Disclaimer: I don't own Kyle Katarn or any other copyrighted materials of Lucas Arts, Lucas Films, etc., etc. This story is pure fiction, springing from somewhere in my mind and based off the PC games and books by William Dietz.
A/N: Hello again, everyone! Shanesnest here a day later than normal but also with the continuation of my Kyle Katarn story. I so enjoyed reading the reviews and reactions everyone had to the last chapter of Part 1 and my crazy epilogue!
But dry any tears you may have cried at one ending and banish any fears of a lack of continuation. For here, my excellent friends, is the beginning of a new story. But first, let me answer the last Part 1 reviews.
Phygmalion: Yep, Mon Mothma knows a sure thing when she sees one! And in answer to your request, please check out this new chapter. You might just see a familiar name in it!! And in answer to your question, this one will follow (as closely as I can) the events of Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight
Da Unknown Reviewer: No worries man, glad to hear from ya anytime! Yeah, I had the same feelings. And thanks for all your reviews. Please enjoy this new "book".
Mach Farcon: Thanks man, glad you liked both chapters so much. And yeah, I managed to close without a cliffhanger, imagine that! As far as how their relationship will affect things, you'll see 'cause its coming.
I hope you know how much I appreciate your compliments! Hope you like the new story as well!
Tinuviel Undomiel: All right! Score for me! When I wrote that last part, I could just about imagine the reaction from you. Yeah, that whole idea came very last minute, but seemed to work well. Jan in a dress, I can't quite decided if she's happy with that or not, oh well. Hey, I always try and give my friends the best lines. 'Sides, with the all the encouragement you've given me, you deserved it! Well, plead no more, here's some of them for you!
Nerwen Aldarion: Yes! Double Score! I had a feeling that last part would get ya! And it did! As I said to Tinuviel, you deserved that part! Yeah, I based that on people I've known, so confident in one environment and completely awkward in another. No, definitely want your death on my conscience, but given your recent multiple reviews, I don't think it's gonna happen any time soon. Hope you like this one!
Gall 1485: My pleasure, it felt good giving credit to you all. Your support and reviews have made this fun for me!
Tig94: Thank you very much!
The Wineglass: I suppose you could argue that in several ways. There's a concept in theoretical physics that all possibilities of a situation are played in alternative universes, so maybe. Yeah, the whole books and parts things did make it a little confusing. I'll try and do better this time around. Yeah, this first part went way longer than I ever intended it to be! And I so agree with you about those who start off strong and then disappear or demonstrate writing skills barely above preschool level. I guess you're asking what I mean by Rise and Fall? Well, if you know the games at all, that'll give you a clue. If that doesn't help, let me know and I'll clarify it for you. Oh don't worry, I'll find a way to work you in.
Darth Demon 2: Glad you liked it. The epilogue was a little theater of the mind thing, me having a bit o' fun.
A/N: Whew! My fingers are tired. Oh well, such are the things that happen when you've got the kind of audience I do. And honestly, I wouldn't have it any other way!
Now, on to Part 2!
Nebulon-B Frigate Aspiration
Three years after Chapter 24 of Book 1
The only constant in life is change.
The man wondered where the phrase had come from. He knew it had come from his own mind, but wondered what had inspired it.
Gettin' contemplative in my old age maybe.
The man smiled at this. He was not of an advanced age, unless one considered being 22 old.
Still, he felt old sometimes. So much had happened in his life so quickly, contemplating it was nearly mind-boggling.
And today was proving to be no exception aside from the fact that he was not personally involved in events.
The communicator hanging from his belt dinged.
Grabbing the device, he brought it to his lips.
"I need a status report," said another voice.
"The last group of ships just left, Commander. They should be forming up with the others momentarily."
"All right then," the other person replied, "get back up here. We need to get things set up."
"Understood," the man said.
"Bet you wish you were going with them," said the other man teasingly.
"Oh yeah?" the man replied back with equal sarcasm, "and what makes you so sure?"
"C'mon, Kyle," Commander Thonas said, "do you really expect me to believe otherwise?"
"I might," a smiling Kyle Katarn replied.
A chuckle came from the small speaker.
"Not likely," the head tactical officer replied, "now get up here. We need to make sure the long range communications and telemetry are ready to go.
"On my way," Kyle said, sparing one last glance around the practically empty room.
A little over ten minutes ago, the space had teemed with fightercraft, X-Wings and Y-Wings, B-Wings and A-Wings. He had watched as they passed, one by one, out of the hangar, drives flaring.
I hope this works.
He moved to the hatchway, the twin doors sliding aside at his approach.
Stepping into the corridor beyond the doors, Kyle began to walk down it when he realized there was a problem.
I have no idea which way to go.
After all his time aboard the New Hope, and having gotten used to its layout, this Nebulon-B was new and fairly unfamiliar to him.
Kyle considered calling Commander Thonas back for directions, but decided against it.
He'll just make fun of me again. No way am I letting that happen.
Taking a chance, Kyle made his way up the corridor, keeping his eyes open for anything familiar.
Sure enough, here came someone in the opposite direction.
Scanning the man's uniform, Kyle spoke aloud.
The man stopped and looking at Kyle; smiled as he recognized him.
"Commander Katarn," he said, saluting.
I wish people wouldn't do that, Kyle thought, returning the salute after a moment.
"Crewman," he said, "location of Tactical?"
Kyle kept his face neutral so as not to betray any of what he was feeling.
Hopefully, he thought, this guy won't make the connection.
"Yes, sir," said the crewman, pointing with his hand, "you take a left just ahead to the turbolift and go up two decks. Tactical is only a short distance from the main bridge."
"Very good, crewman," Kyle said, "thank you."
"No problem, sir," the man said, saluting again.
Returning the salute, Kyle gratefully followed the man's directions.
Nebulon-B Frigate Aspiration
Passing through the entrance to the room, Kyle saw Commander Thonas working with two of the engineering technicians.
"Reporting for duty, sir," Kyle called.
"Well," Thonas said, looking up, "looks like you're doing better; didn't get lost this time."
Like I'd ever admit to it to you, Kyle thought.
