Thursday, May 11, 2023

Turncoat: 40 Years of Return of the Jedi

Dramatis personae

  • Ayona Berix (Bronze Leader, human, X-wing)
  • Kimber (Bronze Two, human, A-wing)
  • Roozal “Roo” (Bronze Three, Duros, A-wing)
  • Goless “Goalie” (Bronze Four, Bith, Y-wing)
  • Aldar (Bronze Five, Hapan, X-wing)
  • Pollux (Bronze Six, human, A-wing)
  • Sevra Brack/Kail Tremal (Bronze Seven, human, X-wing)
  • Mazie (Bronze Eight, human, Y-wing)
  • Nova (Bronze Nine, Twi’lek, X-wing)
  • Gilmorruaam “Gil” (Bronze Ten, Wookiee, ARC-170)
  • Bronze Eleven (human, X-wing)
  • Bronze Twelve (human, X-wing)


She told the Rebels her name was Kail Tremal.

But she was really Sevra Brack, TIE-XS75.

Some spies found working deep undercover difficult. Sevra didn’t. The Empire built her for this, provided her with training and an unbreakable loyalty to the Emperor and his great war machine. When it was all over, when she helped the Empire vanquish the Rebels once and for all, she’d step proudly back into her old life and serve the Imperial Navy to the best of her ability.

She’d embedded herself within one of the Rebels’ ragtag starfighter squadrons. Bronze Squadron was an unassuming name for an undisciplined and poorly trained group of pilots. The unit’s disorganization rankled her the most; pilots in an Imperial squadron all flew the same type of ship. A TIE Interceptor group all flew Interceptors; a TIE Bomber squadron all flew Bombers; standard TIE units all flew the Empire’s ubiquitous starfighter. Bronze Squadron, on the other hand, included six X-wings, three A-wings, two Y-wings, and, for some reason, an absolutely ancient and overmatched ARC-170.

Imperial units were disciplined and uniform. Corellians flew with Corellians. Out of necessity, sometimes humans from one world served with humans from a different world. Generally speaking, the Empire kept like with like. The Rebels, on the other hand, insisted on intermixing races. She had to serve with a Twi’lek, a Bith, a Duros, and a Wookiee. Even one of the humans was a Hapan, some cowardly ideal of a man who actually liked taking orders from women. The rest were unremarkable humans from unremarkable planets, the least remarkable of them being their squad leader, Ayona Berix from Chandrila, a planet filled with Rebel sympathizers.

But Sevra had to push all that out of her mind. She had a role to play—and important intel to gather.


The simple message went to her superiors.

Escort duty. High-ranking Rebel Command, possibly MM. Home One.

The transmission, sent on an undetectable microburst frequency, received a succinct reply.

Leave shuttle undisturbed. Confirm if MM. Flush out location of Rebel fleet before final offensive.


“Ease up, Bronze Seven,” Berix told Sevra over the radio. “You’re flying a little too close.”

Sevra backed off the throttle as Bronze Squadron wrapped up its escort mission. Though the escorted party’s identity remained classified, Sevra believed the shuttle held Rebellion leader Mon Mothma. Rumors of her presence in the sector ran rampant on both Rebel and Imperial channels. Sevra’s superiors wanted only to know Mothma’s whereabouts; she was explicitly forbidden from eliminating her, a disappointing directive now that she had the shuttle in her crosshairs.

She only needed to make sure the transport reached the rendezvous point with Home One, the Rebels’ flagship. Her superiors wanted to know where the fleet planned to gather before its “final offensive,” a curious choice of words. Why would the Rebels risk summoning their entire fleet in one place? What intel indicated a “final offensive?” Did they think they had a chance to defeat Imperial forces?

The Empire had no vulnerabilities. It was indestructible. Sure, Rebels won the occasional battle, but they could never beat the Emperor. The Empire stood for order in a chaotic world, its principles as rock-solid as the mountains of Eadu. The upstart Rebels stood no chance, although Sevra almost admired them for their dedication.

“The shuttle is making its final approach,” Berix said over the comm. “Steady as she goes.”

Sevra stayed with the shuttle until it drew close enough to dock with Home One. “Shuttle has entered the docking bay. Bronze Seven disengaging.” She peeled away from the Mon Cal cruiser. She’d grown comfortable in the X-wing’s cockpit, but the ship still lumbered when compared to a TIE. Her old Interceptor turned on a whim, sometimes with dizzying results. Maybe she should’ve requested an A-wing, the Rebels’ speedier, more agile ship.

