The Death Star II in orbit over the forest moon of Endor, Outer Rim, Moddell sector – 4ABY
When the first explosion tore through the superstructure, the light panels above dislodged and collapsed down in a deadly pile of mangled steel over the surgical bay. A panel swung down with a hard smack to the side of her head, throwing Meera down like a rag doll across the cold, hard floor. A stinging gash opened across her cheek. She could feel the warm blood pooling on her face. The sharp blow made her world spin in lopsided circles. She fought the urge to pass out. Losing consciousness now would mean certain death. Meera had to get up. She had to move.
The operating room had collapsed around her in a tangle of twisted metal and sparking wires. Her patient, an injured Scout Trooper just brought up from the surface, lay crushed under a fallen structural beam. She grabbed his wrist looking for a pulse, but no doubt he was dead. Doctor Zed’orda was in mid-incision to close a torn artery when the ceiling fell in on them. No surgery could save him now. A blaring klaxon from overhead screamed at her through the carnage. Her ears rang in cadence with the piercing alarm blasts while a calming female voice reminded her she was about to die.
Warning… Abandon ship. Proceed orderly to your assigned escape pod. Warning… Abandon ship…
She spun around in a fog, knowing she was in danger but too dazed to react to it. She called out for the doctor but did not see him anywhere. Their medical droid lay in shattered pieces across the floor; its automated torso sparking and twitching in electronic agony as servo fluid poured out into the rubble. A loud metallic scrape drew her to look at the panel that hit her hanging by a thread, swaying above her with a broken rhythm. Behind it, across the room, she saw movement. A durasteel pipe lay across Zed’orda’s upper body, pinning him to the floor and stealing the air from his lungs. The injured doctor strained against its bulk but the conduit would not move. He yelled at her in a strained and airless rasp. She could see his mouth moving but could not hear his words.
“Meera, go! I can’t… get… out. You have to… you have to… go! Get… to… your pod!” She began pulling pieces aside in a staggered frenzy to get to him. Small shards of broken metal and glass chewed at her fingers as she clawed her way through the burning wreckage. All the while, the same calm voice from overhead reminded her of their deteriorating situation.
Warning… Abandon ship. Proceed orderly to your assigned escape pod. Warning… Abandon ship…
The next explosion shook the structure so hard, the station began to list. The artificial gravity was failing and soon they would lose orbital stability. The station was falling apart around them. All she could see was more rubble while smoke and dust filled her lungs. Sheared steel and electronic detritus collapsed in the med bay in a new shower of sparks and fire. The doctor was underneath most of the carnage. Through the dust, she could make out his gloved hand sticking out of the debris. It hung bloody and lifeless.
She could feel it. He was dead, too.
A purpose suddenly flooded through her. The second Death Star was collapsing around Lieutenant Meera Dyre of the 804th Imperial Medical Brigade, and if she didn’t find a way out, she would die where she stood. A large med-pack lay at her feet in the rubble. She pulled out a Bacta syringe and jammed it into her neck. The throbbing in her head immediately subsided enough to focus. She grabbed up the med-pack and slung the strap on her shoulder and scanned the room for a way out. She climbed over a busted control panel, through the med bay window, and into the hallway. Meanwhile, the friendly overhead voice continually reminded her of impending doom between deafening alarm blasts.
Warning… Abandon ship. Proceed orderly to your assigned escape pod. Warning… Abandon ship…
The smoke was thick. Meera struggled to get her bearings in the hallway and was startled by the sudden appearance of a Storm Trooper barreling down on her. He emerged from the smoke and showers of sparks like an armored ghost, wearing battle-worn white plastoid streaked with blood. In the middle of his chest armor was a perfect hand print, pressed in the red of some other poor soul’s demise. He ran towards her in a panic.
“Move! MOVE!” came the digitized and muffled voice from behind his helmet. “You can’t go that way! There’s nothing left back there. Follow me… this way!” He grabbed her arm, spinning her in the opposite direction. Pain shot through it like a bolt of lightning.
