Rebellion’s Call: Episode 1

By: Christine Sharp

Palloma sat with her eyes closed.  She had already turned her cell’s lights off, so closing her eyes didn’t make much difference, but it helped her concentrate.

Her legs pressed into the smooth, hard metal surface of the bench beneath her, and her bare toes rubbed the cold, rough flooring.  Her hands, flat on the bench, registered the gentle vibration of the ship’s basic functions.

Her nose identified the stagnant, sterile smell of recycled oxygen, and her ears focused on the subtly different humming pitches, distinguishing air moving through the ducts above her, electricity vibrating through the walls, heavy machinery somewhere far to her left and deep below, and the clomp of boots in the corridor.  She imagined the hallway, five cells on each side, and Stormtroopers making their usual rounds.  She had never actually seen outside of her cell—she was brought here unconscious and awoke inside—but she had followed the Stormtroopers’ footsteps many times, counting each time they stopped.

As the stomping faded, Palloma visualized her own cell.  She saw herself sitting on the bench, palms flat and feet firm.  She drew herself slowly backward until her shoulders pressed into the wall, and she imagined herself disappearing.  She willed herself to melt into the background.  She pictured herself against the corridor wall, Stormtroopers walking right by and noticing nothing, no one.  She was invisible.

Palloma held this in her mind for a full minute, then opened her eyes and sighed.  Was practicing really of any use?  Sure, it had been her most useful skill, displaying such a mild presence that she seemed to disappear altogether.  Even Senator Amidala had sometimes forgotten she was there.  They had all underestimated her, especially the Chancellor—er, Emperor.  And it had almost been his undoing.  But he learned, oh yes he learned.  So here she was, wasting away in a cell.  He wasn’t about to let one with such sensitive information go.  Should she still try?  Was it worth it to practice every day—to look toward a time when she would be free?  At this point, it was all the same anyway.  She didn’t have to listen, feel, smell; she knew every detail by heart.

No, she told herself.  Don’t give in.  She needs you.  The girl needs you.  The child had never seen Palloma, nor did she know of Palloma’s existence, but it was true.  She needed her.  And Palloma had come to adore her self-appointed assignment.

A change gradually worked its way into Palloma’s consciousness.  She was pulled to the present.  A sound—or more, the absence of sound.  The constant humming of the ship’s inner workings was no longer audible.  Palloma sat up, alert.  She concentrated.

The darkness also seemed denser, more complete.  The emergency lights above the cell door were out.

She tip-toed to the cell door and pressed her ear against it.  Soft foot-falls darted past, nothing like the loud, methodical thump of Stormtroopers’ boots.  She heard muffled voices, too.  That is definitely not the guards—Stormtroopers never spoke in this hallway.

She felt, more than heard, a click near the door’s locking mechanism.  She pushed, and the door released.  She opened it just enough to look out.  The hallway was cloaked in darkness.  Odd, she thought.  Her mind said to be cautious, but her instincts told her it was her time.  This was it.

Palloma shoved hard, and the door gave way.  She slipped into the hallway and listened.  She sensed movement and whispers down the hall.  She tip-toed toward the sound, her bare feet gripping the cold, hard floor and her hands guiding her along the wall.

“We have minutes, maybe seconds,” a man’s voice whispered.

“Then it’s time!” A woman’s voice.  “Go, now!”

Palloma felt bodies stream past her, and she heard knuckles tapping on metal doors.  She counted.  Ten cells, she thought.  I was right.  But now was not the time to congratulate herself.  She started to move past the whispering voices, when one called out clear and loud.

“Prisoners of the Empire!” the voice announced, “Your doors are open.  Run, now.  You may escape on your own, and possibly make it.  Or come, fight with us!  We are many, we can overcome.  We will make it out of this place!”

Doors heaved open all around, and more bodies filled the group.  “Here!” the woman’s voice from earlier called out.  “This way!  Follow those footsteps!”

Palloma became aware of a pair of foot falls, louder than the rest, retreating down the next hallway.  She moved with the group until she passed a man and woman directing them all.

“What is this?” she whispered to the woman.

“An escape,” the woman replied rhetorically.  Then her voice became joyful.  “We are from the upper detention block.  We have taken control of the power, for now.  This block, solitary confinement, is the last to go.”

