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Way of the jedi

May 29, 2015

Hi, I found this languishing on my hard drive. It’s a bit of untidy nonsense I wrote sometime ago. Set during “Return of the jedi.” Enjoy!

The way of the Jedi

Chapter 1: The hunt

Pain – a searing, untameable pain raged through his body. His armour burned and battered, his senses scrambled, he had only one instinct, the instinct to survive. For, he knew that if he fell, if the grappling hook he had deployed a mere nano-second before his plunge had failed, he would have died a rare and terrible death. He breathed, the air was fetid and it made him cough. He looked up, the sky was a deep blue, the twin suns having dipped below their horizon, the clamour of battle long since silent. Mentally he calculated, trying to work out how long he had been suspended, unconscious above the Sarlakpit. With a jolt of realisation he realised that he had been there for half a day. He bulked, realising that for that long, the Tatooine’s suns had blazed over him. He smiled beneath his mask, silently thanking the armour he wore; for without it he would be dead. Not only had it stopped the lightsaber, it had prevented his skin from being reduced to a boiling mess.

The night winds howled, he hung, his body swaying. He could vaguely hear the muffled sound of screams from far below him as people were slowly being digested by the Sarlak, a revolting, tentacle beast that lurked somewhere in the shadows below him. The thought of one of those tentacles reaching out and plucking him down into its stomach galvanised Boba Fett, as with an effort of will he dismissed the phantoms of his past that moved inside his delirious thoughts. His father Jango, the clones, and his father’s downfall. For a moment, lost in reverie he considered how far he had come; from orphan to bounty hunter, the best of them all, hired by Vader himself. That name triggered a memory. Yes, that was it, Solo, carbonite, Jabba. There was something else though, another command that the tall, dark, menacing figure had given him on Cloud city. A tag, a device… that was it, Vader had purchased a custom built tracking device that Fett had attached to… to what? His head hurt, his body ached and the thirst was agony. But, he realised that if he could catch this thought, if he could understand this memory his mission could continue. Fett didn’t fail, he hunted mercilessly. True, most of the mission had gone to plan, he had delivered the frozen Solo to the Hutt, and now he must…. Yes, it came to him in a flash. Vader had told him to track the ship, to follow it to whatever system it flew to. The ship, Fett remembered, was an X-Wing class fighter that had landed in Cloud city. Fett, forever scheming and always logical thought it more beneficial to attach the micro-tracker to the droid rather than the ship. Ships could be changed, refitted, damaged. Droids, especially the astromech units, were treated like pet dogs and not machines. So, Fett decided, at last finding the strength to haul himself up the cable, it was time to track the droid.

The landing platform was no more than a patch of smooth, packed sand with navigational beacons placed around it. Surprisingly there were very few jawas scavenging for scraps of machinery. Fett noticed a solitary, weeping man, one of Jabbas henchman. Although Fett hated small talk he sidled up to the man, his head hairless, nodules, lumps and tentacles hanging from his forehead to fall upon his chest like pale snakes. The man, Bib Fortuna, Jabba’s chamberlain told Fett that the Hutt was dead, and that accounted for the general chaos that Fett had noticed when he observed the palace. Fett experienced no grief at the news, in fact the Hutt was no more than a dirty, slimy smuggler, but he always paid well, and Fett respected that.

Fett shrugged and prepared to enter his ship when he noticed a restraining bolt on the ground. He kicked at it idly, he had seen dozens of these attached to the palace droids. Absent mindedly he picked it up and then remembered something. The restraining bolt, he recalled, could be broken, but Jabba, forever obsessive about his property always inserted a tracker magnifier – a tiny device that gave extra range to the more common trackers. Fett nodded, appreciating the Hutt’s foresight, and realised that it gave him a far better chance to track his prey, the range having almost doubled.

Slowly, his body aching, Fett entered the cool and welcoming interior of his ship. A ship that he loved nearly as much as his armoured suit. With practised speed he performed the pre-flight checks, searched for any detonation or sabotage devices, and then prepared to leave the bleak hostility of the desert planet.

Slave-1 roared into the upper atmosphere, her pilot tuning the onboard scanners to the tracking device’s frequency; casually, decades of experience making him totally comfortable in the air, Fett guided the ship out of the heavily ionised upper atmosphere and into the smooth transition into deep space. He sat back, feet crossed at the ankles, resting on the control console, his suit on his lap, a medi-kit on the floor next to him. He yawned, raided his supplies and ate and drank, replenishing his energy. Then, with the care and dexterity of a surgeon he treated his wounds –burns and cuts before he gazed at his suit. “Bastard,” he croaked. The suit was damaged beyond repair. The propulsion unit was destroyed, the armour buckled, and the weaponry fried. The only undamaged component was the helmet and visor. Angrily he got up, the suit clattering to the deck. It was precious to him, a piece of master engineering, and as close to a replica to his father’s as modern design and materials would allow. He remembered marvelling at his father’s suit. The way it looked, the complete mastery Jango had of it. Every component at peak performance, from the audio intensifiers, to the advanced HUD to the grappling hooks and rocket propulsion unit. But, Boba reflected bitterly, he still got himself killed.

Fed and watered, his injured body healing quickly – his physiology having ultra fast tissue regeneration, his nervous system and infection resistance high. A side-affect of the clones genetic retrieval process his father underwent. Now was the time boredom set in. For Boba was a man of action; whether he was standing at a crowded bar, searching for his target, or negotiating a price for a contract. Fett enjoyed the chase; the breathless, intoxicating thrill of knowing his target was close, that buzz of adrenalin as he caught up with him and delivered the deadly blow or shot. Secretly Fett hated to be called a bounty hunter. He considered himself to be a true professional, an assassin, a seeker. But in truth he realised that at heart he was a hunter, a hunter who hunted throughout the galaxy and worked for the highest bidder, the one who could give him enough credits.

He lounged back in his flight chair, the stars flitting past the view-screen. Slave-1 was set to a search flight plan, the ship travelling in ever increasing circles in an attempt to pick up the signal from the tracking device. Fett didn’t hold up much hope, his mark was probably long gone and the galaxy was a big place. But, he knew that the carbon freeze on Solo had been a success, and, Vader had told him that it was meant for Skywalker, so that he would be delivered to the emperor in pristine condition. He knew that if the track on the droid worked, and if by chance the droid was anywhere near Skywalker, Fett would become a very rich man indeed. But, riches didn’t interest him – the hunt interested him, and this was the hunt for a Jedi – or so the rumours suggested. True the boy could wave a lightsaber about, but he wasn’t exactly big or aggressive; on the contrary the battle aboard the barge had been swift and controlled. He recalled all those years ago when his father battled a Jedi – what was his name… Kenobi? That was a good fight, and even then Boba had loved every stomach churning, heart pounding second. He had even got a few shots in himself with the ship’s blasters. Oh how he would love to find Skywalker, to even the score. He had not only ruined Fett’s precious armour, but he had made him look foolish. If it wasn’t for Fett’s speed he would be inside the stomach of the Sarlak, what a pointless, drawn-out death that would be, totally devoid of glory.

There was nothing left to do but sleep. And sleep, Boba Fett did. He reclined his flight-chair and closed his eyes, hoping he would dream of…. The alarm sounded shrill and loud. He glanced at the view screen where a tiny prick of light was visible. He aligned the receiver and the alarm stopped. There it was, a positive lock. He routed flight control to the receiver and allowed Slave-1 to automatically follow the slowly intensifying signal. But to where? He stared at his star charts and mentally calculated his speed and direction. “The Dagobah system,” he growled. “Never heard of it, must be a malfunction.” He ran a diagnostic and found out that it was not. Shrugging, he once again tried to repair his suit, hoping that a bodge-job would do just until he could get…. Home? Where was home? He shook his head. “Just as soon as I get to Phalak 4.” He said to himself. Phalak 4 was the home planet of a race of armour building experts. What those people could do with a schematic and a laser grinder was sheer poetry. Checking his chronometer Fett realised that this system was still a long way away. “I’ll design a new suit,” he whispered to himself. “Pass the time.” He took a pad and tablet from a locker and went to work.

Gazing at his design he realised that the neat, methodical template was much like his father’s armoured suit. However, Boba Fett had made a few customisations. The personal energy shield was stronger, operating on a multi-channel bandwidth, the rocket propulsion unit had improved thrust, acceleration and distance, and the hyper pulse rifle had an improved range and targeting subroutine. This pleased Fett the most as disintegration was his preferred method of assassination it left no DNA or no traceable wave signature. With a sigh he checked his credit balance with his personal transact or. More than 950000IC, by any one’s standards he was rich. Rich enough to refit his ship and upgrade his suit. He glanced around Slave-1 – despite appearances it was a great ship and Boba was attached to it. Not only because it could out fly most vessels, but because it belonged to his father. A strange sense of isolation crept over Boba – for, despite Jango’s shortcomings as a father, Boba had never met anyone who could out pilot, out shoot or out think his father. He patted the arm of the flight-chair in proprietary pride.

A vague, dim pixel illuminated on the extreme edge of the view screen. Boba diverted secondary systems to the engines, kicking Slave-1 into a hyperspacial thrust. He smiled as the dim prick of light got larger. He surveyed his charts and noted that it represented the major planet in the system, a world called Dagobah. He shrugged, almost dismissing it, for his charts provided scant intelligence. With a scowl he thought of the prize, a chance at a Jedi, a chance to prove himself against Skywalker. And, allied to that was the prize money. Vader would make him obscenely rich, rich enough for Fett to buy a moon. “A moon!” he laughed to himself. “Pah!” material things didn’t interest Boba. He relished the challenge, the stalk, the hunt, the kill. He walked in shadows, he identified his prey and he struck, hard and fast. Then he got away, melting away like the night. He recalled a job he had on Sellus 9, an ambassador had to be “dealt with.” Fett had watched him, had observed his movements. He knew to the second what time the ambassador walked in the atrium, sat in his offices or ate lunch. Fett had hid in a tree, his sights trained on the ambassador. It was a difficult shot, but Fett had made it. The dart had entered the man’s calf and delivered its drug. Fett had hastily picked up the man, commandeered the ambassador’s own transport and bundled him onto Slave-1. By the time the alarms were raised Fett was half way to the rendezvous. And then there was that incident on Correl – Fett smiled to himself. That was genius. The guards didn’t see him, the droids didn’t see him, if it wasn’t for that dog it would have been perfect. Still, it had provided Boba with ample gunnery practice as he left, pursued by a squadron of fighters who were scrambled for sub-atmospheric engagement. And now, his body nearly healed, he sat where he had sat for most of his life, in the cockpit of his ship. But this time it was different, this time he hunted the last of the Jedi.

