2 YEARS AFTER THE BATTLE OF YAVIN
ABOARD THE ALDERAANIAN FRIGATE, SUNSPIRE
War was easier to deal with from the cockpit of a Y-Wing. Sure, the threat of death exponentially increased every time a pilot strapped themselves in, but things were simpler, or at least Captain Evaan Verlaine of Gold Squadron liked to think so. When flying, there were targets and missions and objectives. Go there, shoot that out of the sky, protect this; it was simple. But war wasn’t always flying off on missions. After two years of it, Evaan could count with ease the number of actual flight missions her squadron had been assigned to. Most of war was sitting around, biding time, waiting, and wondering when your time to die was gonna find you. But of all the places to wait, the Sunspire was as good a place as any to do so.
Two years ago, the Empire turned Evaan’s homeworld of Alderaan into space dust which meant there was little out there that Evaan could hold on to where she could feel home. The Sunspire was an Alderaanian Frigate, a tactile piece of home that Evaan could walk through, touch, and live in. She hated being grounded and confined to a barracks, but she didn’t mind it as much when she could be surrounded by home. Sometimes, she would find herself just walking the corridors and running her fingers over the walls. She didn’t have much experience around these old frigates before the cataclysm that claimed her home, but things were different now. Running her fingers over those walls was like running her hand over the bones of Alderaan, and for the faintest moment—for the span it took a finger to glide across durasteel—the pain of what she lost didn’t cripple her.
Evaan had been called up for a meeting with the heads of the ship on the command deck; she didn’t have much time to waste but she ran her hands along those walls anyway. She’d never take Alderaan—even just a small piece—for granted again. She walked a long hall, let her fingers feel the cold metal of a railing as she went up a few stairs, and she leaned against the side of the turbo lift as she ventured toward her summoning. She wasn’t sure what they wanted from her, she was just a pilot after all, it was a little out of the ordinary for rebel command on any ship to single out a lone pilot, but she went without hesitation, and treasured whatever opportunity she could get to walk the Sunspire.
When the doors to the command deck slid open, a few heads pivoted to watch Evaan enter. Commander Kyrsta Agate was the only one Evaan immediately recognized. She was the captain of the Sunspire, a quiet but respectable leader that Evaan trusted. She stood around a holotank in the center of the room with a sandy bearded man to her right and a green skinned Duros woman on her left. Evaan approached the holotank and stood at attention with her hands behind her back until she was addressed, waiting to see what all this was about.
“Captain Verlaine,” Agate said, “Thank you for joining us. This Alexsandr Kallus,” she pointed to the sandy bearded man on her right, a man Evaan was just now placing as a face she saw around the Massassi temple back in the Yavin days. “He’s with Alliance Intelligence. And this here is Commodore Werti,” she gestured to the Duros.
“Kallus. Commodore.” Evaan nodded to each but otherwise remained silent.
“I’ll get to it, Captain,” Agate continued, “As you know, the Sunspire recently shipped out to require a fuel source from an old Separatist mining colony in the Outer Rim. We didn’t find gas, but we did come across Commodore Werti here, who with the assistance of Agent Kallus, was in the process of hunting down an Imperial governor that the Alliance could use for hostage negotiations.”
“I’m sorry,” Evaan shrugged, “I’m not exactly sure what help I am here. I’m just a pilot.”
“An Alderaanian pilot, according to your record,” Commodore Werti added.
Evaan nodded and swallowed. “Yes.”
“The Imperial Governor that we picked up on this mining platform is, by all accounts, the former governor of the sector of space where Alderaan used to reside,” Kallus said.
“By all accounts?” Evaan asked.
Kallus scratched at his sandy beard. “It is my job, Captain Verlaine, to hunt down information and suss out the truth. The information that led me to that platform where the Commodore and I found Governor Huffly was given to us under suspicious means.”
“Not unlike the information that was given to us about the fuel supply,” Agate chimed in.
“Indeed,” Commodore Werti nodded. “Governor Huffly would be a big get for the Alliance. His codes check out though they’re old.”
“And verification has been a challenge,” Kallus said. “The Empire is classifying records left and right ever since the Death Star. I met my fair share of Imperials back in the day but never had the displeasure of meeting the governor of your sector. I read over your file. Not only did you serve close to Senator Organa before his untimely death, but you worked with his wife, the Queen, before that. You would recognize Governor Huffly if you saw him, wouldn’t you?”
Evaan thought it over. “In theory. I was a kid when I served the Queen. I met a lot of Imperials that I didn’t care for greatly. Their faces tended to blend together after a while. But I can take a look for you.”
“A look is all we ask,” Agate smiled.
She pressed a button on the holotank and an image of the security feed down in the brig lit up in three dimensions between them. Evaan’s eyes narrowed on the feed of the man sitting in a dark cell. The image was grainy but Evaan could still make out the untucked Imperial uniform. He had a messy beard covering his face, making it hard to pin down exactly who he was, though the poor quality of the image didn’t help either.
“You didn’t remove his arm before jailing him?” Evaan asked.
The three others shared a look. Eventually, it was Kallus who asked, “Remove his arm?”
“Isn’t it protocol to remove a prisoners uncovered mechanical limb until they’ve been properly registered? Governor Huffly lost his left arm in a riding accident when I was a girl.”
Again, the three of them shared a look. This time it was Agate who said, “This man had all of his limbs.”
Alarms and klaxons blared as the image on the holotank flashed away and was replaced with a digital representation of the Sunspire and the space around it. Three other ships—half as large but armed to the teeth—dropped out of hyperspace and surrounded the Alliance Frigate. Someone across the bridge called out, “Pirates!” The ship rocked a second later as the attack began and the pirate ships that surrounded the Sunspire opened fire.
