By TalonCard and Nightowl Part I: Aftermath (March 10-15)
No one had expected the Rebels to actually defeat the Death Star – not even the Rebels themselves. And as the Imperial court waited in vain for Tarkin’s announcement of victory, the Rebels threw a wild victory party on Yavin IV. Celebrations took place on every other Alliance base as well, and in the major fleets.
Nevertheless, the situation was a precarious one. Many Imperial personnel were stranded on Yavin when the Death Star blew, such as Colonel Maximillian Veers and the TIE pilot Qorl. While these isolated Imperials were not much threat to the Alliance at large, they could be a danger to the personnel of the Rebel base. The naturalist Dr’uun Unnh was killed by a falling TIE fighter during the battle, and Luke Skywalker was set upon by a downed Imperial pilot the morning after. The Rebels were not only vulnerable at Yavin; In addition to losing most of their best pilots in the battle against the Death Star, the Alliance still smarted from fresh losses at Ruul, Tatooine, Gamma Base and Ord Biniir.
Unfortunately, the Death Star was not the only plan Grand Moff Tarkin created to bring down the Rebellion. Tarkin had been researching a new type of artificial gravity well projector to be installed in Interdictor-type cruisers that would enhance the Imperial Fleet. These projectors, similar to those used by the Toom clan in the latter days of the Old Republic, would allow the Empire to keep ships from jumping to lightspeed, and to pull ships in hyperspace out of warp. Thus, the Empire would effectively control access to hyperspace. Sienar had already been producing Interdictors from Tarkin’s earlier designs; the new design was light-years ahead of even that. A working prototype for this advanced gravity well projector had been under development on the Death Star, but it was thrown into space when the battle station was destroyed. This was not the last of the gravity well project, however. Tarkin had entrusted data tapes containing his plans for the projectors to Admiral Termo, in command of the Star Destroyer Liquidator. When Termo failed to hear back from Tarkin, Captain Skeezer was dispatched to the Yavin system to locate the Death Star.
Taking the cautious route, the Rebels chose not to send out attack craft when the Carrack class cruiser of Captain Skeezer entered the Yavin system, hoping the ship would pass them by. Han Solo had other ideas, and, after a pitched battle, the cruiser crashed in the jungles of Yavin. The capture and interrogation of Skeezer led to the discovery of a plan of Tarkin’s to control hyperspace. The heroes of Yavin were dispatched to deal with this potential danger to the Rebellion. They succeeded, but not before a desperate chase that led them from Thyferra to Delrakkin, and ended with the destruction of the Liquidator over Yavin VIII. This quest also resulted in the discovery of an ancient guardian droid, Q-7N, who had been taken from his home world by pirates two thousand years previous and left to guard an immense treasure on Yavin. The droid became an important member of the Alliance.
This assault on Yavin IV proved to the Rebels that their problems had not ended (as though they needed the reminder). Word had gotten out to the Imperials that the Death Star had indeed been destroyed, and the Empire was out to prove that they were still in charge, making each new mission that much harder for the Rebels. The exact location of the main Rebel base remained unknown to the Empire at large, so Yavin was safe for as long as Darth Vader remained lost to the sight of men. With this in mind, General Dodonna assigned everyone at Yavin base a mission: find the damaged TIE of Darth Vader. Review of the sensor logs of both Wedge Antilles’ X-Wing and the Millennium Falcon confirmed the appearance of an advanced design TIE during the battle; Rebel Intelligence identified the ship as Vader’s personal fighter. The Rebels victory over the Death Star could be increased a thousandfold if Vader was captured or killed. During the many missions that followed the Battle of Yavin, every Rebel kept their eyes and ears open for any sign of where Vader went.
Vader, meanwhile, had limped to the nearby outpost of Vaal. After a rough flight through an asteroid field, he crash-landed on Vaal and trekked through wild prairies overnight to the outpost. He found the three Imperials stationed there to be carousing, and rewarded them accordingly by unleashing a pack of wild dogs on them. He took off in an Imperial shuttle, nursing a shattered mechanical right arm, for Coruscant.
Interlude: Meanwhile, on Coruscant…
The upper echelons of the Empire were thrown into a panic as the Emperor informed them of the Death Star’s destruction. He knew the moment the station had exploded, had felt the tremor in the Force. And to him, it had come as a complete, utter shock. For the first time ever, his uncanny ability to foresee the future – a gift of the Dark Side of the Force – had failed him. None of the paths he had foreseen held anything close to this. The cost to the Empire, in wasted resources and manpower, was incalculable. And now Vader had vanished, perhaps lost as well. Palpatine spent the first few days after the Battle of Yavin secluded in the Imperial Palace, his emotions all over the map. When Captain Termo had called him to ask what had happened to Tarkin, the Emperor was actually laughing as he spoke of the Death Star’s end. If he’d been any calmer or more rational at that point, he’d have asked Termo where the Death Star had been bound. As it was, the subsequent loss of Termo and the Liquidator left Palpatine with only a vague idea where the Rebel base was.
Emotions at all levels of Imperial government were equally mixed. While the Imperial Moffs, Grand Admirals and Governors bemoaned the loss of the Death Star itself, with all of its’ top-rank officers, soldiers, ships and arsenal aboard, few of them mourned the loss of Tarkin – or Vader. A wild power struggle had begun, as Moffs and governors everywhere jockeyed for position in the Empire, to fill the void. The buildup of the military, which had been taking place in fits and starts over the preceding two decades, now screamed into high gear. The Imperial Security Bureau, under the command of the newly installed Ysanne Isard, was charged by the Emperor with the task of keeping the Moffs under control – specifically, to keep their ambitions from reaching the point that they would seek his throne.
COMPNOR, meanwhile, was in a quandary. The propaganda machine had been all set to unveil the Death Star to the galaxy at large. Surviving members of the Senate had already been horrified audience members to vid footage of Alderaan’s destruction; Imperial HoloVision would have soon coupled that with footage of Yavin’s destruction and presented Palpatine’s invincible grip over the galaxy (and the public) as an inescapable reality. Now, with this setback, that golden opportunity to do away with all remaining pretenses of a legitimate government was gone. Still worse, the concept of Imperial infallibility – which had been drilled into an entire generation at that point – had been dealt a severe blow. How to deal with that?
The answer: Cover it up. Make sure the public didn’t know the Death Star existed, let alone was destroyed.
On March 12, two days after the Death Star’s destruction, a news conference was held over Imperial HoloVision. The first announcement to the public was that Alderaan had destroyed itself – that, in trying to develop powerful new weapons for the Rebel Alliance in deep underground caverns, the foolish Alderaanians had accidentally detonated their own core. Palpatine made a brief public appearance to mourn the lost world, though he hinted that if it had entrusted itself to Imperial protection, the catastrophe wouldn’t have occurred. He magnanimously offered to all offworld survivors an invitation to his own private resort world, Byss. Of course it was only a ploy to have more souls to leech life energy out of – but they didn’t need to know that part.
As far as early reports of a “rogue planet” near Alderaan, Palpatine denied that vehemently. The Rebels could claim whatever they wanted on their propaganda channels, they had no proof -- nor would they present any, if Palpatine could help it. He knew the Rebel base was somewhere in the Gordian Reach – Tarkin had indicated that much to him, at least, before contact was lost. And he also needed a sizable display of anger to placate the power-hungry Moffs and remind them who was truly in charge of the Empire.
