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FoxFire


wacko2's notes

The story "FoxFire" can be found in the FTDA under Fun-Fun Central. All new chapters in this series will be posted there.


FoxFire
Author: wacko2

Captain Paige got up from her seat on the bridge of her star cruiser. She walked over to Ensign Lisa and asked, "Status of the ship?" The ensign tapped a few buttons on her console. "All systems operational, Captain," she replied. Good, thought Paige. We're ready for anything that threatens the Alliance.

Suddenly a beeping sound filled the bridge. "What is it, Commander?" Captain Paige demanded. Commander Nicole, who was in charge of Tactical and Communications, hurried to the communications station. "It's a message from Intelligence Central," she said. "On screen," Paige ordered.

A face appeared on the screen. It was Doreen, Chief Director of Intelligence. "We have a report from our spy ships in the outer reaches of known space. There appears to be a massive formation of battleships headed directly to our galaxy," Doreen said in a worried tone. "The only information about the ships we could gather were that they were all black. Shortly thereafter, we lost all communication with the spy ships in that region. Captain Paige, your mission is to go to where the fleet of black ships were last reported to be, track them from there, and gather all the information you can about the fleet's intentions." The screen went dark.

Paige sat down in her captain's chair and pondered all this. A fleet of black ships headed to our galaxy? She wondered about this mysterious fleet. Doreen had said that they were battleships. That could mean only one thing, Paige realized. The ships were planning to take over the galaxy! But who would take over the galaxy? And why this particular galaxy? Suddenly Paige had a sickening thought. Darth Jason. It could only be Darth Jason, come to terrorize the populace with his Force skills and his lizard soldiers.

Paige turned to Ensign Lisa and ordered, "Set course for sector 18430." "Aye Captain," replied the ensign. Captain Paige would soon find out what Darth Jason was up to. Perhaps we'll even find a way to stop him, Paige thought, as the ship jumped into hyperspace.


FoxFire 2
Author: wacko2

The Alliance starship Hilfiger popped out of hyperspace in sector 18430. In the ship, Captain Paige stood up and looked at the viewscreen. "Anything in the sector?" she asked. Commander Nicole reported, "We're near a star system, but there's nothing else on short-range sensors. Long-range sensors... I'm picking up some blips in sector 18429. Unable to determine what they are." Captain Paige mulled this over. Could those blips be part of the mysterious fleet of ships that Chief of Intelligence Doreen had reported? "Go to sector 18429 at three-quarters sublight," she ordered. "Aye sir," Ensign Lisa said, as she carried out the order.

As the Hilfiger neared the next sector, the blips on the sensors came within viewscreen range. Captain Paige looked at the viewscreen, but could not see anything. "Captain, the objects appear to be starships," Commander Nicole said, reading the sensor outputs. "There are four of them, all of the same type. There's no match for that starship type in the computer. But sensors indicate they are specially designed to absorb light." So that's why I can't see them, Paige thought. "These must be the 'black' starships," she said. "Maintain distance and continue monitoring them."

Suddenly Commander Nicole shouted out, "One of the ships is coming towards us! Estimated three minutes until they intercept us!" "Red alert! Shields up!" Captain Paige commanded. "Put weapons systems on standby!" As the unknown vessel approached closer and closer, it blocked out starlight on the viewscreen, so that the bridge crew of the Hilfiger were able to see the outline of the ship. It approached menacingly, like a dark ghost about to scare away an intruder. "Hail the ship, Commander," Captain Paige said.

A solitary figure, wearing a black uniform, appeared on the viewscreen. Paige stood up and looked at the unfamiliar person. "This is Captain Paige of the Alliance starship Hilfiger. We come in peace, and we would like to know your intentions." "I am Commodore Phoebe of the Imperial Navy," the stranger said. "You are ordered to vacate this sector immediately or be destroyed." "This is area occupied by the Alliance," Captain Paige said. "Not anymore!" Commodore Phoebe answered. The viewscreen went dark.

Suddenly a green laser beam shot out from the shadowy ship at the Hilfiger. Captain Paige held on to her seat as the bridge shook beneath her. "Shields down to 65%!" Commander Nicole barked out. "Returning fire!" She pressed some buttons on her console, and the random-fire turbolasers shot pink beams at the other ship. "No damage to the Imperial ship," Nicole shouted to Paige above the blare of the klaxons. "It just absorbs the energy of the lasers!" The Hilfiger was rocked by a second and then a third attack by the Imperial ship. Sparks flew out of the Tactical station, blinding Nicole. "Shields at 37% and dropping fast!" she reported, going to the Science station. "Evasive pattern Fox 4!" Captain Paige ordered. Ensign Lisa quickly steered the Hilfiger away from its attacker, but the Imperial ship stayed on its tail and fired another volley of green beams at it. The Hilfiger shuddered at the next hit, which threw everyone out of their seats. "Shields are down now--" Nicole started to yell, but the computer voice interrupted her status report. "Warning. Core meltdown in four minutes..."


FoxFire 3
Author: wacko2

"Evade the ship at full sublight speed!" Captain Paige ordered. Ensign Lisa quickly piloted the Hilfiger away from the black Imperial ship, but it still kept following. "Warning: Core meltdown in three minutes," droned the bridge computer over the sound of the klaxons.

"Fire on them with everything we've got!" yelled Paige. Commander Nicole worked the Emergency Systems console, and pink lasers spit out of the Hilfiger's four turbolaser batteries, hitting Commodore Phoebe's Imperial ship. "Our fire has slowed them down a bit!" reported Nicole. "Sending an emergency transmission to the Alliance now!"

"Keep as far away from them as possible!" Captain Paige told Ensign Lisa. Then she pressed her comm badge. "Engineering, how does the warp core look?" "Not good at all," a voice responded. "We need to shut down the warp core now, or it'll explode in two minutes!" "Ok, shut it down then," Paige said. "We'll see if we can keep the other ship away with the lasers. That might give us time to fix the core and get away from here."

Commander Nicole looked up from the sensors. "They're gaining on us!" she exclaimed. Suddenly green lasers shot out from the Imperial ship, and the Hilfiger was rocked by an explosion amidships. "Damage report!" Paige turned to Nicole. "Hull breach on decks 27 through 31, including Engineering!" Nicole reported. Paige pressed her comm badge. "Engineering? Engineering? Is anyone there?" There was no response, except from the bridge computer: "Warning: Core meltdown in one minute."

Captain Paige pressed the intercom button on the arm of her seat. "All hands, evacuate the ship NOW! This is not a drill!" she ordered. She got up and looked at Commander Nicole and Ensign Lisa. "Quick! To the bridge evac pod! Now!" she said, hurrying over to the evacuation hatch located at the aft side of the bridge. All three got in the pod, just as another explosion hit the Hilfiger. "Jettison the pod!" Paige commanded, as soon as the hatch doors were sealed.

The pod shot out into the vast starry reaches of space. Nicole, who was piloting the escape pod, immediately vectored the pod away from both starships at maximum sublight speed. Three seconds later, the Hilfiger blew up, blinding everyone with fiery light and battering the pod with explosive force and pieces of debris.


FoxFire 4
Author: wacko2

Everyone in the evac pod hung on for their lives, as the shock waves from the explosion slammed into the pod and sent it careening wildly away from what had once been the Hilfiger. The tremors gradually lessened though, and after several minutes of gut-wrenching shaking and bouncing, the pod settled down into a glide.

