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

Hiding Places

In Defense Of Freedom series Episode Thirteen

DESCRIPTION: When Thrawn raids Coruscant itself, Garreth comes up with a daring plan to beat him - once and for all.

NOTICE: George Lucas and Lucasfilm are the rightful owners of Star Wars. It is unconscionable to sell this story, based on their work, in any form. Did I spell "unconscionable" right?


"Not a bad trick," Dash Rendar conceded, settling back in his pilot's chair.

"Of course," said his droid, Leebo. "I do all the work around here anyway. It's about time you started to listen to me."

After leaving the Unknown Regions planet where their ship, the OUTRIDER, had landed for repairs, they had confronted by an IMPERIAL-class Star Destroyer. Fortunately, Leebo had come up with the idea of duplicating Dash Rendar's "disappearing act" from the battle at Xizor's Skyhook. They had faked their own destruction, detonating a pair of concussion missiles along with a TIE fighter, to make the explosion seem larger than it was. They had immediately jumped to lightspeed on their last pre-loaded course. In a little while, they'd come out of hyperspace and begin looking for a safe port. Then...

Dash Rendar frowned. Then what?

He looked at Jev Parrak, a tall kid with a beard who had chartered this cruise, claiming he was searching for a planet out of Jedi lore. "What's our next move, kid?"

"We continue for the planet, of course."

The pale, redheaded smuggler groaned. "I'm really not getting paid enough, you know that?"

"You agreed to terms," said Jev's friend, Amber Stormcaller, a medium-sized young woman with wild, brown hair.

"I never agreed to get my butt shot at across half the galaxy," Dash countered. "What we need is a way to get that Star Destroyer off our backs."

"Any ideas?" asked Jev.

"None yet," he said, putting his feet up on the console. "But by the time we make port, I'll have one."

It took Rik Evverd and his companions a few minutes to completely remove the Sarlacc tentacles from Boba Fett. One in particular has gotten under his helmet visor and had been close to cutting off his windpipe. When his arms were freed, Fett joined them in tugging off the muscular appendages. He tossed a particularly large one to the ground with disgust. In the distance, the animal itself could be heard screaming, pain and fury mixing into its shrill cry.

When he was clear, Boba Fett marched wordlessly back to the pit. Having no more tentacles to entrap prey with, the monster could only snap its beak-like mouth at him, hopelessly out of range.

One of those snaps, however, did produce new food. The Sarlacc hesitated before swallowing...

And its maw blew into a million disgusting pieces from the thermal detonator Fett had tossed it. Grimly satisfied, the hunter turned away.

Kerri Lynden-Evverd, a woman of thirty-eight with olive skin and long, gray-tinged dark hair, glared at him. "Was that necessary? It was only an animal!"

"Was an animal," Fett corrected her. "Now it's roadkill. It was stupid of me to keep it alive the first time. I don't repeat my mistakes." His implacable gaze came to rest on Kerri's husband. "Often."

"If that's some kind of threat..."

Fett shook his head. "I've realized where I went wrong with you."

The dark-skinned Corellian arched a eyebrow under the brilliant double-sun sky of Tattooine. "Oh?"

"I was treating you like prey. You're not that. You're a fellow Hunter. You hunt victory." He extended a hand. "I'm not often polite, General, but...from one Hunter to another."

Evverd eyed the glove carefully, as if he suspected a trick. Finally, his hand slapped into Fett's. He nodded. "I guess I'm honored."

Fett withdrew from the handshake after only a moment, and started back the way he'd come, over the dunes. "If you ever need anything..."

"Call someone else, right?"

The Hunter nodded. "Precisely."

Then Boba Fett left them, his footprints in the sand the only sign that he had ever come their way. Except, of course, for the dead Sarlacc.

Talon Karrde, who had indirectly started this whole thing by summoning Evverd and his wife for a meeting in the Dune Sea, eyed the former star pilot with new respect. "Should I ask how you managed to become personally acquainted with Boba Fett?"

Evverd smiled. "You mean you don't know already? I'm a little surprised, Karrde. I thought you knew everything."

The smuggler chief shrugged. "None of us is perfect." He indicated his fried, a man named Dankin who was the last member of their little group, and then their slagged Skipray blastboat, which Fett had destroyed. "The WILD KARRDE is waiting in orbit. Could you give us a lift?"