Thonas stared at him for a moment, and then with a quick smile, spoke.
"Take your station. I need you monitoring Blue Squadron."
"Understood," Kyle said, moving to his spot.
Fortunately, the stations for Tactical on the Aspiration were very similar to those on the New Hope.
Kyle adjusted his instruments, homing in on the communication frequency for Blue Squadron.
He listened to the chatter among the pilots as they formed up.
Just then, one of the engineering technicians spoke.
"And… there! That's got it, Commander."
"Yes, sir," said Catiene Tails, "you're wired directly into the hyperspace comm network."
"And the telemetry feed from Home One is coming in perfectly," added Luntic Pandora, "you'll be able to have a constant real time data feed coming in."
"Excellent," said Commander Thonas, "well done you two. This matters more than you know."
"Anytime, Commander," said Luntic Pandora.
"We love a challenge," added Catiene Tails.
After a quick check of both systems, Thonas dismissed the technicians.
With an audible "click-hiss", the room's overhead speaker came on.
"Attention all hands," said a voice, "we are T-minus five minutes from mission start. All section leaders, report your readiness."
Thonas moved to a comm panel.
"Tactical to Bridge."
"Bridge here," said a voice, "go ahead."
"Tactical is green."
"Affirmative," the voice replied.
Closing the channel, Thonas addressed the room.
Kyle, along with the other tactical staff, turned away from his station and came to attention.
Thonas waited a brief moment before speaking.
"All right, everyone. It's nearly go time. I need each of you to do your absolute best today. We may not be going into the fight directly, but our work is no less important than those who are going. Understood? Any questions?
There were none.
"Good," Thonas said, smiling at the group, "let's get to work."
The tactical staff turned back to their consoles.
Kyle felt a slight tingling in his body, a feeling of anticipation.
This is really happening. The Rebellion is really going to do this.
He considered what was going on all around him. A few months ago, the rumor mill on the ship had begun to buzz with stories of a massive new Imperial construction project. At Mon Mothma's instruction, First Lieutenants Tinuviel Undomiel and Nerwen Aldarion, had investigated the matter.
The results of their investigation had sent shockwaves all over the Rebellion. Some didn't or wouldn't believe it, but even the most vocal doubters were silenced when the co-heads of Intelligence had received the first images via the Rebel spy network.
It seemed impossible, but in the end, no one could deny it was true.
The Empire was building a second Death Star.
In a nondescript Outer Rim sector, an otherwise forgettable planetary system quickly took center stage. Or more specifically, the fourth moon of the system, a planet called Endor.
Situated in orbit of the planet, the new Death Star seemed to loom over Endor almost like a floating corpse, particularly since it was still under construction, sections of it sticking out into space like the tendrils of some metal beast.
Further analysis revealed this new battle station was even larger than the first Death Star and its prime weapon, the planetary destroying super laser, verified to be even more powerful than the original one.
But what had caught the interest of Rebel command was the news that, in its current state, the Death Star was not fully operational. This included its weapons and drive systems along with most of its hangars.
But the real clincher had been the news that Emperor Palpatine himself would soon be coming to inspect the new Death Star.
Given its seemingly defenseless state, the senior leaders of the Rebellion had decided, after much deliberation, to launch an all out attack with the goal of destroying both the battle station and the Emperor.
Further intelligence had detected the presence of an energy shield in place around the station. This shield was being generated from a station somewhere on the surface of Endor. In a briefing broadcast all over the fleet from the flagship Home One, Kyle had listened to Mon Mothma, General Madine and Admiral Ackbar describe the plan.
A team lead by newly minted General Han Solo would head for the surface of Endor and destroy the station generating the shield surrounding the battle station. Once that was done, Rebel starfighters would fly into the Death Star and strike at its main reactor.
Wow, Kyle thought, as he listened, and they call me crazy.
At the same time, Kyle knew he would have probably made the same decision. The chance to eliminate both the station and the Emperor… it was too big an opportunity to not take an equally big risk.
And so, aside from the Aspiration and a few supply ships, every other Rebel capital ship, medium sized vessels and fightercraft had been committed to the operation.
Just then, the overhead speaker came on again, breaking into his reverie.
"Attention all hands," said a voice Kyle instantly recognized, "this is Mon Mothma. We are about to begin the mission against the second Death Star. Each of you knows the importance of what we are about to attempt. If our endeavor succeeds, we may be able to bring an end to this terrible war. The hopes and prayers of beings all over the galaxy go with you. May the Force be with you all."
Silence slowly filled the room, only the sound of the instruments breaking it. And so it was all over the fleet, each person letting Mon Mothma's words sink in.
"Attention all units," another voice interrupted, "we are two minutes from hyperspace jump. All ships; make your final checks and verify hyperspace coordinates."
Kyle smiled at hearing this one. The words themselves were of less importance than the person who spoke them.
Sounds like she's doing well, he thought.
A short distance away, on the bridge of the Aspiration, Assistant Mission Officer Jan Ors was busy verifying that the plethora of ships was ready to go.
Kyle chuckled under his breath, remembering the encounter he had had with her only a few days ago.
Arriving on the bridge, his eyes had sought out and found her, leaning over a plotting table, eyes fixed on its surface.
Kyle stepped forward until he was directly behind her.
When he cleared his throat, he did so softly, but Jan's reaction made him feel like he had shouted at her.
Visibly jumping at the sound, she whirled around, mouth open and ready to condemn whoever it was that had surprised her.
When she saw Kyle, Jan caught the angry words bubbling up from inside and swallowed them back down inside her.
Instead, she fixed a strong glare on him.
"And hello to you, Miss…"
Kyle's voice trailed off as his eyes took in Jan's clothes.
She's wearing a uniform and that insignia…
"Forgive me," he said, catching himself, "Commander Ors."
Jan's smile at him showed both her happiness and pride.
"Since when?" he asked.
"Since I was assigned here," she said, lifting an eyebrow at him, "got a problem with that?"
"No, no" he said expansively, maintaining an air of nonchalance.
Then, just loud for her to hear, he muttered, "Copycat."
