Chapter 10
The Final Conflict

Some time later, the Aurora arrives at its destination within sight of Coyn. Several of the New Republic ships have already left, leaving only a single Mon Calamari capital ship and a few support ships remaining in a holding position.

Snteil reaches for the comm, when he spots several more ships dropping out of hyperspace a fair distance behind the Aurora.

Back in the lounge, Jan and Eriyani are coordinating repairs for the Smiling Sarlacc, when the Jedi unexpectedly pauses mid-sentence.

"What is it?" asks Eriyani, brushing a lock of her platinum hair aside after a few seconds of silence.

"I have a bad feeling."

Jan turns and runs from the lounge toward the cockpit, followed quickly by Eriyani and Kurrelgyrre as he steps out of the gunwell.

"What's up?" Kurrelgyrre inquires, his only response being a shrug from the female pilot.

The group reach the cockpit, where they find Snteil working some of the controls near the sensors panel.

Once KG crosses the threshold into the cockpit, the Wookiee receives a premonition through the Force of the ships that have just arrived at Coyn: an Imperial Star Destroyer and several support ships.

The Wookiee mutters under his breath, "Star Destroyer."

Outside the cockpit, green turbolaser fire streaks past the ship and strikes the Mon Cal cruiser just ahead of the Aurora, creating several explosions along its port side. Snteil's glance back to the sensors panel show dozens of new signals appearing behind them and heading at high speed toward Skraj'Tais.

"Frak!" Kurrelgyrre cries. "Eriyani, take the copilot's chair and give Snteil a hand. Let's make the calculations to jump to lightspeed. And, somebody raise the Mon Cal ship to see what's going on. See if we can ID the Star Destroyer, too. I have a sneaky suspicion who that could be."

"Majint?" Snteil asks.

As Eriyani takes the other seat, she asks, "Where are we jumping to?"

KG answers sounding annoyed, "You're a pilot, pick a place! Try Yavin 4."

"I'm powering up the main guns as we speak. Deflector shields coming up," Snteil says.

He turns to Jan and asks, "Think you can remember how to use a gunwell?"

The Wookiee starts to head towards the bottom gunwell, when he hears Jan respond, "I hope so. It seems like yesterday that I did it last."

The two Jedi rush to the ship's turrets, avoiding a near collision with Zeethree, Dak and Arsan.

"What can we do to help?" Dak calls to Jan and Kurrelgyrre.

Zeethree interrupts, "Here. You can follow me."

As KG climbs into the ventral turret, he sees squadrons of TIE Interceptors rapidly closing on their location, with the Star Destroyer and its fleet in the distance closing in and firing on the New Republic fleet. Appearing caught by surprise, the New Republic ships are just now starting to move to intercept.

Hailing the Mon Cal cruiser, Snteil receives a frantic message back, minor explosions heard in the background, "Aurora, this is the Seidon. We have taken heavy damage to our defense systems and minor damage to our sublight drive. We're going to be late to the party. Hold them off as best as you can."

At the same time, Snteil notices that the Seidon is maneuvering to put itself between the star destroyer and Skraj'Tais, and it's coming about to show its starboard side to the Imperial fleet.

"There's nothing we can do about that Star Destroyer, but we'll hold off those TIEs as best we can," Snteil replies through the comm. "But, if you have fighters, now would be a good time to deploy them."

"Fighters should be on their way now," replies the Mon Calamari on the other end of the communique.

Another glance to the sensors panel verifies that even more signals have appeared near the station and are heading toward the Aurora as well. Apparently, both Imperial and New Republic fleets have launched about four full squadrons of fighters to engage each other. Snteil estimates that they will converge right on top of the Aurora. In addition, the other four New Republic capital ships are moving in to provide extra cover for the Seidon and are exchanging fire with the Imperial fleet.

As Kurrelgyrre gets settled in, he tries to draw a bead on the closest TIE fighter.

KG mutters under his breath, "Here's hoping this doesn't jam like the time over Jabba's palace . . ."

The Wookiee continues into his headset, "Jan, you strapped in up there? Nothing like old times, eh?"

Jan flips the last couple of switches and responds, "All set up here."

At that moment, the Aurora surges forward and banks to join the swarm of New Republic fighters. By Snteil's count, four squadrons (two X-wing, one Y-wing and one A-wing) in addition to two Corellian corvettes, one Nebulon-B frigate and a Lancer-class frigate make up the defending New Republic force along with the Seidon.

Snteil hits the comm and says, "New Republic squadron leaders, this is the Aurora. We are flying alongside to help defend the system."

"Copy, Aurora," comes the response after a brief moment. "Welcome to the fray."

A couple of seconds later, a firm, female voice breaks in and announces, "Aurora, you are now authorized on New Republic frequencies.

". . . considered a friendly vessel. Do not fire upon the ship joining our ranks."

"Copy, Gold Leader. But, what about that other ship leaving the Star Destroyer?"

Glancing up, Snteil peers into the void and finds another light cruiser flying away from the Star Destroyer toward the planet. The ship's configuration is familiar but is not certain from this distance.

"Disregard the other ship at this time. Concentrate on those fighters."

"Snteil," interrupts Eriyani. "I'll have those jump coordinates for you in no time."

The squadron of Y-wing fighters moves ahead and opens fire on the approaching TIE Interceptors, beginning the dogfight over Coyn, and the New Republic's A-wing squadron quickly joins the fray, harshly engaging the Imperial fighters.

Seizing the moment, Kurrelgyrre aims and fires the Aurora's ventral quad laser cannon. Both shots hit home, sending the doomed fighter into a spiral before exploding seconds later.

One of the New Republic corvettes, advancing toward the Imperial fleet, fires at one of the Carrack-class cruisers, but its shots miss the mark.

The space around the Aurora erupts with energy, as the TIE Interceptors engage the New Republic fighters. The entire crew of the ship winces from the sudden explosion of sound coming through the ship's comm from multiple pilots reporting loss of shields and damage to their ships in the first wave of attacks from the Imperial fighters.

Snteil, as he peers through the void and catches sight of a familiar ship in the distance departing from the Star Destroyer and heading toward the planet below, flies expertly through the battling starfighters and launches a concussion missile at one of the Imperial fighters. The lone missile smashes into the TIE Interceptor's starboard strut and explodes, destroying the fighter.

The other Corellian corvette defending the Coynite station fires at the other Carrack cruiser. Two barrages of turbolaser fire hit but are absorbed by their shields.

An Imperial Strike-class cruiser releases a wave of turbolaser fire at the New Republic's Nebulon-B frigate. Of the three shots fired, the second is absorbed by the shields, but the third pierces the energy barrier and slams into the forward decks of the frigate. Snteil hears over the comm system that the frigate's navcomputer and their port turbolaser battery are offline.

Jan fires the Aurora's dorsal turret at the passing Imperial starfighters and is barely able to compensate for the TIE Interceptor's speed. His shot meets only the void, but the second hits the back of one of the fighter's starboard wing.

"Give me a minute!" he cries down the gun well. "I'm out of practice."

"I'm lining you up perfectly. What more do you want!?!" Snteil jokes into the comm.

Jan answers back, "Tell 'em to slow down!"

As the two X-wing squadrons swoop into the fray and engage the Imperial forces, the Nebulon-B frigate returns fire at the Strike-class cruiser with their forward turbolasers, but both shots fly wide.

One of the Imperial Carrack-class cruisers returns fire at the New Republic Corellian corvette that initially attacked it, but its attacks zip harmlessly past their intended target.

The other Strike-class cruiser attacks the Lancer-class frigate with its forward turbolasers. The lethal beams score a hit that is absorbed by the frigate's shields.

The Imperial Star Destroyer brings its forward guns to bear and fires unrelentlessly upon the Seidon. The first few blasts from the ISD's heavy turbolasers shatter the Mon Cal cruiser's shields, leaving it vulnerable for the remaining turbolaser batteries. Shot after shot pierce the wounded cruiser's hull, until multiple small explosions erupt from the sleek hull and cascade across the entire ship. Finally, the ship explodes in a fiery blaze that quickly extinguishes in the airless void.

