Dean woke with a jolt when Bela banged on his door. He almost fell out of his cot at the sudden noise.
“Wha–?” he responded blearily.
“Dean, something’s out there,” she said, and as he focused on her, he realized she was flushed and wide-eyed.
He climbed to his feet, instantly awake. “You okay?”
“There’s something out there,” she repeated. “Huge, disgusting mouth and wobbly, bug eyes.” She shuddered.
Dean swore. “Mynocks.” He shoved his boots on. “We better get out there and clear them off – we’re finally ready to get the hell out of here, I don’t want the damn things ripping Baby apart all over again.”
Dean pushed past Bela and down the corridor, snatching up a breath mask as he went. “I’ll be right back,” he said, pulling it onto his face.
“Wonderful, so will I,” said Bela, sliding on her own breath mask. She tapped on the comm and let Ree know she was headed out into the cave with Dean to dispatch some parasites.
“Bela…” he began warningly.
She held up her gun. “Two are better than one, yeah? Stop fussing and open the air lock.”
Dean clenched his jaw and jabbed at the controls to close the door behind them and let down the loading ramp. It wasn’t that Bela couldn’t hold her own; he’d just rather have to only worry about his own back in the mysterious cave of wonders.
The cave was strange to say the least. As the pair crept down the ramp, the part of Dean’s face not covered by the mask was hit with hot, sticky air. He crinkled his brow in confusion. He didn’t make a habit of frequenting asteroids and caves, but the ones he had experienced were cool and dry.
Dean peered around as he descended the ramp. Everything was so dark, it was impossible to see outside the radius of the Impala’s outer landing lights.
“Whoa, what the – ” He glanced down to the ground beneath his feet as he stepped off the ramp. It was bizarrely squishy and soft. He moved slowly, hating the way the terrain felt under his boots, squelching with every move.
Bela stepped out behind him and inhaled in surprise. “Well that’s quite unsettling, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, that doesn’t feel like rock.” Dean frowned. It was oddly misty in here too, or foggy or something. “Why is there so much moisture?”
“Beats me,” she shrugged.
Dean walked cautiously. It wasn’t slippery like mud; more like walking a bed of damp moss. It made his stomach churn – this whole cave was making his skin prickle.
“I’ve got a really bad feeling about this,” he mumbled, though Bela was too far away to hear him.
Behind him, her gun went off, and he whirled to see a smoking mynock tumble away from his ship.
“Got one!” Bela called, and Dean hurried over to investigate.
He swished his hand through the air to clear the mist and smoke hovering over the ground. The winged beast was face down and sizzling.
“Mynock, all right,” he confirmed grimly, poking it with his boot. “We better do a quick circuit, make sure there aren’t any more gnawing on the cables.”
Bela nodded, and they split up, going different ways around the ship. They met in the middle near the front. Neither had found any more mynocks, thankfully. Before Dean had the chance to suggest they head back into the ship, there was a flapping noise, and Dean spotted mynock wings bobbing at the edge of the Impala’s floodlight.
One of them dove towards Dean and Bela, heading for the ship. Bela screeched, covering her head with her arms when it swooped straight at her.
“Watch it!” shouted Dean. It veered up and away from Bela. He whirled and pulled the trigger on his blaster, downing the ugly creature.
The soft ground beneath them suddenly shifted, tilting and rumbling as it had been doing at random intervals since they’d been inside the cave. Dean struggled to maintain his balance and Bela grabbed onto the ship. The movement ceased and the sound of flying mynocks faded.
Weird, thought Dean, his eyes darting around the peculiar, hazy darkness. He glanced at Bela. “You okay?”
Her mask was fogging up with her hurried breaths. “Peachy,” she replied tersely.
Dean chuckled and turned his attention back to the cave. He was really starting to think it wasn’t a cave at all. He looked down at his boots, obscured by a veil of mist, and aimed his gun a few feet in front of him. He frowned thoughtfully. On a hunch, he squeezed the trigger.
