The Emperor’s Lambda-Class t4-a Shuttle,
Great Gran Run Hyperspace lane, Tashtor Sector, 4 ABY
Krest was furious. She paced the short distance of the stateroom in stuttering, angry steps. Meera placed her finger on the mute button, suspending the Shaaridan bounty hunter’s face on a blinking pause. “Krest, I have an idea.”
“As do I, and it involves scattering that creature’s atoms from here to Velusia.”
“There may be another way to play this and I think I know how to do it. You said the crew of the Stargazer would defend themselves, how many are there?”
“The last time the Emperor brought us here, Aloo had his own private army of aboard that ship. Surely they have heard about the disaster over Endor by now. Anyone coming close to it will have quite a fight on their hands.”
“How loyal are they to Aloo?”
“As much as we are, or were, to the Emperor. They are not conscripts or mercenaries. He cultivated the greatest warriors from Oktaria as his personal security, and there’s no telling who—or what—else they have on board.”
“How do you think they would feel about you if they knew you killed him?” The glare Krest shot back said more than any words. “If we’re going to get out of this and get what you want off the Stargazer, I need you to do exactly what I say or we’re all going to die.”
Krest stared at her with a long look of distrust, but she knew Aloo’s soldiers would cut her down without mercy for killing him if they found out she did it. “Alright, Lieutenant. Let’s hear your plan.”
“We need to get everyone on the same page or it won’t work. Gather the troops in here. We don’t have much time.” Krest opened the door and spoke quietly to Sergeant Marillion. In moments, the sergeant was back with Majors Deshken and Andalor along with Technician Vel. The six of them filled the small room to capacity, so the others crowded outside. Krest gestured to Meera. “Let’s hear it, Lieutenant.”
Meera looked around the room and gave a reassuring nod, though she wasn’t even sure herself that this plan would work, but it was all she had. “I need you all to trust what I am about to do. You need to put aside loyalties and feelings about the Empire and follow my lead.” She picked up a datapad from the table and tossed it to Marillion. “Sergeant, have one of your men get Aloo’s code cylinder and a photograph of his face on the double if you please.” He shuffled through the others out of the room. She took a quick deep breath and removed her finger from the mute button. The blue static image of Gekko sparked back to life. “Here we go.”
“…inal warning. You will be taken. How you are taken is your choice. The Guild pays me either way. Power down your engines or be fired upon!”
“Gekko, this is Meera Dyre. Please don’t fire on us! I was a prisoner on the Death Star. We are not Imperials. I repeat, we are not Imperials. We are refugees and wish to negotiate. Please do not fire!”
“Your claim is weak, Meera Dyre. The Imperial code your ship is transmitting tells me you are not only Imperials, but you travel aboard the shuttle of Emperor Palpatine, himself.” The guttural, reptilian tone of the bounty hunter’s voice sounded sarcastic and unconvinced. Meera cleared her throat to respond as a cannon blast seared across the bow of the shuttle in warning.
“We are not Imperials, I said. Hold your fire!” She muted the transmitter. “Sergeant, I need that picture. Krest, tell the pilot to power down the engine but keep his finger on the button. If this works, we’re going to need to get out of here quickly.” Sweat broke out on her brow. She needed to convince Gekko to stop firing on them before the Stargazer noticed the skirmish and got involved. Timing was everything. She unmuted Gekko again and altered her voice to sound panicked.
“We were prisoners of the Empire but escaped aboard this shuttle. We overpowered the guards and took a hostage. He’s an Imp, or he was. Looked like someone important. He was killed in the skirmish but we still got out. Please, don’t fire on us. We just want to live.”
There was a long silence. At first, Meera thought the holo-projector stopped working, but the Shaaridan monster turned his head. At least he stopped firing on them.
“Gekko, did you hear us? We are not Imps—”
“Who is your hostage? Speak now!”
She pressed the mute button again. “Sergeant, where is that picture?” The datapad was passed forward through the throng. The contorted face of Sim Aloo stared back through the screen. At that moment, the rhythmic thrum of the ship’s engines stopped as the pilot powered down the engines. She looked at Krest. “Tell the pilot to be ready. As soon as we offload Aloo’s body, fire the engines and hail the Stargazer with a mayday. We’ll be coming in hot.”
“Just what do you have in mind, Lieutenant?” Major Deshken appeared to not like this part of the plan. “Going down this path will get us all killed. You heard the bounty hunter. He has us dead in the water!”
“Lieutenant Dyre is in charge of this plan, Major,” Krest stepped in front of him. “Accept it or find your way to the airlock. I’m sure the Shaaridan will welcome the extra profit from your surrender.” He acquiesced, but the look on his face screamed that he was not happy about it. Meera punched in a code on the datapad, sending the digital death mask of Aloo through the comm channel. She watched as the progress bar painfully crawled across the screen like a wounded womprat.
