|Dramatis Personae Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9|
|Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19|
|Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Chapter 22 Chapter 23 Chapter 24 Chapter 25 Chapter 26 Chapter 27 Chapter 28 Chapter 29|
|Chapter 30 Chapter 31 Chapter 32 Chapter 33 Chapter 34 Chapter 35 Chapter 36 Chapter 37 Chapter 38 Chapter 39|
|Chapter 40 Chapter 41 Chapter 42 Chapter 43 Chapter 44 Chapter 45 Chapter 46 Chapter 47 Chapter 48 Chapter 49|
|Chapter 50 Chapter 51 Chapter 52 Chapter 53 Chapter 54 Chapter 55 Chapter 56 Chapter 57 Chapter 58 Chapter 59|
|Chapter 60 Chapter 61 Chapter 62 Chapter 63 Chapter 64 Chapter 65 Epilogue|
They had brought Anakin here, and placed him on a high, flat stone. A ring of torches surrounded him, a bright border separating him from those who bore witness to his passage.
The shadows stirred, and Tahiri stepped into the circle of light. "Anakin saved my life," she said simply. "The Yuuzhan Vong locked my body in a cage, and tried to do the same thing with my mind. Anakin came to Yavin Four, alone, and brought me out."
Several others came forward, until, at last, the voices fell silent, the torches burned low. The rising moons converged, then began to sink along their separate paths towards the jagged forest horizon. Luke picked up one of the torches and moved forward....
"Stop!" another voice shouted as Luke moved forward. Luke paused his advance and everyone turned to face this newcomer to young Anakin Solo's funeral; Chell Noruth.
Chell Noruth was an intriguing Jedi to say the least. Standing 5'10 and weighing only 165 pounds, Chell Noruth was not an imposing character, at least not physically. But at 27 years old, he was the youngest recorded Jedi Master other than Luke Skywalker himself. No one knew much about Chell Noruth, he had simply shown up one day, but Luke and Mara vouched for him, and that was enough for the Jedi; most of them anyways. It was well known that Kyp Durron was not fond of Chell Noruth, but in reality, who was Kyp really fond of?
"Yes, Chell, what is it that we can do for you?" Luke asked.
"You're here to bury young Anakin Solo," Chell remarked. "He's not gone yet. I wanted one more chance to try."
"Try what?" Jaina asked incredulously.
"I have a gift Jaina Solo. They say when Jedi Knights pass over, they have several stops at different planes of existence, where they reside for a short time before they are truly gone. I am very good at searching these planes of existence, if Anakin has not crossed over completely yet, we'll find him there. And if we can, bring him back."
"What makes you think we have the right Chell?" Mara Jade Skywalker questioned, her anger rising. "Is it up to us now to question the Force? Are we Gods now?"
"My goal here was not to anger you Mara, or do anything on my own, only to inform you that I CAN attempt it. The final decision is yours of course."
"What makes you think you can even accomplish this difficult task Chell?" Luke inquired, as always, the voice of calm, steady reason.
"Her," Chell said simply, pointing to the young woman standing next to Leia Organa Solo.
"Me?" Tahiri Veila said shockingly. "What can I possibly do?"
"It's what's inside you that counts Tahiri Veila. In your heart, do you truly believe that Anakin Solo is gone? Search deep, do you truly believe he's gone?" Chell asked the young blonde woman.
Tahiri was silent for a moment, then, almost guiltily, she let out a choked "No."
"Then that is all I need, one person who truly believes he's not gone. That will allow me to breach the barriers between the two planes. I may not find anything, but I owed it to the Jedi Order to bring this option to your attention. We all know that Anakin was special, he was powerful in the Force. He had perhaps the most potential out of all the Jedi Knights. He was taken from us before his time. The time grows near, so I ask you, Solo family, friends, honored Jedi Knights and Masters, do I attempt what I propose?"
Jaina stared motionless into the torches surrounding Anakin's body. She had heard Chell Noruth was quite the elegant speaker when the moment called for it. This was definitely one of those moments. Could it be done? She wondered. Should it be done? Yes, that was a better question. Should they bring back Anakin if they could?
Jaina didn't know if the Dark Side was influencing her actions when she said "I vote we attempt to bring him back," nor did she care. She simply wanted the pain of losing her brother gone.
Not surprisingly, Tahiri Veila voted yes, along with Tesar Sebatyne, Alema Rar, Ganner Rhysode, and the rest of the Jedi who survived the mission to Myrkr. Kyp Durron also gave his support, along with, surprisingly, Mara Jade Skywalker. Only Luke, Leia, and Han had not given their votes.
"What do you think Luke?" Leia asked? "Is it our role in the Force to determine who lives and dies?"
"I'm not saying I CAN bring him back," Chell interjected. "I only wish to TRY."
"Luke always says there is no try, do or do not," Leia countered.
"Not in this case," Chell said simply. "This isn't like lifting a log or an X-Wing. This is channeling some pretty powerful Force magics, I can't say whether I can succeed or not, only that I can try."
"Leia, you know I'll back any decision you choose, but I think we should let the kid try," Han stated. "After all, if he can't bring Anakin back, we haven't lost anything extra. There's only a gain to be won here, nothing else can be lost."
"Luke?" Leia asked her brother. Luke nodded to Leia. "Ok, let's do it Chell, what do you need us to do?"
"I need the Jedi to form a circle around Anakin's body, myself, and Tahiri. Join hands to complete the circle and open yourselves up to the Force. I'll need to draw on your strength. Tahiri, stand with me."
"What do I need to do?" the young Knight asked.
"Open yourself up to your feelings, lock onto your feelings for Anakin, let them fill your mind, I'll take it from there."
Chell locked onto Tahiri's mind, he felt all her feelings for Anakin come pouring back into her mind. Chell road those feelings higher, and higher, and yet higher still, reaching for the invisible ceiling that separated the two realities, and suddenly, he was there. He could feel several minds floating in the void, he felt Alema Rar gasp as he touched upon the mind of her deceased sister, Numa Rar. But there was nothing he could for these other souls, he simply had no body to return them to. They understood him, they knew he was here for Anakin, they told him as much. It had not been Anakin's time, it had been their time, they knew this.
Chell floated higher still, searching for the elusive mind of Anakin Solo. He used his mind to broadcast Tahiri's feelings into the void, hoping it would bring him closer to Anakin. Suddenly, there he was, Anakin Solo. The image was so difficult to translate, Chell could only describe it as a ball of light, but he knew it was Anakin. Focusing all his power, Chell poured the heart and soul of Tahiri Veila, Jaina Solo, Leia Organa Solo, Luke Skywalker, Mara Jade Skywalker, the rest of the Jedi Knights into the ball of light. Surprisingly, even a small part of Han Solo somehow made the journey with him and that small bit was also added.
A latus began to form over the ball of light and it began to take shape into the form of Anakin Solo. But something was still impeding the process. Chell knew instantly what was wrong; Anakin was not sure he wanted to come back. There was nothing more he could do, Chell Noruth had hit the zenith of his own powers, he was going to fail.
As Chell struggled to maintain the connection, a voice rose above the combined voices and took shape; Tahiri's voice. Chell strained his ears to hear what it was saying. He couldn't hear exactly what the voice was saying, catching only a strained "I love you," at the end. Everything began to blur as Chell lost his tenuous connection with Anakin Solo's spirit.....
Chell Noruth awoke to Jaina Solo and Luke pulling him to his feet. He quickly looked to the funeral pyre that Anakin's body sat atop; it remained motionless. He had failed. Chell Noruth was not able to bring Anakin Solo back from the void. A valiant effort, but alas, in vain.
Brushing off his Jedi robes, Chell turned to leave the circle; there was nothing more to be done now except to complete the funeral. Nothing was said, there were no words that needed to be said. The gathered Jedi Knights had felt the powers of Chell Noruth, they knew that he held on as long as he could; far longer than any normal Jedi Knight possibly could. They felt the toll the effort had taken on his body, he had suffered great torment to his own being in the attempt.
Chell turned to look one last time, catching the eyes of Leia Organa Solo. She called out to him in his mind, she wanted him to know that she was thankful for the effort. Chell couldn't help but detect the aura of disappointment radiating from Leia, which she quickly squashed. No Leia, no reason to hide your feelings.
You did the best you could, we are thankful for the effort, if we had been stronger....
If I had been stronger. Chell didn't have the heart to tell Leia that the reason Anakin didn't come back wasn't because of the lack of group strength; Anakin had chosen not to come back. All the power in the world couldn't have fixed that. So Chell chose to place the blame upon himself, he figured it was better that way. Better that the Jedi Knights be disappointed in him than to tarnish the memory of Anakin Solo.
Luke moved back to the funeral pyre, torch in hand and prepared to complete the burial. Luke paused in front of the body of his youngest nephew and a single tear ran down his face. After all, even Luke Skywalker, Jedi Master, was human. The torch grew closer to Anakin's body. Just as Anakin's robes were about to catch flame, Luke stopped and hurled the torch away. The combined Jedi Knights remained motionless with their mouths open.... Anakin had moved......
The combined Jedi Knights moved forward to see if what they had saw was the truth; Anakin Solo had moved. As the Knights moved forward, Anakin's eyes shot open and his body shot into convulsions as he looked around frantically for a lifeline. His eyes met Tahiri's and he visibly settled down.
Tahiri... what... is... going... on? Tahiri had heard Anakin's voice in her head. "Calm down Anakin, you're among friends," Tahiri stated as she took Anakin's suddenly warm hand in her own.
"Mara, get Cilghal, quickly," Luke said frantically. "We need to stabilize him or we might lose him again."
Tahiri, what happened? Anakin was still speaking in Tahiri's mind.
Calm yourself Anakin, you're in shock. The reply came not from Tahiri, but from Chell Noruth. You've come back to the Jedi Knights, to your family, to Tahiri. But you must calm yourself, the voyage as been difficult.
Anakin turned his head and looked straight at Chell Noruth, then fell into a deep sleep.
Leia was steaming mad. Han tried to calm her, but she simply shook off his arms and strode with a purpose until she was in Chell's face. "What in the Sith happened Noruth? Why is he in such terrible condition?"
"The voyage was not an easy one Leia. He's in shock. One moment he was passing over, then the next he's back living again. He needs time to adjust, he'll be fine in time," Chell explained.
"Why you arrogant son-of-a-bitch," the reply came from Jaina Solo as she rapidly advanced on Chell's position, lightsaber drawn. "You didn't say anything about him coming back so forcefully, we almost lost him again!"
Chell shot a meaningful glance towards Jaina. Put that thing away unless you plan to use it, you ungrateful little brat. Jaina's face suddenly dropped, she took a step back, and Chell continued. "Anakin was gone. I did everything I could to bring him back, but in the end, I failed. While I was connected with the Jedi spirit realm, Anakin simply didn't want to return. There's no power in the galaxy that can return a soul to its former body if it doesn't want to return. I couldn't forcefully return him to the world of the living, he had to choose to cross that barrier himself. I can only open the door, I can't make you walk through it."
"Then what happened?" Leia inquired.
"I'm not entirely sure," Chell answered truthfully. "I hung on as long as I could, but just before my connection was broken, someone else stepped in to keep the door open for a short time longer."
"Who?" Han asked.
"Her," Chell replied, pointing to Tahiri. "Somehow, she was able to keep the doorway open long enough to convince Anakin to return. Frankly, I think we've all severely underestimated Tahiri Veila's Force potential, and her connection to Anakin. She managed to keep a gateway ajar that a Jedi Master opened, that's no small feat. I'm very impressed with her focus, she'll be a powerful Jedi Knight someday, that much is now certain."
Anakin Solo was falling, falling down deep. The first thought that traveled through his mind was No, this can't be. The second was that he had let his family down, and he had left Tahiri alone; again. As that thought left his mind, Anakin suddenly stopped falling. He was in a place filled with white light; the Jedi afterworld?
"Am I dead?" Anakin called out into the vast whiteness that surrounded him.
"You're not dead Anakin."
The voice came from behind Anakin and he whirled to face the speaker; Wurth Skidder.
"I know you, you're Wurth Skidder, you were a Jedi Knight," Anakin said. "But you're dead. If I'm not dead, how are you here?"
"You know, for a Jedi Knight who's supposedly the Chosen One, you don't comprehend very much," Wurth joked. "But to answer your question, you're very much alive. Your body is still on the Millennium Falcon, healing. Your mind, however, is here. I was picked to talk to you in this vision, a great honor really, for a minor Jedi Knight."
"Glad to hear, but what do you want with me?" Anakin asked, getting slightly irritated with Wurth's attitude, he figured he wasn't the first. If this guy's in the Jedi afterlife, my grandfather must be going nuts.
"Yes Anakin, I have a.. special relationship with your grandfather. He says I'm the toughest of the new Jedi to teach. You forget, this is a vision, your thoughts are not your own. But that's not what I'm here to discuss with you. You're here because you've been given another chance. Your death was very unfortunate, the living Force had to go to great lengths to bring Master Noruth to Hapes before your burial. But we feel that in the end, it may turn out to be worth it."
"Ok, but any long-dead Jedi Master could've given me this information, why did they choose to annoy me with the presence of Wurth Skidder to relay it?" Anakin questioned.
Wurth laughed. "Simple young Solo; the Jedi Masters said you reminded them of me. Well the living me. When I was a Jedi Knight, I did everything I could so people would remember the name Wurth Skidder when I was gone. At the time, I told myself that I was doing the things I did for the greater good, now that I've passed into the Force, I see that was not entirely the case. You need to take less foolish risks Anakin, because the next time you die, there may not be a Chell Noruth around to bring you back. Think things through Anakin, don't rush off into a situation head-first."
"But if I'm the Chosen One, wouldn't the Force just find some way to bring me back?" Anakin asked.
Wurth shook his head. "Doesn't work that way. Jedi Master Yoda once told Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, 'Always in motion, the future is.' Remember those words, as they are perhaps the greatest words every spoken. Your destiny is not written in stone. The Force found a way to bring you back this time, because it feels that you potentially have more to contribute, but don't fall back on the Force to resurrect you every time you do something foolish."
"I'm afraid you've lost me," Anakin said, confusion written on his face.
"Then I've failed in my responsibility as your Guardian," Wurth said simply. "Remember this Anakin, you're only the chosen one until the next chosen one arrives. Remember that, trust your feelings, trust your instincts, and you'll do just fine."
As Wurth began to fade away, he had one last piece of advice for Anakin. "Anakin, remember Master Ikrit's prophesy. Tahiri is the key....................."
The four ships entered hyperspace and headed for the hidden Jedi base known only as Eclipse. The lead ship was, of course, the Millennium Falcon, with Han Solo and Leia Organa Solo in command and with Anakin Solo, Tahiri Veila, and Cilghal in their medical bay. The Redeemer was along side of the Falcon, with Chell Noruth in command. On board were Jedi Masters Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade Skywalker, along with Jaina Solo, who was visibly irritated at having to be on the Redeemer instead of on her ship. The ship in question was the stolen Yuuzhan Vong frigate, with Kyp Durron temporarily in command and 6 of the remaining 10 Jedi Knights from the Myrkr mission on board. Tenel Ka had remained in the Hapes Cluster. The fourth vessel was a small Chiss starfighter, modified to allow hyperdrive, its only passenger was Jagged Fel.
"Do we need to be traveling through hyperspace at maximum burn? Are you afraid that your Padawan can't be without you for more than a few days?" Jaina Solo said, her voice laced with a mocking tone.
"Devin Moonstar is very capable, Jaina. He is nearly ready to become a full-time Jedi Knight, there is little more he can learn from my teachings," Chell Noruth responded. "But to answer your question, we are heading for Eclipse at maximum burn because we need to get the captured Yuuzhan Vong vessel back so Danni Quee and Cilghal may inspect it before it dies. Hopefully, they'll be able to find some weaknesses, lord knows you need all the help you can get in this war."
"WE need all the help we can get in this war," Jaina corrected.
"No Jaina, YOU need all the help you can get. You forget yourself, although I owe much to Luke and Mara, I'm not part of their Jedi Order. I've followed my own path since the beginning. As soon as the current crisis is over, I shall return to my teachings and studying of the living Force."
"Why you... do you care nothing of what happens to this galaxy?" Jaina shouted, her voice on the edge of hatred.
"I'm not a warrior Jaina Solo, I'm a teacher. I fight because I have to. The Force shall decide if we win this war or not, if the Force wishes me to fight, then it shall show me the way," Chell responded, his voice the same steady, even tone it always was. Jaina had to admit, Chell Noruth was one cool character, even under pressure. But that was not about to stop Jaina, or make her let up her interrogation.
"What if Master Skywalker asks for your help?" Jaina questioned.
"The Force guides my actions Jaina. The Force shall decide if I am to get involved in the Yuuzhan Vong war further. The only way I shall act without the Force telling me to fight, is if Luke asks me to. I owe him that much, more than you or any of the Jedi know. But if Luke does not ask for my help, and the Force finds no other way to involve me, then I shall return to Endor and continue my studies."
"Endor? What can you possibly hope to learn from Endor!" Jaina shouted, visibly irritated with Chell.
"Endor is where Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader died," Chell remarked. "They were the last of the Sith, if you genuinely believe there's nothing we can learn there, then perhaps you need to reevaluate the way you look at the Force."
Jaina's response was not words, but Dark lightning instead. It flew easily from her fingertips in archs that moved towards the sitting Chell Noruth. Noruth reacted with a lot more speed than Jaina believed possible. Chell leapt to his feet and launched his right arm out and away from his body. The second before the Dark Lightning reached his body, White lightning flared from his fingertips and connected with the Dark lightning. The two swirled around each other and dissipated.
"How did you do that!?" Jaina remarked, visibly awed. "WHAT was that!?"
"Do you still believe there is nothing to be learned?" Chell questioned.
"Light Side lightning," Luke Skywalker stated, suddenly appearing at the cockpit door. "I've heard it rumored that it was possible."
"It's obviously no rumor Luke, and there's a lot Light Side Jedi can do that most Dark Jedi can do as well," Chell stated. "It all has to do with applications of energy, and whether or not you use those energies for good or evil. The evil way is much easier than the good way, that is why Dark Side lightning is so easy to accomplish."
"Do you see now what your actions have led to Jaina? You use the Dark Side very easily, perhaps you need Kyp Durron's guidance more than I thought," Mara Jade Skywalker remarked, noting Jaina's rather reluctant decision to become Kyp Durron's apprentice.
"Kyp has been down that path before Jaina, listen to his words. He and I may not agree on a lot of issues, but Kyp Durron is a great Jedi Master," Chell said with a finality that no one felt necessary to follow with words. Besides, they had reached Eclipse.
Jacen Solo wondered how long it had been since he had been captured by the Yuuzhan Vong. Days? Weeks? Months? Frankly he had lost track of time with so much pain being inflicted upon him, but if he had to guess, he guessed it somewhere around two months. He knew, though, that the actual time frame did not matter. If the Yuuzhan Vong had wanted him broken, they would've done so by now. No, the only reason he was still alive was because the Vong had been so far unsuccessful in capturing his sister Jaina. She had been using her new Dark Side powers to evade capture. Jacen hoped she wouldn't slip further down the dark slope towards the Dark Side and the Sith, but really, he had other things to worry about. Such as the Yuuzhan Vong Warmaster, Tsavong Lah, standing in front of him.
"So, it is the mighty Jacen Solo," Lah remarked as Jacen looked up at him. "Tell me, how is your brother?"
Jacen said nothing, he only sat there on the ground wondering what punishment was going to be inflicted upon him next.
Lah seemed to know exactly what Jacen was thinking, so he put his mind at ease. "No punishment today Jacen. Today we will see just how powerful a warrior you are. You will prove yourself in combat."
Jacen stood and faced the Warmaster. "I won't fight," he said matter-a-factly.
"Then you will die."
"I don't believe you."
"Your belief is irrelevant. You have two choices, fight, or die. It makes no difference to me," Lah remarked, tossing an object in Jacen's direction. "Defend yourself, Jeedai."
Jacen used the Force to guide the object into his hand; a lightsaber. But not his lightsaber, it was Anakin's old lightsaber.
"Do you have no honor? Are you too afraid to let me use my own weapon?" Jacen asked Lah.
"A true warrior can improvise and use any weapon he is given," Lah countered.
Jacen lowered his body into a crouch and pressed the activation switch on Anakin's lightsaber. Gazing through the purple-white hue of Anakin's lightsaber, Jacen began to wonder: Had Anakin been buried yet?
"I miss you little brother," Jacen thought to himself, but then, the moment passed and he focused all his energy on the upcoming battle. But the attack did not come from Lah. It came from.... Vergere! Jacen had not even seen her in the room. And she was attacking with a lightsaber! Jacen's lightsaber!
Jacen knew he wasn't as skilled a warrior as his brother Anakin, but he was no slouch. He turned aside Vergere's attack with a quick parry and launched a slash of his own. He was on the offensive now. But Jacen was surprised again by Vergere, she reacted far more quickly than he imagined and she easily turned his attack away. She followed the parry with several slashing cuts and forced him back to a defensive posture.
Jacen saw an opening in Vergere's defenses and went for it. Sweeping his lightsaber up in a high arc, he attempted to take her arm off at the shoulder joint. He ended up swinging into thin air. Vergere easily sidestepped the maneuver and pressed the attack.
"How? Where did she learn to use a lightsaber with such efficiency?" Jacen wondered to himself. But in the microsecond it took for the thought to race through his mind, Vergere acted upon the minor distraction as if she had sensed his momentary lapse of concentration. Vergere slashed her lightsaber down, past Jacen's defenses, and the blade ripped through his left leg just above his knee. Layers of skin, tissue, and muscle were destroyed in the cut. Jacen groaned as the blade cauterized the wound instantly, and he fell to one knee.
Vergere followed with a crushing blow, which tore Anakin's lightsaber from Jacen's grasp. He tried to call the weapon back to his hand using the Force, but he was too wracked with pain to focus. As Vergere rose her blade high preparing for the killing blow, Jacen mentally kicked himself as he wouldn't be there to help his sister. But the blow never came. Instead, Vergere smashed Jacen in the back of the skull with the hilt of her blade. Jacen slumped to the ground.
As waves of nausea flowed over Jacen, he managed to roll over onto his back. His gaze found Vergere, as she picked up Anakin's lightsaber, deactivated it, and clipped it to her belt next to Jacen's lightsaber. Jacen caught her glance, and a thin smile came across her birdlike features.
Vergere's face began to blur as Jacen slipped further away. Just before he went totally under, he heard a voice inside his head. If he hadn't known any better, he would've sworn it was Vergere's voice directing him into a Jedi healing trance. Then, the darkness overcame the Jedi Knight completely.......
It had been nearly 2 months since the mission to Myrkr. Two months since Anakin Solo had died. Seven weeks since Chell Noruth had done the impossible by bringing Anakin back. Anakin was getting antsy. And he could tell, so was Tahiri.
They had been at Eclipse the entire time. Anakin had spent the past seven weeks meditating and sparring with Tahiri, in between exams from Cilghal. Tahiri had spent nearly every waking moment by his side, afraid to let him out of her sight. Anakin was ready to get back out on the front lines.
"I'm ready Uncle Luke. I need to get out of here, back where I can do some good," Anakin stated.
"Physically, you're ready Anakin, but mentally....." Luke said trailing off. "I've been in your position before Anakin, it takes time to completely adjust to being back."
"I swear to you Master, I'm ready," Anakin said, trying to press the issue. "I can't stay cooped up in this asteroid forever. You can't be afraid to let me go, I'm a Jedi Knight, I need to get back out there helping people."
"And let's not forget Jacen is still in enemy hands, we need to get out there and get him back," Tahiri Veila said, chiming in.
"No Tahiri, I'm not going off on some foolish mission to try to get Jacen back," Anakin replied. "We'll find some way to get him back, but it needs to be thought through."
"Anakin! He's your brother! And you didn't do much thinking things through when you came to Yavin 4 to rescue me," Tahiri challenged.
"Yes Tahiri, he is my brother. But he's also a Jedi Knight. Jacen chose his path. If there's a way to get him back, we'll find it. But remember the Myrkr mission, we went into that mission without much planning, and nearly half the strike team perished. I died at Myrkr because we rushed into things," Anakin shot back.
"All the planning in the world can't keep you from dying," Tahiri stated.
"No, but planning can decrease the chances of death. Tahiri, I died. I died because I went into a mission without the proper training. I won't do that again. If I went after Jacen now, I'd have learned nothing. And that's what this was about, learning from one's mistakes. I've learned much," Anakin said.
"It appears you have Anakin," Luke said. "I feel confident in allowing you to return to active duty. Providing, you allow Cilghal one more thorough exam to make sure you're in tip top condition."
Anakin sighed, "If that's what it'll take, I accept your terms Master. What do you require of me?"
"Of us," Tahiri corrected. "You think I'm letting you out of my site ever again? You must be crazy," she finished, smiling.
"A large mission is coming Anakin, Jedi are coming in from all over the sector for one large meeting. We'll need both of you if the mission is to succeed," Mara said, stepping into the light. "Rest Anakin, this mission is going to be big."
Anakin's face fell. "The Vong are still advancing, even after their losses at Coruscant?"
Luke nodded. "It hasn't appeared to stop them, the New Republic government is in shambles, they've retreated to Sullest for the time being, until a new Central world can be chosen. Wedge and Traest Kre'fey are in charge of covering the retreat."
"We'll find a way Master, we always do," Anakin stated.
Luke smiled, "I'm glad you're back Anakin, it wouldn't be the same without you. Now, we'll leave you so you may get some sleep." With that, Luke, Mara, and surprisingly Tahiri, left the room.
Anakin smiled as he could hear Wurth Skidder's voice in his head. Think things through Anakin, don't rush off into a situation headfirst. Always in motion, the future is. He then said quietly to himself, "I understand now Wurth, thank you, you didn't fail in your task as Guardian."
Tahiri is the key, young Solo. Remember that.
Coralskippers flew overhead. Explosions sounded in the distance. Somewhere, close by, a woman screamed. But none of these distracted Dorsk 83 from his goal. He was crouched low, behind a dumpster, in what was once a poor section of Coruscant. Now, all sections of Coruscant looked similar to this section.
The world had been lost nearly two full months ago, but still, the battle for Coruscant raged on. Survivors from the Yuuzhan Vong attack had banded together and combined to form a very tough rebellion. The Vong had been beating at them unmercifully for two straight months, yet the mottled group of humans and aliens would not crack.
Dorsk 83 was en route to Eclipse when he had received a transmission from Luke Skywalker. Luke had told him that Jedi Knight's Zekk and Biggs Darklighter Jr were on Coruscant, and needed to be picked up and returned to Eclipse for a larger mission. Dorsk was the only Jedi in the area, so the job fell to him to retrieve his stranded comrades. Not that Dorsk minded, he was more of an action junkie than the two previous Force sensitive clones. Where as Dorsk 81 and 82 preferred to stray away from action, Dorsk 83 craved it.
Dorsk didn't know what had caused the 81st clone to become sensitive to the Force; no one did. But it had happened, and Dorsk 81 went on to become the first hero and martyr to the New Jedi Order, dying at Yavin 4 to save the rest of Luke Skywalker's 1st class of trainees. Kyp Durron, Corran Horn, and Kam Solusar had all been part of that group.
Dorsk 82, his immediate predecessor, had been very young at the time of Dorsk 81's passing, but later in life, he too, showed Force potential. He eventually became a Jedi Knight, but was lost to a group of Aqualish thugs on the planet Ando a little over a year ago. Dorsk 83 had begun training immediately and had graduated from Luke's Academy a little over a month ago. He was still a relatively green Jedi Knight, but he had the knowledge of his two predecessors’ with him, so he showed remarkable skill for a young Jedi Knight.
Dorsk crept forward towards his meeting place with the two Jedi Knights when he saw movement out of the corner of his eye. The Yuuzhan Vong amphistaff slashed dangerously close to his head, but Dorsk managed to duck back in time to save his head. His lightsaber flashed into existence with a SNAP-HISS, his blue blade casting an eerie glow to the alleyway.
The Vong warrior lunged again, but Dorsk was quicker than the warrior expected. He took a step back and to the left and the Vong's staff whooshed harmlessly by. Dorsk blocked another attempted slash, ducked under a second, and leaped over a third in a Force assisted jump. He followed the jump through a somersault over the Vong's head, landing behind the warrior. A quick backwards thrust with his lightsaber and the Vong warrior was dead.
Dorsk quickly surveyed the area. He detected no other movement, only the sounds of a distant battleground. Shutting down his lightsaber, Dorsk tossed the body of the Vong warrior into the dumpster and returned to his crouch in the shadows. The moment he had returned to the shadows, he felt a tapping at his shoulder.
"Dorsk 83, nice to see you," the voice said. Dorsk turned towards the voice to stare into the face of Zekk.
"Zekk, Luke needs both you and Biggs back at Eclipse, something about a larger mission," Dorsk stated.
"What could be larger than helping Coruscant free itself?" Zekk muttered aloud.
"I'm not sure, but we have to get out of here before more Vong show up," Dorsk said quickly. "Where is Biggs?"
"I'm here Dorsk, and I've brought a friend who needs out of here in a hurry as well."
Dorsk turned to see Biggs Darklighter Jr come jogging up leading a familiar face to both the Rebellion and to the Jedi Knights; New Republic agent and Jedi Master, Kyle Katarn.
Anakin sat cross-legged on his bunk at Eclipse, various components strewn in front of him, sweat poured from his head, his brow crinkled in concentration, but he noticed none of it. He was deep in meditation, trying to concentrate on the task at hand; building himself a new lightsaber.
His previous lightsaber was one of a kind, it had fused Yuuzhan Vong biotechnology with standard New Republic technology. Anakin found if he concentrated on the Yuuzhan Vong bio-stone he had used as the focusing crystal, he could detect the Yuuzhan Vong. But that was before he had been enlightened.