The alarm jerked Boba out of his reverie. A tiny blinking spec appeared on his screen. Hastily he punched the co-ordinates into the navigational console. It seemed as though the object, under extreme magnification and sensor acuity, was orbiting Dagobah. A sense of excitement galvanised Boba and he felt alive and vital again. Without a thought he re-routed the life support and back-up systems to the engines, willing his ship to close. With a distinct lurch the ship accelerated and Boba silently willed the sensors to identify the blip.

“Come on, come on, give me an ident,” Fett whispered, foot tapping the deck in frustration. At last the ghostly image, a green, pre-rendered schematic of an X-Wing class ship. “Yes!” Fett exclaimed, thudding his fist into his palm. Hastily he donned his repaired suit.

Fett prided himself on his preparation. He intensely, to the point of mania, researched every job, every target, every mark. The fact that Skywalker had managed to best him on Tatooine was a source of unending frustration, anger and self condemnation for Boba. “Not again,” he said to himself, silently looking at a schematic of a lightsaber. “Only good at close quarters.” Fett concluded, punching in a command to show a detailed schematic of an X-wing. In silence he observed every fact, his photographic memory meticulously remembering every inch of the small fighter. He was looking for an advantage, a weak point. He found two. Although the X-wing was a good ship, Slave-1 was faster and had better weaponry.

“It’s time,” Boba said to himself. “Battle stations.” Slave-1 hurtled through space towards a distant green planet. Between Slave-1 and the planet a solitary X-wing fighter flew – a fighter piloted by a young Jedi called Luke Skywalker and co-piloted by a droid with the designation R2-D2. Little did they know that Boba Fett, vengeful and dangerous was in pursuit.

Chapter 2: Desolation

The drizzle hissed down from a grey, dreary sky. R2-D2 stood under the sheltering hull of the X-Wing, whistling mournfully to himself. He hated everything about this planet; from the damp that got into his gears, to the sucking, clinging mud, to the thick undergrowth and fallen logs. Last time he was here that short, green creature had made his master, Luke Skywalker, act totally out of character, resulting in R2 being levitated into the air and unceremoniously dumped on the mossy ground or plunged into the thick swamp. What a totally pointless exercise, R2 mused, his memory buffers idle, his systems set to stand-by. He was about to run a cleaning programme in order to wipe the mud from his optical input device when an internal alarm wined inside the fighter. R2, trundling over the mud, interfaced with the ship and learned that the proximity detector had detected a ship in low geostationary orbit. With an anxious beep, R2 accessed his personal communication array in an attempt to raise master Luke. To R2’s annoyance the planet’s electro-static atmosphere and enormous cloud banks had rendered comms useless. So, R2 decided, he would find master Luke and deliver the alarming news personally.

Fett flew into a giant nimbus of black cloud, his instruments useless in the ravaging electro-static storm that broke all around him. Flying on instinct alone he nursed Slave-1 down through the lower atmosphere and searched for a place to land. With so much mist and cloud this was difficult, for he didn’t want to alert his prey to his presence. Instead, he orbited the small continent and waited for an opportunity. It came in two ways. Firstly, he saw a tiny break in the clouds, the firm mud-flats visible. Then, the storm erupted. Sheets of lightning crackled through the air and the thunder clapped. With extreme care, Fett using only manual manoeuvring thrusters landed Slave-1, the roar of her engine eclipse by the thunder. He checked his tracking system, nodded to himself, armed himself and exited his ship, making sure he had activated the beacon, the channel open to all imperial frequencies.

The firelight flickered, the hut, warm and cosy, redolent with the smell of herbs and cooking. Yoda sat, a bowl of porridge on his lap, his expression wistful. Luke thought he had aged since he had last seen him, but his eyes – they swam with wisdom and tranquillity, infinite compassion and grace. And they still had that spark, that indefinable light that spoke of memory and mischief. They sat, each comfortable in each other’s company, each following their own thoughts and bathing in the radiance of one another’s aura.

Yoda put his bowl down and wiped his mouth with a sleeve. Gathering his gimmer stick he walked towards the door. “Visitors we have,” he said calmly. Luke, knocked over his chair, spilled his porridge and leapt to the door, blaster in hand.
“I’ll deal with it master,” he said confidently. A sad, almost grave expression washed over Yoda’s beloved face, and Luke felt a deep sense of unease.
“Luke,” Yoda began, holding him with his unrelenting gaze. “Promise to obey me will you?”
“Of course master,” Luke said easily.
“Even when obedience brings loss and sadness?” Luke paused.
“If that is your wish master, than yes.”
“Go then, investigate this visitor.”

The dusk birds called, the amphibians croaked and the reptiles slithered. The mists rolled in from the bubbling swamps, and in their murky depths something shifted. Fett lay in thick cover, his HUD showing him a small, rustic hut. From it, a man had stooped. Gone were the dark colours of a Jedi, gone too was the bright orange jump suit of the pilot. Skywalker wore a simple singlet and trousers, the rain dripping of his shoulders and head. Fett knew his prey was good, he knew he only had one shot, one chance to get the dart’s sedative into the Jedi’s bloodstream. Fett held his breath, moss and leaves disguising the profile of his rifle, mud caking his body. There he was, dead in the centre of the cross-hairs.

Luke froze, sensing a presence. Fett froze, only his eyes moving. Fett’s trigger finger took up the slack, and Luke, with the reflexes of an Endorian cat dived aside, the dart thudding into a nearby tree. Instinctively Luke rolled to his feet, his blaster discharging a bolt of energy, the dusk momentarily bright. He ran, the undergrowth snatching at him, the mud sucking at his feet. Fett was a seasoned campaigner, he doubled-back and cut Luke off, forcing him towards the hut. Fett flew at him, a gloved fist crashing into Luke’s jaw, sending him sprawling. The muzzle of Fett’s sidearm pressed into Luke’s forehead, and then it was gone, snatched away by a flick of intention, splashing into a puddle. The lightsaber ignited, bright comets of blazing light illuminated the grey. Fett dodged, ducked and weaved, cursing and staggering.

The door opened and a small, hunched figure emerged, a walking stick supporting him. He held out his hand and Luke’s lightsaber extinguished and clipped itself back onto Luke’s belt. Fett, his expression bemused lunged for Luke, but Yoda’s gimmer stick cracked him a blow across the knees. “Over it is,” Yoda murmured. Fett made to respond but Yoda fixed him with a stare. “Remember this day you will not.” Fett blinked at Yoda.
“Who are you?” he asked.
“Good.”
“You,” Fett turned to Luke, “I…” he broke off, “Mind tricks,” he said, shaking his head.
“Kill you we will if leave you do not.” Fett stared at the creature who seemed to ooze so much authority. And Luke scowled, wishing Yoda would let him use his lightsaber. Seemingly reading his mind Yoda said,
“Anger, defeat it you must. Fett’s death is not necessary.”
“But he’ll alert…”
“Too late,” Yoda frowned, looking up. “Already in motion it is.” Above them a shuttle roared, it’s cargo of storm troopers disgorging and running in battle formation towards them. “Obey me you must. Go, leave me you will.”
“But… but master Yoda,”
“Now!” Yoda asserted, holding out a hand. Luke touched his warm skin and took the tiny data chip from Yoda’s grasp. “Go Luke, done all you can, you have. A Jedi you have become.” Luke, tears blurring his vision sprinted towards his ship and the battalion of storm troopers marched the ancient Jedi master into the shuttle, hands shackled, dignity stripped from him. “Too old to fight I am,” he had told Luke just minutes before Fett had come. “Too old.” Luke swallowed back his grief and shouted at the galaxy for its cruelty and indifference.

Vader wrapped the darkness around himself like a cloak. He used it to heal himself, to cover his frailties, to extinguish the glimmer of light that shone within his heart. For, the force had screamed, a searing, gut-wrenching experience that sent Vader sprawling. He hadn’t felt such pain since… the part of him that was Anakin tried to remember. Since Padme had died. But this was different, this was stronger, this was a jerking, discharge of grief from the very heart of the force, and Vader knew that it was linked to a Jedi. A tear slid down his pale face, the black mask, like the darkness, hiding it, shielding him from prying thoughts and intruding influences.

“MY friend,” Emperor Palpatine, his voice cracking with triumph began. Vader bowed his head automatically. “I commend you on your choice of ally, Fett has exceeded expectation.” Vader waited, tense and expectant. “Lord Vader,” Palatine whispered, almost moved to sexual excitement. “We have a prize greater than any. Greater than Skywalker. We have master Yoda.” Vader’s head jerked upwards and his breathing caught, the respirator for a moment stopping. “Now my friend,” Palpatine continued, a slow grin creasing his waxen features. “Now we are invincible.” That laugh, that creeping, malevolent, taunting laughter Vader knew so well. Speechlessly Vader left his ready-room and hastened towards his meditation centre, Palpatine limping towards his own birth aboard the semi-constructed Death Star.

Chapter 3: Survival

Cold, bleak sterility and darkness. Yoda sat, dejected an alone, every sense stripped of clarity, the world stripped of meaning. Never had he felt so cold, so helpless; space, he recalled was chill, and this prison chilled him. So used was his body to the warmth and humidity of Dagobah, he resorted to deep meditation to prevent his body from shutting down. Of course, it would be easy for him to use the force, but he knew instinctively that if he did so, if he allowed the light to penetrate the darkness, they would sense it, they would glimpse through the vail and see a glimmer of his soul, his very essence. Sighing, he recalled the trip to the space station they called the death star. Sitting aboard the shuttle, clamped into a restraining chair he marvelled at how changed the galaxy seemed. The ships were different, bigger, greyer, the uniforms of the clones different, and even the galaxy felt different, darker somehow, stripped of hope and wonder. When the hulking bulk of the death star loomed into view Yoda felt sad, for to him it signified the fall of a civilisation. How different the sterile, military drab was from the splendour and grandeur of the Jedi temple and the opulent arrogance of Curiscant. Somewhere inside him, Yoda yearned for those days, for those people. Everything was so different. Long years of exile had changed him too. Once he had only the indigenous creatures for company, and the tranquillity of the force, and the spirits who dwelled within it. But now he realised he must, at least for a time, let go of the warm brightness of his companion for so many long ages. The comforting grace of the living force.