Governor-General Warex Vellam, Grand Moff of the Gordian Reach, had been a huge supporter of Grand Moff Tarkin. Since every other person behind the Death Star fiasco had apparently died with the station, Vellam was a suitable target of the Emperor’s wrath. With no mention made of where the Death Star was destroyed, Palpatine had Vellam’s title removed, his holdings seized.
Part II: New Planets, New Perils(March 16-20)
Following the battles against Termo, the heroes of the Yavin battle were sent on various missions. Artoo and Threepio volunteered to escort Governor Zissu to a new posting on Romm, in the Delantine system. Han Solo and Chewbacca, as a personal favor to Princess Leia, put off paying Jabba the Hutt to transport two Rebel spies to a new location. Leia Organa, at the request of General Dodonna, remained behind on Yavin to serve as a symbol and leader for the Alliance. The base itself began to be dismantled, with the first shipment of heavy ordinance lifted out by a task force led by the cruiser Republic’s Return. Also moved off Yavin were other Fleet liaisons and members of the Alliance’s civil government. Hobbie Klivian and Jal De Gaiv had returned to health, and Keyan Farlander was reassigned to the Independence. That left one Y-Wing, one prototype A-Wing and two X-Wings (both severely damaged) with four pilots to man them. Still, the lack of starfighters and astromech units hampered any efforts to completely evacuate.
The Rebel leaders offered Luke Skywalker any reward within their ability to grant for his part in destroying the Death Star, but he asked only to be permitted to continue piloting a fighter in the Alliance’s service. Some thought his request unduly modest, but one shrewd general disagreed, explaining how Luke might be more valuable to the Rebellion without a title or commission, which would serve only to make the youth a prime target for Imperial assassination. Together Luke, Wedge, Jal and Hobbie formed the skeleton for what would soon come to be called Rogue Squadron.
The missions assigned to the other heroes of Yavin began to go awry. Despite having taken extreme security precautions, Governor Zissu’s ship was attacked by an Imperial warship. The Governor was captured, but the droids, along with Zissu’s son and the droid Forbee-X, managed to escape to the planet Da’nor. The droids made contact with a Rebel cell there, and managed to return to Princess Leia. The Millennium Falcon was also attacked soon after her mission was completed, and Han and Chewbacca were captured on Terminus. After a harrowing experience in the infamous Red Nebula, the pair escaped captivity and returned to Yavin.
Apparently, security on Yavin base had been compromised.
The possibility of Imperial infiltration of Yavin disturbed the higher ranked members of the Rebellion. Luke’s misadventure with Qorl indicated that some Imperials had actually survived the Death Star’s destruction. Who else might be hiding out there, waiting for a chance to strike? As search parties were organized to sweep the area around the base, and sensor markers were set up, Luke, Leia and the droids were ordered to Akuria II to insure against a sudden Imperial counterattack on Yavin, as well as to recruit a local resistance cell to the Alliance proper.
Han and Chewbacca, meanwhile, had decided that their goodbyes could no longer be
delayed. An impatient Hutt is not a being to trifle with. The two loaded up the Falcon with their reward for rescuing Leia from the Death Star and bade farewell to their new friends in the Rebellion….
Back on Coruscant, Darth Vader retired to his castle and had his mechanical arm replaced. With the Emperor in failing health due to the shock of the loss at Yavin, his inner circle informed Vader that his presence wasn’t required at his master’s side – yet. That didn’t bother Vader any, as he waited anxiously for his returned Advanced TIE to be repaired. He was brooding on what had happened at Yavin, and immediately prior. Ben Kenobi had successfully evaded his notice for almost twenty years, on the very world that Vader had least wanted to see again. Follow-up reports from Tatooine indicated that the droids containing the Death Star data had been at the farm of Owen and Beru Lars, now deceased. And that pilot…the pilot who destroyed the Death Star in a million-to-one shot…had been exceptionally strong with the Force.
It was far too much of a coincidence. And if it meant what Vader thought it meant…well, that remained to be seen. After executing Captain Parlan over holo (who had foolishly let Adar Tallon defect to the Alliance from Tatooine mere days after the Falcon’s escape from there) and sending a perfunctory message to the Emperor explaining how the Death Star had been destroyed and revealing the base’s location, Vader finally got his TIE back and rushed off Coruscant in it, without telling anyone where he was going or why. He was totally unaware of what had happened in his absence, unaware of what Palpatine had ordered done to Governor Vellam. Unaware he was flying right into a trap.
Part III: Flight into Fury (March 21-25)
Unfortunately, the Falcon was set upon by space pirates before it even left the Gordian Reach. The pirates, led by Crimson Jack, plundered the Falcon’s holds, leaving the two star hoppers without a decicred to their names. With a heavy heart, Han set a course for Aduba-3, a remote Rim world where the two could hopefully raise funds while hiding out from Jabba’s bounty hunters.
Meanwhile, Luke and Leia’s mission had also not gotten off to a good start. Their Rebel transport flew completely off course thanks to a malfunctioning Artoo Detoo, who had broken down due to faulty repairs made after the Yavin battle. After some complications and Imperial entanglements, Luke, Leia, and the droids arrived at Akuria II, only to be shot down by TIE fighters. A battle with Imperial forces ensued, but in the end Colonel Odan and the natives agreed to join the Alliance. Luke, Leia and the droids returned to Yavin, their mission a success.
Would that things had gone as well for Han Solo and Chewbacca. The former smugglers had gotten into a brawl their first day on Aduba, which was swiftly followed by another fight at the local cantina. Still, luck finally turned its head once more to the downtrodden smugglers. The pair was hired by a village of farmers to defend their crops and women from a group of Cloud-Riders, led by former swoop jockey Serji-X Arrogantus. In turn, Chewbacca and Han hired other down on their luck spacers to aid in the battle, including the spinner Hedji, the former pirate chief Amaiza, the Lepi Jaxxon, as well as native Jimm, his robot Effie, and the demented Hess Korrin, who had taken to calling himself “Don-Wan Kihotay” and claiming to be of the Jedi Order.
Meanwhile, events moved quickly on the fourth moon of Yavin. With Darth Vader still unaccounted for, preparations continued unabated for a full evac. Luke Skywalker was chosen by Dodonna to scout for a new base location. Princess Leia wished to accompany Luke, but the events of the Akuria mission only more firmly convinced General Dodonna that the Princess should remain safely at the base. Leia would help to fill the role that her father once held, as a leader and a symbol. Luke and several other Alliance scouts launched in separate directions from Yavin in small Corellian scout ships, as the search for the next base world began.
While Han and his band of “sprites”, as he came to call them, arrived (with some complications) at the Aduban village, Luke Skywalker contacted Alliance Command, much to the relief of the princess. He believed that he had found a suitable location for the new base, a planet in the Drexel system -- but his message was cut short, and the Rebels were unable to reestablish contact. Leia set out on her own to find out what had happened to the young Jedi-to-be.
On Aduba, it was not Han and his “sprites” who defeated Serji-X, but a mysterious behemoth, created a thousand years before by Sith Seviss Vaa, who was summoned from below by a native shaman. The monster killed Seji-X, but also destroyed the shaman who controlled it by accident, and Han Solo used Kihotay’s lightsaber to kill the creature before it could wreak havoc on the village. The remaining sprites collected the payment that was due them, and Han and Chewbacca departed the planet.
