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Saga - OT Shot in the Dark (AU ROTJ: H/L, Luke, Anakin, OCs) 2/3

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Ridley Solo, Jun 21, 2018.

  1. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
    SUMMARY: Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa come to grips with their family ties, while Anakin Skywalker struggles with his feelings of guilt and adapting to his new life, pushing through both emotional and physical obstacles.
    GENRE: Angst, hurt/comfort, family, drama
    WARNINGS: Some thematic elements, mild profanity.


    To understand this story, you should probably read this one: A Matter of Time

    Fire in the hole!
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    CHAPTER ONE

    He hung in midair, legs waving, blue eyes wide with tears and betrayal. Luke Skywalker was in a state of heartbroken shock as Darth Vader held him aloft with the Force.

    So, you thought I had changed?” rumbled Vader. Though out of his armor and mask, his voice was no less imposing. “You are a fool to have trusted me. You are a fool to believe Anakin still lived.”

    Luke coughed and gagged, clawing at his throat and shaking his head. “F-father...please!”

    Vader tightened his grip. “Your folly has cost you your life. The Jedi are no more. Now you will join them...in death!”

    Luke’s eyes bulged and he weakly shook his head in protest. With a sickening crunch, his head went limp and hung to one side. Darth Vader tossed him aside like a limp rag...

    “LUKE!” Leia Organa screamed, fighting the thin sheets that had entangled her. A muffled snort from her left made her hand reach instinctively for the blaster in her night stand.

    “What the-” Han Solo, half-dressed and confused, lurched up to look at her and felt fear and bewilderment snap him awake. “Whoa, hey!” He ducked to avoid a flailing arm. “What’s goin’ on?”

    Leia whipped around, panting, to find Han’s eyes. As her vision cleared and the memory of where she was returned, she left the blaster on the nightstand. “Han…?”

    Han showed his palms. “Yeah. Who’d ya think?” Concern quickly overtook survival instinct, and he reached for her shoulders. “Hey...y’okay?”

    With a shudder, Leia welcomed Han’s embrace, clinging to him and willing the horrible images to fade. They would not. Tears once again filled her eyes, and she choked them back.

    Han brought her close. “Shh...okay...s’okay, sweetheart.” Gently he stroked her hair. “Whassa matter?”

    Leia swallowed further tears. “Nothing, it...it was just a dream.”

    Han nodded, brows knit. “Musta been pretty bad to have ‘ya like this.” Leia was the strongest person he knew. She’d had nightmares in the months after Alderaan, but even those had never made her scream so loud. The sound of it rang in Han’s ears and chilled his spine. So what in the hells could have scared her this much? Spending so much time with Leia had taught him that, when so deeply upset, she threw herself into her work. At times like this when there was nothing else to do, she was left to talk things out. “’Ya wanna talk about it?”

    No. I just want to forget. But Han wasn’t one to let things go so easily. If Leia was hurt, he took it upon himself to render payback. He needed to know this wasn’t something he could chase down and blast. “It...it was Luke, he...Vader had him. He was hurting him...choking him...I couldn’t say anything...I couldn’t move...I just stood there!” Brown eyes squeezed shut. She hated feeling so lost and helpless, and hated more that a stupid nightmare had brought her here.

    Again Han stroked her hair. That would explain things. Luke and Leia had always been close; moreso since finding out they were twins. “Damn. That is bad. But Luke’s fine, and Vader’s locked up. Nothin’ to be scared of. Just a real bad dream.” He kissed the top of her head.

    Leia pressed her lips together. “I’ve never had a dream like this before...it was so real...” The overwhelming need to check on Luke made her reach for the comm. “This is going to sound foolish, but-”

    Leia? Are you there?

    Leia flinched and all but dropped the comm as a vague but familiar voice spoke words directly into her mind. Was it leftovers from the nightmare?

    Leia...it’s me. Are you hurt? Can I help?

    Leia’s hand went to her temple and she shook her head. Was it the stress, then? Was a lifetime of war causing her to lose her mind?

    “What?” Han asked, noting her reaction.

    Hold on. I’m coming…

    “Nothing,” sighed Leia, shaking her head. “I...I need to get back to sleep.” She rearranged the covers about her shoulders and lay down. She relaxed a little as Han lay next to her with his hand on her waist.

    Half a minute later the pounding of bare feet echoed up the corridor, followed by an urgent but quiet knock. “Leia?” It was Luke.

    Han grunted. “Speak of the brother.”

    Leia rose with a sigh and snatched her robe off a nearby hook. “The scream must have woken him up. He’s probably worried.” And she padded to the door. Her relief was profound seeing Luke standing there in one piece. “Luke...”

    “Leia, are you all right?” Luke wanted to know. “I heard you calling me.”

    “I’m sorry I woke you,” said Leia quietly.

    “What’s wrong?” Luke’s blond brows were knit with concern. “I called back, and when you didn’t answer, I thought you might be hurt.”

    “I’m fine. But...what do you mean, you called back?” Leia frowned. "Your quarters are too far away."

    “You called out through the Force,” explained Luke with a shrug. “I guess it was instinctive. I answered.”

    “You can talk to people with the Force?”

    “Sometimes...but only if you’re close to them or very strong with it. Ben called out to me a few times, and so has my father," explained Luke. "That’s how we’ve been speaking when we can’t see each other.”

    A chill danced down Leia’s spine at the thought. If he can speak to Luke, then he can speak to me...but no. I won't let him! Thinking of Vader still made her shudder...especially after that dream. “Oh.”

    Tentatively Luke took her arm. “What’s wrong?”

    Leia blinked, then shook her head. “Just a bad dream. I...it’s silly. I thought you were hurt.”

    Quickly Luke nodded. “Oh. Well, you don’t have to worry. I’m fine.” He tried smiling, but sensed how deep his sisters’ feelings of unease went. This was more than just a bad dream. “Leia, are you sure you’re all right? Whatever that dream was about, it must have been terrible to rattle you like this.”

    Again the Rebellion leader shook her head. “I’m fine. Really. I just...I guess I haven’t been sleeping enough.”

    She's not telling me everything...but let it go, Luke told himself firmly. Pushing Leia into anything was asking from trouble. If she needed to talk, she’d come forward on her own. Half of his feelings were probably his concern as family and not related to the Force at all. “Well, I’ll let you get back to bed. Get some sleep, OK?”

    “You, too.” A quick, impulsive hug- just to make sure Luke was all right -and Leia took a step back. “Good night, Luke.”

    “Good night.” And Luke turned to leave, door sliding shut behind him.

    Leia padded back to bed and slid next to Han with a relieved sigh.

    Han scooted close and wrapped his arm around her. “What was that about?”

    Leia shrugged. “Oh...he sensed I was upset and came to check on me. Just being Big Brother again.”

    “Yeah, that’s Luke, all right,” reflected Han. “What’d I tell ya? He’s fine.”

    “All right. I overreacted. But each of us are the only family the other has left,” sighed Leia, settling in next to her scoundrel.

    “S’just a dream, sweetheart. Get some sleep.”

    But even as Leia curled up with her back to Han’s chest and her head burrowed into the pillow, she could not shake the feeling that her nightmare was somehow more than a bad dream.

    Was the Force trying to tell her something?
     
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2018
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  2. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Riveting and unnerving start! WAS that JUST a very vivid bad dream or a warning? [face_nail_biting]

    =D=
    The emotions and interactions are as wonderfully on-target as ever. @};- [:D]
     
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  3. Sara_Kenobi

    Sara_Kenobi Jedi Grand Master star 7

    Registered:
    Sep 21, 2000
    I think Leia is right. The Force might be trying to tell her something. I loved her conversation with Luke. =D=
     
  4. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    But the future is always in motion and if we try too badly to change it, we end up in a bad place like a Greek hero. Or Anakin when he wanted to save his mother Shmi and his wife Padmé. :(
     
  5. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
    Welcome back, everybody! [:D] After reading @Ewok Poet 's complaint about people posting too often, (guilty!) I've taken the hint and will *try* and restrain myself from posting more than once a week...this week I could only hold out for about 6 days. Hopefully next week I do better. [face_blush]

    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha You'll just have to wait and see what that dream means....[face_devil]
    @Sara_Kenobi Thanks!
    @AzureAngel2 Well, you know how the Skywalkers are when it comes to family...
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Chapter Two

    Large blobs of orange mush hugged a spoon as Rebel Prisoner 1138 ate breakfast. The medic sitting nearby frowned as he watched his patient shovel it in. “Smaller bites,” he warned. “You don’t want to overload your system again.”

    At the moment Anakin Skywalker didn’t care. He was utterly ravenous and ate his breakfast as quickly as coordination would allow. The growing knot in his stomach was ignored.

    It had been a full month since the removal of Anakin’s life support suit. In that time he had adapted to the tracheotomy, been given a new hearing implant, and was currently on the list for a newer prosthetic arm to replace the one he had lost while saving his son on Sheol. All that had been pleasant, however, compared to what his innards had been going through.

    Twenty years of living on MedPaste had wreaked havoc with Anakin’s digestive system. He had learned to ignore the constant gas it gave him and took for granted that he would be able to eat normal food once the suit was gone.

    Not so. The first bites of even the simplest hot cereal came right back up. Anakin’s stomach had rejected any and all substances that could be called ‘food’. As a result Lieutenant Sal and Too One-Be had been slowly weaning him off the MedPaste, mixing it with semisolid food a little at a time. If he ate too fast, he vomited. As a result Anakin felt either hunger or nausea almost constantly.

    This morning was the first to reintroduce a soft fruit without the added MedPaste. While the inside of Anakin’s mouth had not escaped serious burns, enough taste buds were still intact to know when something tasted good. Eating real fruit- albeit in a semi-solid state -was wonderful, and he was determined to finish the bowl.

    Lt. Sal nodded as Anakin’s pace finally slowed. “There. That’s better…” His frown returned when he recognized Anakin’s grimace. “Uh-oh. Nausea again?”