“So much confusion and curiosity in you I sense.” Yoda had said to a commander. He shook his head, and, in common with all his men made an effort to gaze out of the view ports and not at Yoda. Was it fear? Was it curiosity? Or was it doubt. Maybe it was a dim sense of shame, an echo of distant memory. For such men once fought alongside Yoda against the droids. But the dreaded command, the small, seemingly insignificant number, 66, had changed so many things. Yoda sighed, the jump to hyperspace making him feel sick. Everything was so different. The only familiar faces swam in his dreams; Kenobi, Jinn, Windu, Ameda, and of course the younglings. When Yoda thought of them, their hearts and minds pure and open, their very essences vibrating with the force, Yoda had to consciously will away the tears of sorrow. For they had been slaughtered by Skywalker, a man Yoda had distrusted, a man with a shadow in his eyes. Still, everything has its place, its time, there are no accidents, just the will of the force.

With his stick Yoda explored his prison. He sent it in arks about his feet, the tip gliding over the smooth floor. With a slide of disappointment Yoda learned that he was on a platform, the floor having disappeared beneath the tip of the stick an arms breath in each direction. He had no idea how far up he was, or how far down the floor was. It could be just out of reach or a gaping chasm. He chuckled to himself, enjoying the ingenuity of the empire, for all ready, depriving him of conversation, light, sound, they had played intelligent and subtle mind games in an attempt to weaken or anger him. For, Yoda was sure, they wanted him to use the force, wanted him to react, that way they could exploit him, explore his very essence and learn the secrets of the Jedi.

Luke sat in the cockpit of his fighter, the ionisation trail of Slave-1 long since evaporated. He was in a high orbit of a planetoid in the Deggobah system, his mind a scrambled mess of confused thoughts, doubts and fears. He had let the imperial shuttle go, respecting Yoda’s wishes. He had watch Fett’s ship disappear into the inky blackness, but now, now he felt trapped, unable to decide. He knew he should reunite with the alliance, join the task force and continue his life, but so much had changed. For now he knew that Vader had told the truth on Besbin. That his words, despite setting Luke’s very soul aflame, had been accurate. Yoda had told him little more, he had instead concentrated on completing Luke’s training. But now Yoda was gone, now the galaxy seemed to stand on the brink of chaos, for if Yoda could be dominated, it left very little chance for the rest of the senscient life that was scattered throughout the splendid expanse of stars that Luke used to dream under as a boy.

“R2,” Luke began. It was the first time he had talked in hours. R2 beeped a response. “Can you project the flight path of Fett’s ship, based on all known variables?” R2 whistled a reply. A star map appeared on Luke’s navigation console. “The Arkarin system.” Luke mused. “Ok, ever been there R2?” R2 replied. “Neither have I. But, it skirts the Endorun sector, it isn’t too far. Right, maintain a full scan R2. Break orbit, let’s get out of here.”

And then the light came, searing, painful, blinding. It was like a star engulfing him completely. His eyes closed against it, his mind trapping it and absorbing it. But it hurt too much. He covered his eyes with his hands and cringed away, his eyes, naturally large, blasted by the overload of agonizing white. And then the sound came, a high-pitched noise hat seeped into Yoda’s oversized ears and made them bleed. Agony, eyes seemingly on fire, ears on fire, his whole head – his mind scrambled. Part of him knew that if he just dipped into the force he could control it, he would feel no pain and his eyes and ears would be unaffected. If only he just let in some of the light, the pain would go away. But he knew the consequences, he knew that that was exactly what they wanted. Instead, he cringed, rolling up in a ball, trying to protect his senses, and thought of the warm, green trees that grew in the shady forests of Dagobah.

Chapter 4: Dissillusion

Luke stalked the streets like a predator. His head full of doubt, fear, expectation and broken dreams. He felt thin, worn, tattered; part of him knew he should rejoin the rebellion, but most of him wanted to run, get as far away as he could from the creature who was his father. Shame blossomed inside him like a dark, insipid flower; if anyone found out about his lineage they would surely judge him, hate him, and most of all, distrust him. Secrets, Luke knew, were always dangerous, they had a strange way of surfacing when you least expect it. So, he decide to take the middle ground, to find somebody on which to vent his frustration and anger, a project that would give him time to think, to meditate and reflect. In truth he didn’t even know what Fett could tell him, but he knew Fett had called the troops, and they had taken Yoda. He shook his head, avoiding a pool of grease on the pavement. Why did Yoda go so quietly? Maybe it was destined, or maybe Yoda was too old to fight, or maybe, Luke scowled, Yoda doubted Luke’s ability, not trusting him to take on a squad of troopers. Sighing, Luke looked to the sky, a purple, cloud filled mess that seemed to reflect perfectly Luke’s troubled mind.

In stately procession the ships entered orbit, their sub-atmospheric thrusters glowing. For the past few days they had arrived in dribs and drabs, ships limping to the co-ordinates, some barely able to sustain life support. Slowly, the massive transports ejecting their small hoppers, the rebel alliance landed.

Amdrum, a tired, ancient world – little more than a rock, devoid of atmosphere. The long abandoned Bovite mines echoed with the sound of chattering voices, the artificial life support units humming, cleaning and processing the stale air, and pumping in a refined gas mixture. People and droids busied themselves with machinery and repairs; some ferrying equipment, some working on ships. The vast cavern was no more than a warehouse, temporary partitions a nod towards privacy, as quarters were hastily set-up.

“Chewie!” Solo shouted. The wookie, brandishing a hyper-spanner shambled over. “How many drive units are left?” Chewbacca roared a reply, and Han scowled. “Ok. Listen, I don’t know about you but I don’t want to stay on this rock for too long. What say we… you know,” he winked. “Yeah, that’s right, take the falcon for a…” he stroked his chin. “Test flight?” Chewie snorted. “Ok, after the briefing. You up for it? We might get Leia a bit upset.” Chewie smiled. “I couldn’t care less!” Han beamed, tip-toeing to clap the wookie on a shoulder.

“Excuse me,” Luke said, civilian clothes trying to disguise him, not wishing his Jedi apparel to draw attention to himself. The man – no, the creature, a triple eyed gogvark with long tentacles and wide, splayed webbed feet, looked at him.
“Outlander,” he remarked. “What do you want?”
“I’m looking for…”
“No work here. If you want to earn credits go to the imperial command base and join the construction teams.”
“Sorry?”
“The space station.” A tentacle waved towards the sky. “Death star 2.”
“Right,” Luke mused, a chill prickling him. “Actually I’m looking for a person. A bounty hunter called Boba Fett.”
“Plenty of those sort in the twilight club. Three sectors west.”
“Thanks.” Luke smiled, walking towards the grey mass of buildings, trying to avoid being run over by a passing speeder.

“R2?” Luke spoke into his comm-Link. “The energy signature matches, I’ve saw the ship, it’s in docking bay 9a. Take our ship into orbit, I don’t want to draw attention to myself.” R2 bleeped a reply. “That’s right, I’m looking for him now.”

They sat, Ackbar standing in front of them, an old-fashioned pointer in his hand, the holographic projection unit having not yet been unpacked from the mass of crates that filled the main cavern. “Now,” he began, looking down at Solo, Mothma, Leia, and all the pilots and soldiers that made up the alliance. For a moment he felt sad, for he knew that inevitably some of those men would not return, would not share a drink or a joke with comrades, would not complain to the technicians about sheer and torque. He knew that the decisions he made had devastating and far reaching consequences. Not only for the rebels, but for the whole galaxy.

“Now, my friends,” he cleared his throat and tapped the screen. A diagram appeared on it. “Our spies report that the death star is fully operational.” A murmur of disappointment and despair filled the cavern. “But, it is not through technology the empire rule, it is through personalities. It is our plan to eliminate those who dominate. This plan is an old one, it was laid down before some of us were born. The genius of the plan is that those who are involved in it are not even aware of it.” A murmur of anxious voices and laughter. “This plan is based on faith, based on belief, based on the force.”
“Nonsense!” a pilot shouted. “We can’t just sit back and watch that station grow, watch the empire thrive!”
“No, we can’t,” Ackbar said calmly. “Here,” he tapped the screen and a planetary system shone. “Endori,” Ackbar continued. “Heavily fortified source of workers and troops. We will do this…” he cleared his throat and wheezed. “One attack group will engage the SSDs, the other will engage the sub atmospheric taskforce on Endori. After the irspace is secured we will land soldiers to secure the major city. No energy, no motion, no workers, no station.”
“Hold on Admiral,” Solo stood up. “How operational is the death star?”
“It has weaponry and shields, but no propulsion. We cannot risk a frontal assault.”
“And this plan.” Han scowled. “Assassination?” Mothma joined Ackbar.
“No general, destiny.”
“You’re planning our futures on a hunch? On destiny and belief!” he sneared.
“There’s nothing left, Yoda is gone, Luke has disappeared, our numbers are decimated, our ships are damaged. What would you do General Solo?”
“Fly away/. As far away as I can go.” He stood up and walked away.
“Your orders,” Mothma cleared her throat. “Will be on your data pads at 07:00. Thank you. May the force be with us all.”

“Han,” Leia caught up with him at the hangar doors. He stood, hands on hips, eyes wild with anger and disappointment. “Wait, please,” she touched his elbow and he pulled away.
“You’re letting some half-baked philosophy dictate policy. You’re sitting back and doing nothing while the galaxy is imploding.”
“No, not at all. We are acting, we are engaging with the empire on Endori, we are taking out as many super star destroyers as we can.”
“You sound like Mothma, like a politician.”
“I am a politician.”
“Well I’m not.”
“Please, we need you, you and Chewie..”
“You need my ship, not me. And what about Luke?”
“I need him too.”
“So where is he?”
“He’s a Jedi,” she changed tack.
“So he says,”
“You’ve seen what he can do but still you doubt it.”
“I don’t doubt he can wave around a light saber, but the force… maybe it exists, maybe it doesn’t. But me and my boys can’t sit back and swallow everything Ackbar says, what’s it based on anyway?”
“Faith and Yoda.”
“Yoda?”
“Yes, many high ranking rebels believe his capture was part of the will of the force.”
“Right.”
“Han,” her eyes flashed. “What would you do? Assault the deathstar? A fully operational one I might add.” Han frowned.
“No, I would… I don’t know Leia.” He swept a tired arm across his eyes. “I’d find a way to lower the shields.”
“The shield generator is on a moon called Endor, it’s heavily guarded.”
“Ok princess, what would you do?”
“What I am doing Han, waiting, waiting and fighting on Endori. I’m certainly not going anywhere near the death star, not after what it did to Alderon.” Han grimaced, features softening. “Please stay, I need you.” She grasped his hand. “You don’t have to believe in the force, just believe in the alliance, believe in me.”

