CHAPTERS 16 - 30

An original short story by Maureen Kuppe
Featuring characters from the Star Wars Trilogy by George Lucas
Story © Copyright M.Kuppe
August, 2000


      Well Han, what did I tell the Council?” Leia slammed the flimsy down on the table in disgust. Luckily, they were alone to discuss the latest turn of galactic events. She had instructed Threepio to cancel the remaining appointments in her journal today; this needed her full and immediate attention.

      “You were right, Leia. The pattern is definitely there.” Han’s brow furrowed as he re-read the report that Threepio had prepared.

      She had to admit that this didn’t take her by surprise. Only weeks ago, the Council was warned of scattered incidents by what was being foolishly reported as “Sith-like” activity in the Outer Rim. Numerous black-hooded individuals sporting lightsabers were pillaging entire townships, looting or destroying everything in their path. Delegates from many of the planets in the system were  calling for  the Republic’s assistance  to investigate  if the perpetrators were indeed unified forces of Dark Jedi, but at the time the Council felt it more appropriate to leave it to the local officials  to deal with.  It couldn’t be “Sith” the Council argued … surely the Jedi Knights would have known and warned them.

      Leia grudgingly agreed that labeling these criminals “Dark Jedi” had seemed premature and unsubstantiated, but a nagging fear rose inside that they might, in fact be accurate. Now the details of continuing violence Threepio had uncovered seemed to support the theory. This could be far worse than anyone imagined. Visions of an army of Vaders haunted her. No! I can’t let my personal demons block my responsibilities as leader of the New Republic. More than anyone on Council, I know how utterly evil the Dark Side can be, and even though the thought of a Sith rebirth terrifies me, I can’t be scared into inaction. I should have done something at the beginning of all this, she berated herself.

      Seeing the look on his wife’s face, Han could tell what was going through her mind. “Don’t Leia. Don’t do this to yourself. Even if you had pushed more to intercede, you didn’t have the support of the Council at the time. There was nothing else you could have done.”

      “I am the leader of the New Republic -- I should have done more.  And I will do more. I …. have to.”

      With that, Han watched his Princess sweep out of the room, with the same determined look he knew only too well. “Here we go again” Han muttered to himself. Well, I might as well call Chewie to do a pre-flight check on the Falcon; it doesn’t look like I’ll be sticking around Coruscant too long.

      Rigel awoke, swatting at a disturbance on her left boot wrap. Regaining her senses slowly, she looked down to find a cliffborer worm crawling its way up her leg. “Ahhh!” Jumping up off the bare ground where she seemed to have spent the night, she kicked the armoured slug into the gravel. Without realizing what she was doing, Rigel glared at the pest until it exploded, splattering its goo for meters.

      So, it wasn’t a fluke after all.....I really DO have these incredible powers! I wish I had pushed myself sooner to see exactly what I was able to do.

      The sound of a commotion brought Rigel back to the present, and she instinctively ducked behind a stony ridge to peek over the top edge without being seen. Not far off, two figures were fighting .... and behind them, a bantha was milling, oblivious to the scene in front of it.

      Blast! I wish I had some macros with me! I can’t make out who they are! But a bantha guaranteed that one of them at least, was a Tusken.

      The Sandperson was soon overpowering the other warrior, and Rigel decided to get a closer look. Skirting around the combatants, she was able to see that the battle was nearly over. Bloody and beaten, the human could only sway to try to avoid the Raider’s gaderaffi. Raising it over his head for one final, fatal blow, the Tusken let out his victory cry, but before the weapon was lowered, Rigel stood, closed her eyes and summoned all her strength to will it out of his grip. The stick was yanked from his hands, flew across the desert and landed at Rigel’s feet. Both the Tusken and his victim stared in confusion at the girl standing  there, her long black hair swaying in the breeze.

      Rigel picked up the gaffi stick, and gestured her own victory. This terrified the Tusken, who thought she was some evil spirit, ready to kill him. He let out a small cry of defiance, and ran to his waiting bantha, mounting and riding away as swiftly as he could make the huge beast go.

      The young man continued to stare at Rigel, until the heat and his injuries took their toll and he passed out.

      While he lay motionless, Rigel decided to get a closer look at the stranger. He didn’t look much older than she was, sandy blond hair, and quite thin. He looked in bad shape, so she thought he should be taken to some shade to recuperate. A glint of metal caught her eye, and looking closer, she recognized the outline of a medium-sized ship.

      It must be his transport! I’ll take him there to rest. Maybe he has a med pac that I can use.

