"Leaving Kashyyyk" by Jess Sri

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Date: 49 (14 years after the Battle of Yavin)

Watnacha Village, Kashyyyk

Jess woke up to a smelly male Wookiee squatting in front of him. He opened his eyes but squeezed them shut quickly.

"Ugh, Mawanna, I know you don't have to sleep as long as humans but try not to wake 'em up when they're sleeping," Jess said groggily.

Mawanna sighed and growled.

"No! I'll get up. I'd rather not have a hug," Jess said quickly.

The sheer strength of a Wookiee scared many other sentient beings, and Jess had learned that the Wookiee hug usually meant a cracked rib or two. He lifted his legs off the bed and rubbed his eyes gingerly. The morning sunlight poured through the screen that doubled as a window. Jess got up and looked out at the seemingly endless ocean.

[You've seen it before, now let's get something to eat,] Mawanna's growling broke the silence.

Jess turned, laughed and pulled some clothes on.

[How do humans wear them?] Mawanna mused.

Jess smiled and followed the large Wookiee to the kitchen. Breakfast consisted of some long green vegetables that the Wookiees grew on the branches of the tall wroshyr trees, along with small edible insects. Jess's father, Romi, was already sitting at the long table. He looked up as his son came in.

"Hey, Jess. How'd you sleep?" he asked.

"Oh fine, until this big hairy animal woke me up," Jess laughed as he pushed Mawanna.

Romi smiled and sat again. Jess shared several features with his father—blonde hair with a muscular body that had been toned from several years of being with Wookiees, a smile that didn't seem to fade, and a love of adventure. Jess's mother had died of a rare disease when Jess was twelve and his dad had taken care of him ever since. Romi had come to Kashyyyk because he had many loyal friends there.

Jess was twenty-one now and he longed for some adventure. He knew he was free to go whenever he'd like to but he cared for his dad. So he never strayed far.

After breakfast Jess went down to the beach to run. One of his other Wookiee friends, Maakiika, ran with him. Jess liked Maakiika. He was a shorter Wookiee, with long black hair that had blonde highlights, and he had green eyes, something uncommon for a Wookiee.

The sandy beaches were littered with wroshyr tree bark that stripped off of the giant trees when the wind blew. The sea was reflecting the first light of the morning. It was a beautiful day. By the time they got back Jess's shirt was soaked in sweat, but Maakiika had barely started breathing hard.

Sitting down with a glass of water Jess asked, "So how is your family?"

The 132 year old Wookiee, still young by their standards, sat and also took a glass of water.

[My family is good. They're still at our tree, working their hair off,] he said, [but I still don't know about Dimiinka. She refuses to live by the code again and again.]

"Maybe you should take her down to the depths." Jess told him.

The depths were the lower levels of Kashyyyk. It started just below where the light ended and went to the ground. Even a Wookiee, one of the fiercest species in the book, rarely ventured down to the depths. Beasts lived down in the depths that could rip to shreds anything that came to them. It was also common to meet a never-before seen beast while exploring there.
[No, she won't go there. She is too scared,] the Wookiee answered.

Jess wiped some excess water off his face. "I thought that the Wookiee's rite of passage was to get that stuff, that fiber thing… syren fiber out of that plant."

The Wookiee grimaced and looked down. [Yes, but as I told you, she doesn't live by that code.]

They both fell silent. Then sounds of blaster fire drifted through the tall green canopy. Jess was surprised. Wookiees were peaceful amongst their own tribes and this wasn't the season for tribal fighting. Jess look up at Maakiika but by then the Wookiee had begun to run.

Mawanna came from another room and blew by Jess with his bowcaster. Meanwhile, other Wookiees began to stream towards the source of the fire. Jess picked up his blaster pistol and began to follow his friends. When he saw what was happening he slowed.

Trandoshans! They've come to enslave the Wookiees! Jess thought helplessly.

