Master of the Force
The Zel have emerged once again to spread terror across the galaxy. Wielders of the dark side of the Force and controlled by the Emperor they are using their evil powers to hunt down and destroy the last of the Jedi order.
Obsessed with finding Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Emperor has unleashed the most sinister of the dark Zel lords, ZEL ACRIMONIS, with orders to locate him at any cost.
Fearing Obi-Wan will be discovered in his secret hiding place on the remote planet of Tatooine the Rebel Alliance has sent a trusted representative to warn him of the approaching danger….
Fate is for the weak. The strong grasp destiny.
— Zel Convulsis; quoted in The Lesser Chronicles of the Force Adept
The gas giant dominated the unnamed system, lost in its remote arm of the galaxy. A single rocky satellite orbited the gargantuan planet, the strong light from the distant sun reflected from its icy surface.
Both halves of the escort frigate erupted from hyperspace simultaneously, the ship’s long spine broken. The violence of the abrupt exposure destroyed the doomed crew’s last chance to control the vessel as the planet’s immense gravity sealed their fate.
Immediately behind, a damaged corvette violently exploded from lightspeed, the white hot fragments from its destroyed engines a swarm of debris following the frigate to its death as it fell towards the titanic mass below.
Three intact ships appeared from hyperspace behind them, a Hammerhead cruiser with two corvettes as escorts, only just maintaining formation as their engines screamed in protest at the unexpected vortex of forces gripping them in the isolated system.
The two dying ships already lost, the remains of the small rebel fleet accelerated away from the gas giant, seeking to escape its pull, aiming for deep space. Only a few minutes and they could jump back, free of the forces that had already claimed the others.
All three regrouped, speeding away, undamaged but shaken. The first signs of a disturbance nearby alerted them to the continuing danger. Within only a few seconds another vessel emerged.
The clean, angular planes of the Imperial star destroyer emerged nearby, massive, imposing and poised, its appearance perfectly controlled and majestic in contrast to the rebel ships. It immediately began firing on the cruiser, already tagged as the main target. It ignored the two escort corvettes even as they frantically fired at the colossal ship, its hull glowing a phosphorescent white in the harsh light from the system’s sun.
As the rebel cruiser’s shields began to degrade under the onslaught a stream of TIE fighters poured from the star destroyer like a swarm of insects, deftly separating into two groups, each one aiming for a corvette as the staccato beams of combat lasers blackened the hull of the weakening cruiser.
Vendira sprinted along the transport corridor, deep within the lower levels of the ship. The summons had been brief, and unexpected, Master Dargon insisting she make her way to the main hold as soon as possible and to ensure nothing stopped her.
A deep thunder shook the vessel, nearly knocking her off balance. The lights suddenly cut out plunging the wide corridor into temporary darkness. The emergency lighting activated almost immediately, accompanied by muffled thuds high above, as if something were physically battering the cruiser. Focusing on movement she tried to avoid attending to the fear rising within her.
The amber lighting rendered the stark white corridor in a jaundiced yellow as thin red points of light shone from the floor guiding the way. Things must be drastic for the ship to move to backup power like this. The corridor shook again, taking some time to dissipate, a sign the ship was being repeatedly hit with turbolasers.
Sprinting around a shallow corner, ahead of her some of the defense force had assembled, a thick mass of men, their blast rifles drawn as if expecting to be confronted by Imperial troops. As she ran towards them near the end of the long stretch several dozen were already there, with more pouring in from a side corridor. Some turned in time to see her rushing at them, momentarily thrown by the sight of her small frame sprinting down the passageway.
After Master Dargon’s insistent plea she didn’t have time to stop and push her way through the throng, which seemed to be at least ten or fifteen deep. Only a few strides away from the mass of bodies she leapt up to the right, easily reaching the horizontal bulkhead running along the full length of the corridor. Jumping immediately to the left, she aimed for its opposite number on the other side, several feet above the men. One final fluent jump brought her easily down behind the clustered troops, her forward motion barely affected as the rest of the long corridor stretched before her.