      Rigel concentrated, and hovered him just above the ground, as if on a repulsorlift and directed his prone body to the ship. Taking his hand in hers, she pressed it against the ship’s external security sensor. With a whoosh, the landing ramp lowered, and Rigel squinted to look inside the dark interior.

      I wonder if anyone else is here....listening closely for signs of life, Rigel also subconciously used the Force to sense the presence of anyone else around. Convinced they were alone, she brought the pilot aboard.

      Living in a spaceport all her life, Rigel became familiar with the numerous types of ships constantly flying in and out of Mos Eisley. She had seen this type before -- a modified Surronian assault vehicle. As she entered,  she found the midship cargo bay first. Two passageways led off this cluttered room, so she left the pilot sleeping while she went stern to find some kind of refresher or cabin. Squeezing through the tight spaces, it was obvious the ship was a working vehicle, as nothing which could be called a bunk could be found anywhere back here. She went aft again, through the cargo hold once more and on to the nose of the ship. The cockpit held three seats, two for pilot and copilot and another to the starboard side, at a navigation console. It looked reasonably old, and in poor repair.

      “Shouldn’t you have waited for the official tour before snooping around on your own?”

      Rigel jumped and spun around at the sound of his voice.....the pilot had awakened and was blocking the only exit.

      “I....I was just looking for a med-pac for you.”

      “Well, I don’t need one. And I don’t need your help any longer. You can go now.” Rigel noticed he was weaving slightly, and still quite pale.

      “OK, I’m going. By the way, you’re welcome for saving your rear out there” she sarcastically quipped. She was beginning to regret ever saving this guy’s life. To keep her from slipping by, he grabbed her arm.

      “How did you do that? Out did you take that thing’s weapon away?” He stared into her deep blue eyes -- he was surprised to see she was probably younger than he was.

      “I don’t know what you’re talking about....” Rigel was uncomfortable with her abilities still, and preferred to keep it her secret. She tried to release his hand, but when his grip tightened, she had no choice but to force it off.

      “Ouch! Like that!” His hand burned as if it were afire. He was shocked, but slowly realized the implications of her abilities. “You're a Jedi!” He backed away slowly down the passageway.

      “What? Are you crazy?” She couldn’t help but burst out in a fit of laughter. Jedi? Her? Oh, yeah, right! But the more she thought about it, something in the back of her mind clicked. Jedi? She stopped laughing.

      “You are. No one else but Jedi could do the things you do!” A plan started to develop in his mind. Maybe I can make this trip worthwhile after all.....

      Rigel  was  getting  another  of  her  headaches trying to sort out this revelation. She backed into the nav chair and sat down, head in hands. No! My mother would have told me! She would have....she SHOULD have.....  Maybe my father  is a Jedi.....maybe.....maybe I am too. That would explain a lot. Rigel’s temper was surfacing, and she began to shake.

      “Listen. I know what I’m talking about.” He decided to confide a bit with her. “I work with Jedi Masters....and I think you need to meet with them. And I really think they would like to see you.”

      Rigel couldn’t decide what to do. She was planning on returning home, making things right with her mother and her friends. But this latest revelation made her even angrier, confused and disappointed in Kali. She always felt different, like an outcast, and now she knew why.

      “Sure, why not? I have nothing here. Let’s go.” She had a new sense of self-assuredness, she wasn’t scared....she knew she could handle herself. She felt like she just grew up. “By the way, my name is Rigel.”

      “Derus.” He nodded, slipped into the pilot’s seat, and prepared for liftoff. “You'd better belt up.....” he suggested as the ship shuddered and swiftly ascended into the sky.

      Rigel stared out of the viewscreen. She felt cold and numb as she watched Tatooine quickly pull away into the blackness of space. But somehow, deep down inside, she felt that her father was near, calling out to her. Maybe she was meant to go with Derus. Maybe she would finally meet her father at long last, and find out who she really was.

      Luke watched in despair as the ship rose out of view. Rigel! No! Don’t leave! He had just driven up when he heard the ship's engines start. His Jedi mind probe told him what he had feared. Rigel was on board, along with one other being -- a male, setting coordinates for a moon system not too far away.

      “Blast!” If only I could have been here a minute earlier! He concentrated and tried to imprint the markings of the vehicle in his mind. He would need a lot of help tracking a single ship down.

      How could she leave? Who was this fellow that has taken her away?

      And how am I going to tell Kali?

      Kali! You should be at home!” Mauura was concerned for her partner’s health. Even for a human, she looked drawn and tired. Having her wander around the shop in a daze wasn’t helping anyone.

      “I can’t. It’s too quiet. I have to keep busy to keep from going crazy with worry.” Kali thought Rigel would show up last night, even this morning at the latest, but when her hours of worry dragged on till the rising of both suns, she could stand it no longer. She had to do something. Even Luke hadn’t contacted her yet. She went to her office to try to finish up some work.

