The Planets Bend Between Us

Chapter 7

The trip to Alderaan was a long one.

For a while, Sam was so amped up from the narrow escape from Tatooine that he couldn’t sit still. Bobby suggested he try practicing at using his mother’s lightsaber, and Sam figured it was as good an idea as any to pass the time. He spent a while in the open common area waving it around and getting a feel for it before going head to head against a remote.

Sam glanced over at Bobby who was watching him with a funny look on his face.

“What?” Sam asked, giving the lightsaber a swing to avoid a bolt from the remote.

“Oh, just remembering,” said Bobby. “Used to watch your mom do that sometimes. It was her way of focusing and unwinding – said it helped her think, kept her hands busy.” Bobby tilted his head thoughtfully. “She used to do it with her eyes closed.”

“What?” Sam didn't take his eyes off the remote, but missed deflecting the bolt that came sailing his way. It zapped him sharply in the shoulder. He winced and adjusted his position for the next bout. “How’d she do that? You kind of need to be able to see the thing to stop the bolts.”

Bobby shrugged. “Hell if I know. John always said she looked like a dancer when she’d do it – lost in the music only she could hear. Swirlin’ around with that lightsaber...” His eyes glossed over as he lost himself in memories of his best friends.

Sam frowned, watching the remote flit up and down, sideways, and back again. How did she stop the thing if she wasn’t watching it carefully? He stepped and sliced to counter a pair of zaps from the remote. It must’ve been a Jedi thing, a Force thing. Still frowning, Sam shut his eyes and tried to clear his mind. Like back at Bobby’s when the older man had wanted him to put away his feelings, Sam tried mentally reaching, though he wasn’t sure what he was reaching for.

A stinging bolt hit him in the leg and Sam hissed but kept his eyes shut. He could feel Bobby watching him and squared his shoulders to try again. Clearing his mind, he breathed slow and deep, reached out...

He pictured the remote hovering before him and relaxed his grip on the lightsaber. Then, almost like that feeling of someone standing in the corner of your vision right before they speak, Sam had the sense of where the remote was. Without conscious thought, he arced his lightsaber to the left and right in quick succession, successfully stopping two bolts.

“Holy shit,” he blurted, his eyes snapping open. “I did it!”

Bobby chuckled. “’Course you did – you’re Mary’s son.”

Sam grinned and continued practicing with renewed vigor. He attempted keeping his eyes shut again, though he couldn’t consistently grasp the same feeling with any form of certainty. It was like grabbing at a handful of sand, the grains slid between his fingers. Sometimes he could catch a bolt but mostly he missed and received a sharp sting for his trouble.

He went back to working with his eyes open. As he grew more comfortable with the lightsaber, he played with the level of difficulty on the remote. Eventually Bobby stopped watching Sam and had a nap; he pulled his cap down low over his eyes.

Bela emerged from the cockpit to join them. “Thought you oughta know that our radars are officially clear.” She sat down by Bobby’s feet and put her own up on the inactive hologram table.
Sam dodged a zap from the remote but missed deflecting it with the lightsaber. He shifted his stance and turned to meet another zap, this one nearly connecting. Bela observed him moving about for several minutes and listened to the pleasant hum of the lightsaber before speaking again.

“I’m normally not one to get involved in my passenger’s business,” she said, examining her nails briefly. “And I’m certainly not opposed to pulling one over on the Empire, but I am very curious as to why you two were such a hot item with those troops back there.” She looked up at Sam from under her long eyelashes.

Sam was focused on the moving orb, but even if he hadn’t been, he wasn’t going to answer her. He twirled to meet a bolt from the remote but it slipped under his guard and singed his calf. He hissed through his teeth but didn’t break his stance.

“So what’d you do?” Bela tried again.
Sam ignored her.

