2: CHION'S REVENGE
CHAPTERS 1 - 10
Story © Copyright M.Kuppe
The dancing and singing continued to the beat of the Ewoks' drums. Human and alien, Rebels all, joined in the revelry. All, except the solitary figure at the edge of the assembly, his back to the others. He was dressed completely in black so it was hard to spot him at first, but Kali could recognize Luke anywhere. She watched him, but she would not go to him. She preferred to wait. He had no idea she was there too, as much a part of the success as the rest. How could he know all the pilots who helped free the galaxy from the Empire and the second Deathstar? She was proud to have fought with her old unit at the most crucial time in the Alliance's history. When the word came that a large battle was at hand, she had re-enlisted in the Rebel Fleet at once. Her parents were worried about her, but they were also proud and took consolation in the fact that they had little Rigel to take care of.
Rigel. Her universe revolved around her daughter now. Kali hated to think of leaving her for even a few minutes, let alone the possibility of never seeing her again. But the thought of Rigel growing up in a universe ruled by the Emperor was worse. She had to do what she could to ensure it would never happen.
She wished Rigel was with her now. She would love the music, the dancing, the fireworks and especially the furry, fuzzy Ewoks and woklings.
Kali watched Luke turn. He seemed to be smiling at someone in the forest, but no one was there. He nodded. Leia walked up, hugged him and brought Luke back into the fold. He joined his friends Han, Chewie, Lando and Wedge. Even Threepio and Artoo were there. They truly deserved this moment of joy. After many years, the battle was finally over. Luke looked happy, but tired, as if a great weight had just been lifted from his shoulders.
"Kali! Didn't you hear me?" Seton must have been talking to her for awhile, but he couldn't penetrate the fog of reminiscence she was having - until now.
"I'm sorry, Seton" she said as she shook her head, trying to clear her mind. "What did you say?"
"I said, why don't you join us tomorrow after the debriefing? I'm inviting some of the unit to my home on Corellia to celebrate and live it up for awhile." Seton was her wingman, a good pilot and her best friend in the squad. He was also your typical tall, dark and very charming Corellian. He reminded Kali of her brother Biggs, with his rougish grin only partially hidden beneath his black, bushy mustache.
"Thanks, but no. As soon as Commander Perin gives me clearance, I'm heading back home to let my family know I'm okay. This pilot's looking forward to some peace and quiet on the ground for awhile."
"Are you sure? I'd really like you to come ..." he tried to sound unhurt, but could not completely hide the look of disappointment on his face. Seton had hoped that when their tour of duty was over, she would return home with him so they could plan a future together. Ever since they had met, Kali intrigued Seton, but her continued resistance was frustrating. Still, he couldn't help being strangely attracted to her self-reliant attitude and focussed determination. She also had a mysterious side that he wanted to uncover. Although the squad members liked Kali, she never attended social functions, and seemed to prefer to be alone, so the only information Seton could find out about her was from the official dossier. It just confirmed that the famous Biggs Darklighter was her brother and that she was from Tatooine. All the Rebel pilots knew the story of how Biggs' life was sacrificed at the first Death Star flying cover for Luke Skywalker, but Kali never mentioned her brother.
It was going to be a challenge to get to know the real Kali Darklighter - but he had faced formidable tasks before and triumphed. Well, all except the reason he was here as a Rebel now, he had to admit. When those Imperial Troopers raided and confiscated his ship, effectively taking everything he had ever worked for, he had become a Rebel in an instant. He swore revenge on their dictatorship and enlisted in the Alliance at once. He didn't have much of a choice - his ship and money were gone and his credibility as a smuggler was tarnished.
"I'm sorry, Seton. I know we've become very good friends lately, and I have cherished our camaraderie, but like I told you before, that's all we are - good friends. I want to keep it that way. Okay?" Kali hated to hurt him, but no one could take the place of Luke in her heart. She wondered if Luke ever thought of her. He was probably still smarting from the way she had to let him go on Hoth. It was the hardest thing she had ever had to do; the Alliance needed Luke, and she had hoped that her sacrifice would only be temporary. But the war had run on for years now. What would Luke say if he knew he had a daughter? Kali was uncertain what his reaction would be. Now that peace was being restored, she had to let him know. Somehow. Some way. It was his right to know, and Rigel would be so proud of her daddy -- the hero of the Rebellion.
