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View Full Version : In the Emperor's Shadow (Part 1)



Tao
19 October 2005, 08:24 AM
This is the first part of a novella set in the time immediately after the destruction of the second Death Star. It features Kai Naberrie (who will later be revealed to be Padme's nephew) and Daska Lane, a former Imperial starfighter ace. There's still a lot to come, but I wanted to let you all get a first peek

Kai Naberrie sat in the small apartment a few blocks from Theed’s central square, the large holonet relay silently capturing every second of a battle happening on the other side of the galaxy. Beside him, a young green skinned gungan was caught somewhere between awe and excitement, his bulbous eyes darting back and forth between the small holo-representations of the enormous starships. “They’re finally going to do it.”
The young, dark haired boy simply nodded, as he set his holonet unit to record the rest of the transmission. He looked at his friend, eyes wide and hopeful, and nodded. “They just might pull it off, Jinn. They just might pull it off.” Quickly tossing a roughly woven sack over his shoulder, he climbed onto the window sill. “Now come on. If we don’t get this food back to your village by nightfall, I’m not going to get paid.”
He shot the gungan a frustrated look. Or worse. They both knew that running food to the unauthorized gungan colonies in the outlying swamps was the fastest route to the Imperial holding facility outside of Theed. As far as local law enforcement was concerned, the gungans were a problem that at best needed to be contained and at worst needed to be exterminated. Given the situation on similar planets, Kai was surprised they had even survived as long as they had.
His swoop started easily, the gentle vibration of the large side mounted engines easily penetrating the thick black padding beneath him. He gave his controls a gentle nudge and felt himself carried backwards by the swift acceleration. Unlike larger vehicles, the small Mobquet swoop had no inertial compensation, which made the ride a decidedly more invigorating experience. He felt the repulsor sled behind him buck slightly, and heard the muffled groan of his companion. He wondered to himself why the young gungan always insisted on making the runs to and from Theed with him, given his obvious distaste for high speed. He glanced back, and immediately regretted doing so. A good distance behind him, emerging from the gates of Theed, was a pair of sleek white and red military speeders, piloted by men in white armor. He muttered under his breath, and hit the accelerator. If he had any sort of luck he could make it into the woods before they caught him, although his chances would be drastically better if he wasn’t carrying two weeks worth of food and a slightly overweight gungan.
Kai felt his swoop rattle slightly as he rounded a sharp bend in the road, accelerating to the battered old swoop’s maximum operational speed. A large rock caused the sled to jump slightly, losing traction and skewing him to the left. The squeal from the sled let him know that his little green buddy was still there and a little worse for the wear. The swoop abruptly turned and left the roughly paved road behind, crossing the long stretch of low grass that would eventually empty into the swamp. The engines rattled, and Kai lowered his altitude, skimming the tops of the low lying grasses and picking up even more speed. He could see a lake quickly approaching, its calm blue waters marking the entryway to the gungan swamp. He could hear the pursuing stormtroopers now, their voices artificially enhanced by their helmets. They were telling him to stop where he was. They told him they would open fire. They informed him that this would be his final warning.
He hit the brakes. The bike bucked and crumpled beneath him. For a moment he could feel himself flying free of the bike, as it turned and rolled and slid across the grass. Red laser blasts pierced the air all around him, as his body flew freely through the air. Kai saw the bike come to a stop, firmly wedged between two trees, its dull red hull smoking. He felt his body as if it were moving in slow motion, twisting, turning and finally falling. He closed his eyes, although he didn’t know why. If he were going to die he might as well have kept them open. It made no difference. For a moment he wondered if Jinn had survived, although he knew it wouldn’t matter if the stormtroopers found him. He felt his arm splinter and the air leave his lungs as his body hit the ground. He felt the earth swallow his body and cautiously opened his eyes.
The world around him was dark, lit only by a distant sun. His body felt weightless, though he could still feel bursts of pain radiating from his left arm. A small fish swam passed him, pausing only momentarily. Fish? Suddenly, his mind was alert. The lake! His concern for life had now been replaced with a concern for air, and he struggled to the surface. Gasping for air, he dragged himself along the shoreline until he could see the glint of white armor that reminded him why he had been dead in the first place. Cautiously, he drew his blaster and pressed his body against a nearby tree. His thumb flicked at the power setting, grateful to the now dead criminal that had invested in a blaster pistol that could penetrate plasteel armor. He crept closer, until he could hear their voices.
“Should we have the local militia drag the lake?” The stormtrooper glanced into the clearing, seemingly examining the surface of the lake. “Until there’s a body…”
The second stormtrooper shook his head. There seemed to be amusement in his voice. “No one could have survived that crash, especially not some two-credit gungan lover.” Kai could hear an almost imperceptible moan, which he knew must be his gungan friend. “Call back to headquarters; let them know that we’ve got another bug for the spice mines.”
Kai’s body seemed to move on its own. He slid across the big tree, his left shoulder digging in to give him support. He squeezed the trigger as two forms in white armor swept across his field of vision. The first shot struck the trooper in the solar plexus, throwing him back across his speeder bike. The remaining trooper barely had time to reach for his blaster before the second shot hit him in the throat. The young man swept a strand of long black his hair from his face and crawled forward. Placing the barrel of his blaster against the trooper’s neck, he looked away as he squeezed the trigger. Kai slipped his blaster back in his holster, retrieving a cigarra from his jacket pocket. He looked at his ruined swoop and frowned. “I’m not getting paid nearly enough for this.”

