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[FIN] Star Wars:The Beginning.


machievelli
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Youthful exuberance

 

“Well now that the details are settled, would you like an aperitif?” Sunrider asked.

 

Daysah stared at him. “You two have already planned to reprogram me like a new droid one second and the next asking if I want a drink?”

 

Corona shook his head. “I could have merely done it without informing you, now couldn’t I? The luxury suites aboard the ship have full pharmacopoeia already installed. You can heighten your sexual potency, go straight into a dreamless sleep, focus your memory on exactly what you are working on or lay in a stupor without having to leave your bed. They can also be controlled from that panel.” He waved toward the now hidden view screen. “You could have woken up a few hours from now, ecstatic that you were going to marry my nephew, and remembering everything I wanted you to remember. But Dasa seems to be overly fond of you.”

 

He leaned forward, thumbing a contact. “Two brandies and the lady will decide when they arrive.” Then his head came up, the cold look in his eyes. “As it is the only reason you are here and not below learning about Conoro’s little toys first hand, I suggest you simply thank me for my courtesy.”

 

The door opened, the droid rolling toward the table. Corona leaped to his feet. There were no brandy snifters. There was merely a small round ball.

 

“What the-” Dasa started to reach out.

 

“Don’t touch it!” Sundrider’s fingers barely touched the ball.

 

Daysah winced as a bright flash and concussion threw her out of her chair. An alarm screamed from everywhere as she tried to understand what had happened. She blinked, her eyes tearing from the harsh chemicals, and a hard hand caught her, dragging her to her feet. She was staggering, her course directed by the person pulling her. They entered the passageway, and the same hand pulled her relentlessly.

 

There was a rumble of footfalls from before her, and she was shoved against the wall. There was a scream, gunfire, then blessed silence. The hand caught her, and she was dragged forward again.

 

“What-”

 

“Hush girl.” Breia said. “We’re in a bit of a hurry here.” A door whooshed open, then Daysah felt the drop of a lift. “We have maybe three minutes before all hell breaks loose.”

 

Daysah shook her head. and it was as if a film poured down off her eyes. The blind Jedi Monk was looking upward, head cocked as if thinking. “How did you escape?”

 

“One advantage of being blind is that people always seem to underestimate you.” She replied coolly. The lift opened. “You have to run down the passageway. Three hatches down turn left, go one corridor then right. There is a double hatch ten meters farther on. Inside there is the Millennium Falcon. Get aboard, go to the cockpit, and look for a flashing red button. Punch it, then sit down and wait for us.”

 

“Why are you-”

 

Breia shoved her out. “Those men will be after you unless I lead them on a chase. If you do as I say nothing on this ship can touch you. Just watch out for irritated Mando.” The door slammed shut.

 

Daysah ran, following the directions. The hatch opened, and she felt the joy a relieved outpost feels at the sight of the ship. She ran up the ramp. From behind her she heard a shout, but she ignored it.

 

She ran into the cockpit her fist slamming down on the flashing red button. Before the viewport a group of men were running toward her. She recognized the Tokara Security uniforms, and didn’t need to identify the weapons to know she was in deep trouble. There was a hiss, the ramp coming up, then suddenly the auto-tracking board lit up. There was a thunder and the men dissolved in a red mist as the belly turret roared into life.

 

She sat stunned. On the board near her hand, she saw the guns tracking endlessly. The main hatch opened, and she winced, plugging her ears.

 

*****

 

The three fugitives watched from the woven coverings the Ithorians had supplied. Liberally sprinkled with mud and uprooted plants, the small pit was invisible.

 

An assault shuttle settled down on it’s legs, and men poured out to join the troops already on the ground. Tokara had been ready for this, Sanji saw. There were fifty men already here, and they had laid a standard minefield around their encampment. They had gotten the hole dug and concealed just in time.

 

“We can’t get through that!” Morant couldn’t scream and whisper simultaneously, but he gave it a good effort.

 

“If you do exactly what I say, we can.” Sanji whispered. “Notice they don’t expect an attack from here, do they?” Coor punched the smaller man in the arm. “He’s right. Every sensor is aimed at the tree line.”

 

Morant leaned up, looking. He had to admit it looked wrong. Not only were the sensor platforms aimed at the trees, but every head was turned that way as well. A man with a Commander’s bars waved, and all but the six men manning the two mortars moved forward.

 

“They’ll slaughter the Ithorians!”

 

“They won’t have time. Come on.” Sanji eeled up and forward, his head below the berm, and invisible. Coor followed. A moment later Morant moaned, and followed.

 

Sanji stopped and reached forward. He lifted a small hand held sensor. “Better and better.” He looked back at the two scientists. “They have them on command detonators. If you don’t touch a mine, you’re safe.” She knelt up into a high crawl, and moved forward. As he did he stuck small pieces of split wood that marked the mines. They had to follow a serpentine path, but ten minutes later, Sanji motioned them down, and peeked over the edge. He watched for several seconds, then moved back to the men less than five meters back.