"Why not?" Evverd wiped his brow, to clear it of sweat. He could feel the beginnings of a nasty sunburn on the back of his neck. Some distance away, a heard of Banthas was beginning to calm itself after stampeding. The odor from the Sarlacc was beginning to tickle his nose, and to top it all off, a sandstorm was kicking up. "I don't know why Thrawn isn't running his clones through here. It's a lovely little world..."

"Steady, Mister Narr..." Sedra Covell, captain of the New Republic frigate FREEDOM, was actually down in the crewpit with her helm officer, watching over his shoulder as they navigated towards the asteroid field.

"I can do this, Cap," he said, and Covell backed off slightly. But she still kept an eye on him. One slight miscalculation could be incredibly bad. She nodded at the pink-skinned Bith in the adjoining Nav/Com crewpit. "Get me Garreth."

The alien worked her controls, then nodded. "He's on."

"Admiral, I don't understand. How could Thrawn be hiding in the asteroid field? My sensors have nothing."

"He's in there, Captain," Garreth said. "Trust me. I predicted Ukio, didn't I?"

"True." Covell had to admit that; Garreth had correctly predicted the Imperial victory at Ukio, and after that their use of the same tactic at Woostri. He had even filed a report suggesting that the Imperial "superweapon" used to conquer those worlds was nothing more than a massive illusion, perhaps utilizing Thrawn's cloaking device from Sluis Van.

Not that anyone had listened to him. The sad truth was that, officially or not, Mykel Garreth remained under suspicion for his failure to report Thrawn's existence to the Council at the start of this war. Even his brilliant victory over three Star Destroyers at Tragis had not changed that.

Which left the Council reluctant to listen to perhaps the one man who had a chance at anticipating and beating Thrawn. It had all worked out, Covell thought with a grimace, about as well as Thrawn could have hoped.

She did trust Garreth, her former captain, especially when it came to Thrawn. But that did not mean that he was right in this case.

Narr voiced her suspicion. "You can't hide a Destroyer in an asteroid field. Too big. And if he's using his cloak, he'd have no way of avoiding the rocks."

"Unless he has a spare set of shields, Mister Narr," Garreth said through the comm. He was on the bridge of his flagship, the DAUNTLESS-class cruiser GUARDIAN. "Focus your sensors on 1-1-2 mark 0-9-7."

Covell nodded to her weapons officer, Jessi Harkin, who also controlled sensors. After a moment, the silver-haired Chandrilan frowned. "There's nothing there."

Sedra Covell, a short, intense woman with space-dark hair and a dark complexion, frowned up at her first officer. "Gaar, put the area on visual."

The tan Wookiee, Gaaraanzi, manipulated their tactical display. A magnification overlay covered the bridge viewport, which Covell stared at from down in the helm pit. "I still don't... there."

"There, what?" said Narr.

"Watch closely, Kris." A moment later, the thing that had caught Covell's attention reoccurred, and she grinned. "I owe you an apology, Admiral. We've got him."

Gaar rumbled thoughtfully. "Most innovative... It must require massive shield power..."

"Or a Jedi," Garreth said, "We know Thrawn has one of those."

Kristoff Narr, a bulky, redheaded youngster, still frowned. "I don't get it."

"Watch," said Covell. Narr's eyes narrowed as he watched the screen... and then widened as he saw it, too. The rocks in that area of space did not follow normal trajectories. They got so far, and then reflected onto different courses.

Almost like they were bouncing off something...

Beside them, the Bith, Dainon Mo'Ret, made a cryptic Bith gesture. "It does not seem possible. The power required to support a deflector shield through a cloak would be on the order of..."

"It's be a lot," Narr said, saving them the recitation.

"Too much," Mo'Ret said. "Furthermore, I have always found the suggestion of an undetectable energy field that controls the galaxy to be illogical and apocryphal."

"I've seen the Force at work," Covell said. "Just never so much of it..."

"Move in," Garreth said, "Search Pattern Fourteen. Remain at the edges of the asteroid field. Natural or artificial, that kind of power can't be maintained for long..."

Sweat began to break out on the face of Jedi Master Joruus C'Baoth. He growled softly. "I suggest you do something soon, Admiral Thrawn."

"Come now, Master C'Baoth..." Thrawn pet the ysalamir that sat on its frame at his command chair. "Is a Jedi Master's power so limited? Where is the fighting spirit that won Ukio and Woostri?"

