Back on Zing’s ship, Captain Rex stayed by the commlink to keep in contact with Zing, Barriss, and Ahsoka who were still down on the surface. Normally, anyone would’ve given them up for insane for going to such a dangerous place to seek out answers. But not Captain Rex, who served alongside Anakin Skywalker and Ahsoka Tano during the Clone Wars just a few years earlier. He himself experience the workings of The Force. Although he could never understand it as well as a Jedi, He did have an idea of the awesome power a Force sensitive individual possessed. As Captain Rex tried to contact Ahsoka from his commlink, he was getting no reply. “Commander Tano, this is Captain Rex. Do you read me?”. There was no reply. Captain Rex made a few more attempts to try to reach Ahsoka. “Having trouble with the communications?” asked Commander Wolffe. “Just working with a faulty commlink” said Captain Rex. Commander Wolffe moved in closer to look at Rex’s commlink. “Not faulty”, said Wolffe, “Jammed”. “But who could be jamming our signals?” asked Captain Rex. Seconds later, a Star Destroyer came out of hyperspace and started heading towards Zing’s ship. “We might have a problem”, said Commander Wolffe. Commander Wolffe then tried to reach Zing on his commlink and managed to get a weak signal to the surface. “Zing (static), Zi-ing! This is Com-mander Wolffe, A St-ar destroyer has c-come out of hyperspace! We need to leave n-now!” said Commander Wolffe frantically to Zing. Back on the surface, Zing, Barriss, and Ahsoka got the message. “Time to go” said Zing as they ran back to the shuttle. As soon as they were back on the shuttle, they started up the engines and took off back to the ship. But as the shuttle approached orbit, they were suddenly ambushed by TIE fighters based out of the Star Destroyer. “Rex, we could use a little bit of cover. Get on one of the turrets, now!” said Zing to Captain Rex. “I’m on it!” said Captain Rex as he manned one of Zing’s ships cannons. “We need to call in support” said Ahsoka. “Who are you going to call for help exactly?” asked Barriss. “We’ll see” said Ahsoka. “Any Rebel Cells in the vicinity of Dathomir, do you read me? This is Fulcrum in need of assistance” said Ahsoka on her commlink. “Read you loud and clear Fulcrum, this is Specter 2” said a voice on Ahsoka’s commlink. “Nice to hear from you Hera” said Ahsoka, “Think you can give me some cover fire?” asked Ahsoka. “I’ll see what I can do” said Specter 2. Within moments, a large hexagon-shaped ship came out of hyperspace and began taking out all the TIE fighters that were pursuing them. “You’ve got an opening” said Specter 2, “I’ll use The Ghost as a shield to try to cover you while you dock with your ship”. “Be careful, that Star Destroyer carries a lot of firepower. Cover us quick, then get out of here” said Ahsoka. Within moments, the shuttle docked back to Zing’s ship and prepared to jump into hyperspace. But before they could make the jump, one of the last remaining TIE fighters managed to shoot a tracker that attached to their hull. Within seconds, Both The Ghost and Zing’s ship made the jump into hyperspace in different directions. Back on the Star Destroyer, everybody on the bridge looked to Agent Kallus, who saw the whole skirmish from the helm. Nobody said a word. They didn’t know whether he was angry for letting the ships go, or pleased that they managed to tag them. “I believe our work here is done” said Agent Kallus to the ships captain. Immediately, Agent Kallus returned to his quarters and made contact with Darth Vader. “Lord Vader”, said Agent Kallus, “We were able to put a tracking device on that rebel ship. Once they come out of hyperspace, we’ll know where they are”. “You have done well, Agent Kallus”, said Darth Vader, “I’ll take it from here. Resume your duties”. Back on Zing’s ship, none of them were aware that their ship was tagged, or even worse, who was following them. “Where do we go now?” asked Barriss to Ahsoka. “I think I know where. And we can strike a deadly blow to the Empire as well”. “We’re listening”, said Zing. “Alright”, said Ahsoka, “shortly after the Empire invaded and took over Kashyyyk, they captured and enslaved the local Wookiee population”. “Who did you get this information from?” asked Barriss. “From Cikatro”. You got that intel from Vizago?” asked Barriss, “I don’t trust him”. “His intel’s been pretty accurate, sort of” said Ahsoka. “What we’re going to do is try to break into one of their slave labor camps and liberate the prisoners. Ahsoka then displayed a schematic of the concentration camp. “There is an armory not far from the camp. If we can steal us some rifles, we might be able to arm the prisoners and start a prison riot. While me and Barriss try to liberate the prisoners, Zing and the others will go up into the security tower and capture the Warden. You’ll need him to open the gates otherwise we are going nowhere. Are you guys in?” asked Ahsoka. Within moments, Rex raised one of his dual pistols and said “Count me in”. Zing, Gregor, and Wolffe soon did the same. Zing had been dying for payback ever since he killed the inquisitor that tried to kill him, and had been on the run from the Empire ever since.