At the end, still some distance away, the imposing barrier of a pressure door blocked the way, the bright red of its locking mechanism like a beacon as the lights flickered, throwing the corridor back into temporary darkness.
Continuing to sprint hard, raising her right hand as the yellow emergency lighting returned, she could just sense the door’s crude locking mechanism before it succumbed. The red flickered to green and she reached out again. The door began to slide to the left as she increased her speed, the soft sound of its mechanism lost to the tremors of the ship as it shook under the onslaught.
The pitch black of the hold hurried towards her. Sensing the waist-high barrier ahead before she could see it, protecting anyone from falling to the hangar’s floor forty feet below, her awareness began to take in the near-empty space as she sprinted through the open doorway and vaulted over the barrier.
The floor rushed up to her and she sharpened her focus, pulling it away from sensing the space within the hold. Her landing was slightly off; she instinctively crumpled and rolled, twisting so the energy could dissipate. An extra backward roll on landing completed the maneuver, the remaining momentum bringing her up to her feet in a single motion. Looking back at the gantry high above, the pressure door silently closed as the large space enveloped her in darkness. She ranged out behind, into the hold, unable to locate anything but emptiness. Why had she been summoned here?
Turning to locate the voice as it echoed in the space, she saw the group just before she sensed them. She should have caught them on the way down. Master Dargon and Felix stood with an old man and an astromech droid. They huddled next to a light freighter, the dim glow from the cockpit above the only source of illumination in the cavernous space.
They stood at the other side of the hold, near the outer blast doors that led to space. Master Dargon would have probably sensed their presence while sprinting down the corridor above and readied himself. She could almost hear Hanika’s voice in her head, warning her of the lure of the immediate, as she ran towards them, unable to ignore the sharp lance of fear within herself at the sight of them here in the empty hold while they were being attacked, an ominous rumble above growing in volume.
The pristine bridge gleamed, the reflected light from the instrument panels a testament to Imperial efficiency. Zel Acrimonis could sense the bridge officers recoil as he approached Captain Cranel looking out over the impromptu battle zone. The muted hues of the gas planet sat in space nearby, the captain and his junior staff silhouetted against the violent form of its turbulent weather bands as they peered out of the tall windows overlooking the body of the star destroyer below them.
Silently joining them he knew Cranel loathed him and disliked his presence on the bridge. It upset the others, dulling their focus. Like so many in these uncertain times they succumbed to the fleeting sensations their undisciplined minds failed to control.
The tactical panels updated with details on the battle. Their TIE fighters continued to assault the escort ships desperately trying to protect the main vessel. He had ordered the captain to merely throw them out of lightspeed, although two had not survived the attack.
The corvette escorts seemed unable to cope with the assault and were slowly succumbing to their inevitable end. They had not managed to damage a single TIE fighter. He observed as one of the rebel escorts finally lost its shields, the small maneuverable Imperial fighters quickly destroying their propulsion systems. The second one would fall too.
The cruiser was being harassed by the star destroyer itself, its shields still holding. The damage, however, looked considerable. The hull had buckled in a number of places although it maintained its frantic pace in a bid to break free of the system.
He had to rely on the ship’s instruments to monitor progress, the doomed vessel directly below the star destroyer and out of sight. Closing his eyes he reached out, sensing far. The rhythmic hum of the vessel around him slipped away as he focused inward, drawing on the Brotherhood to do so. He almost immediately sensed the presence of other Force sensitives. Jedi, at least one of them disciplined although two others came through, more diffuse. Likely apprentices.
The other large ship, the frigate, was now lost and had been destroyed before he could reach out. But this one, the Hammerhead cruiser, contained the individuals he sought.
Conscious of the Imperial fleet’s ineptness, already witnessed in the careless destruction of the other ships, he turned to Cranel, so studiously avoiding his presence.
“The cruiser, Captain.”
The man turned to him, making eye contact, something he normally avoided. “Yes, my Lord. We are tackling it now. It won’t take long.”