But Bronze Squadron needed an X-wing pilot, and Sevra could fly anything. It didn’t hurt that she’d put in time on every Rebel starfighter other than the B-wing. And the ARC—but no one expected the Rebels to actually use one. Bulky and slower than a Y-wing, the ARC shouldn’t have lasted long in a skirmish. She had to hand it to the Wookiee, Gilmorruaam, for surviving his share of encounters. A devoted tinkerer, Gil coaxed every bit of speed out of the archaic snubfighter’s engines. He’d enhanced the shields and weapons.

There she was again, thinking of that thing as a pilot. Giving it a name.

Embedding herself among the traitors for a year and a half played with her mind sometimes.

She told the Rebels her name was Kail Tremal.

But she was really Sevra Brack, TIE-XS75.


“You put up an incredible score in the sim,” Goless, the Bith, said as Bronze Squadron gathered in the mess. Her squadmates called her Goalie. “It’s almost like you see three moves ahead of everyone else.”

“You just have to anticipate things,” Sevra said. “Study a lot of training holos and pay attention to flight recordings. You get to know how the enemy thinks. You internalize it, and then you anticipate it. Before you know it, you realize you’re not even thinking about your next move. You’re just doing it.” She squeezed some unappetizing-looking gray paste out of the ration tube. To her surprise, it tasted like barbecue prath ribs from back home. It sure as hell beat the Empire’s MREs (“engineered for superior nutrition and hydration”).

“I think it’s damn impressive.” The Duros, Roozal (“Roo”), scooted in closer. He was a cocky one, the type who thought men and women from every species wanted to share a bunk with him. “You really know how to handle a stick.”

“Give it up, Wonder Roo,” said Nova, the Twi’lek. Though his people were known for their grace and sensuality, Nova played against type. Sure, he knew he was handsome, but he didn’t flaunt it and had a way of making people feel comfortable. Sevra would’ve found him endearing if he were a human. “Those come-ons were old during Sith times.”

“For a Twi’lek, you’re a gods-damn bore,” Roo shot back.

“For a Duros, you’re a gods-damn whore,” Nova retorted.

“Fellas, fellas. Easy now.” Pollux, Bronze Six, put his hands on the pilots’ shoulders. “When it comes to stick handling, no one in this squadron can beat me.”

Roo broke out laughing. “I’m not sure you meant what you think you meant.”

“I’m the best we’ve got.” Pollux smoothed out his dark brown flightsuit. “Before you know it, I’ll be Bronze Leader and you’ll do what I say. I promise I’ll be fair.”

“Of that I have no doubt,” interjected Aldar. The Hapan always spoke with an aura of theatricality; his deep voice and chiseled features had gotten many a pilot to shed their flightsuit. Even Sevra admired his looks. “But the best pilots do not have to tell you they are the best pilots. They display their ample skill on the field of battle.”

“Are you saying I’m all talk?” Pollux said.

“You have demonstrated impressive skill on the battlefield, Pollux,” Aldar said. “I mean only to say that perhaps you should let your actions speak for themselves instead of informing all of us thusly of your great skill.”

Imperial pilots never shied away from flexing their muscles in a group setting, and Rebels were no different. Sevra didn’t, however, feel the intense sense of cutthroat competition that ruled Imperial mess halls.

“Listen up, hotshots.” Kimber, their second in command, slid into the spot next to her. “We’re going to need everyone at the top of their game. Briefing in five.”

“You promised us we had time to eat.” Mazie, one of the Y-wing pilots, carried two ration tubes in her left hand and a bottle of some absolutely non-regulation glowing orange hooch in her right.

“Things change in a heartbeat. You know that.” Kimber gestured toward her ration tubes. “Besides, the food is portable. You can savor it in the briefing room. And, um, leave the booze behind.”

Mazie frowned. “This day just keeps getting better and better.”


"We have a critical mission in the Outer Rim.” Berix, their squadron leader, called up a holographic map of the region. She had the bearing of an aristocrat, her chin always up. “As is usually the case, the details are highly classified. But I can tell you the Empire has hit multiple Bothan Spynet cells over the last two weeks.”

