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06. X-Wing 06

06. X-Wing 06

Author:Iron Fist
Format: mobi


11

“About to enter atmosphere, on final approach for Hullis,” Runt said. He occupied Bastion’s pilot’s seat. He looked uncomfortable in a chair built for a much shorter human. “Five minutes until the break to the east.”

Kell, in the command chair, typed another diagnostics command into the oversized comlink-equipped datapad in his lap. It was the type of unit an infantry squadron used for reliable long-distance communications. “Have you got the new navigational program in place?”

“We do.”

Kell activated the comlink in his glove. “Nine, how’s the shuttle?”

“Ready to lift.”

“Stand by to lift.” Kell patted Runt on the back and rose. “Run the nav program. Then we run.”

“Initiating.”

Tyria and Piggy in the TIE-fighter escorts needed no further orders. Their task was simple: Pace Bastion as the ancient tanker dropped toward Hullis, then diverted east toward the second fighter base the military forces of Halmad were building. Protect the tanker from the starfighters that would inevitably rise against it, at least long enough for Bastion to get within a couple of kilometers of the base. And then be far, far away when Kell activated his comm unit and detonated Bastion and all the fuel remaining within her. At two minutes before detonation, safely away on the shuttle Narra, Kell would communicate with the base, recommending an evacuation. The base’s destruction was their aim, not the needless murder of base personnel.

With the nav program activated, Runt rose and Kell followed suit.

Then the sensor board lit up like a fireworks display. Kell and Runt stared, disbelieving, at the flurry of activity it showed in the west, the enormous signal from the east.

Kell dropped into the communications officer’s chair and activated Bastion’s comm unit. “Five to One, do you read?”

There was no answer, just the ominous hiss of suddenly overloaded airwaves.

“Five to One, we have a problem. Do you read?”

Forest, with occasional rivers and lakes, had replaced waves beneath the Hawk-bats. Wedge was sure, in fact, that he’d felt a treetop scrape the underside of his cockpit a moment ago. All around him, the squadron’s fighters and interceptors bobbed and weaved like fighters in an arena as they adjusted to changes in the terrain below.

The range meter put them at twenty seconds from their target. Ten, five—and then Face and Phanan were firing just as the Imperial base came into Wedge’s view.

It was a landing platform, one long, durable landing deck suitable for shuttles or starfighters, supported by two massive columns containing turbolifts and crew quarters. Beneath the deck was an enclosed crossover walkway providing easy passage from one column to the other, and there should have been nothing other than the support columns to the ground. But with this design, below the crossway, almost out of sight below treetop level, was an enclosed hangar deck as large as the landing deck.

Wedge noted these details without taking out time for analysis. He brought the interceptor’s aiming brackets around his target of preference, the standard landing platform’s tractor beam emitter up on the landing deck, and fired.

Then he was past, following Face’s lead in looping around for another run.



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