled him to his feet and helped him limp off towards the nearest dune for cover. The stormtroopers had finished setting up their tripod-cannon, and proceeded to pour fire on the New Republic positions behind them while the bulk of the Imperials started to perform a flanking maneuver. That was when Moonsong heard a massive boom, followed by an enormous plume of smoke rising from where the major's position used to be. She realized he must have detonated the remaining explosives in an effort to stop the stormtroopers from overrunning his position. A few remaining New Republic troopers who had assisted with the assault on the lead ITT fell back and rallied around Moonsong's position. Sergeant Agarne fell in next to her and slapped a fresh pack into his blaster rifle.
"All right, you lot: set your blasters on single shot and watch your aim. The only way we're getting out of this is if we conserve our ammo."
"You really think we're getting out of this?" someone muttered. That was when the unmistakable sound of fighter engines overhead drew Moonsong's attention. Diving out of the sun were the familiar shapes of TIE fighters streaking towards them. On their first pass, their deadly laser fire raked the area, killing most of the remaining troopers in Ganz's regiment as well as a few stormtroopers too close to what was left of his position. "It's over!" shouted one of the rebels. "They've got us... we've got to surrender!"
"I seriously doubt these guys take prisoners," said Moonsong. She stood up and raised her rifle to her shoulder; if this was it, she figured she would go down fighting. "Okay, you want some of this? Come and get-" but even as she said the words, the TIE fighter suddenly exploded, followed by the next one in formation, and then the next one... until finally the only fighter craft in the sky were B-wings diving down and strafing the ITTs. Snub fighter laser fire kicked up huge plumes of smoke and sand; the stormtroopers broke formation and scattered in all directions. The second pass of the B-wings finished most of them off. The rest ran into the desert. Moonsong waved to the sky as Blade Squadron sped past, waggling their wings and rolling in salute to the survivors on the ground. She wasn't surprised to see Stramm's marking emblazoned on the lead fighter. She stepped over to where Wexley was kneeling.
"What's happening?" he said looking up at her.
"We're going home," she said. "Your mother will be proud."
She knelt beside him-with a hand on his shoulder while the fighters that made up Blade Squadron landed all around them. Stramm stepped out and walked over to them.
"I see you've got a new friend," he said.
"This is Temmin," said Moonsong. "Temmin, this is Braylen."
"Good to meet you," said Stramm. He took Gina's hand. "You gave me quite a scare," he said. "Don't do it again, okay?"
"Hey, I thought you weren't going to try to give me any more orders."
They looked at each other for a moment, and then both started laughing. "I wouldn't dream of it," he said. Just before things turned awkward, she pulled him in and kissed him. She felt more than a little dazed-it seemed surreal that the sands of Jakku hadn't claimed her. As to what came next-well, she would just have to see.