“I want it intact. Destroy their propulsion systems, but ensure the rest retains its integrity.”
“Of course, my Lord.”
The others scurried away as he turned again to the tactical updates. Not that he needed them. He could sense them aboard, waiting.
The vessel was a light freighter, used throughout the galaxy. As they made their way to the cockpit Vendira could sense the urgency from Master Dargon as he ushered them forward. Even inside the small ship she could still hear the muffled din of the cruiser as it buckled under the assault by the Imperial star destroyer, the decking vibrating below her feet.
Entering the cockpit Felix immediately began the start up routine. The engines engaged, a deep rumbling emerged, shaking the vessel as instrument panels in the cramped space activated across the walls and ceiling.
She turned to Master Dargon and the old man as the R5 unit trundled in behind them, edging into the cockpit.
“What is going on?”
He didn’t answer and instead turned to the older man. “Orto Salagin meet Vendira Maz Berso. She will take you to where you need to go.”
The other man said nothing, nodding in acknowledgement.
“Take him? Take him where?”
She looked around the cockpit. Felix was busy readying the old ship.
“The information is held on the R5 unit,” said Master Dargon, looking at the battered droid. It beeped in response, its worn exterior a match for the interior of the old vessel.
“I don’t understand.”
“I want you to go with Orto. Take him where he needs to go. Protect him if need be.”
A deep rumble from the engine grew in volume as Felix rose from the chair indicating the ship was ready.
The old man looked her up and down. “She is young, Dargon.”
Vendira felt her hand instinctively go to her waist. She only noticed once she settled on the comforting form of her lightsaber hilt, a betrayal of her inner state as Hanika would have said.
“She will do fine, Orto,” said Master Dargon.
He turned to her. “Wait for the signal, Vendira. We will launch decoys to cover your tracks.”
“Decoys? I don’t understand.”
“You need to get away. To take Orto far from here. A minimum of five jumps then the droid will tell you where to go.”
She looked at the old astromech droid, the white of its casing lost to grime. Its green markings were still visible as it rotated its head to follow the conversation.
“The destination is encrypted on the R5 unit,” said Master Dargon. “Once you have made five jumps it will let you know where to go. Get Orto to the destination safely, Vendira. But wait for the signal.”
A loud crunch interrupted her as she felt the cruiser lurch downward, throwing them off balance. A muted clanking sound grew in volume, emanating from somewhere far above them.
Master Dargon raised his hand as the old man, Salagin, slumped onto the navigator’s seat. “We don’t have time, Vendira. We must go.”
Felix moved to the cockpit exit with Master Dargon as she sat down in the pilot’s chair, the instrument panel alive with readouts. The ship was fueled and ready. She just had time to notice the extra fuel gauges and realized, as old and rundown as the vessel appeared, it had obviously been modified to carry extra fuel. How far were they going?
She turned just in time to see Master Dargon pause and look back at them from the cockpit exit.
“Wait for the signal, and may the Force be with you.”
Then he was gone, the two dark cassocks swept away through the ship.
She turned to the old man and the droid, the vibration of the engine drowning them in noise. The moment was broken as a deep rumble erupted far away. Something was happening to the ship.
The droid beeped. Before she could respond the instrument panel indicated a change as she noticed the external blast doors begin to open just as the ship around them began to shake violently.
The shields had fallen to below ten per cent. Zel Acrimonis could sense the excitement rising in the crew, only the captain able to manifest inner control. The view remained unchanged, the muted light reflected from the planet dominating the bridge. Only one of the rebel ships was even visible.
An alarm sounded, capturing the attention of the captain.
“Something is happening,” he said, seemingly to himself.
He detected a shift in tempo, although it proved difficult to tell if this was just the tension of the men on on the bridge, exacerbated by his own presence.
“They are launching vessels, sir.”
The voice came from behind. He chose not to look back, although Cranel did. The displays dutifully recorded the unexpected turn of events. Each rebel ship disgorged a series of small vessels, the star destroyer’s instruments struggling to target and classify them.
