|:: An ongoing episodic story of fan-fic set after Episode VI Return of the Jedi, and inspired by George Lucas' historical draft concepts ::
|Reviewing the VE Episode X project
30th April 2021
The local lockdowns through the course of 2020 and 2021 have enabled me to crack on with writing my virtual edition Episode X The Riddle of the Pirates. With the end almost in sight (!), I have now written the scene - found below - where the rogue coder Harker has been utilised to further investigate the pirate gang's secret base. Watching her decrypting skills unfold and reveal the pirates' secrets are the Jedi Masters Luke Skywalker and Leia Solo, an assortment of Military Generals, and President Mon Mothma.
The story has been an interesting journey as I've gone from solid ideas on the conclusion of the 'Virtual Sequel Trilogy' to nuanced variations of existing concepts to bold new ideas. It's fascinating how the characters lead the story, and how certain plot points become elaborated into more complex versions. Added to that, I have a loose through-line of over-arching story for certain characters, and although I acknowledge much of the story may end up changing - if I ever end up continuing it ! - I'm conscious of 'sowing seeds' that may have a bearing on later plots.
With the need to move the characters forward and enter into a new generation, but with the sense of 'bridging' rather than 'jumping', I set Episode X about seven years after Episode IX The Duel of the Fates. An epilogue scene for the latter installment introduced the Solo twins, children to Han and Leia, at about two years old. I felt the timeframe leading up to the next episode was viable to provide the sense that the new Pan Alliance, headed by Mon Mothma, had settled into governing the majority of the galactic community, as well as allow the Imperial Remnant, led by Governor Tagge, to secretly begin to rebuild their military ; added to this was the concept that piracy had naturally increased in the change-over of political power, and that the Troig Gang, in particular, had grown in number and skill - following the Bogan War, many lightsabres and lightwhips had been lost on the 'battlefields' across the galaxy, and many of these weapons had become trophies of pirates from the spoils of war. The Troig Gang is led by a naturally Force-strong family, and, recognising the benefits this skill brings them, they have recruited other bandits and marauders inherently adept in the Force. They may be formally untrained, but their raw skill makes them a deadly foe.
The Force has 'exploded' in its presence in sentients across the galaxy following Leia Solo's resolution of the Curse imposed by her father's massacre of the Padawan Younglings in the Jedi Temple. That event occurred at the close of the Clone Wars and the enactment of Order 66 ; Leia's journey into the Netherworld and to Hell at the end of Episode IX Duel of the Fates was set about twenty-five years later. When Master Luke Skywalker was re-establishing a new Jedi Order all his students were older than him and his sister ; even Alana Seren, who would become his wife, was a few months older. The Force 'died' when Luke and Leia were born, and no newborns were attuned to the Force. With the Curse being lifted, the Force has been re-awakened, and Luke is faced with the responsibility of guiding gifted children into the ways of this mysterious cosmic energy. The Solo twins, Gana and Corsa, were among the first of the new generation to be touched by the Force. It has been fun - and intriguing - writing for the Twins, bearing in mind that although they, and their peers, are only six-seven years old, I have justified their 'maturity' with the fact they are all strong in the Force. The development of the Virtual Sequel Trilogy revealed that Chewbacca and some other Wookiees had an affinity with the Force. Now, Chewie shares his time between teaching in one of the new satellite Academies and helping his friend and captain, Han Solo, on Alliance Intelligence missions.
The primary Jedi Academy remains at the Temple on Coruscant, but now satellite institutions are being established around the Galaxy. The liberated Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyyk has one such college, and there are also Training Vessels to provide an in-transit perspective. Luke has recognised and acknowledged the family ties that bind he and his sister together, and understood that the Whill of the Force has allowed this to continue.... to the concern of some of the Elder Jedi who had survived the Purge of Order 66. Guided by this revelation, Luke has structured his Academy to enable holidays between terms that provide loving family environments to which the young padawans can return.
This new installment of the Family Saga has allowed me to introduce many new locations, and in particular Gen-Sys Sucal.... or, more appropriately, Genesis System Lucas ! I had felt that a bold new narrative venture required an original villain's lair, and the concept of a base hidden within the chaotically tumbling asteroids and planetoids of a birthing proto-planet seemed appropriate ! I have also 'borrowed' the name and character of Maz Kanata from the Official Disney Sequel Trilogy, but re-drawn her as more of an independent innkeeper (on Takodana) with overly large ears that provide a visual cue to her knowledge of galactic gossip. I also liked the concept of utilising a 'house arrest' scenario for the cyber-criminal, Harker, so I placed her on the Pykes' gambling station, The High Stakes.
