STAR WARS: The FREEDOM Adventures Episode Three
DESRIPTION: The story of Mykel Garreth and the FREEDOM begins in earnest, as they arrive at Ord Pardron and run into a few surprises. Read parts one and two first.
NOTICE: This story is not for sale, and no profit has been made. Everything "Star Wars" belongs to Lucasfilm under copyright law, etc. etc. etc.
"Coming up on Ord Pardron," said the young lieutenant at navigation, an oddly familiar young woman with short red hair who had been introduced to Garreth as Marta Janzen.
Where DO I know her from? he wondered for the tenth time.
You don't know her, his mind said immediately. Just forget all about it.
And Garreth had to admit, he had quite enough to worry about as it was.
"Prepare to drop out of hyperspace," he told Janzen and the helmsman, an even younger Alderaanian man named Jev Parrak. "As soon as we're clear, scan for the shuttles. When they drop in, issue an immediate green-light clearance."
"Assuming it is green," The Calamarian Senior Chief Okel put in from his perch near Garreth's command chair.
"...And remind Captain Derlin that hundreds of lives are at risk." Garreth took in a deep breath, blew it back out. His first mission after defecting from the Empire to the Rebel Alliance was not at all a happy one. Survivors of the Imperial "demonstration" on Ord Pardron were being ferried to one of the Rebel bases for medical attention.
And recruitment, Garreth thought to himself. They're sure to be angry at the Empire, and I don't blame them.
Though Mykel Garreth was hardly an objective party. He'd been a distinguished captain in the Imperial Navy until those very orders to decimate Ord Pardron had come through. He had a score to settle, with the Emperor, with Vader, with the whole corrupt New Order for everything he'd lost in its service.
The starline on the bridge viewport dissolved back into stars, and Garreth looked away, slightly dizzy. Drawn as he was to the tactics and opportunities of a ship's captain, he privately admitted that he hated space travel.
The brown-and-blue orb of Ord Pardron loomed in the viewport, and Garreth whistled. "Came out rather close to the system, didn't you, Lieutenant?"
"Actually, I came out in the system. I simply allowed the system's own gravity to pull us out of hyperspace." She shrugged. "Time is a factor here, isn't it?"
"Indeed it is. Scan for..."
"Contact on sensors!" said Weapons Officer Sedra Covell from her post in the sunken Operations pit.
"Imperial?" Kerri Lynden, the ship's normally serene First Officer, crossed to the weapons station and craned her neck to watch the displays over the younger woman's shoulder.
Covell shook her head. "Too small. Corellian freighter, not too old, maybe YT-1900 or 2000."
Lynden looked up at her new captain. "Smugglers, I think. Or looters."
"Scum, either way," said Chief Okel, with his Calamarian dislike for Fringe operators.
"Perhaps, Chief, but we've no time to deal with them." He touched a comm button. "Maverick Squadron: Launch at your discretion."
"This is Mav Leader," said the confident voice of the squadron's Corellian leader, Rik Evverd, "Copy that. First shift is go."
Expecting a confrontation with an Imperial clean-up crew at some point, Garreth had put Maverick Squadron on permanent watch. Four of their twelve fighters had been pulling escort at all times, with the other eight ready to launch at a moment's notice.
On the viewscreen, two of the four X-Wings became visible as they took up defensive posture.
Covell looked up. "I have the shuttles. Sending the green light."
After a moment, the comm spoke up. "This is Evac One. Beginning the operation, FREEDOM. You have our backs?"
"At all times," Garreth assured the other. "Maverick patrol, form up with the shuttles."
"We know our jobs, sir," said Evverd with a touch of annoyance.
Garreth focused on his First Officer, who had just returned to the upper level. "How long do you think?"
Lynden frowned. "A day. Maybe two. There are a lot of hurt people down there."
Garreth nodded. That jibed with his estimate. "All right, then. I want this system kept clear for the next fifty hours. The first Imperial ship that sticks its nose in here gets it punched in. Understood?"