As Zing went back into the cockpit to chart a course for Kashyyyk, Barriss followed him in and asked if she could be of any help. “No help needed” said Zing, “but I do wonder, why do you stick around this Togruta? I know what the Empire did to all you Jedi, why didn’t you go into hiding like the rest of them?”. Barriss thought long and hard about what Zing had asked her. “I’ve been in this galaxy long enough to know its culture” said Zing, “and the Jedi are no exception. I know that it is forbidden for a Jedi to form attachments, yet you are almost never more than a meter away from this girl. Why is this Togruta so special?”. Barriss thought long and hard about what she was going to say. “Because I have done some horrible things in my past. Some of them, more horrible than anything anyone else will ever do. When the Clone Wars were still ongoing, I worked as a healer”. Barriss started gripping her wrist with her other hand to show that she was very uncomfortable. “I used my natural talents that The Force gave me to try to save the lives of so many wounded clones. But I couldn’t save them all. Some of them died right in my arms, and I wasn’t able to save them. We were supposed to be keepers of the peace, we weren’t supposed to be soldiers. We weren’t supposed to be leading these clone troopers into battle. We weren’t supposed to be leading them into these battlefields just so they could die there. I saw how they died. Some of them died on the spot, some of them died a slow and painful death while I worked in vain to try to save them. I was so convinced that the Jedi were responsible for the war, that I tried to strike the Jedi Order at it’s very heart: The Jedi Temple on Coruscant. But all I ever did by doing that was fall to the dark side. I killed so many workers and clone troopers when I planted Nano-droids programmed to explode inside the food of one of the workers that was working in the Temple’s hangar. And when they started investigating who was behind the bombing, I betrayed Ahsoka, and I put the blame on her. I was on a dark path. I was well on the path to the dark side. I had the fear, I had the anger towards the Jedi Order. The only thing I didn’t have was the hatred. I think it was that lack of Hatred that allowed me to turn away from the Dark side. I was on a dark path, and now, I have a chance to make things right”. “Interesting”, said Zing, “I know what it feels like. To stand alone. Back in my home galaxy, my people despised all mechanical things. We saw it as a form of Blasphemy. All of our technology, our way of life, it was all organic. Organic ships, organic weapons, you name it. It was the greatest crime for a Yuuzhan Vong like me to be in possession of such machines. But I was fascinated by how they worked. As a result, I stood out. I was an outcast. I never even liked it when I was first given my Amphistaff. It tried to bite me the first time I held it. Finally, my fascination with Mechanical things had become enough. I was arrested, imprisoned, beaten and tortured for who, or according to them, what I was. I was about to be publicly executed for my crimes, but as they dragged me out of my cell, I managed to get ahold of my amphistaff, and I killed the guards that were escorting me. After killing them, I commandeered a ship and made my way to this galaxy. I thought it was going to be better for me, and it was for a little while. But as soon as the Empire came into being, all those stormtroopers and imperials started harassing everybody, especially the weak. Those who could not fight back. But while I was trying to make a living on Naboo, a group of stormtroopers and an Imperial Inquisitor tried to evict a family of Gungans from their farm. But when the Gungans resisted, the inquisitor drew out his lightsaber and threatened to kill them. That’s when I stepped in and told all of them to back off”. “Clearly, you didn’t know just how dangerous lightsabers were at the time” said Barriss. “Not at all”, said Zing, “But after telling them to back off, the inquisitor thrust his lightsaber at me and tried to kill me. But when the lightsaber was just inches away from my neck, my amphistaff flew out of my belt and hardened and stopped the inquisitor’s lightsaber dead in its track. When I opened my eyes and I saw the whole thing, I grabbed my staff and dueled this inquisitor. When he saw I was gaining the upper hand, things started getting interesting. He ignited