Rose Tico will make her debut in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, coming this Friday, December 15 — and she’s also starring in a major new book arriving the same day. Star Wars: Journey to The Last Jedi: Cobalt Squadron, a middle-grade novel written by Elizabeth Wein and illustrated by Phil Noto, follows the titular unit, which includes Resistance mechanic Rose and her sister Paige. In the exclusive excerpt below, Rose, Paige, and the rest of their crew are on-mission when they make a startling discovery…
Rose blinked hard. She stared at the screen, wondering if she’d imagined it—or if her tired eyes were fooling her.
As she gazed, wide-eyed, two of the gleaming pinpricks swept teasingly back into the upper corner and out of sight again.
“Um, Finch,” Rose called, “I don’t want to scare anybody, but I think there are a bunch of small ships out there—ahead of us, zero-one-three sector oh-nine, moving. They’re out of range now but not far out of range. Look for them when they move—you’ll see the sunlight on them.”
She added, “Paige, keep your eyes peeled, but I don’t think you can see them from the lower turret—they’re ahead of us and high.”
There was a long, heavy silence while Rose continued to tally the probe droids and Nix continued to shunt them back into the racks.
Then Finch suddenly said, “Got ‘em. I mean, I see your bunch of ships, Rose—there are seven of ‘em. In formation. They’re sort of scanning back and forth across that sector—must be some kind of patrol. Could be bandits.”
He meant an enemy, anyone who might attack them.
The pilot paused.
“How many of the droids are we missing?” he asked at last.
Rose checked the list. “Only seven left. They’re just completing an orbit. If we sit here and wait for them, those patrol ships might see us….”
Nix called up, “If we go hide in the asteroid maze again, we’ll miss the rendezvous with the probes and have to wait an hour and a half for them to make another orbit.”
“Or we could turn the engines on and go meet them now,” Paige offered in her calm voice.
Finch gave a quick and bitter laugh. As if that weren’t the most dangerous option available—the option that most risked the StarFortress getting noticed by the patrol of speedy ships that were zigzagging in and out of the top of Rose’s screen and Finch’s field of vision.
“Might as well get it over with,” said Finch. “Nix—Rose—are you in?”
“Always willing to get it over with,” said Nix. “I’m in.”
Rose sighed audibly over everybody’s headset. “Yeah, whatever Paige says.”
“Ready for anything, right? Cool. Let me know what those speedy little patrol guys are up to, Rose,” Finch said. “You’ve got the best view of them.”
“Let me know if you need help getting rid of them,” Rose said. From the flight monitors, she could keep an eye on what the patrol ships were doing, but she’d have to get into the tail gunner’s turret if she needed to shoot at them.
“That’s all but the last three probes in,” Nix announced.
Rose’s attention was still riveted to her screens.
She was beginning to see a pattern to what the patrol of small ships was doing, and she wasn’t sure she liked it.
She was also itching to check on the baffler to make sure it was doing its job. She didn’t like to think what might happen if the speedy ships that glittered across her screens were to notice the Resistance StarFortress sailing quietly along in Atterra Bravo’s orbit, scooping up data-gathering spy droids full of information about what was going on at the planet’s surface.
“Finch, when we’ve picked up all the probes, head straight back into the asteroid maze,” Rose said.
“Got it,” Finch said. Rose couldn’t hear any nervousness in his tone, but she guessed he had to be coming to the same conclusion that she was about the patrol. And it was getting closer and brighter all the time.
The patrol was chasing someone.
The Starfighters were growing near enough that if their pilots has been able to take the time to look, they’d have easily spotted sunlight glinting off the heavy bomber, even if its power trace wasn’t visible.
But they were obviously focused on something else.
They weren’t just routinely tracking back and forth; they were dodging and weaving, their formation breaking and reforming, following a glint of sunlight that streaked ahead of them.
The leading light wasn’t part of the rest of the formation. The sparkle on the screen that led the handful of moving stars wasn’t following the same pattern as the others. It was racing ahead, jinking wildly backward, and then somersaulting suddenly up or down when its path was cut off by one of the other lights.
It was trying to escape.
“How are we doing, Nix?” Finch called anxiously, because the dogfight, or whatever it was, was getting dangerously close. On its current path, Hammer was heading directly into the fray. “Aren’t those probes in yet?”
“One left. One left.”
“Is it in range?”
“Can we just leave it? It’ll run into one of those mines eventually and blow itself up.”
Rose gritted her teeth. “Or maybe we could activate the self-destruct….”
If any of the probes were caught with the information they now carried, it would raise diplomatic questions that could have huge consequences in the New Republic Senate. Who’d sent the spy probes, and why? They were in First Order territory without authorization. The First Order could claim some kind of treaty violation, and Leia’s case against them could be ruined.
Paige reminded the rest of the crew, “If Nix activates that probe’s self-destruct now, the explosion guarantees we’ll get the attention of those ships. It was probably the exploding mines that brought the patrol out here.”
If the Resistance bomber were caught, now carrying nearly a thousand times the cargo of information that a single probe droid carried, they’d have to blow themselves up.
Finch sped with determination toward the last probe, and also toward the strange ships. With each second it seemed more likely that they were going to have to engage with them.
“Here comes that droid!” Rose yelled. “Nix, you ready?”
She stared at the screen. She could tell the droid by its shape. The other ships, closer now, were also beginning to show distinct outlines on the monitor.
Finch, watching the ships at a distance from the pilot’s cockpit, couldn’t see the fine detail that Rose was able to zoom in on.
She called a warning in a low voice.
“They’re TIE fighters. The patrol. They’re First Order TIE fighters!”
“Thanks for the good news,” said Finch. “All of them?”
“I don’t recognize the shape of the thing they’re chasing. It’s like a tube. But tiny—some kind of starfighter? Even smaller than a TIE.”
“Doesn’t look like he’s going to shake them, though,” Finch observed.
“Can we pick up our cargo and get the heck out of here?” Paige called up.
“Wise words from the lower gun turret,” Rose called back.
“Closing on the last probe now,” said Finch. “Nix, let me know as soon as it’s in. I’m going to make a sharp turn out into the belt to get behind those asteroids while I initiate the lightspeed sequence. Then tell me the second the bomb bay doors are shut, because we can’t enter hyperspace until they’re closed.”
“Understood,” said Nix.
“Rose,” Finch continued, “take your place in the tail gun turret—just in case.”
Rose left the monitors and squeezed her way to the tail guns back past the baffler. The big machine hummed steadily. But Rose knew it couldn’t hide them if they were seen.
She settled behind the laser cannon with her hands on the controls.
“Paige?” Rose said.
“I’m flying with you,” her sister answered from below.