"I am not!" she hissed back, glaring at him again.
"Are too," he returned.
"Am not," she growled.
"Are too plus infinity" he said and then before she could retort, he held out the datapad he was carrying.
"Latest assessment from Tactical on the telemetry network," he said loud enough that a few heads turned in their direction.
Unable to say anything derogatory without garnering unwanted attention, Jan instead displayed her strongest glare.
Kyle seemed to brush it off, a small smile on his face.
"Very well," she said, just able to keep her voice from betraying the emotions she was feeling.
"Of course, Commander," Kyle said, giving her a lazy salute, "will there be anything else?"
All right, Katarn, she thought, if that's the way you wanna play it…
"No," she answered evenly, returning his salute, "that will be all. Thank you, Mr. Katarn."
As Kyle turned to go, Jan took a stepped forward.
"I'm going to get you for this, Kyle," she whispered.
Normally, he would have smiled at such a statement. But something in the way Jan had said it, coupled with her expression…
I think I'm in trouble.
And so it was that Commander Thonas had somehow learned of his difficulties navigating the Aspiration.
Kyle knew he could never prove it was Jan who told, but he strongly suspected.
All right, he thought, fine. I'll show her. I'll learn the layout of this ship better than anyone.
Later on, he realized that that had been a fool's promise. The Nebulon B was just too different.
Just then, the voice of Admiral Ackbar came over the speakers, interrupting his thoughts.
Both operatives heard the Mon Calamari's voice as he gave orders to begin the final countdown.
In Tactical, Kyle and his compatriots turned to the master display screen as the first ship, the Corellian freighter Millenium Falcon leapt into hyperspace. It was followed a second later by a group of X-Wings, then another Nebulon-B frigate.
Less than ten seconds later, the crowded space outside the Aspiration was all but empty, the last of the Rebel fleet having successfully made it into hyperspace.
Everyone went back to their terminals, although there wasn't much to do at the moment except wait for the fleet to arrive at their destination.
An hour passed.
Lieutenant Taxus Phygmalion, who was monitoring the data coming in from the fleet, called out.
"Commander! Receiving updated telemetry. The fleet has exited hyperspace!"
"Excellent," Thonas said, matching the other's smile, "continue to monitor."
On the bridge, Jan didn't share the smile of the other bridge officers.
Not until this new Death Star is turned into floating space junk. Then I'll celebrate.
She thought briefly of Kyle and felt her lips curl in a small smile, but then forced it away.
I have to stay focused.
There was a sudden burst on the comm frequency Kyle was monitoring.
"Commander!" he called, "something's wrong! Blue Leader is reporting that the shield around the Death Star is still up!"
The blood drained from Thonas' face at hearing this. He looked to Phygmalion who nodded, confirming the report.
And if that hadn't been enough bad news, Commander Wedge Antilles, leader of Red Squadron, radioed in about the presence of the Executor along with several other Star Destroyers.
The picture was coming clear now.
It was Admiral Ackbar who said what everyone was thinking.
"It's a trap!"
With the blare of collision alarms and bursts of confused and conflicting comm traffic, the organized Rebel fleet broke up, formations in complete disarray. An attempt was made at retreat, but the fleet soon found itself swarmed by multiple groups of TIEs, fighters, Interceptors and Bombers.
At the orders of their commanders, The Rebel fighters broke formation and attacked.
Though they were in separate places, Jan and Kyle both had the same thought.
What do we do now?
Then had come the call from General Calrissian aboard the Millenium Falcon that no one was expecting.
"Commander," said another of the crew monitoring comm traffic, "I think General Calrissian just told Admiral Ackbar to engage the Star Destroyers.
Kyle looked to Thonas, who wore an expression of disbelief.
But as Phygmalion relayed additional information and more comm traffic came in, it was clear that the Rebel Fleet was attempting to make a stand.
And for a time it seemed it might work.
But then had come the Empire's trump card.
And when the moment happened, it was so unexpected that it took all of Tactical a full minute to sort out what had happened through the confused crush of comm traffic and telemetry readings.
"Commander!" called Phygmalion, "cruiser Liberty has been hit! She… she's gone."
"How?" Thonas asked.
"I'm not sure," the officer said, confused expression mirroring his words, "Sir, it seems impossible, but our readings… our readings indicate it was fired on by the Death Star."
"That can't be!" Thonas exclaimed, "It's not operational, or… is it?"
Confirmation of the Death Star's functional superlaser came after another Rebel cruiser was struck by it.
The magnitude of the trap the Empire had set was impressed on everyone. Sandwiched between Star Destroyers and an operational Death Star, it seemed that all was lost for the Rebels.
On the bridge, Jan was trying to handle another blizzard of information coming in from the fleet. A score of fightercraft had been destroyed and the remaining ones were outnumbered two to one by the TIEs.
This can't be, she thought, this just can't be. Everything was in place, the intelligence had been verified.
But as she listened to the incoming traffic, Jan slowly began to realize that she, along with so many others, had been deceived.
Deceived by the Empire.
Kyle was practically pessimistic about the situation.
With the Star Destroyers blocking the fleets' escape and the Death Star operational… I don't see how we can win.
He thought of his friends aboard the New Hope, fearing he would never see them again.
But, as night gives way to day; so did the course of events in the battle change and quite suddenly.
"Commander," called Phygmalion, "a new report from Home One! The Death Star shield is down!"
Thonas turned to Kyle.
It took less than a minute.
"Commander," Kyle said, smiling, "it's confirmed! The shield is down and General Calrissian is leading all remaining fighters into the Death Star!"
"All right, all right," Thonas said, calming himself, "keep monitoring people. The battle isn't won yet."
"Yes, sir," came the reply.
On the bridge, Jan felt a rush of hope, but she tempered it.
This is still far from over.
And while she did have a point, it became clear within the next ten minutes that the tide of battle had clearly switched to the Rebels. Jubilation swept the Aspiration when Phygmalion confirmed a report that Darth Vader's flagship, the Super Star Destroyer Executor, was dealt a fatal blow.
