New Flights to New Paths
New Blood Strikes Back
By Michael Weyer
New Flights to New Paths
The fall was all a blur to Buffy as her mind was still dealing with the pain and shock of the loss of her hand. She knew the winds were blowing them toward the wall and into a side tunnel and felt herself sliding down, reminding her of a trip to a water park years ago on her birthday. She and Luke came to a stop in what appeared to be a white tunnel, Buffy clutching her arm in pain.
Luke glanced down at her. “Are you okay?” he whispered.
“Peachy,” she bit out. “Dammit, it hurts!”
He reached out to rub it. “We have to get you to a medical center fast.”
Buffy smiled at him. “Guess we missed out on our martyrdom…wish I could have seen Vader’s face when we jumped.”
Luke was silent and Buffy could tell he was still thinking about Vader’s words. “Luke,” she softly began. “I…I don’t think…”
Whatever else she might have said was lost when the floor underneath them suddenly dropped open with a hatch opening. The two yelled as they were sent falling down another tunnel, spiraling down without any surfaces to grab onto. A doorway before them was open and they felt the blast of air before they exited. “Oh, shit,” Buffy whispered just before they broke out.
Below them were clouds. Nothing but clouds in all directions. Buffy didn’t know if Bespin even had a surface or how far down it was but she was pretty sure it was one hell of a long drop. It was beckoning to her before Luke slammed onto a large vane hanging below the hatch. He instinctively wrapped his legs around it as he reached out to grab at Buffy. Her good hand wrapped onto his arm as she fell, twisting him upside down. She dangled, legs kicking out before she could get to the vane.
She wrapped her arms around it as best as she could, closing her eyes tightly as she shook, trying to fight the new fear in her. “No fear…no fear…” she whispered. “No fear where strength lies…” She bit her lip. “Oh, dammit, Giles…Could really use one of those prissy pep talks now…”
Luke had his own eyes shut as he leaned his head against the vane. “Ben..” he whispered. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Buffy wanted to tell him Vader was lying, assure him this was all some sort of trick. Unfortunately, she was too busy trying to keep herself from letting go and taking the too-long plunge down. She closed her eyes and took a breath, trying to reach out. “Willow,” she whispered. “Xander…help….”
Angelus and Mara were walking down the main hallway as Vader strode up to them. “Report,” he rumbled.
“Calrissian double-crossed us,” Mara said. “He freed the Rebels and Moor and helped them escape. We lost about twenty troopers trying to get them back.”
“And Summers got away too,” Angelus added with a scowl.
“I met with Summers,” Vader said to their surprise. “She and Skywalker fell through an access tunnel but I believe they are still alive. Bring the shuttle up, we shall go to our ship.”
As he stalked off, Angelus and Mara exchanged a look. “Is it just me or is he more on edge than usual?” Mara asked.
“True,” Angelus noted, biting his lip. “Maybe he just had a little family reunion.” He walked off with that smirk on his face, leaving Mara baffled once more by the creature’s behavior.
Willow was in the rear of the Falcon helping Artoo reattach Threepio’s leg when she felt it. It was a tingle in the back of her mind, shadowy but distinct. She frowned and raised her head as she tried to focus on it. It sounded…familiar somehow…almost as if…
Her eyes widened as she got up and immediately raced to the cockpit. “We have to go back,” she said as soon as she entered.
Lando gawked at her. “Excuse me? We’ve got TIE’s about to launch and you want us back there!”
“We have to go!” Willow urged.
Leia shook her head. “Every second we lose is another second Fett gets away with Han! We need to follow him…”
“It’s Buffy!” Willow hissed. “She’s in trouble, we have to get to her! And Luke!”
Xander looked to her then to Lando. “Turn us around,” he said.
“Turn us around!” Xander snapped with more authority than Willow had ever heard him use before. “I mean it, Lando!”
“But the Imperials…” Chewbacca let out an angry growl and Lando threw up his hands. “All right, all right!” He moved to the controls and shook his head. “I’m gonna regret this,” he muttered.
