Star Wars: Darkness Rising: The Threat Within Chapter 7

Chapter 7

Lando climbed down the steps that lead to the Lady Luck’s cargo hold.  Rae and Lowbacca have spent most of their time there.   He came down and watched them a few times.  Sometimes they were just levitating some of the crates and each other, other times, they were practicing with the stun sticks that he saw Rae and Master Solo using on Yavin.  

This time, they were sitting a few meters apart.   A torch hung in the air between them.  Two more lay on the ground, twisted and broken.   Occasionally, the torch would snap on then immediately shut off.  Rae’s eyes were closed and she was sweating.  Her body was tense as she sat there cross legged, hands going between being relaxed and balling into fists. 

Lowbacca sat with his legs crossed as well.  His eyes were opened but it looked as if he were looking through Rae instead of at her.   Every time the light flickered on, he would bare his teeth some and then the light would go out. 

Rae’s face grew into a grin and the light came on once more.  Lowbacca snarled but the light didn’t go out.  His growl grew louder before the torch dented and broke, the light going out again.  

Rae’s eyes opened.  “That’s three for three, Lowie.  You really need to learn to have a gentler touch.” 

Lowbacca focused on her and growled something.  “She is quite aware you are a Wookie,” MTD said from where it sat on a crate. 

“You can’t always fall back on the Wookie rage excuse, Lowie,” Rae teased and rolled backward into a reverse summersault, coming onto her feet.   “Hello, Lando,” she said when she turned.   “Let me guess, we are getting close to coming out of hyperspace?”

Lando was a little taken aback.  “Yes,” he said.  “We should be dropping out in about half an hour.” 

Lowbacca chuffed and growled while MTD translated.  “She asked Nien how much longer before we started practicing while you were asleep.” 

Rae turned her head and stuck her tongue out at Lowbacca.   She walked around Lando.  “I am going to go get cleaned up before we land.” 

Lowbacca snorted and began taking apart the broken torches.   Lando watched as he worked.  He had seen many Wookies work before.    Despite their uncivilized appearance, or perhaps because of it, it never ceased to amaze him at how technically inclined they were.  Han only kept the Falcon running back in his smuggling days because of Chewbacca’s skill.

It did not take long for Lowbacca to get one of the torches working again, though its case was still bent.  “Do this game a lot?” he asked. 

Lowbacca nodded and growled while MTD translated.  “It is a test of skill and strategy.  We must turn on or keep off the light without breaking the torch.” 

“Seems like it could be used against lightsabers,” Lando remarked.  He sat down on a crate. 

Lowbacca shrugged.  “Not really,” MTD replied for him.  “One of the first things that you are taught is how to keep that from happening.   And some lightsabers have a visible switch that is just for show.   Many masters rely on their force abilities to turn their lightsabers on and off.” 

MTD continued, though Lowbacca was not talking.  “And it is very difficult for even a master to hit a small moving object to turn it off while having to defend against the wielder of it trying to hit them with it.  Or at least that is in the lessons that Master Solo has been teaching.” Lowbacca nodded as he got the second torch to light up.   

Rae dropped into the copilot’s chair next to Nien who was in the pilot’s chair.   “How much longer do we have?” she asked.  She used the towel that was around her neck to dry out her hair more. 

Nein looked over at her.  He took a breath and said slowly, “Fifteen minutes.” 

Rae stopped and looked at Nein.  “I didn’t know you spoke standard,” she asked.

He gave a snort.  “Hard to,” he said at a slow pace.  “Mouth not shaped the way humans are.  Hard to make right sound.” 

“I guess I could see that,” she said.  “Kinda like Lowbacca can’t talk standard.” 

“Not as bad as Wookie,” Nien plodded out.  “How much trouble are you going to be with Master Solo?”

Rae sighed and leaned back in the copilot’s chair.  “Oh, he is going to kill us,” she admitted.  “We had better come back to Yavin with some descent evidence of what is going on.”  She watched as the stars went streaking by.   “Do you think there is something to find?”

Nein shrugged.  “Maybe.  If Lando did not have cloak, we would be dead.  A lot of effort was make to make sure no one knew who we delivered to.” 

“And what looks like Imperials no less,” Rae added.  “They were gone from the known galaxy when I was born.”  She glanced at Nein and gave a grin.  “I would say that it seems like an exciting time, but Jedi are not supposed to crave excitement.”  She looked at the controls.  “Not to mention all the death and destruction.” 

