These were written in the 90s, before the advent of Episode I, and the crap that is JarJar Binks. In my mind, Anakin was far more sinister than movies made him out to be. He's a bit of a sheep that's led around by the nose in those movies and makes me mad. But I bring this up because you have to understand how evil I envisioned the newly minted Sith Lord-- it wasn't as a whiny *youknowwhat.*
For those of you with some knowledge of the Star Wars Universe, this story takes place after the Thrawn Trilogy and after Dark Empire. I believe I set it just after Darksaber right about the time that Godawful "Planet of Twilight" takes place. I reread that thing, and I still have no idea what it was about.
Please also keep in mind that while I was writing, there were very, very few books in the expanded universe. So again, even thought there are now literally dozens of books that come before in the time, they didn't exist when I was writing.
Let me just mention the illustration at the top there just briefly. C-3P0 and R2-D2, original concept art by the amazing, and sadly departed, Ralph McQuarrie. He was a brilliant illustrator when everything was done by hand, and he did all the concept art for the original 3 movies. It's worth the time and effort to look up some of the sketches and art that he issued for the movies. I have a book full of his original concepts.
So, without further ado, the first excerpt from "Empire of Six Suns."
The whole planet of Mestovovok was dark.
A thick, cruel evil darkness caused by the planet's immense distance from its white dwarf sun and the thick impenetrable layer of cloud and gasses. It had not fostered any life, nor ever would. Too cold, they said, too far away from the light, too heavy of gravity, too dangerous an atmosphere.
But under all their words was an almost child-like fear of the planet, as if a great evil lived there and would snatch them away as they slept. One of the expedition actually shuddered when he said the very name of the planet, and gracefully bowed out of the group assembled to build a small base on the planet. The Empress had him found and shot for disloyalty.
Rose did not know that.
Of all the planets in the Empire of SixSuns, Lady Rose Clearwaters had visited them all, except for Mestovovok. But now, that was being taken care of, much to her displeasure. She did not like this place at all, it felt...evil.
Still, despite the evil in the very air she breathed, she did not foster any ill-will toward the planet. She knew that she could not simply dislike a planet for being what the universe had decided it to be. That was not the way of good Empress. Though she knew that the likelihood of her ever being on the throne was slim, she could not let that possibility dwindle to nothing. As heir-apparent, she was expected to function in the court of her cousin as more than a figure. Rose tried her best to do as she thought that an heir-apparent ought.
"Your highness," the guard said, bowing to her slightly. "Her Majesty would speak with you now."
"Thank you," Lady Rose said, and walked into the only meeting room in the tiny base on Mestovovok. She was still wondering exactly why her cousin had called her here; Katarina hadn't talked to her in person in over eight years.
Rose bowed to the twelve people in the room she had entered, and stood to find her cousin coming over to her with her arms open, and smile on her face.
"Rose, Rose! Stand up stand up! It's been too long!" The Empress embraced her cousin.
"I know, Your Majesty," Lady Rose said, formally. "I shouldn't have been so far removed from yourself."
"No formalities, cousin. We are not in court, and not even on Bynd," the empress told her. "Now, please sit. Listen, we have a task for you."
Rose found a seat next to Lord Forthen, again to her displeasure. He had proposed marriage to her seven times in the last year, and no doubt he would ask again before she left the room. She turned her attention to the other twelve in the room, and realized they were not Katarina's counselors on her High Committee.
"This is a special meeting, Rose," Katarina said. "My High Committee doesn't know about us, or this place. I regret it is an unfortunate situation which brings us together again cousin, but we need your help.
"You see, we have information that Bak Crodar is going to attack us in the near future. And not just Bak Crodar, but all the Bak worlds as well. Our navies are not up to a three fronted war. We simply don't have the ability or the technology."
"You are the only Jedi, Lady Rose," Chalesh Ewards said. "We are asking you, as a Jedi, to go to the New Republic we hear tale of and ask their help. We ask you this on behalf of all the people of the Empire of SixSuns, and the worlds on which they live."
"The New Republic?" Rose asked. "But, Katya, I've never been out of SixSuns territory. I am no ambassador."
"But you are the only Jedi," Katarina said, leaning forward in her chair. "Of course you can learn to be an ambassador, you'll be given the coordinates for the planet. Please, Rose, I am asking you for the good of the empire, and I'm asking as a cousin and a friend. We need their help, and we need you to go and speak with them."