"Is everyone OK?" asked Captain Paige. Commander Nicole gave out a sigh of relief. "Thank goodness for military-strength seatbelts!" she said. She checked the tiny console in front of her. "Only minor damage to the pod. We're moving away from the explosion site at .05 sublight." Paige looked out the rear viewport. She could see pieces of what was left of the Hilfiger floating around in zero gravity. "Ensign, take us back to the debris field," Paige said. "We need to find and make contact with any other survivors of the explosion. But keep out of direct view of the Imperial ship." Ensign Lisa complied with the order, taking care to avoid the constantly moving pieces of twisted metal and plastic.

"What is the enemy's position now?" Paige asked Nicole. Nicole looked at the sensor readings. "The Imperial ship is holding steady near its last reported position. Wait, it's moving now. It appears to be firing on several objects at the edge of the debris field. Unable to determine what it's firing on." Nicole looked up at Paige, mystified.

"Ensign, steer us closer to the ship, but keep us hidden behind the debris," Paige commanded. As the evac pod drew closer to the black ship, everyone in the pod could see green laser flashes blowing up what appeared to be large pieces of debris. "The ship's targets are within viewscreen range now," Nicole reported. She pressed a button, and the screen changed to display the almost invisible Imperial ship, with two all-too-familiar metallic objects near it. "Those aren't pieces of debris! Those are two of the Hilfiger's evac pods!" Nicole exclaimed. Just then the Imperial ship fired their turbolasers again. Paige, Nicole and Lisa could only watch in horror as the two pods exploded in twin bursts of flame. "How can they do that???" Nicole screamed. Paige felt sick again. The Imperials were killing all the survivors of the attack on the Hilfiger.

At the same time, Paige also realized that everyone in the pod was in danger. "Ensign, go behind that large piece of debris. Keep it between us and the Imperials, so they can't see us directly. Commander, shut down all non-essential systems in the pod. We can't run from them, but maybe we can hide from them in the debris field!"

They spent the next three hours nervously sitting and waiting. The dark pod acted like just another piece of debris, floating behind a larger congealed slab of metal and matching its speed and direction. Every once in a while, the infrared sensors would show a small dot of heat, as the Imperial ship blew up yet another evac pod. Everyone was lost in their own thoughts about the terrifying and ruthless carnage that they were now witnessing.

Finally, after what seemed like forever, the sensors showed no more tiny explosions, and no movement except for the twisted, jagged pieces of blackened metal and plastic floating in zero gravity. Paige looked up at Nicole, who had fallen into a gloomy silence, and Lisa, whose face was streaked with tears. "We can't give up now," Paige said quietly. "We've got to get out of here and inform the Alliance about all this, so they can take action against the Imperials." Nicole and Lisa both nodded. "But where will we go?" Lisa asked. "This pod doesn't even have hyperspace capability." "There's a star system near here," Nicole remembered. "But I don't know if it's inhabited." "It better be, or we'll be stranded out here forever," Paige said grimly. "Ensign, set course for that star, full sublight speed."


FoxFire 5
Author: wacko2

After five hours of travelling through space at full sublight speed, the evac pod finally reached the outer edge of the nearby star system. "Commander, what can you tell us about this system?" Captain Paige asked. Commander Nicole tapped a few keys, and looked at the on-board computer screen. "There's a red giant star, with six planets orbiting it. The outer three planets are gaseous, mostly containing hydrogen and methane. The inner three planets are smaller, and are terrestrial. One of them seems to be cloud-covered. I can't tell if any of them are capable of supporting life though. We're still too far away," Nicole reported. "Ensign, steer us closer to the inner planets," Paige said. She hoped that one of the three terrestrial planets was habitable. Otherwise, they didn't stand a chance of surviving very long.

Ensign Lisa complied with Paige's order, piloting the pod toward the nearest terrestrial planet, which happened to be the third one out from the star. In several minutes, the planet was within the limited sensor range of the evac pod. "Sensors show the planet has an atmosphere of 96% carbon dioxide, and virtually no water. It's uninhabitable," Nicole reported, disappointed. Two planets to go, she thought.

Lisa then set course for the next planet, which was the cloud-covered planet that Nicole had mentioned earlier. The planet, the second nearest to the star, was mostly covered by pale red clouds, and did not look very promising. "We're coming into sensor range now," Nicole said, as Paige and Lisa looked expectantly at her. "The planet has an atmosphere of 75% nitrogen and... 24% oxygen!" Nicole announced excitedly. "It even has a substantial amount of water!" Everyone felt a sudden surge of hope. Even as the pod drew nearer to the planet, they all could catch glimpses of blue water and black landmasses through the rose-coloured clouds. "Wait! That's not all!" Nicole suddenly shouted. "The planet even appears to be inhabited! I'm picking up communication signals!" Paige cheered up at this news. Maybe we'll be able to send out a message to the Alliance and tell them about the Imperials, she thought. At the very least, the Alliance will send a ship to rescue us.

By now, the pod was very close to the planet. Ensign Lisa put the pod in orbit, as Nicole looked for a place to land. Paige looked out the rear pod window and looked at the planet. Through the clouds, she could see patches of greenery along the coast of a huge dark landmass. Perhaps farmers' fields, or a piece of parkland, she thought. She looked up to where the curve of the planet met black space, and saw two glimmering objects that appeared to be getting closer to them. "Commander, what are those things?" Paige asked, pointing out the window.

"They appear to be fighter ships," Commander Nicole said, looking at the sensor readouts. "They're probably wondering what we're doing here," Paige said. "Hail them, and tell them that we need their assistance." Nicole did so, but there was no response. She tried again several more times, to no effect. "They're not responding, Captain," she reported. Suddenly the evac pod shook violently, and red warning lights flashed on. Nicole looked at the computer screen to find out why. "Captain, those fighter ships are firing on us!" she shouted, just before the pod was rocked again by an all-too-familiar green laser blast.


FoxFire 6
Author: wacko2

"Evasive maneuvers, now!" Captain Paige shouted, as the two Imperial fighter ships fired on the evac pod. Ensign Lisa carried out her order, making the pod turn and zigzag in an effort to avoid the green lasers that were being fired on them. But the pod could not be maneuvred easily, and the fighter ships gained steadily on them.

"Can we make a landing on the planet, and then try to get away from them?" Paige asked Commander Nicole, who was looking at sensor readouts of the fighter ships and the planet below. "That would be risky," Nicole replied. "We don't know much about the planet, and we don't know where to land. But we can't evade the Imp ships much longer either."

They were over the night side of the planet now, with Ensign Lisa still doing her best to keep the pod from being fired on. "The Imps will be in optimal firing range in thirty seconds," Nicole reported. "All right," Paige said. "Lisa, take the pod down into the planet's atmosphere. We'll try to lose them in the clouds."

Ensign Lisa pulled out of a zigzag turn, and put the pod in a steep corkscrew dive down towards the planet. "The Imps are still following us," Nicole reported, as a laser blast went by the pod. The pod began to shake as it continued its drop, buffeted by the thicker atmosphere of the planet. Suddenly there was an explosion, and the pod shuddered violently and began to slew to the left. "We've been hit!" Nicole shouted. "Rear sensors and one of the altitude stabilizers are gone."

"Pull up!" Paige ordered. Lisa tried to make the pod come out of its free fall, but failed. "The pod won't respond to the controls!" she shouted. Another laser blast clipped the pod, tearing off part of it and obliterating one of the coolant tanks. "Engines are overheating!" Nicole yelled. "We have to pull up now!" But the pod continued its descent, hurtling towards the dark surface of the planet below.


