Added July 31, 1999
Category: Science Fiction/Star Wars
Author: R.John Burke

Under Cover of Darkness

In Defense Of Freedom series Episode Five

DESCRIPTION: Things start happening. Garreth goes before Thrawn, his friends mount a rescue mission, and the Empire hits an unimportant little planet...

NOTICE: Star Wars is Copyright Lucasfilm, and all characters and situations borrowing from it are subject to that copyright. This is just non-profit fan fiction. You have been warned.


The first thing he heard was the steady thrum of engines soaring through hyperspace. They sounded... wrong, somehow.

Mykel Garreth groaned as he realized what the problem was. That wasn't a New Republic design, because of course he had been captured by the Empire. He was aboard a Star Destroyer.

The last thing he remembered was staring at that Noghri nightmare of a face, before a stun bolt had knocked him halfway to the Outer Rim...

He yawned and stretched, feeling the familiar muscle ache of a recent stun. Nausea followed soon after, but passed without incident.

He pulled himself into a sitting position, and groaned more loudly. He doubted he would survive this experience - but then, he'd doubted his chances many times before. He'd just have to see what happened.

Almost immediately, the blast doors hissed open. An Imperial officer, a young man in a lieutenant's uniform, strode in accompanied by stormtrooper guard.

Garreth smiled weakly. "Let me guess: You'd been waiting for me."

The young man, a slim blonde, nodded briskly. "I have orders to take you to the Grand Admiral."

"Grand Admiral?" Garreth grunted. "Thrawn's been busy."

The officer actually stammered a bit. "You - you know about Admiral Thrawn?"

The rebel officer laughed. "You're very young, aren't you?" He stood. "Well, come on. Let's get this over with."

The door slid open, but Garreth didn't even bother stepping inside. "I'm not coming in until you've shown yourself."

After a long pause, a gray-skinned alien stepped soundlessly from the shadows. "You will be searched, if you are to enter the Grand Admiral's presence."

"He's already been searched," the lieutenant said with a look that mixed disgust and fear.

"I will satisfy myself," said the Noghri, and he moved forward to frisk Garreth, briefly and roughly. Finally, he stepped back and nodded. "You may enter."

"Can't be too careful, can we?" said the rebel admiral with a smirk. The door slid open.

The room Garreth entered was softly lit and filled with holograms. "I see you haven't lost your taste for art."

"Nor have you lost your talent for causing trouble." Grand Admiral Thrawn on the Imperial fleet sat in his command chair at the far end of the room, looking for all of space like some kind of upstart Emperor. His red eyes glowed against his pale blue skin, and Garreth was reminded again how very dangerous this man could be.

Garreth smiled thinly. "You mean that little incident at New Alderaan? That was a mere lark, and it was you who caused the trouble. Really, Thrawn, terrorism against simple colonists? That's beneath you."

Thrawn inclined his head. "Admiral Bronn has already been disciplined. His strike was ineffective and only serves to build resistance to the Empire. Alas, our base of loyal officers is not what it once was."

"Corruption and greed can have that effect," Garreth said with a nod. In a strange sort of way, he was at home here. He and Thrawn had discussed a multitude of subjects like this when they'd been friends - jumping through mental hoops in debate with this man was the easy part.

The hard part would come when Thrawn ordered his execution. But first things first.

"I am curious, Admiral." The non-human beckoned him closer, and Garreth obeyed, though just by one step. "Our intelligence indicates that the Rebels - forgive me, your New Republic - knows nothing about me."

With another, Garreth might have tried to deny it, but such a simple lie would be useless against Thrawn. "That's true."

"And yet, I am certain I recall engaging you at Corellia."

The admiral sighed. "I didn't tell them about you."

"Indeed." The slight degree to which Thrawn narrowed his red and glowing eyes said he already knew that. "And why is that, Admiral? Why did you lie to your Rebel comrades?"

"I think you know," he said. "We were friends once. I was certain the Emperor would keep you buried in the Unknown Regions until the end of the war, if not the end of time itself."

Thrawn nodded. "And after his death?"

"When you didn't come back immediately," Garreth said with a shrug, "I assumed you were dead."

"Ah, but returning immediately would have meant facing Isard."

Garreth shuddered at that; Ysanne Isard, better known as "Iceheart" to her enemies, had been head of Imperial Intelligence during Palpatine's reign. She had led the Empire for a time after his death. While she was not as brilliant as Thrawn, she was more than capable, and she had the added advantage of being downright scary. She would have been a formidable opponent.

