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Original Essays | April 11, 2014

Paul Laudiero: IMG Shit Rough Draft



I was sitting in a British and Irish romantic drama class my last semester in college when the idea for Shit Rough Drafts hit me. I was working... Continue »
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Star Wars Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor (Star Wars)

Star Wars Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor (Star Wars) Cover

 

 

Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

The Corellian Queen was a legend: the greatest luxury liner ever to ply the spaceways, an interstellar pleasure palace forever beyond the grasp of all but the galaxys super-elite—beings whose wealth transcended description. Rumor had it that for the price of a single cocktail in one of the Queens least- exclusive dining clubs, one might buy a starship; for the price of a meal, one could buy not only the starship, but the port in which it docked, and the factory that had built it. A being could not simply pay for a berth on the Corellian Queen; mere wealth would never suffice. To embark upon the ultimate journey into hedonistic excess, one first had to demonstrate that ones breeding and manners were as exquisite as would be the pain of paying ones bar bill. All of which made the Corellian Queen one of the most irresistible terrorist targets ever: who better to terrorize than the elite of the Elite, the Powers among the powerful, the greatest of the Great?

And so when some presumably unscrupulous routing clerk in the

vast midreaches of the Nebula Line corporation quietly offered for

sale, to select parties from Kindlabethia to Nar Shaddaa, a hint as to

the route of the Corellian Queens upcoming cruise, it attracted considerable interest.

Two pertinent facts remained concealed, however, from the winning

bidder. The first pertinent fact was that this presumably unscrupulous

routing clerk was neither unscrupulous nor, in fact, a

routing clerk, but was a skilled and resourceful agent of the intelligence

service of the New Republic. The second pertinent fact was

that the Corellian Queen was not cruising at all that season, having

been replaced by a breakaway disposable shell built to conceal a substantial fraction of a star fighter wing, led by—as was customary in such operations—the crack pilots of Rogue Squadron.

It was approximately the moment that R4-G7 squalled a proximity

alarm through his X-wings sensor panel and his HUD lit up

with image codes for six TIE Defenders on his tail that Lieutenant

Derek “Hobbie” Klivian, late of the Alliance to Restore Freedom to

the Galaxy, currently of the New Republic, began to suspect that

Commander Antilless brilliant ambush had never been brilliant at

all, not even a little, and he said so. In no uncertain terms. Stripped

of its blistering profanity, his comment was “Wedge? This plan was

stupid. You hear me? Stupid, stupid, stuYOW—!”

The yow was a product of multiple cannon hits that disintegrated

his right dorsal cannon and most of the extended wing it had been

attached to. This kicked his fighter into a tumble that he fought with

both hands on the yoke and both feet kicking attitude jets and almost

had under control until the pair of the Defenders closest on his tail

blossomed into expanding spheres of flame and debris fragments.

The twin shock fronts overtook him at exactly the wrong instant and

sent him flipping end- over- end straight at another Defender formation

streaking toward him head- on. Then tail- on, then head- on

again, and so forth.

His ships comlink crackled as Wedge Antilless fighter flashed

past him close enough that he could see the grin on the commanders

face. “Thats ‘stupid plan, sir, Lieutenant.”

“I suppose you think thats funny.”

“Well, if he doesnt,” put in Hobbies wingman, “I sure do.”

“When I want your opinion, Janson, Ill dust your ship and scan

for it in the wreckage.” The skewed whirl of stars around his cockpit

gave his stomach a yank that threatened to make the slab of smoked

terrafin loin hed had for breakfast violently reemerge. Struggling

grimly with the controls, he managed to angle his ships whirl just a

hair, which let him twitch his ships nose toward the four pursuing

marauders as he spun. Red fire lashed from his three surviving

cannons, and the Defenders formation split open like an overripe

snekfruit.

Hobbie only dusted one with the cannons, but the pair of

proximity- fused flechette torpedoes he had thoughtfully triggered at

the same time flared in diverging arcs to intercept the enemy fighters;

these torpedo arcs terminated in spectacular explosions that

cracked the three remaining Defenders like rotten snuffle eggs.

“Now, that was satisfying,” he said, still fighting his controls to

stabilize the crippled X-wing. “Eyeball soufflé!”

“Better watch it, Hobbie—keep that up, and somebody might start to

think you can fly that thing.”

“Are you in this fight, Janson? Or are you just gonna hang back

and smirk while I do all the heavy lifting?”

“Havent decided yet.” Wes Jansons X-wing came out of nowhere,

streaking in a tight bank across Hobbies subjective vertical. “Maybe

I can lend a hand. Or, say, a couple torps.”

Two brilliant blue stars leapt from Jansons torpedo tubes and

streaked for the oncoming TIEs.