He picked up speed and made his way to the clearing. A Trandoshan lunged at him but Jess jumped out of the way just in time. Turning he fired his blaster at the beast and managed to hit it in the leg. It cried out and Jess kicked it off of the platform. When he looked up he saw Maakiika wrestling with a large one. He shouted for Maakiika to move so he could get a clear shot but the Wookiees couldn't hear him. Quickly Jess grabbed a large branch that had broken loose. Then he ran toward the two warring beasts. Swinging the branch, Jess felt it connect with the right arm of the Trandoshan. It snarled and leaped away. Meanwhile, another took its place. Maakiika had the presence of mind to jump back but Jess took two claws in the side. He staggered away, the pain shooting into his side like a like a razor. Maakiika roared and hefted the bowcaster to his shoulder. The Trandoshan couldn't get out of the way in time.

All of a sudden it was over. Jess heard a loud thundering sound and saw an elongated ship rising into the blue sky. Jess got up and watched it rise. Wookiees of all shapes and sizes stood staring at it.

I wonder if anyone got taken? Jess wondered.

Wookiee cries told him what he already knew. They had taken Wookiees to be slave. On Kessel, on Nar Shadda and many other places. As Jess walked towards the site of the takeoff he saw Maakiika bellowing. Running up to his friend Jess asked…

"Maakiika, what's wrong. What happened?"

[Mawanna and Dimiinka are gone!] The Wookiee growled loudly.

Jess was silent. One his friend, the other his friend's sister, but both taken against their will to work as slaves.

"Maakiika, we're going after them. We can't let them do this!"

The Wookiee sobered a bit. [We must live with it. Those Trandoshans come every year, but every year we are not ready. We must live with that until we can keep ourselves safe,] Maakiika growled softly.

Jess kicked a stone in frustration. Knowing that he wouldn't see Mawanna again made him cringe. He wanted to go after them so bad, but he didn't have a ship. Who would take care of his dad? The thoughts swirled in his mind. He knew what the right thing to do would be. He'd find a way.

* * * * *

Jess looked over the small freighter. It was a YT-1000, built by Corellian Engineering. It was roughly circular with the cockpit mounted at the top of the central disc. Its subspace engines were exceptionally fast and its hyperdrive was a type 1.2.

Jess's dad stood beside him. "Sleek huh?" he commented.

"Yeah. Where'd you get it?" Jess asked.

"Oh, I got connections." His dad smiled.

Jess laughed and began to walk around the ship. Its hull was newly painted and it gleamed in the morning sun.

"Come on, let's check inside!" Romi called.

Jess ran around to the boarding ramp and walked inside. It smelled of Wookiee. In the cockpit there were two chairs. Both had started out for humans, but the co-pilot chair had been modified for Wookiee use. While he was in the cockpit Jess made sure he knew what the most important systems did. The ship had many modifications and Jess wanted to be able to take full advantage of them. He spent an hour in the cockpit until his father came in.

"Jess, I want to show you the most important part of this ship," his father said. Jess followed him. When he ended up near the engines he became confused.

"What's this about?"

"Son, this is the most important part of the ship. Keep them serviced," Romi said as he brushed off some dust. "Without these, you're dead. You keep these running and you'll get back, not prob."

Running the preliminary checks on a ship that Jess had never seen was a challenge. Most of the systems were a confusing jumble of old and new parts. His father had gone back to the tree to get some supplies that Jess would need. Jess stayed at the engines to make sure they would run. Jess whistled softly at seeing the power plants. This would be perfect.

Meeicicka Village

Jess brought the newly christened Jagged Blade to a soft landing in the bay. The craft's repulsorlifts cut off and the weight of the ship was brought down on the landing pads, giving off a slight squeak. Jess pulled off his gloves and extended the landing ramp. His childhood friend Derik Grot waited for him. The young man's face was filled with a smile that seemed to blot out the rest of his handsome features. Jess enveloped him in a hug then stood back.

"Hey, man. How have you been? I haven't seen you in what, a couple of years, huh?" Derik asked.

Jess laughed. "Yeah, you've grown, man. You used to be a lot shorter than I was."

Derik smiled and stood on his tip-toes. "Oh yeah. Buddy where've you been?