“Check your datapad,” she said into the holoprojector. “It looks like the shuttle computer recognized him, too. He was an Imperial adviser named Sim Aloo. He resisted, so we had to kill him.”
Again, there was a long silence. She could see the Shaaridan looking between screens to verify Aloo’s identity. Finally, he spoke. “What was your crime, Meera Dyre?”
“What?” she asked, confused.
“You were a prisoner of the Empire. What was your crime? I warn you, do not lie or I will know it.”
She knew that the Shaaridan species had a pheromone sensitivity that could sense deceit. Something in their reptilian nature gave them abilities some would consider unnatural. If she continued to lie, he wouldn’t know it now, but should be board the shuttle, they could not hide it from him. That’s why she decided to tell a partial truth.
“My father stole something from them,” she said, not making eye contact with anyone else in the room. “And I hid it. When I refused to give it back, they killed him and took me.”
“What did he steal?”
“If you’re trying to find a puck on me—” She wasn’t expecting any further inquiry. Meera suddenly regretted bringing everyone in the room to hear this.
“I will not ask again. What did he steal?”
“It was a Kyber Crystal.” Deshken gasped, but everyone else remained silent.
“Do you still possess this crystal, Meera Dyre?” Her hand went to her neck and felt for the familiar bulge of it at the end of the leather thong, always hiding in plain sight under her Imperial uniform.
“There is a ship, The Stargaz—”
“I am aware of Aloo’s vessel. They scan us as we speak. Again, do you still possess the crystal? Is it on your person?” She reached into her shirt and pulled out, the room’s light refracted in tiny rainbows as it spun in her hand. She held it where he could see its reddish brilliance shine through the holoprojector.
“I do, and I will make you a deal.”
“We will place Aloo’s body and my crystal in a cargo container and drop it out of the air lock. You can take it and collect the reward for him from the Republic. The crystal is yours as a gift.”
“And in exchange for this generous gift?”
“You will fire warning shots at us for effect, after which you will jump to hyperspace and let us go our own way.” Meera kept the crystal dangling in front of the device where she knew Gekko could see it spin and refract. The shuttle pilot comm interrupted and she quickly hit the pause button.
“Stargazer is hailing us. They are transmitting Advisor Aloo’s personal docking codes. They must have been expecting him. Your orders, Captain Krest?”
Krest looked at Meera with urgency in her eyes. “Wait,” she said to Krest, then tossed her necklace to Major Andalor. “Major, take another and prepare to jettison Aloo’s body. Double time please, Major.” He nodded in agreement and one of the Storm Troopers followed him out. Meera then turned back to the projector. “Gekko, do we have a bargain?”
The projection flickered and refocused on the bounty hunter’s masked face. “We have a bargain, Meera Dyre. I sense you speak the truth, yet still hide much. I warn you, should you double-cross me, I will assign you the Death Mark of the Shaaridi. My kind will not rest until you are destroyed.”
“I understand. You are most gracious and deserve your reward. Stand by for cargo offload.” She cut the projector and looked at Krest. “Once the airlock reseals, tell the pilot to answer the hail with a distress call. Have him report the Bounty Hunter captured and killed Aloo for the reward and that his body is now aboard his ship, then put him in our wake and run for the Stargazer. If they believe us, we won’t have to worry about the bounty hunter anymore.”
Krest smiled in return. “You’re more useful than I thought you would be, Lieutenant.” She looked at the rest. “Look alive, rebel scum. Battle stations, and prepare for close-quarter combat!” They scurried out, leaving Krest and Meera alone for a moment.
“How did you know the bounty hunter would accept your terms? He could have captured us all any time he wanted.” Krest asked.
Meera smiled back. “My father had dealings with Trandoshans once. They are as bad a Jawas when it comes to shiny objects. Since the Shaaridi are close cousins of Trandoshans, I took a gamble.”
“That ‘shiny object’ is property of the Empire,” Major Deshkin walked back in after hearing her last statement. “You stole from your Emperor and then hid your father’s crime. Now you give your ill-gotten gains freely to this beast and take foolish risks with all our lives. You should be executed for this insolence. Your father was no better than the rebels we fight against!”
Meera shot from her chair and charged at the Major. Krest intercepted her before she crashed into him, holding her back. “My father paid for that crime with his life!” Meera screamed back. “The Emperor got his justice when his Storm Troopers came for us and murdered him. Despite all that, I am still loyal to the Empire. How dare you!” The Major was taken aback by the ferocity of her response, but composed himself for a reply ripped straight from the pages of an Imperial Training manual.
“None of that matters. I will be adding your most irregular behavior to my report for the fleet and requesting a full inquiry. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be below assisting Major Andalor.”
Meera struggled against Krest. Rage and anger coursed through her marrow. She reached after him and missed by some distance, but a sensation in her hand felt like she had grabbed him anyway. The Major stopped in his tracks and grabbed at his throat, gasping like he was being choked. Meera strained against Krest’s grip, but focused her intense feelings of hate on Deshkin. She could feel her hand around his neck and squeezing the life from him, though she was still several feet away. Her fingers slowly clenched into a fist while he turned shades of red, then blue. With a flick of her wrist, his neck spun in an unnatural twist and his corpse collapsed to the floor.