Part IV: Doomworld & The Search for Grubba the Hutt (March 26-30)
The smugglers decided that, rather than running from one rim world to another, they would take their chances rejoining their friends at Yavin. Dropping out or hyperspace just shy of the system, they ran into Crimson Jack once more. Chewbacca and Han were captured, but they planned to lead Jack to Yavin so that the pirate’s stolen Star Destroyer could be taken by the Rebels. Unfortunately, they found Princess Leia had been captured by the pirates during her search for Skywalker. The three managed to trick Jack (via a very convincing first kiss between Han and Leia) into taking them to the Drexel system where they claimed a “Rebel treasure” was, and where Leia still hoped to find Luke.
Meanwhile, on Drexel, Luke’s spacecraft had been brought down into the planet’s vast ocean, and he and the droids were captured by raiders called “Skimmers”, descendants of the notorious Korteen space-wreckers, and led by the vindictive Governor Quarg. The raiders were at war with the Dragon Lords, a faction of the raiders who rode the giant dragons that swam the waters of Drexel.
When Crimson Jack’s ship reached orbit, it was overtaken by the same sonic jammer that had brought down Luke’s craft. With the pirates distracted, Leia, Chewbacca, and Han battled their way to the Falcon, and escaped to Drexel. With the help of the Star Warriors, the Dragon Lords defeated the tyrant Quarg and destroyed the sonic jammer. The two factions then were reunited, and a bright new era began for the city-ship home of the raiders.
With the jammer destroyed, and his ship freed, Crimson Jack was after blood-- Han Solo’s blood in particular. Against amazing odds, the reunited Star Warriors (with the help of Jolli, a member of the pirate band) were able to wreck Jack’s Destroyer. Crimson Jack himself was shot by Han Solo during an EV blaster duel. The ship’s treasure holds were destroyed, but Han Solo managed to retrieve a part of his stolen reward from the remains of the pirate ship. The Rebels then departed.
Next stop for the Heroes of Yavin was nearby Faldos, a dirty backwater planet used by only a few smugglers. The planet’s black market supplied stolen weapons, armor and technology. Han hoped to gamble his share of the treasure into enough to pay off Jabba. He never got near a casino, however – at the Restful Nights Hotel, he, Luke and Leia were cornered by the lobby attendants out to get the two bounties on him!*
But luck, it turned out, would soon be back on Han’s side. As he and his comrades fought their way through the hotel, they came upon a pair of Whiphid thugs carrying a squirming sack. Han snatched it off them as he escaped the hotel. Once back in the Falcon and in space, Han opened the sack and found a baby Hutt named Grubba. He was astonished – and delighted -- to learn that Grubba was actually Jabba’s nephew! If this didn’t get Jabba off his back, nothing would.
But on Tatooine, Prefect Eugene Talmont was preparing a welcome wagon for Solo in the form of three bounty hunters: Dengar, Udin and Eron Stonefield. He knew full well that Solo couldn’t run from the Empire and Jabba both, and knew Han would come here sooner or later to pay Jabba off. He ordered the three bounty hunters to camp outside Jabba’s Palace and await Solo’s arrival. Between the money he would no doubt have, Jabba’s bounty and the Empire’s bounty, all three would become very rich. Talmont, for his part in the scheme, would finally be promoted off this lousy world.
As it happened, Dengar was able to steal Grubba from the Millennium Falcon just before the transfer (and payoff) could take place. Luke was just barely able to mindtrick Bib Fortuna into letting the Falcon go so they could search for Grubba. The Hutt, for his part, doubled the reward for Grubba’s return and increased the bounty on Han. Udin left some clues at Mos Eisely to lead Han to his homeworld of Kubindi – and a deathtrap.
Sure enough, Han picked up the clues and flew toward the Silver Forest of Dreams on Kubindi. By week’s end he and his friends had arrived in an obstacle course of giant insects of varying kinds. Luke Skywalker himself managed to reach Queen Zabin and (in an extremely unusual use of the Force, to say the least) managed to provide a delicious banquet of ghost spyder soufflé. But while the heroes survived Udin’s trap, they didn’t rescue Grubba – the hunters had already taken him offworld. They had broken into the Falcon during the mess and read a coded message sent by Rebel headquarters – after stopping at Yavin to pick up a certain Hammerhead, they were to go to Ithor. The hunters left a message saying they’d see the heroes there…
Palpatine summoned Bevel Lemelisk to the Palace. Lemelisk arrived fully expecting to hear of the destruction of the Rebel base. Instead, a wire cage fell over him, and hundreds of piranha beetles native to Yavin (part of the Emperor’s private collection) swarmed up from trap doors in the floor and literally ate the screaming designer alive…
…and, a few moments later, Bevel Lemelisk awoke, alive and fit, in a brand new clone body. “Now don’t fail me again, Lemelisk. I’d hate to have to think of an even worse execution for next time.” The regenerated Lemelisk set to work on correcting the design flaws that doomed the Death Star and applying those changes to the second.
Part V: Ithorian Invasion & The Stenos Shuffle (March 31-35)
Ackbar, Admiral in the Mon Calamari Navy and Commander in the Rebel Alliance Navy, had assigned the mission of transporting Momaw Nadon to Ithor. Several years before, Nadon had been exiled for selling some of the planet’s well-kept herbological secrets to the Empire (if he had not, the Empire would have swooped down on Ithor and seized those secrets the hard and painful way). He joined the Alliance as a freelance spy, operating out of Tatooine, patiently waiting for a chance to return to his world and avenge himself.
In his absence, the Empire’s efforts to exploit Ithor’s resources continued unabated. While the Hammerheads considered their world’s sentient trees to be sacred, the ISB saw them as a potential source of armor and weapons. When the Ithorian Oracle (a Force-sensitive priest) protested the Empire’s actions, his eyes were forcibly burned out of his skull. Now the Imperials were uprooting trees for analysis, and their most infamous torturer (Sir Vengnar Heiff) was en route to rip the Ithorians’ secrets out of them. The Ithorians, as nonviolent as they were, were teetering on the edge of revolt. But they needed the aid of the Rebel Alliance – and a leader.
Hence the Millennium Falcon shot down toward Ithor with its’ transponder broadcasting the codes of Heiff’s personal shuttle. Once Momaw reached the herdship Tafanda Bay (where Governor Olan Dewes ruled) and set off the revolt, Rebel ships would arrive and shoot the two orbiting Star Destroyers out of the system. Aboard the herdship itself, though, Dengar and his two associates waited…
Having landed inside a shrine, Momaw stepped off the Falcon and rushed into the arms of his beloved wife, Fandomar. His son Do-Forow was also there to meet his dad. Han urged the Ithorian to get on with the mission, but Nadon wouldn’t make a move without first consulting the Oracle; to convince him that non-violent protest wasn’t the answer – violent protest was. “Even the gardener must uproot weeds in his labor.” The Oracle scoffed at the younger Ithorian’s words. “The roots of the Empire can be found in every human heart. They are found in greed and lust and fear. How can you hope to uproot that?” Besides, he added, “not everyone who wears an Imperial uniform is wholly given to evil.” He gave directions to a spot where Momaw and only one other Rebel could go to sneak into the herdship. “The trees do not want a blood bath,” and he suggested Han be the one to go with Momaw if he wanted to save Grubba.
The night, the real Vengnar Heiff arrived at the Tafanda Bay. His presence after his shuttle supposedly crashed in the forests put Dewes and his legions on guard. Dengar, satisfied that Han would soon be coming to him, set a trap. The following morning, Han and Momaw set off through the forests and climbed aboard the herdship via one of thousands of harvesting tentacles. Once up inside the berry processing facilities, they were confronted by Ithorian security officers led by one Boma Inondo. But Momaw’s former Security officer had no love lost for the exile, and the two Rebels were forced to send him flying into a berry vat, off to be cooked into a pie. Shocked and shamed by this action, the two guards confessed that Momaw was right all along about the Empire; Levels 7 through 9 of the herdship, once nurseries, were now prison cells. Heiff had set right to work torturing Ithorian scientists, and even General Dewes was sickened at Heiff’s savagery. Han, remembering the Oracle’s words, mused that “For an Imperial goon, Dewes sounds pretty squeamish.”
