ACT OF REBELLION
He had been in space for a couple of
weeks now. One thing that hyperspace travel made you forget was there
were vast distances between stars. Trips
that took weeks or months at sublight took only a few days or hours at
The trip was long and hard. His mini-hyperjump before the hyperdrive conked-out had put him at least close enough to get somewhere in only two weeks. He hadn't shaved since he had arrived in the Ashkhelhon system. His beard was getting pretty thick. Vaguely he considered saving it. Nah, it made him look like a Wookie. Which wouldn't be too bad if he retired to Kashyyk. Or maybe Endor. He did admit that he smelled like a wet Ewok.
Stop, he thought to himself, You've got to stop this. Got to sleep. Thinking crazy stuff. He hadn't slept a lot. Hadn't showered much either. The ship was barely holding together, and he needed to be awake for the next alert. The only thing worse than being stranded in space is being stranded in space in a ship that was coming close to falling apart. That, and the fact that he was still in enemy territory. Fortunately, the major systems still worked. He had some power left for the weapons, but it would only postpone the inevitable if an Imperial ship showed up.
The alarm jolted him awake. Funny, he wasn't even aware of having fallen asleep. Groggily he got up from the bunk he had laid down on for a quick rest.
"Peregrine," he grunted with a slight tinge of pessimism, "what's broken now?"
"Nothing new, sir. However we are entering the Golgan system. You did ask to sound an alarm when we got here."
Carlos grunted again, yawned, and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. That and prayed that his cover story would work.
"Peregrine, what's our ETA to Golgan III?"
"Two hours sir."
Carlos yawned one more time, staggered across the corridor to the cockpit, and strapped himself in the pilots chair.
Two more hours. In two hours, I will either be planet side asleep, or blow apart by the Empire. Two more hours.....
Orbital shipyards are
some of the most impressing sights in both the New Republic and the Empire.
The ones at Golgan III are the third largest in the Galaxy, rivaled only
the by the Empire's Bilbringi Shipyards and the Republics Sluis Van shipyards.
They are essentially two space platforms connected by a seemingly
haphazard construct of girders, docking ports, control stations, and transport
systems. Despite this, it is still
the main yards of the Imperial Ninth Fleet.
But those yards hadn't been built by Old Republic or Imperial engineers. They had been built by the Golgans millennia ago, and had been contracted out to various corporations, or used by the Golgans themselves, to construct massive star cruisers and battleships. But the Golgans fell off the scene about thirty years before the Battle of Yavin. Then the Empire came...
The scene of the Golgan shipyards was one of controlled madness.
Two Star Destroyers, the Tarkin and
the Tagge, had been damaged in a fight
with New Republic ships. Space tugs
and heavy lifters ferried supplies and repair crews to the wounded ships.
No one besides the traffic control officer paid much attention to the
damaged ship that limped into orbit.
The Claw had a special holocam system that let it change its outward appearance. This time Peregrine had changed the colors from black and gold to blue and silver, the colors of the Carmych Syndicate. The outer hull had been changed slightly, not enough to make the interior look out of place, but enough to avoid suspicion. The com system came to life as the traffic control center picked them up on their sensors.
"Unidentified ship, this the Golgan Shipyards Control office. Please identify, over."
"Control, this is Ford Prefect of the Carmych Trade Syndicate. My ship was attacked by pirates, and has sustained heavy damage. Request permission to put down for repairs." Carlos had several identities that he used in covert stuff. Right now, seeking help from the enemy, covertness was a must.
"Permission granted, Mr. Prefect. We don't have room in the orbital yards, but we can take you in the ground yards. Can you make it planet side?"
Carlos waited a second before answering. He called up the damage assessment, and figured that he could land if the landing bay wasn't too far away from where he entered the atmosphere.
"That's affirmative, Control. Know any good hotels down there?" The control officer laughed a bit before replying.
"I hear ya. I'm sending you the coordinates to the main dry dock on the planet. Its right next to the capital. Try the Promenade Hotel. Nice rooms, great food, but it is expensive though."
"Not a problem. I have an A4 account." A4 accounts have an unlimited line of credit and can convert their holdings to any form of local money. It was one of the thing that Chryson had set up for him three years ago.
"The Syndicate sure does take care of y'all, don't they? Take care Mr. Prefect, and have a pleasant stay." The officer wondered if he should mention the bit about the air masks, but figured that Prefect would find out about it from the dry dock officials.
Carlos leaned back in his seat with an exhausted shudder. The identity of Ford Prefect was one of his favorites, but he didn't really like his situation. There was something sinister about the planet, something not quite right. He spoke with a tired, resigned sigh.
"Take us down, Peregrine."
The Claw flew over the capital city of M'Huse.
It was a mixture of modern and ancient.
Skyscrapers were mixed in with the domes and towering spires of native
buildings. It looked, to Carlos's
eyes, like a cross between the Imperial City on Coruscant and Theed city on
Naboo. With just a tad of Mos Eisly
thrown in for effect.
The dry dock complex was basically a large pyramidal building with several circular landing pads branching off. Pads were connected to the main building by a covered air car tube. They were surrounded by a large wall that had no other opening besides the top and the tube entrance. Peregrine flew the ship into a holding pattern and waited for the control to take notice. It didn't take long, and it became clear that the controllers had been informed of what was comming by the Traffic Controller. He actually seemed concerned.