“Uh, Wes?” Hobbie said, flinching. “Those werent the flechette

torps, were they?”

“Sure. What else?”

“Have you noticed that Im currently having just a little trouble

maneuvering?”

What do you mean?” Janson asked as though honestly puzzled.

Then, after a second spent watching Hobbies ship tumbling helplessly

directly toward his torpedoes targets, he said, “Oh. Uh . . .sorry?”

The flechette torpedoes carried by Rogue Squadron had been designed

and built specifically for this operation, and they had one primary

purpose: to take out TIE Defenders.

The TIE Defender was the Empires premier space- superiority

fighter. It was faster and more maneuverable than the Incom T-65

(better known as the X-wing); faster even than the heavily modified

and updated 65Bs of Rogue Squadron. The Defender was also more

heavily armed, packing twin ion cannons to supplement its lasers, as

well as dual- use launch tubes that could fire either proton torpedoes

or concussion missiles. The shields generated by its twin Novaldex

deflector generators were nearly as powerful as those found on capital

ships. However, the Defenders were not equipped with particle

shields, depending instead on their titanium- reinforced hull to absorb

the impact of material objects.

Each proton torpedo shell had been loaded with thousands of tiny

jagged bits of durasteel, packed around a core of conventional explosive.

On detonation, these tiny bits of durasteel became an expanding

sphere of shrapnel; though traveling with respectable velocity of

their own, they were most effective when set off in the path of oncoming

Defenders, because impact energy, after all, is determined by

relative velocity. At star fighter combat speeds, flying into a cloud of

durasteel pellets could transform ones ship from a star fighter into a

very, very expensive cheese grater.

The four medial fighters of the oncoming Defender formation hit

the flechette cloud and just . . . shredded. The lateral wingers managed

to bank off an instant before they would have been overtaken

by two sequential detonations, as the explosion of one Defenders

power core triggered the other threes cores an eyeblink later, so that

the unfortunate Lieutenant Klivian was now tumbling directly

toward a miniature plasma nebula that blazed with enough hard radiation

to cook him like a bantha steak on an obsidian fry- rock at

double noon on Tatooine.

“Youre not gonna make it, Hobbie,” Janson called. “Punch out.”

“Oh, youd like that, wouldnt you?” Hobbie snarled under his

breath, still struggling grimly with the X-wings controls. The

fighters tumble began to slow. “Ive got it, Wes!”

“No, you dont! Punch out, Hobbie—PUNCH OUT!”

“Ive got it—Im gonna make it! Im gonna—” He was interrupted

by the final flip of his X- wing, which brought his nose into line with

the sight of the leading edge of the spherical debris field expanding

toward him at a respectable fraction of lightspeed, and Hobbie Klivian,

acknowledged master of both profanity and obscenity, human

and otherwise, not to mention casual vulgarities from a dozen

species and hundreds of star systems, found he had nothing to say

except, “Aw, nuts.”

He stood the X- wing on its tail, sublights blasting for a tangent,

but he had learned long ago that of all the Rogues, he was the one

who should know better than to trust his luck. He reached for the

eject trigger.

Just as his hand found the trigger, the ship jounced and clanged as

if he had his head trapped inside a Wookiee dinner gong at nightmeal.

The metaphorical Wookiee cook must have been hungry, too,

because the clanging went on and on and kept getting louder, and

the eject still, mysteriously, didnt seem to be working at all. This

mystery was solved, however, by the brief shriek of atmosphere

through a ragged fist- sized hole in the X- wings canopy. This hole

was ragged because, Hobbie discovered, the fragment that had made

this opening had been slowed by punching through the X- wings

titanium- alloy ventral armor. Not to mention the X- wings control

panel, where it had not only ripped away the entire eject trigger assembly,

but had vaporized Hobbies left hand.

He glared at his vacant wrist with more annoyance than shock or

panic; instead of blood or cauterized flesh, his wrist jetted only

sparks and smoke from overheated servomotors. He hadnt had a

real left arm since sometime before Yavin.

Of more concern was the continuing shriek of escaping atmosphere,

because he discovered that it was coming from his environment

suits nitroxy generator.

He thought, Oh, this sucks. After everything he had survived in the

Galactic Civil War, he was about to be killed by a minor equipment

malfunction. He amended his previous thought: This really sucks.

He didnt bother to say it out loud, because there wasnt enough

air in his cockpit to carry the sound.

There being no other useful thing he could do with his severed

left wrist, he jammed it into the hole in his canopy. His suits autoseal

plastered itself to the jagged edges, but the nitroxy generator didnt

seem mollified; in fact, it was starting to feel like he had an unshielded

fusion core strapped to his spine.

