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

Descent Into Darkness

STAR WARS: By FREEDOM'S Light Episode Fourteen

DESRIPTION: Events come to a head, as Taryn and Karrde Hit a slaver base, and... oh, just read.

NOTICE: Star Wars is a registered, notarized, and fully legislatable copyright, trademark, and franchise of Lucasfilm, Ltd. This story is not for sale in any form, since selling it would be wrong, and besides, I fear all lawyers.


"Try this sector first," said Talon Karrde, scratching his goatee thoughtfully. "Then spread out towards the Core."

The Wookiee slicer next to him, Kuuvmyyn, rumbled his understanding. Kuuvmyyn was colored a sort of sandy tan. He was also stocky and absurdly short for a Wookiee. Rik Evverd had actually seen humans who were taller, though admittedly not many.

"This may take some time," Karrde advised them, "Perhaps you should find something to do."

Evverd snorted. "Like what?"

Karrde shrugged. In truth, the underground caves used by the Wookiee resistance here on Wartaki island did not provide much in the way of entertainment - at least not for humans. "I understand you're a good hand with a blaster. You could join one of the shorakk hunts."

Nearly as Evverd had been able to learn the Wookiees here spent most of their down time hunting a sort of giant crustacean, like a Corellian sandcrab, but two meters wide and a mouthful of poisonous fangs.

"No way," he said, "Chasing down one of those ugly monsters ain't my idea of a good time. It's more like suicide."

Something on the computer screen blinked, and Kuuvmyyn rumbled a string of data.

"What, already?" said Karrde, peering over one bulky shoulder to study the screen. "We're in luck..."

"What is it?" said Taryn Clancee, the room's other occupant. Karrde had rescued Evverd and Taryn from a little scrape at Kessel. A pirate and information broker of some repute, Karrde had offered (for a price) to find Taryn's lost friend, Kristoff Narr, who had been taken as an Imperial conscript a few months ago.

"He's here," said Karrde, "At the Kashyyyk garrison."

"You're kidding."

Evverd's eyes narrowed. "I'm not sure I trust that kind of luck..."

"Well, I didn't pick Kashyyyk out of a hat, you know," said Karrde, "The Empire has been strengthening their presence here in response to increased resistance. A lot of the new conscripts have been siphoned to this sector."

Taryn frowned. "You might have mentioned that."

"It was still a longshot. He might easily have been across the galaxy. I didn't wish to get your hopes up prematurely."

"I still don't like it," said Evverd. "Clancee, you sure you trust this guy?"

Karrde made a face. "I am in the room, you know..."

"And when I'm talking to you, I'll say so. Clancee?"

Taryn shifted position on the stone slab that passed for a chair in this dump. "Karrde's not a choir boy, and he's not above working for the Empire, either. But I trust him. He wouldn't sell us out."

"Thank you for the recommendation," Karrde muttered, "Half-hearted though it was."

Kuuvmyyn grumbled something that Evverd didn't quite catch.

Talon Karrde nodded. "Yes, go ahead, log off..."

"No," said Evverd, "First I'd like to check the FREEDOM's last known position. They were still running from the Imps when we left."

The smuggler addressed his Wookiee colleague. "Kuuvmyyn?"

The Wookiee said that, although they were in danger every second he stayed logged on, it shouldn't take long to find a capital ship in the Imperial records.

"Do it, then. My responsibility." Karrde glanced at the dark-skinned, mustached Corellian. "This could be a very high price to soothe your fears."

"I know Garreth and Kerri," said Evverd, "I've been gone weeks. If they haven't gotten into some kind of trouble without me, it'll be a first."

They watched the screen for a moment, the room thick with tension. But no Imperial watchdog tracked down Kuuvmyyn's intrusion, and in a moment he hooted again.

"Sesswanna sector?" Evverd frowned. "They weren't heading that way when we left."

"Maybe new orders came in," suggested Clancee. Like Evverd, she served under Captain Mykel Garreth on a NEBULON class frigate called the FREEDOM.

"Or maybe they're in trouble," said Evverd, "Can he get anything more?"

Karrde leaned over the Wookiee's shoulder as Kuuvmyyn's surprisingly dexterous paws worked the controls.

"A droid passing through the outskirts of Sesswanna spotted the ship releasing fighters."

"Fighters? From Maverick squadron?"