    Anakin nodded. He willed his breakfast to stay down. Please...please...how can eating be so difficult?

    Sal set the half-full bowl aside and took Anakin’s arm. “Let’s take a break. Deep breaths...”

    But Anakin had already doubled over and looked for the bucket Sal had brought in. He didn’t want to empty his stomach, but at this point it wasn’t offering him any choice. No sooner had he brought the bucket to his face than every bite of breakfast jumped out of his gut.

    Sal groaned, but was quick to act. “All right. Take it easy...” He sat ready with suction to clean out anything that had entered the trach tube, then eased Anakin back so the man could catch his breath. Once Anakin was breathing normally, Sal berated his patient. “If you ever want to eat by yourself, you’re going to need to slow down,” the medic sighed. “Until you do, I’ll have to stick around to make sure you don’t choke. That valve doesn’t work so well in reverse."

    Anakin made a face, but nodded. There was a valve in his trach tube that would close when it sensed food, liquid, or the movement of his vocal cords so he could eat, drink, and speak. Unfortunately when things moved backward- such as when he vomited -the sensors often didn’t work fast enough. Vomiting when he was alone could mean a death sentence. “Sorry,” he rasped. “I haven’t tasted real food in a long time.”

    Sal nodded. “I realize that. But you need to be patient. Your stomach can’t handle everything it used to. It may be months before you can eat and drink normally. Even then, you have to move slow. Understand?”

    Anakin pursed his lips. It’s like Jedi training all over again…only this time I have to be patient with my own body. It would take some getting used to. Through his entire life, Anakin had been exceptionally strong. His suit had made up for the strength lost to his burns and then some. Being so fragile irked him...but it was the new normal. Reluctantly he nodded. “Yes.”

    Sal nodded back. “Good. All right, take a breather, sip a little water, and we can try again.”

    “There is no try,” said Anakin as he picked up the water cup.

    “Well, let’s just settle for trying today,” shrugged Sal. “Remember...small bites.

    “Yes, Master,” muttered Anakin, picking up the spoon.

    “Pardon?”

    “Oh. Never mind.”

    * * * * *

    Anakin didn’t manage to hold down more than half a bowl of bland cereal and three spoonfuls of mushy fruit. It was humiliating, really, to eat food more suited to an infant. But perhaps this was part of his penance. He certainly didn’t deserve to be enjoying anything, even something as simple as a meal. He told himself he could endure anything as long as his children were safe.

    Sometimes it was difficult to believe he was the father of twins. Over and over Anakin had examined his feelings when finding out Padme was pregnant, his sense of what he thought was one baby. How could he have missed it? How could she have kept it a secret from him? Pushing aside the old feelings of betrayal, all Anakin could conclude was that even Padme hadn’t known. She’d loved him too much to keep something like that a secret.

    Even more unbelievable was the fact that either of those twins wanted anything to do with him. Luke badly wanted to have some sort of positive relationship with his father, and visited whenever he was allowed. It was only once a week for about an hour at a time, but both Luke and Anakin made the most of it. By then Luke had learned to live with his father’s appearance and even seemed to enjoy their time together. And Force, could he ask questions! Some Anakin wasn’t ready to answer. Others- simple little things about his childhood on Tatooine- were easier. Anakin asked a few of his own and wasn’t surprised at how reckless and skilled Luke was.

    They actually had quite a bit in common. Both had been adrenaline junkies as young teens, both had had few honest friends, and both had a tendency to get impatient. Above all, Skywalker emotions ran high. It was both their greatest blessing and greatest curse.

    Anakin was meditating, trying to calm his system after the upsetting breakfast, when a small buzzer startled him and made him turn to the door.

    “Prisoner 1138 has a visitor,” announced one of the guards over the intercom.

    Anakin reached out with the Force and was pleased to sense his son waiting outside. As part of the routine he rose and stood two paces away from the door. When it slid open he smiled. “Son, it’s good to see you again.”

    Luke managed a slight smile in return as he entered, tailed by one of the guards. He stepped forward into his father’s waiting embrace. “Hello, Father. How are you feeling?”

    Anakin shrugged. “I could be better, but then, I could be far worse. I’ve nothing to complain about. And you?”

    “I’m good.”

    “Come and sit down,” he invited, motioning to the table. There was still the slightest bit of hesitation on Luke’s part as they sat across from each other. “How go the battle plans?”

    “Slow. We know what to do, but we need to finish regrouping first. We’re going to need all the help we can get on this one.”

    “As well I know,” sighed Anakin. “I’d like to help in any way I can.”

    Luke lifted his brows. “You already have. Without your intelligence, it would have been months before we found out about the second Death Star. By then it might have been too late.”

    Anakin shrugged, his eyes on the door of the cell. Despite his continued digestive problems he had no qualms about jumping right back into the fray. “I’ve other skills to offer the Rebellion; piloting, for one. The trouble is whenever I try to offer them anything other than intelligence, I never hear back. I suppose I can understand why they don’t trust me, but...could you speak to them? I hate just sitting around when there’s work to be done.”

    Luke pressed his lips together. He knew what an amazing pilot his father was and how much he wanted to help. “According to your medic, you’re not up to flying just yet. Not ‘till you can hold down a full meal or two and get some of your strength back,” he said quietly. When Anakin hung his head, Luke took his father’s shoulder. “I’ll talk to them, all right? Maybe they’d let you fly tandem in a Y-wing when you’re feeling better.”

    Anakin’s return smile was faint. “I’ll feel better when I can actually do something. How is your sister?” he asked after a pause.

    Here Luke’s shoulders fell. It was one of Anakin’s most-asked questions. Leia’s continued anger toward her father was understandable, but worrisome. Anakin’s worst nightmare was one of his children falling into the same darkness that he had just escaped. “She’s all right...busy and tired, but everyone is these days.” As if on cue Luke yawned.

    Slowly Anakin nodded. “Understandable. There’s much to be done yet. Has she spoken any more of the Force, or whether she’s changed her mind about Dagobah?”

    Luke grimaced. “No.”

    “She must learn of her power; if nothing else, to control it,” said Anakin, slowly shaking his head. “Most of all, to let go of her anger. Seeing Master Yoda would be good for her. But she’s just as stubborn as her mother,” he added with a sad smile.

    “I can’t push her...especially not now,” reminded Luke.

    “Don’t put it off too long, son,” cautioned Anakin. “If either of you fell to the Dark Side, it would mean disaster...and I couldn’t bear it.”

    “I know. I’m trying. But you’re the one who should talk to her about that. You know firsthand how easy it is to fall away,” reminded Luke.

    Anakin shrugged helplessly. “How can I, if she won’t pay any mind?”

    The proverbial cogs in Luke’s head began to turn. “She won’t see you. But if you call to her through the Force, she’d have to listen.”

    Another faint, sad smile touched Anakin’s lips. “I’ve already tried. Every time, she shuts a proverbial door in my face. No, son. Leia must hear it from you. She won’t listen to me.”

    Luke sighed, temples sinking into his fingers. Thus far it didn’t look as if there was much hope of getting through to Leia. Her eyes and ears were shut to the truth of the Force. She’s still my sister. And our father is right...she has to learn to control the power she inherited. After a moment he lifted his head and nodded, meeting his father’s eyes. “All right. The next time I see her, I’ll talk to her.” His words did nothing to ease a vague sense of fear and danger.

    Anakin nodded in return, taking Luke’s shoulder. “That is all I can ask.” Perhaps it would be best to change the subject. There was unease in some part of the ship and Luke was picking up on it. He didn’t want what little time they had to be taken up worrying. “When do you plan on resuming your training?”

    Luke cringed. “Soon, I hope. I did make a promise to Yoda that I’d return and finish my training, I just don’t know when I can.”

    Too much is being put off. Anakin found his son’s eyes. “You should go as soon as possible. Jedi training isn’t something you can flip on and off like a switch.”

    The young man groaned softly. “I know, but we’re still planning the attack on the second Death Star. If I leave before then, it would feel too much like running out on them.” Luke sighed, reaching for his father’s shoulder again. “As soon as the dust has settled. I promise.”

    Who knows when that will be? Fighting back the sense of urgency and unease, Anakin pursed his lips. “And until then? Will you keep up what practice you can on your own?”

    “I can try,” shrugged Luke. “But without a lightsaber, I’ll be limited.”

    “As well I know, having been the cause of that. I’m so sorry, son. I really...never meant to injure you.” Anakin closed with eyes with regret. The realization of what he had done to his children haunted him daily.

    “But that wasn’t you. It was Vader, and Vader’s gone now.”

    “Thanks to you. Still, I can’t help but feel guilty for my part in hurting you...and depriving you of your weapon. You’ll need to build a new one.”

    “If I knew how, I’d have started already.” Cautious, Luke’s eyes returned to his father. “Could you teach me?”

    Anakin’s pallor went even more pale. “Me? Son, you don’t know what you’re asking. I’m the last person who should teach you of the Force.”

    Luke’s shoulders fell in disappointment. “Why? You have more experience and knowledge about the Jedi than anyone alive besides Yoda. Why can’t I learn from you?”

    Slowly, regretfully, Anakin shook his head. “In the first place, I’m an abysmal teacher. The one student I had left the Order. And I’m a dreadful example of what a Jedi should be; rather, you should look at me as an example of what not to do. And finally...I haven’t been a Jedi since before you were born. I’m not qualified. Only Jedi should train others. Do you understand?”

    Luke sighed sadly. “Not completely, but-” The insistent warble of his commlink interrupted, and he answered with a frown. “Skywalker.”

    Leia’s voice came over the tiny speaker. “Luke, you need to come down to the hangar right now.”

    Nerves twisted Luke’s stomach and he rose to his feet. Even there, he could sense the urgency in his sisters’ voice. “Why? What happened?”

    Leia was upset about something, though her voice was steady. “Just...get down here. And hurry,” she added.

    Luke grimaced. “I’ll be right there.” The comm returned to his belt and he hurried to the door, turning midway to look at his father. “Father...I’m sorry-”

    “Don’t be,” said Anakin with a shake of his head. “Go on.”