"Everywhere but here."

"That's true. So what are ya here for?" Derik asked skeptically.

"Well you were the best mechanic I know. This freighter here is helping me go after Mawanna. I need you to check it out for me. See if its space worthy," Jess said as he gestured towards the YT-1000.

"Ah yeah, heard he got taken. Well should I get started now?"

"Yeah g'head. I gotta hit the refresher than I'll be back around."

* * * * *

"Ow!" Derik's voice echoed from the Jagged Blade.

"What's the matter?" Jess yelled from the other side.

"C'mere!" Derik shouted.

Jess wiped his solvent covered hands off and walked to the other end of the ship, confused. "What?" he asked.

"Look at this!" Derik said excitedly.

Jess strained his head to look into the small cavity Derik had opened near the hyperdrive.

Inside cowered a small animal. It was brown with short hair and shaped like an egg and had two long legs near its back and two short legs near the front. It was about a foot and a half long with small fangs and claws. Jess reached out and touched it gingerly. It was shaking.

"What is it?" Jess's muffled voice asked.

"I dunno. I was just taking this panel off and it popped out and almost bit me."

Just then a snarling noise sounded and Jess leaped away from the hole.

"Um, you want to try getting it out?"

"No, I'm fine thanks." Derik laughed. "What are you going to do with it?"

Jess sighed. "Might as well leave it here. It lived here and it isn't in range of any wires. So I'd think it's harmless. I'm just staying away from that panel."

Derik closed the panel back up and stood.

"Well, that's basically all I needed to check. I hope this thing holds out for you. I'd like to see Mawanna again sometime too. Oh, and I got a surprise for you. This big furball behind you wanted to come along after all."

Jess spun around in surprise. Behind him a black furred Wookiee with green eyes stood.

"Maakiika!" Jess shouted happily.

The Wookiee whimpered and squeezed Jess. [Derik's coming too. Aren't you?]

Derik looked up in mock surprise. "What?" he exclaimed.

The Wookiee roared. Derik broke down finally.

"Yeah I'm going. I just didn't want to tell you till later."

Jess's head swam. Both of his friends were coming along on a trip he thought he would have to undertake by himself.

"Well I guess it's off to Trandoshan space, huh?" Derik asked.

Above Kashyyyk

Be careful son. I want to see you again.

"Jess you okay?"

Jess snapped back to the present. He shook his head and looked over at Derik who frowned, concerned.

"Yeah. I'm fine sorry," Jess smiled.

"You sure? We can turn around if you need to."

"Yeah, I'll be fine. It's just… well this the first time I've actually left Kashyyyk. I mean I've left before, but it was always with my dad. It's just different."

"Yeah, I understand. This is my first time too," Derik laughed.

"Hey, where's Maakiika?" Jess asked.

"I think he's in the back," Derik said.

Jess pulled himself out of his chair and walked to the back. There the tall Wookiee stood watching as Kashyyyk shrunk in the viewport. Jess look at the green ball that has been his home for as long as he could remember. Jess saw stars twinkle as they came into view above the planet. Tearing himself away from the beauty he walked quietly towards the Wookiee's side.

"Maakiika, we're about to jump to hyperspace. You might want to come strap in."

The Wookiee growled softly and took one last long look at his home. Then he followed Jess into the cockpit. Derik was already strapped into the passenger's seat. Jess sat down in the pilot's seat and pulled his crash webbing over him. Next to him, in the modified chair, Maakiika did the same.

"Everyone in?" Jess asked.

Maakiika roared in approval, drowning out Derik's words.

"Then on to Trandosha!" Jess yelled happily.

Jess put on a wide grin and pulled back on the lever that would drop them into the void of the speed of light. Stars elongated around the ship and the Jagged Blade leapt forward.

Jess looked around the cockpit to make sure all systems were alright. "Everything's fine." Jess confirmed to himself. Then he spun around in his chair.

"How 'bout that Derik we're out on our own….."

Derik was in a heap at the back of the cockpit, moaning.

"Derik, you okay, buddy?" Jess asked concerned.

