JEDI KNIGHTS GISAKU SABEROTA, JADEN WINDU and the apprentice CORTREE TINCOVE finally made it to the auction following their ambush aboard the TRAM. They found Shogo The Hutt and his entourage had gotten there first.
“What the hell happened to you?” Kel Markatta, the Mandolorian Security Chief of The Wheel said, looking over their wounds.
“If you are here for the Auction, " Varn Talath The Administrator of The Wheel said, twirling a cred stick in his hand, “I am afraid you are too late. Bids were supposed to be in five minutes ago…however, since you are the only others to arrive I may be open to more offers.”
Varn Talath held up a datapad, “The auction is for the coordinates of the world with the ancient ship will be awarded to the highest bidder. Current bid is 10,000 Credits.”
Jaden Windu held up the Datapad they took from the Nikto Mercenaries, “We were attacked by Nikto Mercenaries hired by Shogo The Hutt!”
A GROWL came from next to the Mandolorian in the form of Mad Claw Mazak, Shogo’s Wookie enforcer.
The Beast looked at Gisaku Saberota and the sound made the old General hesitate once again. He had to fight the urge to LET THE WOOKIE WIN.
Kel sized up the Wookie and put his Helmet on with one hand, gripping a Blaster pistol in its holster in the other.
“Preposterous!” Shogo said in his deep basso, “We were attacked too. Look what they did to Mazzak!” The hutt pointed to makeshift bandages on the wookie and the rest of his goons.
“That’s a strong accusation. " Varn asked, “What is your evidence?”
Jaden handed the Mandolorian the datapad, “We took that from the mercenaries that attacked us and we already sent messages to your security forces.”
Kel Markatta looked over the datapad, “This contract appears legitimate….” The Mandolorian scrutinized the bandages, “And these bandages don’t have any blood on them.”
The Wookie growled under his breath.
Kel’s commlink beeped. He pressed a button on his armor and patched into a security frequency, “Security, report.”
“Sir, we got firefights all over the station!” The voice on the other end said, “A bunch of Nikto mercs started shooting and the Imperials led by Captain Gellor and Commander Gorlen’s ESPOs fought back. But, now the two groups are shooting at each other and converging on the Grand Casino in a big crossfire with heavy weapons. Sir. It’s…It’s chaos down here!”
“Send reinforcements and secure the area. Keep them away from the casino,” He switched off his comm and turned to Varn Talath a question in his eyes.
Varn Talath gulped some wine, “Shogo’s dishonorable actions disqualify his participation. Very well, since you are the only other group to come here in good faith, I’ll give you the information for your bid.”
“12,000 Credits.” Jaden stated. The Hutt cowered, the price too high even if he hadn’t been disqualified.
“Going once…. "Varn Talath said, looking around, “Unless there is anyone else…”
The Jedi turned to see Selan Mela and her Assistant, both cloaked in black hoods walking towards them.
“And these are a group of impostors. They are Jedi Knights in disguise! Check the Cyborg for their lightsabers!” Selan said with disdain in her voice.
Varn Telath spit out his wine. "Jedi? "
The Jedi found themselves surrounded. Saberota shifted, trying to size up the battlefield.
“Our master Porbota the Hutt will not be pleased,” Saberota said, trying to maintain their cover, “Besides. So what if we were Jedi? We have the credits and are willing to pay for the coordinates of the crash site.”
Kel Markatta Put a hand on his blaster. “There are only two things I can’t tolerate on my station, Liars and Jedi. One or all of you is one of those two. And you are both of them. Take them…”
Before Kel could finish his orders, Mad Claw Mazzak roared and struck him with a vicious hay-maker that bounced him off the bulkhead and knocked him out cold, denting the metal wall.
“Kill them! Get the data!” Shogo shouted as his mercenaries jumped into action.
Varn Talath fell over and looked up in absolute terror as the wookie loomed over him his deadly intent apparent. Mad Claw GROWLED and moved in for the kill.
Before the wookie could get his claws on Talath, Saberota jumped into action. He retrieved Jaden’s Lightsaber from his hidden compartment and threw it to him. The old soldier, his body still damaged form the previous battle, then put himself between the enraged Wookie and Varn Talath. He ignited his Green Blade and stood down the monster with the calm resolution of Juyo. The sound of his respirator was measured and unchanging despite his fear of the wookie.
Jaden caught and ignited his purple-bladed lightsaber in a single motion and moved in to attack the rest of the Hutt mercenaries.
Cortree meanwhile began hacking the nearby consoles.
Mad Claw Mazak swiped at Saberota with his Metal CLAW. But the Jedi remained calm and let the Wookie’s anger guide him. Small movements made the CLAW barely miss its mark…
Then Selan Mera’s assistant FORCE LEAPED into the fray with a RED-BLADED LIGHTSABER. Saberota’s saber met her’s and he found himself faced with two enemies.