“The Rebellion cost billions of lives, time, advancement,” Nein told her.  “All because of the fight between Jedi and Sith.”  Even slow, she could hear the bitterness in his voice.

“A fight between good and evil,” Rae said.  She gave a sigh and seemed to deflate a little. “If what we learned in our classes is any indication, it was because the Jedi let their guard down and the Sith took advantage of it and were able to plunge the galaxy into war.”

Nein nodded.  “Jedi were careless.  But Jedi were not only ones.  Jedi and Sith may have been source of what happened, but the rest of galaxy went with it.” 

“Emperor Palpatine was a master manipulator.  Even the great Jedi Masters did not see what was happening until he made his move and declared the Jedi as traitors.” 

“You admire him?” Nein asked. 

Rae chuckled.  “No.  I do not admire him.  I can respect the skill and charisma he used to achieve his goals and not admire him.   We learned what he did.  Master Luke and Master Solo wanted us to be watchful and vigilant to not make the same mistakes than the Jedi before the purge made.” 

Nein looked as if he was going to say something then looked at the controls.   He muttered something in Sullest and touched the controls.   There was a whining from the engines and the Lady Luck came out of hyperspace, the streaks of light coming to a stop in the main viewport.  Ahead a planet could be seen floating in the void. 

“Here already?” Rae asked. 

Nein nodded.   The door behind them opened and Lando stepped into the cockpit.  He looked at one of the displays.  “Han did us a solid,” he said.  “It’s not much, but his crew did manage to squeeze a little more speed out.” 

Nein snorted.  He looked to Rae then pointed at one of the other seats.   She sighed and got up to go take a seat back there.  Lando took the copilots seat and looked over the instruments.  He keyed the communication board.  “Lady Luck to Takodana control,” Lando said. 

It was quiet for a moment then the communications crackled to life.  “Takodana control to Lady Luck, we have you on scan.” 

“Takodana control, requesting vector and landing clearance.” 

There was a pause then the voice responded.  “Castle or Tarsen City?” 

Lando sighed.  “When did someone make a city here?” he muttered.  “Castle.” 

“Roger, Roger, Lady Luck, entry vector being transmitted.  You are clear to land on pad 31.  Takodana control out.”  The voice went quiet. 

Nein looked at the communication board and adjusted the Lady Luck’s course.  He said something in Sullest and Lando nodded.  “We should be down in about fifteen minutes or so.” 

“How come you chose the Castle?” Rae asked. 

Lando looked back at her.  “Maz Kanata,” he said.  “Infamous Pirate Queen.”  

Nein said something and turned the control stick a little. 

“Right, former pirate queen.  She is more of an information broker if she thinks your worth it,” Lando said. 

“Let me guess, if you have enough money, she likes you?” Rae asked. 

Lando laughed.  “Oh, it’s not that easy,” he said.  He pointed at the planet below them.  “See that continent?”  He lowered his hand. “She owns it.  She is not interested in money.” 

Rae nodded.  “You’ve met her?” 

“A few times,” Lando said.  “Thankfully, I knew enough to be honest with her and not over do the charm.” 

“One of the few times,” Nein said in standard. 

Lando rolled his eyes.  “I have gotten us out of more trouble than I have gotten us into.”   He sighed.  “You have the landing?”  When Nein nodded Lando stood up.  “I am going to go get changed.” 

The Lady Luck drifted over the landing zone.  Walls separated the landing zone from the surrounding forest.  Walls also provided dividers between the pads.  Half the pads were empty, though the numbers went up to 50, with the last ten being large enough to handle a large corvette.   Lady Luck drifted down in the middle of pad 31 and settled onto its landing gear. 

Lando walked down the ramp followed by Rae, Lowbacca, and Nein.  “You might want to conceal your lightsabers,” Lando said.   “Not everyone trusts the Jedi.  Some even still believe the lies told about them when the Empire took over.” 

Rae adjusted her jacket to conceal her lightsaber.   Lowbacca moved a pouch so that it hung to cover his.  All of them looked at the human that approached them.  “Heya,” he said.  “Landing fee is twenty credits per day.  Slow charge is five extra, fast is forty, and a hot swap is thirty per fuel cell.”  He was wearing a blue jumpsuit with a castle emblem on its right breast.

