Rescue the Farmboy: Liberation title image

Chapter Eleven

They crouched in a series of compartments hidden under the Falcon’s corridor deck plating: the droids in the one farthest from the entry ramp; Leia and General Kenobi in the center; Biggs, Captain Solo, and Chewbacca in the first one. Leia strained to listen for threats beyond the noises of the landing craft. She had to focus on something, anything, otherwise she’d be sucked into the numbing vortex of loss. Alderaan was gone in an instant.

Nothing distracting was happening, kest! Damn the Empire! Her hands curled and her fingernails dug into her palms. She thought she had hated the Empire before with its brutality against non-humans and its rigid tyranny against democracy and its subjugation of any protest with callous military might. Now pain lanced her palms but that didn’t halt the shaking vibrating her arms. This was hate, a hot fire under her skin, wanting to seize the Emperor in his black robe and set him alight with it. Her ears under her hair buns were already aflame.

“Leia,” General Kenobi said.

She twisted to stare at him, not that she could see in the dark. But why take the chance of giving away their hiding place? The entry ramp was extending down with a hiss of hydraulics.

We do not need voices, Padawan. General Kenobi’s voice in her head was amused by her confusion, but soon it turned grave. Do not let hatred dwell inside you, Leia. Hate leads to suffering.

She couldn’t articulate her feelings into words as boots marched over their heads. That sound and the idea of the Empire just elicited an inner howl of grief that pierced like the hunting cry of a stalking bird now extinct with the rest of Alderaan. The vortex was numbing the fire, but felt like it was pulling her down into the never-ending cold.

There will be justice for Alderaan, Padawan. Trust the Force. Hate only hurts you.

Leia couldn’t bring herself to care. The only thing that shattered the ice that caked over her was the thought of seeing the Empire in all its evil glory burning. Starting with the men searching the freighter right now.

General Kenobi did not approve. She felt that disapproval without sound in this tiny compartment, and she saw the frown in spite of the pitch blackness blinding her eyes. Bail and Breha taught you the difference between justice and revenge, Leia.

That put away her desire to lash out like the childish distraction it was. Her parents who had chosen her to love out of all the war orphans the Clone Wars had left had taught her what justice is and how it applied to all beings. There would be no justice for Alderaan unless the Rebel Alliance succeeded. They had a mission to complete despite this horrific detour.

Just as she felt her professionalism grab hold, boots marched overhead again. She held her breath as the reverberations left the corridor to the cockpit and marched back down the entry ramp. There was silence for a minute, and then the deck plating scraped nearby. General Kenobi reached up and pushed with his hands and something else. She could feel the slight shift of the older man’s power.

“Boy, it’s lucky you had these compartments,” Biggs said softly but his voice carried in the silence left by the departed stormtroopers.

“I use them for smuggling,” Captain Solo answered. “I never thought I’d be smuggling myself in them.” General Kenobi finished shoving the deck plating off and Leia stood up with him. Captain Solo twisted around, only his upper half visible out of the smuggling compartment, with his blaster in hand. “This is ridiculous,” he said to General Kenobi. “Even if I could take off, I’d never get past the tractor beam.”

“Leave that to me,” General Kenobi said as he pushed up with his arms to sit on the floor.

Captain Solo did the same maneuver and sat on the edge and looked at the entry ramp corridor. Biggs copied the move on the other side of the compartment without saying a word. “Damn fool,” Captain Solo muttered. “I knew you were going to say that.” He turned back to look at the General.

“Who’s the more foolish, the fool or the fool who follows him?” General Kenobi told the smuggler.

He didn’t have a snappy comeback for that, Leia noted as she hopped up onto the floor. Chewbacca growled a complaint about the sneaking. Captain Solo ran his hand over his first mate’s head to soothe him.

“Can we sneak out of the ship yet?” Leia asked crisply, all business. “We can’t disable their tractor beams from in here.”

General Kenobi gazed at the bulkhead separating him from the rest of the hangar bay. “We still have stormtroopers out there, a seven unit troop.”

Captain Solo silently climbed to his feet and looked out the entry ramp hatch. He grimaced before waving for a retreat. Chewbacca pointed Biggs to the cockpit corridor before he silently settled the deck plate back over the compartment. She and General Kenobi joined Biggs, and Captain Solo moved to them with a frown. “Two in guard position at the bottom of the ramp. I can’t see where the hangar control room is without being seen. The next step in the Imperial handbook is scan the ship, and the compartments aren’t built to block out life signs.”

“They believe the fabrication we put in the log.” General Kenobi blinked and his focus returned to their group. “They will leave once the technicians are on scene. How many do you expect for a ship this size?”

“Two usually.”

“And we have the element of surprise.” General Kenobi smiled through his beard.