FoxFire 7
Author: wacko2

"Fourteen seconds until impact!" Commander Nicole shouted as the damaged evac pod hurtled towards the planet's surface. Ensign Lisa tried the controls of the pod again. The pod finally started to level out, but slowly. "Eight seconds!" Captain Paige nervously gripped the arms of her seat. Would the pod stop its descent in time? Paige looked out the front viewport, but could not see the planet below in the darkness of the night.

Lisa focused all her concentration and skill at the helm, putting all extra power into the one remaining altitude stabilizer. The pod angled bit by bit towards the horizontal, but still it was on a collision course with the planet. "Four seconds!" Nicole shouted as the forward sensors showed the ground rapidly approaching. She saw a green laser blast go by the pod. The Imps were still looking for the kill, she realized.

By this time, the pod was nearly level, as Lisa continued her efforts. But Nicole realized it wouldn't be enough. "Brace for impact!" she shouted. At the last second, Lisa pressed the power-down button, turning off the overheated engines. An instant later, the evac pod slammed into the planet, violently shaking its occupants. It bounced and skidded along the ground, and finally came to a stop, crashing into a rocky outcropping.

Captain Paige opened her eyes. There was blood dripping from a gash in her forehead. She wiped it off with her hand. "I'm alive!" she realized. She leaned forward, straining to see in the darkness. "Nicole! Lisa! Are you guys OK?" she said. She heard Nicole groan. "I'm all right, except for some cuts and bruises," Nicole said. "What about you, Lisa?" There was no answer.

Nicole quickly got out a glo-light from the emergency pack. She turned it on, and examined Lisa. "She's alive, but she doesn't look good, Captain," she said. "There's a lot of blood, and I think one leg is broken." "Well, we have to get out of here, and try to get help for Lisa somehow," Paige replied. She stood up, opened the hatch, and jumped onto the ground. She looked around, but the planet's surface was dark for as far as she could see. Above, faint starlight came through patches of clouds. "Looks like the Imps thought we died in the crash," she said to Nicole, who was now standing in the pod hatchway. "What will we do now?" Nicole asked. Paige thought this over. "We'll have to wait until daylight, and then see if we can contact someone with the pod's comm system," she said. "Wait!" Nicole shouted. "What's that light over there?" Paige looked up. Far off in the distance, she could see a light where there had been only darkness before. "It seems to be approaching us," Nicole said. "Maybe help is coming!" "Or maybe it's the Imps, coming to finish us off," Paige replied, watching as the light drew nearer them.


FoxFire 8
Author: wacko2

Paige and Nicole stood in the darkness as the light came closer and closer. Soon they could hear the humming sound of an approaching hovercar. "Who could it be?" Paige wondered. After a few minutes, they could see the outline of the hovercar with its single running light illuminating the ground, slowing down as it neared the crash site of the evac pod. The car stopped some forty metres away, and a figure jumped out of the car and walked towards Paige and Nicole.

"Looks like you had a run-in with the Imps," the figure said, surveying the damaged pod. "Do you guys need any help?" Paige and Nicole looked at the stranger, but they could not see him clearly, since he was standing in front of the hovercar's light. "Should we trust him?" Nicole whispered to Paige. "We'll have to," Paige whispered back. "We don't have anyone else to turn to, and it's better than being captured by Imperial troopers."

Paige turned back to the shadowy onlooker. "Yes, we'd appreciate any help you could give us," she said. "We have an injured crew member in the pod. We think she has a broken leg, and she needs medical attention quickly." "All right," said the mysterious person. "We'll have to move fast, though. There are Imp patrols around, even out here in the desert." He waved back to the hovercar, and another person jumped out. "Let's go put Lisa in the car, and then get back to our base."

Paige and the two strangers went into the pod, but Nicole hesitated. There was something odd about the speaker. "I'll talk to Paige about it later though," she decided, as she ran to the pod to help the others. Soon everyone was aboard the hovercar, with Lisa sprawled out in the rear seat and Paige and Nicole sitting on either side of her. As the hovercar sped across the dark and barren ground, Paige wondered about the two Good Samaritans who had picked her crew up. "Who are you?" she shouted over the wind to the two strangers sitting in the front seat. "And where are we?"

The person who had earlier spoken to Paige turned around and grinned. For the first time, Paige had a good view of his face. She noticed that he had brown hair and wore a battered hat. "I'm Peter, and this is my buddy Steve," the stranger said, gesturing to the driver of the hovercar. "And you're on the planet Dennaros."

********************

On the Imperial star cruiser Black Death, Vice-Admiral Eileen stood in front of two huge doors made out of duralloy. She pressed the call button beside the door. "Come," a voice said, out of nowhere. Eileen walked in a few paces, and stood at attention. Standing in front of the room's large viewports, looking out into space, was a solitary figure, dressed all in black. "Commodore Phoebe destroyed the Alliance starship Hilfiger in the Dennaros system," Eileen said. "There were thought to be no survivors, but an Imperial space patrol on Dennaros reported seeing an evac pod crash on the planet. A ground patrol is being sent to verify this report, and to pick up any possible survivors." "Good," said the shadow, which now turned to face Eileen. It was none other than Darth Jason. "Find the crew of the pod, and kill them," he commanded. "Then we'll continue the invasion of the Alliance."


FoxFire 9
Author: wacko2

The hovercar skimmed rapidly over the desert surface, jolting the occupants at every rise and depression they went through. Paige strained to see in the darkness, but she could see very little beyond the narrow strip of rocky ground illuminated by the hovercar's single front light. The faint starlight didn't help much either. She hoped that the driver, Steve, knew where he was going, because they were going pretty fast. She noticed that they seemed to be heading for an even darker mass of ground jutting up not far from them. "That's Chakutho Mak'ral we're heading for," Peter yelled over the wind.

Soon the hovercar was zipping down narrow canyons, with steep cliffs towering high over the five people in the car. Then they turned into a wider valley that extended for some way before terminating abruptly at a near-vertical granite wall. The car slowed down and, to Paige and Nicole's surprise, headed towards what appeared to be just another large crevice in the rock wall. But it was no crevice; it was actually the mouth of a very large cave. Large enough that a fighter ship could easily fly in, Nicole thought.

They travelled through the cave, which seemed to stretch out into eternity. Finally Paige noticed that it no longer seemed to be dark in the cave, but rather... reddish? Then the hovercar made a turn, and there it was. A gigantic grotto, bathed in red light from overhead lamps, and containing about three dozen fighters. Mostly beat-up Benbilo B6's, Nicole noted as they passed the ships. Then Steve stopped the hovercar at a large steel door. "Here we are," he announced. The door opened and a red-skinned reptilian alien came out. "Hey, Kit, we've got some people from the Alliance," Peter told the alien. "One's injured. Get her to the medic, and I'll take these two." He turned around and grinned at Paige and Nicole, and waved at the door. "Welcome to the Rebel base. Won't you come in?"

A few minutes later, Paige and Nicole were sitting at a table in one of the numerous tunneled-out rooms of the base, ravenously eating a meal of steamed meat and cold greens, as Peter looked on. "You guys seem to be a little lost," he said. "We don't often get off-worlders, just the Imps. How'd you guys get here anyway?" Paige and Nicole related their story as they ate. When they had finished, Peter looked more than a little mad. "Frag those Imps! They keep shooting us up, wrecking our lives..." He paused and looked at the newcomers. "Sorry about that, it's just that the Imps came here and took over my world," he said. "They made us slaves, made us work in the mines to supply them with minerals to make weapons out of. And it wasn't just Dennaros either. The same thing happened on Teq'val, on Ecnirp Trebla, on a bunch of other worlds. The Imperials invaded all those worlds and forced people to work for them. We tried to fight back, but it was no use. They just crushed us. Some of us managed to escape though, and we hid from them wherever we could. We swore we'd get even with the Imps for what they did to us, to our people. And that's how we got here." Peter looked up with a grim look on his face. "We're the Rebels, and we're gonna defeat the Imperials, one way or another. No matter how long it takes, or how many of us have to die first."


