Star Wars: Darkness Rising: The Threat Within Chapter 24

Chapter 24
“And we repeat,” Holdo said.  “All ships focus your shields to port and fire as soon as you have a solution.  We will only be on station fifteen seconds.”  She leaned against the railing, her fingers tight around the foam guard.   If the Brightsong and Tarkin’s folley could not manage to take out the corvettes creating the interdiction field then they would have to jump into the middle of the fight on their next pass.   

She held her breath as they came out of hyperspace, this time behind the fleet.   The Imperial fleet immediately opened fire on them but thankfully most of their weapons were not able to target to their aft.   Her fleet began pouring fire out at the ships.  Ion bolts, turbo laser fire, and proton torpedoes hit the Imperial ships.   The few smaller ships that were targeted sustained severe damage, the Star Destroyers were holding up better though Holdo was gratified to see that some punishment they were dishing out was causing real damage.  

“Jump us out now,” Holdo ordered. 

There was a second when nothing happened.  “Admiral, there are multiple interdiction fields around the fleet.   We cannot enter hyperspace.”  

Holdo frowned.  The fleet commander had figured out what was up from only one pass.   She knew that it was possible even though she had hoped that they would get two passes free.  “All ships, concentrate fire on my mark,” she ordered as she touched the holographic field and selected the rear most Star Destroyer

Greeze rolled the ship, to evade the two tie fighters that were closing in behind the Wasp.  “Hey,” he yelled over his shoulder.  “If one of you in the turrets wouldn’t mind, get those two Tie’s off my butt!”

Saint pulled the trigger crippling a tie that was closing in on the Star Dust as the lower turret of the Star Dust put several laser bolts through the canopy of one of the ties that was chasing them.   He spun the turret aft to see one of the Defender starfighters blow the tie up from behind.   He reflexively pulled the trigger and sent several lasers into the Tie that was dropping in behind the Defender.   It exploded but not before a missile launched.  There was nothing he could do as the missile hit the back of the Defender and it exploded into debris. 

“This is getting ridiculous,” Greez groused. 

“Oh, just concentrate on flying, Greez,” Renoka hissed from her turret controls.  “If you were to fly half as well as you complain, we would be out of this by now.” 

“If you don’t like my flying, you can get out and walk, tailhead,” he shot back.   He pulled the trigger on the controls and the blasters at the ends of the mandibles fired repeatedly turning two Tie-Bombers into scrap. 

Lowbacca’s teeth were clenched tight.  He had a secondary screen showing the sensor readouts.  He was making fine adjustments to the engines and shields.   He forced himself not to look to his left, over Finn’s shoulder, and out of the viewport.  They were outnumbered eight to one.  While they were holding their own, thanks to Master Skywalker’s efforts, this was an attrition game and one that Lowbacca was not confident that they could win. 

A Tie fighter had dropped in behind them.  Finn was able to make the Star Dust move in way’s that it was never designed for.   As Finn dove to get out of the Tie’s line of fire, Lowbacca cut the three lower engines to increase the dive speed.  

Finn could not remember any time during his training or simulations when he was flying inside such a massive dogfight.   He was sweating from the strain of concentration during the fight.   The Star Dust was not designed as a combat vessel, but its engines had been tuned to near perfection when they were given possession of it which gave him some speed to play with. 

He glanced at the sensor in time to see a ship on their six.  As he pushed the nose down, he saw the lower array of three engines cut out increasing their angle of descent.   Rae, in the lower turret, managed to shoot their pursuer before it could get into the blind spot of the engines. 

Finn saw a streak heading toward them and dove to port to avoid it.   The missile missed them by a meter or two and then tracked on an X-wing.  Finn moved his hand over the controls and the light laser over the cockpit spit several bolts out, one hitting the missile before it could connect with the X-wing. 

Poe cut to close to the Star Dust and drew the missile that was targeting it off.  BB8 whistled a warning. “Yeah, I know, I did it on purpose,” he growled.

“All shields aft,” he said and put the X-wing into corkscrew dive.   He caught sight of the light laser turret on the bow of the Star Dust shoot after his X-wing.  There was a bright flare behind them as the concussion missile exploded from laser fire.  “He’s good,” Poe muttered and waggled the wings of the his X-wing in thanks before sighting in on a Tie-fighter that was after one of the few Y-wings they had left. 

Luke could not consciously keep track of the battle.  He let the force guide him as he concentrated on keeping the meditation going.   His turret spun and he fired.   A torpedo exploded near the shield with enough force to send the ship tumbling before Finn could right it.  