There weren’t many Imperials on the Tafanda Bay, as revolt wasn’t really considered a possibility. Thus Han and Momaw were easily able to raise hell in the facility. The mere sight of Nadon was enough to inspire the Ithorians living there, as the Alliance High Command had hoped, and soon Dewes was cornered with Momaw aiming a blaster at his face. The Oracle decided to give Dewes a punishment that fit the crime – he was exiled to the bafforr jungles. Since it turned out Dewes was somewhat Force sensitive as well (and thus able to hear the angry trees), it was hoped that a few days in the jungle would cure him of Imperial brainwashing. Heiff was also captured and handed over to the Ithorians to face their tender mercies. The Rebels, as promised, fought the three Star Destroyers overhead out of the system. Even better, Grubba was found and recovered by Han.
But despite this, Dengar and his fellows were able to escape the herdship. Their utter despair at losing Grubba was soon alleviated when Jabba patched them in to a holocommunication he was having with Han – they were going to meet on Togoria, where Han would give Grubba to Jabba in exchange for the canceling of the bounty and his freedom from the Hutt’s organization. Jabba, with Prefect Talmont whispering in his ear, had other plans. He wanted Dengar to bring his nephew back alive and unharmed. As for Han, “just bring me his head.”
[SW MISSIONS #8 TO GO HERE]
En route back to Yavin, the Falcon had an encounter with an Imperial TIE patrol, then stopped off at Kashyyyk to allow for Chewbacca to visit his family. Luke and Leia met Malla, Lumpy and Itchy for the first time at a ceremony held to honor the Wookiee hero. The festivities were interrupted by orders to sidetrack to the planet Stenos (The Alliance had lost contact with its base there five days before). They there met three old friends of Han – pirate Rik Duel, his Rodian accomplice Chihdo and the sexy Zeltron Dani. The pirates said they were there to recover an ancient statue of the Stenos god Vol. The natives couldn’t enter their temples or use their wings to fly until it was found, so it was believed the statue could be used to lure the Stenaxes into the Rebellion.
Once the statue actually was found, Rik Duel turned the tables on the Rebels by presenting it to Imperial governor Matrin and sending stormtroopers to arrest the heroes. This in turn set off a revolt by the Stenaxes against the Empire, ironically fulfilling the Rebels’ mission for them. The Heroes of Yavin took off again, with Duel screaming curses at them.
Following these events, Han Solo, Chewbacca, and the Millennium Falcon were assigned to find the TIE fighter of Darth Vader, still missing in action since the Battle of Yavin. (Rebel Intelligence wasn’t placed well enough in Coruscant to learn of Vader’s arrival or quick departure.) Luke and the ‘droids were again sent on a reconnaissance mission to find a new base world for the Rebels.
While the heroes of Yavin were occupied in their various quests, the Empire continued its war with the Rebel Alliance. The ISB came up with a scheme to both undermine the social order of worlds leaning toward rebellion, and to secretly transmit locations of hidden Rebel bases. By genetic manipulation of the deadly Bledsoe’s virus, the discoloring of the eyes associated with the disease became a “window effect”—the eyes of the afflicted became star maps. The virus became an undetectable courier of star charts, and revealed Rebel bases for the Imperial fleet to destroy. The plague would be planted by transport capsules containing Squills—disease carrying pests. The Ogemite traders, new allies of the Rebellion, were the first to notice the connection between the outbreaks of Bledsoe’s and the attacks on the Rebel bases, and they began to investigate.
* -- The Empire had by now figured out that the ship that fled Tatooine, was captured by the Death Star, and that helped destroy that station were all the same ship, and that it was owned by Han Solo. An extremely high dead-or-alive bounty was on his head in addition to the bounty from Jabba.
The Emperor left Coruscant for Korriban, ancient homeworld of the Sith, to demand the spirits there to restore his ailing clone body (the second he had taken). His demands only enraged the spirits, and Palpatine was rushed offworld in worse shape than ever. Emergency plans were immediately implemented to have Palpatine’s third clone transference take place on Byss – but the Dark Side Adepts there sadly reported that none of the clone bodies had reached full maturity yet. Vader, meanwhile, had vanished en route to Yavin…
And somewhere in the Gordian Reach, an Imperial corvette commanded by Captain Sodarra discovered the missing TIE of Darth Vader. The ship had been smashed by unknown forces; Vader had placed himself in a Force-induced coma to save life-support. Unable to wake the comatose Sith, the craft headed for the nearest Imperial base…
Part VI: A Tatooine Sojourn and a Scoundrel’s Luck (April 1-5)
After a long month of searching, General Dodonna called off the hunt for Vader. With Luke still looking for a new base, Han convinced Leia to join him in a gambling vacation on Ord Mantell, known for its casinos and banks, and as a popular port-of-call for Solo. Han had hoped to build the remainder of his reward into enough money to pay Jabba off. Instead, he lost most of it in the casinos. As if this weren’t enough, Princess Leia was soon kidnapped by a bounty hunter named Alfreda Goot. Goot wanted to race against Han (a three time winner of the Ord Mantell Blockade Runners Derby) to Tatooine, and be proven the fastest in the galaxy. If he refused, the princess would be killed. Han and Chewbacca had no choice but to head for Mos Eisley.
Meanwhile, Luke was contacted by Rebel headquarters, and ordered to abandon his reconnaissance mission. Observers on Tatooine had reported the landing of an unscheduled transport capsule, and a concerned Alliance commanded Luke to investigate. At first Luke protested—the last place he ever wanted to go was back to Tatooine. His sense of duty overcame his bad memories of the planet, however, and so he set course for the sandy world. Had Skywalker any idea how many times he would be forced to return to the world over the next few years, he might not have gone at all.
At the same time, Governor-General Vellam had discovered that the comatose body of Darth Vader was on board Captain Sodarra’s ship.
It had been a week since Vellam had first attacked Vader. When Vader’s TIE Advanced flew into the Gordian Reach without escort, right up to Vellam’s capitol, the disgraced Imperial could hardly believe his luck. The paranoid Vellam was one of many who were jealous of Vader’s close relationship with the Emperor, and he now suspected the Emperor was handing all of his holdings to his favorite toady. He attacked the TIE and severely damaged it, yet Vader had managed to make one hyperspace jump before he could be finished off. Vellam now took personal command of his flagship, the Eradicator, and began to hunt down Sodarra so he could kill Vader personally.
When Luke exited hyperspace in the Tatooine system, he was greeted by a curious message, one that led him back to the Mos Eisley Cantina. The young pilot was amazed to see how much Mos Eisley had changed in only a month. After the Death Star incident, the Empire established a permanent base. During the blockade following the Tantive IV’s capture, the Imperials found and wiped out a Rebel recruitment outpost, only to have one of the three Star Destroyers orbiting crippled by a Rebel counterattack. As a result, the Imperials now considered Tatooine to be a veritable hotbed of rebellion.
At the cantina, Luke was informed of the Imperial Bledsoe’s plot by a Ogemite named Anduvil. No sooner had Luke been informed of the plague than a Jawa showed up in the Cantina—with Bledsoe’s! Luke, Anduvil and the ‘droids departed Mos Eisley for a more remote location—Ben Kenobi’s hut in the Jundland Wastes.