FoxFire 10
Author: wacko2

"If we could contact the Alliance somehow, and tell them about what the Imperials have done, I'm sure they would send a fleet to help you fight the Imperials," Paige suggested to Peter. "After all, we were sent here to find out what Darth Jason and his Dark Fleet was up to." Peter considered Paige's idea. "It would be great if the Alliance's battle fleet came to fight the Imps. We can use all the help we can get. But we would have to set up our long-range communications equipment in order to contact the Alliance. It would be risky, because we would have to set it up outside, and the Imperials might spot us. They might also intercept our signal, and not only would we lose the element of surprise, they would be able to trace the signal and find us." "I think it's a risk we have to take," Nicole said. "If we don't send for help now, Darth Jason and the Imperials will continue their invasion of the galaxy. Then by the time the Alliance finds out what's happening, it might be too late to stop the Imps." "I agree with you, Nicole," Peter replied. "It's a chance we'll have to take. The Imps need to be stopped as soon as possible. I'll have the comm team set up the sending transponder array tomorrow. But now, why don't you guys get some rest? You must be pretty tired after everything you've gone through already." "What about Lisa?" Paige asked, concerned about her injured ensign. "Don't worry," Peter answered. "She's being taken care of by the medics. How about if I show you your sleeping quarters now?"

Half an hour later, Paige and Nicole were alone in the small room hollowed out of the rock that served as their sleeping quarters. Nicole sat on her sleeping pallet and considered for a minute. "Captain, do you think we'll really be able to reach the Alliance?" she asked. "We'd better be able to," Paige answered. "The Imperials have already taken over several worlds and affected millions of lives. We can't let them go unstopped." "What about Peter? Do you think we can trust him?" Nicole asked. "I think we can," Paige said. "After all, he rescued us when we crashed out in the middle of the desert." "But did you notice anything strange about him? Anything... oh, I don't know, out of the ordinary, maybe?" Paige thought for a minute at this question. "Hmm, I didn't really notice anything. Did you?" "Well, it seems kind of strange how he and Steve found us so quickly. And that's not all," Nicole said. "Remember back at the crash site, when Peter asked us if we needed any help?" Paige nodded. "Well, at that time, we hadn't told him our names yet, right?" Paige nodded again. "But Peter said to put Lisa in the hovercar! How would he have known Lisa's name?" Nicole finished. "That is odd," Paige said. "Maybe instead of being rescued, we fell into a trap of some sort. We'll have to watch carefully and see what happens. Now, I suggest we get some sleep." She turned off the glo-panel, and both fell into a deep sleep, tired from the day's events.

Some time later, Paige suddenly awoke from her sleep. She had an uneasy feeling, but she did not know what it was. She did not know how much time had passed since she fell asleep, nor how long it was till morning. But still, she felt that something had gone wrong. Again. Then an alarm blared, and yellow warning lights flashed on and off in the room. Paige screamed at the sudden shock, causing Nicole to wake up. "What's wrong?" she asked. "I don't know," Paige answered. At that moment, a door opened, and the red-skinned alien they had seen earlier rushed into the room. "Come! We muss' go now!" the alien said as he pulled Paige up by an arm. "Why?" Paige asked, resisting. "Cannot loose any time!" the alien spoke quickly in his strange-sounding speech. "The Rebel base iss being invaded!"


FoxFire 11
Author: wacko2

"We're being invaded?" Nicole, now wide awake, asked the red alien. "Yes, yes!" the alien said. "We muss' leave now! Hurry!" Paige and Nicole grabbed what few belongings they had left and hurried out into the hallway with the alien. "We need to find Lisa. Can you take us to her?" Paige asked the alien. "That other human, came wit' you? Not enuff' time! We muss' leave base now! Go on ship!" the alien insisted. "We aren't leaving until we find Lisa!" Paige said firmly. The alien gave a sigh of resignation. "Okay! We go to medic station! But hurry! Follow me!"

Paige and Nicole followed the alien through a maze of corridors hewn out of the red rock. The alarms were still blaring, and lights were flashing. As they went, they could see people and creatures of all kinds rushing through the passageways. Some carried blasters, others wore flightsuits, and still others were carrying equipment of various types. Heavy blaster fire could be heard nearby. Finally the three came to a steel door marked "Medic Station". The alien pressed a panel by the door. The door opened, and they all rushed in to find... absolutely nothing. The entire medic station was empty. "Medic droids muss' have evacuated all," the alien said. "Lisa maybe on ship goin' out right now. We go too." The reptilian alien turned to go back out into the hallway. Suddenly a group of soldiers wearing black armor blocked the doorway, blasters pointed at the three occupants of the room. "Stay where you are! Hands up, and don't move, or you're dead!" one of the soldiers said. Paige, Nicole and the alien hurried to comply with the orders. "Captured by Imperial soldiers, after all we've been through!" a frustrated Paige thought as she and the others were searched for weapons.

Paige, Nicole and the alien were marched back to the large grotto just outside the main entrance to the Rebel base. Along the way, they could see dark scars on the rock walls caused by blaster fire, as well as bodies, both Rebel and Imperial, crumpled on the floor. In the grotto itself, most of the fighter ships were gone. Instead, there were large armored transport hovercars that had brought the Imperial soldiers to the base. The three were forced into one of the hovercars and tied up to seats at the back. Five soldiers, presumably to watch the prisoners, also went in the hovercar. The side door slammed shut, and the hovercar started moving. To where, the prisoners did not know.

Finally, after several hours of travel, the hovercar stopped. The door opened again, and bright light shone in, blinding the prisoners. Paige, Nicole, and the alien were untied by the guards and forced outside. Shielding her eyes with her hand to block the bright sunlight, Paige looked around. They seemed to be in a settlement of some sort. All around her were houses made of mud. She could see humans and red-skinned aliens walking in the street. They all looked dirty and tired, and they all seemed to be trying to avoid the Imperial soldiers. A voice cut into her thoughts. "Get into that building!" one of the soldiers was shouting at her. He prodded her with a blaster. Silently, Paige obeyed, following Nicole and the alien into the building indicated by the soldier.

The soldiers escorted the prisoners to a room that looked like an office of some sort. There was a human in Imperial garb sitting on a chair and looking intently at the group through the long hair that covered his eyes. "I'm Commander Hawkins," the person said. "You're the Rebels, right?" The prisoners did not say anything. "We've captured or killed all your other friends, so you might as well give up and tell us everything," Hawkins said. "Never!" the alien shouted, with a look of fury on his face. "Whatever happens, in the end, you'll still pay for what you've done to my people!" Hawkins stood up and glared at the alien. "Fine, don't say anything. It doesn't matter anyway. I've got orders to execute you all tomorrow."


FoxFire 12
Author: wacko2

Paige, Nicole and the alien were in what appeared to be a holding cell, where they had been put after their short interrogation. Paige, standing by the cell's single window, saw the late afternoon sun shining above the mud-and-plaster buildings that seemed to be the norm on Dennaros. She tested the duralloy bars on the window. None of them budged. She examined the walls for any cracks or weaknesses she might be able to exploit. But the mud walls were smooth and rock-hard, baked solid after years of exposure to the hot desert sun. "It might as well be permacrete," Paige thought. She sighed. There seemed to be no way to escape from their impending executions, which were scheduled for the next day.