"Why me?" Rose asked. "Why not one of the trained ambassadors?"
"The New Republic respects Jedi. They have built their new government on the model of the old one, in which Jedi were an integral part. You would impress them much more than any ambassador I could ever hope to find." Katarina looked at her. "Please. For me, Rose."
Rose took a deep breath, and let it out. Something about Katarina had changed, but she couldn't for the life of her put a finger on it. Her cousin would not lie to her, she never had before. And after a few seconds of thought, nodded. "As a friend, as a cousin, and as a loyal subject, I will go to the New Republic for you, Katya."
Katarina leaned back and smiled at her. "Thank you, Rose. You don't know how this will help me and all of the Empire. You will leave as soon as possible?"
Rose nodded. "The sooner the better. The longer you wait, the less likely you'll get me go. I'll leave as soon as I can figure out how to get there."
"Then, I'll send you all the proper information. Thank you for coming here, cousin. I can see this place bothers you, so you are free to go back to Bynd, and I'll find you there."
Rose nodded, and left the room with a smile and a sense of loyalty.
Yet the feeling that something was amiss did not leave her until she well away from that planet, away from Mestovovok, a strange sphere of evil.
Luke spun around, using all of his Jedi training and skills and knowledge. Despite all of it, he wasn't fast enough.
Jacen's dodge ball slammed into his stomach, and Luke grabbed it with a grandiose, "Oomfp!"
Han almost let himself burst out laughing, but halted it on the way out. He gave his son a grave, very stern look. "Jacen!" he scalded. "Come here!"
Jacen walked over with his head hung shamefully. "Yes, daddy?"
"How many times have your mother and I talked to you about doing things like that? Just because your Uncle Luke and I can usually catch your ball doesn't mean everyone else can. Do you understand?"
"Yes, daddy," Jacen said. "I'm sorry."
"Don't apologize to me, apologize to Uncle Luke."
Jacen turned around and looked at Luke, "I'm sorry, Unca'Luke."
"Apology accepted," Luke said, holding out his dodge ball. "Next time, give me a few seconds to realize what's going to hit me." Jacen took the ball as Luke tousled his hair affectionately. "Go find your sister, she'll play with you."
Han and Luke watched as Jacen sprinted off to find Jaina, and as soon as he was out of range, both of them burst into laughter.
Han laughed wholeheartedly. "You should've seen the look on your face! He got you good!"
"You might say that," Luke laughed, and finished closing the door as he had before Jacen's dodge ball slammed into him. He turned back to Han and sat down on the other chair.
Luke had been gone too long. Jacen had grown since his last visit nearly six months ago he had barely realized it was the same young boy. And despite the new experimental hyperspacial crystal-link communications network that Mon Mothma had set up, he felt too far removed from Coruscant. He missed the palace. Yavin was his main responsibility, and was never far from his mind, but the Academy still didn't feel like home.
Home... Home was with Han and Leia and their children. And Luke had gotten home-sick.
He sighed audibly, and realized that six months was too long to be away. And for two of those months he'd shut himself away from everything, trying to get over the death of Mila... Luke cut that train of thought off before it could get going. It always led him to think what he could've done...
And now Mara. Luke frowned inwardly, scalding himself for thinking that she might care for him. There was no way that could've happened, after the episode on Mrkyr, and Wayland.
A shout from Jaina brought his thoughts back to the present and to Coruscant where they should've been. He glanced over at Han. "I never thought I'd see the day when Han Solo, smuggler and mercenary, had children flocking around him in droves. And him having had to learn to keep what he was really feeling penned up inside for at least a little while."
"Yeah? And how do think Han Solo feels?" Han glanced over to his children who were playing catch. "I mean, fifteen years ago, I was doing my damnedest to get away from all of this. Now look at me. The father of a prince and princess of a very powerful-though-defunct government, and the husband of one of the most powerful senators in the new Republic. Fifteen years, and a whole other lifetime. Damn, you're rubbing off on me."
"Oh?" Luke laughed. "And what about me? Fifteen years ago I was still on Tatooine, had no clue of who Princess Leia Organa was, and wanted nothing more than to go to the Imperial Academy. And I had never heard of the Force or of the Jedi. Now, I've begun training a whole new generation of them in an academy I organized. Don't talk to me about whole other lifetimes."
