Return of the Aurors
Chapter 10: Decision
By Anne B. Walsh
Yes, it's been more than a year. Sorry. Hope to finish soon.
The Millennium Hawk settled to the ground of Hogwor beside the crater formerly known as the bunker housing the deflector shield mechanism. Luna slapped the control for the ramp as familiar figures came running out of the woods nearby. As usual, Ron was in the lead, Neenie and Hairy covering to either side, though the small red furry creature clinging to Hairy’s shoulder was new. Threelo and Emtoo followed them closely.
Grien chittered at Luna from the copilot’s chair. "Yes, I do think Ron will want to fly it," Luna replied absently, her mind urging her friends to hurry. Drake was alone on the Death Star, trapped with the Emperor and his father, both of whom wished him nothing but ill...
"Close it up, Luna!" Ron’s voice echoed from the passage. "Let’s fly this thing!"
Luna shoved the ramp switch to "close" and hopped out of the pilot’s seat as Ron barrelled into the cockpit. "Didn’t dent her too badly, I see," he grumbled, dropping into the chair as if it had grown around him. "I guess I’ll let you off this time. Hairy! Get in here, we’ve got a crazy Auror to save!"
Hairy roared firm agreement from the doorway and took the chair Grien vacated for him. Emtoo-Betoo rolled forward, beeping in excitement, and Grien hurried over to her, chattering away at great speed. Luna followed them partway down the corridor, but turned off short of the lounge where they were headed, stopping at the ladders which led to the Hawk’s two main guns. The only question was, which was already occupied...
"Dorsal gun ready?" shouted Ron from the cockpit.
"Ready!" Neenie’s voice bounced back from above.
"Ventral gun ready?"
"Hold on," Luna called back, and clambered quickly down the ladder, strapping herself into the seat at the bottom and taking hold of the gun’s steering handles. "Ventral gun ready, General Solo!"
"Don’t call me that," Ron grumbled. "Here we goâ€”everybody hold on!"
The Millennium Hawk leapt up from the ground and shot skyward, towards the battle in space for the life of the Rebellion, towards the Death Star where Drake waited.
"As you can see, my young apprentice," murmured the Emperor, waving a hand towards the window where the Rebel fleet fought desperately against the far greater numbers of Imperial ships, "your friends have failed. Now..." He turned away, as did Malius. "Witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational battle station!"
Drake reached out with his mind. Neenie was occupiedâ€”manning one of the guns on the Hawk, he realized with a rush of hopeâ€”maybe they would still arrive in timeâ€”
Drake? Luna’s voice broke into his thoughts. What is it?
Drake threw his ears open to her as the Emperor leaned over a com panel. "You may fire when ready, Commander."
No worries. Luna’s warm smile caressed him. I’ll take care of it.
Through her ears, Drake heard the click of a com switch, then her crisp and clear battle voice. "Home One, this is Gold Leader. The Death Star is preparing to fire. I repeat, the Death Star is operational!"
"All craft prepare to retreat!" Admiral Lupar ordered.
"We won’t get another chance at this, Admiral," Luna disagreed.
"We have no choice, General Calrissian. Our cruisers won’t be able to repel firepower of that magnitude."
"Well, you won’t need to repel it for long," Ron’s voice broke in. "Check your sensors."
"General Solo!" Lupar’s voice exuded satisfaction. "Well done, you and your team! All units, the shield is down. Commence attack on the Death Star’s main reactor!"
"We’re on our way," Ron and Luna chorused, and Neenie laughed, the sound lifting Drake’s heart even as he broke the connection.
Not much longer. They’re on their way. All I have to do is hold on.
Drake sneaked a glance over his shoulder. Malius stood impassive at the Emperor’s side.
As long as they don’t notice the shield’s down...
In the lounge of the Millennium Hawk, Grien held Chinna gently in his arms while Emtoo extended her welding arc and her complink like hands.
"Are you sure this is wise?" Threelo asked, looking back and forth between the tableau and the corridor to the cockpit nervously. "We don’t have permission to do it. We’re not even sure it will work."
Stop worrying so much, Emtoo beeped. Rubbish bin costume or not, I know what I can do.
"Well, all right. If you say so." Threelo bustled over and laid his gold hands on Emtoo’s scratched and dented dome. "Here, take my power as well. If this is to work at all, it will have to work the first time."
"Itid vetta ook!" Chinna said indignantly. "Idun twan betoo ickliff ite!"
Emtoo silenced everyone with a long whistle, then wiggled her two appendages at Chinna, who obediently grasped them. Grien released his grasp and stepped back. <Better you than me,> he said in his native tongue. <I like this size.>
Chinna blew a raspberry at him. Then Emtoo began to let her power flow, and the Ewok’s little body convulsed.
