Fighting with Monsters

Star Wars: The Bergeron Chronicles, Part 2

a fanfic by Sisiutil

Chapter 1

"We have to get to the ship!"

Easier said than done, Kilu Branon thought in response to the Jedi Master's terse comment. They were pinned down by blaster fire coming from two directions. The two Jedi had taken shelter inside a doorway in Mos Eisley, a spaceport on Tatooine, an arid world in a binary star system in the galaxy's Outer Rim Territories. The hangar's entrance, a rusted metallic door set inside a whitewashed wall, was only a few meters away, across a wide, sand-strewn street from the doorway where the two Jedi now crouched. But it might as well have been in another star system, thanks to the incessant blaster fire blocking their path. Only the Jedi's formidable lightsabers held their numerous attackers at bay. Their long, dark brown robes and khaki clothing were stained with dust and sweat.

Kilu stole a glance at Habbad Nefeel, her Jedi Master. The Mon Calimari's large eyes were working independently on either side of his salmon-colored, dome-shaped head, gauging distances and probabilities. The Mon Calimari had, thanks to their participation in the Rebel Alliance, built a reputation throughout the galaxy as master tacticians and strategists; Kilu tried to take some comfort from that. She blinked sweat out of her brown eyes. She quickly reached up and brushed away a stray strand of her auburn hair that escaped from her pony-tail and swayed as an unwelcome distraction on the left side of her face.

"We go back to back," Nafeel said, "and deflect the blaster bolts with our lightsabers."

Kilu glanced out of the doorway at the numerous high-energy projectiles hissing and whining through the air. That was a lot of blaster bolts to fend off. To Jedi of the Old Republic, such a feat would have presented little challenge. But the new Jedi were few and far between, and were struggling to regain the mastery of the Force that their older, fallen brethren had enjoyed only a few generations before. Of their number, only Master Jedi Luke Skywalker exhibited the proficiency with the Force that had once been typical of their order. The irony that this decidedly unfriendly reception was occurring on his home planet wasn't lost on the young Jedi.

"Don't try to be fancy, Kilu," Nafeel said to her in a steady voice that inspired a small but valuable extra measure of confidence. "Don't try to deflect the bolts directly back at our adversaries. Just fend them off. Let the Force guide your hands."

"Yes, Master," she replied. She cast a brief glance of appreciation and admiration his way. "May the Force be with you," she said.

"And with you as well," Nafeel said with a nod of his head, and what Kilu had learned to recognize as his species' approximation of a smile on his wide, thin-lipped mouth. "Ready? GO!"

The two Jedi turned their backs to one another and side-stepped out into the street. It came as no surprise to them that the rate of blaster fire immediately increased. Their lightsabers hummed as they swung through the air, crackled as one blaster shot after another ricocheted off the bright blades. Kilu surrendered her actions to the Force; she could feel it flowing through her, into her muscles and tendons, so that her bright green lightsaber blade seemed as though it was moving of its own accord.

Their adversaries were numerous--well over a dozen, crouching behind speeders, surface transports, and inside doorways for cover, which bespoke some measure of wary respect for the Jedi, since they were all safely out of range of the lightsabers. But that respect wasn't enough to convince them to let up on their rate of blaster fire.

Kilu fought off the urge to steal a glance at the hangar entrance to see how far away it was. She just kept moving sideways and focused on letting the Force flow through her and guide her lightsaber. She could feel her Master's back pressed against her own, which told her he was also still managing to fend off the blaster fire, but other details began to vanish from her awareness as she experienced the focused tunnel vision typical of a Force-sensitive warrior in battle. The heat and light of the twin suns overhead diminished, as did the distant sounds of the city that surrounded them.

Suddenly, she heard a hiss from her right as the hangar door opened in response to Nafeel's Force-touch of the access panel. They'd made it! The two Jedi scrambled through the door and Nafeel shut it behind them. But they both stood watching the closed door, lightsabers at the ready, well aware that their attackers would shortly attempt to blast their way through it.

"Get to the ship," Nafeel said to her.

"You first, Master," she said. "You're more familiar with the shuttle's systems than I am," she reminded him. "You can get the pre-launch sequence engaged faster."

"Very well," Nafeel said, only a hint of reluctance in his voice as he gave in to her recommendation. "But I want you on board as soon as you hear the engines fire up."

"I'll be there," she promised, then turned her attention back to the sealed entranceway.

Already, Kilu could hear blaster shots rattling the aged metal door as their adversaries attempted to force their way into the hangar. She took a deep breath and used the unexpected moment of relative peace to recover her inner balance, as a Jedi should. The young Jedi forced herself to relax, to surrender to the Force, to let its energy and power flow through her and restore her equilibrium.

It was at that moment that she felt the subtle tremor in the Force. She'd never experienced a Force premonition before, so she almost didn't recognize it for what it was. But she suddenly felt a heightened sense of danger, greater even than what she'd just been experiencing during the battle. Her mind focused on it, attempted to localize it in time and space, until she narrowed in and identified it. The source of the danger was emanating from right behind her, and it was only seconds away from manifesting itself...

