Star Wars IV.5: Flight of the Rebels (Special Edition)

A while ago, like, in the summer, back in April,  someone asked if I would put these in order in a single post. About a week ago, despite having many other things to do, my excited anticipation of the new Star Wars inspired me to stitch these together which led me to buff them out which led me to add some chapters at the end. I originally wrote the first six chapters a few years back during whatever the novel writing challenge in November is called. I decided to write my dream fanfic, which would be the story explaining the events between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back.
I call it Flight of the Rebels. Please enjoy.


Anakin Skywalker, Son of the Suns, a dead man who had arisen as Darth Vader, Lord of the Sith, plummeted into the void, whirling in confusion. The collision with his wingman had shorted out his deflectors and disrupted his control systems, sending his ship spinning full throttle away from the battle. He reflexively let his surprise turn to a rage which fueled his focus; his conscious mind dissolved and the Force guided his limbs and flowed through the circuits of the machine that surrounded him. The Force rebooted the primaries and reformed the shields around his craft as its deadly spin evaporated. It was then that the Force drove his mechanical thumb to open the throttle and pulled his gloved prosthetic hand to guide the ship even further away from the Death Star; he sensed mortal peril and though death would be sweet he felt a dark compulsion to survive. Even though he was already a full light second from the surface of the artificial world he barely survived the blast.

A significant fraction of the initial explosive force had been reflected back into the core by the armored surface of the battle station before it was annihilated, resulting in a second pulse even larger than the first, driving a nimbus of superheated vaporized debris outward at incredible speed. Vader’s fighter was carried along the expanding shockwave of superheated gases, its shielding strained past the limits which set off alarms in the cockpit where they were ignored by Darth Vader in a trance being guided by the Force along the thin path of his destiny. The initial flash had released hard radiation that had pierced his shields, hull, and armor to find what remained of his pale tender flesh which burned mildly but excruciatingly as his mind had simultaneously  had served as the conduit for the sudden extinguishing of over a million lives. Yet still he guided his ship as it tumbled through the nuclear plasma that once had been the greatest war machine in the galaxy.

A small chunk of armor plating that had not fully been disintegrated in the blast tore through his ship. The starboard wing was gone, the engines went completely dead and the hull that contained him was breached. Vader tumbled through the chaotic debris storm helplessly. Through the cacophony he heard a voice that he had not heard since he was a child, and it said to him, ‘Your destiny is not yet fulfilled, Anakin.

It was then that the wrecked TIE emerged into cold hard space beyond the expanding cloud. His ship erratically spun about it’s new axis, the vibration of the superstructure ringing in the confined atmosphere of Vader’s helmet. The breach had opened the cabin to vacuum. All of the instruments were dead. The only light came from the mechanisms of Vader’s suit. Every now and then the Death Star nebula, eclipsing Yavin almost completely, would fill the cockpit with light. In those moments he could glimpse the fuzzy green dot that was Yavin IV among the dozens of moons orbiting the gas giant.

He had seen this worldlet in another life during the Clone Wars. He had fought a Sith there while the vast orange globe of Yavin filled the sky. He supposed that the Rebels were using the ancient Sith temples as sanctuary and the thought filled him with rage which he used to suppress the memories and thoughts that were straining to flood his mind. Vader’s body spasmed inside of his suit; suddenly he was aware of how little left of himself there was. The memory of Anakin’s body filled him with claustrophobic horror. He felt like he was suffocating and struggled against the mechanical rhythm of the respirator that kept him alive. Hearing the voice of Qui Gon Jinn speaking that name awakened something that had been struggling within him since he first sensed the presence of Obi-Wan Kenobi on the Death Star. He had thought that his unexpected revenge upon Kenobi would have been satisfying but it was only unsettling. He had not had time to consult with the Emperor about the manner of Kenobi’s death, but…

His instincts stopped him from thinking about his Master and instead filled his mind with another. It was more terrible to bear the thought of her than he had imagine possible, but he would not allow himself to call out to Sidious now. He screamed her name into the prison of his suit, broadcasting it into the empty silence of his wrecked fighter which tore itself away from him as his helpless frustration exploded in a burst of Force energy. Then the rage that fueled him was spent leaving only ashes of anguish and despair in his mind as he floated through the void.

My destiny, he thought bitterly, has been twisted by another’s hand. He called out to Qui Gon with his mind, asking how, Qui Gon? How can this not be my destiny? Why should I not die here? Without his bidding, he vividly remembered the last time he had been happy. It was when she had told him she was pregnant. He filled with revulsion at the idea that the same man who heard those words then was remembering them now. His mind turned to the last moment of the battle, when he had vividly felt the Force wrapping itself around that pilot. It had been with him so strongly, in a way he had only felt other Masters possess. Who was he?

Was he Kenobi’s Padwan? It only makes sense.
Yesterday I kill Kenobi so today his Padwan kills me.
But he didn’t kill me.

It was that freighter.
It was chance.
It was the Force.

It was destiny.

He must have been the boy that accompanied Kenobi.

Same ship.

Who is this boy?
Kenobi came on the freighter from Tatooine and so did the boy, who then came here to Yavin.
There is a force sensitive pilot who is then protected by the same freighter.
He must have been his Padwan.
And they were on Tatooine all this time.

He is my son.
Kenobi stole my son.

Beneath his mask Darth Vader’s eyes widened in surprise. Possibilities he had never seen suddenly became obvious before him. Something like hope kindled within his mutilated soul. Eventually the Emperor’s spies would confirm what the Force had revealed to him, but for now, Darth Vader knew that there was another Skywalker. He hid this hope deep inside his hatred and reached out with his mind to Darth Sidious.

Darth Sidious, First Emperor of the Galactic Empire, sat alone in his throne room, his eyes rolled back, mouth obscenely slack with ecstasy. He had focused his perceptions to the Yavin system in anticipation of the simultaneous mass death of the Rebels on the fourth moon. He had long ago mastered a unspeakably nameless Sith practice that allowed him to absorb the Force essence released at the moment of death, replenishing himself and extending his own life far beyond any natural limit. The destruction of Alderaan, with its teeming life and billions of sentient inhabitants, had nearly overwhelmed him. He had not been prepared for the experience and so was not able absorb even a fraction of the released energies, but even so, it had been far beyond anything he had expected.