K7 held C3PO in the air where it had almost fallen from the ship spinning.  Several of the younglings had been tossed about and were crying but it didn’t sense any serious injuries.  “R2D2,” K7 called.  “Turn off the gravity in the cargo hold and divert the power to the inertial dampeners in the hold.” 

R2D2 whistled back.  “Because the younglings are less likely to get crushed under each other if they are floating.”  R2D2 gave a long whistle.  

“I hate zero gravity,” Rae grumbled from in the lower turret.  

“I completely agree, Padawan,” C3PO said as K7 let it go and it floated in the room.  

K7 activated the magnets in its feet and clanked back to the floor.  Even the older younglings were getting agitated.   It needed something to do to keep the children’s attention on something besides the battle going on around them.   That was probably an impossible task.   It looked at C3PO and spoke in droid language.  “I need something to get the children to calm down,” K7 said. 

C3PO was quiet for a second.  “You could try to lead them in some of their meditation exercises,” C3PO offered. 

K7’s head tilted.  “Do I look like a Jedi?” it said. 

“Oh, fine, I will relay what vids I have witnessed and saved,” C3PO said. 

After a moment K7 turned and looked at the younglings.  The ship seemed to only shift slightly as they coursed through the fight.   “Ok, Younglings.  This is a perfect opportunity for you to practice.” 

One of the older ones looked at K7.  “You aren’t a Jedi,” one of them said. 

“Neither are you,” K7 said.  “If you think you can do a better job, you do it.” 

The youngling’s eyes went wide.  “That is what I thought,” K7 said.  “Find the best way to get comfortable, younglings,” K7 started. 

Rae swallowed hard.  She hated the disorienting effects of zero-g.  A Y-wing flew under the Star Dust close enough that their shields sparked.  It was being chased by two Tie-Fighters.  In the odd clarity of battle, Rae could see through the canopy of one as she depressed the triggers and the twin heavy lasers spit fire into the Tie-Fighter.  She saw the shield collapse and then the cockpit canopy melt into the cockpit. 

The tie pilot pulled on his controls in a futile effort to pull out of the line of fire.   As the last laser went through the canopy, the leading edge of his solar array ran into the middle of his wing mate’s array, collapsing the shield and buckling the array.  As the first exploded, the second spun off out of control trailing sparks from the broken wing. 

Rae did not have time to dwell on the death of the pilot as several blaster bolts hit shielded under side of the freighter around her.  She turned the turret and targeted a tie interceptor as it strafed past them, firing into its rear causing its shields to buckle before it was able to pull out of her line of fire. 

Rose and two of the older padawans held onto the bassinets that K7 had welded to the bulkhead.   The younglings inside the padawans were crying at the noise and sudden movements.  Rose was almost thrown off her feet twice as Finn put the Star Dust through some maneuver that the inertial compensators couldn’t handle.

“Stop trying to anticipate the movements,” said Ereth, the oldest of the two Padawans.  Her mop of orange hair swayed as she moved with the ship.  “Relax you will find the right movements to do.” 

As if it were that easy, Rose thought but she saw that they seemed to be doing just that.  “I don’t have your training,” she said.  She looked down as one of the younglings began screaming and clawing at the air, its blue skin turning purple as it grew more upset.  “We need to get them to calm down,” Rose said. 

“Take them out and rock them, but not a good idea,” said Xikda, the other padawan, a Rodian male in his own broken standard. 

Rose shook her head.  “No.”  She stumbled a little as something exploded near the ship.  

Erith looked to Rose.  “No experience with children?” she asked. 

Rose shook her head.  “Only my little brother when I was growing up.” 

“What did your mom do to calm him down?” Erith asked. 

“She used to sing to him,” Rose said. 

“Then sing,” Xikda said as ship jumped harshly. 

“What?” Rose asked.  “I can’t sing.” 

“Well, you can probably sing better than him,” Erith said pointing at Xikda.  When she saw Rose looking at her, she shook her head.  “No, I’ve had Master Skywalker ask me not to sing.”  

Xikda covered his mouth making a noise that Rose suspected was laughter then nodded his head.  “I only know Rodian songs.” 

The twi’lek youngling began crying harder, hiccupping as it did.  “Fine,” Rose said and reached a hand into the bassinet to touch the youngling.  She closed her eyes for a minute trying to think of the song that her mother used to sing.  

Erith and Xikda looked to each other then at the younglings.  When Rose began to sing, the younglings stopped their crying for just a moment.  Erith and Xikda seized on the moment and worked the force catching the young minds and drawing their attention almost solely to the song. 