"It's confirmed, sir," Phygmalion continued, "The Executor suddenly dropped out of space and crashed nose first into the Death Star!"
Both Jan and Kyle listened to the many triumphant calls from ships all over the Rebel Fleet.
Soon after, Commander Antilles reported in that the Death Star's main reactor had been hit.
Admiral Ackbar quickly ordered the fleet to move away from the Death Star.
And, with seemingly no time left, the Millenium Falcon was reported as safely escaping from the battle station.
Kyle heard the communication and was about to relay it when the overhead speaker came on.
"Attention all hands!" Jan's voice called, "we have received confirmation from the fleet that the Death Star has been destroyed! Repeat, the Death Star has been destroyed!"
Any semblance of order vanished as the staff in Tactical cried out in joy, some pumping their fists. All over the Aspiration, duties and obligations were momentarily forgotten as all celebrated the great victory.
By the time the Aspiration and the other ships left behind at Sullust had rendezvoused with the rest of the fleet, the victory party was in full swing.
Celebrations went on for days, until Rebel leadership gently suggested that it was time for everyone to get back to work.
There was also the cost of the battle to count. Three line cruisers had been lost and many, many fighters.
But the news that hit Jan and Kyle the hardest was the loss of the New Hope. They had both called the cruiser home for a long time and now it was gone.
The only mitigating factor had been that all but five crew members had survived the destruction of the ship. Among them were Tinuviel and Nerwen, Chief Brolly and his staff and as Kyle discovered, everyone that had been on his team to create the plan to rescue Jan from General Mohc.
So it was that the two newest heroes of the Rebellion, along with a score of others, were left without a ship. In time, a new posting was chosen. But the solution was not one very many were happy about.
"This is something only a bureaucrat could have come up with," Kyle said when he had heard the news.
Jan had agreed and protested mightily when she learned of it. But no matter what either one of them said, the die had been cast.
With the destruction of the Super Star Destroyer Executor, some of the Star Destroyers had retreated while others had been destroyed.
To the surprise of Senior Rebel Command, a few Star Destroyer captains had chosen to surrender their ships. And so it was that these vessels, once objects of hatred and fear, became symbols of hope and justice.
The new billet of the majority of the New Hope's crew was one of these captured Star Destroyers. Formerly called Tormentor, the ship was now under the command of an Elomin named Fundar Xoit and had been designated as Mon Mothma's flagship
And as the newcomers discovered upon arriving in the hangar bay, the vessel had been renamed.
"Welcome to the Star Destroyer Intrepid" a porter droid said to Jan and Kyle as they stepped out of a shuttle.
It was a moment of supreme irony when it asked them if they needed helped finding their quarters.
Unable to contain himself, Kyle laughed, shaking his head.
"No need," he said, looking over at Jan, "I know the way."
She wasn't smiling.
"Something funny, Katarn?" she challenged.
"Yes," he said, not hiding his smile, "being assigned here."
She ignored the comment.
"Of all the ships in the fleet…"
"It's pretty ironic when you think about it, "Kyle said, up till now, all we've ever done is try to escape from ships like this, and now we're assigned to one."
Jan moved closer.
"Are you going to be okay?" she asked, looking at him, "I know this can't be easy for you."
"No… it's not. But this ship isn't the Empires' any more. It's part of the Alliance Fleet."
"True," Jan replied.
"And I'm just going to keep telling myself that till I actually believe it."
He tried to smile.
Taking a quick look around, Jan pulled him into a shadow created by the shuttle.
"Hey… Jan. What the…!" he protested.
Taking another look around, Jan spoke.
"Look at me, Katarn."
Kyle did so, finding her eyes looking directly into his.
"Are you going to be okay? If not, we'll request assignment to another ship."
Kyle briefly considered it, then shook his head.
"No, "he said, "Let's stay. It won't be easy at first. But I'll get used to it."
"Are you sure?"
He smiled at her and before she could react, moved his face forward quickly and brushed her lips with his.
"Yes, I am Jan," he said, confidence in his voice, "thanks for caring."
Feeling a bit embarrassed at Kyle's sudden action, Jan's cheeks reddened.
"Someone has to," she said, "now let's get out of here before someone sees us."
While Kyle couldn't have cared less about that, he and Jan had talked about this.
It had been a few days after the dance and the kiss afterward.
"But why don't you want anyone to know?"
Jan's expression wavered slightly. She was dead set on this but didn't want to be mean to him.
"Kyle, we're in the middle of a war. I don't think a shipboard romance is going to be looked upon well."
He dismissed that excuse right away.
"Jan, we wouldn't be the first or only couple in the Alliance. What about those Zabrak aboard the Justice, or the other couple on Alliance One?"
"Neither of them report directly to Mon Mothma, Kyle. We do. And besides, given the nature of our missions, don't you think she'd worry that our feelings for each other would get in the way of us doing our jobs well?"
"If she thinks that," he countered, "Then she doesn't know us."
"I know that," Jan said, "but we can't take the risk. Not now."
Realizing that fighting her on this was already a lost battle, Kyle relented.
"I don't agree with you Jan. But I'll go along… for now. Good enough?"
She answered by kissing him.
"Wow" Kyle said when their lips parted, "if I'd know that was going to happen, I would have said yes a lot sooner."
She raised an eyebrow at him.
And so now, Kyle did his part, waiting as Jan moved out of the shadow before following her a few seconds later.
She looked around the vast hangar bay once again.
"I don't know if I'll ever be comfortable here."
Kyle suddenly moved to her side, right arm across her shoulders. With his left, he gestured towards the ceiling.
"Fear not, Miss Ors," he said loudly, looking and acting like a pulp hero in a holo drama, "As your sworn protector, I promise to save you from all the bugaboos out there."
Taken in for a moment, Jan stared quizzically at Kyle's face.
"How does that sound?" he said, grinning at her.
Jan's dreamy expression hardened into a frown.
"You've got three seconds to let go, Katarn."
Kyle immediately released her.
Jan moved forward, intent on leaving him behind. But it occurred to her that she no idea how to get to her quarters.