Thrawn nodded, seeing Garreth mind at work. "I would have won, of course, but only after a lengthy struggle that would have further weakened the Empire."

Garreth hissed softly. He'd been naive. He'd so hoped Thrawn was dead that he hadn't thought the matter through.

"I should have realized you'd bide your time."

"Never underestimate me, Mykel. That is invariably a fatal mistake."

Garreth felt his jaw tighten. "I'd warn you of the reverse, but I'm sure you already know it."

Thrawn half-smiled. "Believe me, I've no intention of underestimating you."

The alien's red eyes opened fully, and he sat a little straighter. "I make you this offer, Mykel: Join me. I need a commander of your skill. You will be second only to me in the entire Fleet. When my Empire is restored, you will retain that position. If you still favor the concept of democracy, you may institute it over half the Empire."

Garreth chuckled. "Thrawn, my old friend, you disappoint me. Do you think I'm interested in playing Vader to your Emperor?"

Thrawn peered at him. "And has the Rebellion been all you hoped? Have they truly lived up to your lofty ideals?"

"Not always," Garreth admitted. "But they try."

Thrawn frowned. "Mykel, I make you this offer as a friend. You know me. I am not cruel, as the Emperor was. I will govern fairly."

Garreth smiled. "The New Republic already intends to govern fairly."

Thrawn, on the other hand, had no humor to spare. "But they will lose. You cannot change that. I offer you the chance to serve the winning side."

"I'd prefer to see you win some battles," said Garreth, "Before I surrender."

Thrawn fixed him with that glowing stare. "You will see. You'll be well treated here, Mykel. You will be allowed to see how things have changed in my Empire. We are preparing for an operation that you may find instructive."

Garreth frowned. "You don't expect me to believe I'll have the run of the ship?"

"Of course not," said Thrawn. "Rukh, or one of his subordinates, will be with you at all times. Believe me when I tell you escape is impossible. You are, of course, restricted from all classified areas and all shuttle bays. I grant you two weeks to observe," Thrawn's eyes glowed more brightly. "At the end of that time, I will expect a decision. Do not think you can deceive me."

Garreth swallowed hard. Thrawn was very nearly a genius, and he knew Garreth well. No, feigning support for the Empire would not save him. Still Garreth allowed no fear to show. "You're wasting your time."

"Perhaps. But I try never to dismiss a potential resource."

Rukh stepped forward, to Garreth's side. The Grand Admiral said, "Lead Admiral Garreth to his quarters, Rukh. Mykel, your two weeks begin now. Do not disappoint me."

The rebel officer nodded tightly and allowed his Noghri warden to lead him from the room. In a way, he was surprised Thrawn did not kill him. In a way he was not.

Friendship aside, Garreth was one of the few beings - possibly the only being - whom Thrawn acknowledged as an equal. The Grand Admiral's self-confidence would not allow him to consider the possibility that one of his peers could choose the "rabble" of the New Republic over his own, glorious Empire.

Garreth had exactly fourteen Standard days to find a way to make him regret that arrogance.

This is it, thought Evverd. Sirens blared throughout Tragis military base, and worried troops scrambled down corridors with looks of grim determination.

General Rik Evverd strode into the command center, looking more like a tourist in his casual brown jacket and jeans, with a filed-down blaster at his hip. The jacket contained only a single patch denoting rank.

Evverd had commanded the base for two years now. He figured if they didn't know who he was by now, they weren't going to know. He was not particularly striking, just a wiry Corellian, a shade over medium height, with skin the color of chocolate, short, dark hair and brown eyes. He considered himself handsome, and though he was not in Han Solo's league, he was probably right on that count. Still, he was not a man to be remembered for his looks. What Evverd had was a presence, a forcefulness that made people listen when he talked and follow his orders. The command center snapped to as he entered.

Lieutenant Jorrs said, "General on..."

Evverd cut him off. "What have I told you about that, Del? Just give me the current events."

Del Jorrs stepped to his side. "New contact, coming in fast. Military shuttle, Corellian in design."

Evverd scowled. "You got me out of bed in the middle of the night for a smuggler?"

"Negative, sir. This is military-grade, all the way."

Evverd sighed at his aide's naivete. What with the emergency call and the sirens, he'd expected this to be the big Imperial hit they'd all been waiting for in the last few weeks, after the attacks on three neighboring systems. But no self-respecting Imp was going to start an invasion with a shuttle, and he told Jorrs so.

