Chapter 20 The Falcon exits hyperspace into the crowded space lanes above Coruscant. In the cockpit, Chewie sits in his regular right-hand seat, Finn occupies the left-hand pilot’s seat, and BB-8 rests on the floor behind them. Finn gazes out the viewport towards the world-city, his eyes wide with astonishment. “Look at all those lights, that’s unbelievable!” he says. Chewie looks to Finn and then towards Coruscant, nonchalantly grunting a response. Finn continues to be mesmerized by the shimmering planet for a few seconds before finally turning to acknowledge Chewie. “You’ve been there?” Finn asks, surprised. Chewie grumbles an explanation, his head and hands expressive as he conveys his message to Finn. As Chewie finishes, the subspace receiver pings. They both look down at the comm unit before Chewie flips a switch to receive the audio call. Finn answers first, “Poe, we’re in position.” “That’s great guys…” Poe’s solemn voice responds over the comm. He continues, “Chewie .. there’s no easy way to say this. Leia’s gone.” A confused look crosses Finn’s face and Chewie looks to the comm speaker to loudly bark a question at Poe. “No buddy, she’s gone .. I’m sorry,” Poe replies. Chewie’s howl fills the cockpit as he slumps back in his chair in saddened disbelief. BB-8 lets out a low beep as his upper hull tilts forward. Finn looks to Chewie with a concerned look, then looks to the comm mic to address Poe, “What happened?” he asks. Poe’s voice gets a little stronger, “Something with the Force. We think she was trying to help Rey somehow, but we can’t be sure.” Chewie issues soft, sad barks. Finn turns to Chewie, his sympathy clear. “Chewie…” he starts. Chewie swivels in his chair and one furry hand grabs Finn by the shoulder as he rises. He pats Finn as he turns to leave the cockpit and BB-8 rolls out of the way to let Chewie pass. The sounds of his mourning fade as he continues down the corridor. Finn watches him leave, a powerless expression on his face. His eyes watering, he turns back to the comm. “Poe, how are we going to do this without Leia?” Poe’s voice strengthens again, “We have to do this for Leia.” The comm is silent for a moment and then Poe speaks again, “You better get on with it. We don’t have much time, and I’m not sure we can count on any support from our allies.” “It didn’t go well?” Finn asks. Poe replies, “Could have gone better.” “Right.” Finn slowly nods his head, still in shock. “What do I transmit?” he asks. Poe answers encouragingly, “You’ve got this one buddy, it’ll come to you. I’ll see you soon. Poe, out.” The comm deactivates with a click. Finn leans back in his cockpit chair and exhales long and loud as he rubs his face with his hands. Turning to BB-8, he asks, “Patch me into the HoloNet?” BB-8 beeps a sharp reply and rolls over to the cockpit wall where he plugs into a socket. After manipulating the socket for a moment, he beeps again, indicating to Finn that he may start broadcasting. Finn pauses to compose himself, then begins, “Ah .. this is Captain Finn of the Resistance against the First Order. Can anyone hear me?” He pauses briefly, but when there is no reply he continues, “The First Order is preparing an invasion fleet for their final assault on the remaining free systems of the galaxy. Their fleet is hidden, but the Resistance has learned its location. There’s a chance to stop them .. it’s our last chance to stop them. If they succeed, all is lost. Every soul on every planet and anywhere in between will eventually be caught in their grip. Make no mistake, these are evil people. They’ve already stolen billions of children, who have been indoctrinated as their faceless soldiers to wage war against anyone who opposes them. I should know, I was one of those children once. And they will take billions more children if we let them. If you’re thinking, it will get better after they’ve won and the war is over .. it won’t. Their oppression will continue until no free will remains, when we are all slaves under their rule. The Resistance is going to fight, to destroy their fleet, and to turn the tide in the war and the First Order’s domination over the galaxy. But we cannot defeat them ourselves. We need you, every single person who is listening. Every person who is still free and willing to make a difference. We need you to rise up with us, and show them that we will not cower, we will not be conquered, and we will not be their slaves! They win by making us think we’re alone. But we’re not, you’re not. There's more of us, there will always be more of us. Let’s show them. Who is with me? Finn’s enthusiasm as he finishes the broadcast slowly fades to disappointment as HoloNet static fills the Falcon’s cockpit speakers. Finn turns to BB-8, points at the communications console and whispers, “Is it working?” Before BB-8 can reply, a silky voice comes through the HoloNet comm, “I’ll fight with you, kid.” A surprised Finn snaps around to stare at the comm panel. *** The Resistance base is a bustle of activity as maintenance personnel race to get every possible ship space worthy, ordnance technicians load up the last munitions, and flight crews board their ships for takeoff. C-3PO stands beside Poe’s X-Wing and shouts up to R2-D2 in the starfighter’s droid station. “Do be careful, R2. With Master Luke and Mistress Leia gone, you’re the only family I have left.” R2 twiddles in response and 3PO straightens. “Well of course we have Chewbacca. Just don’t do anything foolish.” R2 chitters and 3PO turns to walk away, mumbling to himself, “I’d never see an oil bath again.” Poe climbs up the ladder to his X-Wing cockpit. At the top of the ladder, he looks aft to R2-D2. “You all strapped in, R2?” he asks. R2 whistles in the affirmative. Poe drops into the cockpit ejection seat, straps himself into the harness, and lowers the canopy as a ground crewman pulls the ladder away. Poe activates the comm. “Everyone set? Let’s go, form up in orbit”. Resistance vessels of all sizes, from single seat A-Wing interceptors to the 150-meter-long Tantive IV Corellian corvette begin to power up engines, lift off, and head skyward. In orbit above Ajan Kloss, the ships rising out of the atmosphere join other Resistance ships waiting for them in orbit. They assemble into formation, centering on a light carrier - its blocky engine and hanger section connected to the forward bridge by a flat and triangular hull. Surrounding the carrier are eight corvette sized warships interspersed with two dozen smaller ships: various models of freighters, shuttles, bombers, and gunships. On the outer edges of the fleet, starfighter squadrons comprising X-Wings, A-Wings, and E-Wings take position as the fighter escort. The forward ships enter hyperspace first, and the rest of the formation follows quickly behind.