What do you get when you cross
THE STAR WARS ADAPTATION
The Rebel Alliance is still struggling against the Galactic Empire. But they have a new ally; the planet Canis. Many able Canines, both young and old, have joined the Alliance. The majority of these have joined the various Rebel fighter squadrons. This is the story of one of those squadrons; and one of the Alliance's most desperate battles....
Captain Steele, leader of Blue squadron, was sweating inside
his cockpit. His fighter, the infamous V-45 Wolf-Wing ,
was still falling behind the other ships. His wingmen, Nikki,
Kaltag, and Star, were heavily damaged and might not make it.
"I had to try to win it a fourth time!" cursed Steele.
He had entered the Great Asteroid Run many times before, and the power of his V-45's engines always guaranteed a win. Now he was up against the Alliance's latest fighter: the Dodonna/Blissex A-Wing fighter/interceptor. The A-Wing was faster and more maneuverable, but lacked the Canine Squadron's V-45 Super Shield. He always kept this shield recharging at maximum rate to protect him from asteroids but also slowed him down considerably. He had only one choice if he was going to win the race. He poured power from his shield and laser systems into his engines. He began to close on the A-Wing group ahead of him.
The leader saw Steele coming and tried the same trick, but the V-45 has 8 laser cannons with which to borrow energy from and Steele soared ahead. Once he was in front, Steele hit the `stop' switch. The A-Wings scrambled to get out of his way. A few of them crashed into the asteroids, others bounced off his shields. The pilots managed to eject in time. Steele grinned as he returned power to his engines.
"Steele!" shouted the leader in the direction of Steele's ship.
Nikki, Kaltag, and Star flew by but he soon caught up. They
won the race; for the fourth time. The Rebel Alliance all watched
as they flew into the hanger of the Rebel flagship Independence.
They were awarded by Mon Mothma; leader of the Alliance. Four shiny gold medals, one for each of them. Then Steele did what he always did after a successful mission: boast. He always did it within earshot of two other Canines, Captain Jenna who was an ace Y-Wing pilot, and Lieutenant Balto, a novice A-Winger with enough skill to get him through the few missions he had been assigned to.
Balto wasn't really trusted in the Alliance. His father, a wolf from Canis, had betrayed his squadron and joined the Empire, resulting in the deaths of four hundred Canines aboard a Rebel cruiser. Balto's father had given the location of the cruiser to the Empire, who wasted no time in dispatching Assault Gunboats. Unfortunately, his father was killed in the attack.
Jenna was, Steele thought, the most beautiful Canine of them all. Sure there was Sylvie, who was a communications officer on the Nebulon B Frigate Nome, and Dixie, who had joined the Canine Heavy Cruiser Nenana's B-Wing squadron, but he knew they both had `little schoolgirl' crushes on him. He preferred the more aggressive type. Jenna was in charge of her own squadron: Husky Unit. They were one of the top ten fighter squadrons along with Red squadron and Rogue squadron. She had even beaten him in a one-on-one dogfight in one of the simulators.
"Never again," he told himself, shaking his head.
He saw his opportunity. She was just leaving. He nodded to his squadron as he left to follow Jenna. He called to her in the main hallway.
"Hey Jenna," he called.
She turned around and tried hard to smile," Oh hi Steele. Congrats on winning the race."
"Thanks. Say, let's go celebrate. I'll buy you a drink," suggested Steele.
"No thanks, I'm still on duty."
"Yeah. I have to get to number four hanger to test another of the Alliance's new fighters. Maybe another time. If you're lucky," she finished, under her breath.
He watched as she walked away. Not only was she a worthy opponent (and ally), but she had a nice tail too! He turned and headed towards his quarters.
Balto had watched the whole thing from the upper platform. He
leaned over the railing after Steele offered to buy Jenna a
drink, then relaxed as she refused. He knew she was off duty. She
was just tired of being followed around by Steele all the time.
Balto saw his chance to talk to her. She had said "hi"
a few times but nothing more.
"Somehow," Balto thought " she knows I'm not a traitor."
Balto slipped under the railing and landed in front of Jenna. She gasped.
"Sorry to startle you Jenna but I..."
"Captain!" called a voice.
It was General Doc, from the Canine Heavy Cruiser Nenanna. Jenna turned to face him.
"Yes sir," said Jenna.
"You're needed in hanger six right away. Your Y-Wing's been sabotaged."
"Oh no!" cried Jenna.
She glanced at Balto, but he had disappeared. She glanced down
a corridor then ran to catch up with the General.
Balto flew his A-Wing to his father's ship; an old Canis Light Frigate, the Trawler. He docked in the small, four ship hanger and climbed out of his cockpit. He was greeted by his two-bear maintenance crew, Muk and Luk, both from the planet Therma. They had their own fighters, odd spherical ships with three guns, missile launchers, and a moderately fast engine. They sat parked next to Balto's craft. Both ships were gutted; the two were obviously trying to boost the engine system again. He waved to them then went to his quarters. He had the largest room on the ship. Balto went to his sleeping chamber and flopped down on his bed. He picked up a picture of his parents. His father was a black wolf and his mother was a grey and white husky.
This was another reason why Balto was not trusted. On his planet cross-breeding was illegal, and hybrids were considered treacherous. The fact that his father had betrayed his own kind made Balto's shame even worse. He remembered all the times Steele and his squadron had made fun of him, or the many times they had messed with the flight schedule or spoken with Balto's superiors to make sure Balto never rose from escorting convoys of garbage scows. He dropped the picture on the floor and rolled on his back. There was a beeping from the next room. he got up and pressed the `answer' button on his communications console. It was Boris, on the bridge of the Trawler.
"How are you Balto?" asked Boris.
Balto smiled. Boris was his oldest and dearest friend. Before the Canines had joined the Alliance, he and Boris were in the Royal Canis Navy. Now he had gotten Boris promoted to Captain and given him command of the Trawler.
"I'm fine. Just a little tired."
"Did you talk with Jenna today?"
"No. Not today," said Balto. His ears drooped down.