    “I’ll keep you posted,” promised Luke as he stepped through the deactivated force field. And then he turned and jogged out into the corridor. The faint sound of distant klaxons began to echo through the ship, cut off abruptly when the door slid shut again.

    Anakin wanted nothing more than to go with his son, running alongside so they could find the problem together. The knowledge that he couldn’t stirred up feelings of impatience, annoyance, and the same old urgency he had felt as a young Jedi when he was stuck in the Infirmary. It was a struggle just to sit down and close his eyes, reaching for the Force. He prayed that whatever had happened, it wasn’t serious.
     
  6. Sara_Kenobi

    Sara_Kenobi Jedi Grand Master star 7

    Registered:
    Sep 21, 2000
    I love the bond that Luke and Anakin have. Hopefully Leia will listen to Luke about beginning training.
     
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  7. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Wonderful and candid talk and delaying is not a good idea but if circumstances get in the way [face_worried] =D=

    I wonder what that urgent comm-call was at the end? [face_worried]
     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2018
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  8. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
    @Sara_Kenobi There aren't enough father-son stories about Anakin and Luke, so I'm making my own. :p As for Leia...well...
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Jedi training and war generally don't mix. :( As for the comm-call...


    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Chapter Three


    The hangar bay of the Liberty was a scene of barely missed chaos. Ground crew were reeling in a pair of hoses still dripping flame-retardant. Pilots, in and out of uniform, stood in wide-eyed clusters that were beginning to break up. A team of medics spoke quietly with a young man on a hover-gurney and began final prep to take him to the infirmary. Another pilot, soot-streaked and wearing a bandage on his left hand, gave shaken but animated testimony to a pair of fleet troopers while his wingmates hung close by for moral support.

    Luke’s eyes took it all in as he sprinted into the hangar. To his right a crewmember climbed a ladder and slapped off the blaring alarm. Now the only sound to be heard was hushed conversations. The smell of smoke, ozone, flame retardant foam, and fried circuits made an acrid combination. Luke’s mind spun with confusion. What in the galaxy…? He recognized the young man on the gurney as Wes Janson; Rogue Two, the youngest in the squadron at only seventeen. His heart dropped. “Wes!”

    Leia turned away from a group she was standing with and jogged to intercept her brother. Her expression was one of worry. “Luke, you made it. I’m sorry I didn’t give you more warning.”

    “What’s going on?” blurted Luke, trying to see around his sister. “What happened to Janson?”

    “There was a fire in his cockpit,” said Leia quietly.

    “Fire? How?” Luke reeled at this shock and tried all the more to see Wes. “Is he all right?”

    “No one is sure how it started...but yes. Janson is going to fine.”

    Luke his head. “I can’t believe this. Janson’s never had any problems with his fighter.”

    Leia took her brother’s arm. “Luke, calm down. I know Janson is your friend. But as the commanding officer of Rogue Squadron, you have to be the one to take the statements. Can you do that?”

    Luke took in and let out a deep, shuddering breath, closing his eyes. It was one of the things he hated about command. Losing people to injury or death was bad enough. Losing people under your command- most of whom were close friends -was worse. Looking into how someone had been injured was a new experience for Luke, and one he had been dreading. All right. You’re Rogue Leader now, not just Luke. The young man gave a single nod and opened his eyes. “Yes. I want to see Janson first.”

    Willingly Leia stepped aside, giving Luke’s arm an encouraging squeeze as he passed.

    Luke found his legs shaking as he intercepted the floating gurney with a raised palm. Wes looked awful. His flightsuit was blackened from the knees up, his arms and chest swathed in bandages, his face coated in soot with a clear breath mask over his mouth and nose. Luke’s throat constricted at seeing his friend this way, but he swallowed the lump to speak. “Wes? Wes, can you hear me?” When Wes barely stirred, Luke grit his teeth. “Janson!”

    Wes startled out of his doze and forced his bleary brown eyes to focus on Luke. “Huh? Oh. Hey.”

    “He’s doped up on meds,” warned a medic. “He’s not gonna make much sense.”

    “Just a minute and I’ll let you go. Wes, do you remember what happened?” Luke asked.

    “Uh...yeah.” Wes blinked slowly and a free hand went to his head. His speech was slow and somewhat slurred. “I, uh...R5 was running diagnostics after the patrol hop...sensors were actin’ up...suddenly...” Wes’s brows knit. “The...a fuse blew...sparks everywhere...next thing I know, I’m...I’m....”

    Luke cringed with both alarm and sympathy. Further questions bounced about in his mind, but they could be asked later. He nodded and squeezed Janson’s leg. Those were about the only things untouched by the blaze. “All right, Janson. That’s all for now. You get some rest.”

    Janson smiled sleepily. “I’m fine...just got a lil’ cooked. Be back on my feet in no time.”

    Luke nodded. “Sure you will. But until the medics say otherwise, you rest. That’s an order.”

    Janson tried saluting, but his arm barely moved. He settled for a nod. “Yessir.”

    With a final pat on Janson’s boot, Luke stepped aside and let the gurney pass. You better listen, Wes. I’m not about to lose you, too. Shaking, he turned to his pilots. Four were clustered almost protectively around Wedge, who happened to be the one with the bandaged hand. “Did anybody see what happened? Wedge?”

    Wedge shook his head, disturbed. “All I know is we just got back from our patrol hop. The rest of us were headed to the showers and Janson says he’s going to run diagnostics; his sensors were acting up. As we’re heading out I hear this scream...” The black-haired man closed his eyes. “His whole console was on fire...he was still trying to get out of restraints...but he panicked. Couldn’t get them.”

    Derek Klivian- known to most as Hobbie -took the opportunity to pipe up. “So Wedge runs back in and yanks Janson out of there...and we couldn’t be prouder of him.” Hobbie affectionately slapped Wedge’s shoulder.

    Luke’s brows lifted, but somehow he wasn’t surprised. Wedge was one of the best pilots in the Rebellion and didn’t hesitate to risk his neck for someone else. “Is that how you hurt your hand?”

    Wedge nodded uncomfortably. “Yeah. But I’m okay. More worried about Janson.”

    Luke took Wedge’s shoulder. “You probably saved his life. I can’t say I’m surprised, but good work.”

    Wedge shrugged. “Hey, I did what anybody would do. I went after my wingman. ‘Sides...he’s just a kid.”

    “He’s also a good pilot. Thank you.” Luke blew out a sharp breath and surveyed the crowd. “Does anybody have anything else to add?”

    The others shook their heads.

    “All right, then. Back to your quarters. Take a breather. Wedge, you get that hand taken care of. I’ll keep everyone updated. Dismissed.“

    Rogue Squadron gave a series of salutes before scattering. Most hung next to Wedge as the shaken man shuffled away.

    Luke pressed his lips together before finding Janson’s X-wing. Air scrubbers had already sucked away the smoke, but the entirety was blackened. Climbing the ladder and peering inside revealed a mess. The seat was charred on the bottom. Synthetic materials had melted into mushy slag, exposing circuits and wiring. Technicians were just now prying a quiet astromech out of the socket behind the cockpit. At this point it was impossible to tell where the fire had originated.

    “Commander,” nodded one of the techs as they lifted R5 clear of the fuselage. “Figured you’d be down here to check it out. How’s the kid?”

    “Not sure yet,” cringed Luke, turning to the pair. “Any idea what could have caused this?”

    “Beats me,” shrugged the tech, steadying R5.

    The second one piped up. “All I know is, it’s a good thing it missed the fuel lines. These fighters are parked so close to each other, if that blaze went any deeper, boom. This whole hangar coulda gone up,” he remarked with a grimace. “We really lucked out.”

    Luke was too disturbed to say much in return. Luck didn’t have anything to do with it, and it was difficult to feel grateful when his friend was hurt. “Yeah...look, as soon as you can, you need to start looking into what caused this. ‘Till we know for sure what went wrong and how to fix it, the flight’s grounded.”

    The older tech saluted. “Yes, sir. We’ll get on it right away.”

    “Thanks,” said Luke. He gave one last look to the charred cockpit, shuddered, and slid down the ladder.

    * * * * *

    Three hours later Luke’s mind was reeling as he sat in the conference room among the leaders of the Rebellion. He couldn’t believe his ears as he heard the results of the initial investigation. “Sabotage?” he gasped. “How? Why?”

    The lead tech, seated across from Luke, checked his datapad. “We’re not sure yet, but we think it goes back to the problems Janson was having with his stabilizers. After disassembling the cockpit and forward fuselage, we found some frayed wires that seemed to be deliberately cut. Those same wires lead straight to the diagnostic system, and there were traces of an accelerant.”

    Han- moving up in the ranks as a colonel and now part of the pilot’s corps -knotted his arms, lips pursed. “So it was booby-trapped. You stick something flammable in the wrong place, add a spark, and boom.”

    The mechanic nodded. “Essentially. Whoever did this must have at least a working knowledge of starship mechanics. They covered their tracks well. Apart from the accelerant there’s no trace of what happened or how.”

    Luke’s mind spun at what this meant. “But...who? Who could have done this, and why?” He certainly couldn’t think of anyone willing to sabotage Rogue Squadron. Most techs and pilots he knew personally and was friends with.

    “Wish I knew,” shrugged the tech. “But they had the means and obviously some sort of motive.”

    “So, how are we going to find them?”

    “It’s not going to be pretty. I’d recommend a full investigation of every hangar tech and pilot.”

    Han gave a low whistle. “You sure that’s necessary? I mean, we know all the guys there. None of them would do something like that.”

    Ackber’s fishy brows met in the middle. “Perhaps, Colonel Solo, but we have been deceived before. I agree with the Technical Sergeant. Commander Skywalker,” he added, turning to Luke, “I realize this is a difficult and disturbing thing to consider, but until the investigation turns up further evidence, everyone is suspect. Are you certain that there is no one who would have motive, even as a personal vendetta against Lieutenant Janson?”

