...8 BBY ~ Alrick is 17...
At a backwoods tavern on the edge of the Outer Rim, Alrick sat nervously. Across from him was the man who was going to determine whether or not he would be trained as a Ranger.
"Alright kid, here's the deal. I ask the questions, you answer them. Give me the real answers - I detect the slightest hint of a lie; I walk out that door and you never see me again. Understood?" said Jack Therax.
Jack was a new acquaintance of Alrick's, word was he was part of a larger movement standing up to the Empire.
"Deal" said Alrick quickly.s start with an easy one. Where are you from?" Jack asked.
Alrick leaned back into his seat.
"I wish that one were easy." Alrick replied. "The truth is I grew up on Alderaan, or at least I did till I was six. Then everything changed. Since then I've been travelling the galaxy."
"Oh?" Jack said with a raised eyebrow.
"Do you want the long story?" Alrick asked, "Or the short one?"
"I've got time," Jack said with a half-smile.
"Hey Bartender! Another round! And keep them coming! We'll be awhile." Jack yelled above the din of chatting patrons around the tavern.
As the barkeep brought another round of drink, Jack picked his up and took a long drink.
"Get to it kid - the long version," Jack said with a pointed look.
Alrick took his own drink then began.
"I was born on Alderaan to a minor noble house. They aren't that rich, they don't wield much power, but they have had a long-standing alliance with a few noble houses that do. It gives them access to resources they wouldn't normally have. I grew up with an older brother - older really was his word. We're twins born ten minutes apart.
Our early years were well... normal. Some of my earliest memories are of the end of the Clone Wars. My brother and I played Clone Wars when we were younger; somehow I normally ended up as the battle droid," Alrick said with a chuckle, remembering his youth.
"That all changed shortly after we turned eight. I remember we had a visitor come to the house to speak with my parents. It was someone noteworthy, though to be honest I never knew his name. He took one look at my brother and I and ran out of the room to see my father."
Alrick paused and took another drink.
"I don't know what was said, but the next morning I was informed I was leaving. A small number of belongings were packed for me that evening. A longtime family servant was sent with me to function as my tutor and protector, and I've been travelling the space lanes ever since."
"As far as I've been told, my death was entered into the official record of the house of Durgan that day - claiming that I drowned in a nearby river. I haven't spoken to anyone from my family since then. I'm assuming that the servant they sent with me was sending regular reports on my progress - though he might have had a hard time of that lately." Alrick said with a sigh.
"What happened to him?" Jack asked.
"Six months ago, I decided I'd had enough schooling. I was already fluent in ten languages, had completed my other lessons. I could fly the ship, chart the hyperspace routes, and even handle some basic repairs. I wanted to go home, and see my family, but my tutor kept insisting I had more to learn. Things grew tense on the ship, and three months ago, while he was away, I put his belongings out of the ship and took off without him. I'm assuming he's made it back to my family by now; but since then I've become unsure of whether or not I should take that trip myself." Alrick said with a bit of sadness on his face.
"I think... I think I treated him unfairly - he had been good to me for many years. Leaving without saying goodbye was a poor way to repay his kindness." Alrick finished.
"So, what have you been doing for the past few months?" Jack asked.
"Traveling. I thought I knew all there was about moving around the galaxy, but there's a lot my tutor was doing behind the scenes. Without him, I'm having a hard time keeping up with everything there is to do, and the supply of credits I had is running thin," Alrick replied.
"Alright then. Why did you reach out to me?" Jack asked, his eyes narrowing.
"I've been here for a month. I've kept my head down, and my ears open. I - I heard whispers of a group of rangers. I know that I have learned a lot about this galaxy; and I am quickly figuring out there's a lot I don't know. I do know that I want to help people, I know I want to protect people. If you want my help doing those things - I'm here and willing," Alrick finished.
Jack nodded, then probed further. Their conversation lasted for another hour as Alrick was grilled on the specific systems he'd been through lately, his observation about people, and what he thought about various galactic events.
Jack finished his glass then sat for a moment, thinking through their conversation. Then he looked at the young Alrick.
"Alright kid, here's the deal. You get two weeks. If you can get up to speed and contribute in that time, you're in. If not, you take yourself out of this system and have someone else help you figure out what to do with your life."
Alrick nodded in response.
"Well don't just sit there. Your two weeks already started," Jack said as he stood up and stretched.
"You said something about a ship? Let's go check it out." Jack said heading for the door.
Alrick stood up and hurried after him, wondering what he had just gotten himself into. He followed Jack to a speeder parked in a back alley and jumped in next to him. It was a short ten-minute ride to the starport where he'd parked his ship, an old Clone Wars era Doomtreader.
They spent the next hour looking over the ship. Jack popped hatches, inspected wiring, and ran a full system diagnostic.
"You've kept her in pretty good shape over the past few months," Jack said with a nod. "I think she'll do."
"She'll do for what?" Alrick asked.
"My team and I - we need transportation for a couple operations. This looks like it'll do nicely," Jack said.
"But this is my ship," Alrick protested.
"I thought you wanted to help. I thought you wanted in. If you really want in, we need the ship," Jack said sternly. "Look, we're not taking it forever - it's still your ship... but sometimes we have to sacrifice to achieve something greater."
Alrick thought for a moment, then nodded.
"Alright then, show me how you fly this thing," Jack said.
Alrick walked through the preflight checks, then gently took off.
"Where are we going?" Alrick asked.
"Here," Jack said as he punched in a set of coordinates. "Approach from this waypoint here."
"Why there?" Alrick asked.
Jack sighed. "So many questions. Look, there's an Imperial Sensor tower here to the south." Jack pointed at the screen. If we fly through the canyons, we can travel undetected. They are difficult to fly through - so most people fly over them."
Jack looked around, then at the throttle. "Can we pick it up a little bit? We don't have all day you know."
Alrick nodded, then slowly pushed the throttle forward.
"And keep it low... we want to avoid attention if we can," Jack warned.