The Falcon banked up around a cloudbank, turning around and racing straight toward Cloud City. “I felt it…underneath…” Willow softly said.
“You sure it was Buffy?” Leia asked.
Willow nodded. “Yeah but…she’s hurt and…Luke’s with her but…”
Xander was leaning forward, his eyes going wide. “Oh, God…there they are!” He pointed out and everyone could see two figures hanging tightly to a vane that seemed ready to buckle at any moment.
Lando glanced at Chewbacca. “The upper hatch still work?” At the Wookie’s affirmative bark, Lando rose up. “Okay, get us under!” He raced to the back, Xander on his heels. Lando moved to a nearby utility closet and took out a wire cable that he attached to his belt. He headed to a small elevator and spoke over his shoulder to Xander. “Get set, Xander!”
The young man nodded as he hit the elevator up toward the hatch. Chewbacca quickly pulled the Falcon underneath the vane. Luke saw it and let out a sigh of relief, still clutching Buffy’s arm. “Buffy…move to the hatch!” he called down.
She winced in pain as she let herself go of the vane and swung over toward the hatch. It opened as Lando came out, attaching the cable to the edge for safety. Stepping out on the hatch, he balanced carefully and reached up to Buffy. At his nod, Luke let go of her arm and Buffy landed into Lando’s arms. He saw the stump of her arm and, as was his way, did his best to provide comfort. “I have to say, you are by far the loveliest lady to ever fall into my arms.”
“I bet you say that to all the Jedi,” Buffy managed to smile weakly back. Lando moved her to the elevator and hit the button. “Xander, she’s on her way down!” he called down before looking back up to Luke.
Xander was shocked to see Buffy’s appearance, her face in agony and the stump of her arm clutched in her other hand. “Oh, god, Buffy…” he whispered as he grabbed her. With the adrenaline of the last few minutes fading, the pain hit her once more and she could feel her knees weaken from the agony. Xander quickly grabbed her and led her toward the sleeping quarter nearby. “I need some help here!” he yelled out.
Willow was in the room within seconds, her eyes widening at Buffy’s injury. “Oh, God…Oh God…Oh God, Buffy…” she whispered as she moved to her side. Xander lay her down and grabbed a nearby kit. Buffy hissed as he hit her with a stim-shot. “Sorry,” he whispered. “I don’t know how much I can safely give you.” He glanced to Willow. “Will, can you do anything?”
She sighed. “I don’t know…healing spells are tricky with regular people but a Slayer training to be a Jedi? That’s something else.”
“So glad…you two are taking…my feelings into consideration,” Buffy managed to get out with a choked laugh.
“Sorry,” they both mumbled. They felt the ship begin to move and realized Luke must now be inside. The suspicions were confirmed when the young man burst into the bay. “How is she?” he demanded.
“Well, been disarmed in as graphic a fashion as you can imagine,” Buffy managed to quip before coughing.
“She babbles when she’s sick, always has,” Willow told Luke.
Buffy sighed. “You guys…just gimme rest…kay?”
“No way,” Xander said as he knelt down to her. “We’re here. Lando and Chewie can fly the ship. We’re staying with you.”
“We let you out of our sight before and look what happened,” Willow said as she clutched Buffy’s good hand and squeezed it. “Not going to lose you again.”
Buffy smiled, a true smile with a sheen to her eyes. “Thanks…” She whispered. “Thank you all so much…” She lay back to fight the pain as the ship started to fly outward.
Piett brought himself to attention as the three Sith strode onto the deck. He had been briefed by Vader about Mara Jade before they had come to Cloud City. Piett had long heard rumors of the Emperor’s Hands but had dismissed them as a mystery boogeyman created to keep the rank and file in line. Having one on his bridge did not make him happy but he knew better than to argue with the Dark Lord.
He bowed his head. “We have the Millennium Falcon in our sights, my Lord.”
“Good,” Vader said. “And their hyperdrive is still non functional?”