The captain, standing beside him, studied the readouts. He could sense the man’s rash contempt as he absorbed the information.
“Most of them are escape pods,” he said. “I don’t know where they think they are going.”
“Sixty-one so far. Although—”
“We are having trouble calibrating, my Lord.”
He studied the display, searching for a sign, the mess of icons rendering it useless. Looking up at the calm serenity of space through the transparent barrier on the bridge he reached out. He could only dimly sense anything, the confusion of the events clouding his sensitivity.
“The main vessel. The cruiser. How many have they released?”
Cranel studied the readout. “Twenty-two, my Lord.”
“Focus on them. Ignore the rest. Disable them all.”
The captain turned to pass on the order. But he could sense they were too late. Something was happening, lying just beyond his grasp.
Before the orders could be enacted some of the small vessels accelerated hard, aiming in all directions away from the larger rebel ships. The display showed a cluster of small craft, all traveling or drifting in a confusion of vectors, including several accelerating away.
The captain seemed lost, the speed of events confusing him.
The first small rebel ship jumped to lightspeed, a dangerous move so close to the mass of the gas giant.
The officers frantically shouted orders to target the faster moving ships and to ignore the drifting escape pods, obviously chaff to confuse the sensors.
Calming himself and ranging out he detected a weaker sense of the Force. At least one of the Force wielders on the cruiser was gone.
As he reviewed again the display the captain approached him.
“We have the cruiser, my Lord. It is being tractored in.”
Satisfied he had obtained as much as the crew were able to provide he turned and walked along the central gantry, the men still trying to chase down the empty escape pods so successfully launched to confound their slow, isolated minds.
Bodies littered the wide corridor. Rebel troops foolishly resisting despite the fact the cruiser itself had been disabled and held fast by the star destroyer. Such was the mentality of the enemy, unwilling to respond to reason.
The original white of the walls was disfigured by black streaks from the rebels’ own weapons, the entire corridor bathed in yellow from the emergency lighting. Stepping over the body of a dead stormtrooper, Zel Acrimonis strode down the long corridor towards the end where they had congregated. Even from the distance he could sense the Imperial troops discomfort at his presence as his tall, skeletal form approached, followed by all twelve of his protectorate guard, distinctive in their red uniforms. He could sense them behind him as he walked, their minds calm and empty.
Reaching out he couldn’t sense any of the individuals he had felt before despite now being on board the vessel. The mental clamor of hundreds of other minds confused things now he was among them. Although one of the Force wielders had been mature. Was he capable of shielding himself?
Captain Cranel stood next to a man wearing the insignia of a commander. He didn’t need to ask as they approached. The odor of plasma discharges lingered in the space reflecting the disarray around them, rebel bodies scattered where they had fallen.
“This is the Commander, Lord Acrimonis.”
“Acrimonis?” The rebel looked shocked, his eyes noting the blood red robes of his calling. He could sense the jolt of fear running through the man, gripping him.
“Commander. There are two Jedi aboard this vessel. Where are they?”
“Jedi? What are you talking about?”
“You tire my patience, Commander. Kindly tell me where they are and you and your crew are free to go.”
“Free to go where?” He could sense the commander’s courage returning. “You have disabled our engines. Damaged them beyond repair. We are a peaceful—”
“I grow tired of this. I know there are two Jedi outlaws on board. There were three, but your ruse enabled one to escape. I surely don’t need to remind you of the penalty for harboring dangerous criminals.”
It was clear the man was unwilling to reveal anything. He moved in closer and raised his hand. As the commander recoiled, two stormtroopers moved in to restrain him.
Channeling his energy he reached into the rebel’s mind. It lay open like child’s, there for the taking. A confusing turmoil of memory and sensation emerged as the man gasped at the intrusion, his breathing labored. The image of a ship’s hold flashed briefly and then was gone, pulled swiftly away by the commander’s remaining willpower, its recency apparent in among the confusion of older memories.
