Project Echo: Part 17
Rating: PG
Gillian F. Taylor

Tycho looked around at the others seated at the large table in the meeting room. There was an air of restlessness as they waited to share what they'd uncovered in their search for Wedge. Iella sat with Mirax on one side and Winter on the other. She looked tired, but every move was crisp and decisive and her eyes were bright. Wes, Hobbie and Corran were also present, along with Whistler, Corran's astromech.

Tycho gestured towards Iella and asked her to speak first.

"Winter and I have been searching for the origin of the clone," Iella said. "We were specifically looking for links between the Promezia Corporation, and the Imperial Remnant. To narrow things down a little, we concentrated on the period five to seven years ago when the clone must have been grown from Wedge's cells."

She paused for a moment, her lips tightening in a subtle sign of distress. Tycho looked at her and suddenly realized that she was thinking of the clone, remembering him not just as a echo of Wedge, but a person who had too-briefly existed in his own right. A being who'd never even had a name of his own.

Taking a deep breath, Iella continued. "We looked principally at sales and shipments of biotech materials related to clone technology. We had to dig deep but we eventually discovered a possible link. The business deals were hidden through many layers of subsidiary companies and holdings and the like. However, we learned that Moff Blackmore had sold the right kind of biotech equipment to Promezia Corp within the key period."

Iella stopped speaking and looked over at Winter, who continued with their findings.

"Moff Blackmore first came to power as a member of the Imperial Intelligence Bureau," Winter explained. "In the chaos following the return and fall of the Emperor, he seized the opportunity to take a more political role, and got himself appointed a moff. He worked with Thrawn, and it's likely that he acquired some access to, or knowledge of, cloning technology at that time.

In any case, given his former position within Imp Intell, he would have had access to data on many prominent members of the New Republic, including Wedge. It's likely he'd have had the contacts to get cells for cloning, and information on Wedge's military record, background and other details needed for priming the clone to pass as the original."

"That would make sense," Tycho said. "Whoever trained that clone did a thorough job and would have needed a lot of intelligence on Wedge's life."

Iella nodded. "I keep wondering how I could have missed it though; that he wasn't Wedge. The clone couldn't know everything. I must have said something like 'do you remember our first anniversary, when we went out to that Ithorian restaurant?' "

"He'd have said 'of course, dear'," Wes said. "Then told you how beautiful you looked that night, kissed you, and distracted you with a question in return. It's what men always do when women ask them about things they can't remember and are supposed to. You wouldn't have noticed anything different," he added as the others laughed, including Iella.

She shook her head at him, but she was smiling.

Tycho looked over at Wes, inwardly grateful for the way he'd eased the tension, though he was careful not to let that show on his face.

"Well we've uncovered a link between a moff with intel on Wedge and possible access to cloning tech, and the Promezia Corp," Tycho said. "Did you do as well in your job, Wes?"

Wes sat upright in his chair, looking indignant.

"We did too," he asserted. "Even though it meant slogging through thousands of data files and following up fake data trails and pulling it all togther."

Whistler interrupted him with a rude noise.

"Whistler did most of the hard work," Corran pointed out. "You'd still be up to your eyebrows in data cards if it weren't for him."

"So'd you," Wes retorted. "And anyway, Whistler can't shoot a blaster as well as I can."

"Wes: business," Tycho reminded him.

Wes glanced across the table at Iella, and subsided, his face becoming businesslike.

"Hobbie, Corran and I were studying Benzalko, the planet that the clone named before he died. Promezia Corp own several facilities there, most quite openly. However, we traced two other places that are registered to other companies, but if you dig deep enough, the ownership goes back to Promezia."

"They've gone to some trouble to obscure ownership," Corran said. "Company A leases the facility from Company B, which is a subsidiary of C, which is owned by D, which belongs to Group E which is a division of Corporation F, which is Promezia Corp. Fortunately we used Whistler to help in tracking ownership of suspect companies back in CorSec, and he still has the specialist programming installed back then."

Whistler beeped and rocked gently as though indicating agreement.

Tycho nodded. "Good work. So what are the places that Promezia don't want anyone to know they own?"

"One is a drug-processing company," Corran answered. "I imagine that the local law enforcement agencies might find something of interest there, given Promezia's efforts to conceal their involvement, but I don't think we will. The other facility looks a lot more promising though."

"It's supposedly a bio-tech facility," Wes interrupted, looking straight at Tycho. "It's on the very outskirts of Visalux, a medium-sized city of no particular significance, though it does have a class three spaceport.  Moulante Bio Inc doesn't have any record of actually producing any new tech: no patents, no published research, nothing. It seems to be a fancy tax loss mechanism for the parent company."

