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Captain Needa's Escape to Executor
by Jenny Disini

Chapter 1: The Captain's Autopsy

In the cold and bare naval morgue, Piett stared in quiet horror at the figure lying on the examiner's table, barely visible beneath the white sheet. This corpse had once been his dear friend, Captain Lorth Needa.

General Veers, not too far off, stared out the viewport, pretending to be absorbed in a nearby quasar, with its purple reds exploding into brilliant color. His face looked grave and colorless.

Lorth's gone, Veers thought. He turned and saw the guilt written on Firmus' face.

"Don't blame yourself," Veers ordered. "There was nothing you could do."

The doors slid open and the chief coroner entered. A man of advanced age, his wizened face peering out behind a pair of antique eyeglasses, he put his datapad down. "Gentlemen, I have news for you. We have completed our autopsy, and tests confirm that this corpse is not the captain's."

The Admiral felt a surge of relief.

"So it's a clone?" Veers asked.

"Correct. A well-engineered one."

Piett's eyes lit up. "That explains how the Millennium Falcon got away. The clone purposely let them escape."

Veers agreed. "The real Lorth would not have given up so easily. And it isn't like him to feel compelled to 'apologise' to Lord Vader in person, either."

"I did find that rather odd," assented Piett.

"There's more," said the coroner, plucking a small knife from his pocket. "The clone had concealed this in his uniform. It's quite possible that he intended to kill someone with it."

"No wonder he wanted to 'apologise'," Piett mused. "To get within arm's length of Vader."

"Except he didn't count on Vader killing him first." Veers added.

So where was the Captain?

===========================================

Mon Mothma moved with purpose through the rebel battleship. This was no routine visit by any means. She turned the case over in her mind: Imperial officer held captive, the infamous captain of the Star Destroyer Avenger.

The reports said that he had been spirited out of the Avenger in a crate, under heavy sedation. A clone had taken his place but was executed by Darth Vader. It was only a matter of time before the Imperials discovered the truth.

She reached the cell observation deck where an interrogation officer curiously watched the prisoner through a one way glass. Inside the darkened room sat the captain, his arms bound behind his back. His cheeks were hollow and he looked as if he hadn't had much food or rest.

"Senator," asked the interrogation officer, "Are you ready to interview him?"

"Oh, yes. I have been looking forward to it."

"He's a tough one. Three days straight interrogation, won't break."

===========================================

Entering the cell under armed guard, Mon Mothma cautiously approached the disheveled and gaunt figure.

"I'm Senator Mon Mothma. I'm here to ask you about your actions against the Rebel Alliance."

He looked up at her with an evil sneer.

Under dim light she could see the severe torture that he'd bravely sustained. Out of habit from her days as a doctor, she began to make a mental note of his injuries: deep hematoma to the upper torso... possible ruptured spleen... second degree burns to the left scapula... possible dislocated shoulder... broken ribs.

What had they done to him?

He was in a lot of pain, and trained his face not to show it but all the signs were there: shallow breathing, glazed eyes.

"Senator, do you know what is the first rule of self defense?" he asked.

He was patronising her. Typical, she thought. Most military men were out to make her feel her place was in the home and not in the political arena. "No," she wearily replied.

In an instant, he was on his feet, grabbed a blaster from the inattentive soldier's holster, and aimed it to her temple. He tightened his arm around her neck. She struggled, but could not escape his vice-like grip.

"The first rule is to never, ever, let your guard down," he said.

The guards barely had time to draw their weapons.

"Drop your weapon! Drop it!" they yelled desperately.

He edged himself and his hostage slowly towards the door.

"Open the door now," he ordered.

The men hesitated.

Simara could feel the muzzle grinding against her temple. The man was on edge, capable of anything.

"Please, do what he says!" she snapped.

The doors opened. The interrogation officer stood there. "You're not getting away with this, captain."

"As much as I have thoroughly enjoyed your hospitality," he said, "I fear I must depart." Blaster in hand, he and Mon Mothma moved out of the cell and into the corridor.

The guards followed them closely as Needa and Mon Mothma inched their way, painfully slowly, down the hall and into the docking bay of the great battleship.

With the adrenalin pumping through his veins, Needa's senses were acute as ever. It was his luck that Mon Mothma's security had been lackadaisical, neglecting to change shift after a long and taxing voyage. Fatal mistake.

With careful, unhurried steps they moved, Needa calculating risks, ensuring that the Rebels never got a clean shot, especially from behind. He kept close to the walls, knowing that one mistake could cost him his life.

The slender woman trembled, her perfume occasionally breaking his concentration. No doubt she was afraid. She probably thinks I will kill her, he thought. So much the better, she will surely cooperate from now on.