Han looked over at his best friend and brother, and realized Luke Skywalker was no longer the farm boy from Tatooine. Oh, sure, he still had the simplicity of manners that he would never loose, but he had become much more than Han thought he could.
He still remembered seeing Luke for the first time, with Ben Kenobi. A cocky trigger-happy farmer boy who had just realized that life wasn't all it was cracked up to be and a crazy old man that was willing to pay seventeen thousand credits just to get to Alderaan. Crazy, he'd told himself at the time. But he had needed the money. And what was it Kenobi had said on the Death Star? "Who's the more foolish, the fool or the fool who follows?" Those words made a lot more sense now, but then Han had just scoffed at them.
Over time, Han had come to respect Kenobi, especially after his stunt as a general. General Obi-Wan Kenobi's tactics had been pure genius, and Han had modified a few them to his own use.
And Luke? Well, Han couldn't imagine having lived life without the kid. Han realized, as they sat there, that Luke was no kid. Not anymore. Maybe that kid hadn't really been Luke Skywalker. After all, his uncle had sort of stiffed the kid on Tatooine. But this wasn't quite him either.
Luke had been miserable, or relatively so, for at least six weeks. And at the beginning of those six weeks, had come the message from Mara Jade that she was going to marry the Andreen Secretary Nichel Hardrov. It seemed Luke Skywalker, one of the most well-known humans in the galaxy, had absolutely no luck with the females of the species.
"Luke, are you upset about Mara marrying that Andreen fanny-wipe?" Han asked, looking over at him.
"Ever eloquent, hunh, Han? No, I am not upset about Mara's marriage to Nichel. He's a wonderful young man, and she really does love him. And he is not a fanny-wipe."
"Whatever," Han mumbled. "But you are upset, aren't you. Oh, not about the fact that she's marrying the person she loves, and that she's going to be really happy with him, but the fact that you weren't the one she could be happy with?"
Luke looked at him speculatively, and said, "No, I am glad she's marrying him."
"Still a bad liar, kid," Han said. "You have the worst luck with women. I knew that Mara wouldn't marry you from the first time I laid eyes on her. She was much too much like me, hard to believe. There was only one person she would ever love, and it wasn't you."
"Okay, so I have bad luck with women. What's that got to do with anything else?" Luke said, turning in his chair to look directly at Han.
"Yeah, well, this ain't the first time you've been miserable about a woman. There was Mara, there was Coradin, there was Mila, there was Ersa, there was Teneniel, there was Gaeri, there was Sara, and there was Leia."
Luke betrayed himself by turning away at the mention of his sister's name. Han sighed, it had been a guess, but a well-backed guess. Luke had done so many things in the years before he came to know that Leia was his sister that had given him indications of Luke's real feelings. He laid a hand on Luke's shoulder as gently as he could. "I thought so. But, listen, kid, that's okay. I mean, you didn't know, she didn't know, I didn't know. There was nothing wrong with it. And you do still have feelings for her. Don't feed me any lines. Yeah, yeah, so Leia's your sister. Think of this way. You and her got a special relationship that I could never get between, and I wouldn't want to. Plus, I don't think you got much of chance getting between her and me."
"I know," Luke nodded. "Some one tried that once, and I believe that you to great extremes to get her back." Luke sighed. "Han I don't think there is any one out there for me. I don't think anyone could ever understand who I am, first a Jedi, then a husband
"Oh, poodoo," Han swore vehemently. "What about me, Luke, I can understand who you are."
Luke looked at him, and said, with the straightest face Han had ever seen on him, "You aren't my husband."
It took Han a second to realize Luke had made a joke, and begin laughing right through the drink he had just taken. "Looks like your not the only who rubbing off on others," Han choked on the liquid.
Luke continued after recovering from the joke. "I am a Jedi, it's the only thing I've known all my life, it's the only thing I wanted. It's the only thing I am. My whole life was only for one thing after I saw my Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen lying there dead. I wanted to be the best Jedi there ever was, to honor my father. I didn't know I would be the only one, and spend so much time making up for what my father had done."
"Luke," Han said, again seeing right through what Luke was dancing around, "Men your age don't flirt. And you don't have to go out hunting for some one, they'll find you so long as you keep an eye out."