"Sir, with respect, the Imps have been sneaky lately. They used some kind of coordinated attack to take out Deese - better comm technology than anybody has."

Evverd grunted. "So what?"

"So... maybe this is how they do it. They sneak a shuttle into enemy space with some new transponder signal that lets them coordinate communications in an ultra-efficient manner."

Evverd looked at the younger man like he'd turned into a bug. "You don't really believe that, do you, kid?"

Jorrs did not flinch. "Sir, I believe it should be checked out."

Evverd sighed, and attempted to stretch some of the tiredness out of his bones. He turned to their comm officer. "Grady, say hello and see what happens, huh?"

The young woman at comm said, "Already done, sir. No response of any kind."

Another officer looked up from the sensor station. "Sir, she's heading for the planet at attack velocity. Right for this base, sir."

Jorrs frowned at his commander. "A bomber?"

"Shall I shoot it down, sir?" asked the weapons officer.

"Will you hold off on the guns for a minute? I ain't shootin' anybody down 'till I know who they are. For all we know, this could be my wife, coming home early."

"With no comlink contact, sir?" A thickset man with a prominent nose and jet-black hair, Jorrs took everything seriously.

"The shuttle appears to be on an approach pattern," said the sensor chief.

"Sir, I believe we should at least greet the shuttle with a full defensive squad."

Rik Evverd groaned. "If it'll make you feel better, kid, why not? Get a squad to pad C-14. I'm on my way there."

Jorrs caught his arm. "Sir, it could be dangerous!"

Evverd removed his grip one finger at a time, smiling patiently. "Do yourself a favor, kid. Get a hobby."

He hit the door at a casual walk, and Jorrs tagged after him. "Sir, you should at least allow me to accompany you."

"Sure," said the Corellian, rolling his eyes.

"This is serious," said Jorrs as they walked. "If they come out shooting, sir, hit the deck. I'll take the bolt for you."

Evverd grunted, and patted the kid's shoulder. "Let's hope it doesn't come to that, huh?"

The Corellian-appearing shuttle settled to the ground, and a dozen commando rifles snapped into position. Evverd just stood in their midst, arms folded, looking chagrined. The ramp hissed open, and a pair of bootheels clanked their way down it.

The rifles tensed.

Evverd groaned. He'd been wrong before. It was not his wife. But it hadn't been a bad guess...

He strode out of the pack of soldiers, into the sights of their assembled weapons. The man on the ramp stepped down.

"Hi, Dad," said Evverd. "Welcome to Tragis."

Rasir Evverd was an extremely hard man to surprise. Nevertheless, he surveyed the armament with something akin to shock. "I knew we weren't on the best of terms, boy, but I didn't think you'd go to all this length just to keep me from visiting my grandson."

Evverd turned back to see a fiercely blushing Jorrs motioning for the troops to stand down. He laughed. "You're flying a military shuttle, and you didn't answer your comlink."

"So you decided to shoot me on sight?"

The assembled troops were filing back off the pad, and Evverd led the way back inside. The night air was cold, and he shivered under his jacket. "We're under yellow alert. Some of the kids are skittish. Why didn't you answer your comm, Dad?"

Rasir, who was fifty kilos heavier than his son and several centimeters taller, had blunt features and a shaved head. He waved at the shuttle. "The thing's broken."

"And putting down at the military base...?"

"There are seven starports on this planet," said Rasir, "This is the one you work at."

Evverd groaned. "Next time, put down on the other side of the planet if you have to. I'll spring for a transport."

"Uncommonly generous," said his father. They entered the base, and some of the chill left them. "So... where's my grandson? I told you I had a good feeling about that young woman, Kerri, didn't I?"

"You thought she was a traitor, Dad..."

Rasir didn't miss a beat. "That doesn't mean I didn't like her..."

With a roar of thrusters, the YT-2400 freighter OUTRIDER settled into its berth at the Corellian shipyards. Kerri Lynden-Evverd was already waiting for them, though exhausted and bleary-eyed by her last-minute travel from Coruscant.

The ramp hissed open, and a salmon-colored Mon Calamari, his domed head criss-crossed by scars, descended the ramp.

"Captain! It is wonderful to see you again!"

Tired as she was, Kerri couldn't resist returning Okel's fierce hug. "You too, Chief. Believe me, I..."