Oh, yeah, he thought. The other hole.

He palmed the cockpit harnesss snap release, twisted, and

stretched out his left leg, feeling downward with the toe of his boot.

He found a hole—and the rising pressure sucked the entire boot

right out the bottom of his fighter before the autoseal engaged to

close that hole, too. He felt another impact or two down there, but

he couldnt really tell if something might have ripped his foot off.

It had been a few years since hed had his original left leg.

With the cockpit sealed, his nitroxy unit gradually calmed down,

filling the space with a breathable atmosphere that smelled only

faintly of scorched hair, and he began to think he might live through

this after all. His only problem now was that he was deharnessed and

stretched sideways in an extraordinarily uncomfortable twist that left

him unable to even turn his head enough to see where he was going.

“Arfour,” he said quietly, “can you please get us back to the PRP?”

His current position did let him see, however, his astromechs response

to the task of navigating toward the primary rendezvous

point, which was a spit of gap sparks and a halo of sporadic electrical

discharge from what was left of its turret dome. Which was slightly

less than half.

He sighed. “Okay, ejection failure. And astromech damage. Crippled

here,” he said into his comm. “Awaiting manual pickup.”

“Little busy right now, Hobbie. Well get to you after we dust these

TIEs.”

“Take your time. Im not going anywhere. Except, yknow, thataway.

Slowly. Real slowly.”

He spent the rest of the battle hoping for a bit of help from the

Force when Wedge sent out the pickup detail. Please, he prayed

silently, please let it be Tycho. Or Nin, or Standro. Anyone but Janson.

He continued this plea as a sort of meditation, kind of the way

Luke would talk about this stuff: he closed his eyes and visualized

Wedge himself showing up to tow his X- wing back to the jump

point. After a while, he found this image unconvincing—somehow

he was never that lucky—and so he cycled through the other

Rogues, and when those began to bore him, he decided itd be Luke

himself. Or Leia. Or, say, Wynssa Starflare, who always managed to

look absolutely stellar as the strong, independent damsel- sometimesin-

distress in those pre- war Imperial holodramas, because, yknow,

as long as he was imagining something that was never gonna happen,

he might as well make it entertaining.

It turned out to be entertaining enough that he managed to pass

the balance of the battle drifting off to sleep with a smile on his face.

This smile lasted right up to the point where a particularly brilliant

flash stabbed through his eyelids and he awoke, glumly certain

that whatever had exploded right next to his ship was finally about to

snuff him. But then there came another flash, and another, and with

a painful twist of his body he was able to see Wes Jansons fighter

cruising alongside, only meters away. He was also able to see the

handheld imager Janson had pressed against his cockpits canopy,

with which Janson continued to snap picture after picture.

Hobbie closed his eyes again. He would have preferred the explosion.

“Just had to get a few shots.” Jansons grin was positively wicked.

“You look like some kind of weird cross between a star fighter pilot and a Bat -

ravian gumplucker.”

Hobbie shook his head exhaustedly; dealing with Jansons pathetic

excuse for a sense of humor always made him tired. “Wes, I dont

even know what that is.”

“Sure you do, Hobbie. A star fighter pilot is a guy who flies an X- wing

without getting blown up. Check the Basic Dictionary. Though I can

understand how youd get confused.”

“No, I mean the—” Hobbie bit his lip hard enough that he tasted

blood. “Um, Wes?”

“Yeah, buddy?”

“Have I told you today how much I really, really hate you?”

“Oh, sure—your lips say ‘I hate you, but your eyes say—”

“That someday Ill murder you in your sleep?”

Janson chuckled. “More or less.”

“Its all over, huh?”

“This part is. Most of em got away.”

“How manyd we lose?”

“Just Eight and Eleven. But Avan and Feylis ejected clean. Nothing a

couple weeks in a bacta tank wont cure. And then theres my Batravian

gumplucker wingman . . .”

Youre the wingman, knucklehead. Maybe I should say, wingnut.

Hobbie sighed again. “I guess Wedge is happy, anyway. Everythings

proceeding according to plan . . .”

“I HATE when you say that.”

“Yeah? How come?”

“Dont know. It just . . . gives me the whingeing jimmies. Let me get

this tow cable attached, and you might as well sleep; its a long cruise to the

PRP.”

“Suits me just fine,” Hobbie said, closing his eyes again. “I have

this dream I really want to get back to . . .”

“Good job, Wedge.” General Lando Calrissian, commander of

Special Operations for the New Republic, nodded grave approval

toward the flickering bluish holoform of Wedge Antilles that hovered

a centimeter above his console. “No casualties?”

“Nothing serious, General. Hobbie—Lieutenant Klivian—needs another

left hand . . .”