Nicole leaned against a wall, so that she faced the alien. "Didn't we see you when we first came to the Rebel base?" she asked him. "Yes," said the red-skinned alien. "Kit'ral iss proper name, but others call me Kit. You are from Alliance, yes?" "Yes, we are," Nicole said. "Our ship was destroyed by the Imperial Navy. We sent an emergency signal, but we don't know if the Alliance got it." Kit looked at Nicole with his large eyes. "Muss' hope they got signal. If not, Darth Jason and Imperials will surprise Alliance, and many more people, many more planets, will die. Jus' like my people on Dennaros." "What about the Rebels?" Nicole pressed. "Some must have escaped from the base. Can't they do anything? What about the other planets?" Kit looked around the cell nervously. "Cannot say anything here. May be listeners. We muss' talk no more."

Suddenly there was a loud BOOM. Paige, startled, looked out the window in time to see a nearby building crumble to pieces. Then the cell itself shook, as laser fire struck the building the prisoners were in. Paige, Nicole, and Kit all hugged the dirt floor, hoping that the ceiling wouldn't fall on them. More explosions could be heard, followed by the sound of nearby blaster fire. All of a sudden, the cell door seemed to disintegrate, and a familiar face showed itself. "Peter!" Nicole exclaimed. Peter smiled. "We've got to go, quickly. Follow me." With Peter in the lead, everyone rushed down the hall and out of the building, passing dead Imperial soldiers.

Outside, three Benbilo B-6 fighters were parked in the street. Paige spotted Steve and a thin furry alien laying down cover fire. Thick smoke was rising from several buildings, and blaster fire was coming from the other side of the street. The four people ran to the cover provided by one of the fighter ships. "Each person get in one ship," Peter commanded. He waved to Steve and the furry alien as Nicole got into the B-6 they were hiding behind. Then he and Paige dashed to another fighter ship, while Kit ran to the third. As soon as Paige jumped into Peter's fighter, Peter lowered the cockpit dome. "Hang on," he said, pressing some buttons on the pilot's console. The Benbilo B-6 rose, turned, fired its laser cannons at a group of Imperial troops, then took off so fast that Paige was pressed into her seat, unable to move.

Paige could see that they were going up, out into space. "But where in space are we going?" she thought to herself. Peter announced, "We're not out of trouble yet. The Imps are sending fighters after us." As if to punctuate his statement, a laser blast whizzed past them. Looking out the tiny rear cockpit window, Paige could see the other two Rebel ships, as well as several Imperial fighters. Another laser blast hit the B-6, weakening the right rear shields. Peter put the B-6 into a corkscrew dive, then made a loop, coming behind the Imperial ship that had fired on them. He targeted it, and the laser cannons made short work of the enemy fighter. But two other Imperial ships were on the B-6's tail. Peter jinked the B-6 into a zig-zag pattern, then turned sharply left. The Imperials followed Peter's B-6, and came right into Steve's target zone. Paige watched as Steve fired on one of the Imperial ships. It exploded, forcing the other Imperial fighter to move away. Peter and Paige were clear now. "All right," Peter said. "We'll leave now, before the Imps send reinforcements." He pressed a key, and the Benbilo B-6 jumped into the relative safety of hyperspace.


FoxFire 13
Author: wacko2

The Benbilo B-6 fighter shuddered as it came out of hyperspace. Directly ahead, Paige could see a large gaseous planet with magenta and dark purple streaks, half illuminated by the intense light of a distant sun. "Where are we now?" Paige asked Peter. "We're in the Zaxxon system," he replied. "That planet there is Zaxxon IV, and we're headed for one of its moons, called Tigrat, which means Dark Shadow in the local Quy'lo language. The moon is a popular destination for smugglers, gamblers, traders, bounty hunters, and lower scum in general. It's a perfect place to hide if you don't want to be found. There's a lot of fighting between local warlords, so we'll have to be careful."

"But why are we here?" Paige questioned. "And where are Nicole and Steve and the others?" Peter studied the pilot's console, not looking up at Paige. "We made plans in case the Imps ever found our base on Dennaros. We were supposed to scatter and go to certain rendezvous points located on several planets. Tigrat is one of those rendezvous points. We're here to meet up with a Rebel contact. The only thing I know about her is that her name is Cybil. She'll hide us for a while and tell us the latest info, and where to go next." Peter paused for a minute and looked out the cockpit window at the huge swirling gas giant. "As for Steve and Nicole, I don't know -"

Peter was interrupted by the sudden appearance of two fighter ships nearby. For a minute, Paige was afraid that the Imperials had tracked them down. But no, those were only two Benbilo B-6 fighters, identical to the one she was now in. "There they are," Peter smiled. "Looks like we all made it here okay. Well, we'd better go down to the moon and meet up with our contact."

A few hours later, Peter, Paige, Steve, Nicole, Kit, and the furry alien (introduced to Paige and Nicole as Garin Moruut) were walking in the streets of Plit, the largest city on Tigrat. They passed many run-down shops, loud bars, smoky gambling houses, and even public brothels with prostitutes of several different species standing outside and flouting their wares. Paige shuddered as she passed an alien wearing an orange body suit and green face paint who was making sexual gestures at just about everybody. How had she, captain of the Alliance ship Hilfiger, sunk to these depths? She was so engrossed in looking at these repulsive scenes that she bumped into Peter, who had stopped and now stood still, looking at someone sitting in front of a house. "It's just a girl, a fortuneteller," Paige thought, glancing briefly at the sign on the house before turning her mind to other, even more shocking, sights.

But to Peter, this was not just any girl. The longer he looked at her, the more he was attracted to her. To his mind, she was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. He wondered what she was doing in a dump like this. But there was more to her than mere beauty. There was something about her, some unseen aura or force, that took over Peter's mind, that compelled him to go to her. And Peter would have walked over to her, if Steve hadn't tapped him on the shoulder. "Hey, Pete, we've got to go. We're close to the meeting place." Peter turned away from the fortuneteller girl. He had a duty to his Rebel group, to make sure everyone got safely to the next base, wherever that was. But he would come back, he promised himself. Once he'd met with Cybil, he'd come back and talk to that strange girl who, at first sight, had completely captivated his mind. And his heart, Peter had to admit to himself.


FoxFire 14
Author: wacko2

"Thank you," said the seated figure sitting behind a desk aboard the Imperial star cruiser Black Death. He was cloaked all in black, except for his fair blond hair. Beside him, on the desk, sat a green iguana munching on something unidentifiable. "Carry on with your work." Darth Jason switched off the viewscreen, and pondered the latest news for several minutes. Commander Hawkins had just reported to him from Dennaros. And Darth Jason was angry, though his face showed no emotion. Angry that the Rebels had eluded him yet again. And even more, angry that Hawkins and his forces had allowed three Rebels to escape. Darth Jason could have broken Hawkins' neck with his Force skills right then, as far away as he was from Dennaros. But no, that would not do. After all, Hawkins had not expected the Rebels to come back and risk themselves just to rescue three prisoners. A mere three prisoners. That could mean only one thing, Darth Jason realized. The three prisoners must have been very important to the Rebels, important enough to risk an attack on Hawkins' ground base. And two of those prisoners reportedly had been wearing Alliance Navy uniforms. If so, they must have been the survivors of the evac pod crash in the middle of one of Dennaros' vast deserts. And that was problematic. There was the possibility that they would alert the Alliance to the presence of Darth Jason's invasion forces, and report exactly what had happened on which planet, if they had not done so already. They, along with the Rebels, had to be stopped quickly, using any means possible. Darth Jason decided to bring in the big guns to deal with that threat. He pushed a button hidden under a secret panel on top of his desk.