When we were conceiving the Virtual Edition Sequel Trilogy, Scott and I were keen to promote the idea that where the 'Prequel Trilogy' was Anakin's story and the 'Original Trilogy' was Luke's, our 'Sequel Trilogy' would focus a little more on Leia's development and significance. With the continuation of these Sequels, I have a further evolution in mind for Leia, while keeping Luke as a primary Hero, but also introducing their children and young peers as the next generation to uphold the sword of justice.... or the sword of tyranny.....
The illustrated virtual edition of Episode VII : Plague of Doom continues, and Weesla the Hutt, the incumbent Lord of Kessel and Imperial puppet, has sneaked back into the Castle, and has made his way to the anxious and imprisoned Huttlets. He calms their fears, and confirms he's going to help them escape....
|You can see the VE artwork in the 'Kessel' art gallery as well as in the online illustrated story, and you can discuss this in the forum here !
My prose writing for virtual edition Episode X 'The Riddle of the Pirates' has continued, and as the climactic battle approaches, the Jedi and the Military Generals review the astro-navigational data that Harker is able to generate......
|Nathaniel Reed, 30th April 2021
Escorted by the Jedi Sentinel, and trailed by Jedi Masters Luke Skywalker and Leia Solo, Harker entered the laboratory, her rucksack over one shoulder. She had to blink a few times to allow her eyes to adjust to the half-light. She immediately recognised the Artoo unit plugged in to one side, and then her attention was drawn to the hologram in the middle of the room. Her interest was already piqued : animated illustrations of rocky asteroids spiralled around a larger mis-shapen proto-planet.
“Oh, Master Luke and Master Leia...” announced Threepio, more to himself than to anyone else.
Director Jerring glanced up as the new arrivals stepped past the perimeter of computing consoles.
“Ah, Harker, I presume ? Thankyou for coming,” the director said aimiably.
“My pleasure, anything to help the great Pan-Alliance,” the young woman replied smoothly. She glanced over her shoulder at the Jedi, and drily added, “Besides, it wasn’t as if I was busy or anything...”
Jerring gave a tight smile, then gestured at the hologram.
“Gensys-Sucal,” he introduced. “We’re creating a real-time display of the orbiting material, but the local radiation is causing too much interference. We thought you might be able to provide some clarity perhaps....?”
“Well, I don’t mind saying that I’m amazed you’ve got this much going,” she pointed to the animation. She had already spotted that the relatively short loop was automatically getting longer in duration as more data came in. “It’s updating quickly.”
“Yes, we have all our resources on this job. But we thought the flair you showed in obtaining the map in the first place might be put to good use again ?”
“I don’t suppose I have a choice, do I ?”
“No,” replied the Ishi Tib directly and frankly.
“Very well,” she sighed. “Where do you want me ?”
Director Jerring pointed to a desk, where a technician sat next to an empty chair. “Over here, if you will.”
Harker nodded, and obediently made her way to the desk. Luke and Leia and the Sentinel followed her, and stood discretely to one side. A glance at the monitor screen told Harker she was seeing live data. Her enthusiasm automatically sparking into life, she slung her bag on to the desk and quickly settled herself in front of the console.
“Good, the algorithm’s already hot,” she muttered to herself.
The technician pointed at the scrolling data. “This column shows the astro-nav data, while these are the current gamma and photon readings. They’re fluctuating due to the background planetary isotopes, this one here.”
Already Harker’s fingers were flying over the keyboard in front of her. She nodded her comprehension back to the technician.
“So we need to find a way of stabilising those,” he continued, “while offsetting for the...”
“... for the gravity well affecting the rocks,” she finished, “to look closer at the destination of the transmission...”
With one hand still flickering over the keys, Harker reached into her bag and grabbed a small data card. She reached in again, and this time withdrew a hand-sized half-spherical device that had a horizontal receiving slot in the side of the dome.
The technician glanced up at Director Jerring, who nodded his chin towards a second smaller consle to the side of the main one. The technician turned to the auxiliary kit and produced a copy of his screen.
“Don’t mind us tagging along, do you ?” Jerring asked aimiably.
“Wouldn’t expect otherwise,” Harker smiled mirthlessly. “What else would you do with that oversight kit ?”