"Whoa!" Snteil exclaims. "Did you all see that!?! We're in trouble. We have no way to deal with that Star Destroyer now."

The voices on the comm fall into a stunned silence as the remaining New Republic forces witness the destruction of their primary capital ship. The silence is broken as a stern voice cries out, "Concentrate all fire on that Star Destroyer!"

The second Carrack-class cruiser launches its attack on the remaining Corellian corvette. The attack, however, avoids hitting the New Republic vessel.

The Lancer-class frigate, unable to change its attack in time to act on the new order, surges forward and attacks the Strike-class cruiser before it, but its attacks miss the Imperial ship.

The Y-wings continue their defense against the Imperial squadrons and take out a few of them. Able to keep pace with the TIE Interceptors, the A-wing fighters engage the Imperial fighters more successfully and destroy several more through their efforts.

Kurrelgyrre fires again into the swarm of Imperial starfighters. The first shot annihilates the lead passing fighter, while the second splinters the port solar array wing of his wingman, sending the ship into an uncontrolled barrel roll.

The Corellian corvette on the left flank turns the focus of their attacks on the Star Destroyer, but their efforts barely affect the Imperial ship's shields.

The Imperial fighters continue to outmaneuver most of the New Republic fighters, eliminating several more in the process. Messages continue to pour in, pilots proclaiming that they have lost shields and are taking heavy damage.

Snteil, after launching another concussion missile and cursing the Imperial pilot that avoided the initial attack, recognizes the descending ship as the Xyber One.

"Guys, this is our good friend Admiral Majint, I know it!" Snteil pauses for a moment.

Then with a sneer in his voice, he continues, "Xyber One just fled its docking bay and is headed for the planet. We CAN'T let them get away. Not again!"

The other Corellian corvette fires upon the Imperial Star Destroyer, but the massive ship shrugs off the energy blasts.

The first of the Strike-class cruisers continues its assault on the Nebulon-B frigate. Its first attack smashes through the aft engine compartment, ripping a huge gash into the ship, and the attack that follows lances through space to punch through the length of the ship, creating a blast that engulfs the ship.

Jan focuses his feelings and fires once again. His first barrage destroys the incoming fighter, while his second blasts the port wing off another.

Attempting to turn the tables on the Imperial fighters, the X-wings try to outsmart the enemy but are not as successful, as the TIE pilots compensate for the New Republic pilots' maneuvers.

The Carrack-class cruiser on the Star Destroyer's left flank fires upon the Corellian corvette before it, but its attacks miss their marks.

Lasers burst forth from the Strike-class cruiser, slicing through the darkness at the Lancer-class frigate directly in front of it, and miss the New Republic vessel.

As the Star Destroyer continues to approach the Coynite station, the wedge-shaped's weapons spread to fire upon the remaining New Republic support vessels. The deadly beams pummel the corvette off its starboard bow, dissipating its shields and punching into the center of the ship. Messages over the comm report widespread damage, including computer systems and shield generators offline.

Shots fired from the Star Destroyer smash into the Lancer-class frigate. The frigate's shields quickly buckle from the fierce assault, and the following attacks burn into the ship from bow to stern. Only a split second passes before the frigate's engines explode, taking the rest of the ship with it.

The remaining Carrack-class ship looses a volley of turbolaser fire at the damaged Corellian corvette. Without shields, the corvette takes a severe beating from the attack. Reports over the comm state that weapon systems and sublight engines are now offline as well.

"We're doomed," the commander of the vessel solemnly announces amidst the chaos heard in the background. "May the Force be with you all."

Despite overwhelming odds, the Y-wings fight valiantly against the TIE Interceptors, but only take out one starfighter. The A-wing squadron has better luck, eliminating several of the Imperial fighters.

Kurrelgyrre focuses his attention and fires at two passing Imperial ships, but his shots pass harmlessly into space.

"We cannot let the Empire take this system again!" cries out a voice over the comm. The undamaged corvette turns on a collision course with the Star Destroyer.

Seeing the ship come about, Snteil cries in vain at the ship, "Fools! You'll never get through their firepower!"

The TIE Interceptors continue to engage the New Republic fighter defense, taking an A-wing, several X-wings and a couple of Y-wings.

A couple of Imperial fighters fall in behind the Aurora and fire. Their weapons' barrage impacts the transport's shields. Snteil's glance at the panel reveals that shield integrity has dropped to 9%.

"Someone reroute power and get those shields back up, now!" orders the Sullustan pilot through the intercom. "Zeethree, are you back there?"

"Already on it!" cries Zeethree back through the comm.

In frustration, Snteil slams on the controls and launches another concussion missile at the nearest Imperial ship. The missile blows a wing and its strut off the cockpit, sending it spinning out of control through the thick of the battle, until it collides with an X-wing fighter.

"Blast it! That wasn't good," Snteil laments.

One of the Imperial Strike-class ships fires at the severely damaged corvette, intending to finish the job. Bursts of heavy turbolaser fire cross the void and batter the helpless corvette, until it finally succumbs to the assault and explodes, brightening the area for a brief moment and forcing Jan, Kurrelgyrre, Snteil and Eriyani to flinch from the sudden flash.

Jan whips the dorsal turret around and fires at one of the trailing TIE fighters. His shots strike home, destroying its left wing. The Imperial fighter, unable to control the ship any longer, spins directly into the fighter next to it, causing both of them to blow up.

The X-wing squadrons continue to defend the system with fierce determination and purge the galaxy of a few more TIE Interceptors.

Seeing the immediate threat against the Star Destroyer, all of the Imperial capital ships open fire on the incoming corvette, and the ISD takes evasive action to avoid the collision. The corvette's shields are quickly obliterated, forcing the hull to futilely attempt to withstand the majority of the attack. The vast amount of incoming fire rips apart the ship while in flight. The resulting explosion sprays debris throughout the area, reducing the effect of the ramming attack to nothing but smaller parts of the ship reflecting off the Star Destroyer's shields.

A new message interrupts the pilots' chatter and announces, "Rebel forces, this is the ISD Indomitable. You are hereby ordered to stand down and surrender or be destroyed."

"Hmm, I think that's our cue to leave," Snteil says as his eyes dart back towards the fleeing Xyber One.

At this point, Qualtis makes her way into the cockpit and asks cheerfully, "How's it going?"

"Oh, swimmingly!" he responds. "Admiral Majint is a swell guy, I'm sure being his prisoner again will do us much good. Why aren't you buckled in somewhere anyway?"

"Kurrlegyrre," he continues into the comm, "do you see what I see off our starboard bow headed for the planet?"

Peering through the void from his seat in the lower turret, KG replies, "What are you . . . frak!"

"Admiral . . ." Qualtis's voice trails off, as she appears lost in thought for a brief second until she blurts out, "Is that the Indomitable?!"

Without waiting for an answer, Qualtis lunges for the comm and impatiently opens a channel.

At that second, the Star Destroyer begins firing into the dogfight, picking off New Republic fighters as if they were annoying insects. An X-Wing, followed by another, then a Y-Wing, are instantly destroyed from the green turbolaser fire penetrating the swarm of starfighters.

The rest of the Imperial fleet closes in on the dogfight, closing off any obvious escape routes.

"Indomitable," announces Qualtis. "I request a private channel with the commander of your vessel. Code Besh-359. Repeat. Code Besh-359."

Within seconds, all weapons fire from the Imperial fleet ceases, and the TIE fighters reluctantly retreat toward the giant wedge-shaped vessel looming over them.

Silence fills the cockpit, except for the background static from the open channel. Eriyani stops her calculations and stares hard at Qualtis, her jaw slack in shock.

The thick silence is broken by an eruption of chatter from the surviving New Republic fighters.

"What just happened?!"

"Who cares! They're retreating. We've won!"

"Not yet, boys."

"Why did they retreat?"

"I thought we were dead."

"Gold Leader, shall we pursue?"

At this point, a familiar voice, the voice of the Imperial admiral, comes over the comm that sounds stern, yet astonished, "Qualtis?"