“Why now?” Palloma asked.  There had to be a reason.  And that information could be the difference between escape and death.

“My son!  The Rebellion’s transmission reached us.  Hope is not lost.”

“What can I do?” she asked.  The Rebellion.  She could be useful again.

“Make sure this group gets to the hangar.  Ryder is leading them; my husband and I will bring up the rear.  Hurry!”

Palloma turned to run, then paused.  She mustn’t pass up possibly useful information.  She held out her hand.  “I am Palloma Tarmun.  Of Naboo.”

“Mira, Mira Bridger.  Lothal.  Now go!”

Palloma joined the throng of moving bodies, and worked her way forward, toward the front.  There were so many of them, dozens.  Possibly hundreds!  She hadn’t been around this many people, or really any people, in years.  She suddenly felt claustrophobic.  Their presence pressed in on her, collapsing her lungs.  No, it wasn’t them.  It was the air. She tried to breathe, to clear her brain and fuel her already aching muscles.  Muggy air dragged into her lungs, but she was still suffocating.  They were losing oxygen!  Life support must have turned off along with everything else.  “No oxygen!” she called out, using her last breath.  The prisoners around her jostled, and she heard voices cry out.  Panic rose.  Stop! She tried to yell, but she couldn’t make a sound.  They wouldn’t make it much further.

The group turned another corner, and she saw a faint glow down the opposite direction.  Emergency power!  Power meant probable capture, but it also meant oxygen.  This way! She tried to say, but it was useless.  She broke off from the group and sprinted toward the light.

As she got closer, cool air caressed her skin and her lungs filled.  Glorious, glorious air.  She panted, gulping as much as she could take in.   She ran until she was confident the air was circulating well, then she paused.  Turning around, she realized a group of escapees had followed her.  The faint, greenish light revealed a dozen or so beings, gasping for air and looking at her.  No, looking to her.  They had followed her example, so she was now their leader.

“We need to reach the hangar,” she said.  “Does anyone know the way?”

A tall, blue alien, a Duros, stepped forward without a word and darted to the wall behind her.  He tapped on a glowing screen mounted on the wall, and quickly pulled up a diagram.  “Here,” he said, pointing.

Palloma ran to the screen and followed his finger, charting a route to the hangar.  “Thank you,” she said, memorizing the turns.  A familiar clomp sounded down the next hallway, and Palloma gasped.  “Stormtroopers!” she called out.  “Run!”

She took off in the direction the young Duros had indicated, and she heard the rest follow.  The clomping got louder and faster.  They were discovered!  Blaster fire streamed over her head, and she heard some hit the walls just behind them.

Palloma rounded a corner and noticed an open door.  “In here!” she yelled, and she darted into the dark room.  The small group followed, and the blue Duros pushed her aside to reach a mounted screen.  The door slid shut with a thud.  They waited, holding their breath, in near blackness.

Palloma pressed her ear to the door and listened, trying to hear through the pounding of her heartbeat in her ears.  Boots stamped, and soldier voices yelled out.  “Split up!”

She heard some footfalls disappear down the opposite hallway, and others came directly toward them.  Time seemed to slow.  Palloma released her breath as quietly as possible; holding it was making her head spin.  Finally, boots clambered by them and continued down the hallway until they faded.

Palloma waited another minute, to be sure they were gone, then lights burst on in their tiny refuge and an alarm sounded.  A few escapees gasped, and one small woman shielded her eyes.  They found us! Palloma thought.  But the door remained shut, and no footsteps sounded outside.  After another beat, Palloma realized the ship’s full power must have come back on, which meant the escapees had lost their edge.

“We must go! Now!” she whispered.  The Duros opened the door and she bolted out.  The group followed her, and she could only hope she remembered the route correctly.

Left, right, right, straight, left.  As they ran, Palloma’s mind raced.  Focus, she told herself.  She had been practicing for years; she could finally use her skill.  What could she sense around them?  What was she missing?

Gravity.  They lost everything, including life support, in the detention block.  Why hadn’t they lost gravity?  They must be on a planet’s surface.  Interesting, she thought.

She focused again.  She felt machinery whirring behind them, but the sound faded ahead and to the right.  It seemed as though the systems that kept the ship—or station, or whatever it was—functioning suddenly cut off nearby.

