Rebellion's Call: Episode 3
Rebellion's Call: Episode 3
Fan Fiction by Christine Sharp
Palloma watched Dax’s upright, purposely confident posture, pushing a large crate, as she followed him through the streets of the Coruscant Underworld. They had made it to level 1313, which housed their destination. Dax wouldn’t tell her who they were going to meet, but apparently he was connected in this seedy underground. He had a contact who might be interested in buying their cargo—the little that had been loaded before the Empire attacked Hondo’s crew. While they sold it, Hondo waited with the ship working on repairs. Palloma hoped they’d earn enough on the deal to make an anonymous start on a distant planet. She didn’t know what she could do otherwise, considering who now ruled the galaxy.
As she walked, she focused on her peripheral vision. Darkness reigned—no sunlight reached this far down. Buildings and streets melded into a uniform bleakness, all of it dingy and litter-strewn. Beings loitered here and there, standing or sitting, or even laying on the pavement fast asleep. All appeared purposeless.
Palloma’s heart strayed to the beautiful, bustling world miles above her: the Coruscant she remembered. A place filled to the brim with activity and noise, a political center, where she had spent so long with Senator Amidala. She missed it. It was harder for her to be here, so close yet unable to reach it, than it was to be on the other side of the galaxy.
In front of her, Dax suddenly stopped in front of a nondescript door. “You should wait outside,” he said. Palloma glanced up at him, surprised. But a look in his eyes, apprehension and veiled fear, made her swallow her retort. She nodded and hung back as he knocked and entered with the crate. The door whooshed closed behind him, firmly separating them. She hadn’t prepared for this, and she was surprised by the anxiety rising in her throat. Palloma had grown used to their partnership, though it hadn’t been long. Separation was unnerving.
She focused on blending in, which was all she could do at this point. She sat down, leaning against the building Dax had disappeared into. She rested her arms on her knees and dipped her head down. She casually adjusted her position, allowing herself to see the street around her while appearing to stare as blankly as the rest.
Movement a little ways away caught her attention. Not that the street was entirely still, but this movement was different than the rest. A young man walked stiffly, and too quickly. He had his head bowed, attempting to escape notice, but she could see his eyes darting around restlessly. He kept balling his hands into fists, then consciously releasing them. He was obviously trying to blend in, but doing a terrible job of it. Palloma was curious. He wasn’t Imperial—he lacked the Imperial rigidity and sharpness. But he wasn’t an underworlder either.
As Palloma watched the mysterious man, a group passed between them. A few burly males with blasters led the way, guarding a thick, self-important being just behind them, and several females trailed behind, walking with shoulders slumped and eyes on the ground, as though their wills had been broken. None of the underworlders strewn about even glanced up. In fact, most of them curled in on themselves even more, avoiding the gaze of the being in charge. However, the man that Palloma had been watching before looked at the females, concern drawing his brows together.
That compassion, more than anything else, set this stranger apart. Palloma’s soul reached out to him—she wanted to know more. What was he doing down here?
Palloma felt a nudge against her ankle. She looked up and saw Dax standing above her. He patted his breast pocket, indicating that he had credits. “Let’s go,” he said.
“Hold on,” she whispered. She stood and gestured toward the mysterious man. “I want to talk to him.”
Dax glanced over at the man, stared for a long moment, and gave a small nod. Palloma moved toward the man, slowly and without the appearance of a meaningful direction. She meandered in his direction, barely picking up her feet and keeping her gaze blank. Dax followed her silently.
As Palloma and Dax drew near the man, she saw him clawing at a closed door, trying to pry it open. When she was just behind him, she whispered, “Need help?”
The man jumped and turned around, eyes wide. Palloma smiled reassuringly and whispered again, “You stand out. Don’t look around so much, and make your posture less tense. People here either go about their business ignoring everyone else, or they have nothing to do and simply exist. Relax.”
The man narrowed his eyes, suspicious. Dax stepped around Palloma and reached out to the data pad on the door frame. His fingers danced over it for a second, then the door whooshed open. The man looked at him with wide eyes, and Dax nodded at him.