The ship roared across the planet about a hundred feet above ground.
A half hour later, after gripping the pilot's yoke harder than he'd ever had, Alrick spotted the entrance to the canyons.
"Look kid... I know this is your ship and all, but do you mind if I fly us through the canyons? It's easy to get lost, and deadly if you do," Jack said.
Alrick nodded. "Sure thing."
Jack took control of the transport and raced into the canyons. The ship banked hard left and right as Jack flew through them at high speed. After a few minutes of high throttle and sharp turns, they came to a wide waterfall.
Alrick gripped the seat as he saw that Jack wasn't turning. "What are you..."
He didn't have time to finish, because before he could they passed under the water and into a wide cave. Jack flew through the cave, which had obviously been created for this purpose. They exited about thirty seconds later, and after a few more turns, Jack set the ship down in a makeshift camp that had been crafted in the side of the canyon.
"Home sweet home," Jack said as he stood up and opened the exit hatch.
Alrick gazed into the camp, there were a few small buildings gathered into a cavernous opening in the side of the canyon wall.
"We've got everything we need here; the river provides the food and water. Several meters of rock above us keep up protected from Imperial scanners." Jack looked around and nodded approvingly.
"Let's get you settled," he said as he walked into the main camp.
Over the next three days Alrick learned a little about the group. As a whole, they were distrustful of him as an outsider. The nine of them shared little about their personal lives - each had a codename- something meaningless that Alrick assumed had been made up for his visit. They put him through some standard training routines, checking his physical fitness, aim with a blaster and the like. They were mostly silent when it came to any future role he might have on the team - or any of their plans.
On the fourth day, Jack pulled him aside.
"Look kid, we know you're in over your head. What we're doing is going to be dangerous - some of us may be killed. We know that risk - it's a risk we've been taking for years. If you want to back out, now's your chance to do it," Jack said, watching his face closely.
"No. I said I wanted to help. I meant it," Alrick replied.
"Alright, then get some sleep. Tomorrow's the big day." Jack said with a smile.
The next morning, the whole team was up early. After they had taken off, Jack pulled Alrick aside.
"Today's operation is simple. We're going to hit an imperial convoy and take the supplies," Jack said.
Alrick's eyes went wide.
"Your ship is the key - the laser cannons, while not superb, are better than anything we could get our hands on. They should be enough to take out the ground assault transport that is guarding the convoy. Once that's done, your job is to help get the supplies on the ship. Understood?" Jack asked. "Great" he finished as no question came. "Head down to the cargo bay to help out."
Alrick walked into his cargo bay and an old blaster rifle was thrust into his hand.
"We don't have much ammo. Make them count," said Flex, a tall, muscular fighter who was the team's weapon specialist.
The team of four took positions, waiting for them to touch down.
The wait wasn't long. They felt a couple quick maneuvers and heard the thuds of laser cannons splashing against the ship's shields. But the return shots hit their mark, and they settled down.
The firefight was short. Jack's ranger squad were well trained. Two of the rangers took cover at the cargo bay entrance. They fired off rounds and picked off the stormtroopers as they appeared. Alrick and Flex grabbed crates and began pushing them into the cargo bay. While Alrick was grabbing anything he could get his hands on, Flex was scanning; and after finding his quarry, he pushed the heavy container onto the ship.
Flex was halfway up the ramp when another Stormtrooper opened fire. Alrick saw that the two up top could not hit him; he took the rifle, rolled out in the line of fire, and fired a burst of shots. One of them found its mark, and Flex finished getting the crate onto the ship.
Alrick raced out to get another crate, but Flex yelled after him. "We've got what we need, let's go!"
Taking the final crate with him, Alrick ran up the ramp and the ship took off.
"TIE's are six minutes out!" came Jack's voice over the comms. "We're cutting it close."
Alrick looked at the other four. "So, what do we do now?"
"We hope that Jack can get us under cover before the ties get here. Otherwise, we're probably dead."
Alrick stared in slight disbelief. Things had gone well so far. Could they really be this close to failure?
He left the cargo bay and went to his cabin. He looked wistfully as the one hologram he had of his family, then sat on the bed and focused.
The incoming Tie Fighters went directly to the site of the attack. There was no trace of the attackers, and no ships on their scopes. They initiated a spiraling search pattern, but by the time they would have found his ship, it had already escaped to their hidden base of operations.
"Those TIE's must have had a malfunctioning sensor array," Jack said around the fire later that evening. "That's the only explanation I can think of."
The rest of his team nodded in agreement.
"Well, at least we have the parts; and in his exuberance, Alrick here managed to grab a crate of blaster packs. We're not as low on ammo as we once were," Flex said with a half-smile.
"Get to work on the install in the morning. We need to be ready in three days," Jack ordered.
"Install?" Alrick asked.
"Oh, I don't want to spoil the surprise for you." Jack said with a mischievous smile.
The next morning Alrick woke up, looking forward to the surprise. He felt like he'd done enough with the last mission to prove his value. He hoped that his time of running was coming to an end.
Jack was waiting for him to get up.
"Let's go for a ride," he said.
Alrick looked at him, slightly puzzled, but nodded in agreement.
Jack led him over to a speeder and climbed in. They sat in silence as they raced through the canyon, after exiting the canyon, he flew for another hour until they came to the outskirts of a larger town.
Jack looked at the young man.
"I told you at the beginning, if I found a hint of a lie, I was walking away," he began.
Alrick looked at him apprehensively.
"My crew found this logbook on the ship last night while we were preparing for the installation. This is you, right?" Jack asked.
"Torrel died today. What am I going to do? I'm only thirteen. Do I go home? Do I continue to run? What do I do?"
Alrick nodded and looked to the ground.
"While I can appreciate your situation, and how you've kept that ship together for four years, I can't fathom. You've got some skills; skills I think I could use. But I told you; I can't keep someone with me that I can't trust. Maybe there's more to your story, but time is short," Jack looked away, frustrated.
