The art of combat using lightsabers as weapons is a long and time honoured one. It was an intriguing weapon really, when one thought about it because there were no edges, only energy and all parts of the blade cut, sliced and killed. The weapons had been in use for centuries, if the stories I had read were to be believed. Most jedi made their own lightsabers, it was a sort of rite of passage.
Lord Vader had once shown to me how they worked, explaining that high levels of energy were generated by a power cell directed through a series of focusing lenses and energizers which converted that energy into plasma. This was directed through focusing crystals which lent the blade its properties and allowed for the adjustment of blade length and power output. Once focused by the crystals, the plasma was sent through another series of field energizers as well as modulation circuitry within the emitter matrix which focused it even more, making it into a coherent beam of energy projected from the emitter. For a fairly small weapon it was pretty complicated and I had been very happy that I didn’t actually have to make my own.
It was, Lord Vader had said, considered to be an elegant weapon and it became a symbol of the Jedi who had been seen as peace keepers for centuries during the time of the Republic. After the fall of the Old Republic the Jedi fell into disgrace and the lightsaber became a weapon of myths and children’s bedtime stories. I had never seen one until I had watched Lord Vader practice with his and that had been a delight. I could see the appeal of it when compared to more conventional weapons; it certainly had its uses, especially when it came to not making a mess. A lightsaber blade cauterized what it cut so there wasn’t a lot of blood even when the wounds were grave; the down side was the stench.
I wondered as I watched Ged and Vander fight if that was what it would have been like to watch Jyrki and me, or Lord Vader and his son duel. The dance of whirling light must have been glorious to see. Not for the first time did it occur to me that using lightsabers was more of an art than anything else and watching these two men was more like watching a dance of light than a duel between enemies. The arcing of light as the blades swirled around in semi circles crashing together and then separating again was truly beautiful but every time the blades clashed together the sound set my teeth on edge.
It took a fairly high degree of skill and training to use a lightsaber well, well enough not to end up slicing one’s own arm off or worse. Lee Vander was strong and had been well taught and as I watched him I realised I knew the style of fighting he was using with an intimacy that was unnerving. It reminded me so sharply of my Bunduki Master that I had a sudden and surprising pang of longing for a teacher who was long gone. Lee had been very well taught and I recognised some of the moves he was making.
They fought like caged tigers just waiting to let their true natures loose, both holding back to see when the other would make a mistake. They were surprisingly evenly matched. For every attack Ged made Lee had a counter attack and it went on and on until I could see Ged’s anger flash across his face as he started to draw on his dark side powers.
The air crackled as Ged went on the offensive and began to hammer at Lee with a ferocity that scared me. With the combination of force power and skill there was no way that Lee could maintain his defence so he switched his own tactics and with his left hand he drew out a second weapon from his coat. I suddenly got a sickening feeling in my gut that things were about to turn. At first I thought it was a blaster of some sort but then I realised that was not the case.
It reminded me of a weapon known as a t’on-fa, a sort of rounded stake with a short perpendicular handle at one end, looking a lot like a nightstick that the Coruscanti police used to use. This one, made from a dark material, was unusual because one end had been sharpened to a vicious point. Lee braced the length of the weapon against his arm like a shield and thrust it upwards defensively as Ged swept his lightsaber down in what would have been the killing blow.
The purple blade came crashing against Lee’s arm but instead of slicing through the stake and cutting Lee’s arm in two the lightsaber’s blade spluttered and failed. I quickly covered my mouth to stop myself from yelling out.
Cortosis. Lee had a bunduki defence weapon made from Cortosis ore, a very rare, brittle and fibrous material whose conductive properties caused lightsabers to temporarily short out on contact. This lovely attribute made it an incredibly useful material for creating anti-lightsaber melee weapons even though the effects of cortosis never lasted very long, a minute or two at best, nor did it permanently damage the lightsaber in any way. Sometimes one of two minutes makes the difference between life and death.
I tensed watching as Ged, suddenly distracted, hesitated for just a second to look over at where I was, where the second blaster lay at my feet, leaving Lee enough time to swing his lightsaber around for the kill. Even if Ged wanted to he would not be fast enough to force pull the blaster to him and then fire it at Vander.
I didn’t even think I just brought the carbine I gripped tightly in my hands upwards, aimed and shot, hoping I didn’t hit Ged by mistake. The energy bolt blasted Lee’s hand, hitting his lightsaber. It shattered, sending a shower of sparks all around, forcing him to let it go. Useless, it clattered to the flood loudly.
For a moment no one moved and then Lee snarled, swung the cortosis weapon around, point facing towards Ged and thrust it upwards just as Ged managed to ignite his own lightsaber again. He swung the blade around with all his might, stepped in as close as he could and drove the blade through Lee’s chest. For a second the two men stayed in that eerie embrace then Ged staggered under Lee’s weight before finding his balance to take two steps back as Lee’s body crumpled to the floor, the cortosis blade rolled from his hand and clattered on the polished tile.
“Nice shot.” Ged gasped, bending over to catch his breath.
“I was aiming for his head.” I replied looking at the blaster in my hands as though it would suddenly bite me.
