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The Force Conquers All - [Completed Short Story/ROTJ Reimagining]

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This fan fiction acts as an "AU" (alternate universe) to ROTJ events. I've chosen what I believe to be the best ideas from various forum members, and carefully worked them into something coherent (I hope).

It's aimed at a niche of a niche in the Star Wars fanbase. Maybe you loved the Episode VI we have, and wouldn't change a thing: wonderful, but you'll find yourself out of place while reading. 

A new postcard-sized chapter comes every day or every other day, depending. If you ever find yourself bored, you'll have this to occupy a negligible chunk of your time. 

Two thumbs up to NeverarGreat and Tack.

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[Chapter One]

 

 

"Is Vader my father?"

"What does intuition reveal?"

"My mind's clouded. I feel it's true, but then I feel like he was lying."

"Vader's goal fulfilled. Distorted your bond with the Force, his lies have."

"What a relief."

"Relieved, are you? Your spiritual father, Vader may yet become. His consciousness is here, leeching from us."

~ ~ ~

Luke sat cross-legged in the cave, eyes closed and expression severe with focus. Crystals, mirrors, rods, and wires rotated in mid-air between his hands. The pieces searched for their assigned places, slow as evolution. 

"Anakin was too weak to defeat me."

Luckily, moss cushioned the mirrors. 

He stood and wiped sweat from his brow. The voice was becoming clearer by the hour. Less than one day remained for Luke to construct a lightsaber in the manner of Jedi tradition. He had to employ the Force to overcome and master the physical. Failure meant that Yoda would deny him the possibility of knighthood.

I was a fool to challenge Vader so early, Luke thought. Most apprentices would probably be done by now, but I have an extra obstacle. One I put in my own path.

He let his awareness reach across light-years to find Leia as she neared Tatooine. Could she survive the streets of Mos Espa? What was her plan once she crossed the cruel deserts and entered Jabba's palace? If only he could be there; but he was more dangerous than any mercenary.

 

 

[co-conceived by: ray_afraid]

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I'm having some difficulty following who is talking. I originally thought that Luke was in a cave on Tatooine, mentally communing with Yoda, but the moss and the light years make it sound like he is back on Dagobah talking directly to Yoda. I assume that he is also hearing Vader's voice in his head while this is happening.

It's a good start, but would be easier to follow if we were told who was speaking.

DuracellEnergizer: “^He’s embraced the absurd. Don’t expect to gain any conventional understanding from his posts.”
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You are correct on every count! 

I shall pay heed to this critique. Importance of clarity can't be overstated.

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Sorry I haven't commented. This is quite good! It seems like the beginning of a very good novel. I am confused on one thing though, are you undoing Vader as Luke's father? It kind of seems like you are.

I’m just here because I’m driving tonight.

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I remember in an interview, James Earl Jones said his first response when he came to that pivotal line was "He's lying!"

The old lore from the late seventies, as you said elsewhere when we talked about "Splinter of the Mind's Eye", is lost these days. It's been reinterpreted as Obi-Wan being a poetic liar. I want to know what it'd be like to continue ESB (since it'd be a total shame to dismiss that masterpiece), painting Vader as the liar instead. We preserve the old lore, along with ESB, where the two have been at odds before.

Hey, by the way, I'll get to posting a few replies on the other thread. Your last two posts there mean I'm basically juggling three continuities in my head (yours, mine, and SOTME which I started this morning). Heh. 

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Good luck on finishing both the book and the fic. Both I'm quite interested in!

In regards to multiple continuities, just be glad you don't write for any comic series!

I’m just here because I’m driving tonight.

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[Chapter Two]

Prisoners shouted curses at the intruder, and rattled their cages like trapped animals. The dungeons had gone from quiet to frantic at the pull of a trigger.

They starved him. Leia felt her heart sink. 

Han Solo seemed to have aged years in the space of weeks. He sported a beard, blood-shot eyes, and wrinkles.

"Who are you?" Han looked from his four stunned cellmates on the floor to the masked humanoid crouched in front of him.

She slid off the helmet and shook loose her hair. "Your favorite princess."

They kissed. Shackles weighed down his hands, but she pulled him close.

"How long have I been out of commission?"

"I'll explain everything when we're clear of this hell. Get up," She helped him to his feet.

"These things have detonators built in. We'll turn to splatter if I get too far from the palace."

"I know. We brought Artoo to disable the devices."