She turned to look at Kyle, who was purposely not looking at her, even as he was fighting not to laugh at her.
I hate it when he does that.
"Get over here and show me the way, Katarn."
"Right away," he said, smiling broadly.
Catching up to her, Kyle started walking, Jan right with him.
A sidewise glance at him infuriated her all the more. He was coughing, try not to laugh.
"It's not funny, Katarn," she said firmly.
"Says you," he returned.
She fixed a glare on him, but it seemed to have little effect.
They walked in silence for a time.
Passing through a hatch, the pair faced one of the Intrepid's main corridors.
I hope we're not walking the rest of the way, Jan thought.
She turned to him.
Kyle was standing by a repulsor scooter.
"It'll be faster this way," he said, indicating the repulsor-equipped device.
Without a word, she got on the scooter with him, remaining silent as Kyle started the scooter and put it in motion.
Jan looked around as they traveled, feeling increasingly uncomfortable.
Suddenly, she felt a slight pressure on her left hand.
She looked down and saw Kyle's right hand hovering close.
Looking up, she saw him earnestly looking at her, the grin from before replaced with a serious expression.
She responded by reaching out with her left hand and taking his.
He smiled at her.
"It'll be okay," he said.
Jan looked away, feeling suddenly embarrassed.
They traveled a bit longer.
"Thank you," she said quietly, just loud enough for him to hear.
"Anytime, partner," he replied.
Some Random Star System
Who Knows Where
Unbeknownst to Kyle or Jan, but knownst to us, events were taking shape, events that would soon have a direct impact in their lives.
And when all was said and done, lives, fates and fortunes would be changed forever.
A small, blue-orange world was the only attraction of any kind in this forgotten system. Several million miles away, a much smaller planetoid was visible.
This moon, colored in varying shades o f gray, seemed to have a whitish halo about it, reflecting light from the system's K-type star.
With no habitable worlds and little in the way of mineral or other resources, this star system was normally quiet and still.
In an instant, however, the quiet and stillness was shattered.
A CR90 Corellian Corvette slid over the moon, tumbling end over end uncontrollably, the middle part of the ship enveloped in an orange-white corona of explosion and flame.
A moment later, the moon was eclipsed in shadow as a dagger-like prow appeared.
As it flared out, growing wider and longer, the object one of the Empire's Star Destroyers.
But where Star Destroyers were a whitish-gray, this ship was so dark it nearly blended into the background of space.
It was also several hundred meters longer, so much so that as the full ship came into view, its dimensions seemed positively ridiculous.
The most notable part of the vessel was it bridge, or lack thereof. Star Destroyers boasted a tall bridge that loomed over the rest of the ship and was capped by the massive domes of the shield generators.
This ship's bridge, however, was squat and squarish, the only adornment a small flaring out of the square on the back.
It possessed no name or designation. Its construction having been financed through many secret funds and shell companies, all designed to disguise the identity of its owner.
This ship did not belong to the Empire either. And no one outside a very small circle of individuals even knew of its existence.
It was a dark ship, owned by an equally dark man whose dark presence pervaded the entire vessel.
And at this moment, on that squat, squarish bridge, events were transpiring.
Former Jedi Qu Rahn watched helplessly as the body of the captain of the corvette that had been destroyed fell to the deck, eyes open but seeing nothing.
Had it been only 36 hours ago that those same eyes had been full of life? The corvette had arrived most unexpectedly on the planet Rahn now called home, and had intended to spend the rest of his days on. The captain and some of his crew had arrived by shuttle just outside Rahn's hut.
The knock on the door had surprised the old Jedi. It was early evening and aside from Geiji, who should have been home by now, Rahn wasn't expecting visitors.
As he approached the door, he felt a prickle in his mind, a sense of something about to happen.
When he opened the door, their stood the corvette captain, wearing a non-descript red jumpsuit. The three crew members were similarly attired in gray jumpsuits.
"Good evening," Rahn had said cordially.
"Are you Qu Rahn?"
"I'm Captain Byost Renax and there are some of my men."
Rahn opened the door wider, sensing the man had something important to tell him.
"Please, Captain, come in, your crew as well. May I offer you something to drink?"
"No thank you, Master Rahn."
"Please," the old Jedi said, "just call me Rahn."
Taking seats, the three crewmen watched silently as the captain leaned forward and spoke.
"Mas… Rahn, this may sound unusual. But I've been sent on a mission to retrieve you."
"Oh?" said Rahn, genuinely surprised, "by whom?"
"Jedi Master Luke Skywalker."
Rahn took a moment to absorb that. News was hard to get out this way, but when the Empire had fallen, the shockwaves had radiated all across the galaxy, particularly regarding the deaths of the Emperor and Darth Vader. He had also heard about Skywalker and learned he was a Jedi. Hearing the old title had warmed Rahn's heart.
After the great purge during the fall of the Old Republic, it seemed as if the Jedi would disappear from the face of the universe. But now…
"And what exactly does Jedi Master Luke Skywalker wish of me?"
Captain Renax responded by removing an object from one of the jumpsuit's pockets.
"Perhaps you should hear it directly from him."
Rahn watched as the captain activated the device. A holo field coalesced, displaying a ¼ size version of Luke Skywalker.
Rahn studied the young man, adorned completely in black, blond haired and blue-eyed. And there, at his hip, hung the unmistakable metal shaft of a lightsaber.
In the image, Skywalker bowed.
"Greetings to you, Jedi Master Qu Rahn, I am Luke Skywalker, a Jedi like yourself. I recently learned of your existence through a Jedi Holocron.
A holocron? Rahn thought, do those devices still exist? And where did Skywalker find one?
"There are not many Jedi in the galaxy, Master Rahn. And many who are still hide even today. I am in the process of creating an academy of sorts, a place for Jedi to gather, learn and teach new Jedi in the ways of the Force. I would like your advice and counsel in creating this place and possibly serving as an instructor. If you are agreeable to this, Captain Renax has orders to transport you to Coruscant, where I will be waiting. I look forward to meeting you, Master Rahn. May the Force be with you."
And with that, the message ended; the hologram fading.