      The door opened and he and Artoo entered. “Hello, Mauura. It’s good to see you again.”

      “Luke! What are you doing here?” The Nikto hadn’t seen him in some time -- at least, she thought she hadn’t.

      “Is Kali around? I couldn’t find her at home.”

      Kali recognized his voice, dropped her paperwork and ran out of the office. “Luke! Have you found her? Where is she?” Kali was sure he was successful, but her heart dropped when she saw the look on his face.

      “We need to talk. Can we use your office?”

      “Of course. Come on in.” Kali wasn’t so sure she wanted to hear what he was about to say. She sat down and motioned for him to do the same.

      “Kali.....did Rigel have a boyfriend, or acquaintance from off Tatooine?”

      “What are you talking about? Of course not! Well....not that I knew of....she has been a lot more secretive lately, but I just put that down to her going through a know, typical adolescent pushing for more independence.....” Kali had to, Rigel would have said something. “What does that have to do with her being missing?”

      “Kali. She’s left. I got there too late to stop them, but she was on board a ship that just lifted off Tatooine. There was one other person aboard... a man... I have to find out who he is and where he has taken her, but from what I could tell, she wasn't being taken against her will....”

      This was too much....Kali began to feel sick and lightheaded. He had to be wrong. Rigel wouldn’t leave!

       Would she?


      So what were you doing out in the middle of that sandpit anyway?” Derus was trying to break the ice and learn more about Rigel on the way back to Echnos IV. So far it had been a very quiet trip.

      “None of your business.” Rigel didn’t feel like confiding in this stranger yet.

      “Sorry. I must say it was lucky for me that you were there. I don’t think I could have lasted much longer against that thing, whatever it was.” Derus checked the nav and was satisfied with the settings, but every move brought a new experience of pain from his injuries.

      “He was a Tusken Raider....only one of the most feared of inhabitants on Tatooine. You don’t know how fortunate you were...usually they travel in groups. You wouldn’t have had a chance against a bunch of them.” Rigel snorted.  “Where are we going? Will it take long?”

      “Not too much longer. With the hyperdrive, we can jump there in a few hours. We’re heading to a moon of Tinn ‘family’ has been there for only a short time, but I know they will be thrilled to have you join us. I’m not a Jedi like they are, so I just run errands for them. As a matter of fact, I was dropping off a shipment for them on your planet. I guess I should have been more careful on my way back to the ship, but frankly, I wouldn’t have guessed that anyone or anything survived in that desert. The ....what did you call him “tusker?” jumped me before I could get back on board.”

      “TuskEN” Rigel corrected.

      “Tusken.” Derus smiled. She was beginning to warm up after all. He poured on his charm. “You know, you were very brave. You really didn’t realize that you have special abilities? You were amazing!”

      Rigel blushed. She wasn’t used to being praised for her actions. Usually she was treated like a freak by her friends, or chastised by her mother when she acted different. It was a good feeling to be appreciated. This must be a wonderful place we’re going to. Jedi! People like me! For once, I’ll fit in. She suddenly felt very drowsy. The events of the last two days were catching up with her, the cushioned seat felt very soft and  the cool air in the cabin soon lulled her into a contented nap.

      Derus smiled and returned to the ship’s controls. Yup, Master Leba’s sure going to like the package I’m about to deliver!

      The red markers show the latest reports of conflicts;  now reaching into the Senex-Juvex Sector. That means they are branching out. First the Minos Cluster, then Elrood, and now this. They are definitely expanding their territory.” Leia pointed out the pattern on the star charts holographically floating above the Senators seated around the Council table.

      “Madam President, you have no proof these attacks are in any way linked... and if they are not, we have no right to interfere in local jurisdiction.” Leia knew the Bothan Senator would object....he always did. If Leia called Yavin orange, he would insist it was blue.

      “But we do have proof, Senator Fey’lya. The attack pattern is identical; they jump into a system without warning, systematically cut off communications, pillage for food and credits, and sometimes even kidnap or kill the locals. They manage to jump out again before anyone off-world knows they were there. But now the eye-witness testimonies are matching up as all the locations listed on the map before you, the perpetrators have been positively identified as Dark Jedi.…..Sith, if you may.”

      The room filled with a combined gasp at the term. Knowing Leia’s background, they knew it must have been difficult for her to speak that name aloud. SITH. Visions of her father filled her mind when she first heard of the atrocities. No, not my father.... that black mask, the mechanical breathing......

