Added on May 08, 1999
Category: Science Fiction/Star Wars
Author: R. John Burke

Search And Rescue

STAR WARS: By FREEDOM'S Light Episode Two

DESRIPTION: While Darth Vader hunts down the Rebel starfleet, Evverd and Jev go to Coruscant looking for their friend Kerri.

NOTICE: Star Wars is a copyright of Lucasfilm, and much of the stuff here also belongs to other "SW" authors. This story is not for sale or profit. Memorize the story and eat it. This notice will self-destruct.


The Imperial picket line passed through the outer part of the Khuiumin system, razing the Rebel sensor posts on the outrider planets as they did so.

Following the picket line came half a dozen IMPERIAL-class Star Destroyers, their TIE fighter squadrons already soaring around them with the roar of ion engines audible only to their own pilots in the vacuum of space.

Trailing behind them all was the EXECUTOR.

At 8,000 meters, it exceeded by a factor of five the length of the already-massive Destroyers around it. Its registry said it had been constructed just recently at the starship yards of Fondor, but that was a cover. In truth, it had been completed some months earlier and placed under the temporary command of an alien named Thrawn, in an incident the Empire would have liked to forget.

Thrawn was undeniably brilliant, but he had allowed the Rebels to get the upper hand on him at a critical time.

It was a mistake that Lord Darth Vader vowed not to repeat.

That fool, Admiral Ozzel, approached Vader tentatively as he stood near the viewport.

"My Lord, the Rebels may have already abandoned this system..."

"Indeed?" For a moment, Vader found himself wishing for Thrawn's presence. Though alien, Thrawn's formidable native wit would have been a refreshing change over this imbecile. "And where would you suggest they have gone, Admiral?"

"They may have detected us and fled," said Ozzel, "I warned you that coming out of lightspeed so far from the system would--"

"They are here, Admiral." Vader hesitated, then said, "He is with them..."

A white-armored disc shot upwards through the atmosphere of Khuiumin, a shape already legendary among the fringe elements of the galaxy. As it shot out of the upper atmosphere, two X-Wings from Maverick Squadron moved in to escort it.

On the NEBULON-B class frigate FREEDOM, the voice-only comm crackled to life.

"Solo to FREEDOM," said a rough-edged Corellian voice, "Will you get your people off my drive trails, Captain? They're in the way."

Captain Mykel Garreth, commander of the Alliance advance mission to Khuiumin, said mildly, "They only wish to protect the princess, Captain Solo."

"The princess is perfectly fine," said a female voice over the speakers, "Provided this pirate flies as well as he talks."

Solo grunted. "Strap in, Your Worship. You'll see some flying, all right..."

"No heroics, Solo," Garreth reminded him, "We're only trying to get out in one piece."

"Hey," came the answer, "It's me..."

"Don't mind Han," said another voice, male but younger than Solo's, "He's always like this."

"Oh, I understand completely, Commander Skywalker. I have some experience with Corellian pilots." Garreth chuckled at the thought of Rik Evverd, his squadron leader on the FREEDOM, currently off on a rescue mission to Corellia.

"Oh, boys," said Taryn Clancee from her post at Nav/Comm, "I hate to interrupt the witty repartee, but somebody better check the sensors."

"Trouble incoming," said Lt. Commander Covell from her Weapons station. Covell was doubling as first officer (though not for long, Garreth hoped; Covell was good, but he still wanted Kerri Lynden, his original exec, back from the Empire. She was the subject of Evverd's mission.)

"What do you read?"

"They've got us boxed in. Six Star Destroyers, some smaller ships," Covell looked up, face a mixture of awe and annoyance, "And the EXECUTOR."

"Well. Back for more, is she?"

Taryn looked up. She was new to the crew. "You've met before?"

"Over Corellia," said Garreth, "Though I doubt Thrawn's still in charge. That's good and bad."

"How?" asked Taryn.

"Whoever is out there is not going to be as good as Thrawn. The downside is that I had some acquaintance with Thrawn, and could read him. I may not be able to do that with the new commander."

"TIE fighters moving into position," said Covell.

"X-Wings to offensive posture," the captain ordered, "Have our two Mon Cal frigates take the lead."

Taryn said, "You can't punch through seven Star Destroyers."

"You've a better idea? Beside, they're surrounding us. We'll only have to punch two or three..."

"Great," said Taryn, "Now I feel better..."