"So that's it," said Captain Renax, "the only thing I need now is your reply."
Rahn felt torn, feelings of exhilaration and sadness running through him. Listening to Skywalker's message, he had sensed the sincerity, the honesty and some naiveté as well. The idea of being with other Jedi again was an exciting prospect.
But then, he considered his life here, the people he knew and cared for. Could he leave them? And what of this Skywalker? Was he really a Jedi, or perhaps a Sith in disguise?
He wouldn't be the first, Rahn thought.
He was silent for a long time, considering what to do, weighing the options and searching the Force for an answer.
But, the Force was mysteriously silent on this.
Ultimately, he decided for the moment not to decide.
"Captain, while I appreciate the time and effort it took you in coming here, I wonder if I might ask your indulgence in this matter."
"Sir," Renax said, confused.
"I would like to sleep on this and let you know tomorrow morning."
"Oh!" Renax exclaimed, smiling, "of course. A few hours one way or another won't make that much of a difference."
Rahn inclined his head.
"Thank you, Captain."
"No trouble at all… Rahn. My crew and I will return to our ship for now and return tomorrow morning."
"That would be fine.
Rising from their seats, Renax and his crew shuffled outside and back to their shuttle.
Rahn listened as the repulsors lifted it into the air before being masked by the sound of the engines, which gradually faded as the shuttle headed back into space.
Knowing he wouldn't sleep, Rahn instead sat down on the floor of his hut and with some effort, crossed his legs. Then, closing his eyes and focusing on his breathing, he entered a meditative trance, looking deeper into himself and into the Force for an answer to his dilemma.
By mid-morning the next day and the return of Captain Renax, he had decided. It was hard to say goodbye to Geiji and his family. The young man tried very hard not to cry. But as the old Jedi approached him for a final word, the dam inside burst and Geiji had hurled himself forward, hugging Rahn tightly as his tears came.
The old Jedi spoke words of comfort to him, encouraging Geiji to continue studying and learning about the Force.
"All my possessions are now yours, Geiji. Use them well and became the man I know you can be."
Still sniffling, the boy drew himself up.
"I will, Master," he said, "I will. I swear it."
Then, with his own emotions threatening to surge out of control, Rahn had turned away and boarded the shuttle, purposely not looking outside as it ascended.
Captain Renax had the ship break orbit and set course for Coruscant immediately. But after nearly a day in hyperspace, the corvette had been roughly yanked out of it.
And before it lay the black shape of the ship Rahn stood on now. He and the captain had been taken prisoner by a young man in a black and gray outfit, accompanied by a massively built and ugly alien who had found every opportunity to push them on the way over from the corvette.
And then, to the horror of both men, the black ship fired on the corvette, turbolasers cutting deep, terrible rents in the armor until the vessel had tumbled away, on fire.
Rahn could only imagine the crew's fate, trapped aboard their dying ship. In comparison, the captain had only suffered a short time.
And now, as a platform descended from an upper deck, Rahn began to realize that his fate too, was sealed.
Standing on the platform were two humans and a very ugly, pale skinned, red-eyed Twilek, sporting a leather shoulder sash across its upper body. On its pale face was a wide smile, as if to suggest happiness when it really reflected the creatures' madness.
Though one of the humans wore a cloak, Rahn could see enough to tell the figure there was female. Even from a distance, her piercing ice blue eyes were visible against her pale skin. She looked coolly at him.
But the figure next to her was all too familiar to Rahn.
A long time ago, Jerec had been a simple archaeologist, later trained as a Jedi by the famed Jedi archaeologist, Jocasta Nu. However, Jerec rejected the teaching of the Light Side of the Force and delved deeply into records of the Sith. His research and study had perverted hi s sense of right and wrong as well as dark and light.
And then, when Order 66 had seen thousands of Jedi killed, a group of Dark Side adepts had taken Jerec in, their teachings leading him to become a powerful Dark Jedi. And where some may have found the lack of eyes to see a handicap, Jerec had instead used his "blindness" as a gateway to delve more deeply into the Dark Side to a point he could actually "see" through the Force.
When the news of Palpatine's death and the Empire's fall had reached him, Rahn had fervently hoped that so too had fallen the Dark Jedi.
But now, with Jerec standing before him, he saw that his hope was no more than a dream.
Jerec stepped forward, his black robes with the strange symbols emblazoned on the lapel and red shoulder patches silently moving with him.
Rahn had not the slightest doubt what was going to happen. And as such, he strongly wished to have it over and done.
Behind and to his sides, arranged in a rough semi circle were four more beings.
On the immediate right was the young man who had come onto the corvette. He stood silently, watching things with a distracted air.
Not so with creature standing directly behind him. With a reptilian face not unlike a Transdoshan, but wider and heavier, this being seemed positively charged with energy; waiting for the slightest slip up from Rahn to have a reason to strike.
The two beings to his left also seemed charged with energy, but it was under control.
The larger of the two was a huge being almost two meters taller than Rahn. It sported a helmet-faceplate combination that obscured most of its features, except for a wide, flat nose and two milky eyes.
And then there was the other one. Looking almost a little bit like Yoda, but with a flattened head, an almost porcine nose and evil-looking expression, the second creature spent most of its time perched on the larger one's shoulders, eyes constantly moving about, as if looking for the slightest sign of trouble.
Suddenly, Rahn felt himself pushed from behind.
And rather than resist, he allowed the figure behind him to push him onto his knees on the floor.
Focusing on the former Imperial Inquisitor, Rahn spoke.
"Why hesitate? Strike me down."
To his surprise, Jerec smiled; a smile that on anyone else would have looked kind.
In a quick motion, the Dark Jedi had knelt beside him his mouth near Rahn's right ear.
"In time Rahn," Jerec said," his voice like silk, but with a slight edge to it, "but first there is something I need from you."
And with another quick motion, Jerec rose back to his feet.
Disgusted at the idea of assisting the Dark Jedi, Rahn scoffed at it.
But then, as Jerec finished rising to his feet, the smile faded from his face and reformed itself into a mask of concentration.