“Aaaagh!”, she cried out and looked down to see her bloody uniform shirt sleeve. The trooper had grabbed a gash on her arm that she hadn’t even noticed, nor did she feel the pain of until he grabbed her. She recoiled from him. “My escape pod is back the way you came. What’s happening out there?”
He didn’t answer. The Trooper looked back at her for a moment, then continued to run on without her. She lost sight of him after a few steps into the thickening smoke. The gash on her arm seared with pain.
Warning… Abandon ship. Proceed orderly…
“Can’t worry about that now, Meera,” she said to herself. She tightened up the strap of the med-pack and continued in the same direction the Storm Trooper had run.
Her mind raced to figure out what was happening. Reports of a rebel fleet emerging from hyperspace to attack them came over the comms, but Doctor Zed’orda just laughed. “They wouldn’t dare attack us here. Our defenses would annihilate them in an instant. Someone is having a joke.” Obviously, he was wrong and was now dead because of it. Perhaps the rebels have already boarded the station and were sabotaging it with explosives. She picked up an abandoned E-11 from a dead Storm Trooper in the hall, just in case. Injured or not, she would not go down without a fight. At the next T-junction, she could just make out directional signage through the smoke. To the left was the mess hall and barracks. To the right were the armory and hanger bay 272. A hangar bay! Surely there would be pods there or even a ship. She turned to the right and ran.
The wide hall was littered with metal and debris from the destruction happening around her. Sparks flew from the overhead conduit and electrical panels in the walls. Fires burned up through the floor. The burned and broken bodies of fallen Imperials were strewn about everywhere. She stopped to check vitals on the ones she could get to, hoping to save someone, or at least find someone alive, but it was useless. All life signs were negative. The explosion that collapsed the med bay must have been worse in this section, taking out anyone caught in the hallway with it.
Abandon ship. Proceed to your assigned escape pod…
“I’m going to find the communication officer that recorded that message and strangle her,” Meera muttered as two more successive explosions ripped through the hallway. One came from back at the junction she just passed through and the other ahead in the direction she was going. The blast knocked her into the wall and sprawling on the floor, taking her breath away. Her lungs burned as her body struggled to find air. Staggered and gasping from the impact, she willed her battered body upright and continued ahead.
The explosions subsided for a while as she moved toward the hangar. The air hung heavy with smoke, clouding anything more than a few feet in front of her. She took quick but measured steps to avoid injuring herself any further. Another blast like the last one would likely be her end. After what seemed an eternity, she finally saw the faint blue glow of a directional kiosk that would tell her how much further to the hangar, or if she was even still going the right way. Her pace quickened, and as soon as she got up some speed, her foot caught on something heavy. She sprawled across the floor yet again. Her arm burned like fire where she fell on top of it. Looking back, she saw what she tripped on.
She recognized the bloody hand print on his chest. The Storm Trooper she met in the hall earlier lay in a heap under some rubble. That last blast must have gotten him. His arm protruded out at an awkward angle where she caught her foot. She crawled over to him and pulled his helmet off, hoping he would still be alive. His blank and lifeless eyes stared straight up into nothingness. She checked his pulse at his neck and found none. The trooper was gone. Though scarred, his face looked so young; too young to die like this. She ran her hand over his eyes, closing them for the final time. “We didn’t deserve this, did we?” she asked the dead man. “What is galactic peace and security really worth if this is the thanks we get for it?” The overhead klaxon rudely answered, reminding her she was still in danger.
Warning… Abandon ship. Proceed to your assigned escape pod…Warning…
“You were too late this time, Meera,” she said aloud to herself. “Now get up before the same thing happens to you. Move!”