Ged shook his head and grimaced. “Either way, it was a good shot.” He switched off his lightsaber and the room was plunged into dimness again.
“We need to get out of here.” I told him staring at the body of Lee Vander.
He tucked his lightsaber back into the inner pocket of the coat and pulled it tightly around him. “There’s a hidden service lift over there.” He said nodding to the far wall. I suddenly understood why he had chosen this room.
I went to pick up the second blaster which had been sitting on the floor but he shook his head. “No, leave it,” He nodded, “I’m hoping we won’t need it and one should be enough now come on!”
And before I could ask him why he didn’t want the gun, we were slipping into the small turbo lift, the ride down felt as though it lasted forever and when we stopped Ged winced. “Turn left, go straight. It should lead to a service entrance on the south side.”
“Is everything alright?” I asked. “Are you alright?”
“Yes, fine. I pulled a muscle that’s all.” He hissed. “Quickly, we can’t stay here.”
I nodded and did not call him on the lie he had just told me because we had other problems to deal with. We made our way as quickly as possible to the door which was exactly where Ged said it would be. It was locked so I used my lightsaber to open it and we stumbled through the doorway into a small courtyard. I swore as the air filled with alarms.
I looked around, the courtyard was empty and quiet but I recognised this part of the castle and smiled. “Stay here.” I told Ged and before he could argue I ran to try and find a speeder. It didn’t take me long and luckily for us it was an open top, maintenance vehicle which was easy to slice into.
“We’re going to have to do something about your criminal tendencies.” Ged joked laughing to himself which turned into a coughing fit. I frowned at him but he shook his head.
“Come on, get in so I can get us to my ship and get the hell off this planet before someone comes to find out why this door triggered the alarm system!.”
He moved awkwardly as if he were in pain. When I offered my hand he shook his head and drew strength from the force. I felt its pull and gave him a glare. Once he was in seated beside me, I slammed the speeder on full, not really caring about traffic or anything else. We nearly crashed into several speeders and a taxi before I got into the right lane.
“Merly you drive like a mad rebel, slow down you’re going to get us killed.” Ged hissed as he gripped the speeder’s sides with hands that showed white knuckles. “I can’t believe I let you fly us here in that rattletrap of yours but you’re even worse in a speeder.”
“Complain, complain, complain!” I snapped.
The trip through the back lanes of Coruscant took us a little longer than I had wanted and by the time we made it back to the building where my ship was Ged was pale and quiet. We ditched the speeder at the landing pad and made our way quietly to where my ship sat. The relief that flooded through me when I saw she was still there, intact and untouched was so great it almost made me physically ill. I unlocked the door and we boarded as soon as the ramp hit the ground. As soon as we were onboard I closed the door only to watch Ged suddenly slump against the bulkhead clutching at his side.
“It’s nothing, a bruised rib or something. Just go!” He said through clenched teeth waving me off before I could see what it was that was wrong. “Move! We have to go. Get this bird in the air now. That is an order.”
“You are not the boss of me, you know.” I told him as I headed towards the cockpit with him in tow.
He chuckled. “I will try to keep that in mind. But trust me when I saw we need to get off this rock before anyone decides to track that speeder!”
I turned to look at him. “Tell me something I don’t know!”
“Just get us in the air!”
With a shake of my head I slipped into my chair and fired up the manoeuvring engines. I skipped the pre check and ran the quick start procedure. The ship hummed to life. We slipped into Coruscant air space quietly, just one of many. I contacted the air traffic control and gave them our fake id and fake flight plan. The controller who gave me the ok to go sounded bored.
I listened to the radio chatter of Coruscant air space-control but nothing was out of the ordinary. I almost felt sorry for the New Republic, there was a storm coming and they had no idea what would hit them. Only once we had passed the Coruscant security grid and planetary shield marker did I let go of the breath I had been holding. The planet, a sphere of light and dura-steel, quickly receded as we pulled away. I should have admired its extraordinary beauty but the only thing I could feel was relief.
I looked at Ged who was standing behind me using my chair for support. He was pale and breathing hard. “Set these co ordinates.” He said and I punched the numbers he gave me into the nav computer. “How long until we can jump?” He asked.
I looked at the computer and the map, “At this speed we’ll be out of the planet’s gravity well in a few minutes.”
He nodded. “Use the back ways Merlyn. I don’t want to get stuck on one of the main Hyperspace lanes.”
“That will add more time to the journey.” I said setting the new directions into the nav computer.
He nodded. “I know. My people don’t expect me to arrive the same time as the Lightning. Thrawn asked me to keep you safe and this is as good a way as any.”
“Oki-doki.” I said and as soon as the nav computer peeped to let me know we could jump into hyperspace I punched it. The stars around us swirled and spun, then elongated and vanished. I set the auto pilot on and then got up out of my chair just in time to catch Ged who sagged against me.
He let out his breath. “Okay now I think I need your help. I need to lie down.” And he drew back the coat he was wearing to show me and I sucked in my breath. His shirt was soaked in blood. “The cortosis blade.” Ged explained, “I couldn’t avoid it.”