She slipped the card into the slot, and within moments a hologram appeared above the dome, showing the data on the screen, but with an overlay too that visualised the ever-updating view of the asteroid storm. A faint blur of static noise obscured like a thin veil.
Harker continued to type commands into the main console, every now and again flicking a glance at the hologram beside her.
“If I parse this with that one....” she muttered to herself, “and then re-input the new calculations... but the planetoid isotopes... allow for those... if I equalise with the same from the solar rade and...”
Suddenly, the image sharpened, and the simplistic spheres representing the rocky material began to re-form into their unique shapes. An involuntary gasp rippled through the crowd of onlookers.
Harker allowed herself a triumphant grin. “Now to pick up on the transmission vector again...”
Once more the young woman’s fingers played the keyboard, and a red line appeared in the holo-display above the dome.
The director immediately gestured to the main display in the centre of the room. “Fondon,” he instructed to the technician sat beside Harker. “Patch it through to the main display so everyone can see it.”
The technician nodded, and focused on the auxiliary console in front of him. The other military generals, the Jedi, and the waiting coders turned their attention back to the centre of the room.
The red line of the encrypted flightplan signals arrowed in towards a quadrant on the orbital plane. As the new vector resolved itself, Fondon adjusted the view on the main display to spotlight that section of the asteroid maelstrom. The red line paused before it could complete its route.
Harker continued to type.
Suddenly, two white spots appeared above and below the orbital plane. They didn’t go unnoticed.
“What are those ?” demanded Jerring.
Luke and Leia glanced at each other quizzically, then turned their attention back to the small hologram at Harker’s desk. They closed their eyes and concentrated.
The Security Chief spoke up.
“Harker, can you tell what kind of pulses are going through them ?” asked Sturjala Onick.
“I should be able to....” the woman responded, “gimme a mo.... let’s see... there’s a tricksy jammer going on here...”
The two Jedi Master’s foreheads creased in concentration.
“I sense a great amount of electro-voltage...” murmured Leia.
“They’re relay beacons...” divined Luke, also in a quiet voice.
After a moment, the red communication line resolved itself to reach the white dot on the underside of the stellar plane.
“There we go !” exclaimed Harker. “They’re certainly comms beacons, but I can see there’s something else going on there, there’s a lot of energy being cleverly routed in there....”
Just at that moment, a side door opened and Mon Mothma flanked by two guards entered. The care-worn face crinkled as she smiled and lifted her hand in acknowledgement.
“Generals, Master Jedi,” she said in her soft voice. “I’d heard that we had a break-through.”
“Yes, President Mothma,” confirmed Jerring. “If you see, here,” he explained, pointing to the central hologram. Mon Mothma moved in to join him. “The encryption definitely points to this gen-system, and to these asteroids in particular. We’re in the process of investigating closer...”
“Ah ha !” announced Harker.
Green lines now appeared on both holograms. The onlookers could see that they described a vertical line that travelled from the relay beacons to meet at a large asteroid within the maelstrom.
“The lines correspond with hyperspace anchor-points,” announced Harker triumphantly. She made some final keystrokes and a blue hemi-sphere appeared on the target asteroid. “And there’s the high-density shield. Probably military, and customised.”
“Hyper-points ? Within an asteroid field ??” exclaimed General Fajama. “That’s not possible !”
“Clearly not impossible,” the Ishi Tib Director of Military Intelligence remarked drily through his beak.
“So they must presumably make a micro-jump through the rocks when it’s safe,” ventured Onick, the Head of Security.
“That would require some sort of super-computer...” Fajama began to elaborate.
Harker nodded. “Yep, all those calculations needed to plot the astro-coordinates of each moving rock, and their occlusions in parralax with the diameter to the relays... to then propose a clear line of sight and then jump... Makes for an ideal base of operations, doesn’t it ?” she grinned.
“It does,” grumbled the General.
“Are we all wondering the same as I ?” suggested Director Jerring. “Imperial involvement ?”
He turned to Harker.
“Thankyou for your work, Harker. Can I ask you to continue investigating those relays, please, find a way in....”
Luke stepped forward to speak to the main group, and as he did so he leant towards Harker. “Yes, the Jedi thank you, too,” he said softly.
The Jedi Master stepped past the consoles arrayed around the room, and joined Mon Mothma and the military personnel.
“President Mothma, Generals, we believe these pirates are not only the ones behind the attacks on the refugee convoys, but also that they are skilled in the ways of the Force. They are dangerous. You can count on the Jedi to be at your disposal.”