Blaster fire sounded in the distance, followed by an explosion that rattled the flagstones. Han lost his footing and fell onto Leia. She grunted as she pushed him upright.

"That's Lando and Chewie. They created a diversion on the upper floors, so I could slip down here."

On queue, both Lando and Chewie rounded a corner down the corridor. The wookiee supported the smuggler, who stooped forward, a stain on his front.

Leia squeezed the injured man's shoulder. "How bad is it?"

"Did what we could. Dozens headed down here."

"I think she meant the stab wound, pal," Han eyed his comrades despondently.

Leia, however, felt determined as ever. She had strategized for months, and given up vast resources to see this mission accomplished. 

"Chewie," She said. "Blast these cells open. Every prisoner is to go free."

She next spoke into her comlink before the others could object to the order. "Threepio. You and Artoo rendezvous with us outside the north-eastern tunnel exit."

Lando grunted. "North-eastern tunnel exit? That's a sewage ---"

"Quiet, Lando. Conserve your energy."

Leia took Han and Lando to a shadowed area, where she bandaged the latter enough to stop his bleeding. Chewie went to work.

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[Chapter Three]

Prisoners rushed from captivity, down the corridor, and threw themselves into battle. Leia supposed some would find palace personnel willing to release the det-shackles in exchange for their lives. The four rebels soon followed the trail of bodies and wreckage until they reached a circular grate in the floor. Chewie carried Han and Lando in either arm, while Leia led the way into waist-deep liquid that eventually rose above her chest. She felt nauseous the whole distance, and sympathized with the men's feeble complaints.

Sunlight blinded them. Leia stepped aside and Chewie kicked open the gate, which tumbled through air and crashed hundreds of meters below. 

"Where are those droids?" Leia leaned over the edge and looked around to see empty air and desert. She tried them over the comlink, but received silence. Minutes passed. 

"Anything might've happened to them. We have to move out."

They faced the cliff wall and walked sideways on an outcropping. She prayed to the Force that Chewie could manage his heavy load and cling safely to the jutting rocks. Leia was dizzy by the time they reached flat land. A hijacked skiff from Mos Espa awaited them nearby, but the deck was empty.

Han squinted up at the craft, frowning, apparently at a loss for quips. Lando had slumped over and gone silent a while ago, much to Leia's anxiety.

A shadow crossed over them. They looked up to see a figure silhouetted against the sun. It floated in place for a few moments, and then descended. Leia's already weakened stomach twisted in a knot. She recognized the armor well before he landed. 

"Those droids," Boba Fett said. "Are now property of Jabba."

The bounty hunter stood between them and their skiff, posture casual, hand on the holster of his blaster.

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[Chapter Four]

Leia raised her hands in surrender. They were far outmatched in a fight, but she did have social skills. 

"You can take us," She said.

Han clicked his tongue. "All that effort for nothing. Well, I got to see my favorite stalker before dying."

Boba snapped binders onto Leia, and gave her a shove off her feet. He next went for Chewbacca, but the wookiee had set down his burdens and made fists.

Chewie lunged at Boba and swung in a fury of blurred hair.

The bounty hunter ducked, leaned to the side, parried a fist with his elbow. He then let himself fall to the ground, where he sent two feet into Chewie's knee. The resultant howl made Leia cringe.

Their fight drew on and on, a cloud of sand and dust swirling around them. Chewie landed a few hits, but Boba's movements made him too slippery to grasp.

Han snuck over to attack while the enemy's back was turned.

"Wait. Han." It was hopeless.

Boba, somehow hearing Han's steps, whirled and backhanded the man across the face. Blood and teeth shot out a gaping mouth. Chewie used this chance to make a grab. The Mandalorian leapt sideways out of range, rolled, and sprang to his feet. Chewie rushed again and mounted another series of swings.

Eventually, Chewie left an opening at his face. Boba sprayed some sort of gas from a compartment on his forearm. The wookiee crumpled.

"I studied the Mandalorians." Leia said. She knew diplomacy was their only chance of release. Boba seemed an astute individual. "Let me guess. It's never about money for you. You have riches to last you lifetimes."

"Right." Boba crouched down to tie Chewie's hands with cords.

"The code dictates that you accept any hunt, on the condition the credits match the societal value of a target. And you're devoted to the hunt until you apprehend your prey, or the prey dies. Or. . ."

Boba rose to his feet and faced her.

"Or the employer dies." Leia took a deep breath and waited.