Krest flung Meera down into the chair and quickly shut the door. “My, my, Lieutenant Dyre. What other forbidden secrets do you harbor in there?” Major Andalor’s voice crackled over the intercom before she could answer.
“Payload ready for launch, Lieutenant Dyre. Awaiting you order.”
Meera was exhausted. Her lungs could barely take in enough air to speak. She did not know what just happened, but it drained every ounce of energy she had. The anger overtook her senses and she couldn’t control herself. Krest sat and pressed her finger to her lips, indicating for Meera remain quiet. “Dyre has been attacked by Major Deshkin. Send Marillion and his troopers to the conference room immediately.” She then pressed the cockpit comm. “Keep your finger on the button, Lieutenant Cearza.”
“Aye, Captain Krest. Standing by.”
She stared at Meera again with a look of wide wonder and calculating calm. “When Marillion arrives, follow my lead.” She stood, drew her vibroblade, and plunged it deep into Deshkin’s chest. Just then, the door swung wide and Marillion’s red-armored form filled the entrance without his helmet, but blaster at the ready.
“What happened here?” he asked.
“It would seem the good Major was angry that Lieutenant Dyre stole from his precious Empire. He moved against her and I ended it. Take his body below and toss him in with Aloo. That should earn us some goodwill the bounty hunter.”
Marillion looked at Meera with confusion. She sat sprawled in the chair, panting like a Lothcat, barely conscious and drenched in sweat. All she could do was nod in agreement. Marillion and one of his men took Deshkin’s arms and drug him out. The door swished closed behind them and Krest sheathed her deadly talon.
“I cannot have the crew see us as equals, Dyre. I control them because they fear me. If they know what you are capable of, I no longer control that fear. Loyalty becomes divided, and I cannot allow that. Something has awoken within you. You possess the very skills the Emperor scoured the galaxy for, but be mindful. Just because he is dead does not mean you are safe. There are others, and the Emperor still has reach far beyond the grave.”
“I am…I’m no one…I am just a …medical off…icer. Nothing more.” Meera struggled to reply.
“Silly girl. You are far more than that now. I’ll keep your secret and you will follow my command until this mission is complete. If you’ll agree to that, I swear to you I will help you discover these abilities you have. Earlier I gave you a choice, so I ask you once again: Join me and live or oppose me and die. We’ll speak on this again after we’ve taken the Stargazer.” She reached over to the comm. “Major Andalor, is the secondary cargo prepared?”
“Yes, Captain. Prepared.”
“Good. Activate Aloo’s code cylinder and jettison the package immediately.” She quickly pressed the button to the pilot. “Captain Cearza, once the cargo doors close, give a twenty-count, then fire engines. Plot intercept course with Stargazer and request fire support. Distress signal Zeta-Omicron-Six-Six. Give me some distance between us and this bounty hunter heathen.”
“Aye, Captain. Orders confirmed”
“Stay here and recover, Dyre. You’re going to need your strength for what comes next. We’ll handle the rest of your plan from here.” Krest swept out, leaving Meera alone.
Over the last twelve hours, Meera’s body endured a myriad of brutal trials, from the relentless thrashing aboard the failing Death Star, to the stresses of the situation aboard this shuttle, her lifeboat, and now whatever supernatural transformation was happening to her. The moments of quiet washed over like waves, making her limbs and eyes heavy. It felt like days since she slept. As her head lolled to the side, a tiny blue light flickered on the holoprojector. She swung her arm up as if it were tied down with stones and pushed it. The Shaaridan’s face in a blue holographic triangle erupted upward.
“Meera Dyre, my patience wears thin. You have—”
“Repeat your message?”
“They’re calling Aloo’s ship to destroy you. Take your bounty and run.”A grinding sound could be heard through the durasteel walls as the cargo doors swung open to space. They were sending out the bodies.
“I fear no luxury cruiser. My ship is—”
“There’s an army aboard it, loyal to the Empire. Take what we have offered you and run. You only have a moments to live otherwise.”
“You speak truly, Meera Dyre?” The grinding sound started again. The cargo bay doors were closing.
“I do. You have twenty seconds. Collect the payload and run.”
“You have earned the respect of Gekko. I will not forget this.” His visage wavered and disappeared. She didn’t know what happened after that. Her eyes closed and exhaustion took her.
Coming Soon in Star Wars: Lifeboat, Part VII…
Krest leads a boarding party onto the Stargazer seeking the holocron manual and her missing son, and ends up finding more than she bargained for when Aloo’s guards unleash an unexpected and powerful enemy against the shuttle crew. Meera struggles with her new-found abilities and what they are turning her in to, and Captain Vario finally wakes with a warning for her. Tune in next time!
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.