"Don't fret fido! You'll get your chance soon. She'll learn just how special you really are!"
Balto always got embarrassed when Boris talked about him and Jenna getting together," Nah. She's not my type."
"Why not? This wolf business again? Hah! Sometimes I wish like crazy I was half eagle!"
"Why?" laughed Balto.
"Better profile for one thing," said Boris," And I'd fly better too!"
It was ten minutes before Balto had to attend a briefing. Balto hung his head slightly as he walked. Another escort mission! He was walking down a hallway when a door slid open and a group of Canines, humans, Mon Calamari, and other species began to emerge. Balto spotted Jenna. She looked upset. He walked over to her.
"What's the matter, Jenna?" he asked.
She looked up," Oh, Balto. Hi. It's nothing." She turned away from him and began to shake.
Balto walked in front of her and saw that she was crying," What is it?"
"There is a terrible plague on the planet Earth. My adoptive mother is there and she was one of the first to get sick."
"Mother?" asked Balto.
"Yes. I was on a space cruiser when it was attacked. It crashed on Earth. Only a few of us survived. I was one of them. I was only a pup then. A teenage girl named Rosy took me to live with her and her family. She raised me like a little sister, but I always thought of her as my mother."
"I... I had no idea. I'm sorry if I upset you. I didn't mean for you to have to tell me that."
"No," she said. She hugged him," I'm glad you did. It was good to let it go."
Then Steele appeared from the crowd, " Well well, what's wrong with this picture?"
"Steele!" gasped Jenna.
Balto gritted his teeth. Why did Steele have to show up now!
"Jenna, join me for diner? I'll take you to that nice new Sullustan restaurant." Then he looked at Balto," No hybrids allowed!"
Balto felt his back hairs sticking up," Alright Steele!" He clenched his fists.
"No. Balto!" said Jenna. She walked slowly over to Steele," You're offer sounds so tempting."
"It is!" said Steele.
"But I don't really like Sullustan food. It makes my stomach flip."
And with that she stuck out her foot and pushed Steele over
it. He fell to the deck and rolled over.
"That's one way to train 'em," said Jenna.
"Nice move," said Balto.
Then three security guards showed up," Alright, what's going on here?"
Steele acted severely injured," It was that hybrid! He just attacked me!"
"Alright... Lieutenant. I'm afraid you'll have to come with us."
The guards pulled Balto away before he or Jenna could utter a word. He had sat in the brig for only half an hour before he was released," Captain Jenna gave us all the details. You're free to go."
"Thank you," said Balto.
But Balto was very angry; as well as upset. Not only had Steele embarrassed him in front of Jenna, but he had missed his mission as well. He returned to the Trawler and watched the fleet mobilize for its random hyperspace jump to avoid detection by the Empire.
Balto awoke as a V-40 Foxx fighter screamed past his window. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes and walked to his bathroom. After a quick shower he dressed himself in his green flight suit and went to the hanger. Muk and Luk were putting the engine system back into their ships as he walked into the hanger. He waved before getting into his A-Wing. After being cleared by launch control he landed on the cruiser Maria. There were more ships than usual in the hanger. After asking a few different species what was going on he found out that there was going to be a skill contest to see who would take the shipment of medicine to Earth. He grabbed a report flier and read it:
The contest will run through the asteroid belt. Each ship will be modified with a tractor beam emplacement. You must carry your load safely through the asteroids and reach the other side. The first three fighters will have earned the right to carry the shipment to Earth. Captain Steele has already been chosen to lead the mission, due to his recent success. Good luck!
"Of course Steele!" groaned Balto," But why go through the asteroids?"
He soon got his answer. The pilots were called to the briefing room to receive their orders. Balto decided to give it a try. The large briefing room was capable of seating over fifty people, and it easily took the thirty or so pilots. General Doc was standing in front of a holographic projector located in the center of the room.
"Quiet please," he ordered.
When all was quiet, he dimmed the lights and switched on the projector. An image of the destination system appeared. He could see a highlighted planet, the asteroids, and the planet Earth.
"This mission," began the General," Is a very important one. You will be required to fly to Juneau Station orbiting the planet Jupiter. After obtaining a cargo container of the medicine you will proceed through the asteroids to Earth. We are moving through the asteroids to try to avoid any detection by the Empire. You must reach Earth safely. The medicine is vital. First, you will fly the obstacle course to determine who will fly the mission. Right now, each ship is being retrofitted with a tractor beam projector. You will leave the hanger with your container in tow and fly through the asteroids. The first three ships will be awarded the positions of second container and two escorting fighters. Good luck. Now, to your ships.
A young looking Mon Calamari pilot raised his webbed hand, " A question, sir. Why not just use a cruiser to carry the medicine?"
"Because," answered Doc," fighters would be faster. Traveling through an asteroid field in a cruiser is no walk in the park!"
Balto returned to his fighter, which now had a bulky looking tractor beam projector on the bottom of it. Behind the ship was a cargo container.
"Just hit the green button on the side of the flight stick," said the tech who had just climbed out of Balto's A-Wing.
Balto climbed into his ship and started his engines. He locked onto the container and flew out of the hanger. He lined up with the other ships. His position was right next to the cruiser. He looked through one of the large viewports and saw Jenna, Sylvie, and Dixie waiting for the race to start. He hesitated, then gave Jenna a thumbs-up.
"Balto!" gasped Jenna.
"What does he think he's doing?" said Dixie.
