“Luke! Get in here!”
Luke Skywalker turned his head slightly and looked back at the shop. “One second, dad,” he shouted back. Pushing his brown hair out of his eyes, he lifted the binoculars in his hands and looked up into the sky again. The flashes had ceased now, but he could have sworn he saw ships circling in orbit, maybe even a battle. A battle out here in the Unclaimed Territories! If it was true, he couldn’t wait to tell Link and the others. They’d be so jealous…
“I said now!”
The huge figure of Anakin Skywalker now stood in the doorway. His scarred face hidden behind the large brim of a hat and his withered left arm held close to his body, he still looked as strong as an ox. He was wiping the grease off of his hand with a red cloth, scowling darkly at his son.
“Now, Luke! That droid we brought off Ling Tok needs cleaning before Jabba’s men come for her tomorrow. What are you looking at anyway?”
Luke sighed deeply as only a harassed seventeen year old could, and turned away. There was nothing more to see anyway. Whatever it had been, it had vanished. He took the steps two by two as he came down from the top of the scrap yard wall and jumped down onto a stack of robot’s head lying around. Stepping carefully to the ground, he dropped his head as he walked towards his father. The junk yard was filled with chunks of old parts saved from droids, abandoned speeders and even the occasional starship. Most of it was rusted by the sun or baked so hard that cracks had begun to appear on the surface. Not that any of that really mattered. His father could repair anything, no matter how corroded or fractured it might be.
“What were you looking at?” his father asked again.
“I thought I saw something.”
“Ships… A battle maybe.”
“A battle?” Anakin grunted sarcastically. “Out here? Don’t be silly Luke. No one ever comes to Tatooine. The Empire, the Alliance, all of that trouble is far, far away from here.”
That’s why you chose this place. He didn’t say it, but he didn’t have to. It was hidden there behind everything his father said. His hatred for the Empire was only matched by his hatred for the Galactic Alliance and the Jedi. Luke has learned long ago that there was no point in asking why, but he believed it had something to do with his own mother’s death. Not that his father would ever talk about that either. Luke gave up asking questions a long time ago. It only ended up earning him a clip round the ear. He made do with the holo picture he had of her in his room.
“Did you hear me?”
“Yes dad,” Luke said, though he had no idea what his father had just said.
“Now, get downstairs and clean those droids, ok?”
“Can I go after that?”
“What, to see those friends of yours?”
“They’re my partners, dad.”
“Partners?” Anakin huffed. “They’re going to get you killed. You shouldn’t be spending so much time on those swoopbikes, Luke. One of these days…”
“I’ll fly right into a wall, yeah I know.”
“Don’t use that tone of voice with me, boy.”
Luke froze. When his father’s voice dropped like that, and his breathing became as hollow, he knew that it meant trouble. He would be walking a fine line for the rest of the day. To his surprise, though, his father’s voice softened and he put a big meaty hand on his son’s shoulder.
“I’m just watching out for you, Luke. You know, when I was a kid, I used to race speeders too.”
“Uh huh.” Luke has learned to take most of his father’s stories with a pinch of salt.
“I did. Did I ever tell you about the time I defeated the great Sebulba?”
“Come on, I’ll tell you about it while you clean that droid.”
Luke tried very hard to suppress a groan as his father steered him round a sublight engine and into the shadow of the workshop.
“I’ll be right there.”
Obi-Wan started to get up when Calrissian’s voice stopped him.
“No, Kenobi, wait. I have an idea.”
The old Jedi stopped in mid motion and settled back into his chair instead. Calrissian didn’t speak straight away, so Kenobi checked out of the view port. The Star Destroyer was getting closer. It was sleek and dangerous, like a dagger slicing through space towards them. Kenobi looked past the ship to the planet behind, and beyond to open space. There was no way they could reach a hyperspace jump point in time. No matter what Calrissian had said, there was also no way they could possibly outrun it through the system. They might be smaller and a tad faster, but the new Victory class ships were ten times as powerful as this little freighter.
The question was, though, what was a Victory class ship doing out here in the Unclaimed Territories? As far as the Alliance was concerned, they were all out on the border. The new class had been commissioned a few years before and the Emperor has taken an immediate liking to them. Most of the key planets along the Solo Line had one or two of the ships stationed in orbit. The few times that they had faced them in border skirmishes, the Victory class had come out on top. So why had the Emperor sent one of his prized ships out to the backwaters of the galaxy?
As Kenobi pondered, the Destroyer bays opened and a squadron of standard Tie-Fighters dropped out. They broke out of formation instantly and all began to converge on the Falcon. Seeing them, Kenobi began to charge the quad lasers up again.
“You’d better hurry with that idea, Commander,” he shouted down the comm. line.
“I see them, Kenobi. Give me a minute.”
I don’t know if you have a minute… He decided that there wouldn’t really be much point reminding him of the fact. Instead, he brought the tracking system up again. The screen lit up and almost instantly began to count down how far away the fighters were. 7000 klicks, for now. But they were gaining very fast.
He switched the comm. on again. “What exactly do you have planned?”
