All seemed eerily quiet as the squadron approached Dandoleer. From a distance, the planet seemed perfectly harmless, its faint blue outline contrasting against the blackness of space. The sight of it was breathtaking, in fact. It looked deceptively benign. To a mere observer, nothing would have seemed out of the ordinary at all.
But to Luke, everything was wrong.
He had felt a disturbance in the Force, and the feeling only grew as they neared the planet. Now the disturbance was so strong that it nearly choked him. He knew that the Jedi apprentices who had come along on the mission felt it too, and he felt their collective consciousness balk at the undeniably vivid sensation emanating from the seemingly peaceful planet.
"What do we do now, Alpha leader?"
Luke swallowed as he heard Cole Meys' voice in his earpiece. The young man's voice was eager, and full of gusto. For a moment, he reminded Luke of himself twenty years ago, all bravado and cockiness, and perhaps not quite comprehending what he was up against.
"We wait, Alpha three," Luke answered him eyes fixed straight ahead of him in concentration. "It won't be long now... We must be ready." The feeling was growing more intense by the minute, and he could almost see the Nightsisters' ships rising to the sky, ready to penetrate the outer atmosphere.
"I've felt their presence, master," Silas Kelega told Luke.
"Yes, Silas that's good," Luke told the young Bothan. Kelega was one of the most perceptive students at the Jedi Academy, and his insights were especially strong. "Do you see the ships? Can you count them?" Luke asked him and the other Jedi.
"Yes master," they answered him as Luke himself had already closed his eyes in deep focus. His mind made out the outline of the ships, the witches on board, as they slowly approached the atmosphere. "There are ten transports, no fighter craft..." he said in a trance-like manner, concentrating on the images as they came to him. "They don't have shields, but they will fire back."
"That sounds about right," Meys remarked. "The ships I saw were definitely transports, not command ships. They won't put up too much of a fight."
"Hold your fire until we know for sure that these are the ships with the Nightsisters," Luke instructed. "Remember, the ships we're looking for will have Falorian markings on them."
"That, and they'll be firing on us," Wedge said sarcastically, evoking nervous laughter from the group. "All right, boys, this is it. Take your positions. I want every group of fighters covered when they go for the transports, is that understood?"
"Yes, sir!" the squadron answered.
"That's it, I see one of them now! It's Falorian, all right!"
"Watch yourselves, it's aiming at us already!" Luke gave them one last order, as the first ship materialized from the planet, instantly opening fire on the squadron. There was barely time for the fighters to react, as they attempted to maneuver through the firestorm to swarm the ship, firing at its hull. It exploded in a fiery blaze, as Luke heard the fighters cheer on the comlink.
"Good job, boys!" Wedge told them. "Here's another one straight ahead!
"I see it, Alpha one!" Meys responded. "We've got to get closer, someone cover me!"
"Got it, Alpha three. Aim for the--"
"Vago! Vago, do you copy?!" Meys shouted, as the voice suddenly went dead in his earpiece, and he shuddered in horror as he saw a blast behind him. "We lost Vago!" he cried out.
"Go in, Alpha three, I'll cover you!" Wedge told him. Another transport had emerged just as he swooped in behind Meys. "Luke, can your group take this one? We've got our hands full here."
"Copy, Wedge," Luke replied. "Let's go, follow my lead, everyone!" Luke steered his ship head on towards the third transport, dodging the laserfire aimed towards him and the other ships. "Keep moving! They won't be able to angle the laserfire towards us fast enough if we keep manuevering through it!"
Five other fighters followed Luke towards the ship, surrounding it as they fired towards it, continuously spinning and twisting to avoid the firing. "Get as close as you can!" Luke shouted at them. "The closer we are, the less angle they have to work with!"
"Master, two more have emerged!" Kelega exclaimed, as he spotted two transports from the planet.
"Break off and cover those two," Luke answered back, as he peeled back to join the other group confronting the two new ships. "Keep firing at this one! Keep moving, at all costs!"
"Luke, I see another one, my group will take it, you guys keep your eyes on these two!" Wedge shouted.
"Wedge, look out, it's firing!" Luke warned him as he raced towards two of the transports.
"Got it, Luke, you watch yourself!"
Luke's heart pounded as he closed in on one of the transports, flanked by three other fighters covering him. The eruption of laserfire from it nearly blinded him.
And even as he focused on the dangerous task at hand, he couldn't shake the sudden thoughts of his family. Their images came so quickly to him that he couldn't breathe for a brief moment.
Please, please be all right... I'll be there soon, please be all right...