She caught a glimpse of someone standing at the top of the ramp. She pushed Okel away, and looked up at a figure in brown robes. A figure she'd had nightmares about.

"I'm dreaming," she said, hand gripping her clear, alien crystal tightly. "Or this is a very bad joke."

The figure descended the ramp. "Hi, Kerri."

Kerri had to restrain herself from igniting her lightsaber between them. "Okel, what is this about?" She remembered his strange expression when briefing her about this mission.

"Jev has offered to aid us in finding Admiral Garreth," Okel gurgled.

"Oh, I'm sure he has." Kerri's eyes and tone were cold. "I'm sure he's arranged everything."

Jev Parrak, a young man with a beard who had survived his home planet's destruction only to turn to the Dark Side of the Force, sighed. "I've changed, Kerri. I've learned the true way of the Force."

Something in his expression was so sincere that for a moment, Kerri almost trusted him. Then she growled, "It is pure luck that Rik is not dead because of you."

"I know that," he said, "Believe me, I know it. But I'm here to help now."

Okel cast an appraising glance at Kerri. "We will need all the help we can get."

"Jev, what's going on?" called a female voice from the top of the ramp. A medium-sized, compact woman with unruly brown hair descended after them. She looked even younger than Jev - perhaps in her early twenties.

Kerri frowned. "Friend of yours?"

The young woman extended her hand to shake. "Amber Stormcaller. I'm Jev's student."

"Student?"

Jev's coughed loudly. "Amber, now might not be the best time..."

Too late. "Jev is teaching me the ways of the Force. I'm going to be a Jedi."

It was all Kerri could do to contain her rage. "You are WHAT?"

"Kerri, please calm down, I can..."

"Explain?" the Jedi hissed, "There is no WAY to explain this! You have no right to..."

"Hey, c'mon, people!" The redheaded smuggler, Dash Rendar, now stood at the top of the ramp. "I thought we were on the clock!"

Okel nodded, eager to change the subject. "We are coming."

Kerri held Jev's eyes. "We'll discuss this later," she said, and led the way into the ship.

"How could you even think of such a thing? Are you so incredibly self-centered and reckless that you would disregard the danger?"

Jev sat nearly motionless by OUTRIDER's gaming table. Dash and his droid were at the controls, with Okel and Amber catching some sleep for the next watch. It was a long journey to the Imperial rendezvous point they'd learned from one of Rendar's contacts.

"I wasn't going to train her fully," Jev said, "Please keep your voice down."

"Why ? So she won't hear that you're not a real Jedi? So she'll remain blind to the threat you pose?"

"I'm not a threat!" Jev exploded. "I've changed! I swear to you, I've changed! Look at me, Kerri! Look at me!"

Kerri met his eyes, wild and sad from too many years of isolation and guilt. "Do I look like the man I was?"

Kerri sighed, and some of her anger left her. "No. You may even be sincere. But that does not give you the right to pass yourself off as a Jedi, nor does it allow you to train others."

"Even Darth Vader was redeemed, Kerri."

"In his son's eyes," said the older Knight. "Not exactly an impartial judgment."

"Is your judgment impartial?" he asked. "All you can see is that I almost got Rik killed. I don't blame you for that. But your anger had blinded you. You must let go of your hate."

Kerri stared at him like he was crazy for a minute, and Jev laughed. "You see? I can do it!"

Despite herself, Kerri began to chuckle. "So you can..." She became serious. "You have changed, and Okel trusts you. That works in your favor. But you must tell Amber the truth."

"I know that," said Jev, "I'm just trying to wait for the right time... and if you even start to say 'there is no try,' I'll toss you out the airlock."

The remark was meant as a joke, but to Kerri, it was another reminder of Jev's violent past. "It seems this mission is your chance at redemption. Don't fail me again, Jev. Don't fail yourself."

She got up and left him, and went to sleep in one of the OUTRIDER's bunks.

Garreth stood at the CHIMERA's window, watching the stars. And the things that were blocking the stars.

"Quite an armada your Grand Admiral has assembled," he noted. "What's it for?"

Beside him, the Noghri Rukh stiffened. "You cannot think I will tell you."

The rebel admiral grunted. "Can't blame a man for trying."

"My lord will make his plans clear at the proper time," said Rukh. After a moment, he cleared his throat with a sort of snarling hiss. "Why do you defy him?"

"I should think that obvious to a warrior. We're on different sides. I have my duty, as you have yours. As Thrawn has."