There were general affirmations from the bridge, and one enthusiastic Wookiee battle cry from Engineer Gaaraanzi. Garreth was continually forced to remind himself that he was no longer on the bridge of his well-ordered Imperial Star Destroyer.
After a moment, Sedra Covell frowned up at him again. "Sir..."
She studied her readouts in puzzlement. "I'm not sure, sir. That freighter - she didn't leave the system when we deployed our fighters. In fact, she's barely moved."
Garreth found himself frowning right along with his weapons officer. "Could the crew have abandoned ship?"
"Possibly, sir. But she's still under power. Either the ship is flying on remote..."
"Or someone is flying her," Garreth finished.
"They could be doing some freelance spying for the Empire," said Kerri Lynden, "Maybe we should scare them off."
Garreth nodded, and touched his comm again. "Mavs Five and Six, launch and investigate the freighter at co-ordinates..." he gestured to Covell, who spouted off a stream of numbers. Five and Six copied.
"Get me visual," said the captain, and the sensor view shifted to display the flattened, disc shape of a late model Corellian freighter. As the bridge crew watched, two X-Wing fighters bore down on the target.
Over the comm, Garreth heard, "Unidentified freighter, state your identification and cargo."
"Unidentified freighter, transmit your ID immediately or we will be forced to take offensive action."
Finally, the comm crackled to life. A gruff male voice, Corellian-accented, said, "No need to get pushy, X-Wing. We're all friends here. This is the LUCKY SHOT, out of Selonia, here to help the Pardrons."
"Help?" said Garreth skeptically, and touched a comm button. "I'm Captain Mykel Garreth of the Alliance frigate FREEDOM. Perhaps you'd care to explain, LUCKY SHOT."
The voice harrumphed, said, "We're gettin' paid to lift some of the wealthier inhabitants off this rock."
Garreth exchanged a look with Kerri. The rebels on Pardron had been simple farmers. "Er... what are they paying you in, LUCKY SHOT? Fresh vegetables? Or nerf steaks?"
The smuggler snorted. "Not all the people down there are Rebels, Captain. We're takin' some of the honest businesspeople from the classy neighborhoods. People who don't want to get caught in your stupid war again."
Again, Garreth looked to his first officer. Lynden looked unhappy, but shrugged. The story seemed reasonable enough, except...
"LUCKY SHOT," said Garreth, "Why don't you get underway, then?"
"Hyperdrive's been fussy lately, especially carryin' this much weight. We're just running a few tests, making sure we don't bounce off a star or fly into a supernova or something."
Garreth sighed. So much for intrigue. "Can we be of assistance?"
The captain hesitated, then said, "As a matter of fact, yeah. My passengers just wanna get off this dirtball. They don't care how, an' I already been paid. Would you be willing to let us offload some of 'em to your ship? You know, take them with the others."
Kerri looked at Garreth, mouthed the words, "Bad idea."
Garreth nodded. "Why should we do your job for you, LUCKY SHOT?"
"You don't have to," said the smuggler, "'Course, if our hyperdrive conks out and these good, paying customers all turn into space debris, it won't be MY fault..."
"Stand by," said Garreth, and muted the comm. "Sedra, scan their hyperdrive."
"Already done," said Covell, "It's fluxing pretty badly, but it should be okay. I'd feel better if Gaar or somebody did an overhaul before trusting lives to it, though."
Garreth rubbed tired eyes, and forced himself to think. "I have a bad feeling about this."
"So cut them loose," Janzen suggested. Harsh, but undoubtedly wisest.
But Garreth was watching the freighter. It was a fair-sized ship, could probably carry dozens if pressed. Might make a difference...
He touched the comm. "LUCKY SHOT, we will agree to your terms, and totally refit your hyperdrive free of charge."
"What's the catch?" asked the smuggler dubiously.
Garreth smiled. "All you have to do is assist in our evacuation efforts."
"WHAT?" said the other, "I'll miss my deadline!"
"In that case, there's nothing further to discuss. FREEDOM ou..."
"Wait!" the voice said. It hesitated, but said, "A totally free overhaul?"
"A gesture of good faith," said Garreth, then bluffed, "Of course, should you fail to uphold your end of the bargain, I'll blow you halfway back to Selonia."