On her feet again, she went more carefully forward this time until she could make out the shape of the large blast doors at the end of the hall. Above it was a sign reading Hangar Bay 272. She broke into a run, slamming into the door release panel. The blast doors hesitated, then slowly crawled open. Meera could hear more explosions back the way she came. A cloud of black smoke came rolling down the hall towards the door, blotting out the light behind. She went to the narrow opening of the doors, forcing her way through the slit and into the hangar bay. Black smoke and heat erupted through behind her like a Krayt Dragon was chasing her down. What she now saw was worse.
Fire and chaos reigned. The huge room was swarming with panicked Imperials running in every direction trying to escape. Some officers tried to maintain order and organize scurrying troops, but it was no use. The sound of the battle raged outside the shielded bay opening. Ships of all sizes and types were taking off. At least I’m not the only one left, she thought. Then she saw it. A TIE Fighter sat at the back of the hangar, still attached to a refueling tank in a mechanic’s bay. No one was around or seemed to notice it. That’s my ticket out of here, she thought.
Warning… Abandon ship...
She didn’t know how to fly it, but if she was going to survive, it was the only option. She ran toward it as fast as she could, only to see movement in the cockpit. Damn the luck… someone was already in it! The ion engines fired and the machine lurched forward, snapping off the fuel line. Roaring flame shot from the hose where the fuel ignited, spewing fire across the bay like the Krayt Dragon had found her again. The TIE shot forward and roared out of the hangar at high speed. She stood in shock and anger, watching it soar off just as an rebel X-Wing fighter crossed its path from above, firing all four cannons at once and destroying it instantly.
She looked around again. There had to be something else. Near the front by where the TIE flew out was a small shuttle. It was over a hundred yards from where she stood. Flaming debris rained down above it, but the ship appeared intact. Even if it was damaged, anything was better than nothing. She ran toward it as another explosion shot debris through the air in front of her, the searing heat pushing her back.
She lay there a moment, trying to recover her wits when the hangar door across from her slid open. A man ran in with his eye on the same shuttle, but he was not Imperial. His uniform was all black yet had no insignia. A prisoner, maybe? The holding cells were one deck below the hangar. If the security locks failed, the scoundrels imprisoned there would be looking for a way out, too. Suddenly, he looked right at her and saw she eyeing the shuttle as well. She could not make out his face, but it didn’t matter who he was. Whoever got up the cargo ramp first was getting that shuttle, and he was closer to it than her. It was now or never.
Meera got to her feet and sprinted across the floor like a scalded Dewback. The race was on.
He sprinted to the shuttle, too, and opened the hatch. The ramp lowered down and Meera ran harder to her maximum speed. Then he did something completely unexpected. He went back to the hangar door and started dragging a wounded soldier through it towards the ramp. He was struggling with the bulk. This was her chance! If she could get there before him, her escape was guaranteed. If not, she could barter medical assistance for the wounded man as her ticket, but, either way, she was getting on that shuttle. She was gaining ground and surmised they would now get to the ramp at the same time. Whoever he was, it seemed they would be sharing the ride after all. Suddenly, Meera skidded to a stop and her feet slipped out from under her on the polished bay floor, sending her sliding onto her backside. Her eyes widened as terror took over when she recognized him.
It was the Jedi prisoner, Skywalker! She also recognized the wounded man he was struggling with. It was Lord Vader!
The prospect of being cut down by the Jedi was more terrifying than the Death Star exploding around her. He beckoned to her and began to say something, but Meera couldn’t hear him. She was already up and running the other direction to get away. If this Jedi could defeat Lord Vader, she would make easy prey; even with her Imperial combat training. Ducking into a nearby stack of cargo containers, she hid and watched.
The Jedi dragged him to the ramp and stopped. They were speaking, but she could not hear what was said through the deafening sound of firing turbo lasers. The chaotic scene she had walked into suddenly became calm. Vader was seriously injured; that was easy enough to tell, but somehow, she could also feel it. She could feel the burning sensation of electricity coursing through him. She could sense his mechanical parts trying desperately to keep him alive, injecting bacta and interfacing with his nervous system. The Jedi took off his helmet.