"I'm good," came a moan from the heap.

"What happened?" Jess asked still surprised.

"Your Wookiee friend was too loud and you didn't hear me say, 'I'm not strapped in yet hold on'."

Above Trandosha

"Prepare for a warm welcome," Jess said sarcastically as the timer reached five seconds. The Jagged Blade shuddered as she slowed to sublight speeds.

An alarm immediately began flashing.

"Derik, get to the lower turret!" Jess ordered quickly. "I'm worried about company," he shouted down the hall as Derik sprinted down towards the quad turbolaser turret. Jess sat back down in the seat and strapped on his crash webbing. Making sure all systems were go he throttled up to cruising speed.

"Intrudher," came a raspy voice. "You arghe in reshtricted space. Surrender immediately."

"Okay, Derik we have two enemies. Point oh-two-five," Jess said into the headset he had donned.

"Copy," Derik answered.

Maakiika roared a Wookiee challenge and hit the bulkhead in defiance of the fighters that dared come to attack him.

"You wanna do something Maakiika? Go help Derik in the other turret!" Jess said urgently.

The Wookiee roared. "You can't help here." Jess added, "You'd be more help up there."

The Wookiee growled as if contemplating it. Then he stood up and rushed out the door. Jess rolled his eyes. "Crazy Wookiee," he mumbled. He turned back around to see the two fighters nearly in range of the freighter.

"'Okay guys, I'm going into evasive maneuvering," Jess yelled as he rolled the freighter on its side presenting a more narrow profile. The two circular-shaped fighters split apart and converged on both sides of the Jagged Blade. He heard the short retort of the quad turbolasers. The next fighter that flew by had gaping hole in its starboard wing.

Jess laughed out loud. Then pulling back on the yoke he made the ship loop around to get behind the stricken fighter.

"I got him!" Derik said excitedly.

[I got him too!] Maakiika growled.

Then eight streams of light slammed into the Trandoshans' fighter. The first shots hit its engines, which flared out. The next few slammed into its wings and fuselage. One hit the fuel cells causing the ship to explode into a ball of fire.

"Yes!" Derik yelled. Maakiika roared a Wookiee war cry.

Then green fire tore into the Jagged Blade's aft shield. The whole ship rocked with the concussion of high-energy plasma slamming into it. Jess wrenched the yoke to the left then shoved it down. Next he pulled the throttle back and shoved the freighter to starboard. The enemy fighter zoomed right into Maakiika's sights. The shots pierced the weak shield and sent the fighter spinning into space debris.

"Nice!" Jess shouted.

"Very good. You have exsheptional shkill with that freighter," another Trandoshan voice said.

"Who is this?" Jess asked warily.

"My name ish Crassdok. You may have heard of me."

Jess's gut went cold. Crassdok was a famous bounty hunter who had years of experience tracking the galaxy's most challenging bounties. He flew a YV-666 freighter and its quad turbolasers, supplemented by a ion cannon and concussion missiles, made him a formidable enemy. Jess had heard all about him from his father, who had had an encounter with the Trandoshan.

"Crud, guys. Prepare for some heavy fire," Jess said.

Jess put his already profusely sweating hands on the yoke and shoved the throttle forward. Crassdok's freighter also shot forward. It was all a question of who would flinch first. Derik and Maakiika opened up on the YV-666. Their shots bounced off the shields but helped weaken them. Crassdok also opened up with all of his weapons. Jess felt blinded as explosions hit the cockpit's viewports.

Jess checked the shield display. 43.6 percent left, he thought sullenly.

"Concussion missiles inbound!" Derik shouted over the comm.

Jess activated the countermeasures and chaff began spitting out the back of the freighter. Two of the missiles that headed for them broke off and blasted by the underside of the Jagged Blade and exploded in the chaff. The other two headed directly for the port side of the freighter. Jess rolled the ship on its side and fired some more chaff. Another of the missiles exploded. Then the freighter took a direct hit. The shields collapsed and diagnostics showed a hull breach in the back of the ship. It automatically sealed off to keep from sucking the air out of the rest of the ship. Then Crassdok flashed by them. Jess rolled to starboard and shoved the yoke down. When he leveled out Crassdok was directly in front of him and the planet rolled peacefully directly above.