KG just shakes his head at this point, trying to take in what just happened. Using a Jedi calming technique, he focuses on the task at hand.

Snteil is not so fortunate. He sits there, jaw agape with a slight twitch in his left eye.

As Kurrelgyrre tries to get one last shot at the retreating TIE Interceptors, he hears a fairly loud pop from the deck behind him.

KG glances behind him and only sees Jan at the other end of the gunwell manning the turret. The Wookiee turns back, about ready to dismiss the sound, when he suddenly hears from the lower deck, "Oh, my . . ." followed by sounds of vomiting.

Jan turns to look down the vertical corridor at Kurrelgyrre with a curious look on his face. Unexpectedly, Kianna pokes her head in from the main deck and asks with concern, "What was that?"

With a shrug, KG replies, "I don't know. Arsix, check to see what happened."

Arsix responds through the comm with an electronic whistle. Several seconds later, the astromech droid maneuvers into the gunwell and descends to the lower deck. In no time flat, it wails urgently and retreats back into the gunwell.

Kianna, still peering down from the main level, looks at Arsix for a moment, draws her blaster and cautiously climbs down the ladder and peeks through the lower level opening.

"Um," says the blonde woman, "we need a set of shackles and a clean-up crew down here. Your prisoner got out."

At the same time on the Aurora's bridge, Qualtis replies cheerfully over the comm, "Hi, Dad! How've you been?"

"Where have you been for the last ten years?" the admiral asks stoically.

"Oh, gallavanting around the galaxy," Qualtis answers lightly. "Making friends, influencing people. All kinds of fun stuff."

Eriyani leans back behind Qualtis to softly say to Snteil, "What is she doing?! People are dying out there!"

Snteil, still speechless, only shrugs.

Qualtis looks across space at the Star Destroyer that fills most of the view and continues, "It looks like you've been busy, too. Got any new toys?"

"Qualtis! Your behavior is inexcusable!"

"Dad," she interrupts. "We can discuss this later. Right now, I'm in the middle of this battlefield outside your ship. Can you stop firing at me?"

Only silence is heard for several seconds from the comm. Finally, the ship shudders, as if it is trying to go in two different directions at once. The unexpected motion throws Qualtis to the deck of the cockpit. Dazed for a second, the former bounty hunter shakes her head and climbs back up to the comm.

"What are you doing?!"

The admiral replies, "We are bringing you in for your protection. Please shut down your engines."

The admiral then orders away from the comm, "Gunner Captain, you may resume firing. Under no circumstances are you to target that freighter."

The weapons on the Star Destroyer come to life again and start picking off the remaining New Republic starfighters.

Snteil finally snaps out of his trance and exclaims, "Damnit, girl! Give me that!"

He snatches the comm out of Qualtis's hands and clicks on the intercom, "Well, now that 'Daddy's Little Girl' is done, the Indomitable is pulling us in . . . again. Looks like we're about to be guests of Admiral Majint . . . again. And," he says looking at the retreating Xyber One, "it looks like the Xyber Corps is getting away . . . again. So, unless anybody has any bright ideas, it looks like I'm going to have to shut down before the tractor beam tears my ship apart."

"Not if I can help it!" exclaims Jan through the comm.

He wheels around in the turret and opens fire at the Star Destroyer in what looks at first to be an act of desperation. The Jedi's true motives are revealed when, a few seconds later, the tractor beam dissipates, and the Aurora flies free.

As the Aurora comes about, Snteil sees that the New Republic fighters are attempting to escape the onslaught of turbolaser fire from the Star Destroyer. However, the Imperial support ships are closing in, tightening the circle created by their blockade. Hope seems lost to the defending fighters. Chatter between the surviving pilots reflects their desperation and dismay.

Suddenly, a new signal comes over the comm.

"Skraj'Tais Control, this is the New Republic cruiser Defiance here to pick up the rest of the troops. We . . . Admiral! Imperial ships in range!"

Snteil glances at the sensors panel to find seven new signals bearing New Republic signatures entering the system.

A voice recognized as Mon Calamari announces over the comm, "Red Alert! All hands to battlestations! Shields at maximum!"

The original voice returns, "Admiral, we are detecting several New Republic fighters surrounded by the Imperial ships."

"Move in. All ships, target that Star Destroyer! Let's save our pilots."

At this point, the other Imperial ships break formation and move to engage the New Republic vessels bearing down on them. The other fighter pilots, seeing the change in their tactics, take their cue and speed toward the nearby Coynite orbital station.

Snteil spots an opening gap that leads in the direction of the Xyber One through which he can fly the Aurora, but he believes he may still draw fire from the Strike-class cruiser nearby.

Snteil speaks into the comm to the New Republic cruisers, "Admiral, this is Captain Seit, one ship has broken off from the main group and is heading towards the planet. With your leave, I am going to pursue."

Without actually waiting for an answer, Snteil makes a break for the gap before it closes up again.

Into the ship comm, Snteil says, "Here's our chance. With the new cruisers showing up, they don't need us. Let's follow Xyber Corps and see what those nerfherding bastards are up to.

"By the way," he adds as an afterthought, "Nice shot, Master Tolbara."

With that, he punches the accelerator.

"Um," Jan interjects through the comm. "I don't mean to criticize your piloting skills, Snteil, but your flight path is taking us dangerously close to that Imperial cruiser."

Snteil does not respond, as he concentrates on flying the ship and setting the shields to double-starboard for the flyby.

Kurrelgyrre, seeing what the Sullustan is doing, focuses his feelings and prepares to defend the ship.

Suspecting that the Strike-class cruiser will begin firing at them, Jan aims the dorsal turret at the capital ship, waiting for the moment to fire back.

Within seconds, the turrets on the Imperial ship fire at the approaching YT-2000, but their shots fly wide. As Snteil weaves to dodge the incoming fire, Jan returns fire. The laser blasts from the turret slam into the Strike-class cruiser's shields and quickly dissipate.

KG brings his turret around and releases a volley of lethal energy at the Imperial ship as they begin to pass the ship. The Wookiee's shots impact hard against the cruiser's shields but do not pass through.

Snteil's piloting skills shine as he expertly swerves the ship around the incoming fire. However, one lucky Imperial gunner slips a heavy turbolaser's shot past the Aurora's shields that smashes through the port hull into the engine room.

Multiple panels erupt within the cockpit, and Snteil reflexively throws his arms over his face to protect himself from the sparks. He grabs the controls again after the sparks have died and finds the ship spinning out of control. Snteil attempts to correct it, but the engines do not respond. Hastily looking over the panel, he finds that many of the displays have died, including sensors.

In the engine room, the sudden hull breach takes Zeethree, Dak and Arsan by surprise, as much of the equipment around them overloads as a result of the hit and the room's atmosphere begins rushing into space. Quickly losing their footing, Dak and Arsan are swept off their feet and flung toward the new hole in the ship, barely avoiding the small explosion that bursts from the engines. Arsan is the first to reach the ceiling, and his back presses against the gap, temporarily sealing the fissure. Dak, just in front of the Gungan, suddenly drops to the floor face-first next to the now-dead shield generator.

Zeethree, having magnetic feet, stays firmly on the floor. He walks quickly to a locker and pulls out two breath masks. Turning back to the Human and Gungan, he casually walks to Dak, hands him one of the masks and asks, "Are you okay, sir?"

Dak, still prone on the floor, does not move but answers, "Ow."

In the dorsal turret, Jan struggles against inertia to reach the manual release level for the turret and finally reaches it. Pulling it, the control clamps for the turret disengage, and the turret stops spinning with the ship. Fortunately, his turret is close enough in line with the Imperial cruiser that he can take a shot. Out of the corner of his eye, he notices that the targeting computer is offline. Undeterred, he fires and hits the ship's shields, the blasts creating ripples across the cruiser's protective barrier.

Kurrelgyrre, unable to clearly make a shot due to the spinning, looks back behind him to find Jan spinning in his turret. Taken back a second, he then realizes that Jan has released the control clamps on his turret. He reaches around and throws the lever, stopping his spinning after a few seconds. Unlike Jan, however, KG now faces the planet.

