Rebellion’s Call: Episode 4
“The Rebel Alliance?” Palloma asked, confused. “What is that?”
AnJax knit his brows and looked at her, then glanced at Osveta and back. “The Rebel Alliance. Ever heard of us?”
Palloma looked sidelong at Dax, gauging his expression, but he appeared as stoic as ever. In prison, Palloma had occasionally overheard Stormtrooper conversations as they passed her cell, and she had caught the words ‘rebels’ and ‘terrorists’ a couple times. And now that she thought about it, since escaping she had also heard whispers of ‘rebellion’. She could easily deduce that people were opposing the Empire, but she had never imagined that an insurgency had become so organized as to be called ‘the Rebel Alliance’.
She looked back at AnJax and weighed her words. “I’ve been away,” she said. Her eyes bored into AnJax, a power play. Intimidation keeps questions at bay.
He raised his eyebrows but let it go. Palloma turned to Osveta. “Do you have the capability to get us safely off world?”
Osveta was still seething at AnJax, but she turned to Palloma and sized her up. “We do, if we deem it is worth our effort.”
A quick glance at Dax let her know she had permission to move forward, so she committed. “We’ll help you until you leave Coruscant, then take us with you.” After a moment’s thought, she added, “And give us safe landing somewhere else,” where we can disappear from the Empire, she finished in her mind.
Osveta smirked at Palloma’s clarification. “Agreed.”
Dax finally joined the conversation. “So what’s the plan?”
AnJax explained that they need to find an important Rebel who had been caught, so they need information on Imperial prisoners. Palloma’s breath caught in her throat as he spoke. What if they see my name? she thought. But after a moment, she relaxed. If they want to break someone out of prison, they probably aren’t too concerned with maintaining the Imperial justice system.
“How do we go about finding that information?” Palloma asked.
AnJax answered, “We know where the info is, the Hall of Imperial Register here on Coruscant.”
“How do we get in?”
“We’ll storm The Pit,” Osveta said.
The nickname struck Palloma and she scrutinized Osveta. Osveta caught her eye and pointedly looked away. Palloma filed a mental note to analyze later. This Osveta woman was hiding something.
“Well, what are our other options: what do we know about the Hall of Imperial Register? Procedure, security, anything?” Palloma asked.
They discussed intel and tactics, each offering their own perspective. They used the information they had, along with their various styles of action, to finally come up with a plan better than ‘storm the Pit’.
Palloma stared at the unexceptional building, a one story bunker, supposedly the Hall of Imperial Register. She, along with Dax, AnJax, and Osveta, cased it from a neighboring roof. It was so bland, so unremarkably common, that Palloma wasn’t sure the intel was correct. She guessed, though, it could be a sort of camouflage. The Empire had a talent for dullness, building a monotonous galaxy of impermeable grey bureaucracy.
They timed the Stormtrooper’s rounds. For exactly four minutes each round, the watch neglected the Hall of Imperial Register’s entrance. That will have to do.
They climbed down, staying in the shadows, until the next opening, then they bolted for the entrance. The three of them stood to the side while AnJax knocked on the single, shuttered door. They had recited this over and over. Palloma saw AnJax’s hand ball into a fist. At the first creak of the shutter moving, AnJax’s fist shot into the opening and cracked an administrative droid in its one, circular eye. As he pulled back his bloodied hand, Dax’s deft fingers reached in and pulled at the droid’s skull hatch. In less than a second, the droid hung limp on its tracks. Dax reached further into the shutter and unlatched the door. The four of them slipped through and shut themselves inside.
Osveta’s arm shot out to hold the other three from moving forward. As Palloma’s eyes adjusted to the low light, she was grateful for Osveta’s instict: the floor dropped off into a circular hole fifty floors down. The hole was edged with rows and rows packed with data, spiraling to the bottom.
