Thanks Gibraltar, I'll take that to mean I can post it! So as requested, here is the next chapter.
Space as far as the eye could see. Space potted with millions upon millions of pinpoints of light. Each one represented distant stars, around which spun planets and other celestial bodies. As intricate as clockwork, the galactic opera expanded ever outwards. Drama unfolded in the vast reaches of the void, as planets collided, stars spun out of control into the abyss, and black holes swallowed the dancing rays of passing comets. Intelligence could be perceived behind the organised chaos of the universe, unseen laws regulating the unseen powers. Behind it all slumbered a violent, unseen storm of cosmic rays and racing space dust. It filled the vast sea of dark, invisible as the force that bound it all together.
The star field itself extended to the edges of forever. An awe-inspiring eternity of energy consumed and expanded, and of power taken and lost. The man who gazed at such a view would be caught up in the simplicity of it, an unbroken pool of ordered night that barely contained an endless chaos of intensity.
Sometimes, though, the chaos boiled over.
The small YT-1300 freighter erupted into the star field with the shrieking howl of a banshee. The ship resembled a strange space monster. The hull was a simple saucer shape and was broken by two mandibles up front. Jutting out of the side was a cylindrical cockpit, mounted with strips of metal and a few juddering nails. It throbbed with power, its hyper drive glowing with a burning white light that changed to blue every so often. The light brown hue of the hull glowed dully in the light of the binary stars it was fast approaching. Battered and bruised, it shuddered and rolled in flight, as if its separate parts were just waiting to fly apart. Yet somehow it held together. Even under the battering flashes of laser fire that lit up its surface every so often.
The origin of those flashes was soon apparent. Three smaller ships followed it out of hyperspace in a careful formation. As they snapped back into normal space, they separated into a three-pronged attack. Each vessel had a central ball-shaped cockpit, embraced by two dagger-like jagged wings, hinting both at the speed the ships could claim and the purpose for which they had been built. Four powerful laser cannons were mounted on the tips of the dagger wings, spewing red death at the escaping freighter.
General Obi-Wan Kenobi put his hand out as he struggled down the corridor. Steam from a burst pipe filled the passageway, making it hard to see. Every few moments the Falcon shuddered, either through the captain’s manoeuvres... or more frequently when those manoeuvres failed. Kenobi reached out through the Force. He could sense three ships out there, all circling round for another pass. They had a reprieve, for now, but it would not last. He pushed off from the wall and began to walk faster. He needed to reach the bridge.
The Falcon shrieked around him. The old girl was not made for such punishment. Calrissian didn’t seem to care though. This was his ship and he claimed to know just how far he could push her. Hearing the screaming joints and hissing pipes, Kenobi wasn’t so sure. Nevertheless, he had learned long ago that it was best never to argue with a Corellian. Especially where his ship was concerned.
He arrived at the central stairwell. His old bones berated him harshly for what he was putting them through – he sighed. There was only so much he could do with the Force. He just wished he was still as well preserved as Master Yoda. The old Jedi was still teaching arrogant padawans lessons with his light sabre. Obi-wan half smiled, half groaned, remembering the lessons he had been given himself. And the old frog was still going.
Climbing the rungs two by two, Kenobi arrived on the bridge level. More pipes had burst and the temperature in the ship was rising rapidly. A laser bolt hit the top of the ship; Kenobi flung himself out of the way just in time, the Force warning him of the falling debris moments before his eyes did. More smoke billowed into the room. Kenobi picked himself up, brushing dust off of his brown robes. He squinted up at the damage – it looked like one of the secondary coolant pipes had blown. If they didn’t get out of this soon...
Another explosion reminded him of his goal. He took to his feet again, rounding the corner and bursting into the bridge. The star field whirled through the cockpit view ports as Calrissian spun his ship through a tight sequence of corkscrews. Kenobi felt his stomach lurch at the sight – he hated flying.
The captain himself seemed to be quietly enjoying the ride. Commander Lando Calrissian was a handsome man, rugged and yet debonair, his hair and moustache carefully trimmed. His face was scrunched up in concentration now as he put his ship through hell.
“Glad you could join us, General,” Calrissian said without turning. “We could use a hand.”
“What can I do?”
“Lo could use some help in the gunning turrets.”
Kenobi didn’t even acknowledge the man. He simply turned and rounded the corner again, this time headed for the secondary stairwell. It was a bit further, giving Kenobi time to think. The Tie Interceptors had followed them through hyperspace somehow. He had heard of the Empire’s new fighters, equipped with hyperspace engines, but it would be the first time he had faced them. He was slightly more interested in how they had found them. He hadn’t given much credence to the talk of this Omega Source that everyone was prattling on about. Now he wasn’t so sure. After all, this mission was hardly common knowledge...
Things were definitely dangerous out here in the Unclaimed Territories. Neither the Empire nor the Alliance had claimed these planets. It was a free for all, but the Empire had the distinct edge in terms of influence. Any Alliance mission out into these areas ran the same risks they were now facing.