“Give me a minute!”
The Fighters were getting closer and closer. Feeling desperate, Kenobi brought the quad lasers to bear and launched a tirade of laser bolts at them. Though they were still too far out of range for it to do any damage, at the very least it would make them realise this wasn’t a helpless nerf. They were not just going to sit there and wait for them to shoot out their hyper drive. At least I hope that isn’t what we’re going to do…
A voice cut into the ship’s intercom. Sterile and devoid of emotion, it could only be an Imperial commander.
“Unidentified ship, this is Captain Galaad Pallaeon of the Imperial Star Destroyer Goliath. Lower your shields and prepare to be tractored into our hold.”
Lando’s voice replaced the commander’s, sounding slightly strained. “Goliath, you have no jurisdiction here. These are Unclaimed Territories. We’re carrying moisture vaporators for Mos Eisley. Why do you want us to lower our shields?”
“Unidentified ship, we are claiming this planet in the name of Emperor Palpatine. We have complete jurisdiction here now.”
Now that was interesting. The Empire was claiming this planet? With what autority? For the first time, Kenobi entertained the idea that this might be a new imperial offensive. He had been hearing rumours of imperial activity, sure, in fact they were what had brought him here to get Anakin. But those rumours concerned a new weapon, not a large scale offensive into the Unclaimed Territories. The Corellia Accords were supposed to protect these systems from something like this. It was neutral ground. Or at least it had been.
Calrissian seemed to be thinking along the same lines. “Since when can the Empire arbitrarily seize planets?”
“Since now, unidentified ship. Now stand down.”
A sharp click announced that Lando had cut the imperial commander off. Almost immediately, the Ties and the Destroyer sped up, the glow of their sublight engines increasing dramatically as they did so. It would only take the fighters a few minutes to be in range, and the Destroyer would be about five minutes behind.
“You better have a good idea, Calrissian.”
“Done!” the commander crowed.
“Kenobi, I’m a genius.”
“Just get on with it,” the Jedi Master growled.
“Get down into the hold, old man. We need you piloting that Jedi fighter of yours.”
“Just trust me. I know what I’m doing.”
Kenobi huffed, but he pushed himself out of his seat all the same, pulling the headset off of his forehead and dropping it in the chair. This Corellian had better know what he was doing.
Down in the hold, Kenobi finished strapping himself into his new fighter. It was the latest design, just adopted by the Jedi Council a few months before. Kenobi’s was a prototype version. His droid, R4, was already locked in place, ready to go. He was pleased to see that the old astromech had already begun the pre-flight procedure. He couldn’t help but think back to all the flights he had shared with the small robot, from the asteroid chase before the Clone Wars right down to his mad race back to Coruscant during the Fall. R4 had seen as much of the galaxy as he had.
“You alright back there R4?”
The droid beeped back an affirmative.
“Good. Patch me through to the Falcon, will you?”
Moments later his comm. line clicked on.
“Calrissian. What exactly have you got planned?”
“Ok, listen carefully because this has to be perfectly timed. Did you receive that memo from Alliance Intelligence a few weeks ago about the Victory class?”
He vaguely remembered something like that, but as a General in the Alliance, he had to deal with so much paper work that he barely had time to process, let alone memorise, all of it.
“Run me through it again.”
“The Victory class has one major flaw in its technical specs. That being its tractor beam. If an object comes between the tractor beam and the object locked in, it breaks it up enough for the object to escape. When that happens, it takes it about five minutes to re-establish a lock, eight if it is a moving object.”
“Ok…” He thought he could see where Calrissian was going with this.
“We’re running from those fighters at the moment, but in a few minutes I’m going to turn and fly straight through their formation – back at the Goliath. It will catch us in its tractor beam and begin to bring it in. You then blow out of the hold, fly between us and the Destroyer, then hightail out of here and down to the planet for your little reunion.”
“Me and Lo will swing round the planet, out of the gravity well and jump out of here. We rendezvous at the Run in three days.”
Kenobi nodded to himself. It was a sound idea. It shouldn’t be too hard to find a ship out of Mos Eisley that could take him to the Run. In fact, Mos Eisley was probably the best place outside of Nar Shadda to find someone headed that way. It might mean a little detour through the Kessel Run, but he’d done that enough times that it didn’t scare him anymore.
“All right Commander,” he said finally. “We rendezvous at Smuggler’s Run in three days. May the Force be with you.”
Calrissian just snorted and clicked the comm. off. Kenobi sighed. Since Palpatine was revealed to be a Sith and his coup led to the Empire, few people had the same respect for the Jedi as they had once had. Later, when Anakin abandoned the order, it only made matters worse. People had believed in him; he had been the hero of the Clone Wars, the man who had faced Palpatine and survived. The man who had warned the Jedi of what was coming. To have him turn his back on the Order… few people could believe in them after that. Kenobi knew that the only way the Jedi would ever regain the belief of the people was when they finally toppled Sidious and his henchmen. That, unfortunately, was looking further and further away each day.