“As per your orders, my Lord. We shall activate the tractor beam as soon as we are in range.”
“Good,” Vader said. “Make sure the boarding party have their weapons set to stun. I want them all alive.”
“Aw…” Angleus pouted. “Ruin all my fun…”
Without warning, he was thrown backward, slamming against a wall and landing hard on the floor. Vader was on him, grabbing him by the throat and slamming him back with a savage strength. “Never countermand my orders, creature! Else, I will personally spend the next decade torturing your body in ways you cannot imagine! Are we understood?”
For once, Angelus’ usual cockiness was gone as he felt the waves of anger pouring from Vader. Mara was jarred at the shockwaves in the Force from the Dark Lord’s fury. Everyone on the bridge was stunned as well. They knew Vader was prone to threats but such a burst of anger in front of the troops was quite rare. Angelus nodded and Vader let go, striding to the front of the bridge to gaze outward.
“What the Sith-spit was that?” Mara whispered in shock.
Angelus winced as he rubbed his neck. “I…don’t know.” He looked at Vader and for the first time, Piett and Mara could see actual worry in his gaze. “But it looks like Vader just decided he’s not up for his usual fun and games.”
Once more, Piett felt a chill go down his spine. If Scourge was worried about Vader…then that was cause for everyone in the fleet to fear the wrath if they let these Rebels escape.
“How are they?” Leia asked as Lando moved back to the pilot seat.
The black man grunted. “Summers lost a hand but otherwise they seem okay.” He clicked the buttons as he saw the reach of space come up before them. “Okay, we’re out of the atmosphere. Chewie, get ready to put us in lightspeed.”
“You’re sure the engines are fixed?” Leia pressed.
“I gave that order myself,” Lando assured her. Behind him, Kasen was checking out the radar screens. “We’ve got TIEs and a Destroyer!” she called out.
“Don’t worry,” Lando said with a cocky grin. “We’ve got it taken care of. Punch it, Chewie!” The Wookie complied, reaching to hit the main buttons, the hyperdrive engines firing up…
And then dying out with a whine.
“Oh, no,” Leia whispered in pain, closing her eyes. Chewbacca let out a long groan as Lando just stared in disbelief. “They said they fixed it…” he stammered. “They were supposed to fix it!”
“Hmm…” Kasen said, holding up her hands. “Loyalty to you against the threat of death by the Empire or outright bribery…” She made a show of moving her hands up and down like scales before putting one up. “Did you honestly not see this coming?”
Chewbacca just grunted as he rose up and headed to the engine room. Lando was still wildly flicking switches as Kasen glanced toward the radar. “They’re still coming,” she hissed out.
Leia bit her lip. “Is there a self-destruct on this ship?”
Lando looked at her in surprise. “I bought this to get out of stuff alive!”
“We can’t let them catch us,” Leia said. “Believe me, we can’t.”
Lando let out a sigh as he thumbed through the controls. “Worse comes to worse…I’ll ram this sucker right into her bridge. But I’d prefer another option.”
“I don’t see one,” Leia softly said. “I just don’t.”
Artoo’s arm sparked as he worked the relays to hook Threepio’s leg back together. “Be careful!” the golden droid chastised him. He saw Chewbacca lumbering toward the large deck plate by the engines and let out an electronic sigh. “Why are we not going to hyperspace?”
Artoo let out a beep and Threepio glanced back to him. “How do you know the hyperdrive was sabotaged?” Artoo answered back. “The Cloud City computer told you? Artoo, you should know better than to listen to a strange computer?”
Artoo glanced to where Chewbacca was feverishly at work. “What are you doing?” Threepio announced. “You don’t know how to repair the Falcon’s hyperdrive!”
Artoo broke away suddenly and moved toward a console. “Get back here at once!” Threepio said, managing to get into a standing position, his other leg held in his hands. “I’m standing here, tottering in pieces and you’re having delusions of grandeur!”
The small droid just ignored him as he moved to the terminal and began to go to work.