When Anakin was passing into the Force at Myrkr, the Yuuzhan Vong had suddenly popped out at him. Where as before, when sensing through the lambent crystal in his lightsaber, the Vong were a hazy, barely-there sensation, when Anakin was passing into the Force he had felt them as if he was feeling another person. He struggled to regain that knowledge, knowing it was trapped somewhere within his head. He pushed deeper into his meditation, trying to forcefully find the information, to no avail. Frustrated, Anakin leapt from his bed and slammed his fist down on his bedside table.
"Damnit! I'll never remember that information," Anakin shouted, frustration ringing out in his voice. The buzzer to his door chimed, and Anakin shouted out a hoarse "What!?"
"Anakin, it's me, what's wrong?" came the answer from Tahiri.
"Tahiri, this isn't the time," Anakin shouted back.
"Anakin Solo, open the door right now," came the harsh reply from Tahiri Veila.
Anakin could picture Tahiri standing at his door with her arms on her hips, in that typical way only women could do it. Women. Anakin thought, rolling his eyes. Anakin moved to unlock the door when the reply came back in his head. Hey, I heard that.
Unlocking the door, Anakin found Tahiri exactly as he had imagined.
"Anakin, what's wrong?" Tahiri asked worriedly.
"I'm just having some trouble creating a new lightsaber Tahiri. I'm just frustrated, I need to get this lightsaber built before I can rejoin the Jedi Knights. Uncle Luke is calling for a great Jedi Convocation here at Eclipse very soon, and I need to be ready for it. I don't have time to continually fail, I need to complete this task now."
"You'll never complete it if you keep worrying over how little time you have," Tahiri stated. "You need to relax Anakin."
"Easier said than done Tahiri, I've tried everything."
"Not everything," Tahiri said, a hint of a smile on her face. "Go lie on the bed."
Anakin simply looked at Tahiri, wondering what she had on her mind. She responded by pointing to the bed. Anakin gave up and walked over to his bed, then sat down.
"Lie down on your stomach."
Tahiri sat down on Anakin's backside and proceeded to work the muscles of his shoulders with her hands. "You're very tense Anakin, you need to relax. Stop flexing your muscles, let me do the work."
Anakin resigned to let Tahiri finish the "task" and soon fell into a deep sleep. Tahiri finished the massage, got up and walked out the door. She paused at the door to take one last look at her sleeping friend and whispered "Sleep well Anakin, I love you."
Anakin awoke several hours later, feeling completely refreshed. He quickly entered into meditation and 45 minutes later, he was staring down at his completed lightsaber. With a SNAP-HISS, the blade shot out from the handle. Anakin stared through the blade, a blade that he was used to being purple. Now, Anakin stared through a purple blade that had a decidedly bluish aura around the edges of it. He smiled. Tahiri has a blue lightsaber.
Anakin's grin grew larger as he recalled Wurth Skidder's words again. Tahiri is the key......
A nearby explosion suddenly rocked her X-Wing into a violent roll. Jaina Solo struggled with her stick to control the spinning X-Wing. After several rolls, she managed to reorient her ship and continue on.
"Kyp, that weapons fire from those enemy frigates is getting closer," Jaina announced over her com. "We need to get out of here."
"Not until this convoy gets to the hyperspace point. Sullust needs these supplies badly Jaina," Kyp responded. "We have to stay. Octa, close up formation, we're taking the fight to the lead frigate."
"Acknowledged Kyp," Octa Ramis shouted back. Kyp had lost his entire squadron at the defense of Coruscant, Ramis and another pilot had deserted him as well. But after Jaina announced she was to become Kyp's apprentice, pilots flocked back to Kyp Durron, as if the black mark on him had been lifted. Ramis also returned, although she had to swallow her pride to do so. She hated doing that. But she loved taking the fight to the Vong more, she owed at least as much to her fallen lover, Miko Reglia.
The squadron, renamed the Wild Cards, consisted of 16 ships and was made up of mostly non-Jedi pilots. The only Jedi in the group were Kyp, Jaina, Octa, and Tam Azur-Jamin, who had left Luke Skywalker's Sabers squadron while they were grounded at Eclipse.
"Close up formation people, when I give the word, break off into two groups, Sticks with me, Octa and Tam with the other," Kyp announced into the com. He could feel Jaina's irritation through the Force. Quiet.. Apprentice.
Jaina gritted her teeth and responded through the Force. Yes... Master.
Kyp led the Wild Cards through a long loop and came to bear on the lead Yuuzhan Vong frigate. It continually belched plasma in their direction, but the Wild Cards were the best pilots in the sector. They continually juked left and right, up and down, all the while staying in formation. A couple of pilots took some hits to their deflector shields, but new modifications to the XJ3's had increased their shield output.
"Ok Cards, on my mark.... MARK!" Kyp shouted into the com, just before they were about to ram the lead cruiser. As he said Mark, Octa and Tam broke to the right with six other X-Wings and Kyp and Jaina broke left with the remaining six.
Directly in front of the lead Vong cruiser were 6 shadow bombs, dropped by Kyp Durron as he broke formation. The cruiser crashed into the bombs, it's dovin basals working frantically to contain the explosive power. The bombs exploded with metal ripping power, more than enough to destroy the yorik coral hull of the frigate.
"Enemy frigates launching skips lead," Tam said into the com.
"Ok Cards, we took down their lead frigate, the convoy should be able to make it to the rendezvous point and head off into hyperspace now. Let's make a run for it to a safe distance outside their fleets' main guns and we'll take the skips there," Kyp stated back. "And let's make it quick people," Kyp added, "we have to be back at Eclipse soon for the Jedi Convocation."
Booster Terrik stared off into the void that surrounded the Errant Venture; the Kessel Maw. The Kessel system had been taken by the Yuuzhan Vong early in their war with the New Republic, but they still hadn't figured out a way to navigate into the center of the Maw, where the Maw installation still resided. The installation had been bought by Lando Calrissian, and he had first developed his YVH droids here. Now, Booster was here with the Venture to protect the Jedi trainees who had not yet been re-located to the new Eclipse; wherever that was. Booster had been out of contact with Luke Skywalker for weeks.
"Captain Terrik," his young Com officer announced, "we have an incoming coded transmission for you."
"I'll take it in my office," Booster responded.
Booster walked into his office and sat down at his plush leather chair behind his large oak desk. Most typical Captains of a Star Destroyer wouldn't have such eccentricities, but Booster Terrik wasn't your typical Captain, he was a smuggler. Well, at least a smuggler at heart, now that he was basically an overgrown babysitter. But still, Booster couldn't complain, his grandkids Jysella and Valin were onboard, so he got to see them on daily basis, along with daughter Mirax.
Booster activated his personal console and entered his authorization codes. The message soon appeared, it was Luke.
"Booster, I'm sending this message to you to inform you that a transport will be arriving shortly to pick up Kam Solusar, Tionne, and the Jedi trainees to relocate them to Eclipse. Kam is also needed for a larger mission. The Errant Venture is to stay put for the time being, until the transport has arrived. I will then send you another message with the coordinates to meet us. We need you for this mission Booster, the entire New Republic's survival may hinge on it. Luke Skywalker out."
Booster stared at the screen for a moment after the message faded out, then wondered aloud "how in the devil would a transport be able to get by all the Vong patrols?"
His thoughts were interrupted by a message from the bridge, "Captain Terrik, you'd better get out here, I'm getting some odd readings."
Booster leapt from his chair and ran out to the bridge. He hoped it wasn't a Yuuzhan Vong fleet coming into the Maw installation.
"Report," Booster shouted as he entered the bridge.
"We're getting some anomalous readings just off the starboard bow," the officer reported.
Booster ran over to the view port to get a visual account, when suddenly, a small starcraft decloaked.
"Ship decloaking, it's a modified Corellian transport," the sensor officer reported.
"They're hailing," the com officer reported.
"Let's hear it," Booster commanded.
"Errant Venture, I repeat, this is the Jedi vessel Redeemer. We're here to pick up the cargo, please allow us to dock. And please inform Kam Solusar that an old friend is here."
"Redeemer, this is Captain Terrik aboard the Errant Venture, you may dock in cargo bay 2. And before I inform Kam Solusar of your arrival, does this old friend have a name?" Booster questioned.
Manuel Tejada's thoughts were on his fiancée and their unborn child. They had been on Coruscant when the Yuuzhan Vong had attacked. He had been off in Hutt territory investigating the Hutt's losses in their war with the Yuuzhan Vong when Coruscant had fallen. Two months later, he still hadn't heard any word if she had survived the battle. Tejada's thoughts were pulled away from him when he was suddenly awakened; the ship had come out of hyperspace. Tejada looked to his right and saw that his companion, Devin Moonstar, was still unconscious. With a sigh, he started working on freeing himself of the stun cuffs that bound his wrists and ankles.
Tejada and Moonstar had been en route to Eclipse when they were attacked by the Peace Brigade. Both of them had been captured and knocked unconscious. Tejada knew they were now en route to meet up with a Vong frigate to transport them god-knows-where into Vong controlled territory. Since they had just come out of hyperspace, Tejada knew that the meeting with the Vong was to come very soon. They didn't have much time if they wanted to survive.
The door to their cell started to open, so Tejada fell back and feigned unconsciousness; perhaps he'd be able to surprise the guard.
"I know you're awake Jedi," the guard said. "We're transporting two Jedi Knights to the Yuuzhan Vong and you think we wouldn't have this room under surveillance at all times? We're not stupid."
With a groan, Devin awoke.
"Ah, I see your partner is now awake, too bad there's no escape," the guard taunted.
Devin turned and looked at the guard for a moment before speaking. "I think it would be in your best interest to let us go."
"Oh do you? You're the one who's in stun cuffs and is about to be handed over to the Yuuzhan Vong and it's in our best interest you're worried about? And what's with your hair?"
"I am a Jedi Padawan," Devin Moonstar stated. "It is tradition that we keep our hair cut short with a single braid until we reach Knight status."
"Oh, so you're inferior to your friend here, perhaps I should keep him unconscious," the guard snarled.
"I think it would be in your best interest to let us go," Devin stated again, a little more firmly this time.
"Don't try to use your Jedi mind tricks on me, my mind is too strong for you," the guard shouted, stepping towards Devin, his stun baton ready.
"I was never very good at Jedi mind tricks," Devin said. "But Jedi Knights have other tricks they can use."
"Such as?" the guard questioned.
"This," Devin said, as the stun cuffs dropped away from his body.
The guard got a quick yelp out of his mouth before Devin threw a quick sidekick into his chest sending the guard to the floor, out cold. Devin quickly retrieved the man's stun baton and the keys to cuffs.
"How did you get out of your cuffs?" Manuel said, his face in a look of awe.
"The guard was sitting outside the door cutting his nails," Devin stated, as if the answer was obvious.
Manuel quickly understood, but was even more shocked by the answer. "You picked your stun cuffs with piece of his finger nail!? That must've taken extreme concentration to do that while pretending to still be unconscious."
"Chell Noruth is a powerful Jedi," Devin stated simply, as if that's all the answer he needed to give. "Come now my friend, let us be gone before the Yuuzhan Vong show up."
"Rawr row rawrrrr," came the shout from the top of the ship.
Han Solo had to bite down on his tongue just before he shouted back, "shut up you big hairball." That was not Chewbacca on top of the Millennium Falcon, it was Lowbacca. Lowie had been in the middle of working on the captured Yuuzhan Vong ship that Jaina had named the Trickster, when Han Solo received instructions to head to Sullust as fast as he could. The Falcon needed repairs, so Han went to the best mechanic at Eclipse, Lowbacca, who because of the life debt that his family still owed Han Solo, immediately offered to help. But in truth, Lowie would've helped just because he was Han Solo, regardless of the life debt.
"I don't care, just make sure it works," Han yelled back. "I have to leave here ASAP, and thanks again for the help Lowbacca. I really appreciate it."
Lowbacca shouted something back that Han didn't catch, but he had other things to do. Like see Jaina before he had to ship out.
Han headed to the landing bay where his daughter was coming in with the rest of the Wild Cards. The first ship settled down and Jedi Master Kyp Durron hopped out.
"Han!" Kyp shouted. "Great to see you again old friend!"
"Kyp!" Han yelled back. "You been taking care of my daughter out there?"
Kyp laughed. "More like she's taking care of me. She's easily gone by me in flight skills. What have you been teaching that girl of yours?"
Now it was Han's turn to laugh. "Ha, she picks up things very quickly Kyp. But I'm pressed for time so I'll get right to it. HOW is my daughter doing Kyp?"
Kyp understood Han's meaning instantly. "She's slowly getting over it Han. She's coming back to us slowly. She's still shaken from her brush with the Dark Side, and with Jacen's death..."
"He's not dead Kyp," Han said simply.
"... and with Jaina thinking her brother is dead," Kyp continued, "she's had a tough time. But I'm doing my best to show her that the Dark Side isn't the way. I'm afraid it hasn't been easy old friend."
"Kyp, if there's anyone who can teach Jaina that the Dark Side isn't the way, then it's you," Han said. "Just make sure my baby girl comes back to us."
"I wouldn't have it any other way Han," Kyp finished.
"Thanks kid, and it's great having you on the same wave length as the rest of us for a change Kyp."
"I find it odd at times to be traveling the same path as Luke Skywalker, but I'll admit, I don't exactly hate it," Kyp said. "It's more of an odd feeling, like putting on a shirt you haven't worn in a long time."
Han laughed. "I'm sure Luke would be very pleased to hear you say that."
"That is why he never will hear that," Kyp said laughing. "I'd hate to give 'Old Man Skywalker' anything less than 100% of my grief."
Han laughed again. It was a feeling he hadn't felt in a long time. "Hey watch who you're calling an old man, I happen to be older than Luke."
Just then, Jaina came striding up to the two older men, with Octa Ramis and Tam Azur-Jamin in tow.
"Am I interrupting anything?" Jaina asked incredulously.
"Not at all Jaina, Kyp and I were just talking about old times," Han answered back.
"Octa, Tam, I need to you to help me with some tests on the squadron X-Wings," Kyp said, leading the two Jedi Knights away.
"Master Durron," Jaina called. "Don't we need to debrief?"
"Later Jaina, later," Kyp called back. "Spend some time with your father."
Jaina gritted her teeth and Han visibly winced. Han knew she was having a tough time with her brush with the Dark Side and her grief over Jacen, but he didn't think it would affect their relationship so badly. Jaina and her mother had always had a tumultuous relationship, but Jaina and Han were always inseparable. Jaina instantly sensed his feelings and said, "I'm sorry Dad."
"No reason to be sorry Jaina," Han lied. "I just wanted to see you before I ship out."
"Where are you going?" Jaina asked.
"I'm off to Sullust and I don't know when I'll be back. I just wanted to see you before I left. I'm actually supposed to leave in a few minutes. Can you spare a minute to give your old man a hug?"
Jaina instantly softened and wrapped her arms around her father and gave him a hug. "Good luck Dad," she said into his shoulder.
"You too honey," Han said back. He didn't want to ever let her go, but he knew she had to work things out on her own. No check that, she wouldn't be alone as long as Kyp was around. He would make sure she came back to them, Han knew it.
The planet Tatooine. This place is a wasteland, the woman thought as she exited a speeder taxi at her destination. She entered the Mos Eisley cantina and glanced around. Good, no one hear yet, she thought, when suddenly a voice distracted her.
"Arica Dull, I would've known it was you from a mile away."
Arica Dull turned to face the voice sitting in the shadows off to her right. "Fenix Reiner. Where's your lackey Dark Tracker?"
"He's.. away.. at the moment, please why don't you sit down and have a drink with me," Fenix said with a smile as he pushed the table's opposite chair away with his foot.
Dull gave him a wry smile and took the proffered chair. "So what brings you to such a scum pit on such a waste of a planet?"
"I think we both know the answer to that," Fenix stated cockily. "Please let's not insult our intelligence, we're both very capable people."
"I didn't think anyone besides myself would've found out so soon," Dull stated. "The report was just released today."
"I was already in the system," Fenix said. "I take it you also were in the system?"
"Me? Absolutely not, I never go near this dump of a planet," Dull responded with a laugh.
"Then pray tell, how are you here?" Fenix asked calmly.
"Fenix Reiner, do you really expect me to give up all my secrets?" Arica said with a smug look on her face. "But I suppose I can give you this one for free, since you were nice enough to buy me a drink. I have an inside source who got the information to me before it was released."
"I don't suppose you'd care to tell me this inside source?" Fenix asked with a wink.
"Not on your life," Arica responded with her own wink.
The two sat in silence for a moment, then the door to the Cantina opened and Dark Tracker strode in. The human replica droid moved his head around, scanning the bar. Normally, the bartender would've shouted to have the droid removed from the bar, but everyone knew not to mess with Dark Tracker. Tracker scanned to the right and finally saw Fenix sitting with a woman. Tracker walked to the table.
"Ahhh Dark Tracker, I was wondering when you'd show up," Arica Dull said with a smile.
"Human, Arica Dull, Corellian, how are you?" Tracker asked.
"How am I? I see your programming has been upgraded Dark Tracker. The last time I saw you, you were speaking like a computer," Arica said with the same smile stretched across her face.
"Large sum of money from a previous hunt, we were able to upgrade my systems significantly," Dark Tracker responded. "So what brings you to this place?"
"Why the same thing that brings you here, of course," Arica responded with a grin. "I'm here to collect some serious New Republic credits."
Suddenly, the doors to the Cantina opened and a hulking Trandoshan entered the bar. "She has been spotted at the southern docking bays," Grandoss of Trandosha said, he reptilian voice emanating throughout the entire bar.
In a flash, Fenix and Arica were up and out the door. Dark Tracker quickly followed. As Grandoss was about to exit the bar, a patron at the bar shouted out, "Who was spotted?"
Grandoss turned his head and rasped back, "the traitor Viqi Shesh." And then he was gone.
Luke Skywalker sat on the wing of his XJ3 X-Wing in the main landing bay at Eclipse. The asteroid hadn't been completely finished yet, so the main landing bay was the only room large enough to hold all the combined Jedi Knights. They had been steadily pouring into the large room for the last half hour, coming in groups of two and three as they arrived at Eclipse. Luke surveyed the room; the Jedi were walking around and conversing, but when they sat, they sat in two distinctively separate groups.
Luke glanced to his right and saw Jedi who had always supported him. Kam and Tionne, and Biggs sat together. Luke had to raise an eyebrow when he noticed Kyle Katarn had also taken a seat to the right, sitting next to Corran Horn. The two were engaged in a conversation, probably talking about old times when both were New Republic soldiers, Corran a Rogue Squadron pilot and Kyle an undercover agent.
Luke spotted Cilghal and Danni Quee sitting near Kam Solusar. Saba Sebatyne sat near Corran, with her son Tesar next to her. Luke knew Tesar would rather be taking the fight to the enemy, but the Barabel had been taught great respect, so he followed Luke without question. Luke saw two of his youngest Jedi Knights, 14 year old Valin Horn, and 19 year old Manuel Tejada, sitting together discussing fighting techniques. Valin had just graduated from the academy and had seen little action. Off to the side, far enough away to be away from people but still definitively with Corran and the rest, sat the hermit gas prospector Streen.
Off to Luke's left, Kyp Durron had taken a seat and the Jedi Knights that followed him sat around him. Although Kyp had agreed to follow Luke several months ago, he and his followers still made it clear they didn't entirely buy into his thinking. Luke's niece Jaina sat next to Kyp as the two were now Master and Apprentice.
Luke felt a twang of disappointment at seeing his niece sitting next to Kyp, but Luke knew Jaina had to walk her own path. Luke also knew if anyone could bring her back from her Dark path, it would be Kyp Durron. He glanced back at his wife Mara to see her reaction, Mara simply raised an eyebrow in return. I'm fine Skywalker, Jaina has to choose her own path and travel it.
Octa Ramis sat near Kyp. Ramis had been a stout member of Kyp's group ever since her lover, Miko Reglia had been the first Jedi casualty of the Yuuzhan Vong invasion. Luke noticed Alema Rar sitting on the left as well. The young Twi'lek had joined Kyp's group recently, after her sister Numa Rar had fallen to a voyxn.
Luke glanced further to his left and saw Dorsk 83 sitting in conversation with Tam Azur-Jamin. He knew Dorsk would be with Kyp, as all three Force-sensitive Khommite clones had been close friends of Kyp. Tam though, surprised him. It wasn't long ago that Tam had flown in his own squadron. But Tam was still recovering from his father's death, so flying with Kyp was the obvious answer for him.
Zekk sat near the two young men. Luke knew Zekk had two reasons for sitting with Kyp's group. The obvious was that Jaina was near Kyp, therefore, Zekk would be close by. Luke knew the young man had intense feelings for her. But Luke also knew Zekk's extreme anti-Dark Side approach made him a volatile young man, a young man Kyp would have no problems conscripting to his point of view. No.. I cannot think like that, Kyp is solidly in the light side, his approach to the Force cannot be condemned just because he refuses to follow my path. Zekk needs guidance, if Kyp is the man to provide it, I must trust the Force's judgment.
How mature of you Luke. Luke glanced over his shoulder and gave Mara a wry grin. Stay out of my head Jade. Mara simply laughed at the private joke.
Luke glanced to the back as Chell Noruth and his Padawan, Devin Moonstar entered the room. The two men took up a position in the back of the room, away from both groups. Finally, something Luke expected. Chell Noruth did not condemn Luke's vision of the Force, but he didn't follow it either. He had been away from the New Jedi Order for sometime, preferring to train his only Padawan on Endor. Luke had to smile, even if he didn't follow Luke's order, Devin Moonstar was a very capable young man. He had heard of his recent escape from the Peace Brigade with Manuel Tejada.
Luke glanced at the time on his chronometer and stood up. "Honored Jedi Knights and Masters, the time is nearly here for the great Jedi Convocation, if you could please take your seats."
Jedi Knights began to separate, returning to their respective sides at Luke's left or right. Luke had to sigh, how could they get re-establish a Jedi Council if the Jedi were still divided? Before Luke could figure out the answer, the two doors to the giant room slammed open by an enormous burst of Force energy. Anakin Solo walked between them.
Anakin strode into the room as if he was a man with a purpose. Tahiri Veila was of course by his side. Lowbacca the Wookie was walking behind Anakin, towering over both he and Tahiri. Luke looked past the Wookie and saw three individuals he would never have expected to enter with Anakin; Ganner Rhysode, Virruk Dujal, and Branda Besadii Diori.
Ganner Rhysode had started out a firm believer in Kyp Durron. He was cocky, arrogant, and believed he was invincible. He stayed like that until the battle for the world of Garqi. Ganner had rushed to meet the leader of the Vong invasion and had his face torn apart. He survived and while on evac, had his face repaired with a cauterizer that had left a huge scar on his face. Ganner had said that his old self died on Garqi and the new Ganner was born. He followed every order Luke had to give. Ganner had even volunteered to be the decoy leader for the Myrkr strike team. Something happened on that mission because ever since Anakin had returned from the grave, Ganner had followed him loyally.
Virruk Dujal was an Iridonian, the same species that the fearsome Sith Lord, Darth Maul had been a part of. Dujal had the same horns on the top of his head, but none of the red and black tattoos on his face. He was the first Iridonian Force sensative individual since Darth Maul, and Luke had even begun to speculate he was the first Iridonian Jedi period. Dujal was a terrific swordsman, one of the best of the Jedi Order. He had even been able to match Luke in hand-to-hand combat for several minutes.
Branda Besadii Diori was the first Hutt to display Force potential since Leia had killed Beldorian the Splendid in a battle nearly 15 years ago. Branda was small, as far has Hutt's go, only measuring about 5 meters long, but he had none of the corpulent rolls that immobilized the lazy Hutts like Jabba. He was lean, mean, and all muscle. Branda was perhaps the greatest warrior of the Jedi; his thick skin could handle any blow from an amphistaff, and the Hutt was extremely skilled with a lightsaber. But the Hutt's greatest weapon was his mind, he was brilliant and well spoken and had been eager to learn about the Force when he had learned of his Force potential. Luke knew the Hutt had made many enemies when he had left the ruling family to become a Jedi Knight, and that fact made him all the more important to Luke's Jedi Order.
Anakin paused inside the doors to glance in Chell Noruth's direction. He and Anakin locked eyes for a few seconds before Anakin gave him a slight nod and continued. Anakin stopped several meters from either group and surveyed the area. Luke watched him look to both his right and left, as if deciding where he and his Jedi Knight followers would sit. With a stern look, Anakin took up place in the open center, between both groups.
Luke watched as Corran Horn and Kyle Katarn came from his right to join Anakin. Kyp Durron and Jaina soon followed from the left. Luke had to crack a smile, Anakin had essentially unified both groups. Luke had always known his nephew was a powerful influence on the young Jedi Knights, and now it seemed he was also a powerful influence on the older Jedi Knights as well.
Luke smiled and continued, "Now that you're all here, I believe the Senate is about to have a huge press conference of their own. If I could direct all your attention to the monitor....."
Coruscant had fallen and the senators that had survived Coruscant had trouble at first deciding where the new capital should reside. The New Republic was in danger of crumbling itself. The Yuuzhan Vong controlled more territory than the Republic. They had become a rebellion again. In the end, the world of Sullust was chosen to become the new capital of the Republic. It was a sentimental choice, as the fleet that had helped break the back of the Empire by destroying the second Death Star had formed up at Sullust.
The combined senators, reporters, guests, and spectators sat around the stage, eagerly waiting for the speaker of the Senate to address them. Slowly, the speaker made his way to the stage. Weebacca, the Senator from the planet Kashyyk, made his way to the podium. He surveyed the crowd for a moment before clearing his throat and beginning the State of the Republic address.
[Senators, honored guests, members of the New Republic press, I welcome you to Sullust, the new capital world of the New Republic. But I'm afraid the news is not good. So therefore, I shall waste little time with pleasantries. As you all know, the war with the Yuuzhan Vong is not going well. We have recently lost Coruscant, the backbone of the Republic. But we also lost our President, Borsk Fey'lya. The Republic has yet to name a new President, so I, as the Speaker of the Senate have been entrusted to deliver this press conference.]
[The first announcement I wanted to deliver to you today is about the Jedi. Our former President, Borsk Fey'lya, shortly before his death, announced that he was completely endorsing the Jedi Knights. I'm here to announce that we have taken his endorsement to the next level, the New Republic government is now allowing the military to plan missions and work freely with the Jedi. There will be no more Jedi Knights turned over to the Yuuzhan Vong. They have our complete and unified support.]
[Next, I'm here to announce formally that a bounty has been place on the head of the former Senator of Kuat, Viqi Shesh. Several bounty hunters have already been dispatched and have closed in on the former Senator. It's their mission to capture her before she can return to Vong space and escape.]
[Finally, I'm here to announce that the Senate no longer feels it can win this war.....]
The crowd leapt to its feet in outrage and began to hurl insults at the Wookie Senator. Weebacca simply stood at the podium for a moment, before shouting a fierce Wookie battle cry into the microphone. The room was instantly silent.
[As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted, the Senate no longer feels it can win this war, so we are turning over command of the military to the military. A New Republic Military Council has been established to control our military. They will work to secure the worlds that are currently under our control and liberate worlds that have fallen to the Yuuzhan Vong advancement. They will work closely with the Jedi Knights, permitting Master Luke Skywalker's approval of this plan.]
The crowd sat in silence, stunned, afraid to speak, until one brave reporter stood and asked, "Does this mean that the Senate is being disbanded? Are we now under Martial Law?"
[No, we are not under martial law. In the past, the Senate has been in direct control of the military. The generals and admirals had to answer to us. The Senate has wisened since the loss of Coruscant, we are not military tacticians, we do not feel we can stop the Vong advancement. That is why the military has been given a free reign. But the Senate will not cease to exist. We still have much to contribute, allocation of funds, organizing relief efforts, finding safe havens for refugees. There is much we still have to figure out, we just feel that the military would be better off operating on it's own.]
The same reporter asked another question, "Who is going to be on this... 'New Republic Military Council?' Can we trust their judgment?"
[I was just about to get to that my friend. Yes, the men that make up the New Republic Military Council not only have brilliant tactical minds, but they have earned the respect of both the military and of the Senate. Senators, honored guests, reporters, I would like to now introduce to you the members of the New Republic Military Council.]
[The military council will have a supreme commander who is in charge of all the fleets. He in turn, will have a 5 man committee in charge of debating his plans and offering alternatives, and following out his orders if need be. I now call the New Republic Supreme Commander to the stand.... Admiral Traest Kre'fey.]
The Bothan Admiral stood and made his way to the podium as the audience erupted in cheers. While not everyone applauded the decisions of his Senator cousin Fey'lya, everyone respected the military mind of Kre'fey. He was a natural choice for Supreme Commander.
Kre'fey stood at the podium for a moment, then began his speech. "I'm not much on public speaking like my dear departed cousin, so I'll make this brief. The following men have been named to my inner cabinet as my advisors, General Garm Bel Iblis, General Wedge Antilles, and out of retirement, former Grand Admiral, Ackbar. I have also convinced the next two men to come out of retirement. They will each retain their last former rank of General, and frankly, we couldn't do it without them. The last two members of my cabinet are Lando Calrissian and Han Solo."
At the mention of Calrissian and Solo, the crowd began to cheer loudly before letting Kre'fey continue. "General Solo and General Calrissian have relocated to Sullust and shall begin their new duties immediately. We shall not let the citizens of the New Republic down. We shall be victorious! We shall win this war!"
Kre'fey accented his final words with a thrust of his fist into the air and the crowd began to cheer even louder than before. Kre'fey allowed them to cheer for a moment before signaling them to quiet down.
"I'd like to call one more person to the podium before we end this press conference and begin taking back our galaxy."
Kre'fey stepped away from the podium and the crowd suddenly went silent with shock as the man stepped forward. A man dressed all in white..........
The crowd had gone silent as they saw who had begun walking towards the podium. Everyone was transfixed on his entirely white uniform, the white uniform of an Imperial Grand Admiral. Grand Admiral Gilad Pellaeon of the Imperial Remnant fleet walked slowly but steadily up to the podium.