Callista was exhausted. The stress of the last few weeks, of the worry and anguish she had felt over the children, over Luke, had finally overtaken her. But her sleeping was far from restful. She tossed and turned, her mind was still racing, unable to quiet itself.
She woke with a start, her eyes trying to adjust to the darkness. The room had suddenly turned even cooler than it had been, not because of a drop in temperature, but rather a strange and vague sensation she felt. Something had shaken her out of unconsciousness, and she found herself gasping for air. Instinctively, her eyes went to her children, sleeping beside her. They were all right.
But she was still uneasy. In the blackness of her room, she felt a presence, one that sent chills up her spine as if the breeze outside her window had suddenly brushed up against her. Something was wrong.
There was an intruder in the house, she was sure of it.
"Mommy? Mommy, what's wrong?" Cray had now sensed the presence too, and had awoken to see her mother sitting up in their bed.
"It's all right, baby," Callista whispered back to her, as she stood up gently, as to not frighten her daughter. "I need you to be very quiet right now, can you do that for Mommy?"
Cray nodded back obediently.
"That's my brave girl," Callista said, kissing her on the forehead. "Make sure Owen stays asleep, okay? And if he wakes up, tell him to be as quiet as possible. Just stay in here, you'll be safe."
She stepped out into the living room, a feeling of dread gnawing at her. "Manzir?" she called out. There was no answer. Her heart pounded against her ribs as she continued to tiptoe in the dark. She froze as she saw Manzir's motionless body on the ground. "Manzir! Oh stars..."
She crouched down to examine her. Immediately, she felt a presence behind her, and she instantly spun around to confront the trespasser.
"Who are you?!" she cried out in the dark as her eye made out the figure of the attacker, who lunged at her without warning. Reflexively, she leapt out of the way. "Threepio!!" she screamed, "Go to the children, now!"
"Oh, yes, Mistress Callista, right away! Is everything--"
"Go, Threepio!" she yelled back at the droid before he could even finish speaking. There was no time to explain, she had to keep the intruder from getting to the children.
She heard the attacker laugh a terrifying laugh. Instantly, she stretched out her hand to summon her lightsaber, and ignited it, its topaz glow lighting the room. She gasped as she saw the face of the mysterious figure in front of her. It was a young woman, no more than twenty, with closely cropped red hair that shone orange under the yellow hue of Callista's blade. She had the look of a hungry animal, ready to pounce at any moment.
"Who are you?!" Callista demanded once again.
The woman immediately fired up her own lightsaber in response, swinging its violet blade at Callista. She easily blocked the woman's swing, their blades making a crackling sound as they made contact, sending energy sparks scattering in all directions. The woman's moves were fast and agile, keeping Callista on her guard as she anticipated her every move and responded with her own quick reflexes.
"You haven't figured that out yet, Jedi?" Sevar hissed at her. The vein in her forehead throbbed as she continued to laugh menacingly.
"A Nightsister..." Callista whispered in horror. "You are the one who's been after my children!" She advanced towards Sevar, causing her to stumble backward in surprise. Callista had managed to get her to retreat enough so that the two of them were now outside the house. She chased after Sevar, who hurriedly leapt back to her feet.
"This is futile, Jedi!" Sevar taunted, pacing impatiently as she waited for Callista to come closer. "Even if you manage to kill me, my sisters will only send another to take your children! You can not keep running... Wherever you are, we will find you!"
"Never!!" Callista screamed defiantly, "You will never get your hands on my children!!" Callista spun to avoid Sevar's blow. Without missing a beat, Sevar aimed at her once again, only to be met again by Callista's ready blade. They continued to clash, sabers humming and crackling, the only noise in the still night.
"You're living on borrowed time," the Nightsister told her, giving her an evil smile. "Soon the Jedi will all be killed... You should be grateful we're sparing your children!"
Sevar spun and kicked Callista, knocking her off balance, sending her lightsaber flying out of her hand. Callista held out her hand to summon the saber back into her grasp, igniting it as Sevar hurled herself onto Callista. Without hesitation, Callista raised her blade, as a stunned Sevar impaled herself onto Callista's lightsaber.
Sevar screamed in agony. She writhed in pain, uttering incomprehensible words that echoed in the night, making Callista shudder. She pulled out her blade from the Nightsister's dying body, unable to keep herself from trembling.
She stood over the fallen Nightsister, and willed herself to stop shaking from the nightmarish encounter.
"It's over," she whispered to herself, gasping for air. "It's finally over..."
Previous Chapter| Next Chapter|
Home| Luke| Callista| Books| Fan Fiction| Mark Hamill| Email List| Links| Email Guestbook