As soon as all of the ships had lined up. The ten second countdown had begun. There was a wide variety of fighters: X-Wings, Z-95 Headhunters, as well as Steele's squadron of four V-45's. Balto poised his finger over his throttle switch waiting for the green light to come on. Three..... two..... one..... the green light flashed. With a reaction time of .23 seconds, Balto pushed the switch to full throttle. He was pushed back into his seat by the sudden thrust. His pair of Novaldex J-77 `Event Horizon' engines screamed as he gained speed and left the slower X-Wings and Z-95 Headhunters behind. Even with his load he was still faster than any other fighter in the galaxy. That is, except for a V-45 Wolf-Wing with its lasers being redirected to its engines. Balto watched as Nikki, Kaltag, and Star pulled beside him. They sneered as he tried to redirect power to his own engines. They reached the asteroids. Nikki pulled a fast maneuver into the path of Balto. Balto swerved out of the way and narrowly avoided an asteroid. He did a somersault to avoid a few more which resulted in having some of the other fighters pass by him. He had to take a risk. He redirected all shield power into his engines. His maximum speed in combat would have been 180, but his load slowed him to 146. He still passed the others and soon caught up with the leader, Nikki. Balto could see the other side of the asteroid field approaching. He kept his eyes on as many asteroids as possible. He pulled hard to the left and almost collided with Nikki. Nikki saw Balto coming and plowed into Kaltag and Star. They got bumped off course but were otherwise alright. Balto now had the lead. The win was only a few asteroids away. He soared out of the asteroids and flew towards the rendezvous frigate. He entered the hanger, followed by Star, then Kaltag and finally, a very cheesed Nikki. . The rest of the ships arrived and landed. Balto was glad to be in such an important position. The second container!
"Wow!" thought Balto.
The fighters returned aboard the frigate which had no trouble blasting its way back through the asteroid field. Once on board the Maria, Balto reported to General Doc. He was in the breifing room, along with the other winners; Nikki, Kaltag, and Star and, unfortunately, so was Steele.
"Lieutenant Balto reporting in, sir," said Balto, standing at attention.
"At ease," said the General.
Balto let his shoulders drop, he felt very relaxed, except for the fact that Steele was staring at him.
"I would like to congratulate you on your excellent flying Lieutenant," continued the General.
"Thank you sir," said Balto.
"The group leaves in six hours. You'll have that time to do any checks on your ship. Get some sleep as well."
Balto glanced over at Steele. Steele only glared back at him.
"Um, excuse me General," said Steele," Regarding the Lieutenant's actions during the test."
"What about them?" asked Doc.
"It was seen clearly from camera probe number 6-1-B that Balto tried to ram one of my wingmen. I believe he has a personal problem with Commander Nikki, either that or he had no consideration for his welfare."
"Hmmm," said the General.
"I was trying to avoid an asteroid!" declared Balto," I almost crashed into Nikki's ship!"
"A likely story," said Steele," I think you just want to get on everyone's good side, hybrid!"
Balto bared his teeth.
"See general. He is acting very aggressive. I don't think he's fit for such an important mission," said Steele.
"Yes," said Doc," Alright Lieutenant, you are dismissed."
"But..." began Balto.
Steele grinned as Balto turned and left. He argrily donned his helmet and was about to climb into his ship when Jenna walked by," Hey Balto. Great flying. Good luck on the mission."
Balto looked at her," I'm not flying the mission. Captain Steele convinced General Doc that I'm not good enough for such an important mission."
Jenna's mouth fell open," That's the last straw! I've taken just about enough from him!"
Balto pulled himself onto the top of his fighter," He said that I had a personal problem with Commander Nikki and that I had no consideration for his welfare!"
Jenna looked back up at him, a sad expression on her face, "Oh Balto. I'm so sorry..." she said.
"You'd better not talk to me any more Jenna," interrupted Balto," I might develop a personal problem with you!"
Balto got into his cockpit and started his engines.
"Balto wait," said Jenna," Balto!"
Balto slid the canopy shut and took off. He flew to the Trawler and went straight to his room. From there he watched as Steele and his three wingmen took off from the Maria and jumped into hyperspace.
Steele watched as the starlines streaked back to dots as he emerged from hyperspace, then Kaltag, then Nikki, and finally Star who was to tow the second container.
"All wings report in," said Steele.
"Blue 2, standing by," piped Star.
"Blue 3, standing by," said Kaltag.
"Blue 4, standing by," grumbled Nikki.
They all followed Steele to the star base in a Vic formation. When they reached the base two space tugs pushed the containers towards them. Steele and Star locked on with their tractor beams and began their flight towards the asteroid field. Nikki and Kaltag flew behind them now in a Line Astern formation.
"Wait," said Star," What's that?"
He looked at a small grey dot a few dozen meters into the asteroids.
"It looks like a probe," said Kaltag," I'll go investigate."
Kaltag broke formation and flew towards the probe. On the side of it was a warped star insignia; the insignia used by the Empire.
"It's an Imperial probe!" reported Kaltag.
"Destroy it," said Steele.
Kaltag flew by, aimed carefully at the tiny target, and fired his lasers. The probe exploded.
"Do you think it got a reading on us," asked Star.
"I hope not," said Nikki. They continued their way through the asteroid field.
A few hours later, an alarm went off in Star's ship.
"Enemy Star Destroyer at ten kilometers!" he shouted.
"They're launching fighters!" said Kaltag.
"Dang!" cursed Steele," Increase speed!"
The ships picked up speed. The TIE Fighters were closing fast. They were now only eight kilometers away.
"How many fighters do you read, Star?" asked Nikki.
Star looked at his tactical display," Five TIE Fighters, and six Interceptors."
"Great," said Kaltag," I hate TIE Interceptors!"
"Wait," said Star," I'm picking up Assault Gunboats at two o'clock high, four kilometers away. Another two-point-five kilometers and we'll be within targeting range of their missiles!"
"They won't fire missiles in this asteroid field," said Steele," Who will arrive first, Star?"
"The TIE's will get here in four minutes and sixteen seconds, the Gunboats in.... one-oh-five."
"Kaltag, intercept the Gunboats. Nikki, you go after the TIE's."
"Roger," said Kaltag.
The two split up as Steele and Star continued on towards the other side of the asteroid field. Nikki ran into the fighters and managed to destroy two upon interception.