Pellaeon was getting up there in years, he was the last of the Admirals from the Empire who had sought to destroy the New Republic. But Pellaeon had seen that fighting the Republic was useless, he had come to the decision nearly 10 years ago that fighting the New Republic was a lost cause, his people could not win. Pellaeon was sick of fighting so he had signed a peace treaty with the New Republic, ending nearly 20 years of war. In the end, it gained Pellaeon even more respect from the remaining citizens of the Empire, he had seen to it they survived, albeit in a cramped corner of the galaxy, but they had survived nonetheless. Pellaeon had been lauded as the hero of the hour. The Empire was still alive. It could've been his for the taking, but Gilad Pellaeon was never one to seize power. He was content being a military commander, and a damn good one at that, perhaps the greatest military mind in the galaxy now that Thrawn was gone.
Pellaeon made his way to the podium, shook hands with Kre'fey, and saluted the members of the Military Council before stepping to the microphone.
"Senators, honored guests, members of the New Republic Military Council, and citizens of the New Republic, I come here, as the Supreme Commander of the Imperial Remnant, in peace. The armistice signed by our two governments nearly ten years ago is still in effect."
Pellaeon paused as the entire audience exhaled the breaths they didn't even know they were holding in. He allowed them a moment before continuing.
"It was announced today at this press conference that the New Republic is under Military control in your war with the Yuuzhan Vong, but in fact, the military has been in control for several days. When Grand Admiral Kre'fey had learned of this direction your government was undertaking, he immediately sent word to the Imperial Remnant and myself."
"The Imperial Remnant and the New Republic have been at peace with each other for nearly 10 years. But it took another 7 years for our first joint mission to take place, when I myself along with Grand Admiral Kre'fey attempted to save the planet Ithor from the Yuuzhan Vong advance. In the end, we failed, but I came to have great respect for Kre'fey and Kre'fey came to have great respect for myself. That respect has made this possible to be set in motion."
"Ever since the Yuuzhan Vong first made their appearance in this galaxy, the New Republic has been on the defensive. The Imperial Remnant didn't enter the equation until the battle for Ithor. After our loss, I returned to Imperial space and set forth the order to our shipyards to begin construction of ships. We have been quarantined by the Vong for the past 3 years, but not attacked. In that entire time, my shipyards have been churning out starships on a nonstop basis. The Imperial fleet is significantly larger than it was 3 years ago."
[How large is this fleet you speak of Grand Admiral Pellaeon?] Weebacca asked, standing up to face Pellaeon.
"Senator Weebacca, the fleet has grown quite large...."
"Then why not sit back and allow us to be destroyed? The galaxy would then be yours for the taking," an unnamed Senator shouted out from the back.
"Because Senator, the Imperial Remnant is tired of war. And because, we simply could not defeat the Vong by ourselves. Our tacticians report that at this very moment, the New Republic has about 5 years left before the Vong utterly wipe you out. Even if my shipyards are able to operate at peak efficiency, and provided we are not attacked by the Vong within those 5 years, our fleet would still lose to the Vong. Our fleet at the moment could not even defeat the remaining New Republic fleet."
[I respectfully repeat my question Grand Admiral, how large is your fleet?] Weebacca asked again.
"In the past 3 years, our fleet shipyards have been working to prepare for this day. Today, we have nearly 1500 Imperial Class II Star Destroyers and over 3000 Victory Class II Star Destroyers at our disposal, with more joining the fleet at every moment. We estimate in 1 year to be over the 2000 mark in Imperial Class II's and the 4000 mark in Victory class II's at the current rate of construction."
The crowd gasped at this number. Wedge looked at Kre'fey, who simply smiled.
[What are your intentions with this grand fleet of Star Destroyers?] Weebacca questioned.
"For the past several days, ever since Grand Admiral Kre'fey contacted me, I have been in a secret meeting with former New Republic President and Jedi Diplomat, Leia Organa Solo. Organa Solo was able to convince me of Kre'fey's plan, but the plan needed to go before the Moff's and the Imperial Government. The Imperial Government was divided on the plan until two Jedi Knights showed up. Corran Horn and the Hutt Jedi Branda Besadii Diori both spoke with such eloquence, intelligence, and passion that the Imperial Government ratified the plan 100%."
[And what is this secretive plan you speak of?]
"Members of the Senate, Military Council, citizens of the New Republic, I am here to announce that effective immediately, the New Republic Military and the Imperial Remnant Military have signed an Alliance. Whether we win or lose this war, we shall win or lose this war together, as allies."
The combined Jedi Knights stood staring at the monitor in shock as Grand Admiral Pellaeon made the announcement that the Imperial Remnant and the New Republic Military had unified. That is, all the Jedi Knights except Corran Horn and Branda Besadii Diori.
"Corran, Branda," Luke said, his voice taking on a stern tone. "I thought you were scouting the planet Kuat? When were you going to let me know this was your mission?"
"Sorry Luke," Corran said apologetically. "Branda and I were under strict orders not to inform anyone of our mission."
"Whose orders?" Luke questioned.
"Mine Luke," Leia Organa Solo said as she entered the chamber. "We couldn't risk any potential security leak, I hope you would agree, now that you know the results of our mission."
The room began to murmur softly. "Quiet!" Anakin shouted out, using the Force to project his voice. "Pellaeon isn't done talking."
The Jedi Knights once again focused on the monitors; history was being made right in front of their eyes.
"Honored members of the Senate, I know you are shocked by the recent announcement, but I have more to add. I have told you the size of our fleet, so that you may know the power the Imperial Remnant brings to the table. What I have not told you is that there are still more forces under my command that I cannot announce at this time. They are there, but for security reasons, I cannot disclose what they are. Rest assured, when the time is right, they will make themselves known."
"I have arrived at Sullust with an armada of 50 Imperial Class II Star Destroyers and 150 Victory Class II Star Destroyers. As a gesture of good faith, I am leaving these forces to defend the New Republic capital of Sullust. I shall take the commanding officers of each vessel back to Bastion with me so that you may assign your own commanding officers."
[But what of their crews?] Weebacca asked.
"The Star Destroyers crews shall remain on their ships. It is our hope that by assigning New Republic officers to command over Imperial crews, that a better understanding shall be learned of each other and how they function. It is our hope that in time, the New Republic military will send forces to Imperial space and allow Imperial commanding officers to command New Republic crews. Mind you, while we wish to win this war and defeat the Yuuzhan Vong, we also wish to lay the groundwork for the future. In my vision of the future, the New Republic welcomes the Imperial Remnant into its folds."
The crowd began to talk amongst themselves in low voices until Weebacca silenced them with a growl.
[And how do you see this taking place Grand Admiral Pellaeon?] Weebacca asked.
"That is not for me to decide, that is up to the Senate and the Imperial Government. I have simply laid the groundwork for future discussions by allying our two militaries. I'm no politician Senator Weebacca, I'm a soldier. I'll help any way I can to convince you of the sincerity of the Imperial Government, but in the end, where this goes is up to the Senate and the Imperial Government. Thank you for your time. I must return to the Chimaera and make my return to Bastion. I have much to work on there."
And with that, Pellaeon stepped away from the podium and walked out of the chamber, leaving the Senate to discuss things amongst themselves.
"So my dad's a General again," Anakin Solo stated.
"That's right kiddo, looks like you'll be taking orders from him on an official basis now," Corran Horn said, elbowing Anakin in the ribs.
"I can't wait," Anakin muttered as Tahiri laced her arm around his waist.
"This is a new beginning Anakin," she whispered as she laid her head on his shoulder. "For the first time in a long time, I feel we may survive and win this war."
"You can count on it Tahiri," Anakin whispered back, wrapping his arm around her shoulder, leading her away from the combined Jedi Knights. He had served his purpose here today; he had, at least temporarily, sealed the rift between the Jedi Knights.
As Anakin and Tahiri made their way out of the chamber, he paused at the door to look in the direction of Chell Noruth. "Thank you," Anakin said. "I just realized I never said thank you."
Chell simply smiled and gave Anakin a graceful bow. Devin Moonstar gave Anakin a respectful nod of his head. Anakin smiled and then he and Tahiri were gone.
"Anakin Solo is going to be a powerful Jedi someday, Master. I can feel it," Devin stated.
"He already is a powerful Jedi, Padawan. He has just yet to realize his potential. But someday, soon, he shall," Chell responded.
"Someday, he may be as powerful as you are in the Force, Master," Devin said.
"He already is," Chell said simply as he led his Padawan away from the celebration. "Come, we must meditate and consult with the Force on this unlikely turn of events."
Luke and Mara sat in their chamber, watching as their son Ben slept. It had been an eventful night. The Imperial Remnant and the New Republic were now allies. The Jedi Knights were no longer shunned by the government. Luke could swear he felt the tide of the war turning back towards the Republic. But he knew, it still had a long way to go until it turned even back to a stalemate with the Vong. But if anyone could do something about that, he knew it would be Anakin Solo.
"What are you thinking about Skywalker?" Mara asked. Usually she could feel what Luke was thinking about, but for some reason, this particular evening, he had closed off his feelings.
"Anakin," Luke said. "I felt something in him."
"What did you feel Luke?" Mara questioned.
"I don't know," Luke admitted.
"Focus on it Luke, I'm sure it'll come to you. You are, after all, a Jedi Master. You're the leader of the Jedi. You're the strongest Jedi in the Jedi Order."
"After tonight, I don't know if I believe that Mara. Anakin came back different, he's not the same Jedi Knight who died at Myrkr. I sensed something in him, something elusive. Something I haven't felt in a long time."
"Why don't you meditate for a while and I'll take Ben into the bedroom."
"Thank you Mara. Did I ever tell you how much I love you?"
"Everyday Skywalker, everyday. And the feeling is mutual," Mara said with a wink as she retrieved her sleeping child and made her way into the bedroom.
Luke focused his energies internally until he was deep in a Jedi trance. He was free from his body. He floated higher and higher until he was nearing the Jedi outer realm where Chell Noruth had first contacted Anakin's spirit. Luke had to enter that realm, he knew the answers would reside there. Luke pushed and pushed, but there was no way for him to enter the realm.
What is it you seek, Luke Skywalker?
Luke was startled by the voice in his head, but soon realized who the voice belonged to; Chell Noruth.
Answers Chell, and how did you know my intent was to breach the Jedi outer realm?
I have been to the Jedi outer realm on several occasions Luke. I have established a sort of bond with the place. I felt you trying to gain access. The answers you seek, do you believe they will be found there?
Then access you shall have. Open your mind to me Luke.
Luke opened his mind further, lowering even more of his defenses. He felt a sudden change in pressure, that's the only way he could describe the feeling, and suddenly, he was there. Luke concentrated and suddenly, the realm took shape. Trees sprung up from the ground, plants appeared, animals sounded in the distance. Luke glanced towards upwards and saw a blue sky with very few clouds and a red sun peering back at him. What is this place?
This is the Jedi outer realm. The form you see comes from within you. Everyone’s mind interprets what you see in the outer realm. The form differs from person to person. What you are seeing is only meant for you to see. I must go now. The gateway shall remain open for a short time. Do not remain behind when the gateway closes or you shall be trapped. Good luck and may the Force be with you, Master Skywalker.
And then, the voice of Chell Noruth was gone, and Luke was alone; on Yavin 4. He saw the great Jedi Praxium where he has once taught the ways of the Force to his young students. He saw the Temple of Exar Kun, where a young Corran Horn had nearly perished trying to defeat the specter. He moved towards the Praxium until he was at its base. He walked inside and took the elevator to the roof. The roof where he had once confronted Kyp Durron. Distant memories. He sat down on the ledge and tried to focus.
Luke didn't know how long he had been sitting on the roof of the Praxium. He was about to give up and head home, and then, he heard it. The sound traveled over the soft winds until it reached his ears. He strained to make out what the sound was exactly was. He listened for a moment and suddenly, he felt a chill go through his body. He knew what the sound was, he had heard it before, many years ago. It was the sound of someone breathing through a respirator device.
The wheezing continued until Luke saw a dark figure coming through the trees. The sound seemed to be coming from this dark figure. It floated above the trees and moved until it was on the roof with him. The figure paused at the edge of the room and solidified until Luke could see it clearly, but by then, Luke knew what he was looking at; Darth Vader.
The specter of Vader drew its red lightsaber up and walked in a steady even pace towards him. Luke reached down for his lightsaber, but realized it wasn't there. He began to panic, then remembered what Chell Noruth had told him. The mind interprets what you see in the outer realm. Luke relaxed himself with a calming breath and imagined himself having a lightsaber. The saber took shape in his hand, it's green blade extending away from his hand.
The specter of Vader moved until he was within a meter of Luke and slashed at Luke with its red lightsaber. Luke parried the blow and struck back with one of his own, passing clean through the specter. The darkness began to dissipate and a blinding white light took its place. In that bright light, Luke saw the shape of....
"There she is, directly ahead of us," Dark Tracker said as Fenix Reiner piloted the Thyferran Sun. "Communications jammed, she will not escape us this time."
"I need you on weapons Tracker," Fenix said calmly. "We'll disable her engines first, then deal with the weapons."
"Would it not be easier to disable the weaponry first Fenix?" Dark Tracker asked.
"If we don't get her engines, she'll escape again. We just spent 3 days tracking her, do you want to spend another 3 days looking for her again?"
"Point well taken, I'll target engines first," Tracker responded.
"Let's do it."
"Fenix, I'm detected two vessels on our tail. Silhouettes match a KDY Transport and a heavily modified Corellian cargo vessel," Tracker reported.
"Looks like we have company Tracker, Arica Dull and Grandoss have decided to join the party. I'm going to allow them to catch up, then I'm going to close the gap between ourselves and the Wicked Pleasure," Fenix said.
"Fenix, we won't last long against the Pleasure's weaponry at close range, they have us out gunned. And with Dull and Grandoss attacking us from the rear, we'll be utterly destroyed," Tracker reported.
"Don't worry my friend, I have a plan," Fenix returned, a feral grin spreading across his face.
"Dull and Grandoss have closed the gap on our rear quadrant, they are within firing range."
"Tracker, head back to my quarters and engage the door seal," Fenix said as he sent the Sun into a barrel roll.
"You do not want me on the bridge?" Dark Tracker questioned.
"Not when this goes off," Fenix said with a smile as he charged the ship's EMP Generator. "When I activate this, it'll shut down all the electronics in the area, except my ship. You're not shielded, it'll shut you down as well if you're on the bridge. I've built extra shielding into the walls around my quarters, they'll sufficiently protect you. Go!"
Dark Tracker turned and ran out of the bridge and headed to Fenix's quarters. When Fenix received word that Tracker was safely in his quarters, he smiled and moved his finger to the activation key. "Good morning ladies and gentlemen, this is your wakeup call."
Fenix depressed the switch and white electromagnetic energy flared out from his ship striking the Wicked Pleasure and the pursuing bounty hunters. Once the energy had dissipated, he signaled Dark Tracker to return to the bridge.
"Tracker, report on the status of the enemy ships," Fenix ordered.
"The Wicked Pleasure is out of commission, as is the Massacre III. The Fallen Fantasy is unaffected."
"Damn!" Fenix shouted, smashing his fist down on his console. "Arica Dull installed shielded backups in her ship."
"Apparently she wasn't finished with the job, she just lost engines. Deflector Shields and weaponry are still active though," Tracker reported.
"Dull will live to fight another day, but Grandoss won't be so lucky. Man the weapon systems, I'm heading back to finish off Grandoss," Fenix said, smiling once again. "Foolish Trandoshan...."
"Fenix, I'm detecting a hyperspace jump opening 10,000 kilometers off the starboard bow. It's a Yuuzhan Vong frigate analog."
"Damn! Shields up, weapons to full. Looks like Shesh was able to get out a distress call before we were able to jam her transmissions!"
"Fenix, that frigate analog has us outgunned severely. It would be tactically sound of us to retreat."
"Never! Fenix Reiner does not run away from the enemy!" Fenix shouted. "Shesh is ours! Into the fire!"
"Luke wakeup," the voice said.
Luke awakened completely in an instant, a cold sweat breaking out on his body. He was confused at first, but a quick burst of Force energy cleared his mind.
"Mara, what happened?" Luke questioned.
"Your life signs started to fade Luke, so I brought you out of the trance as quickly as I could," Mara explained.
"The vision," Luke said, understanding completely. "I was so focused on the vision that I forgot to pay attention to the gateway Chell had opened. It nearly closed on me. I was nearly trapped in the Jedi outer realm."
"You're ok now Skywalker. What did you see in this vision?" Mara asked.
"The truth Mara, the truth. You remember I told you I sensed something in Anakin, something different. Something elusive. Something I haven't felt in a long time," Luke said.
"Yes, what did you find out?" Mara asked.
"It's Anakin," Luke said quickly. "I can't explain it, but that was the elusive presence I felt in Anakin, I felt part of my father in him. Anakin Skywalker came back, at least in part, with Anakin Solo. I sensed that Anakin wasn't the same person as the Jedi Knight who died at Myrkr, it's because he isn't. Somehow, part of my father bonded with him while he was in the Jedi outer realm. It made him stronger, more receptive to the Force. More receptive than perhaps any Jedi in history."
Mara's face was white.
"There's more Mara. In my vision I defeated Darth Vader, but when he dissolved, he became a being of light. At first I saw my father in this light, but then I saw images of Master Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Dorsk 81. I saw images of long-dead Jedi I don't know the names and faces of. I saw images of Leia, you, me, Ben, everyone Mara, everyone, even Jedi who are not yet born. They are him, he is they."
Mara gasped, "Luke, you're not saying......"
"Yes Mara, Master Yoda was wrong. Anakin Skywalker was not the chosen one destined to bring balance to the Force. Anakin Solo is. He is the Force."
"No Uncle Luke, I am not the Force."
Luke turned to face his nephew who had somehow entered the room unheard.
"I'm not complete Uncle Luke. Wurth Skidder told me, he told me the answer Uncle Luke, I thought I had figured it out at the time, but I was wrong. It makes perfect sense now though," Anakin said.
"What did he tell you Anakin?" Mara asked.
"He said, Tahiri is the key. It's not just that, it's Wurth Skidder's words combined with the last words that Master Ikrit told me. He said he entered that trance on Yavin 4 to see something born between you and Tahiri. Then later, before he died, he said, together, you are stronger than the sum of your parts. It makes perfect sense now Uncle Luke. Tahiri is the piece I am missing in the Force. Our child, mine and Tahiri's, would be the chosen one. The one who is to bring balance to the Force."
Tahiri is the key.
"Fenix, shields down to almost nothing!" Dark Tracker shouted across the noise of explosions and plasma striking the Thyferran Sun's shields.
"Yuuzhan Vong frigate status?" Fenix questioned.
"Massive damage to their port hull, they're launching coral skippers," Dart Tracker reported. "Fenix, we can't win, we must get out of here, now!"
"Ok, prepare to jump to hyperspace."
As soon as the words left Fenix Reiner's mouth, an explosion rocked the Sun. Smoke poured into the cockpit from the stern of the ship.
"Hyperspace engines down, we can't jump!" Tracker yelled over the sound of the commotion.
"Damn, we're in trouble now, I'm setting course for the Massacre III. We can use Grandoss' ship as a shield," Fenix shouted back.
As Fenix made the course correction, a plasma missile connected with the rear quadrant of the Sun and the ship rocked of course.
"We're hit, engines down to 25%. We can't outrun them now, we're finished," Dark Tracker stated.
As Fenix was about to argue the point, Dark Tracker cut him off.
"I'm detecting multiple hyperspace points opening up 5000 kilometers off the port bow," Dark Tracker reported.
"Are they Vong reinforcements?" Fenix asked, but his question was answered as a voice came across the com.
"Wild Cards to bounty hunters, looks like you can use a hand with those Vong skips. Don't worry, we'll clean up the mess and save your skins. Sticks, Tam, Octa, take out those skips. Everyone else with me, we're hitting the frigate analog."
"Durron, stop Shesh before she gets out of here!" Fenix shouted back into the com.
"Too late bounty hunter, she's headed for her hyperspace point already. Too late to catch her. You'd better skidattle while you still can before any more Vong show up and finish off the job," Kyp shot back.
"Kyp Durron, why must it be him?" Fenix seethed. "Anyone else, hell, even send Luke Skywalker himself, but not Kyp Durron, the arrogant son of a..."
"The Wild Cards have taken the coral skippers off our backs, we should leave while we still can," Dark Tracker interrupted.
"Yeah, run away with our tail between our legs," Fenix said dejectedly.
"Something like that, but I was going for, leave and stay alive to fight another day," Dark Tracker stated.
"Man, first thing I'm doing when we get to the next port is getting that upgrade removed from your head, I don't like you when you're like this," Fenix said, his mood a little lighter than before.
"No chance, I like having a personality," Dark Tracker admitted.
"Yeah yeah," Fenix said as the Sun limped away from the battlefield.
The room was crowded with people, they had encircled him. Anakin took a step back and parried the attempted blow. He swung his lightsaber around in a high arc and followed it up by dropping into a crouch and swinging his right leg into his opponent’s knees. The man toppled to the ground and Anakin leapt to his feet. He quickly batted his opponents weapon away and brought his blue-purple lightsaber up high, preparing for the killing blow. He swung the lightsaber down in a low arc and stopped just short of his fallen foe's neck. Anakin deactivated his lightsaber, clipped it to his belt and took a step backwards. His foe jumped to his feet and glared at Anakin. Anakin gave him a cocky smile.
"Winner, Anakin Solo," Corran Horn said as Anakin and Ganner Rhysode exchanged bows.
"You're still too slow Ganner," Kyle Katarn joked from his seat next to Luke Skywalker.
"Oh yeah Katarn, I'd like to see you face him," Ganner shot back.
"I already did Ganner, an hour ago. He whooped up on me as well, but I lasted nearly 30 seconds longer than you did," Kyle shot back, still laughing.
"Anakin's becoming quite the swordsman Luke," Chell Noruth said leaning over from his standing position behind Luke.
"That he is Chell, care to be next in the ring?" Luke questioned.
Chell laughed, "Not on your life. Earlier, I watched him take apart Devin Moonstar in 27 seconds, and Devin is well past me in lightsaber skills. I'm afraid in a straight swordfight, I'd lose quicker than that. And how come I don't see you in that ring Luke?"
"Hey now," Mara Jade Skywalker said speaking up. "Luke's an old man, he wouldn't stand a chance against Anakin."
"Ohhhhh, them's fightin words. You gonna take that from a woman Luke?" Kyle said, laughing again, poking Luke in the ribs.
Mara simply raised her eyebrow and Kyle suddenly fell silent.
Luke laughed, "Good choice Kyle, I learned long ago not to mess with Mara Jade."
"Easier just to marry her, eh Luke," Kam Solusar said coming up to the group of Jedi Masters.
"Yes, I'm afraid I just had to make that 'sacrifice' Kam," Luke said, causing the group to break out into a fit of laughter.
Anakin walked over to the group of Jedi Masters. "Hey, instead of laughing, how bout one of you 'old men' steps into the ring?"
"Been there done that," Kyle said.
"I'm too old," Luke said.
"I'm a teacher, not a fighter," Kam said.
"I'm not really here, you don't see me," Chell said, accentuating his words with a wild waving of his hand in front of Anakin's face. The group burst into laughter yet again.
Anakin had to chuckle. "Aunt Mara?"
"You'll face me next," came the voice from behind Anakin.
Anakin turned to face his challenger. "Virruk Dujal, I was wondering when you'd step up the proverbial plate."
"Virruk nearly defeated Old Man Skywalker earlier this year. You should have no problems with him Anakin," Corran joked.
"Corran, don't encourage him," Mara warned.
"Just doing my part to make the fight interesting," Corran said, giving Mara his best 'hurt' look. Mara simply sighed.
"Fighters to your marks!" Corran shouted out. "Face each other.. bow.. face me.. bow.. ready... FIGHT!"
Virruk charged Anakin, his gold blade slicing through the air. Anakin quickly batted the blow aside and attempted to foot sweep Virruk, the same move he has just used to defeat Ganner. Virruk was too fast and leapt over the foot sweep, and while in midair, slicing down with his lightsaber. He scored a quick shot into Anakin's shoulder blade, the lightsaber causing Anakin's shoulder pad to smoke. Anakin escaped by doing several Force assisted cartwheels.
"Don't get cocky Anakin," Luke warned.
Anakin simply smiled back and the two went back to the fight. He swung his lightsaber low, attempting to slash through Dujal's knee joint, but the Iridonian batted his blade aside and jabbed at Anakin's midsection. Anakin dropped his pelvis back at the last second, narrowly avoiding being bisected. He did several back handsprings to escape the situation once again.
Anakin stopped, looked at Virruk and said, "Ok, no more mister nice guy." Virruk simply nodded in Anakin's direction.
Anakin charged and the two went toe-to-toe, exchanging several blows in rapid succession. But for every move Anakin had, Virruk Dujal had several moves ready to counteract anything Anakin threw at him. His offense was limited to a few quick strikes, a slice here, a slash there, but every offensive strike Virruk took, nearly scored a hit.
The two waged on for 8 minutes before Anakin back flipped to safety and killed his blade. "I give up, we're too evenly matched. I can't breach his defenses. Where did you learn to fight like that?"
Virruk Dujal smiled. "I'm an Iridonian. We are taught swordsmanship and warfare skills at a very young age. I've been handling a sword for the past 20 years. But even I will admit, I have much to learn. Even with the Force, I still cannot defeat my father. And I could never have the skill to defeat the honored Darth Maul."
The gathered crowd of Jedi Knights and Masters went silent at the mention of the Sith lord.
"Honored!?!?!" Zekk shouted from the gathered Jedi Knights.
"Explain yourself Virruk," Luke said calmly, waving a hand towards Zekk.
"Darth Maul is an honored figure among my people Master Skywalker. He was a being of extreme evil, yes, but my race is a fighting race. We are taught our fighting skills at a very young age. Even as evil as Darth Maul was, he was the best of us. We all hope one day to be as formidable in battle as Darth Maul. We don't honor his evil deeds Master, we honor his fighting skills. Much the same as you honor Vua Rapuung, Anakin."
"Yes, Vua Rapuung was Yuuzhan Vong warrior, but he fought with much skill. He was the enemy, and I still honor his skills to this day," Anakin said.
"Our honor is one in the same Anakin," Virruk said as he turned to leave the chamber.
"Virruk Dujal!" Anakin shouted out. "I would be honored to fight along side you someday."
Virruk turned and smiled, "And I would be honored to teach you a few more sword fighting skills, before I join you on the battlefield Anakin."
Virruk laughed and left a shocked Anakin standing with the Jedi Masters. They did their best to stifle their laughs. Anakin turned and gave them his best Solo grin, and they all burst into fits of laughter. Laughter they hadn't felt like expressing in a long time.
“This is the New Republic pleasure yacht Atlantic Fantasy calling any friendly ships in the area, we are under attack by Yuuzhan Vong forces. We can’t hold out much longer. Anyone? Help! Please!”
“Kyp, they’re in trouble, we have to do something,” Jaina shouted across the com.
“Negative Sticks, we have a job already. We have to make sure this supply convoy makes it to Sullust, I’m afraid the pleasure yacht shouldn’t have been traveling in a section of space that has been under attack for weeks. We can’t risk the convoy,” Kyp replied back.
“You’re a fool and a coward Durron! We can’t just possibly leave them to be slaughtered by the Vong!” Jaina angrily replied.
Kyp quickly switched to a private channel before responding. “Now you listen to me Jaina. I don’t care if you’re my Apprentice. I don’t care that you’re the daughter of one of my best friends. If you ever question my orders in front of the squadron again, I’ll blow you out of the sky myself. Do I make myself clear Lieutenant?”
“Yes sir,” Jaina gritted her teeth and replied.
“Good, now let’s fix this situation before any ‘innocents’ lose their lives,” Kyp returned. He switched back over to the Wild Cards’ frequency. “Spade 5, I want you to take command of the squadron while Sticks, Tam, Octa, and I take care of the Vong trouble makers. We’re going to pick a fight,” Kyp said, smiling.
“Affirmative Spade leader. We’ll keep an eye on the package while you’re gone. You can count on us,” Spade 5 responded.
Kyp switched over to a private frequency that only Octa, Tam, and Jaina could hear. “Ok Knights, let’s make this quick. The convoy is set to jump back to hyperspace in 30 standard minutes. I want to be back at Eclipse with the rest of my squadron. Form up on me, we’re going in.”
The four Jedi pilots swung their XJ3 X-Wings around to follow Kyp’s lead as he advanced towards the pleasure yacht.
“Atlantic Fantasy coming into view Kyp,” Octa announced.
“Picking up one Yuuzhan Vong cruiser analog. Looks like they came with just enough firepower for the job,” Tam replied.
“Cut the chatter Knights,” Kyp said before opening a channel to the Fantasy. “Atlantic Fantasy, this is Jedi Master Kyp Durron of the Wild Cards squadron, we’re here to assist. We’ll have that Vong cruiser off your tail in no time.”
“Jedi Master Durron, this is the Atlantic Fantasy. We’re grateful for your assistance, but we’ve been boarded by Yuuzhan Vong warriors. We’ve been able to keep them at bay, but our ship’s security forces are not trained to deal with this type of intrusion. We require assistance.”
“Ok, Sticks, you’re with me. We’re going to dock with that yacht and help their security forces deal with the Vong warriors. Octa, Tam, you two deal with that cruiser. It shouldn’t have any skips, so it shouldn’t be much of a fight. Take it out fast and run cover just in case any more Vong warships decide to crash the party,” Kyp ordered.
“Affirmative Kyp! Good luck,” Octa responded.
“Jedi Master Durron to Atlantic Fantasy. Open your docking bays. We need a place to set down two X-Wings.”
“Docking bays open! Thank the Force you’re here!”
As Kyp and Jaina got closer to the yacht, they could see where the Yuuzhan Vong landing craft had burned through the hull and boarded the ship.
“Kyp, if we blow the landing craft away from the hull, the Vong would get sucked out in the vacuum of space and we wouldn’t have to land,” Jaina said.