    Luke firmly shook his head. “Admiral, I know Janson’s a joker. He’s played so many practical jokes I’ve had to write him up twice, but it was never anything serious. Certainly never anything that hurt people or property. The biggest grudge I could think of might have ended in another joke...but nothing like this. I think we can at least rule out Rogue Squadron. You saw how devastated everyone is.”

    Mon Mothma cringed. “Perhaps so. However, I think it would be prudent to get statements from anyone who knew or associated with the Lieutenant. It might give us a few leads. Would you agree, Leia?”

    Leia, who sat nearby wearing a distant, troubled expression, hadn’t spoken the whole time. She seemed startled as she lifted her head to regard Mon Mothma. “Oh. Yes...yes, of course...but if I may go on record to say that I do not believe any crewmembers aboard the Liberty are responsible for this.”

    Mon Mothma, General Reeikan, and even Han and Luke all lifted their brows at Leia. “Oh? Do you have reason to believe we should be focusing our investigation elsewhere?” Mon Mothma wanted to know.

    Leia stirred uncomfortably in her seat. She knew Luke wasn’t going to take kindly to her suggestion… nor was anyone else. Logic deemed it utterly ridiculous. Her only evidence was the twist of her stomach. “Well...I realize this is going to sound a bit far-fetched,” she began cautiously.

    Mon Mothma pursed her lips. “Now is not the time to beat around the bush, Leia.”

    The former princess nodded, taking a deep breath and avoiding Luke’s curious eyes. “There’s only one Imperial defector we’ve taken on with sufficient knowledge to pull something like this off, and that’s Vader.”

    A chorus of protest rose from all those present. Even Han looked skeptical. “C’mon! That’s nerf shavit...’scuse me,” he added when Leia flinched at the course language.

    General Madine nodded in agreement. “Solo’s right. Vader- or I should say, Anakin -has been under heavy guard and constant surveillance since his arrival. Besides, he’s given no indication of holding any kind of grudge against anyone in the Rebellion.”

    “Agreed,” nodded Ackbar. “The senior Skywalker is without either means or motive.”

    “I must say, Leia, I’m surprised at you,” frowned Mon Mothma. “One would never expect you, of all people, to let personal feelings and emotion cloud your judgment so completely.”

    “Just hear me out,” begged Leia, showing her palms. “I’m not, of course, suggesting he somehow snuck out of his cell under our collective noses, nor that our guards are blind. But don’t forget, he’s one of the most powerful Force-users in recent history...and mechanically inclined.”

    “Leia,” protested Luke, gaping at his sister in disbelief. “He wouldn’t!”

    Mon Mothma cringed. “While it’s not impossible that a man of Anakin’s talents could very well manipulate objects across a distance,” she allowed, “and I’ll agree that he cannot be trusted to the point of release, we are still left without a motive. Leia, have you any viable evidence that points to Anakin Skywalker as a suspect?”

    Heat flashed in Leia’s cheeks, and she realized how foolish she sounded. The young woman sank into her seat. “No...but don’t you think it would be wise to investigate as many angles as possible? Look at Vader’s history for a minute. He turned, seemingly overnight, from one of the most legendary Jedi in the galaxy to second in command of Emperor Palpatine. And while I’m not doubting his honesty, the fact that he did another complete 180 so quickly is a strong indication of-” She hesitated, feeling Luke’s sense of hurt and betrayal across the room. “...mental instability.” Poor Luke...he just doesn’t understand! We can’t trust Vader for a minute.

    Silence greeted this idea as the leaders considered it. Each regarded the other with looks of conflict. Leia did have an interesting point. Such complete transformations, especially around a history of violence, did hint at some sort of mental illness.

    General Reeikan regarded her cautiously. “Well...there have been two extreme sides to this individual. Are you suggesting Anakin might have some sort of split personality?”

    Leia rubbed her temple and let out a heavy sigh. Luke’s blue eyes were boring into her across the room. “All I’m suggesting is that we look into it as well as pursuing any other leads that might come up. Rogue Squadron is made up of the best in the Alliance. We can’t afford to put our pilots at risk, especially now.” A cautious glance at Luke saw the young man hanging his head, eyes closed. Guilt at putting her brother through even more heartbreak washed over Leia. Oh, Luke. I’m so sorry!

    Madine grimaced. “We can’t argue with that. As a matter of fact I was about to suggest putting the attack plans on hold until this mystery is solved.” He took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I’ll talk to him again; maybe with a polygraph test. Does the Council agree?”

    Reeikan, Ackbar, Mothma, and Leia all nodded solemnly. Luke and Han said nothing.

    “Very well,” sighed Mon Mothma. “In the meantime, we’ll continue with the investigation as planned. Commander Skywalker?”

    Luke was in misery as he lifted his face. “Yes, ma’am?”

    “I must apologize for the turn this conversation has taken. Has there been any word yet on Lieutenant Janson’s condition?”

    “Not yet. I was going to go down and see him when we’re through.”

    “Go ahead, then. I know you’re anxious to check on your friend. Will you keep us appraised?”

    “Sure.”

    “Very good. I believe that’s enough for today. Council adjourned.”

    With a nod of thanks, Luke rose to his feet and hasted out of the room. Anger bubbled within, and he fought it back. She doesn’t understand, he told himself. She doesn’t see him as anyone but Vader. She’s not trying to hurt me...but it hurt just the same.

    Leia was already jogging after her brother. “Luke? Luke, wait,”

    No. Luke skidded to a stop anyway and shut his eyes. “Do you need something, Princess?”

    Leia winced, taking her brother’s shoulder. Formal titles were only used when he was very upset. “I’m so sorry. I never meant to hurt you like that.”

    Luke shook his head. “I know.” He let out a slow, shuddering breath. “But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.”

    “I’m just trying to do what’s best for the Rebellion,” she explained.

    “Are you?” Before Leia could answer, Luke shook his head and stepped away. “Can I make sure Janson is all right now?”

    Leia let her hand drop. “Of course.” I’m so, so sorry...I wish you could understand!
     
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  9. teamhansolo

    teamhansolo Jedi Knight star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 25, 2018
    I'm loving this story, I can't wait to hear if Vader is actually involved in the sabotage, I don't think he is tho.
     
  10. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Oh, Ridley! :( Luke is in such a bind, caught squarely in the middle! :( You do have to check every single angle, because the sabotage was not just deliberate but technically skilled, and time is of the essence so there aren't any more victims. But this has certainly put a rift between Luke and Leia, at least for now. @};-
    =D=
     
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  11. Sara_Kenobi

    Sara_Kenobi Jedi Grand Master star 7

    Registered:
    Sep 21, 2000
    I hope Anakin isn't involved in the sabotage.[face_thinking] I think Leia's worry is understandable though. Great update! =D=
     
  12. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
    @teamhansolo Welcome aboard! I'm glad you're enjoying it. :)
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Yes, unfortunately with his father the former Darth Vader and his sister one who hates Vader the most, that was kind of inevitable. :(
    @Sara_Kenobi Read on....
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Chapter Four
    Anakin knew something was wrong the minute his door slid open and he found General Madine and a new medic standing there with grim expressions. Luke had sent only a brief mental message saying that something had happened and he wasn’t allowed to say more.

    They suspect me of something, he realized, recognizing a specialized piece of monitoring equipment that served as a polygraph. A relatively narrow band was secured around Anakin’s left bicep while the medic- whose rank badge identified him as a lieutenant commander -watched a small datapad for changes in Anakin’s vitals. “Is there a problem, General?” Anakin asked quietly. Obvious question, but what else was he going to ask?

    Madine couldn’t help but cringe. “I’m afraid so. There was an incident earlier today, and we’d like to know if you have any information about it.”

    Anakin glanced at the life band around his arm. “You don’t expect me to be truthful, then.” There was no accusation in his voice, only quiet resignation.

    Madine flinched despite himself and shrugged. “Well...”

    Anakin showed his mechanical palm. “It’s all right, General. I understand and will answer any questions you ask.”

    The General blew out a short breath before consulting his own datapad. It always unnerved him to see a prisoner so willing to cooperate. Thus far Anakin had played the part of penitent to the hilt. Let’s see how he holds up to this, thought Madine, clearing his throat. “All right. Let’s get started. State your name and age, please.”

    “Anakin Skywalker. Forty...” He wrinkled his brow, troubled. How old was he, again? He hadn’t even thought of his age in so long. Birthdays had gone uncounted and unnoticed since Mustafar. “Just a moment. I’m not really sure,” admitted the man, closing his eyes and doing a little math. “Forty...four, I think?”

    Madine glanced at the medic and got a shrug in response. With the severity of Anakin’s injuries, his age could only be guessed at. At least the polygraph registered normal. “Er...former occupation?”

    Here Anakin grimaced. “Sith Lord, second in command to Emperor Palpatine, also known as Darth Sidious.”

    Madine suppressed a minor shudder at the name. “Right. Let’s continue...”

    * * * * *

    Leia sat with knotted arms and her eyes fixed on the external health monitor. Her stomach twisted in a dozen knots as General Madine finished up his interview with the former Darth Vader. Confusion whirled about in her head as, one by one, every answer registered as the truth. There was not a single aberration to be found in Vader’s vital signs. He wasn’t even sweating.

    Leia knit her brows and shook her head. He could be using the Force to beat the polygraph. It’s happened with non-Force users.

    As the interrogation finished with Madine thanking Anakin for his time and the medic removing the monitoring cuff, Leia kept her gaze turned away from the video feed. She had yet to see her biological father and wanted to keep it that way. She didn’t want to give him any kind of false sympathy based on his reportedly frail appearance.

    Finally Madine and the medic emerged. Behind them a shadow of a man in orange and brown prisoner fatigues sat with his back to the door and his eyes turned down. Something seemed to register with him, and he turned his head to look.

    He can sense me, realized Leia, cringing and quickly ducking out of the way. The door closed- mercifully -and Leia quickly shifted her gaze to Madine. He looked shaken. “Well, General. What are your impressions?”

