The next morning they experimented with their new lightsabers. Morg’s instructions that they could be lighted at either end or both at the same time made them more versatile than the half-and-half sabers. The handle itself could be lit when they used the Force to suspend it in the air front of them, spinning like a solid disc to shield them from incoming attacks. Most of the morning though, they spent fencing with each other, enjoying the sheer thrill of fighting with their crashing lightsabers.
During one of their rest breaks, Prauf brought up a question that had been plaguing Kor. “I wonder why the Jedi stopped using these?”
He shook his head. “I don’t know. It doesn’t make any sense, does it? These are so much better than the half-and-half ones, I can’t imagine what could have convinced them to switch.”
They were using the huge lounge off the landing bay as their battleground, jumping on and over the couches, tables, and chairs strewn around the vast room. After setting up a tank in Morg’s room to grow more micro-Force crystals, they’d come up here to practice their fighting skills. They had slashed some of the furniture by accident along the way and it was somewhat worse for the wear.
Prauf twirled his lightsaber idly, walking it between his fingers like a trickster. “It had to be something pretty major.”
Kor agreed. “Especially since all of them must have changed over.”
Prauf started to say something then both of them fell silent, staring off in the distance as a vision came over them.
Kor saw Jhemon being questioned by Sanarrn. The mercenary was threatening Jhemon’s terrified family with a blaster while throwing questions at him.
He came back to himself and saw Prauf doing the same thing. “Did you just see what I did?”
Prauf nodded angrily. “Sanarrn questioning my father. Are we going to have to kill that idiot to get him to leave my family alone?” It was unspoken that of course, they would be going to Aubreta again.
They left the training wrist bands on Zosma in Morg’s room for safekeeping. The training book, they took with them, taking turns using it during the journey. By the time they came out of hyperspace at Aubreta, Kor was nearly a third of the way through it and Prauf wasn’t far behind. They stashed it in a hidden compartment near the engines.
They’d decided to come in on the opposite side of the planet then skim the treetops until they reached the village-estate. By coming in low, on the opposite side from the old landing field, they hoped to catch Sanarrn and his henchmen by surprise.
They locked down the Whimsy and snuck through the forest to the edge of the village.
The Claw, which had been on a trajectory to land 20 or 30 clicks from the village, had landed just outside it instead, although crashed might be a more appropriate word. Their previous attack on it from the inside had inflicted tremendous damage on the internal control systems. The ship was still in one piece, but just barely.
Another, smaller ship, probably also from the SAF, was on the ground beside it. It was a field repair ship, sporting a number of cranes and platform arms. All of them were currently extended out to the Claw. Workmen with arc welders and other equipment were swarming over the Claw. The sound of metal ringing on metal came to them over the distance. Armed guards were everywhere, although most of them appeared bored.
Kor didn’t think any of the guards were close enough to hear them but he kept his voice low just in case. “Use the Force to find your family.”
Prauf nodded then turned his thoughts outward, searching for them. Kor did the same. Although they weren’t related to him, Kor found them at almost the same time Prauf did due to his slightly greater experience with the Force. Prauf pointed at the Claw. “They’re in the holding cells.”
Kor nodded. He felt their presence in the same place. “This is your planet so you know the terrain better than I do. Circle around the Claw. When you’re in position, signal me with mind talk and we’ll cut our way into the ship from opposite sides.”
“Doing as much damage as we can along the way,” Prauf added. “I like it.” He paused. “The Claw is a big ship. Can we mind talk from that far apart?”
Kor shrugged. “I don’t know, I think so. But if we can’t, just start attacking. I’ll hear the noise and that’ll be my signal to start attacking too.”
Prauf grinned. “You’re learning, kid. You’re learning.” He disappeared into the underbrush.
Kor sat down with his back to a tree. The Claw was a huge ship. It would probably take Prauf a while to work his way around to the other side. He wasn’t wrong. It was over an hour before he heard a faint whisper in his mind.
“Hey, kid. Can you hear me?”
Kor smiled to himself. “I sure can.”
“I’m in position. You ready?”
Kor laughed then lit his lightsaber and dashed toward the ship, using his Force-enhanced strength and speed to take the guards and workers by surprise. Startled yells broke out. From the other side of the Claw, he could hear similar sounds in reaction to Prauf’s assault.
