Eye of the Storm

Kenya Starflight

DISCLAIMER: Of course, I don't own the Star Wars characters, planets, and other stuff.

I'm not that good!

RATING: PG for violence and language

Part 1 -- Struck Down

The Force had been kind to this star system. The great Sith Wars, a historic milestone for most of the galaxy, were virtually unknown here. The more recent Clone Wars, likewise, had not touched these obscure planets. Nor had the ongoing Galactic Civil War engulfed the system, even as it raged horribly in nearly every other colonized sector of known space. For millennia this system's one hospitable world -- first by simple ignorance but later by enforcement -- had gone blissfully unknown, unmolested, and undisturbed.

Until now.

Between the inhabited third planet and the hostile fourth planet, two X-wing fighters and a small transport -- the Dawn Raider -- blinked into existence where empty space had once been. Telescopes and sensors from the world registered the starships' presence, to the flabbergasted surprise of those operating these tools. The shock of the pilots upon seeing the planet was no less intense.

"What is this?" demanded the pilot of the Raider. "Commander Skywalker, you said these coordinates were supposed to take us to the rendezvous point!"

"They were!" replied Luke in defense. He would have added that Han himself had given them to him so they had to be legitimate, but he caught himself. Most of the Rebellion didn't entirely trust Han, even though they respected his piloting skills -- enough to permit a small band of Rebels to infiltrate Jabba's palace and rescue him. The others had gone on to the rendezvous, but he had lagged behind to visit Yoda just before the Jedi Master's death. Now he was escorting a group of latecomers to the Rebel gathering -- and it looked as though they were going to be even later.

"Mees'n thinking someone done scramble our coordinates," burbled Luke's fellow Rogue pilot, a Gungan called Trigger. The daughter of a former Naboo senator, she kept her real name secret, but her Rebel moniker was apt -- she was a crack shot, either with a hand weapon or behind starship controls.

"Scramble? How?" demanded the Raider.

Artoo beeped helpfully, and his suggestion appeared on Luke's computer display.

"Remote scramble?" he repeated. "No civilian ship and almost none of the Imperial ships have that kind of technology."

"An' there wasn' no 'perials when wesa hit lightspeed," added Trigger.

"Well, someone warped the numbers," growled the Raider. "But who?"

/Who indeed/ thought Luke as he hurriedly cleared his navicomputer and re-entered the coordinates. For one ship to alter the hyperspace coordinates of another would take technology so new even most of the Imperial fleet was without it. And their departure point had been vacant save the ruins of a long-abandoned pre-Republic space station.

"Don't worry," Luke replied, trying to inject some cheer into the situation. "We'll just plot a new course and continue..."

"Commander!" squealed Trigger. "Stardestroyer comin' in!"

As she spoke, sudden blaster fire rocked his X-wing, barely deflected by his shields. He brought his ship around to face this sudden assault -- and was stunned to see over three dozen TIE fighters descend upon the trio of Rebel ships like a swarm of flies. Laser fire lanced greenly from their guns, surrounding them with a deadly rain of energy. Against the silvery orb of this planet's moon a sinister wedge-shaped shadow watched silently like an ambushing nexu. With shock Luke recognized the vessel -- the Super Stardestroyer Executor.

"Vader," he breathed, cold terror washing over him like Hoth's winds. Horrid memories spilled, unbidden, into his mind's eye in a fragmented jumble -- the burning agony of losing his hand... the awful anticipation as a dying Yoda confirmed Vader's pronouncement... the Dark Lord beckoning to him, taunting, tempting, tantalizing...

/I am your father./ Those four words had changed his life forever. He was still reeling from the blow of that revelation. And now, just after they had rescued Han from Jabba's slimy clutches, just before they went to face the second Death Star, just when things seemed to be finally looking up for the Alliance and himself, he had to face this mysterious beast again.

Could he survive this encounter with soul and life intact?

"Commander? What yousa say 'bout Vader?"

"Nothing," he replied quickly. "Trigger, you're going to have to help me! Whatever happens, they can't shoot the Raider down!"

"Copy, Commander!"

Two TIEs darted to the transport's starboard side, attempting a classic pincer attack. Luke veered hard to his right and sprayed fire at the ships, then pulled up to avoid the resulting inferno.

A stern voice crackled over his radio.

"You have entered a restricted Imperial system. You are under arrest."

