Added on May 08, 1999
Category: Science Fiction/Star Wars
Author: R. John Burke

Tattooine Dawn

STAR WARS: By FREEDOM'S Light Episode Seven

DESRIPTION: Luke Skywalker becomes an integral part of the Story. Several other familiar faces are in this one, as well.

NOTICE: George Lucas owns Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Willow, Industrial Light & Magic, and (if Episode One does box office like it should) a greater part of the Western Hemisphere. It would be illegal to sell a story based on any of those things, and I haven't done so. (What kind of story could you base on ILM?)

"Jev! Jev, come back here! We need to talk about this!"

Jev Parrak, a gangly young man from Alderaan with rawboned features and watery blue eyes, did not even turn to face his ship's First Officer as she trailed after him. He was off duty as of right now, and he didn't have to listen if he did not chose to.

He was in no mood to make that choice. He'd already put off this discussion for weeks of transit time, and he intended to put it off even longer.

"Turn around and listen to me!" said Kerri, as he started down a new corridor.

"Why don't you immobilize me with your great and glorious power, Oh Mighty Sorceress?"

Kerri Lynden, a woman about ten years Jev's senior with flowing dark hair and large brown eyes, also happened to be a hidden Jedi Knight. But it was not information she preferred to have shouted across the corridors.

She ran to catch up with the young man, and put a hand on his arm. "First of all, keep your voice down. Secondly, it doesn't work like that and you know it. And finally, where do you get off giving me this attitude? If nothing else, I am your superior officer..."

Jev shrugged off her touch and glanced at his wrist chrono. "Not as of 1000 hours, you're not. I'm on detached duty under the supervision of Lieutenant Commander Covell."

"Which I didn't authorize," said Kerri, "But that's beside the point. We have to talk about your use of the Force."

"What use?" said Jev bitterly, "You won't train me."

Kerri sighed. "Jev, I warned you that anger led to the Dark Side. The first thing you're going to do is calm down."

"I'm perfectly calm," Jev protested, "But I don't need to listen to a woman who doesn't even trust me."

"It's not a matter of trust," she protested, "The Dark Side of the Force is strong. The Emperor is always on the lookout for people with inherent skills like yours..."

"Training would help me protect myself," he pointed out.

"Not until you can control your anger. I mean, really control it. Lock it out of your mind."

Jev winced. Vader and Tarkin had blown up his home planet and his entire family in one sweeping gesture. That was not something he could just forget.

"I can't do that," he said, "But I can control myself. If you'd train me..."

"I'm not of a mind to train anyone," said Kerri, "Who does what you've been doing in the simulator."

Jev froze. "Doing? What do you mean?"

"You know what I mean," she said, "Using the Force to confuse the other pilots so that you always win. Do you have any concept of how dangerous that is?"

"I'm just trying to use my advantages," said Jev, "If you won't train me, I'll have to train myself."

"Is that why you're doing this? To get my attention?"

"No!" he protested, forcing himself to remain relatively calm, "No... it didn't start out like that at all. Davin Serlin tried to cheat me the first time, and I got angry. And he started to do what I told him. Didn't take me long to realize that as long as I stayed angry, everyone would do what I wanted."

Kerri looked down, anger fighting concern in those brown eyes. "That is so incredibly reckless..."

"Then teach me to do better. Train me to know the light side from the dark."

She held his gaze. "You knew very well that was from the dark side."

"Maybe I did. But if you won't train me, what else do I have?"

Kerri sighed, looking suddenly much older than she was. "I will keep my own council on who is to be trained."

"Fine," said Jev, "Then I'll have to use the Force in whatever way I can."

He started to move away, and Kerri grabbed his arm hard this time. For a moment, Jev thought she might actually hurt him.

Kerri just said, "You're not going to blackmail me into this."

"It's not blackmail," said Jev, "But I'm going to beat the Empire. With or without your help."

Her stare bored into him. "You are toying around with power beyond your imagination. This course of action will destroy you. You must learn patience."

"The Empire is killing innocent people every day," said Jev softly, "I don't have time for patience."

He turned around and walked away.

In the FREEDOM's shuttle bay, half a dozen mechanics were running checks on a Durosian freighter that boasted more than its share of bumps and bruises. Despite its age, many of the dents on its pitted hull were recent, suffered when FREEDOM's X-Wing squadron leader, Rik Evverd, had smashed it into the bay wall during an escape from the Imperial Internment Center on Rorsh.