Kaltag did take two missiles; originally three had been fired but his anti-missile cannon dealt with the third one. He fed one gunboat three rockets and finished it off with his laser cannons. The three other gunboats broke formation and began to circle Kaltag, except for one that headed for Steele and Star. Kaltag destroyed another gunboat and then, realizing that the other gunboat had gotten through, flew to get it. The fourth gunboat continuously fired Concussion Missiles into his rear shields but they held firm. Kaltag locked onto the distant gunboat as it fired a salvo of missiles at Steele. Kaltag fired a few rockets then turned to face his antagonist. The laser cannons destroyed the gunboat and the rockets severely damaged the other. It still remained on course as the pilot redirected energy from his laser systems to recharge his shields.
Nikki had destroyed three TIE Interceptors and was chasing a TIE Fighter when he slammed into a small asteroid. His front shields dropped to medium level and Nikki adjusted both front and back shields to compensate. The recharge rate for the Wolf-Wing's shields was very stubborn. The fighter was once again in his sights and he fired. The un-shielded TIE exploded, lighting up the darkened asteroids. Three laser blasts hit his low shields. His shield guage read 32%. Nikki pulled an evasive maneuver and came up on the three fighters that had shot at him. The fighters were trying to group into formation in able to get a decent attack on Nikki's superior ship. Nikki linked his guns and blasted the TIE's out of formation. The skies were clear. He flew back towards the others. Then a warning light went off. His sensors detected five Skipray Blastboats launching from the Star Destroyer. Once the large fighters had been launched, the Star Destroyer entered hyperspace. It would return later to collect its fighters after news of the battle's end had reached it.
"Oh no!" gasped Nikki.
Kaltag had destroyed the gunboat. Another wave was coming in, faster this time. He took little damage this time but two of the gunboats got past him now and they were moving like greased lightning. The two others were firing double sets of missiles into his shields; his gun working frantically to take down as many as possible. His shields were dropping fast. 60%, 50%, 40%. He had to break away. The two gunboats were right on him. He buzzed an asteroid. One of the gunboats couldn't get out of the way in time and crashed into the spinning rock. The other turned away from Kaltag. Kaltag then turned back to his primary targets. He locked on and fired enough rockets to damage a Corellian Corvette. They hit dead on and both gunboats were destroyed. The fourth one was taken out soon after.
Nikki let his rockets do the talking. One of the blastboats was hit and pulled away. The other five kept firing at Nikki. He passed them and turned around. They had kept going, straight towards the `convoy'. He fired lasers and rockets but had very little luck. The blastboats were evading the shots and their turrets were manned and they were shooting down his rockets. Nikki fired his lasers again and destroyed one of them. The three turrets were pointed at him and they were doing damage to his shields. The V-45's shields are hard to bring down if they are above 40%. Once they drop below that, they weaken. Nikki's shields were now down to 20%. He pulled up and lost them behind a big asteroid.
He increased his speed and then dove down once the asteroid has passed. They were right in front of him. He fired his lasers and destroyed two targets. The last one was within range of the convoy. It fired missiles and torpedoes at Star and Steele. They hit dead on and Nikki's computer showed them both at 56%. Nikki fired all eight of his lasers in linked mode. The blastboat's shields dropped to 10% and it pulled up. Nikki went after it. It came around again and fired another volley of missiles at Steele. His shields dropped to 47%. The blastboat's shields failed and the craft exploded after one of Nikki's rockets hit it. Nikki saw a few torpedoes heading toward the convoy. He tried to shoot some of them with rockets but he only got three; also by using his anti-missile cannon. The rest hit Steele and Star's ships. Their shields were down to 10%. Then the fifth blastboat; the one that Nikki had though to have bugged out, flew by and used its ion cannons to disable Steele and Star. They were dead in space.
Kaltag destroyed the thirteenth gunboat to arrive and hoped that it was the end of them. It was. He flew back to the convoy, only to find it disabled.
"What happened?" he asked.
"Some TIE Bombers got past me and shot torpedoes at Steele and Nikki. Then a Skipray Blastboat disabled them. They're all toast though," said Nikki.
"Nice job you two!" shouted Steele, sarcastically.
"What are we gonna do now Steele?" asked Star.
Balto felt like he was the last person to hear anything. Steele was due on Earth two days ago and he hadn't showed up.
"The last thing Juneau Station reported was a Star Destroyer in the sector," said Jenna.
She and Dixie were on their break. Jenna had decided to treat them both to dinner on board the Independence.
"Maybe they were attacked?" suggested Dixie as she put her fork in her mouth.
"That wouldn't do much," said Jenna," Steele's a jerk but I admit that he's a good pilot."
Dixie hummed and nodded. Balto, who had been sitting at the table behind them, lowered his ears and turned his attention back to his meal. His comlink beeped. Balto pressed the receive button and spoke into it," Yes, what is it?"
"We're ready," Boris' voice came clearly through the comlink.
"I'll be there shortly," said Balto.
He turned his ears back to Jenna and picked up the last of their conversation," I'm going to check with General Doc before I jump to any conclusions."
They both got up and left. Balto dropped a few credits on the table and slid out of his seat. He left the restaurant from the another exit and began to make his way to Doc's office. He peered around the corner and watched Jenna meet with the General as he emerged from his room. He could barely hear what was being said," They've missed their second checkpoint and we've heard nothing from any of the group. I can only expect the worst."
"Can't we send another squadron?" asked Jenna.
"I tried that," said Doc," The medicine is as rare as the disease. And the Hutts are offering it at six times its worth! Dirty gangsters!"
"Well... thank you anyway General," said Jenna. She walked quickly down the hall and right past Balto. He tried to think of something to say to her but the look on her face made him change his mind. Instead, he made another decision.
"This is the Trawler requesting permission to break formation from the fleet," Balto said into the communicator.
"Trawler this is Independence. What is the purpose of your departure?" the voice came through Balto's speaker.
"I have requested a two week leave of absence and I'm taking it now," said Balto.
"Very well. Break off and proceed cautiously," said the voice.
The old frigate turned away from the main part of the fleet and prepared to enter hyperspace. All systems had been checked. Balto pulled back the hyperspace activation lever and watched as the stars streaked into lines.