Vader's familiar bass voice, hollow and somehow electronic, added a baleful warning.

"Surrender, Commander Skywalker, and your companions may go free. Refuse, and you will watch them die."

So the Empire HAD engineered this! But how? Then it hit him -- the space station! It hadn't been completely devoid of life after all! Someone must have hidden aboard the wreck, waited until they'd entered the sector, and altered their coordinates -- sending them directly into the jaws of this trap.

A third TIE swooped in front of his viewscreen in a blatant head-on maneuver. Luke launched a torpedo at it and corkscrewed away as it exploded. Trigger streaked by, hot on the tail of an Interceptor. Then two more ships charged Luke, and he had to concentrate on avoiding their fire.

"Watch it, Commander! Yous'n got one on your tail!"

Luke didn't need to turn and look to know it was Vader's customized TIE fighter pursuing him. The Dark Lord's presence glowed darkly in his mind like a pillar of cold fire. He knew he was in no danger of being shot down -- Vader wanted him alive.

"Commander, I've plotted a course from here to the rendezvous!" the Raider informed him.

"Make the jump," Luke ordered. "Trigger, go with them."

"No! No! Mees'n stay!"

"Just go! I'll follow you!"

"We'll send help!" promised the Raider, and with that the transport and X-wing streaked into hyperspace.

His X-wing thrashed from a blaster impact. Alarms wailed as the fighter tumbled into the planet's atmosphere. Luke struggled to regain control of the ship, to stay his fall.

Suddenly the ship's descent was checked with a massive jerk. His head slammed into the console, splitting his flight helmet open. He blacked out.

Behind him, a vertical oblong starship slowly descended toward the planet's surface, holding the battered X-wing in the iron grip of its tractor beam. Vader's TIE followed the Slave, keeping a watchful eye on their prize. High-tech cloaking devices kept the two ships and their prey nearly invisible to the planet's detection systems.

On the world's surface, those who had witnessed these events found various ways to explain them. Some would blame a bizarre hardware glitch. Others would chalk it up to a meteor storm or solar flare. A few would call it an elaborate prank.

None suspected or even considered the truth.


In Austin Powers' home, the Galactic Civil War was the last thing on his mind. At the moment he had a civil war of his own on his hands.

"This isn't fair, Melissa," he protested, arms folded before him in a gesture of firmness. "The divorce papers clearly state that I get Trapper for the entire summer. You've already cut three weeks from our time, and you were a day late dropping him off. Now you want to ax another two weeks?"

"We had problems getting here," his ex-wife replied with a toss of her cinnamon-colored pixie cut. "And I'm not denying Trapper time with his grandparents to goof off with you. He sees too little of them, and this July is his only chance to see them before they move to England in August."

"I don't blame you for being late," Austin replied. "Airport security is tight nowadays. I can understand the toy blaster in Trapper's backpack causing a delay. But if you wanted him to see your folks one last time, why didn't you plan that in May?"

"It's too late for that," she said brusquely. "He has to come back by July 19, no later. If you can't agree to that, send him back out and we'll go home."

The two locked eyes, both refusing to give an inch in this battle of wills. Melissa Lauren Greenwood, looking every bit the stubborn corporate tiger she was, was nearly a foot and a half shorter than Austin Owen Powers, her normally laid-back devil-may-care ex-husband. None would guess by a mere glance that she was the stronger of the pair. And the fact that Austin was currently wearing a Darth Vader costume at the moment in

preparation for a party only heightened the absurdity of her advantage. He would probably lose this battle, and he knew it, but he refused to give in without a valiant last stand.

"Let's be fair, Melissa," he pleaded. "This is about Trapper, not us. Let's think about what's best for him."

"Exactly. That's why he needs to come home early and..."

"What I meant was we should ask him and do what he wants."

That caught her off guard, but she swiftly formed a counterattack. "Of course he's going to want to stay with you. He's a nine-year-old boy. He's going to want to stay here and play all the time. But what he wants and what's best for him are two entirely different things, Austin!"

"And forcing him back and forth all summer and telling him his opinions don't matter is best for him?" Austin inquired blandly.

Despite his neutral tone, that comment only struck her fuse. "All right, fine! Let me in! I'm taking Trapper home!"

"He IS home!" Austin countered, placing an arm across the doorway to bar her entry.

