Jedi Destiny I: Hate of the Jedi

Chapter 13


Tash was with Jacen in the main hold of the Millennium Falcon, talking sporadically. Luke Skywalker was in the cockpit with Chewbacca and Han and Leia Solo as the ship zipped through hyperspace to wherever it was that they had tracked those that had kidnapped Zak and Jaina.

Tash needed someone to confide in for the meantime, and Jacen was the only one going through what she was. While true that three of the adults on the ship were also Jaina’s family by blood, and the other was family by long-standing association, there was nothing stronger than the bond between siblings.

Tash was somewhat surprised that she and Jacen had even been allowed to accompany the adults on this mission. Even though she didn’t understand at first why Luke would bring them along, she wasn’t going to argue with the choice. In fact, she might have hounded him until he’d agreed to it.

They had also been told that the Republic was sending a ship and Rogue Squadron to assist, which offered small comfort.

For now, Tash was silent. She couldn’t help but dwell on the many instances that they had been together in which one of them had been in terrible danger and the other had had to save them just in the nick of time.

On D’vouran, when their troubles began all those years ago, they had both been in peril. On Necropolis, Zak was the one in need of saving. On Gobindi; her. Wherever they went one of them inevitably ended up in peril. It was a curse. What they had done to deserve it was knowledge that eluded her.

The one thought kept running through her mind over and over; would she ever see Zak again? She saw in Jacen’s eyes a few times that he’d collected that thought from her and forgave her for thinking it. For if she doubted she would see Zak again, she doubted by extension that they would see Jaina.

They were interrupted by the arrival of Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa-Solo. Tash and Jacen both stood up at once and rushed over.

“We’re approaching the coordinates,” Luke said, holding a hand up to silence both of their requests for an update on the situation. “The buzz the both of you are feeling is … our work,” he added, gesturing towards the woman at his side. “We’re using the Force to mask our approach for as long as possible.”

“I was wondering about that,” Jacen mused. Tash hadn’t really paid much attention. “So you plan on using the arrival of the ship the Republic’s sending as a distraction for us to get in and get Zak and Jaina?”

“That’s the idea, yes,” Leia said with a grim smile.

“Do you think it’ll work?” Tash asked meekly.

The adults hesitated, glancing sidelong at one another, before Luke spoke. “It’s got a good chance of succeeding. Not an excellent chance, but a good one. We’ll soon find out, won’t we?”

“Your father wants you in the ventral quad, Jacen,” Leia said. “We’ll be dropping out of hyperspace any minute now and there’s a good chance there’ll be resistance in the system.”

“What about the ship the Republic’s sending? What about Rogue Squadron?”

“They should already be there to cover our arrival. But we’ll be going after Zak and Jaina alone,” Luke said. “Now get going, Jacen. I’ll join you from the dorsal turret in a second, I just want a quick word with your father first.”

“Okay,” Jacen said.

He patted Tash gently on the shoulder and then took off down the hall. Tash turned to Leia.

“What about me?” she said. “What can I do?”

“Do you know how to use one of these?” the older woman said, holding up a lightweight blaster pistol. Tash looked at it in shock, then back up at Jacen’s mother and nodded. “Good. We might encounter resistance on the inside as well, so we’ll need the extra hand. Just stay out of sight.”

Again, Tash nodded, and then followed Leia back into the cockpit.

The Millennium Falcon dropped out of hyperspace in the middle of a battle. Though its crew had known not what to expect to enter, they had been prepared for it nonetheless.

When the sublight engines kicked in, the small ship slowed and dipped under the great bulk of a massive cruiser in its way.

The Republic’s ships had arrived; they’d in fact sent two instead of one, and it was a good thing they had. They ducked under the large bulk of the Mon Calamari vessel and almost collided with a trio of TIE fighters making a strafing run.

In the distance, an Imperial-class Star Destroyer sat in defence of a large station-like structure. It was side on to the Republic ship, and both capitol ships had the turbolasers on the side of the ship facing the enemy firing constantly, both ships stationary as they launched wing after wing of star fighters against each other. More fighters were inbound from the Imperial station and from a smaller cruiser nestled just behind and above it.

That’s an Interdictor,” Luke Skywalker’s voice came over the intercom. Tash jumped at the unexpectedness of it, and then looked to the adults for an explanation.

It came from Leia, who had her eyes shut in deep concentration at the same time. “Interdictor classes are support ships, Tash,” she said quietly. “They’re fitted with technology to prevent hyperspace jumps and mess around with torpedo and missile locks.”

“Damned right,” Han muttered from the controls with an accompanied growl from Chewbacca. “We came out of hyperspace sooner than I’d planned to!”

Tash nodded and looked out through the forward viewport. They’d passed under the Star Destroyer by now, avoiding most of the laser barrage aimed at the Republic ship and dodging several flights of TIEs that came after them.