Jenna had just gotten out of the shower and was sitting by her window, brushing her long rust-coloured fur when a bright flash caught her eye. She looked, but all she could see was the glow from the Trawler's four bright blue engines. She thought for a moment and then grabbed for a NotePadd. She recorded the trajectory on the small computer and then watched as the ship disappeared into hyperspace. She ran to her bedroom and put on her flight suit. Jenna then plugged the coordinates into her computer and looked at the list of possible destinations:
Jenna turned her chair toward the window," Jupiter!" she gasped.
Balto thought that the best place to look for Steele's squadron was where they had been seen last. Juneau Station, Jupiter; the Milky Way Galaxy. He greeted the station and then continued on towards the asteroid field that separated Jupiter from Mars and the rest of the Terrestrial Planets. He scanned the area for any traces of the Wolf-Wing's engine signature. He found it and began to make his way into the field. Suddenly the warning alarms went off and lights flashed in the cockpit. Balto checked his long range scanners. A Corellian Corvette was coming out of hyperspace. Balto flipped on his 3D zoom scanner and took a closer look. A large black Imperial insignia showed clearly on the front of the ship. Balto felt his muscles become tense.
"This is the Imperial Corvette Stinger. Drop your shields and prepare to be boarded," said a voice from the other ship.
"This is the Canis Light Frigate Trawler. I see no reason to meet your demands," replied Balto.
"We have scanned your ship and found a Rebel Alliance A-Wing fighter in your landing bay. Explain your possession of this craft."
"It's mine," said Balto.
"Rebel scum!" shouted the voice," Prepare to be destroyed!"
"We'll see!" said Balto.
He raced to the hanger. Muk and Luk were there. Balto went to the comm unit on the wall.
"Boris," he called.
Boris' image appeared on the screen," Yes what is it?"
"I need you to fly the ship. We've got an Imperial corvette coming in. Muk, Luk, and I will try to destroy it."
"You don't have to ask me twice!" said Boris.
Balto ran to his ship," Come on you guys!" he called to Muk and Luk.
They all got into their ships and started their engines. The three fighters flew out of the hanger and headed toward the corvette.
"I hope that's not an Assassin-Class corvette," said Balto.
"Negative on that," said Muk," I detect no fighters inside."
"Thank goodness. That's all we need is to have bombers attacking the Trawler!" said Balto.
He trusted his father's ship but it was still old and he'd been trying to get the money for a shield upgrade for months now. The Trawler was 30 meters longer than the corvette but was seriously underpowered, but it managed to outgun the corvette with its six light turbolasers and twelve laser cannons.
Muk and Luk came behind Balto in a Vic formation. They came into range of the corvette's more powerful turbolaser cannons. Balto's shields took two hits before he banked to the left. He re-positioned his crosshairs at the corvette's engines. His lasers hit dead on but with little effect. The corvette's shields remained at 100%. Muk and Luk fired and scored several hits before their shield levels forced them to pull away and recharge. Balto had wished he could have requested some warheads before leaving but he knew that with his reputation he would never be allowed to carry missiles on his ship during a leave of absence.
"Coming around for another pass," said Balto.
"I'm with you," said Luk.
The two fighters flew towards the corvette with their laser cannons firing rapidly. The corvette's shields dropped to 90% as Balto and Luk Pulled away. Muk came in and fired his cannons and delivered a powerful salvo of turbocharged lasers. The corvette's shields dropped to 83% and Muk began to put the capital ship behind him. Balto made another pass, closer to the ship. After dropping its shields further he flew away from it at the front. It fired enough times to drop his shields. He attempted to redirect his shields as he pulled up. Another blast disabled his flight control system and left him on a direct course with the asteroid field. He was now in full view of the top turret ad it kept pounding at him.
"Yaaaahhhh!" yelled a familiar voice over the communicator.
A pair of proton torpedoes crashed against the covette and destroyed the top turret.
"Jenna?" said Balto, recognizing the voice.
Jenna's course forced her to pass beneath the corvette and a laser salvo threw her off course. She regained control of her Y-Wing and came at the corvette again. She fired another set of torpedoes and was almost totally blown away. She limped her ship out of gun range and let the others fight it out. The corvette; although its shields were gone, had gained speed and was now closing on Balto. He had managed to get his shields back to full power but his flight control system was still dead. A quick glace at his computer told him that the repairs would take another thirty seconds. The corvette was almost in gun range. Muk and Luk made passes but were discouraged by the corvette's firepower. Balto was now in range. The corvette was using its four laser cannons as well. He felt his fighter shake as the lasers crashed against his shields. His shield indicator; a small round display with an image of his ship and shields inside it, turned from bright green, to orange, to red. His primary shield layer failed.
Muk and Luk were now in the corvette's blind spot shooting away at the engines. Balto's flight control system came back on-line and he pulled up and out of range of the bottom gun. The four laser cannons on the top of the cruiser continued to fire. He turned around and blew off the four remaining top guns. Thanks to Muk and Luk the corvette's navigation control was dead and the corvette was now heading towards a very large asteroid. The shock wave from the explosion barely affected Muk and Luk but Balto was too close. His systems flickered on and off and then finally failed. He was stuck in a vertical spin and was on course with an asteroid. Boris maneuvered the Trawler into position and grabbed Balto with one of the Trawler's tractor beam projectors. They waited as Jenna's fighter limped inside the hanger. When she emerged from her cockpit, her facial fur was singed and she was limping herself. The glass face shield in her helmet had cracked.
"Jenna, what happened?" asked Balto.
He helped her to a tool chest where she sat down.
"My control panel exploded and a ripped piece of metal stabbed my leg. I'll be alright though. Now we can go find Steele," said Jenna.
"You're not going anywhere!" said Balto," Except back to the fleet."
Balto reached for the comm panel," Boris. Get the Trawler out of here. I'll continue on my own."
"No, Balto," argued Jenna," I'll be fine. You can't go on alone."
"Won't be the first time," said Balto.
Jenna looked at him and nodded," Well, here," she said.