“Negative Sticks, we’d possibly lose civilians in the process. And besides, I’ve been flying much too long, I need a little hand-to-hand action to keep the old reflexes going. Now let’s do it.”
Kyp and Jaina maneuvered their X-Wings into a landing position inside the docking bay of the Fantasy. Kyp hopped out of his X-Wing, igniting his red lightsaber with a SNAP-HISS as he fell, to survey the area; it appeared clear. He waived to Jaina and she jumped to the ground as well, igniting her blue lightsaber with a SNAP-HISS.
Kyp and Jaina moved forward until they were at the access panel for the docking bay. Kyp used the access panel to check internal sensors to determine where the Vong were currently bottlenecked.
“Casino,” Kyp said to Jaina. “Come on, its 2 decks down. Elevators this way.”
“Why wait,” Jaina said simply as she slashed her lightsaber down towards the floor. She swept it around in a circular cut, ripping a hole in the floor. She used the Force to levitate several chunks of debris out of the way and the two Jedi Knights dropped down one floor.
Kyp smiled. “I knew there was a reason I liked you Jaina, although it’s hard to remember at times.”
“Quiet you,” Jaina replied. “One more floor. You ready?”
Kyp nodded, a huge grin appearing on his face. “I think it’s time the Yuuzhan Vong find out what a Jedi Master can do.”
Jaina ripped a large hole in the floor and Kyp dropped through without preamble. Jaina waited a moment before joining him herself. She landed in a crouch and instantly brought her lightsaber up for protection. She surveyed the area and saw Kyp rapidly advancing on 4 Yuuzhan Vong warriors, his red blade rotating in front of him like a shield as it batted away thud bugs hurled by the warriors. Jaina paused a moment to watch him fight.
Kyp advanced rapidly on the warriors as they hurled thud bug after thud bug at him. He smiled as he was upon the first warrior, hacking his right arm off at the shoulder with a downward slash of his red lightsaber. The warrior grunted as he tried to draw his coufee with his left hand, but a second later his head was severed from his body as Kyp came around for another slash. The other three warriors abandoned their thud bugs and drew their amphistaffs.
Jaina, go, there are several more warriors ahead. They are heading for the bridge. Don’t let them get there.
I’m on it.
The first warrior came at Kyp quickly, slashing his amphistaff out at Kyp in whip form. Kyp dodged right as the whip sailed over his left shoulder and he delivered a fierce standing sidekick to the second warrior as he came at Kyp from the right. A quick backwards cut nearly bisected the third warrior as he tried to sneak behind Kyp.
Kyp brought his lightsaber back around in a huge uppercut, severing several fingers from the first warrior. The second warrior swung his amphistaff at Kyp, catching him in the shoulder. Kyp rolled with the blow and swung another slash behind him, this time catching the third warrior in the knee joint. The blade tore through the warrior’s kneecap, severing the thigh muscle from the knee. The warrior howled and dropped back.
Kyp quickly rose to his feet and used the Force to hurl a stool from one of the many card tables into the back of the first warrior. The warrior landed at Kyp’s feet with a huge *THUD* and Kyp quickly drove his lightsaber through the back of the warriors head.
The second warrior advanced on Kyp swinging his staff towards Kyp’s knees. Kyp used a force assisted leap to clear the warrior, and in mid air, hurled his lightsaber into the chest of the third warrior as he tried to rise. Landing behind the second warrior, Kyp delivered a fierce foot sweep, shattering the warriors kneecap in the process. He called his lightsaber back to his hand with the Force and drove it through the warriors back to end the fight.
“Didn’t even break a sweat,” Kyp said to himself as he moved out of the casino. His Apprentice had her hands full, he could sense it.
Jaina Solo moved down the corridor towards the bridge with a purpose. Her blue lightsaber hummed beside her as she ran, trying to catch up with the five Yuuzhan Vong warriors that were ahead of her. She knew if they made it to the bridge and overpowered the bridge crew, then the pleasure yacht was lost. Jaina heard the sounds of battle up ahead and used the Force to enhance her muscles, giving her more speed to run. Jaina rounded a corner and there they were, five Yuuzhan Vong warriors. Further down the hallway, at the doorway to the bridge were 3 brave security officers, trying in vain to keep the warriors from reaching the bridge.
Jaina tapped into the Force once again to enhance her leg muscles and she jumped. She soared over the heads of the approaching warriors, doing a complete flip in mid-air. She landed in a battle crouch between the warriors and the security officers and brought her lightsaber up to bear. Jaina knew she didn’t have the skill with the weapon that her brothers and mother did, so she sent out a mental probe to Kyp. Kyp, I’ve got five warriors here, I could use a hand.
I’m on the way Jaina, hang tight. Jaina sighed as she could practically see Kyp’s smug smile with the mental words.
“Get that bridge door secure, I’ll handle the scar-heads!” Jaina shouted at the three security officers. They quickly moved back into the bridge and she heard the heavy durasteel door close with a bang. She turned her attention back to the quickly approaching warriors.
The first warriors lashed out at her with his amphistaff in whip form. It sailed past her right hip and she swung her lightsaber down into the warrior’s knee, severing the knee. Anger flowed through Jaina in an instant to the boiling point and she snapped her right arm out and spread her fingers wide. But the moment she was ready to release the deadly Dark Lightning, Jaina realized what she was doing and her anger fled her as quickly as it arose. Instead, a massive piece of durasteel plating tore from the wall and decapitated the first warrior.
Jaina smiled as she had won an important inner battle, but the second warrior was upon her in an instant, so she had to defend herself. The warrior was too quick and he delivered a fierce punch to her cheek. Jaina rolled with the punch and executed a back handspring, her heel catching the warrior beneath the jaw and she was satisfied as she heard the bone snap. She quickly dropped into a crouch and drove her lightsaber through the warrior’s chest.
The third warrior went low and smashed his amphistaff into her ribs. Jaina felt the wind go out of her and she collapsed onto the floor in heap. The warrior raised his amphistaff up high to deliver the killing blow when Jaina made her move. She quickly leapt to her feet and her lightsaber followed in a high arc, ripping a huge gash up the warrior from crotch to neck. Internal organs and blood exploded from the warrior covering the ground in a thick pool of red.
Jaina back flipped out of the red goo and landed several meters away. The fourth warrior came at her fast, his amphistaff solid. The two traded several blows before Jaina sent him backwards with a kick to the chest.
Where are you Durron?
Her answer came when a red ellipse shot down the corridor and embedded itself in the fifth warrior’s back. Kyp appeared at the end of the hall and with a flick of his finger, his lightsaber flew back into his grasp.
The fourth warrior glanced behind himself for an instant and Jaina made her move. She delivered a crushing kick to the warrior’s crotch. She quickly followed it up with a second kick and the warrior howled in pain. A quick downward cut ended the warrior’s life. Jaina dropped to one knee and took in a deep breath; pain quickly followed.
“Broken rib,” Kyp said simply.
“Thank you Captain Obvious for your astute assessment of the situation,” Jaina coughed out. “What took you so long?”
“Ran into the other three warriors on the boarding party on the way here. Took me a moment to dispose of them,” Kyp answered back calmly. “You survived, no reason to complain.”
Jaina sighed. “Forget it, I’m in no mood to argue with you.”
A smile spread across Kyp’s face, but before he could reply, his wrist com quickly piped up.
“Kyp, we took care of the Yuuzhan Vong cruiser, but three frigates just came out of hyperspace. ETA 7 minutes. Better get out of there while you still can.”
“Thanks Octa, we’re on evac now. Make a run for it and we’ll catch up to you,” Kyp ordered back.
“Affirmative Kyp, Octa out.”
Kyp quickly ran to the bridge door, but the door wouldn’t open. Instead of waiting, Kyp ignited his red lightsaber with a SNAP-HISS and cleaved a giant hole in the durasteel.
“Better get your yacht out of here now. We’ve got three Yuuzhan Vong frigates on approach. ETA 5 minutes. Give us two minutes then go to hyperspace,” Kyp shouted through the hole.
“Thanks Master Durron,” the pilot shouted back. “As soon as I make it to Bespin I’m going to make sure I send a large amount of New Republic credits to the military to fund future Jedi operations.”
Kyp smiled, “It was our pleasure. May the Force be with you.”
Kyp turned to Jaina and the two exchanged a quick grin before taking off for the landing bay where their XJ3 X-Wings were docked. They made it about halfway there when Jaina began to visibly slow, no doubt from the broken rib she had suffered. Kyp noticed immediately.
“Need me to carry you?” Kyp said, a large grin on his face.
Jaina shot him a dirty look and immediately caught up and kept pace.
“Didn’t think so,” Kyp replied laughing.
You did well Jaina, it was a monumental first step. I’m proud of you. But Jaina said nothing in reply. Her defense mechanisms were back up in full power, but Kyp knew an important battle had been won for the light side today. The redemption of Jaina Solo had just begun.
He sat in his private chambers. Sweat gleamed on his furrowed brow. His fists were clenched tightly together. His mouth was tightly locked. But none of these things bothered Luke Skywalker, for he wasn’t aware of his physical body at the moment; he was in a deep meditation.
Luke had entered the meditation to gain a better perspective on Anakin’s transformation since he returned from the Jedi Outer Realm. So far, he had come back with fewer answers than before. He seemed to be getting further from the truth. Luke pushed harder, trying to contact a Jedi spirit who could give him more answers. That’s when he felt the other presence in his mind.
Jedi Skywalker. The voice said simply. I bring you a message.
Who is this? Luke asked?
Who I am is not important. What’s important is my message. the voice said stated.
And that message is? Luke asked, focusing on the voice. A voice he had never heard before, although for some strange reason, he had a feeling he knew whom it belonged to. He couldn’t remember at the moment though.
Your nephew, Jacen Solo, is not dead. He is very much alive.
How do I know you’re telling me the truth? Who are you? Luke questioned back.
Uncle Luke! It’s me Jacen, I’m being held at…….
Jacen! Luke focused on Jacen’s voice, but it was gone. But he knew, it was most definitely his nephew.
He is alive Skywalker. But for how long is the question. and then, the voice was gone.
Luke pushed to regain his connection with the voice, but was unable. It was as if the voice had never existed in the Force and was only a direct projection into his mind. He searched out for Jacen’s mind, but came back empty as well.
“Luke,” the voice said to him.
Luke awakened from his trance to see his wife Mara Jade Skywalker standing above him. She had a worried look on her face.
“Mara, what is it?” Luke questioned.
“We’re receiving a transmission, it’s from Wedge,” Mara answered.
“I’ll take it in the bedroom,” Luke said simply, and then he vanished into the other room.
Twenty minutes later, Luke emerged, a worried look on his face.
“What is it?” Mara asked.
“Gather the Jedi Knights, the Vong are on the move again. This time, it’s serious.”
The Jedi Knights stationed at Eclipse gathered once again, this time in the newly completed conference room. Luke entered the chamber and glanced out into the sea of faces sitting before him. Jedi Knights and Masters from all races. It was the largest gathering of the Jedi Knights, even more than his great Jedi Convocation he had called nearly two weeks ago. He saw Kyp Durron and Jaina Solo sitting together. Next to them, sat Kam Solusar and his wife Tionne. Next to Tionne sat Alema Rar and Manuel Tejada.
Luke smiled; the Jedi Knights were united, if even for this short time. He glanced over at his nephew Anakin and spoke to him through the Force. Anakin, you should be proud of this sight before you. Thank you. You have brought balance to the Jedi once again.
Thank you Uncle Luke, but I don’t see that I did anything but die and come back to life. The Jedi have wanted to do this for a while, they simply needed a reason. On some level, they know what I have become, even if their consciousness does not.
That very well may be Anakin, perhaps after the meeting we should sit down with the Jedi Masters and figure things out.
No Uncle Luke, I don’t want them to know what you, I, and Aunt Mara know. At least not yet. I don’t need 50 bodyguards to protect me. You and I both know that would happen if the Jedi Knights were to learn the truth.
Very well Anakin, I will respect your wishes.
Thank you Uncle Luke, now, about this meeting….
Luke smiled and broke contact with his nephew. Looking back out into the sea of Jedi Knights, Luke prepared himself to deliver the news.
“Thank you all for coming,” Luke began. “I have received some rather disturbing news from General Wedge Antilles. With the recent loss of much of the New Republic’s territory to the Yuuzhan Vong advance, the Republic has had to move many of its key military facilities and shipyards. The capital has been relocated to Sullust, as you all learned the last time you were gathered here. Wedge just informed me that two new shipyards just went online at Naboo and Umgul. A third goes online at Bespin in a little over a week and a fourth goes online in the Mid Rim in 10 days.”
“Master Luke,” Kyp Durron spoke up. “What does any of this have to do with the Jedi Knights?”
Luke smiled, “I was just getting to that Kyp. New Republic intelligence has learned that the Vong intend to strike Naboo next. Their forces are already massing near Ando and Rodia according to reports from Rogue Squadron. Their intent is to destroy our shipyards at Naboo and seize control of the planet. From Naboo, they could launch another direct strike at Sullust or Umgul. We cannot allow them to take Naboo.”
“I assume the New Republic military is putting together a huge task force to deal with this threat,” Kyp said. “How many Jedi Knights are going to Naboo to help with the defense? I volunteer the services of the Wild Cards.”
Luke smiled once again,” Thank you for volunteering your squadron Kyp, but there’s no need. I’ve decided I’m sending all the Jedi Knights to Naboo.”
“All of us?” Jaina said in shock.
“Yes Jaina. What better way to send a message than to send every single Jedi Knight to the defense of one planet,” Luke said. “We need to show the Vong that the Jedi will not allow them to push us out of existence without a fight.”
“But Luke,” Corran Horn interrupted. “Isn’t this a little 'aggressive’ for your style? I mean no offense, but this seems like it’s more along the lines of Kyp’s style.”
Kyp smiled before speaking, “No offense taken Corran. I was wondering that myself, what’s up with that old man Skywalker?”
Luke laughed, “Let’s just say some recent events have changed my views on certain elements of the Force. I’m not talking about mounting a strike to regain a planet here, I’m talking about defending a planet that’s about to be attacked. This is about as offensive as I want to get. No offense Kyp.”
It was Kyp’s turn to laugh, “None taken, Master.”
Luke looked out into the sea of Jedi Knights and spotted Chell Noruth and Devin Moonstar standing behind everyone else. “Chell, I know you’d rather return to Endor to continue Devin’s training, but we can’t do this without you. We need your help and assistance.”
“Then you shall have it,” Chell said simply. “I’m certain Devin is itching to put his Jedi skills to the test in real combat.”
“Master, it was never my intent to give you that impression! I have no desire….” Devin shouted out before Chell silenced him with a wave of his hand.
“It was a joke young Padawan,” Chell said laughing. “Either way, you are ready to defend the Jedi Order against all threats.”
“Thank you for your kind words Master,” Devin said with a bow.
Luke continued. “There’s good news to go with the bad news. Jacen Solo is alive.”
The crowd suddenly fell silent at Luke’s announcement, except Jaina who started to cry tears of happiness. Kyp put an arm around her shoulder and for once, she accepted his help, burying her head into his shoulder.
Leia stood up, “I’ve believed this for some time Luke, but how do you know for sure?”
“I spoke with him while in meditation Leia,” Luke explained. “I was in a deep meditation when a voice entered my thoughts. The voice told me that Jacen was alive, and then it was confirmed when Jacen himself spoke to me quickly through the Force. He was cut off before he could tell me where he was being held, but I’m positive it was Jacen Solo.”
Anakin stood quickly. “Uncle Luke, this voice, who did it belong to?”
Arica Dull moved slowly through the town square. She was hot on the trail of her pray; the traitorous former Senator of the New Republic, Viqi Shesh. The race had taken her from the planet Tatooine, to Ryloth, and now finally, to Naboo. As Dull moved through the city of Theed, she knew why Shesh has come here; the glaring lack of security forces.
Naboo had been an important planet in the downfall of the Old Republic. Emperor Palpatine had come from the planet and early on, the planet was used to allow Palpatine to become the last Supreme Chancellor of the Senate. Later on, the former Queen, Padme Amidala, had given birth to Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa Solo, two figures that had changed the galaxy.
Dull moved like a cat, her training served her well. If Arica Dull did not want to be noticed, she would not be noticed. Well, anyone less than a Jedi wouldn’t notice her. Arica Dull was good, but not that good. She moved slowly up to a fountain in the middle of a square, and paused. Up on the roof of one of the nearby buildings she saw a glimmer of metal in the fading twilight.
Arica slowly brought her electro-binoculars up to her eyes and peered through them. She saw that it was indeed another bounty hunter, but with a T-16 Sniper rifle, an Imperial military design. Dull quickly withdrew her small air gun and loaded it with one of her special design darts. A quick burst of air and the sniper clutched his neck and toppled to the roof in a heap. Arica smiled; it would be hours before he woke up, easily long enough for Arica to claim her prize.
She rose to her feet and quickly darted back in between the two buildings she had emerged from. Crouching behind a potted plant, covered by shadows, she watched as Fenix Reiner and Dark Tracker emerged from a building across the way. Arica slowly withdrew her small Ion pistol and aimed it at Dark Tracker. Tracker sensed the motion, even in the dim light and swiftly aimed his blaster in her direction. Too late, a blast shot out of her pistol and struck Tracker in the chest. Blue energy flared from his metallic body and he collapsed to the ground in a heap.
Fenix was a lot quicker than Dull remembered, he rapidly drew his Stormtrooper issued blaster rifle and sent several laser volleys in her direction. Dull executed a simple back handspring to stay out of range of the exploding flowerpot. She grabbed her grappling pistol and fired a grappling hook to the roof. It attacked with a metallic clink and she rose off to the safety of the rooftops.
“Vergere? How can that be?” Jaina asked.
“I’m not sure Jaina. We know that the Vong shaped a vornskyr and created the voxyn. Perhaps they were able to shape the vornskyr in a different way and create a device that allows them to tap directly into the Force. Anyway you slice it, I’m positive it was Vergere. For some reason, I just know it was her,” Luke answered.
“I’ve got a better question Master Skywalker. Are you sure it was Jacen?” Valin Horn asked, speaking for the first time in the meeting.
“Yes Valin,” Luke answered. “Without a doubt it was Jacen. You don’t know this because you’re still young, but everyone communicates differently through the Force. The best way to describe it is a frequency of com unit. Every Jedi ‘transmits’ at a different frequency. It can’t be copied or reproduced. Speaking to Anakin is different than speaking to you. It’s not possible for the Vong to duplicate the way Jacen speaks to me through the Force.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Jaina said. “Jacen is alive. Anakin, let’s get a strike force together, we’re going after our brother.”
“No Jaina, we’re not.”
“But Anakin!” Jaina shouted. Kyp tried to calm her down by placing his arm around her shoulder, but she simply shrugged him off and stepped forward.
“To rush off after Jacen now would be foolish. We rushed into the Myrkr mission and we lost half of the strike team, including myself,” Anakin continued. “We don’t even know where the Vong are holding Jacen, and even if we did, we need to protect Naboo from the Vong advancement.”
“But Anakin, he’s your brother!”
“Yes Jaina, and he’s your brother as well. But more importantly, Jacen is a Jedi Knight. He chose his own path, and he chose it wisely. To rush off now and attempt to save Jacen might mean the loss of Naboo. We both know Jacen wouldn’t want us rushing off on some fool-hardy rescue mission when there’s a larger cause to be fought.”
Jaina seemed to process this information and sat back down in her seat. She glared daggers at Anakin, but Anakin knew it was just the Dark Side of the Force talking. He knew Jaina hadn’t overcome her fall yet. Anakin sat in contemplation when an idea suddenly appeared in his mind.
“Uncle Luke! I just thought of something. Both Jacen and Vergere spoke to you through the Force?” Anakin asked.
“Yes Anakin,” Luke replied. “What are you getting at?”
“If Vergere spoke to you through the Force, and all Jedi have a certain frequency which they transmit at...” Anakin continued.
A light bulb suddenly went on in Luke’s head. “Then I should be able to trace Vergere back to the device she used to tap into the Force. And when we find Vergere…” Luke stated.
“We find Jacen,” Anakin finished.
“And then we take him back,” Jaina said, igniting her blue lightsaber with a SNAP-HISS to accentuate her point.
“Yes Jaina, we take him back. But not until after Naboo is safe,” Anakin cut in. “The New Republic is counting on the Jedi Knights now, we can’t let them down, even if it costs us Jacen.”
The entire group of Jedi Knights bowed their heads at that somber thought. None of them wanted to sacrifice Jacen, but they knew that if it came down to it, sacrificing one Jedi Knight to save a galaxy would be a just cause. But if it actually came down to it, could they do it? That was the question.
“Tracker! Are you alright?” Fenix Reiner shouted, shaking his partner.
“Fenix, ion blast disabled my systems. Backup systems have restored my higher brain functions, but my body is still paralyzed. Go after Dull; get to Shesh before she can. I’ll be along shortly,” Dark Tracker stated.
“I’ll make her pay Tracker,” Fenix promised.
“Watch your back Fenix, Grandoss is still out there somewhere,” Tracker warned.
“The Trandoshan doesn’t worry me Tracker. It’s Dull who’s the real threat,” Fenix returned.
“The Trandoshan may not be much of a pilot Fenix, but we’re in his element now. Hand to hand combat. The Trandoshans weren’t a slavers race for nothing; watch out for the Trandoshan Fenix. He will be trouble,” Tracker said with caution. “Now go, before Dull gets away.”
Fenix turned one last time to glance at his fallen partner and ran off after Arica Dull.
Tracker lay on the deserted streets of Theed, his internal systems frantically trying to repair the damage done by the ion pistol. He glanced to his left and detected movement; three figures walked out of the shadows.
As the three figures approached, Tracker could tell something was amiss. He scanned the three figures and a warning went through his android brain before he could finish the scan! YUUZHAN VONG!
As the three warriors in disguise got closer, Tracker’s systems one by one shot back online. He quickly rose to his feet and aimed his blaster at the nearest one. A laser blast erupted from his blaster and tore a hole through the chest of the nearest warrior. The warrior fell back dead, a large, hulking, smoking hole in his chest.
The other two warriors snarled and their ooglith cloakers rushed away from their bodies in an instant. The two warriors drew coufees and rushed at the bounty hunter. They were able to get close enough to disarm Dark Tracker, his blaster skidding several meters away.
“Done, infidel,” the second warrior shouted, holding his coufee to Tracker’s neck with his right hand.
Tracker simply smiled and grabbed the warrior by the wrist with his left hand and shattered the warrior’s ulna and radius, bending the hand back to touch the elbow. The warrior shouted out in pain and fell to the ground.
The third warrior lunged at Tracker and attempted to stab his coufee through Tracker’s midsection. The bio-knife simply slid off Tracker’s metallic midsection and Tracker landed a heavy forearm to the back of the warrior’s neck. The warrior rolled through the forearm and came to his feet several feet away from Tracker.
“The infidel is a machine!” the warrior shouted, enraged. “Destroy him! He mocks our Gods with his mechanical abominations!”
The second warrior rose back to his feet, coufee firmly in his left hand now and lunged at Tracker. Tracker side stepped the maneuver and drove a right upper cut into the underside of the warrior’s chin. He heard the neck bones shatter and the warrior collapsed in a heap; dead before he even hit the ground.
The third warrior snarled and launched a thud bug at Tracker. The bug deflected off his chest plating and landed somewhere in the distance. Tracker drove a punch with all his might into the warrior’s stomach, and heard several ribs shatter with the punch. The warrior grunted and dropped back, but by then it was too late. Tracker followed through with a left hook that caught the warrior in the temple, shattering his skull. The warrior collapsed to the ground, still breathing, but not for long. Tracker raised his bionic leg up high, and with the sounds of rotating gears and servos, drove the leg down, crushing the warrior’s head.
Yuuzhan Vong, here? On Naboo? This isn’t good. Tracker thought as he retrieved his blaster. I’d better find Fenix and Shesh before more Vong warriors show up. And then, the mighty Dark Tracker was gone.
Luke Skywalker sat in the chamber with his most trusted Jedi Knights and Masters: Corran Horn, Mara Jade Skywalker, Kam Solusar, Kyle Katarn, Kyp Durron, Saba Sebatyne, Chell Noruth, Streen, and his nephew Anakin.
“The Vong fleet is expected to arrive within the next 5 hours,” Luke began. We need to be ready for them. I’ve contacted Queen Takara of Naboo and we’ve begun getting as many people off the planet as possible. I’ve also contacted Boss Jarro of the Gungans and they’ve agreed to commit all of their military forces to the ground battle that’s sure to come. Our main goal will be to keep the Vong from taking Theed. Most of the planet is wide-open land; the Gungan armies will attend to those areas. We’ve begun constructing small fortresses at intervals starting at 1/2 mile from Theed. The fortresses will be where we set up camp.”
“I’ve called you all here because you will be in charge of each group of Jedi. We’ll have a small group of Jedi located at each fortress, while the rest will be piloting X-Wings in the orbital defense.”
“I’ll handle the first fortress codenamed Bunker A. Biggs Darklighter Jr and Tam Azur-Jamin will be with me.”
“Luke,” Corran interrupted. “Will Valin take part in this mission?”
“Yes Corran,” came the response.
“Then I request that Valin be placed in my unit,” Corran stated.
“Done my friend,” Luke concluded.
“While we’re on the subject, Tahiri needs to go with me,” Anakin said.
“That is done as well Anakin,” Luke said smiling. “Anymore requests? Or may I continue?” The group laughed.
“Mara will handle Bunker B with Zekk and Lowbacca. Kyle, you’ll have Bunker C with Tesar Sebatyne and Alema Rar. Streen, you’ll have Bunker D with Manuel Tejada and Branda Besadii Diori. Chell, you’ll handle Bunker E with Devin Moonstar and Ganner Rhysode. Corran, F is yours with Valin and Octa Ramis. Kyp, you’ll be in Bunker G with Jaina and Dorsk 83.”
“Then my squadron is grounded?” Kyp asked jumping to his feet. “We’re some of the best pilots in the sector, you can’t ground us!”
“I’m sorry Kyp, we need all the Masters on the surface,” Luke explained. “Saba will absorb your squadron in the defense of the shipyards.”
“Do not worry Massster Durron, the Wild Knightz will take good care of your Wild Cardz,” Saba hissed. Kyp nodded towards Saba and sat back down.
“Anakin, you’ll handle H with Tahiri and Virruk Dujal,” Luke continued.
“What about me Luke?” Kam asked.
“Kam, I’m afraid I’ll need you, Tionne, Cilghal, and Danni Quee to stay with the Jedi trainees here at Eclipse. If we fail at Naboo, there’s a chance we’ll lose a lot of Jedi, and that includes Masters. We need to make sure the trainees’ futures are sufficiently protected.”
“Understood,” Kam responded with a nod of his head.
“And what about me Luke?” a voice rang out as it entered the room. Everyone turned to see who was speaking; Leia Organa Solo.
“Leia, I assumed you had other duties to attend to,” Luke said.
“None more important than this Luke,” Leia replied. “Han is busy with the New Republic Military Council, I want no part of the Senate, and Winter is taking care of Ben. I may not be a Knight, Luke, but I’m still a Jedi.”
Luke smiled. “Very well then, Leia, you’ll join Anakin’s group.”
“Uncle Luke,” Anakin started. “Please place mom with another group of Jedi. No offense mom, but I don’t need a babysitter.”
“Anakin, my intent wasn’t to…” Leia began, but Anakin interrupted her.
“I know it wasn’t, but mom, what happens if I’m injured. Can you guarantee you won’t drop what you’re doing to come to my rescue?” Anakin inquired.
Leia sighed. “I know, I know, sometimes I have trouble being a Jedi first instead of a mom first. But you’ll understand when you have kids Anakin. But if it makes you feel any better, I’ll join another group.”
Luke smiled. “Ok then, Leia, you’ll go with Chell and Devin and Ganner will join Anakin’s group. Watch after my sister Chell,” Luke said with a grin.
“Hey buddy, I don’t need anyone to look after me,” Leia added with a laugh.
“Zekk and Lowbacca eh,” Mara stated. “That’s going to be an interesting conversation. I wonder how many times I’ll hear Zekk complain about being so far from Jaina,” she added with a chuckle.
“You think it’ll be any easier with Valin and Octa?” Corran asked.
“Octa can be… difficult at times,” Kyp stated. “But she’s a very capable Jedi Knight Corran.”
“I know Kyp, but I’m afraid she might rub off on Valin a little bit,” Corran said with a laugh. “The kid already gives me enough close heart attacks.”
Kyp chuckled. “Better be prepared for a few more, the kid’s only 14.”
Corran sighed. “Don’t remind me.”
“Luke, if we’re done here. I need to confer with Devin and meditate,” Chell said.
“We’re done Chell. The rest of you, get with your teammates and be ready for transit to Naboo at 0200. And may the Force be with us.”
The Redeemer exited hyperspace with its convoy of Skipray blastboats, XJ3 X-Wings, Y-Wings, and B-Wings.
“Knightz One to Jedi Command,” Saba Sebatyne called into her com. “We have arrived, we’re joining the fleet. Good hunting.”
“Confirmed Knight One,” Chell Noruth said in return. “Take out a few Vong for me.”
“And a few for Kyp as well,” Noruth continued with a grin.
Sissing laughter could be heard over the com. “Can do. Good luck Jedi Knightz.”
The Redeemer rounded the planet of Naboo and for the first time, the gathered Jedi Knights were able to see just how large the combined fleet was.
“Valin,” Corran interrupted with a stern tone.
Valin bit his lip before continuing. “Ships, holy ships. I’ve never seen a fleet so large.”