"How are you holding up, Mr. Prefect?"
"Still in one piece, control. Where do you want me to go?"
"Head for landing bay six. Put down and hang tight. We'll be there with your oxygen mask shortly."
"Roger that, control," Carlos said in a calm voice. Inwardly, he was anything but calm. He was wondering what oxygen mask they were talking about.
Peregrine put the ship down in the landing. Actually, he just barely put it down. The repulsors conked out about halfway down, and he just barely got the ship settled in with the emergency thrusters. When the ship was safely down, several droids ran out of the storage sections in the wall. They were hooking the ship up to the dry dock's power supply when Carlos heard a loud grating noise. He looked up and saw the top of the dome begin to seal itself off. He was about to call the controller and ask what was going when he heard the unmistakable sound of air being sucked out.
"Peregrine, what's going on?!"
"They seem to be pumping the air out of the hangar, sir. We will be surrounded by a total vacuum in 17 seconds.
"That would explain why they have droids as deck hands, but why are they removing the air?"
"I haven't the foggiest idea, sir. We are now at vacuum." The wind died down to an eerie silence, which then changed into a loud hiss. "Sir, they are pumping air into the hangar now. Full atmosphere will be reached in 20 seconds."
Carlos was thinking this over when the com system crackled again.
"We apologize for the delay, but we needed to purify the air for your own safety. You may now exit you ship. An aircar will meet you at the connecting tube. You will get your air mask from the official on this car. Have a nice stay, and welcome to Golgan III."
Carlos picked up his bag and walked off the boarding ramp into the hangar bay. The droids had gotten the ship on dry dock power without a flicker in the holofield. Good. His charade was still working. Wearily he made his way to the door to the air tube. Before he could get there, the door opened and the air car floated up to him on its repulsor lifts. The pilot hopped out and walked to Carlos.
"You looked kinda haggard on the video system, so I figured I'd come in here instead of making you walk that far. Here, let me take your bag." Carlos handed his bag to the official with a sigh of relief, thankful for small favors. He had a feeling that he was not talking to an Imperial official.
"Thanks. I've had a long trip."
"So I hear. Ford Prefect, right?" the man held his hand out, "Jaryn Herclayn. Welcome to Golgan III." Carlos shook hands with Jaryn, so grateful to finally see another person after so long that he didn't care that he was in Imperial territory. Jaryn handed Carlos an air mask and small oxygen tank. He showed Carlos how to properly fit the mask, hook up the tank, and how to attach the tank to his belt.
"The tanks last about two weeks, but your ship should be finished by then. The air is a bit stale, but its better than the alternative."
"What's the alternative?"
"There's something wrong with this planet. The air is filled with some kind of deadly virus. Kills a person in about ten days. Causes massive internal bleeding and decay. Pretty painful, from what I hear."
"That would explain the air tanks."
Jaryn helped Carlos into the aircar and headed it toward the main building. Along the way he told Carlos about the city, confirmed the Traffic Controller's recommendation of the Promenade hotel, and took Carlos's repair order. The receptionist took one look at Carlos and called a hover-taxi to take him directly to the Promenade. Jaryn promised to make sure that they repair crews got started on his ship immediately. Carlos thanked him and climbed in the taxi.
He arrived at the Promenade about four minutes later. It was an impressive building, ten stories tall with a large dome on the top. The entrance was decorated with a row of five columns, each one nearly ten feet high and made out of pure marble. He stepped through the revolving doors and walked up to the desk.
"Do you have any vacancies?" he croaked. His voice was not an act to arouse sympathy. He was so exhausted he could hardly talk. Fortunately, the people at the dry dock had recognized this and had called ahead.
"We have a room available, Mr. Prefect." At Carlos's look of surprise, the receptionist answered, "The dry dock officials called ahead, sir. Your room is number 509. Don't worry about the payment, we can settle that after you've had a chance to rest." The receptionist, smiling a bright and rather concerned smile, handed Carlos the room key. Carlos tried to say thanks, lost his voice, kinda stuttered a bit, and then smiled that half-smile that people smile when they receive a very unexpected bit of kindness after a terrible ordeal. The receptionist called for a bellhop to carry Carlos's bags up to the room.
The room was much bigger than his quarters on the Imaldris. He tipped the bellhop, took his boots off, and went to bed. He was asleep for the next twelve hours.
He got up feeling refreshed. Amazing
what a long period of uninterrupted sleep can do.
He got up, showered, shaved, and trimmed his hair.
Finally looking like a human rather than a short Wookie, he called up the
dry dock and got a time estimate for repairing the Claw.
"It should take about five days, Mr. Prefect. It would be done sooner, but we're having to special order some parts. That's the one problem with Surronian made ships. Parts are sometimes hard come by."
"No problem," said Carlos, "I needed a rest anyway."
"Well, you picked a good place for that. See you in five days then."
Carlos figured that as long as he could remain incognito and avoid detection by the Empire, this would be a good place to just relax a bit. After all, fighting a Dark Jedi and a pirate fleet can tax a person pretty badly. Not to mention the two week long flight through space with only Peregrine to keep him company. He contacted the front desk and arranged to rent the room for a week. Then he pulled out his secure comlink.
