Sunday, February 12, 2017

Star Wars - Episode 54: "Destinies"

(February 11, 2017) Episode 54: "Destinies"

Recap: The Jedi and their Antarian Ranger allies had been summoned by the Rebel Alliance to assist in an attack on the second Death Star, currently under construction in orbit around the forest moon of Endor. Dash Creel and Chewbacca took a small team of Rangers and joined the Rebel fleet aboard the Sky River Venture, prepared to attack the Death Star as soon as the shield was down. Neranya Repp and her padawan Taanar Ryl, along with their comrade ADX and companions Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and C3PO, traveled with a second team of rangers to the surface of the forest moon, using a stolen Imperial shuttle and access codes to get past its defenses. Once the strike team arrived on the moon they were captured by the indigenous native Ewoks and taken to an Ewok village. Only Taanar managed to avoid capture. She remained in hiding and followed her companions to the village.

The indigenous creatures seemed particularly interested in C3PO and ADX, and instead of binding C3PO, they carried him to their village in a sedan chair. The party was joined by Neri and Lowarra when the natives they had met in the forest escorted them to the same village. Neri asked the protocol droid if he could communicate with the natives, and he was able to find a dialect in his memory that allowed him to converse with the creatures. He learned that the Ewoks, as they called themselves, believed the intruders to be associated with the "whiteshells," who they blamed for destroying their sacred forest. C3PO struggled to convince them that the group were enemies of the Imperial troops, until Neri used her Force power to levitate the sedan chair. The Ewoks were so impressed by this that they released their prisoners, and the strike team were able to recruit them to help with the attack on the shield generator's defenses. ADX designed a strategy to have the Ewoks distract the Imperial troops guarding the bunker that housed the generator. Taanar, who had been hiding in the forest outside the village looking for an opportunity to rescue her friends, then rejoined the group.

Then Luke Skywalker told Neri that he sensed the presence of Darth Vader, and also of his sister Leia. Despite this, he wanted to continue with the mission to destroy the generator before trying to rescue her. Neri searched her feelings for the best choice, finally recommending that Luke and Han Solo go to rescue Leia while the rest of the team continued on to the generator. Lowarra then suggested that Neri go with them, believing that she, ADX, Taanar and the Rangers were sufficient to take care of the generator.

As the two groups prepared to separate, the three Jedi suddenly felt a cold and deadly sensation coming from the Ewok village they had just left. It could only be the presence of Darth Vader and the Emperor. Luke immediately wanted to go to confront his father. It was quickly decided that ADX should instead go along with the Jedi group to face Vader and rescue Leia. The droid had a score to settle with Vader since the Sith Lord had completely destroyed his original body.

Before the two groups parted, Neri gave Taanar some encouragement. As Taanar and Lowarra headed toward the shield generator with their Ewok guides, Taanar felt the malevolent presence of the Emperor recede behind her.

Neri and Luke felt fear and pain emanating from the Ewok village as they approached it. Luke realized that the Emperor and Darth Vader were killing the Ewok women, children and elders. They rushed toward the village. As they arrived, they could see that the Emperor had been accompanied by a squad of stormtroopers and an AT-ST walker. The village was full of Ewok corpses and smoke as their tree houses burned. The presence of the Dark Side was heavy in the atmosphere. They spied the Emperor standing with an unconscious Leia at his feet. Neri told Luke, "Don't do it with hate and malice. Do it with love."

The generator demolition team had learned from the Ewoks that there was an AT-ST by the bunker as well, and Lowarra already had plans to commandeer it. When the team neared the bunker, the Ewoks were sent in to draw the walker and troopers away from the bunker.  Lowarra climbed a tree ahead of the AT-ST, carrying Taanar on her back. As the pursuing walker passed below Lowarra dropped on top of it. Because its roof was slightly angled the pair nearly slipped off, but managed to catch hold of the side of the vehicle and hang on.

Luke Skywalker stepped forward to address his father, trying to persuade Darth Vader to stop supporting the Emperor and abandon the Dark Side. While he spoke, the Emperor addressed Neri with contempt, implying that he had ordered the capture, torture, and deaths of her parents. In response, ADX fired on the Emperor, who easily negated the energy from the blaster.