 

“Keep moving, head straight for the shuttle.” Then he was moving up slithering over the edge of the berm without a pause. The two looked at each other, then moved to follow.

 

Sanji had risen, and moved toward the men. One of them looked up, stunned, but before he could shout Sanji threw the small knife he carried. The man choked, falling backward. The other two men at the mortar stared at him surprised, then back toward where Sanji was. But they didn’t see him. Yet.

 

Sanji drew his sword, leaping the five meters in one bound. Both men went down as he barreled past them into the second group. All six were down before Coor’s head popped up over the edge.

 

“What, you’re waiting for invitations?” Sanji hissed. He looked around, then found the control panel for the mine field. Six concentric rings, the outer ten meters from the edge if the berm, the inner right on the outer face of it. He picked up the microphone, and screamed.

 

“The camp is under attack!” He heard. He leaped straight upward. The men had turned, and even now they were pounding back toward the camp.

 

“Sanji!” He could hear the engines of the shuttle revving. They had to be closer.

 

“Sanji!” The first man was past the outer edge of the minefield. Sanji stood, watching.

 

“Damn it Sanji, we are Leaving!”

 

The first man was barely head up over the berm when Sanji flipped the switch, diving for cover.

 

The mines went off in ripples. The outer ring first. With a command still being issued the second ring went off, then the third, then with a bare pause each ring followed. One rolling thunder of death and destruction broken by one 10th of a second pauses.

 

The man, who Sanji could now see was the commander had dropped aiming his rifle even as the sixth and last ring flashed death and destruction. One of the mines was less than half a meter from him.

 

There was screaming, the crackle of secondary explosions as ammunition went up, the hiss of flames. Sanji stood, brushing himself off, and walked up to the edge of the berm. Except for several badly wounded men, no one moved between him and the forest line. He walked calmly to the shuttle, passing Morant, who was standing higher, and could clearly see the devastation.

 

“No. Now we’re leaving.” Sanji said. He walked forward, flipping the switches. “Thank you for warming the ship up for me.”

 

Coor simply stared at him as the shuttle leaped into the air.

 

*****

 

The engine crew turned as the hatch suddenly fell. Two figures stepped through. “Move and you’re dead!” One of them shouted.

 

Anak clicked the selector to Armor piercing, and aimed, putting one round into and through the control panel one of the men had leaped toward. Everyone froze in shock.

 

Sev smiled, the short beam cutter held even with his hip as if it were a machine gun at assault position. “Now we were told to try not to kill anyone, and we’re going to oblige our Yuru’ike in that. However she didn’t say we couldn’t kill you if you got in our way. You’re choice.”

 

The men moved into a clump, cowering back.

 

“Very good. You.” Sev pointed at the shift duty officer. “I need a full schematic of the ship’s decks. Everything. Just in case you forget-” He aimed, adjusted the setting, and a magnetic beam snapped out. The boy pulled the cutter left. One of the lift and drive engine manifolds shrieked, falling into pieces.

 

“Now think of what happens if I accidentally cut a fuel line or tank? We don’t all want to die, do we?”

 

The officer walked carefully over to a panel, downloading the information onto a pad. He held it out, and Sev walked forward, taking it. “Now I want all of you to run like hell. I would suggest toward the nearest escape pod bay.”

 

Without being told again, the men bolted.

 

Ade, they’ll call for help.” Anak said.

 

“So? She said we could defend ourselves.”

 

Anak considered. “Can we hope they call in a lot of reinforcements?”

 

“I would.” Sev checked the holographic projection, then walked toward the door they had sliced free entering. “What is the record for totally dismantling a ship from the inside?”

 

“I don’t think there is one.”

 

Sev set the beam, slicing it first right at knee level, then left at just above his shoulder. Panels fell apart, sparks flying. Alarms began sounding. He grinned. “There will be when we’re done.”

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When in danger when in doubt...

 

“Shut off those damn alarms!” Captain Magtyar roared. He loosened the buttons of his uniform, then with a curse he ripped the tunic off. “Report!”

 

Janos Tor at the security panel started talking immediately. “Someone attempted to assassinate Vice President Corona and his nephew. They failed but they did kidnap Professor Shani.”

 

“I thought she was aboard the Frigate.”

 

“No sir, she came across on yesterday’s shuttle.” Tor lied smoothly. He was sweating. “Then we have reports that the automated defense system of the Company supply ship was accidentally activated without someone aboard to shut it down. We have seventeen dead and thirty wounded down there. We had a vague report from engineering about maniacs. Now structural sensors in sections 15 and 13 have reported extensive damage.” He paused, checking his console. “Correction. Section fifteen sensor report that all five decks have collapsed. Ship is no longer structurally sound for flight. Section 13... The same for thirteen. Both sections are total losses.”

 

“What are they using? Explosives?”

 

“No sir. The engineers reported that one of them was armed with a short beam cutter.”