"Look, I can't give you your ship back. I've got some credits here, you can use them to get off world, maybe go home. I wish I could do more - I never wanted to take anything from you... but things are in motion that must be completed. There isn't another way. I hope someday you'll understand."
He tossed a bag of credits and a blaster at Alrick's feet.
"Take care of yourself, kid," Jack said, then sped away on the speeder, leaving young Alrick watching his departure.
The next two weeks were some of the worst of Alrick's life. Though he was in a city, he didn't have any of his identification, which meant though he had credits, he couldn't spend them at any reputable establishment. Convincing the non-reputable ones that you weren't an Imperial Spy was next to impossible, and he realized how much the physical walls of the ship had protected him mentally from the dangers he faced. Out here he felt exposed. He couldn't trust anyone - his last attempt at that had failed horribly. After two weeks of scraping by in the city, he left, and headed for a thick patch of forest. He didn't know what he'd find there, but it had to be better than where he was.
It took him four days to walk - it'd been an hour or two with a speeder, but one would need identification to buy a speeder, and Alrick wasn't yet ready to steal one.
Still, the walk to the forest allowed him to clear his head. Once there, he found a suitable location, dry, with a nearby source of water. He found bushes with berries that were edible, while not what he would have chosen, were better than anything he had scrounged in the city. His makeshift camp began to feel more like home each passing day, and his time was taken up gathering provisions and exploring.
He had been living in the forest a whole month when Jack finally found him.
"You're a hard man to find," Jack said, walking into the camp unannounced.
"Why are you here?" Alrick said, his face showing the anger that had been simmering for the last six weeks.
"I needed to talk to you," Jack said.
"I don't think I have anything to talk about with you," Alrick said defiantly.
"I think you do," Jack said softly. "I think you owe me the rest of the story."
"Who... who was Torrel? And where did you get these?" Jack asked, placing a small green cube and a silver crystal on a stump Alrick had been using as a table.
Alrick's face paled.
"We had to open up a lot of nooks and crannies to do our install. We came across them hidden behind a well-sealed bulkhead. I don't know how long they had been there. But if you don't know what they are, then I think we're done here," Jack said.
"They were Torrrel's. Torrel was... was a Jedi... a Jedi Padawan - he had just been assigned a master when... when the attack came. He never told me how he survived, I could tell it was a source of deep pain and regret for him. He was the one who found me on Alderaan. He was my tutor, my instructor, my friend," Alrick said haltingly.
"He was your Master - and you his apprentice?" Jack asked.
"No - no, definitely not. He came of age during the Clone Wars, just at the end. He had completed the basic lessons, but nothing beyond that. He passed on a few things he knew... but he was far from a Master... and I'm far from a Jedi," Alrick said.
"I knew," he continued, "that he had those two items. A single holocron, filled with treasures of knowledge. A single crystal, that could be used to forge a lightsaber - maybe reignite the Jedi order. The truth is, however, that Torrel knew he was hunted. He knew we would both be hunted, that's why he convinced my family I needed to leave. He never did anything with them; because doing so might cause ripples that the hunters needed to find us. So, they were stowed away carefully in the ship's hull... ready for the day when it was time to use them."
"What happened to him?" Jack asked.
"We had stopped off in Nar Shaddaa. We didn't leave the spaceport except to get supplies. While we were there, someone found us. I don't know to this day if it's something I did... something he did... or just a chance meeting. Whoever it was, whatever it was, followed Torrel onto the ship. Torrel had gone down to the cargo hold, I was up top when it came in. I did the one thing we'd been working on - I don't know what it looks like to someone else... but I focused on being empty - it should have seen me... but it didn't. I do know that it had a lightsaber - out, ignited. I could see the red blade in front of my face... feel its heat radiating across my face. It took all my concentration to stay still, to stay focused. Torrel ran up - I think he knew what was going on. Their fight was short... Torrel lost - he was unarmed, and his opponent was quite skilled. All I could do was hide," Alrick finished quietly.
"What happened afterwards?" Jack asked, his face intrigued.
"About an hour later a gang war erupted at the starport. The imperials that were present were drawn into that fight. I took the opportunity to slip out. I was thirteen then, I've been on my own for four years," Alrick finished.
"What about the story with your tutor?" Jack asked.
"Who would really believe that I've managed to survive on my own, with a ship, for four years?" Alrick said. "Besides, I try to avoid some of these more specific details when I can.
Jack sat down on another stump and stared into the small campfire.
After a few moments, he looked at Alrick, who was quiet as well.
"Well, this changes some things. I think we should start over."
He stood up, walked over to Alrick, and offered his hand.
"My name is Jack Therax. My squad and I are first and foremost sworn to offer safety and protection to all survivors of the Empire's assault on the Jedi Order. Our numbers are small, but our hearts are stout. We'd be glad to help you in any way we can."
"But I'm no Jedi," Alrick said.
"I know. But by my reckoning you could be; and that qualifies you as more of a Jedi than anyone else we've encountered in the past three years. Besides, if any Imperial found these, they'd brand you a Jedi and make you disappear without another word... If you'd be a Jedi to them; then you're a Jedi to me," Jack said with a smile. "Besides, it's the least I can do for keeping your ship."
"Where is my ship?" Alrick asked.
"Well... uhh... our last mission didn't go so well. I believe it's been impounded. But don't worry, I've got a plan," Jack said quickly.
"Impounded?" Alrick asked, his eyes wide.
"I told you, I have a plan. Come on, I think you need to eat something other than berries," Jack said.
Jack and Alrick made it back to the camp later that evening. Alrick was surprised, there were only three others in the camp; Flex was among them.
"What happened?" Alrick asked.
"Like I said, we ran into trouble. The Imps were waiting for us. A couple of us were cut down - a couple of us were capture; along with your ship," Jack replied.
"But we're gearing up for round two. We're hoping that they think we've all been captured or killed," Jack said.