Indeed, the fleet was large. Thousands of vessels from surrounding sectors had arrived to defend the shipyards at Naboo. Valin was able to distinguish at least 10 different classes of starships. He saw Bothan Attack Cruisers, Corellian Gunships, Imperial Class II Star Destroyers, Corona-Class Star Frigates from the Kuat Drive Yards, Loronar Strike-Class Cruisers, Victory Class II Star Destroyers, Nebula Class Star Destroyers, and Republic Class Star Destroyers. Valin even saw a few of the new Corellian Mark 4 Corvettes and a few of the brand new Mon Calamari MC180 Star Cruisers. XJ3 X-Wings, Y-Wings, A-Wings, Skipray Blastboats, B-Wings, and even a few older model T-65 X-Wings and Z-95 Headhunters flew around the command ships like small insects. Valin whistled.
“Yes, quite a site isn’t it Valin,” Luke said as he took in the spectacle.
“That it is Master Skywalker,” Valin said in awe.
“Look over there, it’s the Yavaris III, Wedge’s flagship.”
Valin’s eyes widened as the monstrous new Republic Class III Assault Frigate Wedge had taken on as his new flagship came into view.
“Master Skywalker, aren’t those...” Valin began spotting another ship.
“Yes Valin, they are,” Luke cut in. “Hapan Battledragons. Interesting. It appears the Hapans have decided to lend to the defense of Naboo. Perhaps their military has recovered to the point where they can join us again.”
“Most likely it has something to do with the new Queen Mother,” Kyp Durron hypothesized. “Tenal Ka had something to do with this, I’m sure.”
“Yes, knowing Tenal Ka, she would lend support even if she had to scrounge the bottom of the barrel to give it,” Corran explained.
Luke laughed, “That’s ok, I’m sure Wedge will take it.”
“Luke, transmission coming in from fleet command,” Chell interrupted.
“Jedi Command, this is the Yavaris III. Glad you’re finally here, cutting it a bit close eh Luke.”
“We got here as fast as we could Wedge. Looks like you’ve got quite the fleet forming up out there,” Luke responded.
“Yeah Luke, even if the leader of the starfighter counterattack is a crazy fool,” Wedge called back laughing. Another voice behind him shouted out.
“Hey, the last time I was in charge of a foolish mission, we destroyed the Death Star II!” the voice shouted out.
Luke chuckled, “Good to see you too Lando. Where’s the rest of the Military Council?”
This time it was Wedge on the com. “Kre’fey is staying at Sullust to make sure no Vong hit the capital. Ackbar is in charge of the fleet stationed at Umgul to protect the shipyards there. No one’s seen Garm Bel Iblis for days.”
“Sounds just like Garm,” Luke said.
“What about Han?” Kyp asked.
“I’m right here kid, you think I’d let Lando lead this assault on his own? Besides, he’d just get himself killed. He needs the best pilot in the galaxy at his side,” Han returned.
“Yeah, yeah, you old pirate,” Lando said in the background.
“You’re cleared for landing at Theed Luke, better get down there before the fun starts,” Wedge interrupted.
“Thanks Wedge. May the Force be with you.”
“May the Force be with all of us Luke. Yavaris III out.”
“Everything looks so peaceful out there,” Valin said absentmindedly.
“The calm before the storm Valin,” Chell responded, taking the Redeemer towards the surface.
“This is fleet command, Yuuzhan Vong fleet is coming out of hyperspace,” General Wedge Antilles announced. “General’s Solo and Calrissian, you may commence your fighter attack.
“All wings report in,” Lando called out.
“Rogue Leader standing by Gold Leader,” Colonel Gavin Darklighter of Rogue Squadron announced.
“Knightz Leader sssstanding by Gold Leader,” Saba Sebatyne of the Wild Knightz announced.
“Spike Leader standing by,” Colonel Jagged Fel of the Chiss called back. His squadron was on loan from the Chiss to support the New Republic, even if the Chiss did not.
“Red Leader standing by.”
“Green Leader standing by.”
“Yellow Leader standing by.”
“Blue Leader standing by.”
“Orange Leader standing by.”
“Lock S-Foils in attack positions,” Lando called back. “Mark your targets and take them out.”
“Ok Rogue’s, let’s heat em up,” Gavin called out on his squadron’s personal frequency.
“Sssskips coming in,” Saba sissed to her squadron. “Break and attack!”
The Wild Knights broke formation and began a lethal dance with several Vong coralskippers. Saba’s blastboat swung a tight circle and dropped a concussion missile directly into the path of an incoming skip.
“Firsssst blood to us! That is a good omen!” Saba called out.
Lando had to smile. The Barabel was definitely someone you’d want on your side. “You ready old buddy?” he asked Han.
“Let’s do it,” Han said, nodding, arcing the Falcon into the raging battle.
“General Antilles!” Lieutenant Barnes called out.
“Yes Lieutenant?” Wedge shouted back.
“We’re receiving word, the Umgul shipyards are under attack from Yuuzhan Vong forces.”
“Damn!” Wedge said, slamming his fist down onto his console.
“It gets worse General, Sullust is under attack as well. Grand Admiral Kre’fey says it isn’t an invasion force, merely a force to occupy the Sullust fleet.”
“Then both us and Ackbar are on our own,” Wedge said grimly. “Let’s hope you’ve got a few tricks left old friend.”
“General, Yuuzhan Vong dropships are headed for the surface! Do we send ships to engage?”
“No Lieutenant, inform Master Skywalker he’ll have unwanted guests very soon.”
Fenix Reiner was hot on the tail of Arica Dull; he knew he had to catch her before she made it to Viqi Shesh. The bounty had to be his. He made his way slowly around a corner and there she was. Arica Dull was creeping along the sidewalk, crouched in the shadows of a large plant, attempting to move stealthily through the city. Fenix smiled, she was good, but not good enough. “Forgot to watch your back sweetheart.”
Fenix raised his Stormtrooper issue blaster rifle high to take eliminate Dull’s life, when he heard a reptilian voice say, “Forgot to watch your own back, fool.”
Fenix swung his blaster rifle around quickly, but not quickly enough. Grandoss delivered a fierce punch to his jaw and Fenix flew back into the street, his blaster rifle skidding several feet away to the ground. Fenix was back to his feet in a flash as the hulking Trandoshan was upon him in an instant.
Fenix delivered a rough jab to the Trandoshans nose, but it only seemed to anger him more. Fenix flew several more feet as the Trandoshan delivered another punch, this time to the ribs. Fenix felt several blood vessels shatter in his lower chest and he knew he heard a rib crack. Grandoss was simply too strong for him.
Fenix continued to backtrack away from the Trandoshan, when suddenly, Dark Tracker was there. He grabbed Grandoss from behind with his android arms and pinned the Trandoshans arms to his side. Grandoss began to thrash from side to side hoping to free himself from the iron grip of Dark Tracker, but was unable.
Fenix rose to his feet and quickly made his way towards his blaster rifle when suddenly Tracker’s body went limp. Stands of blue energy erupted around his body and he collapsed to the ground. Grandoss, suddenly free, turned away from Fenix and began rushing in the other direction. He didn’t make it too far as a green energy net suddenly encompassed him and he fell to the ground.
Fenix quickly tried to grab his rifle when a voice froze him in his tracks. “Uh Uh, I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”
“I know that voice,” Fenix Reiner said as he turned to face the voice. “Viqi Shesh.”
Viqi laughed. “The one and the same. It’s been a long time Fenix. Tell me, did you miss me?”
“Not one bit you traitorous bitch.”
“Now now Fenix, no need for harsh words. I remember when you used to call me another name; lover.”
“That was another lifetime ago, before you decided to sell your galaxy out to the Yuuzhan Vong.”
“Awww Fenix, you hurt my feelings,” Viqi said, her voice taking on a hurt tone. She quickly took on a smug tone and pointed her blaster at Fenix. “Now get over there with the others.
Fenix stumbled over to where Dark Tracker and Grandoss both lie and he noticed Arica Dull, handcuffed to the large plant where she had been “hiding.”
“Now that I’ve got you all, the question is, what should I do with you? I could execute you right now, or I could hand you over to the Yuuzhan Vong. Vexing possibilities.”
Before Shesh could answer her own question, Grandoss rose to his feet and rushed at her in a blur. Viqi acted far faster than Fenix had remembered her able to and she blasted the rushing Trandoshan squarely in the face with her blaster. He fell to the ground, a smoking crater where his face once was. He was quite dead.
“Now as I was saying, before the foolish Trandoshan tried to be a hero, I’ve decided to be magnanimous, I’ll simply leave you here. I’ll give you a fighting chance to get off this dismal planet before the Yuuzhan Vong ravage it. Consider it a parting gift Fenix, since we were so special to each other at one time.”
“Ganner! Virruk! I think you’d better get over here!” Anakin Solo shouted to the two older Jedi who were sitting in the corner discussing fighting techniques. The two Jedi Knights rose to their feet and made their way over to the window where Anakin was looking out onto the rolling fields of the Naboo landscape that surrounded Theed.
“What is it Anakin? Virruk was just about to show me a new mo… oh bloody hell!” Ganner said, his jaw dropping as he made it to the window.
“That’s a lot of troops,” Virruk said simply as hoards of Yuuzhan Vong warriors and Chazrach came pouring over the hillside towards their small bunker.
“I have a bad feeling about this,” Tahiri said simply as she grabbed her lightsaber.
“I’ve had a bad feeling about this entire war,” Anakin said grabbing the com link. All New Republic commando squadrons, open fire on enemy troops. I repeat, fire at will! Come on Jedi Knights! Do you wanna live forever?” Anakin shouted as he grabbed his lightsaber and headed out the door.
“Why actually, yes,” Ganner replied. But he grabbed his lightsaber from the hook on his belt and followed them out the door. “But what the hell.”
The four Jedi Knights strode out onto the battlefield as laser fire and thud bugs bounced back and forth between the New Republic troops and the approaching Yuuzhan Vong forces. Four SNAP-HISSES reverberated through the area as all four Jedi Knights ignited their lightsabers.
With a loud shout of “CHARGE,” Anakin and the Jedi Knights threw themselves into the battle.
Anakin met the charging Chazrach with a sweeping arc of his lightsaber, cleaving the heads off three of them as they got within range. He leapt high into the air and used a Force assisted flip to clear 4 more of them, landing behind their defenses. Two more cuts and their were four more dead Chazrach.
“Anakin!” Tahiri shouted over the sounds of blaster fire and battle roars. “Master Skywalker reports ALL Jedi bases are under attack! No reinforcements!”
Anakin nodded towards Tahiri and moved on to the next group of Chazrach. So far, the Yuuzhan Vong warriors were content to stay back and launch thud bugs and razor bugs across the battlefield. He’d have to change that.
Virruk Dujal rushed to his side and gave him a quick glance and the two Jedi Knights took off in a dead run towards the closest Yuuzhan Vong encampment. Ganner, stay with Tahiri!
Got it Anakin, be careful.
Always my friend.
Virruk got to the Yuuzhan Vong warriors first, his golden blade lighting up the countryside like a small sun. The first warrior looked up as the golden blade severed his head from his body. Virruk executed a Force assisted corkscrew leap and landed behind the combined warriors.
Another warrior rushed to meet him only to fall to three consecutive slashes that shredded his midsection. Virruk blocked two amphistaff thrusts and leapt straight into the air and delivered two crushing kicks to the faces of both warriors. Landing in crouch, he rolled beneath a slash trying to decapitate him. He rose behind the warrior and drove his lightsaber through the warriors back. The golden blade exited the front of the warrior and drove through the eye socket of the warrior in front. Deactivating his blade, Virruk dropped into a split as another amphistaff buried itself in the back of the dead warrior. Virruk thrust his lightsaber up into the warrior’s crotch and pressed the activation switch. Anakin flipped into the bunker and winced as the blade tore up into the warrior.
“You didn’t leave any for me!” Anakin cried out in mock anger.
Virruk swept his hand around the battlefield in a quick arc. “Be my guest and choose anyone you want from the rest!”
Anakin chuckled. “Come on my friend, we’ve got more work to do.” The two Jedi rose from the bunker and moved on to the next target.
Shardai Carr stood at the top of the hill watching his warriors rush the infidels in an attempt to take their capital city. He felt this task was beneath him, being a member of the domain Carr, he should be commanding a fleet somewhere in space. But he was a Yuuzhan Vong warrior, and warriors went where they were told. He snarled in disgust as he spotted the three Jeedai approaching his position.
“Branda, we can’t hold this position forever!” Manuel Tejada called out to his friend and fellow Jedi Knight, Branda Besadii Diori.
“Yes we can my friend! We are Jedi! We stand on the bridge,” Branda paused to rip a Chazrach in two pieces with his orange lightsaber, “and no one may pass!”
Tejada didn’t answer back, he was too busy fighting off three Yuuzhan Vong warriors. Tejada back flipped to safety and with a Force shove that would kill anything he could feel in the Force, he sent the three Yuuzhan Vong warriors stumbling backwards. Manuel quickly oriented himself and drove his blue lightsaber threw the chest of one of the warriors. He quickly pulled left; his blade ripping threw the side of the warrior and decapitating the warrior to the left. A spinning roundhouse kick shattered the other warrior’s vertebrae.
Branda had problems of his own, 4 Yuuzhan Vong warriors stalked his large form. But Branda’s lightsaber was specially built for a Hutt; its blade when extended was nearly 6 feet long, more than long enough to keep anyone at bay. One of the Warriors rushed him and he slashed downward, ripping the leg off at the hip. Branda swung his powerful tail back around in a half-circle and shattered the back of the warrior on the right. An amphistaff blow grazed his right side, but because of his thick Hutt skin, he hardly felt anything. Driving his lightsaber down in a quick arc, he ripped through both warriors and they collapsed dead.
Branda looked back towards his Jedi friend and that’s when his danger sense went crazy. “Manuel look out!” Branda shouted out, but it was too late. A mortar landed dangerously close to Manuel Tejada, ripping him from his feet. He landed several meters away, stunned, and on his back. 15 warriors quickly moved in for the kill.
Branda moved to save his Jedi friend, but was instantly cut off by 10 Yuuzhan Vong warriors blocking his path. That’s when he saw it.
A funnel cloud of spinning air moved quickly towards the Yuuzhan Vong warriors approaching young Manuel Tejada. The funnel cloud scooped them up and they suddenly rose 1 mile into the air where the cloud dissipated. The warriors were then scattered, their bodies falling into the forest in the distance where they would meet their final resting place. Jedi Master Streen appeared with a satisfied look on his face.
Manuel Tejada slowly got to his feet and saw his Jedi Master standing with a confident look on his face. Streen had saved his life. Tejada was about to give his thanks when his worst nightmare happened. Streen was struck in the chest with the spear end of an amphistaff, the staff piercing into his chest and exiting part of the way out the back. Tejada shouted out a pained “NOOOOOOOO,” but it was too late.
Jedi Master Streen looked down at the staff sticking from his chest and surprisingly he felt no pain. His smile quickly dissipated and he collapsed onto the grassy field. He was dimly aware of the background noise of battle, but in the forefront he could only hear his own breathing and the beat of his heart. Funny, he figured it would be different at the end.
Manuel Tejada was enraged. He leapt to his feet and with a whip of his wrist, his blue lightsaber returned to his grasp. He rushed at the Yuuzhan Vong warrior who had struck down his Jedi Master, Shardai Carr. The warrior saw him advancing and took the time to rip his amphistaff from the chest of Streen. A twinge of pain ripped through Manuel Tejada. Oh you’ll pay for that.
Tejada rushed immediately to meet the warrior and lashed out with his lightsaber. The two traded blows for several seconds before Tejada used a backhand spring to clear some distance. Focusing all the Force energy he could, he focused on the air around Shardai Carr. The Yuuzhan Vong warrior looked stunned as air around him suddenly dropped to absolute zero, his body freezing solid with it. Manuel ignited his blue lightsaber and swung it in a graceful arc, shattering the statue that was once Shardai Carr into a thousand meaty pieces.
Dropping his lightsaber to the ground, Manuel Tejada ran to his Master’s side. “Master Streen! Master Streen!” he shouted over and over again, but the old man was unconscious. Instead, Manuel reached out to him with the Force.
Master! Can you hear me?
Manuel. Don’t grieve for me. Remember, sadness leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering. I will become one with the Force soon. I will always be with you. You’ll never be alone.
Manuel Tejada cradled his fallen Master in his arms and a single tear ran down his cheek.
Branda Besadii Diori watched everything happen as if it was in slow motion. When Master Streen was struck down, he rushed forward, trampling all the Yuuzhan Vong warriors in his path with his massive bulk. He quickly slithered up to Manuel Tejada and the fallen form of Master Streen.
“Manuel, get Master Streen to the med center!” He shouted.
“What about the line? I can’t leave you here!” Manuel choked back.
“Do not worry my friend,” Branda said, a large Hutt grin crossing his face. “I shall hold the line. Go; attend to your fallen Master! Save him young Jedi Knight!”
Manuel took on last look at Branda fighting off 7 Yuuzhan Vong warriors, and made a promise. I’ll be back my friend. Either way, I’ll be back for you.
Go my friend! I am a Jedi Knight. I know no fear. I am not afraid of my destiny. If my destiny is to fall defending this place, then I shall meet it with bravery.
Manuel gathered Streen up in his arms and ran as fast as he could from the battlefield towards the speeders parked behind the bunker. If you die my friend, I shall make sure everyone realizes you were and remembers you as one of the greatest Jedi Knights ever.
“Yuuzhan Vong forces advancing Admiral,” the young lieutenant said, informing Admiral Ackbar of the situation.
Ackbar’s forces had been entrusted with the defense of the new Umgul shipyards. New Republic intelligence had expected the Vong to hit Umgul as well as Naboo, but they didn’t think it was possible for the Vong to mount such a large mission. Ackbar’s fleet was outnumbered.
“Move Home One into a defensive position in front of the shipyards,” Ackbar commanded the helmsman.
Home One was Ackbar’s new flagship. A brand new Mon Calamari design measuring 6000 meters, the ship was nearly two times larger than his previous flagship. The ship had been completely redesigned, now armed with 150 Turbolaser batteries, 50 Ion cannons, 25 Concussion Missile Launchers, and 20 Tractor Beam projectors. Ackbar had overseen the development and construction himself, and now he had his flagship at his disposal.
“Close up formation, I don’t want any Vong vessels getting through,” Ackbar announced to the fleet.
“Admiral, I’m detecting multiple hyperspace points opening up off our port bow,” his young sensors officer informed him.
“Are they Yuuzhan Vong?” Ackbar shouted out.
“No sir, transmission coming in,” the communications officer responded.
“This is General Garm Bel Iblis of the Corellian Defense Fleet, where do you need us Admiral?”
Ackbar allowed himself a quick smile. “General nice to see you, you’ve evened the odds nicely. You may fire at will.”
“Garm Bel Iblis to Katana Dreadnaught Fleet, fire at will, I repeat, fire at will.”
“Admiral, General Bel Iblis’ fleet has tipped the odds in our favor,” Ackbar’s young lieutenant responded. “We now outnumber the Vong nearly 2 to 1.”
“The battle is far from won Lieutenant,” Ackbar shouted back. “Press the attack, I want no Yuuzhan Vong warships getting within range of the shipyards. The orbital defenses are not completely functional yet.”
“Admiral! I’m detecting multiple hyperspace vectors forming. Oh no!”
“Ensign! Report!” Ackbar ordered.
“The Yuuzhan Vong have just gotten reinforcements. They now outnumber us 3 to 1.”
Ackbar sighed. How quickly the battle had turned. “Scramble the evac shuttles. We’ve got to give Umgul time to evacuate.”
“Ackbar to the fleet. As you all can see, the Yuuzhan Vong forces outnumber us nearly 3 to 1. I’ve just received word that along with the Yuuzhan Vong forces attacking Naboo, Sullust was just attacked. Not by an invasion force, but enough ships to keep Kre’fey’s forces at Sullust. We’re on our own. Take down as many Yuuzhan Vong vessels as you can. We have to buy Umgul time to evacuate as many people as possible. May the Force be with us all, Ackbar out.”
“Move us closer to the enemy,” Ackbar called out to his helmsman.
“How close Admiral?”
“Right down their throats,” Ackbar announced back, a grim look on his face.
Home One lurched forward and made it’s way into the battle.
“All Turbolaser batteries, target that Yuuzhan Vong escort frigate analog. FIRE!” Ackbar shouted out.
Green Turbolaser fire rained down on the Yuuzhan Vong vessel, it’s yorrik coral hull disintegrating into waves of debris, which poured away from the once large ship. The dying frigate launched several plasma missiles at Home One, but the large Mon Calamari vessel absorbed all of them and continued firing. The Vong frigate exploded into a cloud of debris and Ackbar’s bridge crew shouted out in victory.
The victory shouts quickly stopped as three Yuuzhan Vong heavy cruiser analogs advanced on their ship and began to rain plasma down on its shields. Ackbar ordered a full-scale counter-attack. Ion cannons and Turbolasers flashed across the black backdrop of space. One cruiser was crippled immediately, but the other two kept up the fierce attack.
“Admiral, shields failing!” the bridge lieutenant shouted.
“Keep firing!” Ackbar shouted back.
The remaining two Vong cruisers exploded as several concussion missiles crashed into their hull, their explosive power ripping large holes in the yorrik coral hull. Ackbar’s bridge crew hooted again at the victory, but the victory was a bitter one; Home One was severally damaged.
“Report!” Ackbar shouted over the sound of the bridge alarms.
“Shields gone Admiral! Propulsion down to 35%! Weapon systems 50% destroyed!” the lieutenant shouted back.
“So it ends like this,” Ackbar said under his breath. “Give me all the power you can get, reroute it to propulsion and give me a target on the Vong flagship.”
“Yes sir,” the lieutenant shouted back.
On the bridge of the Corellian Star, the flagship of the Katana Fleet, General Bel Iblis watched as Home One was decimated by three Vong vessels.
“Home One seriously damaged. Yuuzhan Vong vessels destroyed,” his sensors officer reported. “Her engines are powering up, setting a collision course with the Yuuzhan Vong flagship!”
“Ackbar! Don’t!” Bel Iblis shouted out.
“Nothing we can do General, you’re in command now!” Ackbar responded.
“General, hyperspace point opening!”
“Right on top of us!”
“Bloody Hell!” Bel Iblis shouted out as the monstrous vessel exited from hyperspace.
Anakin was fighting for his life. Warriors rushed at him from all directions, but still, Anakin Solo would not fall. His shoulder had been torn open by an amphistaff, but still he fought on. Anakin blocked a strike that was attempting to tear his face open when a sensation reverberated through him. He spun just in time to shove his lightsaber threw the chest of a warrior who had gotten behind him. What was that?He thought to himself.
Anakin didn’t have to time to focus on it, as he was too busy defending his life. Several cuts later, all the Vong warriors lay at his feet, dead. He glanced to his right and saw that Virruk Dujal was still with him. He then focused on the feeling and suddenly he knew what it was.
“Virruk!” Anakin shouted over the battle noises. “I felt them!”
“What?” The Iridonian Jedi shouted back, confused.
“I know how to sense the Vong using the Force!”
“You remember!?!” Virruk shouted out in joy.
“Not quite my friend, do you see that warrior moving towards that group of New Republic soldiers?” he asked.
“Focus on his armor. It’s alive, if you focus long enough, you can feel it. That’s how all Jedi can detect the Vong, using their armor against them!”
“I feel it, I feel them all over the battle field!” Virruk shouted out! “Anakin! You did it!” But the joy was short lived.
Anakin! Get to her!
Anakin glanced back towards the Jedi bunker and spotted Tahiri. The bunker had been destroyed by stray mortar fire and had collapsed. Trapping Tahiri under some of the debris. Anakin ignited his purple-blue lightsaber and immediately took off in a dead sprint towards his friend.
Anakin ran until his legs were giving out, then he used a burst from the Force to revitalize himself and kept running. In the end, Anakin’s own zeal cost him. A thud bug struck him square in the chest knocking him from his feet. Anakin shook the cobwebs off and looked up to see 8 Yuuzhan Vong warriors surrounding him.
He leapt to his feet and stretched out with the Force, the Yuuzhan Vong warriors appearing to him, his lightsaber returning to his hand. The first warrior came at him quickly and Anakin turned aside his attack and went on the offensive. He took the fight to eight Yuuzhan Vong warriors and slaughtered seven of them, but in the end, eight was just too many. The either warrior lashed out with his amphistaff and it tore into Anakin’s midsection; in the exact same spot he had been wounded at Myrkr.
Anakin went down in a heap and tried to call upon the Force to enhance his fading strength, but the pain was too much. The warrior raised his amphistaff up for the killing blow and dropped it quickly. A golden blade of light erupted from his chest and he collapsed to the ground, dead. Anakin watched as the golden lightsaber returned to the hand of Virruk Dujal, who began fighting off more Vong warriors, a worried look in his eye.
Anakin faded away, he thought he was dead. That’s when he heard the voice speaking to him. He opened his eyes and saw that the voice had a form. A spirit form. The form of Wurth Skidder.
“Wurth Skidder, what are you doing here,” Anakin asked, barely recognizing his own voice.
“Isn’t it obvious Anakin?” Wurth returned.
“I’m dying,” Anakin said with a firm tone. Wurth nodded his head.
Anakin sighed. “Then it was all for naught.”
“What was young Solo?”
“The prophesy Wurth. The prophecy that stated that mine and Tahiri’s child would be the Chosen One destined to bring balance to the Force.”
“Anakin, don’t you remember anything I told you. You’re only the Chosen One until the next Chosen One arrives. Your grandfather was the Chosen One. Or he would’ve been had he not fallen to the Dark Side. The Force is a mystery Anakin. It manifests itself in odd and mysterious ways. If you are to perish here today, the Force will create another Chosen One, as it has done since the beginning. Someday, the Chosen One will arrive and fulfill his destiny to bring balance to the Force. You have not let the Force down Anakin. You simply had another destiny. There is no shame in fulfilling a different destiny.”
“But I can’t die, what about Tahiri?” Anakin asked.
“Then don’t die,” Wurth said simply.
“I wouldn’t if I had the choice.”
“I’m telling you, you have the choice. Don’t choose to die.”
“How do I do that?” Anakin asked.
“Get up. Get up Anakin. Get to your feet.”
Anakin began to rise to his feet as Wurth encouraged him along. “Get up Anakin, you can feel your strength returning. Get up. Tahiri needs you! Get up!”
Anakin made it to his feet and began walking, slowly but surely towards Tahiri. Wurth Skidder’s spirit began to fade away, but Anakin heard his final words in his head. Always in motion, the future is…. Tahiri is the key.
Anakin moved with a purpose towards Tahiri. Chazrach swarmed to attack him, but he simply waived them away with his hand, sending powerful Force blasts into them. They flew away from his body and landed several meters away. Pretty soon, Anakin no longer waived his hand in their direction; they simply blew away from him as if they hit a hidden shield. Finally though, Anakin could go no further, he collapsed several meters from Tahiri.
Ganner Rhysode and Virruk Dujal finished with the Vong warriors that were fighting them and quickly made their way to Anakin’s fallen body.
“He’s hurt Ganner, bad.”
“I know,” Ganner replied.
“Take him and go.”
“I won’t leave you on the battlefield alone Virruk. Jedi stick together.”
“He needs medical attention.”
“You can’t possibly hold the line by yourself Virruk. There are too many of them!”
A small smile appeared on Virruk Dujal’s face. “I know my friend. But Anakin is too important to the future. He’s more important than you or I. He’s more important than even Master Skywalker. Both him and Tahiri.”
“How do you know this?” Ganner asked incredulously.
“We both know it Ganner, only you haven’t realized it yet.”
“I’ll stay, you take them and get out of here,” Ganner responded.
“No my friend, I’m simply not strong enough in TK to carry them both. It’s only logical that you go.”
“But I can’t leave you here alone Virruk.”
“If you stay, Anakin will die, and perhaps you and I will die as well. If you take him and get him to safety, you risk one Jedi to save three.”
“I’d rather lose NO Jedi,” Ganner shot back.
“You can’t control that now. Take them and get them out of here!”
Ganner concentrated with the Force and used it to lift the pieces of debris from on top of Tahiri’s body. She floated over to join Anakin, and Ganner lifted them both using the Force. He turned and clasped Virruk’s hand, for perhaps the last time.
“Good luck my friend, may the Force be with you.”
“Ganner, would you do something for me?”
“Give this to my father, tell him I died in battle, with honor. Fighting a vastly superior foe,” Virruk Dujal stated, handing Ganner his golden lightsaber.
“But how will you defend yourself?” Ganner asked.
“Do not worry about me my friend, I shall hold the line. Now go!” Virruk shouted shoving Ganner away.
Ganner began to move as fast as he could towards the speeders a few hundred meters away, hoping they hadn’t been destroyed. As he made it to the top of the hill where the speeders were parked, he took one last look back at his friend.
Virruk Dujal reached into his backpack and removed a long cylinder from it. He held it with both hands above his head. Ganner watched as a beam of golden light emerged from one side of the lightsaber, and then an additional golden blade emerged from the other side. A double bladed lightsaber, a Sith weapon. No, it’s an Iridonian weapon. Only a warrior as skilled as Virruk Dujal could wield it. he said to himself. Ganner watched as Virruk Dujal brought the weapon down into an attack crouch and with an Iridonian battle cry, he launched himself at the approaching Yuuzhan Vong battalion. Ganner Rhysode never looked back as he loaded Anakin Solo and Tahiri Veila into the speeder and sped away from the battle.
“Anakin!” Jaina Solo suddenly shouted out. She quickly looked towards Jedi Master Kyp Durron as his red lightsaber tore threw an advancing Chazrach. “I can’t feel him in the Force anymore Kyp!”
“I felt him pass as well Jaina, but focus yourself. He faded out, but then came back. It’s very weak, but I still sense the presence of Anakin Solo in the Force,” Kyp called back. “Right now we have a job to do, the mission’s more important than one Jedi Knight. We’ll worry about your brother later.”
As early as a week ago, a statement like that would’ve had Jaina shooting Dark Force Lightning, but now, she simply gave Kyp an icy stare and continued fighting. Her blue lightsaber was a blur in motion, hacking into body parts here, severing heads there. Jaina Solo fought with a greater purpose now. Before, the mission was important, now, ending the mission as quickly as possible was very important, it might be the last time she ever saw her brother again.