Boba tilted his head. "Jabba is alive."

"You must have seen how many cut-throats were running around in there before you went after us," She stepped closer, letting her tone become urgent. "Check in. Confirm his survival."

He silently regarded her, thoughts ambiguous as his face. He responded by reaching for the side of his helmet.

"Boba here. Status report."

Leia chewed her lip in anticipation, knowing the reply decided her fate.

Boba lowered his hand and walked toward her. She stood her ground, but dreaded the pain.

Instead of a punch or kick, she found herself free. She massaged her wrists. 

"Boba Fett. I want you to work for the Rebel Alliance."

 

[co-conceived by: Bingowings]

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[Chapter Five]

Vader had failed at Yavin, and cost the Empire its most prized creation. He had failed to keep Princess Organa in his clutches twice; the Rebel Alliance lived on as a result. Could the Emperor be blamed for phasing out his once championed minion? 

"Lord Vader," A voice came on the shuttle intercom. "I've overridden the access codes. You should now have pseudo-clearance into Blood Shard, but the secondary security systems will activate in roughly five minutes."

"More than enough time to dock. Good work, Captain."

The Eclipse-class Dreadnaught floated in the most nothing of nowhere, a sector of space long forgotten by civilization at large. Somewhere in its bowels rested the Emperor's latest project. A weapon? The answers were restricted to select governors and highest tier officers. Vader intended to steal the answers for himself.

The shuttle swooped past patrols, on alert for hostile activity. Blood Shard was one of only three of its kind, equipped with an axial superlaser, hundreds of turbo and heavy lasers, and a capacity for six hundred TIE fighters.

"Admiral Piett."

"My lord?" He came to attention.

"Are you prepared to take command of this dreadnaught, when and if the time comes?"

"Aye, my lord." His voice had softened, the color draining from his face. 

 

[co-conceived by: DuracellEnergizer]

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[Chapter Six]

The halves of the casing clicked together, and the top module rotated until tight. Luke took his weapon and ignited the blade, a green glow warming the cave interior and illuminating the grin upon his weary face. Vader's onslaught had ceased a while ago. 

Luke walked from the cave and began a meandering journey to Yoda's hut. He stepped over a fallen branch, swung across a mud pond. The blade nicked limbs and sticks as he went. 

He felt such elation that he had to engage in a stunt or two. He used the Force to fire the lightsaber away at top speeds. He waited until it had zoomed to the upper levels of the canopy, and then yanked it back. It spun in his direction as a lethal, glowing wheel. He released his telekinetic grip, jumped meters in the air over the blade, and grabbed the hilt. A normal human his position would be dead and dismembered.

He soon entered the hut to find a pot of coffee roasting. Yoda stood in a corner. The Jedi master leaned heavily on his cane, eyes half-lidded. Luke poured himself a cup and sipped, wanting to make casual of his accomplishment; to divert attention away from his former difficulties.

"It's done, Master Yoda."

"Grown stronger, you have. More capable. Fortified from Vader, you are, for the time being. But go, you must. The final stage of your training happens far from here."

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[Chapter Seven]

A month had passed since Han's rescue. Leia and her friends rested and regained lost health aboard an Alliance frigate. Han was in greatest need of attention: he spent time in a bacta tank, underwent physical therapy, and now observed a strict diet. He was almost back to his old self, though Leia noted his personality was rougher at the edges.

"How are you getting along with that helmeted creep?" He asked her one evening in the mess hall.

"Pardon?"

"I think you know. The guy who hunted us down, helped Vader toss me in that hole."

She stopped her eyes from rolling. "We already spoke on this topic. More than once." 

"Yeah. He's a big help to our cause so far, huh?"

"Actually. . ."

~ ~ ~

Delegates and pilots assembled in the Intelligence Hall. Leia saw a team of Mon Calamari standing next to Mon Mothma. Chewbacca greeted a group of four other robed wookiees near the entrance. 

Han leaned over to her. "Where's Luke? He was supposed to be here by now."

Leia sighed. "Wish I knew."

"The Emperor's made a critical error," Mothma addressed them. She stood next to a holographic display of an Imperial dreadnaught; a list of data streamed next to the image. "And the time of our attack has come. The data brought to us by Boba Fett's spies pin-point the exact location of the Emperor's new battle station."

Now to see if the rumors were true. Han and Leia glanced to one another and then leaned forward to glue their attention on the white-clad woman.

