hati stood on a mountain path high above the plains of Myr. She was following Ronall and the others to their digging work near the waterfall on the other side of the mountain pass. The digging took a lot of effort and it wasn't easy to redirect the river to its original bedding. So far they had succeeded to create a shallow puddle of water at the foot of the waterfall with Cornell's way to crush the hard rock. It would take months, maybe even years before the river would be running again through the underground bedding and reach Ribana again. Chati sighed, feeling the frustration for the work. Cornell and the other harvesters had told her that they had been working on their project already for more than a decade. More than a decade and they only had been able to create a puddle of water. The main stream of the river was still fast-flowing down the other side of the mountain ridge, after having fallen down in a huge waterfall.
Once again Chati looked down on the plains in the direction of Ribana. She longed to see the old city and her own house again.
Suddenly she was aware that right down her, near the entrance of the cave, the shape of the Millennium Falcon appeared. She saw Han Solo and his wife and Chewbacca enter the ship. A few moments later they reappeared pushing a small speeder down the ramp. The ramp closed again and Chati saw how Leia Solo raised her hand, reactivating the cloaking of the ship. Amazed Chati watched as the shape of the ship became one with the vegetation again, then she noticed that Han Solo and Chewbacca had started the engine of the speeder. Now Chati also saw that Luke Skywalker, the Jedi and his friend Ben, had come out of the cave entrance. Luke talked to the two persons in the speeder. Leia Solo, who was a Jedi too, kissed her husband and Chati saw that the speeder drove off along the foot of the mountain ridge in the direction of Ribana.
"Chati, where are you?" The voice of Ronall caught her by surprise. The Quelan boy and Cornell were coming back from the other side of the pass to look for Chati. They also looked down to the entrance of their hide-out. The speeder with Han Solo and Chewbacca was only a small dot among the rocks. The Jedi twins were entering the cave.
"Chati, I want you to pay your full attention to your chores," Ronall said impatiently, "Don't focus too much on those Jedi friends of yours. You're a Quelan. Remember what your father always said: Don't get involved in affairs with humans."
Chati heard some disgust in Ronall's voice. She look at Cornell for help, but the harvesters' leader also looked down with a frown on his face.
"My son is right, Chati. Don't expect too much of their help. I appreciate what they are doing, but it won't help us to get our job done. Their goal is different on this matter."
"Is it?" Chati said defiantly, "They also want to get rid of that weirdo under the mountain, and for a good reason."
"Why do you think, they will?" Renal said, "That guy hasn't done them any harm, like he did to us."
Chati thought about what the Wookiee had told him the evening before. She shrugged her shoulders and started to walk away along the path that lead through the pass to the other side of the mountain ridge. Ronall and Cornell followed her sharing baffled looks at each other.
Without a word Chati took her place among the other harvesters and started to clear away the rubble the frozen foil had left at the surface of the rock. She looked down the short track which lead from the shallow puddle to the spot she stood. Then she turned to Cornell.
"Master Cornell shouldn't we clear away the rocks, sloping down a bit more. Shouldn't we create a kind of overflow of that puddle."
Cornell looked at Chati. The young woman had a tremendous insight the way the work that had to be done. Han Solo had made a similar suggestion, but Cornell had commented that if the sloping of the new bedding would be too steep the river would find a new bedding among the rocks and couldn't be directed to its old underground bedding. Creating a kind of shallow elongated puddle in the beginning would keep the river in this new bedding, so it would be possible to lead it to the entrance in the cave where his other men were working to create a new underground entrance for the waterflow. Once the water would have found its new path, it would be possible to lead more water along it.
"We will, Chati, but I don't want the water to create a new flow along this side of the mountain which we might not be able to control. If the water finds its own path, we never will be able to lead it to the new underground entrance. Therefore I take all this precautions."
"Master Cornell," the girl said, "our new friends have a very good reason to help us. Your son is right, of course they aren't here with the same reason as we are, but our aim and theirs are similar: the weirdo, who has ruined our way of life has to be eliminated. He has done a lot of harm to us, but also to them, especially to Ben."
"Your friend Ben is a Jedi, Chati. He could have helped us with our chores, but instead he started to investigate the underground tunnel, leaving us with our slow progress digging out a new bedding."
"You mean, he could have used his Jedi skills to help us. Did you ask him, master Cornell?"
"I hoped, he would gives us a hand with it."
"He did. He helped to clear away the rubble many times. Did you ask him, if he could use the power of the Force to make our work easier, master Cornell? I have seen him crumbling a rock that blocked our path in the underground bedding in minutes, using his lightsaber."