"Master, STOP!" she shouted, whirling to face the shuttle, and the words were barely out of her mouth before the ship exploded in a bright ball of flame.

Had she not experienced the premonition, she would not have survived. She instinctively threw up a Force bubble in front of herself to deflect the heat and shrapnel of the blast. Even so, the shockwave of the explosion threw her back against the hangar's inner wall, winding her and making her fall to the ground with all the grace of a thrown rag doll.

As she unsteadily pushed herself to a sitting position and looked at the ruined, burning remnants of the shuttle, a devastating sense of déjà vu washed over her. For the second time in her young life, she'd been betrayed somehow, ambushed while on a mission vital to the Jedi, and her Master who'd been leading the mission had been murdered before her very eyes. The fact that she had not only respected, but had come to admire and care about Habbad Nefeel very much, only made her feel worse. She took a tremulous breath as the desire to curl up in a fetal ball and cry her eyes out overwhelmed her.

But she was a Jedi, and there were over a dozen beings on the other side of rapidly-failing doorway that wanted to kill her. And in the inside pocket of her wrap-around tunic was a data chip containing information potentially vital to the Jedi, and one of their number had just given his life in the process of obtaining it. There was far more at stake here than her own feelings.

Kilu took a deep breath and allowed herself only a moment to acknowledge her grief and fear before setting them aside. She retrieved her deactivated lightsaber, which had fallen to the ground beside her when she'd dropped it upon hitting the wall. She then stood and looked across the hangar, past the wreckage of the shuttle, to the opposite wall of the roofless building. She reached out with the Force; the alley on the other side of the far wall was empty--an oversight she silently swore she would make sure her unknown enemies come to regret.

She ran towards the wall and when she drew near to it, she Force-jumped over it, landing deftly in the empty, sandy alley behind the hangar. Just as her feet made contact with the ground, she heard the muffled sound of the hangar door finally failing to blaster fire. Good, she thought--they might presume that she had also died in the blast. That might buy her some precious time.

Kilu pulled her long, dark brown cloak around her slender body and raised the cloak's hood over her head and face. She walked out of the alley into one of the spaceport city's streets, where several onlookers were curiously but cautiously looking towards where all the commotion had been taking place only a few moments before. Many of the world-weary denizens of the spaceport were returning to their business, and she forced herself to assume a casual pace so she appeared to be just another one of them.

Once she'd put a good kilometer or so of breathing room between herself and the hangar, she ducked into a dimly-lit cantina. She sat down in a small booth in the back once she'd surreptitiously ensured that she could see all the bar's entrances from that position. Kilu ordered a flask of the local poison from the waitress who approached her table; she wouldn't drink it, but it helped her appear to all intents and purposes like just another unremarkable visitor to the busy spaceport.

As she considered the direness of her situation, Kilu realized that all her Jedi meditation techniques were not going to keep her anxiety at bay. Beneath her cloak and loose Jedi clothing, her body was bathed in sweat, and it wasn't just because of the desert planet's hot, arid climate. She was now stranded--no, hunted--on a planet several thousand light-years from the nearest New Republic outpost. The Jedi were based even further away, on the distant planet of Yavin 4, and they were still too few in number to be able to assist in every crisis in the galaxy. Help from either the government or the Jedi, therefore, was several days away at least, and that was time she probably didn't have. Desperately, she tried to remember the nearest star systems and what, if any, assistance might be found in them.

Suddenly, she remembered that the Sessram system was only a few light-years away. That was where she had been the last time she'd found herself in a fix like this, just a few months ago. And that was where she'd unexpectedly found someone who'd helped her. No, she corrected herself, calling it "help" was selling him short. He'd saved her life, at great risk to his own.

Too bad they hadn't exactly parted on the best of terms.

She couldn't let what had happened at the end of that mission affect her judgement now. She had to trust that, whatever his feelings towards her, he'd still do the right thing, as he had the last time. Once again, he was her best hope--her only hope.

Off in one corner of the bar was a public commbox booth; the stylized icon of a star cluster indicated that it had sub-space transmission capabilities. It would be a risk communicating over an open channel, but it was a risk she would have to take.

As Kilu walked over to the commbox, a slight smile came to her lips. Risk, she thought. Axel, businessman that he was at heart, always went on about risk, especially about what he called "acceptable levels of risk" and the importance of operating within them. She supposed it was what made him a modestly successful small business operator. It didn't explain why he'd thrown caution to the wind when they'd first met, but she was well aware of the reason why he'd done that. She felt a pang of guilt as she realized she was about to take advantage of that reason once again, but pushed it away. She had no choice. She just hoped that he was still willing to take risks, huge ones, for her sake--which was a risk all of its own, of course.

She sat in the commbox. With a hum, its auditory disruption field activated around her, ensuring that the call would be private--at least inside the bar, anyway. She inserted her credit chip and then initiated a call to Axel Bergeron, captain of the space freighter Nomad. Her fingers were crossed, but Axel wouldn't be able to see that through the booth's small viewscreen.