    Madine shrugged and handed her the datapad. “See for yourself, Princess. He passed...with flying colors, I might add. Not a single question was answered falsely or with the slightest indication he was being untruthful.”

    Color overtook Leia’s cheeks as she realized how much more ridiculous her argument sounded now. Still, she shook her head. “Well...it’s not 100 percent accurate. And people have been known to beat the polygraph before.”

    Madine lifted a skeptical brow. “One in five million? That’s a pretty small chance.” He shook his head. “Your Highness, with all due respect, don’t you think you’re grasping at straws? No one can argue against Darth Vader paying the price for his crimes...but he has yet to show any aggression toward us since he’s been in our custody. Look at him...the way he holds his shoulders, the way he’s hanging his head...he knows he’s beaten. Hell, he can’t even hold down a meal!” Carefully he took Leia’s shoulder. “I think we’re going to have to look elsewhere for our culprit.”

    Leia, still shaking her head, handed the datapad back to the General. Maybe I’m just letting that monster get to me. The nightmares weren’t helping, either. She resolved just to close the walls about her mind and feelings even tighter, not allowing him any access. “Maybe you’re right...but you know what that means,” she added, hating her words.

    Ruefully Madine nodded. “It’s one of ours. I don’t like the idea any more than you do, Princess, but it’s looking that way.”

    “All right,” sighed Leia, disturbed by both her own feelings and the idea that there was a traitor in their midst. “I’m sorry I was so insistent about it. Continue your investigation, General.”

    “Yes, Your Highness,” said Madine. “And don’t feel too badly. I’m sure in the back of our minds we were all considering it. Hopefully Skywalker will turn something up.”

    “Don’t take this the wrong way, General, but I almost hope he doesn’t,” said Leia with a grimace. “I don’t know what it would do to Luke if one of his men was responsible.”

    * * * * *

    Luke hadn’t even been with the Rebellion for two years before the gave him command of his own squadron. At the time it had been a dream come true. He loved flying, and took to maneuvers and strategy like the proverbial Gungan to water.

    Now Luke wished he had never accepted the job. Seeing Janson had been tough. The young man had second and third-degree burns over most of his arms and chest, but the bacta and burn cream were doing their jobs well. With time and perhaps a little synth-skin, nobody would be able to tell. It was good to know Wes was going to pull through.

    That had almost been pleasant compared to the questioning of his squadron and everyone who had known Janson. Every one of them had responded with shock and even anger at the fact that everyone was suspect. Most understood why, but that didn’t keep them from feeling hurt. Luke had hated every minute of it and read the questions off the datapad like a droid.

    Now it was finally over. Rogue Six had just left wearing the same look of hurt that everyone else had. Luke tossed he datapad onto the table and lowered his face into his hand. It was difficult to know how to feel. On one hand, he was relieved that his suspicions had been correct. He didn’t sense the slightest bit of deception or ill intent from any of them, and the group of analysts watching behind a one-way window never gave him the signal to probe further. None of them had a plausible motive.

    But on the other hand, it left Luke right back where he had started. They were no closer to finding the culprit. Until they did, Rogue Squadron was grounded.

    The door slid open again, and General Reeikan slowly walked in wearing a look of sympathy. “Skywalker.”

    Luke let his hands drop and rose to attention. “General.”

    “At ease, Commander.” Reeikan motioned for Luke to sit back down and took the seat across from him. “How’d it go?”

    “Well, as far as I can tell, none of them have any motive for hurting Janson. One of them- an ensign Farlander -doesn’t like him very much, but would never set a fire in his cockpit,” explained Luke. He glanced over his shoulder at the now vacant window. “They can confirm that for you; no unusual behavior, and his alibi checks out. He wasn’t even on the Liberty for the last two weeks.”

    Reeikan tried an encouraging smile. “Well, that’s good news, isn’t it? Your faith in your squadron seems well-placed.”

    Luke made a face. “Yes, but the problem is we’re no closer to finding a suspect...and I think this whole process has rattled everyone.”

    The General winced and shrugged. “It’s never easy to interrogate people you’ve come to trust with your life. Unfortunately things like this kind of come with the territory. We’re at war. Betrayals happen.” Reeikan reached for Luke’s shoulder. “I’ve got some good news for you. Your father passed the polygraph with flying colors.”

    He should never have been a suspect in the first place. Luke could barely muster a smile. “Thanks, General. I appreciate your coming to tell me.” Does Leia still think he’s lying, or was she too embarrassed to tell me herself? He knew it was going to take more than a polygraph to make Leia trust her biological father. She might never trust him.

    An unexpected yawn suddenly split Luke’s face, and he worked his jaw around in a circle. Was he really that tired?

    Reeikan backed off and gave Luke’s shoulder another encouraging squeeze. “You look done in. Go get some rest, Commander.”

    Luke nodded and pushed to his feet. “Yes, sir. I’ll try, but frankly I don’t think anyone in Rogue Squadron is going to sleep until this is over.”

    * * * * *

    Swipe.

    Leia held her datapad up in the darkness, scanning through various investigative reports, brows knit in concern and frustration. Three days, and they were no closer to finding who was responsible for the fire in Janson’s cockpit.

    Prisoner 1138: Clear.

    Leia shook her head and flicked that page away. While a part of her regretted bringing it up in the first place- Luke was still upset with her about that -she still felt that Vader...Anakin…whoever he was, he couldn’t be trusted any farther than he could be thrown. They couldn’t afford to be complacent, especially now. He could always make trouble in the near future.

    Swipe.

    Rogue Squadron: Clear.

    Mech-Team 2: Clear.

    Leia’s shoulders sagged as she scanned through Luke’s report. That was twice his instincts had been right. Every single member of the Rogues- and every mechanic who had been a victim of Janson’s pranks -had a verified alibi for the day of the explosion. The security recordings for the hangar had yet to be analyzed, but Luke was adamant. Every one of his men had told the truth.

    Swipe.

    Mech-Team 4: Clear.

    Mech-Team 6: Clear.

    Mech-Team 8: Clear.

    Leia sighed heavily and rubbed her eyes between thumb and forefinger. Every lead they’d been given had led straight to a dead-end. Possible suspects on the Liberty had been all but eliminated. Who else could it be?

    Han marched out of the refresher unit, yawning and reaching for a light. “Man, I’m beat. You ‘bout ready to go to bed?”

    Leia shrugged and began scanning the reports again. “In a minute. I just want to look through these one more time.”

    Han’s shoulders fell. “Sweetheart, you been lookin’ through ‘em all night. What makes you think somethin’s gonna change?”

    Leia bit her lip. “Maybe I’m missing something...”

    Han pursed his lips, lifted a brow, and sank next to Leia on the bed. “Maybe...you’re just tired ‘cause you’ve barely slept for four days. Don’cha think it’d be better if you looked at it with a fresh set of eyes?”

    Leia blew out a harsh breath. Before she could answer Han had smoothly reached over and gently pried the datapad from her hands. “Han, I’m not finished.”

    Han’s expression was patient as he regarded the tired Princess. “At the rate you’re goin’, you’re never gonna be done. C’mon. It’s late. Pack it in for the night.”

    Leia reached for the datapad. “If I’m keeping you awake, you can sleep on the Falcon. Please. I need to make sure-”

    Han snorted and held the datapad just out of reach. “Ain’t me you’re keepin’ awake. You’re the one losin’ sleep, here.” When Leia showed signs of getting angry, he lowered the datapad and sighed. “Look, I get that not knowin’ what the hell’s goin’ on is drivin’ ya ‘round in circles. Everybody feels that way now. But you’re not gonna do anybody any favors by shufflin’ ‘round like the undead. Ya’ need to sleep. ‘Kay?”

    Leia took back the datapad and bit her lip. He’s right, you know. You haven’t slept more than eight hours the last three nights. She had been existing on caf and adrenaline. “I’ll try.” She switched off the datapad and set it down, kicking off her boots and preparing for bed.

    No sooner had the former Princess shrugged off her tunic than the Liberty gave a shudder.

    Han lurched up in bed. “What the-?”

    Another klaxon blared through the ship. Both Han and Leia’s comms went off at once. Han rolled over and fumbled for his, but he couldn’t hear anything due to the noise.

    A voice crackled over the loudspeaker. “Colonel Solo, report to Hangar ‘A’! Colonel Solo, report to Hangar ‘A’!” A brief pause, and then the same voice. “Medical Crew to Hangar ‘A’! Fire crews to Hangar ‘A’! Emergency; repeat! Emergency!”

    Leia’s heart sank past her stomach. “Not again...” Quickly she yanked her tunic back on and hopped back into her boots.

    Han was already back in his trousers and boots, buckling on his holster and cursing under his breath. He didn’t bother putting on his vest before yelling into the comm. “Hangar, this is Solo. What happened? What’s the situation?”

    The Comm crackled with interference. All Han could make out was ‘explosion’ and ‘Falcon’. Then he swore explosively and burst out the door.

    “Oh, no. Han!” Leia all but tripped over herself in her hurry to follow. “Wait! Where’s Chewie!”

    “On the Falcon!” yelled Han with a catch in his voice. He waited just long enough to grab Leia’s hand so they could run together. Curses and prayers mingled together as a lump rose in his throat. Losing his ship would be a gut punch. Losing Chewbacca...that didn’t even bear thinking about.
     
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  13. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Glad Anakin and Rogue Squadron and the mechanical teams are cleared. It's always hard to think you have a traitor in your midst, hidden in plain sight. :eek: Luke was definitely in an unpleasant position having to interrogate his squadmates.

    Then ... [face_worried] Another explosion?! And Chewie. [face_nail_biting]

    =D=
     
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  14. teamhansolo

    teamhansolo Jedi Knight star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 25, 2018
    [face_nail_biting][face_nail_biting][face_nail_biting]
    I really hope Chewie and the falcon are fine....
     