a second blade from the bottom of his hilt and the lightsaber started spinning very fast. He was just holding the hilt horizontally and the dual blades started spinning on their own! Like the rotors in a cooling vent. But it was still not enough for him and when I found an opening, I flung my amphistaff as fast as I could into his skull, and I knocked him out dead. The fight probably wasn’t even a minute long, and I still killed him. When the stormtroopers saw that their comrade had fallen, they scattered away in all directions, and reported me. And I’ve been on the run ever since”. “Interesting”, said Barriss, “remind me never to challenge you to duel” she said sarcastically. “Don’t worry” said Zing laughing. Moments later, an alarm went off in the cockpit. “Looks like we’re nearing Kashyyyk” said Zing. The ship then came out of hyperspace in the Kashyyyk system.
Ahsoka then joined Barriss and Zing in the cockpit and looked out the ship’s windshield. It was an amazing sight. From a distance away, they saw Kashyyyk, the home planet of the Wookiees covered in giant trees that grew all over the surface. They saw the three moons that orbited the planet. From the position they were in, two of them were in nearly perfect synch. They were on the same side of the planet in their waxing crescent forms, while the third smaller moon was directly between the planet and its parent star, creating an eclipse on the planet’s surface. Off in the distance, they saw a smaller speck of light, undoubtedly, Kashyyyk’s neighboring planet Trandosha. The home planet of the vile, nasty, and murderous Trandoshans. Infamous for their deadly and highly successful Bounty Hunters. Ahsoka knew all too well how dangerous the Trandoshans could be. She herself had been captured by a hunting party of Trandoshans and put on Wasskah, one of the moons of Trandosha that was turned into a game preserve. Ahsoka didn’t feel any bit comfortable returning to this system, but knew what it meant if they could liberate the imprisoned Wookiees down on Kashyyyk’s surface. As they made their way into the Planet’s atmosphere, Ahsoka suddenly collapsed into her seat, like if she had been hit by a sudden depression. “Ahsoka”, said Barriss, “are you alright?”. “No” said Ahsoka, “I sense something. I sense a presence. Darker than anything I’ve ever encountered before, but it seems so familiar”. “We shouldn’t try to figure it out now”, said Barriss, “we should focus on the mission”. “Of course”, said Ahsoka. As they made their way to a landing platform, a small group of stormtroopers surrounded the ship. “Whatever happens” said Zing, “Just follow my lead”. “What does that mean?” asked Barriss. When Zing lowered the ramp, there were four stormtroopers already waiting for them outside. “Do you have clearance to land here?” asked one of the stormtroopers. “Yes I do” said Zing. I have brought some Fugitives the Empire was looking for!”. “WHAT!?” exclaimed Barriss. “Play along” whispered Ahsoka as Rex, Gregor and Wolffe pointed their blasters to their backs while wearing stormtrooper armor. “What is your clearance code?” asked one of the stormtroopers. “My code?” said Zing, “Yes, my code. My code is, uhm, uhm…”. Zing then grabbed his Amphistaff and knocked out all of the stormtroopers in a single swing. “I told you they wouldn’t buy” said Zing to Ahsoka. “You didn’t really give them the chance to buy anything” said Ahsoka. As they got off the ship, they made their way into an elevator that led off the landing platform. The platform only had one elevator and it was only big enough for 4, so they couldn’t go all at once. After they all made their way off the landing platform, they climbed up one of the enormous trees that grew next to the platform and also overlooked the prison camp they intended to attack. After climbing the tree, they hid inside one of the enormous cavities in the trees giant trunk. The cavity was enormous, resembling a cave rather than a trunk cavity. But it was far from empty. All over the inside, there were many paintings and shrines painted by the Native Wookiees. As they grouped together to plan their attack on the prison camp, Barriss wandered around the cave and saw the many paintings that covered the walls. But as she looked around, she came across a painting that she recognized. A painting that was too hard for her to miss. When she paid close attention to it, she saw that it was a memorial. A memorial