Pellaeon stepped closer to Thrawn and his Force-empty bubble. Though he agreed with Thrawn wholeheartedly, he disliked the admiral's little jibes at C'Baoth, if only because any Force tantrum C'Baoth directed at the non-human Grand Admiral would probably slay Pellaeon himself, as well.

The Jedi Master, however, just sneered. "You have no idea what dangerous ground you tread upon."

Thrawn shrugged. "It cannot be very dangerous, if you are unable even to keep us shielded for a few extra moments."

C'Baoth growled again, but was otherwise silent, probably needing to maintain his concentration.

In this case, Pellaeon was forced to agree with him. "Sir, hiding in the asteroid field was quite clever, but they've found us now. What are we waiting for?"

Thrawn smiled, then gestured towards the CHIMERA's sensor station, where a proximity alarm had begun bleeping. "That, Captain."

On their screens, the Star Destroyer CARIDA had appeared, along with an escort of six Dreadnought Star Cruisers from the KATANA fleet. They'd popped into being behind Garreth's fleet, trapping them against the asteroid field. When Thrawn's Star Destroyer emerged from the debris, they'd have the Rebels in a crossfire.

Thrawn's reddish eyes glowed brightly, and he nodded with satisfaction. "Battlestations. Helm, ahead full. Bring us to attack position."

"Yes, sir," said the helmsman.

And even Gilad Pellaeon had to smile. Let's see you get out of this one, Mykel, he thought at his old friend.

"I'd be most interested to know," Chief Okel said in his gravely voice, "How you intend to escape this time."

Garreth shot an annoyed glance at the Mon Calamari, then frowned out the viewport at the approaching Imperial task force. The CARIDA was particularly interesting; she had been Garreth's ship, a long time ago. Thrawn's clones had found time to recondition her into an Impstar Deuce. "I'll think of something."

"I do not doubt it."

Garreth steepled his fingers in front of his face, eyes closed in concentration. Then he smiled. "Smashball."

Okel, a salmon-colored Mon Calamari with a scarred countenance, was Garreth's oldest friend and closest advisor. Still, his large, round eyes swiveled around in puzzlement.

"Thrawn thinks he's cute, trapping me with my own ship." Mykel Garreth shot his friend a tight grin. "If it's fun and games he wants, I'll play..."

The CHIMERA left the asteroid field and de-cloaked. Pellaeon continued to smile as he saw the CARIDA closing in, the Rebel ships shifting into a frantic defensive formation.

All but the flagship. Garreth's cruiser, the GUARDIAN, moved in towards the asteroid belt, slipping in alongside the CHIMERA.

"Starboard batteries, open fire," Thrawn said. He watched Garreth's ship carefully. "What is he planning, do you think, Captain?"

Pellaeon shrugged. "I've no idea. I never could fathom Garreth."

Thrawn continued to stare. "Part of his plan is obvious; A Star Destroyer is more heavily armed forward, a DAUNTLESS to port and starboard. He gains a tactical advantage, but loses the chance to place himself between us and his task force."

"Perhaps he's willing to risk them," Pellaeon suggested, though he doubted it, "for a shot at you."

"No." Thrawn smiled in response to the obvious flaw. "Garreth does not abandon his people. He must believe he has a chance to best us..." Abruptly, the admiral's glowing eyes opened wide, and unusual urgency rang in his voice. "All power to starboard particle shields! Immediately!"

Pellaeon frowned. "I don't..."

Then the GUARDIAN's tractor beam engaged, and Garreth's strategy became clear.

"Tractor beams have locked onto the largest rock, sir." Captain Lumas looked unhappy. "We're sacrificing shield power. This had better work."

Garreth kept an enigmatic little smirk on his face as he watched the battle unfold. His task force was losing, but they'd hold out for another moment.

"This is classic, primitive strategy," he told the captain. "We're about to attack the castle wall with one hell of a catapult." He nodded at the Weapons station. "Fire one."

The GUARDIAN whined as her tractor beams struggled to compensate for the unusual weight, the quick shifts of their load and sudden targeting changes.

The asteroid in the GUARDIAN's tractor beams swung back to starboard, as though on an invisible pendulum below her sleek, gray hull.

Then it swung forward again, released from the tractor beams at just the appropriate instant. Just like a hit smashball, it soared forward...

And smashed into the CHIMERA's bridge tower. The rock broke apart and the shields held, but monitors all around Garreth displayed a massive weakening of shield systems.

"Blast!" Garreth hissed, "He must have gotten his particle shields up in time! He is good..."