“Oh come on, lads,” Bela rolled her eyes. “I realize smugglers aren’t exactly known for being the most trustworthy bunch, but I did save your asses back there and broke at least a dozen laws doing it. I think that earns me something, doesn’t it?”
Sam deactivated the lightsaber and faced her. The remote immediately powered down and floated to a corner of the room. Bela fixed her big green eyes on him, her expression a perfect mix of innocent curiosity, pleading, and a hint of suggestive flirtation. He could tell it was the type of look that had swayed hundreds of men before him into doing her bidding and he found himself feeling sorely tempted to do the same.
Based on the extremely sensitive nature of the message Dean had sent Bobby, Sam wasn’t about to tell anyone about it. The last thing he needed was to accidentally give up his secrets to someone playing for the wrong side. That being said, he had to agree Bela had a point: she had outrun those Destroyers on their behalf, putting herself and Ree in danger to do it, and that absolutely did earn her some level of trust.

“We have to deliver an important message,” Sam began, choosing his words carefully.
“Sam,” Bobby piped up a warning from under the brim of his hat.
“It’s okay, Bobby,” the younger man assured him. To Bela, he said, “We have information that is potentially catastrophic in the wrong hands.”
“Imperial hands?” Bela raised an eyebrow and smiled.
Sam chuckled a little then admitted, “Yeah.”
She crossed her arms over her chest. “So why Alderaan?”

“Because it’s far away and neutral,” Sam answered at once. Which was true. There just also happened to be some Rebels hiding there that they would contact and pass the chip to, on Dean’s behalf. “We’ll figure out our next move from there.”
Bela nodded, pursing her lips. “Well, I can tell you from experience that tangling with the Empire is... not ideal. So I wish you boys lots of luck.”
“We’re gonna need it,” Bobby grumbled.
Sam took a seat on Bela’s other side. “So why were you in a hurry?”
“I’m sorry?”
“When we got to the docking bay, you said you were in a rush,” Sam clarified. “What’d you do?”
“Ah, yes. That. I suppose you told me yours, so it’s only fair I tell you mine.” Bela ran her hand through her shining hair. “Several months back, I was running a smuggling job that went sour – I found myself trapped by some Imperials and had to lose the cargo or lose my life. Naturally, I chose to ditch the goods.
“The, ah, crime lord-ess I was pulling the job for was rather unforgiving about the whole thing, particularly seeing as how I’d completed dozens of successful – and highly risky, I might add – jobs for her in the past without incident.”

Bela sighed. “At first she wanted payment for the lost cargo, but then she wanted interest and fees to cover time lost and so on. I wasn’t able to pay it all and she refused to hear my promises of getting her the credits as soon as I could. She has since put a bounty on my head, and I ran into one of the hunters right after I agreed to take you lads off planet.” She smiled. “Thus the rush. I didn’t fancy coming face to face with any more of her cronies.”
Sam whistled low. “Sounds like you’re in a bit of a situation yourself. Good luck with that.”
Bela laughed bitterly. “Oh yes, thank you.”
After that, Ree joined them, reporting all was clear on their journey. Bela, Sam, and Ree started up a game of Dejarik, while Bobby continued to ‘nap’ next to them. After three games, in which Bela thoroughly beat Ree and Sam, Bobby rose to join them, claiming he needed to show Bela how it was done. When they tired of that, Sam pulled up a variety of digital books and articles to read to pass the time. Bela tapped idly at an electronic datapad and Bobby attempted to teach Ree some old card game he knew called sabacc.

The four of them shared an unexciting meal of flavored foodpacs in the cramped kitchen area and Bela gave them a quick tour of the ship: engine room, med unit, passenger dorm (which was basically a hallway with two sets of stacked cots), lavatory, storage area, and then it was back to the main common area. Sam still felt the ship was a little unnervingly beat-up looking, but he had to admit there was a certain charm to it that made it feel cozy and comfortable.
Bela and Ree returned to the cockpit while Sam and Bobby opted to get some actual shuteye. They made themselves as comfortable as they could on the cots. It took some time for Sam to quiet his mind and fall asleep in the unfamiliar place (forcefully not dwelling on events earlier that day), but he soon managed to drift off.

