Continuing author Mark Wooden’s “Star Wars” fanfiction, ISB agent Kaila Ores hunts down a potential security leak.
Meanwhile, Nile Chinelo explains to her rebel partners Piani and Corana what happened to her and her padawan during Order 66.
Kaila Ores leaped onto the table at which the two conscious miners now sat. It was the fastest way past them and to the exit through which Jafan had fled. Behind her, she heard her troopers blast the last two miners at the table.
Their foreman Billix’s screams of panic followed her down the tunnel.
As she exited the weigh station, Kaila wished she’d paid more attention to the mine layout in her briefing documents. As it was, Jafan had a sizeable lead on her and could easily run her into a dead end and ambush her.
She’d have to take that risk.
Kaila ran through a hallway wide enough for two people to pass shoulder to shoulder. Up ahead was another opening into a wider area of the shaft. Jafan was already in that section.
Working miners and droids populated the larger area. They gathered equipment, carrying it by hand further down the shaft or situating it on nearby racks.
Other miners and droids were gathered around a large cart system. There were two lanes, one for carts going down and one for carts coming up.
The miners could unload up to three carts at a time. Empty carts were shifted to the other track.
One empty cart waited at the top of the down lane.
A system of pulleys and cables propelled the carts at a snail’s pace, partly due to their heavy load and partly due to safety.
If safety was a true concern, though, someone would have updated the system years ago. The pulleys had coverings to protect them from external damage, but the coverings were rusted and beaten.
The pulleys underneath hadn’t fared much better.
Braided steel composed the cabling between pulleys. Many of the strands were frayed, barely handling the strain of the material in the carts.
Kaila saw Jafan push past his coworkers and race further down the shaft alongside the cart tracks. She drew her holdout blaster and fired several shots into the air.
Both miners and droids stopped their movement, reacting to the sudden violence in their midst.
Now that she had their attention, Kaila made her demands.
“Imperial Security Bureau!” she shouted. “I am in pursuit of a suspect! Get out of the way or be put down with him!”
The miners and droids rushed out of Kaila’s way as she continued her pursuit. She leaped into the empty cart on the downward track, turned her blaster and fired at one of the pulleys.
Nearby miners shouted, mostly stating her seeming insanity. The pulley’s cover shattered, but the pulley itself remained intact. A second shot did the trick.
The cable holding the cart broke away, slamming back against Kaila’s cart. She ducked into the cart and barely avoided getting sliced by the loose cable.
The cart system’s designers had anticipated a catastrophe like the one Kaila just set up by installing emergency brakes on the track. They activated moments after the cable severed.
However, low maintenance caused the brakes to fail — which Kaila had counted on.
Kaila’s cart immediately started down the shaft. There was a guard rail separating the cart lanes from the walkway. This kept any hero miners from getting into the cart’s path in a foolish attempt to stop her.
Looking ahead, Kaila saw Jafan pushing through the crowd. Her cart accelerated. She was gaining on him. As she got closer, she prepped to leap from the cart.
Jafan looked back, saw Kaila coming. She caught a flash of his surprise at the method and speed of her approach. He pushed a miner in between him and Kaila as he pressed himself against the wall opposite her.
As the cart passed Jafan, Kaila leaped from it. She barely cleared the guardrail and landed hard on the gray rock of the mine’s floor. She rolled, crashing into the wall opposite the cart lanes.
The impact knocked her blaster from her hand.
Getting to all fours, the ISB agent quickly assessed the situation.
Thankfully, the other miners were more concerned with the runaway cart or fleeing the scene of violence than her acrobatics.
Unfortunately, even as they moved away, the minors blocked Jafan from her.
Worse, Jafan saw Kaila’s fallen weapon.
The wanted miner made a move for the blaster.
Kaila scrambled, crawling on arms and legs through miners. Jafan picked up her blaster. She pitched her body forward, ramming Jafan’s legs. He grunted at the impact, stumbling back into the guardrail.
Jafan grabbed the railing by the cart paths to steady himself.