"We've also learned that Darth Vader himself has defected from the Empire, and leads a small, but well-equipped splinter faction of Imperial officers and troopers."

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I'm liking this! The way that Jabba is handled completely off screen makes sense, and actually fits with the previous entries in the trilogy. Boba's personal code could be established earlier somehow, as his about face is somewhat jarring. Also, I see this kind of discussion between Leia and Boba:

"Boba Fett: I have a target for you."

"Who?"

"The man who hired you to hunt down the Falcon."

"Vader?  It's bad business to target Imperials."

"As a matter of fact, he has defected."

"Then how would you like him?"

Leia stares fiercely at the helmeted figure.

"Disintegrated."

"As you wish, your highness."

Something like that perhaps. I'm thinking that if Leia had access to a bounty hunter, she would want Vader destroyed at all costs because of what he did to her and her family, even if she hired him on the sly and used Alliance funds to do it.

These scenes are short, which is good, but in some cases they are too short to allow full comprehension of the scene. I'd like more about Vader's defection, for example.

Looking forward to what's ahead!

DuracellEnergizer: “^He’s embraced the absurd. Don’t expect to gain any conventional understanding from his posts.”
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Thank you for the review, NeverarGreat. You are my editor. Clarity and smoother transitions. Got it.

Chapter Seven was without a doubt the weakest. It was at a vague part in the outline. I'm going to return and add that conversation you wrote at a later point.

Boba is risky for me. The story aims to develop a previously undeveloped character, but I'm nervous of giving him too much screen time. I'll go ahead and write the version of Chapter Nine I originally planned, but backed out. It does make sense that Leia would send him to hunt Vader, and the result is something that needs to be seen.

One week anniversary headed our way. Let's go at it with a bang.

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[Chapter Eight]

Luke's X-Wing slowed to three grav acceleration. He entered multiple passwords and codes into the console, and then spoke his identity and intentions. The R5 unit behind him beeped its impatience. 

"We're on heavier guard than ever," Luke told his assistant.

He soon docked in a corner of the frigate, among a crowd of fighters. He hoped everyone was in the dark as to his arrival; Leia was the one with whom he wanted to confer. Weeks in isolation made it difficult to suddenly throw himself back in a crowd.

~ ~ ~

A soft light in Leia's private quarters clicked on. She adjusted her gown, made sure her hair was presentable, and answered the door.

"Luke," She threw herself into his open arms. The strength of her embrace would have put Chewie to shame.

Luke's grin was a call-back to the farm boy from Tatooine. The princess felt a storm of compassion and nostalgia as she pulled him inside and closed the door.

They entertained small talk for a while at the dining table, until the conversation stalled, mystery hanging between them. 

"Have you trained this entire time?"

"More or less," Luke went from cheery to dark in an instant. "Yoda formed me into a Jedi Knight. But I have a mission to complete before I can ever think of taking on my own apprentice. Whether that's tomorrow, or years from now."

Leia reached across the table to set her hand on his. "The future of the Jedi is your responsibility."

Luke nodded. "I have to defeat Darth Vader. He's grown too powerful in the dark side. It'd be futile to establish the Jedi Order again with his shadow over me."

Artoo and Threepio appeared from the lounge area. 

"Master Luke! What a surprise," Threepio rushed past Artoo to the man's side. "We feared so much for your safety. Oh, you're a capable person for sure, able to look after yourself ---"

Luke raised a hand, half-smiling to his old mechanical friends. "Good to be back."

Threepio's voice dropped conspiratorially. "Though I believe Artoo fears he's been permanently replaced."

Artoo beeped a "shut up".

Leia cleared her throat, and addressed Luke. "What've you learned of the Empire's activities while out there?"

The Jedi shook his head. "I left Dagobah, and kept to myself on deserted worlds so I could meditate. Why?"

Leia explained everything that had passed since their last departure. She received Artoo's help in the way of holographic displays when the subject of Blood Shard came.

"We think the ship's equipped with a mass survellience system," Leia said. "A weapon of near omniscience."

"Mass survellience," Luke echoed, rubbing his chin. "Knowledge is power, as the wise say."

The Alliance had to trust in Luke's wisdom, Leia mused. She remained silent while he reclined and studied the ship schematics.

"When do we attack?" He asked.

"Our numbers are rallied," Leia answered. "We're privy to most the structure's layout, and orbital patrol schedules. Mon Mothma will make the call to arms within a few days."

They both rose and drifted toward the door in silence.