 

“Maniacs are right!” Magtyar turned, pointing at his exec. “Pahner. Head toward the docking bay. I don’t care if you have to blow the hatches get that damn ship out of there.” Pahner nodded, running out. “Toki, lead an assault team. Take out those maniacs before they get to the Mall.” The third officer nodded, running out. “Brekor, take a team and find those assassins.” Magtyar turned toward communications. “Where are the security troops we brought?”

 

“They were staged to the surface, sir. VP Corona’s orders.”

 

“Fine time for that. Contact their shuttle...”

 

As his voice thumped out orders, the panic that had been building leveled off then faded.

 

*****

 

Daysah stared through the view ports in horror. She didn’t know how many times they had sent men in to try to stop the ship, but there were bodies and parts of bodies everywhere. She brought the engines on line, but stopped when she did. It wasn’t like she was in free space! The hull of the lighter ship would crumple into foil long before the behemoth’s hull even knew it had been kissed!

 

Suddenly lights began flashing. What the hell-

 

“Warning! Decompression in ten seconds. Nine, eight, seven-” she squeaked, grabbing the restraint harness, putting it on, the last buckle closing as the countdown reached zero. There was a thud and the loading hatches blew free, propelling the ship and several tons of cargo into space.

 

*****

 

“Keep together.” The security sergeant ordered. His team of five had debouched a deck below the Company quarters. The point man lifted his rifle, using his scanner.

 

“Sarge, according to this, the intruder is right here!”

 

“Piece of-” Breia dropped from where she had been waiting, arms and legs pinned against opposite bulkheads, her feet coming down to pile drive the sergeant into the deck. He finger tapped, and the metal sleeves covering the blades of her sword snapped back. She cut twice, once forward, then back. The man behind the sergeant stared at the pistol grip that was all that he still held of his rifle. Forward the point man clutched his wrist where the blade had cut him just deep enough to sever the muscles, rendering his hand useless. The other two backed, dropping their weapons frantically.

 

“Cuffs.” She snapped. The unwounded man pulled his cuffs off his belt, holding them out in mute offering. Breia took them, cuffing that man to the sergeant’s left arm, using the cuffs from the point man to cuff his uninjured hand to the Sergeant’s right. She motioned the other two over, took their cuffs, and threaded them so that all five men were jammed together and cuffed tight.

 

She tapped the button, the sleeves dropping to hide the blades again. Now let’s see, two levels up to the Bridge, with any luck she would reach it without too much trouble. She stepped onto the lift, shooting upward.

 

Ten meters from the bridge she stopped, head cocked. She pulled a tenth meter long dart from her boot, stepping around the corner to throw. Fifteen meters away, the gunner on the chain gun they were setting up on it’s tripod gaped as the dart punched into the feed tray, jamming it. She sighed. “The only kind of luck there is are dumb, blind and bad.” She commented. The sleeves popped back. “Shall we dance?“

 

As the gunner frantically tried to clear the jam the two men with him drew their swords, charging.

 

*****

 

“It’s my turn.” Anak said.

 

“In a minute. Sev was trying to puzzle out the schematic. They were down on the number 2 deck, second from the bottom. What kind of idiot numbers decks 01 02, then one two and three? He mused. The tank was marked with a brown sigil he had never seen before. Of course, he didn’t read Coruscanti that well.

 

Down the passageway, someone stuck his head around the corner low to the deck. The barrel of a rifle inched around the corner.

 

Anak thumbed the selector to flechette, and triggered a burst. There was a scream and some shouting. “Why should I wait?”

 

“All right, set your beamer, and give me a tick.” The two boys exchanged their weapons, Sev slinging his short beam and readying his Rage III. Anak doing the same thing in reverse. The younger boy set the beam for maximum extension, starting a cut left to right at knee level. A brown liquid spurted from the cut as he reversed to cut right to left.

 

“I said wait-” The wall exploded outward, a brown flood with a horrible stench filled the passageway, slamming them into the port side bulkhead.

 

Di’kut!" Sev shouted. He held out the pad. “Your Coruscanti is better. What does that say?”

 

“Sewage tank.” Anak read. "What is a sewer tank?” Sev wiped the mess from his legs, sticking it toward his compatriot. “Oh.”

 

“We had better hustle. Cut us a place to climb out, fast!.”

 

Anak raised his short beam, and sliced quickly. Since he had not reset the beam length, they ducked as not one but two sheets of sliced out decking fell spraying waste everywhere. “what’s the hurry?”

 

“That tank?” Sev jerked a thumb at the flood as he leaped upward. “It goes up three more decks!”

 

*****

 

“Shuttle 821. Emergency. Come alongside the ship at the starboard entry way. Prepare for boarding action aboard ship.”

 

Sanji clicked the microphone instead of answering, turning to approach the Tokara vessel. Morant at the second console turned in shock. “Are you out of your mind?” He screamed.

 

“That ship has five chain guns, one aft and two on either broadside, and two missile tubes, one on each broadside. It also has a heavy projectile gun forward. If we try to break past them they will blow us to hell. There is only one way to make sure they don’t kill us.”