dedicated to Jedi Master Luminara Unduli. Barriss’ froze and shivers went up her spine as she looked at the shrine dedicated to her fallen master, who had become a victim during Order 66. A frozen gaze took over her face as she looked at the shrine in sadness, tears building up in her crystal blue eyes. She remembered everything Master Luminara had taught her. She also remembers how she let her Master and all the other Jedi down when she bombed the temple. As she looked at the shrine in her frozen gaze, Ahsoka came to join her, carrying a bouquet of wildflowers native to Kashyyyk. As she laid them down on Luminara’s shrine, her hand reached for Barriss’ shoulder. “Barriss” Ahsoka said calmly. Barriss turned to Ahsoka, with tears building up in here eyes. “I miss her too”, said Ahsoka. Barriss finally couldn’t hold it in any longer and finally broke down in tears, with Ahsoka hugging her and crying with her. Barriss, the usually quiet and reserved Mirialan was never quick to reveal her emotions, unless if it was for a serious reason. As the two hugged each other in front of Luminara’s shrine, Zing came to join them. “We’re ready”, said Zing, “ready when you are”. Barriss looked to Ahsoka while trying to clean the tears away from her eyes. “We should probably go” said Barriss. Right before they left the cave, Barriss went back to the shrine quickly, and used her healing abilities to try to give the wildflowers some more life. “Thank you for everything you have ever taught me, Master” said Barriss as she bowed down to Luminara’s shrine.
They soon climbed down the Giant Tree that grew on the surface and made their way to the prison camp. As they approached, they could hear the chatter of some storm troopers up on the prison walls. As Rex, Gregor, and Wolffe put on their helmets, they went up to entrance to try to gain access to the prison. “This is trooper number 7567”, said Captain Rex to an officer who was up on top of the gate, “We have orders to assist and to provide extra security to this facility”. “Access denied” said the officer, “we have enough security here. This prison is empty. The only reason we have any troopers here at all is to keep out a group of insurgents. Apparently, we’re supposed to lure them into a trap”. A feeling of anxiety suddenly came over the three clones. “Alright, we’ll report back to our Barracks sir” said Commander Wolffe as they made their way back to Zing, Barriss, and Ahsoka. But they didn’t walk back. They ran back. “Zing, Commander Tano!”, cried out Rex. “What is it Rex?” asked Ahsoka. “It’s a trap”, said Captain Rex, “there are no prisoners here. This whole thing is a setup, we have to leave before they know we’re here!”. Suddenly, Barriss screamed out in pain, and collapsed to the ground. “He knows we’re here” said Barriss. “What are you talking about?” asked Ahsoka. “I sense a presence, darker than anything I’ve ever sensed before. We have to leave, we have to leave now! Run!”. Immediately, they ran back to the landing platform. Barriss struggled to keep up. She was hit by a very sudden depression by what she was feeling. When Ahsoka noticed Barriss couldn’t keep up, she grabbed her by the arm and helped her keep up. Barriss wrapped her arm around Ahsoka’s shoulders as she struggled to stay up. “Come on”, said Ahsoka, “I don’t want to leave you behind”. “The fear”, said Barriss, “The anger, the hatred. It’s awful”. As they made it back to the landing platform, they got on the elevator, but soon got off when they remembered it could only hold four at a time. “He’s fast coming” said Barriss, “Ahsoka, you and the clones get back up the ship. I’ll stay and hold him off”. “No”, said Ahoska, “I’m not leaving you”. “You’re not. Listen to me Ahsoka, I don’t know what we’re up against. I’ll stay and hold him off. As soon as you restart the ship, you come back and get me. I can buy you some time to restart the ship if I stay”. “And I can help you double that time” said Zing as he held his Amphistaff. Barriss smiled at Zing as she drew her blue-bladed lightsaber. As Ahsoka and the clones made their way in the elevator back up the landing platform, Barriss could sense the dark presence becoming closer and closer. Very soon, she heard the most disturbing sound she ever heard in her life. She heard what sounded like mechanical breathing come out of the darkness of the forest, and soon enough, he revealed himself to Barriss and Zing: It was Darth Vader.