"Fortunately for us," Okel muttered, "He isn't the only one."

"Fire two," said Garreth, and the tractor beams engaged again.

Pellaeon watched as the GUARDIAN's tractor beams hauled in a second, huge rock. The shields would never hold a second time. "Admiral--" he began.

"Already taken care of, Captain." Thrawn nodded to the tractor station, which had apparently received the orders he'd been calmly tapping into his datapad during the strike. "An interesting tactic. One that bears remembering... Fire."

As the GUARDIAN released its second rock, the CHIMERA also flung an asteroid on the same trajectory. The two met in space between the two ships, shattering into dust.

"Ahead full," Thrawn ordered the helm, "He'll have to re-power before a third attack is possible. By that time, I want his task force crushed. Is that clear?"

"Very clear, sir," said Pellaeon.

"She's on the move," Garreth hissed. "How long for the next rock?"

"A minute, at least," said the tractor beam officer.

Garreth hissed a curse. The CHIMERA would be in range and shredding the other ships before that, and GUARDIAN was the only ship in the task force capable of engaging it. Still, he could not let Thrawn draw him into a bloody and foolhardy engagement that he could not win.

"Order the other ships to withdraw," he said.

Lumas frowned at him a moment later. "Sir, the OCEAN WIND reports her hyperdrive inoperable."

Garreth checked his tactical display. One of his two Mon Calamari cruisers was showing heavy damage already. He hesitated--a thousand lives were being extinguished on board that ship.

"Admiral?" Okel prompted. "All ships, screen the OCEAN WIND. Get a projection from Captain Vorral on restoration of the hyperdrive."

After a moment, the comm officer replied, "Unknown, sir. Ten or fifteen minutes, at the least."

Okel gurgled softly at Garreth's shoulder. "We will never last that long."

After a moment, the comm chief looked up again. "Admiral, signal incoming... from the CHIMERA!"

"It is a trick," Okel advised, "Or he wishes to distract you. Nothing good can..."

Garreth held up a hand. "Put it through."

After a moment, confident, alien-accented tones cut through the air. "Greetings, Admiral. Your presence aboard the CHIMERA has been sorely missed, these past few months."

The gray-haired, compactly built admiral grunted. "What do you want, Thrawn?"

"Merely to ease your mind," the alien said smoothly. "You face a difficult situation with that cruiser. I know how much you hate to leave your comrades behind. I thought perhaps, as an old friend, I should relieve you of the problem."

With that, the CHIMERA streaked forward to blindside the cruiser OCEAN VIEW, her massive turbolaser banks stuttering lethal fire. The OCEAN VIEW remained motionless for a moment, fire shining from a dozen hull breaches. Then the massive ship disintegrated into a ball of flame, its stored oxygen burning bright for a moment before fizzling, leaving only a charred bulk in its wake.

Garreth stood from his command chair, teeth clenched. "THRAWN!"

"You had something to add, Admiral?"

Garreth remained standing for a moment, breathing hard, struggling to get hold of his temper. Mykel Garreth could have counted on the fingers of one hand the number of times he'd truly lost control of himself in his life. But he lost it now, and he was glad of it.

"I make you one promise, Thrawn," he hissed, "Before this war is ended, I'll see you dead and your fleet in flames! I am going to be there when you die, Thrawn. You will not continue your advance against this Republic! The line will be drawn here!"

After a moment, a smug, satisfied voice replied, "You are most welcome to try, Mykel. But I think you know what happens to those who defy me."

The connection cut off, and Garreth stood there for a moment. "Is that asteroid ready?"

"Yes, sir," said the tractor chief.

Garreth pointed at a spot on the tactical monitor. "Put it THERE!"

The tractor chief nodded, and engaged the tractor beams again. A huge rock, half the size of a transport, arced out--not towards the well-shielded Star Destroyers, but towards the foremost of the six Dreadnoughts. The Dreadnought's gunners tried to catch it, but it was far too big, and moving too quickly. The asteroid plowed into the huge cruiser's aft section, snapping it neatly in half. The aft section disintegrated into flames...

The forward section spun wildly towards the CARIDA, smashed through the Star Destroyer's shields, and took its command tower clean off. Yellow flames poured out of its now-open hull, and for a moment Garreth thought the ship would explode. Then its cutoffs kicked in, sealing off the hull breach and controlling the ship from an auxiliary command center deep inside the dagger- shaped hull.