The doors hissed open, spilling bright light into the dark cell. The figure, dark, tall, loomed large, the sound of his respirator loud in the silence. Yoda opened his eyes and blinked into the light. For the first time he could see his surroundings. The platform on which he sat was a mere four feet high, the floor just out of reach of his stick. He smiled to himself, enjoying for a moment the freedom to express a sense of surreal futility the platform had imbued. Fear, Yoda reflected, was a step on the path to the dark side, the dripping, cold, fear that slunk into his mind, effortlessly slipping passed his defences.

“Master Yoda,” The voice, deep, processed, made Yoda look up. “It is time.” Yoda switched off, totally avoiding the surging storm front of conflicting emotions, the patchwork of black and white that touched the force.
“A long time it has been young Skywalker.” Vader took an involuntary step back. “A ship, a cup, the images you saw. What see you now?” Vader shook his head, sensing absolutely nothing from Yoda.
“Come, the emperor wishes you to join him.”

Chapter 6: Falling

He sat, dejected, alone, his mind a frigid place; cold, devoid of colour. For a moment he was reminded of Hoth, but in his mind the snow was black and not white. Hoth, that seemed an age ago, he was a different man, innocent, keen, young. That was before his training, before Yoda, before the bombshell of truth had exploded inside his heart, the shrapnel making him feel sick and vulnerable. He sipped a glass of Jawa juice, it reminded him of Tattooine, of the cantinas and bars, of rough men and good company. “Cheers,” he said aloud, raising his glass to thin air. “To you, whoever you are.” She sat opposite him, a young woman, her trade apparent by her attire. She grinned at him, pouted and sipped her drink.

“So you’re after Boba Fett?” she said. Luke nodded. “Well honey, stick around, he’ll be here soon.”
“Is he a customer of yours?” Luke asked conspiratorially, leaning towards her. She shook her head and laughed.
“No. He has a contact here, he comes here when he’s between jobs. He likes it here, likes us. But…” her expression changed from open to closed. “They’re here now,” she nodded towards a group of men who sat in the corner. “They work for the Empire.”
“I see.”
“So, if you’re looking for work, they’re hiring, want to finish the engines of that station of theirs.”
“How do you know that?” Luke asked, genuinely surprised at the intelligence.
“Honey, it’s amazing what they talk about in bed.”
“Anything else you want to let slip?” Luke grinned, sliding across a small pile of credits. Miraculously they disappeared.
“Well,” she whispered, avoiding his eyes. “They say that it’s over, the Empire has won, now there’s three of them there’s nothing we can do.”
“Three?”
“Sith, whatever they are.” Luke’s blood froze. “Do you believe that?”
“Don’t care,” she shrugged. “As long as they pay, I really don’t care. Speaking of which, do you want to…?” she leaned forward, her ample triple-breasted cleavage enticing.
“No, no I’m here for Boba.”
“Pity. Do you need his services?”
“Kind of.”
“You’re in luck, here he is.” She nodded towards a tall swarthy man, and Luke realised that he wouldn’t have recognised him, for he had only ever seen him in his armour and helmet.

Luke watched Fett order a drink and take a seat. Dusk was falling fast, and the Twilight club was filling up with all manner of people; from merchants to labourers, miners to those who just seemed to be looking for a fight. A group of off duty engineers in Imperial uniforms, a knot of hopper pilots, a couple of men who played cards. Soon, Luke mused, they would dim the lights and turn on the music. They would turn a blind eye to pretty much anything as long as you paid your tab.

“Excuse me,” Luke said, standing at Fett’s table. Fett started, reaching for his blaster. “No, don’t make a scene.” He waved a hand and the blaster clattered to the floor. “I think you know me, don’t you?” Fett shrugged sheepishly. “I have something to discuss with you.”
“I’m not in the mood, piss off.”
“Tell me Boba, how did you know where to find Yoda?” confusion shaded his face and he shook his head.
“I don’t know what you’re on about. I went to that swamp planet, found you and the troopers came. You got away somehow, and now I’m here, it’s business, nothing personal.”
“Really? So you don’t know where Yoda is?”
“Your guess is as good as mine. Now if you don’t mind I’m expecting a guest.”
“So how did you find Deggobah?”
“A simple track on your R2 unit.” Luke mentally kicked himself. “Listen, you got the better of me on Tattooine, but it won’t happen again. I’ve no quarrel with you, but you’d raise a good price if I took you to Vader.” Luke laughed.
“And how would you do that?” Fett smirked and reached beneath the table. Before Luke knew what he was doing, he had pressed a hidden button. A silent alarm went off, and as if from nowhere the club was filled with bounty-hunters and storm troopers, weapons raised. The trap had been sprung, and Luke felt stupid, young and very naive.

The force, a psychological, preternatural phenomenon; a name given to the power that unifies, binds and exists throughout the universe. The force, some say is an emotional manifestation of a biological being, the microbes that inhabit cells, the metachlorians that thrive inside those who are chosen or blessed. The force, an ever present universal spirit that imbues the few with great ability. Like a cosmic wind the force wrapped Luke in a calming, warm embrace. And like the winds that blow across the dune sea, the force whispered to him. “Live in the moment, let go of anger and fear,” it said in a familiar voice, a voice that sounded like his old master Obi wan Kenobi. Luke closed his eyes and let his conscious mind drift, his body let go and give itself to the now, the perfect dance of balance and beauty. His blade hummed into existence, the air crackling with energy, the centre of his being attuned to the universal frequency of harmony and light. In a glimmering ark the blade parried a blow from IG-88’s robotic arm, sending it fizzing to the ground. Zuckass’ paralyser ray was flung aside by a deflected energy bolt from a troopers blaster. For Luke, the world seemed to slow down; he could see the lasers, sense them disrupting the air. He had time to raise his saber and parry them aside.

Chaos and carnage; the club filled with injured and dead people, furniture broken, cries of surprise and fear eclipsing the heavy, entrancing music. Luke disengaged his blade and clipped his hilt back into his belt clip. He stood, panting and sweating, not quite believing what he had done. Somewhere an alarm sounded trill and urgent. He ran, ran as fast as he could, avoiding imperial patrols and fire fights, his blaster discharging accurately, knocking white-armoured troopers to the ground. He ran, his breathless voice briefly contacting his droid, his legs carrying him, a mixture of anger, fear and relief fuelling him.

Inside his fighter it was warm and secure, the space outside black, punctuated only by stars. He trembled with reaction, unable to understand or believe he was capable of such things, of wielding his blade with such skill. He shrugged to himself, forehead moist. “I’m still his son,” he muttered. “I must have his genes, that’s why I…” he broke off. “That’s why I can fight.” He sighed and rubbed his eyes. “I hate him, everything he is, everything I might become.” He unclipped his lightsaber from his flight suit and examined it. “I wonder if it’s like his..” he mused. “Just a different coloured blade.” He scoffed. R2-D2 bleeped a question. “Where are we going?” Luke considered. “I’ve no idea. Probably Tattooine where I belong.” R2 whistled. “Don’t worry R2, when we’re in orbit I’ll eject in an escape pod, you can pilot the ship back to the rebellion, I won’t steal her.” He closed his eyes, confusion and doubt swimming inside his head like great Krettalion sharks.

The tie-fighter weaved and bobbed expertly, flying in an evasive flight pattern that most pilots found impossible to follow. Through the ionosphere it tripped, into the clouds it hovered before catapulting back into space. It had peeled off from its squadron, the other interceptors and bombers operating at low altitude against the Y and B wings. In space the X-wings engaged with them, delta group and a detachment of bombers engaging with the star destroyers and frigates, trying to secure the airspace before the ground assault.
“His really getting on my nerves,” Han growled, peering down the scope of his canon. Chewie, flying expertly kept the Falcon on the lone fighter’s tail, moving with it, allowing it no room for manoeuvre. Han pulled the triggers and the tie exploded in a blossom of yellow light. “Good flying buddy.” Han congratulated the wookie. “Now let’s join the others, Lando has a trick or two up his sleeve to make those destroyers think twice.”

Leia stood on the bridge of her command ship, eyes following the action, the smooth movement of ships in formation, the expert breaking away manoeuvre, and the close range engagement, the hulk of the Death Star in the background. She knew that this was just a distraction, that their real goal was the taking of the major cities of Endori. If they could strangle the power supply, the workforce and maintain a rebel presence on the surface than maybe it would take them longer to complete their space station. Maybe, just maybe this would give the rebellion a slight advantage.

“Highness,” a tinny voice crackled from her comm. “We have a message from home base.” Leia froze, hoping beyond hope that the empire hadn’t discovered their latest refuge.
“Go ahead.”
“An X-wing fighter has just landed.”
“Go on…?”
“It is unmanned, piloted by R2-D2.”
“Luke’s?”
“Yes. He’s not aboard.” This time she did freeze, a cold shadow of despair creeping over her.
“Very well. Speak to R2 and seal the fighter, when I get back I will inspect it personally.”
“Very well. Just to let you know, an escape pod has been jettisoned, but there’s no sign of battle damage.”
“Thank you commander,” clipped, professional, a shield against fear. “I will personally inspect the cockpit on my return.” She didn’t know why, but for some reason this seemed important to her.

“Lord Vader,” the officer bowed low. “There is a communication for you from Endori.”
“Patch it through,” Vader said, voice vibrant, low, menacing and charged with authority. He recognised instantly the face that filled the screen.
“Lord Vader,” Boba Fett began. “I have information for you.”
“Go on.”
“For a price…”
“Tell me.”
“For a…” Fett coughed. “For a…” his windpipe constricted, his eyes bulged from their sockets. “I…” his heart thudded in his chest, racing, too fast to contain.
“Speak bounty hunter.” Vader said, releasing Fett, disconnecting his mind from the darkness that was his companion, the pure nourishing presence that he both loved and hated.
“Skywalker,” Fett gasped. “Is on Tattooine.”
“Very good. Meet the ISSSD Fury and claim your reward.” He turned away from the view screen, his heart twisted with conflicting emotions.