Rukh growled softly. "Yet he calls you friend. The Overlord of the Noghri has called you to a great destiny. Many would die for the chance he offers."

Garreth decided to change the subject and try something. "Thrawn's using you."

Rukh's dark eyes became dangerous. "You will say anything to escape."

"I probably would," Garreth admitted. "But I tell you the truth now: The Noghri have been pawns of the Empire from the beginning. I was there when Vader and the Emperor plotted to use your environmental disaster to make the Noghri people their servants."

The warrior next to him stiffened, and spoke very softly. "Speak once more against the Lord Vader, and I will kill you, orders or none."

Garreth shrugged. "As you wish. But one day, the Noghri will learn of their betrayal."

Rukh hissed softly. "I do not believe you."

"Your choice, I suppose."

Surprisingly, the Noghri's eyes assumed a thoughtful cast. Perhaps Garreth had struck on a subject he had already been considering. "If the Noghri had been lied to... IF... the results would be... unpleasant... for the betrayer."

Garreth caught the cold gleam in the alien warrior's eyes, and he shuddered. "I don't doubt it."

Space flashed around them, and the CHIMERA went to lightspeed.

"Are you sure this is safe?"

"Relax," said Dash Rendar to the young woman - Amber - who sat across from him. "This comes straight from the Han Solo book of tactics. 'Course, I really invented it first..."

"Of course," said Amber dryly. "Like your other inventions: Smuggling, hyperdrive, water..."

Dash grunted. "Don't get cute. Anyway, they can't run a hull check until they're out of lightspeed, and by that time, we'll be home free."

Amber looked out the viewport. Instead of the blue flash of lightspeed, she saw only the gray superstructure of a Star Destroyer. "Clamping to their hull is one thing. Rescuing this Rebel officer is another."

"I know," said Dash, "I dunno what your buddy has planned, but it better be good."

"It will be," Amber promised. "He's a Jedi."

The Sluis Van shipyards were already alive with flame when the CHIMERA arrived. Staring out the viewport, Garreth finally caught the reason why: Somehow, Thrawn had smuggled TIE fighters into the facility as an advance fleet.

For a second, in the distant battle, he thought he caught the shape of a conical fighter next to the TIE's, followed by a brilliant arc of plasma jets.

Garreth hissed. Mole miners? But what...

Then he knew what Thrawn was planning, and he knew he had to warn the shipyards somehow.

Rukh seemed to sense his tension, and took a step closer to his side.

I have a bad feeling about this, the admiral thought...

Dash's laser torch finished the last cut, and he kicked the bulkhead in. Immediately, the cabin was filled an awful smell. It reminded Dash of that time slogging through the Coruscant sewers with Luke Skywalker...

Sewers?

"Ugh," he said, nose wrinkled, "Ugggh... we cut our way into the GARBAGE chute?"

"Don't knock it," said Jev, "Many of the galaxy's finest rescues have started in one of these."

"I'm never gonna get this smell out of my ship..."

"It could be worse," Kerri said, "At least they dumped their garbage before going to lightspeed. The compactor is empty."

"But the SMELL..."

"I have no sense of smell," said Leebo. "Doesn't bother me."

Dash grunted at him. "How wonderful for you."

"You might say, master, that no nose is good nose..."

Kerri frowned at the droid. She'd almost have thought the droid was making a joke. A bad one, at that...

"Ignore him," Jev advised. He leaned close to whisper, "Do you want to expose your identity, or shall I do this?"

"Go ahead," she said. She wanted to see how far Jev's powers had progressed, anyway.

Jev stepped down into the garbage shaft, lit his silver lightsaber, and vaulted in one Force-enhanced leap to the grating at the top of the room. He sliced it open and began to crawl up it.

Several minutes of anxious waiting later, the chute's inner door popped open.

Jev Parrak waved them forward. "Come on. You wouldn't believe how hard it is just to open a garbage hatch these days. Everything was encrypted. I finally had to... convince a tech to let his password slip."

Kerri tried to ignore the warning lights that sentence set off. She herself had used the Force for that kind of thing on occasion, and no one had been hurt, after all. Of course, she wasn't touched by the Dark Side...

They filed through the garbage chute, a foul-smelling muck clinging to their boots, and soon were in the Star Destroyer corridor.

Dash took another good whiff, and frowned. "I hope we weren't planning on sneaking up on anybody..."

"Detention level should be this way," Jev said. "Let's go..."