Vader was in great pain; more than any human could endure. Yet there he lay, as calm and serene as one could be. She sensed a peace wash over him; a finality. No, not finality—relief. His spirit was ebbing and he was not fighting it. His final fate was welcomed. He was speaking to the Jedi. She could not hear the words, but she knew what he said all the same.
“You were right about me. Tell your sister…you were right.” She did not know what he meant by that, but she felt his last breath ease out as he lay in the arms of the murderous Jedi. Meera crossed paths only once with Lord Vader in her short time on the Death Star, and he was nothing like the vicious rumors whispered in the trooper ranks. Darth Vader was her commander. He cared about the Empire. He cared for his soldiers. Her division marched side-by-side with his vaunted 501st Legion. Vader’s Fist, they were called. She patched up many of those brave troopers on his peace-keeping missions against this evil rebellion. The Empire must know who struck down their beloved leader, so he could be brought to justice. Someone must report what happened here. For Lord Vader’s sake, Meera had to survive. A tear rolled down her soot-covered cheek in reverence for the Sith Lord. Like so many other Imperials this day, Darth Vader was dead.
Skywalker dragged Vader’s limp body up the ramp and closed it for take off. Why was he taking the body? Probably some fiendish bounty or personal glory, the Jedi bastard! Then, with a blast of ion fusion, the engines launched the shuttle out into space. They were gone.
Suddenly, another explosion shot fire across the hangar. The Death Star was failing.
If she was to report anything to anyone, she had to get off this dying battle station. She looked around again to see no ships remained. Her only hope now was to find a pod. Across the far side of the hanger, a white arrow streaked across the floor etched with the words ‘emergency exit.’ Meera could not see where it led through all the smoke, but at this point, it made no difference.
Hoping to find something that could fly; anything at all, she just ran. She leaped over burning crates and supply canisters as she moved across the fire-streaked landscape of Hangar 272. Finally, she could see the outer wall. The escape pods—if any were left—would be here. With the loading chute to her right and the cold vacuum of space on her left, she turned to run toward the chute when she heard a woman’s voice call out behind her.
“You! Medical officer! Come quickly… I need you!”
She turned and was shocked to see the bright red uniform of the Emperor’s Elite Royal Guard. Meera had only ever seen them from a distance, and never heard one speak. Across her shoulders was the arm of another helmeted Royal Guard, head hanging and slouched. He was unconscious and wounded.
“Take me to the nearest medical capsule, now!” she ordered. Meera ran to assist by going under the injured guard’s other arm. She pointed toward the back wall.
“This way. All hangars have a crash locker in case of accidents, though that won’t matter if we don’t get to an escape pod now!” Meera struggled under the weight of the much larger guard. She could not see a wound, but her tunic was smeared with blood where she held him up. He was bleeding profusely from somewhere.
“We don’t need an escape pod. Focus, girl—get me to that med locker!”
Together they dragged the wounded guard to the back wall where Meera punched in her identification code on a flashing panel. The door hissed open, and she snatched a green control pad from the wall. The repulsor lift underneath the medical capsule sparked to life and hovered to her side. She grabbed another med-pack from the wall and headed back out. They lowered him inside and she jabbed two vials of bacta into his shoulder. The triage program hummed to life, and the report came back dismal. Meera shook her head. “He’s bleeding bad. I can stabilize him for now, but like I said, it won’t matter unless we can all get out of here!”
“Do your job, medic,” the woman said, “and there will be a place for you on our shuttle. Save him, or perish. The choice is yours.”
Her hands shook as she punched in more codes. The female guard stood silently over the med capsule watching her every move. The explosions in the hangar subsided for the moment, but the station was breaking apart. Shudders vibrated through every strut and pillar. Suddenly, a feeling swept over Meera that she could not ignore.
“His wounds are serious. He’s going to need surgery, but we don’t have that kind of time. Something tells me the station only has minutes left…”
“I sense it as well. The rebels have reached the station’s power core. The central cooling towers are ruptured.” Meera was taken back a moment by her matter-of-fact tone and lack of questions about her feeling. “Quickly, this way.”