Though she had survived the blow, the CARIDA was crippled, her response time down, her power fluctuating. She limped backwards, out of the battle.

"Nice deflector-shot," Lumas said, referring to the game of smashball Garreth had referenced earlier.

Okel leaned over. "We are a match for them now. Perhaps we should..."

"No," said Garreth. Two of their gunships were disabled. The FREEDOM showed damage. And even now the CHIMERA was closing in on their other Mon Cal Cruiser. Besides, they were closer to Imperial space than Republic. Thrawn could have reinforcements here before the battle would be over.

The admiral sighed. "Signal all ships: Set for the jump to lightspeed."

Thrawn leaned back in his command chair, hands laced together. He looked as unhappy as Pellaeon had ever seen him. His rare miscalculation had cost them ships and lives.

Or so Pellaeon thought. "Yes...The time is right, Captain."

The captain frowned. "Right, sir?"

Thrawn smiled. "Historically, Garreth is very hard to agitate. For him to be so easily pushed to the brink, he he and his Republic must be very close to breaking. It is time to begin the next phase of our plan."

"You could have tested that theory without losing a Dreadnought," C'Baoth snapped as the last of the Rebel ships disappeared into lightspeed.

"On the contrary," Thrawn said. "We have salvaged a draw."

"Salvaged?" Pellaeon said, "But we were winn..."

In the middle of that word, the CHIMERA suffered massive power failures, and lights on the bridge went out. Abruptly, Pellaeon realized that the damage from that last attack had been greater than he'd thought, and firing the turbolasers earlier had overloaded their already stressed systems. If the Rebels hadn't withdrawn...

He hissed softly. "Garreth is a dangerous opponent, isn't he?"

"More so than ever," Thrawn confirmed. His glowing eyes were the only things clearly visible on the bridge for a moment. Then the emergency lights came on. "Killing him will be a challenge worthy of my time...I believe I shall enjoy it very much."

"THIS is your idea of a safe port?" Amber said.

Dash Rendar shrugged. "Modern facilities, fast service, and the Imps wouldn't dare stick their noses in here..."

Amber swallowed hard. Of course they wouldn't! This area of space terrified the Empire, and rightfully so. "Dash, the Ssi-ruuk are hardly my idea of trustworthy allies!"

"Relax," he said. "It's only the ruling class that's dangerous. The P'w'ecks--that's the local slave race-- they can be reasonable, and they're a lot smarter than the government here seems to think."

The OUTRIDER had docked on Tra'Donta, fourth moon of the planet Lwhekk. Lwhekk's natives, the treacherous and bigoted Ssi-ruuk, had come very close to defeating a combined force of Rebel and Imperial ships at Bakura just after the war. As Dash told it, Tra'Donta was also known as the Tenement Moon. Since Lwhekk was considered sacred, those P'w'ecks who did not serve as live-in slaves to the Ssi-ruuk had been forced off the planet, to the massive slums and dirty air of the industrial moon.

"I tend to agree with Amber," Jev put in. "You don't fool with the Ssi-ruuk."

"Look," said Dash, "Don't get me wrong; You set foot on Lwhekk, or even outside the spaceport, and you'll be bound up and enteched into one of those battle droids before you can say 'Which way to the exit?' But the spaceport's all right. I've got a nice, quiet arrangement with the operators, and like I said, Imps'd be crazy to look for us here."

Jev thought of the cold, nearly obsessed sense he'd gotten during his brief mind-touch with their pursuer, the Mon Calamari traitor Admiral Bronn. "Crazy should about cover it."

The ramp hissed open, and Amber flinched as a scaled, reptilian alien easily twice as powerful as any human, but with slumped shoulders and a weary look, entered.

"Take is easy," Dash advised. "This is Kum Didi. He's the P'w'eck in charge."

The P'w'eck turned sad, red eyes with slitted pupils on the young humans. "Not 'in charge.' First among hopeless."

"How's it goin', Kum? Haven't seen you since before the Rebels hit Coruscant."

The large alien hissed, his forked tongue slithering out. "Don't know how long that is. It has been long while."

Dash grinned. "So, c'mon, what's it gonna cost me?"

"Cost?"

"The repairs," Dash frowned. "Don't keep me in suspense, buddy."

Kum Didi paused, considering. "No sale," he said.

"WHAT?"