Nein waved Lando, Rae, and Lowbacca on as he walked up to the attendant.   “Come on, Nein will settle the details,” Lando told them and started walking toward the castle that sat between two large hills a short way from the landing pads. 

Rae looked around at the people and droids that moved around with a purpose.  She was quiet as she studied people moving around.  “What’s up?” Lando asked when he noticed. 

Rae was quiet for a few steps.  “I grew up on Jakku.  I was an orphan and I lived on the streets.   The spaceport, such as it was, was where all of the other kids and homeless would hang out hoping to beg some money or food.” 

“Yeah, I have been to quite a few ports that are like that, it is more common than not.  I imagine that anyone here is here for a reason.”  He looked toward the castle.  “I imagine that the Tarsen City Port probably does have its share of hard times.”   He looked up as he passed by a ship that looked like the Falcon save that its cockpit was between the forward mandibles.  The ship’s hull was scarred and pitted with blaster marks.   

Lowbacca growled something which MTD translated.  “Do you know that ship?”

“No, just looked like the Falcon for a second,” Lando answered. 

Rae and Lowbacca looked to each other, neither sure if Lando was telling the truth.  As they walked past it, Lando glanced back at it once.   “You do know the ship,” MTD translated Lowbacca’s growl. 

Lando set out a sigh.  “The YT1300 series is perhaps the most modified light freighter that has been produced.   There were millions of them produced.  Most of them keep the offset cockpit.  I have only seen two with a center set cockpit.  One of them belonged to a pirate and the other to a bounty hunter.  They were both bad customers,” Lando said heading to the set of double blast doors.

“Have you dealt with either of them?” Rae asked. 

“Not directly.   Had a couple of friends who were killed by the pirate.   The bounty hunter just has a reputation.” 

“Which do you think it is?” 

“Neither, I hope.  Though, here, it might be the pirate,” Lando admitted. 

There was a large path that lead form the gates of the landing zone to the front of the castle.  It was paved with stones.  There were several beings moving on the path either going to the castle or coming back.  

They passed through the gates of the castle into the courtyard.  Dozens of beings milled about the courtyard.  Doors were spaced intermittently around the courtyard with signs above several advertising what was inside.  Starship parts and services on one sign, food types on another.  There were also a dozen large metal balls placed around the courtyard in decoration.

Lando lead them toward a set of double doors with a various glasses on the sign over the door.  He pushed the door open and stepped inside holding the door open for the others.  Inside was a bar.  It was rather large though not real crowded.   The door hadn’t even shut when a provocatively dressed twi’lek woman walked up to Lando and smiled at him.  She didn’t quite bare her teeth when she smiled but her leku curled a little.  “Welcome to Maz’s,” she said in standard.  “First time?”

Lando smiled down at her.  “No.  I’m here to see Maz.”  

The Twi’lek rolled her eyes.  “You and half the bar honey.  Buy a drink and give me your name and I will see if she is interested.”  She looked around Lando at Rae and Lowbacca who stared back at her.  “Or some drinks.”

“Didn’t really come to drink,” Lando said. 

She shook her head.  “Doesn’t work like that sweety.  Buy a drink or hit the road.” 

“I’ll take a bottle of water,” Rae said. 

The Twi’lek smiled, showing her sharp teeth.  “See, she gets it.” 

Lando sighed. “Find, a caff.” 

Lowbacca growled softly and MTD spoke up. “A cup of Jaar, please.” 

She tapped the metal wrist band and it lit up.  Her fingers danced across the metal.  “Go find a seat, your drinks will be right out.”  She smiled at Lando, “So you got a name?”

“Lando Calrissian,” he said.  The Twi’lek’s eyes widened then she winked at Lando before moving off across the bar to another customer.

Lando found an empty space at the bar and sat down.  He looked around and did not see Maz.  Rae sat next to him and Lowbacca on the other side of her.  He growled something as an old B1 battle droid came up carrying a tray with a bottle and two cups on it.   “Hello love,” the droid said with a pleasant feminine voice.  It handed Lando a steaming cup, a clear bottle of water to Rae, and a large cup to Lowbacca.   It held out its arm to Lando showing a credit reader on the back. 

Lando sighed and keyed something into the reader.  “Thank you,” the droid said. 

“Do you know where Maz is?” Lando asked. 

“She’s around here somewhere,” the droid answered.  “Is there anything else I can get for you?”

Lando rested his elbows on the bar.  “No.” 