Thinking quickly, Snteil uses the maneuvering jets to stop spinning the ship. As the ship slowly corrects its direction, the pilot realizes that, despite their uncontrolled spinning, inertia continued to carry them in the same general direction the entire time. Smiling at his fortune, he unbuckles his restraints and sprints to the engine room.

As the Strike-class cruiser moves to engage the New Republic ships, most of the turret fire redirects away from the Aurora, but a few shots zip through the void toward them. Fortunately, the shots miss the helpless transport.

Wanting to help the New Republic forces a little more, Jan fires at the cruiser, but his shots merely graze the Imperial ship's shields.

"What the frack was that?" Kurrelgyrre asks.

KG, sensing that something is very wrong, starts barking out questions, "Arsix, see what you can do back there. Snteil, what's going on? How bad are we hit? Jan, you okay? How about everyone else? Everyone, report!"

As Snteil runs by the turret entrance, he stops and yells down to KG, "I donít know how bad it is. I lost most of the sensors in the hit. I'll report once I get back there."

Jan looks behind him down the gunwell and answers, "Calm down, KG. I'm fine.

"I saw the shot from the cruiser hit us. It looks pretty bad from up here, but I believe Snteil's back in the engine room by now. Do you want to help him out?"

Snteil turns and heads towards the engine room while muttering to himself, "At least the comm is still working!"

Snteil enters the engine room and sees the Gungan stuck to the ceiling and Dak lying prone on the deck.

"What in the Blazes?!?" he begins as he goes to the locker, pulls out another oxygen mask and puts it on.

"What part of 'strap in in the lounge' did you two not understand?"

Snteil is able to assess quickly that the shield generator has burned out and needs to be replaced. The backlash from the power surge that hit the shield generator sent another power surge through the sublight engines and caused enough damage that requires a complete overhaul and replacement of key components before they will work again.

As he heads for the computer, the ship starts to shake very loudly. Snteil starts to look around, asking himself, "What now?!"

"Snteil!"

The pilot whips his head around to see Eriyani bracing herself in the entrance. She cries out, her voice barely heard over the increasing rumble, "Do you want to fly this ship and keep us from crashing into the planet, or do you want me to help out?"

At that instant, Arsan cries out, "Yeow! Mesa butt is burning!"

The Gungan shoves himself out of the hole and drops like a rock to the deck. He starts to lift his head but drops it back to the deck, unconscious.

However, flames begin to flicker through the breach, licking at the hull plating and the nearby systems that includes a main power line.

Back in the ventral turret, Kurrelgyrre begins to climb out of the turret, when he feels the ship begin to shudder and sees flames surrounding the ship as it descends into Coyn's atmosphere.

As Jan slides down the gunwell ladder and lands on the main deck, he looks down at the Wookiee and yells out over the loud rumble, "Kurrelgyrre! Get out of there, before it gets too hot!"

Snteil glances at the repulsorlift units one last time before sprinting past Eriyani to the cockpit. Practically vaulting into the pilot's seat and not noticing that Qualtis has strapped into the second seat, Snteil takes a quick look at the fiery display on the other side of the canopy and instantly engages the repulsorlifts, bringing the ship to a halt in the atmosphere.

Jan, standing at the gunwell entrance, loses his grip on the doorway, flies toward the front of the ship and slams into the door leading to the cockpit. Kurrelgyrre, about to set foot on the main deck, flips head over feet through the doorway into Jan, harshly forcing the Jedi against the unopen door. The sudden stop throws Eriyani across the corridor into the wall across from the engine room hatch. Zeethree, standing on the floor with his magnetic feet still engaged, watches the unconscious forms of Arsan and Dak slide into the forward wall of the engine room. Snteil braces himself just in time to avoid smashing into the flight controls.

Looking up at the canopy, Snteil sees the last of the flames die down to reveal blackened windows through which he can barely see. What he can see is Coyn's blue sky and the layer of clouds below. Turning his gaze to the sensors panel, he sees the blank screen, reminding him that sensors are offline.

Qualtis unbuckles her safety belts and casually walks back toward the lounge. She presses the switch to open the door and jumps back, when an unconscious Jan falls back at her feet with Kurrelgyrre on top of him.

With a smirk, she asks, "Comfy?"

Snteil turns on the intercom and announces, "Well, sorry about the sudden stop there. But since I'm sure you were all safely strapped in, everyone should be okay, yea?"

A deep groan from Eriyani is quickly followed with her exclaiming, "Who are you trying to kid?!"

As Kurrelgyrre pushes himself up from the floor, Qualtis continues while staring at the two prone Jedi, "I knew it was a matter of time before you would bow down before me."

Before the Wookiee has a chance to respond to her retort, Arsix chirps from across the lounge. Checking out the droid's commotion reveals that he discovered a single external camera that managed to avoid enough of the damage and still be functional. Arsix states that he should be able to pilot the ship from the cockpit with it. In addition, the communications array survived the battle as well.

"Okay, Arsix," remarks Snteil as he walks into the lounge. "If you think you can do it, set us down nice and easy. Preferably somewhere near a spaceport so we can repair the ship, but nothing fancy.

"Well, better go back and see how bad it is," he continues before walking to the engine room. Meanwhile, Kurrelgyrre begins to look over everyone else to see who needs medical treatment.

Snteil, after checking his passengers, moves to the engine room and assessed the damage. With a blatant hull breach and the shields, computer and sublight drives all offline, the Aurora is going to be planet-bound for a while. Fortunately, the repulsorlifts escaped any damage and are working fine.

As Snteil emerges from the engine room, Arsix comes over the comm and starts chirping wildly. Zeethree, walking behind the ship's captain, translates, "He says he's found them."

"Who?" asks Eriyani.

"The Xyber One."

Kurrelgyrre checks over Jan after Snteil leaves the lounge. The Jedi looks to be out for a while and may receive a concussion. Beyond that, he doesn't seem to be any worse for wear. After checking the rest of the crew, he determines that the only other one that really needs any attention from a medic is Arsan, whose burns are quickly treated with a burn spray from one of the ship's medpacs.

Eriyani suggests putting Jan in a bunk for right now. As Kurrelgyrre hefts Jan in his arms and carries him to one of the shipís berths, Kianna walks with KG and helps him lay Jan down.

With the Jedi settled in KG's bunk on the upper deck of the ship, Kianna turns to the Wookiee and offers as she sets down her medpac, "I'll stay with Jan. I have had some first aid training and should be able to take care of him.

"Your droid said it found the ship you are looking for. Go help them settle this."

KG nods, "By my honor. Take care of him. Let him know I will be back."

Meanwhile, Snteil walks into the cockpit to find Arsix plugged into the computer socket next to the pilot station. Even though the computer system is down, he surmises that KG's droid is able to plug in and work as a convenient substitute.

The droid turns its domed head as Snteil walks in, chirps something in Binary and activates one of the screens on the control panel. The image displayed shows a starport in the distance with several ships in a holding pattern around the docking bays. With another chirp from Arsix, the image zooms in to focus on a TL-1800 transport bearing the familiar markings of the Xyber One beginning its descent.

KG enters just as Snteil is going over the info. "There the bastards are, docking at that space port," he says pointing at the screen. "How far away is that spaceport, Arsix?"

"It looks like itís just a few clicks," Zeethree replies after looking at the monitor.

"We should be able to make it there on foot. I don't trust them, KG. Why would the Remnant let them leave in the middle of the battle like that? Something must be up. I know they're up to something, and I think we should find out what.

"Plus, I wouldn't mind a little payback for leaving us for dead back on Halkiir."

KG nods in assent. "We will bring them to justice."

Zeethree translates, "Arsix says we should arrive there within a few minutes. And, he is also pointing out this."

As the protocol droid points to the screen, KG and Snteil see that the Xyber One is heading to a hangar on the far side of the starport.

Suddenly, the intercom indicates an incoming message. Arsix automatically accepts the message and routes it to the speaker.

A light, pleasant female voice announces, "Incoming vessel, you are identified as the Aurora. Permission granted to land at Docking Bay 46. Welcome to Im'tra'tal."