Dash and Amber took out the guards with blaster bolts, and Kerri incapacitated a stormtrooper with a bit of Force-enhanced hand-to-hand fighting. She did not wish to draw her lightsaber unless absolutely necessary.

After a minute, Dash looked up from the computer banks. "Something's wrong. Your pal Garreth isn't listed anywhere on the system."

"What? Let me see." Kerri ran through the system herself once, but of course Dash was correct.

"Maybe he's on another ship," said Amber.

"If he's here," Okel said, "He's on the command ship."

Dash groaned. "You ain't getting a refund if this trip was for nothing."

"Hey!" said a filtered voice from the other end of the detention block.

Green light flashed out towards them, and the firefight began...

Fortunately, Garreth thought, I know Thrawn as well as he knows me. Unlike other Imperial commanders, who adhered to established safety regulations, Thrawn ran his power relays at 110 percent during red alert conditions. This allowed for much quicker reactions but had the effect of making the relay discharge pretty lethal.

That was all right, though, because you'd almost have to try to run into a bare relay line...

Garreth purposely took the portside route back to his cabin. He'd noticed during the lightspeed jump that the port engines seemed to be off a bit, and he assumed the protective plating would be off the relay lines, for a quick tune-up. Indeed, as they passed by the corridor that led towards the power core, Garreth saw three techs with gloves and protective gear working around the power relay.

Rukh nudged him. "You are not permitted in there."

"Oh, it's all right, I only intend to..." and Garreth allowed himself to trip, then rolled across the decking towards the relay, hoping it looked like the natural consequence of his fall.

Normally, Rukh would have just let him go, but he couldn't take the chance that the relays were still running at their normal high intensity. His orders said to keep Garreth alive, so he dove to catch the rebel officer...

Garreth twisted, jamming Rukh's hand halfway into the energy discharge from the conduit.

The Noghri warrior howled as his hand was immediately mangled, and Garreth used the opportunity to slam his head against the bulkhead hard enough to knock him cold.

Garreth took Rukh's blaster pistol, set it, and fired. The technicians, not exactly warrior material and too surprised to respond immediately, were stunned before they even knew what had happened.

Mykel Garreth pulled himself off the floor and nodded. Not bad, he thought wryly, for an old man. Now to find the shuttle bay...

Amber leaned around the corner, and snapped off a shot at the stormtroopers. One fell, but they just kept coming. A blast spattered close to her head, and she ducked back.

Beside her, Dash Rendar grinned. "Some fun, eh?"

"Are you out of your mind?"

Dash leaned back and snapped off a shot. "Well, not YET..."

The sounds of laser fire abruptly cut off. Amber held her breath for a long moment, but heard nothing. Dash poked his head up and laughed.

Amber followed his lead. The blast doors had closed in front of the stormtroopers. Dimly, she heard the sounds of pounding and cursing, as the troopers struggled to override the door controls.

"But what...?" she began.

"This is some rescue, I must say."

Amber did not recognize the short, gray-haired man who had materialized behind them. But Jev and Kerri did.

"Admiral!" they said, almost in unison.

Garreth surveyed the ragtag commando team. His eyes came to rest on Okel, the Mon Calamari. "I suppose this is your handiwork."

The Mon Cal nodded. "At your service, Admiral."

He stepped towards Jev next. "I suppose I owe you an apology."

"Later," said Jev, pulling to his feet. "Let's get out of here."

The OUTRIDER blasted off, concealed by the ongoing battle. Outside, Garreth could see many of the Rebel ships at the shipyards erupting in gouts of flame. Surprisingly, that was a good thing. Thrawn, he knew, had been planning to steal those same ships. He thought, at least we fought him to a draw...

"All right," said Dash Rendar, the redheaded smuggler who'd helped rescue him. "That's Coruscant for Kerri and the Admiral, and then we leave on your little field trip, right?"

"Right," said Jev.

"Countermand that," said Kerri Lynden-Evverd, approaching from aft. "I've been monitoring official comms..."

She sighed, and her eyes appeared haunted. "Tragis is under attack."

"So what?" said Dash, "Defending Tragis ain't in my contract."

"I'll pay the cost," said Garreth. "Just get us there, and quickly."

Dash Rendar groaned loudly, and began reprogramming the nav computer. "How do I get mixed up in these things?"

A moment later, they'd made the jump to lightspeed.

Continued in Episode 6

R.John Burke



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