"Are the ground teams aboard?" Garreth asked.

"Last flight is docking with the INDEPENDANCE now."

Garreth cursed to himself. Every second they wasted worsened their odds. "How long?"

Covell said, "Less than a minute."

"And more than we can afford," said Garreth. He touched the intercom. "Solo, how do you feel about running interference?"

"I'd rather get the hell outta here," came the answer.

"Han!" said a reproving voice.

"It's all right," said Garreth. I have learned a few things about the Corellian mindset from Rik Evverd, he thought. "If you don't think you can do it..."

A Wookiee growled on the other end of the comm, and Garreth heard a protocol droid's voice say, "But Chewbacca, if we're not able to do it, I'm sure other arrangements can be made. After all, there's no point in taking foolish chances..."

"Foolish?" said Solo's voice, "Hang on, Goldenrod..."

"We're doomed," said the droid.

With that, the MILLENIUM FALCON veered off from the main group, driving straight towards one of the IMPERIAL-class destroyers. It skimmed straight over the top of the dagger-shaped superstructure, then looped upwards and past the command tower of a second destroyer.

"Oh, dear!" said the droid's voice, "Help! I'm too technically sophisticated to die!"

Even the princess sounded shaken up. "You don't have to do this to impress me!"

The Wookiee bellowed agreement.

Garreth turned to Lieutenant Harkin at the helm. "Well, what are you waiting for? Get in there and help them!"

FREEDOM's engines roared, and they waded into a broiling mass of TIE fighters and turbolaser blasts.

"So, do you people do this all the time?" asked Taryn as the bridge shook beneath them, "Or did I just get incredibly lucky?"

"Actually," Garreth muttered, "This is a good day..."

On the bridge of the EXECUTOR, Admiral Ozzel saluted and said, "Lord Vader. The Rebels are putting up stiffer resistance than we anticipated, but nevertheless all is proceeding..."

Vader's eyes were on the disc shape of the MILLENIUM FALCON. "I sense something... Something I've not felt since..."

He turned on Ozzel. "Divert the EXECUTOR and all TIE fighters to track that freighter."

"But, my Lord, there are two Star Cruisers to worry..."

"Excuses do not concern me, Admiral," he said, "I want that ship!"

Ozzel gulped audibly. "Yes, My Lord." He turned to his exec, Captain Piett, and repeated, "Divert the EXECUTOR and all TIE fighters towards that Corellian freighter. I want that ship."

"Yes, sir," said Piett.

On the FREEDOM, Mykel Garreth frowned at the Imperial tactical formation. "That's odd. They're diverting an awful lot of attention to one freighter..."

On the comm, Solo angrily agreed. "What've they, got it in for me personally?"

"Should I take the quad lasers?" asked Skywalker's eager voice.

"Yeah, kid," said Solo, deadpan, "We're surrounded by a hundred fighters and a Star Destroyer. I'm sure one laser cannon's gonna make a big difference... How about some help here?"

"We're trying!" said Garreth. For all the good it'll do, he thought...

"That's it," said Solo, "We gotta get clear. Good luck with your party, Captain."

"Understood. You're sure you can outrun them?"

"We're in the FALCON," said Solo, as though it was obvious. Sure enough, a moment later the TIE's were fruitlessly chasing ion trails, and a moment after that the FALCON dissolved into hyperspace.

"Hyperdrive must be working today," Garreth remarked, remembering how much time the beaten-up freighter had spent in his hangar bay being worked on en route to Khuiumin.

"Uh-oh," said Covell, "Fighters are now free and engaging the closest target."

"That would be us," Taryn reminded him.

About four squads of TIE fighters soared towards the FREEDOM, each chewing away at her rapidly diminishing shields. Strafing run after strafing run hit home.

"Now might be a good time for a change of plan!" said Taryn.

"You want a new plan?" said Garreth, "I'll give you one."

He pointed directly between two of the encircling Star Destroyers, who had moved to within a few hundred meters of each other to better hit the Star Cruisers they were aiming for.

"Take us there!"

Harkin looked up. "Are you sure..."

"Just do it!" said Taryn, saving Garreth the trouble, "Anything's better than this sitting around waiting to be carved open!"

Garreth addressed his Wookiee engineer, Gaaraanzii. "Get me full ion drive."

The Wookiee cocked his head for a moment. Through his translator device, he rumbled, "You are either the most courageous warrior I have ever encountered... or you have lost your mind."