Arsix chirps a statement in Binary, which Zeethree translates, "He says that he hopes he can find the right bay, since the computer and sensors are out."

As the camera zooms in and pans across the docking bays, Eriyani states through the ship's comm, "Hey, guys! I locked the upper turret back in place. The forward view is clear, but the back looks like hell. We could use this to help see our way around."

Several more seconds pass before Arsix chirps something else, to which Zeethree says, "He found the docking bay. We should be there in a couple of minutes, and he says that everyone should buckle in."

Arsix slowly glides the ship, swings it around and gently sets it down on the docking platform. As soon as the repulsorlifts begin to whine down, the droid lets out an obvious electronic sigh. He pans the camera around to find only a technical crew walk into the bay, stop and do a double-take as they survey the damage all over the ship. One of them turns to the rest of the group and appears to bark something to them. The rest of the crew springs into action, dropping the fuel lines and rushing to get tools and parts to commence repairs. As the crew assembles their equipment, the one believed to be the crew chief jogs toward the ship. Seconds later, a knock is heard against the closed boarding ramp, followed by a gruff voice crying in Basic, "'ey! You guys okay in there? Open up!"

Before Snteil has a chance to react, Zeethree turns to the two compatriots and says point-blank, "Give me a blaster. I'll take care of him."

"NO!" yells Snteil. "Uh, I mean . . . no, Zeethree, that's okay. Thanks for the offer, but no need to shoot the hand that repairs, as they say."

Zeethree snaps back, "That's your problem, Snteil. Always ready to trust whoever knocks on the boarding ramp. One of these days, someone's going to come in and kill us, because they are posing as a repairman. Then, what are you going to do?"

Snteil states, "If someone shoots you, you shoot them right back. I've got no qualms about that. I'd just rather you not shoot first."

"I should also add," continues Zeethree without a pause, "that that Rodian technician I found at the Incom repair shop was actually that member of the Xyber Corps that infiltrated their ranks and planted that homing beacon on the Z-98. See? Maybe you should listen to me sometimes."

The droid turns and storms to the back part of the ship.

"I-" Snteil stammers, suddenly at a loss for words. He looks at his Wookiee friend and sighs before turning to the boarding ramp.

As he opens the landing ramp, Snteil says, "We have injured personnel up here, we need a medic. And as you can see, she's in need of some serious repair," he says indicating the Aurora. "I'll take you in the back and show you the damage."

The crew chief nods, immediately pulls out his comlink and calls in for medical assistance.

To Eriyani he says, "As soon as the medics get here, show them to Jan and Arsan."

"And, what of the Xyber Corps?" asks Eriyani. "The longer we wait here, the better chance they have of getting away. We need to go after them . . . now!"

"We will, but if they take off again, we'll need a ship to chase them, and this ship ain't gonna repair itself," he returns.

Snteil then takes the mechanic back to the back of the ship.

As Snteil takes the crew chief to the back through the lounge, he finds Arsan leaning against a table as Dak hands him a spray can from a medpac while crying with obvious irritation, "I am NOT going to spray your butt! Spray it yourself!"

"Mesa'd do it for you!"

"That's you. Look, we're friends and all, but I just don't like the idea of some guy's bare butt staring at me mere centimeters from my face while I'm doing stuff."

Shaking his head, Arsan continues, "My no gettin' it."

"It's a Human thing, now here's the burn treatment."

The Gungan sighs and gingerly takes the can from Dak. Arsan starts to unfasten his pants, when he sees Snteil and the Coynite walking into the lounge. He stops suddenly and exclaims, "Oh! Sorry! Mesa no see you come in!"

Dak throws his hands in the air and cries as he retreats from the room, "I'm outta here!"

"Uh, sorry guys," stammers Snteil. "I . . . didn't mean to . . . uh . . . intrude . . . I guess."

After letting the embarrassment pass, Snteil shows the technician the damage and let the repairs begin. Once he is satisfied, he returns to back to the crew.

"Okay," Snteil announces as he walks into the shipís lounge. "Xyber Corp is up to something, and we need to find out what. I don't know if they just took the opportunity of the battle to escape or if those two-bit double-crossers are doing something for the Remnant. Either way, I think we need to find out what they're up to.

"Anyone coming with me?"

Eriyani is the first to respond, "I'm going! 'If it's Imperial, shoot it!' I always say."

"Not me," interrupts Zeethree. "I'm staying here and making sure these ruffians that call themselves mechanics don't take off with the ship."

Rolling her eyes, Eriyani adds, "Whatever!"

Dak and Arsan quickly join the expedition, ready to get out into some wide open spaces.

Qualtis, leaning against the doorway leading to the cockpit with crossed arms, quietlly watches everyone in action.

Noticing her standing away from the group, Eriyani impatiently asks, "Well, are you going, Qualtis?"

The robed woman stares at her for a long second, then shrugs and casually answers, "Eh, why not? How much am I getting paid?"

"Paid?!" spat Eriyani. "They're Imperials! You're a Jedi! You don't need to get paid!"

The expression on Qualtis's face does not change as she flatly answers, "A girl's gotta eat."

As Eriyani throws her arms above her head in frustration, Qualtis mumbles quizzically, "I'm not a Jedi."

KG lets out a low grunt at this point.

At that moment, Kianna climbs out of the gunwell into the lounge where everyone else is assembled.

"Howsa Jan?" Arsan inquires curiously.

Kianna gives a curt nod and replies, "He's still unconscious, but he'll be alright."

The group turns to the Wookiee standing among them and Dak probes, "Are we ready, Kurrelgyrre?"

"Somebody has to keep all of you out of trouble."

Arsix whistles to the group and chirps a statement, which Zeethree translates, "Arsix says that the Xyber Corps landed their ship in Docking Bay 35, located not far from here."

With everyone ready, Kurrelgyrre leads the rest out of the ship, while Zeethree, Arsix and Kianna stay behind to watch over the ship and the unconscious Jan. Eriyani spots an unoccupied cargo speeder that she says they can use to get to their destination quicker.

The group arrives at Docking Bay 35, positioned at the far corner of the starport and within sight of the edge of the city a couple of kilometers past the border fence. Traffic in the area is minimal, the exception being another speeder leaving another docking bay a couple of lots down, and the area is relatively quiet.

Upon their arrival, the heroes find that the larger main door is open, leading to one of the docking bay's cargo holds. The hold is completely empty, except for a single blonde-haired Human dressed in black Jedi-style robes.

Jarok stands defiantly near the back wall and stares at everyone, particularly Kurrelgyrre. As the crimson blade of his lightsaber appears, he yells, "If you want me, come and get me!"

At this point, he turns and sprints toward an open doorway in the back right corner.

Eriyani sneers, draws her blaster and fires at the fleeing enemy. Both shots fly wide and explode on the wall a couple of meters behind Jarok.

"Damn!" exclaims the female pilot, cursing her luck.

"Jarok, you cowardly mynock!" Snteil yells at the fleeing Human. "Stay and face what you've got coming to you!"

He fires one shot at the fleeing Jarok, but the shot impacts against the wall above the mercenaryís head just before he runs through the doorway and out of sight.

Kurrelgyrre pulls out his lightsaber, the snap-hiss signaling the activation of his flame-colored blade.

"You guys realize this is a trap, right?"

Snteil calms down after a moment. "Yeah, you're right," he says. "What are they playing at?"

"Other than setting a trap," adds Eriyani. "No idea."

Qualtis interrupts, "It's easy! They want us dead. We're a troublesome roadblock, and killing us will make their lives easier. How hard is that?"

Eriyani shoots a dark glance at the other woman and sighs loudly.

Snteil asks, "So, you guys HAVE had a run in with these guys before, haven't you?"

"Yes," Eriyani replies. "They stole the fuel cells out of the Sarlacc, while we weren't looking. We tracked them to a warehouse in Im'Tra'Tal. I'm surprised they aren't headed there."

"Yeah, uh, that warehouse is probably going to be a little unusable for a little while," he says with a wink.

Eriyani smiles in response and proceeds forward quietly.