Grien shoved the door to the lounge closed just in time, as Chinna screamed, shaking uncontrollably, her fur standing straight out on end. Emtoo was emitting a series of low tones, rocking back and forth on her wheelsâ€”Threelo was muttering "Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear me" under his breath, but his hands remained rock-steady on Emtoo’s domeâ€”Grien stared wide-eyed at the spectacle before him, his jowls twitching faster and fasterâ€”
"Here goes nothing!" shouted Ron over the com, and the Hawk shuddered violently as it plunged into the depths of the Death Star.
The enormous green laser lanced out and caught a Rebel cruiser which had been damaged by Imperial fighters, leaving her too slow to move with the rest of the fleet. She vanished in a blinding flash and a silent scream of violent deaths that buffeted Drake’s Force senses, rocking him back on his heels.
"Your fleet has lost," the Emperor taunted. "And your friends on the Hogwor moon will not survive. There is no escape, my young apprentice. The Alliance will die... as will your friends."
Drake gritted his teeth against his fury. I am not your apprentice and I never will be...
"Good," the Emperor said softly. "I can feel your anger." He stepped away from the com panel, spreading his hands. "I am defenseless. Take your weapon!" One hand waved to the lightsaber, sitting so temptingly on the armrest of the empty throne. "Strike me down with all your hatred, and your journey towards the dark side will be complete..."
Drake snarled as his restraint finally snapped. His hand shot out, his lightsaber snapped into it and ignited, and he sliced the gleaming green blade towards the Emperorâ€”
Only to find Malius’s red blade in the way.
The lightsabers hissed and spit sparks as they collided. Drake angled his blade and pushed, and Malius staggered backwards down the stairs, off balance. Drake started forward, ready to destroy this monstrosity once and for allâ€”father or no father, Malius deserved to die for all that he’d done, all that he wanted to doâ€”
"Good," the Emperor said, a hissing laugh winding itself around his words. "Use your aggressive feelings, boy! Let the hate flow through you!"
No. Drake forced his feet to stillness. No. Not like this. I may yet have to kill him, but not like this.
He set his breathing into an Auror pattern for calm and peace of mind, shut off his lightsaber, and looked straight at Malius, projecting serenity and wistfulness. We could have done so much together, Father. We could have been so great. If only you had made different choices...
"Albu-Wan has taught you well," said Malius, a hint of grudging respect in his mechanical tone.
"I will not fight you, Father," Drake said. Not unless I have to. Not unless you leave me no other choice.
Malius mounted the stairs once more. "You are unwise to lower your defenses," he said, and the red lightsaber blade shot forth from the hilt. Drake leaped up and back, spinning in one of the astounding flips he wished he could reproduceâ€”
The thought, mildly annoying, was quickly banished by the necessity of finding proper footing on the catwalk above. Malius mirrored his movements below, his expressionless mask turned upwards.
More in reflex than in hope, Drake stretched out a mental hand to Malius, and blinked in surprise at what he found. "Your thoughts betray you, Father," he said. "I feel the good in you. The conflict." Even if most of it is that you don’t want to kill me because you still hope I’ll see the error of my ways, you still don’t want me dead. That counts for something.
"There is no conflict," Malius contradicted flatly.
"You couldn’t bring yourself to kill me before," Drake reminded him. "I don’t believe you’ll destroy me now."
"You underestimate the power of the dark side." Malius hefted his lightsaber, pointing it at Drake. "If you will not fight, then you will meet your destiny!"
He flung the red-bladed saber upwards. Drake ducked as it sheared through the catwalk and its supports, then dived off the edge and took refuge under the Emperor’s throne platform. Malius’ steps sounded along the floor, coming closer and closer, mingled with the Emperor’s laughter.
"Good," the Emperor purred. "Good..."
Hairywolf kept an eye on the engine panels, ready to shunt power around any portion should it failâ€”they’d been able to put in three full redundant circuits in the last rebuild, so even if they took several direct hits to the engine compartment, the Hawk should be able to keep flying...
Huge, delicate paws covered his eyes. "Kessoo!" chirped a voice which, though still higher than his own, was an order of magnitude lower than it had been only minutes before.
Oh they did not. Hairy wrenched around in his seat to stare.
Chinna smiled cheekily down at him, at least four times as tall and three as broad as she had been when she boarded the Hawk. "Ehboom ady migro!" she said happily. "Iconfi twithee oonau!"
Oh yes they did.
Hairy debated for a moment, then patted his chair’s armrest. Chinna seated herself and grinned down at him. "Ulige?" she inquired.
Hairy nodded dumbly. Out the corner of his eye, he could see Ron grinning, and barked a coarse phrase at him.
"I’m watchin’ it, I’m watchin’ it." Ron’s hands flew across the controls. "You’d think I’d never done this before."