      Leia shook her head to clear it. Back to the present. Keep focussed. “We are contacting the New Jedi Order to ascertain their strategy and assistance in this matter. Meanwhile, I wish to get the Council’s approval to deploy the fleet to show some kind of resistance. We cannot sit idly by while star systems fall to the will of these criminals. If local law enforcement cannot stop them, then we have no choice but to step in to offer help, for the sake of the entire galaxy.”

      “I do not want this to escalate into a full-fledged war, Leia.” Mon Mothma was trying to be the voice of reason. “Deploying the fleet indiscriminately is like waving a red flag in front of a will only lead to more violence. Why don’t we send out reconnaissance flights to pinpoint the origin of the faction? If we can do that quietly, it  may  end  this  conflict  sooner  and  with  less casualties. Then we can work with the Order to develop the best plan of defense.”

      Leia had to reconsider her proposal. “Of course....I would like nothing better. Can we draft a plan of action and report back to the Council for approval before proceeding?” She was relieved to see the majority of representatives  nodded in agreement.

      “Alright then. We shall gather our military strategists and meet back here at the same time tomorrow. Agreed? We will vote then. Thank you for your time.”

      After the room had cleared, Leia hung back and discussed the mission further with Mon Mothma. “I think we need the Admiral’s assistance on this. Can you reach him?”

      “The last I heard was that he had returned for a visit back home on Mon Calamari. But I’ll try to raise him on the holonet. I’ll get in touch with you as soon as I find something out. Don’t worry, Leia. We will deal with this.”

      Mon Mothma’s reassurance wasn’t working on Leia this time, however. Petty criminals she could handle, political coups she’d tackled, even post-war Imperials still locked in power struggles she dealt with. But the thought of a new order of Sith sent a chill up her spine.


      Wake up! We’re here.” Derus called over his shoulder while preparing the ship for arrival.

      Rigel stretched and opened her eyes slowly. “Here? Where’s here?”

      “I told you’s Echnos, the fourth moon of Tinn VI. We are headed for the quieter, dark side, away from the huge metropolis located on the near side.”

      Feeling the G forces pull her into the seat, Rigel quickly buckled her restraints as they converted back into realspace. The long lines outside her viewscreen shortened into points of light. Soon all she could see was the deep blackness of space, dotted with the familiar look of the stars again, but no planet was in sight.

      Where are we? Craning her neck, she finally saw their landing target. That tiny gray pockmarked moon? THAT’s where the Jedi are?   The rock  floating  out  there looked much too small  for anyone to LIVE on. Quickly they drew nearer, and soon she could see clusters of clear, brightly lit domes dotting the surface like bubbles rising between the craters and small mountains. Rigel panicked inside, but kept her cool in front of Derus. He was busy at the controls of the small ship, directing it deftly through a shallow valley to one of the enclosures built into the side of a large mountain. As they approached, the semisphere pulled back, opening like a huge mouth, ready to swallow them up. After entering the protective dome, it closed again behind them. With a slight bump, the ship had landed. Derus shut down the engines and turned off the external lights.

      “Ok. Let’s go. I’ll show you around --- but stay with me.” Derus unstrapped himself from the pilot’s seat, grabbed a bag and left the ship.

      “Wait! Wait up!” Rigel unbuckled, jumped up, looked around, but then realized she hadn’t brought anything with her but what she was wearing. She followed him down the landing ramp.

      I hope I don’t regret this.....

      Derus made the introductions. “Master Leba, may I present Rigel.......”

      “... Darklighter.” Rigel finished for him. She could have lied about her name, but she didn’t think anyone would care who she was out here. In fact, she thought, maybe the name would lead me to my father!

      Even though they were inside a huge atmospheric shield, Rigel felt chilled. Durasteel beams stretched to the apex of the massive dome at stark angles, framing the star-filled night sky; her only visible reassurance of its protection against the moon’s harsh exterior. She could imagine the amphitheater holding hundreds of people, but now it was only populated by Derus, his Master and her. Rigel couldn’t see much of the Jedi’s face except for gray eyes peering out from under his large hood. Leba’s movements were smooth but determined, his stature straight, almost majestic. His arms lay crossed in front of his chest, each hand hidden inside the opposite sleeve of his black cloak.

      “Welcome Darklighter. I am pleased you have joined us. Derus was wise to bring you into the fold.” Thupten Leba’s deep voice filled the auditorium with his powerful presence as Derus’ chest swelled with pride at his master’s praise, then bowed with respectful gratitude.

      Rigel sensed Leba’s mind probing, assessing her as she stood before him, slightly uncomfortable in her new suit. Before this meeting, Rigel had been fitted with a uniform consisting of a shirt, leggings with padded knees and thighs, high boots, a padded jacket and tight fitting gloves -- all in black. The only thing that she insisted on keeping was the small pouch she kept hanging around her neck.