Meanwhile, Governor-General Vellam finally tracked down Sodarra’s ship in the Mon Torri system. The Falcon was in the area as well, having taken a shortcut through Mon Torri to Tatooine. When Han Solo spotted Sodarra’s vessel under heavy fire from the Eradicator, the Corellian moved in to help, figuring that any enemy of the Empire was a friend of his. Sodarra and his crew evacuated onto the Falcon, taking along with them a mysterious crate. Vellam forced the Falcon to crash land on the icy world of Mon Torri, and the ship was damaged. All was not lost, however. Surprisingly, Goot provided replacement parts for the Falcon—she wanted to beat the ship, not destroy it—and so the Falcon soon departed the system, with the Eradicator in close pursuit.
Luke and Anduvil had escaped an attack by Tusken raiders, only to be captured by stormtroopers, and brought to the base for questioning after Luke became infected with Bledsoes. One Dr. Kaaldar later prepared the cure for Luke at gunpoint, after which Luke and Anduvil, assisted by the droids, stormed the base and destroyed it. They and the droids returned to the Alliance.
On the Falcon, Sodarra demanded that Solo and Chewbacca transport his crew and the crate—which he claimed was a prototype cloaking device but actually held Darth Vader—to the planet Shador. Instead, Han decided to try out this “cloaking device” on the Falcon. Finding instead the Sith Lord, Solo agreed to take the crew to Shador (while Chewbacca planted a bomb on the crate!)
Unfortunately, the group was double crossed on Shador. Han was ready to blow Vader into the next galaxy—until Sodarra revealed that Alfreda Goot, Leia’s kidnapper, was an agent of Vader’s. If Vader died, so would Leia. Han met Goot in the Dockside Café at Mos Eisley, and Leia was exchanged for the crate containing Vader. Han swore never to tell the Princess what he had to do to save her.
In the long term, Han may have made the right choice. In the short term, however, his decision would have disastrous repercussions for the galaxy—and the Rebellion. Darth Vader had returned.
Part VII: Rogues and Thieves (April 6-10)
While Han and the Falcon were racing Goot across the galaxy, Rogue Squadron continued to take shape. Under the capable leadership of Commander Narra, the group now included Wes Janson and a Lieutenant Sarkli. Skywalker, fully recovered from his bout with Bledsoe’s, finally accepted a commission in the Alliance when he joined the Squadron.
The Millennium Falcon soon returned to Yavin base. Han Solo, still guilty over having let Vader live, returned what remained of his reward to the Alliance. Luke Skywalker labored tirelessly over his X-Wing, repairing battle damage. Luke was disappointed at not having been able to locate a new base for the Rebels—after all, was it really safe for the Alliance to remain on Yavin? Leia Organa and the Alliance leaders reasoned that, as there were no more confirmed survivors of the Death Star, their base should be safe for the time being.* Han Solo disagreed. Although neither he nor Chewbacca would admit it to the Alliance, they knew that the lead pilot in the prototype TIE fighter—namely, Darth Vader—still lived. Nevertheless, the Rebels turned their attention to rebuilding the base’s fleet, still not recovered from the great battle. The remainder of Han Solo’s reward could have purchased several X-Wings, but the Alliance was forced to spend it on food, medical supplies, and parts for older ships. It wasn’t surprising that when Han Solo heard the ancient droid Q-7N had once guarded a pirate’s treasure on Yavin, he decided to take Chewbacca and the Falcon (newly repaired after its adventures on Mon Torri and Shador) on a treasure hunt. What was surprising was that he opted not to tell the Rebels of his trip.
Meanwhile, Darth Vader spent time recuperating from the Battle of Yavin and Vellam’s attacks. The Lord of the Sith opted not to return to Coruscant this time; he was hellbent on finding the Force-sensitive T-65 pilot that had destroyed the Death Star…
On Yavin, Luke, Leia and the ‘droids deduced the Falcon’s destination, and set out for the pirate fortress in a landspeeder. At the fortress, Chewbacca and Han had discovered the treasure, and after dealing with a three-armed guardian ‘droid, loaded it into the Falcon. By the time Luke and Leia arrived, the Falcon had taken off for parts unknown.
The Falcon made its way to the ringed world of Dennogra. Han intended to see Sprool, an Ithorian trader who resided in the spaceport city of Zio Snaffkin. After blasting one of Jabba’s bounty hunters in a cantina, he sold most of the treasure to Sprool—except for one crate. He asked Sprool to take that crate to Jabba, to pay him back for the lost spice. Sprool agreed, and Han and Chewbacca returned to Yavin. At first Leia, still unsure of Han’s loyalties and unaware of the sacrifice he made for her on Tatooine, ordered that both smugglers be placed under arrest. Then Han revealed that the money gained from selling the treasure to Sprool would go to finance the new Rebel fleet. Leia was stunned—she wasn’t sure what to think! Luke was bitter -- he felt that Han left him out so as to impress the Princess.
On Tatooine, Jabba the Hutt accepted the crate meant for him from Sprool, but he refused to call off the bounty on Han Solo. The Hutt did suspend the bounty temporarily when the ‘droid Wuntoo Forcee Forwun attacked the palace, thinking that the droid had meant to assassinate him. Actually, Wuntoo had really been after the evil EV-9D9, but had failed to destroy her. The paranoid torture ‘droid, on the other hand, rightly assumed that the attack had been meant for her, and headed for Bespin, while Jabba assigned all his bounty hunters the task of bringing in Forwun.
* -- At the same time, Rebel attacks in the Core Worlds (particularly those of the defecting Frigate Far Orbit) was keeping the Empire very busy and distracting them from any thoughts of an all-out assault in the Outer Rim. Part VIII: The Imperial Spy(April 11-15)
The Millennium Falcon and Rogue Squadron were then sent on a mission to investigate a lost shipment of materials from the planet Vactooine. The mission was a success, as it brought into the Rebel fold not only a Victory-class Star Destroyer, but legitimate business Hutt Boonda as well. However, Rogue Squadron took heavy damage during the mission. There was no doubt that the Alliance needed new ships, and so Han, Leia, Luke and Artoo traveled in the Falcon to the top secret Incom factory with the money gained from selling the Yavin treasure. After an Imperial attack and a meeting with Incom head Vors Voorhorian, several X-Wings were purchased, and the Rebels were ready to face the Empire once again.
Meanwhile, Darth Vader had recovered and had retaken command of his flagship, the Devastator, commanded by Captain Wermis. Vader had also been contacted by an Imperial spy in Yavin base…
As the Falcon returned to Yavin with the new X-Wings, the spy broke into the base’s files and navicharts, and recommended a surprise strike force to Darth Vader. At the same time, a transport from Alderaan arrived, with Leia’s childhood friend Darlen. The Rebels stepped up their efforts to ferret out the spy in their midst, and he was eventually revealed: Lieutenant Rogor. The Rebel fleet quickly abandoned Yavin as Darth Vader’s strike force arrived, leaving Rogor and much of their equipment behind. Luke again showed off his piloting prowess as he prevented troop transports from landing, helped the Rebel Gallofree transport Luminous take off unharmed and (with the aid of Wedge and Sarkli) helped General Dodonna escape the base.
Darth Vader was so furious with Rogor for having allowed the Rebels to escape that he executed the spy moments after landing on Yavin, in spite of the fact that spies in the Rebellion were expensive and hard to come by, and of the help Rogor could have been in the Sith Lord’s search for the T-65 pilot who destroyed the Death Star. Vader and the Imperial fleet soon departed the Yavin system to continue that search. The Dark Lord was careful to leave the site of the base intact – his instincts told him the Rebels might yet return.