He drank the death that bloomed around Yavin but it did not satisfy him. He knew there were only a relatively few sentients on the moon but it had been lush with life; there were none of those energies here. Yet there had been a release of Force energies; there had been mass death. However, the minds that passed through his shared a strange uniformity and an unsettling familiarity. The Yavin moon was still there, he could feel it. But the Death Star was gone.

At his desire the doors to his chamber opened. His Red Guard smoothly filed into their silent formation followed by the undisciplined knot of his military commanders. They fixed their eyes on the floor before his throne and knelt.

‘Grand Moff Vellam, it is your honor to report on the Yavin situation.’ His Imperial Majesty’s voice was like rancid honey over broken glass.

The terrified Grand Moff, now deeply regretting all his military and political ambitions, managed to not shake with obvious terror. “My lord. We have lost all communication with the Death Star. The last telemetry indicated that the reactor core had developed a small instability. We have been attempting to re-establish communication for several minutes.”

Darth Sidious sneered. He addressed the Grand Moff of the Bright Jewel Oversector as if he were a small child. “How unfortunate, Grand Moff Vellam…”

Vellam waited for hot death to flow over him but there was only silence. He dared to lift his eyes to see that his Emperor was staring into the distance behind him. He quickly returned his gaze to the floor and studied the pattern of the tiles. He could hear nothing but his heart pounding into his ears. Then the rasping purr of the Emperor’s voice obliterated all else. “Deploy a ship as quickly as possible to the last known location of the Death Star and search for Lord Vader. Do not interfere with the Rebels under any circumstance until he is recovered. Then bring him here. Go now and do not fail me, Grand Moff Vellam.”

“Yes, my lord”, Vellam stammered as he backed away from the throne, unable to comprehend his luck. “Immediately, my lord”.

That he had not foreseen this development disturbed him most. He had not been surprised in a very long time.Surprises should have died with the last Jedi. How had Vader failed so utterly? He could not sense his apprentice; had he finally been killed? His hunger for the death cry of entire worlds was ravenous; he would begin construction of another battle station immediately, but that would take years. His purge of the Jedi had been too efficient; there were no Force sensitives on hand who could serve as his apprentice. He had hoped that the destruction of life worlds would provide him with the energies he needed to sustain himself so that he might at long last be rid of his twisted Jedi slave, but if he were to lose both his mutilated apprentice and the Death Star that would be a problem.

When Vader failed to defeat Kenobi and was left for dead on Mustaphar, his usefulness to Sidious was reduced. The Sith Master formed a circuit with his apprentice, and Vader’s maimed body was a poorer conduit now. Sidious never had known such power as when Vader first joined himself to his master, though the destruction of Alderann had provided him with a taste of something he had only dreamed possible. It was still a benefit, however, because Vader’s condition ensured he would never be able to overpower Sidious and would always remain his slave. But he might have lost both him and his Death Star… but no, there he was now, reaching out pathetically for help as he had on Mustafar.  Eyes rolled back into his skull, his mind in orbit around Yavin, Sidious groaned theatrically upon his throne; the cycle would grind on.

But there was something else, a new hope. He could see it in the way Vader was trying to hide the shame of his defeat by the Rebellion.

His thoughts slithered across the surface of Yavin IV, finding the ancient Sith temple, its architecture focusing his awareness of the occupants into clarity; a Wookie, a Corellian, there was Princess Leia and there, next to her on the dias, was a powerfully Force sensitive individual. So powerful, that even there on the dias of a Sith temple, Sidious could barely perceive him. Powerful, but untrained, undisciplined, undefended. This is how his Death Star had been destroyed and his vision had been thwarted! Kenobi must have taken a padawan on that Rim world he was lurking on. Clever of him to go there. Darth Vader’s path of destiny would obscure his own. It’s why we were never able to find him.

But I have his padawan now! He cackled with the gleeful delight of demented child. His luck was spectacular. The boy was standing on the dias of a Sith temple with an utterly unprotected mind, allowing Sidious a rare opportunity. The Force wants me to live forever, thought Darth Sidious as his mind slithered across that gloriously midichlorian-loaded body, searching for the best way to wrench the psyche of whatever fool was occupying it. It even has a lightsaber! He would occupy this powerful flesh and make it his; he would begin by murdering every sentient being on Yavin IV with that blade, starting with that infuriating Princess…

And then he was cast out and away, exhausted, disoriented, gasping for breath on his throne, his heart racing dangerously fast, terror and uncertainty wracking his body. His mortality never felt closer. He had never desired something more, never felt greater frustration, never suffered anguish this sharp.

Rage nearly overtook him but was held at bay by long years of discipline. He would not waste his wrath upon an empty room. He perceived the small knot of high-ranking nothings quivering outside his chambers, their terror glowing brightly through meter thick durasteel to his mind; they would serve as an adequate audience for his Royal Displeasure. He pressed a comm button in the arm of his chair and spoke in a soft voice, “Grand Moff Vellam, please return. I have something to add.”

His fingers sparked and sizzled.



The raucous cheers of the rebels echoed through the ancient temple. Luke Skywalker stood feeling ridiculous with his medal dangling heavily around his neck. Someone flashed the scene for posterity and he blinked.  He looked down at the medal and noticed that it was a T-65 fuel hatch that had been painted gold attached to a strap of cloth. A stream of whistles and beeps rang out behind him and he turned to see R2D2 next to C3P0.

Threepio was the second most unusual droid he had ever encountered. He had only examined him briefly back on Tatooine but noticed that the droids processors were wired in a way that shouldn’t even work. Protocol droids already had powerful processing algorithms that allowed them to analyze the communications between sentients of different worlds, but Threepio had been souped up in a way that didn’t make him better at the task he was supposedly designed for. It was as if he had been custom made by a toymaker unconcerned with functionality. Whatever it was, he had more personality than any droid he’d met, save perhaps for R2D2. Back on Tatooine when Threepio had lost his arm, Luke had been unsettled at the empathy he felt for the droid.