The guard took off double-time toward the far wall, where a blast door clearly marked No Admittance stood closed. She manipulated the keypad, placing her hand over the bio-scanner and opening the door. There, in the center of this hidden hangar, stood the massive folded wings and tail fin of an executive-model Lambda Class 4-a shuttle. They both ran to it, with the hovering med capsule matching pace alongside. The isolated hangar was serene, as if the fury of the battle going outside passed it by.
The guard yelled, sensing what Meera was thinking. “This hangar is ray shielded, but that won’t last when the Death Star destabilizes.” At that moment, the shuttle’s engines started up in preparation for take-off.
“Oh no… no…NO,” Meera said aloud. “Not again. They’re leaving us!”
“They can’t leave without the Emperor’s code cylinder, and I have it.”
“Wait, this is the Emperor’s shuttle?!?”
“He won’t be needing it any longer. The Emperor is dead. Now shut up and move faster!”
Meera’s step stuttered, but she kept going. The news sent her mind reeling with shock. The Emperor is dead? Impossible—the Emperor is the Empire! How could this happen? Without him, everything would fail! The galaxy would fall to chaos! How could the rebels have succeeded in killing him? Was he not well-protected? Suddenly, a realization struck her.
The Jedi. He must be responsible for this.
Meera felt grateful simply to be alive after her encounter with him. He is powerful, indeed if he bested Lord Vader and the Emperor. Skywalker would be the most wanted man in the history of the galaxy when the Senate found out about this assassination. No star system could hide him from the wrath of the Empire. Then another realization came. These guards must have fought him and failed, too. That meant the wounds she would be treating were from a lightsaber. The guard would be lucky to survive the trauma, as the two most powerful beings in the Empire did not.
“The Jedi didn’t kill the Emperor. Lord Vader did. Now stop thinking and run!” the guard commanded. How did she know what Meera was thinking?
They reached the bottom of the shuttle ramp, where two red-armored Storm Troopers stood guard. The Royal Guard ran between them. When Meera touched the ramp, the troopers leveled their blasters directly at her head. She froze mid-step and the med capsule mimicked her movement, coming to a halt.
“She’s with me. Let her board,” the guard called back down to the troopers. “She tends to Captain Vario.”
“No one boards without a dignitary code cylinder or permission from the Emperor, himself,” the trooper snapped back.
“The Emperor is dead, fools! We will be too if this shuttle doesn’t take off. Let her board—now!”
As if timed with her warning, a massive explosion rocked the hangar. The ray shield began to falter, and the hangar shook violently. With some trepidation, the troopers relented and pulled back their E-11’s, allowing Meera to pass. They followed her up the ramp, closing it behind them as another explosion shook the ship. Smoke poured in as the ramp raised up and sealed for take off. The engines engaged and the shuttle launched in a streak of light from the collapsing hangar bay. Meera ran back to the cargo door and looked through the narrow viewing glass just in time to see the beginning of the end of the Galactic Empire.
Mushroomed clouds of fire erupted out of every visible surface on the doomed battle station. Then, in a brilliant burst of light, the moon-sized planet killer detonated into a fireball that rivaled a type-2 supernova. After all she had been through, Meera would survive after all. However, the Death Star—and the Empire with it—were no more.
Lifeboat: Part II coming soon! Stay tuned to find out what happens next!
The preceding is a work of fan fiction based upon and utilizing locations, characters, and/or plot points from the Star Wars universe, originally created by George Lucas and trademarked to Lucasfilm, Ltd. The author makes no claim whatsoever of ownership of the Star Wars name, characters represented, or the Star Wars universe generally. This work is created of the author’s own imagination and is intended for entertainment purposes only. It does not purport to be an “official” Star Wars story or part of existing Star Wars canon in any way. The author is not profiting financially in any way as the result of the creation or publication of this piece of fan fiction.