Barriss covered her face with her hood to conceal her identity. “You have all been deceived” said Darth Vader, “into believing that you can challenge the Empire. Surrender now, and the emperor might let you and your friends live”. “And what makes you think we’ll do that?” asked Zing. Immediately, Vader force pushed Zing into one of the pillars that was holding up the landing platform and knocked him out”. “You still have a chance to take my offer, youngling”, said Vader to Barriss, “Surrender now”. Barriss didn’t say a word. Using the force, she lunged herself forward and her blade met Vader’s. As their blades interlocked, Vader forced Barriss to move back, using only one arm. As Barriss struggled to maintain the blades from coming into contact with her, she twirled around and force jumped over Darth Vader. Vader then swung his lightsaber overhead and onto Barriss’. The two lightsaber clashed so hard, that sparks shot out. Vader started returning his strikes with speed and power. Barriss struggled to keep up with the relentless attacks. It was so much for her, that she was forced to keep stepping back. Finally, Barriss had stepped back so much that Vader force pushed her into one of the columns holding up the landing platform. As Barriss struggled to get back up, Vader picked her up by the neck with the force and started choking her, but as he lifted her in the air, her hood fell back and Vader at last saw who he was really fighting against. When Vader saw who he was finally fighting, he dropped her. Barriss yelled in pain as she met the concrete ground after her fall. “So”, said Vader, “The Temple Bomber lives”. “Wh-what?!” exclaimed Barriss, “How could you know?”. As Barriss connected with Vader through the force, she at last realized who he really was. “No”, said Barriss, “It can’t be!”. “Good, Padawan Offee”, said Vader, “Now time to finish what I should’ve done the last time we were together!”. As Vader lifted his lightsaber over an emotionally-wreck Barriss, Zing jumped up and blocked his killing strike. “I’m sorry about that friend”, said Zing to Vader, “was I interrupting something?”. Vader screamed in anger as he engaged Zing in a duel. Vader returned all of his strikes to Zing with speed and power. But Zing effortlessly blocked all of the Sith Lord’s strikes. As Barriss managed to stand back up, she looked to Zing, and then back to Vader. As Barriss and Zing prepared to strike the Sith Lord together, Vader force pushed them away and pinned them against one of the giant trees. Vader then began using the force to try to force Barriss’ lightsaber into her neck, while still holding it in her hand. Barriss struggled to keep the blade away from her, which was now just inches away from her neck. Then, out of desperation, she reached for her WESTAR-35 blaster and started blasting away at Vader. Vader effortless blocked the blaster bolts, and Barriss deactivated her lightsaber, but Vader still held her and Zing pinned against the tree. Vader then did something else. Using the force, he started moving Barriss’ blaster hand and started aiming it at Zing. “No, no, no”, Barriss whispered to herself. Zing was unconscious, with his amphistaff lying down on the ground. Finally, Vader forced Barriss into pointing her blaster at Zing, and seconds later, he closed his fist: forcing Barriss to pull the trigger. “No!” Barriss cried out. Vader released his grip on Barriss and she ran over to Zing, who was now lying dead with a blaster wound between his eyes. As Barriss looked over to Vader in anger, Ahsoka who was up on the landing platform could sense what had happened. “Barriss”, said Ahsoka as she tried to get through with her through the force, “Don’t give in to your anger, You’re better than this”. Finally, Barriss sensed what Ahsoka was trying to tell her and let go of her anger. Vader sensed Barriss refusing the dark side and returned to attack her. Vader returned all of his attacks with speed and power, until finally, he managed to disarm her and pin her against a tree. “Barriss”, said Ahsoka on the commlink, “we’re ready, we’re coming to get you”. “Ahsss-“, Barriss then remembered that she couldn’t say ‘Ahsoka’ at the moment, “Fulcrum”, said Barriss, “Listen to me, you have to leave and you have to get out of here now!”