“If you pick one up, watch it!” Mills shouted as Red Nine’s ship became a memory, following Ten’s destruction a half-second before.
Sam rolled his ship, swerving right and under a pair of incoming TIE fighters. His entire world had narrowed to this battle, these pilots around him, friend and foe. He tore after the fighter who’d tried to take him out, centering the Imperial in his crosshairs.
The longer the battle wore on, the more exhausted Sam felt. He’d been focused and strong at the beginning, able to remember Cas’ lessons and let the Force guide him. But then he’d watched friends go down, and his ship had been jostled and clipped, he’d scraped through a few close calls, and he couldn’t stop worrying about Jo and Dean out in the chaos. It became impossible to focus on his training, so he fell back on his piloting instincts and prayed he made it through.
“The Gold raid was unsuccessful,” Anna told them, breaking into the chatter. “Red Leader, are you set for your attack run?”
Sam blew the TIE fighter away. He didn’t take a second to savour his minor victory, instead spinning his ship around to find more prey, dodging a Blue Squad ship that was blazing out of control. It was starting to feel like his allies were dropping like flies in an endless tide of TIE fighters.
“Shit no,” Mills replied. “I’m hit – not bad, but I’m no good in there. Steering’s half-shot, but I’m not dead yet. I can still provide cover and kick some Imperial ass.”
Sam streaked by her ship, which had one smoking engine but was flying otherwise unharmed. He grimaced.
“Mills, maybe you should head back – ”
“I ain’t leavin’,” she snapped firmly.
“Sam Harvelle-chester! Josephine!” Ash called out. “Let’s go for it! Rendezvous at mark six point one.”
Sam bit down a laugh and turned his ship in a sharp arc to meet up with Ash. Jo was going to murder him.
“You call me by my full name one more time, Ashland Marga – ” Jo growled, but Ash cut her off with a cackle. Sam didn’t bother to try to hide his own smile – she couldn’t see it.
“You come too, Henriksen,” said Ash. “Join our grand ol’ raiding party.”
Red Eleven dodged a pair of Imperials and spun off from the main group. “On it!”
Sam found Ash’s X-Wing outside the melee and fell in behind him with Jo and Red Eleven.
“And the gang’s all here! Alrighty, this is Red Two, with Five, Three an’ Eleven, and we’re goin’ in. The rest of you hang back and keep the bastards off our behinds.” He punched his ship into a steep dive, and Sam followed, his nerves jangling.
The four of them charged for the trench as Dean’s lone X-Wing shot past them towards the major firefight. Sam’s stomach twisted, seeing him without Benny’s accompanying Y-Wing.
“Watch your tails,” Dean warned over the comms. “As soon as we got down there, they came at us from – shit! Behind!”
Sam turned to look so fast, his neck cracked. Four Imperials fighters in a tight formation careened towards him and the knot of Rebels he was flying with.
“Incoming!” Sam yelled. “Point three five!”
“Just hold them off for a couple minutes!” said Ash, gunning his engines.
Sam really thought this was easier said than done. The foursome dove towards the trench, the Imperials hot on their heels, and Dean whizzing around to follow them. Lasers from the towers stormed down the trench, this time heedless of their peers. Sam ground his teeth together as flak exploded and jerked his ship. He held tight to his controls, staying level with Jo on his right. Henriksen hovered behind Sam.
“Targeting computer is on and locked,” relayed Ash.
“There’s no way we can hold them!” Henriksen said, his voice brimming with panic.
Sam glanced behind him where the Imperials were opening fire. Henriksen swerved and nearly clipped the side of the trench in his haste. A few laser bolts slammed into Sam’s shields. He clung to his controls.
“I’m coming!” Dean promised.
There was a sharp cry of fear over the comms and then a blast rocked Sam’s X-Wing. He barely managed to maintain control of his steering, his wing edging dangerously close to the trench walls.
“Son of a bitch!” Dean yelled.
Sam didn’t need to look to know that Henriksen was gone.
“Ash – status!” Jo demanded.
“Hold tight,” he replied.
“We’re not gonna have anything to hold on to in a minute here,” said Sam.
“I’ve got you, Sammy,” Dean assured him.
There was another explosion behind Sam and he exhaled. One Imperial down…
“Faster would be better!” said Jo edgily. Then he heard her gasp, and out of the corner of his eye saw her ship fumble. His streaked past and lost sight of her.