Kenobi reached the stairwell and swung downwards, allowing himself to drop freely, but slowing his fall just before he hit the bottom. He smiled. It was good to see that he could still use the old tricks.
As he sat down in the gun chair and brought the system on line, he heard a wild shriek from above him. He looked up at Lo Tep, Calrissian’s Gungan co-pilot and gunner. The Gungan was wearing his traditional red trousers and shirt, with his purple scarf tied around his forehead. He fancied himself quite the pirate. Damn fool, Kenobi thought.
“Meesa gonna get more of em than you, bass,” Bubba shrieked in his high pitched voice.
Kenobi ignored him. He placed the headset over his forehead and closed his eyes. Taking a moment, he cleared his mind, allowing the Force to wash through him. He felt its calming presence within his mind, connecting him to the entire galaxy. Once he was calm and centred, he opened his eyes again and reached out towards the enemy fighters around them.
He found one almost immediately. He twisted the gun around to his left, spinning it up in the same motion. The Tie Interceptor that has just turned for another pass came straight at him. He waited until the lock beeped twice and fired a burst from the quad-laser straight at the enemy vessel. He caught it straight on, the bolts of pure energy ripping through the wings, collapsing them around the cockpit. The whole thing exploded in a ball of fire.
He allowed himself a small smile before turning his attention to the next.
“They’re coming around for another pass.” Calrissian’s voice crackled over the headset.
The fighter was on the other side of the ship. The other one had vanished, keeping at a safe distance. Kenobi reached out with the Force. This pilot was slightly more experienced than the last. He juggled his fighter around, easily avoiding Lo’s attempts at catching it in a crossfire. Kenobi patiently kept his finger on the trigger. He knew that the right moment would come. Through the Force, he could sense what the pilot would do moments before he did it, but he was still too far on the other side of the Falcon for him to attempt to snap off a shot.
Calrissian kept the ship spinning, avoiding the Tie Interceptor’s angry fire. The fighter jinked this way and that, but Kenobi could plot his course easily. His movements were bringing him around in a circle, one that would eventually bring it into range of Kenobi’s guns. He closed his eyes, allowing his senses to guide him. He ignored the instruments, trusting in the Force to direct his hands. In his mind’s eye, he could see the Tie Interceptor. He could easily sense the pilot inside. He snapped his ship out of the way of a laser bolt and curved into a corkscrew... That brought him straight into Kenobi’s view.
The Force whispered in his ear and he pulled down on the trigger. He opened his eyes in time to see one of his shots catch the Interceptor’s port wing. The wing crumpled and the fighter began to spin out control. Kenobi was about to turn his attention to the next when the wings exploded outwards, leaving the ball cockpit spinning through space. Sublight engines fired behind it, turning the spherical fighter towards the planet.
“What the…? Since when does the Empire put bucketheads in special escape pods?” Calrissian exclaimed.
“I don’t know. But I doubt that was a simple pilot in there,” Kenobi said.
“Shall I go after it?”
Kenobi followed the escape pod’s trajectory. It would probably land in Mos Eisley or some such. Though it wasn’t what they were here for, he would be very much interested to know who was in that escape pod. He needed them alive, though.
“No, I don’t think so. We’ll try and trace him when we land.”
“Yeah, sure, it’s not like there’s a lot of people on Tatooine…”
Kenobi ignored the sarcasm and concentrated on the last fighter. This one was farther away. The pilot was keeping a safe distance as he dropped the occasional shot the Falcon’s way. Kenobi reached out further, trying to find the pilot and perhaps try a little Jedi mind trick on him...
Someone grabbed him through the Force. Sadness and despair, hope and love washed over him like a sandstorm, accompanied by pictures and snippets of an entire life. He saw a child, crying as he was carried onto a star ship. He watched a young man screaming as bolts of lightning lanced his body. He perceived a hospital bed, with an angelic face hovering over him. He caught glimpses of angry faces, heard shouts and felt the dull pain of separation. Finally he saw a thousand worlds, the ever-spinning star field of hyperspace, and a binary star system around which spun a planet that echoed with a single world – Home.
He shook as he came out of the vision. He opened eyes he hadn’t realised he had closed. Yet even as he tried to get over it and shake off the feelings that swirled through his mind, he couldn’t stop a smile. He had recognised the thoughts, the pain and the emotions. Only one man had such strong feelings. More importantly, only one man had the power in the Force to reach across the gulf of space to him.
Anakin was here.
His happiness was short lived. As the vision faded, he heard frantic shouts from his headset.
“Kenobi? Kenobi, are you alright?”
He took a deep breath, calming himself. “I’m here Commander. What is it?”
“Kenobi, you need to get up here, and quick. We have trouble.”
“What is it?”
“Turn towards the planet.”
Kenobi spun his chair round. His mouth went dry. Advancing rapidly upon them from the other side of the desert planet of Tatooine was the unmistakable wedge-shape of a Victory-Class Star Destroyer.
“I’ll be right there.”