Palloma turned to leave, Dax a step ahead. The man glanced at them once more, then slipped through the open door.
She caught up to Dax, and they walked in silence for a few moments. “Why’d you open the door for him?” she finally asked.
Dax shrugged. She glanced sidelong at him, and he avoided her gaze. “You offered to help, so I helped.”
He trusts me, she realized with a shock. It was more than knowing she wouldn’t betray him—he actually trusted her judgment. She trusted him, of course, but he didn’t put confidence in others very often.
They walked on, Palloma lost in thought, until they neared Hondo’s ship. The monotony broke suddenly with a screech from above them. The Kowakian monkey-lizard swung down from an overhang and landed on Dax’s shoulder. Dax grabbed at it, trying to fling it off, but it held fast. It reached down into his breast pocket and snatched a small pouch. The pouch clinked with credits as the monkey-lizard jumped off Dax, cackling. Dax lunged to catch it, but it climbed up a nearby pole and disappeared.
Dax glanced at Palloma, and they both ran toward Hondo’s ship. Something was up.
The ship came into view, and Hondo stood on the open ramp with both arms outstretched. “Aha, welcome back! Now, I suggest you run.”
Palloma stopped short. “What?”
“The Empire will be here any minute, you see,” Hondo said with a twinkle in his eye. The monkey-lizard appeared over the ship’s hull and alighted on Hondo’s shoulder. “I, however, must go.” He turned to ascend into the ship.
“You sold us out?” Palloma said, aghast. “We had a deal!”
“Ah!” Hondo said, turning to her and holding a finger up. “We did, and it is complete!”
“Complete? You betrayed us!”
“Ah ah ah,” he said, both hands over his heart. “How dare you accuse me of such treachery! I said you could come with me off that rock—I did not say what I would do afterward!”
Dax growled under his breath, and Palloma heard the unmistakable clomp of boots. “Run!”
They both took off in the opposite direction, while the ship’s ramp began to close. Stormtroopers sprinted into view, blasters out. “Halt!”
Palloma and Dax kept running, and the Stormtroopers opened fire. They shot carelessly, peppering the landing platform with blaster bolts. Palloma ducked into a cove and pulled Dax in after her.
A shriek of agony burst out, then a loud, “No!” Palloma peeked around the corner. The ship’s ramp was almost closed, but she caught a glimpse of the Kowakian monkey-lizard’s limp form, a searing hole in its center, falling from Hondo’s shoulder before they disappeared.
Palloma’s chest constricted. She was not a fan of that thing, but she didn’t want that. Poor creature.
A laser bolt lit the air above her head and she pulled back. She turned to run down a nearby alley, but white-armored figures filled that as well. She scanned the area desperately, but there were no exits! They were surrounded!
Dax bolted away, and she followed though she knew they had no chance. Arms closed around her middle and she kicked to no avail. She steadied herself and studied the scene, hoping for something she missed before. Dax thrashed in the grip of two other Stormtroopers.
There was nothing, absolutely nothing she could see, to help them. They were vastly outnumbered, surrounded, caught.
She kicked again for good measure, but it was useless. Her panic subsided, replaced with an oppressive despair. The fight left her and she hung in the Stormtrooper’s arms, limp. That was it.
A second later, commotion caught her attention. A group of Stormtroopers broke off from the rest and ran toward a low wall. An explosion split the air and Stormtrooper bodies flew backward.
Two figures leaped over the wall with blasters firing. Stormtroopers charged, but one of the figures, a woman, cut through them easily. She was amazing to watch—Palloma was momentarily stunned. She turned combat into dance.
The other figure, whom Palloma now recognized as the man she had spoken to earlier, threw another thermal detonator into the crowd of white armor. The burst threw more bodies into the air, and the man barreled right for Palloma.
She flinched, but he bear-hugged the Stormtrooper that held her and tackled him to the ground. Palloma ran, narrowly avoiding the grasp of another trooper.