"A little of both, I'm afraid. Do it."

FREEDOM punched forward, driving through the swarm of TIE's like a thick fog, and was soon directly between the two Star Destroyers. Both ships opened up with full turbolaser power... and succeeded only in hitting their own TIE fighters, who were swarming so busily about FREEDOM's hull that they acted as an extra deflector shield.

The TIE's, realizing their mistake, began to break off. That only helped FREEDOM, however. Without the starfighter interference, they were able to blast through the Imperial line even faster.

By the time they got through, their shields were down and their hull had several ugly scars it had not possessed previously.

They were also free and clear for the jump to lightspeed.

Harkin pulled back on the levers, and they were gone.

Taryn looked up. "What about the cruisers?"

"Hopefully, we bought them enough time," said Garreth, "In any case, there was little we can do. We'll meet up at the rendezvous point."

"And then?" Taryn asked.

"And then we'll know if they got out," he said, "Won't we?"

Vader's black-gloved hand collapsed into a fist. The capture of one of the two Rebel Star Cruisers and the destruction of their aborted base was small consolation, to his way of thinking, for losing the rest of the Rebel task force.

And the MILLENIUM FALCON.

Admiral Ozzel cowered on the other end of the bridge, justifiably afraid of Vader's infamous temper. Unfortunately, Vader could think of no way to blame this debacle on the shortsighted admiral, and even he generally liked to have some solid reason before he executed an officer.

Ozzel would become a liability eventually, and Vader would have no choice but to eliminate him and promote someone halfway competent into his place. But not just yet.

Wordlessly, Vader returned to his meditation chamber. He had many things to consider, not the least of which was finding the next logical destination for the MILLENIUM FALCON.

"Ever snuck past a planet's Docking Control before, kid?"

Jev Parrak's blue eyes shone brightly in the copilot's seat of their borrowed freighter. He and his friend Rik Evverd had left the FREEDOM in an assault shuttle, but had left the shuttle - and a sizable payment - in the hands of Evverd's friend, Dash Rendar. Rendar, in turn, had arranged to supply them with a secondhand (or possibly tenth-hand) Sullustan freighter and fake ID to get past Coruscant control. If they returned the freighter in good condition (so to speak), and provided Rendar with another large payment, he'd even promised to give them their shuttle BACK.

Rendar, as Evverd had pointed out, might have been a friend, but he was still a scoundrel.

Jev wrinkled his nose. "You know what I don't get?"

"What?"

"Sullustans have no particular odor," said Jev, "So why does this freighter stink?"

Evverd, a thin, dark-skinned Corellian who had recently grown a mustache, shrugged. "Who knows what they've been smuggling in this thing?"

"Ah," said Jev, "Did you ever smuggle anything?"

Evverd frowned. "Well, kid, I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you."

"Seriously."

"Nah," said Evverd, "Well, maybe a few times. But I was mostly honest, back when I was a spacer."

Jev yawned. A gangly, rawboned young man in faded coveralls, he hadn't slept much since they'd begun this mission. It was partially excitement over the possibility of saving their friend, and partially fear. Though he still didn't understand how, he'd seen where Kerri Lynden was in a dream. He wasn't particularly eager to have any more dreams until he had some idea what it all meant.

"Am I keeping you up, kid?"

"No," said Jev, "Just a little tired."

"Wait'll we hit the checkpoint. The adrenaline will start pumping. Should wake you up pretty good."

"Rik," said the young Alderaanian, "I'm glad you came."

Evverd nodded. "Me, too. I owe her one, anyway."

Jev thought about asking if one was really all he owed Kerri - they'd apparently been partners for years - but decided it wasn't important.

"Unidentified freighter, this is Imperial Center Control. Please transmit your cargo and destination."

Evverd touched a button, and a recorded Sullustan voice jabbered and squeaked into the comm.

"Slow down," said the Controller, "Doesn't anyone there speak standard?"

Evvered touched the comm switch. "Uh, control, this is Navigator Barros Kemmp. Sorry, Captain Mnunbrumb usually likes to speak for herself if she can."

"It'll take an extra fifteen minutes to get a translator," said the controller.

Evverd smiled at Jev. He spoke a few words of rusty, badly accented Sullustan to no one in particular, and hit the recorder control again.

Slightly offended Sullustan tones filled the air.