So far, Kali was able to avoid inquires about Rigel's parentage. At two, Rigel herself was too young to start asking questions - in fact, she seemed to accept the fact that growing up in her grandparents house was normal. But what was normal these past few years?
When she returned to Tatooine, she needed to find work, settle down in a place of their own and then tell Luke the long-overdue news. Kali also had to find out more about his life too - to make sure no one would be hurt by her sudden re-appearance. And finally, she would have to see if they both still held the same deep feelings they had for one another so long ago. This may be harder than the battle we just fought... she thought to herself.
Rigel broke her concentration and the medals dropped with a clatter around her. "Sorry, mommy." She gathered them together and turned to face her mother, holding out Kali's Alliance ID tag, awaiting the lecture sure to come. But as soon as she looked into those beautiful blue eyes, Kali lost her determination to scold the child. Rigel had the deep soulful look of her father, an inner sense that having the Force gave one. Her dark hair was inherited from her mother, but the rest of Rigel was definitely Luke. Kali draped the familiar chain over her head and tucked the medallion inside her soft shirt wrap. Since her birth, Kali could see Rigel was gifted and at first put it down to a mother's biased opinion of her own offspring. But slowly she came to realize that Luke had passed on the ability of the Force to their child. Little did Kali know what having a Force-sensitive child meant. Already at the tender age of three, Rigel could do things that seemed magical to others. But her actions seemed perfectly normal and effortless to her daughter. Lately though, Kali had the feeling that when her daughter wanted her own way, she usually got it. Was Rigel using those Jedi mind tricks Luke had once told me about? No, I have to admit I'm to blame for lovingly spoiling her. Rigel wouldn't know how to use her abilities to the fullest unless she was a properly trained Jedi. Perhaps it was Rigel's destiny to become a Jedi Knight one day, but that was far in the future.
Kali's chrono beeped, and she suddenly realized the time. "Don't worry about it Rigel, nothing was broken. Please just put them back in the case. And hurry! We've got to go. I've got to get you to Gram's before I'm late for work!"
Kali's natural affinity to piloting, the guidance her older brother Biggs had given her and the training during the war was paying off. She had been hired by Spaceport Speeders in Mos Eisley, using her skills to repair and test transports taken in trade. The job was not as thrilling as her previous commission, but the pay was good. Kali was even given an old speeder as a bonus. Wioslea had offered her many models on the used floater lot, but Kali spotted the skimmer she wanted. It was a very old X-34 model, but from the shop's records and her cursory glance under the turbine housing, she knew this one was far more powerful than when it was new. It was not much to look at, with a missing cowling on the left engine, but the previous owner had skillfully maintained it; yes, this speeder would suit her just fine.
Wioslea was glad to get rid of that landspeeder. It had been collecting dust at the back of the lot for too long. No one wanted the old thing and she was considering selling it to the Jawas for scrap years ago, but her ego wouldn't allow it. How she had let those two farmers talk her into paying far beyond its street value was still a mystery to her. As a seasoned transport trader, she was ashamed to admit that for once she had gotten the short end of the deal that day. Perhaps she kept it around to remind her never to be taken in like that again. But she was glad that her new employee had chosen it - it left the more valuable models still on the lot, available for profitable sales.
After being hired, Kali was able to get a small place of her own just on the outskirts of Mos Eisley, and she and Rigel were settling down well together. She would have preferred to live near her parents' farm, but it made more sense to be close to her work. Although on days like today when arrangements for her regular sitter fell through, it was a chore to drive all the way out to her parents' place. Huff Darklighter would never agree to move into town, even though it was just he and his wife left on the farm. Kali's mother loved the chance for company and the opportunity to watch Rigel whenever the need arose. Since Biggs' death, they wanted to spend as much time with Kali and Rigel as possible. They never asked their daughter about Rigel's father, but she guessed they knew. Kali had once hinted that she and Luke were planning marriage a few years back, but suddenly the war intensified, and they were split up. Kali had come back to have the baby and Luke went on to become one of the Rebellion's greatest heroes.
