Star Wars: The Last of the Jedi, Volume 9 (13 page)

BOOK: Star Wars: The Last of the Jedi, Volume 9
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Keets, Curran, and Dex huddled together at the safe house in Thugger’s Alley. They had spent hours on communications back and forth between various groups on various
planets, trying to reach an agreement for a meeting. Things were far from settled.

“I think we’d better shut down communications, at least for awhile,” Dex said. “We’ve already pushed our limit. Any more and we risk some Imperial scanner picking
up increased activity for this sector.”

Keets nodded. “I wish—”

Suddenly Dex whipped his repulsorlift chair around. “We’ve got trouble, my boys,” he said.

For a half of a moment they stood transfixed, staring at the security screens. The alley was under attack. Squads of stormtroopers charged through while the air overhead was thick with
small-range armed artillery cruisers and swoops.

“They’re landing on the roofs,” Keets said, swallowing. He couldn’t quite believe it was happening. Not yet.

“You know the drill, boys,” Dex said. “We’ve prepared for this day. I’ll see you at the tunnel.”

Keets and Curran tried not to look at the security screens as they methodically wiped all the datapads and computers. They knew they had only seconds to finish the job. They fused the circuitry
so that all the communication and storage would be not only inoperable but impossible to trace. It was too late to warn away anyone who might be in the vicinity, but they knew the Imperial presence
was so large that the surrounding populace of the Orange District would spread the word quickly.

Dex had gone to wipe his research library, a task that sickened him. He had spent years amassing information, and now it would be gone in a moment. It contained beings and planets and possible
scenarios for revolt on different planets as well as information on systems, cities, minerals, mines, out of the way spaceports, cantinas where one could be sure to be left alone. It was too
dangerous to download it onto a chip; he knew the likelihood of capture despite all his precautions. At least some of it was in his head.

Months before, Dex had prepared for the move to the Orange District with his usual thoroughness. He had checked the old maps and read the old histories. Then he had blasted with some extremely
discreet explosive through his own floor and used sensor equipment to figure out how to tap into an ancient alley that had once intersected with Thugger’s Alley. Dex had spent long days down
below ground with Oryon the Bothan and whichever stray member of the Erased he could corral for a day’s work. They’d managed to dig their way with a converted version of a mole miner,
through the rock into what remained of the ancient alley. He knew that they’d never make it out through Thugger’s Alley or off the roof. The tunnel would have to save them.

Dex met the others in the hallway, which was already filled with smoke.

“Bad news,” Curran said. His forehead was shiny with sweat and his long thick hair had come loose from its metal coil. It lay in tangles down his back.

“They blasted through the roof,” Keets explained. His face was gray with dust. “Used too much explosive. The debris blocks our access to the turbolift. We’ll have to come
at it from the other wing of the house.”

They all exchanged glances. This was a worst-case scenario, one they hadn’t planned for. The only route to escape meant they’d have to take the hallway that ran along the front of
the house. They could get caught between the stormtroopers entering from the roof and those entering from the front. They wouldn’t stand a chance.

“Let’s get moving then,” Dex said.

The safe house had been designed to confound pursuers, with false walls and twisting passageways too narrow for major weaponry. Still they could hear the stormtroopers uncomfortably close. They
were charging down the hallways behind them and blasting down doors. They could hear them searching the rooms and the muffled sound of their communications.

“If they get through that armored door downstairs in the next minute we could be in trouble,” Dex said.

The blast sent shock waves against their ears. The house gave a great shudder and almost seemed to lift up and settle back down.

“They’re in,” Keets said.

They heard the stormtroopers charging up the stairs. Dex hit a button on his repulsorlift chair.

They heard the sound of scrambling, then bodies hitting the ground. The amplified groans and shouts came to them faintly.

“Flipped the stairs into ramp mode,” Dex told them. “It will buy us a minute.”

“We need more than a minute,” Keets said, drawing his blaster.

One more hallway. One last burst of speed to get to the hidden turbolift.