 

“How is that?” Coor asked from the communications panel. Sanji answered by flipping a pair of switches. The weapons panel in front of Morant came alive.

 

“Are you insane?” Morant gasped.

 

“Insane is trying to outrun the bullets.” Sanji replied in a reasonable tone. “There is a targeting caret. Place it on the target, press this button-”

 

“This button?” Morant tapped it. The cannon fired, shells exploding against the other ship’s flanks. Air gushed from the breached compartments.

 

Sanji rolled the ship. “Now if you target their weapons instead of just pushing buttons...”

 

Morant hastily found the diamond shape, moving it onto a red spot on the hull. “That’s-”

 

“A chain gun. Tap the lock and fire!”

 

Morant tapped the buttons, and the small chain gun in the nose tracked as it fired almost 100 rounds into the ship. There was a puff of air, then a blast of flame.

 

“Hit! Now switch forward to the missile!”

 

A few moments later, the missile tube and the other gun had been destroyed. Sanji hit the retro thrusters bringing them to a stop. There was a flash, and something went past the view port. One of the hull sections ahead of them exploded outward. A mass of crates spewed out, followed by-

 

“Millennium Falcon, this is shuttle 821. Who is aboard?”

 

“This is Professor Shani. Who is this?”

 

“Sanji Gretu of the Jedi order, professor. Give me a minute, I need to clear our way out of here."

 

He turned to the weapons console. “Now since you warned them, this is tricky. We have four missiles, and this is how we need to use them...”

 

Tokara, like every company that made weapons, built them with specific missions in mind. As an example the chain guns were quite sufficient for destroying assault shuttles out to half a light second. They could spike a flying insect at half that range.

 

However the guns did have a drawback. They were direct fire weapons. They had to have a target in line of sight to aim at.

 

Missiles such as the large model 4s that were in the Requiem’s magazine had a range of over a light minute. They could track and home onto a target and follow it as long as they had fuel. The model 9s aboard the shuttle had an additional capability since the designer had forseen that you could be this close to an enemy vessel...

 

Already warned, and knowing they had an enemy close to their hull, the gunners immediately slewed their guns to cover the least time approach from it’s last reported location.

 

With five targets, Sanji had to take a big chance. The missiles were launched at approaches off that optimum least time, and still within the seeker envelopes, a difference of about 30 degrees off target.

 

All four missiles leaped out simultaneously. The missile tube exploded in a gout of fire, followed by the heavy projectile weapon, then the forward surviving cannon. The gunners on the other two guns immediately worked out what was happening, and set their guns for self defense, the aft firing chain gun blowing the missile fifty meters away. But as they did the Shuttle raced around the least time curve, gun slamming into the emplaced weapon.

 

“Professor, head directly toward their stern! “Sanji ordered, leaping up. “Take over!” He shouted at Morant as he charged aft. “Put us between the Falcon and that damn gun!”

 

There were half a dozen pallets locked down on the magnetic rollers. Enough supplies to keep the security force they had decimated in action for a week or more. Sanji checked the pallets.

 

As he had anticipated, the shuttle was designed for what is called parachute low level delivery. With a touch of a button the rear clamshell doors would snap open, and a parachutes would be deployed, dragging the pallets out and onto the ground as the shuttle raced by at about 200 KPH.

 

He unlocked the magnetic bearings. Then cut all of the bindings with his sword. He caught a stanchion, whispered a prayer, and slammed his hand down on the emergency release.

 

The gun started tracking on the Falcon, but immediately chose the shuttle because it was an offensive vehicle. But before it could open fire, the targeting system was overloaded as hundreds of boxes poured from the stern of the shuttle.

 

The gun immediately opted for a subroutine, targeting by distance, closest outward. It immediately began destroying the boxes one per shot. It was fifteen seconds and 200 boxes before the gunners could disengage, then retarget the ships. By then they had ducked behind the frigate.

 

*****

 

Sev sliced open the bulkhead, and stepped into wonder. The mall stretched up four decks from where they were. Anak looked up, then at his war-brother. “Together?”

 

“Oh definitely.” They both unslung their short beams.

 

*****

 

Magtyar turned, ready to shout, then gaped as Breia stepped onto the bridge. “You’re dead! We killed you!”

 

“You blew up a ship, but it wasn’t mine. Corona has my ship down on deck five-”

 

“Had.” Magtyar broke in. “We jettisoned it when the security system activated.”

 

“I only hope Professor Shani is up to flying her. The ship tends to pull right on docking thrusters.” She walked toward him, then paused, looking toward Tor at the security console. “Since your man has already called him, I think we should wait for Mr. Corona.”

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Cover up

 

“Sir! Two pirate vessels are approaching!” The sensor officer aboard Duroc painted the targets red.

 

“Stand down!” Antilles roared. He turned toward the sensor officer. “Stand down, Mr. Queek.”