Cornell looked at the shallow puddle: the work of many years of slow digging.
"Master Cornell, possibly the harvesters are too proud to ask for help. You expected that Ben would offer his help, but haven't you thought that Ben has felt your pride and didn't want to offend you and the others, if he could make our work easier."
Flabbergasted Cornell looked at the young woman.
"Get to your work, Chati," he said and walked away to the others.
"Well, colonel, my droids report that you're visiting that abandoned town very often. What so intrigueing about it?" Darth Golluth asked suspiciously, during his diner with his self-promoted assistant.
"The town itself isn't intrigueing me, my lord. You did well to eliminate its inhabitants."
"I ordered them to leave the town, colonel. Unfortunately I had to eliminate a few of its elderly inhabitants to reinforce my intentions. The stormtroopers I took with me, only carried out my orders with restrictions. I didn't want to have prying eyes in the neighbourhood of my new dwelling."
"Did you send the stormtroopers back to Coruscant after you settled down?" Whain asked.
Darth Golluth started grin in a nasty way.
"I did, colonel, that is to say, that's what I told the commander of the two squadrons. Sadly his transportship exploded shortly after take off. There were only a few survivors. My droids took care of them."
Again Darth Golluth laughing menacingly. Whain nodded, but did asked anything further.
"I very glad, admiral Vestor, brought you to this place, colonel. Droids are reliable companions, but their way of communciation isn't always easy to understand. It's easier to talk to another human than explain plans to a bunch of droids. After all these years it feel good to talk to a fellow person, especially some one who has shown his loyality to my plans. You're a good assistant, colonel, and a good strategist. Your ideas give me a lot to think about."
"Thank you, my lord. If you will excuse me, I want to check if there is any news about the girl we're after. I want to intercept the communication lines on Dalmaran again and see if the Supreme Leader of the New Republic has send out messages to the place where I expect the girl is hiding."
"Good, good. You're excused. Inform me if you have found new traces. That girl knows a lot, and I want her to tell me everything she knows. If she has told me all she knows, I will rebuild the Empire and you will become my second-in-command, colonel. You may leave." Darth Golluth made a dismissal gesture and Whain left the room where he had to dine with the self-proclaimed new ruler of the galaxy.
The young lieutenant quickly passed the maze of passageways to the communication center. He had reorganized to center and took care that Darth Golluth couldn't do harm anymore to the delicate equipment when he got a fit of aggression. Luckily his new master seemed to trust him and relied on his knowledge of interplanetaire communication systems. Whain sat down at a set of consoles and holodisplays and started investigate the open lines on Quoith. He smiled. They hadn't found out the little secret program which allowed him to intercept the New Republics main communication system. His next step would be, if he could get a foothold in their secured system, but not today. Today he had to inform his admiral about what Darth Golluth had told him about the fate of the two squadrons of stormtroopers which had accompanied admiral Matrik when he occupied Palomintar Four on behalf of the remains of the empire.
Whain put his connection with Quoith on hold and established a new connection with a secret frequency. He copied the message on a small datacard and discarded the original message. The datacard was shielded and hit in lining of the sleeve of his uniform. Perhaps the shielding wasn't necessary, but Whain didn't want to take any risk with the droids which were serving this new dark lord. He switched off the system, leaving only the connection with Quoith open, and left the communication center. Tomorrow he would hide the datacard in that deserted winecellar in that abandoned house in the valley.
Leia looked to the ceiling of the tunnel where once the underground river had flown. She was accompanying her brother on his further investigation of the former waterflow. Luke was walking slight ahead of her, illimnating their part of the tunnel with his flashlight. Everywhere Leia saw tiny glittering sparks of lights in the tunnel wall, where crystals of different stones glow in the strong beam. The ceiling of the tunnel often looked like tiny glowing points of stars in the black velvet background of space. Leia caught up with her brother and grabbed his arm. Luke turned around.
"What is it, Leia?"
His sister smiled.
"Nothing. I was just admiring the crystals at the ceiling. It's beautiful in here, Luke, and so quiet. You've done a lot of investigation. So far we didn't encounter any difficulty on this walk."
"New difficulties might be ahead of us, Leia. I still haven't a clue where this tunnel might end or lead to. Toallin and Cornell have shown me that the former exit of the river, now is the entrance of the underground dwelling of Darth Golluth. I have made a rough map of the part I have investigated. I hope that we will be able to track the beacons, Han and Chewie are setting up along the mountain ridge, inside this tunnel."