Yoda sat in his cell, recalling the recent events. He had stood before the Emperor, had gazed into his implacable yellow eyes.
“Long time it has been,” Yoda had said.
“Last time we met we were in battle,” Palpatine reflected. The chamber was shrouded in shadow. Pale lights illuminated the ceiling, the large circular room devoid of furniture except for a throne carved from a single piece of bauxite – black, shot through with tiny red crystals. Vader stood behind the throne, his expression unreadable beneath his mask.
“Yes,” Yoda replied, staring straight into those cold, yellow eyes.
“You have done well master Yoda,” Palpatine smiled, broken teeth, broken promises; shrouded thoughts and twisted meaning dripping from every pore. “To avoid us for this long. It was almost as if, as if you wanted to be captured.”
“Old I am, very old.” Yoda coughed. It was true, the creature had aged, had shrunk. Palpatine reached into the force and tried to sense Yoda, to touch his essence, but he could not.
“Speak to me of Jinn,” Palpatine commanded.
“Dead he is. Slain by the beast Maul your apprentice.”
“Ah yes, of course. But you are keeping things from me, trying to deceive me. You are playing a dangerous game.” Yoda shook his head and stood motionless.
“Master Yoda,” Palpatine said. “You must know that all is lost. Bow to me and I shall show you mercy.” Yoda laughed and stood defiantly on one foot. Anger creased Palpatine’s features; he longed to strike out, to call the force and destroy the little green freak once and for all, but… but he knew he had secrets.

“Very well,” Palpatine said. “You choose the hard road.” He clicked his fingers and five red-robed guards ushered Yoda out of the audience chamber and back into his cell. And there he sat, waiting, watching, meditating, dreaming.

Chapter 8: Skirmish

The briefing was crowded, hot and tense. They stood and sat where they could, crammed in the small space, outrage threatening to boil over into recriminating words. They had all lost friends, had all suffered – and they were all tired of the fight and looking to vent their frustrations. Admiral stood, Mon Mothma at his side, Leia sitting just in front of them, her expression vacant, her eyes heavy with lack of sleep.

“It was a rout!” a soldier shouted. “We were hopelessly outgunned, it’s a miracle any of us came back at all!” a murmur of agreement washed around the room.

“On the ground it was chaos,” another man began. “We took heavy casualties, and for what?” Ackbar cleared his throat.

“The operational parameters were clear, we were attempting to slow down or halt the work on the station’s propulsion units.”

“But, regrettably we failed.” Mothmas said softly.

“Now what?”

“What do you mean General Solo?” Ackbar asked.

“What’s next for us? Retreat? Hide? Or fight?”

“Your orders,” Ackbar began, “Will..”

“I’ve had enough of orders Admiral.” Solo spat. “They never got me anywhere. I’ve had it, sick to death with these tactics.”

“General, what do you mean?” Ackbar looked concerned.

“Me, Chewie and the Falcon are leaving. Anyone who wants to come with me, you’re welcome. Lando?” Lando shrugged.

“Listen,” Mothma tried to contain the mounting sense of despair that threatened to grip the room.”The Death Star is nearly complete. With functioning engines it will become a super-weapon and then…” she broke off. “And then other worlds will fall. We must attempt to destroy it. Yes, I accept that the ground assault was unsuccessful, but we must not give up!”

“What do you suggest, land on Endor and lower the shields? They’ll expect it, the generator will be too heavily guarded.” Solo shook his head. “No, we’re off, I never wanted to get involved in this little Rebellion anyway. Like I said, if anyone wants to join us, docking bay 9 at 0800. Me and a few snub-nose fighters can do more than the whole fleet.” An outraged murmur turned into raised voices. The raised voices turned into shouts and Ackbar had to call for order. He began to do this, opening his mouth in an attempt to gain control of the situation; but nobody heard his words, the discharge of energy was too great, the explosion too loud, the Star Destroyer seeming to come out of nowhere to savage the Rebel command ship in crippling fire.

The claxons sounded, the fighters scrambled, but they were too late, the TIEs engaged with them too quickly, too expertly, not letting them get near the hulking Super Star Destroyers.

From hyperspace another three came, Home-3 mauled by scorching plasma and fury.

Frantic orders were barked and obeyed, power was reassigned to vital systems, but the shields still buckled. Out in space X and Y wings exploded in macabre blossoms of light, and still the enemy closed.

“Abandon ship!” Ackbar commanded. “Meet at the co-ordinates.” Running men, confused droids. Ships and escape pods launching into the vastness, but still Leia stood, gazing out of the view port, mesmerised and distant.

“Princess Leia,” Mothma shouted over the clamour. “We must go, our ship can’t take any more punishment.” Leia didn’t move. “Please. Now!” a piece of exploding circuitry hit Mothma in the chest and she was flung to the floor. Medics and droids took her away, leaving Leia in a smoky haze.

“Leia!” the voice was familiar, and for a moment she was wrenched back into the present. “What’s wrong with you, have you got a death wish?” she turned and shook her head slowly. “The staff want you out, want us all out. She’s going to blow any minute!”

“Where’s Luke?” Leia whispered.

“No idea. Probably in some bar, now move it!”

“I didn’t believe it at first, but now I do.”

“Yeah, whatever, come on!”

“I must find him Han, I must.”

“Yeah, well maybe, but you have to come.”

“Vader, it’s always been about Vader.”

“Right, you asked for it. Chewie!” with a growl, the enormous Wookie picked up Leia and carried her towards the docking bay where the Millennium Falcon waited.

“The fleet is scattered, the Rebellion all but destroyed. The Death Star is operational, and all is lost.” The waxen features of Emperor Palpatine glared down at Yoda. “As I speak, Lord Vader and a squad of storm troopers pursue young Skywalker, so take your blade, use all your hatred and anger. Take your Jedi weapon and strike me down!” Palpatine’s voice echoed in the throne room, the red-robed guards looking on silently.

“Many things you know, but not all.” Yoda whispered. “Destroy me you may, but more powerful I will become.”

“I sense it, millennia of fury, millennia of anger welling up inside you. Use the force, dip into it and become strong. Avenge the death of so many Jedi.”

“He will come,” Yoda said, smiling.

“Who?”

“You will see.”

“Then, you shall die!” with this, blue bolts of lightning shot out of the Emperor’s fingertips and sent Yoda skidding across the room.

Chapter 9: Trail

He had told him to wait, to be patient and constant. He, the man, the monster, the arch manipulator – he who had saved his life and had broken his soul. He with the waxen skin and yellow eyes, the enchanter and the enchanted, the darkness and the shadow. Vader had bowed low, his feelings of conflict cloaked by the darkness. He had indeed felt the presence of the boy, and, as the flickering image of Palpatine had said, the boy, his son, was indeed coming to him.

When the planet had first emerged from the darkness, Vader, alone in his ship, his cohort of troopers a respectful distance behind him, had felt a lurch, an uncontrollable sense of destiny. At first, fighting against the pain of physical injury and the agony of betrayal and Padme’s death, he had dreamed often of this place of sand and heat. He had woke in the night, imprisoned in his cocoon of anger, fear and technology and had wept dry tears for the boy he could barely remember. Now he had landed on the planet, now he felt the sand crackling beneath his boots, the images rushed back with such a ferocity he had to fight the urge to shout. But once again his old friend was beside him. The dark, the warmth of the bleak cloak of the dark side had absorbed the feeling and numbed him, perverting it into anger and action. But still he stood, anchored by the past, the images in his head as clear as the Tattooine suns.

He was there again, in his pod racer, the sand a blur, the sky a perfect jewel. And then she was there, Padme, smiling at him. But this time it was different. In his sleeping dreams Padme’s face always morphed into the sarcastic, arrogant grinning visage of Kenobi, and Vader once more would feel hatred and anger. But now, in this semi-dream, Padme laughed, and there was no pain, no anger.

“Orders sir?” the trooper repeated. Vader snapped out of his reverie.
“We will go to the nearest space port. Skywalker will come to me. You will not open fire, you will do only my bidding.”
“Very good. “the commander snapped off a perfect salute.

Luke had been watching the loading of the small freighter for some time. He stood, hidden by the shadows of a pillar, assessing the nature and worth of the crew. Men and droids fussed about the ship, refuelling and refitting it for another trading mission. Its captain, a tall, fair-haired man, seemed to be treating his people well; they all followed orders, carried them out quickly and efficiently. Luke was about to walk over and introduce himself when he stopped. Inside him something lurched, it felt as though his heart was about to burst and his head explode. He closed his eyes and tried to meditate it away, the way master Yoda had taught him. He shivered, swallowed, then noticed the heightened tension in the small space port. Droids moved faster, men talked in urgent whispers. Small arguments broke out, and ships were boarded without their cargo manifests being fully checked, or their cargo bays fully loaded.

Then he saw them, a small group of men in white armour – undoubtedly Imperial soldiers. He tried to run, but he couldn’t. He tried to rouse himself, but he felt heavy and lethargic. Then he heard the mechanical breathing, and silence descended.

“So princess, where’s this new base of yours? Another barren rock in the middle of nowhere I bet.”Solo asked, fatigue kicking in. They had managed to avoid many of the hot spots, but had been forced to engage the enemy in battle a handful of times. But, true veterans, Han ?Solo and Chewbacca had a few tricks up their sleeves, and the Falcon was a good ship – fast and manoeuvrable.

“Sorry?”
“I asked you where… oh never mind, I’m going for a nap, 3po and R2 can maintain scans.” With this, he stormed off to his quarters.

Leia had been acting strangely ever since Luke’s X-Wing had returned. Han had puzzled it over, but couldn’t understand why she was being so quiet and anxious. He had tried to talk to her, tried to make her laugh, tried to make her angry, but nothing had worked, she just sat, clutching a data chip and staring at the bulk head like a captive Rhamtek cat. What the hell, he thought. She can play hard to get all she likes, I don’t care. But the problem was, he did care, that’s why he paced his quarters and swore to break Luke’s nose the next time he saw him for causing so much trouble.

“R2, do you know where we’re going?” the droid whistled a reply and Hand scowled at the comm.. “It can’t be classified, this is my ship, my navi-computer, tell me where we’re going or I’ll deactivate you.” R2-D2 beeped and whistled furiously. “You’re not too special little buddy. Besides, I bet if I ask really nicely my own computer will tell me.” R2 chirped, and to han is sounded like laughter. “Not if you tell the computer not to! Why you little…” Han’s voice was cut-off, Leia’s voice came over the comm. Channel.

“Han, relax, R2 is taking us to Luke, or at least the last place R2 saw him.”
“Hold on, on whose time lady”
“Don’t worry Solo, you’ll be compensated for your troubles. There are bigger things in the galaxy than your ego. Besides, I thought you’d be relieved, you told me you didn’t want any further part in this rebellion anyway.” Silence, the comm. Crackled with static.
“Listen princess, I’m not going out of my way for one man…”
“Listen Solo,” Leia spat, “Luke rescued us, the least we can do is be there for him.”
“What are you talking about? Luke left of his own accord. He doesn’t need rescuing. I’ve had enough of following orders, from now on I’m my own boss.”
“He’s in trouble,” Leia whispered through the comm., Solo stopped his incessant pacing and sat on his bunk, imagining Leia on the deck above, staring into space.
“How do you know, had a feeling have you?” Silence. “Come on Leia, this isn’t your style…”
“Yes, I had a feeling. He needs us.”
“Everyone thinks they’re a damned Jedi!” Han grimaced helplessly. “Ok, but the first sign of trouble we’re out of here. Understand? I’m getting too old for this.”
“Ok, it’s your ship.”
“You got that right. Tell Chewie to prep for the jump to light speed, we want to do this quickly, in and out.”

