Sam and Bobby sold off the last of the items Bobby had brought from his home and arrived at the appointed dock for Bela and her ship. When he saw the aircraft, Sam laughed in surprise.
“This is your ship?”
It was a large light freighter, Sam guessed a YT class, though it was hard to tell. It’d been modified dozens of times over at least. The ship was a decent size for a light freighter, but so beat up that Sam had a hard time taking it seriously.
Bela passed a crate to Ree on the loading ramp and raised her eyebrow at him. “Something wrong with it?”
“It’s ancient, for starters,” said Sam as he approached. He glanced up at the Impala. “And it looks like one good laser cannon will blast it out the sky.”
“It’s seen better days, I’ll give you that,” Bela admitted. “But she can take a hit and she’s as fast as I promised – she can make point five past lightspeed. You’ll be at Alderaan before you know it.” She winked.
“We can talk about how great your ship is once we’re in space,” Bobby grumbled from behind Sam and pushed past him. “Remember how we’re in a hurry to get out of here?”
“It just so happens I’m in a bit of a rush myself, so climb on board and get comfortable, gents.” She gestured up the ramp.
Inside, Sam tried to look in every direction at once. The ship was as beat up inside as it was outside, a mish-mash of old and new parts. Even as Sam suddenly had great misgivings that he and Bobby were even going to make it to Alderaan in this bucket of bolts, he felt a thrill of excitement race through him because this was a real, live light freighter, and he was really doing this– he was leaving Tatooine.
Bobby, clearly familiar with the layout of this model of ship, led them straight to the main passenger common area and took a seat. Sam followed, but stopped and whirled when he heard blaster fire and shouts. Ree barreled past them, squeaking and clicking frantically. Bobby hopped to his feet and shot a worried look at Sam. Bela ran on board, sealing the ship behind her.
“Ree! Now! Go now!” she hollered and rushed by, hair whipping out behind her.
“What’s going on?” Sam shouted after her.
Bela called over her shoulder, “We have company!”
Sam and Bobby followed her to the cockpit as the huge ship rumbled to life. It quaked and shook. Sam prayed that it was the blaster fire outside causing those noises and not the ship itself, threatening to break apart.
“What happened?” demanded Bobby.
“Imperials,” Bela said as her hands flew across the console flipping switches.
Bobby and Sam exchanged anxious looks. Apparently they’d figured out Bobby’s lie a lot sooner than hoped.
Ree’s long limbs and fingers were a blur of activity over the console. She snapped and squeaked sharply.
“I know, I know,” Bela told her. “Don’t start with me, just get us going!”
Through the sizeable cockpit window, Sam could see a half dozen of Stormtroopers setting up laser cannons. He gulped. They were going to disable the ship before it even took off.
“You might want to hurry.” Sam’s heartbeat pulsed in his throat.
Bela didn’t reply. She barked sharp commands at Ree, who clicked crossly back. Then the Impala was blasting off and Sam and Bobby were thrown off their feet onto the seats crammed behind the pilot’s chairs. Sam watched the walls of the spaceport disappear, becoming blue-tinted Tatooine sky and then a black expanse dotted with stars.
As the ship roared through space, the window filled with the ominous sight of two gigantic Imperial cruisers bearing down on them. Bobby and Bela both swore; Sam’s stomach churned. He thought of the chip with Dean’s message hidden in his belt and tried not to think about dying before the Rebels even saw it.
“So when you said you were ‘dodging some white suits’, you were soft selling me a bit, yeah?” Bela remarked.
Bobby didn’t answer.
“What do we do?” asked Sam. A direct laser cannon hit rocked the ship. “Can you outrun them?”
“What do you think I’m doing, sweetheart?” Bela replied sweetly and wrenched on the controls.
Sam held onto his chair as the ship twisted and turned. Through the window, Sam saw stars whirl past and brilliant bolts of laser fire zip by too close for comfort.
“Once we’re in hyperspace, they won’t be able to catch us,” Bela told them. The ship shuddered and bucked from another direct hit. A red light flashed on the console accompanied by a repetitive beeping alarm. “Damn, there goes the rear deflector,” she mumbled.
“Then go to hyperspace!” said Sam, his voice rising. “What’re you waiting for?”
“Ree is doing the navigational calculations so we don’t smash through an asteroid or end up beside a supernova or something equally as pleasant and unsurviveable,” she told him hotly and tugged on the navigational controls again. The ship listed hard to the left. “I’m a very good pilot, Sam, so sit back and relax.”
“But – ”
“And most importantly,” she cut off his protests and concerns. “Shut up.”
He could do anything but relax as the ship lurched again. A second alarm joined the first one and Sam glanced at Bobby, who was pale and clutching the arms of his chair. His eyes were closed like he was pretending he was anywhere else in an effort not to deposit his stomach all over the cockpit’s interior.
The ship took a brutal hit that threw them hard in their seats. Sam’s head collided with the wall on his left, sparking stars in his vision.
“That was a big one,” she muttered then glanced at her co-pilot. “How we doin’, Ree?”
The green being responded with a series of clacks. Bela swiftly reached forward to grasp a silver handle in the center of the control-filled console. She pulled the handle towards her and the ship responded instantly. It shot forward into hyperspace, the stars streaking by like white paint from a brush stroke.
For a moment, Dean was glad they were taking him out of his cell. He was pretty damn tired of staring at the same bland wall, so the change of scenery was nice. The troops marched him down corridor after corridor, weaving past Imperials of all ranks who hardly gave him a second look. He did his best to shove away the uncomfortable queasy feeling stealing over him.
He’d assumed their next tactic was to ignore him for a few days, conveniently forget to feed him, and try to starve the truth out of him. The fact that they were hauling him out less than a day after he’d sweated out the last of the serum they’d given him didn’t bode well. He dreaded to discover what Darth Azazel was up to now.