“It was you at the ship…” Saberota said, “A Sith…”
“It is here you will die!!!” The Sith shouted, driven by the Dark Side.
The Jedi General was impressed by her skill as her barrage of skillful cuts and thrusts came close to striking his damaged cybernetic body.
But Gisaku was an old soldier and his defensive parries strategically put the Wookie, Mazak between him and the Sith. The strokes and counterstrokes knocked the Wookie OFF-BALANCE. Then the General struck the Wookie with a staccato of motion, his lightsaber damaging Mazzak’s Cybernetic Claw and a punch to his solar plexus knocked the massive wookie back an step.
The beast GROWLED and both the Wookie and the Sith, strangely united by their hatred of the Jedi General, pressed their attacks further.
“A Little help!” The General shouted.
Cortree’s hacking paid off as the Console chimed, “Y’all like a good hoe-down?”… and created a series of STROBING LIGHTS and SIRENS into the environment.
Jaden flipped in next to Saberota and a fast wipe of his blade knocked the lightsaber out of the Sith’s hand and away from them both. Jaden then slid into the Wookie and DISTRACTED the beast momentarily on his other flank.
Mazak, blinded by the STROBING LIGHTS and with his Cybernetic CLAW damaged didn’t notice Saberota’s next move until the Lightsaber blade stabbed him in the chest, forcing a GROWL in the face of the cyborg Jedi.
Cortree ran for the Sith’s fallen lightsaber and got there just before she jumped in. Thinking quickly, he took the Lightsaber apart and threw the pieces in opposite directions and pointed his MAKESHIFT BLASTER at the Sith. Then she raised her hand and Cortree started choking…and rising off the ground.
Cortree raised his blaster tried to fend the Sith off, but she just laughed at him in cruel ecstasy.
“Do you feel it? Do you feel the power of the dark side? The only real power! The only thing worth living for!”, she hissed, obviously delighted to inflict pain on an enemy.
Jaden came in with a sweep of his Lightsaber that forced her to lose her concentration and Cortree fell to the ground gasping. After a series of swipes at the Sith she realized that her only option was to retreat and she Force Leaped onto the 3rd story balcony before running deeper into the station.
Saberota and Mazak stared each other down. Mazak growled at him, trying to intimidate the Jedi as he wound up another haymaker…but Saberota maintained his calm in his Juyo stance and pushed past his terror of the Wookie.
The haymaker that took out the Mandolorian in one blow came and Saberota ducked under it and stepped in past with a deadly stroke of his lightsaber.
Kel Markatta came to just in time to see Mad Claw Mazak’s SEVERED RIGHT ARM fall to the ground next to him as the Wookie SCREAMED IN PAIN and ran off, his Hutt master close behind him on a HOVERSLED. Outside the casino a firefight erupted as the Wheel’s security forces and the Espos and Imperial Commandoes attacked each other in a chaotic three-way battle.
Kel witnessed the Jedi stand in front of Varn Talath, defending the man against the next wave of Hutt goons.
Blaster bolts took the remaining goons in the head faster than the Jedi could see.
The men fell and Kel’s TWIN BLASTER PISTOLS returned to their holsters as fast as they appeared. “Clear!”
The Jedi deactivated their lightsabers.
“Are you alright, Lord Talath?” Saberota asked as a datapad was thrown to him.
“Take it! For saving my life I am giving you the data, I don’t care. Just get off my station!” Varn said.
Saberota bowed slightly, “Thank you, sir. May The Force Be With Y…”
Just then the whole station rocked as turbolasers lashed it with withering fire. Van Talath screamed into his communicator for a report.
“Sir, the Imperial Star Destroyer, Inexorable has just dropped out of hyperspace and a Colonel Valarus has demanded we surrender,” said a nervous voice over the comlink.
“Surrender? To the Empire?!? Never!!!” Varn spit out with obvious hate. He turned to Markata.
“Sir, we can dispatch both of our picket cruisers along with all of our starfighters, including the reserves,” Markata replied. “But it won’t matter. We won’t last long against a capital ship’s firepower.”
“We won’t have to. Send a distress call to the Republic Fleet. We just have to hold out until reinforcements arrive. If they wanted to destroy the station we would already be dead. They must want the Wheel for themselves. Or something on it,” he glared at the Jedi. “You Jedi are a plague on the galaxy. But I owe you my life. Go. We will deal with the Empire.”
He wheeled away and started barking orders into his link, “Prepare the security teams for a boarding action. Lock down all the airlocks and secure the bulkheads. Move!”
“I am in your debt Jedi. I will not forget this.” Kel Markatta said.