"Uh, Control, this is Kemmp. Captain says she'll ignore the insult if you hurry up and pass us. We're the BARMB... BARMBN... Blast. Three months on this ship and I still can't pronounce it."

The controller said with some difficulty, "Your ID reads as... BARMBNMUNB POS'QUUMB? Is that correct?"

Evverd grunted. "Sounds as good as anything else. We're carrying agricultural supplies. Our transit pass is in order."

If, Jev thought to himself, Dash Rendar is as good as he claims.

After a slight hesitation, the controller said, "Uh, BARN... BARMB... whoever you are, your transit pass is in order, and you're cleared for berth 281 in section 51-CC-7."

"Copy that, control," said Evverd.

"Tell your captain we apologize for the holdup."

Evverd touched the switch again, and the Sullustan voice jabbered for another minute.

"She says 'have a nice day.'"

The controller said, "Didn't sound like she meant it."

Actually, Jev doubted Evverd had any idea what the recorded voice was saying.

The Corellian grinned and said, "It loses something in the translation. POS'QUUMB out."

He patted Jev on the shoulder. "See? Told you it'd work."

"I wasn't worried."

"Really?" said Evverd, and glanced down at where Jev's fingers were dug into his chair. He said mildly, "Then you might want to spare the upholstery. This is a rental."

Elsewhere on Coruscant, another tracking station was keeping watch over the new ships arriving on-planet.

It's caretaker, a Skrilling named Lort Blistmer, looked up at his partner. "Hey - hey, wake up."

The partner, a roly-poly little Ortolan, waved his trunk dimissively. "Don't wanna. I'm sleeping off a big meal."

"If you slept every time you ate, you'd be at a coma. Look at this."

The Ortolan said, "So what? It's a Sullustan freighter."

"So? You idiot! This is the one that got stolen from our yards on Ord Mantell last month."

"Awright," said the Ortolan, "So call the authorities and get it back."

"Don't you remember?" Lort said, "The Quarren who stole it has lifted our property before, repeatedly."

The Ortolan swatted his partner with his trunk. "Who cares?"

"Guri cares!" the Skrilling told him, "She wanted to handle it personally the next time the Quarren was in port!"

"That was a month ago," the little blue alien told him, "Piece of junk like that, probably been unloaded six times since then."

"On the other hand," the Skrilling reminded him, "If it is the Quarren, and we don't warn Guri, she'll have our heads."

The Ortolan's floppy ears stood on end. "Good point. Let's warn her."

"Already done," said the Skrilling as he transmitted their sensor data, "Whoever is in that ship is gonna regret it, I tell you that. NOBODY steals from Black Sun."

Jev was continually amazed by Rik Evverd's apparent ease at fitting into the depraved lifestyle of a smuggler. He had no sooner landed than he found them a guide who was willing to take them into Coruscant's downright scary lower levels. Jev would have thought it would be nearly impossible to find someone willing to lead them into the well-known filth at the city planet's surface.

Of course, their guide looked pretty filthy himself. He was a Shistavenian Wolfman with shaggy fur and a prominent blaster rifle, wearing worn combat fatigues. He introduced himself as Sivrak, and immediately growled at Jev, barely a mouthful of fangs.

The young Alderaanian couldn't back off quickly enough, and Evverd burst out laughing. The Shistavenian joined in the fun, pounding Evverd on the back and laughing in great, rumbling tones.

"Scares easily, does he, Rik?"

Jev frowned. "What'd I miss?"

Evverd ceased his laughing long enough to say, "Kid, this is Lak Sivrak, one of the better pilots, and THE best scout, you'll ever meet. He's with the Alliance."

"You had this planned," said Jev, feeling the heat rise to his cheeks.

"Sure. I got everything under control. Come on."

Jev sighed, and resolved that in the future, he would not be so impressed with Evverd's resourcefulness until he knew all the facts.

Evverd and Sivrak walked past Jev, away from the spaceport section. As they went by, Sivrak leaned in close and snarled, "Boo!"

Jev Parrak jumped, and the Shistavenian started laughing all over again.

"Explain to me, Guri, why you thought it necessary to advise me before dealing with a petty thief." Prince Xizor, underworld ruler of Black Sun, leaned back in his conforming office chair, his topknot flopping backwards over its edge. A reptilian Falleen, Xizor was cold-blooded in more ways than one, and though he did enjoy the details of his work, he preferred to leave minor acts of revenge and terror to others.