He pushed with more emphasis as he felt resistance slip away, the Force assisting him to reach deeper inside the man’s mind. Closing his eyes as the rebel began to slump, held upright only by the stormtroopers, he ranged out through the ship.
There! The smallest hint of something, a Force wielder using his mind to shield himself from probing. Probably the younger one he had sensed before. As he continued he felt the commander’s lifeforce depleting, sensing the strain placed upon him as he struggled to resist; he had only a few moments left.
Nothing else of importance appeared as the commander finally died, just the fading mental debris of his worthless life as it evaporated. He opened his eyes in time to see the man finally slip away, the stormtroopers sensing the change as the body slumped to the deck, the silence punctuated only by the distant groans of the crippled vessel around them.
“Captain,” he said to Cranel, personally overseeing the boarding, his shocked look apparent. “Where is the main hold on this vessel?”
“It is on the lowest deck, my Lord,” he said, stepping forward, glancing briefly down at the dead rebel commander. “I can take you there.”
The ship juddered as it emerged from hyperspace, the ancient interior rattling in sympathy. The other jumps had been just as bad, but worth it if it took them further away from detection by the Imperial fleet. Outside the cockpit empty space greeted them, only the distant spray of stars indicating they had changed position at all from the fourth jump.
Vendira studied the scans, alert for any sign of movement, especially the emergence of an Imperial ship. The old man sat silently as before, leaving her to the task. After several minutes the display still showed an all clear.
“Nothing,” she said, turning to the old man.
“Five jumps is enough. Let’s see what our R5 unit has to say.”
Silent until now, the battered old droid beeped in recognition and moved to a console. A green panel on its exterior flipped open and its connector sprang out and linked to the ship.
Vendira leaned forward as her display changed, the information encrypted within the droid shared with the ship’s systems.
“Tatooine?” She turned to the old man.
“Tatooine?” he said, leaning back in his seat, lost in thought.
“Where is that? I’ve never heard of it.”
“A long way from here,” said Salagin, almost absentmindedly. Then he seemed to remember she was there as he turned back to her. “A desolate place in the Outer Rim. Ran by gangsters. It’s nowhere.”
“The Outer Rim?”
She turned to consult the display to call up the star charts, but the R5 unit was ahead of her. The display showed their current position relative to the Outer Rim. A long way indeed. What could possibly be there worth all this trouble?
“The perfect hiding place really.”
She turned back, Salagin’s unexpected comment throwing her.
“Perfect for who? Why are we going there? Do you need to hide?”
The old man looked at her, his lined face relaxing for the first time as he smiled. “Not me, Vendira. Someone else. Someone already there.”
He didn’t answer and instead asked her to plot a course.
As she turned to the console the droid had already laid it in. The Outer Rim. Far from anywhere. This trip was getting stranger by the minute.
The Imperial engineers stood back as the reinforced pressure door lurched open. The protectorate hesitated for a brief moment before Zel Acrimonis entered, unsure of his intent. Striding forward he ranged out, sensing ahead to better decide how to manage the situation. He immediately felt the presence of two individuals as he entered the hold fully, one young and one old.
The twelve protectorate guards silently moved to surround him, forming a protective barrier. Ahead stood the two individuals, both wearing the traditional simple clothing of the Jedi order.
The two men stood together, conferring. Despite their external calmness he could sense anxiety, although less so from the older man. Walking to the center of the empty hangar the emergency lighting only just illuminated the walls and blast doors some distance behind the Jedi, the rest lost to darkness.
The two Jedi split apart, shrugging off their dark cassocks as they each reached for their weapons.
The mature one was clearly a master, his calm mind reflecting his long training. He would have no doubt informed the youth of the tactics required to tackle the protectorate guards. Both would be aware of his own control over the twelve, their mental enslavement, each guard an extension of himself despite their individual martial skills.
They had proved themselves on numerous encounters with the remnant of the Jedi order. Three were former Jedi apprentices, much like the young man presumably.