 Taanar released her grip on Lowarra and used her Force power to propel herself in a high arc over the Wookiee's head. landing on top of the AT-ST cockpit with her lightsaber already ignited so she could stab it through the vehicle's shell. She was surprised when the vehicle pilot popped up out of the cockpit and fired his blaster at her, hitting her at point-blank range. Lowarra scrambled up onto the top of the walker, roaring in the pilot's face, and slammed his head against the hatch with such force that he was knocked unconscious. The co-pilot then found himself slammed against the wall a moment later by Taanar's Force thrust. The walker, with no one at the controls, careened into a tree, but Lowarra and Taanar hung on.

In orbit around the moon, the Rebel fleet engaged the Imperial defenses as they waited for the planetary shield to fall. The Sky River Venture faced numerous TIE fighters, aided by the Rebel Alliance Phoenix and Gold squadrons. The sky above the forest filled with small explosions as Imperial and Rebel spacecraft were destroyed.

 After ADX's attack on him, the Emperor turned to ADX and ARD-001 and spoke in a strange language. As it dawned on ADX that this was some Sith command word, he felt himself lose control of his own choices. The Emperor had ordered both him and ARD to attack their friends. ADX was helpless to resist for a moment, as he had chosen to deactivate his sentience to avoid being subject to mind tricks. When the Emperor ordered, "Kill the interlopers," however, ADX interpreted the stormtroopers as interlopers and fired on one of them. Then his heuristic logic circuits recognized that the best way to overcome his Sith programming was to be a sentient, free-willed being. He reactivated his sentience and the Emperor's control over him vanished. Unfortunately ARD hadn't yet achieved sentience and fired on Neri, who was forced to withdraw. At the same time, an Inquisitor that the Venture crew had encountered before appeared and began to attack Neri.

Lowarra clambered through the hatch into the cockpit of the AT-ST and steered it back on course, heading back toward the stormtroopers defending the generator bunker. The Rangers took cover in the forest and kept firing on the troopers, while Lowarra began to fire the AT-ST's light blaster cannons. Taanar grabbed the co-pilot with her Force power and sent him flying out the hatch, where he was swarmed by angry Ewoks.

Neri was now under attack by the Inquisitor, while Luke and Darth Vader had abandoned conversation and begun to fight. The Emperor began to exhort Luke to release his anger and kill his father, at the same time ordering ARD to destroy ADX when he realized that the sentient droid was not under his control.

A massive flash of green energy struck one of the Mon Calamari ships battling the Imperial vessels around the Death Star. The beam barely missed the Venture. Dash realized with horror that though the Death Star was unfinished, its main weapon was fully functional. She signaled her allies that everyone should stay out of range of its weapon and close in on the Imperial capital ships to prevent them from being able to target the Rebel vessels.

ARD was ruthlessly firing on ADX, and inflicting considerable damage. Neri attempted to disarm the Inquisitor but failed. Luke was sent flying as Darth Vader leaped onto a tree stump. The Inquisitor grabbed Neri with the Force and began to choke her. As she saw Luke struggling and faced her own possible death, Neri suddenly realized that she had fallen in love with Luke. Desperate to help him, she sent thoughts of love to him through the Force. Encouraged by this, Luke sent the Inquisitor hurtling away from Neri to slam into a tree trunk.

The Venture was under attack by four TIE fighters. As it took damage, Dash fired back. In the distance she could see the New Hope pounding one of the Imperial star destroyers. The Death Star fired on a frigate in the Rebel fleet, lighting up the sky below with another flare of green energy.

While Lowarra gleefully blasted troopers with the light cannons, Taanar attempted to operate the AT-ST's heavy cannon and managed to hit another trooper herself. Lowarra then steered the walker to trample on a trooper who couldn't get out of the way as she headed closer to the bunker. Only two stormtroopers stood guard in front of the bunker's heavy entrance doors. Lowarra blasted them both aside and positioned the vehicle directly in front of the doors. Then, instructing Taanar to blast the doors with the heavy cannon, she jumped out of the vehicle and went out to engage in hand-to-hand with the remaining troopers on the ground.