Rahn suddenly felt icy fingers probing at his mind, digging, turning, twisting, seeking something, a specific target.
He tried to fight it, to erect mental blocks against the intrusion, but Jerec put more energy behind his mental assault and broke down wall after wall. Memories and images streamed across Rahn's mind as Jerec poked his "nose" into every little crevice.
And then they both saw it.
Jerec inhaled suddenly and Rahn felt the mental assault end.
"Morgan Katarn!" Jerec said loudly.
Though he didn't show it, Rahn felt a measure of defeat at not being able to hide this from Jerec.
The Dark Jedi licked his lips.
"So," he said; his voice silky again, "this dead man holds the secret of the valley's location. How interesting."
The smile was back and Rahn fought not to react to it.
Jerec suddenly knelt next to him again.
"I have no more use for you, old man."
Then, to the surprise of everyone standing around, particularly Rahn himself, Jerec got up, turned and strode away.
What is he doing? Rahn thought.
On the heels of that thought came a desperate impulse, a thought of possible escape.
Looking to his right, Rahn saw the lightsaber clipped to belt of the young man in gray and black.
He concentrated and the cylinder flew towards him.
Grasping it, Rahn pushed up and forward onto his feet, igniting the blade. A bright yellow beam issued from the pommel, flaring brightly in the darkened space.
Swinging the blade, Rahn attempted to strike, but the young man's reflexes were sharp and he jumped away from the energy blade.
From the platform in front of him, he heard the Twilek call something in its language. Suddenly, twin blue blades lit up as it displayed a pair of lightsabers.
Rahn attempted to strike at the alien, but it also dodged
Then, with a deep, sharp snap-hiss, as possibly the largest lightsaber blade Rahn had ever seen materialized into existence.
The large being to his left swung the huge shaft of energy effortlessly.
Rahn caught the blow on his own blade, feeling the shock of the impact ripple across his arms. He could feel the strength of the large being through the contact.
But with a quick slide of his blade underneath the others, Rahn struck back only to be blocked himself.
Pushing away, Rahn turned a partial circle away from the large being.
The harsh guttural sound reached the old Jedi's ears even as he felt brief resistance to the lightsaber blade.
Looking, he could see that his circle had turned him towards the reptilian that had been behind him.
The turn had sent the lightsaber slicing into the alien's middle, neatly slicing in half, the top portion of its body falling to the deck even as a screamed issued from its mouth.
Rahn felt a moment of brief satisfaction at this, but it soon vanished as the woman who had stood next to Jerec also brandished a lightsaber, its blue blade in contrast to the yellow one Rahn carried.
Taking the initiative, Rahn charged and slashed at her, but she successfully dodged his attack.
And as she did, Rahn saw his chance.
There ahead of him, completely unprotected, stood Jerec.
This is it!
With a cry, he ran at the Dark Jedi, brandishing the saber.
But Jerec, seeming to sense the attack coming, turned with a dancer's grace and poise despite his flowing robes.
Out came his lightsaber, blood red the color of the blade.
There was a crash of energy against energy as Rahn passed by Jerec, their lightsabers briefly meeting.
Both men turned to face each other.
But even as Rahn prepared his next attack, Jerec raised his right hand in a simple motion. Energy gathered on the gloved palm and in a flash, struck out and surrounded Rahn.
The old Jedi felt as if every ounce of his strength had been ripped away. His mind was suddenly a jumble of confusion, keeping him from thinking, much less acting.
The hand carrying the lightsaber fell to his side and then to the ground as he dropped it.
So tired, Rahn thought.
Falling onto his knees once again, the old Jedi's eyes registered the form of Jerec.
The Dark Jedi was laughing, an evil cackle reminiscent of the Emperor.
Advancing towards his helpless foe, Jerec gave a yell of his own as his lightsaber slid under Rahn's chin and passed through his neck.
A moment later, it was over as the severed head of Qu Rahn fell to the deck, followed by the decapitated body.
"Fool," Jerec said, standing over it, "you never had a chance. And now the Valley of the Jedi shall be mine."
He turned to the youngest of his Dark Jedi.
"Dispose of this."
"Yes Master, but what of Maw?"
"He still lives?" Jerec asked.
"Yes, Master," the young man answered, "but only barely."
Jerec walked over to the severed body of the Nikhto and glanced down. Blood had collected all over the deck and would seem to be a sure sign that the one whom the blood belonged to could not still be living.
But then he saw Maw, saw his face, felt the Dark Side radiating from his mind, encompassing the top half of his body.
"Sariss," he called.
"Yes Master," answered the woman in the black cloak.
"Have him brought down to the medical bay and see what the droids can do with him."
"But Master," Sariss began, "surely Maw is…"
"Ssshhh," Jerec said, holding a finger to lips that had arcane tattoos at the edges, "do not merely look with the eyes, Sariss. Stretch out with your feelings and sense."
He watched as the young woman complied, her eyes closing.
A moment later, they snapped open.
"Master! I… Is it possible?"
"Perhaps," Jerec said.
Looking down, he spoke to Maw.
"The rest shall be up to you. I sense the pain, the anger within you. Use it. Use it to make yourself more powerful than ever."
Unable to speak, the Nikhto managed a brief nod.
"Then we shall proceed. Sariss?"
"Yes Master," the young woman said.
She looked to the large being.
"You, take Maw down to Medical."
"And why should we?" said the smaller alien, perched on the larger one's shoulder.
Sariss responded by executing a Force Push, sending the small being tumbling off the other's shoulder and to the ground.
The large being responded by reaching down and picking the other up; placing him back on his shoulder.
"Unless you wish more of the same," Sariss said, "obey my orders."
Though neither being said anything, the large one came forward and picked up the two halves of Maw's body.
Turning to where the turbolift doors were, it left.
"Well done, Sariss," Jerec said.
"Yes, Master," she said, allowing herself a brief smile.
Rebel Star Destroyer Intrepid
Five Months Later
In the midst of his lunch, Kyle didn't see the person coming until he heard a throat clearing sound nearby.
Looking up, he saw Jan standing on the opposite side of the table.