"How is Crassdok still there? If anything he should be on our tail!" Jess thought quickly.

[What happened?] Maakiika asked.

"Not sure but he's just, sitting there," Derik answered.

"Yup," Jess confirmed.

Jess slowed the Jagged Blade down and approached the stricken freighter cautiously. As he neared it, he saw that its port wing drifted almost a kilometer back. When he got close enough to check the exterior out he saw extensive damage to the concussion missile launchers along with a long gash along its left side.

"What caused that?" Jess murmured.

Then it clicked.

"Hey guys, when that missile breached our hull the vacuum sucked all the stuff out of the hold. He must have hit it!" Jess exclaimed. He couldn't believe their luck.

"Okay great but we gotta get out of here before more crazy Trandoshans show up!" Derik said breaking the celebration.

Jess immediately sobered and pulled the ship away from Crassdok's ship.

"Okay. If my sources are correct," Jess paused to look at his datapad again, "Mawanna should be in one of the orbiting platforms. I guess the Trandoshans keep them there to wait to be shipped out," Jess said sadly.

Maakiika roared so loudly Jess had to tear his headset off to the roar from breaking his eardrums.

"Whoa there, buddy. Calm down and say that again," Derik pained voice said.

Maakiika roared again.

"Yeah , we're going to get as many Wookiees out as possible. But you don't have to go killing every Trandoshan out there…" Jess's voice tapered off as they came upon the first orbital platform. Its blocky exterior held two turbolasers and six laser cannons but most were in disrepair. Slowing as he neared the hangar platform Jess kept a wary eye out for enemy fighters. When the hangar was close enough to see rust marks on the durasteel he cut the engines and the Jagged Blade glided gracefully into the hanger.

Maakiika let out a Wookiee war cry and began firing at the ships and beings he saw in the hanger below him. Ship after ship exploded in a fiery ball and aliens were thrown in every direction. One hit the Blade's forward viewports.

"Maakiika settle down!" Jess shouted urgently. They couldn't afford to waste time blowing up everything in the whole hanger.

The shots began to dissipate and calm returned to the hanger. Jess cut in the repulsorlifts and the freighter glided in to a halt. Extending the ramp Jess reached for his blaster and headed for it. Maakiika was already at the bottom with his bowcaster and Derik fell in behind as he saw Jess pass. When they reached the bottom, Jess looked out at the destruction. Bodies lay everywhere. There was black blood on the Jagged Blade and on the durasteel floor of the hanger. Jess, treading carefully to avoid the blood, began to make his way towards the terminal that stood at the other end of the hanger.

"What are you doing?" Derik asked, his voice sounding hollow in the large hanger that had no other noise then small fires burning and aliens moaning.

"Trying to get in!" Jess yelled back.

He turned and saw them look at each other, shrug and begin to follow him. Then Derik's eyes grew wide. Jess turned around to see a Trandoshan with a blaster pointed at him standing a meter away.

The reptilian alien licked his lips lips and smirked. Jess still had his blaster in his hand but made no move to use it. He heard Derik bring his blaster up and turned.

"Derik no…!" But Derik had already fired.

Jess dropped to the floor and heard the dart fly over his head and hit the Trandoshan full in the chest. The reptile, which was still alive, managed to snap a shot off before it fell but the shot was wild and went wide.

"What the heck were you thinking!?" Jess asked loudly.

Derik looked confused.

"Um, I was saving you," he said tentatively.

"You could have got us killed!"

Derik looked ashamed and confused. Then he looked up with a smirk on his face. "Sorry I saved you," he said.

Jess couldn't help but burst out laughing. Derik's smirk grew to a smile and Maakiika laughed in a roaring voice.

Jess, still recovering from the laughter, turned and began to venture towards the terminal again. He saw a couple of other Trandoshans moaning with fires burning near them. But he felt no sympathy. They were ruthless, heartless beasts that made slaves out of other species. Jess didn't think they deserved to live.