One rebel approached too closely from behind. Needa casually shot him in the leg. The soldier fell to the ground, whimpering in pain. The others cautiously withdrew.

They inched closer to the ships nearer to the docking bay. He knew right away which one to board. The smaller, lighter ship. The one armed with missiles, and a cloaking device. But did it have an up-to-date hyperdrive? No matter, he thought. The cloaking device would more than make up for that.

Up above them, in the rafters, a sniper took careful aim. But Needa reacted too late, having pulled away, the shot came perilously close to the senator's head. The shot hit a utility shaft, spewing steam into the air.

It was more than Needa had hoped for. Under the cover of the steam he made a run for the ship with his captive. Closing the door behind them, on the bridge, he engaged the deflector shields and powered up the sub-light engines for launch. Down below, the Rebels were utterly powerless to stop him.

"You," he ordered Mon Mothma, gesturing with the blaster to a nearby corner, "sit over there, and don't try anything."

She obeyed, calmly, trying to control her fear.

They launched out of the battleship, and as soon as open space was before them, he engaged the cloaking device.

The interrogation officer stood at the edge of the docking bay, fuming with anger as the ship disappeared from view.
Chapter 2: The Journey to Executor

Needa settled into the chair wearily, and set course for the Executor. With the ship's speed specifications, it would take them eighteen hours to get there. Not exactly ideal, considering the pain he was in. He wiped the sweat from his brow.

Eighteen hours. Eighteen bloody hours.

He locked the controls so that Mon Mothma wouldn't be able to alter the ship's course, and put a palm print lock on the blaster, just in case. Better safe than sorry, he thought. Who knows? She might be capable of a lot more than she lets on.

He turned to her. "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine," she assured him, rubbing her wrist, which had turned black and blue. "Don't worry about me. It's you who needs help, I think."

"I'll manage."

"I'm a surgeon. I can help you."

"Forgive me, but I can't exactly entrust you with my life just now."

"We can sit and argue here all day but it won't change the fact that you need immediate medical attention. If you wait till we get to the Executor, it may be too late."

He looked thoughtfully at the heavy crimson stain spreading across his uniform. His side felt like it was on fire.

Instantly the lights inside the deck went red and a general alarm sounded.

Needa could not believe what he saw on the screen.

"It's a seismic charge, dead ahead. An antique left over from the clone wars. It's coming towards us."

"Why?"

"They're magnetic."

From the viewport a small yellow flash approached them at terrific speed. Needa engaged the missiles, locked on it, and fired.

In a voice filled with dread he shouted, "It'll detonate too close! Take cover!"

As the missiles made contact with the seismic charge, a white flash blinded them, and a shock wave grew with unimaginable force, it's brilliant blue rim approaching them with frightening speed.

Mon Mothma was certain this was the end.

Needa could see she was overawed by the magnitude of the approaching shockwave. He did not even stop to think, he merely embraced her and dove forward.

An ear-splitting roar shattered the viewport windows and pitched the craft into a tumble. Lethal shards of plexi peppered the air and exited into the vacuum of space. They hung on breathlessly until the blast doors automatically sealed the now useless viewports. Oxygen flooded the deck again.

Mon Mothma slowly regained consciousness. Raising herself up, it immediately became clear to her that the severely wounded captain had shielded her from the lethal debris. Many large shards, some as large as knives, lay embedded in his back. He was frighteningly pale and still unconscious.
Chapter 3: Mon Mothma, MD

Needa opened his eyes and found himself lying in sickbay. Mon Mothma, seated on a chair, dozed wearily beside him, still dressed in a green surgeon's scrub uniform, a gauze mask hanging from her neck. Small specks of blood still on her face.

Pulling down the blanket, he saw that he was covered in bandages. He could recognise the familiar smell of bacta. An IV of fresh blood was being transfused into him.

She stirred from her sleep, wearily raising her head. "Up already, eh?," she said, rubbing her eyes. "That's good. How do you feel?"

"The pain in my side. It's all gone."

"I've contained your internal injuries. Took three hours, but you'll be all right. The painkiller's doing its job, I see."

He pointed to the packet of blood. "Yours?"

"I didn't have much choice, really. It isn't like there were other donors aboard. You're lucky. We're the same blood-type."

He looked at her rather guiltily. "Thanks, senator."

"I can't thank you enough for shielding me from the plexi debris. Very brave of you," she admitted. "You probably saved my life... You can call me Simara. We're blood relations, now."

"I'm Lorth."

"On a first name basis already. My, doesn't this qualify as 'fraternising with the enemy'?'"

He blushed a little.

"Lorth, I owe you an apology," she said, avoiding his eyes. "You shouldn't have been tortured. It was wrong. A clear violation of the code. I'm so sorry you were treated abominably."

