She wove a path through the others in their quiet conversations to the front of the ship. Sergeant Marillion and another trooper stood guard outside the private stateroom. “She’s awaits you inside, Lieutenant,” he said dryly. “Best not to keep her waiting.”
The door slid aside revealing Krest seated at a small conference table made of a dark black stone, her feet kicked up on it and a sneer across her face. On the walls hung carved stone relief images of a great battle. Meera recognized some of it from her Galactic History lessons at the Imperial Academy. As the door slid shut behind her, Krest motioned for her to sit. Meera felt uneasy; as if there was something going on here she didn’t know about. Krest gestured to the carvings.
“These are from the Great Hyperspace War,” Krest started. “They are thousands of years old. The Emperor was a student of history, among other things, but not for scholarly reasons. He searched for artifacts in every corner of the galaxy. History was his guide. He also searched for beings, both known and unknown. He especially liked the unknowns. They were easier to take away, just like me and Captain Vario down in the hold. Thank you for tending to his injuries, by the way. Will he survive?”
Meera nodded in acknowledgement. “He needs greater care than I can provide here, but he’s stable for now.” Krest audibly sighed.
“Stoko and I grew up together on Alderaan. We were young and foolish, as innocent children should be. Those were the simpler times.” She stared off, as if looking through the wall at this beautiful scene from her memory. Meera was confused by this sudden change in her demeanor.
“Why are you telling me this?” she asked. Krest ignored the question.
“One day, we were playing near a stream in our village when I slipped and fell in. He knew I couldn’t swim, so he jumped in after me. I took what I thought would be my last breath when suddenly; I was floating above the water. Not in the water mind you, but above it. Stoko reached out his hand and saved me… by using the Force.” She paused, placing her palms on the table in front of Meera, leaning down close to her face.
“The Force is in you, too, Lieutenant Dyre. I saw it. I felt it. You are special, just as we were, and I know what you saw in your vision.”
Meera became uncomfortable. How could Krest know what she saw? Could she read minds? And how could she have anything to do with the Force?
“Shortly after my rescue, an Imperial shuttle arrived at our village. Several Moffs had private residences in our valley, so shuttle traffic was not unusual. It was so beautiful there. They thought so, too. But this shuttle did not carry a Moff. One of Lord Vader’s Inquisitors came for us.” She took her seat again at the end of the table. Her tone turned to anger. “The Fourth Brother… I will never forget him. The day Lord Vader ended Tavek Dinaar was a great day, indeed. He took us from our homes, Stoko and I, and delivered us into the mouth of a Galactic hell!”
“What does this have to do with me? I… I just blacked out for a moment, that’s all. I don’t know anything about the Force.”
“Never take up Sabacc, Lieutenant. You’re a terrible liar. I know you saw our child.”
“I saw nothi…”
“LIAR!” Krest shot up from her chair and pulled her blade, hovering it over her head to strike. Rage flashed through her eyes. One swing of her arm would end this nightmare for Meera, and part of her would welcome it. She sat unflinching and stared down the murderous woman, never breaking her gaze.
“Go on. Do it.”
Meera waited for the strike, hoping it would be swift. Then she saw something she would never have expected. A lonely, single tear streamed down Krest’s face. The vibroblade trembled with Krest’s hand, and then fell to her side as the woman burst into a sob. She fell back into her chair in a heap of defeat and cried.
“Fine, Krest. We’ll play it your way. Tell me about the child.”
“Stoko and I… we could have had a life; somewhere far from the Empire. We made plans. Our escape from him was almost complete, but he found us out. He took our baby from us,” she said through the tears. “The Emperor found out about us and took him. Do you have any idea how hard it is to serve the man who took your child from you? Do you know how hard it is to protect a man who punished you for love?”
At that moment, the intercom buzzed and interrupted them with a message from the pilot.
“Captain Krest, we’re on final approach to Velusia. I have The Stargazer on our scopes as ordered.”
Krest composed herself best she could. “Very good. Cloak the ship when we drop out of hyperspace and tell Sergeant Marillion to prepare his men and the others for close-quarter combat. Aloo’s crew will defend themselves.” The intercom went silent.
“Lieutenant Dyre, what I am about to tell you will upend the world you know, so listen closely. Lord Vader was no Sith Lord at all. He was the apprentice. Emperor Palpatine was the true Sith Lord, and he ripped my child from my very arms.” Krest sheathed her blade and straightened her tunic, trying her best to appear stoic. “We’re attacking The Stargazer for two reasons. The first is to recover the instructions on how to use that holocron Major Andalor carries, and it is aboard that ship. Second, we are going to get my son!”
Meera’s mind reeled. How could any of this be possible? This was all wrong. Krest had to be lying; manipulating her to do her bidding.
“I speak the truth, Lieutenant. You know I do. I can sense your thoughts and I feel your trepidation, but know this. Nothing and no one will stand between me and my child. I will give you a choice the Emperor never gave to me. You can join me and live or oppose me and die. Choose quickly. The battle will soon be upon us.”
The shuttle dropped out of hyperspace at that moment and the alarm klaxon blared over the intercom. Explosions boomed outside the hull, and the ship shook violently. The pilot’s panicked voice echoed through the speaker.
“They saw us coming, even with the cloaking device! Shields are holding but we’re taking heavy fire… orders, Captain?”
“Take evasive action and get us in close to dock! Target their weapons!” she yelled back into the intercom. The ship rocked again throwing Meera and Krest roughly to the floor.
“The Stargazer isn’t firing on us! We’re picking up another craft… a modified Botajef SS-54… heavily armed and armored. They’re hailing us…”
Krest climbed back up to the comm panel. “Project them through to me. I will know who this upstart is and destroy them!” she growled back. The intercom buzzed off and the holo-projector at the center of the table sprang to life with the image of a strange-looking being with black protrusions from the sides of his head and a re-breather mask over part of his face.
“Imperial shuttle,” a guttural voice growled over the speakers. “Power down your engines and surrender or be destroyed. Comply quickly, or die.”
Krest leaned in towards the blue image and stared the Shaaridan monstrosity in the face with a menacing glare. “How dare you threaten the Empire you insolent scum! Declare yourself and stand down before we blow you out of the sky.”
A growling laugh cackled back through in response. “Perhaps you whelps haven’t heard. The Empire is no more! Bounties have been placed on every Imperial head that is still attached, and yours appears to be intact. Surrender!” Meera couldn’t see through the mask, but could tell the creature was smiling in his species’ fashion.
Krest flew into a rage. “Bounty Hunters?! Bah! I have no time for these games!” She activated the comm again. “We will do no such thing, you pretentious rebel lap dog. Identify yourself immediately!”
“You are captured by Gekko, of the Bounty Hunters Guild, and you are going to make me rich!”
Next time, in Star Wars: Lifeboat – Part V…
We flash back one more time to join Darth Vader as he and Lieutenant Seeda delve into the Temple of the Kyber on Jedha. A nearly-successful assassination attempt by the local rebels almost succeeds, and Vader will receive a revelation from the Force that shakes his resolve to his core!
A quick note: The cover photo of the Emperor’s shuttle over Coruscant is fan art by concept artist Mark Molnar. He’s got some other really cool sci-fi and fantasy concept art. Check out his page at www.markmolnar.com. And as always, to learn more about Star Wars, you can also visit the official website at www.starwars.com.
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.