"Not all," said Karrde after a moment, "The first two were Y-Wings, probably from Rascal Squadron. The third was an X-Wing with Maverick Squadron markings."

"Heading?" The Corellian asked.

"All three were moving on a general path into the sector that could lead to many locations, including Coruscant, Yaga Minor, Balmorra, Corsin..."

Evverd frowned. "There's no more information?"

"The probe droid was discovered and destroyed soon after sending the telemetry. By the time the Imperial patrol arrived to check it out, FREEDOM was gone."

"Why would they release three fighters, and just leave?"

"Maybe they were scared off by the probe droid," Taryn suggested.

"Not Garreth," said Evverd. "He doesn't leave people. Neither does Kerri. I got a bad feeling about this..."

Kuuvmyyn rumbled something impatient, and Evverd said, "What do the Imps think they were up to?"

The Wookiee tapped in that query a bit frantically, then howled in surprise when a green Imperial symbol flashed onto the screen.

"Classified information!" Karrde snapped, "Shut it down! Shut it down NOW!"

The Wookiee's hairy fist came down on the cutoff hard enough that something snapped. The monitors went dead. Kuuvmyyn roared.

"It's okay," said Karrde, "They didn't have time to trace it."

Kuuvmyyn hedged, but admitted that he was right.

"So what exactly happened?" Taryn asked.

"The information Evverd requested was classified at the highest level." Karrde's eyes were cool, but full of curiosity. "By command of Lord Vader."

"Vader?" Taryn frowned. "Why would Vader care about the FREEDOM?"

"Only one reason I can think of," Evverd hissed, "Wherever those fighters are going, they're heading into a trap."

"I'm sorry," said Karrde, watching the other man carefully.

The pilot groaned. "She's in trouble, I'd bet on it. I've gotta get over there..."

"We don't even know where they're going," Karrde said.

"Then plot a straight-line hyperspace course from their position towards the middle of the sector. I'll start with the closest planet on the line, and work from there."

"Work with what?" Karrde frowned at him. "You have no ship."

Evverd flashed his best rogue's grin. "There's the UWANA BUYER."

"You're not using MY ship," Karrde protested.

"And I'm not leaving here without Kris," said Taryn. "They'll be fine, Rik. They're warriors. They don't need your help."

"Rushing off would be a purely reckless and futile gesture," Karrde added.

"Well, of course it would. It's ME."

Karrde laughed. "Commander, no. Absolutely not."

"Look, you don't need her. Kris is right here. The Wookiees have to have ground transport you can borrow."

"You're not going to take my ship gallivanting into Imperial space..."

"They're my friends," Evverd said, "They need me."

Karrde stared at him, and in those cool eyes, Evverd thought he saw some twinge of sympathy. Taryn was right, Karrde was an honorable man. For all his talk, he understood the need to watch out for one's own.

He sighed. "It's going to cost you. A lot."

"Whatever your price is, you'll get it. Right from the Rebel treasury."

The smuggler sighed deeply, and said with a wounded expression, "Yes, all those rich Rebels I see running around. I imagine you have a fortune to burn. I'm a businessman, Evverd. No matter how much I sympathize, I cannot go around giving handouts."

"I'll guarantee him," said Taryn. "You know me, Karrde, I'm good for it."

"And what if the Empire should find out about my involvement? Will you compensate me for that, too?"

"They won't find out," said Evverd, "I promise."

Beaten, Talon Karrde slumped down on the stone slab. "It's my head on the line here, Commander. You'd better be as good as you claim."

"I am. What about that course?"

Karrde chuckled. "Oh, no. The UWANA BUYER isn't flying aimlessly around the heart of Imperial space. First, we'll find out where they are."

"How?" the smuggler asked.

Karrde grinned tightly. "Kuuvmyyn, would you say you'd do better slicing the Imperial network with the latest Imperial codes from the garrison?"

The Wookiee howled enthusiastically.

"You'll get your chance," Karrde said. He stared at Evverd. "You understand, my services are not cheap. I need capital, a lot of it, to get my organization up and running. Specifically, I'll need enough to buy two, maybe three first-class smuggling ships. That includes modifications and crew."

The star pilot winced. He didn't know the exact Price tag on that, but it wasn't going to put a good-sized dent in the Alliance's coffers. The money wasn't even his to spend, really.

"You'll get it," he promised. "But I can't stick around for a raid. I've gotta get moving, and I mean yesterday."