He had turned fully to look at C3PO now; his perception of the throng had faded to be replaced with a compelling fascination with the light playing on the golden surface of the machine. The sounds around him had become static but he could swear that he could hear Threepio breathing; labored exhalations and inhalations separated by a metallic click. That was when Threepio reached up and removed his faceplate, revealing the mask of Darth Vader beneath.

Luke had only glimpsed Vader from across a huge hangar during the duel which had ended Obi Wan Kenobi’s existence. Luke had thought Obi Wan was dead, but after talking to the old Jedi in the cockpit of his fighter a few hours earlier he decided that he had to recalibrate his concept of what death was. Luke understood death; the scorched corpses of his uncle and aunt came unbidden to his mind’s eye. It had only been days since he wept over Owen and Beru’s remains.

A golden arm reached out to Luke in a gesture that seemed to be imploring, contrasting with the merciless mask. That was when something exploded inside his mind; a wave of despair crashed down on him, staggering him physically, knocking the breath from his lungs. His head filled with a high-pitched whine, his flesh crawled, twitched, and spasmed as if jolted by lightning; then the colors began to melt.

In another lifetime/ he and Biggs/a few seasons ago/ ate the flower of a cactus the Sandpeople used as a sacrament/falling into himself/when he was a boy/ writhing in the desert for hours/a few seconds ago/eyes rolled back into their sockets/before Biggs left/for the Academy/Biggs was dead/ death frozen crawling death/ together we can conquer death/ filled with a gutteral voice intoning cruel alien words of reverberating phased pulsing drone painaria torture operas and the death of hope. He had a lightsaber and before he was done he would murder every sentient being on Yavin starting with that infuriating Princess

Leia shaking his arm. Princess Leia. The alarm klaxon blaring through the stone of the ancient temple. He felt like he had just been somewhere far away.
When she spoke his name the spell was broken.
“What’s going on?” It was the only question that made sense.
“They’re already here. The Empire.”
The hall was nearly empty. An anonymous voice intoned through the whine, ‘Imperial Destroyer has entered Yavin space.’
‘Come on,’ taking his hand, Leia said, ‘Let’s go.’

He followed her through the intricate tunnels, for once calmed by her presence rather than confounded by it. He had known her for a little more than a day but she stirred something deep within him; she reminded him of the absence of something he didn’t know he’d lost. He filled the silence with a question.

“Do you know how old these temples are?’ He asked, passing a bas-relief depicting some indecipherable rite.
‘They say they were built over 5,000 galactic standard years ago.’ She responded. ‘But it wasn’t a native species. It was a spacefaring civilization that built these structures. We just don’t know why.’

They entered the deepest chamber where the command center had been set up. General Dodonna was talking very intently to Han, who looked angry. But Han almost always looked kind of angry, especially when he wasn’t on the Millennium Falcon. That seemed to be the only place the guy would crack a smile. That or a firefight. Luke was more tempted by Solo’s offer to take him on as crew and go starhopping with him and Chewbacca than he had dared to admit.

Chewie howled a greeting. Solo looked up, the annoyance in his voice contrasting with the relief on his face. “About time you showed up, kid.” He paused. “And your Highnessness.”

“Save it, Solo.” Leia turned to Dodonna. “Jan, what is it?”
Jan Dodonna turned and nodded deferentially to her. “It’s broadcasting an Imperial ID. Executor. It’s enormous; smaller than the Death Star but it displaces over ten times the mass of a standard Star Destroyer.” It jumped in ninety seconds ago on the far side of the Death Star Nebula.”

Leia’s eyes were pensive. “We need to evacuate. We should have fled hours ago.”
Solo interjected, “That’s what I was saying. We should all take off in different directions and never look back!”
Luke scolded, “We didn’t run from the Death Star.”
Solo retorted, “I doubt this thing has a conveniently located button that blows it up, too. We’re not that lucky.” Chewbacca howled. “No, Chewie, we’re not.”
“In any case,” General Dodonna said, “It’s only the first one.”


Leia didn’t fidget while she waited on the dias; this was a testimony to her upbringing. She understood the need for the ceremony; it had in fact been her idea, but she didn’t mean for them to carry through making everyone stand at attention while Luke and his pirate friends paraded through their midst. She had suggested that they stage the ceremony because it would be a politically powerful image; the Rebellion needed heroes with faces and names standing alongside the renegade politicians and Imperial defectors. Someone gave the order to assemble to the pilots, the techs, and the troops; the holo-op turned into the real thing. Leia didn’t argue because her father had taught her that wise leaders know when to listen to those who follow them; she smiled while she urged everyone to hurry faster. But she could not deny these people a moment to bask in a victory when they had expected certain death.

Shifting in the formal gown she had been wearing since she boarded the Tantive IV only a few days ago,  she realized what she really wanted most was to change clothes. Not only was the sheer white  Alderaanian silk filthy, but it was also completely inappropriate attire; the world it had been made on existed no longer. Ladies should not go traipsing through jungles in museum pieces. That thought was given voice in her mind by her father, who was now shimmering subatomic dust orbiting the sun she had played under as a child. Her hands did not shake nor did her face betray her feelings as she hung the hastily cobbled medals around the necks of the heroes.

Think of anything else.

Against her better judgement, she found herself warming to Han Solo; it was his relationship to Chewbacca that had done it. If a Wookie had sworn a life debt to him then Han Solo was no ordinary spacer and the Corellian bloodstripes he wore must be genuine. He was a man of depth even as his surface insisted there was nothing beneath.

If Solo was made of secrets, Skywalker seemed incapable of keeping one. He smiled at her with the pure love of a puppy and she had to admit to herself that she felt absolutely safe when he was near. As ridiculous as he looked in that Stormtrooper armor when he appeared in her cell, the farmboy had delivered beyond anyone’s wildest imaginings. When she was with him, she felt like she was home in a way she had never felt before, even in the rare quiet moments in the ancestral Organa castle, a sprawling mountain retreat which was now only a memory in her brain and an entry in the Encyclopedia Galactica.