 

“But sir, they attacked the Tokara Requiem!”

 

“Sir, the lead ship is trying to contact us.” The com officer shouted.

 

“They’re trying to confuse us, sir!” Queek pleaded. “All weapons-”

 

“If you finish that order, I will kill you.” Antilles warned. Queek looked at his Admiral, then turned back to his console. “All Weap-” The panel sparked as a bullet plowed into it.

 

“I said I will kill you. There will be no further warnings.”

 

“Sir!” The com officer flipped a switch, the call coming over the speakers.

 

“Shani aboard Millennium Falcon. Admiral, Corona admitted to murdering-”

 

“Fire!” Queek screamed. Antilles turned smoothly, his weapon coming up. The next bullet blew Queek’s body over the console.

 

One of the defensive guns opened fire, the shuttle staggering before Antilles could regain order.

 

“Emergency rescue teams, get aboard that shuttle, now!” He ordered. “Have Millennium Falcon brought aboard.”

 

Docking bay open. The ship is- Crap!” The ship crumpled as it veered right, spinning to crash on the deck.

 

Antilles ran through the passageways, stopping at the carnage on his deck. A team were cutting into the Falcon. Beyond the force field of the entry hatch, he could see the rescue team jetting back, towing stretchers.

 

“Report.”

 

The team leader turned. “She’s pretty badly banged up, sir. But it is definitely the Millennium Falcon.”

 

“The crew?”

 

“Professor Shani was banged up, but should recover.” He held his hand to his ear. “The rescue team reporting. Three occupants. One dead, two wounded.”

 

*****

 

Sev ran down one side of the atrium, Anak down the opposite side. As they passed each supporting pillar they stopped, making a figure eight whip, slicing the supports through top and bottom. They reached the forward end of the mall, and set down their short beams. Anak ducked as someone on an upper deck fired down at them. He switched to armor piercing.

 

“Anak-”

 

The boy fluidly lifted the weapon, aimed not at the man shooting at them, but farther forward. His rifle coughed, and there was an explosion far overhead. Like a glittering missile the chandelier plummeted down four decks, slamming with a crash onto the sculpture in the center of the atrium. Shards of the crystal rattled off the supports, and two were knocked free as heavier shrapnel took it’s toll.

 

“Was there a reason for that?” Sev asked.

 

“Artistic freedom. That was a really bad sculpture.”

 

Sev sighed, setting his rifle for armor piercing as well. “Now!”

 

Both boys fired, each at different pillars. The shells penetrated, then exploded, shattering the supports one by one. They had gone only halfway to where they were when there was a creaking and groaning sound from above. They ran forward as several million credits of shops crashed into the lower deck. A bank machine slammed into the deck, and suddenly high denomination notes began spewing from it’s ruptured insides.

 

“Well we’re rich, brother.” Sev joked.

 

“Can’t spend it when we’re dead.” Anak replied. They shrugged and picked up their short beams again.

 

*****

 

Corona stalked onto the bridge, glaring at the Jedi. He walked over, and swung backhanding her onto the deck.

 

“Do you know what this ship cost?” He screamed.

 

“More than it is worth now.” Breia replied, wiping her mouth.

 

Corona screamed, snatching up a pistol, pointing it at the woman with a quivering hand. “We are going to call those maniacs of your off!”

 

“Why?” She rolled to her knees, standing. “They are having so much fun.”

 

Corona stepped forward, catching her robe and slamming the woman against the wall. “They will stop or you will die!”

 

“All they have been doing is punishing you for insulting them.” Breia answered. “That and having a bit of fun. You want to see what they will do if they get angry instead?”

 

“Sir, put her down.” Magtyar said softly.

 

“Shut up, Captain. You work for me!” Corona had lost any shred of calm he might have possessed. Foam flecked his lips, and his teeth gleamed like a hunting predator. “They may have fun. but you won’t live to enjoy it!”

 

The gun came up, and Breia’s hand moved. The knife she held was only 75 mm long. But she had forged the blade herself. It went through muscle, bone, and the grip without even slowing down. Corona stared at the hand as the blade came back, removing three of the fingers from the other hand, forcing him to let go.

 

Breia stepped back from the bloody fountains. “Mr. Sunrider, I would suggest you either use that gun, or help him.” She looked up at the young man. He stood undecided.

 

“Kill her Dasa. Kill them all!”

 

“No Uncle.” Sunrider dropped the weapon. “It’s over. We lost.”

 

“You fool!” Corona screamed, leaping to his feet. pounding the stumps of his hands on his nephew’s chest. “We have money, we won’t lose!”

 

Dasa pinned the arm with the missing hand. Magtyar stepped forward, catching the other.

 

“Magtyar, a million credits. Just kill that-”

 

“Money doesn’t mean anything to me.” Magtyar snapped. “Not if it means a death sentence.”

 

Breia turned to Tor. “Surrender, and you will be granted justice.”