Jack whistled and the rest of his squad came over.
"I've settled things with young Alrick here. His background is everything we discussed, and what we hoped," Jack began, with the rest of the group's eyes going wide. "He's young, he's untrained, but he's what we've sworn to assist. We need to train him up, physically and mentally if he's going to be ready for the challenges he'll face in the future."
Flex grinned and cracked his knuckles. "I think we can handle that."
Jack smiled. "Get started with the basic conditioning, then move to melee combat. We'll want to work on his blaster skills as well; though he's already shown he can handle it."
"I need to go work out the rest of the next operation. Get to it," Jack said, then walked off towards a tent.
Flex looked over at Alrick. "So, you're a Jedi?"
Alrick looked back. "Maybe... maybe I could be. But I'm not yet."
"I've always wanted to fight a Jedi. To see if I could take one. I think I could," Flex said, then walked over to the weapon stash and picked up a couple training blades.
"I know you're not a Jedi... yet... but let's see what you've got," Flex said as the other rangers backed away.
As night fell, Alrick could barely move. He'd done more physical activity in the past few hours than he would do for days on the ship. As he wearily dropped onto his cot, he wondered if his new status was going to be better or worse than just being part of the team.
Two days later, the team boarded their speeders and headed for the Imperial Impound lot. About 5 klicks out they paused and hid in a second of brush. Jack pulled out a set of macro binoculars and scanned the impound lot.
It was guarded by a dozen stormtroopers, and a small battery of laser turrets made an aerial assault a suicide mission. Jack also made note of the Doomtreader Class transport that was their ticket out.
One of the other Rangers "Jynx" had a knack with electronics. She pulled out her datapad and activated a small droid. It flew off towards the installation.
The droid flew quickly, past the stormtroopers and to the power generating unit for the outpost. It landed on top of the system, then shut itself down. A time delayed Electro Magnetic Pulse fire ten seconds later, causing a huge shower of sparks from the power unit.
Jack watched intently as the power systems failed, shutting down communications, targeting, and weapons.
"Alright, let's go!" he yelled to his team.
They jumped back onto their speeders and blasted off towards the outpost. On their way in, the team's resident sniper "Spot" began firing his precision shots at the stormtroopers. Alrick sat in the speeder with them, firing a few shots off with a blaster pistol as he had the chance.
As they closed, the Stormtroopers took cover and started firing on the oncoming speeders.
Off to his left, Alrick watched as Jynx jumped from her speeder; Flex hit the throttle, pushing it faster. He too jumped, and the speeder flew past the troopers and tore a hole in the gate.
Jack pushed his speeder towards the new opening, as Spot picked off the last stormtrooper.
"Alright everyone, inside the gate!" Jack yelled.
Flex was the last one in, hobbling on one leg. He'd not landed well when he jumped from the speeder.
Alrick ran forward to his ship and punched in the entry code. A moment later his ramp was down, and the group ran up the ship.
As the team began firing up the engines, Flex called out. "Someone get back here, we've got company!"
Jack and Spot ran back, leaving Jynx and Alrick to finish preparations for takeoff.
Jynx sat down and furiously began typing to plot a hyperspace jump.
"Did they want me to fly?" Alrick asked.
Without looking up, Jynx responded to the sound of rapid-fire blaster bolts... "I'm certainly not going to fly - and they are busy."
Alrick nodded and slid back into his pilot seat. It'd been too long.
Alrick took off and headed away from the outpost as Jack came running back into the room.
"Spot's been hit - Flex has him in the med bay. I'm heading to the turret to cover us on the way out!" he yelled as he climbed a newly installed ladder.
"Turret?" Alrick asked, eyeing a handful of blips on the outer edges of his radar.
"Surprise!" Jack called back, and with a quick smile he set himself up in the newly installed turret.
Jynx turned back to the computer and typed in a set of coordinates.
"Here's our hyperspace entry point. If you can make it there, we can escape," she said to Alrick.
Alrick nodded and punched the throttle. The engines of his ship roared to life.
"I've got six TIEs on radar." Jack called over the comms. "I hope you've got some tricks up your sleeve."
The six Tie Fighters were on a direct intercept course. Alrick began weaving slightly, hoping to throw their aim off; and up top Jack began firing out blue bolts from the ion cannons.
As they closed, Jack clipped one of the fighters, killing its systems. The other five opened up on the transport. At first the shields held, but as the barrage continued, a few bolts made it through. One of them hit a power relay causing a bright flash of light in the cockpit.
Alrick covered his eyes with his hand, but his sight was filled with bright spots and shadows. Alrick blinked a few times to try to clear it away and heard Jynx yell something about them coming around for another pass.
In the back of his head, he remembered his conversations with Torrel about connecting with the Force; how Jedi could do amazing things with it.
Alrick focused... instead of focusing on being empty, he wanted to fill himself up. It had been rare that he'd opened himself to the force this way, and the more he opened himself up, the more he could see.
His normal sight returned at the same time, whether it was a natural recovery, or enabled by the Force didn't matter. What did matter is he now saw the unfolding battle more clearly than ever. With one hand on the pilot's yoke, and one hand on the throttle, he moved to a realm of piloting he had never experienced before. He was no longer watching the battle; he was feeling the battle. He could see the path of the fighters, he could see their turns before they happened, he felt the impact of lasers on shields, and dodge before they hit. He didn't really know what this was; but he liked it.
For the Imperial pilots, the ease of the first pass was replaced by a ship that always seemed just out of reach.
Jynx was sitting next to Alrick, typing furiously on the control panel "Power has been re-routed, and front shields are online. Keep doing what you're doing!"
Up top Jack's furious firing had caught another pair of Tie Fighters. "Three down, three to go!" he yelled.
"Uh... guys!" Jynx yelled to everyone. "We've got a problem!"
Alrick had just broken through the atmosphere of the planet. Jynx, plotting out the rest of their escape, had visually scouted out the path. An Imperial Star Destroyer had moved to intercept them and was directly between them and their hyperspace entry point.
