on the straggler, Blue Leader!" Wedge Antilles banked his X-Wing sharply, following the twists and turns of the last surviving
TIE fighter. The dark-haired pilot's concentration was total. His hands gripped the gun mount, waiting for just the right
moment. He fired and the Imperial ship spun away, trailing smoke, then erupted into a ball of flame.
flash of white armor, and a single laser shot lit the corridor. An answering barrage came from the invaders, but the firefight
was short and deadly. The rebels continued to press onward, shaken by what was for many, their first exposure to war and killing.
shot, Wedge!" Hobbie congratulated his wingman.
The formation of X Wings buzzed the remnants of the Imperial base, then splintered off to escort the troop transports.
Their approach to the base was uneventful. Its ion cannons were silent, reduced by the Rebellion's attack to smouldering
piles of slag. Air defense had been destroyed by the successful attack. Ahead lay the more difficult battle to capture the
leaders -- take your men and spread out. Secure all the entrances. We don't want any surprises from behind." Captain Rieekan
issued his orders, then led his own squad forward into what appeared to be the main complex.
twisted and turned toward the center of the mazelike structure. The way appeared clear, but the light became dimmer the deeper
they went. The men's eyes darted cautiously, alert to possible danger from side corridors.
Thus went the first victory of the Alliance to Restore the Republic over the mighty Galactic Empire. Many hours of
small skirmishes, of ambushes, bombs and thermal detonators, of laser weapons and primitive hand-to-hand combat. As the Empire
lost ground, the Stormtroopers withdrew, boobytrapping corridors and entrances, hoping to buy time until their distress signals
were heard. But the Rebellion was jamming and distorting the signals -- the reinforcements would arrive too late.
the fighting neared the heart of the complex, there was a final exchange of laser fire, then silence. Rifles drawn and on
the alert for a trap, Rebel troops headed cautiously into the remains of the command center.
A small group went off to check the anterooms
for survivors. Meanwhile, the captain and one of his officers walked over to the main computer console. It seemed undamaged.
Rieekan searched the console
carefully for possible sabotage.
"Who do we have with the most
computer experience?" The leader turned to his second-in-command.
The prisoner cast thoughtful glances at the captain and the
computer expert. His back straightened as he made his decision. "By the time you sort out that data, it may be too late."
"That would be Keravn, sir." The man looked curiously at his superior, then issued a command into his comlink. "Wouldn't
they have destroyed all the records when we breached the base?"
lips twitched in ironic amusement, his expression deadpan. "Perhaps they never believed they'd lose."
The men in the main gallery heard the sounds of a struggle though the
partially-blocked doorway. As the sounds grew closer, it was clear that there was at least one Imperial survivor.
A four-man patrol came in, surrounding a
man in civilian clothing. "We found him in one of the labs, sir," the
patrol leader reported. "A
stormtrooper was struggling with him when we arrived. He claims
to be a scientist
assigned to the weapons research facility."
Keravn entered and headed for the
computer console. He cautiously examined the access hatch, then flipped a couple
of toggles. Lights
flickered on the main board, then came fully to life. He took a few readings, comparing the
results to an instrument in his hand.
"How long?" Rieekan
Too late for what?" the commander replied.
The tall, stocky man hesitated, feeling the struggle of breaking the training of a
lifetime, then spoke. "This laboratorv was devoted to weapons research.
Our latest project would guarantee that no planet would ever again dare to rebel against the Emperor.
All the other researchers were killed when it was certain they were losing. That stormtrooper was trying to kill me, too, when your men took the base."
"The memory banks on the computer are still active." Rieekan glanced sideways at the
terminal. R-2 units were hooked to every open data transmission
terminal, downloading every file it contained. "They'll tell us whether you're telling the truth -- or are just a Stormtrooper
trying to save his skin. Of course, if you're willing to cooperate with us...."
The scientist nodded miserably. Returning to the Empire would now mean his death. These rebels offered his only chance, slim
as it was, for survival. "The most important files are the ones for the new battlestation. Governor Tarkin called it "Death
The slight, hawk-nosed man looked up, annoyed at the interruption. "They did a very
sloppy job. No files appear to have been altered or erased. For now, we can transfer the memory to R-2 units, and see what
we have later."
Rieekan nodded, then gave the orders for the necessary equipment.
Leia Organa left the chamber of the Imperial Senate, and let out a sigh of disgust. The double life she led was becoming harder
and harder for the sixteen-year-old senator. The last trip to Botha to confer with Mon Mothma had been successfully disguised
as a mercy mission. But suspicions had been raised. Her usefulness depended
upon her freedom of movement and diplomatic immunity as a member of the Imperial Senate. Should she be uncovered
as a cell leader of the Rebel alliance, her usefulness, not to mention her life, would come to an immediate end.
She was therefore very
cautious as she made her way to the rendezvous point for this cycle. Much would
depend on the news from this latest battle.
The giant library was but a remnant of the former glories of the Republic.
Its contents purged and altered, it served as the records storehouse for the governing records for the entire Empire. Ostensibly
researching the trade contracts between Alderaan and Calamar, she sifted impatiently through a stack of record tapes.
At the prearranged time, a particular set of records was requested -- and an extra tape was found. The Senator
continued her research, but concealed the extra tape in the
folds of her official robe.
She later viewed its contents through a private viewer, which the Empire did not know existed. Colonel Madine reported
victory in the latest campaign, but the joy of that news was immediately
dashed by the horror of his next words. Battlestation...massive firepower ...invincible ...nearly operational.... Plans had
been obtained, must be analyzed. Neutral Alderaan was the safest place for this research.
Leia's mind raced long after the message tape was reduced to atoms. The warring factors of urgency, speed and safety
hampered her efforts to come up with a workable plan. The best of them was very chancy, but speed was essential.
political maneuvers in the Senate and a "diplomatic mission" to Alderaan could be arranged. Open interference with a Senator
performing diplomatic duties would not be tolerated by the Senate. All that remained would be a way to get the plans from the rebel cell for delivery to the scientists on Alderaan.
white-clad stormtrooper walked firmly up to Darth Vader. "The Death Star plans are not in the main computer," he reported.
Sithlord's full attention returned to the man held captive in a black gloved hand. "Where are those transmissions you intercepted?" He pulled the helpless captain closer to emphasize his demand. "What have you done with those plans?" Vader continued,
lifting the captive higher as his grip on the man's neck tightened.
We intercepted no plans," Captain Antilles choked out. "We're
a consular ship, on a diplomatic mission...."