As they rounded the last turn, Palloma looked across the hangar bay.  The rest of the escapees were streaming into it from the other side, some holding blaster pistols and shooting at Stormtroopers that cut them off from the few small ships in the hangar.  Their group had diminished significantly, and bodies were falling rapidly.

Palloma halted and reached out an arm, stopping the rest of her group from entering the hangar bay.  “We need a plan,” she whispered.  “We can’t make it past that many Stormtroopers.”  She looked around.  A large shipping crate stood just beyond them against the hangar’s wall, but there was just enough room behind it for them to crouch.  “There!”  She pointed, and her group shuffled into the space.

“Okay,” she said.  “We need to make it to one of those ships.  Any ideas?”  She glanced around hopefully, but met only blank eyes.  They stared at her, and she stared back, lost for a moment in fear.

Out of the corner of her eye, Palloma caught a movement.  One of her group members had stood, and he was starting to run.  “No!” she yelled, but it was too late.

“There!” a Stormtrooper’s voice called out.  The man ran toward the nearest ship, blaster fire erupting around him.  

“Halt!” another trooper yelled.  He kept going.  Stormtroopers closed in, and he swung at one of them.  A blaster shot found its mark, and the man dropped.  A woman crouched next to Palloma whimpered.

Once the Stormtroopers had checked that the man was dead, they retraced his steps, heading straight toward their hiding spot.  What were they to do?  Palloma couldn’t think.  The woman from earlier and another man jumped up behind her and ran the opposite direction.  “No!” Palloma cried out again, but it was no use.  She heard blaster fire and two thumps.

Palloma turned to the rest of her group, smaller now.  “Find cover,” she said.  “Run!”

They all burst from behind the shipping crate, and blaster fire rained down on them.  Palloma kept her eyes on a stack of crates up ahead, even as she heard heavy thumps and boots clomp around her.  She dove behind them, catching her breath, then peeked out.  Two more bodies lay on the ground.  She gauged the distance to the nearest ship.  It was three times as far away as their first hiding place.  There was no way they could make it.  She glanced around, noting the hiding places of her fellows.  They were split into four small groups.

The tall, blue Duros crouched next to her, eyes alert.  Palloma decided to take a chance, hoping her earlier deduction was correct.  “Forget the ships,” she whispered.  “Run directly out the bay door.  I think we’re docked on-planet.”

The alien held her gaze for a second, expression unreadable.  Then he dipped his head, a quick nod, and took off.

“Follow him!” she whisper-yelled to the other groups, and she sprinted after him.

He neared the bay door and disappeared through it, into the darkness beyond.  The surrounding Stormtroopers finally noticed them, but she was just steps away.  Blaster fire whizzed past her ear as she crossed the threshold and launched herself out.

The ground disappeared, and for a split second she thought she had been wrong—they were in empty space.  Then the whoosh of air and the feeling of falling told her otherwise.  She had just jumped off a cliff.

Darkness surrounded her on all sides—she couldn’t see the ground.  But a darkness more solid than the rest quickly came up to meet her.  Her body crashed into the surface and sank.  Water.  A lake?  Ocean?  She scrambled to find the surface, kicking and flailing her arms.  As she spun, a hand closed around her wrist and she was yanked to the left—upward.  Her face met air and she gasped, breathing in as much as she could take.  “Wha—?”

“Shhh!” a voice hissed.  “This way,” it whispered.

Palloma followed the sound and soon found rocky soil beneath her feet.  She made her way onto solid ground and collapsed.

She looked at her surroundings, slightly illuminated by the light of the enormous ship looming above them, and peered into the face of the Duros.  

“Did any others come after me?” she whispered, barely audible.  He glanced upward and shook his head.

An engine revved to life far up above, and a small ship from the hangar shot out into the night.  Stormtroopers ran onto the landing and blasted it, but it made no difference.  The ship disappeared.

Good, Palloma thought.  Some of them escaped.  Though she had no way of knowing how many.  Suddenly it hit her, she had escaped too.  Or, at least she was on her way.  She didn’t know her next move, but this was a start.

She looked at the alien again and held out her hand.  “I’m Palloma.”

The Duros considered her for a moment, then cocked his head to the side and grasped her hand tentatively.  “Dax,” he said.  “What now?”

Palloma shrugged.  They both looked up and sighed.  For now, this was enough.