Repairs were also ongoing on the wall.

The ship's new pilot, a tall, blonde human named Lieutenant Taryn Clancee, had been present for Evverd's little charade. The Corellian was reckless beyond belief, and Clancee had no intention of repeating his mistake. This would be a milk run, not an adventure, and it was about time.

Taryn was tapping her chrono by the time the last member of her crew put in an appearance.

"There you are, kid!" she said to Jev Parrak, her copilot. "Will you get on board? Gaar's getting anxious, and I will not fly with an uptight Wookiee."

"Sure," said Jev, and moved to the cargo area to stow his gear.

The ship's first officer, Commander Kerri Lynden, followed him into the hangar. Taryn had met Lynden four months after the Battle of Yavin, when the woman had been rescued from supposed death on Coruscant. Immediately afterwards, Taryn had spent weeks in an Imperial prison camp. The two women had only been on the ship together for a few weeks, time enough to get from Rorsh to just off Tattooine with a few minor detours. Hardly enough time to get to know anyone.

Taryn already didn't like the other officer.

It was nothing specific, really; Kerri seemed nice enough. She just struck Taryn as a bit distant and bland, not really the sort of officer that the crew of the FREEDOM should have spent all those four months fretting about.

But fret they had, and Taryn knew she was in the very small minority in her dislike for the ship's Exec.

"Lieutenant," said Kerri, "I understand Jev is going with you and Covell to Tattooine?"

"That's right. Kid asked, I didn't mind, so I added him to the list. Problem?"

The other woman frowned. "Not really. I just wish you'd consulted me."

Taryn snorted. "Why? You own the kid?"

"No, but I am the first officer, and it is customary to discuss personnel matters with the first officer."

"Garreth didn't mind," Taryn said of the ship's captain. Kerri took a deep breath and forced herself to smile. "Just ask next time, okay?"

"Sure. Is that all?"

Kerri looked over the freighter. "I suppose so. I see you're ready to go."

"That's right. Immediately, in fact."

"Good luck," said Kerri.

"Never needed the stuff," said Taryn Clancee, and boarded the shuttle, "But thanks anyway."

Their thrusters kicked in, and the freighter was away. Taryn Clancee sat in the pilot's chair with Jev next to her. Behind them were a golden-brown Wookiee named Gaar and the mission commander, Sedra Covell.

"So, Commander," she asked Covell, a short woman with dark skin and hair, "What exactly is it that you two are gonna be doing while the kid and I visit the Hutt?"

"Reconnaissance," said Covell, "Rebel Intelligence claims the Empire is up to something big in the Tattooine system, but we can't find out what."

"So what can you and Gaar do," Taryn asked as she pulled back on the hyperdrive levers, "That Rebel Intelligence can't?"

"Pull arms from their sockets," rumbled the Wookiee through his bandolier-mounted translator device.

"Besides that."

"We're not going in alone," said Covell, "Command has assigned another officer, a native of the planet, to help us find our way around."

Taryn chuckled. "They actually found someone who used to live on that dirtball? Who?"

"Uh..." Covell checked her datapad, "A Lieutenant Commander Skywalker I guess they mean Luke."

"Oh," said Taryn. She remembered the blonde youth from his brief stay on the FREEDOM, during the Khuiumen Advance mission a few months back. "He's from Tattooine?"

"That's what the data pad says."

The pilot laughed again. "Wonder what a nice kid like him was doing on a hunk of rock like that?"

"Broiling, most likely," said Covell. "Says here the standard temperature at Anchorhead this time of year is..."

"Don't," said Covell, "You'll ruin the surprise for the others."

She looked over to Jev, who had been surprisingly quiet. "You're sure you don't want to go with them, Junior? The Hutt's palace is not for the faint of heart."

"I'll be all right," said Jev, still not facing her, "I want to see the place."

"Why want you want to see that slaghole?"

Jev fixed eerily still eyes on her. "Maybe I have business there."

He chuckled, but somehow Taryn didn't find the matter at all funny.

"You're sure you won't let me fly you?" asked Rik Evverd, trailing the short man with the long, dark hair into the FREEDOM's hangar.