      Leba finished his swift inventory of the new recruit and was satisfied with his findings. “Young Derus here will show you to your quarters. Tomorrow you will begin training. I know you will find your full potential here. I am eager to see just what that is.”

      Without giving her a chance to respond, he waved them both from the chambers.

      Silently, Rigel followed Derus out. She wanted to ask so many questions, but realized she would have to be patient. For now, she dared not challenge his authority. I’ll have to make a  mental note to try and  find out more from Derus; he seems to know his way around here ….

      “I sense a great ability in the Force in her. I will see to her training myself. She will be a great addition to our organization.” Perched atop the steps overlooking the auditorium of Dark Jedi Council, Leba glowed with pride at the elite group who represented their growing forces.

      The Inner Council Executive, hooded in black cloaks, nodded in agreement. So far, their domination of the initial sectors had succeeded. Small Outer Rim planets surrendered easily under the New Sith Order. But they all knew they needed more members and financing to expand their forces even farther. So far, the conquests had brought few credits into their hands.

      One member broke the silence. “Your Eminence. That is great news, but we must find a treasury quickly before the New Republic strikes. They are gathering their forces as we speak. Our contacts report that preparations are being …..” with a muffled gasp, the Councilman realized only too late that he should not have spoken out. His hands swiftly raised to his throat in a vain effort to repel the force squeezing the life from his body, ever tightening, until he saw spots before his eyes.

      “Do you think that insignificant band of fools is any threat to us? To ME? When will you learn that we are far more powerful than any of their machines of war. We will continue with our plans and squash anyone who dares to interfere. I have identified our next target which will solve our monetary …. deficiencies. Roon will feel the full power of the New Sith, and show any and all who dare resist that it is futile. The galaxy will be ours….soon.”

      The Council bowed in reverence, ignoring the lifeless body falling to the floor, no longer held up by the force of Leba’s will. “I require only two things from you and your legions; complete and total loyalty, and the conviction of the teachings of the Dark Holocron. We cannot have weak individuals jeopardizing our destiny. They will be dealt with as severely as our opponents.”

      The group swelled with pride and honor, re-energized to pursue their domination of the galaxy and its inferior beings.

      It’s our best chance to track that ship down, Kali.”

      She knew Luke was right, but she hated to see him go too. First Rigel, then him…..she felt she was destined to be alone.  If he had to return to the New Republic’s headquarters to utilize their databanks, then she had to go to. She was never one to sit around and wait for things to happen.

      “On one condition, Luke. I’m going with you. I’ll bring the Goldstar. Then from Coruscant, we can use it to find her together.”

      “That’s not a bad idea….” Luke was trying to develop a plan, but he couldn’t do anything until he could identify who that man was and where they were going. “Okay. You get the ship ready, and we’ll rendezvous at 2000 hours tonight at these coordinates.” Luke wrote the information on a flimsy and handed it to her.

      “I’ll be there. I have to get a few things in order first, though…… Luke?”

      “Yes, Kali?”

      “Do you think we’ll find her?”

      “Of course we will.” He wished his voice could have been more convincing.

      “But, if we do….what if she doesn’t want to come back home?”

      “She will. Maybe what she needs right now is a bit of time to work things out. If she doesn’t want to return to Tatooine, then maybe it’s time for her to start her training at the Academy. We agreed a long time ago that it would be best for her to come to Yavin one day. Perhaps all she needs is a little direction, a purpose.”

      “I hope so…..” Kali wasn’t a Jedi….it was just her mother’s intuition that gave her a strange sense of foreboding.


      She can still outrun anything in the Fleet!” Han was having a hard time convincing Leia that the Falcon should be directly involved in this latest mission.

      “Han. You don’t know the power we’re up against this time. We could be facing an army of Vaders, according to ur last reports!” Even though she knew she was going to lose the argument, she had to try to dissuade him. Leia was afraid this could turn into a suicide mission; Admiral Ackbar had returned to help them develop an acceptable plan to the Council, but privately, they were both skeptical on its success.

      The Council agreed to send the surveillance force out, but could not concur on its size. Arguments ranged from keeping it small to decrease their chances of exposure and to keep the costs as low as possible; to increasing the force to ensure pilot safety. Another point was raised that if this was a covert mission, the New Republic could not be accused of being heavy-handed reactionaries interfering in local matters if in fact the rumors were overblown and this was not the beginning of a Sith uprising.