She pulled a locket out from around her neck and handed it to Balto. Balto opened it. It had a picture of Jenna, along with a human that Balto guessed to be around thirty years old.
"Jenna I can't take this," said Balto.
"It'll remind you of Rosy. To keep you going. Never give up," said Jenna.
She leaned forward and kissed Balto on his cheek. He smiled and slowly, painfully stood up.
"Muk. You and Luk take Jenna to the infirmary," said Balto. Then to Jenna he added," I'll get the medicine to Earth. I promise Jenna."
He watched as they helped Jenna out of the hanger, then got into his fighter and left the Trawler's hanger. Jenna, Muk, and Luk watched from the medical bay's window as Balto's A-Wing disappeared into the asteroid field.
Balto followed his A-Wing's sensors along the engine signature left behind by the V-45's. He passed some large pieces of space debris including a half destroyed TIE Interceptor wing that was burned at the edges. He was positive that there was a fight. He came across the convoy after another ten minutes.
"Balto!" gasped Star.
"Balto, how did you find us?" asked Kaltag.
"Is anyone hurt?" asked Balto.
Steele came over the communicator in his low, tough guy voice," Everyone is fine!"
"Yeah, but Steele and Star have been disabled, and they can't repair themselves," said Nikki.
"Why not," asked Balto. "Our systems are too badly damaged," reported Star.
Balto slowed his A-Wing and stopped right beside Steele's Wolf-Wing. He looked through the viewport but all Steele did was stare straight ahead.
"I've got a zero-G suit in my ship," said Balto, "I could try to repair you from the outside."
"We don't need your help!" snarled Steele. Steele turned his head and glared at Balto. Balto lowered his eyebrows and stared back.
"Maybe we should listen to him?" suggested Star.
Steele flicked a switch and a burst of static went through Star's communicator. Irritated, Star turned him comm-unit off.
"Well, how could youse fix them, dere?" asked Nikki.
"I know just as much as the Wolf Wing as you guys do. I could repair the necessary systems: engine power, deflector shields, and flight control." said Balto.
"You'd have to repair the weapons too. Our tractor beams are linked through them and we need them to tow the containers," said Steele.
"Fine. Are we agreed?" asked Balto.
Steele stared straight ahead again," Agreed!"
A few hours later Star was flying again. Balto drifted over to Steele's ship and gave him a thumbs-up. Steele only glared back. He flicked two red switches and pushed a few buttons. A secret system, installed by Steele himself, began to come to life. As Balto worked, a tiny stun cannon was charging under the weapon system access panel on Steele's ship. As soon as Balto repaired his weapon systems, he would fire and leave Balto to drift in space.
Balto finished repairs on the engines and opened the access panel for the weapon systems. He crossed a few wires and arranged the cabling.
"There. That should do it," he said into his comm-link.
"Thanks, hybrid!" said Steele.
With that he pushed a small button. Blue energy flashed out at Balto, but he had seen the small device while doing his repairs and was able to duck in time. He pushed off Steele's ship and landed on the front of his own fighter. He quickly got into the cockpit and began the startup procedure.
Meanwhile, Steele was powering up and prepared to attack. He eased his ship ahead and began to turn to face Balto. Now Balto was really wishing he had missiles. He was a very smart Canine and he hadn't repaired Steele's rocket or missile launchers. All that happened was a shower of sparks flying out of Steele's missile tubes as the launchers melted.
Balto grinned and hit his throttle switch. He zoomed out of Steele's field of view before Steele had a chance to fire his laser cannons. Balto looked behind him; around his A-Wing's engine cowling, and saw Steele turning around. Balto knew he had to fight it out, here and now. He turned and let loose a volley of laser blasts. Steele fired as well while flying straight for Balto. Balto pulled out of the way and narrowly avoided colliding with Steele. He scanned the area for any sign of Steele's ship, but he could detect nothing. He did a U-turn and returned to the rest of the convoy.
The other three fighters were still waiting. Star, who had turned on his comm-unit, spoke first," What happened to Steele?"
"I don't know, he just disappeared," said Balto.
"Look out behind you!" shouted Nikki.
Balto looked and saw Steele coming at him at full speed. His lasers began blazing. Balto took multiple hits but managed to get away. He had the advantage of maneuverability over Steele and it was no challenge for him to keep his antagonist in his sights. Steele came at him again, this time using his tractor beam to hold Balto in place. Balto was stuck. The tractor beam had been modified to tow a cargo container, and his fighter was an easy target. Steele smiled as he prepared to press the firing button. Balto knew he couldn't get away, but he still had one trick. Balto shut off his engines and turned to face Steele; relying on his maneuvering thrusters. He turned to face Steele and began firing. Now it was a test to see who's shields would fail first. Steele's stronger shields gave him an advantage, but since he hadn't had the time to fully recharge them they were now as weak as Balto's.
Balto didn't even look at his shield display. He concentrated on keeping Steele in his sights. All of his shots hit their mark; but so did Steele's. He gritted his teeth in an attempt to somehow add power to his lasers but it did little good. It seemed as though as no one would win, but then something on Steele's ship blew out. The lasers stopped firing and the tractor beam lost its lock. Balto let a few more shots go then watched as Steele's fighter began to belch black smoke.
Steele screamed as sparks flew out of his control panels. Shards of glass flew at him as his targeting computer and shield displays exploded. His ship began to drift backwards and soon became lost in the asteroid field. Balto sighed and flew beside Kaltag.
"We'll have to leave that container," said Balto," I don't have a tractor beam."
"What a waste," said Nikki.
"I hope this will be enough," said Star, motioning towards the container behind him.
"It'll have to be," said Balto.
Balto took the lead position as the others joined in formation around him.
Steele pulled wires out of his remaining control panels and twisted them together, ignoring the small electrical shocks he was receiving. He was trying to channel power from any system to his engines and maneuvering thrusters. It took half an hour but he managed to get 1/3 power. He limped his ship out of the asteroid field and towards the location of the Rebel fleet. He hoped that his hyperdrive was still working. Steele closed his eyes as the stars turned to lines around him. He breathed out a sigh of relief.