Hairy refrained from pointing out that Ron hadn’t and returned his attention to the engine panels, though he kept sneaking side glances at Chinna.
She looks good in fur. And really good now that she’s my size.
I wonder if we can wander off somewhere together after we beat the Emperor?
The Hawk streaked onward down the tunnel, two X-wings and a Y-wing trailing behind.
"Remind me again how we got swapped into this?" the former General Dadine said, peering through her gunnery scope in the rear seat of the Y-wing.
"You wanted to be in at the kill, and you didn’t want to fly," answered the former Admiral Lupar. "Or do I have that wrong?"
"You have that right. I prefer to shoot." Danger suited action to word, tightening her finger on the trigger and scoring grazing hits on two of the three TIE fighters which had followed them into the shaft. "Do we know where we’re going?"
"Neenie and Luna are both aboard the Hawk." Remus rolled the stick to avoid a bit of debris, then pulled energy from his front lasers into his engines to send them over the redlines. "If they can’t find Drake, nobody can."
Ahead of them, one of the X-wings looped the loop in the tight confines of the shaft and fired three shots while its head was facing backwards. The TIE Danger hadn’t hit exploded, hulled precisely by one shot. The other X-wing fired off a torpedo, and the TIEs’ wild maneuvering to try to avoid it made them easy prey for Danger’s gunnery.
"All eyeballs down," Remus called into the com. "I repeat, all eyeballs down, we have a clear run. Good shooting, Red One, nice decoy, Red Two!"
"Why, thanks," Aletha’s voice came back. "Your gunner isn’t so bad herself, Gold Three."
"Your piloting’s nothing to write home about, of course," Sirius put in.
A Wookiee howl nearly shorted out the circuits.
"Hairy says you’re all great, now less chatter," Ron translated. "I happen to agree. Now listen up. In about thirty seconds, we’re peeling off to find Drake and get him out. You three lock onto the strongest power source up aheadâ€”that should be the main generator. Hit it with everything you’ve got, then get out of there. We’ll see you back at base."
"Copy, Gold Leader," Remus answered, and heard Sirius and Aletha acknowledging as well.
Hold on, Drake. Help is on the way. I wish we could help you ourselves, but if anyone can do it, it’s the crew on the Hawk...
"You cannot hide forever, Drake," Malius said with deadly calm, his footfalls punctuating his words in measured beats.
Drake reached for calm, but it eluded him. "I will not fight you," he reiterated, praying circumstance wouldn’t make a liar of him.
"Give yourself to the dark side," Malius urged. "It is the only way you can save your friends."
He’s lying. He has to be lying. There are ways I can save them without becoming like him...
Malius stopped, taking a few of his rasping, mechanical breaths. "Yes," he said slowly. "Your thoughts betray you."
I love them, and they love me, Drake thought as strongly as he dared. They don’t want me to become dark. Maybe your way would give me the power to keep them safe from physical harm, but I’d lose them and they’d lose me...
"Your feelings for them are strong. Especially for..." Malius stopped.
Before he could help it, Drake finished the sentence in his mind. Best friend, other half, twin...
"Sister!" The triumph in Malius’ voice could not be disguised by the mechanical overtones. "So, you have a twin sister! Your feelings have now betrayed her, too."
No. No. Drake’s breath was coming slower; the chill film of ice was beginning to mask and clear his vision at the same time. You can’t have her. I won’t let you touch her.
"Albu-Wan was wise to hide her from me," Malius mused. "Now his failure is complete. If you will not turn to the dark side, perhaps she will..."
Drake rolled out from under the platform, came to his feet in front of his father, and ignited his lightsaber.
"Never," he said with terrible calm, and swung the green blade with all his might.
Malius countered, but had to step back to keep his balance, and Drake’s next strike was just as hard. Step by step, blow by blow, Drake forced his father onto the Emperor’s viewing platform. Hundreds of meters below their feet, the power generator hummed in solitary splendor, emitting the multicolored waves of energy which kept the enormous Death Star running smoothly.
A good place to die. Or to kill.
Another strike. Another. Malius lost his balance and fell to his knees, and Drake slashed his lightsaber through his father’s right wrist. Metal buzzed, machinery sparked, and Malius’ red-bladed sword fell uselessly over the edge of the platform, followed by the mechanical hand which had held it.
Absently, Drake tightened his own artificial hand’s grip on his lightsaber as he lowered its point to Malius’ throat. This is it. After today, you will never be able to frighten or hurt me or anyone I love, ever again... I will finally have my revenge for all the things you’ve done to me, to my family, to everyone I care about...
"Good!" hissed the Emperor from the edge of the pit, his lipless face stretched in a grin. "Your hate has made you powerful. Now, fulfill your destiny and take your father’s place at my side!"
Uh-oh. Guesses, encouragement, and concrit welcome!