The smuggler hissed. "Deal."
"Sedra, open the docking bay and transmit landing instructions. Okel, Gaar... let's go greet our guests."
Kerri Lynden's head snapped up, and Garreth thought he saw a funny look in her eyes. "I should go."
"You're needed to supervise the..."
But the olive-skinnned woman said, "I'm going," and started for the turbolift.
Garreth shrugged. Have to talk to her about that later, he thought. "Lieutenant Covell, you have the bridge."
I'm going to regret this, a voice in his head said, and he boarded the lift.
The ramp of the freighter opened, and two scruffy smuggler-types, a Bith and a tall, scruffy human, strode down the ramp.
Garreth stepped forward, addressed the human. "Are you the captain?"
"No," said the tall man, and produced a nasty DL-50 blaster pistol. He waved it at the ramp. "He is."
At the top of the ramp were two other figures, a female Twi'lek and a Corellian. Half of the Corellian's body was covered in bandages, and he held a terribly illegal blaster rifle.
Pointed towards Garreth. "Get in."
"Dengar..." said Garreth. The words were barely out of his mouth when Okel and two of his troops had brought their blasters around. Kerri Lynden pushed him down just in time to avoid a criss-crossing of multi-colored laser beams.
One of the troops hit a comm switch. "Security Alert in the docking bay! Security Alert--" He cut off as Dengar's repeat fire stitched four holes in his chest.
Meanwhile, Okel had gotten to cover behind a storage box and was firing at the invaders. Gaaraanzi was less subtle. With lightning ferocity, he picked up the Bith like a rag doll and hurled him into the tall human. The Twi'lek fired, and a bolt hit the Wookiee's hip. His massive legs gave out under him, and he howled in pain.
"Hold!" said Dengar. The bay was already shot half to hell, with half a dozen X-Wing pilots beginning to congregate around the intruder, blasters drawn.
No one approached. They all saw the thermal detonator in Dengar's hand.
"Captain Mykel Garreth, you are under arrest for treason against the Empire. Get in, or I'm going to blow up this bay and all your people with it."
Garreth arched an eyebrow. "You'll die as well, bounty hunter. Hardly an equitable solution."
"You know me, Garreth. My mind was half-fried by the Empire. I can't feel fear. I don't care if I die."
Which wasn't true, Garreth knew, but it was close enough. And if they attempted to rush Dengar, he'd likely toss the thermal detonator into the docking bay. It would take some of their precious X-Wings, and likely a few lives.
It will be all right, said a voice in his head that was not his own. Garreth looked around, a bit startled, but saw only Lynden standing next to him.
"What if the Alliance pays you triple?"
Dengar snorted. "You're not worth that much to them. Get in, now."
Garreth nodded, and stepped forward. Okel said, "Captain, don't!"
But Garreth shook his head. "Call your people off, Chief. This is between me and my past."
Dengar gestured at the Bith, who was on his feet. "Bring the woman too." He spoke to Okel as the tall man took Lynden's blaster pistol. "The Imps want Garreth alive, but if you do anything to stop us, I'm gonna kill her. Got that?"
Okel made a Calamarian gesture of contempt, and Dengar half-smiled, though he was also incapable of amusement. "Shame on you. What would your mother think?"
Gaaraanzi howled in frustration from where he half-sat on the floor, nursing his wounded leg. The tall human pumped a stun bolt into him, and he lay still again.
"Get on board, friends," said Dengar, "The party's just starting."
"Lieutenant, the Corellian freighter has launched."
"WHAT?" Sedra Covell asked the crewer who had replaced her. "Get me the docking..."
Before she could finish, Okel's voice said, "They've taken the Captain and Commander Lynden!"
Sedra cursed, and said, "Turn us to starboard! Get me an ion cannon shot!"
The comm cut in again, but it was the smuggler, not Okel, who spoke. "I see you lining up your ion cannon. You fire, I'll send you the pretty lady's scalp in a box. That goes for your X-Wings too."
Janzen pointed at the viewport. "They're trying to get around the planet, past it's gravity well."