The Jedi ran down the hallways as fast as their legs could carry them. They went up into the upper level scaffolding of the station and ran above the mayhem below. The ESPO SQUAD blasted the station with their RIOT GUNS and the Elite IMPERIAL STORMTROOPERS returned fire with HEAVY WEAPONS.
The Jedi made their way back to THE CRUCIBLE’s hanger just as the Imperials caught up to them.
They dove through the ship’s open starboard hatch, Blaster bolts following them.
Cortree’s Droids reactivated, taking their positions and his nimble fingers brushed the controls, bringing the ship to life.
“The ship’s already warmed up.” Cortree said surprised, “Wait, what about Maze? We can’t leave him behind.”
“There’s the Jedi! Blast ’em!” A Storm Commando said, aiming a ROCKET LAUNCHER at the ship.
But the group was stopped from behind by a FLURRY OF LIGHTSABER STRIKES as Mazer Val’Zian appeared out of nowhere.
Jaden reached out a hand to his comrade.
“Come on Maze, get on!”
Maze moved to the hatch and shook his head.
“I have to make sure Rilu is safe. I’ll return when I’m done.” he said as he hit the button and closed the hatch. He disappeared back into the chaos.
Saberota put a hand on Jaden’s shoulder, “He can take of himself. Get us out of here Cor!”
The ship lifted off and flew away from the station….
An alarm chimed from the sensors, Jaden ran to them. “We have…company.”
Four Tie Defender Starfighters pealed off from the heated battle surrounding the space station to pursue the Jedi Cruiser. Meanwhile, two small cruisers bravely faced off against the clearly superior star destroyer preventing it from coming after them directly.
“Starship Crucible this is Colonel Valarus of the Imperial Armada.” A voice from the comms came, “Surrender your vessel in the name of Emperor Fel.”
Ignoring the Imperial commander’s broadcast Cortree Tincove moved to his controls, “Hold ’em off while I get coordinates from the Navicomputer!”
Jaden moved to the Shields and started them up, “Shields up!”
General Saberota slid down the ladder into the Weapons Array chair. He looked at the unfamiliar controls with apprehension.
“Here they come!” Jaden said over the comms.
The TIE FIGHTERS closed in, maneuvering into position for an attack run on the old ship.
“They are right on top of us,” Jaden said helping Cor out in the cockpit, “Getting a lock on them. General, you okay with those controls?”
“Patience.” The General replied calmly through his vocabulator.
Saberota controlled his breathing. Slower. Steady. He struggled past his damaged flesh. Past his body of metal and plastic.
He struggled to feel the life around him. His friends. The Ship. The Tie Fighters. Their pilots.
For a moment, the Old Jedi became ONE WITH THE FORCE.
“Target locked!” Jaden said, “Let ’em have it!”
Saberota opened his optics, grabbed the controls and fired a barrage that dropped the shields of one of the Ties Defenders and damaged another.
“Good hit!” Jaden shouted, “Nice work General!”
“There’s still too many of them.” Saberota replied, continuing to fire.
The squadron of Tie Defenders closed in holding formation, shooting as they strafed the old Jedi Ship.
They seemed doomed as withering fire rained down on the ancient ship’s shields. But just then a MON CALAMARI HEAVY CRUISER dropped out of hyperspace in front of them and launched its fighters to engage the Imperial Destroyer.
“Not anotha’ capital ship! " Cortree shouted, punching the Navicomputer to compute faster.
“No, this one’s a Republic Ship.” Jaden said, looking over the markings. “But how could they have gotten here so fast?” he asked obviously puzzled.
“Jedi Cruiser Crucible this is Garek Malon aboard the Emancipator,” said a familiar voice, “Shut down your engines and prepare to be boarded in the name of the Jedi Council and the New Republic.”
“Well that explains that. Malon must have been tracking us. It is just a coincidence he arrived here at this time. But it looks like the Emancipator will have its hands full with that Destroyer which gives us a chance to finish our mission. If we survive these Ties that is,” said Jaden.
A lone RZ-7 A-wing Jedi Interceptor peeled off from the other Republic fighters that were engaged with the Imperial forces.
A transmission came in from the ship, “Crucible, this is Seeker One. Master Diath said you could use an assist.”
The A-Wing ran rings around the Tie Fighters that attacked the Crucible taking advantage of their formation flying destroying two of them with one pass.
Jaden looked at the screen in amazement, “That’s a Jedi Pilot…”
“I can handle this Crucible. I’m a Rogue. Impossible is our stock in trade, and success is what we deliver., " Amira Forge, the A-Wing’s pilot said, “Get yourself to a safe distance. May the Force be with you.”
The Navicomputer finally beeped.
“Coordinates locked in.” Cortree said.
“Punch it!” Saberota said as the ship went to Lightspeed.