“It was a trap,” Commodore Werti groaned.
Kallus added, “They set us up.”
“Scramble all fighters,” Agate called out, leaping into command mode. “Gold and Teal Squadrons, take out those ships.”
Evaan was already on the move.
Despite the loud sirens and the commotion and the hustle, Evaan still ran her fingers over the walls as she ran out of the command deck and toward the hangar where she could fly and be useful once again. The Sunspire rocked as the shields endured more and more turbo laser fire from the pirates, and the crew of the frigate ran in every direction, somehow managing to not knock one another over as they hurried to their initial jobs.
By the time Evaan made it down to the hangar, Teal Squadron was already flying off into action in their X-Wings and half of Gold Squadron was jumping into the cockpits of their Y-Wings. Evaan unzipped her bomber jacket and quickly changed into her flight suit, not wasting a second. She made sure that her astromech was on his way to his socket as she pulled her flight hood up over her head and tightened her boots. Once she was out there, she would do her part to stop the attack, and she looked forward to it. She couldn’t wait until she watched those pirates crumbling under the weight of her proton torpedoes. She would never let them destroy the Sunspire. Home couldn’t be destroyed again—
The thought crippled her. None of this made sense. The wheels in her mind churned as the rest of Gold Squadron departed the hangar without her. Imperials attacked a rebel ship to destroy… pirates played a whole different game. The set up was around the planet that the Sunspire had been sent to for the fuel, but planting a pirate disguised as an Imperial officer on board? That was something else. Pirates didn’t destroy, pirates stole. They weren’t trying to obliterate the frigate, they were going to try and board it, and there was already a pirate on board ready to open the doors!
Evaan yanked her flight hood off her head and turned away from her precious bomber. Arfive—the astromech droid already sitting in the droid socket of the Y-Wing—beeped a coo of concern toward her. She didn’t understand the binary without a translator but the message was not lost on her. “I have to do something,” Evaan told him, “And I can’t do it from the cockpit of a Y-Wing.”
Grabbing a blaster, Evaan hustled out of the hangar and ventured down to the depths of the frigate, down where they kept the brig as well as where she would find the docking ports. This time when Evaan ran she did so without distraction. Her hand gripped her blaster, there was no time to run her fingers over the bones of Alderaan that surrounded her. She was fighting for Alderaan again, and for a moment her planet lived, it beat in her racing heart as she fought to protect it. This wasn’t just about stopping pirates from taking a rebel command ship… it was about saving what was left of everything Evaan had lost.
A door to the port hall opened with a loud whoosh, and Evaan raised her blaster pistol and stepped forward just in time to see the pirate disguised as Imperial Governor Huffly reaching for a control panel to open the port doors. No doubt, pirates on their boarding crafts were waiting on the other side as their main cruisers distracted the crew of the Sunspire with their bright and useless bombardment. Evaan squeezed the trigger and fired a blaster bolt into the control panel before the pirate could reach it. It sizzled and sparked at his fingers, the bones of Alderaan fighting back, and the pirate yelped as he pulled away and turned toward Evaan with a puzzled look across his scarred face.
“Sorry, Governor,” Evaan said, “Your pirate friends are going to have to wait outside. If they want to fight rebels, they can fight them fair and square.”
There was banging coming from the other side of the port hole. Surely, it was the other pirates wondering why they weren’t being let in. They’d only be able to linger on their boarding ships for so long before they got discovered and picked off by Teal Squadron, but however this played out, the pirates game was up and the pirate that Evaan had at blaster point was starting to realize that. He raised his hands with the looks of a surrender, but he moved quick and reached for something at his hip, but before Evaan could act a swirl of blue rings shot out of the darkness behind him and knocked him into the port door, and he fell to the floor unconscious—the pointed blade he was reaching for slipping out of his hands.
Agent Kallus walked out of the shadows, his blaster set on stun still pointed up. “Looks like you figured it out before me,” he said. “Good work, Captain Verlaine.” Kallus holstered his weapon and scooped up the pirate with one arm as he used the other to comm the command deck. “Commander Agate, this is Kallus. The pirate attack is a distraction meant to keep our focus away from a boarding party. These plans have been thwarted by Captain Verlaine. Order all squadrons to focus their attacks on the boarding ships on the side of the Sunspire.”
Kallus pocketed his comm unit and slung the pirate’s arm around his shoulder as he started to take him back to his cell. “Had I known he was a pirate, I would’ve kept a guard on him. Pirates are known for slipping free of cells.”
“Do you need a hand?” Evaan asked, holstering her own weapon.
“I’m fine. I’m sorry I brought some of this foolishness aboard your ship. I’ll be sure your cleverness will be noted in my report.” Kallus disappeared back down the hall and carried the pirate back to his cell.
“Just doing my job,” Evaan whispered to herself. She went over to the control panel she shot and ran a hand over it. On the other side of that wall, the pirates were fleeing and being taken down by rebel pilots, but her focus was on the frayed bits of wire and jagged metal that stuck out where her blaster bolt struck. The part would be fixed soon enough, replaced with something new, something not Alderaanian, and Evaan understood that that was how the galaxy was now. Anything left that was Alderaanian would eventually fade away to the sands of time, and as sad as that thought was, Evaan was okay with it, because it wasn’t gone yet… there was still life left in the ghost, and as long as Evaan’s heart beat, Alderaan would live.
The battle raged on outside the Sunspire, and Evaan Verlaine lingered in the shadows of the ship, holding on to the charred and frayed bones for as long as she could.