“I cannot reach the Director,” said the Captain as the dead cruiser settled upon a landing platform, guided by the combined powers of the Jedi on board.
“He’s dead,” said Vima as the ship landed with a clunk. “I can sense it.”
“Well, here we are, then.” said the Captain. “Number One, open the hatch.”
Elaison Fitje rushed up to Vima and Dessk as two other Jedi, human and Amanin, joined them. The newcomers formed part of Dessk’s hundred-strong taskforce.
Chastacyrrhi barked urgently at Dessk as more of the Jedi army emerged from the cabins, hoods raised over their heads in readiness for battle.
“Yes, Chasta, I agree,” answered Dessk. “We must restore order in there.”
* * *
Inside, it was a scene of chaos. The Chief Zez and her makeshift army scurried around the corridors, engaged in a pitched battle with the surviving shocktroopers. Freed male Zez wandered aimlessly about, totally oblivious to the battle around them. Fires had erupted in isolated pockets around the base, filling the corridors with the acrid smell of smoke. Alarms wailed and were ignored.
“Shouldn’t be too far to the lab, Saz,” said Neema as she and Ayo helped Sarolyn along the corridor.
“I’ll be all right now,” said Sarolyn with a smile as she released herself from the arms of her friends. The intense course of antibiotics had cleared the Black Rot from her body and her ribs were beginning to heal. The Force had given her strength, strength enough to defeat the infection, but she knew that if her friends had done as she had said and left the planet, she would have died on those stairs.
Fitje thumped the blast door that blocked the entrance.
“It’s locked!” he spat, turning to the army of Jedi behind him. “Er, anyone got a key by any chance?”
Fitje returned to the door and thumped it again. “Open up! It’s the police!” Somebody tapped him on the shoulder.
“The Jedi have no need for keys,” said Vima as Dessk and Chastacyrrhi joined her. The Jedi concentrated, willing the heavy door to open. Much to Fitje’s disbelief, it glided upwards to reveal the wide corridor behind. Dessk gestured for his companions to enter.
“I...I don’t believe it,” said Fitje in astonishment. Vima looked up at him and smiled.
“If you believe in yourself, Elaison,” she said gently, “then anything’s possible.”
Senator Thraurrallgisc roared as shocktroopers appeared from around a bend. They levelled their rifles at the Jedi.
“Freeze! Get ‘em up!”
Thraurrallgisc and Fitje froze. Glancing at the grizzled old Wookiee for moral support, Fitje sighed. They were beaten.
“Right!” barked Ayo at the technicians as he and his companions burst into the main laboratory. “Game’s over.” He waggled his blaster, motioning them to a corner of the room free of equipment. “Over there! Move!”
As the small group of technicians ambled like sheep to the corner, Professor Elyot stormed into the lab from his office. He brandished a blaster.
“What the hell’s going on here?” he demanded, shaking with rage. Yarua spun around and roared, raising his own blaster at the tubby little man’s head.
“It’s over, Professor,” said Sarolyn calmly. “I suggest that you drop your weapon. You won’t be hurt.”
Neema reached out at Professor Elyot and his blaster flew into her palm. Head bowed in humiliated defeat, Elyot marched over to his underlings. He glared at Neema.
“This isn’t the last of this, you know,” shouted Elyot. “Once His Lordship hears of this, he will crush you without a second thought. It’s you who would be finished!”
Ayo cast Sarolyn a look of worry. What if the Professor was right? They had defeated Japhta Fett, but they had overlooked the obvious: Koraetor Mandalore was still very much in charge.
The corridors echoed with the screeching of lightsabres as the Jedi army tackled the shocktroopers, twisting and leaping like gymnasts as they dodged the heavy blaster fire. Casualties from both sides littered the floor, but the Jedi had rapidly gained the upper hand. Mandalore’s forces were in retreat.
Thraurrallgisc cheered as the Jedi, led by Master Dessk, advanced through the smoke like an avalanche. Despite their losses, numbers were still strong, and the remaining shocktroopers, sensibly, ran away. The corridor was quiet.
As they marched through the haze, Fitje nearly stumbled over the Chief Zez. The small alien barked hoarsely at them.
Dessk stared down at the Chief with his large red eyes. “It’s all right, little one,” he said. “We are from the Republic. We will not hurt you.” Dessk bowed his head. He had been right about the Zephoid Zez all along.