As soon as the blaster bolt struck the ground, the whole cave seemed to erupt and roar around them. Dean nearly fell over as the terrain pitched sharply.
“What the hell–!” Bela shouted, her arms pin-wheeling as she stumbled and fought to stay upright. He thought she was probably bawling him out further but couldn’t hear her over the incredible din.
He struggled over the lurching ground towards the loading ramp, then up it, Bela fumbling along behind him. He ditched his mask the moment the airlock shut behind them and he ran for the cockpit.
“You first-rate idiot!” Bela yelled, tearing after him. “You impossible fool!”
The ship slanted and Dean banged into the wall with his elbow. He cussed at sharp pain.
“I had a hunch!” he explained over his shoulder, righting himself again.
Bela fell to her knees as the Impala heaved and listed. “We had a perfectly nice hiding spot!” She scrambled back to her feet, clutching at the wall for support. “Why did you – ”
“Ree,” Dean bellowed, tumbling to the floor and using the doorway of the cockpit to pull himself up again. “Get us out of here!”
Already going, Ree squeaked back, her green hands flying across the controls. The ship came to life around them and Dean fell into the driver’s seat.
“The Imperials will still be out there and we’re not remotely ready!” Bela protested, dropping into the navigation chair as the cave shook and thundered around them.
“No time!” Dean barked, cutting her off as he jammed on the controls for lift-off. Okay, shooting the thing had been a very bad idea, clearly. But he’d had the thought that they were inside something alive, and kinda needed to know if they really were or not.
“This is my life you’re risking here too, and I don’t – ”
“We’re not discussing this as a committee!” Dean retorted, punching on the controls. He so did not have time for Bela to lecture him on Hiding From Your Enemies 101, as if he wasn’t fully aware of the situation. Far ahead he could see the walls closing in – or rather, what he suspected was the throat of the beast they’d accidentally camped inside.
“I am not a committee!” Bela snapped, and then her breath hitched. “Is that…?”
“Yep,” he confirmed, urging Baby on. Come on, come on, come on…
“Dean…” Bela’s voice quivered and she gestured weakly.
Up ahead, what had a second ago seemed to be rows of stalagmites and stalactites lining the cave’s entrance were in fact massive teeth slowly coming together.
“I see it, I see it!” Dean promised. He ground his jaw and pushed the Impala to her limit, praying with everything he had that the repairs would hold.
On his right, Ree whimpered.
“Dean,” Bela murmured. “Dean…”
“Not helping!” he bit out. He cranked the controls to the right, putting the Impala nearly on its side.
It was way too close for comfort, but the ship shot past the teeth unscathed. The Impala soared high over the asteroid and Dean poured on the speed to ensure they were out of reach of whatever space creature they’d inadvertently bothered.
When Ree let out a loud exhale of relief, so did Dean. He glanced back with a cocksure grin at Bela, who had her hand over her mouth like she was trying not to throw up.
“See?” he laughed. “No problem.”
She scowled at him.
He chuckled again. It was, admittedly, with a little bit of hysterical relief, but he let Bela think he was being an ass because it obviously rankled her. He steered the ship back into the asteroid field and it was no less harrowing than the first time.
Yet again, even while Bela was gasping and clutching her chair behind him and Ree was deadly still, Dean felt like his skin was on fire. As he swung the ship around a pair of spiraling asteroids that exploded in his wake, Dean thought he was probably insane, but it was almost like he could feel where the asteroids were going.
Even so, he wasn’t going to push his luck and kill them all in a split second lapse in concentration. He had to get them out of here and fast. As they rounded a massive, sluggish asteroid, Dean felt his heart drop into his stomach. Spread before him was the formidable Imperial fleet.
“You were saying?” Bela said behind him.
“Okay, fine, little problem,” Dean retorted, his tone sharp.
“Did you want me to drive?” she inquired flatly.