Luke. As she sped through the familiar landscape of the Jundland Wastes to her childhood home, Kali had to admit the time was now to tell him. She was as ready as she would ever be. She was happy in more ways than one when she heard of Leia being Luke's sister. Kali had kept track of the other famous Skywalker too; Luke's escapades, as well as his personal life, were always making headlines. He had no romantic ties. As she pulled up to the domed entrance to the underground courtyard of her parents' home, she had made up her mind. Yes, the time had finally come to see him again.
"We have located her sir. The bounty hunter you hired has finally come up with a lead. It seems she has returned to her home planet of Tatooine."
"Excellent. You may pay the Trandoshan his promised fee. But also keep him on a retainer. His anonymous benefactor may require his services again."
"Yes sir. Oh, and he thought you may also be interested in this piece of news. She has a small child. A girl, but there was no sign of any other family members."
Interesting. Yes, very interesting indeed. This revelation could make my job much easier. A child. This was too good to be true. A plan had been developing in his mind for a long time now, ever since the brat had embarrassed him in front of his crew all those years ago, but he remembered the conversation in the Executor's shuttle bay as if it were only yesterday. It was the catalyst that abruptly ended his promising career. Chion still shuddered at the memory of Lord Vader's reprimand. He didn't know how, but Vader had found out about Chion's desire to have Kali as his 'companion', and he had taken exception to the Commander's interference in his own plans for her. After Darth Vader's failure to capture Luke Skywalker on Dantooine, he had taken his frustration out on Chion, making an example of the officer by demoting him from Commander of the Imperial class Star Destroyer Nebula to Chief of this insignificant assault shuttle. To Chion, it was almost worse than Vader's usual punishment of choking via the Force, as Chion had witnessed so often in the past. Worse, as it had taken him years of subservience and ruthless tactics to move up the ranks of the Empire's military hierarchy. He had finally made it; his appointment to the Nebula had just been confirmed - until that woman had ruined everything. Perhaps it was even she that had tipped Vader of his plans. All he knew was, because of Darklighter and Skywalker, he was a laughing stock, banished to patrol the Outer Rim Territories with a small crew he suspected were being punished for individual improprieties as well.
Captain Moa was waiting for further orders. "Commander, the bounty hunter has offered to eliminate her and the child. He suggested the fee for them both would not be unreasonable."
"No, Captain. I want that pleasure for myself. Just tell him to keep me updated on her whereabouts. I will take care of the rest."
Chion tried to keep a smile from his face. Yes, I have her now; and she will lead me to Skywalker. I will get my revenge on them both; and when the Empire rises again, I will be there, ready to resume the command and power that I so justly deserve...
His first option: somehow restore the Jedi to their former glory. How could he do that alone? That was a huge responsibility he was unsure he could take on, but it was what Yoda asked him to do.
Option two: He could use his talents and abilities to directly assist Leia and the other Senators in the running of this new government. Leia had been raised, trained and expected to take on duties of diplomacy and governing; it had become her greatest talent and strength. But Luke really didn't relish the task of being diplomatic -- he couldn't see himself fitting in there either.
I need time to decide and work out a plan ... the buzzing of his wrist comlink broke his train of thought. Instead of taking the message there, Luke hurried inside the temple to the old communications room, where the reception would be better. He was lucky most of the old equipment was still in working order. He flicked open the subspace comm transmitter.
"This is Luke Skywalker. Can I help you?" He tried to keep the anxiety from his voice - even though he could not sense it through the Force, he was concerned that something may have happened to Leia or Han; they were the only ones who knew he was here.
"Luke! Thank goodness I've finally tracked you down! You know, you're a hard guy to get a hold of."
Luke disbelieved his own ears. Kali? After all this time? He felt his pulse quicken. "Kali? Is that you?"
"Yes, Luke. I'm sorry to barge in on you like this, but Leia thought it would be okay. She gave me your coordinates and said I should contact you. I think she doesn't like the fact that you're all alone right now." Kali was beginning to lose her nerve. Well, no going back now. "I'm calling with an invitation. I was wondering if you would come by to see me soon? I have some news I think you need to hear - in person." She hoped he could understand her; she was talking so fast from nervousness.