      After numerous stalemated voting rounds, the Council finally agreed to allow twenty reconnaissance flights to be deployed. Each would be assigned a sector in the Outer Rim to search and report back suspicious activity to the Admiral. Although this severe cutback to his original proposal of sending out two hundred and fifty ships decreased their chances of success to nearly zero, he had to bow to their wishes.  Ackbar reluctantly took the final approved plan to the Fleet Wing Leaders, who would have the difficult task of assigning pilots and ships for the mission.

      Han was prepared to be one of them. “Look Leia. I know what I’m getting into. I was there at the Wing Leaders’ briefing. If I had my way, I’d fight ‘em all head on, a straight fight instead of all this sneakin’ around. But the Falcon is the perfect ship to make a recon flight. If I can help, I will. And the best way to do that is by using me, Chewie and our ship.”

      Leia knew her husband was anxious to get back into some action. As always, he couldn’t just sit back and wait for things to happen -- he wanted, no, he NEEDED to be at the front line. “Ohhhh…..I don’t like it, but I can’t see any way to stop you either.” Leia sighed.

      Han broke out into his best crooked smile. “Hey! It’s me! When do I ever get into trouble?” With a quick kiss on her cheek, he didn’t stick around for the answer to that one; he was off to find Chewie and raise ship.

      “Han!” She called after him. Arrgh! So much for being LEADER of the New Republic…. I guess I’ll let the Admiral know he has a volunteer…..

      Mauura. The ship looks great. Thank you for preparing it for me.” Kali inspected the Goldstar after she loaded the last of her provisions.

      “Are you sure this is the right thing to do?” Mauura couldn’t understand humans sometimes. When a Nikto was Rigel’s age, they were forcibly driven from the family unit to make it on their own. She saw nothing wrong with the teenager’s departure.

      “No. I’m not sure…..but I don’t know what else to do. Hopefully we’ll be back soon. In the meantime, I know I can trust you to keep everything going back here. C’mon Exate, we have to go.”

      The droid chirped and rolled aboard. If she didn’t know better, Kali would have sworn it was eager to leave Mauura behind…..

      “Stop  that  ship!”  Blaster  fire   splattered  in   the ground nearby. Shocked, Kali and Mauura didn’t realize they were yelling at them.

      “What the…..” Kali watched in horror as the two troopers aimed their weapons right at her.

      “Darklighter! You are under arrest for harboring a fugitive! Surrender or be shot!”

      “This is ridiculous! Harboring a ….. oh my stars! I forgot! Rigel and I were supposed to report to court today! They must think we’re making a run for it!” Kali began to raise her hands.

      “We are!” Mauura pulled Kali’s arms down, pushed her inside the ship and locked the hatch. “Let’s go before I come to my senses!”

      Kali ran to the controls while the Nikto took the navigator’s position. With a deafening whine of protest, she brought the engines to full power on a short cycle. The Goldstar rocked beneath their feet as the blaster fire finally found its mark. “Mauura, bring up the deflectors or we’re not going anywhere!” Another shot ricocheted off the starboard side. Kali could smell the slight burning of electrical circuits, but had to hope it wasn’t serious.

      “Okay, we’re set. Let’s go!” Mauura couldn’t believe this  was  happening.   With  a  stomach-wrenching lurch, the ship ascended, leaving the officers cursing far below them.

      Kali laid in the coordinates to meet Luke, then spun around to check that Mauura and Exate were okay. “What have we done? You know we’re as good as guilty now!”

      “Do you really think they’d buy the story that Rigel ran off, and you were going out after her? They would have locked you up, and me too, for that matter for being a suspected accomplice. By the time you got it all sorted out, Rigel would have been long gone.”

      “I hadn’t thought about that. Thank you Mauura. But now I HAVE to find her….if I come back without her, none of us can ever return home….”

      Kali turned to the front viewscreen again. This is getting more complicated by the day…..

      Luke’s snubfighter came into view on her port side as Kali turned the Goldstar to align the ships before entering hyperspace.

      “Finally, Kali! I was beginning to worry…” Luke was tracking her approach and was relieved to at last be able to get on their way.

      “Well, we had quite a ‘sendoff’, Luke…..but I’ll fill you in later. We’re ready for the jump… how are we getting to Coruscant?” Kali had forgotten how much more there was to do on the shuttle than her old X-Wing.  She reviewed the systems as she settled into the pilot’s seat.

      “We?” Luke was confused….he could tell Kali wasn’t travelling alone.

      “You can drop me off on the nearest terra, thank you.” The excitement of their departure was wearing off, and  Mauura’s  space-sickness was returning,  much  to her dismay.

      “Mauura. I need you on this trip. Why don’t you go lay down in the back…Exate will cover the nav.” Kali could see her mech had turned a mossy-green pallor.