The woman sprinted toward Dax and shot both of his captors while spinning out of reach of another Stormtrooper. The troopers holding Dax dropped simultaneously, and the woman ran away, leading Dax through the chaos. Palloma ran after them, sparing a glance back for her liberator. The man had the Stormtrooper pinned, but his control was weakening. He then yanked off the Stormtrooper’s helmet and swung it into his head, hard. The trooper stopped resisting, knocked unconscious.
The man jumped up and ran toward Palloma and the others. The woman led them down a long, narrow alleyway and through a low, swinging opening, camouflaged by a pile of trash.
Once inside, they crouched in a circle, unable to stand in a space barely four feet high. They all four held their breath, unmoving, until they heard a large group of clomping boots run by the opening. The Stormtroopers didn’t even pause.
Palloma let out a long breath, still careful not to make noise. A loud ‘bang!’ rang out and Palloma ducked, then she realized the sound came from outside.
In the meager light, Palloma could just make out a glimmer in Dax’s large eyes. She raised her eyebrows at him, silently asking what it was about. He pulled out a small piece of metal machinery and held it up with a mischievous smirk.
Palloma drew her brows together, confused. Dax whispered, barely perceptible, “From Hondo’s ship. I disabled it.” He grinned.
“But we didn’t even touch it before the Stormtroopers came,” she said, unsure how he had time to sabotage the ship in all that chaos.
“Before we left it in the first place. I knew he’d do something.” He fell silent, but the satisfied glint in his eyes remained.
Palloma gave a small smile. She enjoyed seeing Dax happy, he rarely showed that much emotion, but she couldn’t help worrying about Hondo. He was a traitor, that was for sure, but she liked him anyway. He was so… charming. It was hard not to be fond of him. He’ll be okay, she told herself. Hondo was a survivor.
The woman held a finger to her lips, the gestured them to follow her. She left the tiny hideout and crept back down the alleyway. The other three followed, all the way back to the landing platform. The woman held them back for a moment as she checked that it was clear, then she urged them on through it. They ran as quietly as they could to the other side, where a street led to a more populated area.
The four of them emerged onto the street, walking as casually as they could, until the woman ducked through a door. The rest followed, and Palloma found herself in a packed, dingy cantina.
They settled into a booth in the back corner, poorly lit and noisy. The barkeeper brought four mugs of something thick and revolting, and Palloma picked hers up just to have something to do. She glanced around and realized they fit seamlessly into this foul place. She took a long, calming breath and raised the mug to her mouth. She tried—and failed—to drink it, nasty stuff, so she just held the mug between her hands and stared into it. She considered how far she had fallen, from a Naboo senator’s handmaiden and bodyguard to a fugitive hiding among the lowlives of a sleazy, underground bar. At least she survived prison.
Dax’s voice made her look up. “Why did you guys save us?”
The man shrugged. “You helped me, we returned the favor.”
“Risking yourselves,” Palloma cut in. “Who are you?”
The man reached out a hand. “AnJax Codi. And you are?”
“Palloma Tarmun.” She clasped his hand then turned to the woman expectantly.
The woman sat stiffly. “Osveta,” she said.
“I’m Dax,” he said, clasping hands with the man—AnJax.
“I still don’t understand why you rescued us. You could have been killed,” Palloma said.
“It’s what we do,” AnJax Codi said. “You obviously aren’t with the Empire. Neither are we. ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend’ kind of thing, you know?”
Palloma watched Osveta. She was fascinating. Her outward demeanor was reserved, cold. Rigid. But just under the surface, she smoldered with an intense fire.
“What now?” Dax asked.
AnJax stared at him intently, pursing his lips and narrowing his eyes. Then the tension melted away and he appeared to have made a decision. “Join us,” he said.
Osveta shot him a look, but he nodded at her eagerly. “That is not your decision!” she hissed.
AnJax looked back at Dax and Palloma with a twinkle in his eye. He glanced sidelong at Osveta, ignored her glare, and lowered his voice: “We’re with the Rebel Alliance.”