She stood and waited for the tech to get the shot, trying hard to think about the things that needed to be done rather than the things that had happened. The destruction of the Death Star was not the end of anything but rather the beginning of something bigger than any of them could imagine. She needed to evacuate this base and make contact with Mon Mothma and the other Rebels; they needed to seize the moment and a fleet to do it with.

When the flash came her mind turned from the future and dove into yesterday; she was back in that terrible moment when her cell door had opened and Darth Vader had entered with the interrogation droid. It had injected her with a concoction of drugs that left her nearly paralyzed with her threshold of pain brought so low that even the silk on her skin was enough to burn her. The Dark Lord of the Sith did not touch her; he was strangely subdued which only increased her terror. She anticipated brutality but when he instead simply sat on the shelf that served as her bed, the rasping of his suit filling the small chamber with an unyielding rhythm, regarding her through his inscrutable masque, she very nearly broke.

She had tried very hard not to think about that endless hour with Vader and now for some reason she was essentially reliving it. But there was someone else in the cell with them; a ghost, beautiful and sad, interposed itself and soothed her. Even now, she thought she heard a woman whispering that he would not harm her, that there was a good man buried deep in the machine…

The alarm klaxon broke her reverie. The troops were scattering and Solo and the Wookie were following the officers towards the command center. Only Luke and Leia were left with the droids in the temple. She reached for his arm and shook him, calling his name. He looked as if he had just returned from someplace very far away. “What’s going on?” he asked.

“They’re already here,” she said, and added as he didn’t seem to understand, “the Empire.” A voice was reporting that a destroyer had entered Yavin space. It was too late for plans, too late for staring stupidly into space. She grabbed his hand and began to drag him from the temple. “Come on. Let’s go.”

She pulled him through the temple, aggravated that he seemed lost in thought while not acknowledging her own woolgathering. There was something uncanny about these structures that encouraged introspection, however. Despite all that needed to be done, she had found herself asking about them earlier and even now found her eyes lingering over the bas-reliefs, wishing she could stay and study them. She had been interested in history and archeology before her life was lost to intrigue and politics.

Luke surprised her by breaking the silence. “Do you know how old these temples are?’
Leia responding automatically despite her surprise that this kid from the Outer Rim Territories could actually be curious about something. “They say they were built over 5,000 galactic standard years ago. But it wasn’t a native species. It was a spacefaring civilization that built these structures. We just don’t know why.’

Before they could begin a discussion of the peculiarities of history, they were in the command center. Solo made a crack that she ignored and General Dodonna reported on the ship that had just entered Yavin space. It was something new and big. Not as big as the Death Star, but it didn’t need to be.

Leia looked pensive. ‘We need to evacuate. We should have fled hours ago.’
Solo interjected, ’That’s what I was saying. We should all take off in different directions and never look back!’
Luke scolded, ‘We didn’t run from the Death Star.’
Solo retorted, ‘I doubt this thing has a convienently located button that blows it up, too. We’re not that lucky.’ Chewbacca howled. ‘No, Chewie, we’re not.’

General Dodonna added, “In any case, it’s only the first one.”

Leia turned to the General. “Jan, order everyone onto the ships. Leave any equipment that can’t be immediately loaded. We aren’t going to have time to debate the plan. We’ll have to go with what we talked about earlier.”

“It’s a very risky course, Princess. You’ll be putting a lot of faith in a criminal.” he said, glimpsing at Han.

“We are all criminals, Jan. He’s just more honest about it than most.” She said, smiling at Han Solo, who for once in his life was left speechless.


Han Solo felt giddily sick. He could not believe he was doing something as stupid as this. Ever since Chewie got them that milk run with the kid and the old man he had made one suicidal move after another, culminating in crossing the Witch-Emperor’s left-hand monster and blowing up what must have been a terribly expensive weapon of extinction-level-capacity. And now, here he was, smiling for the camera.

Hey there, everybody! I’m Han Solo and these are my pals! I owe Jabba the Hutt a hold full of glitterstim spice (plus 15 percent!) and the Emperor has a deathmark on me! Look at my shiny medal! I’m an idiot!

And now, here he was, standing with all of the true believers.

They can’t all be, can they? Really? Luke, okay, he’s a kid from a Rim World who believes in magic and Jedi mind tricks. I’m surprised he hasn’t cut his hand off with that light saber yet. But Leia was a Senator and a Princess of Alderann…
A Princess of one of the Core Worlds is smiling at you like that, Solo, and that is probably what is making you so stupid lately.
She’s a lot of things but stupid isn’t one of them, so why does she believe in this banthashit more than he does?
Am I the only person in this room who realizes we’re all committing suicide?

And yet, here he was, standing alive with Chewie and the Princess and the kid on a moon that had not been blown to bits. His ship was still in one piece and he had a stash of credits the Rebels had given him sitting in the Falcon’s hold. His luck was doing that thing it sometimes did. He smiled and his mind wandered from the moment for a moment.

The last time he had stood at attention like this he was having his rank ripped from his uniform. He still wore his Corellian bloodstripes, the Imperial Navy had no right to strip him of those, but he lost everything else that day. Except for the undying loyalty of Chewbacca.

Han was so glad for Chewie’s joyful howl he couldn’t help but be briefly grateful for the absurd ceremony. He and Chewie had been arguing a lot more than usual lately. The Wookie didn’t care for running glitterstim for the Hutts in the first place, and he was righteously pissed when they spaced the last Kessel Run. He had felt peculiarly desperate after that; things had been going particularly badly lately. The Imperials had been cracking down, using the excuse of these ridiculous Rebels to put the clamps on commerce, making scoring legitimate work nearly impossible and smuggling increasingly hazardous.

An Imperial Star Destroyer battle group with an Interdictor cruiser pulled them out of hyperspace while they were running spice. The Interdictor used gravity well projectors to cast a sort of net across a hyperspace lane between systems. The Falcon had a hold full of enough glimmerstim for the death sentence and was surrounded by Imperials. They ran at full sublight out of the range of the Interdictors’ gravity shadow barely ahead of the rest of the battle group. He had dumped the spice moments after losing the rear shields but just before they skipped into hyperspace ahead of the Star Destroyer’s tractor beam. As soon as the stars streaked into rainbow blurs, the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon erupted into a demonstration of multicultural cursing the like of which it had never before experienced.