"And then, like you said, something always happens."
"Mila was a vacuum brain, kid. She couldn't grasp the idea of water running in a river, never mind anything else. She never would've been able to stand on her own, to be her own person as well as your wife. You needed someone a little less fanatically in love with you."
"Jeeze, Han, she sacrificed herself for me," Luke said, distantly.
Han rolled his eyes at Luke's words. Mila Verona had been fanatically in love with him. But Han had seen more intelligent space slugs that her. Luke had felt a certain pity towards her and she mistook it for love. And she became so obsessed with him, she followed him everywhere. And that was what had gotten them caught.
Luke was going to a still-held Imperial world to check out rumors about a person who seemed to be Force-sensitive. Mila followed, and broadcast their presence calling him on an open-frequency. Oh, those Imperials were happier than a mugwhomp in mud when they got their greedy hands on the man who was responsible for the death of their emperor.
Bad had gone to worse when a renegade Jedi turned up on the bridge of the Star Destroyer Morieris. And worse had been blown straight to hell when in order to save Mila, Luke was ordered to detonate a disrupter grenade in his hands.
Then Mila went nuts. She didn't want to live in a universe without Luke and the universe couldn't spare him. She'd screamed something like that as she grabbed the grenade, and ran for the bridge. She managed to kill not only herself but the entire bridge crew and the renegade. Luke hadn't spoken for two months after that.
"Luke, she was crazy," Han groaned.
"No, she wasn't," Luke responded, shaking his head to clear it. "And she could grasp more than running water, otherwise she never would have done that."
"Luke, my point is that there's someone out there, maybe flying over us right now, that is just for you. So stop being miserable about Mara and her turd."
"He isn't a turd," Luke said, one last time.
"Come on, Luke. That guy didn't know a blaster from a pencil."
Luke laughed. "Well, we wasn't very well versed in weaponry." He laughed again and stumbled over words to defend Nichel Hardrov. "Okay, so he couldn't tell the difference between blaster and a pencil. But he knew what he was doing with the monetary situations, and he'd never hurt a fly."
"True enough," Han agreed. "Leia thought very highly of him, anyway, and I'm sure, to your great joy, we'll be seeing them around quite often."
"I told you, he's not a bad guy at all," Luke said. "He just doesn't like to use violence."
"Neither do I," Luke laughed and Han continued unabated, "but at least I know what a blaster is. By the way, have you seen Leia? She left before I got up and didn't leave a note. Anakin's supposed to be coming home today, I was sure she would've taken the day off to spend it with him, and the rest of us."
"A senator's job is never done," Luke laughed. "Some kind of emergency meeting came up and there was nothing that she could do to get out of it."
"I wish that Mon Mothma could find another to person to trust as much as you and me and Leia," Han said. "We've been bogged down for who knows how long, and Leia's still not able to finish her training. Maybe we should all just take a vacation for a month so that we can all be together and have no one coming to ask us any favors at three in the morning. Of course, when I said that to Leia, she nearly took my head off, because how could I think of a vacation when so many important things were coming together all at once and if we left they would all fall apart. How am I going to get her to relax? She going to work herself to death."
"She's just very dedicated to what she believes in," Luke said, soothingly. "I'll talk to her, if you'd like, and get her promise a vacation after all of her proceedings are completed. By the way, where's Chewie?"
" I told him to visit Kashyyyk. He hadn't been home in years, and he needed to go alone. He'll be back in a few days." Han paused. "I just wish she would relax even for a day," Han sighed. "Just one rotten day, and spend it with me and the kids, and you if you like. I mean we haven't spend a whole day together since before Grand Admiral Thrawn showed up. It really stinks. You'd----"
Han halted his words mid-sentence, and looked around strangely. "Where are Jacen and Jaina?"
Luke looked around as well. "They were playing catch right over there, remember?"
Han stood up, looking very uncomfortable. "Those two never play quietly, even when they are told a million times to."
"Hide and seek?" Luke asked, following Han over to where the twins had been playing.
"No, because one of them would yelling at one time or another," Han said. He looked in all their usual hiding places, and they were nowhere to be seen. "Jacen! Jaina! Come on you two, time for lunch." Not an ounce of movement. "I don't like this."