Chapter 10:Message

Luke didn’t have time to kick himself, for he knew he had walked into a trap, that this meeting was more than just fluke, it was destiny’s urge, the will of the force. He stopped, his muscles relaxing, his heart slowing, his breathing slow. He closed his eyes and it felt like sinking into a warm pool. He sunk into the force, the graceful radiance of it filling him, the calm breath charging him with purpose and ability. He felt no anger, no pride, nor even fear.

Instead he felt a complete acceptance of his situation and ignited his lightsaber.

Vader paused, dismissing his men with a wave of the hand. Luke advanced, his green blade shooting stars and comets of reflected brilliance off Vader’s black helmet. He came in fast, the tip of his saber lancing for the throat. Casually, Vader sidestepped and knocked Luke’s hilt aside with a gauntleted hand. For a second off balance, Vader came in again, this time using the darkness, using the vast well of the force to push Luke into a nearby pillar. Luke pushed off, somersaulting into the air, springing away at an impossible angle – he came in again, his blade a green blur. Vader ducked and moved, eventually forced to ignite his own weapon. It sprang to life, a crimson glow. Luke came in again, low and fast, going for the stomach and hips. Vader parried and then came in himself, numbing Luke’s arm and shoulder with the power of the blow. Mercilessly Vader came in again, sparks flying, Luke forced back towards the sandstone wall, his blade defending his life in ever tighter circles.

“Give up,” Vader began. “Come with me to the Emperor, or be destroyed.” Luke could not reply, his breath was pushed out of him by a block of stone that Vader sent flying.
“Just us,” Luke panted. “No tricks, just blades.”
“Very well,” Vader said, letting the darkness fall away, the pressure in Luke’s head decreasing. “As you wish.”

“I don’t believe it!” Han shouted, punching the view screen. “It’s a blockade!” Leia stood beside him, eyes wide. The yellow planet glowed, but the massive grey hulks of the Super Star Destroyers was unmistakable, fleets of TIE fighters and frigates swarming around them. “Assuming you’re right, and Luke’s back on that rock. Where is he, and how the hell do we get to him?” Leia shook her head. “Because, something’s up, either the Empire knows we’re coming, or they’re trying to keep Luke on the surface.”
“Any smart ideas Princess?” Leia said nothing and then smiled.
“It’s too much ,too big, even with their resources,” she mused.”Tell me, where was the Falcon docked?”
“Bay… 12 I think.”
“They’re trying to stall us.”
“What do you mean?”
“I can’t put my finger on it…” she tutted. “But, there’s something wrong in the Rebellion.”
“Look, I haven’t time for this. I’m getting out of here.”
“Who’s your designated technician?”
“Chewie of course.”
“I mean planet-side.”
“I don’t trust anyone to go near my ship accept those with clearance. Just the other day I had a fault on the docking clamp and I asked for a technician because Chewie was busy.”
“And it was fixed?”
“Sure!”
“Who did the work?”
“I don’t like the look of that course change,” he pointed to a dot on the screen that was breaking away from the main group.”
“Just tell me please.”
“Umm, a droid,”
“One of the new batch?”
“I think so. Why, where are they from?”
“I don’t know, but I intend to find out. It’s a false display, an illusion. Someone, or some droid has implanted a false sensor image of Tatooine.”
“Why?”
“To keep us talking, keep us away.” For a moment nobody spoke; there was silence apart from the sound of the Falcon’s engines and the intermittent noise of equipment.

“I don’t by it,” Hand began, rubbing his chin. “Surely the Rebellion make their own droids, they don’t just buy them..?”
“Sometimes, if we need them in a hurry we buy them from a very good, very reputable source.”
“Ok sweetheart, so assuming your source is good, do you have any other explanations?” Leia nodded her head, but Chewie growled.
“Good point Chewie,” Han smiled.
“What is?” Leia’s eyes flashed.
“What’s with that data chip you keep looking at. The one that you haven’t left alone?” Leia subconsciously touched the pocket of her flight jacket.
“Nothing. Just a message, a data chip, nothing more.”
“Activate it,”
“No.”
“Why?”
“It’s personal…”
“Ok, then don’t play it, just switch it on. Chewie, scan for any sub space signals that thing might emit. R2, help him, re-set the sensors.” Reluctantly, Leia switched on the chip.

“There!” Han smiled, Chewie barked and R2 beeped enthusiastically. “It’s sending a signal. There you are Princess, it’s your data chip.”
“But…” she switched it off. “How?”
“Clever. A sub space signal wrapped in an image file. But the question is, what else has it done?” Leia shook her head.
“Can’t you track retrospectively now we’ve tagged the signal and isolated it?” “I’m sure R2 could, I couldn’t, I haven’t a clue!”

“There,” Han breathed, “Sensors and navigation.”
“The co-ordinates for the alliance, the next safe point of recall; if we are meeting with the fleet we should see the co-ordinates for Rentelik Prime, I don’t recognise these co-ordinates.” Chewie punched a key and a star map shone.
“I don’t recognise it,” Han whispered, “But it’s a long way from here.”
“So,” Leia stood straight, once again in command, authority charging her with energy. “We are to assume that all the ships are heading for that point in space, their navi-computers having automatically routed them.”
“Yep, that’s a fair guess.”
“So, we join them.” Leia smiled.
“Wait a second sweetheart, who gave that command? Who wrote that program? Who, in short, sabotaged the fleet? Who wants to reroute us and keep us away from Tatooine?”
“Don’t know.”
“Where’s the chip from?”
“I found it on Luke’s X-wing.”
“So it’s his?”
“Maybe, maybe not. Maybe somebody gave it to him.”
“Who?”
“I have no idea.” She smiled. “But, we have no choice but to follow.”

***

He hadn’t heard the sound in a long time. At first he thought it was part of his dream, a vague memory of long ago days. He woke up slowly from his doze, his muscles aching from long hours of hard work. And there it was again, a tiny beeping like an insistent Ramshi mouse. He got to his feet, walking to the other side of the room and rummaged in a box. There it was, nestled at the bottom, a tiny communicator. With a smile he pressed a button and the word, “Vaapad.” flashed up at him.

***

“Come master Yoda, take your Jedi weapon, strike me down!” he said, his voice menacing, his eyes bright with hatred. Yoda could barely stand upright, exhaustion had taken him in its maw and crushed him.
“Many times asked me this you have,” Yoda whispered. “And still no action I have taken.” He had no idea how many times this had happened, could not count the days, the routine of the throne room. The insults, the questions, the fear; the lighting that shattered his body and scattered his wits into a million tiny shards. Shards of impossible power and potential. Shards of consciousness that had called out silently and were swept away from the tide of the force. The undertone of warmth that the dark side could never detect. The undertone that melted into a current, a current that became a wave and crashed on a distant shore. A shore of hope, where the few are one with the force. There the shards of consciousness are kissed by the souls, the greatest masters who are one with all things. Then, after the blessings the current takes the shards of pain-born consciousness back, and in the dreaming time, the warmth comes and charges the old master with power, wisdom and skill.

“But this day,” Yoda continued. “Is not yesterday.” Palpatine shook his head. “And yesterday he was sleeping, today, awake is he, a message understood and obeyed.”
“What are you talking about?” The most powerful man in the galaxy spat.
“Feel sorry for you I do, your dog Vader, away from you he is. Knew about you we did, silence the council kept, plans we made.”
“Nonsense! Tyranus is a shadow, a shade that you missed.”
“When the light comes, away the shadows flee.”
“Come Yoda, drink and eat,” Palpatine changed tack and nodded towards a tray. “Use the force, pick up the tray, eat, drink, be strong my old friend.” And then he felt it, a lurch in his guts, a pressure in his head – a disturbance in the force. He was transfixed, motionless, his eyes wide, unable to believe the magnitude of the experience.
“Report!” he barked, lunging for a comms panel.
“Sir?” the bewildered commander asked down the channel.
“Report!” Palpatine shrieked, trembling with rage.
“Sir, no sign of Rebel ships. Lord Vader has scrambled a message.”
“What is it?”
“It doesn’t make sense sir…”
“Talk!”
“It says, eclipse.”
“Very good.” Palpatine breathed and sat down.

“Take him away,” he ordered his guards, his voice cracking and old. “Make sure he eats and drinks.”
“Dantius,” Yoda said gently. Palpatine’s head shot up, he hadn’t heard that name in forever. “Too late for you it is, Tyranus, too strong with the darkness he is. If a blade to me is raise, my wrath you will taste.”
“Take him away!” The Emperor repeated, his voice barely a whisper.

Chapter 11:Clash

He stood, his back tense and straight, his yellow eyes glaring out at the vast vista of the star studded galaxy. Behind him, at a respectful distance, Vader stood, as still as a statue carved from a rare and grim rock.

“You sensed it too,” Palpatine purred.
“Yes, my master.”
“Eclipse,” Palpatine whispered. “The code word of peril, the call to arms. Tell me Lord Vader, speak of your feeling, of your sensation.”
“A tremor in the force, similar to that of Kenobi. Strong, sudden.”
“Who could have made such a tremor?”
“A master, one who is strong with the force and with the blade.”
“And you claim this feeling resulted in you losing your concentration for a vital heartbeat!” the old man shrieked, turning to Vader.
“It is so my master. Skywalker got under my defences and…”
“How did the boy escape? You had men with you!”
“He is skilled, he destroyed them and took a transport.”
“He massacred them,” Palpatine mused, stroking his chin. “Good. Very good. He has anger, he has spirit.” For a moment Vader was reminded of another massacre, another blade humming through the air, desperately seeking flesh; but not of fully armoured troopers, but of younglings. Palpatine’s eyes turned to Vader, sensing his disquiet. The cloak fell, the blackness smothered the image and once more Vader mastered his emotions.
“You grow weak my friend,” the Emperor changed tack. “Beaten by a boy.”
“I could have killed him easily, but I know you wanted him.”
“I would rather his body than have him escape!” anger crackled in the air and Vader inclined his head. “I only want strength around me, that is why I chose you for my apprentice. Now the time has come for you to prove yourself worthy – only the strongest, the most skilled can survive and serve me. There is only two Sith, master and servant, you know this.” Vader said nothing. “You will fight Yoda. When you have killed him you will take your place at my side and we will tear the galaxy apart in the pursuit of Skywalker.”
“He will come to me,” Vader said quietly.
“Perhaps…”

Luke sat in the cockpit of the ship, trembling and sweating. He remembered the duel, Vader seemingly toying with him, his men looking on, their white armour glinting. But it was the tremble that confused him. Bader had froze, his crimson blade in mid-arc, but Luke had been charged with energy. Little did he know that two masters sent out their essence into the force and filled it with their light.