Five minutes later, the door opened, and Intelligence and Special Operations Officer Eileen entered the room. Her job was to collect information about enemy forces and organize covert missions, and she was very good at her job. Darth Jason smiled. Here was the perfect person to track down the Rebel scum. "I have a special mission for you, Eileen. I want you to find the three prisoners who escaped from Commander Hawkins' ground base on Dennaros. Two of them may be from the Alliance. Capture them if possible; otherwise, kill them. Either way, I want it done as quickly as possible." "Yes, sir!" Eileen saluted, then left the room. Jason relaxed for a minute. Eileen was quite efficient, and he knew he could count on her to get the job done. Meanwhile, there were other planets to conquer, other people to subjugate to his will...

ISO Officer Eileen walked back to her office in the special operations area of the Black Death. She had much to do, if she was going to get the job done. First, she checked the latest intelligence communiqués. There had been reports from Imperial spies of some non-Imperial fighter ships landing on several planets. In particular, twelve Benbilo B-6's had landed on Tigrat in the Zaxxon system. That was an unusually high number, Eileen thought. She knew that Tigrat was a smuggler's den, a perfect place to hide, and she felt sure that some of the Rebels had gone there. She decided to take a covert force to Tigrat and start looking there. She turned on the intercom on her desk, entered in the appropriate code, and spoke into it. "All members of Strike Force Q-7, please come to the briefing room immediately. We have a new mission, and we must strike quickly in order to crush the Rebels once and for all."


FoxFire 15
Author: wacko2

"Here's the meeting place," Peter said as he stopped in front of a seedy outdoor café. A garish sign advertised the place as "Drokko's Den - finest place for freyr outside of Nolat". Paige scanned the café. She saw several diminutive owlish Hrkassians sitting at a table in the back and arguing loudly over their drinks, but other than that, there weren't many customers. "Not exactly a private place for a meeting, is it?" Nicole commented.

Peter, Steve, Paige, and Nicole sat down at a table, well away from the Hrkassians. Paige noticed that Kit and Garin didn't join them, but sat at different tables. They were apparently on on sentry duty, watching for potential trouble. A Nolatian waiter came up to the table. "Would humans like drink? Or maybe eat?" he inquired. Peter ordered sparkling bit'har drinks for everyone. The waiter hissed in the affirmative, and went to get the drinks. "Might as well have a little something," Peter said. "We don't know how long it will be before Cybil decides to join us."

Just then, a dark-skinned young woman passing their table on the way out of the café bumped into Steve's chair. "Sorry," she said. "That's okay," Steve said, looking up at her and grinning. But the woman was now focusing her attention on Peter. "The bars on Cajit are better," she said. "But the best grakkim is on Teq'val," Peter answered. The woman immediately sat down on an unoccupied chair nearby. "What took you so long?" she asked. "The others are already gone. I'll tell you more later." Paige realized that the woman must be Cybil, the Rebel contact on Tigrat. "She and Peter probably were using code words," she thought.

Half an hour later, Cybil was leading the small Rebel group into a dimly-lit room in a large run-down building. She immediately went to the small closet at one corner of the room and knocked on one of the closet's side walls. To Paige and Nicole's amazement, the "wall" opened, revealing a narrow flight of stairs and a muscular Heg Vorat with a protruding snout and needlelike teeth standing on the top step. "Good choice for a guard," Nicole thought, looking at the alien's teeth. The Rebel group made their way down the stairs, with Cybil leading and the Heg Vorat at the back. The eight Rebels went down several dirt passageways, then came out into what looked like the sewers of Plit. They tramped down the slimy and smelly tunnels, making many turns, until they finally came to a durasteel door that led into a surprisingly dry and lighted room.

"Here we are," Cybil announced. "This is the Rebel safe room on Tigrat. Now we can talk freely." Peter grinned. "Nice to see you again, Cybil. Now, how about you tell us the latest news about the Rebels and the Imps?" "All right," Cybil said, sitting down on a hard chair. "As you already know, the Rebel base on Dennaros had to be evacuated due to an Imperial attack. Some of the Rebels came to Tigrat, and hid here for a while. They've already left for the main Rebel base in the Ralun Pitorra asteroid belt. The Imperials are searching hard for the other Rebel bases, but they haven't found them yet, thank the gods. I hear the Rebel brains at the main base have plans to attack the Imperials soon. I don't know the details about that, but you'll find out soon enough, because you're leaving for Ralun Pitorra tomorrow. Here are the nav charts you'll need..."


FoxFire 16
Author: wacko2

After the short briefing given to the small Rebel group by Cybil, Peter stretched his legs in the dim room. He looked at the other seven Rebels, who were now fixing equipment or talking quietly. He thought again about the mysterious and beautiful fortuneteller he had seen sitting on the porch of that run-down house on one of the streets above him. There had been something strange about her, he thought. Some unidentifiable aura, some unseen force that had reached out and took hold of him as he was passing by her. The longer Peter thought about her, the more he realized that he just had to meet her. He decided that now was the time to go see her, before he and his friends left for the main Rebel base in Ralun Pitorra.

Peter stood up, and Paige and Steve glanced up at him. "I'm going for a walk outside," Peter said. "We still have twelve hours before we go to Ralun Pitorra, and I don't feel like staying here the whole time." "All right," Cybil said. "But take a blaster with you just in case. You know what Tigrat's like. All those stupid warlords fighting all the time!" Peter had to smile at that. Cybil was always after him to be more careful. "Don't worry," he said. "I'll be back soon."

Now armed with a blaster, Peter stepped out of the Rebel safe room and walked through the maze of sewers under the city of Plit. He climbed a ladder at one intersection, popped open the sewer door, and found himself in a narrow alley. Going into the main street, he saw that he was just a block down from Drokko's Den. "Great," Peter thought. "I'll be able to find my way from here easily." After walking several more blocks, he found himself in front of a dreary run-down house. A sign on the outdoor wall, lettered in red glow-paint, read, "Fortuneteller. Fortunes, séances, praka readings. Only 5 tojin each."

Peter stepped up to the door. Immediately it opened, and he saw the beautiful fortuneteller girl framed in the entrance. She smiled, and beckoned to Peter to come inside. "I've been expecting you," she said. "But how-" Peter started to say, but the girl was already walking to another part of the house. Mystified, Peter followed the girl to a small sitting area decorated in red and lit by twenty or thirty candles. He sat down on an old couch and looked at the girl again. She was about his age, and she had fair hair and perfect skin. Her face was marred only by the dark glasses that covered her eyes. The girl sat down in an elaborately-carved chair and faced Peter. "I have been waiting for you a long time," she said. "My name is Denise."

Denise's soft voice shook Peter out of his reverie. He tried to explain himself, to ask the many questions that filled his mind, but found himself unable to say anything. Denise just laughed. "Don't worry, Rebel Leader from Dennaros," she said. "I know who you are and why you have come here. There is no need to for you to explain anything." Peter stared at Denise. "How do you know my name, everything about me? I've never even seen you before!" Denise smiled at Peter. "The Force works in mysterious ways. It cannot be seen, but it surrounds everything, and it is inside everything. Those who have the Force can see beyond sight, hear beyond hearing, feel beyond touch. The past, the present, the future, the universe itself, unfolds before them. And that is how I know about you. For I have the Force." She paused before continuing. "You did not know it, but the Force brought you here for a reason. A very good reason." She rose from her chair and faced Peter in the flickering candlelight, appearing to look directly at him. "Peter, you too have the Force."