Covell said, "If they get to lightspeed, we'll never see them again."
"We can't risk firing on them," said Janzen, which struck Kerri as unusual. Janzen was almost always practical and unemotional.
"We've got to do something!" Jev Parrak said, fear and frustration in his tones.
"Like what?" Jabzen said, "Get them killed? If we let them go, they still have a chance to escape."
Sedra Covell looked from Janzen to the viewer, and punched the comm button. "Mav Leader, this is FREEDOM. You see that approaching frigate? Take it down. But be careful. We've got friends on board who could be in danger."
Evverd was puzzled, but said confidently, "Then I'll take it out real quiet-like."
Covell saw Janzen's accusing stare, and spread her hands in apology. "They'll sell our people to the Empire. If that happens, they're dead anyway."
Garreth and Lynden sat next to each other in the LUCKY SHOT's cramped main compartment. The Bith and the tall human held guns on them relentlessly. In the cockpit, Dengar coaxed the engines harder as he tried the get around the axis of the planet before FREEDOM could retaliate.
Garreth smiled weakly at his first officer. "I'm sorry."
"It's not your fault," said Kerri, idly stroking the crystal saw wore around her neck. Still utterly calm, though they would likely be killed before long.
"Why did you want to come?" he asked.
"I shared your bad feeling," said Kerri. She ran a hand through her long, dark hair. With the other, she made a small gesture.
And the human's blaster pistol slipped from his hands, flying halfway across the room.
"Be careful!" said the Bith.
His colleague muttered an apology, and went to pick up his weapon. Garreth thought about moving, but the Bith held his weapon on them too closely.
Kerri Lynden gestured again, just fractionally.
The human stumbled, falling heavily into his fellow merc, hard bone forehead slapping heavily into the rounded pink cartilage of the Bith's skull.
Lynden moved. She was halfway across the room before Garreth realized what had happened. She gathered up the human's lost weapon, flicked it to stun, and zapped the Bith.
The human scrambled for his friend's weapon, but Garreth kicked him in the head, and he slumped over. The ex-Imperial claimed the Bith's blaster for himself.
He nodded at Kerri. "Not bad. Shall we take the cockpit?"
"I thought you'd never ask."
They reached the cockpit to find the door locked. Apparently Dengar had heard the commotion and was planning to escape, and then worry about recapturing his bounties.
Garreth heard the Twi'lek's voice. "X-Wings, coming in!"
Dengar cursed. "You think they didn't believe us?"
"Or didn't care..."
"I'm gonna have to do an emergency jump, straighten it out later. Hang on!"
And that, Garreth realized, was the end. An emergency jump with a fluxing hyperdrive this close to Ord Pardron would be as likely to kill them all as it was to get them anyplace safe, and there was simply no way to cut through the door in time to stop the manuever.
Lynden looked from the door to the fallen bodies of their captors, her expression set as if she'd come to some important decision. As the hyperdrive engines whined in preparation, she extended a hand in the direction of the human bounty hunter. From it's place in his holster came the blaster pistol they'd taken from her. It actually flew through the air into her palm.
As Garreth watched, astonished, she pulled the weapon's handle off, gripped the cylinder of a handle in one hand.
And lit a real, working lightsaber, bright red in color. She slashed through the door. Jumped into the bridge just as Dengar's hand caught hold of the hyperdrive lever.
With one slash, she gutted the control board. Life support, propulsion, hyperdrive, everything conked out, and the bridge went dark for a second before the emergemncy lighting came on.
In that second of confusion, Garreth fired stun bolts at the pilot's and co-pilot's chairs, heard two muffled groans.
When the emergency lighting came on, he and Lynden were in control of the ship.
A ship which was plunging uncontrollably for the surface of Ord Pardron.
"Mav Squadron, hold off!" said Rik Evevrd, jerking up on his control stick, sending his X-Wing into a sudden climb. "She's out of control!"
"Good work!" said Sedra Covell from the comm.
Evverd frowned. "We didn't do anything. They're heading in towards Ord Pardron... I don't think they have helm control."