To Luke, the rest was a blur, a frenzy of activity, his blade an extension of himself, his green blade tearing into his enemy. Then he jumped into the nearest light transport ship, barely noticing the passenger who sat on the seat next to him.

“I won’t stop you,” she had said, “I was in my ship when it started, I watched everything. Just give her some extra lateral thrust because she’s shy on the vertical plain.” Luke had barely heard her, he was too intent on piloting the ship out of the atmosphere and as far away as possible from the desert planet of his youth.

“So, you’re a Jedi,” for a moment he didn’t react, so lost was he in his thoughts. Suddenly he turned to face her and noticed her, apparently for the first time. She was humanoid, tall, and stunning.
“This is your ship?” Luke half asked, half mused.
“It is, but you are welcome to borrow it. Where are we going?”
“And yes, I am a Jedi, but not like him, not like…” he panicked, his tongue threatening to betray him. “Not like Vader.”
“Course not,” she said smoothly. “Tethris,” she extended a pale green hand. Luke shook it and felt how smooth and strong it was.
“Luke.”
“Where are you taking my ship Luke? And by association me. You do realise it’s officially theft and kidnap…” Luke looked horrified.
“No, I… I didn’t know you were here, I was…”
“Relax Sabre-Boy, it’s all right, I saw what happened, I even moved up for you so you could leap in and fly away!”
“I’m sorry Tethris, I don’t know where I’m going.”
“I know of a safe system, far from the Empire and the Rebellion. I know of a peaceful and sparsely populated planet. Interested?”
“I should get away, far away. As long as I’m near, my friends are in danger.”
“Come with?” she smiled.
“Why? I mean, why bother helping me?”
“I hate the Empire. You’re at a loose end, besides, I’ve been kind of waiting for you.”
“Waiting for me?”
“Long story. I’ve got my supplies and am due to return home, we could always go via a certain little planet.”
“What little planet?”
“It doesn’t have a name, the Jedi wiped it off the charts and the Empire haven’t found it yet.”
“Right,” Luke sighed. “Tethris, if this is a trap I’ll be very angry!”
“So will I!” they both laughed and Tethris accessed the navi-computer. “But it isn’t a trap, you know it isn’t, you can sense it.” He looked at her startling azure eyes and sensed nothing but good intent.
“There’s something wrong though,” Luke whispered. “You were not surprised to see a Jedi and you should have been, after the clone uprising…” he tailed off.
“I know my history. And I was surprised, very surprised – that you weren’t taller!” they laughed again, and for the first time in months, Luke felt his mood lift.

• * *

“Your son, kill you he did not. But,” Yoda smiled. “Killed him you did not.” Vader did not respond, he simply stood in the throne room, his eyes distant beneath his mask, his master sitting in his throne, a mocking expression playing upon his pale face.
“Good,” Palpatine crooned. “Good, I can feel your hatred building Lord Vader. This old warrior told them, he whispered lies in their ears and turned them against you. He never wanted you to be trained, he distrusted you, feared your strength. He poisoned Kenobi against you, spread lies.”
“No,” Vader rumbled.
“Yes my friend, it is so. Ignite your lightsaber, strike him down.” Yoda walked towards Vader, his eyes unreadable.
“Too young you were, and now too old. Fight me you may, defeat me you will not. Defeat him, we can.” Palpatine chuckled.
“Too late,” Vader began, “I am Sith.” With this he ignited his blade and advanced on Yoda. Palpatine looked on, grinning.

Yoda did not move, he simply stood on the spot and looked up at the advancing enemy. He knew it was a ruse, he knew that once again Palpatine was manipulating the situation, turning events to his purpose. He knew that if he fought Vader, if his blade hummed through the air, he would be letting in the darkness, taking a step towards the dark side. He knew that he would have to watch the blade cut through the air, it’s glow the last thing he would see.

Then he remembered, his mind firing. It was all in motion, all going to plan, he was in the right place at the right time, now he had to find the right way to call the chaos, and he knew this meant he had to stay alive, stay strong.

The blade singed his skin, throbbing through the air and missing his face by a fraction of a hair. Vader continued his advance, his blade arcing towards Yoda’s throat. Yoda threw himself backwards, skidding on the polished floor and coming to rest at the foot of a red robed guard. He sprang to his feet and hobbled towards the throne for cover. It was useless, the tall, black figure advanced, cutting off Yoda’s route of escape; he found himself trapped between the throne and Vader’s blade. With a resigned sigh he summoned his weapon from where it lay, and it came thudding into his hand. The short blade ignited, green light pooling the throne and Palpatine’s dark garments. He let Vader come on, the Sith blade connecting with Yoda’s with such force as too make his teeth jangle in his head. But Yoda stood the blow and deftly defended the onslaught, able to predict the pattern, having watched Anakin and Obi wan duel so often/.

Yoda felt strong and alive, his arms moving fast, his reflexes lightning. Vader was like a rock, slow, but powerful, every blow telling and accurate. Palpatine looked on, satisfaction on his face and malice in his eyes. He could feel Yoda’s strength, his rage building and feeding that dark side of his heart; that semi-conscious, ignored thing that lurked in the heart of every warrior.

They clashed, red and green locked in a terrible ballet of ferocity and fluidity. Yoda matching the taller and stronger warrior, parrying, turning, his friend speed and long ages of experience. Vader’s respirator rasped, his breathing becoming ragged; beads of sweat erupted on his pale, burned face, and trickled into his eyes. Beneath his mask, beneath the blackness of so many cold days, he felt a sudden vulnerability. His thoughts began to wonder down the years, to his training, to his youth. Suddenly he was jerked back into the present when Yoda made a critical mistake.

Vader’s wrist snapped and his blade lanced towards Yoda’s face in a swift repost. Yoda pulled up his arm, his blade touching Vader’s and sending it off target. Vader came in again, a double handed stroke; Yoda blocked it, but as soon as his blade touched Vader’s he realised it was a faint. Deftly, Vader turned aside Yoda’s blade and with the force sent the throne, Palpatine still sitting, cackling upon it, to smash against yoda’s back. Yoda was sent forward, his body overbalancing, his blade for a micro second lowered. Vader saw the chance and came in, fresh strength in his heart and body. Then it happened, the secure channel to the throne room beeped and Palpatine raised a hand. Obediently Vader stopped, and Yoda looked at the old, pale despot with intrigued eyes.

A tiny panel opened in one of the arms of the carved throne. A view screen blinked and Palpatine read the text with interest and mounting triumph.

“My friend,” he said to Vader. “Fett has Skywalker, he is en route to the station. He is in deep space and the journey will takes some days. It is time to crush the rebellion forever. We will open all the civilian and military channels and broadcast the execution of Yoda, then we will turn or kill Skywalker. The Rebellion will be destroyed, every hope they once had will disappear.!”

• * *
“This is a trap!” Luke exclaimed, turning to Tethris with stricken eyes. She did not reply, she simply applied thrust and nursed the ship towards the small asteroid.
“Manganite and Volberite deposits. Anything within a quarter of a light-year is undetectable.” The view screen showed a ship orbiting the asteroid. A ship Luke recognised instantly.
“Slave-1, Fett’s ship. Why?”
“He’ll take you to Vader. That is what you want isn’t it?” Luke reached for his lightsaber, but Tethris put a calming hand on his arm. “No, please. Bare with me, it will all become clear I promise.” He felt her sincerity but didn’t believe it.
“You said you were taking me to a safe planet?”
“I am, but first…”
“Who are you?”
“Trust me, please!”
“Why should I?”
“Because we share the same purpose. I believe in the will of the force, it is all predestined.” Luke sighed and held his breath as Slave-1 changed its course and headed towards them. “Just follow my lead. Ok?” Luke nodded, and Tethris cut their engines.

Chapter 12: Orders

“Tethris, what do you want, I got your message…?” Fett asked, his voice filled with suspicion.
“Hello my old friend,” Tethris began amiably.”How are you?”
“Cut to the chase Tethris, I’m in a hurry.”
“Fine. You owe me…”
“I do?”
“Yep, remember that business on Paron 6? That freighter…?”
“What do you want?”
“That freighter that contained a commando of Imperial troopers, if I hadn’t have tipped you off you’d be dust!”
“I get it. What do you want?”
“I want you to send a secure message to your handler. I want you to tell him that you have Skywalker and that you’re en route.”
“Why?”
“Because if you don’t I’ll either blow you out the sky or let the Maxon syndicate know where your safe houses are.”
“Bitch!”
“Maybe, but I don’t care what you think of me. Just do it and fly away, all debts will be settled, and you’ll never see me again.”
“Very well.” With that Slave-1 fired up her thrusters, turned about and disappeared.

“What was that about?” Luke asked.
“All part of the big picture,” Tethris smiled. “We’ll reach the planet in around three hours. When we do, just relax and do as I say.” Luke shook his head, impressed despite himself.

• * *
“Ok,” Han looked worried, his forehead knitting into deep furrows. “We’re approaching a planetary system.” R2 whistled. “Ok, we’re getting a message, text only.” He pressed a button on an interface and the view screen bloomed, text scrolling across it.
“Rebel ship, maintain your position and await further instructions. Do not attempt any hostile action or passive scans.”
“Right,” Han smiled, “That’s us told!”
“Who sent it?” Leia asked.
“Dunno, can’t scan!”
“Probably a bluff,” Leia said.
“Maybe but this system is uncharted, I have no…” the Falcon rocked as a smaller ship zipped passed.

• * *

“That’s the Falcon!” Luke shouted. “And, at the far side of that moon, are they transports and X-wings?” Tethra nodded. “But how… why?”
“Because it’s time,” she smiled.

• * *
The ship landed, dropping gently through the atmosphere, Tethris piloting the craft gently, it’s landing struts extending and thudding into the soft ground. Post flight checks complete, she and Luke disembarked and enjoyed the sensation of wind and sun on their faces.