She had a neutral expression on her face, which immediately made Kyle wonder what he had done wrong this time.
But a quick mental search of his day so far revealed no infractions. The two of them had had breakfast with some of the other crew earlier and the table conversation had been normal.
Well, let's see what I can find out.
"Hi Jan," he said cordially, "How's it going today? Had lunch yet?"
"Fine, and just a short bit ago," she replied, expression not changing, "there's something we need to discuss."
Oh man, not the D-word.
"Oh-kay," he said hesitantly, "anything wrong?"
"No," she said, her lip twitching, "it's just that…"
Her lip twitched.
"Oh, blast," she said, "I can't hold this face anymore."
A smile replaced the neutral expression. Jan took a seat opposite and extended her right hand, which had been behind her back.
She was holding something.
"Happy Birthday." she said, offering it to Kyle.
Nonplussed at the sudden change, Kyle said nothing.
"Well, are you gonna take it or not?" she asked.
"Oh! Right!" he stammered, "right, thank you. "
He accepted the item from her, turned it over in his hands.
Jan looked expectantly at him.
"Um… not to be rude or anything, Jan," he said, "but what is it?"
The smile disappeared.
"There's a switch on it, Katarn. Try it."
Locating it, he flipped the switch.
A holographic field appeared in the middle of the device, nearly encompassing its entire circumference.
Kyle's mouth dropped open.
Inside the holographic field was an image of him from some time ago and next to him…
"Father," he whispered.
Indeed, the wizened face of Morgan Katarn, wearing his weather beaten farmers' outfit was there, looking at his son, a smile on his face.
The elder Katarn spoke.
"I just want you to know, son," he said, "while you're at the Academy, how proud I am of you. What a fine man you've become. I only wish your mother was here to see you. But I know she watches over you and is as proud as I am. After she died, your upbringing and welfare were all that I truly cared about."
The holographic field shimmered for a moment, and then faded away.
Kyle stared wordlessly at the device for several minutes. The message had brought back a forgotten memory. The day before he had left for the Imperial Academy, his father had sat him down and talked to him for a long while. At the time, Kyle had no idea his father had been recording it.
It feels like an eternity since I last saw his face.
His heart thumped painfully and he felt strong emotion rise within him.
Sitting opposite him, Jan waited, trying to be patient but wondering what Kyle thought of her gift.
Finally, she could wait no more.
His eyes moved to look at her, and she could see the emotion in them.
"Where…?" he faltered, "how….?"
"At the last meeting with the black marketeers," she said, "this weird droid named 8t88 was offering a number of 'artifacts' as he called them. When I examined this one... well, it wasn't hard deciding."
Kyle's eyes were swimming with unshed tears.
"Jan," he said, working hard to get the words out, "I… this… what it means…"
She reached out and took his other hand, squeezing it tightly.
"You're welcome," she said, smiling at him. She had been worried what seeing the images would do to Kyle. But looking at him now, she knew without a doubt she had done the right thing.
Gently releasing Kyle's hand, she stood up.
"Wait a minute," he said, "How did you know today was my birthday?"
"Your friends in Intelligence clued me in about a month ago."
"Tinuviel and Nerwen," he said.
"Well I guess I shouldn't be surprised. There's not too much those two can't figure out when they set their minds to it."
"I agree," Jan replied, "and not to be mean or anything Kyle, but better you than me."
He raised both eyebrows at her.
"Oh, is that right? Well, maybe I'll need to have a discussion with them about a certain someone."
Jan didn't bat an eyelash.
"You sure you wanna do that?" she asked, her look saying what her words didn't.
Kyle stared at her for a moment, and then shook his head.
"Probably not," he said.
"I almost forgot," Jan said suddenly, "the two of them, Wexter and some others are planning a party for you later today, so make sure to act surprised."
Kyle took a moment to comprehend this.
"Um Jan?" he asked, "Isn't the idea of a surprise party to keep it secret?"
"Usually," she said, "that's why I told you to act surprised."
In a flash, Kyle realized what Jan had done for him.
"Thanks partner," he said warmly, "it's good to know you have my back like that."
She responded by smiling at him and squeezing his hand affectionately.
Then, with a glance at her chronometer, Jan stood up.
"I have to go on duty soon, "she said, "So I'll see you later. And Happy Birthday, Kyle."
"Thank you, Jan," he said, holding the holo emitter in both hands, "this is one I'm not likely to forget."
With one last smile directed at him, Jan left the mess hall. For the rest of the day, she had to consciously keep herself from smiling too much. It was hard as every time she thought had things under control, Kyle's smiling face would appear in her mind.
For his part of things, Kyle stayed in the mess hall a while longer, looking at the holo emitter and the message it contained. In time, he left the room and went to his quarters where he played the message once again, and this time let the emotions welling inside him come forth.
Later on, when a call from Nerwen prompted him to come to a nondescript room, he was somewhat surprised at the party they had put together. Many familiar faces were there, including his old friend Caston Droum, who had mixed up a special elixir for the occasion. The only problem it was so strong that one glass was enough to make the imbiber feel quite lightheaded.
But all in all, Kyle found the whole event a delightful way to celebrate the beginning of his 23rd year.
However, even in the midst of celebration and good times, a change was coming, events that would completely reshape Kyle's view of his world and of himself, not to mention Jan.
For what neither of them knew, what neither of them could know was that the holo device Jan had presented to him earlier had more to it than met the eye. Inside the circuitry was one additional component, a small, but powerful transmitter.
And on a ship somewhere in space, a droid had received the signal.
Excellent, it thought, with the holo emitter is now in Kyle Katarn's hands, I can proceed to the next phase of the plan.
Though he had given no sign, the droid had recognized Jan Ors at the meeting with the Rebels. And so, among the supplies that been sold to them, it had made sure the holo emitter was part of the deal, including enough information about the device to allow the woman to figure what it was and who it was for.
The droid inspected another item, different from the holo emitter, but no less important.
Once I contact Katarn directly and show him this, setting up the meeting should be quite easy. Then perhaps I can find out what is so important about this human.
So what'cha think? Looking forward to comments and reviews!