Part IX: Rebel Strike (April 16-20) The Rebels of Yavin traveled into the Outer Rim and joined with the main Alliance fleet. For Luke Skywalker, it would be an eyeopening experience as he saw for the first time the true numbers and might of the Alliance. He and Han Solo would also meet Mon Mothma for the first time. General Dodonna found himself handing out promotions to another arriving group of Rebels, a group that had just rescued starship designer Walex Blissex from a trap set by his daughter, Lira. Dodonna and Blissex worked on refining and improving the A-Wing, the starfighter they had cobbled together a few years ago from the old R-22 Spearheads.
The Alliance, meanwhile, found itself stymied. It still needed a ground command center to coordinate Rebel activities across the galaxy without drawing the Empire to the fleet itself. Yet the scout missions had come to nothing – no good target planet had presented itself.
The answer came after only a couple of days, in the form of a desperate distress call from an Imperial officer looking to defect to the Alliance. Tycho Celchu, an Alderaanian burning with grief for his lost homeworld, also promised information on a type of planetary shield the Imperials were trying to seize. Celchu was calling from Dantooine, site of a former Rebel base and relatively near the fleet’s position. Rogue Squadron was immediately sent out to pick up the would-be defector.
By the time they got there, the Imperials had discovered Tycho’s attempt and captured him. Leaving a grumbling Sarkli behind at the rendezvous point, Luke rode a speeder bike through a treacherous canyon river to where the Imperials were hauling Celchu aboard their landing craft. These were a type of Imperials Luke had never seen before, in black armor. Blowing up the APC carrying Tycho and the troopers escorting it, Luke and his new ally rode on bikes over an elevated causeway that ran the length of the river, back to the rendezvous point. Along the way, Tycho explained that what Luke had encountered were the brand-new Imperial Storm Commandos – an answer to the hit-and-fade tactics the Rebels were able to stump the Imperial Army with. Trained on Carida by Colonel Crix Madine, these elite units were intended to rescue captured Imperials from the Alliance, infiltrate Rebel bases, and break sieges on Rebel-held worlds.
Back in space, Tycho told the Rogues they would have to go even further into the Empire’s interior – to the impounded world of Ralltiir, where the Empire had been “purifying” the populace since a few weeks before the Death Star’s destruction. With the death of Lord Tion at Princess Leia’s hands a month ago, Governor Jander Graff had been replacing the government with one totally loyal to the Empire. There, a group of scientists had been working on a new kind of planetary shield, one that could stand up to orbital bombardment within a limited space (say, limited enough to contain a base). The Empire had been pushing the scientists to hand over their work, and now push had come to shove.
Fighting their way past the orbital blockade, the Rogues deployed T-47 airspeeders into the besieged city the scientists had holed up in (using their own invention to block attack from above). Yet the shields couldn’t keep out slow moving ground forces, and so AT-ATs and APCs had stomped in. The scientists, once they realized what was happening, provided Luke with bombs to blow off the heads of the walkers.
Once Luke landed and commandeered an AT-ST, Lieutenant Sarkli announced he was defecting back to the Empire and took off. He had been an inside agent all along, a spy. (and Captain Firmus Piett’s nephew, no less.) With little time to mull this sudden defection*, Luke led the scientists into a Corellian Corvette and flew them through the blockade.
The Rebel High Command was ecstatic with the Rogues’ success – the defection of Sarkli notwithstanding. Tycho, a skilled pilot in his own right, took Sarkli’s place in Rogue Squadron. With the new shield technology in hand as well, the Alliance decided to take a calculated risk. Between the shield and the Rogues, any base would be well defended. Without an obvious location for the Rebels to relocate to,
why not go back to Yavin? The Imperials certainly wouldn’t be expecting it. And so the Falcon and many Rebel ships (with more starfighters and pilots, though still not up to the base’s former fighter ranks) were recalled to Yavin. Precautions were taken to ensure the Storm Commandos wouldn’t infiltrate the base, nor any other Imperial spies like Rogor and Sarkli. Rogue Squadron was assigned to stop at Kwenn Space Station (at the edge of the Mid-Rim) while en route to check the star charts there for possible hyperspace escape routes from Yavin – the fleet wouldn’t be there for them a second time.
As the Millennium Falconmade its way back to Yavin, the ailing Emperor considered his next course of action against the Rebels as he floated in a bacta tank. Pursuing the Rebels fleeing from Yavin wasn’t a top priority for him – he wasn’t yet aware of Luke Skywalker, and ISB reported Mon Mothma was nowhere near the base. Now that Vellam was finished off, the other Moffs were frantically trying to hunt down the Rebel base themselves in other sectors (if only to avoid being targeted next by the Emperor). ISB and the Ubiqorate helped in this regard by leaking leads to possible Rebel locations. As long as the Death Star could remain secret, and deniability could be maintained, it would be business as usual for the Empire. And until a new clone body was ready for him, that was exactly how Palpatine needed things to be. Revenge against the Rebels could wait.
Where was Vader, anyway? He’d been on Coruscant only a few hours in the month since the Death Star fiasco, and had only given that brief written report** as well as the occasional holo report on various other events. Probably trying to evade punishment for as long as possible. So be it – he’d let Vader sweat a little longer. ***
In the meantime, the first of the upgraded Imperial-II Star Destroyers, appropriately named the Empire, was rumbling out of the shipyards under the command of Admiral Kiez. Even better, the blueprints were nearly finalized for the next member of the Star Destroyer family – the Executor-class Super Star Destroyer. Palpatine decided that, as a failsafe, construction would commence on two of the new supervessels simultaneously – one at Kuat Drive Yards, the other at Fondor Shipyards. Whichever was completed first would receive the class name and be used as Lord Vader’s personal flagship. Whichever ship launched first, its’ maiden voyage would be more political than military. The routing of the Rebels at Yavin, while not as crippling a blow to the Alliance as it might have been at the hands of the Death Star, would reassure all in the military (and make it clear to the public) that the Empire would eventually, inevitably, triumph against the Rebellion.
Meanwhile, to help cover up the Rebel presence in the Yavin sector (as well as the details of the Death Star’s destruction) until the Executor was ready, the Gordian Reach had to be blockaded. The Emperor decided to have the House of Tagge perform this task instead of Vader, as part of his punishment. As one of their own had died on the Death Star, and Baron Orman Tagge had no love lost for Vader (or vice versa), it seemed fitting to let them have a shot at retribution…
* - Sarkli made no mention of Skywalker to his ISB superiors. He secretly hoped he would have a chance to kill Skywalker himself, and thus gain the glory of wiping out the “Death Starkiller.”
** -- Vader’s report on the Battle of Yavin made no mention of the Force-sensitive pilot. He placed the blame for the fiasco squarely on Grand Moff Tarkin and his toady, Admiral Motti. Vader’s scheme to find the main Rebel base and eliminate it had been sound, but Tarkin and Motti were overconfident in their machine’s invulnerability – they only sent out a small fraction of the Death Star’s TIE fighters to answer the Rebel assault. Vader and his handpicked wingmen would have turned the tide, had it not been for that Corellian freighter showing up out of nowhere.