Lando smiled. “How many does that make, all told?”

“Ive lost count. Hows it going on your end?”

“Good and less than good.” Lando punched up his readout of the

tracking report. “Looks like our marauders are based in the Taspan

system.”

Wedges brilliant plan had become brilliant entirely by necessity;

the usual method of locating a hidden marauder base—subjecting a

captured pilot or two to a neural probe—had turned out to be much

more difficult than anyone could have anticipated. Shadowspawn

seemed very determined to maintain his privacy; through dozens of

raids over nearly two months, many deep inside Republic territory

and costing thousands of civilian lives, not one of Shadowspawns

marauders had ever been taken alive.

This was more than a simple refusal to surrender, though the marauders

had shown a distressing tendency, when they found themselves

in imminent danger, to shout out words to the effect of For

Shadowspawn and the Empire! Forward the Restoration! and blow themselves

up. Forensic engineers examining wreckage of destroyed TIE

Defenders hypothesized that the star fighters were equipped with

some unexplained type of deadman interlock, which would destroy

the ship—and obliterate the pilot—even if the pilot merely lost consciousness.

The brilliant part of Wedges brilliant plan had been to conceal

hundreds of thousands of miniature solid- state transponders among

the flechettes inside Rogue Squadrons custom- made torpedoes, before

giving the marauders a fairly decent pasting and letting the rest

escape. Unlike ordinary tracking devices, these transponders gave

off no signal of their own—thus requiring no power supply, and rendering

them effectively undetectable. These transponders were entirely

inert until triggered by a very specific subspace signal, which

they then echoed in a very specific way. And since the only transponders

of this very specific type in the entire galaxy were loaded in

Rogue Squadrons torpedo tubes, drifting at the ambush point in

deep space along the Corellian Run, and lodged in various parts of

the armored hulls of a certain group of TIE Defenders, locating the

system to which said Defenders had fled was actually not complicated

at all.

Wedges holoform took on a vaguely puzzled look. “Taspan.

Sounds familiar, but I cant place it . . .”

“The Inner Rim, off the Hydian Way.”

“That would be the less- than- good part.”

“Yeah. No straight lanes in or out—and most of the legs run

through systems still held by Imperials.”

“Almost makes you wish for one of Palpatines old planet- killers.”

“Almost.” Landos smile had faded, and he didnt sound like he

was joking. “The Empire had a weapons facility on Taspan II—its

where they tested their various designs of gravity- well projectors—”

“Thats it!” The image snapped its fingers silently, the sound

eliminated by the holoprojectors noise filter. “The Big Crush!”

Lando nodded. “The Big Crush.”

“I heard there was nothing left at Taspan but an asteroid field, like the

Graveyard of Alderaan.”

“Theres an inner planet—Taspan I is a minor resort world called

Mindor. Not well known, but really beautiful; my parents had a summer

house there when I was a kid.”

“Any progress on this Shadowspawn character himself ?”

“Weve only managed to determine that no one by that name was

ever registered as an Imperial official. Clearly an assumed identity.”

“The guys got to be some kind of nutjob.”

“I doubt it. His choice of base is positively inspired; the debris

from the Big Crush hasnt had time to settle into stable orbits.”

“So it is like the Graveyard of Alderaan.”

“Its worse, Wedge. A lot worse.”

Wedges image appeared to be giving a low whistle; the holoprojectors

noise filter screened it out. “Sounds ugly. How are we supposed

to get at them?”

“Youre not.” Lando took a deep breath before continuing. “This

is exactly the type of situation for which we developed the Rapid Response

Task Force.”

Wedges image gave a slow, understanding nod. “Hit em with our

Big Stick, then. Slap em good and run like hell.”

“Its the best shot weve got.”

“Youre probably right; you usually are. But itll sting, to not be there.”

“Right enough. But we have other problems—and the RRTF is in

very capable hands.”

“Got that right.” Wedge suddenly grinned. “Speaking of those capable

hands, pass along my regards to General Skywalker, will you?”

“I will do that, Wedge. I will indeed.”

Product Details

ISBN:
9780345477446
Publisher:
LucasBooks
Subject:
Science Fiction - Space Opera
Author:
Stover, Matthew Woodring
Author:
Matthew Stover
Subject:
Science Fiction - Star Wars
Subject:
Space warfare
Subject:
Skywalker, Luke (Fictional character)
Subject:
Science fiction
Subject:
Star Wars fiction
Subject:
Science / Space Opera
Edition Description:
Del Rey
Series:
Star Wars
Publication Date:
20081230
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
336
Dimensions:
9.40x6.42x1.23 in. 1.19 lbs.

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Star Wars Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor (Star Wars)
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