      “Replaced by a droid? I should think not!” Mauura’s dark green color returned to her scaly face as she turned to the controls again, shrugging off the nausea as best she could.

      X-8 blatted its own response to her stubbornness.

      “Alright…alright. I have enough to worry about without the rest of my ‘crew’ at each other…” With her back to the console, Kali didn’t see the slight sparking from under the control panel.

      Luke’s voice turned her attention back to the flight display. “Here are the coordinates for the first jump. We’ll follow the old Corellian Run to the Core, and then do a second jump along the Trade Spine. You head out first, and I’ll follow. We’ll rendezvous before the second leg at Corellia.” Something was nagging at the back of Luke’s mind as he watched the Goldstar prepare for the jump. Something’s not right……

      “You got it. We’re ready.” Kali flipped the engines over to the hyperdrive unit, and soon the stars  lengthened as expected. But the violent shudder that followed minutes later was not  expected. Immediately alarms went off throughout the ship, deafening their ears and bathing the cockpit in a red glow. The ship began to spin, knocking Kali to the floor. Mauura forgot all about her condition and frantically searched for the cause of the problem at the navigator station. Soon a wisp of smoke caught her eye at the front of the ship, and the smell of burning wires filled her nostrils. The systems sparked to a flame, while the ship began to fly out of control in hyperspace.

      “Mauura! Shut down those blasted sirens! I’m bringing us out of lightspeed!” Kali dragged herself into her seat and strapped in, wiping at her bleeding forehead. She tried to concentrate over the whistling of her droid, and expletives flowing profusely from the Nikto. Exate had toppled to one side and was swiveling its dome in frustration, unable to right itself.

      “Kali!” Mauura had to yell above the din. “The controls! Look!”

      Kali finally saw the fire. Blast! What else is going to go wrong today? With a few swift maneuvers, she bypassed the damaged areas to bring the ship back under control - she had the engines responding to her again.

      Mauura held on as the Goldstar jerked back into realspace.   Kali  was  dousing  the  fire  with  foam as the astromech droid slid across the floor, finally coming to a stop at the base of the copilot’s seat with a metallic crunch.

      “Those blaster hits must have caused more damage than I thought. I should have checked before trying to turn over to lightspeed….Sithspawn!” Kali was frustrated at herself for being so sloppy. She had ignored her precise military training, and had nearly paid with all their lives in her haste. She returned Exate to his normal upright position again.  “I’ll have to check all the systems….I hope we can fix them out here….we can’t just hop back to Mos Eisley, now can we? By the way…..WHERE are we?”

      Mauura checked the nav computer. “Well, we jumped a bit, anyway…..but I don’t know this area too well. Wait. Here it is….we’re just outside of … oh no….”

      “What? What’s the matter?” Kali thought things couldn’t get worse. She was wrong.

      “Roon!” was all that Mauura could announce before the first impact shattered on the hull deflectors and Kali realized what that meant. The ship was being pummeled with asteroids from the belt of moonlets surrounding the infamous planet.

      Concentrating on the field of debris ahead of them, Kali squeezed the controls, lunged and dipped, turned and spun,  avoiding  huge  boulders and  small  fragments  that were being flung into their path from all angles. “Look out!” Mauura pointed. Exate bleeped its own concern.

      “I know! I KNOW!” So far, she had narrowly avoided a direct hit, but didn’t know how much longer her luck was going to last. Small impacts were shaking the ship, making it even more difficult to maneuver. Then a massive shard of moon tumbled in their way, filling the viewscreen with its scarred surface. It was so close, Kali could see the dark craters and crevices as they skimmed by. Darting by at top speed, Kali matched the Goldstar’s trajectory to the asteroid’s spin. Soon they were shooting out into open space once more.

      “We’re past! You did it!” Mauura found herself uncharacteristically animated. She HATED spaceflight and today’s exploits just reinforced her opinion. The Nikto could now see Roon as it slowly revealed itself below them. “Why don’t we land and try to repair this thing?” She could hardly wait to get her claws on solid terra again.

      Kali slumped in her seat, releasing the built-up tension with a loud sigh. “Good idea…..I don’t think my heart can take many more surprises…” Kali was sweating; her brow had ceased to bleed, but she was drained. With shaking hands, she prepared the ship for landing as Mauura checked the nav for a suitable destination.

      Agghhhh!!!”  The blow from the plasteel rod on her bicep burned. The attacks were coming faster now, like lightening, but she was too slow to respond and defend herself properly. Her sparring partner was throwing everything at her --- any loose crate or piece of equipment in the training room was now a projectile, coming from all angles, aimed right at her.