“Jo!” Sam screamed. He twisted to look, caught sight of flames, and quickly turned his eyes forward again, barely stopping himself from smashing into the trench wall. He sucked in a sharp breath and realized Dean was calling for Jo as well. His heart smashed against his ribs.
“Where is she?” Sam demanded. “Does anyone see Red Three?”
“I saw her take a hit,” said Dean. “I ganked one of the Imperial bastards at the same moment – I saw her fall back to the explosion – I – I don’t know where – ”
“Does anyone see Red Three?” Sam repeated almost hysterically. Not Jo, not Jo, anyone but Jo… The image of Ellen’s body flashed through his mind and Sam couldn’t breathe. Flak burst against his hull and he blinked against his stinging eyes, fighting to stay in control.
“We’re not showing her signal anywhere,” Anna relayed sadly.
Sam struggled to hold his ship steady. Another blast shuddered his X-Wing and he couldn’t help picturing that it was Dean’s ship that’d just went up. He gripped the ship controls hard, trying to stop his fingers from shaking, trying not to throw up…
Breathe, Sam. He heard Castiel’s voice, warm and gentle and almost as if he were right there. Focus. But Sam couldn’t, not if Jo was dead, and Dean was dead, how in the hell was ever supposed to –
Let go. Focus.
“Almost there…” said Ash.
Sam could’ve sworn in that moment he felt the Force nudge him, even though he hadn’t called on it, and like a slap in the face, it yanked him away from his grief. Ash still needed him. Mills and the others. Jo would – would have killed him if he got himself killed as well, if he let them die. He hadn’t been able to save her (he tried to breathe, couldn’t remember it ever being so hard before), but maybe he could save the rest of them.
You can do this, Sam. Sam wasn’t consciously picturing his master’s voice, yet there it was, wonderfully comforting and clear. He leaned into it, leaned into the memories to give him strength. He pictured the Force, glowing threads of light and power, snaking into his hands and he relaxed his grip. He could do this.
“Shit, I can’t nail the last one,” Dean growled over the comms, and Sam almost choked on the relief he felt at hearing his brother’s voice. “Look out!”
Sam’s X-Wing was suddenly rocked by a violent blast – a direct hit that crashed against his shields, and burned across the top of his ship. His shields were now dangerously low – another hit like that and he was dead.
“Sammy, get outta there!” Dean yelled, but Sam wasn’t about to leave Ash, who was closing in on the target, even as the laserfire outside intensified.
Then the decision was made for him as Ash screamed and his ship splintered. Sam instinctively hauled on his controls, pulling his ship straight up out of the trench. He tore through the fire and wreckage left by Ash and alarms wailed in his cockpit.
“Sam!” Dean bellowed in alarm. “Sammy!”
Bobby covered his eyes with his hands. He couldn’t stand sitting here, helpless. He should’ve been up there with the boys where he could protect them. Anna had asked him to stay on the ground with her for tactical support, and agreeing to it hadn’t been a decision he’d made lightly, but in the end he’d decided it was smarter. Although the longer the battle went on, the more Bobby regretted staying.
“Sam!” Dean called out frantically. “Sammy!”
Bobby breathlessly waited for a reply.
“I’m here,” Sam’s voice finally came back.
Bobby dropped his hands, looking to Anna. She was paler than usual as her eyes flicked across the command table at the displays of the raging battle.
“Damn, I thought I’d lost you,” Dean exhaled heavily.
“Not yet,” Sam returned, sounding less shaky than he probably should have, Bobby thought.
With all the fighters the Star had deployed, the casualties were extremely heavy. They’d lost a dozen of the supporting Yellow and Blue Squadron pilots, as well almost all of the Gold Squad. That was wasn’t even counting the vast number of Red that continued to do battle, with far too many of their signals blinking out of existence.
“Dean, I’m gonna close this up,” said Sam. “We’re out of time.”
Dean was less than enthusiastic about this plan, but didn’t have the luxury of time to argue.
“Who’s left?” asked Sam.
“I’ve stabilized,” chimed in Mills. “Let’s do this.”
“Okay, but we’re going in hard – full throttle,” Sam instructed and Bobby’s gut lurched. That sounded like a helluva a bad idea to him.
“We go in that hot, we’re gonna be bugs on a windshield, kid,” Mills warned.
My point exactly, Bobby thought grimly.
Bobby heard the smile in Sam’s voice when he replied, “It’s gonna be just like Beggar’s Canyon back home.”