Such was beneath him, for he was Xizor, trailing only the Emperor and Lord Vader in terms of power and influence. Guri, a human replica droid in the form of a beautiful blonde woman, said, "It is not a thief, my prince."

Xizor frowned. Guri had recovered quite well from a short-circuited central processor suffered last year, and had regained her usual perfection. Or so he'd thought. "But you said..."

"The ship was stolen by a thief, my prince. It is being piloted by a member of the Rebel Alliance."

Xizor leaned back in thought. His logical faculties were second to none, but even he could not see a way to turn such a minor incident into anything useful. "So one of the Rebels has landed on Coruscant to give Palpatine a bloody nose. What is it to us? Thwarting two minor operatives is not enough to impress the Emperor in my favor."

"It was difficult, my prince," said Guri, "But I have tracked the stolen freighter to a shipyard. It was recently acquired by a man named Dash Rendar."

"Hmmm..." Xizor pondered the new information, "I am aware of this man, a smuggler and pirate. We've had no trouble with him previously."

"We still have not, my prince," said Guri, "He did not know the ship was stolen from Black Sun. But he contracted for it on behalf of two men we've identified as belonging to the crew of a Rebel frigate."

"And?" asked the Dark Prince.

"And... the frigate is captained by Mykel Garreth. I trust you remember him."

Xizor scowled just briefly before allowing his cold nature to soak up the rage. He did indeed recall Mykel Garreth. He, with the help of the disguised Emperor's Hand, Mara Jade, had broken out of detention on Xixor's skyhook a year ago, flummoxing poor Guri's processor in the process. Between repair bills and assassin costs (the technician who worked on Guri had to be killed for security's sake) and damage to the skyhook, that particular Rebel captain had cost Xizor a small fortune.

Money meant little to Xizor, for he had a limitless supply of it. His pride, and the inviolability of his personal havens, meant something more.

Few escaped the Dark Prince's wrath. Even fewer lived to boast of it.

"Now that does interest me," said Xizor, "Very much so. Do you know where they are going?"

"Deep into the lower levels," said Guri, "Possibly they are attempting to infiltrate the Imperial Palace."

Xizor snorted softly. "That would be incredibly stupid of them. Why don't you take a detachment, Guri, and welcome them to this lovely world?"

Guri nodded. "The team is already assembled, my prince."

"And Guri..." She waited expectantly, and Xizor allowed the corners of his mouth to turn upwards in just the faintest hint of a smile. "I do want them alive. Captain Garreth was a very poorly mannered guest. We'll need these two as an example, to teach him the proper respect."

"Understood," said Guri, and she left the room.

"So what is a bushworld scout doing in middle of a city planet, anyway?"

Sivrak held up a hand to stop Jev from rounding a corner. He raised his rifle, vaulted the corner, and incinerated some huge, multilegged thing on the other side. He quickly scanned the area with his rifle's lighted scope, then nodded for the others to come forward.

"If you have to ask," said Sivrak, "You haven't seen enough of the lower levels."

Jev was beginning to think he'd already seen quite enough of the lower levels, thanks very much. But he forced himself not to shudder as he stepped over the segmented corpse Sivrak had burned.

Evverd, who was holding a glowrod in one hand and a blaster pistol in the other, added, "Sivrak is helping the people here on Coruscant who want to start a revolt. Since the Imps are dug in here pretty good, our guys are stuck in festering swampholes like this."

"It's an exotic environment like any other," said the Shistavenian, "And it has one added bonus: Even the stormtroopers won't come down here."

Jev notice something, like the big critter from before but only half the size, skittering in the corner. "I'm beginning to see why."

Sivrak laughed. "Those things bother you? You should count your blessings... they have to get close to bite. It's the ones that spit you have to worry about."

"S-spit?" said Jev, not at all sure he wanted an answer, "Some of them spit?"

"Not those," said Sivrak, "It's the ugly ones that spit."

Jev shuddered, and elbowed Rik Evverd. "Did I ever tell you how much I hate little, crawling things?"

"Well, cheer up, then," said Evverd, "All they've got down here are big, crawling things."

The younger man groaned.

"Which way now, kid?" said Sivrak. "Um..." Jev concentrated, which wasn't easy given his surroundings. "Left, I think."

"Do you realize," said Sivrak, "That we're heading straight for the Imperial Palace?"