He looked directly at the mature Jedi.
“Surrender and you will be spared.”
“We both know you are lying, Zel,” he said, moving to the left, away from the boy circling around to the other side.
“Do not be foolish. You are outnumbered.”
“Outnumbered by slaves.”
His weapon ignited, the sharp thrust of plasma leaping forth. The bright green of the blade lit up his small portion of the darkness as the younger man engaged his weapon too, its blue form clean and bright. The electrostatic hum of the two lightsabers echoed in the silence.
The effect on the protectorate was instantaneous. Six immediately detached from the group, with the other six reconfiguring to surround himself.
He directed four towards the older man, standing ready in a defensive position, the unthinking obedience of the guards ensuring immediate compliance. The other two turned to the younger one, his blue lightsaber blade held before him.
He closed his eyes, feeling the Force rise within him. The sense of the large space, and the two Jedi nearby, faded from his mind as he channeled his energy into the six guards. The power rose within them as they each drew their own weapons. He could feel the dark electric energy of their lightening staffs ignite almost simultaneously as they moved in to destroy the two Jedi, the hangar’s darkness receding from the violent red discharge of their weapons.
The four to his left moved quickly, attempting to surround the mature Jedi. He leapt back, somersaulting quickly, attempting to draw the four in and break their formation. As they surged ahead, too quickly to restrain them, the first guard foolishly rushed after the man, thinking him retreating. He noticed the mistake before the guard as the Jedi easily blocked the descending rod, its angry red electrical charges spilling into the darkness. Twisting before the guard could recover he sharply spun his lightsaber around, embedding it in the guards chest as the robed form slumped to the deck, dead.
In one fluid movement the Jedi turned to face the other three as the guard’s death bled through, too fast to block, wincing at the speed of the Jedi’s martial skill. Despite his age he was strong and fast. The realization naturally spread to the remaining eleven guards as his awareness seeped into theirs.
The two guards on the right took the moment of distraction to attack the boy, both of their staffs spinning in the darkness, an attempt to confound him. It failed. He too leapt back into a defensive position before they could reach him, his bright blue blade held steady.
One of the guards followed through, bringing his staff down towards the young man’s head, which he easily blocked. He dexterously kicked the guard square on the chest, throwing him some ten feet onto his back, the lightening staff thrown from his hands. He could sense the Force behind the move, powerful but undisciplined, only effective because of the strength of the youth. The boy lacked the finesse of the older Jedi.
Focusing on the older man, he felt the three guards respond to his attention as they gathered into a tight formation, surrounding him. The Force touched him as the older Jedi reached out, the restrained contact powerful but defensive, almost shocking in its directness as he tested the strength of the connection between himself and the three protectorate. The Jedi would understand the key weakness of the method, their reliance on the connection with him. Yet, had him and the boy been able to better coordinate they could have worked together to perhaps overwhelm him. Even now, in the midst of the fight, he could sense no connection between the older Jedi and the youth, presumably his own apprentice. Such was the weakness of their order, their obsession with the individual.
All three guards moved in unison, surrounding the older man. He countered as the first guard’s staff arced around and down to the back of his skull, the blur of his green plasma blade elegantly blocking the blow.
The second guard rushed inward, aiming for the chest. The Jedi continued his circular movement after dispatching the first blow and, turning fully around, caught the edge of the staff and flipped it up, throwing it from the guard’s hands. With one step forward he kicked the enslaved protectorate in the chest.
As the guard stumbled back the third guard, now behind the Jedi, succeeded in landing a blow. The staff made contact with the man’s shoulder, a dark red discharge immediately enclosing him in an agonizing electric surge as he called out, slumping to the ground.
Without turning to look he could sense the youth react as the older Jedi’s pain became apparent. The anger emanating from the boy distracted the mature Jedi for a moment. It was enough as he sent the first protectorate in, the lightening staff swiftly brought down before the old Jedi could react.