"Like what?" Luke asked. "They are probably playing hide on daddy and give him a cardiac arrest." Han wasn't listening, and he started to walk into the woods to the right.
From directly ahead of him, came a scream that sounded like Jacen followed by one that sounded exactly like Jaina. Both Han and Luke broke into a run, tearing through the forest that surrounded the Castle Coruscant, following in the direction the screams had come from. Luke didn't know that Han could run so fast or avoid even the smallest of foliage that would slow him down one iota.
Then, Han stumbled to a halt just on the edge of a small clearing, and Luke halted right next to him. In the middle of the clearing was Jacen, lying face down, and sobbing visibly. Jaina was sitting next to him, paralized with fear. And both Han and Luke could see why.
A creature that neither of them had ever seen was circling the twins rather threateningly. It had clammy-looking grey skin with a long patch of a darker grey on it's back. It had six spiderlike legs on it's abdomen cavity. It's thorax cavity, which was perpendicuallar to the abdomen, had two large, apmle, able arms extending toward the twins, and each ended in seven long thin fingers. It's head was bald with two single black eyes set slightly off to the sides. It had two arachnid like pincers that through time and evolution had migrated to the back of the lower jaw giving it a very beastial look.
"What the hell is that thing? And why is it attcking my children?" Han demanded, hoisting his balster out of it hidden holster.
"I haven't a clue," Luke reponded.
"Doesn't matter," Han said, and started to aim for the thing's head.
"Hang on! Hang on," Luke said, pushing Han's blaster down. "How do we know it means harm? That might be it's ritual hello, and if it's never seen a human before, it may think that Jacen and Jaina are full grown. It might be an emissary from a new world."
"I've been all over this galaxy, and I ain't never seen anything say hello quite like that," Han said, his eyes never leaving his children. At the end of his sentence, he brought the blaster back up.
"No, Han, don't. Let's at least try and talk to it?"
"You got a death wish?"
"Han, you can't go blasting everything that threatens them. And if you blow away an emissary from a new world, you will never hear the end of it from Leia."
Han looked at him, and sighed. "Okay, kid, but we do this my way." Luke nodded hesitantly. Han stepped out into the clearing, with his blaster very visible. "Hey! You!"
The creature stopped it's circling, and looked over at them. It was frozen for a minute, shocked at the two new larger being standing at the edge of clearing. One was yelling something it what was known as basic.
"Can we help you?" the one with the weapon and the dark head asked it what the creature took to be a threatening tone. The weapon was not pointing at the creature, but the creature did not delude itself that that couldn't be quickly corrected. The creature looked at the two smaller beings that he was going to take and decided that they must be the two larger beings' offspring. But he had been told by his master to take the smaller two, and bring them to her.
The two large beings approached the creature a slow pace, that the creature detrmined to be non-threatening. Perhaps the creature thought that it still had time to get the two off-spring and get away safely to give them to his master.
In a lightening move, Han and Luke watch the creature grab Jacen and Jaina roughly, illicitng a new scream from Jacen, and began to scurry away.
Luke pulled his light saber from his belt and ran after the scrrrying creature. He managed to get in front of it and brandish the saber to make the creature stop. It stopped, but let out an evil, threatening shriek, and began to spit out some sort of thread from a gland below it's mouth. Luke hacked it away, and knew that there was going to be no talking to this creature to put Jacen and Jaina peacefully.
The creature stopped spitting the thread when Han fired the blaster at it's abdomen. But the shot was deflected off the exskeleton of the creature as it let out another strange shriek. Luke took that opportunity to relieve the creature of the weight of it's head.
Luke deactivated the light saber and put it back on his belt as fast as possible, and grabbed Jacen and Jaina as gently as possible before they had a chance to realize that their wonderful Unca'Luke had killed the creature dispite the fact that it had tried to take them away. He ran back over to Han who had put away his blaster long before.
Jaina jumped into her father's arms crying, and Jacen clung to Luke's neck. Luke felt Jacen's pain centered in his leg, and found that it was fractured.
"Daddy," Jaina whimpered.
"It's okay, Jaina, you're safe now," Han said, rocking her gently. "That thing won't hurt you now."
"Mommy's gonna be made at me," Jaina cried.
"Why, honey?" Han asked.
"Because I ruined my good outfit."