  15. Sara_Kenobi

    Sara_Kenobi Jedi Grand Master star 7

    Registered:
    Sep 21, 2000
    I hope that Chewie will turn out to be okay. Leia's continued hesitance about Anakin is understandable. I hope they get a lead on who's really responsible for the fires.
     
  16. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    You keep adding suspense to this fic! Amazing! Each time I think things will settle down I get hit by more mystery. [face_nail_biting]:D[face_party]=D=
     
  17. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
  18. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Nobody *really* thought Rogue Squadron could do that to Janson.
    @teamhansolo , @Sara_Kenobi , @AzureAngel2 , @Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Wow, everyone is really worried about Chewie...cliffhangers are really the best way to garner interest. My evil plan is working, muwahahaha! [face_devil]


    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Chapter Five


    A horrible sense of deja vu assaulted Luke as he sprinted back to the hangar. The smells were the same. The sights were the same, but whatever had happened was still in progress. He felt his heart stop when he saw which ship was being converged upon by fire crews and spewing black smoke.

    It was the Falcon.

    “Han!” cried Luke as he ran to the scene. “Chewie!” He rounded the corner just in time to see Han throw on a breath mask and pound up the ramp.

    “Han, you-” Leia stood at the bottom, stomping her foot in exasperation and cursing under her breath. Not one to stand around wringing her hands, she began shouting orders at the fire crews to move in and hit the flames with foam. At once she saw her brother. “Luke! Get those air scrubbers going!”

    Luke nodded and joined the group trying to reach a large switch on the next level. He leapt over the top of the night crew’s heads, hiked the ladder two rungs at a time, and threw the switch for the air scrubbers. Immediately the smoke began flowing toward the large ventilation ducts in the ceiling. Luke jumped down from the ladder and sprinted back to the Falcon, looking for anything else he could do to help.

    The foam crews were moving in now, holding a large hose between them. They were just mounting the ramp when human and Wookiee emerged from the smoke. A soot-blackened Han was pressing a breath mask to Chewbacca’s nose and mouth as they both staggered out.

    Han waved his arm. “We got it,” he hollered, somewhat hoarse. “It’s out!” The man kept a tight grip on his friend and steered him toward the nearest crate. “Breathe, pal. I gotcha.” When Chewbacca let out a throaty whine and tried to break away, Han pointed his index finger in the Wookiee’s face. “Siddown. That’s an order.”

    Chewbacca reluctantly obeyed, moaning and coughing as he plopped onto the crate. He looked like a pet lothcat that had somehow survived a house fire; sooty, staggering, and missing some fur, but otherwise in relatively good shape.

    Han softened and patted his friend’s back, starting to look him over and ripping off his own breath mask. “Atta boy. Take it easy, big fella.” He swore under his breath upon finding a nasty burn on Chewie’s neck and shoulder. “Hey, let’s get a medic over here!”

    The medics were already converging on the spot. One went to check on Han. The pilot irritably shooed the man away. “I’m fine. Take care ‘a my buddy, will ‘ya?”

    Luke and Leia hurried up to them. “Chewie?” called Luke.

    “Oh, Chewie.” Leia winced in sympathy. “Will he be all right?”

    “He should be,” said a medic easily. “Mild smoke inhalation and a second-degree burn. Nothing too serious. We’ll take him down to the Infirmary just to be sure.”

    Chewbacca howled in protest. When a medic draped a damp bandage over his shoulder, he snarled, making everyone take a step back.

    “Hey,” barked Han. He leaned into Chewie’s face. “You be good.”

    “Chewie, they’re only trying to help you,” added Luke.

    “Ya want ‘em to knock ‘ya out? Huh?” Han raised his brows.

    The Wookiee gave a mournful moan and shook his shaggy head. He watched as the medics crept back toward him, whimpering when they touched his shoulder.

    Han tried smiling. “Ah, don’t mind him. He’s got a low pain tolerance.” The smile faded into a wince. To be honest, he would have been moaning just as much. That burn had to hurt like hell.

    One of the medics sifted through his kit. “Well, we can fix that.” He pulled out a hypospray and gave the protesting Wookiee a quick dose. “There you go. Feel better?”

    Chewie shrugged, though he still wouldn’t look at his shoulder. As the makeshift bandage was secured, he shuffled next to the team as they led him out of the hangar. He gave another mournful moan and looked back at Han.

    Han nodded to him. “I’ll be right there, pal. Go on.” He waited until Chewie was out of sight before turning to his blackened ship with tears stinging his eyes. “Dammit! Why’d it have to be my ship, huh? Why mine?”

    Leia shook her head. “I don’t know, Han. It was hard enough to figure out with Janson. Now...I just don’t know.” Seeing the tears in his eyes, she leaned on him and rubbed his back. “I’m sorry.”

    Han angrily ran an arm across his face and sniffed. “Old girl’s had worse. We can fix her up, no problem. What makes me mad is she didn’t get this blastin’ through Imps or even runnin’ shipments...some… some-” He choked and used a particularly fierce piece of profanity to describe whoever was responsible for hurting his ship and copilot.

    Luke hunched his shoulders in misery. “Han...I’m so sorry. This is all my fault.”

    Han turned to his friend with knit brows. “Whaddya talkin’ about? You didn’t do this.”

    Luke shook his head. “No, but I haven’t been able to catch the saboteur. If I had, this wouldn’t have happened.”

    Han glared at his friend. “Don’t go talkin’ crazy.” He turned and took Luke’s shoulder until the younger man looked at him. “Wasn’t your fault, kid. ‘Kay?”

    Luke managed a nod and took Han’s arm. Together they watched in stunned silence as the fire crews swept through the battered freighter. The quiet lasted for a long while.

    It wasn’t until after the fire crews had shuffled out and the last of the smoke was gone that Han cleared his throat and gave Leia’s waist a squeeze. “I’m gonna go see how Chewie’s doin’. Wanna come?”

    He didn’t have to ask twice.

    * * * * *

    “I don’t get it!” griped Han, slamming a fist on the table in vented frustration. “How could somebody do so much damage without anybody seein’ ‘em, huh?”

    Admiral Ackbar shrugged. “That is something all of us would like to know. However it seems we are no closer to finding the culprit now than when we started.”

    Mon Mothma gave a sad nod. “We understand your frustration, Colonel. However with no solid leads and nothing untoward showing up on the surveillance footage, I am afraid our investigation can go no further.”

    Leia could only sigh and rub her temples. It had been a full week since the first hangar attack. One would think that the attack on the Falcon would turn up some additional leads, but there was nothing. Not even the surveillance footage had anything. It was as if an evil ghost had planted the explosives.

    A ghost, or someone using the Force. Despite evidence to the contrary Leia could not shake her feeling that Vader had something to do with this mess. The Force wouldn’t leave any evidence behind...but then, random objects floating across the hangar in midair should have aroused at least some suspicion.

    “Commander Skywalker, have you anything else to offer?” Mon Mothma wanted to know.

    Luke sat slumped on Leia’s left, shoulders hunched in an attitude of defeat. “No. I’ve run and re-run every check I can think of. Everyone aboard the Liberty has been cleared. And with nothing showing up in the surveillance...” he shrugged and stared at the table. “I’ve got nothing. I’m sorry.” When Leia reached a comforting hand to take his shoulder, he didn’t even look up. The siblings had hardly spoken since Leia had voiced her suspicions of Anakin.

    Han growled. “Well...c’mon, we can’t be givin’ up now. So, nothing showed up in the security recordings? They had to have picked up somethin’. Ghosts can’t plant bombs. Couldn’t somebody have messed with the footage...y’know, covered their tracks?”

    The leaders of the Alliance exchanged thoughtful glances. Madine shrugged. “It’s always possible, I suppose. Usually there’s evidence of a splice. Our techs couldn’t find any signs of tampering for as many times as the footage has been reviewed.”

    Han leaned forward with his palms on the table. “Well, were ‘ya lookin’?” It seemed an obvious question, but one that gave General Madine and the rest pause. They exchanged thoughtful looks.

    “Not exclusively,” admitted Madine with a shrug. “We can run the footage through a delineating analyzer. That should pick up any signs of tampering.”

    “If there is, would you be able to find the person responsible?” Luke asked hopefully.

    General Reeikan cringed. “Maybe. If we’re right and the footage was tampered with, there’s still no guarantee we’d be able to salvage or even find whatever was edited out. But it would narrow the possibilities to those with extensive knowledge of media manipulation.”

    Mon Mothma looked disturbed. “There is another possibility. What if it was not a person at all, but a droid? A person can lie, but most show signs of deception. Droids need only be reprogrammed to be a threat.”

    Everyone looked disturbed at the idea. Thanks to being chronically low on personnel, the Alliance depended on droids to keep everything running. Having even one turned against them could spell disaster, and it would take a long time to find the right droid.

    Madine paled, resting his chin on steepled fingers. “I...haven’t considered that. Droids don’t have to follow the same kind of security checkpoints that living beings do. I suppose one of them could have been sliced with a sleeper program for sabotage...but they’re everywhere. Running a full diagnostic on every droid in residence could take months.”

    Luke shook his head. “We don’t have that long. The second Death Star could be operational by then.”

    Admiral Ackbar folded his flippered hands. “Then we had best start immediately.”

    Leia frowned. “That still leaves the problem of finding who programmed them and how they managed to cover their tracks,” she pointed out. “Droids might be semi-sentient, but they can’t program themselves.”

    “Agreed. However we should cross that bridge when we come to it. General Madine, make the needed arrangements as soon as possible.” observed Ackbar. “Every droid should be investigated. No exceptions.”

    “But Admiral-” Luke’s protest died on his lips. While he knew in his heart that Artoo or Threepio would never do such a thing, they were hardly the only droids aboard the Liberty. Further debate would only delay the inevitable. With a sigh he nodded and hung his head. Luke badly wanted to ask his father about this; Anakin had been building droids since he was a child and knew how they worked. But with the suspicion already thrown his way, perhaps it was best not to add fuel to the fire.