Osveta took the lead, and they carefully made their way downward. She scanned categories as they went, and Palloma looked around. There was not another soul to be found in this place, just droids zipping by, attached to the railings. None of the droids paid them any attention, which seemed like a good thing but it made Palloma nervous.
They eventually found a category titled “Detainees,” and Palloma set to work. She sifted through the piles and rows, learning its organization. Once she understood how the section was arranged, she deciphered its chronology, then she found the date the Rebel was captured. She wondered who it was, but she was not yet privy to sensitive information about the Rebellion.
Palloma pointed to the data cartridge with the correct date, and Dax plugged in a data pad. His fingers flew for a few minutes, then he sat back as the data pad began to download their intel.
Seconds later, a mechanized female voice ripped through the building, “Attention: a security breach has been detected. Lockdown proceedings have begun. Please remain stationary as we secure the Hall of Imperial Register.”
Osveta swore and looked up many stories to the entrance door. She swore again and turned to her comrades. “Stormtroopers,” she said.
“It’s not even halfway downloaded yet!” Dax whisper-yelled. They had no choice—they had to wait. If they left now it would all have been a waste. They hid as best they could behind a tall shelf of data cartridges and held their breath.
Palloma could hear the distinct clomp of Stormtrooper boots circling, closer and closer. Moments ticked by and she was sure her pounding heartbeat would give them away. She let go her breath slowly, and took a long, measured breath in. She willed herself to calm.
Voices became audible, and the troopers’ footfalls were deafeningly close in the otherwise silent building. Osveta whispered, “That’s it, let’s go!”
“It isn’t done downloading!” Dax whispered back.
“It’ll have to do. Come on!”
Dax ripped the data pad free and they all bolted toward the entrance the only way they could, back up and around the circular stories as the Stormtroopers spiraled down.
Their own running steps beat on the polished floor, and Palloma clenched against the frustration. Why couldn’t they run more quietly? She felt her feet give purposefully at each step, softening the blow and dampening the sound. All the effort in the galaxy was useless if her comrades wouldn’t do the same, so she gave up and focused on speed.
Just before they rounded another wall of shelves, Osveta stopped and held them back.
“They’re just past that section,” she whispered, pointing ahead. Wait here.” She tiptoed forward and peeked around a corner, then pulled back.
“Okay,” she whispered, returning to the others. “The troopers are in formation.” She knelt down and drew a complicated series of Xs and swoops on the floor with her finger, making no impression at all. It seemed more out of habit than actual present usefulness. “There’s an opening here,” she said, tracing another X on the blank floor. The other two nodded, clearly baffled but trying to hide it, but Palloma wasn’t about to die to save her pride.
“I don’t understand,” she whispered.
Osveta threw her hands into the air, exasperated. “Just follow me,” she said, with an audible ‘humph’.
They all creeped behind Osveta, thankfully making no sound at all, until Osveta gestured to them and took off running. She skirted a row of shelves and appeared right in front of the Stormtroopers’ formation, and she barrelled for a spot Palloma would not have chosen: directly between the left-most troopers. Despite her instincts screaming at her, she followed Osveta. There was nothing else to do.
The Stormtroopers scrambled to block Osveta, obviously caught off guard. She swept through them easily and waved to urge Palloma and the others onward, too. The three of them ran into the tight opening she created, still within reach of armed and conscious Stormtroopers. The two they passed between were wobbling slightly on their legs, dazed after Osveta’s strike. AnJax punched the trooper most nearly in their way, and they ran right through.
They caught up to Osveta and sprinted onward, circling up and up. The formation of troopers regrouped and followed, but they had a lead. When they met an occasional stray Stormtrooper, Osveta took care of each without effort. Palloma felt her mind whirring, trying to piece together Osveta’s past, but she held back her analytical side for now. She needed to focus on survival.
Blaster bolts seared the walls and shelves around them, but none hit their mark as far as Palloma could tell. Osveta led them up, and Palloma noticed from a few stories down another group of Stormtroopers at the entrance, blasters held ready.