Blaster bolts began crisscrossing the field but he easily deflected them. A massive earth mover loomed up in front of him but instead of detouring around it he jumped as high as he could, using the Force to boost himself even further into the air. He’d had fun doing that in Master Morg’s simulation and was delighted to discover it worked just as well here as it did there. He soared to the top of the giant machine then gave another bound that took him over to the other side of it. He cushioned his landing with the Force, rolled, and was back on his feet in a split second, slashing everywhere with his lightsaber.
The Claw was towering over him as he cut his way through the Sanarrn’s troops. There was an open cargo door overhead but he thought he could reach it. He angled toward it, trying to move faster. The mercenary troops had recovered from their surprise and their blaster bolts were coming too close for comfort. If he didn’t hurry, he’d get bogged down in a slug-fest and never make it to the ship.
He sprang into the air, reaching for the lip of the door. He caught it and swung himself up and in. A hailstorm of blaster bolts chased after him but he made it out of the soldier’s line of sight with only a single singe on his right forearm where one of the bolts grazed him.
He dashed across the open expanse of the cargo bay and attacked the far wall. He cut through into the hallway beyond before Prauf finally answered him.
“I’m in too! Heading for my parents.”
“I’ll see you there.”
A startled soldier in the next corridor got off one blaster bolt at him before Kor cut him down. His two companions never had a chance. The moment they hit the deck, Kor was already cutting through the next wall, scanning ahead of him with the Force to find the largest bundle of power cables he could. He cut through passageways, bunk rooms, storage lockers, even a shower. At every wall he attacked, he made sure to slice through power cables, pipes, and conduits of various kinds.
Klaxons and alarms started going off everywhere.
He cut through into a storage area full of cylinders of compressed gas. Half of them were marked as hydrogen. He grinned. He dashed across the small room to cut a hole in the far wall. As soon as he was through he leaned back in and used the Force to crush several cylinders, releasing the volatile gas. Severed electrical lines were sparking everywhere. It was only a matter of time before one of them ignited the hydrogen. He cut through three more walls, fighting another squad of soldiers along the way before there was a huge WHUMP! behind him. He threw himself flat as billowing flames rushed overhead. The blast wave rolled him across the floor of whatever room he was in. He slammed into a pile of equipment.
He staggered to his feet, rubbing his head. Baking heat surrounded him from the fires ignited by the blast. He lurched away from it, slicing through the wall and diving through as fast as he could. He dashed down the hall until he ran into a squad of soldiers.
He attacked them on sight then turned to the right and began cutting his way through the ship again. He found himself in a huge mess hall. Not surprisingly, it was noticeably empty.
As he was running across it, every light in the ship suddenly went out. The air recycling fans stopped, along with the background hum of machinery that is omnipresent on any starship. Even the klaxons and sirens stopped their wailing. The sudden Stygian darkness was deathly quiet for a moment.
I didn’t cut anything, Kor thought. It must have been Prauf.
“Hey! What’d you hit?”
A moment later Prauf’s mental voice came to him, sounding noticeably shaken. “I don’t know but it was big. It nearly fried me when I cut it.”
Kor was cutting through more walls and fighting soldiers as they talked. “I’ve got some fires over here.” It was true. There was a growing orange glow behind him.
“Yeah, me too.”
Prauf’s mind talk voice was getting stronger. We must be getting close, he thought. Then he cut through another wall and found himself in the cell block, fighting more soldiers than he’d ever seen in one place. There were too many of them and for a moment he thought he’d gotten in over his head, then Prauf sliced his way through the opposite wall and attacked them from behind.
He whooped in joy. Their attention split between two overpowering adversaries, the soldiers finally decided to cut and run.
Kor grinned at Prauf then dashed down a cell block corridor shoulder-to-shoulder with him. They skidded to a stop and began cutting through the locked doors. Prauf’s family were confused and frightened by the sudden alarms, then frightened again by the loss of power, but the sight of Prauf, wielding a lightsaber stunned them beyond words.
Jhemon swayed like a tree in a high wind. “What’s all this?” He waved at the lightsaber.
Kor knew it was surprising to them, but they didn’t have time for it right now. “He’s a Jedi. We’ll explain later. For right now, come on!” He oriented himself then began cutting his way forward on the ship, heading for the bridge.
It was the right decision. The press of trying to keep up with them, scrambling through the holes they were cutting in the walls, and ducking blaster bolts from the soldiers who were still fighting kept them from asking any questions.