He wasn’t sure whether he ought to be proud or terrified and was definitely both. He’d missed years of Sam’s childhood, but he’d seen enough and certainly watched from afar when he could. He knew the kind of out-of-this-world piloting skills Sam possessed. Bobby didn’t know anyone that good, even John, who’d been the best of the best. If anyone could do this, Bobby believed it was Sam. ‘Course, that didn’t stop him from feeling completely nauseous at the idea of Sam being their literal last hope in this fight for freedom, once and for all.
One of the techs informed them that the Death Star would be in range of the base in less than two minutes, her fingers flying over a massive keyboard. Bobby and Anna locked gazes and Bobby fought down a fresh wave of nausea.
So this was it: two minutes to live. Two minutes until the galaxy was either saved or doomed. Two measly goddamn minutes.
“Come on, boys,” he murmured.
Sam plunged his ship back down into the dreaded trench and this time he pushed his speed far more than he had the first time. He could feel the adrenaline coursing through him, making his heart pound in his ears and his tingling fingertips. If this didn’t work, it was all over – he was dead, Dean and the remaining pilots, the Rebels, everything. Everything they’d worked for would be flames and debris and the Empire would have won.
Sam wasn’t going to let that happen. Not without a fight.
“Geez, Sam, how the hell do you expect to hit the port at this speed?” Mills asked worriedly.
Laserfire erupted around them, shaking Sam’s X-Wing. His shields were still uncomfortably low, but holding.
“And with that damn tower!”
There was a screech and Sam glanced back to see a trio of Imperials already on their tail, peppering the air with lasers.
“You worry about the tower,” instructed Dean sharply. “I’ll worry about these bastards!”
Sam accelerated. “Watch yourself! I’m not losing you!”
“Don’t worry, Sammy, we got this,” said Dean confidently.
Sam’s chest fluttered with worry. Don’t say that, he thought. Don’t make a promise you can’t keep. He fought off a wave of emotion, forcing his mind away from Jo, and instead pressed the button to engage his targeting computer. Focus. Breathe.
There was a barrage from behind and Sam wrestled with controls as the rectangle extended and hovered in front of his eye. Sweat soaked his forehead as he pressed his face to the display, watching the distance counter race down.
“Damn it, my stabilizer’s loose again,” Mills reported angrily.
“Hold on, Mills,” said Dean.
“Yeah, I’m trying – they’re comin’ in way faster than before!”
Sam’s breath was shaky. Come on, come on, come on…
“Jody, watch it!” Dean snapped, but to no avail as Red Leader was hit and smashed headlong into the trench’s floor.
Sam blinked against the moisture in his eyes as his X-Wing was buffeted by the shockwave. Breathe.
“Okay, Sammy, it’s just us,” Dean said somberly. “Push it as fast you can. Let’s end this.”
Sam nodded, his mouth bone dry. He distantly realized Dean couldn’t see his nod, but was too busy pushing his ship even harder. His ship shook, and there were warning lights on his dash, though nothing critical, so he ignored them.
“Damn it all to hell…” Dean murmured. Sam chanced a look back and saw his brother’s X-Wing weaving dangerously behind him, trying in vain to keep the pursing Imperials at bay.
Sam returned his focus to the computer. He thought of the times he and Jo used to race around the valleys and canyons, the dunes, and the way she’d screech when he made impossible hairpin turns. He remembered when Ellen would scold him for trying to take out the speeder when he was too young to drive. All he’d wanted to do was impress Jess, the little blonde girl from the moisture farm next door.
He thought about his birth parents, the Jedi and the pilot, and Ellen’s smile and Jo’s laugh and the way Dean’s eyes crinkled when he was trying to be serious but holding in a laugh. His mind raced with images of leaving Tatooine and Bobby and battle and Cloud City and Azazel and the snow on Hoth and Bela and…
And then he thought about Dagobah, about the rocks and swamp and Castiel’s calming voice…
Use the Force, Sam. Let go…
Sam’s grip tightened, his sweaty hands quivering against the X-Wing’s controls. No, the voice wasn’t a memory, he finally realized. His breath hitched. Somehow, inexplicably, Cas was here. Sam couldn’t explain it, but he could feel it – he could sense it in the Force, could feel the Force settle around his shoulders like a comforting blanket and he had the urge to cry. He could picture the light again, could sense the Force and Cas’ presence all around him.
Let go, Sam. Trust me.
So with trembling fingers, Sam reached out and pushed the targeting computer away so his view of the trench was unobstructed, gray walls blurring by. He readjusted his grip and he took a slow, deep breath, feeling the Force surge into him, around him, through him.