“Roger, Roger,” it said.  “Have a nice day.”  It walked away and into the back area behind the bar. 

Lando sipped his caf, not really tasting it.  He turned and put his back to the bar looking around the room.  He saw several other B1 battle droids wondering around serving customers or cleaning.  He stopped looking when he saw a B2 battle droid standing in an alcove near the corner.  Other than its head moving slightly, it stood absolutely still.  

Lowbacca growled a little.  “You see it too?” MTD said quietly. 

Lando nodded.  “The B1’s are one thing, but that is an armed B2.” 

“There are four of them in here,” came a voice at the bar behind them. 

Lando spun around and looked at the short female.  He wasn’t sure of her race and never chose to pry.  She wore a pair of goggles that made her eyes appear huge.  “Maz, it’s been a while,” he said. 

She smiled some. “It has been Lando.  Has Nein wised up yet?” 

Lando gasped as if he were offended.  “You wound me,” he said with a grin.  “He’s settling things up with the port and he wanted to check out the shipwright.”  

“I would have thought he would have gone back home by now,” she said.  She looked up at Rae then further up at Lowbacca.   A small frown crossed Maz’s face and she looked past them then gave the bar a quick survey. 

“What’s wrong?” Lando asked, glancing around himself. 

“Where is their master?” Maz asked.  “Whenever I have seen a padawan, their master wasn’t far away.”

Lando looked a little surprised though not as surprised as Rae or Lowbacca.   Rae and Lowbacca exchanged a look then turned their attention back to Maz.  “How?” Rae asked. 

Maz shook her head.  “If you know what to look for it is obvious,” she said.  She pulled a glass out from behind the bar and filled it from an unseen tap.  She tipped her glass slightly toward Lowbacca’s pouch and the side of Rae’s tunic.  “You’re hiding your lightsabers. By the way you move, you favor those areas.” 

“But how did you know?” Rae asked. “It wasn’t nearly that obvious.” 

Maz took a drink from her glass and set it down on the bar.  “I have a knack for noticing those things,” she said.  She smiled and watched their faces as the glass slide a small way back into her hand.

“You’re not a Jedi,” MTD said, translating Lowbacca’s growl. 

“There are more than Jedi and Sith,” she said.  She held up a hand stopping them before they asked any more questions.  “I have already talked with Grandmaster Skywalker, though he wasn’t really even a true master then.  He knows about me and is content to leave me be.” 

“You know Master Skywalker?” Rae asked. 

Maz nodded.  “He has passed through here several times.  When he first came here was after I had claimed this rock for my own.  He wanted me to join the Jedi.”  She gave a slight grin.  “Not really my cup of herb,” she said.  “Though, he did stay for most of four standard weeks.  He taught me a bit, mostly enough to know when I was wondering toward the dark side and to correct it.”  She gave a short laugh.  “I saw enough of that side of things with Vader and Palpatine ruling the galaxy.  I didn’t have any interest in something like that and still don’t.” 

“That explains so much,” Lando said and sipped his coffee. 

Maz put a finger to her lips.  “I would rather that not get spread around.  Let’s me weed out the rotten from the not so bad that come in here.”  She looked to Rae and Lowbacca.  “So where is your master?”

Lowbacca and Rae glanced at each other then Lowbacca took a drink from his glass putting Rae on the spot to answer.  She made a face then looked back to Maz.  “He sent us on a mission,” she said. 

Maz’s eyes were looked large through her goggles and they seemed to grow just a little when she widened them.  The traces of a smile played at the corners of her mouth.  “Did he.  Who is he?” 

Rae had a bad feeling that she was being baited into a trap.  “Ben Solo,” she said.   She fought the urge to kick Lowbacca in the shin. 

Maz nodded.  “I’ve met him once many years ago when he was a padawan and traveling with Master Skywalker on one of his visits here.   I got to meet him a few other times over the years as well.  What sort of mission are you on?” 

Rae nodded to Lando.  “We were told to help him get information on those who attacked him,” she said, thankful to be able to divert Maz’s attention away from her. 

Lando got the feeling he had just been tossed under the ATAT when Maz looked at him.  “Yeah, they were told to help me go through the archives on Yavin to look for information.  They somehow managed to convince me to bring them with me to follow up on some information we found.” 

The smile on Maz’s face grew a little.  “I thought so.  I would think that one as old as you are would not be so easily convinced,” Maz said to Lando.  She looked at Rae and Lowbacca.  “And if I remember Master Solo as well as I think I do, I am not sure he will be happy at your initiative.”  She waved a hand, “But no matter.  What information do you need, Lando?”