"That's it!" said Jev, the answer burning through his mind, "That's where Kerri is! The base of the Imperial Palace! I'm sure of it!"

"How?" said Sivrak, reasonably. "How does he know this, Rik?"

"He's either a Jedi or a blathering idiot," said Evverd, "Right now, we're leaning towards the first one."

"A Jedi?" said Sivrak, "You expect me to risk my pelt, go to the Imperial Palace itself, on the word of some cultist who follows a forgotten religion?"

"I'm not a Jedi!" Jev protested, "But I know, I feel, where she is. I don't know if it's the Force or what, but she's there."

Evverd grinned at the wolfman. "Trust him."

"I do not trust him," Sivrak pronounced, "But I trust you, Evverd. Follow."

Lak Sivrak led the way off to the left, towards the Imperial Palace.

"Down!" he said, over an hour later. "Quickly!"

Jev halted, noticing the puddle of something foul-smelling beneath his boots. "I'm not laying down in that!"

"Listen to Sivrak, kid," Evverd warned him. The Corellian was already huddling in the vile soup.

"I'm NOT--"

A hollow buzzing sound filled Jev's ears, and Sivrak reached out to yank his feet out from under him. Jev whacked his head hard enough to see whole constellations.

"Was that nec..."

Above him, where his head had been, the pitch-blackness of the lower levels had suddenly become even darker. Dimly, Jev picked out that it was not one big shape rushing by, above him, but thousands of little ones. Well, not exactly little. Each was half a meter in length, mostly head and teeth, with a tiny, deformed body supported by fluttering wings.

"What in the depths of Kessel...?"

"Hivers," said Sivrak, coolly blasting one of the creatures that flew too close for his taste, "They'll strip flesh from humanoid bone in less than a minute. Quite efficient hunters. But luckily, they don't look for food, they just slaughter whatever's directly in their path. Still, we lost quite a few of our group to them in the first few weeks."

Jev looked back at the receding insect-things, and shuddered. "Do they ever double back?"

Sivrak picked himself off, heedless of the noxious dampness that spread throughout his fatigues. "Moving along..."

"But do they ever double back?"

The wolfman jerked a claw forwards. "Palace is right up here..."

Rik Evverd dusted himself off, grimaced, and followed the Shistavenian.

"But they don't come back, do they?" Jev called after them.

"That's strange," said Lak Sivrak, "Light source ahead."

"I can't tell?" said Evverd, squinting past the glare of his glowrod.

"Yeah, well, humans might as well be blind and deaf for all the good their senses are."

The Corellian grunted. "Somebody's let the 'master tracker' thing go to his head."

"But at least those things didn't double back," Jev put in, glancing nervously over his shoulder.

They rounded a corner, went nearly a hundred meters, and rounded another one.

"What can we expect in the way of guards?" said Evevrd.

Lak Sivrak grunted. "Nothing. The palace is just solid ferrocrete down here, and they're not too worried about anyone being stupid enough to attack from here, anyway. Light source should be just over that pile of junk."

The three climbed the pile, Jev in particular doing his best not to notice the little eyes that stared at him and the little legs that crawled on him. The lower levels of Coruscant were several millennia old, and anything left down here had slid rather too far down the evolutionary scale. So Jev tried not to think about any of it.

Sivrak reached the top first. "I don't believe it."

"What?" said Evverd," Grunted as he reached the top of the heap himself. "Well, I'll be a drunken Jawa..."

Jev boosted himself over the top with a groan. "Why? What do you...see..."

A small group of almost-humanoids was gathered at the bottom of the slope, against the palace's metal wall. They hissed and snarled at each other, scratching and biting with sharp teeth and claws, each trying to claim a prize from the others.

Sivrak scattered them with several warning shots, and Jev got his first good look at what they were fighting over.

A glowing, golden oval, like a massive cocoon, lit the darkness of the bottom levels. Jev remembered it. He'd seen it in his dream.

The three Rebels clambered down the slope, heedless of the squirming and writhing of a dozen kinds of pests. They ran to the orb.

Sivrak got there first, and growled low in his throat. Evverd followed and stared. Jev arrived last, panting hard.

He looked down into the cocoon-like oval. In it's midst, surrounded by the golden energy like a fog, was a familiar woman with tan skin-tone and long, dark hair.

Evverd stared. "Kerri...?"

Continued in Episode 3

R. John Burke



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