The pilots of Bronze Squadron exchanged concerned looks; even Sevra knew Bothans kept their bases and safehouses top secret. How had the Empire managed to pierce the storied Spynet? She hadn’t received dispatches from other Imperial spies about any impending operations. She’d make some inquiries.

“Vital intelligence must make its way to Home One. The problem: the pilot carrying the information can’t get past the Imperial interdictor Ardent,” Berix said. The holoviewer changed to show the interdictor, which resembled a typical Star Destroyer with bulbous pods on the top and underside to house its gravity well projectors. “We’re looking for a single transport with two Bothan passengers and an astromech. Nothing fancy, just a GAT-12h Skipray without a full crew to make it a viable threat. It was on its way to Rebel Command when the Ardent’s interdiction field stopped it by happenstance. The Imperials don’t know it’s there.”

Roo raised his hand and spoke before Berix called on him. “Just standard escort duty, then? Keep the eyeballs away from the ship until a corvette pounds on the interdictor long enough to open a hyperspace lane? Sounds simple enough.”

Berix shook her head. “Under normal circumstances, you’d be right. We’d have a capital ship jump in to hammer the Ardent while we kept the heat off the transport. But we’ll have to do this one ourselves.”

“Most honored captain, why can’t we have a capital ship for support?” The question came from Aldar.

“Every available capital ship is on its way to Sullust or already there. Time is of the essence, which is why this briefing interrupted mealtime.” Berix directed her gaze at Mazie, who held a ration tube high above her head and squeezed until the gray paste cascaded into her mouth. “Simply put, Aldar, we can’t afford to wait. I have orders from Admiral Ackbar himself to deliver this information at any cost.”

Sevra’s ears perked up at that. Ackbar? Sullust? The whole Rebel fleet?


Very interesting.

“We’ll have to hit the Ardent ourselves,” Berix said. “Bronze Nine will lead the assault.” The Wookiee gave an enthusiastic rawhrrr. “Gil, you’ll put your modified ARC to good use and hit the shields with your ion cannon to weaken them. Bronze Four and Bronze Eight—that’s you, Goalie and Mazie—will target the gravity well projectors with your Y-wings. With those disabled, the Skipray can make the jump to lightspeed and deliver its critical intel to Rebel Command. The rest of us will protect our bombers. I want Bronze Seven and Bronze Nine—that’s you, Kail and Nova—shadowing the Y-wings.”

Berix crossed her arms. “The Ardent is shielded and heavily armored. Bear in mind we’re not trying to scuttle the whole ship—our aim is to take out enough gravity well projectors to bring down the interdiction field and open the hyperspace lanes. The interdictor carries at least two squadrons of TIEs, perhaps more. We need to be fast. The longer we take, the more risk we incur.” She looked around at her pilots. “Once the gravity well projectors are disabled, we’ll all take different escape vectors to throw the Imperials off our trail.”


Sevra sent another message to her superiors.

Heard we were hitting Spynet targets. Can you confirm?

She waited several minutes for a reply.

Bothan Spynet disabled. Entire network destroyed.

The Spynet had been a thorn in the Empire’s side for two decades. She mourned not its demise, nor did anyone within Imperial Intelligence. She relayed details of her current mission.

Major operation. Outer Rim. Skipray with vital information caught in interdiction field of Ardent. High priority intel. Operation authorized by AA. Rebel fleet gathering near Sullust, according to squadron leader.

That reply came noticeably quicker.

Sullust intel received. Confirmed by two other sources. General fleet unaware of current status for Outer Rim op. Safety not guaranteed.

Safety not guaranteed? What did that mean? She carried a chain-coded message from the Emperor himself granting her unconditional protection from Imperial forces. She asked for clarification and waited.

No response.


Sevra gripped the handrails for the ladder leading to her X-wing’s cockpit.

“Kail! Hold on!”

Nova, the Twi’lek, waved to her from the flightdeck. She jumped off the bottom rung. “What is it, Bronze Nine?”

“You saw our orders. We’re basically wingmen.”

“From what I remember, Nova, we’re the Y-wing’s wingmen,” Sevra said.

“We’re all in this together.” The Twi’lek’s lekku twitched. If she’d cared to study an alien species’ tendencies, she would’ve recognized it meant something. Nervousness? Excitement? Sadness? “We have a real chance to make a difference here. Bronze Squadron drew the Rebellion’s most important mission.”