As he neared the terminal Derik and Maakiika took up positions near the two of the doors. Jess brought up a holographic map of the orbital platform. He couldn't read Trandoshan symbols but he figured out the way to the prison cells. He connected his datapad to the terminal and downloaded the map to it.

Maakiika's low growl told him that there were footsteps on the other side of the door. Jess brought his blaster out of his holster and slowly made his way to the door. Derik crouched behind him as he neared the controls. When he reached them he held up fingers, counted down to zero and pushed the button. The door slid open with a hiss and a startled Trandoshan look up in surprise. Derik shot it and it fell screeching to the ground.

Just then Jess saw a cowering woman in the corner of the corridor. He knelt beside her. She had stun cuffs on and she was crying. Her long brown hair fell over her forehead. Jess put his hand on her arm. She flinched and looked up. She seemed surprised to see a human.

"Who are you?" she asked defensively.

Jess rocked back a step. She was beautiful.

"I'm Jess Sri. I'm, uh, here to rescue a friend," Jess answered, stuttering. "Are you okay?"

"Does it look like I'm okay?" she asked.

"Uh, well, um…" Jess stuttered.

"No I'm not," she answered for him. "Here, help me," she said gesturing to the stun cuffs.

Jess helped her unlock the stun cuffs and took her arms to help her up. She was dressed in a black jumpsuit that was cut low, along with black boots. Jess was speechless.

"Um, well, yeah, the hangar's right here. Are you going somewhere special? I guess there are a couple still intact freighters," Jess said.

"No, I don't need to go anywhere. My friends were killed when those…" She stopped.

"It's okay," Jess said.

She glared daggers into him when she looked up. "No! It's not okay!" she said, almost shouting. "Those pieces of Sithspawn need to pay!"

He heard Derik snort behind him. Jess turned quickly. "I think your little girlfriend here has a couple of anger issues," Derik whispered.

Jess almost slapped him.

"Okay, what's your name?" Jess asked.

She took a moment to compose herself. "I'm Alie Acerde," she said. Then she glanced at them as if they were stupid. "Well, don't we have somewhere to go?"

Derik almost died laughing. After he stopped he said, "We do, but that doesn't include you."

"And why shouldn't it?" Alie shot back.

Derik looked dumbfounded.

"Um, why don't we go now?" Jess didn't want to keep Mawanna waiting. Without waiting for an answer, Jess stepped over the dead alien's body and led the way down twisting corridors towards the prison.

"Man, she walked all over you," Jess said when Derik was next to him.

Derik looked at him like he was crazy. "No I just didn't want to hurt the poor girl's feelings."

Jess knew he wasn't being serious.

As they neared the prison Jess noticed security was becoming tighter. There were more cameras to avoid and a couple of small repeating blasters hanging from the wall. They slinked along the wall a couple more meters and they were there. The large door almost four meters wide stood on Jess's right and the panel was on the other side, covered by a camera and repeating blaster. The panel itself needed a voice recognition and retinal scan.

Jess looked back at his partners. They had all observed the same thing. Jess noticed that Alie was very good at keeping an eye out.

Derik turned to Maakiika. "Blast that camera with your bowcaster. Jess, you and I aim for the blaster."

Jess nodded and saw Maakiika take aim. Just as the yellow energy bolt leapt away, Jess and Derik opened fire. Something in the camera blew and obscured Jess' vision for a split second. In that second the repeating blaster turned and opened fire. Red color tinged the smoke and was punctuated by a brilliant flash. Something hit the blaster and it became silent. Maakiika ran to the panel and studied it, then shrugged.

[It's got a huge amount of safeguards. We can't get through.]

Jess laughed and tossed a small round object in the air. Derik grinned and nodded in approval. Thirty seconds later a hole was blown in the door.

"Where'd you get the detonator?" Derik yelled as they ran towards the hole from their cover.

"Oh, it's called the armory we passed on the way here!" Jess answered.