"Leia," He turned at the threshold. "On Bespin, I sensed a bond between you and Han. A bond that goes beyond friendship. Maybe it's none of my business."

She came closer, offering her sincerest smile. "Time does silly things. We became close on the Falcon while the Empire was in hot pursuit. Then time made it complicated again. Han's a different person."

He has something else to say.

"Good night, Leia." He kissed her forehead and left.

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[Chapter Nine]

Slave moved at tenth light speed, while a swarm of TIE fighters sprayed shots from behind. Boba pulled the controls back; his ship swooped upward in a wide curve. The enemy followed. 

Slave's engines strained to decrease speed. The ship then dropped among the TIE's before they could all make the roller-coaster curve. Most of them responded quickly, rotating about or down at an angle to face Boba's new position, but he had already slipped away.

Computers locked onto targets it calculated to be most vulnerable. Aft cannons blew them away. Boba checked diagnostics to find his ship's armor and equipment battered, but functional. He understood this to be his last dogfight. The ship zipped and whirled out of blaster fire, its shield generators too damaged to take the brunt. He picked off the last of the TIE's.

Scanners located a spy probe from Blood Shard. He came to link range with the spherical instrument and uploaded encrypted coordinates. It was ultimately destined for the Alliance.

Probe launched, Boba set a new course and opened a channel to his comrades. "We're going in." 

Dozens of mercenary ships appeared on radar, and then a TIE cloud. Boba had ordered them to leave as many of the enemy units intact as possible.

"Open fire." They brought their attacks to focus at a point on Blood Shard's outermost deflector shield. 

The resultant energy caused the radar to brighten like a small sun. Entire ships exploded on the shield, while some made it through. TIE's contributed to the breech. Slave flew inside, aimed at the base's cargo bay, and shot forward at highest speeds allowable for survival.

Boba programmed a timer on the console. The dreadnaught became more visible as the seconds ticked by, and then seemed to rush at him. His seat launched at the exact nanosecond dictated. The ship impacted with the blast doors and exploded. Shrapnel pelted Boba's armor while he floated in vacuum at impact's edge. He switched on his jet pack and zoomed into the receding flames.

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[Chapter Ten]

Admiral Piett was a mortal crushed between opposing divine forces. The thought of failure had kept him awake two nights in a row. But he persevered.

He strolled a line of manned computers and came to a stop here and there to direct credit stocks or help assign materials to outposts.

He eventually halted at a viewport. Several recruitment vessels departed for worlds long forsaken, where the Emperor had little influence. They would need enough militants to blot out Coruscant's sky, Piett thought. Reports indicated that might well come to pass. He feared Vader, but had to respect the cyborg's audacity and efficiency. I stand in awe of a total nightmare. 

Alarms blasted. Piett pivoted on a heel and strode for the nearest radar. 

~ ~ ~

Rag-tags exchanged fire with stormtroopers as they traversed corridor after long corridor, but were too few in number. Boba's back-up became extinct before he could reach Vader's throne room. The greatest bounty hunter in the galaxy called on every tactic and tool at his disposal. He threw smoke bombs, detonators, and flash-bangs as he sought to escape the crowds of armored pawns that popped from around every corner. By the time he reached the majestic double doors, blood flowed from flesh wounds.

The doors parted, as though in invitation. Why?

He kept his blaster at the ready, and went to the portal's edge to peer inside. 

The hall felt religious in nature. Whereas Blood Shard's interiors until now had been sterilized metal, this location was carpeted, and tapestries lined the walls. A dozen robed figures stood like statues on either side of the long carpet leading to the far end, their faces shadowed, hands lost in sleeves. Torch pillars blazed. Boba squinted to discern the contraption that must have been the centerpiece across the expanse. Lights clicked to life.

Darth Vader's mask was off. His face was melted flesh clung to bone, frozen in a grin. Wires and tubes entered and exited his body, and suspended him high from the floor.

The hell has he done to himself?

"I have evolved," Vader answered aloud, voice synthesized. "In the dark side. In the universal scheme. Your thoughts and memories belong to me, bounty hunter."

"The rebels are resilient sons of bitches," Bob made himself continue to stand, despite exhaustion. "They'll knock your army for a loop yet."

"I'm sure."

Vader called upon the Force to drive Boba's blaster against its owner. A legend fell with a single shot.

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[Author's note]

We're at about the halfway mark. I'll post a link to this thread on different forums, and create a blog to keep track of future edits and drafts. 