"Your men were quite zealous. I suppose they thought they were saving lives. Put in their place, I would be no different. All the same, I accept." He held out his hand.

She shook it, still embarrassed.

Lorth was impressed. She's not bad at all, he thought.

She brought him a white container, ship rations in a self heating strip. "Here, eat this. Doctor's orders."

He frowned, "Is this Kashyyyk kelp?"

"I'm afraid it is," she smiled.

===========================================

On the bridge, Mon Mothma tried endlessly to override the ship's course.

The console was locked, and worse, the comm link transmitter had been damaged in the shockwave. There was no way to contact the Alliance.

"I'm sorry, but unless you know how to land a ship without windows, I can't let you take over."

She turned. It was Lorth, supporting himself on the doorway.

"Can't blame me for trying, can you?"

"No, I can't." He could see she had been crying. She was afraid.

"Do you honestly think Palpatine will treat me humanely, or Vader for that matter?"

"You should have considered that before you defied the Empire."

She shook her head sadly and walked out.

He went over to the controls, reviewed the coordinates, and attempted to triangulate a shorter, more direct course to the Executor.

Later, she returned.

She asked timidly, "Might I ask a favor of you?"

"Ask," he replied, so deeply absorbed in his calculations that he didn't even look up.

"After Vader 'disposes' of me, will you send word to my brother on Chandrilla? So he can send for my remains," she said with much gravity. "I'd like that. Can you please do that for me?"

The woman clearly held no illusions of her cruel fate in Vader's hands. He felt sorry for her.

He briefly stopped his work and nodded, unable to look her in the face. "I shall see to it personally."

"Thank you, Captain." And she left.

During the rest of the journey, she never again referred to him as Lorth. To her, he was again her captor, her enemy.
Chapter 4: They Arrive

"Get ready. We're nearly there," Needa announced.

The craft glided down and slowly landed. The doors opened, letting the cold wind in. It was dark outside.

She stood up reluctantly.

"You first." He gestured towards the door.

She stepped onto the tarmac. To her surprise, there were no waiting stormtroopers. It was not the docking bay of the Executor. The lights of the towering structures nearby were instantly familiar. "You brought me home," she said, utterly astonished.

Needa could see, at the far end of the platform, Chandrillan guards approaching. They were heavily armed and would no doubt arrest him. "There's not much time," he urged.

The wind swept at her hair. She came close and embraced him. He summoned the courage and kissed her on the lips. Holding her close, sweet and intoxicating, she responded by prolonging the kiss and for a brief moment they forgot where they were.

Afterwards, her eyes were filled with immeasurable tenderness.

It took all his strength and self will to pull away gently from her embrace and say, "Now, go."

The armed guards were almost upon them. She stood and watched as he barely had enough time to retreat into the ship. He hit the controls on the door and launched.

She stood there on the platform, barely paying attention to the commotion around her. Later, the base psychologist put it down to post traumatic stress. She was fortunate that no one had seen their parting kiss.

Needa returned to the bridge. He was both sad and exhilarated by their parting. Damn this war, he thought. Damn.

He applied himself unhappily to the task of returning to the Executor. Much to his dismay, the anti-matter cells were almost spent. The ship would lose power before he could reach the fleet.
Chapter 5: The Executor

Admiral Piett and General Veers had read the reports. Intelligence had traced the clone to a renegade scientist on Kamino. Spies reported an Imperial prisoner who had escaped from a Rebel battleship.

"Admiral, we detect a derelict craft approaching the fleet. It isn't responding to any of our messages," said the lieutenant.

Piett asked, "How did a small ship like that drift into deep space all by itself? Any life forms?"

"Yes, there are. Signs show it has long been adrift. It could have been part of a convoy and gotten lost."

"Tractor-beam it, and scan for bombs. It could be a trap."

"Yes, sir."

===========================================

Stormtroopers waited as the ship landed on the platform of the Executor. With laser cutters they gained entry, then the soldiers made their sweep, room after room.

Frost covered the walls. How long that ship had been out there was anyone's guess.

"Admiral, we found something," reported a private. In the hypersleep chamber was the unmistakable figure of Captain Needa.

===========================================

Piett and Veers made haste to the platform. The captain was carried out on a stretcher, attached to an emergency life support system.

"Is he all right?" Veers asked.

"He's alive, sir. He just needs to wake from the hypersleep," the medic reported. They put the stretcher down.

Piett and Veers came close. The medic opened Needa's shirt and saw his scars. They couldn't even imagine what he'd been through. "Those rebels are going to pay," Veers angrily murmured.

"Lorth," Piett said. "Lorth," he repeated, shaking him gently. Needa opened his eyes and saw Piett and Veers. His face brightened.

"Firmus, Max. I'm so glad to be back... have I got a story to tell you."

* fin *

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