The P'w'eck held out two clawed, skinny hands to subdue Dash. "Not my fault. Ssi-ruuk been cracking down on Tra'Donta since defeat at Bakura. Every day, more P'w'eck taken as slaves. Lots get enteched." He hissed, something he did quite often anyway, what with his sibilant manner of speech. "I help you, Ssi-ruuk find out...Like that, I'm a battle droid. I like my carcass, Dash. It's not much, but it's quality leather. No way I trade it for metal hide."

"Awright," said Dash, "What if I take you with us when we leave? No more slavery, no more problem."

"Big problem," said Kum Didi. "Have mate, three eggs about to hatch. I leave, they get killed. Or worse."

The redhead sighed. "You tell me, buddy. What's it gonna take to close this deal?"

Kum Didi considered a long moment. "Star Destroyer."

"We're tryin' to get AWAY from a Star Destroyer!"

The lizardlike alien shook his head. "Not real ship. Plans."

Amber spoke up from the side. "Why do you want the plans for a Star Destroyer?"

A gleam came into those tired eyes. "Rebellion."

"The P'w'eck are rebelling?"

Again, Kum Did shook his head. "Not yet. Need ships, big and small. Especially big, to attack SHREE cruisers."

Amber found herself nodding thoughtfully. The SHREE class cruisers were the big ships used by the Ssi-ruuk, and they could be formidable. "How are you going to build something like a Star Destroyer without the Ssi-ruuk noticing?"

Kum Didi's forked tongue tasted the air for a moment. "That problem ours. Plans, problem yours."

Dash shrugged. "Yeah, well, I guess I got Star Destroyer specs in the computer someplace..."

Jev frowned. "You do?"

"You never know what'll come in handy way out here, kid..."

Kum Didi bobbed his head enthusiastically. "You get plans. We fix ship, quick-speedy like, you leave. All works out."

Dash laughed. "You know, Kum Didi, you're my kinda lizard."

"Many thanks," said the large alien, hopping from clawed foot to foot in anticipation. Dash went to the cockpit for a moment, then returned with a datacard. "Here it is. Just waiting for you to finish your work."

The slitted eyes lit up. "Many thanks. You get service with a smile." The P'w'eck began backing down the ramp.

Leebo came clanking in from the cockpit in a droid version of a run. "Master! Master! We're in trouble!"

"What is it?" Dash asked.

"There's a Ssi-ruuvi security squad coming this way, fast. Want to bet they're after something more than our license and registration?"

Dash shot a glance at the P'w'eck. "Kum Didi!"

The lizard-alien spread his hands innocently. "Not my fault! They find you, I just as dead!"

The smuggler groaned. "Could somebody tell me why everything happens to me the hard way?"

"You must be living right, Dash," said Jev.

"We have to get out of here," Amber added.

"My eggs!" said Kum Didi. "Cannot leave!"

Dash was already charging the thrusters. "Could your eggs hatch somewhere else?"

Kum Didi shrugged. "Long as room's kept toasty."

"Then we'll bring 'em along, once I've outrun these slugs. Leebo, punch it!"

The OUTRIDER reared up on its repulsors, blasting off from the moon's starport, ignoring the blasts directed at them by the enraged Ssi-ruuk. As they flew low over the cityscape, several battle droids, fighter-like droids with the life essences of innocent beings "enteched" to serve as their power source, fell into pursuit. The little droids were maneuverable and fast, and their rotating laser cannons made them deadly opponents.

Dash directed a glance at Kum Didi. "I know there's P'w'eck enteched in there. Is it gonna be a big problem if I gotta kill your pals?"

The ship shuddered from a laser blast, and Kum Didi shuddered right along with it. "Entechment worse than death. Do what you must."

Immediately, Dash threw the OUTRIDER into a tight spiral, causing one battle droid to smash into a building. Then he went for altitude.

"Wait a minute," Jev said, "There are P'w'eck in there?"

"Enteched," Dash said with a nod. "It's like bein' dead, only you get a cool-looking casket."

He smiled. "Then I know what to do." He closed his eyes, obviously concentrating.

Kum Didi hissed. "He does nothing. Does he know this?"

"Jev knows what he's doing," Amber said. I think, she added. "I'll get to the gunwell."

"Yes, do that," Jev said. "Your targets will be prepared when you arrive."

The last thing Amber heard as she left the cockpit was another exchange between Kum Didi and Dash:

"Prepared? What will he do?"

"I dunno," said the smuggler, "But I bet I won't like it..."

Continued in Episode 14

R.John Burke



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