"I see it!" Jack said, sliding down the ladder.
"Alrick, let me ta..." Jack began.
"I've got this," Alrick replied.
"But the tractor beams," Jack said. "If we get to close, we're done for!"
"I've got this," Alrick said again.
"But..." Jack continued to protest.
"Trust me," Alrick said, cutting him off.
Jack grabbed a seat and watched as Alrick raced towards the Star Destroyer.
For the first time since the fight began, Alrick readied the lasers. He would have to be precise.
As they neared the ISD, it opened fire, filling the sky with green turbolasers. While potentially lethal for the entire crew, it had the benefit of driving the Tie Fighters away. Alrick continued to fly through the hail of green energy.
He reached the nose of the ISD and yelled. "Push the shield power into engines!"
Jynx didn't say anything, but immediately complied, giving the freighter a short boost of speed.
That boost, threw off the targeting computers, buying them a few more seconds...
As the tractor beam began locking on again, Alrick spotted it. He pulled the ship into a tight loop, and as he pulled out of it, fired of a pair of shots. The first missed, the second, knocked the closest tractor beam array - and was what they needed.
"Push the lasers into engines!" Alrick yelled as he continued to dodge turbolasers.
A second burst of speed pushed them further down the hull of the Star Destroyer. Alrick flew their transport underneath the bridge superstructure and past the imposing vessel.
Jynx called out next to him.
"Hyperspace in three."
The stars elongated as the ship leaped into hyperspace.
Alrick slouched back into his seat wearily. That had been much more work than he had expected.
Jack was looking back at him with a curious expression on his face.
"I guess you really do know how to fly," he said finally. Then nodded and went to go check on the rest of the crew.
This was Alrick's start as a ranger. He took over as the group's regular pilot, flying their ships in multiple encounters. He would spend the next five years with this group, fighting against the Empire, Hutts, Pirates, and anyone else interested in oppressing those who couldn't fight for themselves. Times were tough, allies were hard to find; and enemies were plentiful– but they walked those days together and helped plant seeds that one day became the Rebel Alliance.
-3 BBY - Alrick is 22
Three months ago, the ranger team had determined that they'd been making too much noise; and decided to fade away for a while. On a backwater world on the edge of the outer rim, they had established another camp. Far from the day to day struggle against the Empire, they trained, repaired, and survived, hoping to again take the fight to the Empire whenever they could.
"You should really open it," Jack said from behind him.
Alrick looked up behind him and set the small cube down on the table in front of him.
"I still don't know why you haven't," Jack continued, walking into the room. "What's the use of keeping it around if you aren't ever going to do anything with it?"
"I think... that there will be a right time to open this up. But I don't know when that will be. I know that seeking power and abilities without the proper wisdom will lead me down a dark path," Alrick responded.
"What's so harmful about knowledge? You've gained much since we first met. Why should knowledge of the force be so different than the ability to fly a ship, fix a hyperdrive. The more you know, the more you'll be able to help those who need it. That's the conversation we had when this started five years ago," Jack followed his argument up with a good-natured chuckle.
"But what if "it" comes again? What if taking another step down this path is the trigger that reveals me; and us to an enemy we have no hope of confronting?" Alrick asked seriously.
"I know we've been in some tough spots. But we've always pulled through. We can handle it - we must handle it," Jack replied.
"Look, you have to face the facts. What we've done over the past few years has put a price on our heads. We've fought the Empire, we've fought off bounty hunters, we've fought off pirates. The more we do, the more we get noticed, the more likely something significant is going to move against us. The only question when that happens, is how prepared have we made ourselves for what's coming? You have the time and ability to prepare more than any of us. It's your choice on whether or not you take those steps."
With a nod, Jack stood up and walked out of the ship, leaving Alrick to his thoughts.
Alrick stared at the box for a long moment.
With a sigh, he reached out, interacting with the holocron for the first time in many years.
Jack came back a few hours later. Alrick was still there, sitting on the ground now, the holocron floating gently in the air in front of him, pulsing with a faint green light.
"It's about time," Jack thought, and he left Alrick to his studies.
Two weeks later, Jack's team got a call.
"Owl - this a Command - come in." Jack quickly went over and answered. "This is Owl, go ahead."
"Authorization Code - 959A6387," The voice said.
"Response Code - 873348," Owl replied.
"Authorization complete. We're setting up a coordinated operation. Report to rally point 34B. Be there in seventy-two hours."
"Copy that, 34B - 72 hours," Jack replied.
Jack left the comm room and gathered the team together. They had a long way to go, and still needed to pack up.
Twenty-four hours later they left their refuge and headed into hyperspace.
Rally Point 34B was a large asteroid facility. The hangar was already full of more than a dozen ships when Owl's team arrived.
"I didn't know there were so many of us," Alrick said.
"This is the first time in a few years we've pulled this many teams back together. It's actually smaller than I was expecting," Jack replied.
"One more thing - everyone in here will be using code names. I know we've referred to you as "the Kid" for years - but I think you're past that now. You'll be Krayt from now on."
"Let's go," Jack said.
The team disembarked and were met by another gentlemen.
"Owl, good to see you. Remind me of your team?"
"Great to see you General. This is Flex, Jynx, Spot, and Krayt," Owl replied.
"Is that it?" the General asked.
Owl nodded. "We've lost a lot of good people over the years, and recruits are harder to find. Krayt here is our most recent recruit, and he's been with the team almost five years now.
The general nodded. "We're gathering in the far conference room."
The team walked to the far conference room which was filled with a low hum of conversation. The team took their seats among the other eighty or so gathered rangers.
As another hour ticket by, two more teams came in; then the General came up to speak.
"It has been almost twenty years since this many of our people have gathered together in one place. Over these past two decades, we have fought, bled, and died, to preserve those we have sworn to protect, and help those under the thumb of Imperial oppression," The General paused for a drink.