"The BUYER has a first-class sensor package, including hyperspace comm. By the time you reach the outskirts of Sesswanna, we'll have the location for you."

Evverd nodded. It was a risky plan, but no crazier than the rest of this stunt. "You're gonna hit the garrison, then?"

"Yes," Karrde said, "I think the Wookiees will pay generously for a plan that will free a few of the slaves held there."

Taryn laughed out loud. "You always work every angle, don't you? Do you even HAVE a plan like that?" Karrde's lip twisted. "I'll think of something..."

"You don't really think we can just sneak into the base like this, do you?"

"Why not?" asked Karrde, rubbing his now-smooth chin with a sigh. Yet another thing the Rebels owed him for. He hadn't shaved his beard off in almost twenty years...

"For one thing, they'll know this isn't one of their transports!"

Karrde glanced up from the controls at Clancee, where she sat at the copilot's console of their borrowed prisoner transports. She looked different, too, in her green Imperial fleet uniform, with her distinctive blonde hair dyed black.

"Actually, Kuuvmyyn's put us on the itinerary, complete with your retinal pattern. He's good."

"If it were that easy," she argued, "The Wookiees would have done this a long time ago."

"They've had the capability," Karrde said, "But they cannot risk their underground movement with such open hostility."

"So they'll let us do it for them..."

"Relax," he said. "They'll see no Wookiees on this raid, and the retinal scan will later be examined and found to belong to a known member of the Rebel Alliance."

She frowned. "You think they'll blame the Alliance?"

"I think. You Rebels are always doing stupid things like this." Karrde smirked. "Just didn't think you'd ever get ME to join you..."

"Karrde," she hesitated, and patted his shoulder, "Thank you."

"Thank me when it works," he said.

Taryn's retinal scan got them through the gate, but not past the contingent of biker scouts.

"Where are you going with this?" asked the commander.

"Prisoner transfer," said Karrde. He tried to alter his voice a bit, just to put further distance between 'Talon Karrde' and whatever lunatic was leading this raid. "They need more workers at Rwookrrorro."

"I wasn't notified."

Karrde pointed at his glowing computer terminal, in the nearby checkpoint. "Check your schedule."

The scout did, directing his three colleagues to keep tabs on the repulsor truck. "Here it is. Sorry, didn't remember seeing that." He chuckled through his helmet filter. "Missed my morning coffeine, you know?"

"I understand completely," said Karrde, and he gestured at the assembled weapons of the other troopers. "May we proceed?"

The biker scout pointed, and the weapons dropped. "Move along."

The truck lurched slightly as it accelerated, and Karrde drove slowly through the Imperial garrison. After a moment, he pulled up in front of the work pit.

Two speeder bikes pulled in behind him.

Cautiously, Karrde eased the side door open. "Problem?"

"No problem," said one rider. "We're here to assist."

"Assist? Not necessary, really."

The stormtrooper snorted. "You must be new. Trust me, pal, these Wookiees can get rough."

Karrde glanced at Taryn, who mouthed the words 'bad idea.'

'No choice,' he mouthed back.

Karrde smiled at the trooper. "Wonderful. Glad to have you along."

He accelerated the repulsor truck, and was waved into the work pits.

In the work area, a few dozen Wookiees - mostly the blonde or tan kziks, but a few of the brown or black rwooks - worked at mining or carting heavy loads away. Along the coasts, Kashyyyk was rich in valuable minerals, so the Wartaki base was mostly used for mining. Inland, like at Rwookrrorro, they did more in the way of ship assembly and repair.

Karrde left the truck and approached the supervisor, a tall, thin man with a prominent scar on his face, an eyepatch, and a force whip. This man had done battle with the Wookiees for a good long time, Karrde decided, and had not always won.

"We have a work order here," he said, presenting the man with Kuuvmyyn's forged handiwork, "Six new workers for the Rwookrrorro base."

The supervisor sneered. "They just took my workers last week!"

"And now we're taking more," Karrde said in a tone that did not invite argument. "If you have a problem, address it to Admiral Koss."

The supervisor grumbled. "You can take that one, and that one..." he gestured at two old, sickly Wookiees who were clearly about done as workers anyway. Their coats, where they still had coats, were a sickly gray and their exposed skin was covered with welts and scars.

Karrde nodded tightly, his mind filled with unrepeatable sentiments. "Working them rather hard, are you?"