She glared at him, determined to get by. He knew he couldn't argue with her anymore without risking his time with his son. Melissa was no bluffer; if he continued to fight, she would drag Trapper onto the next flight back to Chicago. It was time to surrender.

"Just go, Melissa," he told her quietly. "Trapper'll come home on the 19th. I'll call if there's a problem."

Her expression crowed victory, but her voice remained gruff. "See you then," she said in farewell, turning back to her cab.

It took all his willpower to avoid slamming the door. He was so tired of it all. So he hadn't been a perfect father or husband during their marriage. Big whoop. It wasn't entirely his fault. She'd played a hand in their split. And she had no right to punish him by tampering with the visitation like this. It couldn't be healthy for Trapper.

"Trapper!" he called, walking into the living room. It was cluttered, of course, as it always was when Trapper was around. Delightfully messy. How he missed tripping over neglected toys and other paraphernalia when Trapper was at his mom's house. Unfortunate that she had moved so far away after the divorce.

He would have moved along with them, to keep close to his son, but other obligations tied him to Star City, a small city in the Rocky Mountains. His job with the newspaper and his leadership of a small-time Star Wars fan club couldn't just be dropped like so many rocks. Besides, the fan group was like a family to him and Trapper. And what would summers be like if he and Trapper missed out on Stellar-Con and Nova-Con, the two conventions Star City played host to every year?

"Trapper!" he called again, not seeing the boy right away. Action figures littered the floor, petrified in some sort of imaginary space war. A Jango Fett figure clutching a lightsaber lay on the arm of the couch, and a miniature Vader costume, Trapper's last birthday present, was strewn on the couch's seat. The TV was on and blaring something about a satellite malfunction that was wreaking havoc on telescopes nationwide. A Harry Potter novel and a Spiderman comic book had been kicked under the coffee table, and the Playstation controls were tangled on the floor.

He found Trapper in the corner, busy attacking the shield generator on the Star Wars Trilogy arcade game Austin had purchased from a pool hall that had gone out of business. That spelled trouble. Trapper only played that game when he was upset.

"Hey Mini-V," Austin greeted, tousling his son's hair. "Why don't we quit the game and get some dinner before the party at Pat and Jason's?"

No reply.

"I hear you and your mom had an adventure getting here," he tried again. "Sorry about your blaster. I'll buy you a new one."

Trapper plucked a token from the end table and jammed it into the coin slot as if he hadn't heard him.

"What's wrong, Mini-V? Nexu got your tongue?"

Silence. Then he replied quietly, "I don't like it when you and Mom fight."

Austin sighed. Blunt but honest. Children tended to be like that.

"Well, Trapper, I don't like it either. And I'd do anything to keep it from happening again."

Three stormtroopers fell under Trapper's assault. "I don't want to go to Grandma's. I want to stay here with you."

"I'm flattered, but your grandparents will want to see you before they move." He hated himself for playing devil's advocate, but he wanted to soften the blow for Trapper. "I'm sure they miss you..."

"Grandpa doesn't even know I'm there half the time, he's so drunk. And Grandma's always complaining about me! She says I got all your bad genes." He fired at a fleeing scouttrooper, missed, and winced as the trooper's parting shot drained his energy level.

"Really? I didn't realize that. I'm really sorry, but there's not a lot I can do about that."

"I know, but I still don't want to go. It means I'm going to miss Nova-Con."

"But you'll still be able to attend Stellar-Con with me."

"Nova-Con's always better."

"Look, Mini-V," Austin told him, placing his hands on the boy's shoulders, "I'm sorry about Nova-Con. But neither of us can change it. So let's not let it ruin the rest of our summer, okay?"

"Okay," Trapper said hesitantly.

"Now what sounds good for dinner? I was thinking Chinese."

"Gross!" Trapper complained, sounding more like the Trapper Austin knew and loved.

"Oh, too bad. Then I guess we have to settle for Jabba the Hutt -- I mean Pizza Hut."

"Pizza Hut? Yeah!" He abandoned the game and ran for the couch. "I'll get dressed."

"You do that. Then we'll grab a bite to eat and head over to Pat and Jason's for the pre-Con party. It'll be the best one yet, I'm sure."

He smiled fondly as the game screen flashed GAME OVER. If his time with his son was limited, he'd make sure every moment of it counted.