Alie was right on their tail with a blaster Jess had taken from a dead Trandoshan.

He saw Maakiika step through the hole in front of them. Blasters whined and he heard shouts. When he stepped in through the hole he found himself in an enormous room made of a dark metal. Cells packed with five or six Wookiees were lined in four rows across the room.

Four Trandoshans lay dead on a balcony that spanned the room, probably for watch-keeping purposes. Another lay mortally wounded on the floor of the room. Jess saw a black scaled Trandoshan pointing a blaster rifle at Maakiika and he fired at the reptile. The shot seared through its tough skin and sprayed black blood against the wall behind it. A second shot smashed its face in. Derik dove through the hole and shot another that tried to sound the alarm. Jess checked the rest of the room for any more Trandoshans but didn't find any. Maakiika was shooting the cell doors with his bowcaster in an effort to break the locks. A couple had sprung open and Wookiees had poured out, roaring in rage. Jess shot one of the locks nearest him. It melted and the bulk of the Wookiees pushing it broke it. Alie also shot a couple of locks.

Some of the Wookiees had snatched up the weapons of the dead Trandoshans. Derik ran up to Jess and wiped the sweat off his forehead. "You think we should have let them all go? I have a headache," he complained.

Jess laughed and set about opening the other locks. Wookiees of all colors and sizes broke out of the cells that had confined them, but no Mawanna. Derik looked around, disappointed.

"Looks like we're gonna have to go to the next platform," Jess yelled over the noise. Maakiika roared and it quieted some.

Jess told the Wookiees that they would be able to come on the Jagged Blade if they would help him rescue the Wookiees in the other platforms. All agreed and Jess led the way to the Jagged Blade.

At the next platform two Wookiees died on the way to the prison block but Derik found an armory and gave all the Wookiees weapons. When they stormed into the prison there was little resistance. The Wookiees were freed but still no Mawanna.

At the second platform the Wookiees stole ships from the hangar. As fifty-some freighters boiled out of the hangar Trandoshan fighters tried to intercept but were no match for natural born pilots such as Wookiees.

Jess approached the third platform and set the Jagged Blade down in the hangar. Alie had sat next to him on that flight and had proved proficient at flying.

The prison block was in the same area. Some other Wookiees had also landed in the hanger and followed the three the group to it. Jess blasted the door with another thermal detonator and they swarmed the prison block. Two Trandoshans fell immediately while another two fell back with blaster burns in their chest and face. After the prisoners were freed Jess looked over them to see if he could find Mawanna. Then he saw him. Mawanna was looking around in confusion wondering what had happened. Jess, elated, sprinted towards him. Just then Mawanna turned. A piercing roar lit the air and Mawanna ran to hug Jess. Jess didn't care about the hug even though it did knock the air out of him. After their joyful reunion Jess led Mawanna to see Maakiika and Derik. Mawanna's cries of joy grew louder as he saw his friends there.
As Maakiika and Mawanna embraced, Derik turned to Jess. "These Wookiees are getting restless. We better get out of here."

Jess nodded and started towards the door. Alie jogged to his side. Jess knew that she could take care of herself, but felt as though he was a big tall Wookiee that could protect her no matter what happened.

The whole Wookiee hoard followed him, and when they reached the hangar Jess gestured to the ships.

"Help yourself!" he shouted.

The Wookiees roared in approval and began to run to different ships. Jess jogged to the Jagged Blade and started up the ramp to begin the start-up procedures. As he went to check the engines he felt something poke into his back. He whirled around, startled. A green Trandoshan held him at gunpoint.

This is so not my day. Jess thought bitterly.

The large reptile grunted at him and advanced, then, still holding the gun on Jess, backed away towards the engine readout panel. As he neared it he pulled out a grenade.

"Oh no, he's going to stuff it in the readout panel."

The Trandoshan's thumb began to depress the button that would activate the grenade. All of a sudden Jess heard a snarl and a ripping sound. The Trandoshans eyes went wide and it fell forward, dead. Jess looked at the alien in surprise, then looked up to see what had caused its death. The creature that had created its home in the panel near the readout terminal had come out of its hiding place. It seemed that the Trandoshan had invaded its territory.