 

Tor stood frozen. Then his hand went for his pistol. There was a shot, and he collapsed backwards, a hole the size of a fist in his chest. Dasa dropped the gun he had snatched up, turning back to his uncle.

 

*****

 

The shuttle landed in what was left of docking bay one of Tokara Requiem. The soldiers spread out as Admiral Antilles marched down the ramp. The people there to meet him were bloody but unbowed. Captain Magtyar and what was left of his crew, Breia, and Dasa Sunrider. Two men carried a litter with a screaming lump in it. There were thuds from aft, and he looked up at the noise.

 

“What in the name of all the gods has been happening here?”

 

“I am sorry, we just called the boys, and they have stopped dismantling the ship.” Breia replied. “That I believe was the first class swimming pool.”

 

“Admiral, as the senior-” Magtyar began

 

“Captain, it is my last act, allow me the privilege.” Dasa said. The captain waved graciously. “Admiral, as the senior representative of the company in the system, I request that you assist Professor Shani in communicating with the native species below. I now turn myself over to you for judgment.”

 

Antilles looked at him coldly, then walked past them to the litter, drawing his sidearm. Corona’s eyes fixed on him, though he obviously didn’t recognize the admiral. “Ten million credits.” He husked. “Kill the Jedi, we’ll cover it all up. They’ll never arrest us. We make the laws after all...” He fell to mumbling, then his eyes locked on the Admiral again. “Fifteen million. Kill the Jedi, we’ll cover it all up. They’ll never arrest us. We make the laws after all...”

 

Antilles turned away, holstering the weapon. “Put them aboard the shuttle. Captain, damage estimate?”

 

“Over half the ship has been gutted.” Magtyar could barely keep the pleasure from his voice. “Engines destroyed, everything except fuel tanks and electrical mains gone aft of the mall. I would classify her as a total loss.”

 

Antilles hid his grin. “Then we’ll have to salvage it, won’t we?” He turned to Breia. “One of my men, the sensor officer was in their employ. I am afraid the shuttle and your ship have been damaged.”

 

“Oh dear.” Breia felt a chill.

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Loss and gain

 

Breia moved toward the table. The figure didn’t move. She reached down, running her hands across the forehead. “Oh Sanji.” she whispered.

 

“Stop playing with my Lekku unless you mean it.” Sanji gasped. His lungs felt like they were on fire. The last thing he remembered was the cargo spilling out into space.

 

“Maybe I do.” She joked, sitting beside him. “What have I told you about trying to breathe vacuum?”

 

He tried to chuckle but it turned into a wracking cough. “Nothing I remember.”

 

“That’s because I forgot. The thing to remember about breathing vacuum is; don’t.”

 

“I considered that at the time.” He gasped. “Maybe if you had told me before I wouldn’t have tried.”

 

“You are such a silly young boy. Get some rest. You’ve had a busy day.”

 

“Wait. The scientists. I failed them.”

 

“Failed them how?” She snapped. “You are alive because Professor Coor ran back, to drag you into the cockpit. Didn’t know that there were emergency air masks every two meters, did you?”

 

“I must have missed the briefing.”

 

"Good thing for you Professor Coor didn‘t. He strapped an emergency walk around tank on you before you’d done too much damage to yourself. But Sanji, if he hadn’t gone to rescue you he’d be dead.“

 

“What?“

 

“While he was doing that, a traitor aboard the Frigate opened fire. Ton Morant was killed when they blew the cockpit right off the ship. Coor caught some shrapnel that would have killed you.”

 

“I failed.” He whispered. “I failed Morant, I failed you. I murdered so many men down there.” He turned away, tears of shame running down his face.

 

She wordlessly touched his cheek.

 

*****

 

Daysah Shani walked into the brig. Behind the force field Dasa Sunrider sat, looking at the floor. She walked over to stand before it. After a moment, the prisoner looked up.

 

“Professor.” Sunrider looked away.

 

“Breia told me what you did.” She said softly. “Surrendering. Killing the man that tried to kill her.”

 

“Maybe being around people like you and her has rubbed off on me.” He joked. He wiped his face with his hands. “I have to tell them the truth. I have to... I have to atone for my sins.”

 

“For following a lunatic?” Shani asked. “Did you kill those ships along with him? Did you order the deaths of those men?”

 

“No.” Dasa whispered. “But I knew and did nothing.” He looked up. “Maybe when they are done with me I can see you again. Maybe that man will be worth your time.”

 

“You silly man, if I hadn’t liked you I would have told you to jet off when you wanted to take me on a tour.” She sighed. “After the trial, we’ll talk again.”

 

“Yeah. After.” He sat in silence as she left.

 

*****

 

The Mando ship snuggled up against the Duroc. The captain stepped aboard, looking around. “Impressive, but I bet we could out maneuver her.” He commented. He saw the woman waiting for him. “Captain Johara Vau, Clan Ordo.” He said saluting. “I have come for my brother.”

 

Breia motioned for him to follow. “We were unsure what they should record on their Soochir.” She said.