"Peregrine, how ya holding up?"
"Pretty well sir, under the circumstances. I must admit, I'm not to comfortable having Imperial technicians poking around in here."
"Try looking at it from my end. The locals seem friendly enough. I trust you're keeping the important stuff hidden?"
"Don't worry. If they even try to hack into my memory banks, all they'll find will be the usually cargo manifests, shipping schedules, deadlines, union information, all that good boring stuff that takes up space on Syndicate computers."
Carlos had laugh at that one.
"I hear ya. Compared to what we routinely have going on, it does seem boring." Carlos paused for a bit to take stock of the situation. "Peregrine, I want you to find out all that you can about this planet. There's some kind of virus in the atmosphere here. Causes a particularly deadly kind of hemorrhagic fever. I want to know exactly what it is. I also need to know the history of Imperial occupation of this planet, and if there are any kind of resistance movements in place. By the book, you know what I mean?"
"Roger. Directive 24-D. I'll get right on it. What will you be doing in the meantime, sir?"
Carlos checked his watch.
"Looks like I missed breakfast, so I'll have lunch and then go swimming," Carlos said with a grin, "I haven't had a chance to have a nice relaxing swim for quite awhile, and this is as good a time as any."
The water was warm from the rays of the sun. The
spires and towers of the city and the white sands and blue waters of the beach
and ocean made the perfect scenery for a relaxing swim.
He had intended to swim a few laps, but upon entering the water found it
satisfactory just to lay back and float. He
let his mind go blank, let himself, just for the moment, to forget the war, to
forget the fact that he was in enemy territory with no way out for another five
days. He just relaxed and listened
to the waves, to the birds, to laughing of children as they played.
His violent existence seemed so far away, so distant.
He closed his eyes.
"Excuse me, you're new here, aren't you?"
The voice was female, and seemed to come from right above him. His eyes shot open and took a second to adjust to the sunlight. He could pick out the shape of a young woman, about his age, maybe a year or two older. As his eyes adjusted, he could see that she had shoulder-length brown hair, and was wearing khaki shorts and a white cotton shirt. Her eyes were a blue-green color, and twinkled in the sun. Her face was distorted by the oxygen mask, but he could tell that she was what most human males would call beautiful.
"I said, you're new here, aren't you?" She had a pleasant alto voice, he noted.
"Yes, I am," said Carlos, "My ship was attacked by pirates, and I needed to stop here for repairs. The name's Ford Prefect. I'm with the Carmych Syndicate."
"A pleasure to meet you, Mr. Prefect. I'm Sarah Rossech. Ever been to Golgan III before?"
"Call me Ford, please. No, I've never been here before, and I would like to get to know the planet a little better, seeing how I'm stuck here for a week." Sarah grinned at this.
"Well, Ford, I guess its a good thing we met. Meet me at 3:00, and I'll show ya around the city. Room 256. And call me Sarah." She held out her hand.
"Its a deal then, Sarah," Carlos said as he shook her hand, "I'll see ya then."
Carlos knocked on the door to room 256.
The doors at the Promenade still used old-fashioned door-knobs and didn't
have announcement chimes. He was
wearing khaki pants and a stripped colored shirt.
Both were insignia-less, and were exactly what a trader would wear in the
Sarah opened the door to her room and let Carlos in. He vaguely felt guilty about not telling her the truth, but he knew that he needed to keep her in the dark for now. If for nothing else than her own safety. Her room was nearly identical to his, except it had the obvious signs of extended occupation.
"Hello, Ford. Ready to see the town?"
"Lead on, madame."
The two walked to the elevator and headed to the ground floor. Sarah kept a private hovercar parked in the garage. They got into the car and headed out into the city.
Sarah proved to be a very competent guide, knowledgeable in what parts of
the city were of interest. She
showed him the University, the Imperial Garrison, and many of the historical
sections of the city. Then they
came to a modest sized house with three men heading inside.
Sarah just shook her head.
"Old man Markan is at it again."
"That was Dr. Solon of the Imperial Medical Center, Dr. Mal-ab of the Logic department, and Dr. Calfour of the Marine Biology department at the University."
"And what do they have to do with 'Old man Markan'?"
"Oh, I forgot, your not from here. Every six months or so, Markan locks himself in a room with some pills and refuses to come out until it can be proved conclusively to him that he is not a fish."
Carlos just nodded, not really knowing how to respond to that. They drove on for a couple of hours, Sarah showing Carlos the City Hall, the Capital building, the Imperial Headquarters, and the various museum that were the main attraction in the city. At about 5:00, they reached the outskirts.
"Well," said Sarah, "we should probably be heading back. Hungry?"
"Care to join me for dinner?"
"I'd love too."
Sarah turned the car around and headed back into the city. They chatted for a bit more, Sarah asking for the details of how he got away from the pirates. Carlos knew he couldn't tell her the truth, so he made up a story about attaching a small bomb to his cargo of volatile gas and detonating it in the middle of the pirate formation. They drove on for another half-hour. Sarah stopped the car in front of Gran's Restaurant.
"Its not the fanciest place around, but the prices are reasonable and the food is excellent."