"Not necessary, Commander," said Captain Mykel Garreth, "Mon Mothma promised me a piloted shuttle."

"Service," said Evverd, "Wish I had the connections to get a chauffeured vacation to the planet of my choice."

"Didn't I tell you?" said Garreth with a smile, "That jaunt to Coruscant the other month counted as your vacation."

"Don't even joke like that," said Evverd. Actually, there was no one he knew who deserved a rest more than Mykel Garreth. He had commanded the FREEDOM for about a year and a half now, and to Evverd's knowledge had never taken a real rest.

Not that he was doing so voluntarily. He had a price on his head now - Boba Fett himself had almost captured the Rebel captain. Garreth and Mon Mothma and Kerri had gotten together and decided it might be best for all concerned if the ex-Imperial officer were to lay low for a while.

"I know you can't tell me where you're going," said Evverd, "But if you get the time, you should check out this place on Sullust..."

"Oh, I should think I'll be going further than that," said Garreth, "Perhaps even as far as the Corporate Sector. A man with Boba Fett on his tail can't take chances."

The docking bay klaxon sounded, and a shuttle floated into the FREEDOM's docking bay and onto her deck.

"That's my ride," said Garreth, offering Evverd his hand, "You and Kerri take care of my ship."

"She'll be here when you get back," said Evverd, and shook the hand. "Good skies, Myke."

Garreth nodded, boarded the shuttle, and took off a moment later.

"Set course for the Outer Rim. Endor, I think. I'll decide where to go from there."

Garreth could only see the back of his pilot's head, but the man nodded and pulled back on the hyperdrive levers.

"Didn't look like you had time to set a new course," said the captain.

"Didn't need to," said a strangely familiar voice, "We're going to Nar Shaddaa."

The figure in the chair turned around, revealing the slim and dashing form of one Lando Calrissian, gambler, thief, and all-around scoundrel. Calrissian was an old friend, having helped Garreth out of a few scrapes in the past. Nevertheless, his sudden appearances were not generally good things.

"Glad to see me, Mykel?"

Garreth groaned. "I'll tell you what, just open the airlock and I'll step out."

"Why, Garreth!" said the gambler, mock-offended, "I'm hurt. We haven't seen each other in..."

"Six months. Six glorious months," Garreth affirmed. "I thought perhaps my luck had been running too strong lately, escaping from Fett and all..."

"Yes, I heard about that," said Lando, and he turned back to his controls. "You'll be happy to know that I checked with very reliable sources, who tell me that Boba Fett is on Tattooine for an extended audience with Jabba. So there's no reason you can't do me one little favor, and then I'll drop you wherever you want to go, and you can have a nice vacation."

"I've a better idea," said Garreth, "Why don't we skip the first part, and I'll have an even nicer vacation?"

"After all the trouble I've been to?" said Lando, "Coming personally to pick you up? This is the thanks I get?"

The captain snorted. "How'd you get the shuttle, anyway?"

"Why, I simply arranged to make a temporary change in the Alliance's supply schedule..."

"You stole the shuttle," said Garreth, "I'm going on vacation in a stolen shuttle. Well, this is just fine. At least in the Alliance they court-martial you instead of killing you..."

"Will you relax, old buddy?" said Lando, "I'll return the shuttle when we're done. Full of dritorium ore. Best fuel source this side of tibanna gas. There's a whole shipment of it in this for the Alliance, if you'll do me this one insignificant favor."

Garreth hissed softly. Resigned to his fate, he said, "Why Nar Shaddaa?"

"Because an old buddy of mine - and an acquaintance of yours - is currently on Nar Shaddaa running guns for the Alliance."

"Han Solo," said Garreth. Lando's vendetta against the Corellian pirate who had won his ship truly bordered on the unstable. "What do you want with him?"

"It's very simple," said Lando, "I may have mentioned, last time we spoke, that he cheated me on Ylesia."

"Oh, about that, I've looked into the incident - what with the Alliance being involved and all - it seems that Solo was an innocent ..."

"He cheated me," Lando repeated, "And I figure the losses incurred should just about be covered by a YT-1300 freighter named the MILLENIUM FALCON."

"And I'm to help you repossess it?"

"That's right," said Lando, "Trust me. I've got it all planned out. Don't worry."