"To serve the Emperor," said the supervisor, mistaking his words as a compliment.

Karrde worked hard to keep the bitterness from his tone. "Yes, well, we must all serve the Emperor, mustn't we? Four more."

"Those two blonde ones over there," said the supervisor, pointing to two scrawny specimens, "And that female off to the left."

The female was also stooped and gray. While Karrde had no objection to freeing the sick and weak, he felt obliged to bring the Underground someone who could fight for them - this wasn't just a mercy mission. He was being paid to bring them reinforcements.

"If you're limiting yourself to such weak ones," Karrde said, "I'll have to take eight."

"You want one with muscle?" said the supervisor with a grunt. "Fine. How's the discipline at Rwookrrorro?"

"Why?"

The thin man made the most unpleasant face Karrde had ever personally seen, not counting Hutts. "We got a discipline problem, mauled four trainers. Care to see what you can do with him?"

That's more like it, thought Karrde. "Wouldn't mind giving it a try."

The supervisor turned to one of his underlings. "Bring the brown one."

In a moment, several stormtroopers emerged with one of the most massive rwook males Karrde had encountered. He was bound with force cuffs, his chestnut fur burnt in several places. But his blue eyes were defiant, and he howled as they brought him out.

Karrde nodded. "Put him in the transport."

"Hey," said one of the troopers, "Where's your friend?"

Karrde turned around and tried to act surprised that Taryn was no longer in her seat. He snorted. "Just like her to skip out on the work..."

"What do you want?" asked the bored Imperial.

Taryn tried to look equally bored as she gazed down at her datapad. "Personnel transfer to Rwookrrorro. Narr, Kristoff. Conscript from Pollis. Relief comm officer."

"I wasn't..."

"Notified, yeah, I know. The computer system is really garbled today. Why don't you go get him?"

The man, a heavyset balding sergeant, said, "I can't just let you take people without authorization."

"What, you think one seventeen-year-old kid is gonna make a difference either way? Check your terminal."

The sergeant narrowed his eyes. "You have his age on there?"

Great, Taryn thought, I had to get a smart one.

"Yeah, I got his whole profile. Captain Derth requested him personally."

The sergeant grunted. "Officers, huh?"

Taryn, who was wearing the uniform of a corporal, smiled knowingly. "Tell me about it. You gonna get him?"

The officer studied his computer screen, which had the order displayed clearly in Basic characters. "Yeah, I'll...hey, this is an old code."

Taryn peered over his shoulder. "It's still valid."

"Yeah, but you said Derth himself gave the order. Wouldn't he give you an up-to-date code?"

"Ummm..." Taryn paused for only a moment. "Maybe he was having a bad day."

"I'll have to clear this..." his hand moved for the comm switch.

Taryn drew her blaster. "Didn't anyone ever tell you it doesn't pay to show initiative in the Imperial Army?"

One of the man's beefy fingers stabbed for an alert switch. Taryn hit him with a stun bolt before it got there.

"Guess not," she muttered.

A shot sizzled in from behind her. Taryn swiveled to see two Imperial stormtroopers barreling down the corridor, rifles firing. Fortunately, stormtrooper aim was a constant throughout the galaxy, and Taryn put them down with relative ease.

"KNEW this wouldn't be easy!" she hissed as she nailed the last one. She set off down the corridor they'd come from, searching for Kristoff Narr.

"What's his name?" Karrde asked the supervisor.

"How would I know?" the other man said about the big prisoner, "He's a stinkin' Wook!"

"Of course," Karrde grumbled. Slavers just had no concept of proper manners.

"Everyone loaded?" Karrde asked. The stormtroopers nodded. "All right, then..."

From the main complex, alert sirens blared, and a voice said, "Intruder alert! This base has been infiltrated! All personnel to alert stations!"

Karrde sighed. I think I'm in trouble...

One of the stormtroopers spoke. "These forcefields aren't properly calibrated - they're much too low."

"Er, yes, I find..."

The stormtrooper peered at him. "What's your operating number?"

I'm in trouble, he decided. "Um... SP-587?"

It was worth a shot...

"That's not a valid number," said the trooper, hefting his blaster rifle. "Your partner is the intruder, isn't she?"

When did they get so clever? Karrde wondered. His hand flew to his blaster pistol, came up in the quick-draw of his lifetime. His shot missed the stormtrooper completely...

And shot the huge Wookiee's force cuffs apart.