“I got attacked by what I have to assume were Imperials,” Lando said. 

Maz looked up and frowned.  She put a hand up.  “Come on with me,” she said.   She lead them down the bar and around a corner though a door.   Inside was a large office with a wall that was covered in monitors.  A wooden desk sat in the corner.  The room was dominated by a large seating area that looked as if it could comfortably seat a couple of Hutts with space left over. 

“Please have a seat,” she said.  She climbed up on one of the chairs which looked much to large for her.  Once everyone was seated, she motioned to Lando, “Ok, let’s hear this from the beginning.” 

Lando ran through the story, telling of the set up for the sale as well as the events that happened during the sale.   Once he went over what they found in the archives he settled down and finished his cold caff. 

Maz sat for a moment thinking.  She reached into the side of her chair and pulled out a tablet.  She ran her fingers over it.  “Star Dust, XS1200?” she asked. 

“Yeah.  Real tall woman name Mars was the captain.  She had a crew member named Finn,” Lando added.

Maz looked up from the pad.  “Dark skinned like you?”

Lando nodded.  “Important?” 

Maz held up a finger then went back to going through the data pad.  She finally flicked a finger along the pad and one of the unlit monitors lit up.   “Captain Mars Phasma,” Maz said as a picture of her appeared on the screen.  The picture looked like it had been taken in the bar, the picture widened a little to show a human with a dark complexion sitting with her. 

“That is them,” Lando said.  “They’ve been here?”

“About half a year ago,” Maz said.  “They have been in every six months to a year for the past five years.” 

“Any idea what they are up to?”

Rae studied Maz as she mulled over things.  She had a gut feeling that Maz was not going to give them more information.   “Hey, do you have any information on a Jedi named, Lott Palla?” she asked.

“Lott Palla?” Maz asked.

“Yeah.  He came through here about six or so years ago.  No one has seen him since.”  Rae smiled.  “I was hoping that maybe you might have some information on him since the Jedi have been good customers over the years.” 

Maz was quiet.  “Lott Palla, what race was he?” 

Lowbacca growled.  “A Namoidian,” MTD said.  “I can broadcast a picture if your viewer is using standard formatting.” 

Maz motioned at the screen.  Lowbacca turned MTD so that it could see the screen.  MTD’s eyes flickered a few times and Lott’s image appeared on the screen.  “There you go,” MTD said. 

Maz studied the viewer for a few moments then typed into the tablet again.   Her lips pulled down in a frown as she began reading more.  She got up and walked to the desk.  She sat down behind it and brought up a holoviewer.  The symbols and images flickered past faster than any of them could really keep up. 

“Oh my,” MTD said. 

Maz looked up at the outburst and sighed.  She shook her head and clenched her jaw for a second before letting out a long breath.  “Lott Palla came through here a little over six years ago.  He was searching out rumors that Imperial remnants were looking for lost ships and caches.” 

When she went quiet for a moment, MTD spoke up.  “Please continue, Maz,” it said in a quiet voice.  “I saw the information too.” 

Maz made a face and pulled off the goggles she wore.  Her eyes were actually very small and from the way she squinted it was clear that she could not see any of them very well.  “Lott Palla came in on a ship, a CEC XS1200 named the Star Chaser.  It was captained by an Ithorian female named Bhy Throll.  They were following up on some reports that took them into the Unknow Regions.  I haven’t seen them since.” 

Lando’s eyes widened.  “It’s the same ship, isn’t it?” he asked. 

Maz nodded.  “According to the records I have, it is probably the same frame though the hyperdrive is different and the Star Dust has a great deal more electronics aboard.” 

“Do you know where Lott was going?” Rae asked. 

Maz shook her head.  “No, I do not know where they were going,” she said.  “However, I do have records of where the Star Dust has been.” 

Lowbacca growled softly.  “May we have the information?” MTD translated. 

Maz sighed.  “I work hard to remain out of politics and the galactic movements in general.”  She put her goggles back on and looked at the three of them who were staring at her.  “Fine,” she said.  She typed up something and data began to run over the holoviewer.  The viewer then went dark. 

“I have the data, Lowbacca, but I do not understand navigation,” MTD said.  Lowbacca growled softly.  “As you wish, I will commit it to dedicated memory.” 