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Well this is really unexpected...

My conversation idea was really just a random suggestion, but I didn't expect you to fully incorporate it into the story. I'd better be more careful about what I say, though the results were certainly explosive. Poor Boba, we hardly knew ye. He seems so expendable in this situation. I would have expected him to lie in wait for Vader like he waited for the Falcon to show itself, or for him to infiltrate the ship stealthily. I'd expect him to look out for number one.

But moving on, I based Leia's decision to use Boba against Vader on Bingowing's idea that Leia would turn to the Dark Side. If she is Luke's sister, that is. If not, she would be less dangerous, but she could still potentially be ruthless. In any case, she should be written to be much more assertive than in ROTJ.

I'm still kind of in shock that this part of the forum has seen so much activity. Other than sporadic posts by DuracellEnergizer, McFlabbergasty, and yours truly, this place is usually silent as a crypt. Nice to see dramatic progress!

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I imagine a bag of disposable razors with Boba Fett's picture on the front. :(

I wanted to convey that the ship was impregnable without a massive, open attack. And once Boba entered, the troopers were abnormally difficult. The latter point will be elaborated on later. But do you feel I need to make additions to Chapter Ten?

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[Chapter Eleven]

The latest probe message revealed that Blood Shard's surveillance was primed for telepathy, though range and overall effectiveness were foggy. Probe cameras had recorded the mercenaries' attack. Anyone could guess whether the battle was an approximate trade in lives, a minor victory, or futile sacrifice.

Leia stood at the frigate's main viewport to watch the fleet gather. Every spacecraft played a role in the next battle. The Alliance's heroes and best minds had worked together to account for all conceivable angles. The Alderaanian princess, however, wrestled with dread. Can our scientists really develop technology to scramble telepathy? We could give away our entire plan by silently thinking. 

Several alerts sounded at once. Her comlink went off, a deck alarm flashed and blared, and an officer rushed past. "Ms. Organa. An emergency meeting. We're in the red." Off-duty people stopped to glance around, worried, then jogged to their stations.

"The time comes to commence," Mon Mothma said as a last wave of officers, pilots, and foot-soldiers flooded into the room. Luke, Han, Leia, and Chewie sat together. "Blood Shard has moved to Coruscant." Chatter and gasps filled the air. Mothma raised her hand to signal for silence. "Your tactics and assignments remain much the same, but other conditions are changed. The price of failure may mean billions of innocent lives, depending on Vader's motives."

Admiral Ackbar took over. "The dreadnaught's defense has become further redundant. Along with its own built-in shields, it's also protected by three shield generators on Coruscant. These generators must be deactivated, if any attack is to be attempted. Once the shields are down, our cruisers will create a perimeter while fighters close in and storm the structure. Luke Skywalker, whose piloting skills proved crucial at Yavin, has volunteered to lead the wing squadron."

"That was before, when we were supposed to be fighting in deep space," Han muttered. "Think you can handle the new ball game, O Holy Knight?"

Luke took a deep breath and kept his gaze on Ackbar, ignoring the question. Leia massaged his back with her fingertips.

Ackbar nodded to General Nadine, who took the alien's spot next to the display. "The Empire - the true Empire - quarantined Coruscant too late after the splinter faction's arrival." The hologram zoomed out and Star Destroyers became visible. Data streams noted above-average debris; Leia wondered if a Destroyer had recently met its end. "We share a common goal with the Emperor in destroying Darth Vader and the splinter faction, but we presumably fight both sides once we enter Coruscanti space. We have stolen an Imperial shuttle. Disguised as a cargo ship, and using a secret Imperial Code, a strike team will land planetside and split into three groups."

There was a pause for observers to absorb the information, broken when Han beckoned to himself. "I volunteer to captain the shuttle and lead a team on the ground." Mothma, Ackbar, and Nadine held a hushed discussion. 

"Are you sure you're up to this?" Leia asked.

Han smiled. "I'm sure I'd better be. Does anyone else have our experience against storm troopers? That's a rhetorical question. The four of us belong on the front lines."

Mothma looked to Han and nodded. "Very well."

~ ~ ~

The fleet would reach Coruscant space at 2300 galactic standard, eight hours from now. Leia was enlisted to lead the second strike team, which meant her combat was destined to take place in a cityscape at night. 