Kyp and Jaina were fighting valiantly against superior odds. Their group had already dispatched one Yuuzhan Vong battalion of troops, but another quickly approached their position immediately after the first fell. The two Jedi Knights knew they couldn’t last forever against such staggering odds.
Kyp arched his red lightsaber over his head to tear threw a thud bug and brought the blade down into the skull of a Yuuzhan Vong warrior. A quick roll to the left caused an amphistaff to miss wide and Durron drove his lightsaber into the armpit of the now off balance warrior. But the odds were just too many. An amphistaff connected with the back of Kyp’s head sending him crashing to the grassy knoll.
Jaina shouted out, but there was no way she could get to her Master in time, as she was busy fighting her way out of a group of 4 Yuuzhan Vong warriors.
Kyp looked up to see the amphistaff crashing down, ready to sever his head from his shoulders. He winced, expecting the blow, but it never came. He opened his eyes again to see a blue lightsaber frantically holding the amphistaff a mere inches away from his throat. He glanced left to see the green mottled skin of Dorsk 83.
Kyp rolled to his right as Dorsk shut off his lightsaber. The amphistaff crashed into the ground and Dorsk quickly reactivated his lightsaber and drove it into the back of the now defenseless warrior.
“Thanks old friend,” Kyp said. “You saved my life once again.”
Dorsk 83 smiled. “I believe this is the first time I’ve actually saved your life. You must be referring to Dorsk 81 and Dorsk 82.”
Kyp laughed, “Perhaps you’re right. Sometimes I forget you’re an individual and a different person from both of them.”
Dorsk cracked a grin. “Beauty is only skin deep. Now let’s kick some more Vong ass.”
Kyp laughed again and ignited his red lightsaber with a SNAP-HISS and the two Jedi Knights drove back into the heart of the Yuuzhan Vong advance.
“VALIN!” Corran Horn shouted across the battlefield.
Valin turned his head just in time to dodge a Yuuzhan Vong amphistaff. He swung his silver lightsaber behind his back where it imbedded itself in the Vong warrior’s midsection. Valin quickly dropped into a crouch to duck beneath another intended strike and ripped his lightsaber from the now lifeless carcass where it was imbedded. He brought the blade around in a full circle and tore the warrior in front of him in two pieces. He then deactivated his blade and ran full speed to his father’s position.
“Dad! What is it?”
“Valin, Yuuzhan Vong forces are getting too tough here, I’m sounding the retreat. We’ll pull back to the secondary base and defend it from there. Should be a lot tougher for the Vong to get through if we bottleneck them.”
“Where’s Octa?” Corran asked, referring to Octa Ramis, the third Jedi member of their team, looking at his 14-year-old boy. No, this wasn’t a boy; this was a strapping young man. His son was already well past him in height, standing at a very tall for his age 5’11”. He was larger and more muscled than his father. No doubt he was going to get even taller and bigger as he got older. Corran even noticed a hint of a beard on his son’s face, although it could’ve just been dirt.
“I don’t know, she was off to my left last time I saw her, but I don’t sense her in the area anymore,” Valin responded quickly.
“I didn’t feel her pass into the Force, maybe she’s unconscious,” Corran wondered aloud.
“Dad! Look out!” Valin shouted.
Mortar fire rained down on their position, a blast exploding dangerously close to Corran and Valin. Valin was sent tumbling to his right, Corran was blown off his feet and sent flying through the air. Corran rolled as he hit the soft grassy ground and rose slowly to his feet. He glanced around trying to see through the thick dust cloud that had surrounded his position when the projectile had struck the ground.
“What I wouldn’t give for a little TK ability right now,” Corran muttered as he waived at the settling dust cloud. “Where in the hell is Valin?”
The dust began to clear and Corran spotted his son off to his right, about 50 meters away. He squinted through the dust trying to see his son more clearly when he noticed something. His son was busy fighting off Yuuzhan Vong warriors left and right, with two lightsabers, one in each hand. What really surprised Corran was how well his 14-year-old son handled both the blades. As if they were extensions of his own hands.
Valin swung his silver left blade around to block an amphistaff blow and brought the green right one back around in three quick strokes to rip into the chest of the warrior. He quickly spun into a counter clockwise circle, bringing his left blade around to block another intended blow. He followed the spin through bringing the right blade around to imbed itself in the warrior’s neck. A quick jerk and his lightsaber was free, the warrior’s disembodied head coming with it. Bringing both lightsabers around, he blocked two strikes from the front and dropped into a crouch throwing out a fierce foot sweep. He shattered the shin of the warrior on the left and brought both blades down into the knees of the warrior on the right. Both warriors immediately went to the ground, one with a shattered leg, and the other with no feet beneath his knees. Valin quickly sprung back to his feet and drove each lightsaber through the chest of both warriors. He spun back around back towards his father and drove both lightsabers up into the armpits of the last warrior. He then ran back to his father’s position as fast as possible.
“Valin! Where did you get that extra lightsaber?” Corran questioned. “Better yet, where did you learn to use both blades with such efficiency?”
“When I landed after the explosion, I found it lying on the ground near me, so I grabbed it. I think it’s Octa Ramis’ blade. As for using it, it just seemed natural to use both blades. I just used them in what seemed to be the most logical way.”
“It was quite impressive, now, into the bunker!” Corran shouted shoving his son towards the bunker as he batted a thud bug from the sky.
“But the New Republic soldiers are regrouping at the secondary base,” Valin said quickly.
“We’ll never make it, we’re nearly surrounded!” Corran yelled back. “I’m in command here, into the bunker! NOW!”
Valin rushed forward and ignited both lightsabers to bat down two razor bugs. “Not without you.”
Corran shook his head. The boy was as stubborn as his mother. “Ok, I’ll be right behind you, GO!”
“The Yuuzhan Vong forces seem to be getting much larger Master!” Devin Moonstar shouted over the battle noises to his Master, Chell Noruth.
“That they do Padawan, but we cannot let them defeat us. We have a mission to complete,” Chell Noruth responded back.
“Chell! Devin!” a voice shouted at the two Jedi Knights from behind. Chell spun quickly to face the voice.
“Kyle Katarn! What are you doing here?” Chell asked.
“It was the oddest thing, the Yuuzhan Vong simply disappeared from our bunker,” Kyle responded. “Tesar and I were busy fighting, then the next second, they simply stopped advancing. That’s when we received word that your base was getting hit extra hard. So we got here as fast as possible.”
“Where’s Alema Rar?” Devin Moonstar asked.
“We don’t know, one second she was with us, the next, she was gone,” Kyle answered back.
“We can’t worry about her now,” Leia Organa Solo said approaching the group of Jedi Knights. “Luke’s group is being hit heavily. Mara reports that her squadron of Knights is moving to help Luke’s group.”
“I don’t get it, why not advance through the holes in Bunker D and Bunker H?” Devin Moonstar asked. “We lost Master Streen at D and nearly lost Anakin at H.”
Chell Noruth nodded grimly. “You said Luke’s under heavy attack Leia?”
“I understand now. The Vong are attacking heavily at this section and Luke’s section. What’s important in each group?”
The group of Jedi looked at him blankly until Leia realized where he was going with it.
“And Luke is there,” Chell said finishing the sentence. “They know you and Luke are twins, they must be after the two of you.”
“Master, we’re receiving word; Corran Horn’s section has been overrun. The New Republic troops are retreating back to secondary positions hoping to bottleneck the advancing Yuuzhan Vong troops,” Devin reported.
“And what of Corran, Valin, and Octa?” Leia asked.
“Reports coming in state that Octa is missing in action. Corran and Valin are trapped inside the bunker. All their speeders have been destroyed, they have no way out.”
“We can’t leave them there,” Leia quickly said.
“I don’t intend to,” Chell said. “We’ve lost too many Jedi Knights for one day. I’m going after them.”
“You’ll never make it there alive Chell. There’s too many Yuuzhan Vong forces between here and there,” Leia responded.
“Trust in the Force as I do Leia. I’ll make it,” Chell said. “Or die trying.”
“Allow me to go Master,” Devin Moonstar interrupted.
“No young Padawan. I have a much greater mission for you. Guard the princess, keep her safe from the Yuuzhan Vong,” Chell said, grasping his young Padawan’s shoulder.
“I’m not ready Master.”
“You are ready Devin, I should’ve told you a long time ago. You’re ready to become a full Jedi Knight. Consider this your trial. I know you won’t fail Devin; you’re extremely capable. More than I was at your age,” Chell said.
“Thank you for your confidence Master, I won’t fail you.”
“I know you won’t Devin, may the Force be with you all.”
“Chell, you can’t go! This is a suicide mission!” Leia shouted.
Chell turned and smiled at Leia. “Then I’ll see you on the other side.” And then, he took off in a dead sprint for the speeders.
“Can he make it Leia?” Kyle Katarn asked.
“If anyone can, it’s Master Noruth,” Devin Moonstar said with a finality. “Come, we have a battle to win!”
Luke Skywalker, Jedi Master, stood at the center of the battlefield, the sun to his back, his green lightsaber jutting away from his body. To the New Republic troopers below him, he looked as if he was 10 feet tall. This was their savior, the Jedi Knight of all Jedi Knights. The first Jedi Knight of the new order.
Luke rushed forward to meet the incoming wave of Chazrach and with a simple wave of his hand, and entire row of them simply flew away. The second row rushed to meet him, axes and whips swinging wildly, but there was no stopping Luke Skywalker. His lightsaber flashed exactly 8 times, and all the Chazrach were dead. Luke stood over the bodies of the dead like an avenging angel and the leader of the New Republic troopers stood and shouted a battle cry. Troopers rushed over their bunkers carrying blaster rifles and those whose ammo was depleted were carrying knives and even in a few cases, Yuuzhan Vong amphistaffs.
Luke raised his head and glanced across the battlefield. Tam Azur-Jamin and Biggs Darklighter Jr stood together, bravely fighting off a group of Yuuzhan Vong warriors. The two of them stood back-to-back covering each other and Luke had to smile. Tam and Biggs were essentially from different Jedi camps, Tam with Kyp and Biggs with Luke. But here on the battlefield, they coexisted and defended each other like Luke had originally envisioned the Jedi Knights. Within moments, the two Knights stood above several Yuuzhan Vong bodies.
Luke glanced across the battlefield again to survey the damage. His group of New Republic soldiers had been beaten back severely, near the point of breaking, but they had held. And still, more Yuuzhan Vong warriors and more of their lizard troops, the Chazrach, kept coming. Another presence shook Luke from his thoughts.
“Luke!” the voice shouted.
“Mara? What are you doing here?” Luke asked.
“The Yuuzhan Vong abandoned their attack on my bunker and on Kyle Katarn’s bunker. Chell Noruth thinks they’re after you and Leia,” Mara explained.
“Leia!” Luke shouted out.
“She’s fine Luke, Kyle and Tesar made it to Chell’s position in time. Chell placed your sister’s protection in the hands of his Padawan, Devin Moonstar.”
Luke smiled; for he knew he sister was in good hands. Of the young Jedi Knights, no one had more skill and ingenuity than Devin Moonstar. “There’s more?” he asked looking at his wife’s worried face.
“Yes. Corran and Valin are trapped in their bunker,” Mara said.
“Is there any way to get them out?” Luke questioned.
Mara shook her head negatively. “There are too many Yuuzhan Vong troops in the area. Chell Noruth went anyways, but who knows if he can make it through.”
“Mara you and I both know how skilled Chell Noruth is. If anyone can make it through, it’s him.”
“I know Luke, but I wish I had a better feeling about this. We’ve lost too many Jedi today as it is. Master Streen, Anakin, Tahiri, all down. Octa, Virruk, Branda, Alema, all missing. To lose Chell, Corran, and Valin, that might cripple the Jedi Knights for a long time to come.”
“We’ll survive Mara, we always have,” Luke said taking her hand. “Now come on, we have a Yuuzhan Vong army to slaughter.”
“Oh Skywalker, sometimes you say the most romantic things,” Mara said, rolling her eyes.
Luke laughed and the two Jedi Masters strode into the oncoming waves of Chazrach and Yuuzhan Vong.
“Rogue leader! Report!” Lando Calrissian shouted out.
“Yuuzhan Vong frigate crippled, Gold Leader,” came the reply from Gavin Darklighter, commanding officer of Rogue Squadron. “No Rogue casualties.”
“Affirmative Rogue Leader, form up and we’ll move on to the next target,” General Han Solo answered back. “Lando?”
“Here Han, this Vong cruiser is damaged and has moved away from the main attack fleet. It’s moving with a purpose on a collision course, but a quick strike should destroy it and without any casualties.”
“Sounds good,” Han said, taking the Falcon into a fierce barrel roll to avoid an incoming plasma missile. “This section of space is getting too congested. We’ll let the ISD’s take out the stragglers.”
“Wedge, we’re moving to intercept that damaged cruiser. It’s making a run for the defense perimeter. Can you take some of this heat off our backs?”
“Affirmative Gold Leader, the Yavaris III will take care of those skips. All Turbolaser batteries, open fire.”
Turbolaser fire sung out into the blackness of space scoring several hits on a close Yuuzhan Vong frigate analog before switching to target the skips hot on the tail of the Falcon and Rogue Squadron. Several quick shots tore through their rear quadrants and the skips were no more.
“Gold Leader, this is Yavaris III, your path is clear. Proceed with search and destroy mission.”
“Affirmative Yavaris III. Thanks Wedge, Gold Leader out.”
Han grabbed the throttle and punched it as the Falcon shot forward at incredible speeds towards the damaged Yuuzhan Vong cruiser.
“Rogue Leader, we’ll strafe the cruiser and take the immediate fire. Come in behind us and finish the job,” Lando said into the com. A double click confirmed the orders.
“We will?” Han asked, raising an eyebrow.
“We’re better shielded than the XJ3’s Han, we need to take that cruiser out now.”
“I know old buddy. I’m just nervous, I haven’t heard from Leia or the kids since they set down on that infernal rock.”
“Leia and the kids can take care of themselves you old pirate. Now focus, we have a mission to complete.”
“Yes sir,” Han said with a mocking salute. Lando laughed.
The Falcon raced towards the Yuuzhan Vong cruiser. The cruiser was dead set on ramming into one of the defense platforms that surrounded Naboo, but if Han and Lando had anything to do with it, it would never reach its goal.
Molten plasma began to rain down on the Falcon’s shields as they got closer to the target, but Lowbacca had upgraded the Falcon’s shield output at Eclipse, so they held without even the faintest shudder.
Han pulled his ship into a corkscrew barrel roll and proceeded to skim the surface of the large vessel. Plasma missiles shot by harmlessly as one of the best pilots in the galaxy did his thing. Han reached the back of the cruiser and pulled up to send the Falcon shooting away from the cruiser at a vertical pitch.
Lando glanced out the side of his view port to see several proton torpedoes ripping into the side of the cruisers hull. The cruiser took several more hits before coming apart into several large chunks. The Falcon’s gunners shouted out several victory cries, but Han knew the battle was far from over.
“Rogue Squadron, nice shooting. Form up on us and we’ll move onto the next target,” Lando said yet again.
Chell Noruth ran as fast as he could towards the area where the speeders were parked. He ran like an open field runner, dodging Chazrach as if they were tacklers in a smashball game. He didn’t even bother to draw his lightsaber, instead relying on Force shoves to keep them out his path. There wasn’t much time, and stopping to kill Chazrach would only waste that time. Although Corran and Valin were as capable as any Jedi Knight, stuck in that cramped bunker they wouldn’t be able to hold off the Yuuzhan Vong forever.
Chell ran until he reached the small ledge that led down to the speeders. Instead of stopping to climb down, Chell simply launched into a forward flip and used the Force to slow his decent. Landing 25 feet down into the gullet between the two ledges in a crouch, Chell’s lightsaber immediately flipped into his hand, igniting on the way up with a SNAP-HISS that echoed throughout the cavern.
Five Yuuzhan Vong warriors made their way to his position, the first lashing out with his amphistaff in whip form. It wrapped around Chell right leg as the second warrior swung his amphistaff. Chell block the attempted strike and with a massive Force shove, sent the warrior tumbling away. He turned and threw his lightsaber into the face of the whip-wielding warrior and that warrior quickly fell, his face missing.
Chell whipped his right leg around and the other end of the amphistaff got tangled into the legs of two approaching warriors. With a quick snap of his leg, both warriors went down and Chell’s lightsaber returned to his grasp. He quickly blocked the last warrior’s attempted strike and batted the amphistaff away. The warrior went to draw his coufee in a last ditch effort, but was too late as Chell’s lightsaber tore into the warrior’s midsection. A sweeping downwards cut severed the amphistaff that had been wrapped around his leg.
Chell leapt over the heads of the two warriors he had taken down with the whip with a Force assisted leap. Landing on the opposite side, he immediately dropped into a crouch and delivered a fierce backwards kick into the knee of the left warrior. The bone snapped sending the warrior crashing downward as Chell swung his lightsaber around. The blade decapitated the first warrior and imbedded itself in the midsection of the second warrior. He tried to remove the blade, but the last warrior was upon him.
An amphistaff blow came dangerously close to his head and Chell ducked back to avoid being smashed. Another blow came down and Chell focused all of his Force energy. He raised his left arm and the amphistaff connected with his forearm with a bone-jarring jolt. But the bone did not break. The warrior looked at Chell with surprise in his eyes as Chell’s right arm shot forward, white lighting flaring from his finger tips. The warrior was instantly fried.
Drained for the moment, Chell was glad there were no more warriors. Turning back to the speeder garage, Chell’s heart dropped when he noticed all three speeders were damaged beyond repair.
“To come this far only to be turned away,” Chell said to himself. Then he noticed it.
Sitting in the back of the garage was a swoop bike. Grinning, Chell hopped aboard and hit the ignition switch. The bike hummed to life and with a turn of his wrist, Chell Noruth was back on the road.
“Princess! Down!” Devin Moonstar shouted as he hurled his lightsaber at Leia’s head.
Leia ducked and the lightsaber soared over her head, the purple blade arcing to decapitate an advancing Chazrach. The blade kept going and tore into 5 more of the lizard beasts before returning to the Jedi Padawan’s hand. Devin switched off the blade and was at Leia’s side in an instant.
“Princess? Are you alright,” Devin asked, offering Leia a hand. She took it and rose to her feet, then shoved Devin Moonstar aside.
Bringing her lightsaber up to block, a Yuuzhan Vong amphistaff whooshed right passed where Devin’s head was a moment ago. Leia gritted her teeth and threw all her weight towards the warrior. The warrior took a step back to catch his balance and it was over. Leia dropped into a crouch and used a deft foot sweep to take the warrior off his feet. She leapt back to her feet and drove her lightsaber down through the warrior’s neck. Deactivating her lightsaber she turned towards the young Padawan.
“Watch your back next time Devin. Don’t focus all your energy on protecting me. I may not be a Knight, but as you can see, I can protect myself,” Leia scolded.
Devin simply blushed like a small child. “I apologize Princess. I broke the first rule of combat; never underestimate. As you can see, I still have things to learn about being a Jedi.”
Leia simply stared at him for a moment before she remembered; Devin Moonstar wasn’t much older than Jaina and Jacen. For all his maturity and intelligence, Devin Moonstar was still only 20 years old. He would make many more mistakes before realizing who exactly he was.
Leia smiled. “No harm done Devin, you’re just following your Master’s orders. Just watch yourself next time, sacrificing yourself foolishly for me isn’t noble, it’s stupid.”
“I understand Princess, come, there’s more Yuuzhan Vong to stop.”
“I wish you wouldn’t call me Princess,” Leia said.
“I apologize Ms. Organa Solo.”
Leia sighed. “I’m not a Jedi Master Devin, just call me Leia.”
Devin seemed uncomfortable with calling the sister of Master Luke Skywalker by her first name, but he went with it. “Ok… Leia.”
Leia smirked. “See, that wasn’t so difficult, was it.”
Devin smiled. Leia gasped internally, That smile lights up the room, this young man could be quite the ladies man if he wanted to be. He reminded her of Ganner Rhysode before the war, except Devin Moonstar had none of the cockiness that Ganner once displayed. Perhaps it had to do with his training as Devin Moonstar had spent the past 4 years isolated on Endor with Chell Noruth. For a man of only 28, Chell Noruth was remarkably composed as well.
Leia returned his smile. “Come Devin, Kyle and Tesar need our assistance.”
Chell quickly returned with a regal bow, “As you command your Highness, I mean Leia.”
Leia laughed. He has a sense of humor as well.
The swoop bike was screaming ahead across the countryside at well past it’s recommended speed limit. It’s rider, Chell Noruth tried to coax even more speed out of the rapidly deteriorating engine. He didn’t have much time.
He flew at breakneck speed, dodging trees and rocks that dotted the countryside. He saw waves of Yuuzhan Vong troops and Chazrach as he flew by. Some of the Vong threw thud bugs in his direction, but he was traveling much too fast for them to aim properly. He was almost there.
Chell rounded a clump of trees and could see the bunker in the distance. He gassed the ancient swoop bike hoping to get one last speed burst out of the dying engine, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be. The bike began to slow and he noticed that the Yuuzhan Vong could now aim their thud bugs at him better. He road the bike in a zigzag pattern, trying to make it difficult for them to hit him.
Chell succeeded until he was nearly 100 meters from the bunker when a thud bug struck the engine. The bike began to whine and Chell leapt from the bike moments before it exploded into a fiery heap. The explosion sent Chell flying a good 20 extra meters and he landed in a roll onto the soft grass. Coming directly to his feet, his drew his lightsaber and ran full speed for the bunker.
Igniting his lightsaber with a SNAP-HISS, Chell batted away several thud bugs as he approached the bunker. Reaching out with the Force, he lifted a large rock from the ground and hurled it into the nearest plasteel window. The window cracked but did not break so Chell drew the boulder back once again and slammed it with all his Force energy. The window shattered and Chell used the Force to leap into the broken window.
Landing on his feet inside the bunker, Chell turned back towards the window and hurled his lightsaber into the face of the lone Yuuzhan Vong warrior who was brave enough to try to get inside. Calling his lightsaber back to his hand, Chell used the Force to rip a giant piece of durasteel from the wall. Without turning his head, Chell Noruth spoke. “Valin, if you would please. Slash the seams of the wall with your lightsaber.”
Valin leapt to his feet and drew his lightsaber. With a SNAP-HISS the silver blade shot into existence and Valin ran it along the frames of the window, turning some of the durasteel into a molten mess. Chell used the Force to slam the piece of Durasteel in front of the window.
“Damn, where’s Streen or Manuel when you need him to control the atmosphere,” Chell said, more to himself than Valin or Corran. “Ah, that’ll do instead.”
Chell turned towards the back of the bunker and spotted a tool kit, opening it with the Force he found several 6 inch long durasteel spikes, used to hold down the floor plating of the bunker. He lifted them using the Force and with all his energy, hurled them into the piece of durasteel that was covering the broken window. The spikes ripped threw the edges of the durasteel and held it in place.
“That should hold for a while.”
“Chell, what are you doing here?” Corran asked, still crouched in the corner of the small room.
“I’m here to rescue you.”
“As you already know, all our speeders are destroyed,” Corran said simply. “And the swoop bike you came here on is lying in a twisted heap outside.”
“Trust me,” Chell said flashing a smile. “I brought other transportation. Come, we have to get to the landing pad out back.”
The three Jedi exited the rear of the bunker control room and headed to the back of the facility, where the landing pad was located. The power was out in the building and the three Jedi entered into the large dark cargo room adjacent to the landing pad. In the dim light, Corran noticed that Chell Noruth had stopped.
“Get behind me, NOW!” Chell shouted out.
“Chell, what is it?”
Chell’s answer was drawing his lightsaber and igniting it with a SNAP-HISS. His white blade shot into existence creating a small source of light. “You can’t sense them? Lower some of your shields Corran.”
Corran lowered some of his internal shields and gasped.
Before Corran could answer, two more SNAP-HISSES reverberated through the room. But they weren’t the two Horns' lightsabers. A mere 20 meters away, a red lightsaber ignited and next to it, a black lightsaber ignited. The room was nearly pitch black, but even in the darkness, the black blade was visible. It absorbed all light that came in contact with it, as if the blade was made of pure darkness itself. The blade practically radiated evil.
“Dark Jedi,” Chell Noruth said simply.
Corran quickly drew his lightsaber and pushed Valin back.
“Valin, get back!”
“Leave the child and go,” the Dark Jedi holding the black lightsaber said.
“You’ll have to go through me to get to him,” Corran shouted out.
“Gladly,” the Dark Jedi with the red lightsaber sneered back.
“I know that voice,” Chell Noruth said simply.
“As you should, traitor,” the black bladed Dark Jedi shouted back in a voice that was definitely female.
A couple of the lights in the room flipped on casting shadows into the room, but lighting the room enough to see. Corran turned to see Valin fiddling with the power relays on the floor near the left wall.
“Lomi Plo,” Chell said simply. “I was wondering if you had perished when you cowardly left Myrkr. What is it that you want here?”
Lomi Plo laughed. “It’s simple Noruth, I want the child. He is strong, and he could be even stronger if he’d let go of your foolish Jedi rules. Now stand aside and you may live.”
Corran stepped forward. “You don’t scare me Dark Jedi. The only way through my son is over my dead body.”
Before Lomi Plo could react, Chell Noruth stepped between the two. “Corran, she is a Dark Jedi Master, she is too much for you. I’ll handle Plo.”
Lomi Plo smiled an evil smile. “I’ve been waiting a long time for this Noruth. It’ll make the day even better to kill you, then take the child.”
“Trust me Plo, it would be in your best interest to take Whelp and leave. I’ve had a very bad day,” Chell returned, still calm, approaching the Dark Jedi Master, his lightsaber drawn and ready.
“That’s Welk you pig!” Welk shouted back. “I’ll gut you!” Lomi silenced him with a wave of her hand.
“Welk, deal with the father, he’s no match for the Sith. Chell Noruth is mine.”
Lomi plunged at Chell with her black lightsaber, intent on driving it through his shoulder. Chell dropped to one knee and brought his white lightsaber up to block the attempted slash and with a quick Force shove, sent Lomi Plo stumbling back. Chell stood and raced at Lomi, his white lightsaber blazing the path. The two met in the center of the room and locked lightsabers, popping and cracking could be heard as the two Jedi Masters tried to gain leverage over one another.
Welk shouted out and rushed at Corran. Corran ignited his lightsaber with a SNAP-HISS and sidestepped Welk’s attack. Welk stumbled over near Valin and used the Force to hurl a crate into the young Jedi Knight. Valin crumpled against the wall.
“Valin!” Corran shouted.
Welk laughed an evil laugh and tried to rush at Corran again, but Valin suddenly whipped out a foot sweep and Welk stumbled forward. Corran drove his elbow into the Dark Jedi’s jaw and down to the floor he went. Valin slid back down the wall, fading back into unconsciousness.
In the center of the room, the two Jedi Masters stood, lightsabers locked in a death grip.
“You cannot defeat the Sith!” Lomi Plo shouted.
“Sith? You are not Sith. I have seen the power of the Sith,” Chell Noruth stated mockingly. “To call yourselves Sith is an insult to the ancient Sith Masters. You’re nothing more than a token Dark Jedi.”
Lomi Plo bellowed an angry cry and used a Force shove to send Chell Noruth skidding to the ground.
“I’ll show you powers of the Sith!” Lomi Plo shouted hurling Dark Force lighting from her fingertips. But the lightning was not aimed at Chell; it was aimed at Valin.
The bolts struck the young Jedi Knight and he cried out in pain. Corran shouted and leapt in front of the Dark Lightning.
“You... will… not… hurt my son!” Corran shouted in agony as the Dark Lightning crawled all over his body.
Chell Noruth had seen enough. With a shout, white lightning shot from his hands into the Dark Jedi Masters’ body sending her flying down a dark corridor. Her screaming could be heard as she hit a wall in the darkness, and then nothing else was heard from Lomi Plo. Chell Noruth collapsed before Lomi Plo had even left the room.
“Valin,” Corran said as checked to see if his son had a pulse. A pulse was there and Valin slowly opened his eyes.
“Dad! Lookout!” Valin shouted suddenly awake.
Corran didn’t even get a chance to turn around as the red lightsaber erupted through his left shoulder. He didn’t even shout out, he simply collapsed.
“Should’ve finished me when you had the chance!” Welk shouted out in anger. “I won’t be so merciful!” Welk drew his lightsaber up high and drove it downward.
With a loud shout of “NO,” Valin Horn thrust his right hand out. Welk’s lightsaber came down and deflected away as if it had hit a hidden wall protecting Corran. He looked up with surprise in his eyes and Valin winked at him before driving his left arm away from his body. Welk shot across the room and slammed into the durasteel plating. His body slid down the wall, leaving a blood trail as it dropped, and came to rest in a heap on the floor.
Valin ran over to Chell Noruth and placed his hand on Chell shoulder. Chell felt a flowing warmness enter his body and suddenly, he felt his strength returning. “What?” he managed to ask.
“Horn’s have a rare Force gift Master Noruth. We have the ability to absorb energy and channel it safely away from our bodies. My father first learned of this ability while training at Master Skywalker’s academy. Welk’s lightsaber sent a powerful amount of energy into my father’s body. My father’s hand was linked in my own hand and he simply channeled that excess energy into my body. I used that excess energy to create a Force bubble around my father and what was left I used to restore some of your energy,” Valin explained.
Chell rose uneasily to his feet and rested his weight against Valin’s shoulder. “Well done Valin. I can see now that you’ll be a great Jedi Knight; if given the proper guidance. Now, we have to get your father to the infirmary, and fast.”
“But we have no ship,” Valin said simply.
“Trust me Valin,” Chell said. “Grab the Dark Jedi, I’ll carry your father.”
“You’re too weak,” Valin said.
“I’m stronger than you think Valin. Go, get the Dark Jedi.”
Valin ran to the corner of the room and gathered up the form of the Dark Jedi and slung him over his shoulder. He turned back to see Chell Noruth levitating Corran with the Force, a pained look on his face.