Luke and Leia’s attempts to hide the ship weren’t total. To the best that Tash could understand it, the two Jedi were focussing their abilities to the point that anyone that actually saw them with plain, regular eyesight would in fact not see anything there at all, and that anyone seeing the Falcon on sensor sweeps would, similarly, ignore it. But it wasn’t total. With Luke Skywalker busy in one of the Falcon’s laser turrets, he was concentrating more on that than on confusing Imperials.

The station structure was ahead of them now, and Tash noted that it was like none she had seen before. It had a central body which resembled a pair of large-headed mushrooms fused together at the end of the stalks. At the central point, there were eight, maybe ten support struts which angled out and ended in a loop. A thick ring surrounded the station, snaking through all the loops and in a constant state of motion, and yet never touching the main structure.

At the topmost point of each mushroom-like construct was an array of spires. There were two large hangar-like doors on each mushroom face that could be seen from the Falcon’s vantage point.

With her eyes locked on the structure, Tash hoped that if they were hangars, that Zak and Jaina wouldn’t be too far from one of them.

“I hope so too,” Leia said beside her.

Tash shot ahead of the rest of the group.

Together, there were five of them: Han and Leia Solo, Chewbacca, Luke Skywalker, and herself. Jacen Solo had remained in the ventral quad of the Millennium Falcon to defend the ship from any stormtroopers that decided to attempt acts of sabotage in their absence. Luke had only let him remain behind because he was sure that they wouldn’t be too long, and that if Jacen was in any danger, he was more than capable of defending himself.

Luke was just behind Tash now, trying to keep up with her, to keep her behind him. His lightsaber was in hand and activated to defend from stormtrooper fire in the halls. Leia was similarly armed with her own lightsaber and brought up the rear of the group defending them just the same. Han and Chewbacca were in the middle, where Tash was supposed to be.

But she was too anxious to be held back. She wanted to find Zak, and her bet was that he would be in the detention section. Even though she didn’t know exactly where that was, following her instincts had worked for her in the past, and so she was willing to rely on them now to find her way. That Luke and the others hadn’t corrected her path so far was evidence that she was on the right track. But the fact that she couldn’t touch the Force at all to help guide her was disturbing.

She tried for the dozenth time to reach out with her mind to find Zak, to help guide her way through the stark white corridors of the space station directly to where he and Jaina were being held, but encountered emptiness again.

I’m here! she thought, hoping that if her brother could sense her from wherever he was, he could also hear her. Don’t worry, little brother, I’m here.

“Tash!” Luke’s hand came down on her shoulder again, but slipped off as she stepped around a corner …

… and froze.

A squad of Imperial stormtroopers had formed a dual-layer defence position from wall to wall in the hall ahead of her, completely blocking off the passageway at the other end. Over their heads, she could just make out three figures being escorted by quartet of stormtroopers, two of them forcefully.

She recognised those two right away, as they were turned facing towards her as if trying to resist the escort.

It was Zak and Jaina.

And the man leading them away from her, she could get no sense of. She reached out over and over, and yet she could not touch him. In fact, she could not even sense Zak and Jaina or the stormtroopers in her way, even though her eyes told her that they were right there.

“Tash!” Zak called out.

“ZAK!” Tash screamed.

The stormtroopers opened fire, as if waiting for that precise moment to do so; for some hidden signal that they should. And as they continued to fire upon her, Tash continued to stand still, staring across into the face of the man escorting her brother and Jacen’s sister away, as he had now turned to see what the disturbance was about.

“Tash! Get out of the way!” She barely heard Luke’s voice shouting at her over the sound of her own blood pumping furiously in her chest and the whining of continuous laser barrage. As the barrage of laser fire bore down on her, Luke jumped in the way, slashing his lightsaber in wide arcs to deflect them into the walls. She felt him shove her back around the corner they had come from and she did not resist.

When Luke followed her seconds later, his eyes were wide with either shock or horror, she couldn’t tell.

“What is it?” Tash asked him. “Who was that man?”

“I’ll explain it later,” Luke said shakily, peering around the corner to see if the stormtroopers were rushing down the hall to them.

Tash could not hear the sounds of jostled armour, so she assumed that the troopers were there as a defensive measure, with orders to follow their commander, rather than pursue the enemy.

“Is there any way through that?” Han Solo said from Tash’s other side, nodding at the intersection.

Luke shook his head. “Under ideal circumstances, I could just push them out of the way,” he started, “but as it is I can’t even get a sense that they’re even there. It’s as if the Force has deserted me.”

“I got that feeling too,” Tash said. “When I saw Zak and Jaina there, but I couldn’t even feel them there. I thought it was just me.”

“We’ve encountered this sort of thing before,” Han said. “On Myrkr and Weyland.”

“Of course,” Luke said. “Ysalamiri. If a couple of those troopers are carrying nutrient packs on their backs that would explain their complete and total absence from the Force. But I can hardly believe that he would allow himself to be so vulnerable,” he added as a quiet afterthought.

“What are we going to do about it, then?” Solo asked.