    As the session dismissed and everyone filed out, that same sickening sense of unease rose as a pit in Luke’s stomach. Then the hair on the back of his neck stood on end.

    Luke froze in the hall and lifted his head. He knew that feeling. It was the Force, manifesting itself in physical ways, trying to warn him that something was going to happen. He had felt the same shortly before the explosion on the Falcon and the fire in Janson's cockpit.

    No! Not again! Without warning he broke into a run and made for the hangar. Maybe I can help. Maybe I can catch the one responsible!

    “Luke, wait!” called Leia after him. “What’s wrong!”

    “There’s going to be another attack!” he yelled over his shoulder. “I have to stop them!”

    “What? How can you know that?”

    “I can sense it!”

    It was all the wide-eyed group needed to drop what they were doing and race after him. The stampede of personnel fanned out to reach the hangar from different angles, blasters drawn. If this was a chance to catch the culprit red-handed, none of them was going to pass it up.

    Luke expected the sense of danger to grow as he neared the hangar. He expected the Force to hover like an unpleasant aura about the one who had done this. But things didn’t happen that way. The hangar of the Liberty was peaceful. Even as everyone combed the area to search for explosives, accelerants, or anything else out of the ordinary, nothing happened.

    Time passed. The frantic nature of the search began to wind down. Soon a small group strode, frowning, up to Luke. They wondered if the boy had cried Krayt dragon for no reason.

    The comms of Ackbar, Madine, and Reeikan all went off at once. Scattered throughout the hangar, they picked up...and simultaneously paled.

    “Can I have everyone’s attention?" Reeikan hollered. "Skywalker was right. There has been another attack, but not on the Liberty. It’s the Redemption. They’ve hit the medical frigate. Now, two of the three docking ports are out of commission so they can’t handle large crews, but they tell me they’re getting the fires under control. In the meantime, we’ll continue with our investigation. I don’t want anyone to rest, day or night, until we find this bastard.” The grave-faced General turned to Luke, caution and sympathy written on his face. He lowered his voice. “Skywalker...I thought you should know, your father was sent over to the Redemption a couple of hours ago...he hasn’t been found yet, and the surgical wing is badly damaged. You...might want to prepare yourself for the possibility-”

    “No!” Luke felt all the air knocked out of him and he stumbled back against the bulkhead of a nearby shuttle. The operation to replace Anakin’s mechanical arm had been rescheduled just that morning, but...he slid down to the floor as confusion and worry threatened to overtake him. Calm down, he told himself. You’d know if he was gone. You have the Force. Use it! He closed his eyes to concentrate. “Father...please...”

    Luke...The sense of recognition was immediate, the mood hurried. The medical frigate has been attacked.

    Luke’s spirits rose. Father! We just heard. Are you all right?

    Yes, but many are not. I am going to help. You stay where you are. It’s not safe here. And the contact was dropped as suddenly as if someone had shut off a comm.

    Father, wait- Luke’s senses told him that his father was busy, and his heart warmed. Anakin was a man of his word. Reluctantly his eyes opened.

    Reeikan and now Leia were standing near, brows knit with concern. “Were you...able to contact him?”

    Luke nodded. He got to his feet. “He’s all right, but he says there are a lot of injuries. He’s going to try and help.”

    Reeikan cringed. “That might not be best...try and speak to him again. Tell him wandering all over the frigate will only complicate things. If Anakin wants to help, he needs to stay where he is and cooperate.”

    “I can’t...” Don’t protest too much, or they’ll get suspicious. Luke made a show of closing his eyes again, then opening them with a sigh. “I tried. He’s not listening. But don’t worry,” he added when Leia groaned. “He won’t run.”

    “Luke, you don’t know that.” Leia protested. “For all you know he could be taking advantage of the chaos and making a break for it.”

    “No, he’s not. He promised. And two of the docking ports have been disabled. Where’s he going to go?”

    Leia and Reeikan glanced at each other. Getting off that ship with its narrow halls and limited exits would be difficult for anyone, let alone a prisoner in poor health. The General sighed. “Maybe you’re right. Still, I’m sending a security detail over there and asking them not to let anyone off unless absolutely necessary.” He picked up his comm.

    Luke took a step forward. “Permission to come along, General?”

    Leia frowned at her brother in warning. She trusted him not to betray the Alliance by letting a prisoner go, but still hated the idea of him spending too much time with his father. Vader might still be able to influence him. “Luke...”

    The young Jedi found his sisters’ eyes. “Leia, you know I’m not going to help him escape. I’m only going over to help find him. No one else can use the Force for that.”

    Leia hated to admit he was right. “Fine,” she sighed. “But Luke, please be careful.”

    “I will.”
     
  19. teamhansolo

    teamhansolo Jedi Knight star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 25, 2018
    Great chapter! Is the Falcon.......destroyed? I hope it's fixable, poor Han. :(
     
  20. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    =D= =D=

    You sure know how to create an air of intrigue and mystery!

    First, that there was no telltale evidence or footage after the second attack means that the person is tech savvy, which narrows the field.

    But if it's a droid, :eek: that broadens the investigation targets quite a bit but the person who did the reprogramming has to be skilled in that kind of thing.

    The Redemption attack [face_thinking] ... this hints at a droid thing or maybe a ring of living conspirators, since if they were restricted to literally being on board the Liberty any further attacks would happen on board there.

    The fact that Anakin is helping the injured and perhaps will be able to uncover tangible evidence will hopefully allay suspicions and also lead to finding the actual perpetrators.
     
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2018
    Ridley Solo likes this.
  21. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    Chewbacca reluctantly obeyed, moaning and coughing as he plopped onto the crate. He looked like a pet lothcat that had somehow survived a house fire; sooty, staggering, and missing some fur, but otherwise in relatively good shape.

    You are as mean and brilliant as https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joss_WhedonJoss Whedon, you know?!? You make us feel happy & safe with Chewie. But then you create another cliffhanger by letting something happen to Anakin. Argh!

    The young Jedi found his sisters’ eyes. “Leia, you know I’m not going to help him escape. I’m only going over to help find him. No one else can use the Force for that.”

    You really play with our hearts & poor nerves like Mister Bennet, the father of the famous Elisabeth Bennet. :p

    Well, I fear I have to read on now for you keep people glued to your fic with jolly good writing.
     
  22. Sara_Kenobi

    Sara_Kenobi Jedi Grand Master star 7

    Registered:
    Sep 21, 2000
    I hope that Luke finds Anakin and can help him. Hopefully they'll be able to find out what happened to the Falcon. I also hope that Chewie will be alright. =D=
     
  23. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    Another evil cliffie! Me likey some edge-of-seatness.

    And is it possible that Leia might be softening just a teeny tiny bit?
     
  24. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
    OK...first of all I did *not* intend for it to be a month between posts! :( But Darth Real Life has been interesting lately. No muse, no motivation, and very little time left for writing. Apologies!

    @teamhansolo No, it's not gone. Don't worry. It'll take a while, but Han can fix it. [:D]
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Thank you very much!
    @AzureAngel2 That is such a sweet compliment! Thank you!!! But that of course is the whole idea...get people invested in it so they keep reading. [face_devil]
    @Sara_Kenobi Don't worry, we find out what happens to Anakin very soon. And yes, Chewie will be fine. :)
    @Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Hmmm...…..[face_whistling]
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Chapter Six


    Too-One Be had only just finished attaching Anakin’s new prosthetic arm when the explosion had shuddered through the ship and knocked out primary power. The droid surgeon had fallen over and been unable to rise while several pieces of equipment were knocked loose and rained down from above. The ship was old, and any impact was enough to start shaking her apart. Lieutenant Sal, meanwhile, had ducked and shielded Anakin’s head.

    Neither medic nor droid noticed that their patient had used the Force to protect them both from falling debris.

    Distant klaxons blared through the ship while the faint blue of the emergency lights flickered on. Sal, after checking to be sure Anakin wasn’t injured, hurried to check on the guards at the door. One had been thrown into the hall and was favoring his shoulder while the other was doing what he could to help. No one could figure out what was going on.

    Anakin had some idea. He had been through enough explosions during the Clone War to know that the ship was not under attack. The blast had been internal. Another bomb, then. The former Jedi knew there were many injured, dead, and dying people aboard, and the Force told of complete chaos among those in charge.

    Anakin had only to glance at his newly-attached arm before his mind was made up. I’m going to help. He loosened the mechanism holding his arm in place, slid off the exam table, lifted the downed Too-OneBe, and headed straight out the door. Any explanation given to the protesting Sal and the two guards was brief. He knew he wouldn’t have much time before someone caught him, but he was determined to do the Rebels at least a little good.

    In a matter of minutes Anakin turned a corner and found the corridor blocked by a portion of collapsed ceiling and a loose wall panel. Black smoke curled out from beyond. The old metal had fallen directly on a fleet trooper, pinning his leg. One medic tried keeping the man still while two more troopers strained to move the debris.

    Suddenly one of the troopers noticed him standing in the dim light. “You, there! Give us a hand, will ya?”

    Anakin didn’t hesitate. Reaching out with the Force, he took hold of the debris and began to move it.

    The fleet troopers and medic were startled. “What the…?” “He’s a prisoner.”

    “That’s Vader!” cried one, drawing his blaster and aiming it directly at the man in orange and brown.

    “Wait,” warned the medic. He pushed the trooper’s blaster toward the floor. “Look.”

    The medic and troopers watched with wide eyes as Anakin shifted the debris and set it off to one side. He relaxed as the medic and another trooper helped the downed man back to his feet. “Will he be all right?”

    A gape-mouthed medic nodded. “Ah...yes. He should be. Thank you.”

    Anakin nodded once in acknowledgment before plunging into the cloud of smoke. There was more to do.

    * * * * *

    Luke and a security team arrived in the Redemption to find the expected mess...as well as an unexpected sight.

    Anakin sat on the floor with his back propped against the wall, somewhat paler than usual and streaked with soot. Sal took careful note of the man’s vital signs while two confused fleet troopers stood guard.