Daska Lane watched calmly as his sensors showed a pair of TIE fighters drop behind his small dagger winged TIE/EX1 Interceptor. He juked left, quickly reversing into a roll to his right. The fighters behind him followed the maneuver, though just barely. Daska checked the IFF codes again. “231st. Sloppy pilots, old equipment.”
He dropped his thrusters to zero, quickly hopped left and reversed. There was a slight rattle as the pursuers scattered green laser fire into the Interceptor’s shields. Throttling up once more, Daska smiled as the pair of TIEs shot past his forward viewport. He knew that, despite his prototype Interceptor’s increased weight, he was still far more maneuverable and much better protected than most TIE pilots.
At twenty-two years old, he had enough experience behind the controls of an Imperial fighter to realize that he was pushing his luck flying in expendable ships for so long. When the opportunity to steal a better ship and set out on his own arose, he had no hesitation taking it. Apparently, neither did the three other recruits in his unit. He supposed that each had their reasons, and supposed that the other Alderaanian probably shared his own motives, though it was never discussed. Since then, they had made their way to the Rebel Alliance, although at the moment, Daska was beginning to doubt his logic.
Daska gently squeezed the triggers and watched as two more of the Empire’s expendable pilots were killed in the line of duty. For a moment he thought about their families and loved ones, regretting the pain they would endure in the name of a merciless tyrant. He thought of the sterile and dispassionate letter that they would receive announcing the death of their loved one. He wondered, just for a moment, if there would ever be a time when there would no longer be a need for pilots and soldiers to die in the name of battle. His TIE climbed again, and he closed with the enormous Death Star, hanging silently before him. A pair of ships had just flown in, and they would certainly need whatever distraction that he could provide.
“Gray flight, this is Gray One. Form up and follow me in. Target the northern command center and prepare to engage enemy fighters.” He sent a feed from his targeting computer to the other pilots in his unit and set up for a strafing run on the large blocky structure just north of the equatorial ridge. “Happy hunting, Grays.”

The night air was cold, the gentle breeze easily piercing the layers of still damp clothing. Though he was able to repair the repulsor sled enough to press forward, Kai knew that it would be unwise to push forward too quickly. The patchwork motivator was struggling just to maintain altitude as he slowly pulled his cargo with his new Imperial speeder. Jinn grunted sharply as the sled pitched against a large stump. Aside from a handful of fractures, the gungan also had a blaster burn in his right leg that was already showing the first signs of infection. Kai had sprayed it with bacta, but the wounds were far worse than anything he could treat, even if they weren’t in the middle of a bug-ridden swamp. He pushed the thought out of his mind and pressed onward.
The path was dark, illuminated only by the faint reflected light from the lake. He knew he couldn’t risk using the speeder’s illumination lamps, nor could he attempt an easier path. If the Empire wasn’t looking for him before, they certainly would be now that he had killed two of the Emperor’s finest.
Kai shook his head to fight off the fatigue and looked ahead for some sign of Jinn’s village. For the past year, he had made deliveries twice a month, never to the same location. He couldn’t help but to think of the stories he had heard in his youth, of the once grand gungan civilization, their mighty army, and their enormous cities beneath the seas. There was even talk of a gungan colony on one of the planet’s moons many years ago, though it had supposedly been destroyed by the Clone Wars. Kai exhaled heavily as he glanced over his shoulder to Jinn, barely conscious, in the repulsor sled. What had once been a race of warriors and senators, was little more than a few scattered handfuls of refugees.
The gungan behind him began to cough wildly as he sat up in the sled. His voice was strained, as his lungs struggled against the broken ribs. “Are we almost there?”
The young boy looked back and smiled bravely. As long as the navigation console was still working correctly, they were less than a dozen klicks from the campsite. “Almost.”
“Kai,” he whispered. “Thank you.”
The gungan’s head lolled back against the rear of the sled and he immediately fell asleep. Kai sighed and pressed forward slowly. “You’re welcome.”

“Gray group, get clear!”
Daska’s Interceptor skipped along the surface of the Death Star, gathering the other members of his flight and quickly leading them into a rapid ascension up and away from the rapidly spreading combustion within the station’s core. He watched lines of data scroll through his IFF console as the Rebel fleet quickly withdrew from the inevitable explosion that would follow. A pair of TIE fighters continued on the tail of Gray Flight, but was picked off by a friendly X-wing pilot. Daska looked through the small view port to his left, positioned between the large dagger shaped solar panels, and offered a quick salute. The X-wing flew forward, waggling its s-foils as a show of respect.
Several klicks behind, two ships emerged from a blossom of flame as the Death Star finally went nova. Daska tried to smile, but the loss of life, even Imperial life, was still something he could not get accustomed to. When he had signed up for the Academy, he thought of himself as a hero. In his mind, he would be protecting those who could not defend themselves. His time stationed aboard “Rebel Hunters”, the large Imperial Star Destroyers used to locate and destroy rebel cells, quickly changed the way he viewed the Empire and its mission. The destruction of his home planet, Alderaan, had only cemented his new viewpoint and forced him into action. Since joining the Alliance, he was still having trouble justifying the deaths for which he was responsible. Though he admitted that the Empire itself was an evil institution, he knew first hand that many of the soldiers and pilots were nothing more than honest, upstanding people who truly did wish to make a difference in a galaxy full of turmoil. He knew that no joy would come through this victory, and that he would only truly feel joy when the universe was once again at peace. Instead, he consoled himself with the fact that his unit was still intact and would once more join him for a post flight drink in the nearest cantina.

PsychoInfiltrator
19 October 2005, 04:31 PM
A very good piece of work, Tao.

I only hope it survives the Test of Time and is continued to the end, unlike so many promising masterpieces...

I eagerly await future installmanets.

With Regards,
Psych.

Tao
21 October 2005, 08:16 AM
Thanks. I'm glad that you enjoyed it. Hopefully I'll be able to get some more writing done over the weekend.

Jax Nova
24 October 2005, 11:57 AM
Hey, really good work!!