Han smiled at Luke, as they began to walk at a good pace back to the castle, and told Jaina, "Don't you worry Jaina. Mommy won't yell at you for it. Not this time."
Camie didn't know that there were places like this anywhere on Tatooine. It was actually cold and damp and very dark. And it stunk to high heaven. Something had died here, in fact alot of somethings had died in this place.
"Couldn't you have found a better place to hide?" Camie scalded her companion.
"No," he answered sharply. "It was this or his old farmstead. And that's the first place that those nuts will look for us. It'll take them a while to think of searching here, if they even know about his place at all."
"Oh, I'm sure that one of the locals would be more than happy to clue them in on it," Camie snided, and walked blindly over the corner. "Listen up, kids, Deak's gotten us into a bit of a jam, we may be down here for the rest of our natural lives."
"This place smells," Kiazi observed and remarked.
"Will daddy come to get us?" Lion, the youngest of the children asked.
"Daddy's not coming back, ever, Lion," Camie said, with no emotion in her voice. "Not that he doesn't want to, just that he can't. Once you die, you don't come back."
"You said he went to sleep."
"Yes, I did. But he's never going to wake up."
"Tickling his feet always worked before," Lion offered. Camie ruffled his hair, and smiled at him through the darkness. He was too young to understand what death was.
"How long will we be down here?" Pivon, the oldest, asked.
"I really don't know. Deak thinks that they'll check the farmstead first, then, if they even know about this place, come here. I think that Deak wants to go to Mos Eisley under the cover of dark, lots of good that did Windy and Fixer. I don't understand why we didn't go there in the first place."
"Because," Deak called softly. "There aren't many smuggelers left in Mos Eisley now that Tatooine is firmly in New Republic control. There are more repulsive place to go than the cantina further out in the Fringe. But lucky for us, there was a smuggler who was coming in today, unloading a shipment. Perhaps we can get on that ship."
"Smugglers are not cheap," Camie scalded. "And I don't have anything to pay them with, except that worthless peice of desert land that my parents left me. And that ain't worth much at all. Unless you've got a hidden stash somewhere, we are stuck on this boiler-world."
"Ever heard of indentured servitude?" Deak asked.
"You are kidding me," Pivon groaned.
"Well, you got your choice, kid. You can stay here and be shot by those friendlies, or you can take your chance out there as an indeture." Deak looked at him through the darkness.
"Gee, too many options," Pivon said.
"What's that noise?" Lion uncharacteristically whispered.
"What noise?" Kaizi asked, as a loud bang resounded from somewhere in the building. "Oh, that one."
Deak hushed them and walked over the air duct that ran throughout the deacying palace. He leaned close to listen to the noises and voices from above.
"Eughk," came an exasperated exclaimation. "Place still smells the old tub of lard."
"Nothing's changed at all," came a very serious, collected voice. "Still very repulsive as always. How coud any one actually want to live in this is beyond me. But, we aren't here to critique the Huttese tastes, are we? Let's see if---"
"Hold it, Karrde," the voice said, slicing right though the damp, sticky air like a knife. "We aren't alone in here." Deak heard the footsteps approaching the nearest vent to the person. "There are at least three others in here, maybe more. Though I don't think they can do us any harm."
"Well," the Karrde person said, "We aren't going to take any chances." He raised his voice to carry. "You can come out." None of them moved in the room. "Either you come come out," Karrde continued, "or I'll flush you out. Your choice."
"We'll come out," Deak called into the grating.
"Are you crazy?" Camie whispered. "That might be them!"
"No, it's not," Deak said. "Their voices are too human and their basic is too clear to be them. This may be our chance out of here."
"We don't have all day," the knife voice called.
Camie was yanked to her feet by Deak and Pivon, Kiazi and Lion followed them more than reluctantly. Deak lead them to the former throne room of Jabba's former palace where the voices had seemed to come from.
The five of them found the room lined with a dozen or more heavily weaponed men obviously guarding the three in the middle of the room.
"Kids?" the one on the right said. "I don't think that they are dangerous. What are you doing here?"
"Hiding in the luxury of this wonderful palace," Deak said. "Any other reaons we would be here? Name's Deak."
"I am Talon Karrde," the one in the middle said. "And these are my associates, Tipton and Aves. The rest you need not worry about unless you are trying to kill us. Now why were you here?"
"He told you," Camie said. "We were hiding."