As they rounded to the top floor, Palloma geared herself up for another terrifying brush with the troopers, but Osveta changed course before the entrance and pulled down a ladder from the ceiling. She flew up it, blasted a lock and threw open a trapdoor.
The other three clambered after her and emerged onto the building’s roof. An alarm light next to the trapdoor went off, accompanied by a blaring sound, and Palloma heard pounding boots coming toward them.
The four of them ran across the roof toward an emergency ladder, only wide enough for one person, bolted to the side of the building. Osveta waved Dax and Palloma down while she and AnJax turned toward the trapdoor with their blasters raised. Palloma and Dax started to scale the ladder as Stormtroopers emerged on the other end of the roof.
Palloma heard blaster fire as she clambered down as fast as possible, impeded only by Dax below her. Osveta just began her descent, with AnJax right behind her yelling at them to hurry.
Stormtroopers closed in and paused at the top to shoot down at them, and AnJax fell.
For a split second, Palloma watched his body plummet. Just before he hit the ground, though, he rolled and got to his feet. Scratches were visible, and his clothes were torn, but no blaster holes. Osveta fell a moment later and rolled too, more gracefully.
Barely more than halfway down, Palloma geared herself up to jump, too. She visualized Osveta’s movements and let herself fly.
She rolled too early and the brunt of her weight landed on her shoulder, tearing her shirt, and she felt something crunch. She stood and her arm hung limply.
AnJax and Osveta had already taken off running, and she followed. They yelled back at Dax, “Jump!”
Dax hesitated, a few feet from the ground, then jumped straight down. He didn’t cushion his fall, and his knee turned at an odd angle as he landed.
He cried out, then limped after them. Palloma considered helping him, but she wasn’t strong enough, and it would do neither of them any good.
Some Stormtroopers descended the ladder, one at a time, while others still stood on the roof shooting down. The four of them ran for cover, with Dax falling behind. Palloma heard the troopers yelling into their helmet comms, describing each of the fugitives and their injuries. They used overhangs and alleyway walls for cover, slowly increasing their distance from the Stormtroopers still descending the ladder.
Dax stumbled and fell. AnJax cursed and ran back to him. He hauled Dax up over his shoulder, Dax’s head and arms hanging behind his back, and staggered onward, sagging from the weight of another full-grown male. Dax protested, grumbling and pounding on AnJax’s back, but AnJax ignored him.
Osveta led them through alleyways and shadowy corners. After a few minutes, Palloma started to believe they might actually escape.
They turned a corner and stopped short—a group of Stormtroopers stood in their path, facing away from them. Dax, still annoyed at being carried, with his head hanging down AnJax’s back, barked irritably at AnJax, asking why he stopped.
The Stormtroopers turned and opened fire, so Palloma took off running the other way. A few seconds later, she realized that she was alone and she turned back toward the commotion. AnJax, Dax, and Osveta were on the other side of the Stormtroopers, again heading toward their ship, with injured troopers in their wake.
Palloma stares, stunned. What could she do?
She hid behind a low wall and tried to think like Osveta, analyze the situation from a tactical standpoint. But that was useless—she didn’t have battle experience to pull from. She could only use her own variety of skill.
She waited in hiding another minute and observed. There were five Stormtroopers, but two were wounded. One of the other three was tending to the wounded, and another was speaking into his helmet comm, alerting nearby troops and calling for backup. The final trooper was scanning the area.
Palloma closed her eyes and visualized herself melting into the side of the building, camouflaged until she disappeared completely. With that image held in her mind, she opened her eyes and waited another moment until the scanning trooper was turned away from her.
She loosened her posture, drooping, kept her head down, and slinked out of her hiding place. She moved slowly, feet heavy but silent.
Palloma made it nearly halfway past them, then a trooper noticed her and yelled, “You there! Halt!”
Her heart jumped, but she kept her countenance vague and her head down. She visualized a deadened spirit, like the miserable, lifeless beings she had seen in the underworld. She stopped moving and turned to him slowly, with a blank expression and vacant eyes.