Garreth sat back in his seat. On the assumption that he might as well relax while he could, he closed his eyes to begin a nap. "When you start planning things out," he said to the gambler, "That's when I start getting worried..."

Luke Skywalker was already waiting at the Mos Eisley landing pad when they arrived. Covell hopped off the ramp, tried not to choke on Tattooine's swirling sand, and strolled over to greet him.

"Luke," she said, "Good to see you again. You got here early."

The farmboy smiled his open grin. "Han dropped me off on the way to Nar Shaddaa. I never thought I'd see this planet again."

"I hope you've been keeping a low profile."

"Sure," he said, "I haven't even been as far as Anchorhead yet."

Gaar was somewhere behind Covell, and she heard his guttural moan. It came through his translator as, "This planet is unnaturally hot."

"It's a binary system," said Taryn Clancee, "And we're close to both suns. What do you expect?"

"I'll shed half my coat if I remain here long," the Wookiee complained. He was about to say more when he was set upon by filthy little Jawas trying to buy the various metallic devices and trinkets he kept on his bandolier. He howled, and that scared them off.

Luke chuckled. "Chewie never liked Jawas, either."

"Nobody likes Jawas," said Clancee, deadpan. "How you doing, Skywalker?"

"Fine, thanks, Lieutenant. They didn't tell me you were... coming..." His voice trailed off as Jev Parrak descended from the shuttle's ramp. Luke was about the same age as Jev, though he was much shorter and probably better looking than the Alderaanian. They'd met briefly on the FREEDOM, but nothing had happened at that first meeting to suggest this level of interest from Skywalker.

"What is it?" asked Covell.

"There's something different about him," said Luke, "I feel cold..."

"That's your imagination, kid," said Clancee, "How can you feel cold on a simmering dustball like this?"

Luke snapped himself out of it. "Oh... actually, um, this is temperate."

"Wouldn't want to be here on a warm day."

"You wouldn't," Luke agreed, "I used to live here, you know."

"You could easily die here," said Covell, "Unless we stop drawing attention to ourselves and get moving."

"Right," said Luke, as he led them through the crowded and dirty streets of Mos Eisley. "Can we stop at Anchorhead, on the way? There's something I want to do..."

"Hey, look who's back!" said Deak, gazing out the viewport of Tosche Station, "And you won't believe who's with him!"

Everyone at the power station rushed to the window - excitement being at a premium on Tattooine - except a bulky mechanic named Fixer, who nursed his drink near a res-ball table in the corner. As a rule, Fixer wasn't interested in anything that did not involve his own ego.

Only when the door slid open did Fixer look up. "Well, whaddaya know? It's the worm!"

Deak and Windy and Cammie and a few others who had taken to hanging out at the power station were busy thumping Luke Skywalker on the back and flinging questions at him. The youth grinned easily, enjoying his fling as the center of attention, though his eyes seemed older, somehow. More aware.

Fixer wasn't impressed. "I heard you jumped planet, Wormie. What'd you, sign on to swab the deck on a Rodian freighter?"

"Corellian freighter, actually," said Luke, and his tone held none of the old resentment for Fixer, "But I wasn't swabbing decks. I saved a princess, joined the Rebel Alliance, and - oh, yeah, I blew up the Death Star."

Fixer broke into open laughter. "Yeah, that's pretty good, Skywalker! C'Mon, really, where'd you go?"

"After I blew you away at Beggar's Canyon, you mean?"

"Hey!" said Fixer, jolting to his feat, "You never beat me at Beggar's Canyon, all right? You were just nuts enough to thread the stone needle. You could've never beat me in a fair race!"

Deak groaned. "Oh, c'mon, Fixer, let's not..."

"No, this little worm has had it comin' for a long time. What, you think you're a big shot now, Skywalker? Just 'cause you been off-planet, you think you can show me up?" The big man took a step forward.

Cammie stepped between the two men. "Fixer, don't be an idiot."

But Fixer elbowed her aside and moved in to glower down at Luke. "Don't get all uppity with me, 'cause I know what you are. You're a worm, and you always will be. You're nothin' but a stupid farmboy from the backwoods of the universe, and you're not even good at that. You were nothing when you left, Luke, and you're nothing now."