The guards brought him to hub of the battle station. It was a bustling hive of activity with Imperials at dozens of consoles and screens. Dean swallowed down the fear prickling at the back of his neck. They would never let a known Rebel into such a sensitive area unless said Rebel’s death was imminent. Azazel was at the front of the room in front of a large black viewscreen.
“Hello, Dean,” he greeted, like they were old friends meeting for drinks.
“Oh, it’s you again. I was wondering what that smell was,” Dean quipped.
Azazel’s lip curled slightly. “I would stop being so cocky, if I were you.”
“Yeah, and why’s that? Finally decided to kill me?”
“You got it.”
“Even after all the fun we’ve had over the years?” Dean brought his bound hands to his chest, his expression a mockery of disbelief. He dropped his arms and added in a casual, flat tone, “Actually, I’m surprised you haven’t had the balls to do it already. Figured you must just love having me around so much.” He grinned.
“Oh, I am so going to enjoy watching your execution, Winchester,” Darth Azazel snarled. “But before we get to that and the extra little treat I’ve arranged, I wanted you to be here while we demonstrated the weapons system on this station. For old time’s sake.”
“You always did know the way to my heart,” Dean retorted sarcastically.
Azazel gestured to one of his men and the viewscreen lit up to reveal a familiar blue, green, and white planet beyond. Dean’s knees buckled and he felt the air in his lungs rush out as if he’d been hit with a Yrashu club.
“What the hell is this?” Dean demanded. His spine tingled with dread.
“I told you, we want to demonstrate the Death Star’s capabilities.” Azazel stepped closer. “Too many star systems are getting ideas, becoming disobedient and disloyal. If the Empire is to stay strong, we can’t have that.” He came closer, baring his teeth. “We need to make an example of such planets. I thought your home planet made a nice starting point.”
“You bastard,” Dean spat, helplessness and rage engulfing him. “Alderaan is a peaceful, defenseless planet! You can’t do this to them!”
“Maybe if I had another target instead, Alderaan might be free to go,” Azazel suggested silkily.
Dean clenched his jaw tight, his thoughts flashing, grasping for a way out.
“Tell me where the Rebel base is, Winchester. Give me another target.”
Dean swallowed and his eyes moved from Azazel’s horrible ones, past the Sith’s shoulder to his home, unarmed and vulnerable out in the middle of open space. He couldn’t give up the Rebels, he couldn’t. He’d been raised to defend and protect the Rebels, to help them and work with them. He believed in their cause: taking down the tyrannical Empire, in fighting for what was right, and in innocence and justice. Giving up any precious piece of information about the Alliance would be equal to killing his entire belief system, his identity, everything. He was ready to die to protect that.
But Alderaan wasn’t. He’d signed up for this, but those millions of people down there hadn’t. If he stayed quiet, Azazel would follow through with his threat and exterminate them, he had no doubt of that. He’d seen firsthand exactly how brutal the Imperial lord could be. All those deaths would be on Dean’s head, when he had the power to stop it, just by giving up the location of the Rebels.
But he could never give them up, no matter what…
“Sometime today, Winchester,” Darth Azazel growled impatiently. There was a glint of triumph in his eyes. He knew he’d won this battle already: either way, Dean lost catastrophically.
Dean’s breath snagged in his chest as he fought to make a decision. Finally, he knew there was only one thing he could do.
He ducked his head and shut his eyes. It’d be easier to speak if he couldn’t see those hideous yellow eyes.
“Dantooine,” he managed, his voice scratchy and ripping at the seams. He opened his eyes and slowly raised his gaze, pained and hateful.
Azazel’s gleeful grin was vile. “I knew you’d come around eventually, Winchester,” he crowed. “I just had to find the right pressure point.” To the men at the weapons station, Azazel gestured vaguely with his hand and said, “Open fire when ready.”
Dean choked. “What? You said – ”
“Dantooine is awfully remote,” said Darth Azazel. “Destroying it won’t do much good with the whole ‘fear keeps the systems in line’ plan I have going on.” He held up a finger. “Rest assured, I will destroy it though.”
Dean tried to leap for the Sith’s throat, but the troops flanking him wrestled him back.
“You bastard! You said you’d spare them! If I told you where the Rebels were, you’d – ”
“Did I?” Azazel touched a gloved finger mock-thoughtfully to his chin. “Well, I lied.”
From behind, one of the men indicated the beam was ready. Dean struggled harder against his captors blindly, desperately.
“Commence primary ignition,” Azazel instructed casually. He shot a cruel and sadistic smile Dean’s way. “Say goodbye, Dean.”
“No!” Dean shouted. “No! You bastard – you fucking bastard – ”
There was a loud humming, and Dean watched in utter, helpless horror as a massive beam of green light emanated from the Death Star and blasted straight for the powerless planet beyond – for Alderaan, his home.
The planet exploded in a massive fireball, shards and debris scattering across the backdrop of a thousand pinpricks of light.
Dean screamed until his throat was raw.
Dean felt as though a hand had reached into his chest and torn his heart out from beneath his ribs. Tears blurred his vision and he trembled all over. His home; an entire planet; millions of innocent lives… The terrifying power of the Empire blew away something that immense in one brilliant beam. In mere seconds.
The remnants of Alderaan scattered into the darkness and Dean struggled to breathe.
Darth Azazel swooped in close, gripped Dean roughly under his chin and forced the rebel to look up into those yellow eyes.
“See you at the execution,” the Sith sneered and released him. “Just you wait and see who else will be there.”
Hollow and shaky, Dean let himself be dragged back to his cell. Tears made silent tracks down his cheeks.