"What is it? I would like to see you again, but you've got me worried. Are you alright?" Luke realized he had been standing, stunned. He took a seat to try to relax and comprehend the conversation.
"Oh, sure, I'm fine. I know it's a lot to ask, but I have been putting this off for far too long. I have to see you." Kali crossed her fingers in a desperate hope he would come.
"Of course. I'll be there as soon as I can."
"Great. I have a small place just on the outskirts of Mos Eisley. Here are the directions. I'm looking forward to seeing you again." She heaved a sigh of relief as her shaking fingers punched in the numbers giving him the location.
"It's good to hear from you too." As she disconnected, Luke was confused. Old emotions and feelings swept over him and even his Jedi training could not control them. After all this time, why do I still have such strong feelings for her? After she had dismissed me on Hoth, I thought I would never see her again. With everything that has happened since, Luke kept busy to keep his mind off Kali. Now that he was finally able to plan his future, Luke realized that there had always been a third option: Settle down and become a regular New Republic citizen.
up and tried to stop shaking. Whew. That was harder than I thought.
Hard not to just blurt the whole truth out right there and then. But
Luke deserved better than that. He needs to hear the news in private,
with time to absorb it and decide what he wants to do. Kali
got up and looked around the house. I've got a lot to do before
he arrives! I want everything to be just perfect.
Having to take orders from an incompetent like Chion made Moa pine for the days of piloting his own ship. The challenge of pilfering spice shipments and selling them back to their original owners for outrageous sums had made him a rich man; he had amassed a small fortune in a very short time. The fools - it was so easy to stay just one step ahead of them all.
Sometimes it was not just spice that he stole. From time to time, he also required new transportation along with his new identities, and the theft of ships gave him the greatest thrill of all. He fondly remembered the time he had boarded a Lamba-class Imperial shuttle, surprising and taking out the small crew single-handedly (well, it had helped that he was armed with a hidden container of poisonous nerve gas. The idiots were out in a second, while he kept himself protected with a gas mask under a false Gand disguise.)
As well as a new ship to use temporarily, that mission had provided the bonus of Imperial uniforms and Trooper armor which have been invaluable ever since. A visit to his counterfeiting friends on the Smuggler's Run provided the necessary changes to the dead soldiers' IDs, and he was set. Using the Imperial disguises had provided him with further riches -- the threat of Imperial law allowed him to take what he wanted without question or retribution. Most recently, since the Captain's uniform was a perfect fit, it also allowed him to easily infiltrate the new crew of the Omega.
This he had to do, because of his unfortunate incident involving a valuable spice shipment that YT-1300 freighter jettisoned years ago. How was he to know it had been destined for a Hutt Lord? Jabba refused to give in to Moa's 'ransom' for the huge package of glittersim. And the Corellian smuggler and his pet Wookiee were not pleased at his fake blockade as well. It was a good thing they believed it really was Imperial forces that had intercepted their ship, or he would have been torn limb from limb by the hairy beast. But it was the Hutt that he had feared the most and had been hiding from ever since. At least until now. News of Jabba's death filled Moa with relief. The death-mark on "Maltek Cvar" would be erased, and he could finally return to the Smuggler's Run and continue his former occupation. This temporary 're-enlistment' in the Navy had lasted long enough. He had to get back so he could return to collect from numerous credit accounts he had distributed throughout the galaxy. The large fortune will come in handy now that it was safe again to resume his previous profession.
Using a Bounty Hunter to unknowingly assist him now was sweet justice; ironic in fact. His plan was developing; he had to remove the crew but keep the ship intact. It would suit his needs nicely. The Imperials would also have to be assured that the Omega was destroyed, so he could re-fit her under an assumed name, collect his money and return to his old vocation.
The first step of his plan would take place immediately.
"Lieutenant, relay this message through our cryptic channels to The Hound's Tooth right away. There has been a slight change in his orders." He handed the soldier his data pad.