 

“Battles and conquests.” Johara snarled. “Nothing else is worth recording."

 

“Then let us speak with him, and let them tell it.”

 

The Millennium Falcon looked as if she had come in second place in a collision, which was in fact the truth. The starboard mandible had been shattered and crushed to half it’s size, collapsed forward to where it scraped the deck. The starboard main gear had been shattered as well, the oleo struts slammed halfway through the deck by her mass. Breia walked up the slanted ramp, leaning as if she’d always boarded this way. In the mess deck, the boys stood resplendent in their full kit.

 

“Soochin. Brother.”

 

“Elder brother.” Anak bowed.

 

“Boys. Tell of what you did.”

 

*****

 

“What are the losses?” The chairman asked. He looked out of the fiftieth floor window at the city skyline.

 

“The Requiem has been declared a total loss.” The new Vice President of Shipping reported. “It would cost us more to bring the hulk home than the salvage charges. It would be cheaper to declare her a dead loss where she is.”

 

“Meera?”

 

“Almost a total loss. Over a hundred dead, fifteen earthmovers destroyed or so badly damaged that they might as well be destroyed.” The Vice President in charge of Commerce reported. “The hotel is set back at least a decade.”

 

The door swung open, and a small woman marched in, followed by Admiral Antilles. The chairman turned his chair back, glaring at the secretary that squirmed in Antilles’ grip. “What is the meaning of this?” He growled.

 

“This Jedi Monk and the Admiral wanted to speak to the board, and when I tried to stop them...” The man gestured with his head toward the arm lock. “They didn’t take no for an answer.”

 

“Have your say, and leave. The company has pressing business.” The chairman snarled.

 

“They have more than business to worry about if I don’t have my say.” Breia retorted. She looked at the men. Was there even a scintilla of good in them? She walked along the table, stopping beside the chairman. “Gentlemen, I have a deposition from Professor Daysah Shani of the University of Coruscant. She has some interesting things to discuss with the Galactic Trade Authority. Murder, fomenting the destruction of vessels that belong to rival corporations. Trade irregularities that well have your stock in the penny column by the end of the day.”

 

“Whatever Suli Corona might have done-” The Vice President of Shipping stopped as a blade suddenly lunged toward him, stopping 25 centimeters from his nose.

 

“I will talk, you will listen. That means mouths shut.” Breia said coolly. “I can have every member of this board in court for the next century with all of the proven irregularities. Care to bet who will win?” She looked around the table.

 

“The problem is, you’re not the best example of Coruscanti business, but you’re not the worst either. Removing your company will leave others just as bad if not worse out there. The Admiral had decided to set aside the vengeance he feels is owed for his son’s life. Assuming this board can come to an accord with me.”

 

The chairman looked at the extended blade which had not moved from the Vice President, staying exactly that distance, level and perfectly still. He licked his lips. “What do you propose, Jedi?”

 

“Meera is no longer property. The company will foreswear all claim to the system.”

 

“Agreed.”

 

“The Ithorians are interested in obtaining some technology. Specifically repulsor lift. You will give it to them.”

 

“For a reasonable-” The chairman stopped talking as Breia’s face turned toward him. “Free. An orbital factory.”

 

“Then there is the matter of some construction. The Ithorians don’t mind visitors. They would just prefer that they act like guests, not rapacious monsters. The people of Ithor have agreed to allow an orbital hotel, owned and operated by Tokara. In return they want something built. A floating city capable of sustaining one third of their population with a fair and honest price schedule for the construction of two more within the decade. The first will be built with the promise of payment paid for with medicinal herbs they will supply at fair market value.” She slowly leaned back onto her feet, the sword dropping to low port. “In return for that concession, they have agreed not to take Tokara to court and demand one trillion credits. Admiral Antilles and Professor Shani have agreed not to pursue the matter further. The Jedi will agree to let it be.” She looked around the table. “The only alternative is for all of this to become public. No one will care that some man did this, whether he had approval or not. Even trying to prove it in court could be slippery.” She touched the stud, the blades folding, and she sheathed the weapon.

 

“Shall I tell them your decision?”

 

*****

 

Sanji gasped, leaning against the bulkhead. His lungs were healing, but even this short walk had winded him badly. The treadmill stopped as he did, so he didn’t face the indignity of being dragged onto the deck again.

 

“There you are.” Breia snapped tartly. “The entire council came from the Monastery to judge you, and you are playing in the recreation deck.”

 

“Judge me-” Sanji gasped, then coughed, his shoulders shaking with pain.

 

“Yes, judge you. Now come with me.” She caught his arm, throwing it over her shoulders. “I can’t leave you alone for a minute.” She growled, dragging him into the passageway.

 

The pair walked down the passageway, entering a large area set aside for briefings. Silent, the full council, all twelve sat, watching.

 

“Sanji Gretu, you are called to judgment for your actions on Meera-”

 

“Ithor.” Breia snapped, taking her seat. Sanji stood in the center alone.