The stormtroopers behind them were so close they could hear the headset communications now.

Nothing so far.

Use explosives on the walls. They could be hiding behind them. Not too much this time! The house is unstable.

Continue on northeast quadrant. Meet up with squadron three-six-ten.

Curran turned the last corner and saw stormtroopers spilling up the ramp, climbing over the bodies of their comrades who had fallen when Dex suddenly eliminated the stairs. Curran and Keets let
loose with blasterfire. Energy bolts streaked through the smoky air.

The stormtroopers returned fire. Keets dived and rolled, still shooting. His main objective was to protect Dex, who could make that repulsorlift chair travel, but couldn’t maneuver it to
escape a barrage of blasterfire. Curran kept himself between the stormtroopers and Dex.

“Run, you two! Run!” Dex thundered. “Leave me here! We agreed!”

Weeks before, Dex had told them that if they were invaded, he was the most vulnerable. Because of his bulk, he simply couldn’t move fast enough if the worst happened. He had extracted a
promise from Keets and Curran that they would escape if they could and leave him behind. He had forced them to agree. It was best if at least a few of them were able to escape. Dex had told them
that he’d led a long life, “sometimes a scoundrel’s life, but a good one,” and he was ready to give up his life if he had to. “But you boys, you have a long way to
go,” he’d told them.

Yes, they’d given their word. But Keets and Curran knew even without exchanging a glance that they couldn’t leave Dex behind.

The blasterfire was so thick that the air seemed full of dancing light. Keets saw a blaster bolt hit Dex, who slumped over. Shouting at Curran to cover him, he leaped on the chair and pushed the
velocity. The chair shot forward, straight into an advancing line of stormtroopers.

Screaming with rage, Keets blasted through the line and kept going. Curran hooked an arm around the chair and pulled himself onto the back of the chair, which lurched but kept on. Dex was
half-conscious as Keets pushed the speed, whizzing down the corridor through the smoke. The last burst of blasterfire hit the repulsorlift engine. They heard a small explosion and the chair began
to buck and slow.

Curran threw himself at the hidden panel and activated it. They only had seconds now. The stormtroopers were making their way down the twisting hallway. The panel slid up and Keets pushed the
chair inside. Dex’s head lolled and his six arms hung limply at his sides. Keets didn’t know if he was alive or dead.

Curran hit the sensor. “Close!” he begged the panel.

It shut before the stormtroopers rounded the corner. The turbolift zoomed down. The doors opened on the damp, cool, tunnel.

Pushing and pulling, they got Dex out of the turbolift.

“There’s an airspeeder down here we can use,” Curran said. “We’ll have to leave the chair.”

Keets peered at Dex anxiously. Was he…

Dex opened one eye. “You gave me your word,” he muttered.

Keets could see the great effort it cost him to speak. He leaned closer to Dex’s ear. “Since when is my word worth anything, you monkey lizard? You should have known
better.”

An explosion above caused the tunnel to shudder, and dirt rained down on them.

Dex winced, but Keets saw the light in his eyes. He would make it. “What are you waiting for then, boys? Get me out of here.”

Trever and Ry-Gaul stood back as Linna and Tobin embraced. Linna laid her head along her husband’s chest. They had been separated for too long. Trever turned away to give
them privacy. He hadn’t seen that kind of love since his parents were alive. He didn’t like to be reminded. It made an empty place in him that he usually was able to fill up with other
things. Friends, food, danger, wondering what his next move would be.

Finally they moved apart. They came toward Ry-Gaul and Trever, holding hands.

“Thank you,” Tobin said. Linna smiled. Trever had never realized that she was beautiful. She had always looked so sad and strained.

They had met Tobin on a hidden landing platform close to the Orange District. Surrounded by airspeeders, they huddled together. The thick traffic in the spacelanes overhead was beginning to
blink and blur with the first lights of evening.

“There is a space cruiser here for you to use,” Ry-Gaul said. “Do you need a safe destination?”

