The Death Star II in orbit over the forest moon of Endor, Outer Rim, Moddell sector – 4ABY
The first explosion tore through the superstructure, dislodging the light panels above and collapsing them down into a deadly pile of mangled steel over the surgical bay. Meera was thrown down like a rag doll. Doctor Zed’orda was in mid-cut on an injured Scout trying to close a torn artery when the ceiling fell in. A structural beam crushed the injured trooper on the table. He was dead. No surgery could save the Scout Trooper now.
A small panel swung down with a hard smack in the side of the head and knocked her down. The impact sent her reeling and opened a gash on her cheek. Her world spun in lopsided circles. She fought back the urge to pass out. If she lost consciousness now, it would mean her certain death. Meera pulled herself up off the floor to see the operating room roof and wall had completely collapsed around her. She was shaky but could stand. The blow to her head likely saved her from being crushed by another falling beam.
Their medical droid lay in shattered pieces across the floor. The automated torso sparked and twitched in electronic agony as servo fluid poured out into the rubble. A blaring klaxon from overhead screamed at her through the chaos. 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, realizing she was in danger but too dazed to react to it. She looked across the room to see what happened to Zed’orda. A durasteel pipe lay across the doctor’s upper body, pinning him to the floor and stealing the air from his lungs. He strained against its bulk but the conduit would not move. He yelled at Meera to get out.
“Meera, go! I can’t… get… out. You have to… you have to… go! Get… to… your pod!” She could see his mouth moving but could not hear his words. She began pulling pieces aside in a frenzy trying to rescue him. The small shards of metal and glass chewed at her fingers.
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. More steel and electronic detritus collapsed in the med bay. All she could see was rubble while smoke and dust filled her lungs. The doctor was underneath most of it. She could not see him any longer. Through the dust, she could make out the gloved hand of Doctor Zed’orda sticking out of a pile of debris. It hung lifeless, covered in blood.
She could feel it. He was dead.
A purpose suddenly flooded through her. The second Death Star was collapsing around Imperial 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 grabbed it up, slung the strap on her shoulder and took a last look into the operating room. She climbed over a busted control panel, through the med bay doors, and into the hallway. Meanwhile, the friendly overhead voice reminded her of impending doom between deafening alarm blasts.
Warning… Abandon ship. Proceed orderly to your assigned escape pod. Warning… Abandon ship…
She tried to get her bearings in the hallway and was startled when a Storm Trooper came 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 handprint, 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. 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 took off in the direction the Storm Trooper had run.
She worried the rebels might have boarded the station and were sabotaging it with explosives. She picked up an abandoned E-11 from one of the dead Storm Troopers in the hall, just in case. 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. All life signs were negative. The explosion that collapsed the med bay must have been worse in this section, taking anyone caught in the hallway with it.
Abandon ship. Proceed to your assigned escape pod…
Two more successive explosions, in back at the junction she had just come from and ahead in the direction she was going. The blast knocked her into the wall and sprawling on the floor. The impact took away her breath. She willed herself back upright and continued ahead.
The air hung heavy with smoke and it was hard to see. She took quick but measured steps to avoid injuring herself any further. Ahead she could see a blue glow at the end of the corridor. Her pace quickened, and as soon as she got up some speed, she caught her foot on something heavy and slammed to the floor. Her arm burned like fire where she fell on top of it. Looking back, she saw what she tripped on.
She recognized the bloody handprint on his chest. The Storm Trooper she met in the hall earlier lay in a heap under some rubble. He had been caught in that last blast, knocking his helmet off. She crawled over to him, hoping he would still be alive. His blank and lifeless eyes stared straight up. She checked his pulse at his neck but there was none. The trooper was gone. He 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 peace and security 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, 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.
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 a wailing dragon. The TIE shot forward and 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, knocking her to the ground.
The hangar door next to it slid open and a man ran in with his eye on the same shuttle. She could see 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. The man saw she was looking toward 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 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; fate was welcomed. She felt his final breath ease out as he lay in the arms of the murderous Jedi. A tear rolled down her soot-covered cheek in reverence for the Sith Lord.
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. 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 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 an 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 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. She 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.