“You can’t carry him,” Valin said.
“I’ll manage,” Chell returned. “Now, let’s get out of here.”
The two Jedi Knights emerged onto the landing pad, and to Valin’s surprise, no Yuuzhan Vong warriors or Chazrach were waiting.
“Ok Master Noruth, what now?”
Chell smiled and activated a button on his com link. A shimmering effect passed over the air directly in front of the two Jedi Knights and a ship decloaked. The Redeemer.
“Come Valin, we must depart,” Chell said as the boarding ramp dropped on the modified Corellian freighter.
“I’ve decided to be magnanimous, I’ll simply leave you here. I’ll give you a fighting chance to get off this dismal planet before the Yuuzhan Vong ravage it. Consider it a parting gift Fenix, since we were so special to each other at one time,” Viqi Shesh said, smirking at her captured bounty hunters.
Shesh turned to leave, but abruptly stopped. “On second thought, I think I’ll just kill you Fenix. Goodbye, my love.”
Fenix Reiner was visibly irritated and he tugged at the borasch jelly that held his hands to the stone floor. Viqi Shesh simply laughed and raised her blaster. Her laugh was quickly cut off by a SNAP-HISS that came from behind her.
Viqi Shesh stood totally silent as she watched all three of the captive bounty hunters looking over her shoulder. One by one, their angry looks quickly turned into smiles, even Dark Tracker, the human replica droid. Viqi Shesh quickly turned to face the person standing behind her. But it was already too late.
Before Viqi Shesh could get any words out, a flame red lightsaber whipped through the air and passed through Shesh’s neck. Her eyes were locked on the Jedi Knight standing before her, but they were eyes that would never see again. Her body collapsed to the ground and her head rolled away down the street. The last thing Viqi Shesh had seen was the avenging Jedi Knight standing in front of her. The Jedi Knight Alema Rar.
“That was for my sister,” Alema said simply. “You have been avenged sister.”
Alema turned to leave, but stopped. She reached into a pouch on her belt and threw some salts onto Dark Tracker’s hands. She did the same for Fenix and Arica Dull. The salts began to eat away at the borasch jelly.
“Jedi! Look out!” Arica Dull shouted out.
Alema turned quickly and brought her lightsaber up to block a Yuuzhan Vong amphistaff. She quickly turned away the blow and tore her lightsaber through the warrior in front of her. As the warrior fell to the ground, she gasped and saw 15 more warriors behind him.
With a fierce Force shove, she sent 9 of the warriors tumbling away. Alema Rar called upon all the Force energy she had and with a shout, threw herself into battle with the remaining 6.
Arica Dull watched the brave Twi’lek Jedi Knight jump into battle with six Yuuzhan Vong warrior. She quickly got worried when she saw the other nine warriors getting to their feet. In that instant, Arica Dull made her choice. Reaching down into her boots, she pulled out two vibro blades and ignited both of them.
“Come on you two, the Jedi Knight needs our help!” she shouted and charged at the nine Yuuzhan Vong warriors moving to attack Alema Rar.
Dark Tracker stood and cracked his artificial knuckles. “Time to clobber some Vong!”
Fenix Reiner simply crouched on the ground.
“Fenix?” Tracker questioned.
“Ah what the hell,” Fenix said pulling a small vibro axe from behind his back. “Who wants to live forever anyways?”
The two bounty hunters quickly rushed to catch up to Arica Dull and the three of them rushed into battle with nine Yuuzhan Vong warriors. A battle they knew they were unlikely to win.
Arica Dull got to the Vong warriors first blocking an amphistaff blow with one vibro blade, the other slashing at the warrior’s neck. After the fourth swipe, the warrior’s neck opened up and blood came pouring out. Dull quickly brought her left blade down and jammed it into the stomach of the warrior to her left. He bellowed and delivered a fierce backhand that sent the bounty hunter stumbling backwards.
Fenix rushed the warrior and buried his vibro axe into the warrior’s face. He quickly pulled the axe from the dead warrior and used it to block an amphistaff that was attempting to sever his head.
Dark Tracker hit the scene and delivered a fierce punch to the warrior’s temple and all three bounty hunters heard the warrior’s cheekbone and part of his skull crack in the blow. A quick left palm thrust shattered the warrior’s nose and drove several bone fragments into his brain. A wild amphistaff slashed at his mechanical arm, gouging a deep slash into his metal covering.
Tracker spun off the dead warrior and delivered a right back fist to the next warrior sending him stumbling back. A left hook shattered the jaw of the next warrior, but an amphistaff bashed into Tracker’s mechanical face. A human would’ve been killed, but Dark Tracker only suffered a nasty gash on his mechanical face. Wires and servos were exposed and they arced electrical energy. Tracker grunted and drove a knee into the warrior’s stomach shattering his ribcage. An elbow to the back of the head shattered several vertebrae in his back and the warrior was done for.
Arica was back on her feet by now fighting off another warrior. The warrior struck at her with his amphistaff, but Dull turned the blow away with her right vibro blade. She jammed the left blade into the warrior’s crotch and Fenix Reiner visibly winced. A quick kick sent the warrior’s amphistaff into his buddy’s face and Dull drove her other vibro blade into the warrior’s face. An amphistaff whooshed dangerously close to her face and Dull ducked back. Arica Dull was fast, but not fast enough, the staff connected with her temple and sent her spiraling into unconsciousness.
Fenix was up in a flash hurling his vibro axe into the warrior’s face. He tried to rip the axe free, but the warrior fell away too fast. Now weaponless, Fenix grabbed a Yuuzhan Vong coufee from the fallen warrior and used it to block an amphistaff strike. But Fenix was never very good with small knives and was quickly disarmed. The warrior whipped the amphistaff down and behind Fenix’s knees. A quick pull and Fenix tumbled to the ground.
The warrior drove his amphistaff down attempting to flatten Fenix’s face, but he rolled to the side at the last moment. Instead, the staff buried itself in Fenix’s right shoulder. He cried out in pain as the staff imbedded itself, but another jolt of pain came as the warrior ripped the staff out. Another blow was coming and Fenix knew he was too weak to dodge another one.
Fenix looked up to see the warrior’s staff coming down, but in the last instant, it stopped. He focused and could see Dark Tracker behind the warrior, pinning his arms to his sides. Tracker squeezed with all his mechanical strength and the warrior’s armor died. The dying armor constricted and began to crush the warrior. Tracker threw the body aside and turned to face the remaining warriors.
An amphistaff wrapped itself around his arm and constricted. Tracker reached down to remove it but it was too late. The staff found the damaged section of his arm and in the next instant; Tracker’s left arm was on the ground, severed at the bicep. Tracker lashed out with his good arm and drove the warrior back with a punch to the chest. Another warrior got behind Tracker and drove his leg into the back of Tracker’s knee. Tracker fell to one knee and an amphistaff blow to the back of the head sent him tumbling to the ground.
Fenix looked up to see the two remaining Yuuzhan Vong warriors standing over Dark Tracker. Fenix felt for his friend. The Yuuzhan Vong hated machines, what they would do to Dark Tracker would not be pretty. But they never got that chance. A flame red lightsaber ripped them apart and Fenix looked up into the eyes of his savior; the Twi’lek Jedi.
“Rest easy friend, help’s on the way,” Alema said kneeling before Fenix.
Fenix coughed several times before speaking. “I never got your name.”
“Well Alema Rar, do you realize how much money you cost me by killing Shesh?” Fenix croaked out, with a smile on his face.
Alema Rar laughed loudly and returned the smile. “A Jedi who owes her life to you ought to be worth more than the reward money.”
“I’d consider it even if you’d have a drink with me,” Fenix said the same smile on his face.
“It’s a date,” Alema Rar said laughing again as the Naboo medics arrived on the scene.
The battle for the planet Naboo was intensifying. The Yuuzhan Vong had ceased their circular attack on the city and had broken off into three distinctive groups.
One group had beaten unmercifully at Corran Horn’s former squadron of troopers, but the troopers held their line and the Yuuzhan Vong advance was crushed.
Another group had steadily pushed itself at Chell Noruth’s bunker, but neither side had the advantage until the arrival of Kyle Katarn and Tesar Sebatyne. The two Jedi Knights had proven to be the tiebreaker.
The final group of Vong troops was here, at Luke Skywalker’s group of troops. Luke had seen his troops beaten back twice, having to fall back to their third defensive position, but still, the troopers held the line. No Yuuzhan Vong warriors or Chazrach got anywhere near the city of Theed. Luke, Biggs, and Tam had fought a fierce losing battle, but the arrival of Mara Jade Skywalker, Zekk, and Lowbacca had turned the tide. 4 Jedi Knights and 2 Jedi Masters were too much for the Yuuzhan Vong, or so Luke had thought.
“Push forward!” Luke shouted out. “We need more space between us and the security walls of Theed. We can’t fight with our backs to the sea!”
The New Republic soldiers, exhausted and wounded from fighting, stood and pushed one last time. They knew they had to, Luke Skywalker had asked it of them. After all, the Jedi Master could be holed up in some safe house somewhere commanding the Jedi, but he wasn’t. After all these years, Luke Skywalker was still the same brave farm boy who went up against the Emperor and Darth Vader alone.
“Reports coming in Luke,” his wife Mara Jade Skywalker said, rushing up to his side. “The Vong abandoned their attack on Leia’s bunker.”
“And Leia?” Luke questioned.
“Safe, Devin Moonstar never left her side.”
Luke smiled quickly before asking, “What about Corran and Valin?”
“Chell made it to their position. Corran was injured, something about two Dark Jedi trying to kidnap Valin. One of the Dark Jedi is in custody.”
“Good, so we haven’t lost anymore Jedi.”
“No new casualties, although Octa Ramis, Virruk Dujal, and Branda Besadii Diori are still missing. Alema Rar turned up in Theed. She saved a couple bounty hunters from the Yuuzhan Vong and she killed Viqi Shesh.”
“I’m sure Han and Leia will be thrilled to hear that,” Luke said.
“I figured you’d be thrilled to hear it Skywalker, she did after all, try to kidnap our son,” Mara returned.
“I’m never thrilled to hear of a death Mara, but I will admit, it does give me a sense of satisfaction to hear she met her fate.”
An explosion close by cut off Luke’s conversation with his wife. He turned and ignited his green lightsaber to deflect away a thud bug.
“Mara!” Luke shouted as 3 Yuuzhan Vong warriors advanced on her position.
Mara ignited her blue lightsaber with a SNAP-HISS, a lightsaber that once belonged to Anakin Skywalker long ago, and took the fight directly to the advancing warriors. Her lightsaber was a blur in motion as the Jedi Master deftly deflected an amphistaff strike aimed at her head. Swinging through the staff, Mara lodged her lightsaber in the neck of the warrior. She quickly arched her lightsaber around to eliminate the remaining warriors.
Luke shouted out a warning, but Mara wasn’t quick enough. A thud bug exploded into her chest and Mara stumbled back. Four more bugs were hurled at her and she swept her lightsaber up in front of her like a shield, but the first bug had dazed her. Mara’s lightsaber only deflected away three of the miniature living missiles and the fourth tore through her combat suit. Mara collapsed to the ground.
Luke was instantly at her side as Mara went down. Kneeling beside his wife, Luke propped her head up on his knee. Mara looked down at the gaping hole that was once her combat suit and saw the mass of blood beneath it. Luke’s green lightsaber rotated in front of the two of them deflecting away several of the flying objects.
“Rest easy Mara, a med team will be here soon,” Luke said soothingly as his wife lay cradled in his arms. A tear began to form in the corner of Luke’s eye; he couldn’t lose his wife now. Not when he needed her the most. Mara said nothing; instead she looked up into his face and smiled. She then quickly slipped into unconsciousness.
Five Yuuzhan Vong warriors approached his position and Luke rose to his feet. With a snap of his right hand, Mara’s lightsaber ignited and leapt into his hand. Luke charged the 5 warriors with both blades sweeping in front of him like a buzz saw. The lead warrior grinned at the honor of defeated a Jedi Knight in battle and quickly moved to intercept Luke. He never made it to his goal as Luke tore him to pieces and moved into a fierce battle with the other four warriors.
The Jedi Master felled three of the warriors quickly, but the fourth lashed out with his amphistaff and the sharp blade jarred into Luke’s mechanical right hand. He shouted out in pain as Mara’s blue lightsaber flew from his grasp and his hand began to arc electrical current. He watched as the warrior drove his amphistaff down into the fallen lightsaber ripping it into two pieces; his father’s lightsaber.
The warrior sneered at him, but Luke acted far more quickly than the warrior could have anticipated and brought his green lightsaber down, severing the amphistaff in the middle. He delivered a quick back fist with his left hand and rotated the blade around into the warrior’s stomach. Turning back, Luke ran towards his fallen wife.
Reaching her position, Luke paused to deflect away several more thud bugs and defend his fallen wife. He looked over the sweeping hills that were in front of him and saw numerous Yuuzhan Vong troopers coming over the hills. This was a battle he couldn’t win.
Resigning himself to his fate, Luke sighed and began to walk slowing toward the approaching hoard of warriors. Before he could get close to them, crimson bolts arched from the sky and tore threw several of the warriors. More bolts followed the first pair and tore into even more warriors. Luke glanced up into the sky and saw a lone X-Wing swooping over the battlefield, firing as it soared through the sky like an eagle. His wrist com quickly spoke up.
“Master Skywalker, I figured you might need some assistance.”
“Octa Ramis!” Luke shouted back into his com. “What happened?”
“I was separated from Corran and Valin. I made my way back to Theed and got my X-Wing from the hanger. I was all set to join the battle in space when the reports came in that you were under heavy attack. I figured one more X-Wing up there wouldn’t change anything, but one more X-Wing down here could mean the difference.”
“Glad to see you’re alright Octa, by all means, continue firing.”
“Time to take out the trash,” Octa said before sweeping over the battlefield with more laser fire.
The battle was won, and Lando Calrissian knew it. The New Republic fleet had stood strong and defeated the Yuuzhan Vong forces that intended to destroy the new Naboo Shipyards, but at a great cost. A large majority of the fleet lay dead in space, damaged beyond flight. Large debris clouds floated through the area. Chunks of yorrik coral that were once Yuuzhan Vong vessels drifted around the battlefield. The battle was won, but it was still far from over. Unlike the Imperials, the Yuuzhan Vong did not surrender.
A transmission came in from Wedge. “Falcon, this is the Yavaris III, we’ve got a Yuuzhan Vong frigate analog heading towards the main shipping station. It’s intent on a collision course. Our weapon systems are destroyed, there’s nothing we can do to stop them. You’re the only ship in the area who can catch them in time.”
Han swung the Falcon back towards the Yavaris III and punched the throttle. “Yavaris III, this is the Falcon, we’re on approach. We’ll handle it Wedge.”
The Falcon punched through space like a rocket towards the Yuuzhan Vong vessel. The gunners opened fire as Han strafed over the rock-like ship. Laser blasts erupted onto the surface of the massive vessel, but still, it traveled forward.
“Wedge, we can’t stop the ship, it still has limited dovin basal control, we simply can’t do enough damage to destroy it.”
“Understood Falcon, it’s up to us now. Helm, set a collision course.”
“Wedge!” Han shouted out. “There has to be another way!”
“There is no other way old friend, we can’t lose the shipyards. Now get clear before you’re caught in the explosion.”
Han blinked for a moment before turning the Falcon back towards the Vong frigate, his gunner’s opening fire again. Several more chunks of rock were blown away from the massive ship, but still, it pushed on.
“Han! This is a direct order! Move away!”
Han grunted and turned the Falcon away, leaving Wedge to his fate.
“I’ll see you on the other side Han.”
Han closed his eyes to keep the tears from flowing as he watched his friend taking his massive flagship on a collision course with the Yuuzhan Vong ship. The cockpit was silent for a moment as both men said a quiet prayer for their friend. The silence was broken by a beeping sound coming from the sensors console.
“Han, I’m detecting a hyperspace point forming near the Yavaris III!” Lando shouted out.
“New Republic starship Yavaris III, this is General Soontir Fel aboard the Chiss battleship Brilliant Tactician. We’ve monitored the situation and are here to assist you. Hold onto your butts.”
Han looked out the Falcon’s main viewport at the approaching Chiss warship. No one across the galaxy had ever seen a similar Chiss warship design and Han marveled at the design in front of him. The vessel was shaped like a three-dimensional spade, two wings sweeping back along the hull. The back point of the ship was a huge engine, capable of propelling the ship at what Han believed to incredible speeds. Small nubs protruded along the entire surface of each wing and Han realized they were Turbolaser deployments. The front of the ship had a large cannon jutting out in front of it; Han had no idea what it was.
The Brilliant Tactician moved closer to the Yuuzhan Vong frigate as if it intended to ram the vessel itself. Han watched as the front mounted cannon began to pulsate and glow a weird florescent green color. As the ship was nearly upon the Vong, a burst of solid energy burst from the cannon and tore into the enemy ship. Han watched as the giant disruptor cannon swept along the entire length of the Yuuzhan Vong vessel, hulling it. The vessel drifted away completely destroyed.
“General Antilles to Brilliant Tactician, thank you and the Chiss government for your assistance.”
“Don’t thank me Antilles,” General Fel shot back. “I’m not here on the orders of my government. I’m here because my son is here. No other reason.”
Wedge gritted his teeth before responding. “Either way, thank you for the assistance.”
Ackbar watched with amazement as the gigantic vessel flew over his flagship, dwarfing his large vessel.
“Oh my god,” his helmsman said in awe as the monstrosity flew by.
“We’re receiving a transmission.”
“Let’s hear it,” Ackbar said, still in awe.
“This is Grand Admiral Gilad Pellaeon onboard the Imperial Mark II Super Star Destroyer Imperial Alliance to Admiral Ackbar. Sorry we’re late Admiral, hang on, we’ll get the Vong off your back,” came the voice from Pellaeon.
“Grand Admiral Pellaeon, thank you for your assistance, the fleet is now in your command.”
Pellaeon smiled before responding. “No need Admiral, I’ve brought my own forces.”
Hyperspace points began to open up all over the place and 4 more Mark II Super Star Destroyers exited from hyperspace along with nearly 25 Imperial Mark III Star Destroyers.
“I told your Senate that I had extra forces that I couldn’t give the details on Admiral, these are those forces. Fresh off the assembly line; the Imperial Mark III Star Destroyer and the Imperial Mark II Super Star Destroyer. Allow us to clear your skies of any hostile vessels. All batteries, open fire.”
The Mark II Super Star Destroyer had been completely redesigned. Larger than before, it measured nearly 19,000 meters long. It had upgraded weapon systems, from 500 Turbolaser batteries to 800, Ion cannons went from 250 to 400 per ship, and the ship was equipped with 200 Concussion missile launchers and 50 tractor beam projectors. Along with increased shields and enhanced engines, the ship was nearly a fleet of it’s own. Pellaeon smiled as 4000 Turbo laser batteries opened fire at once.
As the Turbolaser batteries sang out, 47 Yuuzhan Vong vessels were destroyed in the first volley alone. As the batteries fired their second salvo, 38 more vessels were blown into dust.
“Corral skippers on approach Grand Admiral. We count 150 targets,” Pellaeon’s second in command, Captain Berryl announced.
“Activate anti-starfighter defenses,” Pellaeon said simply. “It’s time to find out how advanced this ship really is.”
Coral skippers began to rain down molten plasma on the Imperial Alliance’s shields, but they held without even a shudder.
“Skips now within optimal firing range Grand Admiral.”
“Fire anti-starfighter defenses.”
As the skips swung past the huge behemoth, several compartments on its hull slid away revealing 25 short-range missile launchers. The launchers immediately began spewing out small concussion bombs which began to arc after the skips.
On board the Corellian Star, General Garm Bel Iblis watched in shock.
“General, Yuuzhan Vong skips creating voids, containing initial concussion bombs, but the other bombs; Sir, they’re locking in on the voids created by the skips.”
Bel Iblis watched as skip after skip began to disappear from his scope, casualties from the anti-starfighter bombs.
“General, 85% of skips destroyed in the initial launch alone.”
“Outstanding,” Bel Iblis said in shock.
“General, Yuuzhan Vong fleet is pulling back. They’re attempting to escape.”
“Not if we have anything to say about it,” Bel Iblis said, a feral grin stretching across his face. “Katana fleet, cut off their escape vector. I want none of their fleet to escape this time. It’s time the Vong found out that they shouldn’t have messed with the New Republic and the Imperial Remnant.”
Luke Skywalker entered the med lab and glanced down at the patient on the bed in front of him. A single tear began to form in the corner of his eye, and not surprisingly, Luke let it fall down his face. The Jedi Master on the bed before him lay dying. Luke sighed as he looked down at the face of his friend and fellow Jedi Master, Streen. Streen had been one of Luke’s first trainees and Luke was shamed to admit to himself that it hurt more to lose him than it had to lose any of the other Jedi Knights who had fallen to the Yuuzhan Vong advance.
Mara entered the room and crossed quickly to put her arms around her husband.
“I’m glad you’re ok Mara,” Luke said taking her hand in his own.
“I know Skywalker, but you also know I’d trade myself for Streen at this point.”
“That’s one of the reasons I love you Mara, you’re the most unselfish person I know.”
Mara said nothing and slid closer to Luke’s side as he put his arm around her shoulder. Luke looked past the body of Streen to see Manuel Tejada sitting by his former Master’s side. He glanced to the corner of the room to see Ganner Rhysode sitting in a chair in the corner, staring straight ahead and idly rotating a golden lightsaber between his hands. Luke wanted to say something to him, but no words came. He focused his attention back on Streen.
Master Streen was unconscious on the bed, but Manuel Tejada hadn’t left his side since he had brought his Master in from off the battlefield. Streen was unconscious when Tejada had brought him in, and he had yet to regain consciousness since being here. The med techs had informed Luke shortly after he had arrived from the battlefield that there was nothing they could do for Streen.
Manuel Tejada looked up for the first time and noticed Luke standing there. “He doesn’t have much time left Master Skywalker, I wish there was something I could do.”
“Stay with him Manuel, that’s the greatest thing you can do for him now. He knows you’re here, and that simple fact will comfort him,” Mara said, speaking up.
“I will Master Jade Skywalker, I’m going nowhere.”
A beeping sound began on the monitors that were hooked to Streen, and suddenly, he opened his eyes. Luke gasped, the med techs had told him he had slipped into a coma and there was no chance he would reawaken. But Luke knew he shouldn’t have counted out Streen.
Slowly, Streen opened his mouth to speak. Luke expected the words to be slow and pained, but Streen surprised him again by speaking in his same normal tone. “Manuel, Master Skywalker, I’m glad you’re here. I’m glad you’re all here.”
“Streen old friend, is there anything I can do for you?” Luke asked. He didn’t want to use the words ‘last request.’
“You mean, do I have any last requests,” the old man said smiling. “I know I’m dying Master, I’ve felt it through the Force.”
“Very well old friend, do you have any last requests?” Luke asked.
“Actually I do Master. My entire life, I’ve stayed away from people. I’ve shied away from them because their thoughts disturbed me. I found out later on that it was the Force that had caused me to hear all those thoughts, but even after I learned to control it, I stayed in my hermit-like ways. It’s ironic really; I find here at the end, I want people to be here. I don’t want to spend my last moments alone.”
Luke smiled a bitter smile. “Then you shall have all the Jedi Knights here my friend.”
“Thank you Master, but please, hurry. I feel I don’t have much time.”
Luke started to move towards the door, but Mara stopped him and ran out herself. Moments later, Jedi Knights began to pour into the room. They took up places around Master Streen, linking hands to form a circle.
Streen smiled. “Thank you Master. I only wish my friend Kirana Ti could be here at the end.”
A voice boomed out from behind the circle. “I’m here my friend,” Kirana Ti said as she entered the center of the circle to sit with Streen.
Streen seemed to relax even more than before. “Then it is complete,” he said simply. “It seems irony has struck yet again.”
“Why is that my friend?” Kirana Ti asked.
“Irony brought us together,” Streen said. “The thoughts of others used to bother me immensely. The thoughts were too chaotic and difficult to shut out, but I never had that problem with you Kirana. I find it ironic that a warrior woman would have the quietest mind of all.”
Kirana smiled. “I’ll miss you Streen.”
Streen smiled one last time before closing his eyes. The Jedi Knights watched as the life drained from Streen. As they watched, the color drained from his face and he became lighter, then translucent, and then finally, Jedi Master Streen faded away into the Force and the blanket that had covered his body collapsed and fell to the bed.
Wedge stood on the bridge of the Feral Tiger looking at the large holo-projectors in front of him. Grand Admiral Kre’fey and his flagship had arrived at Naboo only minutes before and Wedge had ferried himself over to the Grand Admiral’s vessel. He now stood on the bridge of the massive flagship, Kre’fey, Han Solo, and Lando Calrissian with him.
The four military commanders were staring at three life-size holograms that stood in front of them; the images of Admiral Ackbar, General Garm Bel Iblis, and Grand Admiral Gilad Pellaeon of the Imperial Remnant Fleet. Wedge had learned that Pellaeon had arrived in the nick of time to save Ackbar’s forces from certain defeat, his fleet packing quite the punch.
“Grand Admiral Pellaeon, we can’t thank you enough for arriving in the nick of time to save our forces at Umgul. You were directly responsible for saving the lives of the fleet stationed there and for the crews onboard the orbiting space docks. You also saved 25 Imperial Mark II Star Destroyers that were a few days away from completion. You have my deepest sympathies for any officers lost in the conflict,” Kre’fey said, his fur flattening against his face in a sign of respect for the old officer in the holo before him.
“Thank you Grand Admiral Kre’fey, your forces fought well. I hear you turned back the Yuuzhan Vong advances at both Naboo and Sullust.”
“That we did Grand Admiral Pellaeon, but at great cost,” Kre’fey explained. “We lost nearly ½ our fleet at Naboo.”
“I also hear that General Antilles lost his flagship, the Yavaris III, I believe?” Pellaeon asked.
“Yes,” Wedge said speaking up. “The Yavaris III is out of commission for sometime due to extensive repairs, but it could’ve been a lot worse. The ship would be destroyed right now if General Soontir Fel of the Chiss hadn’t shown up unexpectedly,” Wedge finished gesturing towards the Chiss military general who was standing off to the side of the 4 men.
“General Soontir Fel, I thank you for arriving on the scene in the nick of time,” Pellaeon said.
“Thank you Grand Admiral Pellaeon, but I was not here on the orders of my government. My son and his Chiss starfighter squadron were not authorized to help in the defense of Naboo. They were simply here to conduct intelligence, not help the New Republic wage war. I came here to recall him and his squadron.”
“No!” a voice shouted out from behind.
“Jag,” General Soontir Fel said. “I see you survived the mission after all.”
“Yes father, but I do not wish to return to the Chiss military at this time. The New Republic needs us to hold off the Vong, surely the military must see that?” Jagged Fel asked his father.
“Out of the question, Colonel Fel,” Soontir said, using his son’s formal rank.
Jag sighed. “Then I formally request a leave of absence from the Chiss military General Fel. If the Chiss government won’t officially let me cooperate with the New Republic, I shall do it unofficially.”
“Request denied Colonel. Gather your squadron, we’re leaving,” Soontir barked as he turned to leave the bridge.
“No,” Jag said simply.
“Colonel, I am giving you a direct order,” Soontir said, his voice taking on a more stern tone.
“And I’m flat out disobeying your direct order,” Jag shot back. “If the Chiss military won’t stand up and fight the Yuuzhan Vong, then I want no part of that body. I’m staying here.”
“Then I’m placing you under arrest Colonel,” Soontir said. “You’re to report back to the Brilliant Tactician where you’ll be formally charged with treason against the Chiss military.”
“You’re not taking him anywhere,” a voice growled from behind Soontir.
Soontir quickly turned and found himself looking into the business end of a lightsaber; a lightsaber that belonged to Jaina Solo.
“I wouldn’t go for that blaster General,” Jaina said simply. “My finger might slip and activate this lightsaber. I’d hate to have to see the mess it would cause.”
Soontir growled. “Shawnkyr. Will you and the rest of your squadron follow this traitor?”
Shawnkyr nodded her head. “We shall General. After all, I’m a member of a renegade phalanx, sir. My place is with my commanding officer. The squadron agrees.”
Soontir sighed. “Very well. I shall return to the Brilliant Tactician and report back that Colonel Jagged Fel and his squadron were killed in action at the battle of Naboo.”
“General! Why?” Jag asked, as his father’s words had truly startled him.
“Because, son, you’re a brilliant commanding officer and an even better pilot. Your squadron respects and follows you, even to the point of ceding from your own government. That cannot be ignored. Once this crisis with the Yuuzhan Vong is over with, you shall be allowed to return to the Chiss if that is your wish. Good luck Colonel.”
And with that, General Soontir Fel marched out of the room.
Wedge, Kre’fey, Pellaeon, and the others all stood in shock. Jag turned to them all and blushed, clearing his throat. “I apologize for the scene Generals, Admirals, and Grand Admirals.” Jag composed himself before continuing. “I formally request membership in the Military Alliance.”
“Granted Colonel Fel,” Kre’fey growled. “You and your squadron are welcome anywhere the New Republic has influence.”
“Thank you Grand Admiral,” Jag said with a crisp solute. He quickly turned and left the bridge with Shawnkyr and Jaina.
“Grand Admiral Kre’fey, I hate to cut things short, but I must be going. The fleet is scheduled to depart in moments. We have to be back at Bastion soon for a larger mission we are undertaking near the rim,” Pellaeon said.
“Thank you again Grand Admiral Pellaeon, I hope everything goes well for you. May the Force be with you.”
Pellaeon smiled. “And to you Grand Admiral Kre’fey. Oh yes, one more thing, I’m leaving 3 Imperial Mark III Star Destroyers for you. You may move one to each shipyard to study the improvements we have made so you may implement those improvements on your own ships. Also, I’m leaving the Imperial Mark II Super Star Destroyer’s Imperial Alliance and Lusankya II in your command. General Antilles, I would be honored if you would take the Imperial Alliance as your new flagship.”