"Thanks for holding together old girl," said Steele.
Balto was having trouble with the rest of the flight group.
"I still don't think we should follow Balto. What if we get in trouble?" said Star," You know what they say about hybrids."
"Maybe we were better with Steele, dere," said Nikki.
"No!," said Balto," I'm just as good a leader as Steele, and just as reliable... er... as any other fighter pilot in the Rebellion! I can get that medicine through."
The others remained quiet. They now emerged from the asteroid field and began their approach to Earth. The trip would take approximately one day. That was a lot of time to stay quite. Balto hoped he could convince the others that he was as good and loyal and true as any other Canine. He doubted he would be successful, but managed to work up the courage to speak.....
Steele emerged from hyperspace a few kilometers from the fleet. Escort fighters, Alliance X-Wings, changed course to intercept him. After verifying his ID, two of them escorted him to the Independence. He was found in his cockpit, bleeding from his cuts and scrapes from the small explosions in his cockpit, and burned from them as well as from the electric shocks. He was taken immediately to the infirmary where; after being immersed in a bacta tank, Steele made a complete recovery aside from a few small scars. Then the thing came that Steele had planned for during his two hour hyperspace journey: the debriefing.
He sat in a room with General Doc, Admiral Ackbar, and two other high-ranking officers. He began to describe what happened, " After acquiring the medicine we proceeded to travel through the asteroid field. We encountered an Imperial probe and after destroying it we were attacked by an Imperial Star Destroyer, its fighters, and multiple Assault Gunboats. Commander's Nikki and Kaltag proceeded to intercept the attackers. That's when that hybrid, Lieutenant Balto showed up."
"Balto?" asked Doc," Are you sure?"
"He even had the nerve to announce his presence! While Nikki and Kaltag were busy attacking the Imperials, the Lieutenant took his opportunity to try to take me out. He must have mistaken my ruse with death. I barely managed to make it back. I have no idea what the present condition of the convoy is at this point in time."
"Oh, I see," said Doc.
"I recommend we send a search party to find the convoy and help it continue its mission," suggested Admiral Ackbar.
"I agree. I'll personally lead the team in my ship," said Doc.He was eager to get the Nenana back in action.
"With all due respect, sir, you'll be wasting your time," said Steele," Balto probably destroyed the others and ran off with the Empire. Just like his father did."
"Maybe you're right, Captain," said Ackbar.
"There may still be a chance," said Doc, "Request permission to take the Nenana, White Wolf, and Iditerod to search for the convoy."
"Permission granted," said Ackbar, "Good luck, and may the Force be with you!"
After signing out, Steele returned to the Independence and took a look at his fighter. It was mostly black with burn marks. The lasers had blown off, melted metal was visible on the brims of his missile launchers, and his cockpit was still smoking. He put his hand on the fuselage and stood for a moment remembering all the great missions he had flown in his ship. He shook his head and walked towards the closest eating establishment.
Boris, Muk, Luk, and Jenna were all there. Jenna was trying to explain to the others what had happened and that Balto had gone to try to find the lost convoy.
"Yeah," interrupted Steele," So he could destroy it!"
"Steele," gasped some of the others there.
"Where've ya been?"
"Are you okay?"
Steele began to tell his story for the second time. When he was finished, he scanned the crowd. Some of the people were smiling at his wit at escaping, some had looks of shock on their faces, but Jenna just stared at him. She stood up, walked up to Steele, and stared him right in the eye.
"You're lying!" she said.
The group gasped.
She turned to them," Steele's lying. Balto's no traitor. He must have rescued the convoy by now. He's on his way home."
With that she left, followed by Muk, Luk, and Boris.
"Well, you all must have know how she felt about Balto," said Steele," She just needs a little time."
The others nodded and muttered agreements.
Jenna looked out one of the windows of Balto's quarters aboard the Trawler. She had found the picture of Balto's parents and had spent a bit of time looking at it. She sat beside the window with a comm-link next to her. She was glad to have a friend in high places. She had asked Sylvie to monitor all transmissions for any information on the missing convoy. Her lap was wet from tears, although she had stopped crying over twenty minutes ago. She looked around the room once again. She still loved the pictures hanging on the wall of places she had once visited on Canis. Her favorite was one of the Great Northern Lights. Their mix of blues, reds, and other bright colours always made her miss home. She especially loved the many sculptures on various tables and shelves throughout the room. She was surprised to find the name Balto carved on some of them. They were beautiful! She had never known this side of Balto before. She had realized that not all people are what they seem on the outside, rather it's what's inside that counts. She glanced out the window once more. The frigate Nome glided into view. Jenna looked down at the comm-link, then back out into space," Balto."
"What the.....?" shouted Balto.
His sensors were going crazy. Two Imperial frigates had just emerged from hyperspace less than six kilometers away. They were being escorted by four Corellian Corvettes; these ones were Assassin-Class and had already launched some fighters. The frigates had launched a total of fifteen TIE's, both fighters and Interceptors.
"They're using an Imperial Blizzard formation," reported Kaltag.
"I think we've really bought it now!" said Nikki.
"We're gonna die!" shouted Star.
"That's not helping, Star" said Balto," We won't win if we think like that. We've got to believe in ourselves. "
Then he thought for a moment. He remembered his half-wolf heritage, as well as the ancient origin of all breeds from his home planet," We're all from the same breed," he began, " Canis Lupus: the wolf. We need to use our hidden strengths to defeat these Imperials. Now are you with me or not?"
"Yeah!" shouted the others.
"Kaltag, drop the container. We can pick it up after we take care of that fleet!" said Balto.
"Roger!" said Kaltag.
The container drifted a few meters away, then came to a stop.
"Okay group, form up." commanded Balto.
The others moved into a normal Canis attack formation.
"We're now known as Wolf Squadron, all wings report in!"
"Wolf 2, standing by!" said Star.
"Wolf 3, standing by!" said Kaltag.
"Wolf 4, standing by!" said Nikki.