“The Rebellion’s most important mission was Yavin.” Sevra gripped the siderails again and climbed toward her cockpit.

“I just want you to know, I’ve got your back. I’d appreciate it if you watched mine.”

Sevra gave him a mocking salute and settled into the cockpit. She did her checks, tightened her flight gloves, and secured her helmet. Her astromech, R9-F8, had already loaded the jump coordinates. The stubborn droid refused to respond to its numbered designation and insisted upon being called “Fate.”

“All fueled up.” Sevra eyed her gauges. “We’re ready to go.”

Berix gave the word. Bronze Squadron would determine the fate of the galaxy.


The same interdiction field they needed to disable dropped Bronze Squadron out of hyperspace alarmingly close to the Ardent. The wedge-shaped ship sat in the dead of space by itself.

“Look sharp, Bronze Squadron,” Berix said. “Gil, make your first pass.”

The Wookiee roared over the comm—Fate translated it as “Let’s go!”—and pounded the Ardent with ion cannon fire. Goalie and Mazie trailed the ancient ARC-170, with Sevra and Nova hanging behind them for support. Gil rawwhrred again; Fate translated it as “Open hole.” The two Y-wings accelerated toward the interdictor and dropped proton torpedoes on the starboard side gravity well projectors.

“The main batteries are powering up,” Berix said. “Bronze Five and Bronze Six, see what you can do.”

“Copy, Bronze Leader,” Aldar said. “They shall taste my fury and then Pollux will deliver unto them some explosive news.” His X-wing accelerated toward the Ardent, with Bronze Six’s A-wing following. Aldar strafed the closest batteries with blaster fire, followed by concussion missiles from Bronze Six. “Pollux, I fear you are drawing too close to the enemy.”

“Pull back, Bronze Six,” Berix said.

“I’m fine, guys,” Pollux said with typical cockiness. As he made a series of impressive maneuvers to evade blaster fire, his engine stalled. Aldar tried to provide cover fire, but Pollux’s A-wing sat exposed as the interdictor’s batteries tracked him. The ship exploded in a brilliant show of orange, white, and red. Bronze Six blinked off Sevra’s display.

Gil made a second run with the ARC, weakening the shields near the next gravity well projector. Mazie and Goalie pounded the Ardent with proton torpedoes, making a direct hit.

“TIEs are joining this party,” Nova said. “I’ve got twenty-four marks. Looks like Interceptors.”

Sevra’s display showed the TIEs on an intercept course with the Y-wings. Part of her wanted to let them pass.

“Bronze Seven and Bronze Nine, draw their fire,” Berix ordered. Nova peeled off immediately, while Sevra hesitated. “Go now, Kail. Go!”

She yanked her flight yoke left and met the Interceptors. Fast, maneuverable, and nasty, Sevra loved the things. This particular squadron featured a yellow stripe on its left wing, the distinctive mark of the elite Flying Daggers. Nova took out a pair. She got a clean look at the squadron leader but led it too far.

“Straighten those shots out, Kail,” Berix barked over the comm. “Keep those things away from the Y-wings. I want Bronze Eleven and Bronze Twelve to go in right now.”

The Bronze Eleven and Bronze Twelve designations had shifted more than a few times since Sevra joined the squadron. The pilots had a way of attracting enemy fire or encountering untimely mechanical failure. Sabotaging X-wings was easy; those S-foils could be notoriously fickle, after all, especially when someone frayed the main circuit line after hours.

“Need a little help here, Bronze Seven.” The plea came from Nova. He’d been a nice enough guy, for an alien. Though a skilled pilot, he couldn’t shake the Interceptor on his tail. Sure, Imperial starfighters didn’t have shields or hyperdrives, but Imperial aces could absolutely space Rebels and their sturdier, more heavily armored snubfighters. She rolled right and attempted, poorly, to get a lock on the TIE harassing the Twi’lek’s X-wing. “Where are you, Kail? This guy’s close enough to suck in my exhaust fumes. Kail? Kail?”

“Hold on,” Roo said over the comm. “I’ve got him locked.” A second later, a concussion missile hit home, and the Interceptor exploded. “You’re clear now, Bronze Nine.”

“Thanks, Roo. Bronze Seven told me she’d have my back. Clearly, she was lying,” Nova said.

For reasons Sevra couldn’t fully explain, the comment stung. She didn’t even like Nova. Or Twi’leks. Or Rebels. Why did she care what he had to say? Why did the disappointment in his voice hurt?