The Chief Zez gave Dessk a quizzical look, her top lip curled away from her tusks in an expression of puzzlement.
“Re...pub...lic?” said the Chief. ‘Nee-ma, I-o, Ya-ora re-pub-lic?”
Vima knelt down and stared into the Chief’s big, yellow eyes. The creature backed away.
“Don’t be afraid,” said Vima, her hands outstretched in a gesture of peace. She probed the alien’s mind with the Force, adding weight to her question in case the Zez was unable to understand. “Where are they?”
The Chief Zez turned into a side corridor and yelped at them to follow before waddling away. The rest of the Zez slowly emerged from hiding.
Senator Thraurrallgisc turned to Chastacyrrhi and grunted. He was eager to catch up with his crew, and woe betide them if the rumour he had heard about the Red Planet being destroyed were true.
* * *
Sarolyn stepped out from the Director’s office and joined Ayo, Yarua and Neema as they guarded Professor Elyot and his technicians. She had a wide smile on her face.
“What did they say, Saz?” asked Neema, anxious to know what the Republic was going to do about Mandalore.
“Quite a lot, really,” said Sarolyn with a tired sigh. “I transmitted the information I collected on Naboo to the Council and they’ve begun an immediate investigation. A taskforce has already landed and the Chancellor will be arriving tomorrow with the Council. They’re coming to gather evidence for Mandalore’s trial.”
“Has he been nicked, then?” asked Ayo with anticipation.
“They didn’t say, but it’s a good bet that Mandalore’s finished.”
Professor Elyot turned to Sarolyn with a look of worry on his face. He had developed the Black Rot on behalf on MHG, and if Mandalore were to fall, then things would certainly look bleak for him.
“Er...’ ventured the Professor, indicating to the technicians, ‘what will happen to us?”
“That’s for the courts to decide, Professor,” said Sarolyn.
The door swished open. Ayo and Yarua spun around with their blasters drawn, expecting shocktroopers to burst in at any moment. Instead, they were greeted by a terse Wookiee growl, a growl that was comfortingly familiar on this remote world. Sheepishly, they lowered their weapons.
“Guvnor!” gasped Ayo. Senator Thraurrallgisc was the last person they had expected to see here. The old Wookiee strode into the lab, closely followed by the Jedi army. Vima rushed over to Neema and hugged her.
“It’s so good to see you again, my darling child,’ said Vima as she held her daughter. Vima turned and put her arm around Sarolyn. ‘The Force is strong with both of you.”
“Your bravery leaves us in your debt,” gargled Dessk to Ayo and Yarua. Ayo smiled nervously as he shook Dessk’s claw. The Guvnor was pleased with him and he seemed to be in a reasonable mood. He did not consider it wise to tell him about the ship. Not yet.
“The Supreme Chancellor is coming with an audit team, Master,” said Sarolyn as she led her superiors into the Director’s office. “Minister Whyteleafe has been arrested and there’s a warrant out for Mandalore.”
Dessk flicked his tongue at Sarolyn. ‘”You’ve done well, young Padawan,” he hissed as he placed a claw on her shoulder. “Master Bil-Kit would have been proud of you.”
Sarolyn stared at the floor and smiled sadly. “Yes, Master,” she said quietly. “I wish he was here.”
* * *
Darth Rakshas sat deep in meditation in his penthouse apartment on Coruscant. A vacuum filled his body following the loss of Japhta Fett, a girl who was perfect to him in every way. He would seek revenge for his loss.
Rakshas could sense unrest within MHG. His plan to destroy the Neimoidians had been exposed and it was time for him to detach himself from the stigma of Koraetor Mandalore.
As he rose from his mandala, the Dark Lord could sense the Republic’s authorities closing in, seeking him out in order to bring him to what they considered to be “justice“. He could not allow that to happen. Rakshas reached across to a control unit on his desk and pressed a series of buttons before rushing out onto the balcony. He had minutes left.
The sky was dark and the city lights shone like stars. The perfect cover. Mandalore must die if the Sith were to survive. This chain of events had been planned all along, and every outcome had been considered. Stepping onto the railing, Darth Rakshas leapt out over the seemingly bottomless urban canyon seconds before his apartment exploded. There must be no trace of the Sith.Forward to Chapter 46 Back to Chapter 44 Home