Monday, August 15, 2016

Star Wars Episode 50 - The Battle of Kashyyyk

(August 13, 2016) Episode 50: "The Battle of Kashyyyk" (part 1)

On Ryloth, Neri, Luke Skywalker, and Taanar followed Kanan Jarrus back to the abandoned Twi’lek village where he had been hiding. Taanar found his ability to face toward whoever he spoke to unnerving as his eyes were covered by a completely opaque mask.
After the small group reached the village, Kanan asked more details about them, and Neri introduced Taanar and Luke to him. When he heard Luke’s surname, he remarked that he had known Anakin Skywalker. Luke told him that Anakin was his father, and Neri explained that Anakin Skywalker was now better known as Darth Vader. Kanan shuddered when he heard this information.
Kanan expressed some doubt when he learned that Taanar was Neri’s padawan. He told them the story of how his own padawan, Ezra Bridger, had been tempted to the Dark Side of the Force by contact with former Sith Darth Maul and a Sith holocron. He asked Neri if she had a holocron to help with training, and she told him she possessed Master Yoda’s holocron. They reminisced for a short time about Yoda’s training methods, which helped to establish a friendlier relationship.
Kanan of course realized the reason that Neri and Luke had come seeking him. He wasn’t sure that reforming the Jedi Order was a wise plan. After discussing this with Neri and Luke, he then asked Taanar what she thought. In response she told him how her father had been among the colonists on Kiros who had been sold into slavery, and how the slaves had been rescued by Jedi. She believed that the Universe needed the Jedi Order. Neri told him that she believed the Force needed balance and the Jedi could provide that. And Luke stated that he believed Darth Vader still had good in him and could be redeemed. If Darth Vader could be redeemed, so could Ezra Bridger. At the conclusion of this discussion, Kanan Jarrus agreed to return with Neri, Taanar, and Luke, and join the New Jedi Order.
While the Jedi were on Ryloth, Echo Base had to be evacuated when the Imperial ship movement intelligence the team had acquired from Melly Lemgoo indicated that Imperial forces were converging on Dagobah. The Rebel forces got away just in time.
Once the Jedi reunited with their friends in the Antarian Rangers and their Alliance allies, they began to plan their next move: to liberate Kashyyyk, homeworld of the Wookiees. They had previously be able to free a number of Wookiee prisoners from the Empire, but the planet was still under an Imperial blockade and many Wookiees had been enslaved and were being forced to participate in the deforestation of their world. But as ADX reviewed the forces the Rangers had available to them, he predicted that an attack using only the Rangers and Jedi had a 50% chance of success, which was not as favorable a prediction as he desired. Princess Leia came to the rescue by offering the aide of the Rebel Alliance’s Phoenix Squadron, led by Captain Hera Syndulla and Admiral Sato.
Planning for the assault progressed swiftly from that point. The Jedi and Rangers would escort freed captives to the transport ships, while Phoenix Squadron carried out the attack on the Imperial forces at the orbital Avatar Base and on the surface of Kashyyyk. Dash would be providing air support aboard the Venture. Lowarra’s friend Chewbacca was eager to join the ground assault, as he didn’t know what had become of his family left behind on the planet. His comrade Han Solo was determined to accompany him. Han even agreed to allow Princess Leia to pilot his beloved Millenium Falcon so he could be at Chewie’s side. The verbal sparring that occurred between Han and Leia while he talked her (unnecessarily) through the ship’s controls worried Neri, who had been told by Master Yoda that it was imperative the two of them become a couple. But she didn’t intervene. She did, however, accidentally stumble upon Hera Syndulla and Kanan Jarrus in an embrace.
During the final preparations for the assault, Neri and Dash, who had grown up together, had a moment to step back and look at what was happening in amazement. “When did we become the grown-ups?” Dash asked Neri, to which Neri replied, “I’ve got a kid now!”
As Phoenix Squadron prepared to head out to lead the assault, the Jedi and Rangers were introduced to the rest of her team aboard her personal ship, the Ghost, including her Mandalorian comrade Sabine Wren and Lasat Garazeb “Zeb” Orellios. Neri expressed admiration for the personal decoration Sabine had added to her armor, and for Zeb’s reputation as a warrior. Following the introductions, Hera asked Kanan Jarrus to join her on the Ghost and he agreed. In a quiet moment before they left, Neri apologized for interrupting their private interlude, and Kanan explained that he had finally taken the opportunity to talk with Hera about something he’d needed to say for a long time. Neri also asked him why he hadn’t sought prosthetic replacements for his damaged eyes, and he indicated he would give it some thought.