She lay in bed, contemplating the future, her thoughts interrupted occasionally by Threepio's outbursts from the adjoining room. Hardly a productive way to prepare for war. She shut her eyes, stretched her arms, and promised herself that she only needed to snooze.

Two men stood far away on the crest of a sand dune. They waved to her and called her name, their excitement visible even from this distance. She ran toward them, elated at the imminent reunion. But they sank to the horizon. The ground abruptly split between her feet and parted wide. She fell and grabbed at one edge, but curtains of sand pushed her down into darkness. 

She sat up. A knock came at her bedroom door. 

Luke had turned and begun to step away, but she grabbed his shoulder. "Drifted off. Sorry if I kept you waiting."

"I wanted to check on you," He said. "I sensed your emotions way across the ship. They ate away at me, made it hard to focus on anything else."

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I hope the last post didn't seem too critical; the way you decided to end Boba is really dramatic. Perhaps Vader's gloating over Boba could be made to include information about Boba's personal code, further reinforcing why he would suddenly work for the rebels. I like how Vader knows Boba's thoughts. It would be a blow to the Rebellion if Vader was able to extract from him their location.

Full speed ahead, I'd say.

JEDIT: You posted chapter 11 fast! I wasn't aware that the ship itself had telepathic abilities. This is shaping up to be an extremely interesting conflict.

DuracellEnergizer: “^He’s embraced the absurd. Don’t expect to gain any conventional understanding from his posts.”
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NeverarGreat said:

I hope the last post didn't seem too critical; the way you decided to end Boba is really dramatic. Perhaps Vader's gloating over Boba could be made to include information about Boba's personal code, further reinforcing why he would suddenly work for the rebels. I like how Vader knows Boba's thoughts. It would be a blow to the Rebellion if Vader was able to extract from him their location.

Naw, criticism is welcome. Sometimes it has to be blunt, if I'm to learn.

You called the next plot development, by the way. The Rebels stole valuable and exploitable information on the enemy, but this costs them.

Thanks of the comment!

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 (Edited)

[Chapter Twelve]

The Fleet entered its next-to-last waypoint when disaster reared. A Super Star Destroyer awaited the Rebels, far enough to avoid collision when they came out of hyperspace, but within firing range. The Destroyer targeted with all cannons and lasers.

Leia zipped her black jump suit, and started to tie her hair. Her quarters shuttered, plant jars and figurines crashing. She looked to Luke. He held his head, pained. Another quake tilted the floor and flickered the lights. A couch tumbled toward Leia. She dodged and pressed her back to a wall. She suddenly felt lighter, as though she'd lost twenty pounds; the artificial gravity generators were damaged. The floor gradually evened, but explosions and screams reached her ears.

"I'm getting to my X-Wing." Luke left in a flash.

~ ~ ~

Landing gear magnets kept most the fighters rooted to the hangar, but a Y-Wing had managed to flip over onto an X. Luke worked his way through a crowd of maintenance workers, pilots, and droids, and stepped over scattered tools. A man bled out on a stretcher, medics cursing.

He arrived at the Millennium Falcon. Han was at the end of the ramp, fists on his hips as he yelled to Chewie. "Bring down the spare parts! Come on, this frigate's in straits."

"What's the Fleet's condition?"

The smuggler hardly appeared relieved to see Luke. "About the same as that poor guy over there."

"These fighters need manned right now," Luke noticed that the cockpits were empty. "We should already be out there."

Chewie growled acknowledgment while he pushed a supply loader by. 

"I spoke to Ackbar on the way here," Han said. "He's letting this one slide. Alliance will arrive at Coruscant with a fraction of its forces," Han said. "But better than everyone dying here. Hit where it counts, where it'll do the most damage."

Luke shook his head, taken aback. "How do we re-power all the engines in time? We'll leave ourselves more open."

Something slammed into the hull outside. A ceiling panel fell, and exposed wires showered sparks.

Han was silent for a few moments. "A scoundrel with a freighter can draw a lot of attention to himself. Maybe buy some time for ships to jump." Luke opened his mouth to speak, but Han jabbed a finger into his shoulder. "Lead that squadron. Take down Blood Shard. The suits can find a new leader for my ground team."

"She saved you," Luke's voice cracked. "Leia saved you, and now you're throwing it all ---" He noticed that he was speaking as a boy, and bit down on his tongue.

Han gave Luke a casual pat. "Hey. It's me." His tone and face held a finality that said he understood and accepted the implications of this flight. He turned and ascended the ramp, Chewbacca at his heels.