*** -- Palpatine had no serious intention of punishing Vader – at least not yet. He sensed there was something about Yavin that Vader wasn’t telling him… but he wasn’t lying either. What he had put in the report felt completely truthful in the Force, and that report, as mentioned, blamed Tarkin for the Death Star’s destruction. Still, to keep up appearances, Palpatine made it appear in the court as though Vader’s life hung on a frayed thread. His damaged mechanical arm, removed and replaced after the events on Vaal, hung on public display in the palace for all (including Mara Jade) to see.
Part X: The Hunter / Darth Vader’s Return(April 21-25)
On April 22’nd, the next part of the Death Star coverup aired on New Order Progressive magazine. It was an obituary for Grand Moff Willhuff Tarkin, Admiral Motti and General Tagge. The magazine stated that Tarkin and his men had died in a fiery shuttle crash just short of the Tallaan Imperial Shipyards. The crash was stated as an accident due to a defective computer module.
Meanwhile, Valance arrived in the outworld Telos system. Telos herself was once a beautiful world, but over exploitation of its resources by the Offworld corporation had long ago rendered it uninhabitable. Valance’s target was the fourth planet, which held an isolated medical station, which had remained neutral throughout the Galactic Civil war. The bounty hunter had come to destroy his own past, but two of his mercenaries overheard the delirious cries of Don-Wan Kihotay, who had become a patient on Telos-4 since his adventures on Aduba. The mercenaries heard babbling of Han Solo, Jaxxon, Amaiza, and a boy… A boy and a droid… The two rightly thought they were onto something big, and, after destroying the medical center, the band of bounty hunters took off in search of Han Solo’s companions.
Valance had mistaken the late Kihotay’s references to Jimm with information gleaned from a spy tape intercepted and copied weeks before (from Lord Vader’s preliminary report) detailing the rescue of Leia Organa from the Death Star by Han Solo and an unknown boy with two droids.* Valance was a cyborg and a droid-hater, a contradictory combination at best, and he felt revulsion at the possibility that any human would willingly ally himself with mechanicals. Bounty or no bounty, he was determined to find this boy and his droids.
Accidental slips by Amaiza in a backwater spaceport lead the hunters to Aduba, but Jimm, Jaxxon, and Amaiza succeeded in defending their village from Valance’s army of mercenaries. Jimm was at this time a newlywed, settling down and giving up thoughts of adventure. (Merri had discovered she was pregnant by “The Starkiller Kid” a few days before, forcing a blaster-rifle wedding on the duo.) A final confrontation with Valance himself revealed that Jimm was not the boy from the tape. The hunter’s obsession had led him to nothing. Enraged, Valance departed Aduba to continue his hunt alone.
After several weeks of drifting through space, the escape pod bearing Admiral Termo and Officer Tix was finally nearing a small red planet. The pod had been well stocked for six passengers and a long trip, but it was down to only two days of life support—Termo was considering killing Tix in order to conserve resources. The escape pod landed safely on the red world near an alien-looking relay tower.
Back on Coruscant, Darth Vader finally found the courage to face Emperor Palpatine. He reported that the Rebels were still on Yavin (a probot had picked that up, so the brief evacuation went unmentioned), and asked for permission to attack them. Palpatine refused to make martyrs of the Rebels and risk creating sympathy in neutral worlds. “We will wait for the right moment to strike back, and then we will crush them!” Besides, he added slyly, Grand Moff Tarkin may yet destroy Yavin – from the grave. After he emerged from the bacta tank, Palpatine and Vader were informed that Termo had sent a signal from the Unknown Regions – specifically, the planet Malagarr. Palpatine, deciding Termo had abandoned his ship, ordered Vader to head to the planet at once, retrieve Tarkin’s third holotape, and “convey my gratitude to Admiral Termo.” Vader left at once in the Carrack Cruiser, along with two TIE fighters, two TIE bombers, Captain Mordak and a Royal Guardsman.
After a brief hyperdrive malfunction, the Cruiser flew to the Unknown Regions – and straight into an asteroid belt. Vader seized the controls and flew the cruiser through the belt to Malagarr -- where a monstrous asteroid-shaped droid rose into orbit to meet him. As it attacked the cruiser, Vader and his men switched to their TIEs and started to veer away just as a tractor beam hit the Carrack. Vader was the only one to get free, and he flew down to the surface alone. He found only a small hovering droid by the escape pod which he quickly dispatched when it began shooting at him. After inspecting the pod, Vader donned an AJP-400 jetpack and flew to the nearby communications tower. The tracks there indicated Termo and Tix had been taken, and soon more ancient-looking droids wielding vibro-axes appeared to challenge the Dark Lord. After defeating them, Vader discovered a trapdoor to a long corridor defended by a surprisingly effective security system of laser-armed ceiling-mounted glow rods. Using the Force to shield himself, Vader sprinted through the corridor and fought another old battle droid. He then found himself in a computer chamber. Finding the computer controlled the droid ship, Vader deactivated the tractor beam and moved on. Inside a supply room, he finally found and freed Termo and Tix. Fighting through more battle droids, the trio made it to the surface as the Carrack cruiser landed beside them.
The Sith Lord ordered three TIEs to remain behind and destroy the tower and underground chambers. He then snatched the third holotape out of Termo’s hands even as he was telekinetically choking the admiral to death. Back in the underground caverns, the surviving droids decided to send a signal to their “long-lost friend”…Q-7N!! When the vintage droid received the message, the Heroes of Yavin agreed to ferry it to what it believed to be its’ long-lost homeworld…
Part XI: Rogue Squadron to the Rescue! (April 26-30) Returning to Coruscant, Lord Vader presented Tarkin’s third holotape to the Emperor. On the tape, Tarkin offered no apologies for his failure to deal with the Rebels (likely because he never thought this tape would actually be viewed). But he did offer his final plan for intergalactic conquest. After listening to this tape, Palpatine ordered Vader to deliver the blueprints and construction orders for the Executor to Fondor at once. (Duplicate orders had already been sent to Kuat by one of the Emperor’s Hands.) Before he left Coruscant, though, Vader was directed to assign Captain Mordak (who he promoted to General) to travel the length of the Hydrian Way to Bonadan (in the Corporate Sector) on a covert mission…
At Space Station Kwenn, the Rogues’ research efforts had come to nothing. The Empire had changed all of the major and minor hyperspace routes and put Interdictor cruisers at strategic spots on them – escape for the Rebel fleet would be near impossible along them. The failed mission was soon forgotten, though, when Imperials seized a freighter at the station (the Stellar Manx, a Corellian Action-VI vessel) with no explanation. Alarmed at this, Wedge Antilles sent a message droid to the Falcon’s crew at Malagarr to join him at Kwenn. In the meantime he, Tycho and Wes investigated further.
After a prolonged firefight through the station and in the freighter itself, the Rogues managed to free Captain Kar Lamoran and her eight-man crew as well as free the Manx from Imperial hands. The Falcon arrived soon after, the mission to Malagarr a bust (or so it seemed at the time). Learning the ship was meant to travel to Bonadan on a covert plot, the Falcon’s crew (plus Kar) decided to disguise themselves as the freighter crew and head to Bonadan themselves in the Manx (with the Millennium Falcon hidden inside its’ cargo bay) to unravel the Imperials’ plot. When they got there, they discovered one of the Death Star’s many designers (Frap Radicon) was involved in a plot to develop a new type of gravity well projector. They briefly managed to get Frap arrested by the local Espos, but Darth Vader (when contacted by Mordak) hired Boba Fett to spring him out immediately thereafter. (The bounty hunter was in the area after doing a job for Jabba the Hutt.) Frap took the Manx, loaded by Mordak’s men with the parts of the gravity well projector, and raced offplanet for Malagarr to test it out.* The Heroes of Yavin hotwired a Marauder Corvette and shot into hyperspace right behind it.