"We're okay, Rik," Kerri's voice said from the comm, "We're going down, but you've taught me a thing or two about piloting. I'll get us in safely. You can pick us up with the next load of evacuees."
"What are you DOING in there?" Evverd asked.
"Long story. Force be with you, Rik. See you very soon."
And she cut off the comm. Evverd cursed. He hit the comm again. "Shuttle Evac-Two, this is Mav Leader. Form up. We've got an errand to run."
He meant to go down there and get Kerri immediately, but after a long pause, the voice came back, "Uh, negative, Mav Leader."
"What?" said Evverd, "Excuse me, pal, let's try to remember who's the commander here."
But in the next second, Sedra Covell's voice came through. "All ships, this is the FREEDOM. Return to docking bay immediately. We'll cover you."
"Cover us from..."
The word "what" died in Rik Evverd's throat as his fighter came around, and his saw the metal hull of an Imperial Star Destroyer, glistening in the light of Ord Pardron's star.
"X-Wings are aboard," said Covell's replacement, and she nodded.
"We'll have to come back for the rest later. Jev, take evasive maneuvers. Marta, plot a lightspeed..."
"But they'll get those evacuees," said Jev, "And the captain and Kerri!"
"Nothing to do about that," Sedra told him, "We have to get out now. Kerri and Garreth know a few tricks. We'll have to trust they'll be okay." She laughed. "Unless you'd like to take on that Star Destroyer."
From behind Covell, a voice said, "That's exactly what we're going to do."
Covell turned to see Rik Evverd, still in his flightsuit, sweaty from haveing run all the way to the bridge. She opened her mouth, but Marta Janzen answered, "That's crazy! This ship is built to fight TIE fighters!"
"Well," said Evverd, nodding to the giant shape in the viewport, "Just think of that thing as a really big TIE fighter."
"She's right, Commander," Covell said, "We'll get them out later."
"We'll get them out now," Evverd said, and crossed the bridge to join her at the command chair. Sedra automatically got up, to allow her superior officer to take command (He was technically starfighter corps, not Navy, but the Rebel Alliance didn't stand on ceremony much). Evver motioned for her to sit down, and stepped beyond her to the conn.
"Get up, Junior."
Jev Parrak hugged his console protectively. "No way. I can fly the ship as well as anyone."
Evverd laughed. "Maybe when you grow up."
Covell said, "Jev - take weapons." She stared at Evverd. "I assume you have a plan?"
"Plan, idea, death wish... something like that."
Covell shrugged. "Good enough for me. I don't like abandoning people."
Janzen stared at them like they were both insane. "This is a frigate. That is a Star Destroyer. You'd have to be out of your minds!"
"Or just Corellian," Evverd said, his hands moving on the controls.
"You can't do this! You're not even Navy!"
The star pilot tossed her a rogueish smile. "Think of it as a sudden transfer."
But Janzen wasn't buying. "I will take command of this ship, and throw you both in the brig if you force me to."
"Let's test that theory," said Covell, and turned to face Chief Okel, who had joined them on the bridge. "Chief? Would you follow that order?"
"Do we have a brig? I've never even seen a brig. You must be mistaken, Lieutenant Janzen." Covell laughed. Okel's loyalty to Mykel Garreth, who had once freed him from slavery, was absolute.
Janzen looked around the bridge for support, found none, and finally looked at Evverd again. "It's a lost cause, and you know it."
"I can't leave without Kerri," he said, "I know she wouldn't leave me."
"That's sentiment. It has nothing to do with whether or not we can hold off a Star Destroyer."
Evverd's gaze held hers. "But it has everything to do with what the Rebel Alliance stands for."
Janzen hissed, frustrated, and finally turned back to her station, muttering, "Odds are, we're all about to get killed..."
"Never tell me the odds." Janzen glared at him, and he shrugged. "Old Corellian saying."
Covell was watching the Star Destroyer, which grew larger in the viewport by the second. "What exactly is your plan, Rik?"
"The direct approach." As the Destroyer's turbolaser's lit up, and TIE fighters began to swarm over their hull, Evverd reached over and touched a switch on Janzen's comm board.