“There is somebody who wants to meet you,” Tethris said gently. “He has been waiting for quite some time.” She lead him up a thickly wooded path towards a rustic hut that overlooked a valley, a river bubbling far below. She tapped the wooden door gently and then pushed it open. For a moment Luke could see little, his eyes struggling to adjust to the darkness, the trees outside pressing close to the abode. He blinked into the gloom, taking in a rustic but cosy space. Then, in the shadows he saw him, a tall, broad man with silver hair and dark skin. There was something regal and calm in his demeanour; an indefinable wisdom seemed to leak from him. Luke reached out with the force and touched the man’s aura – it was good, and Luke felt at ease.

“Luke Skywalker?” the man said, his voice low and rich.
“Yes,” Luke extended his hand and it was swamped by a stronger, firmer grip.
“Mace Windu…”

• * *

The Imperial troopers stood in strict rank, white armour bright, blaster rifles held at port. Dignitaries and soldiers stood motionless in the vast square in the shadow of the Galactic palace. A camera ship hovered high over head, and a remote controlled media array stood like a rogue robot, sound intensifiers and holographic broadcast units buzzing, ready to send the clear, crisp pictures to all corners of the Empire. On Corascunt, all was silent. Nobody stirred; whilst, on every view screen, on every world, in every bar, den and ship; in every home and place of industry, view screens showed the Imperial crest.

On the balcony of the palace, flanked by red-robed guards, Emperor Palpatine stood, gaunt and old. Far below, lead by the tall black cloak Vader, a short, sick, Yoda walked, flanked by troopers of the 501st. At that precise moment, the footage began to be relayed throughout the galaxy, aliens and humans stopping, staring in awed amazement at the sight of a green creature, standing atop a plinth of polished marbite. Some knew him from stories, others from history. Most did not know him, for Imperial propaganda had swamped and drowned his memory. But in every city, in every ship, station and factory, whispered conversations were taking place.

“That’s Yoda,” they said. “He’s a Jedi master, the best of them all…” then the Emperor began to speak.

“People of the Empire,” he began, his voice echoing and vibrating through the square, the microphones relaying it on all frequencies – Han and Leia looking on with expressionless eyes. “We are pleased to usher in a new era of peace and reconciliation. We are delighted to bring fresh prosperity and freedom to the galaxy. For, we have at last rooted out the cause of uprising, sedition and decay. We have found the last of the Jedi, and with his death will die the Rebellion. There will be no more battle, no more war, but peace and prosperity for all. There will be no more Sith, no more Jedi, simply harmony; grey, neither the black or the white will rule.” Throughout the galaxy people laughed, shouted and shook their heads. “As I speak, our task force is on its way to a minor planetary system where the final desperate relics of the rebellion wait. They will be crushed, they will be destroyed. As I speak, the Death star is being completed, a deterrent against tyranny and uprising. My people, if you wish it, you shall have long and happy lives. If you wish it, if you choose to bare arms, your lives will be short. The choice is yours. Let us usher in this new era of peace and tranquillity with the execution of an enemy of the state.” The troopers saluted smartly, their heels clicking together, and they raised their rifles, their barrels aimed unwavering at Yoda’s head. The galaxy held its breath and on the Falcon an alarm sounded.

“I don’t believe it!” Han shouted, tearing his eyes away from the view screen. “Maybe this was a trick – look!” he punched a button and Leia shook her head in disbelief. A squadron of TIEs and three Super Star destroyers were entering the system.

“Yoda,” Palpatine continued. “You have been found guilty of treachery, terrorism and crimes against the Empire. You have been sentenced to death. Do you have any last words?” Yoda cleared his throat, the array of cameras and microphones waiting to relay their signals.
“Last words I have two,” he coughed. “Order 99.”
“Fire!” Palpatine shouted, his voice containing within it a manic quality. The troopers’ fingers twitched on their triggers, taking up the slack. The deadly energy bolts streaked into the air, crimson fire lighting the black Marbite on which Yoda stood. Then, Yoda spoke again.
“Secure the square, around me a parameter make.” The troopers instantly obeyed, making a defensive formation around Yoda, their rifles covering their flanks. Other troopers knelt on the stone flags in sniping positions, their scopes raised, HUDs glowing. Aboard every ship and on every outpost, Imperial troopers left their posts and stood in silent groups around a view screen, their superior officers deciding that against such military hardware their could be only one victor.

“Take control of your surrounds,” Yoda said before the transmission was cut.

Palpatine trembled with rage and indignation. He could not believe how Yoda could have pulled off such a ruse; he had never heard of order 99, the imperative that gave the senior member of the Jedi council command over the troops. He turned on his heel and disappeared into his palace, his guards following him.

• * *
“I don’t believe what just happened!” Han breathed, Chewie joining in with a throaty rumble. “Did they surrender?” Leia shrugged her shoulders.
“I guess some of them did, those with clones onboard, but I think some gunships have exclusively human crews.”
“Right, so what should we do Princess?”
“Look, some of them are breaking orbit and vectoring out, we should follow them.”
“Look sweetheart, I’m confused, it’s been a hell of a day!” Han was about to launch into a speech when a TIE filled the view screen.
“There’s your answer!” Leia smiled.”We fight.”

Chapter 13: Tale

“I first made contact with her many years ago.” Windu began. They sat around a wooden table and ate fruits and slices of cured meat. Luke, his mind still trying furiously to catch up with this latest revelation, sipped a glass of goat’s milk and simply listened to the tall, dark man’s soothing voice. “She was in the Corbin district of Curiscant, in a bar.” His forehead wrinkled and a smile creased his face. Across the table, Tethris blushed. “She was a dancer, well… not quite, she was actually a Bounty Hunter who was working under cover.” Luke cleared his throat, considered speaking and then decided not to. “I bought her a drink, Cafta juice I think.” Tethris nodded. “I offered her an alternative employment and way of life.”
“Why did she accept?” Luke said huskily. Windu looked at Tethris.
“Because I liked him much more than my former trade. I made money, I was good at what I did, but working with a Jedi seemed a much more attractive proposition. This was before the Empire as you know it now, times were different, choices and lives more fluid.”
“Skywalker, you are wondering why, or rather how am I alive, and why I employed Tethris?” Luke nodded. “Then, allow me to tell you my little tale. I suspected something. No,” he raised a hand, “I didn’t suspect Palpatine directly, I simply felt a shadow from his chambers and offices. I told Master Yoda and he suggested we employ subtle, understated methods of surveillance. Tethra secured a position in the senate – just administrative work, but good enough to achieve some low level security clearance. Yoda and I soon realised she was excellent at remaining unseen.”
“Didn’t you take your decision before the council?” Luke asked.
“No, it was highest security, between Yoda and myself, we didn’t want Kenobi or Skywalker, your father, or especially Palpatine to find out.”
“What was he like?” For a moment Luke looked sad and very young and alone. A distant shadow played across Windu’s aging face, but his eyes were bright and kind when they turned to Luke and held his gaze.
“He was headstrong, naive, brash, but loyal, brave, strong and able. He was an excellent blades man and I liked him very much.” Windu let the silence fall with the dusk before igniting a lamp.

“When Anakin came to us and told us that Palpatine was the Sith Lord, I feigned surprise and outrage,” Windu continued. “I was angry, sad and ashamed. I felt we had let the boy down, than Anakin’s trust was misplaced.” He sighed deeply. “The plan was set, Yoda, Tethris and I had already discussed it. I, along with other members of the Jedi council went to Palpatine to arrest him. Before doing this I activated a tracker that was set into the pommel of my lightsaber. When it happened,” Windu’s voice was low and intense. “When I realised that we had lost, that Sidius had Anakin under his thraw, I knew it was over – for the moment anyway. I weathered the storm, fought with all my strength, but I fell through that window. I fell down and down, story after story, until all the life seemed to have been knocked out of me.” Tethris crunched a slice of Cegarun melon and the cleared her throat.
“From the atria below I saw the light, the blue flashes, and I knew something had gone wrong. I knew all the shortcuts and boltholes better than anyone, so I ran, sprinted for my speeder. I got there just in time, Mace, I have no idea how, was still conscious enough to use the force to break his fall sufficiently to land safely in my speeder. We raced to the nearest medi-unit, the staff already prepped and sympathetic. Yoda had handpicked them himself and made sure they were posted to this particular unit. They patched Mace up, and then off we went.”
“We came here,” Windu continued. “I healed and continued to train. We have both been waiting for this day for a very long time,” he smiled. “Skywalker, we are going to overthrow Palpatine once and for all – and Vader, his destiny lays with you.”
“Will you help me Master?”
“I will.” With this he went to a battered wooden chest and withdrew a sleek cylinder. He held it across his body and ignited it. A bright amethyst blade painted the room, and Luke nodded with appreciation, a mounting sense of excitement and hope blooming within his stomach.

• * *

They sat in the throne room, the force spinning around them like a terrible vortex of unimaginable power. Anger, swelling, moving; rage like a cataclysmic storm about to break. “Lord Vader,” Palpatine eventually said through grinding teeth. “Share your wisdom..?” the harsh sound of the respirator was loud in the silent room. Vader slowly shook his head, trying to rid his mind of a frenzied jumble of images, trying to raise his shields, lock away his core from his master. His core that contained within itself a vast well of sadness, loneliness, fear, pain and rage. A core that contained a fleeting dream of a memory. The shifting sands and silent rocks of a desert world. The smiling face of a woman, and the frantically beating wings of a… he shook his head, trying to rid it of the images, burying it deeper so not even the excavations of Palpatine could recover the delicate heart.
“We,” Vader began, marvelling at the speed and unified purpose of the troopers who had Yoda at their centre, protecting him in a white, armoured mass. Vader had read of such manoeuvres, a student of warfare he had collected data on the people of Nabrak Alpha. People who, if troubled by predators, carry the large and tough leaves of the Cambrakka tree over their heads and scuttle like the shelled lizoids, their weakest thrust into the centre for the greatest protection. Vader mused, considering if Yoda was the weakest, or the strongest.
“Continue,” Palpatine barked angrily.
“We should regroup. It is clear the Rebels have a plan, they cannot find us here.”
“Where do you suggest we go?” Vader paused.
“A defensive position, somewhere from where we can launch an offensive.”
“We will gather the remaining clones who we still command and depart for…” A star map glowed, and Palpatine pointed to a bright point of light. “There. Distant, uninhabited. We will regroup and plan, strike and destroy Yoda once and for all.” Vader inclined his head.
“Yes my master.”
“What is it?”
“I sense a shifting presence in the force.”
“As do I.” Palpatine paused and then rose to his feet. “Tell your men to be ready, we will crush this mutinous coup..”

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