He slept for several hours, and then the small crew of the Impala spent the latter half of their journey in a similar manner as the first half: chatting, playing games, dozing, sampling some foodpacs, and turning in for another quiet ‘night’.

Bobby woke him some time later with a gentle shake.
“Bela said we’ll be there pretty soon, so you might as well get up,” he said.
Sam yawned, nodding, and followed Bobby out to the common area where Ree and Bela were playing another round of Dejarik. He stretched and rolled his shoulders.
“Sleep all right?” Bela asked, not taking her eyes off the holographic creatures scattered across the board.

“Yeah,” Sam answered with a shrug. Well as could be expected given the circumstances, he figured.

He unhooked the lightsaber from his belt and turned it over in his fingers. His mother’s lightsaber… now his. Sam took a deep breath and began practicing with the remote again while the girls finished up their game. Bobby sat beside Ree to watch.
Ree had just managed to outsmart Bela when a soft boop sounded and repeated. The pilot and co-pilot immediately stood, heading for the cockpit.
“Nearly there,” said Bela. Over her shoulder, she asked, “Care to get your first look at Alderaan?”
Sam deactivated his lightsaber and followed her, Bobby right behind him. They took their seats in the cockpit, as Bela and Ree sat down and made the necessary preparations to exit hyperspace. Bela grasped the silver handle in the center of the console and gently pushed it towards the window, the opposite of what she’d done hours earlier. The streaking stars beyond slowly shortened to pinpricks.

Suddenly, the ship rocked and bucked as flying objects smashed into the hull. Bela swore and Sam jumped, heart banging into his throat.
“What’s going on?”
“Something’s wrong – we came out in some sort of debris field,” reported Bela, frantically flipping switches. “Ree, shields – we’re getting hammered.” To Sam, she added, “Meteor collision or something – it wasn’t on the charts or the radar.”

Bobby’s eyes darted between all the pieces jumbling past the ship. “Where the hell is the planet?”

“It’s gone,” said Bela in astonishment. She swivelled in her chair to jab at a screen and a number of buttons. “That’s impossible – this is where it should be.”

“Are you sure we’re in the right place?” asked Sam. “Maybe…”

“Of course we’re in the right place,” Bela snapped and gestured at the ship’s readouts. “This is the correct system, correct coordinates, but Alderaan isn’t here.”

Sam felt like a block of ice plunged into his stomach. The planet was nowhere in sight but they were surrounded by rocks and chunks of unidentifiable material. He swallowed, fearing the worst.
“I have no idea how the hell this happened,” Bela muttered. “The whole planet’s just bloody gone...”
A proximity alarm sounded and Ree clicked with agitation.
“What the hell?” Bela said, at the same time Bobby grumbled, “What now?”
An Imperial TIE fighter roared over the top of the Impala, tossing a few laser shots at the ship.
“You’ve got to be kidding me. How did they find us?” Bela grabbed the controls and took off after the ship, veering to the right. “Ree, jam its transmissions before it can identify us.”
“I don’t think he followed us,” said Bobby, his voice low and ominous.
“He’s right,” Sam nodded. “It’s a short range fighter.”
Bela replied irritably, “Then where else could it have it come from?”

Bobby and Sam glanced at each other. Sam knew he was thinking the same thing he was: the Death Star. What else could have made an entire planet disappear? Sam moved his hand to his belt, fingers seeking out the chip containing the battle station’s plans.
She gunned the engines, and instructed Ree to ready their weapons to take down the TIE fighter. They couldn’t have an Imperial scout running back and informing their bosses that they’d spotted the Impala.

Bela gained on the fighter. An object in the distance that looked like a small silvery orb hovered amongst the stars.