"Maybe," Luke looked into his eyes without fear. "Why don't you discuss it with my friend?"

Abruptly, Fixer realized that a rather large shadow was obscuring his view. Slowly, he looked up, and up, and up, into the eyes of a fearsome, golden-brown beast. The monster opened it's mouth, and bared its impressive fangs. It roared.

Fixer jumped backwards, all the color gone from his face. He opened his mouth to curse, but couldn't make himself utter a word.

Luke smiled. "Actually, he's kind of short for a Wookiee. I left the big one behind."

Fixer gulped audibly, still rooted to the spot.

Luke said, "It's been great seeing you all," and left Tosche Station forever. At least, Fixer hoped he wouldn't be coming back.

The group stared out the viewports for a moment, watching the pair meet up with a few other humans and take off in a rented landspeeder.

"Wow," said Windy.

"Did you see that on his belt?" Cammie asked, "That was a lightsaber!"

Fixer just stood there, and moaned softly.

"Tee chuta hhat yudd!"

The electronic eye that served as gatekeeper for Jabba the Hutt's Tattooine palace swiveled, watching Taryn from multiple angles. She just stared back.

"Taryn Clancee, here to see His Ugliness. Jabba remembers me, I was one of his spice runners."

"Kojo dovee ponzok?"

"No, I'm not looking for a job. I have a business proposition for Jabba."

"Ku ju FLUNKEE?" It's arm extended out until it was nose-to-nose, or more accurately nose-to-giant-eyeball with Taryn. Then it grunted and zipped back into its hatch.

"Are they gonna let us in?" asked Jev, looking already a little unnerved.

"Of course," said Taryn, "I said the word 'business.' Waving money in front of a Hutt is the surest bet in the galaxy."

Jev was about to reply, but he was interrupted by a loud creaking as the giant, mechanical door swung open.

Inside was only darkness, though the large, spidery form of a Bo'Marr monk could be seeing skittering about. Jev turned pale.

"Not too late for you to turn around," said Taryn.

Jev shook his head, exhaling a deep breath. "You shouldn't go in there alone."

Taryn snorted. "Kid, I've been in worse places."

The young Alderaanian stared into menacing darkness for a moment. "That does not seem possible."

"Come on," said Taryn. Of course I've been in worse places, she thought as she stepped into the palace. Then the stench hit her, and she remembered a bit more clearly what Jabba and his court were like, and she amended, I think...

A pair of surly, bloated Gammorrean guards rushed up to meet them, growling. Taryn pushed right past.

"Ignore them," said Taryn.

Jev did so, tentatively, and said, "Well, it can't get much worse..."

The ex-smuggler had to laugh. "You're kidding, right? Gammorreans are big and ugly, but at least they're dumb as cargo containers. Wait until you meet Jabba. He's bigger, uglier, and a whole lot more devious."

A pasty-white Twi'lek dressed in robes met them in the hall, but Taryn ignored him, as well. Jabba liked fearless courage, and he liked even more to see his associates put in their place. Acting too important for the Twi'lek was just pact of the show.

She led the way into Jabba the Hutt's main audience chamber. It was always fun, Taryn reflected, to see how many different kinds of obscure aliens were gathered there on any given day.

She counted at least thirty-two this afternoon, from Ishi Tib and Durosians to Bith and Weequays. Most of them she knew, at least by reputation, thought there were a few newcomers. The band in the corner was good; Figrin D'an and the Modal Nodes, one of Jabba's favorites, and that was one aspect of the Hutt's generally disgusting tastes that Taryn agreed with. There wasn't a better jizz-wailer in the sector, and Taryn liked Figrin himself as well. She'd played more than a few hands of sabacc with the Bith. At least, she thought she had; with their large eyes, bulbous pink craniums, and total lack of facial detail, it was difficult for outsiders know one Bith from the next.

She nodded to the bandleader, who immediately launched into one of her favorite numbers (Probably hopes to get on my good side, so I'll drop a bundle at sabacc tonight, she thought).

To many people, the accumulation of so many different disreputable criminal types was disgusting, but Taryn had never felt that way. She LIKED disreputable.

Unfortunately, the Hutt's tastes went beyond Taryn's limits, which was why she had quit. Jabba's bloated fingers were into slavery, hard narcotics, Imperial espionage, and a host of other things that Taryn didn't like to think about. This courtroom was a testament to his soulless enterprises.

