The farmhouse loomed before the three travellers as they stumbled across a wide, wooden gate that crossed the track before them. The clouds had thinned, and the light from Naboo’s smaller moon diffused upon the whitewashed gables.

Ayo leant against the gate. Its wooden struts felt cold and slippery through his sleeves as it rocked under his weight.

"This is it, you two," said Ayo as he studied the darkened building for signs of life. "Kathra Farm".

Yarua grunted quietly. The Wookiee could see the jet engines of a landspeeder jutting from the side of the house. He picked up Zibeon so that the small alien could enjoy a better view.

"Yeah, I see it," whispered Ayo. "Parked round the corner."

Yarua nodded and purred as he lifted Zibeon onto his shoulders, carrying the small Zephoid Zez as if he were a toddler at a crowded fair. Zibeon sat perched like a Jawa on his ronto mount, squeaking with excitement as he sensed what was happening.

"You okay up there, Zib?" asked Ayo with a wink as he carefully unlatched the gate and swung it open. He motioned for Yarua and his passenger to cross the threshold. Zibeon turned and smiled.

Once they were all through, Ayo released the gate, which suddenly snapped shut with a sharp clack. Ayo winced and swore under his breath at his own carelessness. He did not expect the gate to have sprung hinges.

A light flicked on through an upstairs window. Yarua prodded Ayo and pointed up at it.

Ayo swore. "Typical! I’ve bloody well woken them up! We’d better stay close to the house so that they can’t see us."

Yarua pointed to the gravel driveway that stretched between them and the speeder. If they trod on it, it would give them away and they could well be shot.

Ayo surveyed the farmyard around them, searching for an alternative route to avoid the gravel. A tall, dense hedgerow ran from the nearside of the house to connect with the one they had crossed as they passed the gate. The hedge was reinforced with a vibrowire fence that glittered efficiently in the moonlight. It became obvious that they had no choice but to negotiate the gravel.

"We’ll just have to risk it," whispered Ayo. "Let’s go for it."

Ayo and Yarua, with Zibeon clinging tightly to the fur on the Wookiee’s shoulders, tiptoed across the loose pebbles, careful not to rouse the residents any further. Safely reaching the house, they squeezed themselves up against its walls as they edged their way towards their goal.



Upstairs, the farmer watched from a darkened room, one side of his mouth turned up in a grimace as he studied the two figures crossing the drive. As soon as he had heard the gate slam shut, he knew that the time had come for him to fulfil his obligation to Lady Fett. One of the intruders was obviously human, but in the darkness, it appeared that the companion, a tall, shaggy creature, had two heads.

"Gotcher!" growled the farmer to himself as he raced downstairs to the kitchen. His projectile rifle stood on a rack beside the back door. Without turning on the light, he groped for his weapon, found it, and slowly swung open the door.



Ayo felt confident once they had passed the front door, and they were now drawing close to the landspeeder that poked out from around the corner, protected from the elements by a roughly-built, wooden lean-to canopy. Ayo and Yarua shuffled along, their feet crunching quietly along the gravel. Yarua set Zibeon down as they reached the floating vehicle.

"Right," whispered Ayo as he climbed into the open cockpit. "Let’s try and get this thing started."

Yarua lifted Zibeon into the back seat before joining him, silently shooing his small friend along so he could sit down. Ayo began to fiddle with the ignition, unaware that the farmer was watching everything from the nearby kitchen door.



The farmer stood in the porch, hugging his rifle as he watched the human attempt to hotwire his speeder. The big, shaggy creature sat in the back, leaning forward, watching as his companion sat in the driver’s seat, pulling wires and circuitry out from the dashboard. The farmer noticed a small, ugly thing perched beside the furry being, its large eyes glowing in the faint light.

The farmer knew what he had to do. The prospect of being "rewarded handsomely" by Lady Fett excited him. Silently, he emerged from the shadows.

"Yer thievin’ bastards!" growled the farmer, hid gun levelled and unwavering.

"Get down!" yelled Ayo to his companions as he desperately tried to start the speeder. The farmer raced up to the speeder and punched Ayo in the jaw as Yarua threw himself and Zibeon to the floor. Ayo, reeling from the punch, frantically connected different combinations of wires as the farmer reached over and grappled with him in an attempt to pull him from the cockpit. Yarua roared, hoping that his cries would be sufficient in scaring off their attacker.

The farmer raised his rifle and swung the butt at Ayo’s head. Ayo ducked as the speeder’s engine roared into life. The farmer, startled, missed, his rifle hitting the perspex windscreen and shattering it.

Yarua roared as the speeder lurched backwards into the driveway. The farmer raised his gun and fired into the air, the shot echoing through the dark trees with a hollow crack. Ayo ducked as he swung the vehicle around until it pointed at the far gate. With a scream of the speeder’s engines, he hit the accelerator as the farmer fired another shot.

With its passengers crouched low, the speeder smashed through the wooden gate, sending splintered fragments flying in all directions. The farmer fired again for good measure, the noise sending wildlife scurrying for cover as the speeder receded noisily down the lane.

The farmer grinned to himself and blew across the end of his gun. He was looking forward to his reward.


* * *



"Well, well, well," smiled the shaky, low-resolution image of Darth Rakshas from deep within the Holocron. "It seems that you two have met before."

Japhta Fett gazed lovingly at the Dark Lord and nodded. "Her name is Sarolyn Lordan, My Lord."

"Yes, I know," said Rakshas. "The Jedi Council sent her and her now-deceased Master to Sorensia as observers. You worked well in disposing of the Master, but Lordan possesses a certain amount of stubbornness that I don’t like."

"What about Thraurrallgisc?" asked Japhta. "Has he been tried yet?"

The Sith Lord's expression grew serious, his eyes glaring like windows into his dark soul. "Thraurrallgisc has been freed," he said angrily. "The Jedi are becoming resistant to control. Three went to Sorensia and overpowered the police."

Japhta frowned in disbelief. "They just...took the senator?"

"That’s not all. Elaison Fitje, the detective in charge of him, has betrayed us."

The computer terminal in the corner of the Library bleeped for attention.

"Sound’s like someone’s trying to get hold of you," said Rakshas. Japhta rushed over to the terminal and activated it, the bearded, grinning face of the farmer appearing on the screen.

"I’s dooed what you’s asked,, M’Lade," gushed the farmer in his makeshift grammar. "They’s took the speeder an’ is on their way ‘o you." He put a wadge of gum into his mouth and began to chew as he leered at Japhta. "Any chance o’ that, er, reward?"

Japhta glared at the farmer. She did not care for dirty, common, ugly little men and their cheap innuendoes. She was a girl of style, a girl of class, a girl who could have anything she could ever want. Japhta Fett had standards.

"Your reward," she said icily, "depends on my success."

Before the farmer could reply, Japhta logged off from the computer and returned to the Holocron.

"Everything’s going as planned, my Master," said Japhta. "Thraurrallgisc’s little pets will be here in a matter of minutes and security has been placed on full alert."

"Good-good," praised Rakshas in his quiet, cultured voice. "Capture them and use them as bait to trap Sarolyn Lordan, as we agreed. Once you’ve dealt with her, go straight to Despayre. We’ve now got the perfect weapon of mass destruction and it’s time we used it." Darth Rakshas smiled at the thought of eliminating MHG’s biggest rival, the only corporation sufficiently large and powerful to able to block his path to supremacy.

"I suggest Neimoidia as the first target."

Forward to Chapter 33

Back to Chapter 31