"Our teams have been kept separate - intentionally. The time for us to fight as small independent units is ending. I'm sure you all have heard the whispers of the forming of a full rebellion against the Empire. I can assure you those are much more than whispers. We, who have fought so long, given so much - have the opportunity to join with like-minded groups to form an alliance - an alliance that will at last overthrow the shackles placed on us by the Emperor and restore freedom; and more importantly restore the Jedi to their rightful place in the galaxy!"
His statement was met with cheers across the room.
"We are the few that remember who the Jedi were. We remember what they stood for, and even in these days when many have been convinced of their treachery; we remember that it was the Empire that betrayed the people."
"Now then, to the reason we have gathered today. While some in the coming months and years will offer fancy words in the realm of politics to voice their support in the declaration of rebellion, we know that it is only through action that people will be moved to join. Therefore, we will declare our open rebellion for the cause of freedom with action. We have prepared an operation; each of you will play a role. If we are successful, we will both strike a blow to the Empire, and give people hope that it can be defeated!"
"Your mission assignments have been loaded to these datapads - each team has a role that pushes towards the final objective. To maintain operational security, each team has only been given its role. Get back to your ships and review them - we leave in one hour."
Owl and his team left the room and gathered on the ship. Ground crews were just finishing up refuel and resupply as the hatch closed.
"Looks like we're with the first wave," Owl said, his face still reviewing the operation. "Our job is to get close to the station and neutralize any anti-starfighter defenses so that wave two can land. We then control the airspace around the station while phase two is live." Owl dropped the datapad onto the table for others to review.
"Seems like a straightforward operation," Jynx added after scanning their orders.
"Ok then, you all know the drill. Keep your eyes sharp and your aim true." Owl said.
Alrick pulled the ship out of the hangar as other ships in the small fleet followed suit. Forming up with the General and another ship, the first three transports jumped into hyperspace, the rest of the group to follow five minutes later.
Their chosen exit point for the hyperspace journey was outside sensor range of the station. The three ships set their destination and started moving in, as if they were standard traffic. After a few moments they came in range of the station's sensors.
"Things look as expected - we've got four ties on patrol. I'm sure they'll be coming to greet us in a moment," the General called out to his team.
As the ships continued to close with the station, a feeling of dread began spreading over Alrick. It was like nothing he had experienced before.
"Something's not right," Alrick said softly. "I feel... danger... all around us."
"I think we're all a little uneasy," Owl responded behind him. "This mission is pretty far outside our normal scope - if it's successful, the galaxy knows the Empire can be defeated... if we're not, our entire force could be killed."
"It's more than just jitters," Alrick replied... looking out the viewscreen left and right.
"Wave 2 has arrived - they are moving in," the General called out over the comm system.
"Somethings really not right," Alrick said louder, his eyes scanning every angle for signs of trouble, yet not finding anything.
He felt a hand on his shoulder. "Relax," Owl said. "You have something better than eyes. Use it."
Alrick nodded and closed his eyes.
"They're coming. Two Imperial Star Destroyers. Thirty seconds out. It's an ambush."
Owl grabbed the commlink. "General! We have Star Destroyers inbound. Issue the abort command!"
"I don't see any Star Destroyers on my scanners. Where are you looking?" The General barked back.
"General - trust me; they're coming. It's an ambush," Owl pleaded.
The channel they were communicating on was common among their small fleet. There was a rustle of comm signals as the ships put their shields up and readied themselves for combat.
"Ten seconds," Alrick said again, his eyes closed. He pushed the throttle into high gear and broke formation.
"Where are you going Owl?" the General yelled in the comms.
"I don't know," Owl replied.
"Five seconds," Alrick said again, dumping weapon power into his engines.
"Owl! Get your crew back in formation. I'm not sure what you're trying to..." the General's words were cut off with the sudden arrival of a pair of Imperial Star Destroyers. The destroyers came in on either side of the small fleet, Alrick was heading straight for the closest one as they dropped out of hyperspace.
The two destroyers immediately opened fire on the small fleet of transports, but they were already starting to break off their original vector and employ evasive maneuvers.
"Abort Code 11789!" The General yelled into the comms. "Break formation and scatter. Escape pattern delta four!"
Immediately the fleet began heading towards their hyperspace entry point.
A moment later the General came on again. "If we get out of this alive, we're going to have a talk about how you knew they were coming."
"Gladly," Owl shot back. "Let's focus on staying alive first."
"Owl, you're getting awful close there - I'm assuming you have a plan?" the General asked as Alrick brought their ship closer to the star destroyer.
"I'm assuming so," Owl replied as he eyed the incoming turbolaser fire.
"You're not flying?" the General asked.
"I would be if I was the best pilot on my team," Owl replied, eying the looming shapes of the destroyer.
"We really need to talk then," the General replied.
Tie Fighters began pouring out of the two Star Destroyers. A few from the closest destroyer broke towards Alrick's ship, the rest raced on after the transports that now had a decent head start.
Alrick spent the next thirty seconds closing with the Star Destroyer, weaving in and out of turbolasers as he closed. Near misses began draining his shields, one brought the front shields down near ten percent.
"They're going to get a tractor lock on us!" Jynx yelled as they closed.
"I'm counting on it," Alrick said.
A moment later, they were caught. The ISD slowed to a stop and hailed their prisoner.
A wide-band broadcast was sent out.
"This is the Imperial Star Destroyer Conviction, lower your shields and power down your engines. You are under arrest and charged with treason against the Empire. If you continue to resist, we will destroy your ship."
Alrick quickly complied.
"What are you doing?" Owl asked nervously.
"Buying the fleet time," Alrick replied.
"This is the transport ‘Broken Dream' - we look forward to the opportunity to present evidence of our innocence in the court of law." Alrick called back over the comm system.
The tractor beam system began pulling the ship closer, towards the cavernous hangar bay on the Star Destroyer.
Alrick kept his eyes on the sensors as a few tense moments passed. Finally, he saw it, telltale signatures of the rest of their ranger fleet jumping to hyperspace.