Wedge watched the battle wishing that he could be out in a fighter instead of being stuck on the bridge of the Arclight.  Tarkin’s Folly had taken massive damage and was drifting in space.  The fighters chose to ignore it since it was no longer going after the two remaining corvettes.   

His eyes were drawn to the next wave of tie fighters that approached and the pitched battle that was going on beyond that with Admiral Holdo and the Imperial Fleet.  Holdo had the advantage in that her ships were not as massive as the Star Destroyers that the Imperial’s were using, but it would only be a matter of time before their advantage would not save them.   If we could get rid of those two corvettes that were keeping the interdiction field up, he thought, we could jump the freighters out of here and free the fleet up to run. 

No sooner than he had thought that, two Starhawk battleships came out of hyperspace less than a kilometer from the corvettes.   Both opened fire with ion weapons, showering the corvettes blue energy bolts until arcs of lightning danced over the hulls.   Wedge shot to his feet as the bridge crew cheered.  He looked to see that the indicators showing the interdiction field were off. 

Wedge leaned on the comm button.  “Attention civilian ships engage hyperdrives.  Follow the coordinates you were given.  Gold squadron, escort them out and follow plan Theta.”

The two Starhawks engines glowed as they accelerated.  They had no sooner moved when five Nebula class Star Destroyers and a pair of Endurance carriers dropped out of hyperspace.  Wedge gave a vicious grin as the MC100 dreadnaught appeared after them.  Admiral Ackbar brought Home One and part of the Coruscant fleet.   A dozen more Star Destroyers and Mon Calamari cruisers along with numerous ships of various other classes appeared around Home One. 

“Admiral, incoming ships,” one of the sensor operators called out.  Holdo looked at the incoming ship profiles.  Two Starhawk battleships.  A smile played across her lips.  They might just survive if that was the vanguard.  

The smile was short lived as a series of heavy turbo laser blasts impacted the shields of the Burning Dawn and rocked the ship.   She heard the engineers calling out to each other as they rerouted power from one set of shields to another as they attempted reinforce the shields.   “Concentrate Ion cannons on the closest Star Destroyer,” she yelled into the com.

Almost immediately every ship in her fleet redirected their fire onto the closest Imperial Star Destroyer which had managed to turn against the fleet and was preparing to broadside the Burning Dawn.  Electrical arcs jumped across the ship’s hull.  Lights flickered and went out as the Star Destroyer’s guns went silent. 

Holdo made a few gestures into the holographic field and the other ships opened fire again, this time pulverizing the low tower structure on the Imperial Star Destroyer’s upper hull.   Even as they did that, the lights on the ship began coming back on and a few of the gun emplacements fired at Holdo’s fleet. 

“Its Home One,” she heard someone yell.   A sweep of her hand revealed that along with the two Star Hawks, Grand Admiral Ackbar’s flagship Home One and what looked like part of the Coruscant defense fleet had arrived.   Her screen flickered and she moved the view back to the fight she was in.  Several of the smaller Imperial ships jumped away from the fight.

Escape pods started launching from the crippled Star Destroyer.   Several of the pods clustered around a larger pod, docking with it and each other in seemingly random fashion. 

Hux frowned.  “Our time is up,” he said.  “All ships retreat to the rendezvous point.”

“No!” Kylo said.  “The Jedi still live, we must destroy them.” 

Hux turned and stared at Kylo.  “We are engaged with a small fleet.  A quarter of the Coruscant fleet just arrived including Home One.   We are out-numbered and out gunned, Lord Ren.” 

“Fire the weapon again,” Kylo ordered as if talking to a simpleton.

Hux stood almost nose to nose with Kylo.  “We cannot,” he hissed then he held up a finger, “We are not in formation to fire the weapon.” He held up a second finger. “The reactors need another hour at least to build up enough plasma.” He held up a third finger.  “The Sickle is lost,” He held up a fourth finger. “I am in charge of this fleet and we are leaving.” 

Kylo didn’t think as he pulled his lightsaber and ignited it.  He started to say something to Hux but Hux cut him off.  “Go ahead and cut me down, Lord Ren.  I am sure that Emperor Snoke has many clones of me ready.  But right now, this fleet is leaving.  While you might be single minded enough to stay and fight, I refuse to let you kill yourself and the rest of this fleet in doing so.” 

Kylo was loath to admit that the admiral was correct.   His anger was feeding his darkside and threatening to make him lose control.  He brought the crimson blade to Hux’s chin, looking for any fear there and was mildly surprised that he saw none.  “Disobey me again, Admiral and we will see how many clones of you the Emperor has.” 