"Yes, Captain Moa." The Communications Officer still had the complex routing coordinates that would eventually reach the bounty hunter's ship, but keep its origins safely anonymous. He couldn't help but notice the number of transmissions back and forth recently, and the fact that they were not using regular channels through ComScan. What was up? Are we finally going to see some action?
Kali's mother hadn't seen her daughter this nervous in a long time. It must be some special guest for her to be so excited about. "Can I help you? Dad and I are just going out for awhile, but I can watch Rigel for you tonight if you wish."
"Thanks Mom, but I want Rigel there. I'll talk to you soon. Goodbye Mom, goodbye Dad!"
Kali jumped behind the wheel and raced off toward town.
"I wish she'd stop using that old shortcut of hers, Huff. It's just too dangerous to go straight through the Wastes, especially with little Rigel along."
"Don't worry about Kali, dear. She's been going that way since Biggs taught her to drive. You know how long the circle route takes ... and it looks like she's very eager to get home today." Huff had to smile. He hoped that Kali was entertaining a suitor tonight - he would love to see his little girl marry and perhaps they would come back and take over the moisture farm. Now wouldn't that be nice! And it would be a stable life for Rigel too. Oh well, until then, I guess it's still up to me to keep this place going....
"C'mon dear, I have to go check that vaporator on the back ridge before we go out. We can go by it on our way." Huff wrapped his arm around his wife as they headed down the steps to the coolness of their underground dwelling.
Kali glanced over to her daughter who was uncharacteristically quiet on the trip home.
"What's the matter honey? You must have had a busy day - you're so quiet. Are you tired?"
"No, I just want to know -- who is coming to our house tonight?"
"Oh, just an old friend of mine that I would like you to meet. I think you'll like him."
Him? Rigel wasn't so sure she liked the sound of this. She hoped it wasn't some boyfriend. She liked the way she and her mother took care of themselves.
Rigel looked over to her mother to protest, but what she saw left her speechless. Kali turned to see her daughter's face go white.
"What is it? Are you sick?"
All Rigel could do was stare open-mouthed and point behind her. Kali turned to see a swoop side-swipe her speeder. The driver was unknown to her, a huge green reptilian alien wearing a yellow flightsuit. He raised his blaster at Kali's head.
She panicked and punched the throttle. The engine whined in protest as she raced at top speed over the dunes and rocks of the canyon. Blast! Why did I have to take this shortcut, out here with no one around when pirates strike?
Bossk's swoop was much faster than even her souped-up speeder. The bounty hunter easily caught back up to her but this time he came up on Rigel's side. "Rigel! Duck!" Rigel dipped her head below the console as Bossk's claw reached in to grab her. She screamed and began to kick and punch in defense. Kali tried to swing the speeder back and forth to keep the hunter away. She could go no faster. If only I can get into town where someone is sure to help us! But Mos Eisley was still too far away, beyond the mesa still. The mesa! Yes, it's my only chance! She knew this area by heart. She could lose him by slipping through the opening in the mesa wall and doubling-back to the farm. I just need some more time to get there!
The Transdoshan crashed his swoop into the side of her vehicle again. Kali and Rigel were jostled about getting bruised and more terrified by the minute. Kali was concentrating on getting to the mesa wall and did not see the hunter's next grab. He caught Rigel by the scruff of the neck and yanked her out of the speeder.
"Mommee!!!" Rigel cried as his claws dug into her suit. One mark down, one to go. He still needed to take care of the mother.
"RIGEL! NO! Let her go!!!" Kali went wild, furious that this thing had her daughter. Her throat was raw from screaming at him, her eyes were blurring from tears of rage and helplessness.
Bossk held down the little human who was squirming to free herself. He put the swoop on automatic and grabbed for his blaster again. The hunter aimed once more at Kali, but Rigel kicked the weapon as he fired, causing him to miss. Growling in frustration, he decided to come back for the second target. The child had to be subdued first. Boosk took over the controls again and accelerated back to where The Hound's Tooth was waiting for him.
"NO!!!" Kali screamed. "Let her go!" She lost control and followed the hunter as he made a sweeping turn to escape. Her eyes would not leave the image of Rigel as she was trapped aboard the retreating swoop. Kali never saw the boulder jutting out of the ground in her path; before she knew what was happening, her speeder struck the rock, and hurled Kali into the air. Her breath was knocked out of her as she slammed to the ground and rolled to a stop, not far from where her skimmer crashed and caught fire.