It turned out to be the right direction too. They were still a few minutes away from the bridge when a massive explosion lifted the back half of the ship. Kor and Prauf were the only ones who managed to stay on their feet, using the Force to brace themselves as they rode out the blast and subsequent rocking of the ship.
They exchanged glances as they helped Prauf’s family to their feet. “I think that was you,” Kor said.
“Cutting through that big power conduit or whatever,” Prauf agreed. He glanced around. The SAF soldiers were conspicuously absent. “Our friends appear to have given up the fight.”
Kor grinned. “You think?”
A few minutes later Kor and Prauf led his family onto the bridge of the massive ship. It was deserted but there was light coming in through the windows lining it. They told them to wait there until the two Jedi could take care of the soldiers outside. They left them heavily armed with blasters taken from dead soldiers, then had them manually crank the blast doors closed as they left the bridge.
“How do you want to do this?” Prauf asked as they headed for the lower decks.
“I don’t have a plan except to hit them hard and fast.” Kor glanced sideways at his friend. “Sorry.”
They came to an intersection. A single blaster bolt split the air but Kor deflected it absently, sending it back the way it came. A cry of pain told them it had found a target. They kept going without bothering to look.
“Don’t apologize. I don’t have a plan either.” Prauf lit his lightsaber as they neared the exit. Pssshhew-Schvrmmmmmmm! “Hard and fast sounds good to me.”
Kor followed suit. “Let’s get in the middle of them so any blaster bolts that miss will hit one of their own people.”
Prauf laughed. “Has anyone ever told you you’ve got a twisted way of thinking?”
“Just you, but I hate you so it doesn’t count.”
They shared a laugh then burst from the ship
It was only their second time in open combat together but this time both of them were Jedi. Kor was amazed at how they could feed off of each other and feel what the other one was doing or getting ready to do, without words or even looking at each other. Covering each other’s flank, they charged the SAF soldiers and were in the middle of them faster than they could follow. Kor flung three soldiers across the battlefield with the Force and Prauf, sensing what he was doing, turned and cut them in half with a single blow while they were still in the air. Working as if they were a single organism, they used their raw Force and whirling lightsabers to cut the SAF soldiers to pieces.
Through the maelstrom of battle, Kor saw Sanarrn making a break for the repair ship. Prauf felt his concern. He turned and gave a mighty bound through the air, landing in front of him with a lightsaber at his throat. Sanarrn’s face went white. He dropped his weapon. “Don’t kill me! I surrender! I surrender!”
His remaining men, realizing the hopelessness of their fight, followed his lead. Weapons dropped to the ground and hands went up. Kor used the Force to sweep all the blasters into a pile at his feet. “Everyone over there.” He pointed with his lightsaber at the base of a nearby fruit tree. They slunk over to it and sat down, refusing to meet anyone’s eyes.
Prauf grabbed Sanarrn by the throat and dragged him over to Kor. The man coughed and rubbed his throat after Prauf dropped him. “I think we won.”
Kor agreed with him. “Yeah, but this is the third time we’ve had to defend your family and I’m getting tired of it. We need to send a message.”
Prauf studied him. “What kind of message.”
Kor waved at the field littered with bodies. “That kind of message.”
“Good idea, kid.” Prauf turned to Sanarrn. “Have you got a video recorder?” Sanarrn nodded slowly. “Good. We’re gonna get you on video, standing in the middle of all your dead soldiers, telling everyone it was two Jedi who did all this.
It took the better part of an hour to record the extent of the destruction Kor and Prauf had caused inside the ship and outside. They paraded the surviving soldiers in front of the camera to tell their stories. When it was done they put it all together into one video then uploaded it to the com systems on the repair ship.
Prauf clenched a fist in Sanarrn’s shirt. “When you get to Bracca, you show that video to everyone. You tell ‘em this is what the Jedi can do.”
Kor leaned over Prauf’s arm to stare the frightened mercenary in the face. “And tell them, Jedi stands for Justice Eternally Divinely Inspired, which means we don’t like bad guys hurting people. You got that?”
Sanarrn nodded rapidly.
“Fine.” Prauf released him with a little shove. Sanarrn tumbled to the ground then crabbed away from them, dignity long gone. “Go on. Get out of here.” Prauf raised his voice to an angry bellow. “Run!”
Sanarrn scrambled to his feet and bolted for the repair ship. The door clanged shut and a few moments later it rose into the sky, turning to accelerate into space.