“How can I turn down a request like that Grand Admiral Pellaeon. Thank you,” Wedge said smiling.
Pellaeon nodded. “May the Force be with you all.” And then his holo image faded out.
Sullust. The new Capital of the New Republic. A new beginning. Chell Noruth stood in the new Jedi compound overlooking the capital world. The Senate had handed over control of the military to the military and with that switch in leadership, the Jedi Knights became more important. Gone were the days when the Jedi were sold out, the new military structure was working openly with the Jedi Knights, and the Senate seemed to have no problems with this.
Chell stood in the recently completed Jedi compound. The compound was equipped with state of the art communications equipment so the Jedi Knights could in touch with each other and with the military. The Senate had also seen to the construction of a great tower, which overlooked the city. They had taken designs from the old Jedi Temple on Coruscant in creating this new tower. Chell Noruth now stood at the top of this great tower.
“Impressive view isn’t it?” the question came out of nowhere from behind him, causing Chell to turn quickly towards the voice.
“Luke,” Chell said simply.
“I knew I’d find you up here alone old friend,” Luke responded with a smile.
“I had some thinking to do Luke.”
“My place in this war.”
“I know you’d rather be back on Endor with Devin studying the living Force and teaching him Chell,” Luke said, resting his hand on the young man’s shoulder. “But I’m also glad that you’re here. We couldn’t have won the battle at Naboo without your help, and on a personal note, I’m thankful you were there to rescue Corran and Valin.”
“I did the best I could Luke, but the Force is calling me. There’s something that the Force is trying to teach me.”
“Let me ask you this, why are you still here Chell?” Luke asked.
Chell turned to face the Jedi Master. “I once had a conversation with Jaina. I told her this was your war, not mine. I told her the Force guided my actions and the Force instructed me to stay at Endor. She became enraged and asked me what it would take to make me help your Jedi Order. I told her only one thing.”
“What was that Chell?” Luke questioned.
“I told her the only way I would defy the Force’s judgment was if Luke Skywalker asked me to stay.”
Luke raised his eyebrow, but said nothing.
“Staying here, being an advisor to you, this doesn’t feel right Luke. I feel out of place here. I’ve been a loner for a long time.”
“Then go Chell,” Luke said simply. “We’d definitely miss your insights into the Force, but you must do what the Force instructs, that’s the basis of your beliefs.”
Chell shook his head. “I owe you and Mara too much to turn my back on you at this point, but I also know that I cannot stay here. I need to be out on the front lines, I’m not a warrior, but I’m also not a leader. I can’t stay cooped up in an office directing things, frankly I don’t know how you do it.”
Luke smiled. “It’s not easy at times. I shall respect your wishes to leave here, but I do ask that you stay for a short while.”
“I shall find balance Luke. The Force will instruct me towards a new mission. I know it,” Chell said as he walked towards the elevator that left the room. “Enjoy the view old friend, I must go discover where my new path shall lead me.”
Chell Noruth exited the Jedi tower and began to make his way towards the lower levels of the Jedi compound where his temporary quarters were located. The Force must show me the way towards balance… Chell’s thoughts were interrupted by an immense burst of Dark Side energy. He quickly turned to his left to open the door located there, but the door wouldn’t budge. Chell ignited his white bladed lightsaber with a SNAP-HISS and drove the blade through the durasteel door, cleaving a giant hole. He quickly moved through the opening.
Chell glanced to his right to see Jaina Solo, on the floor, gasping for air. Her hands were at her collar, vainly trying to move her shirt away from her neck as if that would allow her air. Chell looked towards the center of the room to see a dark figure sitting, restrained, in a chair. The figure’s exposed hand was slowly closing in a death grip.
Chell made his way over to Jaina quickly, his left hand curled into a fist. As he reached the young Jedi Knight, he slowly opened his hand. The figure sitting in the chair looked down in amazement as his own hand began to slowly open. Jaina began to gasp as the air began to return to her lungs.
“You’re… blocking… me!” the Dark Jedi shouted out, trying to close his hand. Chell Noruth smiled as he forced his hand open completely.
“I’ll gut you traitor!” the Dark Jedi shouted out again, trying to close his hand once again, but the hand would not close.
“You won’t claim another Jedi Knight today Welk,” Chell said simply. “Jaina, are you alright?”
Jaina shook her head yes as she took in deeper breaths of oxygen.
“What possessed you to come here and interrogate a Dark Jedi Jaina?” Chell asked, taking on a stern tone.
Jaina stood and spoke. “Raynar Thul was kidnapped by two Dark Jedi at Myrkr. Everyone had thought that they had perished, but if Lomi Plo and Welk survived, then Raynar must have as well. He’s my friend Chell, I can’t leave him with Dark Jedi!”
“Calm yourself Jaina,” Chell said before turning to address Welk. “Is he alive Welk?”
Welk sneered. “The pitiful Jedi Knight is alive, but the next time you see him, he’ll be reborn of the Dark Side.”
Jaina’s anger rose immediately, but Chell seemed unaffected by the Dark Jedi’s mind games. “Where is he? A Dark Jedi base?”
Welk laughed. “Like I’d tell a traitor like yourself.”
Welk’s laughter instantly died. His face took on a pained look as he looked out into Chell Noruth’s eyes and saw the fire in them. “Tell me where the base is,” Chell asked calmly, but with the force of someone you didn’t want to disobey.
Jaina gasped as she suddenly saw what Chell was doing. She saw the blood vessel in Welk’s head, she saw it pulsating. She saw it shaking faster and faster, on a rapid course towards rupturing. She knew it would be fatal.
“Chell stop!” Jaina shouted out. She moved to the Jedi Master’s side and reached out with the Force, trying to shake him loose from his concentration, but she found it impossible. Every time she was able to establish even the smallest hint of a pathway into Chell Noruth’s mind, Jaina found that instantly, thousands, maybe millions, of walls sprung up and she was blocked from accessing anything. He had the strongest mental shields she had ever touched.
Chell seemingly didn’t even notice Jaina’s intrusion on his mind as he looked sharply at the Dark Jedi, who was now shaking visibly. “I won’t ask again Dark Jedi, WHERE IS HE?”
Welk began to convulse sharply as he shouted out at the last second, “I won’t betray my Master!” and then, he was gone.
“Chell!” Jaina shouted shaking the Jedi Master loose from his thoughts. “You killed him! That’s the way of the Dark Side!”
Chell shook his head. “He’s not dead, he’s only unconscious. He’ll be out for quite some time.”
“How long?” Jaina asked.
“Tough to say, weeks, months, maybe years,” Chell remarked casually.
“Great, now we’ll never find out where Raynar is!” Jaina shouted, but Chell Noruth simply shook his head.
“He betrayed the secret before he went completely under Jaina.”
“What planet?” Jaina asked.
“I couldn’t get a specific planet. Frankly, Welk didn’t know. I surmise only Lomi Plo knows the actual location and she wouldn’t tell Welk in case he was captured.”
“What did you get?”
“They’re in the unknown regions. Specifically, Chiss space.”
“The Chiss don’t like intruders,” Jaina said simply.
“Too bad for them, I’m coming anyway,” Chell responded.
“Not alone you’re not,” Jaina shot back, igniting her blue bladed lightsaber for effect.
Chell turned back towards the young Jedi Knight and smiled. “I feel sorry for whatever Dark Jedi is holding your friend. They have no idea who’s coming.”
The late-day sun shined through the plasteel windows of the new Jedi Tower on Sullust, casting shadows on the figures inside. The effect created a somber atmosphere in the room, but the somber attitude of the gathered Jedi Knights was not because of the decor. The combined Jedi Knights were here to mark the passing of one of their own.
“Thank you all for coming,” Luke Skywalker said, standing at the center of the room. The combined Jedi Knights had formed a loose circle around him. “We are here at this moment to mark the passing of Jedi Master Streen into the Force. Master Streen lived a solitary life. He didn’t have many close friends, but everyone respected his teachings at the Jedi Academy. He truly was a wise man, and taught everyone in the room at least one thing about being a Jedi Knight. In the end, Streen had one last gift to give the Jedi Knights, the lives of Manuel Tejada and Branda Besadii Diori. Today, we honor the memory of fallen Jedi Master Streen.”
“Not only Master Streen!” a voice shouted out from the rear of the circle.
Luke turned towards the voice as it moved through the circle into the center. He noticed the Jedi Knight had a golden lightsaber in his hand, and he was idly rotating it between his hands.
“Ganner,” Luke began before Ganner Rhysode cut him off.
“I mean no disrespect for Jedi Master Streen, but we must also honor the memory of Virruk Dujal, Master Skywalker.”
“Ganner, we recovered no body. None of us felt him pass into the Force. It’s still possible that Virruk Dujal is still alive.”
“No Master, he’s gone,” Ganner said. “Virruk Dujal sacrificed himself to save myself, Anakin Solo, and Tahiri Veila. He gave me his lightsaber before I departed the battlefield. He was last seen rushing off to meet a hoard of Yuuzhan Vong warriors. He’s gone Master.”
“But Ganner, there’s still every chance that he’s alive,” Mara Jade Skywalker said, lifting her Jedi hood from her face. “I figured you would believe that the most among any of us here.”
“No Master Jade Skywalker, he’s gone. Virruk Dujal knew his time had come. He gave me his lightsaber and asked me to deliver it to his father. Then, he gave his life to save three Jedi Knights. He was a Jedi Knight, but most of all, he was Iridonian. I understand that now. The Iridonians are a fighting race, the teach combat to their children at a very young age. They also teach them to respect death and not fear it. Virruk Dujal knew his time was up and that he was fated to die on that battlefield and he faced it with far more bravery than I feel I would myself. I shall not tarnish his memory by refusing to accept his death. Virruk Dujal is gone.”
Luke nodded towards Ganner and the young Jedi Knight replaced his hood and melted back into the circle. He noticed Anakin Solo placing a hand on Ganner’s shoulder and Tahiri wrapping her arm around his waist to hug him. The three of them had become extremely close over the months and Luke suspected some of it had to do with their friendships with Virruk Dujal.
Luke waited a moment before continuing. “Today, we honor the memories of Jedi Master Streen and Jedi Knight Virruk Dujal. May their names never fade into obscurity.”
The Jedi Knights held a moment of silence as each of them said their personal goodbyes to both of the deceased Jedi. Luke moved out of the circle and over towards the window and removed his hood. The other Jedi Knights removed their hoods as they completed their goodbyes and they began to form loose rows in front of Luke.
“Where there is sadness, there is also new hope,” Luke began. “Corran Horn, if you would please join me.”
Corran Horn separated himself from the group of Jedi Knights and walked up to join Luke by the window.
“Corran, you are a great warrior and an even greater thinker. You are perhaps, wiser than myself in the Force. You have proven time and time again what it is to be a Jedi. I hereby confer upon you the rank of Jedi Master.”
“Luke, thank you, but I’m afraid I must refuse. I’m not worthy of such status, nor am I ready,” Corran responded.
Luke smiled. “You’ve been ready for a long time Corran, and worthy an even longer time.”
Kyp Durron stepped forward. “Corran, if I can be a Jedi Master, certainly, you can.”
The crowd of Jedi began to laugh at Kyp’s joke and Luke smiled.
“You’ve been a Jedi Master a long time Corran, now you’re just getting the official title for the record books,” Kyp said.
Corran turned to look towards Kyp. “You’re not going to fight with me for a change Durron?”
Kyp laughed before responding. “I’m no longer the person I was Corran. I’m starting to realize my own potential. I still have a long way to go, but someday, I shall be a Jedi Knight you, Luke, Mara, everyone, will respect.”
Corran turned back to Luke. “It looks like I have the Rogue’s approval. I have your approval. I must get one more person’s approval. My son Valin’s.”
Valin shouted out from the back of the crowd, “My approval?”
“Yes Valin, if I become a Jedi Master, I won’t be able to train you anymore. It wouldn’t feel right to do so. So I’m asking your opinion.”
“Dad, although I wish for you to continue with my training, Master Skywalker and the rest of the Jedi need you more than I do. Take the title dad,” Valin said back.
Corran turned towards Luke and nodded. “I hereby confer upon Corran Horn, the status of Jedi Master.”
“Luke, may I have the floor?” Chell Noruth shouted out from the back of the room.
Luke nodded. “The floor is yours Chell.”
Chell Noruth and Devin Moonstar moved to the center of the room. Chell shook hands with Corran as Corran stepped down and took a seat next to Luke and Mara. Devin bowed towards the three Jedi Masters.
“While we’re on the subject of promotions, I’d like to announce that Devin Moonstar has completed the trials and with the approval of the Jedi Masters, I confer upon him the status of Jedi Knight.”
“Master, am I truly ready?” Devin Moonstar asked.
“Yes Devin, you’ve been ready a long time. You’re much wiser in the Force than I was at your age, even if it was only 9 years ago. Do the Jedi Master’s agree with my decision?” Chell asked.
Luke stood and spoke. “Devin Moonstar, for you actions on the battlefield of Naboo, and with the recommendation of your Master, Chell Noruth, you are hereby granted the title of Jedi Knight. Congratulations Devin, you’ve earned it.”
Devin Moonstar turned to face his former Master. “Master, there’s so much more I need to learn.”
“Devin, there’s much all of us need to learn. I fear for the day when I feel there’s nothing else I may learn, because on that day, I will officially be a fool.”
The crowd of Jedi laughed at that statement. “Thank you Master, for everything.”
“You don’t have to call me ‘Master’ anymore Devin, you’re a Jedi Knight now. My name is Chell Noruth.”
“It will take some time Master,” Devin responded. “But perhaps one day I shall be comfortable with addressing you as Master Noruth.”
Chell smiled. “Devin Moonstar, you are respectful to a fault at times. Congratulations, you’re now a Jedi Knight, you’re finally free of my badgering.”
Devin shouted out, “YES! Oh, did I say that out loud?” and the Jedi Knights broke out laughing again.
“Chell, I have to ask you an important question,” Corran Horn said.
“Ask away Corran,” Chell responded.
“I think it would be better asked in private,” Corran said back.
Chell gave Corran a look and instantly knew what the Corellian was going to ask. “No Corran, it’s alright.”
The groups of Jedi Knights had begun to disperse and leave the room when Chell Noruth’s voice reverberated through the room. “Don’t leave yet.”
“It’s time the truth was revealed,” Chell Noruth said.
“Chell,” Luke said speaking up quickly. “You don’t have to.”
“Yes Luke, I have to. They all deserve to know.”
“Know what?” Anakin Solo asked.
“Ask your question Corran,” Chell responded.
“Back on Naboo, when we were fighting the Dark Jedi, Lomi Plo said something that I couldn’t figure out Chell. She called you a traitor. And she seemed to have intense hatred for you. I know Dark Jedi don’t like Jedi Knights, but this seemed a lot more intense than normal Dark side/Light side hatred.”
Chell Noruth sighed. “Yes Corran, you are correct. It’s time the Jedi learned the truth.”
“What truth?” Devin Moonstar asked.
“The truth about my past Devin. All of you know that I showed up out of nowhere a few years ago. Some of you, like Kyp Durron, have inquired about my past even after Luke said it wasn’t important. It obviously is important, and now, it’s time to shed some light on the subject.”
“As you all know, I’m a Jedi Master who follows the old path. I firmly believe in the one-on-one training of Jedi Knights. Luke chooses to use the academy approach, because his Master to Student ratio is too small. There simply aren’t enough Masters to teach one-on-one. Maybe someday, but not now.”
“How do you know your way is better?” Zekk asked.
“I’m not here to argue either way Zekk. I’m just stating facts,” Chell stated before continuing. “As you all know, I have been training Devin Moonstar on Endor for sometime now. But what not all of know is that I’m also the foremost Jedi archeologist. Tionne is a very capable Jedi historian, she has come up with immense knowledge about the past of the Jedi, but as a trained archeologist, I’ve been able to figure out more.”
“I’ve been to the Sith grave world of Korriban. I’ve discovered much about the ancient Sith Lords. I’ve also been to the library world of Ossus and I’ve uncovered much about the ancient Jedi Knights there as well.”
“The story begins nearly 25,000 years ago when the first Jedi learned of the Force. It’s said that these Jedi were philosophers, studying the Force’s light and dark aspects. Later on, these Jedi took on defensive aspects of the Force and began to fight evil using it. About 6000 years ago, the first Dark Jedi appeared. They warred with the Light Jedi and after a century of bloodshed, they were defeated. The Dark Jedi were outcast from the Republic and they took their battered vessels into exile, leaving known space behind. At this time, there was much uncharted space and the Dark Jedi soon arrived at a planet, Korriban.”
“On the planet Korriban, the Dark Jedi found a new race of people they could conscript, the Sith. The Sith Empire grew larger and larger until 5000 years ago when two hyperspace mappers happened to arrive at Korriban. By this time, the Dark Jedi had lost all their hyperspace maps and had forgotten how to find the Republic. The Sith captured one of the mappers and sent the other one back to the Republic. The ancient Sith Lord Naga Sadow followed the mapper back to the Republic and waged war.”
“The Republic and its Jedi Knights beat the Sith back and Sadow was forced to return to Korriban. The Republic fleet soon followed and crushed the remaining Sith fleet. Sadow escaped with one vessel and his Massassi crew and crash-landed on Yavin 4. Here he used Sith magic to place himself in suspended animation, until the day he could help the Sith rise again.”
“600 years later, an ambitious young Jedi Knight named Freedon Nadd arrived at Yavin 4. Here, he learned all of the Sith secrets from Sadow before leaving Yavin 4. Nadd traveled to the world of Onderon and used Sith magic to rule as king. His descendants ruled as king for nearly 400 years until the Jedi arrived on the scene.”
“Ancient Jedi Master Arca Jeth and his three apprentices, Ulic Qel-Droma, Cay Qel-Droma, and Tott Doneeta arrived at Onderon to battle the dark forces. The Jedi were successful, but at the same time across the galaxy, they were responsible for the greatest evil released upon the Republic.”
“On Dantooine, Exar Kun had finished his training with his Master, Vodo-Siosk Baas. Kun defeated his master in a lightsaber duel after an argument with one of the other students and Kun tossed aside the old man’s teachings. Kun traveled to the tomb of Freedon Nadd and broke into the sarcophagus to retrieve Sith artifacts that were buried there.”
“On the library world of Ossus, the Jedi Knights were called together for a meeting to discuss the growing darkness. There, they were ambushed by war droids. Master Arca Jeth was killed and Ulic Qel-Droma blamed himself. He departed for the world of Cinnagar to infiltrate the makers of the war droids and avenge his master.”
“Across the galaxy, Exar Kun arrived at Yavin 4 and learned more of the Sith ways from the specter of Freedon Nadd. Nadd tried to claim Kun as his protégé, but Kun used his new Sith powers to destroy Nadd.”
“Ulic Qel-Droma was able to infiltrate the Krath, the makers of the war droids who had killed his master. Ulic, obsessed with avenging his master, soon fell to the Dark Side. Exar Kun arrived at Cinnagar and the two Dark Jedi fought. After fighting, the two joined forces to bring back the Sith Empire to its former glory.”
“War waged between the Sith and the Jedi for nearly a year. Many Jedi Masters and Knights were killed. In the end, Cay Qel-Droma and Ulic Qel-Droma met on the battlefield. Ulic struck down his brother and the Jedi Knight Nomi Sunrider used her rare Force gift to blind Ulic to the Force. Exar Kun knew he was defeated so he returned to Yavin 4 and used Sith magic to trap his spirit in the Massassi temples.”
“Ulic Qel-Droma left the Republic and went to the world of Rhen Var to live out his final days by himself. Nomi Sunrider’s daughter Vima, who wanted to learn the ways of the Force from Ulic, soon visited him. Ulic, although blinded to the Force, taught Vima everything he knew, but in the end, was shot in the back by a scavenger named Hoggon when Nomi arrived to retrieve her daughter. Ulic’s body vanished into the light and he passed into the Force as a Jedi Master.”
“Over the next 4000 years, the Sith evolved into their current status, never more than 2 Sith, a master and an apprentice. The rest of history you know. Darth Vader and Palpatine were defeated and the Sith lie dormant until Exar Kun’s spirit returned. When Kyp Durron was brought back to the light, everyone thought the Sith were gone, that is not the case.”
“12 years ago, a young Force sensitive 16 year old traveled to the distant world of Onderon. Here, while participating in an archeology dig, the young man came across a Sith artifact buried in the soil. The young man took the artifact and returned to his tent where the Dark Spirit of Ulic Qel-Droma visited him. Ulic taught the young man everything there was to know about Sith magic.”
“The young man made his way through the galaxy, gaining more strength as he went along. Finally, he felt he was powerful enough to destroy Luke Skywalker and take over the Jedi Academy as a Sith academy. Luke and this man fought a valiant battle. In the end, it took the combined forces of Luke Skywalker, Kam Solusar, and Mara Jade to defeat the Sith Lord.”
“After the man was defeated, the Light Spirit of Ulic Qel-Droma appeared. He explained that in rare cases, a Jedi spirit can travel over in two forms, one dark, one light. This could only happen if the being was strong in both the Dark Side and in the Light Side. Ulic also explained that the Sith can never be truly defeated, because for the Light Side to exist, the Dark Side must also exist. The Sith always finds a way to return because it can never be destroyed.”
“At the current time, that man was the last of the Sith Lords. But someday, another shall return,” Chell finished.
“How do you know all this Chell?” Kyp asked.
“Because Kyp, 12 years ago, I was that 16 year old Sith Lord.”
“It can’t be,” Kyp Durron said in shock. “I thought I was the last…”
“I knew there was something I didn’t like about you Noruth!” Zekk shouted out.
“Zekk!” Corran Horn shouted back towards the young Jedi Knight. “Watch your tone, you’re speaking to a Jedi Master.”
“He’s no Jedi Master Corran, he’s a filthy Dark Jedi,” Zekk shot back.
“No Zekk,” Luke said interrupting the budding argument. “He was a Dark Jedi. No more. There is an end of that story, the end that Chell didn’t get to tell because you interrupted. After the Light Spirit of Ulic Qel-Droma arrived, he tried to set things right by removing all the damage that the Dark Spirit did. But Chell would have none of it. His reason for hatred was gone, but Chell did not wish the memories to go with it.”
“Chell?” Corran asked.
“I did great evil as a member of the Sith, but in the end, I did not want to forget what I had done. It helped me become the Jedi Knight that I am today. Luke, Kam, and Mara showed me the way towards the light,” Chell explained.
“How come you didn’t enroll at the academy?” Ganner Rhysode asked.
“Chell didn’t want the guidance Ganner,” Luke explained. “I argued with him for days about the decision, but in the end, Chell decided to go to ground at Endor and find his own path in the Force. The spirit of Ulic Qel-Droma told me that it would go with Chell to watch over him, so that he did not stray back down the Dark path. The spirit could only do so much, but in the end, Chell Noruth found his own path and became a great Jedi Knight. He returned several years later, shortly after Mara and I were married, with a student of his own; Devin Moonstar.”
“What makes you think we can trust him, now that this secret is out?” Zekk asked.
“Look at his deeds Zekk, Chell Noruth has spent 12 years studying the Force and teaching another Jedi Knight in the Force. He has learned secrets that none of us know. Chell Noruth and I have rarely seen eye to eye, but even I know, he’s a great Jedi Knight. Look at Devin Moonstar, if you can’t fairly judge Chell Noruth on himself, judge him on his apprentice,” Kyp said.
“I just have one question,” young Valin Horn said speaking above the crowd. “Why is this a big deal? Master Noruth fell to the Dark Side. Master Solusar was a Dark Jedi as well. Master Jade Skywalker was once the Hand of the Emperor. Yet you have no anger with them. Kyp Durron was once a Sith Lord himself, yet you follow his tutelage. Where is your anger coming from Zekk?”
Zekk suddenly went silent as if he was analyzing his argument. When he opened his mouth again, he simply bowed and muttered an apology before rushing out of the room.
“Thank you for standing up for me Valin,” Chell said to the young Jedi Knight.
“Oh don’t thank me yet Master Noruth. I have another question for you, why? Why have you kept this secret for so long?” Valin asked.
“That’s a very good question Valin. Why? I never asked myself that question. I don’t know. Perhaps because I saw the backlash that Kyp suffered after his brush with the Dark side. Why is one of those questions I never stopped to consider and ask myself. Thank you Valin, you’ve given me much to think about.”
“Uhhhh, you’re welcome, I think,” Valin said, slightly confused.
“Now that the Jedi know the truth, where do we go from here?” Kam Solusar asked, speaking up.
“That’s a good question Kam,” Luke responded. “Anyone care to share their feelings?”
“I’m a bit surprised Chell,” Corran said. “But this doesn’t change the man that you are today, I’ll get over it.”
“I find myself feeling, disconcerted,” Devin Moonstar said. “But this doesn’t change the fact that Master Noruth is a powerful Jedi and a wise teacher. I’ll stand by him, as I always have.”
The rest of the Jedi expressed similar feelings before Luke spoke again. “We’re all ready to stand with you Chell.”
“What about Zekk and Kyp?” Chell asked.
“Zekk will get over it,” Jaina Solo said simply, turning towards Kyp Durron. “Kyp?”
“I find it ironic that we’re not polar opposites after all Noruth,” Kyp said. “This could be a whole new beginning for us.”
“Oh dear god, where’s my lightsaber, I must end it now,” Chell said, mockingly going for his lightsaber. Kyp responded with a deep laugh. The rest of the Jedi followed suit. All except for Valin Horn, who stood silent.
“Valin?” Corran asked. “Do you have something to say?”
“Actually Dad, I do. I was hoping, for purely selfish reasons, that the Jedi were more inclined to stand against Master Noruth. That way, my announcement would have more meaning.”
“Valin,” Corran said, using his lecturing voice.
Valin sighed before continuing. “Adults, can’t take a joke. I’d like to state that I wish to become the Padawan learner of Master Chell Noruth. Now that Devin Moonstar has been granted Knight status, and my father has been granted Master status, I find myself without a teacher, and you find yourself without a student Master Noruth. Will you take me as your Padawan learner?”
“Is this really what you want Valin?” Chell asked.
“Your announcement has left me with many questions about the Living Force Master Noruth. I can find no one more qualified to answer those questions and complete my training. Will you take me as your Padawan learner?”
Chell looked to Luke, who nodded, then to Mara, who nodded as well. He glanced over towards his friend Kam Solusar who gave him a quick thumbs up. His last look went to Corran Horn, who stared back for a moment, before delivering his own nod.
“I would like to announce that I take Valin Horn as my Padawan learner. From here on out, it will be my responsibility to train him as a Jedi Knight. Thank you Corran.”
“Oh, don’t thank me yet Chell, Valin can be a real pain in the…”
Luke smiled. The Jedi Knights had dodged another bullet. Perhaps they might make it after all.
Luke Skywalker sat in his quarters at the Jedi Temple on Sullust. Ganner Rhysode had just visited him and informed him of his mission to return Virruk Dujal’s lightsaber to his father on the Iridonian home world located in the Unknown Regions; wherever that may be. Anakin, Tahiri, and Branda Besadii Diori had stated their desire to go with Ganner. Luke had authorized the mission once Ganner told him how much it meant to Virruk to have his lightsaber returned to his father.
A buzz at his door shook Luke from his thoughts. “Enter,” he said quietly.
The door opened and Chell Noruth, Valin Horn, Devin Moonstar, and Jaina Solo entered the room.
“Luke, we’ve found out that Jedi Knight Raynar Thul is alive,” Chell began. “We found out he’s being held at a Dark Jedi encampment in the Unknown Regions. I’d like to undertake a mission to retrieve him.”
“Sounds dangerous Chell,” Luke returned.
“It is Luke, I believe Lomi Plo has him, and she wants my head. Therefore, I’m going looking for her.”
“That’s an odd maneuver, but exactly what I’ve come to expect from Chell Noruth. Be careful Chell,” Luke said.
“He’s not going alone Uncle Luke,” Jaina said. “Valin and I are going with him.”
“And me,” Devin Moonstar said.
“No Devin, your place is here with Luke Skywalker now.”
“But Master Noruth,” Devin started.
“Devin, I have an important mission I’d like you to undertake,” Luke said interrupting the new Jedi Knight. “Talon Karrde has been getting hit lately by unknown raiders. He doesn’t know if it’s a competitor or the Peace Brigade. He asked me to have a couple of Jedi Knights transferred to him for help.”
“And if Karrde is baffled, you know it’s trouble,” Mara said chiming in.
“Devin, I know you’d rather go with me to the Unknown Regions to search for Raynar Thul, but you need to walk your own path now,” Chell Noruth said. “It’s all part of being a Jedi Knight.”
Devin sighed and seemed to resign himself to his fate. “Who will be my partner for this mission?”
“I will,” Alema Rar said stepping out from the refresher.
“Devin, you’re a natural leader so you’ll run point for the operation. Alema is very good at sniffing out clues and working undercover, so she’s a natural choice,” Luke explained.
“Understood Master Skywalker, we’ll get the job done,” Devin responded.
Devin turned to leave as Alema Rar ran to catch up to him, taking his arm as he left the room.
“I never noticed you were so cute Devin,” Alema said coyly as they moved down the hall.
“Save me!” Devin yelled out as the door to Luke’s quarters slid shut. Chell chuckled.
“Don’t worry Luke, we’ll bring Raynar back safe and sound.”
“I know you will Chell, may the Force be with you.”
Chell, Valin, and Jaina left Luke’s quarters. Chell grabbed his comlink and ordered his droid, R6D4 to ready The Redeemer for liftoff.
“Master, if we’re going to Chiss space, we’ll need a guide,” Valin said.
“Don’t worry Valin, I’ve got that handled. Our contact will meet us at the border of Chiss space in two days,” Chell said.
“Can we trust the Chiss?” Jaina asked.
“We can trust this Chiss,” Chell said. “Come on, we’ve got a Jedi Knight to rescue.”