"Accelerate to attack speed. Let's kick some butt!" shouted Balto.
The four fighters screamed towards the incoming fighters. There began a vicious battle. Balto was glad to finally have a real dogfighting mission. The TIE's fired then avoided them as they cut through the group of fighters. Then the `dance' began. Balto was chasing two Interceptors and picked them off easily when a shot hit his shields. He looked back and saw three TIE Fighters behind him. He faked left and dove to the right. He lost them for a moment but they were right on him again.
Star and the others were making decent progress. The Blizzard formation was developed for use against Rebel Starfighters. A massive number of TIE's would first intercept, then swarm the enemy until there was nothing left. Of course, this had only worked a few times. This was no exception. But as many TIE's that were destroyed, just as many were sent out by the frigates. Star corkscrewed his fighter to line up with a TIE Interceptor and fired. The ship exploded.
"Nice shot, Wolf 2!" said Balto.
Star smiled to himself. It wasn't often that he was complimented for his kills. Steele used to only notice that a red enemy dot had disappeared from his sensor screen.
Balto was really sweating now. He had picked off thirteen TIE's and was shooting at another when a TIE accidentally crashed into his forward shields. They dropped and an attacker fired directly into the belly of his fighter.
"I'm hit!" he shouted.
His auto-ejection system kicked in as his fighter was reduced to a flaming fuselage, then exploded.
Star looked and saw Balto's fighter explode. His eyes grew wide," Nooooo!"
Nikki was just destroying a TIE Interceptor when the blast lit up his cockpit," Oh darn!"
Kaltag was right behind Balto when it happened. He shot the TIE Fighter that had destroyed Balto and then scanned space for any sign of Wolf 1.
"Wolf Leader, come in!" Kaltag called into his helmet mic.
"This is Wolf 2, come in Wolf Leader." tried Star.
"Wolf Leader here, "said Balto.
The others breathed a sigh of relief," I thought you were done for," said Star.
"Not yet. I've still got a promise to keep!"
"We'll finish off these TIE's then we'll come back for you," said Kaltag.
"I wouldn't worry about it if I were you," said Balto.
"But....?" said Nikki. Then he saw what Balto was talking about.
The Nenana as well as two Alliance frigates; the White Wolf, and the Iditerod, had just emerged from hyperspace.
"Woo hoo! The calvary's here!" shouted Kaltag.
"And not a moment too soon!" said Star.
One of the frigates moved toward their position as the other two ships approached the enemy fleet and began launching fighters of their own.
"This is White Wolf to Mercy Convoy to Earth, come in" said a voice over the communicator.
"Commander Kaltag here. We're fine, over."
"What is the condition of the containers, over"
"One container is here, the other was abandoned in the asteroid field," reported Kaltag.
"Copy that, we'll come and get the one here. We're reading an ejected pilot. Do you have an ID?"
Kaltag thought for a moment about what to say," He's one of ours."
"Fine, we'll grab him on our way there, over and out."
The frigate sent out a shuttle and a transport, the shuttle retrieved Balto while the transport got the container. After his helmet was removed and Balto was discovered, he was immediately taken to the brig; due to Steele's testimony at the debriefing.
The Iditerod's B-Wing heavy assault fighters; led by Dixie and aided by the cruiser's turbolasers, soon made short work of the enemy fleet. Once all fighters had been accounted for and all were once again aboard the cruisers the three ships entered hyperspace for Earth.
In hyperspace, everything was cleared up and Balto was released from the brig. Once the medicine had reached Earth, there was first a distribution of the medicine, then a celebration. There was food and music and lots of hand/paw shaking and congratulations for the heroic pilots.
The next day, the ships prepared to return to the main Rebel fleet. Balto had spent the last eight hours trying to locate Jenna's `mother', Rosy. He had the locket for a picture reference and he had gotten a lot of shrugged shoulders and bad information regarding her whereabouts. Finally he found her. She was lying in a bed in a room with at least ten others. She smiled as he approached.
"So you're the nice pilot who my Jenna's been talking about all this time?" she smiled.
Balto smiled back and glanced at the floor.
"Come over here," she said.
Balto made his way over to the bed and sat down in a chair next to it. Rosy reached over and put her hand on Balto's head. She rubbed his hair then ran her hand down his snout and off the end of his nose. Then she reached out and hugged him, "Thank you Balto. I would have been lost without you."
Balto hugged her back and smiled. He had finally found someone in this galaxy who liked him for who he was. Then he remembered Jenna. He took the locket off his neck and gave it to Rosy. She opened it and smiled.
"You go on home now and kiss her for me okay?" said Rosy.
"Uh....?" began Balto.
"Go on, "she winked at him, " Before your ship leaves without you."
Balto smiled again and got up from the chair. He waved goodbye and walked out of the hospital. After shaking a few more hands and waving to the crowd of people, he joined Nikki, Kaltag, and Star on the shuttle.
"I hope we get this kind of reception on the Independence," said Star.
"Heh heh heh! You said it!" laughed Kaltag.
The entrance ramp retracted back into launch position. The shuttle lifted off and shot toward the stars. It met with the Nenana and the small fleet jumped into hyperspace.
Once on board the Independence they were greeted pretty much the same as they were on Earth. Each of the pilots was given a Medal of Bravery; including Balto. The only person Balto didn't see at the ceremony was Steele; who at that moment was getting court marshaled.
Balto met Jenna for the first time in as many days and fulfilled Rosy's request. She smiled as the rest of the dogs cheered and patted the heroes on the back. She was glad to have him as her friend; maybe even something a bit closer. And for the first time in his life, Balto was loved, appreciated, and respected. Everyone in the Grand Assembly Hall glanced out the huge viewports as X-Wing's flew by, dropping fireworks that exploded in brilliant colours. Balto put his arm around Jenna's shoulders as the two of them, with Nikki, Kaltag, Star, and all the other Canines in the Alliance, watched the display that was dedicated to the indomitable spirit of the fighter pilots who had rescued an entire planet from a horrible fate, and brought their two species closer together.
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