Hux glared at Kylo’s back until he had left the bridge.   He took a shuttering breath and turned to look at the bridge crew.  None of them save security were looking at him.   He saw through the viewports on the bridge that the ship was turning away from the moon. 

“Sir,” his assistant said from beside him in a quiet voice.  “Perhaps it would be better not to challenge Lord Ren.” 

“You are probably right,” Hux admitted.  “But he would have killed us all had I not.”  He looked over his shoulder at the door Kylo had left through.  “I hate force users,” he muttered. 

Ackbar sat in an elevated chair, a holographic field around him showing the battle.  Several of the freighters and some of the X-wings jumped to hyperspace.  He watched as the tie-fighters started changing course and attempting to pull out of the battle.   He was still amazed to see Tie-fighters jumping to hyperspace. 

Some of the smaller ships of the Imperial fleet jumped away from the battle.   He focused the field on the battle happening between Admiral Holdo and the Imperial fleet.   One of the massive Imperial Star Destroyers was on fire.  Sensors showed that its shields had failed. it was only firing a few of its weapons.  Ackbar leaned forward in his chair as he watched he Imperial ships transition to hyperspace one after the other leaving the heavily damaged one behind.

Holdo watched the sensors.  When the clustered escape pods shot away into hyperspace her eyes widened.  “No,” she whispered.  She tapped her comm.  “All ships, emergency hyperspace jump, NOW!” she yelled.  The Burning Dawn changed direction slightly then jumped to hyperspace.   The rest of the fleet followed suit, jumping different directions into hyperspace. 

The burning Star Destroyer, Sickle, sat alone in space after the last Republic ship entered hyperspace.  A cloud of gas jetted out of one of the hangar bays.   The last escape pod ejected from the ship.  It rotated once then jetted away into hyperspace.  The escape pod barely vanished before the Star Destroyer exploded in a blinding flash of light and tumbling wreckage. 

Luke felt Kylo’s presence retreat.  The darkness that came from him was shocking.  He took several deep breaths and let go of the force.  He was tired and suddenly thankful that the gravity was off when he undid the harness.  He drifted down into the cargo hold and stopped. 

The younglings were floating at odd angles as the K7 unit talked to them about the patterns of the force.  Two of the younglings did not have their eyes closed and Luke could tell they were using the force and moving the others to keep them from hitting the walls or each other.  The K7 unit was holding C3PO off the deck by one of its arms. 

As Luke listened, he recognized what was being said as one of the lessons he had given to the younglings.  He grinned a little and shook his head.  He felt movement below. 

Rae took Luke’s offered hand as she was climbing out of the turret.  “You did good,” he said to her and helped guide her to the medical bunk. 

Her smile turned into a grimace as she gripped onto the edge of the bunk.  “Thank you, Master,” she said. 

K7 looked over its shoulder at them, his lesson stopping.  “Well, we survived?” it asked.

Luke nodded.  “Looks that way.”

“Good,” K7 said.  “R2D2, please increase gravity to full over the next minute.” 

R2D2 whistled from the engine room and almost immediately crates, younglings, and thankfully Rae settled toward the floor.   Luke saw the look of relief on Rae’s face.  “Once we get things straightened out, you are going to do Zero-G training.” 

Rae blinked in surprise.  How could he be thinking about training with the temple and the entire moon destroyed.  “Yes sir.” 

Luke stepped into the corridor and winced as he was suddenly back in full gravity.  He stretched his back and walked toward the cockpit.   There were a few cries of dismay coming from the galley when he walked by.  He saw Dr. Tico and some of the padawans soothing the infant and toddler younglings. 

Lowbacca nodded to Luke as he entered the cockpit.  “You both did a very good job,” Luke said to them as he sat down in the co-pilot’s seat. 

“I didn’t think we were going to make it,” Finn admitted.  He pointed at the Republic fleet ahead of them.  “They came out of nowhere and not a minute later, all of the tie-fighters hit hyperspace.” 

Luke nodded.  “I felt Kylo leave,” he said.  He reached across the board to the communications.  “Skywalker to Ackbar,” he said. 

A moment later Ackbar’s voice came over the speaker.  “Luke, it’s good to hear from you, are you ok?” 

Luke smiled despite himself.  “Yes Gail,” he said.  “How about your people?”

“Admiral Holdo lost a few ships but she kept the main part of the fleet from closing with the refugee’s ships,” Ackbar said.  “Luke, I have a few people on Home One who are eager to talk to you.  I will have your ship brought aboard.” 