"It sounds like the kind of place we're looking for," Tycho said, glancing across at Winter.

"There's more," Corran added. "There seems to have been more activity than usual at Moulante Bio during the last couple of months. Groups arriving at the spaceport, travelling to the facility, and leaving again about three to four weeks later."

Tycho frowned. "More activity? Surely not if they're holding Wedge there."

"He's training pilots for them !" Mirax said suddenly. "It has to be Wedge; he's alive !"

Everyone turned to look at her, all asking questions.

"How do you know it's Wedge?" Iella asked, staring intently at the other woman.

Mirax's face was radiant as she explained. "I told Booster what we knew, and he took the Errant Venture­ to the edge of the Corporate Sector, a couple of systems away from Benzalko. Some of the local mercenaries, pirates and corporate military groups have visited the Venture for R & R and Booster's staff have been alert for anything that might be about Wedge.

Three days ago, they had a group of hotshot TIE pilots working for Zuo Corp come aboard. One of their pilots started bragging about great they were, and that they were the elite who'd been spent for special training on Benzalko. As soon as he mentioned Benzalko, the alert went up and Booster got talking to this pilot, helping him celebrate his own ego. The pilot got the best drink, and a little something extra in it to encourage him to keep talking."

Mirax paused and grinned, reaching out to touch Iella's arm.

"This is the best bit. The pilot said they'd had advanced combat training, but it wasn't like any training he'd had before. They never met their instructor. He was the best fighter pilot that the hotshot had ever seen and the rest of his squadron agreed with him on that. Not one of them succeeded in vaping him even once in more than three weeks of training.

The training was all done in sims, and the instructor's sim was in a different room to the rest of the squad. They were ordered not to use names, only call signs, and to only speak to the instructor about the sim and piloting, and nothing else. The only contact between instructor and the squad was by voice. And the pilot said it was the voice of a human male with a Corellian accent !"

Tycho felt almost giddy with relief, as Wes let out a whoop of delight.

"When did Booster tell you this?" he asked Mirax.

"Yesterday," she replied. "But we assumed this had taken place at some known training facility on Benzalko. It just didn't seem possible that they were holding Wedge prisoner at an ordinary training facility. Even if they managed to keep him out of sight, there would have been rumours of a prisoner. I was going to suggest we looked into it anyway."

"But Promezia Corp have this non-productive facility at Visalux," said Iella. She paused and swallowed. "Groups of people have been coming and going in the last couple of months since Wedge's disappearance, and someone who sounds like Wedge and flies like Wedge has been training groups of pilots over roughly the same periods of time."

"And if it's all sim work, the base won't actually need a hangar for a squadron of TIEs," Hobbie pointed out.

"Which means there won't be any real TIEs there to bother us when we go get Wedge and then pound the place and the people who own it into dust," Wes said.

Tycho took a deep breath. "I think we've got enough here to take to Ackbar and Cracken." He looked again at Winter, who nodded.

"If you send me the relevent data," she said to Wes and Mirax. "I'll put it together in a report for them, to make everything clear."

"Thank you," Tycho said. "Good work all of you, and thank Booster for me, Mirax."

She nodded once. "Booster loves Wedge; he'd move the Maw Cluster to help him."

"He loves Wedge like a son, whereas I'm just the son-in-law," Corran said, giving Mirax a jaundiced look. She just nodded agreement.

"I'll make a start on plans for going to Benzalko and finding out if Wedge is at that bio-tech plant. And for getting him out if he is," Tycho said. "Once Ackbar's read your report, Winter, I can follow up with some strategy to show him."

"Count the Skate as one of your assets," Mirax told him. "I'm coming along."

Tycho doubted whether he could stop her even if he wanted to, but the Pulsar Skate would be a useful vessel to have along, and Mirax was an excellent pilot.

"I'd better stay here on Coruscant, with Syal," Iella said reluctantly.

Tycho understood how she felt. She wanted to come with them and take an active role in freeing her husband, and to know what was happening when it was happening, not hours or days later. On the other hand, there was no guarantee that they would find Wedge and bring him back alive. It was wiser for Iella to remain safely on Coruscant, ensuring that Syal would have at least one parent living.

"I'll go to Benzalko too," said Winter.

Tycho nodded, glad to know that her Intelligence skills would be available on the mission. There was a positive feeling among the Rogues and friends for the first time in days. There was an abstract sorrow in him for the man who had died; a man he had believed was his old friend and who had indeed been a friend. Yet stronger still was the new hope of finding Wedge himself, and bringing him back. And that hope was driving them all on.



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