Grabbing the rail meant letting go of the blaster. It fell to the ground a few feet from Kaila. She saw it but looked up at Jafan first. He’d steadied himself and stood right over her.
“My troopers will be here at any moment, Jafan!” Kaila said, buying herself time to get into a better position for the inevitable combat coming. “Give up or —”
Jafan leaped over Kaila and continued further down the shaft.
Kaila grabbed her blaster. Still prone, she aimed at the fleeing Jafan. Luckily, he was pushing the few people left in the shaft out of his path. With patience, she’d have a direct line to him.
When that line of fire cleared, Kaila fired. A red blaster bolt clipped Jafan’s leg.
Unlike her troopers, Kaila’s weapon wasn’t on stun. Jafan went down in a cry of pain, but he’d live.
Kaila stood and surveyed the scene.
A loud crash sounded from somewhere further down in the shaft. The cart had found something solid to stop its momentum. Miners scurried about trying to get control of the situation.
Back in the larger area at the head of the cart lanes, miners and droids looked down the shaft at Kaila and Jafan. All were wise enough to stay out of the way.
The blasted miner grabbed his wounded leg, wincing from the pain. Kaila walked to him, aiming her blaster at his head. Along the way, she once again listened for any stray thoughts Jafan may throw out.
It was more difficult than usual, with all the miners and their panicked thoughts flooding her brain.
Kaila suddenly stopped.
A wave of unnatural cold gripped her, chilling her to her core. It passed quickly. Kaila rubbed her free hand over her gun hand, attempting to warm it. She quickly pulled her hand back in surprise and looked at both hands.
Neither appendage was cold.
New floating thoughts gained Kaila’s attention. Focusing on them, the gifted ISB agent realized she was hearing Jafan’s thoughts.
Listening to them, she soon learned what she needed to know. Kaila returned her attention to the injured man at her feet.
“Dorset Jafan,” the ISB agent began. “You are under arrest for an unauthorized transmission, smuggling and resisting a lawful arrest by an Imperial Security Bureau agent. Your lack of employment will destroy your family.”
Jafan’s anguish from the pain quickly shifted to his jaw opening in shock. To cover for her taboo ability, Kaila said, “I saw your personnel records, then did a bit more digging. Turning against the Empire is no way to pay off a debt, Jafan. Even one as large as yours.”
“Some HoloNet reporter with an ax against Geospect paid for the footage!” Jafan said. “Doesn’t change that this place is a deathtrap, and nobody wants to help!”
Kaila knelt on one knee to make her conversation with Jafan more intimate. “I’ll help you, Jafan.” For a moment, the lines of concern vanished from Jafan’s expression.
“I will personally see to it that your debts are paid, and your family compensated. But you’re still going to jail.”
Jafan closed his eyes and laid prone on the ground. Kaila continued.
“You must do one thing for me,” she said. “In addition to your other crimes, you must accept the charge of being a spy for the Rebel Alliance in league with a cell on Naboo.”
Eighteen years before Nile Chinelo joined smugglers Corana Biabru and Piani Nuruodo, she was a Jedi Knight fighting in the Clone Wars.
One mission took her and her padawan, Kanto Brie, to the planet Formenos in the Outer Rim territories.
A surprise influx of Separatist droids threatened to turn the tide of war against the Jedi and their Republic clone troopers on the nearby planet Felucia. Jedi General Kenobi sent a team of clones to investigate the system.
They uncovered a small droid factory on Formenos.
Kenobi, engaged in a personal matter on Coruscant, sent Nile and Kanto to disable the factory.
With a team of fifteen Republic clones at their command, the Jedi infiltrated the factory and inserted a virus in the factory’s computer network.
Unfortunately, slicing the computer had triggered the factory’s security alarms.
Nile, Kanto and the five troopers who had entered the factory with them had to fight their way out — or at least hold out until the virus shut the factory and every droid inside down.
The team reached the entrance to the hangar bay, intent on stealing some STAP platforms to make their escape. Two droidekas — crab-like droids with dual blaster cannons for hands — had other plans for them.
