Preamble: THE DARTH SIDE darths on.
THE DARTH SIDE
by Cheeseburger Brown
PART I, Chapter 9 - Yavin a Good Time?
Insane day! Ship to ship combat with Rebel scum. Death Star fall down go boom.
Mood: vexed and perplexed.
Admiral Motti has eaten his words so far as the invulnerability of our planet-smashing moon-sized battle-station goes. He ate his words as his head turned to a fine mist, carried away in the massive thermonuclear concussion that shattered the Death Star and killed everyone aboard.
I was in my TIE fighter at the time, fighting to regain control as I spun off into space after being ambushed by the blasted Millennium Falcon as I buzzed the surface of the Death Star picking off Rebel X-wings. I had been hot on the trail of one particular fighter, the pilot amazingly strong with the Force...
As I drew nearer I saw that lo and behold, the astromech droid embedded behind the cockpit was none other than R2-D2 himself. I took him out with my cannons, feeling the brief panic of the pilot and drawing strength from it. I bore down on his stern as he swung back and forth across the trench, dodging just ahead of my bolts with a power that was more than intuition.
I realized: he is gifted!
The Force blazed about the X-wing in a dance of glory. The pilot regained his focus and drove on, pulling away from my fighter and charging his torpedoes. I was lost in the dazzle when the Corellian freighter swooped out of from sunward and blindsided my escort, sending me careening away into space just moments before the battle-station detonated.
I found myself in orbit around Yavin IV, long ago a world of Sith culture but now an overgrown jungle apparently infested by the lice of the Rebellion. I watched their surviving fighters descend into the atmosphere, leaving burning trails in their wake.
The coded communications signal flashed. It was Commodore Ozzel aboard the Scimitar. "Lord Vader, are you unhurt?"
"Do not concern yourself with me, Commodore. What is the current position of the fleet?"
"We have are jumping to hyperspace bound for the Yavin System, my Lord, and are making for your position. We are conducting high resolution scans now, to determine your exact co-ordinates."
"The Rebel base is on the fourth moon. Bring Executor into orbit -- alert General Ghent to prepare for ground assault!"
"Sir -- yes sir!"
For fifteen hours I hung in orbit around the green marble of Yavin IV. The TIE fighter's life support systems failed. It became cold but my own life support system increased heat to compensate. My every breath froze into a crystalline cloud as I exhaled, long, multi-spined freefall icicles growing from my mask.
At long last I spotted the massive spear of Executor looming over me flanked by a flotilla of StarDestroyers. A Tyderian shuttle dropped out of the belly of Scimitar and moved toward me even as the great bays of Executor opened to release General Ghent's drop-ships accompanied by a swarm of TIE fighters.
I fired the hatch and kicked myself out into space, grabbing the edges of the shuttle's airlock as I flew past, swinging myself around and then bracing against the hull. I knocked on the door and was admitted. After the lock cycled I stepped up to the cockpit. "I'll return you to the bridge immediately," promised the pilot.
"No. Take me down to the surface. Take me to the battle," I commanded, strapping myself in.
The pilot nodded and the shuttle's nose dropped to point at the jungle continents below, the air burning across our prow as we cut the atmosphere. Within moments we were speeding over the trees, approaching the clearing around the ruined Sith temples where Ghent's ATATs were already marching. "I don't know where to land," said the pilot.
"Do you see that flurry of laserblasts?" I asked.
"Yes, my Lord."
"Put me down right there."
The colour drained from his face but he did as he was ordered, swinging the shuttle down low in the munitions-shadow created by one of the walkers. I vaulted from the hatch and hit the ground running, my lightsabre already ignited in my hand, casting a red glow across the grass.
The plains shook with the mighty footfalls of the walkers behind me, and shuddered from the blasts of their cannons as the front lines of the Rebel defense were smashed asunder. I never slackened in my pace as I sprinted across the first series of foxholes, decapitating the terrified soldiers as I passed.
I landed on a command platform and with one pinwheeling flip sliced every officer cleanly in two, my lightsabre humming and singing.
I checked behind me: the walkers were advancing and a line of ground troops were marching double-time toward my position. Platoons were being picked off by eruptions from two stationary ion cannons at the front of the temple, so I made my priority dodging their fire as I charged into the stone mezzanine and struck down every Rebel I saw, deflecting their blaster shots to kill those fleeing to the higher balconies.
I dashed after them and found myself rounding a corner into an ambush, a wall of insurgents positioned behind blocks of rubble and targeting me all at once. I leapt backward and turned in air, landing in a rocky niche like a bat. By the time they had tracked me and fired again I had run along the wall and dropped down behind them. The two closest to me had their tracheas crushed as I swept my sabre behind my back to lop the hands off two others. I pushed past them as they screamed, and ran down the corridor they defended. I glanced behind me and saw the rest of them fall under an avalanche of white-armoured stormtroopers.
I emerged into a hangar, where the last of the Rebels were hastily piling into their ships and firing their afterburners. I jumped on the wing of one fighter as it hovered toward the open air, smashing the cockpit canopy with my fist and crushing the pilot's skull in my hand. He slumped over his controls and the X-wing veered into the wall, its nose folding with a screech of rent metal.
I jumped down and spun around, looking for my next target. That's when a laser bolt flashed out of the shadows and hit me squarely in my left knee, tearing apart the circuitry there with a pop of sparks. I hit the ground hard.
I saw my attacker dash across the hangar and jump into the last X-wing, and I felt the Force ripple around him like a stone in a stream. I tried to stand but fell again. The fighter lifted off the floor and swooped away, its pink thrusters glowing fiercely as it accelerated into the sky, dodging blasts from the walkers.
Silence descended, interrupted only by the occasional faint explosion from outside. I dragged myself over to one of the ruined fighters and pried a long piece of metal from the wing, which I fashioned into a kind of cane so that I could bear my own weight. In this way I shuffled out of the temple, feeling like Yoda, my left calf dragging behind me.
On the plains the battle had ended, and the ruins of many Rebel speeders and one ATAT lay smoking in the grass amid the bodies. Stormtrooper platoons were ferrying the injured to the infirmary. An Imperial major jogged up to me and saluted. "Lord Vader, General Ghent has been killed. The Rebels are attempting to flee the system, and the fleet reports they have been ambushed by Mon Calamari warships. Several Rebel vessels have already escaped to hyperspace. Your orders, my Lord?"
"Ignore the frigates. Capture every snub fighter possible, especially X-wing class. I want the pilots alive."
"Immediately, my Lord," he said crisply, opening his commlink and relaying my directives. "This is Major Veers: Lord Vader commands the capture of all Rebel snub-fighters. Let the frigates go. I repeat: let the frigates go. Take the fighter pilots prisoner and hold them for Lord Vader."
I nodded. "Very good, Major."
A pair of stormtroopers came and helped me to my shuttle. I am on my way now to the Super-StarDestroyer Executor, to first seek repairs for my smashed leg and then to question the prisoners. If I am lucky, one of the captured pilots may even be the one I seek.