Han had stormed out; the problem with a ship like the Falcon was that there wasn’t really anywhere to storm to. He was in the dorsal turret looking out at chaotic streaks of red shifting to blue when he got one of his really bad ideas. He had been from one side of the Galaxy to the other, but that really wasn’t the whole Galaxy, not by a long shot. What everyone called the Galaxy was a few thousand charted systems scattered along the known hyperspace routes across two spiral arms. Fully two thirds of the Galaxy was still uncharted.

It was a matter of hyperdrive mechanics and galactic topography. There was a small mechanism in a sealed compartment in the middle of the Falcon that manipulated negative-energy to form a bubble of spacetime compressed to the aft of the ship and stretched out far ahead of the the stern. The speed of the ship relative to space outside of the bubble could far exceed the speed of light depending on how far the distortion bubble extended across space. The Falcon was of nearly ideal mass and shape for generating the most efficient possible bubble to begin with, but Han had tuned her drive so finely it had once generated a field stretching 12 parsecs.

The problem lay in plotting new routes through the Galaxy as all attempts to do so demonstrated was that it was very dangerous and very unprofitable to try. A spiral arm was full of dust clouds, nebulas, suns, asteroid fields and uncountable other ways to die. Hyperspace travel was confined to straight-line jumps across known voids; the gravity shadows of planets and stars could burst the bubble and pull a ship out of hyperspace, or worse, into collision.

He had heard old spacers dreaming of a big score like finding a previously uncontacted high technology civilization with all the attendant exclusive rights to trading contracts. But there were more black holes wandering in deadly silence between the stars than one might expect. Then there was the huge nothing of space, the sterile rocks, frozen deserts and toxic atmospheres that comprised most of the surface area of the worlds of the Galaxy; there were countless planets but only a precious few of any value. Habitable worlds were relatively common if you considered places like Tatooine ‘habitable’; there were still places to get lost in the Galaxy, but precious little to find. The Empire’s borders were closed for reasons beyond the Emperor’s will, but borders closed by nature serve tyrants better than any artificial means could. Feeling claustrophobic,  Han couldn’t help thinking about how prospecting for new and profitable hyperspace routes would be like looking for buried treasure without a map.

But I have a map.

While waiting for the drop of the shipment they had just dumped they had time to kill so they ran diagnostics on the new suite of illegal sensors and military comm rigs they had just installed. Chewie was reminding Han that they had installed the rig with credit they were supposed to pay off with the proceeds from the glimmerstim run when he was interrupted by a transmission in the realspace EM frequencies coming from a point deep in the Unknown Territories. The new descrambler quickly found a video and audio component to the signal, and for a few moments they caught glimpses of a civilization that had incredibly sophisticated technologies. They were interrupted by their contact jumping in, but what they had seen came flooding back into his mind while he brooded in the gunnery chair.

Five minutes later he had already dropped the ship out of hyperspace and was plotting a return course to the original drop point when Chewbacca brought the smell of the forest into the tight cockpit. Han flashed the Wookie a mad grin and explained their new plan. The ship filled with roars of argument which Han parried until they became questioning growls. He would never forget what he said to seal the deal. As if Chewbacca would let him.

“Pal, you saw what I saw. There’s a spacefaring society with energy transporters on the other side of that signal. If we could get our hands on that kind of tech, we could buy our own planet.”

Matter-energy transport seemed beyond the capabilities of any civilization. Scientists on worlds across the Empire and the Republic before it had never gotten the idea to work despite the resources put into the effort. Han and Chewie had witnessed a demonstration of the technology where sentient organics (some of them clearly human, no less! Perhaps this was a lost colony of humans that had started their own Republic in another spiral arm.) had been turned into pillars of light and brought from a planetary surface to a ship in orbit. That sort of technology could have made the two spacers wealthy beyond imagining.

Well, it could have. If it had existed.

They found the source of the signal. The jump had been a mad gamble; but they found what they thought they were looking for. They came out of hyperspace near a massive gas giant with dozens of moons. None of them was a life world but they quickly picked up signals from one of the planets closer to the system’s sun. They orbited it for an hour, doing every scan the new sensor package had to offer, but they had realized the awful truth after the first few minutes they looked closely at the place.

It was a planet of primitives. Human primitives, which astonished and perplexed Han as much as it angered and embarrassed him. Chewbacca actually put it together first; they had been fooled by some fictional entertainment broadcast by backwater primitives. The shock gave way to mad laughter as the absurdity of their situation dawned on them both; then they fell into pondering silence as profound possibilities shimmered on the fringes of their awareness.

Han turned to Chewbacca and said solemnly, ‘We never tell anyone, Chewie. I’ll erase the navcomps’ logs.’
The Wookie hooted. He understood. His people had been ravaged by slavers and Imperials alike. He could only imagine what the Empire or the Hutts would do to a world of humans in the raw.

“We’ll go back to Tatooine. We’ll explain what happened to Jabba. Maybe he’ll cut us a break.”
The Wookie howled incredulously.
“I know, pal, I know. I just don’t know what else to do.”

That had been less than a week ago, he thought, blinking at the flash. Then the klaxon rang and he was halfway down to the command center before he asked himself why he wasn’t running to the Falcon.

You’re going native, Solo!

He knew damn well why that alarm was sounding. Had they really thought the Empire would let them sit around patting themselves on the back after blowing up the Death Star? Then Chewie bounded past him and he knew he had no choice but to keep going.

General Dodonna was there before anyone and was looking intently at the viewscreen. An awkward mix of feelings moved through Solo when the old man looked from the display to his meet his eyes. Solo remained expressionless as the General regarded him with tired satisfaction.
“I’m glad you’re here, Captain Solo. With everything else that’s happened today I somehow managed to have my intelligence people pull your files.”

“I have a file?”

Dodonna smiled wryly through his white beard. “There’s damn few men who’ve managed to earn a Wookie Life Debt. Especially young Imperial Navy officers who disobeyed direct orders while doing it. You’re lucky you pulled that stunt when you did. These days you both would have been executed outright.’

“There’s still time for that, General.”