"Good," said Carlos, "I'm not all that thrilled with fancy food myself. Besides, after eating ship-board rations for two weeks in a balky freighter, raw bantha hide sounds good right now." They walked into the restaurant laughing.
Sarah led Carlos to a two-person table next to one of windows. It had a nice view of the ocean front, and Carlos, having spent a large portion of his remembered life in space, just sat there, looking at the ocean, completely oblivious to what was going on. Sarah reached over and tapped him on his shoulder, snapping him back into reality.
"You okay?" she asked with concern.
"Yeah," Carlos said with an embarrassed smile, "Its been awhile since I've been planet side. Much less at a beach." He saw a waiter approaching the table. "What's good here?"
"Everything's good here," said Sarah with a grin, "But the BEST stuff is the broiled dewback."
"Sounds good to me."
The waiter arrived at their table. Carlos and Sarah ordered the broiled dewback. It was only moderately priced, but still took awhile to make. They sat there in awkward silence, sipping their water. Carlos was the first to break the silence.
"So, how long has the Empire been in charge here?" A simple enough question, basically designed to test the waters, and hopefully produce some information. The reaction was not what he expected. She became tense and shifted around nervously.
"Why do you want to know?"
"Just curious. Of course, if you don't want to tell me..."
"No," she said, "that's all right." She stopped for a minute to compose herself. "We don't really like the Empire. But we have to keep them here to stay alive."
Carlos nodded. Her hands were shaking. She was clearly nervous, not really comfortable with this conversation. He reached out and gave her right hand a squeeze.
"Its all right."
She smiled at him and continued.
"Its not they'll blast us to pieces, its just that the make these tanks we're wearing. The tanks keep the virus out. They've kept us alive for nearly eight years. We just wish they could be as kind to other worlds as they were here."
Her discomfort with this conversation was growing. Carlos could tell that she was hiding something, but he didn't want to press the issue quite yet. He had to be circumspect about this. He was also slightly confused. "Kind" and "kept us alive" were not things that he usually heard regarding the Empire. He hoped that Peregrine could turn up something. He had gotten as much, he thought, out this source as he could in this setting. He noticed their food comming out.
"Look, dinner's here. Maybe, if you're comfortable with it, we could continue this conversation tomorrow?" Sarah started to relax a bit.
"Yeah," she said, "this is something that should be kept private. You won't mention some of what I've said to the Imperials, will you?"
Carlos could guess what the "some" was. He shook his head.
"I'm not an informer," Carlos reassured her, "Thank you," he said to the waiter who brought them the dewback steaks and refilled their glasses. When the waiter walked off, he said to Sarah, "Don't worry. You can trust me." She could tell that he meant it. For a fleeting second, he wanted to tell her the truth about his occupation. No, he couldn't do that. Eventually, Imperial intelligence would catch up with him. If he told her, either she would inform the Imperials, which was unlikely, or would be executed for aiding him once he was captured, which was far more likely. He suddenly realized that he had put her in great danger.
They ate their steaks and talked.
"How many people are on this planet?"
"Only a few hundred million. The plague killed most of the rest. This is the only large continent on the planet. The rest of the surface is either water or a series of small islands. There were a few outposts on those islands, but they were decimated when the plague broke out. It just about cleaned this place off before the Empire came. Most of the survivors are concentrated around this city and a few other large ones situated around the continent."
"Sounds like a bad time."
"You have a gift for understatement, Ford. What about you, where are you from?"
"Well," Carlos said, deciding that he could tell at least part of the truth this time, "I really don't know. I was found in a park three years ago. I can't remember the first seventeen years of my life. So, I joined the Syndicate as a trader to see if I could find some clues to my past."
"I'm sorry about that. Found anything out?"
"Just a couple of minor leads. Nothing major."
Their conversation went back and forth like that for another hour. Sarah glanced at her watch and exclaimed that she needed to get back to the hotel so she could check on something. She activated the payment terminal and was about to enter her account number. Carlos put out a restraining hand.
"I'm buying this one, lass. First as a thank you for showing me around. Secondly as an apology for my previous question."
She seemed to be in shock for a few seconds, then she smiled.
"A trader and a gentlemen, eh? I think I'm going to like you, Ford."
Carlos paid the check from his A4 account. Once again he silently thanked Chryson for setting up these identities for him. The two new friends left the restaurant and drove back to the Promenade. They stepped into the elevator.
"You said at the restaurant that we could continue to talk about the Empire if I was comfortable with it?"
"Yes. But if you aren't..."
"Well, I am. Just not in that public of a setting. What's your room number?"
"I'll see there at ten in the morning. There are some things I need to tell you." The elevator chimed. "Well, this is my floor. I'll see you in the morning Ford."
"Looking forward to it. See ya then."
The elevator door shut and took Carlos up to the fifth floor.
Sarah sat down in a chair. There
was something about Ford. Something
that made her think. She shook her
head and picked up a phone.
"Vran, this is Sarah. I think I found someone who can help us....."
Back in the room, Carlos saw the message light blinking on his comlink.
It wasn't just some ordinary pattern.
It was carefully disguised code. Carlos
dug his portable computer from his duffel bag and hooked the comlink to a
special scomp link on the side. This
did two things. First, it upped the
power of the comlink. Secondly, it
made it real secure and also knocked out any listening devices in the room.