"Han was very confident about his plan," Leia said.
"Han is always very confident about his plans," Luke said and grinned, "but I agree, I haven't thought of it, and I loved the idea. Shall we proceed. I want reach the point where I left off. It looked like I entered a dead end, but I'm not sure about it."
"Why don't we switch on the beacon tracker, Luke. Maybe Han has installed a few of those beacons already," Leia said. Luke look a bit sceptical, but activated a switch on his infocom. A blue, uninterrupted dot appeared on the screen. Leia activated the switch on her wristband too. They both continued their underground walk. Luke carefully used his flashlight to illuminate the path in front of them. After half an hour they reached what seemed to be the end of the tunnel. A rocky solid wall blocked any further progress.
"I can't believe we can't go any further," Luke murmured, looking around. Slowly he walked back in the tunnel and started to investigate the tunnel wall. Leia joined him and searched for a passageway on the other wall. Once again she looked up at the shimmering crystals at the ceiling.
Suddenly the blue dot on her wristband started to blink. She hurried over to her brother.
"We picked up one of the beacons, Luke." She said.
Luke activated his infocom and a holographic map of the tunnel popped up in front of them. Several tiny blue dots appeared along the tunnel's trajectory. Two of them blinked behind the spot where their path was blocked by the solid rocky wall.
"Han, do you copy?" Luke asked.
For a moment they only heard crackling noise, but then Han Solo's voice was heard.
"Connection isn't stable, but I hear you, Luke. Chewie and I have tracked the foot of the mountain ridge about two third of its length. We're nearing the plains around Ribana and encountered nobody. It's completely deserted here. We've set up some ten beacons during our ride. I hope you can track them inside that tunnel."
"They work perfectly, Han. I suggest, you and Chewie come back now. Don't proceed any further. We have to be careful. Darth Golluth might be using droid spies in and around Ribana. I don't want to reveal our presence."
"I understand, Luke. Chewie and I will make a detour around the town before we come back. Maybe we can gather some further information."
"Be careful, Han, don't take unnecessary risks."
"I won't. You know me, kid. I'll be careful." Han said and switched off.
Luke looked at Leia and shook his head.
"I want to take a last look at that wall, Leia, then we too go back. I want to be in our camp in case Han needs help."
They returned to the rocky wall and Luke let the light beam of his flashlight glide back and forth along the wall. Leia was watching the wall and look intently at the crystals that lit up in the light. All of a sudden she reached out to the Force and point at two small hidden fisures left and right of the wall. She walked over and placed her hands in one of the fisures. The wall felt smooth. Again she reached out to the Force and saw a large space behind the fisure.
"There, Luke. These fisures that's were the water ran. Behind this block of rock is a large space. Probably the old bedding goes on behind this wall."
Luke had walked over and investigate the small chasm.
"You're right, Leia. I even feel a very slight wisp of air, not much. I wonder if we're nearing the end of the tunnel. Look at those last two beacons. Come on, we widen this left fisure with our lightsabers."
They both ignited their lightsaber. The bright burning beams melted and smooth the rock, but it took the two Jedi more than an hour before they had widened the crack in the wall enough to reach the next part of the old riverbed. Luke stepped in the large space behind the rocky wall and looked around. He checked his infocom and saw the next blinking blue dot only a few meters ahead of him. Leia joined him and looked satisfied.
"Good work, Luke. Now we can go further," She said eagerly. Her brother grinned.
"Next time, Leia. We go back to the cave now. It's quite a walk," He said, looking at his sister. He started to laugh.
"I understand you want to go on, but I want to be in our camp when Han comes back. I'm eager to know if he has found anything interesting. Come on, my dear sister. We will come back here ...."
Suddenly he stopped talking and raised his hand.
"Hush, Leia," He whispered, "I heard noise on the other side of the left wall. Don't say anything more. We might be overheard."
Quickly they went back through the widened fisure and walked back in silence. It took them two hours before they reached the exit of the underground tunnel where the harvesters were gathering their tools.
"Has any one of you seen Cornell?" Luke asked.
"He's outside, Ben. He will on his way back now. What's the matter?" One of the Quelans asked.
Luke shook his head.
"Nothing of importance. I only wanted to report to him about our findings," He said, laughing reassuringly, "Has my friend and the Wookiee returned yet?"
"We don't know, Ben? We haven't seen them. We're busy you know."
"Of course. Did you make good progress today?" Luke asked.