Jess managed a nervous laugh.

"Well thanks, buddy. You saved me, even though you probably don't know it," he said in a soft voice. The quivering creature retreated back into its home. Derik came around the corner to check on Jess and saw the Trandoshan on the floor.

"What the…" His voice trailed off as he saw the claw marks. Putting two and two together he looked up at Jess with a twinkle in his eyes.

"Yup," Jess answered before he could ask.

Derik smiled and said, "Lets get this beast off of here."

Jess sat in the cockpit of the Jagged Blade and smiled. Alie sat in co-pilots seat while Derik and Maakiika manned the turrets. Mawanna sat behind Jess.

"Okay guys we're out of the planet's gravity mass," Jess announced. "Hey Alie can you get me coordinates to Kashyyyk? From there I'm sure you can get a ship to wherever you want."

She looked at him for a long moment then sighed and brought up the coordinates. Jess inputted them into the nav computer and pulled the hyperspace lever. The stars elongated into streaks and the ship leapt forward.

Jess turned to Alie. "So tell me, how'd you get here? I mean if you don't want to…"

"It's okay," she said. "I'm part of the New Republic army. My unit was sent to the planet Tholatin. There is a small listening post there. We were to guard it from natives and other things. Then the Trandoshans raided it. We still don't know why. Three of my friends were killed and I and another of us were taken captive. The other captive was killed. In front of my eyes."

Jess reached out and put his hand on her knee. She didn't jerk away or flinch. Jess didn't know what to say.

Watnacha Village

Jess had offloaded the Jagged Blade and sat in a small room with his father.

"So you want to join the Rebellion?" Romi asked.

"Yes, dad. Its something I've always wanted. It's just that I can't help the galaxy here. I feel like I'm a lazy beggar who is waiting for something to come to him. I can't do that."

Romi sighed and rested his elbows on his knees. "I can't stop you son. I just wish I could have you for a little longer."

"Dad, I'm twenty one." Jess said.

"I know." Romi said. Then he sat up. "You can go. Not like a 'no' would have stopped you." Romi smiled.

Jess grinned and stood up.

"Now be careful with the girl. They're dangerous." Romi added. Jess punched his dad in the shoulder playfully.

"I will, dad," Jess promised.

"Well, you know, I have to talk like your mother since she's not here to say it." He laughed.

Jess smiled and opened the door. "Now you get out of my room so I can get some sleep."

Romi tackled him.

"Okay, dad!" Jess said his voice muffled.

"Just testing your reflexes." Romi grunted. He stood up and turned when he got to the open door.

"Get some sleep. You got a long life ahead of you.


Jess stood at the bottom of the ramp of the Jagged Blade. His father stood an arms length away.

"Well dad, I feel bad about leaving you. I'll come and visit you but the academy has strict rules about it. Coruscant's a busy place, and with you living on Kashyyyk your whole life... Well they might not accept me you know."

Romi squeezed his son's arm. "This guy? I don't think so."

Jess grinned then turned sober. "Dad, I'm gonna miss you so much."

"Me too, Jess. Me too," Romi answered.

"Well I better get going. Derik, Maakiika and Alie can't wait forever," Jess said sadly. A tear trickled down Jess' cheek and tickled his nose. He didn't wipe it off. His father stepped forward and they embraced.

"Don't forget me son."

"Dad, I'll never forget you," Jess said as his dad turned to walk up the ramp.

As his dad neared the top he knelt down so he could see Jess's face. Jess pointed a finger at his father's chest.

"You're the man, dad."

And with that father and son parted. The ramp closed and Jess stood. Alie waited for him near the corridor that led to the waiting air taxi.

"We're headed for the other side of the planet. That's were the academy is," she said.

Then she stepped forward and wiped another tear from his cheek. He reached out and enveloped her in his arms. He looked over her shoulder out the hanger. Romi rocked the Jagged Blade from side to side.

Life was going to get better. It always did.