"Hi there. This is the FREEDOM. Our captain isn't in right now, but if you'd like to leave your name and the co-ordinates of the nearest Imperial base, he'll get back to you shortly."
A deep voice said, "This is Captain Marcos Dawsey of the Imperial Star Destroyer RESILENT. You will surrunder at once, or we will destroy your vessel."
The ship shuddered, and Covell thought, as opposed to what you're already doing?
Evverd said, "Sorry, we left our white flag at the cleaners. I suggest that you retreat now, while you still can."
Dawsey laughed. "You can't possibly think you can defeat us with..."
"Oops," said Evverd, "Got another call. Lovely chatting with you. Gotta go." As the Imperial captain sputtered, Evverd flicked off the comm. He grinned. "I love toying with the Imperial mind..."
The Star Destroyer was huge in the viewport now, consuming their screen, and in between turbolaser blasts Covell could see them heading straight for their command tower.
But Evverd was ticking off seconds on his fingers. "Five...four...three...two...one." He turned the comm back on. "Hey there, Marc. Can I call you Marc?"
Dawsey sounded ready to scream. "You are about to smash into our ship! Veer off! Veer off now, curse you!"
Evverd made a show of looking at the viewport, though Dawsey couldn't see him. "Hey, look at that. Sorry, pal. Course drift. I'll correct."
He punched the accelerator, and FREEDOM sped in for the Star Destroyer's command twoer at full speed.
Turbolaser blasts shook FREEDOM to her very bolts, and Jev called, "Deflectors are gone!"
Covell was holding to the command chair for dear life. "Evverd, you ARE insane!" They were so close now that Covell imagined she could see the faces of the Imperial officers in the command tower.
Rik Evverd coolly flipped a comm switch. "Mav Squadron, GO!"
FREEDOM shuddered, and on the viewport Kerri saw eleven X-Wing fighters streak forward at full throttle. They released proton torpedoes, all of which hit the exact same spot in the center of the RESILENT's command tower.
The shields and hull in that spot buckled, and the twelfth fighter soared in behind the first group. Its torpedoes hit home, and the RESILENT's command tower collapsed in on itself in a spectactular light show.
Evverd had already been pulling up, and FREEDOM soared away at top speed just as the rest of the massive Star Destroyer followed its command tower to oblivion.
FREEDOM was thrown for a loop by the blast, and Covell was knocked out of her chair. She slammed her elbow hard enough to bruise badly, but other than that she chacked out all right.
"Everyone okay?" she asked.
General assent followed, and medics were called to the bridge for the few crewers who were badly hurt. No casualties, at least not on the bridge.
Evverd was already on the comm, calling, "Mav Ten. Mav Ten, report! Trayce, report..."
A voice said, "No good, boss. Trayce got caught in the explosion."
Evverd closed his eyes, his normally chocolate skin ashen. His voice was low as he said, "Understood. Get back in here, Avers."
The comm cut off, and Evverd slumped backwards, exhaustion battling loss on his features.
Covell knew exactly how he felt. "It was still great work, Rik. You saved Kerri and the captain and a few hundred evacuees."
"Only cost you one pilot," said Janzen, more as an appraisal than sympathy, "Not bad at all."
Evverd stood and climbed back to the upper level like an old man. "Yeah... I don't ever lose."
As he reached the command chair, he pointed to the orb of Ord Pardron. "Find Kerri. Yesterday."
Covell smiled. "Yes, sir."
Evvered left the bridge without another word, though much of the remaining crew stared after him, awestruck by the manuever. Nobody had ever taken out a Star Destroyer with a ship their size.
Jev Parrak, young and exuberant, was the first to speak. "I don't believe it. Did you SEE what he did?"
"I saw," Covell said, "Something we've already done too much of in this war. He bought a friend life... and paid for it with another."
Janzen shrugged. "There's always a price."
"And we're going to make sure he gets what he paid for." Covell watched the planet, a tiny place in the galactic scheme but an impossibly large area to search for two small humans. "We're going to find them."
Continued in Episode 4
R. John Burke