The Inquisitor recovered from being smashed against a tree and tried to hit Neri but missed. The Emperor and Darth Vader both began to attack Luke, so Neri used the Force to shove Vader forward, causing him to collide with the Emperor. This gave Luke only a temporary respite, as the Emperor then began to blast him wit Dark Side lightning. At that moment Leia revived and got to her feet, causing the Emperor to turn on her and blast her as well.

Dash was relieved when Wedge Antilles arrived to help her take on the TIE fighters. Her expert piloting skills allowed her to dodge two fighters and cause them to collide with each other.

As the Emperor attacked Leia, Luke called out to Darth Vader, telling him that this was his twin sister. This news seemed to be the stroke that changed Vader's mind. Vader turned on the Emperor and began to attack him instead of Luke. Neri then reached out toward the Emperor and severed his connection with the Force. His uncounted crimes made it easier for her to succeed. Suddenly bereft of his access to the Force, the Emperor was able to negate Luke's attack but couldn't defend himself when Vader drove his red lightsaber blade through the old man's chest.

Taanar fired the heavy blaster at the bunker doors from point-blank range and the doors shattered. Lowarra ran inside and her rykkblade made short work of the troopers within. She and the Rangers raced to place the charges, and then the whole group fled into the forest as the bunker exploded, destroying the generator and the dish that projected the shield toward the Death Star.

Neri took a moment to catch her breath, then summoned her power again and sent the Inquisitor flying a tremendous distance into the forest. The Emperor's body began to crumble, radiating a purple energy. ADX finally managed to stop ARD, but was in such bad condition himself that he had to crawl to cover to avoid the AT-ST and begin trying to repair himself. Neri then grabbed the AT-ST and smashed it against a tree.

Dash could see that the New Hope had taken some damage. Just as she observed this, the shield around the Death Star suddenly went down. She headed the Venture toward the now defenseless station, followed by Wedge's squadron. TIE fighters took out several of her fighter escort as they headed for the power coupling they knew would cause its reactor to go critical if destroyed. One last TIE fighter threatened to prevent that from happening, but at the last possible moment it was destroyed and Dash was able to fire proton torpedoes into the coupling and speed away before the Death Star exploded in a ball of flames and a hail of fragments.

The sky lit up as the Death Star blew apart, and the Rangers and Ewoks began to cheer. But the battle wasn't over, and the struggle to transform the Empire had yet to begin.

With the Emperor dead, Darth Vader turned to Luke Skywalker and asked his son to join him in taking control of the Empire. He stated that he only wanted to bring peace and stability, and would put an end to the worst of the Imperial excesses instituted by Palpatine, who he believed had been trying to accumulate enough Dark Side energy to become a god-like being. He argued that without the Empire, the galaxy would fall into violence and chaos. Neri, reluctant to believe in his good intentions, begged Luke to say with her. But Luke wanted to go with his father, who he said was the only person who had ever been completely honest with him. Neri couldn't deny that; she and her friends had kept Leia's relationship to him a secret for some time. Of the Venture crew only Lowarra had been truthful with Luke, and Lowarra wasn't there to try to sway him. When Luke stated that he wanted to remain with his father, ADX mistrustfully fired on Vader, who negated the blaster energy but did not retaliate.

Leia then sought Neri's advice - should they continue to fight, or accept Vader's compromise? Vader had suggested that he would allow the Republic to reform in the Outer Rim. Neri searched her feelings, and decided that Vader's idea was the best option to avoid civil war and further destruction. Vader could take care of the various warlords and moffs who would try to take power in the Emperor's absence, while the Alliance could go about reestablishing the fallen Republic. As the last princess of Alderaan, Leia could help to persuade the Rebel Alliance to agree to the truce, and she hoped that Luke would be able to steer Vader away from the Dark Side. After telling Leia what she thought, Neri approached Luke, gave him a kiss on the lips, and sadly walked away into the forest.

The End.

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