“Thanks for the information, Maz,” Lando said to her as he went to stand. 

She shook her head.  “Don’t thank me, General Calrissian.  Don’t you dare thank me for this.” 

Lando paused halfway through standing and looked at Maz.  “What aren’t you telling us, Maz?”

Rae and Lowbacca both felt uneasy as Maz looked at Lando then at the two of them.  “You two feel it, don’t you?” she asked.

Lowbacca and Rae glanced at each other then back to Maz.  They both closed their eyes and cleared their minds as they had been taught.  Lando watched the three of them, not understanding what was going on.  He settled back down on the edge of the chair. 

Rae felt it.  Something just off.  She could tell that Lowbacca felt it as well.  She concentrated on it.  It was flickering and faint but there, almost like a candle guttering in the wind but dark instead of light.  As they studied it, something changed and the hairs on the back of Rae’s neck rose. Lowbacca let out a plaintive whine. 

The hooded figure lounged back in his throne.  One of his supplicants knelt before him prattling on about some great need he had.  It wasn’t very important, but unlike others, he knew that dismissal of their needs would foment distrust and resentment.  It was better to make them happy so that they would not put strain on the tapestry he was creating.  

The figure turned his head slightly looking out one of the windows beyond the supplicant.  He raised a finger and the supplicant ceased talking.  No power needed, merely a gesture guaranteed obedience. 

There it was again, something looking toward him.  No, two of them looking toward him.  But how, he wondered.  This was something new, a bit of excitement to break the monotony of plans and rule.  He closed his eyes and felt toward the two.  Jedi, he thought as his jaw clenched in rage.  The Jedi somehow managed to sense him.  This could throw the decades of planning into complete disarray.  

He pulled the darkness in on himself.   Everyone in the throne room grew completely silent.  The red armored guards shifted their stances, watching those gathered around their leader waiting for an order to attack or looking for an excuse to do the same.  

Just as quickly as the feeling of oppression and dread filled the room, it vanished.  He looked to one of his aids and pointed to the kneeling man.  “See that his team receives a thirty percent increase in supplies,” he said and looked to the man.  “I expect no less than a twenty percent increase in output.  Do not fail me.”  

The supplicant felt a mixture of relief and dread wash over him.  “Thank you, my lord.  We will not fail you.”  

“Everyone leave,” he said and stood from the throne.   He looked at one of his other aids.  “Get me in contact with Lord Ren, now.”   

“As you wish, My Lord,” the aid said.  He turned and rushed out of the room almost knocking over several supplicants in his haste to fulfill his master’s bidding.  

Rae, Lowbacca, and Maz flinched.  Rae had broken out in a cold sweat.  She looked over at Lowbacca who was flexing his hands trying to get his climbing claws to retract.  Seeing him looking so startled did not help her own anxiety.   She looked at Maz.  “How long?” she asked. 

“For a few months now,” Maz told her.  “I don’t know where it is or what is going on, but there is a darkness rising.  Someone is using the dark side of the force, someone powerful.”

Lando looked between all of them.  “Let me guess, it is in the direction that the Star Dust goes?”

Maz nodded.  She slumped back in her chair.  “Yes.  And I did not put any of this together until just now.”  She let out a huff of air.  “I hope you won’t think me rude but tell Nein to finish his business so you can leave.”

Rae started to say something but Lando held up a hand and waved her off.  “No, of course not, Maz.  Thank you for your help.”  

Maz stared off at the screen that held Lott Palla and absently waved Lando on.  She glanced over at the door as it shut.  “You suspected something didn’t you?” she said.  

“Suspected, not really,” a voice said.  An armored figure seemed to fade into existence next to the screens.  “How did you know I was in here?”  

Maz rolled her eyes.  “I could hear the hum of your cloaking field generator.”  She looked at the figure as he took his helmet off.  “So, Zeb, mind telling me why you knew they were coming here?” 

Zeb pushed his hair back from his face.  “You know I can’t tell you that.  I just heard that they were heading this way and wanted to find out any more information that I could.”  He set his helmet on her desk and sat down across from her.  “So, you did feel the darkness before I told you about it?”  

“Unfortunately.  I wish I wasn’t as sensitive as I am to the force.” 

Zeb laughed.  “You could have joined the Jedi when Master Skywalker came around.”  

“No thank you,” she said.  “I enjoy my luxuries and not having to report to someone.”  