He hushed her, thinking fast. He knew they’d fixed the transfer circuits, but the hyperdrive was still too shot up to take them to lightspeed. Maybe if he hadn’t jumped the gun and forced them out of their space beast, they may have been able to wait it out and patch it up, but as it was, they were dead in the water. He needed a new plan.
“Ree, put all the power in the front deflector shield,” he ordered, his thoughts racing.
“You’ve got to be joking, darling.”
Ree ignored Bela’s remark and did as she was told, quickly flipping switches.
“Need I remind you that you are a tiny ship and that is a bloody Star Destroyer!?” Bela hissed.
“I have a plan!” he shot back.
“Oh, and look how well the last one worked out!” she countered.
Yeah, but this one’s better, thought Dean, his lips curling up in a smirk. Hey Azazel – watch this.
As the small Corellian vessel veered around the flak in the air, Commander Uriel laughed, a low rumbling sound. “Unbelievable. They’re actually moving to attack position.” He signaled lazily over his shoulder. “Shields up.”
Cute, he mused. They want to play war with us. It was unlikely the pitiful little ship could do any damage, but in the event that this was a full-on suicide run, he didn’t want to take any chances. The ship barreled towards the Destroyer’s bridge.
A lieutenant scuttled up on Uriel’s left. “Lord Azazel has been informed of this development, sir,” he stated anxiously. After Uriel’s acknowledging nod, the pale lieutenant hurried away.
Uriel couldn’t help smiling to himself. Roman thought he was hot shit? Well, how bad was he going to look when a mere commander upstaged him by capturing Azazel’s prize? Surely this would bump him up to General status, if not Admiral.
As the ship screamed past, Uriel and the other Imperials near the viewscreen instinctively ducked. The alarms in the bridge ceased and Uriel’s eyes darted across the empty star-spotted sky outside.
“Track them,” he ordered. What’s the play here? If Winchester thought he could simply fly past them, he was a bigger idiot than Uriel thought, and that was after the ship had flown straight at them. The Imperials had a few dozen ships in this fleet, not to mention the number of TIE fighters that could be deployed in seconds to bring them in…
“Sir?” One of the tracking officers down in the pit piped up, his face scrunched in confusion.
“What is it? Where’d they go?” Uriel demanded, spinning around to stare down at the officer.
“Sir, they’re gone,” the officer reported. His fingers flew across the keyboard, clacking loudly. “They’re not on any of our scopes.”
Uriel’s dark brow furrowed. “Impossible.” He gestured to one of the other officers. “Ship to ship,” he ordered, but within seconds, the officer was shaking his head.
“Nothing?” the commander said incredulously. “A ship that small can’t have a cloaking device – nothing advanced enough to hide from our sensors. Scan again!”
But even after half a dozen scans and more communications from the others ships in the fleet, the answer was the same: the Impala had disappeared. Uriel was baffled. One second it was right there, directly in front of them – how the hell had it evaded them so instantaneously?
“Sir,” the lieutenant from before bustled up on to Uriel’s side again. “Sir, Lord Azazel demands an update on the pursuit of the enemy ship.”
Uriel felt his insides turn to water. He cleared his throat and sounded as stony and sure as he possibly could when he informed his staff that he would take a shuttle to the flagship to Azazel and update him in person. If the others looked at him like he was a dead man walking, Uriel pointedly did not take notice.
All the way to the other ship, he convinced himself that he was valuable. Not only to the fleet as a whole, but to Azazel himself. He was clever and strong, he had a mind for tactics, and he’d led more successful missions than any other at his same rank.
Uriel was sure he would be spared – after all, he wasn’t the only one who lost the ship. So had everybody else, including Roman – where the hell had he been on this anyway? Was he so busy licking Azazel’s boots that he’d missed Winchester’s ship altogether? Self-important prick.
As it happened, Uriel was not nearly as valuable as he’d believed himself to be. Azazel stepped over his twitching corpse without a second thought.
“Apology accepted,” the Sith sneered. “Commander Uriel.”