He turned back to the task at hand. R4 had finished the pre-flight checks and everything looked in order. It had better be. He didn’t want a repeat of the Yavin debacle.
“R4, can you log in to the Falcon’s outer camera system?”
The droid beeped sardonically as if the request was far beneath him. Nevertheless, a screen lit up almost instantly in front of the Jedi Master. He watched as the star field spun and spasmed with every move that Calrissian made, carrying the Falcon through corkscrew after corkscrew and keeping them just ahead of the Tie-Fighters. Every so often one would flash through the shot, casting bolts of red lightning at them before vanishing again as Lando avoided them.
Suddenly, the Falcon flipped over completely. It inverted in mid turn and snapped into a new course, headed straight at the Goliath. Tie-Fighters flew out of the way and Kenobi heard explosions as some were picked off by Lo. Soon, the Falcon had left them far behind. The Goliath, though, was getting ever closer. It loomed before them, a white triangle that filled the screen. As it grew bigger, Kenobi could make out more detail along the sides and on the belly of the beast. What appeared smooth from a distance was now revealed to be a bumpy assortment of gun emplacements, metal casings and bulbous shield generators. Beneath it all was the cavernous mouth of the main hold and an elongated arm that held the tractor generator.
They reached the tip of the Star Destroyer’s nose, Calrissian’s sharp flying carrying them through the hail of laser fire that threatened to pick them off. Kenobi could imagine the look on the captain’s face as they flew straight into the trap he had set. Almost as they cleared the tip of the triangle, there was a dull clunck. The tractor beam had them and it was bringing them in. The comm. system clicked.
“You’re on, old man.”
Kenobi was ready. He engaged his sublight drives as the hold dropped out from beneath him. For a moment he was in free fall, and he closed his eyes. Then the engines caught him and he shot out from beneath the Falcon. As he flew past he saw that the ship had taken a real beating during the dog fighter earlier on. Scour marks covered the surface and holes gaped in the underside.
He forced himself to ignore all of that, though, concentrating on what he had to do. He closed his eyes again, letting the Force find him and almost forcing himself to calm. When he opened them again, R4 had a three-dimensional representation of space on the projector in front of him. He was green dot in the middle, with the purple dot of the Falcon beside him and the fighters gaining on them fast. R4 checked the imp’s sensors, but it seemed that they hadn’t noticed him yet.
“R4,’” he shouted over the ship’s engines, “engage the attack mode.”
R4’s beep was lost to the ambient noise, but the sound of the wing’s behind him separating into an X-shape was not. Almost straight away, the fighter – known to the Alliance as a Jedi X-Wing – jumped forwards. He spun it from beneath the Falcon and up towards the Star Destroyer. The hold lay before him, a white glowing cave that was just waiting to swallow the two ships. He studied the tractor generator carefully, looking for the best place to intersect with the beam.
As he did, he realised that Calrissian’s plan could be improved in one small way. Instead of flying between, he might as well take care of the problem once and for all. Avoiding a laser blast from one of the Destroyer’s gun turrets, he flicked a switch and brought on his torpedo launchers. The lock turned green almost instantly, but it would take a few moments for the launchers themselves to heat up. In the meantime, the Destroyer had caught on that there was another ship out there. Almost every single gun turret had turned towards him. He danced the joystick around beneath his hand, using the smallest of movements to pass between the hail of laser blasts.
“Kenobi, what are you doing? Just get between us and that generator so we can get out of here.”
“One minute,” he shouted back from between gritted teeth.
The General ignored him. He flicked two switches and turned off every sensor, comm. and readout system on the fighter’s display. He closed his eyes, trying to block out everything around him, just listening to the Force. It whispered to him, a strange song that played through his mind and drew a picture of the galaxy. He found himself, listened to the guiding tones, and simply flew. As he weaved in and out of the laser blasts, waiting for the double beep that would signal his torpedoes were ready, he smiled. Anakin had taught him how to do this.
Eventually, the beep sounded through the cockpit. Kenobi opened his eyes and pushed down on the trigger. The blue torpedo flew from the wings of his ship, racing towards the huge tractor arm.
It blossomed into an orange ball of fire that ran back down into the hold. There was a flash all around as the tractor beam disengaged. Almost instantly, the Falcon swerved away, not wasting any time in engaging its sublight engines and bursting away from the Destroyer like a cork from a bottle. Kenobi saluted them as they went past.
He switched the comm. back on. “Kenobi?”
“I’m here Commander.”
Calrissian breathed a sigh of relief. “Kenobi… You’re a fool of a man. But I’ve never seen anyone fly like that. May the Force be with you.”
Kenobi smiled, and watched the Falcon pull away, vanishing around the planet. The smile was tinged with sadness as he though about what Calrissian had said. I’ve never seen anyone fly like that. No, Lando wouldn’t have. But he had.
R4 beeped insistently, bringing Obi-Wan back to himself. The Tie-fighters were gaining. He turned his own fighter down towards the surface, giving the engines a boost in power. He could easily lose them in the atmosphere. He smiled.
Anakin was waiting.