“I could understand,” he said.  He leaned forward and looked into her eyes.  “How long did you know before I told you?” 

“I have been feeling things for a few years, I guess.”  She frowned.  “Did you feel it too?” 

Zeb put his hand on his chest.  “Me?  I am about as sensitive to the force as one of your B1 battle droids out there.”  

Maz looked surprised.  “But you told me about the darkness,” she said, the corners of her mouth turning down in a frown. 

Zeb sat back in the chair as much as his armor would allow.  “I did, but I did not know if there really was darkness there.  I couldn’t exactly go to the Jedi and ask them.  So, I decided to see if there was a disturbance in the force or not and well, you were convenient.” 

Maz’s expression darkened.  “You know, I could have you killed before you ever left here.”  

“You could, but it is not in your nature, Maz.  You might have been a ruthless pirate queen back in the day.  You were always cautious then and even more so now. It’s probably the reason you are still alive,” Zeb said, his voice full of confidence.  

She made a sour face and sighed.  “That, and I don’t know who your backers are,” she admitted.  

“We just watch the galaxy, Maz, like we have for quite some time.”

“Watch and pick at the pieces like scavengers?” she shot back.  

Zeb’s eyebrows went up.  “I would say no, but I wouldn’t be telling the truth.”  He smiled a sad smile.  “However, I have the feeling that we may have to act.”  He stood up and took the helmet.  “Thank you for not saying anything about me.”  

“Everyone is thanking me for things I am beginning to regret doing,” she said.  “See yourself out.” 

Lando sat at the controls of the Lady Luck.  “Prepare for takeoff, Nein.”  Nein rattled off in Sullest. Lando shook his head.  “No, we need to go back to Yavin and tell the Jedi about this.”  

“You know that won’t do any good,” Rae said from the hatch to the bridge.  “Lowie and I are going to be in hot water when we get back.  And do you think either Ben or Luke are going to be happy with you?”  

Lando turned the seat around.  “Ok, kid, listen here.  Quit trying to manipulate me.  You have a missing Jedi and the ship that he was using is now being used by remnants of the Empire to collect weapons and such.  We could be looking at a war trying to brew.”  

Rae raised her hands defensively before her.  “Look, Lando, I am sorry that Lowie and I kinda bullied you into coming here.” Lowbacca looked up from the engineer’s station behind Nein and growled something then went back to hooking MTD to the ship’s computer.  Rae made a face at him. “You didn’t say no either.”  She turned her attention back to Lando.  “If we go back now, how long do you think it will take the motivate the Jedi or the Republic into action?”  

Lando was quiet a moment.  “Unless we go back with real evidence that something is going on out there, they will take forever to do something.  And if something bad is coming, we need to know what is coming,” Rae said.  

“We aren’t prepared to go on a recon mission,” Lando told her. He started to say something else but Lowbacca growled at him.   

“You do have a functioning cloaking device,” MTD translated.  “And your BX unit says that the Lady Luck could make it to the destination that Maz gave us in about four days at top speed.”  

“Who’s side are you on BX?” Lando muttered and kicked the console that concealed BX.  

“Another war between Sith and Jedi,” Nein said in slow standard.  

Lando looked at Nein.  “Not you too?” he asked.  

Nein looked Lando in the eyes.  “Do you want more deaths on your head?  A million Bespins worth?  We go home and warn them, that is what we will get. We get proof and motivate them.  If there is nothing there we are not out anything.”

Lando frowned.  “That is not fair, Nein.”  He sighed.  “BX do we have the power to get there and get back to Yavin?” 

BX whistled and chirped.  “We would need to refill half the fuel cells.”  

Lando seemed to relax a little.  “It will take a little time to refill them.”  

Nein narrowed his eyes.  “I will talk to the port master.”  He got up and pushed past Rae.

Lando frowned and leaned his head back.  “Fine, we will go.   Just know that I am not at all happy about this.”  He looked at the console.  “BX, I want you to keep a course plotted to Yavin and Coruscant in your memory as soon as we come out of hyperspace there.”  

Author Note: I hope you have enjoyed my vision.

Shawn Bennett

When I was 7, I saw Star Wars: A New Hope in theaters a week after it opened. My parents were nice enough to take me and I have been a fan of Star Wars and almost all science fiction in general. I am an amateur writer who has been published for contributing flavor text to a RP game. I also have a copyright on a novel I hope to be able to publish sometime soon.