"We did, Ben! We're expecting to crush the wall and get some fresh air in here, real soon."
"Can you show me?"
"Of course, come along. Are you coming too, madam?" The Quelan asked turning to Leia.
"It would be a pleasure to see your work," She said, "My brother has told me a lot about your dedication to this task."
Luke and Leia followed the harvesters inside the new tunnel they had been digging. At the end of it, some Quelans were busy clearing away the rubble of the last freezing process. Immediately Luke took off his Jedi coat and started to help them. Pleased the Quelans looked up as both Jedi used their Force skills to lift and put aside some of the heavier blocks aside, creating an easy path for their fellows to bring the baskets with rubble outside the cave.
Madine looked at the decoded message in front of him. Slowly he shook his head. These strange messages didn't make sense. The message, send at a seldom used frequency was addressed to an unknown receiver on Coruscant. Even more intrigueing was the heading of the message. The one who had send it seemed to be in close relation to the receiver as the last one was addressed as "my most trusted leader, teacher and friend." What could that mean? Who was this leader, who seemed to be the sender's teacher, but also his friend.
Madine activated his infocom and asked for a list of the leaders of the temporary imperial administration. Some twenty names turned up and Madine followed the links to the next pages which gave some extended information about the person behind the names. He knew them all. They were all familiar to him even if he hadn't met them personally. Two or three had been ardent followers of emperor Palpatine. Bootlickers who had fought their way up in the imperial echelons during the emperor's reign. After the collapse of the empire these men had denied their involvement, taking care to get a new function during the signing of the truce with the Alliance. Madine knew that Mon Mothma had met those men and had later expressed her disgust about their behavior. She had shown more respect for the officers of the imperial space fleet who had surrendered unconditionally and had become the main negotiators about the truce. Pensively, his head cupped in his hands, Madine read the strange address again. Then he activated his own secure information system and send the message in an encrypted form to the Supreme Chancellor and his friend Sorjon Tyloban. There was a good chance that Sorjon knew who went by these titles. Madine switched off and stared at the empty display. He rose and went over to another infocom system to contact the commander of Gold Squadron.
"Commander Antilles, do you copy?" He asked.
Wedge Antilles' image popped up on the holodisplay.
"Yes, general. "
"Another message has been send. This time to Coruscant only. Its content is disturbing. The sender mentioned that it seems that two squadrons of stormtroopers and their commander have been deliberately killed by our man. Their transportship exploded right after take off. The men who survived the killing were eliminated by Darth Golluth' droids."
"And this time the imperial spy bypassed the Basilisaea."
"It seems he did, commander. Probably he doesn't fully trust admiral Vestor on this matter."
"Our man on Palomintar Four might have a good reason. Admiral Vestor took Darth Golluth on board the Basilisaea to take him to Endor. You should ask senator Organa about that visit."
"Then our man seems to suspect admiral Vestor of teaming up with Darth Golluth."
"It might. At least he isn't reporting everything to the admiral."
"Any news from the Basilisaea, commander?"
"Nothing, general. She is still in orbit around Palomintar Six. My men have taken position between Palomintar Six and Five. If she would leave her orbit we immediately can intercept her and ask for her destination."
"Good work, commander. I will brief the others on Palomintar Four as soon as the Tychorion is in range of their landing spot. I'll contact to you later. "
Madine broke off the connection with Gold Squadron and left his room. He went over to the control room and checked the Tychorion's position relative to Palomintar Four.
"Warn me immediately when we're in range of our friends down on Palomintar Four, officer," He ordered.
"Aye, sir. The planet will come up in two hours. General Solo's ship will be in range ten minutes after we have reached that position. Do you want the Tychorion to hover, while you're addressing general Solo."
Madine confirmed the question and walked over to the display of the Palomintar System. For a moment he watched the movement of the planets around the system's center where Palomin, the system's bright star held her children in a tight grib. Then he walked over to the observers' desk.
"Observed anything out of the ordinary, officer?"
"No, sir. We're checking all coordinates along the trajectory from Dalmaran to this system around the clock, but no vibrations of exhaust engines are reported."
Madine sighed. He wondered where the three runaway Jedi padawans had gone.
"We'll keep you informed, sir. As soon as we discover the cloaked ship we will activate the tracker beam and pulled her in."
"Be careful. Hail first, ask to decloak. If you've got no answer, Gold Squadron to close in on the intruding vessel and escort it to the Tychorion."
"We will, sir."
Madine walked back to the control room and waited for his next rendez-vous with Palomintar Four.