Luke Skywalker considered for a moment, but before he could answer, the comlink at his belt chirped for his attention. While he set about answering the incoming call, Solo and Chewbacca each ducked around the corner for a moment to fire off a rapid series of shots at the enemy down the long hall.

Uncle Luke,” a voice started on the comlink. Tash recognised it as Jacen’s. “Just fielded a call from Rogue Squadron. The Imperium noticed our ingress. They’re sending bomber flights this way to take out the hangar. It also looks like the cruisers have been given orders to destroy the hangar as well. I can’t do anything from in here and the Rogues are doing the best they can.

Stang!” Solo swore, having heard every word. “We need to get back to the Falcon. That’s our only way out of this place.”

“What’s the likelihood that Jaina and Zak are going to be moved, now that we know about this place?” Leia asked the more experienced Jedi.

“Fifty-fifty,” Luke replied. He shrugged at the shocked expressions from the others, and Tash looked on in disappointment. “That’s the best I can offer, given new information.”

Solo bent his arm around the corner and fired off a few blind shots, then frowned across the intersection at Luke. “New plan, then. We get back to the Falcon and blast out of this joint. Then we wait for a launch, and have the ships outside intercept all transports leaving the station.”

“Assuming they don’t launch decoys.”

“Have a little faith, Princess,” he said to his wife with a smile that didn’t look genuine. “I gamble for a living. Have I ever lost when the stakes were high?”

It took them less time to get back to the hangar at a flat run then it did to get to the corridor where she had seen Zak and Jaina with the stranger. When they did, Han and Chewbacca crouched on either side of the short hall to the blast doors in defensive positions while Luke, Leia and Tash dashed across the hangar, then followed them up the ramp into the Falcon’s main hold.

From there, three of the adults had returned to the cockpit while Leia manned the dorsal quad turret. Tash followed the others into the cockpit and sat down on the chair at the back of the cramped space.

“Where are they?” Han Solo said aloud.

Tash understood his confusion. When she looked out through the cockpit’s viewing ports, she couldn’t see any sign of the Imperial troopers that had blocked them off in the hallway. Why hadn’t they been followed back to the hangar by more stormtroopers?

“I don’t think they were after us,” Luke replied pointedly. “I think they were there to clear the way for Brakiss and to keep his prisoners secure from rescue.” Han rounded on Luke.

“I thought he was supposed to be dead!” he snapped in reply.

“Yes, he is supposed to be,” Luke mused meekly. “I thought he was. It’s obviously that I was mistaken about that. But how he could have managed it is beyond my understanding. There’s only been one person who ever survived what I saw became of him. And I’m pretty sure I didn’t leave him in much shape to be the second person.”

Tash had bristled at the name. She knew it; though clearly she had no personal history with the man quite like the Skywalker and Solo families had. And frankly, when Lando had told her and her brother about him during their stay on GemDiver, she had rejoiced that such a person had been reported dead. She didn’t want to have the same entanglements with him and his scheming, his plotting, his using of other people to further his agendas.

But now she was. She was irrevocably tied to this man through the simple act of Zak’s kidnapping. It was an injustice he would pay for, she was certain of it. And while she wished it would be her that would exact such justice, she knew it would not be so. But Luke Skywalker would not let her down. He would claim victory over this foe; of that she was also certain.

“Uh-oh,” Luke said, swivelling in his seat to look out through the cockpit viewport. “Well, we finally have company. I’m bringing the deflectors online.”

Tash saw them: stormtroopers; pouring through the now wide open blast doors and forming an arc around the front of the ship, bringing their rifles to bear. Some of them started firing.

Han nodded and flicked a few controls himself as Luke worked at the board in front of him. Solo held a hand to the earpiece on his headset for a moment.

“Blast those damned doors open, you pair,” Han said into the mic on his headset. “The sudden depressurisation of the bay should suck the debris—and with any luck the Imperials—out into space.”

“And us as well,” Luke pointed out.

“Do you distrust my piloting skills that much, Luke old buddy?” Han said with a nervous chuckle. “I should be able to use the stabilisers and the thrusters to keep us relatively stationary while everything else gets thrown out of the hangar,” he added. Luke didn’t reply. “I take that as an approval. Hang on, I’m taking off.”

“Retracting the landing gear,” Luke said.

Tash felt the ship lurch beneath her as it left the hangar deck and began to hover. She heard a loud clang as the loading ramp and the landing gear all snapped into place snug and tight against the Millennium Falcon’s hull, the entry hatch to the main hold sealing on automatic.

She grabbed hold of the back of Luke’s seat in front of her and held on tight as laser fire sounded from somewhere behind her and the doors blew forcefully open. The ship lurched in the direction of the gaping hole before stabilising and there was a loud rushing sound as the air and pressure from the hangar, and the connecting corridors through the open blast doors, was sucked out into space.

“See? I told you I could do it,” Solo’s proud voice sounded throughout the cockpit. Luke scoffed his reply, triggering a return laugh.

And then the Falcon took off, leaving the hangar and almost immediately having to dodge down under a TIE fighter as it entered open space.

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