"Look out!" the trainer cried, "He's loose! He'll tear us apart!"

The stormtrooper facing Karrde had other things On his mind. His finger squeezed the trigger just as Karrde elbowed him aside, making the shot miss.

The stormtrooper lined up for another shot, but never got it off.

With an appreciative roar, the rwook lifted him high above its head, and smashed him back down against the side of the truck as though trying to crack his armor open to get at the prize inside.

The supervisor raised his force-whip. Karrde's blaster bolt hit him before he could snap it down.

Then the whole place erupted into chaos, a handful of stormtroopers arrayed against several dozen berserk Wookiees sniffing freedom for the first time.

If the combat was unpleasant, it was at least over quickly.

The young man stood in the control booth, the resemblance to his late mother so strong that it gave Taryn pause.

But there was no time for delay. With the element of surprise on her side, she took out the other three Imps in the room.

The kid pulled a blaster pistol and backed against the wall, shaking with terror.

"Kris, it's me! Taryn Clancee, you remember me. I was with you at the training center."

"I - I do remember. Don't come closer!"

"What?" The youth's eyes flicked back and forth quickly. "I'm here to rescue you!"

"You - you can't. You have to go. They have my mother. They'll kill her..."

Taryn sighed. This wasn't going to be easy. "They don't have her anymore. Just come on, I'll explain later."

"I can't!" He spoke more out of fear than reason. I see the old Imperial react-instead-of-think training scenarios are still being used.

"Come on! They can't hurt your mother. Don't you want to get out of here?"

"The, um..." the kid calmed down a bit, his eyes assuming a distant glaze. By wrote, he recited, "The Empire is the duly recognized government of this galaxy. It is immoral and dangerous to join with the rebel traitors who..."

Taryn groaned. Great. He must have really put up a fight. They ran him through an Obedience routine. I don't have time for this.

She fired a blue stun bolt, and Kristoff Narr collapsed under waves of energy. Taryn ran to him, and was dismayed to realize he was heavier than he looked.

Still, she thought, I've lifted crates of glitterstim that were heavier...

She staggered down the corridor, the kid supported on her back, praying she didn't run into a stormtrooper.

Taryn Clancee dropped a heavy weight into the back of the transport, then practically leapt into the driver's compartment. "GO!"

"Thought you'd never ask..."

Karrde gunned the thing's accelerator, trying to both compensate for the extra weight of the dozens of Wookiees he'd saved and evade the turbolaser fire.

"Isn't that more than we planned on bringing?" Taryn asked.

Karrde glanced back at his growling, fidgeting cargo. "Would YOU care to tell one of them to stay behind?"

They came up on the checkpoint, and Karrde was surprised to see no resistance set up there. He had a bad feeling about that, but he simply tore through the barrier and headed for the outer gate.

The big rwook - Salporin was his name. It seemed he'd been stationed off-planet for awhile, but had caused so much trouble that they'd shipped him back to Kashyyyk for "re-training" - Salporin informed them that four speeder bikes had fallen into pursuit formation behind them.

Karrde groaned as the transport began to take damage. "Why am I not surprised?"

He pointed to a concealed area between the seats. "Insurance here. Repeat blaster. How quickly can you set it up?"

Salporin's reply was once again enthusiastic, but not too definite.

The transport was hammered by laser cannon blasts again. Karrde grunted. "Take your time..."

He reached out and boosted the repulsors, bringing the transport to the limit of its height so that they actually soared OVER the gate.

One of the speeder bikes, unable to resist a hand blaster shot at the repulsor truck's lightly armored underside, eased in directly beneath them. Karrde took a moderate amount of pleasure in dropping the transport suddenly to land on his head.

Something detonated behind them, and several Wookiees roared.

"Scratch one," said Taryn, "Three more to go..."

"I can count!" Karrde snapped. This was simply no way for a respectable businessman to make a living.

In the back, Salporin opened their doors and opened up with the repeat blaster. That had the unfortunate effect of leaving the interior of the transport open to fire, however, and several shots lanced between Clancee and Karrde to spatter against the windshield.

One of them, in particular, came too close. "Good thing I'd shaved," he muttered, "That last one would've set my beard on fire..."

He dodged, suddenly, throwing the transport into a grove of huge, inter-connected wrorshyr trees.

"Are you crazy?" Taryn hissed, "We're not maneuverable enough to..."