Mordak, Tix and Radicon arrived on Malagarr a few days later. Only then were the two officers informed of the nature of the experiment – one that, if it failed, would likely kill them all and destroy the planet they were standing on. Mordak and Tix had already seen enough for them to doubt the Emperor’s sanity, but this gravity-well business convinced them they’d be better off with the Rebellion. As a transport shuttle containing security forces landed along the Manx, Mordak and Tix snuck aboard to flee the area – and found Chewie, Artoo and Q-7N inside the Falcon. After frantically explaining what was about to happen, the officers flew the Manx up into orbit as the Espo Corvette arrived. Mordak and Tix volunteered to fly two IRD-A fighters from the Corvette down to the gravity well projector and disable it, thus proving themselves to the Alliance. As they left, Q-7N snuck into Mordak’s fighter for reasons of its’ own.
Caught in a fierce storm, Tix crashed and was injured, leaving Mordak and Q-7N to take out the projector. They did, but then the ancient droid led Mordak down into the subterranean tunnels of the planet and to a huge computer. It had regained its’ memories of this place earlier, remembered how the people who once lived here had foolishly tried to harness the planet’s core for energy. Deciding the planet was too dangerous for organics, Q-7N set the entire planet to self-destruct and decided to remain behind and die with what was left of its’ civilization. Mordak, Tix and the Falcon crew barely escaped the planet’s fiery destruction. Mordak and Tix (in the Corvette) joined Captain Lamoran in the Manx as they headed back to Kwenn to pick up the Manx’s crew. From there, Mordak and Tix would take the Corvette back into the Corporate Sector to try to pick up more Rebel recruits. The crew of the Millennium Falcon, grieving over the death of Q-7N, headed back toward Yavin.
On Coruscant, Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader (newly returned from Fondor) felt Malagarr’s destruction in the Force and knew that Tarkin’s plan had failed. Palpatine decided not to waste any more time and effort on Tarkin’s grandiose schemes and instead vowed to move forward with the building of a second Death Star. In lieu of the personal report promised to the Emperor, Vader wrote out a standard datafile on the Battle of Yavin and departed in the Devastator; he had taken up the quest for the Force-sensitive Rebel once more. Captain Bzorn was charged by the Dark Lord with the task of persecuting Rebel worlds. Vader now knew the boy’s face, thanks to scattered video recordings of him on his earlier adventures. Now all he needed was the name…
* -- The initial prototype gravity well generator had been lost with the Death Star – or so the Imperials thought. The chunk of Death Star debris that carried the projector – intact – was recovered by Ugor scavengers who used the device to hold together their junkyard of a star system. The priest-scientists who found the device and got it working branded it the “Holy of Holies.” Part XII: The Wheel (April 31-35)
Still stinging over the loss of Q-7N, and ever wary of Imperial patrols, Han decided to take the long route to Yavin via the Perlemian Trade Route. The journey took several days, giving the heroes the first breather they’d had in a month and a half. Luke Skywalker took this time to reflect and train. During his watch at the Falcon’s controls, he thought back to his youth on Tatooine, the memories of which grew less painful as time went by. He also spent time training with his lightsaber and remote, as Ben Kenobi had taught him, but Luke couldn’t clear his mind. He decided to try a meditation technique Kenobi had mentioned. Letting his mind drift free, Luke touched Darth Vader’s mind for an instant. The Sith Lord’s mind was so strong as to force Luke into a fear-induced coma. The Falcon dropped out of hyperspace to find advanced medical help for the young Jedi-in-training. Unfortunately, due to a drift in the Falcon’s auto-navigator, the Rebels found themselves in the right quadrant, but the wrong sector—and in the middle of an Imperial Military Containment Zone.
There, the crew of the Falcon discovered a scuttled House of Tagge merchant ship, and an EV pilot wearing Rebel armor. Before the Rebel died, he revealed that the Empire had attacked the Tagge ship, and planted evidence to implicate the Rebel Alliance in the deed. Before the Falcon could flee the scene, they were set upon by an Imperial battle cruiser under the command of Commander Strom and a squadron of TIE advanced fighters. Fortunately, the Rebels managed to escape to the Wheel, a huge casino space station in the Besh Gorgon system. The taxes on the Wheel’s earnings provided much of the Empire’s military funding. Since the galaxy’s gamblers saw the Wheel as a retreat from the laws of the Empire, that funding depended on non-interference from the Empire.
In spite of this, the Wheel’s administrator (former Senator Simon Grayshade) allowed Strom’s forces to board the Wheel in pursuit of the Rebels—if his stormtroopers could capture them on the lower levels. Grayshade intervened in their mission, however, when he discovered that Leia Organa was among the Rebels. The former Senator of the Vorzyd Sector was infatuated with Organa. The Princess was taken to the Senator’s suite, while Luke, still comatose, was allowed to be treated in the Wheel’s hospital. Grayshade struck a deal with Strom: if Leia was allowed to remain on the Wheel, her traveling companions would either be killed or delivered into Imperial hands.
Han Solo and Chewbacca, meanwhile, were scheduled to fight each other to the death in the Wheel’s gladiatorial pits. They circumvented this obstacle by faking Han’s death in the pits.
In the hospital, Luke broke free from his coma with the help of Ben Kenobi, and he was able to confirm to Princess Leia something that they had only been able to suspect before—Darth Vader had survived the Death Star, and was now searching for them!
Vader himself was in the Mid-Rim, on a planet called Ultaar. His search for the Death Star’s destroyer had led to a dead end— the Rebel information team Vader had hoped to interrogate had been wiped out by the cyborg bounty hunter Valance. In spite of this, Vader already had a new lead. The presence Vader had sensed (while en route to Ultaar) was headed toward the Besh Gorgon sector, and Vader decided the Wheel was the logical choice to start his search.* The Devastator soon departed for the pleasure satellite…
Following Han Solo’s apparent death, a distraught Leia Organa agreed to leave the Wheel with Senator Grayshade if Luke and the rest were allowed to depart safely. Grayshade, however, was impressed by Luke’s heroics—the young Jedi was prepared to sacrifice himself to allow Leia and Simon to escape. In the end, it was Grayshade that stayed behind on the Wheel, while Luke, Leia, and the ‘droids escaped in the former Senator’s space yacht, only to run right into the Devastator. Darth Vader intended to capture the ship, and its passengers.
Han and Chewbacca succeeded in liberating the Falcon from the Wheel’s security squads, who had been taking apart the vessel in search of the profits the Rebels had supposedly plundered from the Tagge ship. They strafed the Devastator, and succeeded in distracting Vader from the yacht. Unfortunately, Vader recognized the Falcon as the smuggling ship that had ended his defense of the Death Star. Vader was now determined to destroy the ship at all costs. Darth Vader’s crew achieved a targeting lock on the Falcon, and awaited the Sith Lord’s command to fire—but none came. Luke’s anger and frustration at being unable to save a friend thought dead from destruction flooded back through mental channels opened by Vader himself. This caused a brief but intense moment of pain in Darth Vader’s mind. This distraction was enough to allow both ships to escape Vader’s wrath—for now.
* -- Normally the ignorance of Fleet officers regarding Force-related matters was a hindrance to the Sith Lord, but now Vader was able to turn it to his advantage. He informed his officers that the mere existence of a Force-sensitive being other than himself was a major threat to the Empire. The crew of the Devastator, unaware of the Emperor’s ways with the Force and the legions of darksiders serving him, swallowed this fiction.