Luke was standing at the doorway to the quarters, watching Buffy when he felt the tingle in his mind. He straightened, gazing outward as he listened. “Luke…son…you cannot escape me…It is your destiny…”
“No,” he whispered. “No, it’s not…”
“You say something?” Willow asked with a frown.
Luke rubbed his head. “Just…”
“It’s not…” Buffy whispered. “Not your…destiny, Luke…not…”
“Damn, she’s hallucinating,” Xander hissed as he called over his shoulder. “Lando, we need to go now!”
“Working on it!” the yell back came. “Don’t fight it, son…You know you cannot…You must join me…Both of you can join me…”
The rest of the words were lost in a blast of light and a roar as the hyperdrive engines kicked in. There was a loud electronic beep as the backlash sent Artoo flying backward, into the open deck plate and onto Chewbacca. It was lost in the loud cheers of the crewmembers as the Falcon rocketed away to safety.
The sight of the freighter vanishing into hyperspace threw almost everyone watching from the Star Destroyer’s bridge. Piett swallowed, feeling a cold sweat on his brow as he watched Vader stare outward stock still. Only the Dark Lord’s breathing cut through the silence but the anger was palpable. He stared outward and Piett wondered how long it would be before he felt those invisible fingers clutch around his throat and squeeze.
Without warning and without a word, Vader turned and marched off the bridge. Piett let out a sigh of relief at his exit while Angelus and Mara exchanged unsure glances. “See if you can find what vector they might have taken off to,” Angelus ordered before marching away himself.
Mara looked over to Piett. “I take it that attitude isn’t normal?”
Piett straightened. “It is not for me to judge Lord Vader,” he replied diplomatically. “Or any of the Emperor’s trusted agents.”
A smile came to Mara’s lips. “No wonder Vader approves of you. Tell me the truth and consider it an Imperial command.”
Piett licked his lips as he thought. “I do believe Lord Vader is more…passionate about this Skywalker than he is with most Rebels. Lord Scourge seems to enjoy pushing his buttons but this is the first time I have seen Lord Vader push back so…stridently.”
Mara nodded slowly. “If it came down to it, who’d you favor?”
“My utmost loyalty is to the Empire and the Emperor, Jade,” Piett snapped.
Mara smiled softly. “Good answer.” She began to walk away as Piett wondered what sort of test he just passed.
“It’s open,” Xander said at the knock on his door. It opened as Willow entered, dressed in a light red tunic, a smile on her face. “Hey,” she said. “Wanted to say good-bye before you left.”
“Thanks,” Xander responded as he packed up his bag. He rose up, clad now in a dark set of pants, shirt and vest. “Lando and Chewie have got the Falcon almost set.”
“Where are you going to go?” Willow asked.
“Lando figures Fett won’t go straight to Jabba, too obvious,” Xander answered. “We’ll star on Nar Shadda, that’s always a good place for seedy info. From there, we’ll work around.”
Willow was quiet for a moment. “Xander..I’m sorry. About Mara.”
“Not your fault,” Xander quickly said. “Just me being my usual dumb-ass self.”
“Hey, don’t go there,” Willow chastised. “You just have a wonderful and trusting nature and she abused it.” She shook her head. “I’m so angry at her…I swear, when I see her again, I’ll…I’ll….hex her somehow!”
Xander chuckled. “I know you would…But ease up, ok? The last thing I want is to see you dragged to her level.” He paused as he sobered. “The weird thing? Part of me…still has feelings for her. Not just the sex but…I think I might have loved her, Will.”
Willow moved to hug him tightly. “You know you’ve got me.”
“Yeah, I know,” Xander said. “So how are you and Kasen doing?”
“We’re still in the figuring it all out stage,” Willow admitted. “It’s…different.”
Willow nodded. “Yeah, I think it’s good. Maybe it can even be great. Great would be good, right?”
Xander smiled as he picked up his bag. “As long as you’re babbling, I know you’re okay.” He moved to hug her. “Tell Leia not to worry. We’ll get Han back from that bounty hunter.”