"Hang on everyone!" Alrick yelled to the team, "Let's hope this works," he said much quieter.
Alrick focused again, utilizing knowledge he had gained from the holocron, he focused. Sweat dripped down his brow. The rest of the crew held their breath, then they felt the tug of the tractor beam fall away.
"What's he doing?" Jynx asked quietly.
"Go," Alrick said, sliding out of the pilot seat and to the ground.
Owl took one more look at the young man and slid into the pilot's seat. He fired up the engines, waiting for turbolasers to start up, for a tractor beam to re-engage - but neither came.
Alrick sat, focused, sweat dripping down his face until the ship entered hyperspace. He then collapsed, falling unconscious where he sat.
Flex picked him up and carried him to the small medical bay, leaving the rest of the crew puzzled on what exactly had just happened.
...Aboard the bridge of the Conviction...
"What do you mean, they disappeared?" the Captain yelled across the bridge to his sensor officer.
"I... I don't know Sir. We had a good lock on them, they were thirty seconds from crossing inside our shields, one minute from the bay. And then they disappeared. The computer system could no longer detect the ship," the officer replied.
"This is your fault! Get your team running a full diagnostic immediately. I want to know why there's a bug that allowed a ship full of traitors to escape. I will be noting your failure on your permanent record!" the Captain bellowed.
The ship's ISB agent, Tol Barand, observed all of this in silence. He knew that computer checks were done routinely. He knew the chances of a maintenance failure being at fault were next to none. The ship didn't just disappear from the tractor beam's sensors... it disappeared from all their sensors.
He spent the next half hour pouring over sensor logs - he went over the time of the disappearance time and time again, with no luck. Then he tried something different; and he found it. A hyperspace entry was noted by the sensor log - for a ship that wasn't on their sensors.
Sinking back into his seat; there were only two possibilities. The first, was that this ragtag group of rangers had acquired cloaking technology. He dismissed this possibility - there was no way that could have happened; and even the best cloaks around took so much power you wouldn't be able to enter hyperspace with it on.
The second possibility... now that was an interesting thought. The Captain wouldn't be pleased. Nor was he normally. Still though, having the Sensor Officer owe him a favor might be worth it.
He quickly made his decision and sent off his message. He hoped his instincts were correct. The consequences of being wrong were more than he wanted to consider at this time.
Two hours later, a single large fighter entered the system.
The Captain was dismayed to discover an Inquisitor had arrived.
Once he arrived on board, he commandeered the Captain's office to conduct his investigation, interviewing all the appropriate crew members, then analyzing the sensor logs himself. He agreed - the ship had been cloaked - cloaked from both visually, and from an electronic signal perspective. The only question was, how did that happen. There were of course, two possibilities - one of which would require his specialized talents.
After thanking the Captain for the use of his office, and the young ISB agent for the tip; the inquisitor left the ship and began searching for this mysterious ship that could somehow vanish from sensors.
Owl was sitting with Alrick as he woke up.
"We're still on the ship," Alrick mumbled. "I guess that's a good sign."
"Yes, we got out of there. Though none of us know exactly what happened," Owl replied.
"I used a technique I had discussed with the holocron. It can make you - or something you are in, invisible to both eyesight and sensors... some sort of cloak. The ship was bigger than I thought it was - I've only used it a couple times; I didn't realize how much energy it was going to take," Alrick replied, sitting up wearily.
"How did you learn that technique so quickly?" Owl asked, a surprised look on his face.
"I think Torrel prepared me well for it. I knew all the pieces already - it was just putting them together and taking it to the next level," Alrick replied.
"I hope you had a backup plan?" Owl asked.
"Well, involved the self-destruct and our escape pods. It wasn't the best option, but I think it had a higher chance of success than an Imperial courtroom," Alrick said with a chuckle. "I'm glad we didn't need it. Are we going to join up with the rest of the fleet?"
Owl shook his head. "No. Your stunt - while effective - is likely to get us some unwanted attention. We're looking for a place to lay low for a while."
They made several crisscrossing hyperspace jumps over the next couple days; leaving a trail they hoped would be hard to follow; then set down at an out of the way spaceport back on the edge of the outer rim. The crew set about finding fuel and the other supplies they needed, catching up on maintenance tasks. They were there for a week, which proved to be a day too long.
Most of the crew was walking back to the ship after picking up the last things they needed. As they rounded the corner; a body was laying outside the ship and the entry hatch was open.
"It's Spot." Alrick said softly. "And someone's in the ship."
The rest of the team drew their blasters and moved forward cautiously.
Then Alrick felt it. The same presence from so many years ago. This is the one who had killed Torrel... he had come back... for him. In an instant Alrick felt a surge of recognition, and hurried footsteps brought a black cloaked figure out from their ship.
"I'm glad you all could join me. I have reviewed this ship and determined that no functioning cloaking device is onboard. This is happy news; because that means one of you is a Jedi. I represent someone who is most eager to make your acquaintance," he said coolly, then removed a lightsaber from his belt and activated the blood red blade. He took a few more steps forward, then pulled out a small detonator and set off a set of explosives that had been set inside the ship. While not destroying the ship completely, it was clear that the ship wasn't going anywhere.
"You all weren't planning to leave, were you?" he asked.
Alrick gulped, his eyes wide. Was he ready for this?
Owl however, didn't flinch. "You're not going to find what you're looking for here. The Jedi is hidden away; and I'll die before I tell you his location!" he raised his blaster and fired three quick shots. As their cue, Jynx, Flex, and Krayt began firing as well. They jumped for cover and spread out, but the figure in front of their ship deftly blocked or dodged each of their shots.
Flex, hoping to get an advantage by getting close; pulled out a pair of vibroblades and charged forward. The two exchanged blows, but the reflexes of the inquisitor were better. Fifteen seconds later Flex was down. Jynx pulled out a second blaster, firing rapidly. The inquisitor leapt forward and deflected two blaster bolts back at her, finding their mark.