She just wanted to complete her business, and get away from this rogue's gallery of pirates, thieves, and bounty hunters. And speaking of bounty hunters...

Boba Fett stood against the far wall, watching everything but reacting to nothing. Jabba had been trying to hire the man in the Mandalorian armor, in the hopes that Boba Fett's presence in his entourage would discourage the frequent assassination attempts.

Taryn hadn't thought Fett would agree to that in a million years, but here he was. Taryn watched him, and he stared back. Can't you just feel the love? she thought wryly

The Hutt laughed, a booming, coarse noise. He wriggled forward on his dais - Jabba was still svelte enough to move under his own power, though he'd been putting on weight something fierce.

"Taryn Clancee, my favorite human. I do hope you've come for your old job back."

"Spare the flattery, Jabba," she said, "I'm just looking for information."

The Hutt laughed. "A woman who knows her priorities. Of course, business before pleasure. What do you wish to know?"

What pleasure? Taryn thought, I'm talking to a giant garden slug. "You still have Imperial contacts?"

"My dear girl, I have contacts everywhere."

Taryn nodded. "I'm looking for a human, a conscript new to the Imperial armed forces. His name is Kristoff Narr, and he was taken from Pollis to the Imperial Detention center on Rorsh last month. He left the planet, destination unknown, a few weeks later. I'll pay ten thousand for any information you have."

The Hutt laughed. "Taryn, my dear girl, you wound me. Your money is no good here. I will find what I can on the basis of our close personal friendship..."

The ex-smuggler groaned. The Hutt never gave away anything without a hidden price. The possibilities Taryn came up with for what he really wanted ranged from unpleasant to sickening.

All things considered, it was better to pay cash. "Fifteen, Jabba, and no strings attached. Don't push your luck, okay?"

The Hutt stared at her from wide, ruby eyes, rumbling softly. Finally, he said, "Fifteen. I will have the information for you by the end of the day. In the meantime, why not make yourself comfortable as my guest here at the palace?"

Ooh, thought Taryn, just when I thought I'd never heard a worse idea. "I'll be at the Spacer's Haven, in Mos Eisley. I'll transfer the credits from there, and that's where you send the information."

Jabba frowned. "You will not stay even a short time?"

"Don't take it personally, Jabba. I just hate you. Have a nice day." She turned to leave. "Come on, Jev... Jev?"

She scanned the room, looking for the young Alderaanian who'd accompanied her to the palace. I hope he hasn't wandered down a side corridor, she thought. We'll never find the body...

But she spotted Jev almost immediately. He was up against the far wall. Having a little chat with Boba Fett.

Jev? Talking to FETT? Now I've seen it all, Taryn concluded...

"So I understand you're a pretty good hunter," Jev said while Taryn was up front talking to Jabba. He felt short of breath, and not just from the various fumes of the Hutt's court. This had taken all his courage, but he had to do it.

Boba Fett did not reply.

"I was on the FREEDOM," Jev said, "When you tried to take Garreth. I'm an X-Wing pilot."

That got Fett's attention. "It wasn't you who out-flew me?"

"No," said Jev with a nervous chuckle, "That's my CO, Commander Evverd. You must be pretty good, though. I've never seen anybody come so close to beating him."

"I am good," Fett stated with neither pride nor modesty.

"Good enough to take on a really special job?"

Fett did a double take, and Jev got the distinct impression that he was trying not to laugh, though his face was invisible.

"YOU wish to hire me?" said the bounty hunter, tone only a little altered, "You're a child. Do you have any idea how much I charge?"

"How I get the money is my business," said Jev, "I can only pay five thousand up front, but by the time you're done, I'll be able to pay one hundred thousand."

Fett hissed. "I might consider a disintegration for that price. But nothing fancier."

"Disintegration is fine," said Jev, "I want you to blow him into as many pieces as possible."

Fett nodded. "Who's the target?"

Jev Parrak smiled. He didn't know if Fett would accept or not, but either way he wished it was possible to see the bounty hunter's face.

"I'm from Alderaan," he explained, "And I was wondering if you could kill Lord Vader for me?"

Continued in Episode 8

R. John Burke

© 1998-1999 Dragon's Library & Ulrike Großmann