Previously, in Star Wars: Lifeboat…
In Lifeboat: Part III’s flashback, then-Lieutenant Varon Seeda delivers a message to Darth Vader on Mustafar that begins a chain reaction of treason! They board a shuttle bound for Jedha to recover artifacts important to the Emperor, but will Vader discover the truth of them first and claim them for himself?
Get caught up on the Lifeboat: A Star Wars Fan Fiction series!
Now, in Part IV, we rejoin the surviving Imperials aboard the Emperor’s shuttle as they hurtle towards a destiny they cannot fathom, held at the deadly knife point of Captain Inda Krest! What secret is she keeping from them? Meanwhile, Lieutenant Meera Dyre is discovering she has hidden abilities she does not understand, but someone else aboard knows exactly what is happening to her. And the injured Captain Vario awakes with a shocking accusation…
Aboard Emperor Palpatine’s Shuttle, Great Gran Run Hyperspace Lane, Tashtor Sector – 4 ABY…
Meera always imagined the Emperor traveling in more spacious accommodations instead of this. It was bigger than a standard Lambda-Class with a small state room behind the cockpit and a lower-level cargo hold. Still, twelve people aboard made it stuffy. She excused herself to check on the injured guard, but she really sought to escape the others. The cargo hold was the quietest place on the small shuttle. The only person who came down here besides her was the Maintenance Technician, that she learned is named Tana Vel.
She struggled with her lack of concern over the gruesome murder of Sim Aloo. Whatever else he may have been, he was still an Imperial citizen. Meera took an oath to save Imperial lives when she became a Medical Assistant First Class, yet she watched one be gutted before her eyes and felt nothing as he bled out on the floor. Why? She sat on top of a cold steel crate between the lifeless body of Sim Aloo and the injured Royal Guard’s med capsule pondering her lack of compunction, when she heard footsteps coming down the metal ladder.
“The pilot’s last update said we’re about three parsecs from Volusia,” came the voice of Technician Vel. “Krest wants everyone upstairs for a briefing. She’s ready to tell us what we’re going there for.”
“Tana, how do you feel about Counselor Aloo’s death?” Meera asked as she looked over the covered body of the wiry, sallow-eyed Imperial accused of treason by Krest. “Doesn’t it bother you?”
“No, not really,” came Vel’s flippant reply. “I mean, it wasn’t comfortable to watch, but if he was a traitor, he deserved it. Is that why you keep coming down here? Does his death upset you?”
“No, and that’s the problem. I should feel something given my training, but I don’t. I was glad to see him die. If he truly did what Krest says—If Aloo was responsible for causing all this—he should have been left to burn on the Death Star.”
“Look, Meera, we’re all numb and hurting. Even Krest, though she doesn’t show it. And then you tell us Lord Vader is a traitor. The whole thing is difficult to wrap your mind around. Once we get back to the core, we’ll have time to decompress. The Empire will take care of us. They always provide.”
“The… Empire… is run… by fools.”
The unexpected voice from the injured guard startled them both. Vel jumped and let out an audible squeak. Meera rushed to the side of the med capsule and pushed a flurry of buttons.
“Try not to move if you can help it,” she told him. “Your wounds are stable but if you move too much, they’ll tear open again. You’re going to need surgery.” Then, turning to Vel, “Go get Krest. She’ll want to know he’s awake.”
“No! There is no… time. You… must listen… to me,” he sputtered in a weak and dying voice. He reached up and grabbed Meera’s arm, pulling her closer to him. He was surprisingly strong for someone with his injuries. “Krest… is…,” he struggled and gasped. “She will… kill…” He trailed off as the sedatives kicked in. He wasn’t unconscious, but the pain killers took hold. His iron grip released her arm, yet Meera stayed close in case he said anything else.
There was a warning in his voice.
Suddenly, Meera could sense his breathing. Not hear it or see it, but feel it. She squinted her eyes to wish it away, but the sound in her head persisted as if she had her head closed in the engine compartment. Then she could sense the thrum of his heartbeat pounding in her ears. Then something happened she could never have prepared herself for. A vision entered her mind. It was so clear she felt as if she were there seeing it with her own eyes. She could clearly see the wounded guard, though not in his menacing red uniform. He wore flowing brown robes, neatly pressed into layers across his chest. He stood next to Krest. She looked different, but it was definitely her. Her hair was long and dark, and her eyes… they were the brightest blue.
And then she saw something she did not expect. She saw…
“Dyre, wake up!” Meera was roused back awake from Vel shaking her. She was still crouched over the med capsule with her hand on his forehead. She stumbled back into the crate she sat on in a daze. “Lieutenant Dyre? Are you alright?” Vel knelt over her with a worried expression. ” Can you hear me? Dyre, can you hear me?” She grasped Vel’s arm to steady herself from the fog clouding her mind and got to her feet.
“I’m fine, Vel… I’m fine.” The room spun as she tried to make sense of what she saw. “Vel, did you hear that?” she asked.
“How could you not hear that?” Meera asked incredulously. “It was so loud. Is it here? Where did they hide it?”
“You’re not making sense, Dyre. Hide what? What was so loud?”
“The baby! You didn’t…” Her sentence ended abruptly when she looked up and saw Captain Krest scowling at them from the top of the cargo ramp.
“Lieutenant Dyre, not another word. I will speak with you in private. Report to the cockpit stateroom at once.” She turned in a flourish of red robes and disappeared through the door. Vel waited until the door shut completely behind Krest before asking the obvious question.
“What is happening here?”
“I don’t know, but I intend to find out.” Meera climbed the ladder to the ramp. She turned back at the top and looked down at the anxious maintenance technician. “Vel, something isn’t right here. If I end up like Aloo, tell the others what you saw.” She climbed the rest of the way and went into the main compartment.