After a slight pause, Kurrelgyrre states, "We'll head forward cautiously. I'll take point. Snteil, cover me. Eriyani, if it's Xyber Corps, shoot it. Okay, everyone, let's go."

Eriyani, Dak and Arsan nod their agreement and prepare their blasters.

Qualtis draws a blaster from under her Jedi robes and checks the power level, leaving her lightsaber hooked to her belt. Noticing a look from her companions, she says defensively, "What? Jan's not here."

KG just stares silently, a look of disapproval on his face. He sets it aside and focuses on the task at hand. Snteil just gives her a puzzled look, not quite understanding what she means.

Kurrelgyrre heads after Jarok, going cautiously while gathering the Force around him. Snteil follow the Wookiee Jedi, staying acutely aware of his surroundings and possible ambush points. Eriyani tags along behind Snteil with blaster ready, followed by Dak and Arsan with Qualtis taking the rear.

Entering the docking bay, Snteil notes that both the large cargo door and the smaller personnel door leading to the adjoining cargo hold are sealed. But, the smaller door through which Jarok fled is unlocked and the only way to go.

"That's convenient," he says with a resign in his voice.

Dak adds, "Almost as if it was planned."

Snteil nods.

Kurrelgyrre cautiously approaches and opens the hatch to find the Xyber One parked in the middle of the landing platform. Fuel and power lines connect the ship to the permacrete structure housing it, and the low buzz of transferring power is the only sound heard from within. Resting just inside the door is a cargo speeder filled partially with metal crates loaded from the ring of stacked containers that rests about a meter out from the walls of the landing bay.

Before taking a step inside, the Wookiee hears a door close around the corner and to the right.

"That must be Jarok," mumbles Dak, gripping his blaster.

Snteil quickly heads across the landing bay toward the refueling station. Reaching the panel, he easily recognizes the standard panel configuration used on starport fuel pump control panels across the galaxy. This particular panel indicates that the ship's tanks are currently 46% full.

Meanwhile, Kurrelgyrre opens his eyes into the Force and looks around the area. Besides locating the weaker presences of Snteil and Qualtis and the even weaker presences of the rest of the party, the Wookiee also finds a strong presence of another Force-user standing several meters past the nearby door, which KG surmises to be Jarok. No other individuals appear in the other room. It is almost as if Jarok is waiting for something . . . or someone.

KG motions towards the nearby door and says, "He's over there."

Kurrelgyrre thinks for a second and then asks something he never thought he would ask, "Qualtis, got a thermal detonator on you?"

Qualtis turns to the Wookiee and replies flatly, "Jan won't let me have any."

KG slaps his forehead and grumbles to himself, "The one time I want her to have a thermal detonator, and she actually listens to Jan.

"Okay, we're going to do this the hard way. I'll take care of Jarok. You guys take the ship."

KG readies his lightsaber as he cautiously approaches the door, keeping his eyes out for any treachery.

"Are you sure?" Snteil asks from across the bay. "How do you know he's alone?"

KG does his best to imitate Snteil's winning smile and says, "Trust me."

Snteil, meanwhile, throws a couple of switches, and the fuel begins pumping out of the ship.

Seconds later, the cargo doors on the far side of the bay begin to open. Almost immediately, blaster fire erupts from the expanding gap, as several Imperial stormtroopers in defensive positions fire across the landing bay at the group of heroes. As they move out from the cargo bay with continued cover fire, the troopers are followed by the Rodian member of the Xyber Corps, who appears to be directing their movements as he attacks with his rifle.

Eriyani, Qualtis, Dak and Arsan dive behind the nearest cluster of stacked cargo containers and prepare to return fire. Snteil is left in the open by the control panel but is several meters from where the rest of the group is. Another set of stacked cargo containers is within a few meters from him to his left.

At the same time as blaster bolts impact against the duracrete wall, Kurrelgyrre wheels around at the sound of the door opening behind him. Instantly, KG sees Jarok standing on the far side of the partially filled cargo bay looking down at his feet. The blonde raises his head slowly to stare angrily at the Wookiee and ignites his red-bladed lightsaber.

"Holy sh-" Snteil exclaims as a blaster bolt explodes against the floor next to him. After he runs and dives for cover behind the nearest stack of cargo bins, he draws his blaster pistol and fires a shot at Dorsha as the Rodian hops behind a metal crate. The blaster impacts against the crate, spraying sparks onto the floor.

Near the entrance into the bay, Arsan rolls to the corner of the assembly of cargo containers he and his compatriots use for cover and fires a shot at the distant stormtroopers. The shot from his electro-pulse pistol smashes into one of the trooper's left shoulder, causing him to duck down further and reposition his rifle.

The Imperial soldiers release a salvo of blaster fire across the docking bay, forcing Eriyani and Dak to dodge the incoming fire that slam into the durasteel boxes and permacrete wall behind them.

Seeing Snteil's shot hit his cover, Dorsha directs the two nearest troopers to concentrate their fire on the Sullustan. The armored soldiers adjust their stance and release red bolts of energy that slam into Snteil's chosen barricade. The Sullustan winces upon hearing the new attacks and steels himself for his next attack.

Eriyani, determined to quickly bring this battle to a close, whips around a corner of the container she is using as cover and fires two shots at the white troopers in the distance. Her first shot pierces the breastplate of one of her targets, shoving him back against the wall where he drops to one knee but prepares to return fire. Her second shot explodes against the wall next to him, showering the floor with charred permacrete dust.

Qualtis, crouched down behind the metal crates, calms herself and closes her eyes. She suddenly opens her eyes after a few seconds, grips her blaster and moves to the opposite corner from the Gungan mercenary.

Adamant on doing his part, Dak turns and fires at the enemy, but his shot flies too high and grazes the bottom of the Xyber One.

Dorsha levels his blaster rifle and, seeing Snteil pop up to fire again, shoots at the pilot. Snteil drops back down, barely avoiding the unexpected shot.

*****

As Kurrelgyrre steps through the doorway into the moderately stocked cargo bay and activates his lightsaber, the door quickly shuts and seals behind him, taking the Wookiee by surprise for a brief second.

Jarok lowers his free hand after sealing the door from across the room through the Force, glares at the Jedi standing before him and says with hushed rage, "This ends now."

Before KG has a chance to respond, the Dark Jedi charges, swinging his lightsaber furiously and forcing Kurrelgyrre to take a step back as he blocks the first attack. Kurrelgyrre parries Jarok's second swing quicker but has to dodge the third incoming blow, as the blonde Human reverses his hand and attacks from the other side past the fiery blade.

Recovering from his opponent's offensive, Kurrelgyrre pushes forward and ripostes, attempting to cut under Jarok's weapon. But, Jarok quickly regains his position and stops the incoming blow. The Wookiee attacks again and meets only Jarok's energy blade a second time.

"One by one," Jarok utters as he holds back KG's lightsaber with his own. "You and your pitiful friend have killed my friends and my mentor."

*****

Scowling at the near miss, Snteil jumps back up and fires two shots at the Rodian, but his shots fly wide.

Arsan flips around the corner and fires his pistol once more, but his shot hits the floor a couple of meters before the troopers.

The stormtroopers return fire, bringing their shots closer to the impromptu barrier. Dak's eyes grow wide as a blaster bolt punctures his upper chest near his right shoulder. The scruffy gambler winces and screams in pain as he nearly loses the grip on his weapon and his free hand clutches his wounded flesh.

Another close shot from one of the soldiers flanking Dorsha forces Snteil to duck for cover behind the crates again.

With her blaster peeking around the corner, Eriyani fires two more shots. Her first shot burns into the wall, but her second hits home as it digs through the same trooper's breastplate and drops him to the floor.

Qualtis springs up and fires two shots from a low niche in the stack of crates. Both shots slam into two stormtroopers standing near each other that crumple to the floor before firing another shot.

Dak, quickly recovering from his wound, focuses his vision on another Imperial soldier and fires. His shot successfully hits its intended target, piercing the armored leg of the trooper that shot him.