"They'll cut us apart even quicker in the open!"

As the trees rushed by, Salporin continued to exchange fire with the speeder bikes. Karrde's seat jumped beneath him as another blast scored.

"You ARE trying to hit them, aren't you?" he cried.

Salporin responded with a Wookiee vulgarity, and got of a shot that hit a thick, overhanging branch. The branch fell and cut off one speeder's directional vane with a crunch. It smashed into a tree.

Salporin's growl was the Wookiee equivalent of 'SEE?'

They approached a pair of trees hanging close together, and Karrde had to turn the repulsors almost vertical to slide through. Though smaller and more maneuverable, one of the bikes was taken off-guard by the maneuver, and smashed into a tree.

Another spattering of bolts flew into the transport, and Karrde felt something warm at his back.

Taryn whistled softly. "Good thing your chair is thickly padded..."

"What?" Karrde craned his neck backwards for a look.

"STEER!" Taryn cried, and Karrde turned back to his viewport just in time to swerve around a particularly large tree.

The last speeder bike copied the maneuver, but in doing so left his profile vulnerable for an extra second. With an echoing battle cry, Salporin shot his bike out from under him.

As the Wookiees cheered, Karrde almost immediately cut his speed and added altitude, trying to get up to where the impossibly tall wrorshyr trees thinned out a bit.

Taryn thumped him on the shoulder. "That was pretty good."

Karrde sighed deeply. "That's half the luck for my entire life, shot in one sitting." He paused, then concluded, "The Alliance had best have deep pockets, because you alone could never dig yourself out of debt to me..."

Evverd frowned at the UWANA BUYER's viewscreen. "You saved every Wookiee at the base?"

"More or less," said Karrde, "And just barely talked my way out of several life-debts..."

The Corellian chuckled. He would have liked to see that. "You got coordinates for me?"

"Yes," Karrde said, "Though her departure was rushed, Taryn found some excellent codes in their computers. One of which decrypted the Imperial Intelligence report on your three friends."

Evverd waited expectantly. "And...?"

"And... the X-Wing they don't know about, that's a wild card." He paused thoughtfully. "Which would be a good name for a ship... Anyway, the two Y-Wings are headed for Balmorra. One of them is believed to contain Garreth himself."

Evverd laughed. "That's impossible. Garreth would never fly a snubfighter."

"He might, if his children were in danger."

"You want to run that past again?"

Karrde frowned. "Two beings identified as Lorne and Trina Garreth are being held at the Imperial base on Balmorra. Apparently Lord Vader has set some kind of elaborate trap."

"What's elaborate about that?" Evverd asked, "Sounds like straight blackmail."

"Not at all," said Karrde, "Vader isn't after Garreth. He's after someone else identified only as the Primary Target, who is believed to be in the second fighter." Karrde's voice lilted with familiar curiosity. "And whom Lord Vader apparently felt with the Force."

Evverd's stomach twisted. Kerri. Or Jev. Most likely, Kerri. Jev might be in the X-Wing...

"If you know of a living Jedi, that information would be worth a great deal," said Karrde, "I might take that as a partial payment."

"Name's not for sale," Evverd said through stiff lips. He didn't trust Karrde THAT much. "Thanks, Talon."

"Evverd... watch out for my ship. That's a loaner."

"Got it," said Rik Evverd, and cut the connection. He set a hyperspace course, and a moment later he was en route to the Balmorran system...

Garreth popped out of hyperspace with a gut-jarring twist, and surprisingly found no Imperial fighters rushing out to meet him. No defenses at all, in fact. On one of the most important Imperial production worlds in the galaxy.

Bad sign, he decided.

"Stay sharp," said Kerri through his comm, "I don't like this..."

Then her voice blinked off, to be replaced by deep, filtered tones. "Greetings, Captain Garreth. I've been expecting you. Set down at the Main Processing Facility. I'll await your presence most eagerly."

"I bet," said Garreth.

The voice went on, "I've been expecting your friend as well. I cannot feel you, child, but I know you've come. I am most eager to begin your instruction in the Dark Side of the Force."

Kerri groaned on a different comm line. "Not again..."

"Do not be concerned about your children, Captain. I believe we can work out an acceptable trade." The voice of Darth Vader paused, and for a moment the only sound was his filtered breathing.

"Your daughter and son... for my son."

Concluded in Episode 15

R. John Burke



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