The rest that followed was anti-climatic in Leia’s opinion, but it proved they had hired the right pair of scoundrels. Chewbacca and Captain Solo flanked the entry hatch. The technicians focused on their crate of scanning equipment and missed observing the blows coming for their heads. The stormtroopers on guard believed the call for assistance, and there was no one in the hangar bay to hear when Solo had to shoot one.

She and General Kenobi got the droids out of their compartment while Biggs and Captain Solo disguised themselves as stormtroopers. Solo finished first and headed down the ramp while she and General Kenobi straightened out Biggs chest plate. He didn’t spend long out there. “The hangar control room is looking right down at the entry ramp, but the window is clear. Come on.”

General Kenobi set the helmet on Biggs’ head. “You’ll be our diversion to get inside. Your transmitter is disabled and don’t return to your post.”

Leia hurried after Chewbacca and the droids to the hangar bay exit avoiding the large hatch in the deck for a cargo lift. Captain Solo jogged up to join them in the sloping corridor that rose to meet the control room door. There were no controls for the door on this side. Solo and Chewbacca waited at the doorway for a few tense minutes.

The door slid open. The gantry officer’s mouth fell open right before Chewbacca howled and backhanded him. Solo blasted the other occupant of the room before he had time to reach the console comm unit.

Biggs ran up to join them as the group surged into the control room. Leia glared at the cocky human who was double-checking his blaster handiwork. “Between his howling and your blasting everything in sight, it’s a wonder the entire station doesn’t know we’re here.”

Captain Solo jerked his helmet off as he turned to glare at her. “Bring ‘em on! I prefer a straight fight to all this sneaking around.”

Biggs made sure the door was locked and set his helmet on a nearby storage barrel. “Maybe you’re in a hurry to die, but I’m not. All this sneaking around has kept us alive.”

The droids reached the console that filled a wall of the cramped control room. Threepio ignored the bickering humans and addressed General Kenobi. “We found the computer outlet, sir.”

“Plug in. He should be able to interpret the entire Imperial computer network.” The Jedi Master joined the droids in front of a viewscreen. Artoo’s computer interface arm swiveled inside the dataport before he beeped and whistled.

“He says he has found the main control to the tractor beam holding the ship here. He’ll try to make the precise location appear on the monitor.” The viewscreen flashed through a series of technical plans while Artoo warbled again. Threepio continued with the translation. “The tractor beam is coupled to the main reactor in seven locations. A power loss at one of the terminals will allow the ship to leave.”

General Kenobi focused intently on the plans on the viewscreen before looking back at the three younger humans. “I don’t think you can help. I must go alone.”

“Whatever you say,” Captain Solo said as he crossed the room to his Wookiee partner. “I’ve done more than I bargained for on this trip already.”

Leia darted to the door. “You want to split up in Imperial territory?”

He smiled softly at her. “This is a job that calls for subtlety.”

Both men bristled at the implication of General Kenobi’s glance at them. “I can be subtle,” Biggs said.

General Kenobi patted Leia’s shoulder. “Be patient, Padawan. Keep your droids safe so we can deliver the information to your allies. May the Force be with you.” He adjusted his lightsaber on his belt, opened the control room door, and moved quickly down the corridor.

Leia pursed her lips and closed the door behind him.

{Jedi and their solitary missions,} Chewbacca barked.

“Boy, you said it, Chewie.” Solo leaned against the Wookiee affectionately. “Where did you dig up that old elfosahaj?”

Leia raised her eyebrows, recognizing the insult even though she didn’t know the language, and wondered how often the pair used a lack of understanding of Shyriiwook to con people. She didn’t let on that she knew it. “General Kenobi is a great man.”

“Yeah, great at getting us into trouble.”

“I didn’t hear you give any ideas,” Biggs retorted as he brushed back his black hair.

“Well anything would be better than just hanging around babysitting an incognito princess and her latest boy-toy.” Solo straightened emphasizing his height over Biggs.

Biggs stepped forward clenching his fists. “Who do you think—”

Artoo whistled and beeped excitedly. Leia bypassed the bickering males best she could in the cramped space. “What is it?”

“I’m afraid I’m not quite sure, your Highness. He says ‘I found him,” and he keeps repeating “he’s here.” Threepio waved one of his arms apologetically.

“Who’s here, Artoo?”

Artoo’s series of beeps slowed down. “Darth Vader has a guest under guard,” Threepio said.

Biggs dropped his argument with Solo to join the droids and Leia. “Vader? Luke’s here?”

“He’s not named in the files Artoo accessed,” Threepio said. “Artoo is looking for a security feed to verify, Master Darklighter, but that is what Artoo believes. Master Skywalker is on this space station.”

Leia found it very hard to breathe. Could it be possible that Vader hadn’t tortured and killed the young man? This awful day may actually have a hint of radiance?