“She’ll be glad to hear it,” Willow said as she hugged back. The two friends began to walk down the hallways of the Rebel medical ship toward the waiting Falcon. “How do you think Buffy will be?”
“She’s Buffy. She’ll survive.”
“But will she be okay?”
Xander smiled. “You didn’t see the way Luke looked at her. “I think she’ll be ok.”
Willow sighed. “Something tells me we’re going to need more heart-to-heart late night talks.”
“Well, maybe you and Kasen can invite…”
The medical bay of the Rebel ship contained a large window overlooking the nearby nebula. Several Rebel ships floated about as the fleet prepared to take off for their new base of operations. At the moment, the bay was mostly empty except for the person sitting on the nearby bench.
“Here, madam,” Too-Onebee said as he moved the surgical tool away. “How does that feel?”
“Surprisingly good,” Buffy said as she flexed the prosthetic fingers of the mechanical device. The artificial hand was basically a mechanical simulation covered in specially treated skin, creating the effect of a real hand quite well. There was a ring of scarring at the wrist where it was attached to her real skin but the bacta would take care of those in a few days.
It still felt so strange for her to see the mechanical wiring underneath the seemingly real skin. Watching Too-Onebee close the opening and seal it shut just added to it. “It feels…real,” she remarked, flexing the fingers and running it back on her hair. “I mean, it’s not as good as it was but I can still feel sensations.”
“Prosthetic limbs have come a long way in the last few decades,” the droid remarked. “I took the liberty of using cell samples from you to help clone the proper genetic makeup.”
“Well that’s thoughtful…and creepy,” Buffy remarked. “Thanks.” The droid nodded and padded away to a side room.
“How are you?” Buffy turned to see Luke standing in the doorway. He was clad in a white shirt and pants, a near match for her white gown.
“Getting damn sick of hospitals,” the Slayer admitted. She paused and smiled to him. “They’re getting ready to go?”
“Leia’s seeing them off,” Luke responded. “I know you said goodbye to Xander already.” He moved to her, sitting down next to her. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
“That should be my line to you,” Buffy responded softly. She paused and looked at him. “How…how are you dealing with…you know.”
Luke turned away, his face filled with pain. “I don’t want to believe it,” he whispered. “I don’t…but…part of me knows…”
Buffy nodded. “Yeah…yeah, I know.” She paused and stood up, moving to the window and gazing out. “We need to get back to Yoda.”
“Luke, we promised we would,” Buffy snapped. “Let’s face it, we were lucky to get away from Vader alive. We need more training, both of us. I…” She swallowed. “I figured I’ve faced so many monsters, I could handle a guy in armor and look what it cost me. We need to know more if we’re going to face him.”
Luke nodded slowly. “You’re right…Plus…I need to know for sure. I know Master Yoda knows the truth.” He moved to her. “We’ll go back as soon as we can.”
Buffy kept looking outward and Luke took a deep breath. “When I saw it happen to you,” he softly said. “It…it hurt. Hurt bad. I…I’ve gotten to care for you, Buffy and…”
“Luke, don’t,” she whispered, bowing her head. “Don’t say it.”
He started. “What…why not? You don’t…”
“If you say it,” she whispered. “You can’t take it back…And it’s there..and it’s real…and I really, really don’t handle it well at all.”
“No,” she snapped. “No…Just…please don’t say it, ok?”
Luke paused and nodded. “Okay. I won’t say it.” With that, he moved in to press his lips against hers. She was frozen before she felt herself give in and they stood there, kissing deeply, framed by the nebula in the distance and the ship flying away toward it.
There was still a battle to come between Empire and Rebellion. There was still the rescue of a friend. There was still a final fight with two people who had once been so much to them. But at the moment, all the two young Jedi cared for was this perfect instant of their coming together against all odds. As long as they had that strength…even the Empire couldn’t stop them.
Well, that’s all for this part. I’ll probably break for a bit, then perhaps some new Vignettes before jumping to Return of the Jedi. Thanks again for all comments, hope this still is a fave with many.