"What's up, Peregrine?" he said.
"I've got some information on this planet. You've got to hear this one."
"I was digging through the Imperial records here. Golgan III is the main shipyards of the Imperial Ninth fleet. It was originally one of the primary shipyards of the Old Republic. During Palpatine's rise to power, the planet simply fell of the face of the Galaxy. This went unnoticed thanks to the turbulence of that period.
"Shortly before Alderaan was destroyed, Palpatine remembered this planet."
"What took him so long?"
"To busy being a genocidal, racist, murderous, you-know-what."
"Ah. Carry on."
"He ordered the Ninth Fleet to come here and try and take control of the shipyards. Admiral Desaul, the commander of the Ninth Fleet, sent in the Corvette Diabolus to asses the situation. Our old friend then-Commander Tiras Variner commanded the Diablolus."
"Why am I not surprised?"
"Commander Variner of that Corvette found a world ravaged by plague. The death toll was-"
"I know, Peregrine. I kinda did some checking myself."
"I see. Anyway, the corvette commander tried to eradicate the virus. It didn't work, so he set up a factory here to manufacture the oxygen tanks. The people let the Empire stay because the manufacture of those tanks was beyond their technological level. At least, that's what the Golgan's think."
"Go on," Carlos said as he paced around the room.
"The virus was a form of hemorrhagic fever called Ey'Boyla. There is no trace of this virus in the planet's atmosphere."
Carlos stopped his pacing.
"Go on." He was getting suspicious. THIS sounded like the Empire.
"That's what they told the Golgans. The truth is, they did eradicate the virus. A few decades earlier had discovered a special compound, called JX-25, that when introduced to a planet's atmosphere, would completely destroy this kind of virus. However, the earlier version, called JX-25-A, caused the early symptoms of the virus in about 50% of the planet's population. A later B type corrected this problem."
"Let me guess, they used the A type?"
"Correct. The commander of the mission used JX-25-A instead of JX-25-B. The introduction of specially medicated oxygen would reverse the effects of the A type, a feature that was incorporated into the later B type. Variner gave the affect population the medicated oxygen, and then set up a factory to make more tanks, making up some fish story about how the manufacturing process was so complicated that it would be impossible to train native Golgans to make the tanks. He also said that it was a very risky process, and that the techs were placed in great danger."
"So the Empire establishes a foothold here by making the natives think they require the Empire just to survive, and by making the locals think its some real big sacrifice to save them, thus gaining control of the shipyards. Brilliant."
"Yes sir. This also launched Variner's career. After he subjugated the planet, he was promoted to Star Destroyer Captain and given the ISD Lucifer. He kept on rising up, eventually taking control of the 4th Fleet and causing us headaches."
"We need to get this out, Peregrine." They took control of this world with a LIE! But who will believe us? Even those who don't like the Empire... "Peregrine, did you uncover any resistance or dissident movement here?"
"There is a political group here that has publicly expressed disagreement with some of the Empire's policies. They have kept their overt activities to peaceful demonstrations and lobbying. But they are suspected in several acts of sabotage. Those acts have been linked to other, non-local groups, but Imperial Intelligence suspects the groups here."
"Who leads it? If I can get this information to them..."
"The leader's name is Sarah Rossech."
Carlos stopped his pacing mid-stride. His brain struggled to catch up with itself. It couldn't be the same person, could it? It would explain her reaction at the restaurant....
"Do you have a picture?"
Peregrine displayed Sarah's Imperial file on the computer screen. Carlos's expression turned from one of shock and anger to a sly grin. A plan was beginning to form in his head, a plan that could free this planet. If only he could convince Sarah's group...
"Peregrine, document this stuff. I want a hard copy of every single document, record, and authorization that's connects with this. We are going to blow this whole conspiracy wide open."
"Yes sir. We must hurry, though. Rossech and her group are marked for execution by Imperial Intelligence." Carlos grimaced at that.
"Do you know when they plan to move? I'm meeting Sarah tomorrow morning."
"She should be safe by then. Are you sure this will work?"
"There's an interesting thing about the truth, Peregrine. It will always overpower a lie. As a great man once said, 'You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free'. We are going to get the truth out. And set this planet free."
They go to work preparing the information to show to Sarah's group. It took them a couple of hours, but they go it in a presentable format. Carlos leaned back, flexing his stiff fingers. He glanced at the time and yawned.
"Busy day tomorrow. I'm going to bed."
He woke up at 8:00 the next morning.
He went down to the hotel's restaurant and ate a modest breakfast.
He didn't see Sarah anywhere. This
worried him. If Imperial
Intelligence got to her before he could, this whole plan would be for naught.
He went back to his room for a couple of hours of pacing and worrying.
"Peregrine, how are the repairs going?"
"Just about done, sir. I still don't have an exactly date of when Intelligence is going to move, but I'm still looking." Peregrine paused, which was not normal. "Sir, there is a chance that they may be on to us. We may only have a few more days before they figure out the score."
"If they aren't, then I will be very disappointed in them. Just tell me when they plan to move on Sarah."
They lapsed into silence again, and Carlos continued to pace around the room. He checked his watch. He still had another hour. He sat down and reviewed the information again. Will she believe him? Will her group believe him? So many unknowns, so many ways this could go wrong.