I swore. “You are a bloody idiot!”
“You got the bloody part right.” He grinned then hissed in pain.
I helped him up, got him to one of the crew bunks and helped him lie down. When I looked at the wound I winced for him. It was a nasty looking piece of business. Gingerly I touched the area around it he grunted in pain, laughing the way people do when they don’t want to scream in agony. For a second his eyes rolled back into his head and the sudden whiteness of his skin scared me. I smacked his face.
“Ged!” I yelled at him.
His eyelids fluttered and he looked at me. “Ow.” He muttered.
“Don’t you dare die on me!” I told him as I got out the med-kit.
“Not my plan.” He grimaced. “Don’t hit me again that hurts!”
“Stop being a big baby and lie still.” I started to cut the shirt carefully and peeled it off him as gently as I could. The wound, just under his ribs, was ugly and there was a lot of blood. Unlike a lightsaber the cortosis blade had not cauterised the wound and all the movement from fleeing the Imperial palace had not helped the matter. I waved the small medical scanner over it and for the first time felt a sense of relief.
“How bad is it?”
“You must live under a lucky star Ged Larsen.” I said digging through the medical kit for bacta injections and wound cleanser. “Lee’s blade missed everything important. It looks a lot worse than it is and it’s not as deep as I thought so we won’t need to find an emergency medical ship. You’ll have a lovely scar though.”
Ged struggled to sit up but I pushed him back down, pinning him to the bed by as he fought against me. “I don’t find this lucky at all. You’re undressing me and I can’t even enjoy it.” He struggled against my hold on him and it made him wince.
I made a noise of disgust. “Men, don’t you ever think of anything else?”
“Occasionally.” He replied, still trying to sit up. “But it’s difficult when a pretty woman is stripping you out of your clothes.”
“Well make the most of it fly-boy it’s the only time I’m doing this.” And I said those words I realised it was the truth. As much as I liked Ged and as much as when he kissed me he could make me shiver, I did not want anything more from him and when, just for a moment our eyes met, maybe he understood this as well.
He gave me a smile and went to say something but instead he hissed in pain through tightly clenched teeth and writhed when I touched the wound with gauze to clean it.
“Stay still damnit! I need to clean out the wound and it will hurt.”
“I can deal with the pain. Give me that I’ll do it myself.” He said reaching for my hand.
I rolled my eyes, slapping his hand away as grabbed for the gauze I was holding. I shook my head in disgust. “Men. You always want to play the tough guy. Just for once will you listen to me?”
“Oh Merlyn,” he whispered with a grin, “You really are a force of nature.”
With a sigh I sat back and stared at him. “And you are a bloody pain in the ass.” I told him and before he could protest I pressed the hypospray to the side of his neck and sedated him. He fought it until the sedative won and sleep took him. I sat for a second to catch my breath.
It had been Navaari who had shown me the right way to treat wounds such as this. Out on a hunt there were no medical droids or facilities so one had to be self sufficient and animals tended to either bite or claw in a fight. I could hear his voice in my head, assess the damage, clean the wound, staunch the bleeding then repair everything you can and bandage it all up well. This was not the first time I had helped a wounded man but I really hoped it would be the last.
Once the puncture in his side was thoroughly clean I pumped it full of bacta. It never ceased to amaze me how quickly it started the healing process. For a moment I waited to be sure it was working then I closed and bandaged the wound. Once that was done I just stared at him, stroked a stray lock of hair from his face, and covered him with a blanket. Sleep softened his features making him look even younger than he really was.
Suddenly exhausted, I sat back with my head against the bulkhead listening to the thrum of the engines and the sound of Ged breathing, allowing myself a few moments of rest before I cleaned up the mess. I took one last look at Ged to make sure he was really just sleeping and then left him to rest. I made my way to the fresher to wash up then went to my cabin to change into more comfortable clothes. Once that was done I felt a lot better.
I sat at the little table in the galley with my hands cradled around a cup of hot tea wondering about everything that had happened. It felt very surreal and I did not understand the half of it. I hoped that when he felt up to it Ged would explain more but I somehow doubted it and in any case he would be sedated for a good long while, the wound needed time to heal and I knew him well enough to know if he was awake that would not happen. Weary, I suddenly found myself missing Thrawn above all else and a stab of guilt at what had happened in the palace detention room made me sigh. I didn’t even know how to begin to explain any of what had happened and I was pretty sure Thrawn would be furious with me for getting into the mess in the first place, never mind the whole kissing part.
Since there wasn’t anything else to do and nowhere to go I got up, poured another cup of tea, grabbed a book from the small book shelf near the table and made my way back to the cockpit. I settled into my seat with my feet on the dashboard but I couldn’t seem to concentrate on the book in my hand. The slow route to the rendezvous point would take just over a week and I was glad I had enough fuel and supplies for a long run on board although we could stop at Tatooine if we needed to. I wasn’t worried about that. I was more concerned with what would happen once we returned to the Virulent and eventually have to tell Thrawn that Jarack was dead because one of the Empire’s finest black-ops agents had turned traitor amongst other things. He wasn’t going to like it, he wasn't going to like any of it at all.