. “I am not leaving you behind”, said Ahsoka. “You’ll all die if you come back for me!” said Barriss, “you have to leave now! And don’t try to connect with him, it’s too dangerous!”. Ahsoka tried to counter Barriss’ argument, but Captain Rex stepped in and tried to convince her of a larger mission at stake. “If we go back for her, everything we’ve fought for will have been for nothing” said Captain Rex. Ahsoka looked at the ships controls, and out of anger, pressed on the hyper drive and the ship made the jump into hyperspace seconds later. As the ship went into hyperspace, dozens of stormtroopers closed around Barriss and Vader released his grip on her. As Barriss fell back to the ground, Vader stuck his blade near Barriss’ neck. Barriss looked up at Vader, and refused to show any fear. But before Vader could do anything else, two imperials stepped in. “We can take it from here Lord Vader” said one of the Imperials. Barriss looked up at them. One of them was a Pau’an Male, the other was a young human male. “Marek, Inquisitor”, said Vader, “she’s all yours”. “I am the inquisitor” said the Pau’an to Barriss. “Whatever you want from me”, said Barriss, “you won’t get it”. “We shall see”, said the inquisitor. “I would rather die than tell you anything”, said Barriss. “How admirable”, said the Inquisitor, “Galen, my boy, would you please do me the honors?”. The other imperial nodded and shocked Barriss unconscious. Back on Zing’s ship, Ahsoka collapsed in tears knowing she had left her friend behind. Rex, Gregor, and Wolffe soon felt sad knowing that Barriss was captured and Zing was killed. They headed back to Dathomir to go back into hiding. When they landed and told the news to Mother Talzin, she felt a small degree of sadness knowing that her friend had been killed. It wasn’t an easy thing to do to make a nightsister cry. But even so, a single tear went down her cheek when she learned that Zing had died. As they all sat in Mother Talzin’s lair, Ahsoka picked up a message on her commlink. “This is Fulcrum” said Ahsoka, “Who is this?”. “This is Specter 2”. Ahsoka sat up to hear what Specter 2 had to say. “We found out where they’re holding Barriss”, said Specter 2, “She is being held in Count Shary’s palace on Serreno. She is still alive, but we don’t know for how much longer, or what they might do to her”. “How willing are you?” asked Mother Talzin. “What?” asked Ahsoka. “How willing are you to go to the Serreno system and rescue your friend?” asked Mother Talzin. “I’ll go as far as I can possible go” said Ahsoka. “If you are to go to the planet Serreno to go and rescue your friend”, said Mother Talzin, “then you will need a guide. One who knows Serreno well. One who knows the homeworld of Count Dooku well”. Mother Talzin then disappeared into the mist. What did she mean by what she said? But soon, Ahsoka and the clones heard footsteps nearby. Ahsoka could hear the footsteps, and a very dark but familiar presence nearby. As the footsteps got closer, she kept her hands on her lightsaber, and the clones kept their blasters ready. Within moments, the mysterious presence emerged from the shadows. Ahsoka and the clones looked on in fear and astonishment. Her face was completely covered, and she kept a pair of curved hilt lightsabers strapped to her waist. After coming out of the shadows, she removed her hood and mask and revealed herself to Ahsoka and the clones. They were all in shock by what they saw: It was a nightsister. "Who are you?" asked Ahsoka. "Zonia", she said, "my name is Zonia".
Check back next Tuesday for another chapter of Jesus Armenta's ongoing fan fiction saga!