STOP IT! You'll go nuts if you keep on worrying like this. You have to do it, come what may.
He sat back and relaxed for the first time that morning, taking in a few deep breaths of air. He heard a knock at the door. This was it, now or never. He go up, went to the door, and let Sarah in.
"Ford, what's wrong? You look-" Carlos cut her off.
"My name is not Ford Prefect. My name is Captain Carlos DeLong, a commando in the Rebel Squadrons. I'm here to help you." He was surprised that she didn't seem shocked by this.
"I had suspected something like this. Your body language wasn't like the other traders that come through here. And how can you help us? We don't want to overthrow a government that sacrificed-" Carlos cut her off again.
"I can prove to you and your group that not only sacrificed nothing, but engineered some of the circumstances that led to their occupation. Interested?" Sarah studied him for a moment.
"Come with me."
They went to a small cave beyond the city's border.
Sarah parked her hovercar in front of it.
She motioned for Carlos to get his datapad and walk into the cave. She lead him to a small, slightly discolored section of the
cave wall. She reached out and
touched a seemingly random spot, and they began to go down into a subterranean
compound. Carlos saw men and women
moving around, working at computers, carrying papers, working with droids
attached to scomp links. An older,
scraggly looking man watched them come down.
He was about 35 to 40, well built, and had the air of a soldier about
him. He stepped forward and shook
Sarah's hand as the elevator arrived.
"Welcome back, Sarah."
"Thanks Vran. This is the man I was talking about. Captain Carlos DeLong, meet Colonel Vran Diesato." Carlos came to attention and saluted.
"Welcome to the Underground, Captain," Vran said as he saluted back, "what brings you here?"
"He has some information for us. Vran, I think you should see this in my office."
The three of them went to Sarah's modest office. It consisted of a small desk and computer terminal, but was clearly designed for efficient utility. Sarah handed Vran the datapad.
"He says that this shows that the Empire made us think the plague still existed so they could take control of the planet."
Vran took the datapad with a look of disbelief and an air of skepticism. That look faded away when he started to read the information. Slowly, the disbelief neutralized to slowly be replaced by a very calm exterior.
"Bastards," Vran whispered, his face blank, but his eyes blazing with a white-hot fury, "They took control of us with a LIE! They made us think they were gallantly sacrificing for us, when THEY WERE MILKING US THE WHOLE BLASTED TIME!" Vran go so enraged he couldn't speak after that, he just stood there and steamed. Carlos looked at Vran and Sarah.
"There's something else you should know. Imperial Intelligence has your entire organization marked for execution."
"What!," exclaimed Sarah, "We've done nothing illegal. Well," she corrected herself, "nothing they can prove."
"They don't need to prove it. Intelligence can fiddle around with the facts and twist it into something that will get you all shot."
"You disagree with them. Therefore, you are their enemy. Its nothing new. I've seen it happen before."
"So have I," Vran said, "but I hid my head in the sand, thinking that those were the exceptions, not the rule. Now I find that what they did here wasn't even an aberration, but a very crafty version of the rule." He looked at Carlos. "What's your plan, Captain?"
"I need to meet with the rest of the leaders here," he said, "I've got an idea of a way to get this out. But I'll need your cooperation to do it." Sarah and Vran nodded.
"You have it."
Carlos spent the next three days meeting with the Underground leaders and
the men. It turned out that the sabotage had been the work of Vran
Diesato's group of well trained Imperial dissidents.
He gave them some extra instruction on the art of taking control of an
Imperial station in minimal time. Peregrine
alerted him to the fact that Intelligence was on to him and would probably be
waiting for him when he went back to his room.
That suited him fine. He had
moved almost all of his stuff either back to the Claw
or to the Underground's hidden base. Besides,
his capture by the Empire was instrumental to his plan.
"Okay, people," he said as he address the Underground, "its on for tomorrow. Tonight, I will be captured by the Empire. I've reviewed your laws and customs, and its clear that the Empire will put me on public trial. You know what sentence the crowd will call for." They knew. For treason and terrorism, the only sentence was death. And the people out there still believed that the Empire was a great benefactor. They would call for a very painful sentence.
"Once I've removed my mask," he continued, "I want you all to do the same."
"Your asking us to commit suicide!" shouted Aryn Cambell, one of Vran's commandos. Not everyone had been convinced as to safety of the atmosphere. Carlos couldn't blame them for their doubt.
"No, Aryn, I'm not. I'm asking you to commit an act of rebellion. I have no intention of dying tomorrow." He looked at Vran. "Colonel Diesato, brief your men."
After nearly an hour, the plan was in place. Aryn would use the Claw to take a strike team to the shipyards to keep the two Star Destroyers that were docked there from leaving and helping the Imperial forces. Vran would lead the rest of the commandos in capturing the garrison and defending the people from the Imperial army. Sarah and the political side of the Underground would provide support to the commandos and also provide added proof to the people that the atmosphere was clean. There was one unknown, however. The garrison was mainly staffed by locals and disillusioned troopers. How they would react when they discovered the Empire's deception, no one knew. Finally, they had prepared and studied all they could. Sarah stood up.