Nile grabbed Kanto by his cloak and pulled him back around the corner. One of the troopers wasn’t so lucky. The first salvo from the droidekas cut him down.
Three of the other troopers made it across the opening to the hangar bay with the fourth positioned behind Nile and Kanto.
The droidekas stood between them and escape.
“When will that virus kick in?” Nile yelled to Kanto over the droideka laser fire. It was unnecessary to yell though; she and Kanto wore oxygen masks with communicators built in. Formenos lacked oxygen.
Nile’s Caamasi padawan clasped his unlit lightsaber in one of his two-fingered hands. He held that hand and his other to his cat-like ears. “Any minute now!” Kanto said. “I think! I’m not really a slicer!”
Despite the war’s several fronts, Nile and Kanto were usually assigned to diplomatic missions. Kanto had never seen combat. On the other hand, Nile had fought at the Battle of Geonosis and other fronts under her Master Odan.
Nile and her padawan were the closest available Jedi to Formenos. Kenobi needed the factory taken out immediately.
Kanto would have to learn in the field.
Nile stood with her lightsaber at the ready. Instead of racing to battle, she listened. Beneath the searing beams of death flying at them, the Jedi heard the clamping of the droidekas as they advanced.
“CT-1780!” Nile yelled to the clones across the hangar entrance door. “If the droidekas are advancing —”
“Their shields are down!” trooper CT-1780 finished for Nile. “Grenades then!” he said, motioning to his fellow troopers.
CT-1780 and the troopers beside him pulled grenades from their utility pouches. Priming them, they threw the grenades into the hangar at the droidekas.
“Fire in the hole!” CT-1780 yelled as both troopers and Jedi took cover around the hangar door’s corners.
The droidekas’ blaster fire stopped.
Nile took a quick peek around the corner. The droidekas were damaged but still there.
“Blaster fire! Before they regroup!” Nile ordered.
The three troopers took up positions firing around the corner at the droidekas. Trooper blaster fire ripped through one of the infernal machines, shredding it. Metal that was now good only for scrap fell over in a heap.
The other droideka took fire and staggered back. It wasn’t enough to shut it down. It returned fire, taking out one of the three troopers across from the Jedi.
“Is it always like this in the field?” Kanto yelled, his voice unsteady.
Nile pulled Kanto to her, so close his snout almost hit her face. “Concentrate on your training, Kanto,” she said as reassuringly as she could over the laser fire. “It will get you through.”
Kanto nodded hurriedly, but Nile could sense her padawan’s fear through the Force. She had to get him and her team out of here as soon as she could, which meant the remaining droideka had to fall. Now.
The Jedi Master released her padawan. “Cover me!” she yelled to the troopers.
The two troopers across the entrance fired at the droideka. The lone trooper on the Jedi’s side followed suit. Nile raised her blue-bladed lightsaber, rounded the corner and charged at the droideka.
Distracted by the barrage of laser fire, the droideka couldn’t draw a bead on the Jedi.
Nile used the Force to propel her to her target, clearing fifty feet in a step. She then slashed the killing machine with her lightsaber.
The blade severed the droideka’s praying mantis-like head. Its three leg stumps gave out in a winding down of hydraulics. The rest of the body crashed to the ground.
“Nice work, commander!” CT-1780 said as he stepped from behind cover. “Maybe next time we should lead with that.”
Nile looked back at the troopers. “I’ll consider that,” she said.
Looking beyond the piles of scrap, Nile saw no opposition in the hangar area. She didn’t expect any; the Separatists had relied on secrecy to defend the base. What resistance the Jedi and her troopers had found were afterthoughts.
Nile turned back to the four troopers and was surprised to see them all with their heads slightly turned as if listening to the radios in their helmets. She and Kanto had the same frequency in their headsets, yet she heard nothing.
Horror replaced surprise as CT-1780 said, “Execute Order 66!” and aimed his blaster rifle at the Jedi Master.
To be continued…