“There’s a place we know,” Tobin said, with a glance at Linna. “A place we were happy once. On Mila.”

Ry-Gaul nodded. “Not too much Imperial activity in that quadrant. I included fresh ID docs in the cruiser.”

“They sent me to Despayre,” Tobin said. “They separated all the scientists. We were not allowed to speak to others with different areas of knowledge. I was kept with the
structural engineers. But I know there were weapons-delivery technicians and systems scientists. Chemists. It’s a huge effort to build…something. Some-thing terrible.”

Ry-Gaul nodded. “I’ll tell Ferus.”

Linna held out her hand. She pressed a small bundle into Ry-Gaul’s hand. “I don’t want this,” she said quietly. “It is the only thing left from that terrible
experiment. The documentation and the memory agent itself. Zan Arbor’s records have been destroyed, as well as her mind. I suggest you destroy this, too.”

Ry-Gaul was the most reserved guy Trever had ever met. It surprised him when Ry-Gaul stepped forward and embraced first Linna, then Tobin. He did it without the awkwardness Trever would expect
from him.

“You saved our lives,” Linna said. “We’ll never forget that.”

“You saved mine once,” Ry-Gaul said. “We are now bound together by the stars and by the Force. If you need me, I will come.”

Ry-Gaul and Trever waited until the star cruiser shot off into the space lane. They stayed even though after a moment they couldn’t distinguish the lights of the cruiser from any of the
others in the heavy Coruscant traffic.

“I’ve been saying good-bye an awful lot these days,” Trever said. “It never gets easier somehow.”

“No,” Ry-Gaul said with his customary terseness.

“Well, I think I’m done for awhile,” Trever said.

They walked the rest of the way to the Orange District. As they descended in a series of turbolifts to the district, they didn’t speak. Sadness hung on both of them.

As they neared the district the turbolifts stopped working. They were usually sabotaged as soon as they were fixed. They walked down ramps and through the narrow alleys and streets toward
Thugger’s Alley. It was dark now, and the orange-colored lights threw deep shadows. As they got closer, Ry-Gaul’s pace suddenly quickened.

“The streets are almost empty,” he said. “Something’s wrong.”

Trever had to trot to keep up with him. His heart began to hammer. He could smell something now, and he knew Ry-Gaul could too.

“Smoke,” Trever said.

They began to run. They turned the last corner and saw…nothing.

The labyrinth of Thugger’s Alley had been destroyed. There was nothing left. Not a wall, not a piece of stone. It had been vaporized. The ground still smoked.

“Dex,” Trever croaked. “Keets. Curran…”

“Come,” Ry-Gaul said, tugging on Trever’s arm. Trever couldn’t move.

Ry-Gaul had to lead him away. There was always the danger of spies waiting to see who would turn up.

Expertly Ry-Gaul led him through the back alleys until they reached an area where the accustomed crowds were milling in the cafes and loitering outside noisy, dim restaurants. Trever felt
shocked to the core. He put one foot in front of the other but he wasn’t aware of walking. With every step a name chimed in his head. Dex. Curran. Keets.

And who else had been there? Flame? Oryon still dropped in from time to time, although he was spending most of his time on the asteroid now. And what about Solace? You never knew where
she’d turn up….

“Flame,” Ry-Gaul said quietly.

At first Trever was confused. Ry-Gaul just seemed to echo the name in his mind. Then he realized that Ry-Gaul had spotted her.

Relief washed through Trever. They made their way to Flame, who was sitting outside a café, an untouched mug of tea in front of her. Trever saw that her hands were shaking.

Her face cleared when she saw Trever. “You’re safe,” she said, rising and hugging him.

“As you are,” Ry-Gaul said. His silver-gray eyes rested on her face intently.

“I don’t know what happened to the others,” she said. “I wasn’t there. But…the word on the street is that everyone is dead. They didn’t capture anyone. They
searched every dwelling and then blew up the whole alley. No one could have survived.”

BOOK: Star Wars: The Last of the Jedi, Volume 9
6.1Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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