"Ladies and gentlemen, tomorrow will decide the fate of our world. We all know the true score now, we all know our parts. Good luck, and may the Force be with you."
Carlos noticed the nervous look on the receptionists face.
Good. They were there. Intelligence was beginning to get way to predictable.
He took the elevator to the fifth floor.
He was unarmed. He had given
Sarah his personal blast shield with instructions to throw it to him when the
time is right. He would put up a
fight for his captors, but not too much of one;
he needed to be alive tomorrow. He
stopped in front of his door, took a deep breath, opened the door, and stepped
"Captain DeLong?" said the black-uniformed Intelligence officer. He stood in the middle of the room, flanked by two stormtroopers.
"Yes. What's the problem gentlemen?"
"Your under arrest." Before Carlos could move, the stormtrooper on the right fired a stun blast at him.
So, Carlos thought as he lost consciousness, they aren't going to let me put up a fight. So much the better.
Aryn snuck his team into the hangar through an underground access tunnel.
He walked up to the Claw typed
in the entrance code that Carlos had told him.
The boarding ramp quietly opened, and the team boarded.
"Aryn Cambell?" said Peregrine.
"Yeah. Who...where are you?"
"This is the ship speaking. The name's Peregrine. You and your boys might want to get some sleep. We're going to be busy tomorrow."
Carlos woke up the next morning feeling rested.
He must have gone into a Jedi healing trance or something, because he
didn't feel the after effects of a stun blast.
But he knew that he needed to act groggy for the guards.
Right about then, his cell door opened.
An Imperial colonel stepped in, surrounded by stormtroopers.
"I'm Colonel Crix Arpthin, rebel. I'm the Garrison Commander here, and you will soon be executed."
"What, no chitchat? No begging for mercy?" he said groggily. "I was looking forward to groveling..." Two of the stormtroopers grabbed him and hauled him roughly to his feet. As they carried him outside, Colonel Arpthin turned to him.
"You will be sentenced by the people here, rebel. I wouldn't expect leniency."
Somehow Peregrine talked the control officer into letting him take off.
Aryn was amazed by the mental dexterity Peregrine displayed.
Computers and robotics had been a hobby of his, and he wished to have
time to study Peregrine in detail. But,
he reminded himself, he had more important things to worry about.
They watched Carlos being brought out before the people on the video
"Do you think this will work, sir?"
"I don't know, corporal. But we don't have much of a choice."
Peregrine flew out of the planet's atmosphere and turned toward the shipyards. He switched back to his black and gold battle colors.
"Okay, gentlemen," said Peregrine, "get ready. Well be there in about forty seconds."
The commandos checked their weapons. They were only about ten in number, but if they could take control of the dock house, they would be allright. Aryn had a plan for that.
Sarah could sense the hostility in the crowd as they brought Carlos out.
He held his head high, kept his face expressionless.
She let out a nervous breath. Only
a few more seconds, and this would start.
She still didn't know what to make of Carlos. Was he trustworthy? Certainly, some of his first words to her had been lies, but she understood why that was so. But what about now? He had asked her to trust him. So that's what she would have to do. She knew that Vran did. And it took a lot to command Vran's trust and respect. He had told her that he had seen honor in Carlos. She would have to accept that. She looked around the crowd and made eye contact with Vran. He nodded at her. Everything was in place. It was up to Carlos now.
Colonel Arpthin had been going on for a while about Carlos's crimes. They had researched it quite well. Granted, they made it sound like he had destroyed all kinds of humanitarian projects, when in fact he had worked to destroy horrible weapons of war. They were still playing to the crowd.
"You have heard his crimes, citizens. What is his sentence?"
The Claw pulled up along side the dock house and docked at the airlock.
Aryn led his men through the lock. They
encountered a patrol of troopers who had been dispatched to check out the ship,
and, shouting an old Golgan battle cry, they blasted through the stormies.
"Did they get off a signal?"
"I don't think so sir."
"Okay, gentlemen. Head for the control center. Remember the drill."
The strike team made their way to the top of the dock house. From this center, all the docking clamps on the shipyards could be controlled. Also, this section took control of docked ships while they were on external power. It was imperative for the ground operation that the two Star Destroyers docked there not get away. The team flanked the door. Aryn nodded at the demolition expert. The DE walked up to the door, attached a mine to it, and ran back to his spot. The team looked away, and the DE pressed the remote trigger.
The control crew was surprised when the door blew open and ten armed men stormed in and held them at gunpoint. Everyone's attention, however, went to the overhead viewing screens when the Garrison Commander asked for the sentence.
"Take off his mask!"
No one knows who said it first, but the thought gain force and turned into a steady chant by the entire crowd. Colonel Arpthin nearly turned pale.
"Are you sure? Don't you think that's a little harsh?" This objection only served to increase their resolve, and the crowd continued to chant.
"What are you afraid of, Colonel?" asked Carlos. The crowd grew quiet, all eyes focused on him. "What are you trying to hide.?"
Carlos reached up and unstrapped his mask. He pulled it off his head, and took a deep, long breath. The audience held their breath, waiting for him to collapse in pain as the Ey-Boyla virus turned his insides to mush. He let the breath out and turned to face the crowd.