Luke sighed.  “Thank you. Skywalker out.”   He leaned his head back against the headrest.  “Leia and Han are on the ship,” he said to no one in particular.  “I had hoped to put this off a little bit.” 

Lowbacca growled something and Luke nodded.  “We are going to have to tell them,” Luke said.

“Tell who what?” Finn asked. 

Luke looked at Finn.  “Ben Solo, or Kylo Ren, is Chancellor Organa-Solo and General Solo’s son,” Luke explained. 

Finn nodded.  “Oh, I see.”  He really didn’t but he could imagine that this would not be a good thing for them to find out.  The console beeped and the ship shuttered as a tractor beam took the ship and began to pull it toward the massive dreadnaught. 

Poe landed his X-wing on the deck of the Arclight.  He climbed out and looked at the starfighter.  The port pair of wings were jammed with the s-foils extended and half of the lower wing was missing, torn off during the fight.   BB8 dropped to the deck under the X-wing.   It rolled up to Finn then turned to survey the damage done to the ship. 

“You OK, buddy?” Finn asked.  BB8 extended its cutter torch and ignited the cutter in a simulation of a thumbs up gesture.   Finn grinned and crouched down next to BB8.  “So, are you impressed with the new model?” 

BB8’s head bobbed up and down along the ball as it whistled.  Finn looked down at his arm unit to see what BB8 had said.   “Yeah, I agree.  I don’t think a first gen X-wing would have survived that.” 

Wedge walked over to them.  Poe pushed himself to his feet and saluted Wedge who returned the salute.  “That was some amazing flying,” he said.   He turned as he saw two more of the x-wings pass through the forcefield.  They landed heavily on their skids.  They looked as if they were going to fall apart at any moment.  

“Amazing flying on everyone’s part, Admiral,” Poe said.  He could see more ships heading toward the Arclight’s hangar bay.  “How many did we lose?” he asked.  He thought he knew but he couldn’t keep track of it during the battle. 

“Only two Y’s survived the fight, though we are recovering some of the pilots who managed to eject.  We lost half of our x-wing compliment and both corvettes.” 

Poe shook his head.  The glow coming from Yavin 4 drew his attention.  “I don’t know but I think this is worse than the Death Star blowing up a planet,” he said. 

Wedge pursed his lips and nodded.  “I was there for both Death Stars.  Luke took out the first just before it could get a shot at Yavin 4.  Lando and I took out the second before it did more than destroy a few ships.”  He stared at the plasma fires raging across the surface of the moon below them.  “I don’t know, maybe.”  He turned away from the view.   “You up for a bit more flying?”

“I am, my ship isn’t,” Poe said. 

Wedge barked a short laugh.  “No.  I need to go to Home One.  It wouldn’t do well for an Admiral to fly himself.”  He pointed to a small shuttle that sat at the edge of the landing bay.  He had been in enough battles to have an idea about what Poe was going to be going through.

Poe nodded.  He wasn’t quite ready to have down time just yet. “Yes sir.” 

“What’s your name, kid?” Greeze asked the Nautolan youngling that was holding onto his chair and watching the other ships move through space. 

Kasth Sinnit,” he said.  

“Nice to meet you Kasth. Welcome aboard the Mantis II.  Don’t touch anything.”  Greeze looked back over his shoulder.  “Hey Saint, what are we doing with the kid?” 

Saint sighed.  “For now, he can stay with us.” 

“Don’t you think the Jedi will wonder where he is?” Renoke asked from the communication’s station. 

Saint looked at the plasma fires raging across the surface of Yavin 4.  “No, I don’t.  Once the Jedi settle down, we will send Kasth back to them.” 

Kasth turned and leaned back against Greeze’s chair so he could study Saint.  “You want to look at the crystal don’t you?” he asked. 

Saint was surprised by the observation.  He grinned and said, “Maybe I do.  I also want to introduce you to someone.”

“Who?” Kasth asked.

“An old friend.  I think she would be interested in meeting you too,” Saint told him. 

“Is she a Jedi?”

Saint stopped for a second then shook his head.  “No.” 

Kasth narrowed his large black eyes.  “Is she Sith?” 

Saint’s smile returned.  “No, definitely not.”  He could feel the child touching the force, probably not even aware that he was doing it. 

Kasth seemed to ponder this a moment.  “Ok.” 

“We are going there, aren’t we, Saint?” Greez asked. 

“Yeah.  She will want to know about what happened.” 

Renoke leaned back in her chair and put her bare feet upon the console.  “Think she will do anything?” 

“Who knows?” Saint said.  “Greez, let’s get moving.”

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Novara Skuara

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.