“Thankyou, Luke,” answered Mon Mothma, but General Fajama was less quick to accept the words.
“Do you have any evidence, Master Jedi ?” he asked sternly.
Luke spread his hands in a conciliatory gesture. “No, but I trust what the Force has told us... and you can trust us.”
As the General opened his mouth to retort, Mon Mothma raised her hand between them. “General, I trust Luke. I believe him when he says there’s more to this than simply pirates ambushing convoys.”
“The bandits we encountered on Serreillea put up a good fight,” Luke acknowledged, and then he gestured towards the holo-display. “I know I’m right when I say these pirates are the same ones.”
“Very well,” replied General Fajama. Then he turned to the other military personnel around him and to Mon Mothma. “I think we need to determine a suitable plan of attack, President.”
“Ladies and gentlemen,” interjected Director Jerring. He pointed to a recessed conference room. “Shall we just step inside there for a moment ? It’s a little more secure than out here....”
“But the spy-bots appear to only be associated with the flightplan centre’s database. Surely this room is secure...” started Onick, the Chief of Security.
The beaked Ishi Tib cocked his head to one side in lieu of a smile. “It is, but one can’t be too careful, can we ?” He turned to Luke and Leia. “Master Jedi, would you care to join us ?”
Leia turned to the Sentinel hovering near Harker. “Keep her under watch,” she instructed.
Leia joined her brother, and the two Jedi entered the side room. A blue light illuminated around the full threshold of the entrance, the glowing line marking an auditory and sensor surveillance seal.
“I feel we need to secure that super-computer,” announced the Director. “It would be useful to learn its provenance, but also something of that capability ought to be investigated here !”
“Yes, you’re right,” the General grudgingly agreed. “I had hoped we could simply blast it to hell with a barrage of turbo-lasers. Especially in such a Rancor’s den like that asteroid storm !”
“Does anyone have a plan of approach ?” asked Onick. “That maelstrom certainly works to their advantage.”
“We need to punch in, and secure the base,” announced the General. “I propose several fusillades to destroy the surrounding asteroids, and launch ground assault ships in between.”
But Naval Admiral Merityme shook his head at the General’s suggestion. “That would only make the storm worse. Instead of many large rocks to contend with, there’d be thousands of smaller ones. Shields can deflect the small showers, but won’t last long against the larger masses. We’ll need to slip an insertion team through that asteroid field. We have good pilots, but I fear we’d need several flights and be willing to lose them.”
“Are you ?” asked Fajama.
The Admiral paused, then nodded.
“But if the pirates are alerted they will scramble to flee or intercept,” countered Onick.
“We can deploy a perimeter of ships,” proposed Fajama, looking at the Admiral for confirmation, “to blockade the gen-system.”
“Yes, leave that to us,” grinned the Admiral.
“If the Harker girl and my team can exploit the hyper-relay,” suggested Director Jenning, “we could jump right in...”
“What say you, Master Jedi ?” asked the General, turning to Luke.
Luke glanced at his sister, then spoke to the group. “These are good proposals, but potentially a great waste of life for the navy pilots. We could fly through the asteroids and get your insertion teams on to the ground, while a Jedi flight squadron can meet anyone launching.”
“Even if your team can crack the hyper-point relay drones,” added Leia, “a group of Jedi acting in concert might be able to hold back some asteroids long enough to open a path. Presumably one of your naval frigates could get a battalion of troops planet-side ?”
“Yes, a smaller frigate might be able to survive in there long enough to land,” Admiral Meritime piped up.
Luke concurred. “The Jedi can fly a team in, another group can briefly open a path in the asteroid storm, and those coders out there,” he nodded his chin back towards the laboratory, “might be able to utilise the pirates’ own kit and go in through the front door.”
“Three lines in,” the General remarked. “That should get them !”
“Let’s hope so, General,” responded Leia. “We can’t let any of those pirates escape. If they are strong with the Force, then even if one of them escapes that could spell certain trouble further down the line.”
“I’m sure we can neutralise them,” the General answered brusquely.
“Or arrest them,” Luke reminded him.
Mon Mothma paused, as a thought came to her. “PA protocols require us to inform the Imperials of any concern that might affect the intergalactic community. We ought to tell them of this development.”
General Fajama raised a hand to object, but the Security Chief stepped forward and gestured. “That could be useful to us,” pondered Onick. “If they are behind this in any way, this development might force their hand, and reveal their intentions.”