FoxFire 17
Author: wacko2

Intelligence and Special Operations Officer Eileen was sitting on a bench at a hoverbus stop in the C'tharos district of Plit. Dressed in loose-fitting garments, she looked just like any other young woman on the moon of Tigrat, going to the markets or perhaps taking in an early holovid before the evening crowds came out in full force. But Eileen had no intention of going anywhere on the next hoverbus to come along. She and the members of Strike Force Q-7 had a mission to carry out. She glanced again at the object of her surveillance: an old dilapidated building just across the street from her. Thanks to information from Imperial spies stationed on the moon, she had traced the Rebels to this location. All that was left was to attack them. She smiled to herself, and then raised her left hand, as if she was stretching.

At this signal, a dozen Imperial stormtroopers appeared out of nowhere, surrounding the building and firing at it with laser rifles. Getting no return fire, some of them ran into the building, kicking down the doors and keeping up their fire. The other troopers stayed outside, covering all points of exit. Eileen stood up, took out a blaster from a hidden pocket, crossed the street, and entered the building. It was time for action.

A lieutenant came up to Eileen. "We're still searching, but there appears to be no one in the building," she reported. Eileen, of course, had expected this. "The Rebels probably have a hidden exit somewhere in this place," she said. "Look for it." Fifteen minutes later, a hidden entrance was found in a closet, revealing a set of stairs leading downwards. Eileen led the rest of Strike Force Q-7 down the stairs.

With guns brandished, the Imperial troopers made their way through the underground passageways, and soon reached the maze of sewers under the city of Plit. But even the disgusting purple slime oozing down the sewer walls could not stop Eileen. She turned to one of the stormtroopers. "Officer Tommy, use your special scanning sensors to find the path the Rebels took." The equipment officer took out a small scanner, activated it, and guided the strike force down the sewer, tracing the molecular residue left by the Rebels. Less than half an hour later, Officer Tommy stopped. "The trail ends there," he whispered to Eileen, pointing at a durasteel door. "All right," Eileen said to her group. "The Rebels are probably behind that door. We'll take them by surprise. You all know what to do." The Imperial stormtroopers quickly readied themselves, and a trooper stepped forward, raised a small bazooka to his shoulders, and fired at the door...

Inside the Rebel safe room, all was calm. Paige, Nicole and Steve were talking about the possibility of sending a message to the Alliance. Cybil, Kit and Garin were poring over star maps. The Heg Vorat simply sat in a chair and stared into space. It seemed almost peaceful in the room. But then all hell broke loose. There was a loud explosion as the durasteel door nearly blew in. Then heavy laser fire came from the sewer tunnel outside. The Heg Vorat reacted quickly, standing up and firing back at the Imperials. "We've got to move!" Cybil shouted to the others, waving her own blaster. She went to the back of the room, and opened a wall panel. "This way!" she said. "Follow me!" Garin and the Heg Vorat laid covering fire as the other Rebels scrambled through the opening. By this time, Imperial troopers were entering the room, firing at the escaping Rebels. Garin managed to shoot one of them before ducking through the exit. The Heg Vorat guard was not so lucky. He was killed by an Imperial sniper, but only after he'd shot down a few troopers himself.

The remaining Rebels ran for their lives. Following Cybil's lead, they raced through the sewer tunnels, only stopping occasionally to hold off the Imperial attackers with a few well-placed blaster shots. So the chase went on, through numerous tunnels and passageways, with the Rebels just managing to keep ahead of their pursuers. At last, Cybil led her group into a particularly narrow and dark conduit. The tunnel seemed to keep on twisting forever, and there was a noise, low and buzzing at first, but growing ever louder with each turn. At last, the glow of lights could be seen just ahead, signalling the endpoint of the particular sewer branch the Rebels were in. Cybil kicked open the grate that covered the entrance to the tunnel, and everyone scrambled out into the fresh air. It was night, but lights blazed all around them. Paige and Nicole blinked their eyes in the blinding light, then looked around in amazement. They were near one of the terminals of the city's main spaceport! "Come on," Cybil urged. "The Imps are still chasing us. We've got to find your ships, so you can leave for Ralun Pitorra right away." The Rebels melted into the large crowd of people at the spaceport, having apparently eluded Eileen and Strike Force Q-7 for the moment.

Soon Paige, Nicole, Steve, Kit and Garin were preparing to leave in the three Benbilo B-6 fighters they had come to Tigrat in. "But what about Peter?" Paige asked Cybil. Peter had saved her and Nicole, had led the little Rebel group to relative safety. She couldn't leave Peter behind, after all he had done for them. "Don't worry about Peter," Cybil answered. "He knows how to take care of himself. I'll keep an eye out for him," she promised. "Good luck to you guys. We'll get those Imps yet!" She waved to Paige in farewell.

From an observation tower nearby, Eileen watched the three Benbilo B-6's take off in the black night, flashing lights marking their ascent into space. Her plan had worked perfectly. The Imperial spies had given her the location of the Rebel ships, and she had attached tiny location tracing devices to each of the ships before making her "attack" on the Rebels. Even now, the devices were transmitting the path taken by the fighters to her office aboard the Black Death. All she had to do now was track the fighters to wherever they were going next. Then Darth Jason and the Imperial Navy would take care of the rest. Eileen grinned. Life could be so sweet sometimes.


FoxFire 18
Author: wacko2

Peter stared at Denise in the darkened room, not quite sure that he'd heard her right. "I... have the Force?" he managed to say after overcoming his surprise. "You mean this thing really exists, and I have it?" Denise just smiled at him. "Let me show you," she said. She reached into a pocket, brought out a tiny sphere made of crystal, and laid it on the table before her. "There are many things you can do with the Force. Like levitating objects, for example." As she spoke, the crystal ball rose into the air, glittering in the candlelight. Peter watched as the ball hovered in the air, not quite believing what he was seeing. "This isn't a trick, is it?" he asked. Denise laughed. "No, it isn't. Here, you try it." By this time, the ball was now resting on the table again. "But how do you move something without touching it?" Peter asked. "Just look at the ball, and concentrate on it," Denise answered. "Imagine, in your mind, that the ball is moving wherever you want it to go. Think of a place to move it to, then imagine the ball actually moving there." Peter stared at the ball. It didn't move. "Concentrate!" Denise whispered. "See the ball in your mind. Then move it." Peter focused all his thoughts on the ball, so much that it seemed as if he was just staring into space instead of looking directly at the ball. Then the ball quivered, and then rose slowly in the air, with Peter looking at it all the while. Amazed at the sight, Peter blinked. The ball dropped, and smashed on the table. But Peter didn't care. He knew that he'd done it, that he'd levitated the ball. He knew now that he truly had the Force.

