Jedi Destiny I: Hate of the Jedi

Chapter 8

DUSK SPACE STATION; 28 LIGHT YEARS CORE-SIDE OF THE M’HAELI SYSTEM

Far away from Yavin 4, a space station spun like a slow-moving, massively upscale spinning top in an otherwise mostly empty sector of space. The planets or moons were light years away in the M’haeli star system, and there no asteroid or debris fields, or nebula clouds. Orbiting the station protectively was an Imperial II Star Destroyer—the Tantalus—and above the station in a purely defensive position was the Interdictor, named after the class of destroyer it was.

The command deck of the space station was darkened by the absence of glow panels, and the only lights that could be found were coming from the readout screens to the port, starboard and rear of the deck.

Standing at the fore-end of the deck, looking out through the thick transparisteel at the stars around the bulk of the circling Tantalus, was a man in a tunic coloured the darkest of purples, a thick black cape pinned to the shoulders of his tunic and lined silver. His features were hidden from view by the darkness obscuring most of the deck, and even though he was close to the viewscreen, the pinpricks of light from distant stars, and the running lights of the nearby destroyers were not powerful enough to reach him and reveal his face.

He was more than just the commanding officer of the entire station, and his authority was enough that the commanders of the two destroyers and the Grand Admiral also on the station would follow his orders as if they were from the lips of Palpatine himself. The man had been summoned from his slumber to the deck by the subordinates on duty in regards to an incoming communication that had been put on hold. However, there was a delay in reconnecting with the communicating team due to an ion storm that had crossed the invisible line between the station and their location.

Under other circumstances, the man dressed in black and purple would have ignored the communication altogether and insisted that they call back at a time of his pleasing. And under those circumstances, he might even have killed an officer or two in response to the delay. But he was the master of his emotions, and the team that was contacting him was leader of a retrieval squad he had sent out several weeks ago to the jungles of Yavin 4.

And the Yavin mission had the utmost priority.

There were, however, drawbacks to the mission that he was not impressed about; mostly regarding the officer in command of it.

A few of the people on the squad were mercenaries, guns for hire that had been asked to join the squad of stormtroopers because of their expertise in subterfuge and kidnapping. They had been paid many thousands of credits apiece to bring their expertise to the retrieval squad’s commander, but the commander himself did not want such riffraff around, regardless of what expertise they could bring to the operation.

When the order had been issued, the lieutenant had argued with his superior regarding the logic of sending them on this mission.

He had been appropriately punished for his outburst.

The man in the darkness expected nothing less than unquestioning loyalty from those he commanded. His goal to subvert Luke Skywalker would not be jeopardised due to the inane attitudes and actions of one man, and in turn, the men and women under his command.

“Sir, we’ve got the signal back,” the young man at the comm. station reported abruptly, tearing his superior away from his thoughts.

The man turned and strode across the blackened deck without needing to see where he was putting his feet and stopped behind the comm. officer. With the wave of his hand, the holoscreen flickered to life to show the face of the commanding officer of the retrieval operation on Yavin 4. His crisp, dark grey uniform contrasted strongly against the greens and purples of the jungle behind him, and from his superior’s own time on the moon himself, he determined from the thickness of the underbrush and the composition that the team was not too far from the Jedi Praxeum, but far enough to avoid detection.

“Sire,” the lieutenant started, bowing his head respectfully. His face gave away the fear and uncertainty he felt as he spoke. He had been punished for his attitude before, and was obviously anxious of another such encounter. The shrouded man also noted confidence and pride. Dangerous commodities in a commodity.

“You are in position?” he asked the lieutenant.

“We are, My Lord,” the reply came swiftly. “We have had the structure under observation for the past month since setting up the sensor deflector net around the camp. I do apologise for the communications delay, but we could not broadcast while the Millennium Falcon was still in the sector and there were some other unexpected instances that we had to account for.”

“Very well,” the shrouded man said with a sigh. He ignored the information about the “unexpected instances”. They were secondary. “Have you gained confirmation on the target?”

“We have, your Lordship,” the officer replied after a second. “Though, obtaining the target may prove a little more difficult than originally anticipated.”

“Difficulty, Lieutenant,” said the shrouded man, reaching across the stars with his mind, “is what you will encounter if you fail in this mission, or if you fail to carry out my orders to the best of your ability!”

On screen, the lieutenant gasped and reached for his neck. He clawed at it, gagging and spluttering, as if trying to pry away something that was choking him, depriving him of much-needed oxygen. His face turned an interesting shade of red, and then darkened to purple, and started to turn blue. But there was nothing there; nothing save the power of the dark side of the Force.

“Am I understood?” The man at the other end of the transmission nodded and relaxed as the Force user released his hold and allowed oxygen to rush down the man’s throat into his lungs. The lieutenant doubled over and started to take in deep, rasping breaths. “So be sure that you do not fail me.”

Ignoring the comm. officer altogether, the man waved his hand to shut off the holoscreen and turned his back on it.

“We have a second transmission already awaiting you,” the communications officer said steadily. “It’s coming from Bastion on an encrypted frequency with an Alpha-one-Theta clearance requirement—keyed for your eyes only, sir.”

The dark man glanced over his shoulder at the young man before heading for the lift banks to the rear of the deck. “Route it through to the holocomm in my quarters and secure the line,” he said.

He stepped into a lift tube and dropped down out of sight.

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