"Rigel.....no....bring her back...."
Bossk was pleased when he turned to see the speeder crash. The Scorekeeper must have been looking kindly on this T'doshok today. She took care of one mark, while he could return with the second one. He was already counting the credits awaiting him for this successful hunt.
Luke took another walk around the house. His boots crunched on the sand and gravel. Everything is so lifeless, so brown! It felt strange to be on Tatooine again. After the green lushness of Yavin, this place felt drier than ever. But it wasn't just the lack of humidity that made him uneasy. Something didn't feel right. This whole trip, the strange message -- he couldn't get the feeling of dread out of his mind. His gaze turned toward the horizon. Smoke! From very far away, something was burning. Yes, out in the canyon, he could sense trouble. As he jumped aboard the rented speeder, his instincts told him he had to investigate.
When they reached the source of the fire, the war band's leader was disappointed to find only a single speeder. And not a very good one at that, with little inside except a few charred human-child's toys. He dismounted and began stripping what he could from the still smoldering floater when he was called to see what another Raider had found.
As he approached, gaffi stick at the ready, he realized it was a human female, still alive, but unconscious. Well, even with these meager pickings, we could at least take this one back to our encampment as a captive. We haven't had a human to practice our "sport" on for a long time. He motioned to the others to take her with them. After Kali was strapped to the leader's bantha, they lumbered back to the Raider's camp near what was once Fort Tusken.
Something metallic glittered in the twin suns' light and caught his eye. He hurried over and crouched down to find a small disk clamped to a chain, half buried in the sand. Luke recognized what it was in an instant. It was identical to the one he and all the other Rebels were assigned after the Battle of Hoth. As he held it up he read the inscription cut over the standard Alliance symbol "K. Darklighter, RA1177-147."
Kali! Luke knew he had a bad feeling about this. He stood and shielded his eyes from the suns' blaze to scan the horizon. She has to be around here somewhere! But Luke's eyes confirmed what his Jedi senses already told him; no one was here. Whatever happened, whatever caused the crash, Kali had either walked away or had been taken away.
Luke was determined to find out. He searched the area, as far as a human could have walked in any direction, to no avail. He dreaded what he had to do next. He would have to go to the Darklighter farm and let them know about the accident. Maybe once he was there, he could find some clue to what had happened here.
He paused and took one last look at his old vehicle. The image of the spewing dark smoke that trailed off into the Wastes reminded him of another tragic day in his young life so long ago.
He passed by what looked like the crash site of an ancient ship, half submerged into the sand. Long abandoned, the wreckage's only current activity seemed to be the tiny Jawas scavenging in the junk pile at its base. But Seton wasn't here as a tourist - he had decided now that his "business" was thriving again even beyond his wildest expectations, he was going to track Kali down and convince her to share his new found wealth with him. Now I just have to find my way out to this moisture farm somehow. Saddled Dewbacks and huge Rontos looked like the mode of transport for some of the locals, but there was no way he was going to climb aboard any of those beasts.
As Seton stood looking around him, an old beat up SoroSuub V-35 skimmer hovered up and opened its door. The driver, a furry Ranat with a high squeaky voice called out in broken Basic. "Need ride, Human? Can take you anywheres!"
"Huh? Oh, yeah, sure." Seton squinted his eyes to see into the dark interior of the vessel. He decided it looked safe enough, so he threw his satchel into the cargo compartment and climbed into the passenger seat. "Do you know where this place is?" He showed the driver the location of the Darklighter farm.
The Ranat leaned over and nodded. "Yes, yes. Crof know. Know very well. But much credits to get there...very far." Two small red eyes sparkled beneath the hood at the potential large fare.
Seton showed Crof some of the currency in his possession, and was immediately thrown back in his seat as the door slammed shut and the skimmer sped away. Pedestrians scrambled out of its path, cursing and shaking their appendages in what Seton assumed were not polite gestures.
|CONTINUE THE STORY...|