 

“You are correct. Let the record show that Meera is now declared to be Ithor, the name the natives have given it.” Master Hontu corrected. “If we may continue Breia?”

 

“Of course, Berol.” she replied.

 

“You are charged with abandoning your master, fomenting a rebellion along with two scientists, decimating a fifty man landing force, and attacking a private company vessel destroying her armament.” Hontu looked at the young man. “Did you do these things?”

 

“I didn’t foment a rebellion. And as for abandoning my master, I was attempting to escape capture.”

 

“A technicality.” Hontu snapped. “I have never seen such arrogance in a student in my life!” He stood, storming down the steps to confront the younger man. Sanji straightened, looking down at the master.

 

“If you’re going to keep doing things like this, there is only one thing I can think to do about it. Are we agreed?” He turned to face the other masters.

 

Sanji looked at the faces. Human, Hutt, Twi-lek, Gram. They all looked at each other, then nodded. He looked at Breia, who also nodded, his heart sinking.

 

“Breia, he’s your student. You announce the judgment.” Hontu returned to his seat.

 

She stood, walking down to stand facing him. “As master Hontu has said, I have never seen such arrogance in a student in my life. So to make sure it doesn’t happen again, I will pass judgment. Will you accept my decision?”

 

Sanji nodded, closing his eyes.

 

“As the representative of the council, and your master, I strip you of the rank of Apprentice. From this day forward, you will be Padawan Teacher Gretu.” His eyes snapped open. She reached out, and he silently took her hand. “Next time try not to leave another of the order out there all alone. Now go away, and celebrate. The council has to decide which mission you have to undertake when an apprentice has been assigned to you.”

 

“Apprentice?”

 

“Of course you young twit. You can’t be my pilot forever. You have your own duties, as I have mine.” She sniffed. “First I have to get my ship repaired. So go on.”

 

*****

 

Aboard the Mando corvette Dhalmarta, Captain Johara Vau stood. “In circle we sit, to tell of our battles, and victories. Tonight we have a new voice in the circle. Tell us ade Anak Vau of Clan Ordo. Tell us of the gutting of the Tokara Requiem.”

 

The warriors looked at their youngest member as he stood up. “Listen brothers of war as I tell you of my first victory. The one I share with Sev Soochin of clan Ordo.

 

“We had been captured by the Hut’uun of the Tokara Company... “

 

*****

 

Sanji walked slowly. His lungs would never fully recover, he knew that. But he didn’t let them slow him much. He looked at the sleek five man ship he had been given with pride. It was not the Millennium Falcon, but at least it wasn’t being repaired.

 

He walked up the ramp, then paused. There was a thump of a rock hitting the side of the ship, and he walked around it slowly. He had never seen anyone of the small creature’s race before. Green skinned, long pointed ears, tridactyl hands and feet. The being was sitting in meditation ten meters from the ship. As Sanji watched, the little being looked down, a stone lifting into the air, then shooting forward toward the ship to ring against the hull plating.

 

“May I ask you what you are doing?” He asked.

 

“Ask you may, Padawan teacher.” The little being replied. “Bored I am with study. Pilot I heard you need.” He looked up, standing. “Yodai I am. Apprentice I am.”

 

“And bouncing rocks off my ship was the only way you could think of to get my attention?”

 

“Worked did it not?”

 

He sighed, shaking his head. Of all the arrogance-

 

Just like I was all those years ago.

 

“Get aboard.”

 

Sanji walked down toward the monastery. As he passed the rooms, he could hear snippets.

 

“Language is communication, whether it is body language, sound, moving of the fingers, smell, or a combination of them...” Master Mogo was saying.

 

A few steps farther he paused.

 

“As you progress within the order, there will come a time where all you can depend on is your blade.

 

“You are children, but this you must understand. Steel is pure in it’s honesty. It cares not for your values, or your beliefs. It will protect you only as long as you are honest to it as well.

 

“To become a full Jedi monk, you must master the blade. Any can master the single blade, few will master two blades. But only a true warrior of the heart will ever master the blade staff.” There was a clicking snap. “It is not to say that using a single blade is weak. Just that if you wish to stay and learn the twin blade and blade staff, you must show more heart.

 

“Now, each of you pick up a dull steel practice blade. I warn you now that it will be painful, but-”

 

“Master?” a voice asked.

 

“Hmn?” Sanji looked at the small human girl. She looked to be about six or seven.

 

“You are late for class, master.”

 

“So I am. And you are?"

 

“Breia, master. Breia Solo.”

 

“Ah. I have heard of you.” Sanji walked on, entering the courtyard he had been assigned. He sat, easing his form into a meditation seat. He looked at the expectant faces. Young Solo sitting off to one side.

 

“The art of concealment is sometimes necessary. There are those that can be convinced you are not there. But this is not something you can merely be told of. It is something you will practice in the coming years.

 

“Now I wish you all to meditate. As you do, I want you to focus on a single thought. That you cannot be seen. You are a wraith...”

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