“Vader? Luke? Who are they?” Solo asked.

The viewscreen changed from a technical blueprint to a security holovid of a living quarters. And it was Luke, lying on his back on the bunk. Her heart leaped so hard she felt dizzy.

“Luke! Where is he?” Biggs demanded.

“North seven aurek sixty-eight level three hundred,” Threepio said. “He is under guard now. Apparently, there was an earlier incident of someone attempting to kill him that Darth Vader intervened in.”

“Vader intervened? The Emperor’s enforcer protected Luke?” Leia demanded.

“But the Emperor isn’t out here.” Biggs’ dark eyebrows knitted together.

“Everyone on board technically obeys the Emperor,” Leia said, “except for us in this room. All he’d need to do is send a message.” One that Vader hadn’t obeyed and outright defied. That was a puzzle.

“What are you talking about?” Solo demanded.

Leia turned to Solo’s confused face. “Luke surrendered to Vader so we could escape with the Death Star plans.”

“And the Emperor said to kill him after we enrolled at the Academy. We ain’t leaving him here for that to happen.”

“Now, look, don’t you two get any funny ideas. The old man wants us to wait right here.” Solo sat in a nearby chair, leaned back, and propped his feet on the console desk.

“General Kenobi didn’t know he was here,” Leia said. The Jedi Master was too upset over Luke’s fate to disapprove of rescuing him. “A few minutes ago you said you didn’t want to just wait here. Now all you want to do is stay.”

He scowled up at her. “Listen your Worshipfulness, I’ve tried jumping to others’ orders before, learned how to dress, how to march, how to snap off that pretty salute. It didn’t end well.” Chewbacca made a soft whine of sympathy. “Now I take orders from one person, me!”

“It’s a wonder you’re still alive.” Leia snapped back, annoyed with his selfishness.

“And I’m gonna stay that way by avoiding people the Empire wants dead.” Solo pointed his finger at her face or the ceiling with the angle between them it was hard to tell.

“E chu ta,” Biggs growled. He was so livid his whole body vibrated in the stormtrooper armor. Leia and Chewbacca both stepped closer to be between the two men while Captain Solo dropped his feet back to the floor. “Luke is my umakkar-upan and we are not leaving him behind with people who want to kill him again!”

“Of course we’re not, Biggs,” Leia said. “But we need a plan. Go take the uniform off the officer that wasn’t shot. I need a disguise.” His anger retreated as he stepped back to handle her request. She looked back at Solo. “If money is all that you care about, then that’s what you’ll receive if you two help us.”

Chewbacca growled {Oh no.}

Solo looked at her warily. “And you’re going to pay with what, Princess?”

He wasn’t trying to attack her with Alderaan’s destruction, but her chin raised defensively all the same. And her time in the Senate taught her to be offensive with her supposed weaknesses. “You’re a fool if you think all of Alderaan’s wealth was on planet.” Biggs handed her the black uniform. Leia turned to a small supply closet with a door. It had enough room for her to change clothes in private.

The gantry officer had been broader than Leia was everywhere, but she cinched the waist in with the belt and the jacket covered the folded sins. There was enough room for her to hide the lightsaber hilt against her stomach under the jacket. The black boots were far too big for her feet, so she stuffed blank flimsi into the toes. She’d stow her white ones on the freighter when they left. The cap fit between her buns, so she didn’t have to deal with changing her hairstyle.

She stepped out to Solo’s smirk. “What’s your plan, Lieutenant?” he asked.

“Threepio, hand me those binders will you?” The golden droid passed the restraining cuffs from the console desk next to the droids. Leia stepped up to Chewbacca with them. “Now, I’ll put these on you.”

{You will not!} Chewbacca roared at her.

“Stow that attitude!” Leia yelled back. She breathed deeply and wrestled her fraying patience together. “It’s just for show. They won’t let any Wookiee no matter the expertise wander around unrestrained nor without guards.”

Solo took the binders from her as he stood. “Something’s broke, Chewie can fix it, and it’s in this Luke kid’s room?”

“That’ll get us to the section at least.” Biggs turned from the viewscreen which now had a series of maps to their destination. “Should keep the guards unsuspicious long enough to get the drop on them.”

Chewbacca still looked dejected over the unlocked cuffs on his wrists. Threepio waved his arm as the men picked up their helmets and headed to the door. “Princess Leia, pardon me for asking, but what should Artoo and I do if we’re discovered here?”

“Lock the door,” Biggs suggested.

“And hope they don’t have blasters.” Solo added as he plopped on his helmet.

“We won’t be gone long,” Leia said.

“That isn’t very reassuring.” Threepio propped his arm on Artoo’s dome. But the organics continued down the corridor.

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