“We’ve got five gravity wells down, Bronze Leader,” Mazie said. “Can we get the hell out of here?”

“Negative,” Berix answered. “The interdiction field is still in place. Time to hit the underbelly.”

“The Interceptors aren’t letting us distract them anymore,” Nova said. “They figured out the game.”

“All wings, protect our bombers,” Berix said. “Bronze Seven, that means you.”

Sevra didn’t even hear her. Alarmed trilling from Fate broke her out of whatever trance she’d been in. An Interceptor sprayed blaster fire in her direction, and her front deflector shields were nearly depleted. Fate transferred some power from her rear shields, but Sevra wouldn’t last much longer if she didn’t move.

She dove and went into a spin, careful not to stall the engines as Pollux had. An X-wing couldn’t outrun an Interceptor, but avoiding enemy fire would give her shields a chance to recharge. The other pilot knew it, too, and peppered her ship with blaster bolts to prevent her shields from regenerating.

“Bronze Leader, Kail has a nasty pustule I’d like to remove,” Nova said. “Requesting permission to render aid.”

Berix hesitated for a second. “Granted, Bronze Nine.”

Typical, weak, emotional Rebel nonsense. They needed to protect the Y-wings, yet the damnable Twi’lek thought it was important to save her. Sevra didn’t need saving. Never had. “Support the Y-wings, Nova. I can handle this.”

“Your deflectors are almost toast, and you can’t outrun an Interceptor,” Nova reminded her. “Come about, and I’ll get rid of the problem. Then both of us can help the bombers.”

Sevra checked her scopes. She had no desire to bite it and led the Interceptor right into Nova’s line of fire, triggering an explosion that set off her proximity alarms. They formed up and headed toward the Ardent’s underbelly, a chaotic gauntlet of crisscrossing blaster shots and zigzagging ships.

Embedding herself with a Rebel fighter squadron involved certain gray areas. The Empire valued the intel she gathered, but she often ended up in active combat against Imperial forces. She could only apologize for “missing” a shot a handful of times; when it came down to it, she put her feelings aside and treated TIEs like enemy fighters because, for Kail Tremal, they were. So when a pair of Interceptors got a little too close to Bronze Four, she took them out.

“You got here just in time, Seven,” Goalie said, the relief unmistakable in the Bith’s voice. “Bronze Leader, dropping my last payload. We’d better hope it works because we both know this old bird can’t outrun, well, pretty much anything.”

“Kimber, Aldar—stick close to Goalie,” Berix said. “Mazie, what’s your status?”

“Not great, Ayona.” Mazie’s invocation of Bronze Leader’s first name definitely broke regs. In an Imperial unit, such a brazen breach of protocol would warrant a demerit. As for the enemy, well, what good were rules for a bunch of Rebels? “I’ve got Interceptors swarming the closest gravity well projector.”

“Let’s clear them out, shall we?” Berix said. “Bronze Seven, Bronze Three, and Bronze Nine—form up at this mark.”

Sevra checked her display. With Roo and Nova as her wingmen, she amped up the throttle and plunged her X-wing toward the TIEs. The Interceptors came in fast, but Nova picked off two of them. She snap-rolled to avoid blaster fire and got a lock, blowing up a yellow-striped Interceptor.

“My engines took a direct hit,” Roo said.

“Are you dead stick?” Nova asked.

“Not quite, but pretty damn close,” Roo said.

“If you can move to the coordinates I just sent, I can cover you,” Nova said.

“We’ve got to clear these TIEs,” Sevra said. The Rebel weakness for compassion never ceased to amaze and frustrate her. “The mission has to take priority.”

It took a few seconds for Nova to reply. “I won’t leave Roo. I’m going in.”

“Nova, you Twi’lek bastard, the Empire is a suffocating evil and we’ve got a chance to kill it,” Roo said. “That means sacrifice, and it happens to be my turn. Clear the path for Mazie, you gods-damn bore.”

The comm picked up Nova’s frustrated, resigned grunt. “Sit tight, you gods-damn whore.” Nova swooped in beside Sevra’s X-wing.

Finally, some people with sense. She could’ve gone without the bro-tastic exchange, but it meant at least some Rebels had the balls to do what was necessary. Sevra spun back toward the gravity well projector and took out an Interceptor. With Nova beside her, they cleared the field for Mazie’s battered Y-wing to lock onto the target.