"Run Krayt!" Owl ordered as he prepared to face off with the inquisitor.
Alrick nodded and took off. He knew he was no match for the inquisitor. No match for him on the ground... but in the air...
He began looking as he ran, then spotted a small group of starfighters. He grabbed a helmet and an ignition key from a nearby storeroom, then ran for the fighters. Jumping into the ship, he fired up the engines and took off in an old Dagger class starfighter.
The inquisitor eyed the departing ship, then flipped his lightsaber at Owl who cried out in pain. The inquisitore ran to his personal ship, not wanting to let his quarry escape again. It took him a minute to get to his ship, by which time Krayt was already in space.
His powerful engines roared to life as the inquisitor chased after Krayt.
"I remember you. I don't know why I couldn't find you before, all those years ago... but I'm glad I'm the one who found you now," the inquisitor called out over the comm system.
Krayt slowed his fighter and turned around, facing the planet again.
"Power down your ship and come with me. You don't need to throw your life away today," the inquisitor counseled Krayt. "Come with me, and we will train you - you will have power you have never dreamed of. You will be strong."
The inquisitor's ship stopped just outside laser range. The two ships faced off with one another.
"I'm not coming with you," Krayt replied.
"Then I have no choice but to kill you," The inquisitor said, and he pushed his engines forward at high speed.
Krayt accelerated to attack speed and began firing; his cannons finding their mark as he danced out of the way of the inquisitor's shot.
The two ships entered into a dogfight that lasted almost ten minutes. While Krayt was clearly the better pilot, the age of his ship and its weapon systems were inferior to the equipment on the inquisitor's ship. Still they fought on, and over time Krayt began wearing down the shields of his opponent.
When at last they fell, the inquisitor gave a shout of frustration. He knew it was only a matter of time before Krayt was going to find the mark and disable his fighter - he couldn't let that happen. The inquisitor turned directly into Krayt's path. Knowing the collision that was coming, Krayt hit the thrusters and braced for the impact. He angled the front of the ship like a spear, hoping it would find its mark.
The resulting collision tore off one of the three spines that make up the main structure of the Dagger starfighter. It knocked out his propulsion systems, his shields, his weapons, and life support. As his crippled ship tumbled through the air, he got a visual of the inquisitor's ship. The missing piece from his fighter had been implanted firmly into the cockpit of the inquisitor's ship. There was no way the inquisitor had survived the collision.
As the last bits of breathable air floated in his cockpit; a strange sense of peace came over him. This could be the end of his life. Rather than focus on the fear he faced, he opened himself again to the force. The one who had hunted him for so long was finally gone. He had given so much, lost so much; but he knew that his life had saved many. Many who would carry on the fight because of his sacrifice.
As the air grew thin and cold, he slipped into a force trance. Somewhere, amid this trance he remembered the original base of his team; hidden away in the cliff, then there was a surge of power.
When he woke up; Alrick was there; in their original base. He heard the bubbling of the river nearby; the bright sunshine was covered by the overhang of the cliffs above. Confused, he realized he was still in the dagger starfighter. He extracted himself from the ship, wondering how he had gotten here.
Alrick spent the next year hidden away in the hidden ranger base. The skills he learned with the team helped him survive. He focused on training the best he could, but devoid of communications equipment, or a vehicle that could be used to escape the canyons, it was unlikely he would find his way out soon.
One morning, he awoke to the sound of a landspeeder. He quickly moved to a hidden location, unsure of who was coming. The speeder came right to the camp, and a figure he recognized stepped out. It was Jack.
Alrick stood up from his hiding place, a smile on his face.
"Alrick, it is you," Jack said with a smile. "You still really are a hard man to find."
"What are you doing here? I thought you died?" Alrick asked.
Jack looked at him, puzzled. "Oh, the inquisitor. I have a new forearm," he said as he flourished his replacement, "but other than that I'm ok."
"What about the others?" Alrick asked quietly.
"Spot and Flex died that day. Jynx survived; but I'm not sure where she is now," Jack replied. "You have to know, nothing that happened that day is your fault. If you hadn't done what you did, we would have lost a lot more than we did. As it is, the rangers have joined the Rebel Alliance, and are furthering the cause we fought for all those years."
"There's a Rebel Alliance now?" Alrick asked.
"Has been for about six months," Owl replied. "I've already signed up - but I've been out scouting for them. I figured I'd look for you along the way. How exactly did you get here anyways?"
"I'm not exactly sure. I don't think it was something I did, and I know that thing wasn't going anywhere," Alrick replied, pointing at the wreck of the dagger starfighter.
"I suppose that's a mystery for another day," Owl said. "So, I'm hoping you're coming with me. I could use a good pilot on my team. Though I do suppose the accommodations here are nice."
"I'll have to clear my calendar," Alrick replied dryly. "In truth it's been nice to be away - to only be responsible for myself for a time. But I'm not looking to be a hermit for the rest of my life."
"Oh, before we go. I have something for you." He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out the holocron and crystal. "These managed to survive the explosion on the ship. I had to break into the scrapyard to get them out."
Alrick's eyes went wide. "I thought they were lost for good! Thank you."
"Let's go get you cleaned up. When was the last time you shaved anyways?" Owl asked.
Here, Alrick began his time in the Rebel Alliance. He spent most of the next two years on scouting missions, locating old installations and scouting for potential new bases. The need for new pilots after the Battle of Yavin pulled him out of that world, and into the frontlines of the war as part of the Starfighter Corps. Owl too was pulled away and took on the role of a flight instructor.
Alrick flew with a couple of different squadrons before finding his way into Renegade Wing. He then spent a short time in Corsair before finally moving into Rogue Squadron. He was a member of Rogue Squadron, and then the XO through the battle of Endor. No matter the mission, no matter the odds, he flew and fought every day as his last, knowing the force was his ally, and that peace could be just one more battle away.