“Maybe not. Solo, you’re the kind of man we need…”
Solo cut him off. He had heard this speech before.
“General, with all due respect, you people have me confused with someone…”
Dodonna cut Solo off, which was a different kind of experience for Han.

“Captain Solo, do you think you are the only person who has ever lost anything?” Solo’s confused expression was answer enough.

“I told you I had read your file.” Anger found it’s way to Han’s eyes but before it could erupt from his mouth the General said, “I need you and Chewbacca to escort Princess Leia to Dac. Luke Skywalker will accompany you. You will serve as her guard and as diplomatic representatives of the Alliance.”

“Have I been drafted?”

The general’s eyes narrowed. “I can’t tell if your inability to appreciate your situation is a neurotic affectation or if you really are this self-absorbed and stupid. I read your file. I know that even if you manage to escape from this system, you’re a wanted criminal who is also wanted by other criminals. Even if you give the Hutts everything you got from us you’ll be lucky if he doesn’t take your ship from you as well. You may as well be doing something helpful when you finally get caught.”

Chewbacca howled his approval. Han winced. Dodonna smiled.
“It’s obvious who the brains of this operation is.”

Han looked at the extraordinarily large object that had just dropped in from hyperspace. He pondered a couple of variables and did some calculating; he came up with and rejected several ridiculous plans. Then he spoke.

“Dac? Isn’t that the Mon Cal homeworld?”

“Exactly, Solo. We need a fleet.”

“The Mon Cal build pleasure cruisers, not warships.”

“The Mon Cal build ships.”

“You better damn well keep whatever you found in my file to yourself.”

“I can respect that, Solo.”

“And I’m still going to have to settle with Jabba…”

Luke and Leia entered; Luke was grinning broadly while she didn’t even glance at him. “And then there’s the matter of my fee…”

He was cut off by Dodonna turning to the Princess who was so gratingly attractive. Everything was compromise, he supposed, and thought about how best to get her off the planet safely.

A multitude of (10010//::)
emotions (1010010//:__)
tore through R2D2’s circuits. (Ecstatic=joy/surprise)(101001///!!!!!>!://0010101__100)
of being  (!!!//<EX#%_ST)
and fellow-sentients
and rejoiced in being alive (0010___1000110//: !!!EX__CUTE_SUBROU6842-0///;/;gamma5628″_”)
when he sensed something not with his sensors, (*&%#{34591}YTTE_0010111100101)
but rather with his feelings themselves. (0000001 “_____” 0000_@#554)
Artoo knew he was different from most droids (01010 “R2D2/R2/ARTOO_DEETOO/ARTOO=I”)
but this was a new experience for him. (“??..00123456789$#!@#^^010010100010??”__)
An invisible darkness fell across Master Luke, a shadow that did not obscure light but was still blocking something Artoo felt but could not measure or record. It swirled about him, seeming to seek a way to enter his body, settling on his eyes and ears. This feeling that was surging through Artoo provided him with knowledge that was not comprised of algorithms or data; he was certain that Master Luke was in grave danger from this invisible darkness and that he was the only one who could perceive it. The memory of Master Obi Wan and (“MAS__ &%^ __ A#@%*$NAKIN S%$#^KYWA___LKER”/(110//:AUTOSELFENCRYPT) came to him unbidden, during the Clone Wars when Obi Wan had been arguing with one of the other Jedi about clones and droids and the Force. (“MAS__ &%^ __ A#@%*$NAKIN S%$#^KYWA___LKER”/(110//:AUTOSELFENCRYPT) said that midichlorians were nonsense and that the Force flowed through all living things, and that clones and droids were alive just like anything else. He had pointed at Artoo and said, “are you going to tell me that Artoo isn’t alive?”

A look had passed over Obi Wan’s face that R2D2 had found inscrutable. The argument between the men fizzled out.

Artoo perceived a silver worm wriggling through the invisible darkness across Master Luke’s face and urgency filled him in a place he did not know he had within himself; he heard a familiar voice, but not with the array of receivers across his shell.

I was wrong, then, Artoo. Obi Wan whispered to him without a voice. You need to help him. Trust your feelings. 

The Force flowed through him then, much as it had always flowed between everything in the Universe, and it lashed out from him, squarely striking the squirming slug on Master Luke’s cheek, which burst and vanished, taking the invisible darkness with it.

Then it was over. The event seemed unclassifiable. (01000110//”____”??)
Artoo knew he was different from most droids (01010 “R2D2/R2/ARTOO_DEETOO/ARTOO=I”)
but did not understand how great that difference could be. (“??..60i32001s” > “qqwPL=$##^^00010??”__)
The alarm klaxon sounded then, and although he could not store the memory of what happened (01*_^10)
he knew he could not forget.

Darth Vader emerged from his trance. His suit dosed him with the arcane drugs that replaced the natural chemistry of his ruined flesh; a sharp cold stabbed deep in his chest, pushed down along his spine through his aorta into his veins and capillaries with a painful flush as the Sith alchemy entered his cells. Through red lenses his scorched corneas reflected the crimson orb of giant Yavin behind the collapsing yellow nimbus of the Death Star nebula which was in syzygy with a small moon. forming an eye within an eye. Beneath his helmet, inside his skull, Palpatine’s seeking thoughts discovered him. His Master was feeling through his senses and looking through his thoughts.

Then he saw the Rebels in the temple and felt their triumphant hope, and the scene became so vivid that he recognized the ones on the dias from the Death Star security holos. He knew he was looking upon his son, but his feelings did not betray him to the Emperor, who was distracted by how strong the Force was with the boy. He felt the Emperor’s avaricious hunger and desperate lust which stirred the embers of passion within him and lit a spark that would not be extinguished by Sith narcotics or the power of the Dark Side. Then his Master’s sudden blind rage filled his awareness and vanished, the scene replaced by the sudden appearance of the Executor before him.

And still the candle feebly flickered within the black sheets of rain of Vader’s mind.

He was brought aboard without incident or ceremony, though in a maudlin display of fawning presumptuous familiarity Admiral Ozzel grasped at the Sith Lord’s arm upon greeting him in the shuttle. Vader had just come through the airlock and steaming frost was forming over his armor.