“Torpedoes away, Bronze Leader,” Mazie said, sticking to regs for once in her life.

“Rebel squadron, this is Scimitar,” an unfamiliar voice said. “Our nav computer tells us the interdiction field is down. We need a minute to make the calculations for our jump.”

“This is Bronze Leader,” Berix said. “Work quickly. Bronze Squadron, tell your astromechs to calculate your jumps along open escape vectors. Meantime, keep those Interceptors busy and away from the Skipray.”

“I regret to inform you we just lost Bronze Eleven and Twelve,” Aldar said. “I do not have Bronze Three on my scopes. Has anyone heard from dear Roozal?”

“I’m sitting in a dead X-wing pondering the essence of life, you moron,” Roo said. “I’d love to know why the TIEs haven’t finished me off yet.”

To Sevra, it was no mystery. The Imperials realized his ship wasn’t going anywhere. Prisoners were valuable and often had plenty to say after an interrogation droid got to them. Hell, the bots had such a grim reputation that merely threatening Rebels—even seemingly strong-willed ones—could get them to talk.

Her head snapped up as most of the Interceptors broke away from the Ardent to head toward the Skipray.

“The Imps spotted the new guy,” Nova said.

“Come to this rally point near the transport,” Berix said. “Protect the Skipray. Scimitar, do you have an estimate on that jump?”

“Just another minute,” the unfamiliar voice replied.

“You may not have that long,” Berix warned.

Sevra came about and trailed the Interceptor group with her throttle at three-fourths. Interceptors could hit considerably faster speeds than an X-wing; she couldn’t catch them if she tried. She got a lock on one of the TIEs and fired her last proton torpedo. The explosion barely registered with the other Imperial pilots. She admired their professional stoicism.

As always, the Empire brought order to chaos.

“Coordinates locked,” Scimitar said. “We are making the jump.”

“Let’s get out of here, Bronze Squadron,” Berix ordered.

One by one, the remaining pilots disappeared off her scopes: Bronze Two, Bronze Five, Bronze Four, Bronze Eight, and Bronze Nine. She would wait until the rest of her squadron left and then transmit her clearance code to the Imperials. They’d welcome her back into the fold and she could finally learn whatever it was the Emperor had planned for the Rebels’ “final offensive.”

“Bronze Seven—Kail—what are you waiting for?” Berix asked.

“Get clear, Bronze Leader,” Sevra said. “I’m right behind you.”

“I don’t jump until everyone else does,” Berix said. “You have your exit vector. Go. Now.”

Sevra tapped her flight helmet. “I’ve got a hyperdrive malfunction, sir.” Fate, her astromech, trilled in confusion and informed her that her systems were, without a doubt, functioning at one-hundred-percent efficiency, something the droid noted was “remarkable” given the intensity of the skirmish.

“A scan shows your ship is fine. Get out of here.”

“What about Bronze Three?”

“A prisoner of war, unfortunately,” Berix said. “The Ardent got him with a tractor beam. Make the jump, Kail. That’s an order.”

Sevra activated her Imperial transmitter. The microburst frequency looked harmless on Rebel channels, but five-layer encryption would allow the TIEs to see who she really was. It worked immediately—Interceptors rushed to her location.

“Seriously, Kail, what is the problem? Those TIEs are coming right for you. Make the damn jump!”

Sevra stayed put, overriding Fate’s repeated attempts to redirect the ship toward the escape vector. In just a few seconds, TIEs would surround her and Berix would have no choice but to escape. She could keep her cover and return to the Imperial fold. Good spy craft required she quickly sever any bonds with Bronze Squadron.

Proximity alarms went off as the TIEs fired on her ship. Fate beeped and blooped in protest. Why were her own people attacking her? To make it look good? To make her look like an actual Rebel?

Safety not guaranteed.

“Hold tight,” Berix said. “I’m coming.” With remarkable courage and commendable skill, Ayona Berix guided her X-wing into a swarm of TIE interceptors. She downed two, then three, then four. The Imperials were quick to react and redirect their fire. Bronze Leader’s shields failed, but Berix kept going. She took out another two TIEs before her luck ran out. “I hope that intel is worth the—”

Radio silence. Bronze Leader disappeared from her scopes for the last time. She would never know Kail Tremal was really Sevra Brack, TIE-XS75.

