The Tie fighter opened fire on them as Kor’s lightsaber ignited and slashed the air all in one movement. It happened so fast he literally didn’t have time to think about it. The blaster bolts were bigger and heavier than the ones from a stormtrooper. The hilt of the lightsaber vibrated painfully in his hands, but it held. The Tie fighter’s bolts bounced harmlessly away as it zoomed past. It began banking to come around for another pass.
“The trees!” Kor bellowed. “Get under the trees!”
Prauf shouted something obscene then wrenched the steering wheel over so hard Kor was nearly thrown out of the skimmer. He grabbed wildly for the back of the seat to maintain his balance.
A warning in the Force made him duck just in time as a huge limb flashed by just over the top of the skimmer. He sat down quickly. “The troop carriers can’t follow us in here.”
“No, but they can track us,” Prauf warned him. “So can that fighter.”
As if to make his point, a blaster bolt tore through the trees from above, nearly hitting them. Trees exploded and a hail of splinters rained down on them.
“This is suicide!” Prauf yelled.
Kor had to agree. If they didn’t splatter themselves on a tree, the fighter was sure to get them sooner or later. He remembered something from one of Morg’s lessons and had a sudden idea. “Stop by that log!” he shouted, pointing at a huge log that lay on the forest floor.
Prauf started to argue then clamped his jaws and did it.
Kor reached for the log with the Force. In the simulated lessons, Morg kept reiterating that the Force connected everything and insisted that Jedi could move huge masses by using the Force. He’d done it in the practice sessions in the simulation. Could he do it here in the real world? He’d used his lightsaber as a blaster shield the way the simulations taught him. Why not this?
Prauf let out an exclamation as Kor felt the log start to move. Blocking out everything, he concentrated on lifting it to meet the Tie fighter as it swooped down on them. They were a perfect sitting target for the pilot. If this didn’t work, they were dead.
He calmed his mind then pushed up with all his might. The log shot into the air like a projectile. The timing was nearly perfect.
The Tie fighter hit the giant log at full speed. The log was blasted into a million pieces, but its job was done. The front half of the Tie fighter was caved in, a ruined mass of twisted metal and shattered glass. The cockpit where the pilot had been sitting was gone, along with the pilot. The broken fighter spiraled out of control and crashed somewhere out of sight.
A thunderous explosion accompanied by a rising ball of flame signaled its demise.
Kor slide back down into his seat. “Head back to the road but stop just under the trees,” he said. “Let’s see if we can get those carriers to land.”
“And then what?” Prauf prompted him.
“I attack the stormtroopers while you see if you can get behind them and get some shots up their tailpipes,” Kor told him, patting the big blaster Prauf carried on his back.
Prauf gave him a nasty grin. “I like this plan!”
Kor clapped him on the shoulder then jumped out of the skimmer and trotted out into the middle of the overgrown road where the troop carriers could see him. He waved his lightsaber around to make sure. One of them hovered and began firing their forward guns at him while the other prepared to land.
The guns, on either side of the carrier, were so far apart that only one of them at a time could target him and he was too close for them to turn inward. The one gun that could get him was on target though.
It just didn’t do any good.
Kor’s lightsaber deflected every bolt. He only had one gun in front of him to deal with. It was even easier than the attack of the stormtroopers had been. The bolts were bigger and heavier, but he was ready for it this time. The longer the stand off continued, the more control he was able to muster over where the deflected bolts went. One of them actually struck the side of the cockpit windows, blowing it out and showering the cockpit crew with glass. The carrier banked frantically away and began settling to the ground with the other one.
The first carrier was on the ground now and stormtroopers poured out in avalanche of white armor. The front ranks opened up the moment they saw him. He put his lightsaber into a whirling spin and blaster bolts ricocheted everywhere, splintering trees all up and down the length of the road between them. Several bounced straight back at the soldiers, knocking them down or killing them.
Their charge faltered, then strengthened again as their officers yelled commands. Kor gritted his teeth and stood his ground. More stormtroopers dropped amid another hail of exploding tree and flying splinters. The noise was deafening. Some of the trees that exploded were so close he could feel the shock waves hitting him. He braced himself so he wouldn’t be knocked over and continued to hold them off.
He was getting tired though. How much longer could he keep this up? Where was Prauf?
The stormtroopers from the second carrier now added their firepower and he found himself being forced back. There were too many of them and some of their bolts began to get through his defenses. Before long, one of them would hit him and he’d be dead.
Come on, Prauf, he thought. Hurry u –
The first carrier that had landed suddenly detonated with a blast so loud and powerful it flattened him as if he were no more than a feather.
A long moment later he opened his eyes. His ears rang but he couldn’t hear anything. The whole world was strangely silent and blurred. He tried to sit up but lost his balance and fell back down again.
What was wrong with him?
Why was he so dizzy?
Suddenly the sound came back on with a rush and he wished it hadn’t.
Agonized screams filled the air. Flames crackled furiously at the base of a towering column of smoke. Even as far away as he was, the heat was overwhelming. He scrabbled away from it, unmindful of dignity. He couldn’t crawl very well for some reason and it took him several seconds to realize he still had his lightsaber in his hand. He put it in its holster and was better able to crawl. Finally he got far enough away from the heat to pause and look back.
Prauf must have gotten a shot at exactly the right angle up the exhaust port to penetrate to the heart of the engines. The entire back half of the carrier was gone. Just gone.
There was a crater, black and scorched, where it had been.
The front half had been thrown into the air and crashed down right beside the other carrier, which had been knocked on its side from the blast. Both of them were wreathed in searing flames that billowed over a hundred feet in the air in a raging inferno. Trees, bushes, and grass around them were on fire too.
Burning bodies, and pieces of bodies, littered the ground in every direction. The screaming had mercifully stopped.
Kor tried to stand up but his dizziness defeated him and he dropped to one knee, his arms outstretched to catch himself. He tried it again and lurched to his feet like a monster in a horror vid, stumbling around as he fought to stay upright.
He turned and almost fell over.
Prauf was pulling up beside him in the skimmer. He looked disgustingly healthy and fit, not a hair out of place. He jumped out to help Kor into the skimmer. “Here we go, kid. I got you.”
Kor’s head lolled back on his neck like a drunk. By sheer will power he managed to focus on Prauf’s ugly face. “I hate you,” he muttered peevishly, then let himself slide blissfully into a deep, deep sleep.