“Forgive me, my Lord.” Ozzel gasped, cradling his hand, which had left several layers of skin cells frozen to the cyborg. “We had feared the worst.”

“It is that sort of lack of faith which led to this disaster.” The menace in Vader’s voice straightened Ozzel’s spine. For a long moment Vader sat steaming, his exhalations filling the shuttle cabin with dread and frost, his inhalations sucking the oxygen from the air.”As soon as we are aboard, make for the fourth moon and assault the base there. Deploy squadrons to prevent escape.”

“M’lord, the Emperor commanded we bring you immediately to Coruscant.”

“The Emperor presumed I would be incapacitated. I am not. We have the opportunity to crush the Rebellion, Admiral, and we will take it.”

“Of course, M’lord, but you may not realize that the Executor is not actually battle ready. We were conducting tests of the hyperdrive when the Emperor commanded us here. There are only engineering teams and navigation officers on board. We were ideally located, is all. The fleet is on their way…”

“We will immediately attack the rebel base, Admiral Ozzel.” Vader’s voice rose to a terrifying tone, “and we will not fail!’

The Star Dreadnoughts had been Vader’s initiative. He had never understood why Sidious and Tarkin had been so keen on the Death Star project; he wanted to rule the Galaxy, not obliterate it.

Alderaan had reminded him of Naboo.

Still, he stood and watched Tarkin destroy it and felt the fantastic death abyss suddenly open before him, swallowing more beauty and innocence from the world. But now Tarkin and his planet murdering machine were dead, the scales were balanced, and Vader remained. Something like a smile twisted beneath his masque as he strode towards the bridge of his ship. The halls were empty save for the skeleton crew that had been running the hyperdrive trials. Next to the Death Star, the ship was small, but it was a dozen times the size of the Destroyer class. In fact, it could hold a Destroyer in its primary hangar bay, which was the point. The problem with the Death Star was that it was overkill magnified to an absurd scale; the Dreadnought was overkill on an appropriate scale. There was no planetary defence it could not overcome, no fleet it could not overpower. The Empire spent the annual output of several star systems economies constructing and supplying it, but Vader would make better use of it than murdering planets; he would use it to rule them.

It was obvious to Vader why the rebels had chosen this moon for their base of operations. Yavin was an enormous gas giant with a great many moons and asteroids orbiting it; the mass shadow it projected prevented a hyperspace jump anywhere near the moon. Yavin also had a powerful magnetic field and so much scattered mass that sensors were easily baffled. Vader understood Dodonna’s tactics and took great satisfaction in turning them around on the rebels; the Force was not obscured by debris, and the mass shadow that kept the Empire from jumping in would keep the Rebels from simply jumping out.By the time he reached the bridge, Executor was bearing down on the fourth moon of Yavin. The engineering officer at the tactical station reported that there were a number of craft lifting off from the surface. “Locate targets and prepare to open fire.” Vader commanded, not breaking stride, “All weapons.”

The technician at the weapons console began squealing that there weren’t enough crew to man the guns and then abruptly stopped when his trachea was shut by Vader’s mind. The rasp of his artificial breath was the only sound other than choked gasps of the dying man. After a moment, the Sith Lord released him and stood still in the middle of the command deck, his arms rising slowly and stiffly from his sides. Imperial ships were not massively automated because it then became too easy to sabotage entire systems; a single R2 unit could hack a destroyer’s shields, weapons, and any other system. This meant that enormous crews were required to carry out orders, but now there was a Master of the Sith aboard. Vader’s awareness flowed throughout the ship; thousands of cannons and torpedo launchers twitched awake. He stood eerily still while his respirator gasped and his mind grasped for targets. The officers on the deck gaped, not wanting to disturb him but unwilling to act without his order. After a moment, Vader found his targets and the Executor released its fire.

The bridge was lit by the flaring of the great guns bristling across the Executor’s hull; flashes erupted above the moon and Vader felt terror and death across the vacuum. It gratified him but his vengeance was not nearly sated; he obliterated the temples in the jungle with a swat of thought. The surface of Yavin IV had gone from green to black, the thin blue envelope of atmosphere filled with smoke and ashes. Against the sterilizing flames the fleeing specks of Rebel scum that had survived his initial onslaught were obvious to his senses, but he could not sense the Rebel who was his son among them. The torpedo tubes and missile launchers were empty, but the thousands of plasma cannons bristling across the Executor’s hull filled the space above Yavin with blazing death for minutes more until their meager supply of Tibanna gas was spent. Vader had anticipated this and was unperturbed. He turned to Admiral Ozzel, commanding, “Prepare whatever landing force you can muster, Admiral.”

With his right hand, Han Solo guided the Millennium Falcon over the largest river on Yavin IV, approaching escape velocity while staying below the tree line. He reached behind with his left to program the navputer without taking his eyes off of the terrain scanner. The Falcon’s sonic boom was far behind with the wake and wash of the freighter’s passing. Princess Leia’s knuckles were white on the arms of the acceleration couch.

“Why are we flying so low?” she said calmly between clenched teeth.

“Smuggler’s trick. Keeps us off scanners pretty effectively.” Han’s lazy baritone was distracted. “Chewie, keep the screens aimed at retrograde normal, I’m expecting that thing to open fire soon, and watch the scopes for TIEs.”

The Wookie’s open throated growl explained he was already doing that and that Han should focus on flying like a maniac. Han brought his headset mic to his mouth.

“I’m here.” Luke was seconds behind the Falcon in his X-Wing, flying as an escort. R2D2 was worrying over the ticking power plant. The snub nosed fighter had been given a once over by the technicians but was rattling in the tighter turns.

“Hang on.” The Falcon swooped over a waterfall. “Luke, we’ll be over the horizon from that dreadnaught in a minute and I’m going to leave the atmosphere. That’s when I expect we might run into fighters. It’s going to take longer to make the jump to hyperspace than I like. Keep your eyes open.”

“I will, Han. You can count-” Luke was cut off as the barrage began; trees exploded, the river boiled, but the Falcon’s screens held for the long seconds it took for them to get out of range of the Executor’s guns. Then the blue sky outside the canopy turned black and speckled with stars. Leia picked up the headset at the navigator’s console and tuned it through several Rebellion frequencies until she found what she was looking for. From memory she entered a encryption key into the Falcon’s receiver and then listened.