“Sam? What’s going on?” Anna burst in. “Is something wrong with your computer?”
“No,” Sam replied, his voice amazingly calm.
“They’re fifteen seconds out!” a tech in the background called hysterically.
Sam breathed slow and deep again, listening to Castiel. Let go. Stretch out with your feelings… It was just like playing against the remote with his lightsaber, like balancing rocks, like lifting the X-Wing…
Flak thundered around Sam’s hull and he pushed his ship to the breaking point. Alarms blared, the X-Wing shook. He was almost there, almost there.
“Sammy, we’re outta time!”
The red-headed tech turned around in her seat, all the color washed out of her features. “The Death Star’s cleared the planet.”
Anna nodded somberly.
Bobby’s shoulders sank. His eyes tracked the two blue signals flying fiercely through the hologram trench, ever pursued by a trio of red ones. He closed his eyes and braced himself for darkness.
“Rebel base is in range.”
“Excellent,” Lucifer cracked his knuckles and flicked his hand in the direction of the battle command station. “Fire when you’re ready, kiddo. We have them.”
He spread his arms before him, exhilarated to see Yavin detonate, to imagine the heat and feel the shockwave of loss and terror in the Force…
“Shit – he clipped me!” Dean snapped.
He grappled with his controls. At this speed, an inch the wrong way was a massive mistake. He gritted his teeth – his arms were aching from the effort of not dying. He threw a quick look over his shoulder at the three TIE fighters on his ass and swore again for good measure.
He was utterly fucked and he knew it. He only hoped Sam would have the chance to make the critical shot before he was iced too – though, if he was being honest, he’d been ready to sacrifice himself if it came down to it. Which, based on the way those bastards were firing, was going to be any second now. He could only outfly them in this tight space for so long before –
The explosion was close enough to make his teeth rattle, but it wasn’t him and it wasn’t Sam. He let out a surprised laugh, thinking one of the remaining Reds had managed to break away from the Imperial onslaught to rescue them.
“Miss me, darling?”
Never in his entire life had been happier to hear Bela’s voice. Literally never.
Dean’s face broke into a grin and he couldn’t even begin to catalogue the emotion storming through him in that moment. Rather than trying, he simply replied, “You’re late.”
“You’re slow,” she shot back, and he could hear the bright smile in her voice. His heart leapt – he couldn’t stop another surprised laugh.
Behind him, there was another blast that jostled him, but a glance over his shoulder revealed a lack of fighters. He caught a glimpse of his beloved Impala soaring overhead and his grin widened.
“All clear for the moment,” Bela reported casually. “Now, Sam, would you be a dear and end this? I have somewhere else to be.”
What the hell?
An image flashed before Lucifer’s eyes and he blinked in surprise. The vision that he’d been having suddenly warped, like a rock thrown into a still pond, and then he saw an anomaly. Something he had never accounted for, something variable that had changed and upset the balance of things, had thrown the future into chaos.
The ripples settled and now it wasn’t Yavin and its moons he saw turning into space dust.
Lucifer tilted his head back in surprise. “Well, shit.”
Sam felt it before he saw it – the opening to the port – and he let loose the torpedoes on instinct. He slammed on the controls of his X-Wing until he was screaming out of the trench, Dean right behind him. He glanced down at the Death Star’s surface and exhaled in a rush.
It went in.
“Let’s get the hell out of here!” Dean ordered over the comms, and Sam punched his ship into a wide arc to retreat with the other surviving Rebels.
Behind him, a series of blasts erupted and Sam felt his heart hammering in his throat. He did it. He gunned his engines, chasing after the Impala and had a moment to feel a burst of affection towards Bela and Ree – they’d come back! As he flew, however, he noted there were far too few ships escaping the Death Star’s surface. He didn’t think there were more than a dozen, if that, and the realization made his heart lurch again as he thought of Jo.
But we did it, he thought, an odd mix of grief and euphoria. Sam only wished Jo had been able to see it.
Remember, came Castiel’s voice once again, as Sam and the Rebels made for home. The Force will be with you, Sam.
As the Rebel ships curved out of sight behind the yellow planet of Yavin, the Death Star’s core failed spectacularly. The torpedoes did exactly what the computer said they would, initiating a catastrophic chain reaction that tore the station apart.
The Death Star burst into a massive supernova, as bright as a sun just for an instant, with debris fanning out in a fiery ring.
The Empire had fallen.