"From whom or what were you hiding?" Aves asked.
"I think that they were Imperials," Pivon said. "But they wanted to kill us all the same. They've already killed my father and a friend of ours."
"Then you must have done something to upset them," Karrde said, non-chalantly waving it away.
"They were trying to kill," Camie said, "for the simple fact that we once knew Luke Skywalker. They want to utterly destroy him."
"Why do they want to kill him?" Tipton asked, carefully measuring each word he said.
"He's a heretic of some religion or another," Deak said. "Though I think that they have the wrong person. We haven't seen Luke since he disappeared from the farmstead after Owen and Beru Lars were killed. That was fifteen, sixteen years ago. So, they are serious about utterly destroying him. Him, and everyone who ever had a contact with him."
Aves, Karrde and Tipton exchanged glances with one another. "All because you knew fifteen years ago?"
"Us, and the kids," Camie said. "We were hiding and waiting for our chance to get to Mos Eisley and get a transport from there. Then hopefully try and locate Luke, though we have no idea where he could be."
Karrde wasn't paying attention to her. He looked at Aves and Tipton. "This is not good news. If they are talking about who I think they're talking about, we don't want to be here at this time and place. The stash isn't going anywhere, and I do believe that we need to be alive to enjoy this booty, for lack of a better word."
"Agreed," Aves said, enthusiastically.
"What about them?" Tipton asked, jerking a thumb at them. "We can't leave'um here to die. You know that we'd never hear the end of it from Organa-Solo."
"True as well," Karrde said looking at them. "And their business right now is too ripe to risk."
"We don't have anything to pay you with," Deak said. "But I be more than willing to work it off, or pay it back."
Karrde looked at the kids with a twist of his lip. "No, you won't owe me. You're gonna have to pay back the senator, I can just tack your transportation fees on to our service bill for them." He turned around and looked at the rest of the people in the room. "Okay, back to the ship. If they'll kill these five for knowing Skywalker, imagine what they'll do to us."
The room was quickly and effieciently vacated by the other, with only two staying behind to bring up the rear of the procession. The tunnel to the ship was totally devoid of light, save for the entrance way itself. From the entrance, they could all see the Wild Karrde sitting about a hundred meters away from the rocky outcropping that hid the door.
"Hurry," Karrde told them. "The last thing we need is rumor of our being here. And if those are imperials that tried to kill you, then we want to get out of here and fast."
Just ahead of him, Tipton froze. Lion nervously ran over to his mother and looked around uncomfortably. Camie bent down to him. "What's wrong, Lion."
"Captain," Tipton said. "I think that we're too late."
On cue, there was a laser blast from the rocks above them that landed not a full inch from Camie and Lion.
"Run!" Karrde yelled. "Get on the ship!"
Camie scooped up Lion and Pivon grabbed Kiazi's arm and they all sprinted full speed for the ship which now seemed impossibly far away from them. There was virtually no cover between the entrance and the ship, and who ever was up on the rocks had a clear shot the whole way to the ship.
Tipton was the fastest, and though Camie could've sworn that he had been shot atleast twice, he was on the ship first. He hid just beneath the edge of the ship and began to lay down a cover of fire for them. His aim was uncanny, knocking down three of the people on the ridge with the first three of his shots.
Aves joined him as Pivon and Kiazi sprinted past. Pivon let go of Kiazi in time to catch a blaster that one of the crew threw at him. He and the new crew member joined Aves and Tipton just outside the ship.
Camie ran past with Lion crying madly in her arms and immediately got her and Lion out of the way when they were on the ship.
Karrde and the two others were the last aboard. Karrde slammed into another one of the crew and fell onto his knees, screaming. "CHIN! Get us out of here!"
The four people outside kept firing until the ramp of the ship had raised itself nearly a meter off the ground, then all dove for the closing ramp.
As Aves barely pulled his foot clear in time, he screamed, "CHIN!"
"We're going!" Chin yelled back to them. And not five seconds later, the Wild Karrde lurched off the ground and flew smoothly away into the atmosphere, safely away from whomever was on the ridge.
Karrde hoisted himself off the ground and leaned against the bulkhead for a minute, appearing to think about what had just happened. He then straighten, and looked at his passengers.
"Well," he said. "Welcome to the wonderful of the New Republic."