The assault force set out with Ghost leading Phoenix Squadron, and Luke Skywalker’s ship the Wamp Rat leading the Z-95 Headhunter squad of fighters. Lowarra and ADX were with a drop team aboard the Venture, accompanied by Neri and Taanar. The assault force also included the Lowarra’s Honor, manned by Wookiee resistance fighters, and four droid landing ships taken from the Banking Clan units that the Rangers had acquired from San Hill’s private stash. Picking up the droids had led to the first time Luke Skywalker was shown the secret hiding place and its supplies, but to maintain secrecy, he wasn’t given the entry codes.
During the journey to Kashyyyk, Neri and Taanar meditated. Taanar was anxious about firing the Venture’s cannons, as that type of weapon wasn’t part of her training, and even Neri was concerned that her artillery skills were inadequate. It was Kanan Jarrus who offered them some advice on how best to use the guns. As the assault force closed in on their destination, Neri gave the Rangers a pep talk, telling them, “Kashyyyk is a planet of proud warriors that has long been oppressed by the Empire. Today they will have their freedom!” The Rangers responded with resounding cheers.
Aboard the Venture, Dash used navigation codes given to her by the Wookiee navigators’ guild to make a close hyperspace entry to the planet. She was anxious about coming in so close, and was a bit surprised when Luke Skywalker advised her to “Use the Force,” as she was not Force sensitive. But Luke told her that the Force surrounded everything, and that she should trust in it and herself. The Venture and the Wraith squadron of Ranger fighters emerged from hyperspace so near to the Avatar Base that the base didn’t have time to react. Princess Leia expressed some anxiety about Han Solo’s safety on the planet, and Dash, who had long been friends with Solo, reassured her that he could take care of himself.
While Phoenix Squadron and the New Hope put the the Avatar Base out of commission, the Sky River Venture carried Lowarra, ADX, Chewbacca, and Han Solo to the drop zone near the main Imperial installation on the planet’s surface. The plan was for them to land in the branches of the huge trees that covered the planet’s surface, but ADX missed his aim and fell to the ground. He was immediately attacked by a huge spider-like creature, which grappled him and began to wrap him in sticky, tough webbing. As the team were trying to maintain a low profile, he couldn’t use his blaster against the beast, and his vibroblade proved minimally effective. Lowarra and Chewbacca quickly came to his aid with their bowcasters, slaying the creature, which they both considered a tasty delicacy. Even Han agreed that it didn’t taste too bad. Lowarra was exhilarated to be back on her homeworld.
As the ground assault team approached the Imperial installation, they could see explosions overhead as Avatar Base was disabled. Han and Chewie slipped up to the shield generators and planted explosives to take out the generators. Lowarra fired a missile at the base’s heavy turret gun. ADX began taking out the Stormtroopers who were outside the base structures. With the destruction of Avatar Base, alarms began to sound, but the forces those alarms mustered weren’t enough to withstand the guerilla team. Lowarra took control of a tank, and with ADX riding dramatically on top, rammed it into the base’s largest building to breach the wall.
As ADX and Lowarra abandoned the tank and entered the building, Ranger forces already inside reported that some of the Imperial troops had barricaded themselves in the control center. Lowarra and the others immediately headed for the control room. By this time Neri and Taanar had joined them, and some of the Rangers were busy moving freed Wookiee prisoners to the transports. As the command group approached the control room, they heard a voice shouting, “You rebel scum will never get away with this!” They arrived to find that an Imperial officer had taken a juvenile Wookiee hostage and was holding a blaster to his head. Chewbacca was shocked to see that the hostage was his own son, Lumpawaroo. Even more distressing was the realization that his father Attichitcuk, who was already wounded, was also behind the barricade.
At the sight of his family members in danger, Chewbacca flew into a rage and rushed the barricade. Lowarra raced after him. The Imperial office responded by shooting Chewbacca’s son, who slumped to the ground. Taanar, horrified that anyone would shoot a child, used the Force to shove the officer into a control console. Neri scrambled past the barrier and ran to Chewbacca’s son, using her ability to channel her own life force to heal him. Chewbacca meanwhile sliced off the officer’s head. Neri was able to save his son’s life, but sadly she was too late to save his father. Attichitcuk was dead.

As the Rangers mopped up the troops inside the base, those outside heard an ominous sound of pistons and heavy bipedal footsteps approaching. At the same time Dash, who had been flying reconnaissance over the area, sent a “We’ve got company!” warning to her friends as she watched a massive AT-AT lumber toward them.

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