Dorsha patiently waits for a new opportunity to fire at his nemesis and releases two more shots when Snteil emerges from his cover once again. Snteil quickly dodges the first incoming shot. But, the second flies harmlessly past, as the Rodian misjudged the direction the Sullustan would go.

*****

Jarok pushes Kurrelgyrre's blade away, spins in place and attacks again. The first attack slams into the flaming blade and shoves Kurrelgyrre back against a large crate. As the blonde lunges at the Wookiee with his crimson weapon, the Jedi rolls away from the attack, letting Jarok's lightsaber pierce the metal container. The Human grunts as he pulls the blade of energy out and chops at his retreating enemy, forcing KG to stop and bat the attack away.

Kurrelgyrre quickly brings his own blade to bear and fences with Jarok. The Wookiee jabs at his adversary's sword hand, causing Jarok to pull it back. KG follows through and slices in at the Dark Jedi's torso, but Jarok parries the humming blade and forces it toward the floor instead.

*****

Frustrated at being pinned down, Snteil moves to another corner and fires again at Dorsha. The plan works, driving the Rodian to dodge the incoming shot for once. Snteil's second shot, however, impacts against the wall behind his target.

Arsan fires once more at his opposition, but his aim falters, firing the energy bolt into a metal container near the stormtrooper.

The Imperial troops shoot their blaster rifles across the bay. Eriyani dodges one shot but is not so lucky with a second bolt that burns into her left shoulder. She cries out from the sudden pain and drops to the floor behind Arsan, while her blaster pistol tumbles across the floor and stops a few meters out of her reach.

As Dak attempts to renew his grip on his pistol, one of the trooper's shots hits its mark through the gambler's chest, throwing him back against the docking bay's wall and onto the floor to move no more.

The Gungan crouched near the floor draws back, narrowly avoiding another shot from the Imperial forces.

The female pilot, breathing heavily from the pain in her shoulder, looks around to find her blaster out of reach in the open. Seeing that she cannot reach it without drawing fire, she pushes herself behind the cargo containers.

Qualtis adjusts her aim and shoots again, killing another stormtrooper but barely missing another. Cursing her luck, she shifts her position and prepares to fire again.

After glancing toward Snteil's position, Dorsha fires once at the secluded combatant, forcing Snteil back behind his cover, and sprints toward the starboard boarding ramp of the Xyber One while the two stormtroopers nearest to him provide cover fire.

*****

As KG returns his lightsaber to his defensive position, Jarok continues as his anger seems to heighten, "But, not anymore! You will fall this day, Jedi!"

As Jarok spits the last word of his statement, he charges at Kurrelgyrre again, relentlessly slicing again and again at the Wookiee Jedi. Each blow seems to come down stronger than the one before, beating KG back with each successive strike.

The Wookiee pushes Jarok's blade aside with his own after the third harsh attack and counters with a backhand swipe at the Human's abdomen. Jarok leaps back a meter to avoid the blade, making Kurrelgyrre move toward him and attack again. This time, the black- clad blonde parries the Jedi's lightsaber attack, stopping it cold against his weapon.

As Jarok blocks the second strike, Kurrelgyrre feels his Force- boosted senses fade back to normal.

*****

Snteil, unable to get a clear shot at Dorsha as he sprints toward the ship, shifts his aim at the two stormtroopers that have thwarted him and releases two shots, one at each of them. Both shots hit their mark. The first blaster bolt penetrates the center of the soldier's chestplate and throws him to the ground. The second one burns through the helmet's faceplate, rocking his head back sharply before he slumps to the floor.

Leaning out from his cover, Arsan levels his pistol at the nearest stormtrooper and fires. The blast of energy zips across the docking bay and impacts against the trooper's armored torso, breaking the shell and exploding against the soldier's skin. His scream echoes within the spacious room and mixes in with the sounds of weapons fire.

The remaining Imperial troops continue their assault as they focus their shots on Arsan and Qualtis. While the female bounty hunter- turned-Jedi expertly evades their shots and narrowly avoids being hit by one, the Gungan is not so lucky. While avoiding one blaster bolt, he takes another in his shoulder. He cries out from the sudden pain and drops to the floor as he grabs for his injury.

Eriyani, remaining hidden behind the stack of cargo containers used as their makeshift shelter, struggles to pull a medpac from her utility belt.

From her vantage point, Qualtis takes aim and shoots at two more stormtroopers. Her first shot hits home, blasting through the combatant's right arm, forcing him to release his rifle and drop to his knees. Her second shot pierces the soldier's armored torso and explodes within his chest.

Dorsha, as he runs up the starboard boarding ramp, quickly glances at his two troopers as they fall and rushes into the airlock.

*****

Jarok surges forward and ruthlessly attacks Kurrelgyrre, advancing toward his opponent with each strike. The dark Jedi's first blow is barely parried in time. As the lightsabers clash from his second attack, Jarok quickly draws back and swipes again, barely catching the tips of the fur on the Wookiee's leg.

Kurrelgyrre steps back and ripostes, lunging at the Human and following through with an overhead roundhouse swing. Jarok works to block both blows, his face betraying his fierce determination to stop the incoming attacks.

*****

With his immediate opposition out of the way, Snteil jumps to his feet and dashes for the port boarding ram of the Xyber One. Halfway there, both boarding ramps begin to retract. Pushing himself, the Sullustan surges forward and dives onto the ramp, barely clearing its edge. Regaining his footing, Snteil runs up the ramp and ducks into the port airlock.

Arsan fights the pain in his shoulder, regrips his pistol and fires again at the trooper he shot before. This time, his shot smashes through his side, and the soldier drops dead over the cargo crate in front of him.

The stormtroopers, as they slowly approach the heroes around the outside edge of the docking bay, continue to fire. Their shots force Qualtis to dodge a deadly shot. Arsan, on the other hand, tries futilely to avoid the hit but takes a blaster bolt to his chest. The Gungan exhales and slumps to the floor, dropping his pistol nearby.

Finally pulling the medpac out of her pouch, Eriyani opens the case and clumsily rifles through its contents, searching for the first aid supplies she so desperately needs to survive. Locating the supplies, she withdraws a tube of bacta ointment, pulls the shoulder of her shirt down to expose the wound and applies the medicine.

Qualtis fires at the only stormtrooper in sight, releasing two shots at her target. The first grazes his left leg, but the second slams through his helmet and burrows into his head. The doomed soldier stumbles and hits the floor hard.

Aboard the Xyber One, Dorsha turns around from the starboard airlock controls after seeing both hatches sealed to see Snteil running through the airlock with blaster in hand. Surprised at the Sullustan's sudden appearance, he fumbles for his pistol.

*****

With a growl, the red blade in Jarok's hands parries KG's flame- colored blade down and jabs at the Wookiee's leg. Kurrelgyrre parries the lightsaber upward, but Jarok recovers quickly. The black-clad warrior's second attack sweeps under the Wookiee's weapon while following through on his parry and slices through Kurrelgyrre's chest. KG's howl of pain fills the room as Jarok reverses his attack and strikes the handle of his enemy's lightsaber, slicing a piece out of the weapon. After Jarok's crimson blade withdraws, the flame-blade flickers and shuts down.

Kurrelgyrre steps back and focuses his being to renew his attack but soon realizes that his lightsaber is dead. He gazes at Jarok as an evil smile forms on the Human's face.

*****

As Dorsha draws his pistol, Snteil fires at the Rodian while charging at his target. The first blaster bolt narrowly misses the mercenary's waist, but the second explodes through Dorsha's chest, sending him sprawling back against the airlock door. After solidly slamming against the hatch, Dorsha carelessly drops his pistol, sending it tumbling across the deck, as he slowly slides down the sealed hatch and slumps motionless to the floor. Snteil skids to a halt next to the airlock controls and looks over the mercenary for a brief moment.

Continuing their slow advance around the docking bay, the Imperial troops keep firing relentlessly at the impromptu bunker. Most of their shots hit the pockmarked durasteel containers, but one flies too close to Qualtis and forces her to take cover temporarily.

Eriyani sighs as she feels the ointment take some of the bite out of the pain from her blaster wound, turns to see Arsan lying still and Qualtis as their only defender.