“Oh no.” Leia said, her voice filling with fearful dread, “They’re being wiped out.”

The anguish in Leia’s voice tore at him but Han considered the scanner ahead of him grimly rather than speak his mind. He had argued with General Dodonna before he left, wasting precious time to convince him that flying halfway around Yavin IV at full speed meters above the treetops actually made sense. The problem with the Rebel Alliance, Han thought, is that they need someone to teach them how to be better criminals.

He thought of his hold, overflowing with untraceable, easily traded, highly valuable precious metals he had wrested from the Rebel Alliance as his reward and it occurred to him that being the person to teach them how to be better criminals could prove to be a very profitable enterprise. He glanced at the medium scope which was cluttered with debris and the many rocks orbiting Yavin, Luke’s X-Wing, and what should be three transport ships but no sign of any pursuing TIE fighters; he tried to sound reassuring when he told her, “Listen Leia, if General Dodonna listened to me, most of those destroyed ships were being flown by droids. I see there’s at least three carriers behind us…”

“We should have left immediately.” Leia was despondent. “We should never have stayed, even for an hour.”

Han had argued against the ceremony but did not think this was the time to mention it. “It looks like they’re sending ships to the surface. I don’t see anyone coming after us. Luke?”

“There’s nothing out here, Han. I’m fine by the way,” Luke said over the comlink. Chewbacca, studying the scopes, hooted his agreement. The navputer beeped and seconds later a yellow light turned green and Han Solo said, “Looks like we got lucky for once. Say goodbye to Yavin.”

And the stars streaked away.


General Jan Dodonna woke up  disoriented and confused in the rubble of the command center. The barrage had collapsed the ancient stone temple in seconds. A slab of speckled granite had fallen through the holotable he had been working at, the latest computer technology no match for the ancient weight. He had been directing several of the empty ships in a feint against the gigantic Imperial ship above when it opened fire. He had been transfixed by how quickly his faux fleet was reduced to dust in the first salvo and he did not properly brace himself against the inevitable blow. Things were still settling and sparking so he was certain he had not been unconscious long. The bag he had packed was still near the door and it looked as if the corridor beyond was still passable.

Jan Dodonna did not fear death but he had every intention of surviving; he picked up the bag and made his way through the crumbling corridor. He had already changed into a camo suit and slung a carbine over his shoulder that had enough kick to punch through blast armor. In the pack was an advanced survival tent, medical and food supplies, and a long range comlink. He had spent time hiking through the nearby jungles and knew several excellent places he could set up the tent under thick vegetation. Once inside he would take a prescribed combination of meds that would put him into an extremely low metabolic state for the better part of a week. During that time he wouldn’t register as a human on any Imperial scans of the area. After he woke up he would spend a few weeks quietly reconnoitering for any Imperial presence. He would decide what to do after that when he had more information, but the comlink would be essential for rescue. Then he climbed through the hole in the rubble that served as the exit and saw the first problem with his plan.

The jungle was burning.

In every direction the flames devoured the trees. There was a tornado of flame reaching to the darkening clouds above. The atmosphere was extremely disturbed by the turbolasers and the heat from the fire; thunderheads were forming above. That could be useful, thought the general. Sure enough, within minutes black sheets of rain were falling around him as picked through the husks of trees and piles of ashes. He came upon a large trunk that was still mostly intact and felt a flash of hope that he might find cover; he heard a buzzing that was then blasted out by a sonic boom from directly overhead as an Imperial shuttle descended from the low clouds above, shining spotlights on him.

The door opened before the shuttle had settled on the ground and General Dodonna beheld Darth Vader standing onboard. He had the rifle up and got two shots off that reflected from Vader’s gauntlet before it was torn from his hands. There was nowhere to run. Vader moved in long strides, closing the distance between them, his lightsaber flared red and Jan Dodonna held up his arms to shield himself from the blow and then his arms dropped to the ground while he stood gaping at his cauterized stumps. Vader’s amplified voice roared from his helmet, “Traitor!”

He swung again, cutting away the general’s legs, then, with a gesture, what remained of Jan Dodonna was flung into the tree stump. The dull buzzing reared into a roar over Vader’s words.”This Rebellion is over, general. I will extract from your mind everything we need to finally crush it. I’m surprised you stayed behind. You underestimate your value to your criminal friends.”

At this about a dozen officers in ill fitting trooper armor and open faced helmets approached the scene, brandishing rifles. Ozzel stayed close to the shuttle.

Jan was in shock, his head was filled with an angry buzz, and he kept trying to lift himself with arms he did not have to stand on legs he lacked. The rain was steaming into a fog that reeked of ashes. General Dodonna looked up at Vader, his mouth dry and empty of words. Then an insect flew into his his field of vision; he recognized it by the vivid red and black patterns across its carapace. They had called it a Yavin Hornet. A survey team of five people had disturbed a nest of these and the only survivor had hallucinated for weeks. No antivenom had been effective against the virulent neurotoxin and it had been shipped off for study. The survivor, who had been a special forces officer who had suffered a single sting, currently worked kitchen duty, mostly assisting the droids that washed the dishes. It kept him busy and let him feel like he was helping. Dodonna lunged his head towards at the hovering insect, which agreeably began to sting him in the face. A howling shadow of  Yavin Hornets emerged from the trunk and enveloped Jan Dodonna, who had begun to laugh; the first few stings had burned but the venom had powerful narcotic properties, and he quickly fell into a euphoric bliss well before the venom even reached his heart to still it.

Vader stood looking at the writhing mass of insects, feeling Dodonna’s shock and pain giving way to peaceful joy as he died, far beyond the reach of Imperial interrogation, and the Dark Lord of Sith gave into his rage and flung the body of the general into the air, scattering and disturbing the Yavin Hornets mightily. The insects could never have pierced Vader’s armor but the officers who had insisted on wearing open faced helmets suffered mightily for that choice. Only Admiral Ozzel was close enough to the shuttle to make it to safety.


To be continued???


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