Denise smiled at him. Though she was blind, and could not see the ball or indeed anything else, she knew, too, what Peter had done. "Peter, you are strong in the Force. But you must learn how to use it, and to use it wisely. It takes a lifetime to master the Force completely to the best of your abilities. But I can teach you what you need to know. Then you can build upon what you have learned." Peter shook his head. "I'd love to stay here with you, but I have to get back to Cybil and the others. We're supposed to leave for Ralun Pitorra tomorrow morning." Denise rose slowly, and spoke quietly. "Please believe me, Peter. Things have changed. You do not know it, but the Imperials have found your Rebel safe room, and attacked it." "Really?" Peter jumped up in alarm. "Then I've gotta go right now!" "Wait, Peter! You must listen to me. Your friends have escaped, and they have already left for Ralun Pitorra. But still they are in great danger. They do not know it, but they are being followed by the Imperials." "Well, then I've got to get to Ralun Pitorra and warn the Rebels, before the Imps attack," Peter persisted. Denise shook her head. "No. It is already too late. But you can still help. You can stay here, and learn to use the Force. That is the best way to help your friends. Please, Peter. You must believe me." Peter was torn. He wanted to go to the main Rebel base, to warn the Rebels, to fight the Imperials if necessary. He had a duty to the Rebels. But he also knew that Denise spoke the truth. Now that she had shown him the ways of the Force, he trusted her. And what was more, he found that he didn't want to leave her. "All right," he said, making his decision. "Denise, I believe you. I want to help the Rebels as much as I can. And if that means staying here, then I'll stay here." Denise went over to Peter and hugged him. "Don't worry, it's the right decision," she whispered. "I sure hope so," Peter said, as he held Denise in a warm embrace. "I sure hope so."


FoxFire 19
Author: wacko2

Garin Moruut was the first to see the main Rebel base. After taking off from Tigrat, he and the other Rebels had had an uneventful trip to sector 15937. Now, in one of the Benbilo B-6's, he was flying through the Ralun Pitorra asteroid belt to the specific coordinates given by Cybil, constantly dodging gigantic boulders that seemed to appear out of nowhere. Garin peered out of the fighter ship's front window. Like all other individuals of the Yllomu species, he had good eyesight, and as he piloted the fighter, he could see a large grayish object orbiting an asteroid the size of a small moon. That object, he deduced correctly, was the main Rebel base. "The base is ahead," Garin informed the other passenger in his ship. "Where?" Paige said. "I can't see it."

But as they drew nearer, Paige was able to make out the thick duralloy structure of the base. The base itself was located in a relatively calm enclave of the asteroid belt. It was surrounded by hundreds of Rebel ships of all shapes and sizes - cruisers, fighters, battleships, transports. Paige was surprised to see so many ships in an asteroid belt. "The person who thought this up must've been either a genius or a maniac," she said under her breath, still marvelling at the view.

The three Benbilo B-6 fighters were now almost at the base's main docking ring. "Please identify yourself," a voice suddenly crackled over the fighter's comm system. Paige heard Steve's voice answer. "Rebel code seven-four-oh-niner-two-three. Cybil sent us here from Tigrat." "Identity confirmed. We've been expecting you," the voice replied. "Please dock at Bay 146, Areas 9 to 11."

Half an hour later, Garin, Paige, Nicole, Steve and Kit were all comfortably seated in one of the debriefing rooms aboard the main Rebel station. A door slid open, and two humans entered the room. One was a dark-skinned woman, and the other was an extremely short man, if indeed the pimply-faced person with weird glasses could be called a "man". "Hello, and welcome to the base," the woman said. "I'm Base Commander Lana, and this is Admiral Morton who is in charge of the Rebel fleet." At this, Morton made a short clumsy bow, directed more at Paige than at anyone else. He then fixed his gaze on Paige and smiled. "I think the Admiral likes you," Nicole whispered to Paige. Paige shuddered at the thought.

Lana glared at Morton. "Let's get down to business, shall we?" After everyone had sat down, she explained the situation. "We're ready to make a strike against the Imperials. We will have planetary revolts organized by local Rebel leaders on several planets, including Teq'val, Lennochra and Cajit. The Imperials will be forced to divert resources to put down the revolts. Following this, we will make our main strike at Ecnirp Trebla, the center of Imperial activity. This is where much of Darth Jason's Dark Fleet is stationed. If we succeed, we'll substantially weaken the Imperial hold on a lot of planets, and if we're lucky -" here Lana smiled, "we may even get a chance to take a few shots at Darth Jason himself."

********************

Intelligence and Special Operations Officer Eileen stood before a large desk. "Our sensors have tracked the fighters from Tigrat to an asteroid belt in sector 15937 called Ralun Pitorra," she reported. "Excellent work, Eileen," said the black-cloaked figure sitting at the desk and petting a green iguana. The iguana raised his head and looked directly at Eileen, which made her nervous. For Eileen knew that all Darth Jason's power was centered on that iguana.

Darth Jason turned away from Eileen and pressed a button in a hidden panel of the desk. A screen popped up, displaying the Imperial insignia. "Computer, connect me to Commodore Phoebe." After a few moments, Phoebe's head was displayed on the screen. "Commodore, new information indicates that the Rebels may have a base in the Ralun Pitorra asteroid belt," Darth Jason said. "You are ordered to lead the Eagle Division of the Dark Fleet to Ralun Pitorra and destroy the base and as many Rebel ships as you can."


FoxFire 20
Author: wacko2

On board the main Rebel base, the debriefing was over. Kit and Garin had already left to rejoin the other Rebel pilots who had escaped from Dennaros. Steve walked over to Paige and Nicole, who were looking at the space view offered by a large transparisteel window set in the wall. "Nice view, isn't it?" he commented. "I've got to go too. With Peter gone, I'm now the guy who has to lead everyone from the Dennaros system. Section 47, I think Admiral Morton said." "What do you think happened to Peter?" Nicole asked. Steve shrugged. "I don't know," he said. "But I wouldn't worry. Peter's got pretty good intuition. He can smell trouble a parsec away! I wouldn't be surprised if he showed up here sooner or later." Steve smiled and waved as he walked off to the Section 47 bunks.

Base Commander Lana joined Paige and Nicole. "Care for a tour of the base, Captain Paige?" she asked. For a moment, Paige stared blankly at Lana. Then she remembered. The Hilfiger, the attack by Imperial Commodore Phoebe, the massacre... how long ago had that been? And yet she now remembered it all as clearly as if it had happened yesterday. It took a poke from Nicole to shake her out of her reverie. "Sorry about that, Base Commander," Paige said. "It's just that it's been a while since I've been called Captain. A tour of the base would be nice, thank you."

As they walked around the base, Lana explained to Paige and Nicole that a ship had been sent outside of the Ralun Pitorra asteroid belt to send news and information about the Imperials to the Alliance. "At the least, Darth Jason won't catch the Alliance off guard," she said. "Though this area of the galaxy is at the very edge of Alliance territory, it is our hope that the Alliance will send part of their navy out here to help us fight the Imperials."

By this point, the three were walking past the doors of the central base infirmary. Just then, the doors opened, and someone on crutches hobbled out into the hallway. Someone familiar, in fact. "Ensign Lisa!" Paige exclaimed as she ran up to Lisa, with Nicole right behind her. "We thought you'd been captured by the Imps!" "Not a chance," Lisa replied. "A couple of comtechs hauled me onto the last ship out of the Rebel base on Dennaros. The docs here fixed me up all proper and said to take it easy for the next little while. Well, I say that work can still be done while sitting down! I've been doing my part for the Rebels by processing about a million supply transfer forms."

"It's great to see you again!" Nicole said. "Maybe we'll actually make it all the way back to the Alliance and the Core Planets-" Suddenly, loud klaxons went off, cutting her hope short and nearly deafening her in the process. All over the base, sirens blared and red emergency lights flashed. A sublieutenant rushed up to Base Commander Lana. "Commander, sensors have detected several Imperial battle cruisers! The base is being attacked!"


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