The solid blow landed on the back of his head, knocking him unconscious. A second guard approached and struck the prone figure again. He felt the Jedi Master’s lifeforce drain just as the boy erupted, an involuntary shout echoing around the hold as the lightening staff struck hard on the older man’s chest, killing him instantly.
The boy lashed out at the two approaching guards as the other three moved closer. He could sense the rising panic as the young apprentice killed another of the guards standing too near, his weapon stabbing through the guard’s chest, then quickly leaping back out of reach.
This provided the remaining four with enough time to coordinate as they surrounded the youth. The blue blade of his lightsaber held defensively ahead of him, the boy tried to calm himself as he stole a glance at the dead Jedi some distance away only just visible in the darkness of the hangar.
He dispatched one of the six surrounding himself, a former Jedi apprentice like the boy. Approaching, the guard ignited his own lightsaber, the dark, sickly orange of the blade humming in the empty space.
The guard immediately leapt forward, engaging the young Jedi who effortlessly parried. The other guards closed in as the two fought, the orange blade arcing through the darkness almost too quickly to follow. He could sense the enslaved former Jedi begin to weaken, the familiar movements triggering a memory of his past life. He pushed harder, mentally enveloping the guard, the others slipping away from his direct control.
One of them darted forward and attempted to strike the boy. The Jedi apprentice quickly spun and blocked the parry and, in an unexpected surge of strength, summoned the Force to throw the guard some considerable distance to the middle of the hold. Continuing the smooth movement he spun the blade of his weapon around at another guard rushing in and deftly cut clean through his neck, the head flying away as the body continued its forward movement.
He could sense the boy fail to center himself as he reestablished a defensive stance, facing the enslaved former Jedi. He reached out to control the remaining guards and sent all of them towards the boy. The youth struggled with the onslaught, three lightening staffs moving in unison to strike him down. As he fended them off one caught the boy on the shoulder, his shout of pain echoing around the empty space.
The former Jedi saw his chance and moved swiftly to attack. As the boy maneuvered to defend himself the orange plasma blade sliced through his right arm just below the elbow. The youth sunk to his knees just as the blue light of his lightsaber died out.
The four guards moved to surround him, held back by himself. The boy knelt on the floor, exhausted, struggling to control his fear.
Moving forward, all nine guards changed formation to surround them both, the discharges from their weapons illuminating the Jedi apprentice in crimson as he slumped on the deck, still in shock. The distinctive odor of plasma ionization lingered in the air as he stood above the youth.
“What was your mission here?”
The boy looked up at him. He could sense the defiance, tempered only by the presence of the remaining protectorate guards.
He moved closer and raised his hand. Reaching out with the Force his awareness of the nine guards receded as he focused on the defeated Jedi. The boy resisted as he pushed harder. He was strong with the Force, but young, lacking discipline. A confusion of images greeted him as he sank deeper. A girl, or young woman. An older man too. All recent and fresh.
Nothing else seemed near the surface. They could have been anyone. Drawing on the guards he felt them weaken as he pushed harder, summoning the Force. The boy began to succumb as he collapsed to the floor. He still resisted, pushing back against the intrusion.
More images drifted into his awareness. A fleeting glimpse of the older man, a cold place, an ice planet. Recent too, where he had faced some confusion. The place was important to the youth for some reason. It was connected to the rebellion.
Nothing else was forthcoming. The boy lost consciousness as the connection melted away.
He pulled away, sensing the guards slip back into his control. There was nothing else to be gained from the boy. He knew little. Looking over at the corpse of the older Jedi with regret he knew whatever secrets they had would have died with him. A sensible precaution against himself.
Looking back at the boy lying unconscious he told the others to take him to the infirmary aboard the star destroyer. With enough control he would be a useful addition to the protectorate.
Turning to leave, six of the protectorate broke off to surround him, leaving the remaining three to attend to the former Jedi youth. The dull yellow of the corridor beyond the damaged doorway beckoned in the darkness, the emergency lighting flickering as he exited the hold, the rebel ship slowly dying around him.
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