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raked the walls and the floor, driving back the handful who'd been fortunate enough to have a nearby doorway to duck into and annihilating those who hadn't. The two point men reacted instantly, one of them firing upward toward the viewport, the other scrambling up the leg toward the side door.

He reached the top to find Luke waiting for him. His companion down below got three shots off-all deflected-before the lightsaber found him, too.

Abruptly, the blaster cannon stopped firing. Luke glanced down the corridor, reaching out with the Force. "There are still three of them left," he warned as Han opened the walker's door and squeezed out.

"Leave 'em," Han said, climbing carefully down the back of the damaged leg and consulting his chrono. "We need to get back to Lando and Chewie." He threw Luke a mirthless grin. "Besides, the actuator crystals just burned up. Let's get going before they figure that out."

The first wave of TIE fighters had been destroyed, as had all but one of the drop ships. The Rebel Escort Frigate and its X-wings were now engaged with Squadrons One and Three, and appeared to be holding their own quite well.

And Captain Brandei was no longer smiling.

"Squadron Four launching now," Starfighter Control announced. "Squadrons Five and Six are awaiting your orders."

"Order them to stand by," Brandei instructed. Not that he had much choice in the matter. Five and Six were recon and bomber squadrons-useful enough in their particular areas of expertise, but not in straight battle against Rebel X-wings. "Anything further on the Peremptory?"

"No, sir. The last report from the Chimaera-before our shields went up-had their ETA as approximately 1519."

Only about seven minutes away. But battles had been lost in less time than that; and from the
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