    “Father!” Luke hurried up to them.

    Anakin’s nod to his son was slow. A nasty, hacking cough overtook him, and Sal pressed a hypospray to his neck.

    “What happened?” Luke wanted to know as he dropped next to the party. “Was he near the blast zone?”

    “Not near enough to be coughing like this.” Sal shook his head in disbelief. “Instead of taking cover like any sane person, this kook decided to head toward the trouble. I tried to stop him, but...he was determined. Saved a couple lives in the process, too.” Sal lowered his tone and threw Anakin a look of respect.

    “He did?” Somehow Luke wasn’t surprised, but he saw the shock in the eyes of the fleet troopers. Risking his life was the last thing they expected from the former Darth Vader. The cough made Luke’s face fall. “Will he be all right?”

    “All that smoke didn’t do him any good...especially with the shape his lungs are in,” said Sal with pursed lips. “I gave him a bronchodilator and increased his oxygen mix, but I’d feel better if one of the medical droids could take a look at him.”

    “Lieutenant,” Anakin rasped, trying to clear his throat. “I told you. I’m fine.” As if to mock him another cough racked his chest.

    Sal supported the tired man. “You let a medic be the judge of that. Just take it easy.”

    The guards exchanged uneasy looks. “He’ll have plenty of time to rest once he’s back in his cell. Come on, now. Up.” He nudged Anakin’s arm with his blaster.

    Sal glared at them. “This man is not in any condition for transport.”

    The guard shrugged. “Sorry, Lieutenant, but I have my orders from the highest level. Prisoner 1138 is to be taken directly back to his cell. You can accompany him.”

    “Sir, with all due respect...Anakin Skywalker has just risked his life to save at least five others while still listed medically fragile. He should not be moved through an airlock until his lungs have been treated. If you still want a prisoner to take back, I suggest you let him stay.”

    “Well...” The guard glanced at the coughing prisoner. By all accounts he was exhausted...and medics did have the authority to order others around. “All right, but we’re keeping him under full guard.”

    “That’s fair.” Sal waved over a free hover-gurney and helped Anakin on. “Deep breaths, now. We’ll get you to the medical droid as soon as possible.”

    “No...the others first. Don’t...trouble yourself over me,” rasped Anakin, shaking his head.

    Luke put his hand on his father’s shoulder. “That smoke could have killed you. Why did you risk your life for those people?” The young Jedi had some idea, but he wanted witnesses. He wanted the medics to know his father had changed.

    Anakin reached out with his new arm and squeezed Luke’s wrist, meeting his eyes. “Because it’s right. Don’t forget, son. A Jedi is called to make sacrifices for the good of others. I am not a Jedi...but I must help. It’s the least I can do now.”

    Luke’s heart warmed, and he gave his father a slight smile before turning to Lt. Sal. “Can I stay with him for a while?”

    Sal shrugged. “I wouldn’t have a problem with it, sir, but it’s not really up to me. You’d have to ask your superiors.”

    As if on cue Luke’s comm warbled. He was called back to the Liberty in regards to the investigation. After bidding his father a quick farewell, he headed back to the docking port.

    * * * * *

    “You can’t be serious,” gaped Leia. “This is Vader we’re talking about.”

    “Lieutenant Sal’s account has been verified by twelve other witnesses. There is no reason to doubt them,” Mon Mothma pointed out.

    “That’s right, Princess. Like it or not, he saved the lives of six patients and freed two more.” Madine glanced around the room. “And from what I heard, he’d have kept going if he wasn’t overcome by the smoke. By any definition, that makes him a hero.”

    Leia shook her head. No. I can’t accept that. “Anyone with his history cannot be called a hero. His actions may be admirable,” here she made a face, “but nothing can bring back the other lives he’s taken.”

    General Reeikan lifted an eyebrow. “No one is saying otherwise. However, I think it’s fair to assume he only wants to help the Alliance now that he’s defected. Once he’s recovered, I’m going to extend our personal thanks.”

    Mon Mothma nodded. “Agreed. Now, once Commander Skywalker arrives-”

    As if on cue Luke poked his head into the conference room. “Commander Skywalker, reporting as requested,” he gasped, completely out of breath. He had run all the way from the hangar.

    Mon Mothma lifted her brows. “Ah. Perfect timing. And how is your father, Commander?”

    Luke blew out a short breath. “Weak. The smoke didn’t do him any favors. But...with enough time, the medics say he’ll recover.” He managed a halfhearted smile.

    “That’s good to hear. As such, I regret having to be the bearer of bad news.” She cringed. “There are some unpleasant matters to discuss, and we would appreciate your input.”

    Luke flinched visibly as he took the empty seat next to Leia. “Uh-oh. What is it?”

    Mon Mothma glanced at General Madine to continue. “The analysis of the security footage has found a few anomalies...it’s been tampered with.”

    Luke cringed. “By whom?”

    All the top leaders- Mon Mothma, Generals Madine and Reeikan, Admiral Ackbar, and Leia- exchanged uneasy glances. “That is still a mystery, however...our technicians were able to salvage a portion of the footage. We’d like you to have a look and see if you can identify the perpetrator.”

    I have a bad feeling about this. Luke’s stomach twisted, and he took a deep breath, bracing himself for the worst. “I’ll...I’ll do my best, sir.” Together they turned to the hologram generator.

    The footage began normally enough. It was time stamped at 0300 on the day of Rogue Squadron’s patrol hop. Only four fleet troopers were on duty; two at each entrance. The lights were dim according to standard procedure to save on energy; the Alliance was constantly short on everything, including power cells. If there was an emergency, klaxons would automatically flip the lights back to full power.

    Suddenly the footage flickered and grew grainy. That was probably the portion that had been tampered with. Soon the reason was clear.

    A single short person wearing the tan jumpsuit of a mechanic entered the frame from the lower right hand corner, just out of sight of the security guards. Judging by the angle of entry, they had come in via the ventilation ducts and landed right on Janson’s starboard wing. Quietly they entered the fighters’ cockpit, opened a panel, worked around for less than five minutes, replaced the panel, and leaped for the overhead support struts. The cameras changed, and the same thing happened with the Falcon; apparently that one had been on some sort of time delay. Then the small man headed back for his entry point and disappeared. The footage flickered again, refocusing into clarity and signaling the end of the splice.

    Madine tapped in a command to rewind the footage, then replay it until a certain point when the perp’s face was angled toward the camera. Then he froze it and zoomed in. “Commander Skywalker...is this Ensign Ruftal?”

    Luke’s heart and stomach sank into his boots. The image was grainy, but there was no mistaking the spiked black hair and short stature. Dodge Ruftal, the Rebellion’s newest recruit, was barely over one and a half meters in height. For this reason he had been unable to become a pilot. He was the only human small enough to crawl through the ducts, and the only one with enough technical knowledge to fix things in tight, cramped spaces. He was also the only maintenance worker still not assigned to a team or a particular ship, meaning he could travel back and forth between ships with hardly any questions. As a matter of fact he had been transferred that same morning. The investigation must have passed him over somehow.

    Luke was forced to nod. “Yes, sir. That’s Dodge, all right. Wedge can say the same.”

    Mon Mothma was quiet as she nodded. “He already has. However, perhaps you can answer a question that he could not; was Ensign Ruftal recently assigned to the Redemption?”

    “Yesterday.” Luke closed his eyes and let his head drop. He felt sick. So he’s the one that bombed the medical frigate, too. “I can’t believe Dodge would do something like this. He’s one of the must enthusiastic recruits I’ve ever met!”

    “Hmm. Perhaps the reason for his enthusiasm was not dedication to a cause, but the wish to do damage,” said Mon Mothma quietly. “Have you any ideas as to his motives?”

    “Only for the Redemption. He said Darth Vader destroyed his hometown in a fit of rage...but even that might be a lie,” sighed Luke, He slouched in his seat and put his head in his palm. “Generals...Admiral...Mon Mothma, I am so sorry. I was so sure about him...”

    “As was Commander Antilles,” said Reeikan quietly. “Apparently Ruftal had everyone fooled.”

    “I should have seen something before now,” Luke muttered in misery.

    Leia winced for her brother. Luke had been very enthusiastic about Ruftal, happily extolling the man’s virtues as a mechanic and technical wizard. He was taking things very hard. “Luke, don’t blame yourself. It wasn’t your fault.”

    Admiral Ackbar turned to the young Jedi. “Princess Leia is right. Passing blame around changes nothing. However, you and Commander Antilles can be a very great help to us by finding the man and bringing him in for questioning. We must find out his motives for these attacks, and what can be done to prevent such a thing from happening in the future.”

    Luke took a deep breath through his nose. As the hurt and guilt began to fade, anger rushed in at what his friends had suffered. He didn’t just want to bring this traitor in...he wanted to kick the man senseless, then let Han and Chewie have a turn. No. Calm down, he told himself, letting his air out slowly. Revenge is not the way of the Jedi.

    “Commander?” General Reeikan lifted his brows.

    “Ah...yes, sir. I’ll find Wedge and we’ll both bring him in. You have my word.”

    “We all know your word is good, Commander,” nodded Mon Mothma. “That is all. Dismissed.”

    Without a silent nod, Luke pushed to his feet and headed for the door. At least now they knew who it was. Once Ruftal was in custody, this whole rotten mess would be over.

    He only hoped the mechanic was cooperative. Just because he was a Jedi didn’t mean Luke had to be gentle in capturing his quarry. And then of course there was Wedge. Luke knew exactly what his friend and fellow pilot was planning to do...and it was not going to be pretty.
     
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  25. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Superb! =D= Anakin went out of his way, not just to lay low, but to save lives, even while his own condition was fragile, which more than a few credible witnesses can attest to. The Generals are willing to give him due respect and credit for that, but Leia remains suspicious. [face_thinking]

    Relieved that the perpetrator was identified. Wow! Wedge and Luke were taken in by Ruftal's eager enthusiasm. Totally understand the sense of outrage and need for urgently uncovering the motives.
     
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