Sarah and Vran ripped their masks off, taking their first breath of pure air in years. One by one, the Underground members removed their masks, their breaths sounding a silent cry of freedom. They started to shout.
Colonel Arpthin gestured at his aid. Squad after squad of stormtroopers poured into the square. The crowd began to flee in panic as Vran and his commandos drew their weapons and prepared to fight it out. Carlos knew that he had to do something drastic if he were to avoid a slaughter of innocents. He knocked out the two guards that were flanking him with two well timed blows. He ran to the microphone.
"Golgans! Golgans! Behold, Captain Carlos DeLong! I am not one of you, but I fight! I fight with Sarah Rossech. I fight against the tyrants who controlled you with a lie! If you are to be free men, then you must fight! Join us now! Join Sarah Rossech!" The crowd stopped their flight. For a moment, no one moved. Then one of the stormtroopers flung his helmet off.
"Freedom!" he cried. Most of the other stormtroopers followed suit. They were either Golgans who were enraged at what had been done, or disillusioned troopers who had finally discovered that the Empire was without honor. The crowd began to remove their masks and take up the same cry. Vran turned and grinned at Carlos as he grabbed a blaster rifle and jumped down and joined them.
"To the Garrison!"
The people who manned the dock control center were mostly Golgans.
They didn't need any prodding from Aryn's commandos.
When they saw what was happening on their planet, they refused to let the
ISD's leave. Aryn grinned at his
"Okay boys, spread out. There's still some loyalists on this station. Lets keep 'em from getting to us." He pulled his comlink out. "Colonel, this is Aryn. The shipyards are secured. Mission accomplished."
"Great job, Aryn," said Vran, "we'll get back to ya when
this whole thing is over. Diesato
out." He put his comlink back in its holder. The assault on the Garrison wasn't going well.
They were stuck in the city streets, fighting a slow battle with the
troopers who were still loyal to the Empire.
Carlos, Sarah, and Vran were stuck in a door way, trading fire with the
stormies who had taken control of an office building.
They felt the ground shake. It seemed as if some gigantic behemoths were approaching the city. Carlos's eyes went wide when he figured out what it was.
The shadows of two AT-AT's stretched across the street. They began firing into the alleys and buildings that the Golgan's had taken refuge in. Buildings toppled from the blasts and from the movements of the AT-AT's themselves. Carlos saw a third AT-AT approach from the garrison. He sighed to himself. They had failed. Those three AT-ATs, in these conditions, would wipe them out. He looked at Sarah and Vran.
All heads snapped up when the cockpit on the first AT-AT exploded. The second AT-AT turned toward the threat, only to have its front right leg blown off by a well-aimed shot. A second shot ripped into its power core, causing the ship to collapse. They turned and stared at the third AT-AT.
"Colonel Diesato," said a voice over the AT-ATs PA system, "this is Seargent Icar Traius. The garrison is secured, sir."
The three started to laugh with relief. They had done it. Golgan III was free.
It took a couple of days before the whole thing could be sorted out.
Colonel Arpthin had escaped. Most
of the Imperial troops on Golgan III had defected, but several groups of
loyalists had escaped with Arpthin. No
one knew where he went, but they believed that he was probably still planet
side, waiting for the chance to make his next move.
Sarah Rossech was elected President. She immediately contacted the New Republic, to request membership and military protection. Vran Diesato took control of the Golgan III military, and began to prepare, with the aid of Carlos DeLong, to not only defend against Arpthin, but to also stop any Imperial attempt to regain control of the planet.
"They'll be back," Carlos warned Sarah and Vran, "This planet is far to valuable to them to just let you go without a fight. I'll stay here until a New Republic warship arrives."
The MC80 Cruiser Organa arrived a week later. That day, the people celebrated their freedom. Carlos joined in for a while but, despite the bond he felt with these people, he knew he had to leave. He slipped away from the festivities and took one final walk along the beach. He heard someone running up behind him. He turned around and saw Sarah approaching.
"So," she said when she reached him, "you're leaving tomorrow?"
"Yeah. Gotta go back. I still have duties out there."
"I see," she said, "listen, um, do you think that we could, perhaps, see more of each other later on?" Carlos caught the gist of this question real quick.
"Well," he said, not real comfortable with this, "the fact is, I have someone out there. She's a lot like you, though. The same kind of fire and determination."
"I see," she said. Then she smiled. "You know, I had a feeling you might say something like that. Strange thing is, I don't feel all that disappointed."
"You know," said Carlos as he put an arm around her, "I would be dishonest if I said I didn't care about you. I do. Its just more like what I feel for my sister than I would for a future wife."
Sarah absorbed this and nodded. They stopped and embraced. Sarah gave him a small kiss on the cheek.
"For what might have been," she said. Then she grabbed his hand. "I know you have to leave tomorrow, but could you at least celebrate with us tonight?"
Together, like a brother and sister, they walked back to the celebration.
The Claw left the atmosphere of Golgan III and flew past the shipyards.
They say the two ISDs, newly renamed as the Rossech
and Diesato. Along with the Organa
they would form the core of the Golgan fleet.
Carlos did a barrel roll to bid the planet one final farewell.
"Okay Peregrine, lets go home."
The Claw leapt into hyperspace, heading back to the Imaldris, and, hopefully, a bit of rest.