      “CONCENTRATE! If you do not concentrate, you will be defeated! Let the anger of the attacks give you the power to deflect them!” Thupten Leba watched from the sidelines to coach her on to assess her potential for future development. He had already drawn up a training schedule for her; when she wasn't in physical training, he will have her in mental exercises to push her, to mold her in the ways of the Dark Jedi. Soon he would have the Apprentice he wanted.

      Rigel was weary, both in mind and body. They had been going at it for hours without a break.  Her positive spirit was breaking.... she now only remembered the anger and fear which brought her here,  to the people of her kind, with powers like hers. She was amazed to see what she could really do, which in turn made her even angrier that she had not discovered them earlier. Why would my mother keep it from me? She was just scared of me, scared that I would no longer be under her control. Memories of home were bitter ..... of family and friends. Friends! Right! Just more people using me! Rigel felt the power swell again, and struck back at her attacker. “NO!!!!” With a deafening roar, she pushed with her mind and threw her opponent back, off his feet and into the air. He landed with a crunch on the far side of the room.

      “Wonderful!” Leba bellowed. “I knew you could do it! You are controlling your Dark side to unleash the power of the Force to do your will! You will go a long way, Darklighter.”

      Sweating under her heavy uniform, she watched her assailant get up off the floor. Bowing with reverence, he turned and limped from the arena. Rigel approached her Master, toweling off.

      “It is time to teach you an important Jedi skill, Darklighter. Come with me.”


      I don't believe it. It really works! Rigel stroked the cold silver casing of her very own lightsaber. It felt heavy in her gloved hands, but it also felt....right. She squeezed the activator, and the blade once more came to life.

      It hummed and sparked, with a color Leba had never seen before. The crystals that Rigel had donated from her pouch were exactly what she had needed. Surely she was destined to be a powerful Jedi one day....she even had the crystals needed to build her lightsaber! It was hard to keep his eyes off the ever-changing a rainbow, it rotated from red to yellow then blue, with every hue imaginable in-between.

      She waved the weapon slowly from side to side, mesmerized by the blade which seemed almost alive.

      “I have a gift for you, Darklighter.” Rigel deactivated her saber and watched Leba turn to retrieve a container behind him.  Opening the box,  she found a black belt, and put it on. It fit perfectly, with a silver clasp, and a clip on the right side. She fastened her new lightsaber on, and felt the weight of it on her hip.

      “Perfect! Thank you…..uh…. Master. I am not deserving of your kindness.” It was the first time she called him that.

      “On the contrary, Darklighter. You have earned it.” He placed both hands on her shoulders. “You will master the physical and mental exercises I will give you. You will learn the great teachings of the Holocron. You were destined to be here. After more training and field experience, you will become my Apprentice.”

      Apprentice! She couldn’t believe it. She knew she was special; now she had a chance to prove it to everyone who threatened her.

      “And now, my future Apprentice, we shall plan your first test outside our little home.....”

      Derus was at the helm of the ship again, but this time it was a much larger assault shuttle, one of many in the invasion force that ferried Rigel and the other Sith to their destination on Roon.

      Derus was pleased at Rigel’s acceptance into the Order, as he had been commended for bringing her here. He was just an assistant without any ability in the Force so he was in awe of the warriors. Since he was taken to be a servant to the New Order of Sith, he served them to the best of his abilities. In return, he received room and board, had been taught to pilot, and trusted with important courier missions. He knew of no other life. He was proud to serve Rigel now as well, and hoped she would treat him better than the other warriors had.

      After he checked the coordinates and ensured everything was in order, he took a few minutes to speak to her. Rigel looked very intimidating in her uniform, her dark hair now cropped  short and sleek, a new polished lightsaber hanging from the left side of her belt.

      “You okay?” He noticed she was slightly pale.

      “Huh? Oh. Yes, of course. Just a bit nervous, I guess. I’ve never done anything like this before.” She felt for the reassurance of the saber at her side.

      He nodded his head in comprehension. “I know. Don’t worry. You’ll do great.”

      “It’s not that......I know we have a duty to do. I just wish I were more sure I was doing the right thing.”

      “You are! Look at the honor you’ve been given! Any other warrior would kill to be in your position.” The beeping of the nav computer called Derus back to the cockpit. “We’re here. Get ready.”

      Rigel  glanced around at her compatriots …..kill to be in my position? She never realized that before… the looks that some sent her way reinforced that thought. Well, I won’t be so easy to kill……. Her anger rose as Rigel summoned her strength to concentrate on the job at hand. As soon as they landed, the hatch opened. With the rest of her squad, Rigel left the ship, lightsaber extended to it’s full length, ready for the Battle of Roon.



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