“State your business here!” the Stormtrooper yelled.
Palloma gestured forward with her hand and said in a small, empty voice, “Going home. From work,” and she gestured backward with her head, indicating where she came from.
“This is a restricted zone!” the Stormtrooper barked.
Palloma looked down submissively and said, “I didn’t know. It’s the quickest way home.” Her heart thumped hard in her chest, but she willed her body to remain calm.
The Stormtrooper paused, then said “Get moving, and don’t let us catch you here again!”
Palloma dipped her head further and shuffled onward.
She made it a few steps past them, then she heard a different trooper voice yell, “Hey! Look at her shoulder! She’s one of them!
Without looking back, Palloma took off at a full sprint. She aimed in the direction she last saw Osveta, AnJax, and Dax, hoping she can find them again. Two of the non-wounded Stormtroopers pursued her, closing in. She ran as hard as she could, and soon her legs ached and her lungs burned.
She felt her legs slowing and wasn’t sure she could make it much further. A step later, someone jumped out as she passed and clotheslined the two Stormtroopers behind her. She nearly collapsed, gasping for air, but arms caught her and hauled her back to her feet. AnJax supported her and rushed her onward.
She caught her breath after a moment and jogged along with him. They turned a corner and a shop sat on a landing platform with its ramp down. As they got close, the engine fired up and they clambered up the ramp.
The ship lifted off before pulling in the ramp, and Palloma wobbled on her shaky legs. She tipped forward, falling flat and nearly slipping off, but the ramp shut just in time to seal her inside.
After a minute, Palloma was grateful to be laying flat on the retracted ramp. The ship twisted and tipped, zooming between towering buildings in an attempt to escape before the Empire caught up. She was tossed around and slammed into the cargo bay wall.
AnJax clenched his jaw and made his way toward the cockpit, holding onto everything he could reach for stability. Palloma got up and worked her way after him.
As Palloma entered the cockpit, she caught AnJax in the process of pulling Dax out of the pilot’s chair, and he seated himself instead. Palloma strapped herself into a passenger seat next to Osveta and watched. Most of her focus was on terror for their lives, but she couldn’t help being entertained by Dax’s irritation at being supplanted, which he didn’t at all try to veil.
AnJax seemed to know what he was doing, but Palloma didn’t exactly feel comfortable with him in charge. He was as aggressive as a pilot as he was in hand-to-hand combat. Effective, but not particularly smooth. Dax, still disgruntled but channeling his frustration into action, was frantically typing to the hyperdrive.
An Imperial voice hailed them, demanding they identify themselves and relay Imperial codes. They ignored it.
As they made it out of the atmosphere, Palloma looked out the window and saw TIE fighters coming toward them. She caught her breath, and watched as the first green lasers left the TIEs’ guns, unable to do anything to help.
Just as the first green bolt made contact, the stars stretched into streaks and they shot off into the galaxy.
Palloma released her breath. The group seemed to take a collective breath, and they all sagged in their chairs.
AnJax leaned back in the pilot’s chair and put his feet up on the console. He crossed his arms behind his head and glanced over at Palloma. “How’d you do that?” he asked.
“Get past those troopers?”
Palloma shrugged and said she’s good at blending in. She felt Osveta watching her, but she wasn’t ready to share more about herself, so she changed the subject.
Turning to Osveta, Palloma asked why she ran straight into the group of Stormtroopers in the Hall of Imperial Register.
Osveta glowered for a second, then said, “There is a weakness in every formation. In that one, the Troopers are each looking a different direction, covering the area, but there is one spot their eyes don’t cover: right between the edge-most Trooper and the one next to him.” When she finished, she stared Palloma directly in the eyes, daring her to ask how she knows that information. Palloma took the fire in Osveta’s eyes as a warning and held her tongue. Palloma was not the only one there who had more to her than she seemed.
To be Continued…