"I'm surprised, Qualtis," the pilot says with effort. "You're still here defending us."

In between shots, Qualtis replies, "Actually, I was thinking on making a run for the ship and getting out of here. But, the boarding ramp is retracted. I think Ol' Furball's friend got on board, so maybe you still have some hope."

Eriyani frowns and mutters under her breath, "Figures."

Qualtis fires twice more at the nearest stormtrooper. Both shots hit the soldier in the chest, and he falls to the bare floor in front of the other trooper behind him, leaving only one left standing.

*****

Jarok fakes a lunge, forcing Kurrelgyrre to flinch as he prepares to defend himself. He laughs to himself for a brief second before outstretching his hand. KG suddenly feels an invisible force slam into him, pushing him back into several metal storage crates a few meters behind him.

Dazed from the impact, Kurrelgyrre is knocked senseless for a second but snaps alert in time to see Jarok walking toward him, pointing his red lightsaber at his prone opponent. Instinctively grabbing for his lightsaber handle, it suddenly dawns on him that he lost his grip on it when he was thrown back. His eyes widen at the thought of what may come next.

Jarok stops at the Wookiee's feet and starts to laugh. Seconds later, Jarok raises his lightsaber over his head and says, "Now, Kurrelgyrre, it's time to die."

Jarok takes a deep breath and swings his lightsaber down ferociously, only to have the attack blocked by the sudden appearance of a purple-colored lightsaber blade. Kurrelgyrre looks over to find Jan Tolbara standing next to him, stretched forward in time to stop the death blow.

Jan icily stares at Jarok and steadily answers, "I don't think so."

Jarok screams in frustration as Jan sweeps the red blade away and engages Kurrelgyrre's foe in his stead.

*****

Satisfied that Dorsha has been sufficiently dealt with, Snteil turns and quickly moves into the Xyber One's port turret. He drops into the seat and powers up the weapon while he surveys the battle as it continues in the docking bay.

Although hurt, one of the two Imperial troopers that is still alive fires at Qualtis along with his uninjured comrade. Their blaster shots impact against the metal containers the former bounty hunter has claimed for cover but do not threaten her.

Obviously perturbed, Eriyani exclaims at the robed woman standing next to her, "Why do you always act so selfishly? You always . . ."

Qualtis, as she returns fire with two shots of her own, interrupts, "Now is not the time, Eriyani!"

The first of Qualtis's shots punches through the injured stormtrooper's helmet, dropping him to the bare floor for the last time, and the second bolt pierces the remaining soldier's upper chest. The armored fighter cries out from the sudden pain and stumbles back against the wall behind him, and he struggles against unconsciousness.

*****

"What took you . . . so long?" asks Kurrelgyrre between deeps breaths as he clutches his chest.

"Oh, you know," Jan replies as he parries Jarok's first attack. "It always takes me a while to wake up from a long sleep."

Jarok scowls as he savagely attacks his new opponent. Each forceful blow is parried by the Jedi, who advances slowly toward the blonde assailant.

Forcing himself to stay back out of the fight for the moment, Kurrelgyrre taps into the Force, hoping to heal his wounds so he can join his friend and mentor in battle. The pain in his chest makes it difficult to focus his energies.

With each step forward, Jan batters against Jarok's weakening defenses, the impact of lightsaber against lightsaber sprays sparks between the combatants. Jarok manages to block each of Jan's swings but continues to retreat from the assault.

*****

Snteil, seeing one stormtrooper left to threaten his new companions, aims the ship's turret and fires. The lethal bolt of energy slams into the trooper, and the resulting blast throws the doomed gunman hard against the wall, causing him to slide along the wall toward the door the heroes entered through.

Originally preparing to fire again at the last trooper, Qualtis pauses upon seeing his death at the hands of the ship's weaponry. After a second, she slowly lowers her gun as her jaw drops slack and cries out, "Hey! That's not fair!"

She then turns to Eriyani and answers, "Okay, now's the time. What were you saying?"

*****

Changing his movement, Jarok and Jan begin circling each other in the middle of the cargo bay. Jarok fakes an attack, causing Jan to prematurely raise his defense, and chops down past the unmet parry. Jan compensates in time and bats away the red lightsaber, but his opponent swings around and cuts into the Jedi's right thigh. Jan utters a sharp cry from the wound and staggers back a step. A wicked smile crosses Jarok's face as he strengthens his stance.

Concentrating on the Force and clearing the pain from his mind, Kurrelgyrre reaches out once again. This time, he feels the cool tendrils of healing touch his being and remnants of his strength returning.

Jan fights back the pain in his leg and renews his attack. He feints to one side, forcing Jarok to block the fake swing, and rakes his purple blade across the back of the blonde's right hand, ripping open the glove to reveal the cybernetic circuitry within. Jarok cries out as artificial nerves shoot pain through his body, and he backs away from the Jedi Knight to nurse his hand for a second.

Staring angrily at Jan, Jarok pulls his lightsaber back, screams and charges. Jan brings his lightsaber forward to meet Jarok's first savage attack, but he underestimates the strength behind it. Jarok slams his blade against Jan's, knocking it out of his hands. The purple lightsaber shuts down as the handle hits the floor and slides a few meters away from Kurrelgyrre. Not stopping his motion, Jarok follows through, spins in place and thrusts his saber forward. Jan's wounded scream fills the room, as Jarok's red energy blade pierces the center of his torso and out his back. As Jan's body relaxes, the Dark Jedi withdraws his weapon. Jan drops limply to his knees, falls on his side and lies still on the cold duracrete floor.

Kurrelgyrre stretches his healing trance just a little longer before opening his eyes to find Jan lying at Jarok's feet. He quickly raises his glance to Jarok, as he turns on his heel and looks viciously at the wounded Wookiee.

Jarok slowly walks toward Kurrelgyrre, leaving Jan on the floor behind him. While he carries his lightsaber in his right hand, he flexes the fingers of his left and asks defiantly through his evil smile when he stops at the Wookiee's feet, "So, who's going to protect you now, Kurrelgyrre?"

In an instant, Kurrelgyrre stretches out with the Force and pulls Jan's lightsaber to his hand. KG ignites it with a snap-hiss, the purple blade of his friend casting an eerie purple light upon his face. KG comes in for the attack, a Wookiee battle cry on his lips, and plunges the energy blade through Jarok's heart.

Shock cross the Dark Jedi's face as the red-bladed lightsaber drops from his trembling hand, shutting down before it hits the floor.

"The Force is my ally. That's all the protection I need," Kurrelgyrre states as he pulls the purple blade from his enemy's chest and watches Jarok crumple to the floor. The mercenary stares at the Wookiee Jedi for one last second before lowering his head slowly to the floor and giving his last breath.

KG sheaths the purple lightsaber of his friend with a snap-hiss, then runs over to Jan.

As the Wookiee kneels next to his friend, Jan weakly opens his eyes. He coughs and whispers, "Thank the Force you took him out. I was hoping you would."

"Don't talk," interrupts Kurrelgyrre. "Just lie still. You're going to be fine."

Jan shakes his head slightly and replies, "No, KG. He hit me bad. I'm dying."

"No, I'm not going to let you die. I just found you! No . . ."

As Kurrelgyrre plants his hand on the cauterized wound in Jan's chest, the injured Jedi rests his hand on KG's and continues, "Save your strength. It's okay."

KG reaches to Jan and focuses on healing the wound, while Jan relaxes his body and prepares to surrender himself to the Force.

"Keep an eye on Qualtis for me," Jan softly says as he closes his eyes and rests his head on the cold floor.

Kurrelgyrre pulls his hand away and gazes upon Jan's body. He had heard the stories from Master Skywalker about what had happened with the two old Jedi that had trained him when they died. Now, he waited to see if his friend would do the same.

Seconds later, KG looks at the wound in Jan's chest and sees that the gaping hole has closed. It still looks bad, but the wound does not appear to be mortal anymore. Placing his fingers on Jan's neck, Kurrelgyrre feels for a pulse and finds one. It is weak, but Jan is still alive.