“That,” he said, pointing.
“And what’s that?” asked Bela.
“Have you heard about the Empire building a massive weapon?”
“Sure, who hasn’t? Rumors are everywhere about it,” Bela shrugged. To Ree, she said, “Take him down.”
“No, turn around,” Bobby told her sternly. “Get us out of here now.”
“I’m not letting him get away,” Bela promised.
That’s the weapon,” Sam cut in, pointing at the sphere. It loomed ever closer, now the size of a moon.
“Turn around!” Bobby shouted.
Ree blasted their weapons as Bela steered. The bolts sailed past the fighter as it dodged and accelerated.
“Leave him and go!” Bobby grabbed Bela’s chair and gave it a shake.
Bela huffed, shooting a ‘back off’ glare at Bobby, but she listened this time and slammed the ship into reverse. Except the ship didn’t respond properly. Instead it shuddered and jolted... and kept moving forward.
“Bela, turn the hell around,” said Sam insistently.
“I am!” she returned hotly. “Ree, lock in the auxiliary power – all the way.”
Ree clicked and waved her long arms. Bela’s eyes widened.
“What?” Sam demanded.
Bela wrestled with the controls, but the ship continued towards the sphere. They could now clearly see details on its surface – it was most definitely not a moon.
“Bela! Get us out of here!”
“I can’t,” she replied through clenched teeth and finally released the controls. “We’re trapped in some sort of tractor beam.”
“We’re what!?”
“We’re stuck, lads, I’m afraid we’re going in.”

Bobby and Sam were instantly on their feet in protest, talking over each other and Bela. They’d escaped a small band of troopers on Tatooine only to fly straight into the heart of the Empire with the stolen plans the Imperials were chasing them for.
“There’s nothing I can do!” Bela hollered at them and they quieted. “There’s nothing I can do,” she repeated calmly. “But if you would relax a moment, I have a plan. I am not one of the best smugglers out there for nothing, you know.”

Darth Azazel was in his chambers, enjoying victory and a glass of Idlewil liquor. He’d cracked Winchester, taken everything from him, and the Rebels were about to be in his grasp. Azazel had sent probes out immediately to Dantooine following Dean’s admission of the Rebels’ location, and now he only had to patiently await the news that those degenerate, pain in the ass, wretched traitors had finally been found.
After that, all he had to do was blast them into atoms while Winchester watched, before executing him too. Azazel couldn’t wait to see the look on his pathetic face – it was going to be so worth all the anger, pain, and shame that the little shit had put him through over the years.

Azazel laughed softly and took a deep swig of the liquor. It was sweet and burning, with a spicy aftertaste and he relished it. The stuff was damn expensive and hard to come by, but every swallow tasted like triumph and he loved it.
A light flashed on the comm panel on the wall and Azazel stood with a grumble. He’d given strict instructions not to bother him for a couple hours unless it was extremely important, but he found most idiots in his employ struggled greatly with simple instructions. He flexed his left fist while his right reached up to tap the comm.
“This better be worth my time,” he growled in warning.
“My lord, the probes have returned from Dantooine,” the commander on the other end reported. “They found the remains of a base, but it has clearly been deserted for quite some time.”

Darth Azazel felt an animal rage coil up inside him and it was with a great amount of willpower that he didn’t kill the messenger delivering him this news. Instead his glass of liquor sailed across the room to shatter against the far wall.
He’d lied – that stinking son of a bitch Winchester had lied!

Azazel ground his teeth as the furniture in the room lifted a few inches off the floor. Dark waves of the Force pulsed through him.

“Further, we’ve captured a ship entering the remains of the Alderaan system,” the commander continued. “We’ll be sure once we have it fully aboard, but based on preliminary scans, we’re fairly certain it’s the same ship that escaped our forces on Tatooine.”
The furniture settled with a collective set of thuds and thunks. Darth Azazel’s shoulders relaxed. Interesting.

A ship from the same planet as that empty escape pod, a ship that jetted out of Mos Eisley against protocol to avoid encountering Imperial troops, that outran a set of Destroyers, and that was bound for Alderaan... conveniently the same place Winchester’s supposed counsellor ship had been heading? Well, that sounded like an awfully lucky coincidence.
“Hold off on Winchester’s execution,” he ordered. If whoever was aboard this ship was trying to return the stolen plans to Dean, the traitor could still be useful. “I’ll be there shortly,” he added and flipped off the comm.
Azazel smiled. When one door closes...

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