A turncoat.

The TIEs again set their sights on Sevra’s X-wing. Had the microburst transmission malfunctioned? Did they misinterpret the meaning? She was Imperial Intelligence, a pilot embedded within a Rebel unit. Her mission was at an end now. She wanted to return to the Empire and serve the Emperor once more.

Safety not guaranteed.

She had a decision to make as her shields took a pounding. She juked to avoid blaster fire, but there were so many TIEs and so many skilled pilots. She sent the transmission again, which only served to intensify their resolve. She’d been a loyal Imperial servant—why were they trying to kill her?

“You’ve got that escape vector ready, right, Fate?” Sevra asked.

The droid responded with the spicy astromech equivalent of “you bet your ass.”

Alarms went off everywhere. Each instrument reeled with bad news and systems on the edge of failing. In an Interceptor, she could outrun anything. In an X-wing, she was simply a target. Self-preservation took over, and Sevra found an opening. She threw down the throttle and raced toward the gap, only for two Interceptors to cut her off.

Shields gone. Instruments going crazy. In just a few seconds, she’d be atoms, killed for reasons she didn’t understand by the very Empire she loved so much.

But then the two Interceptors blocking her path disappeared in twin bursts of flame.

A Wookiee roared over the comm. In her fever dream of a nightmare, she spotted an ancient, smoking ARC-170 before it disappeared in the distance. She didn’t interfere when Fate took over and made the jump to lightspeed.

She told the Rebels her name was Kail Tremal.

But she was really Sevra Brack, TIE-XS75.


Sevra again contacted her superiors.

Sent coded message. Met hostile response from Imperial Navy. Requesting immediate response regarding failed extraction. Exit strategy urgently needed.

She waited for an answer.

And waited.

No response.


Safe aboard Home One and still dazed by the encounter with the Ardent, Sevra gathered with members of the Rebellion for a briefing she never saw coming. Not only had the Empire successfully built another Death Star, but the Rebels had acquired the plans and found a weakness.


Bronze Squadron’s brazen mission allowed the Rebellion to obtain the information. Seven of the twelve members remained, with the other five dead or captured. Other pilots would undoubtedly be folded into Bronze Squadron for the final assault.

Even though she reported the location of the Rebel fleet to the Empire, no Star Destroyers showed up to annihilate it. Her Imperial contacts didn’t respond to her messages. The Empire that brought order to chaos felt much more chaotic to her than ever before. She didn’t understand.

This final Rebel assault would give her another chance to get back in the Empire’s good graces. In whatever way she’d failed the Emperor—and she didn’t know how or why she’d allowed it to happen—she would make up for it. She’d help strike the final blow and end this insipid Rebellion once and for all.

But then she looked across the aisle at Nova. The Twi’lek, fatigued, looked thoroughly downtrodden, undoubtedly reeling over Roo’s capture. He sat next to Aldar, the Hapan, whose usual confident, easygoing manner belied his grief at the loss of Pollux. Goalie and Mazie, the pilots of those battered and obsolete Y-wings, engaged in an animated conversation about their mission, recreating their run on the Ardent with enthusiastic hand motions.

Kimber, the new Bronze Leader, watched with detached amusement, his thoughts clearly on Berix. He had been certain she would make it back and even double-checked the flight recorders just to be sure her X-wing really had been destroyed. Hope was such a useless, fragile thing.

Then, she caught a glimpse of Gil. She no longer saw him as some thing. The Wookiee and his Clone Wars-era junker saved her life. Had he known who she was, what her real purpose had been, would he have done the same thing? Would Berix? They probably would have; soft-hearted Rebels made incredibly stupid decisions. They were immune to the cold, hard calculations of the Empire.

Safety not guaranteed.

The Rebels filed out of the briefing room and headed for their ships. With the odds against them, as always, they would bet everything on their silly ideals. The Empire brought order to a chaotic world. The Rebels, she realized, were the chaos.

She settled into her X-wing and looked at the duty roster. To no one’s surprise, Bronze Eleven and Bronze Twelve had new names. But so did Bronze Two, Bronze Three, and Bronze Six. With her ship refueled and Fate recharged, she guided her X-wing out of the docking bay and awaited the order to jump to lightspeed.

A funny thing happened once they arrived at Endor.

She told the Rebels her name was Kail Tremal.

And this time, she meant it.