"Master Kalu Attracees, you are under arrest!" a Captain of the Republic's police force yelled. "Stop this now or we will be forced to shoot you down!" he commanded with more authority this time.
Kalu's hand dripped with sweat as he laid it on his ship's communicator switch. Thoughts of giving in and facing them thumped in his mind. It would be the honorable thing and might lessen his sentence. On the other hand, they could put him to death or worse banish him to some unknown realm. He withdrew a trembling finger from the switch.
"I know what is waiting for me if I do… I'm not stopping, Captain," Kalu said to himself.
He wiped his hands and got a tight grip on both controls. "Let them come."
He jerked left and his shipped banked hard—narrowly avoiding a warning shot from his pursuers.
"Z! You keep down back there or you could get fried," he hollered back to his droid. "I don't think they will take another lazy shot like that again."
"We should divert three quarters power to the rear deflector shields to be safe." Z countered back in his sequences of droid beeps.
Kalu banked back right and avoided a less telegraphed shot; clear that they intended to intensify their pursuit with each blast.
"No. If they keep up this level of attack, I want all power to the engines. We may not be able to jump to hyperspace, but we can still out run those rusty tankers."
The ship ricochetedright, throwing Kalu into the side of the cockpit. His lightsaber and head took most of the force. A crack and sizzle came from something. He looked down. Soft sparks emitting from the weapon.
"Where did that come from?" Turning left, he saw another ship advancing on his position. Its massive laser cannons fixed on them and looked ready to fire again.
"More people are joining, Z. We've got to get out of here before a whole fleet of ships are on our tail. Scan for anywhere we can escape to. I'd rather fight them on land than up here."
The silver and blue ship to their left adjusted its cannons with every move he made, but held their pursuit. Kalu looked back and noticed that the two ships behind had withdrawn theirs. Either something changed or this was the weakest hunt of a criminal in the Republic's existence.
"Kalu." A weak voice came through the comm. It sounded familiar, but the distortion muffled most of it.
"Kalu." Repeated the voice.
Much clearer now, Kalu's stomach felt like it had been ripped open. One fist shook and the other hardened at the voice. Anyone but him, he thought. How could he know so fast and be a part of the rabble that sought to bring him in. Kalu clenched his eyes closed and ground his teeth involuntarily. He raised the sweaty hand and pressed the communicator switch.
"Yes, master." A monsoon of guilt harpooned his heart at the thought of letting his master down.
Hearing that old voice, which had guided him since he was a youngling and had always spoken calmly to him was now replaced with an icy accusing tone—the tone of an enemy.
"Kalu." His former master returned. "A dark place you have entered, my apprentice."
Kalu winced at the grim assessment of his current predicament. Opening his mouth, he desired to say something but words did not readily mold from his anarchic thoughts and nothing came out.
"Things have transpired that cannot be undone. Facing one's crime is the only way back to redemption." His former master paused as he often did to let the words find their rightful place in the forefront of Kalu's mind. "End this. Accept punishment. Return to the Jedi Order in time, you may."
Kalu pondered this for a moment. If he were to stop his fleeing, go back and serve time in prison for would probably be for a least a few decades, he could return to the Jedi. The possibility of rejoining after what he did had never occurred to him. All those years, his best years, spent in confinement just for a chance to come back to the Jedi—would it be worth it? The thought played on his mind like an old war drum.
"Master Zota, what assurances can the Captain give that they will release me when I have served my time?"
The underlying static disappeared, which meant they had flipped off their communicator to discuss. Kalu didn't like the fact that a discussion was necessary and that this hadn't already been arranged. Certainly his former master had told the truth and this was the Captain trying to parlay a better deal that made him look good to his superiors—or was it? He didn't know what to trust or who. The static returned.
"Kalu." His master started with several indiscernible voices accompanying in the background. "The amount of time you must spend in prison is unclear. My word that you will be a Jedi once again, I give you."
Time, such a simple word, he thought. But it meant everything at this moment. Would he go back in time and change what he did if he could? How much time would he serve? How would that time affect him? How much time would he have to regain his Jedi status before he died? Would that time be worth it?
He delved deep into himself and outside at the same time for any connection to the Force he could find. Its guidance was the only thing that could make this decision easier. He waited for the familiar presence to push him in the right direction. Moments turned to minutes, but nothing came.
Emotion clouded everything. His heart stung as he remembered the reason for his actions. The reason he did what he did and why the Republic's forces barred down on him now. His breathing labored and all the ship's instruments jittered as his anger mounted. It was a just decision at the time and remained one in his mind. Nothing had changed. No new information. No apology or justifiable explanation had come from those who had done the first wrong. They remained stout in defense of their actions. His eyes flared and fists hardened. The whole cabin shook as his anger turned to rage. His heart beat like a rancor's as the painful memories of the past five days flashed before his eyes.
"No!" The word burst from his lips. "I will not come in. My actions were righteous in response to the tyranny of the republic. Serving time in prison would be an abomination to justice. I am sorry, master. I must hold true to myself." He slammed both controls forward and blasted away from the pursuing ships.
A communication tried to come through, but it was heavily distorted. "Don't give in to hate, Kalu." Master Zota came through. "To the Dark Side, I fear it will lead y—." The communication cut out as he put more distance between them. All three ships pursued and fired without hesitation. A barrage of blasts came from all directions. He weaved left, right, up and down, avoiding every one of them. It was only a matter of time without hyperspace that they would catch him though.
"Have you found anything, Z?" he barked back to his droid.
"Nothing… this system is full of Republic friendly planets that we would not stay hidden in for long." Z beeped back.
A laser blast grazed the right wing, causing the ship to dip. Kalu struggled to regain control.
We don't have much t—. A violent jolt from the back of the ship shook him from his thought. Z made no sound, so he was okay or blown to pieces. Kalu panned everywhere, but all he saw was the black of space and million white dots. If Z couldn't find anything that meant there was nothing. No asteroid field, no desolate planet, not even a shooting star that could providerefuge.
He barrel rolled to his left like an old man trying to get up in the morning. The ship felt sluggish and had only minutes of decent flight left in it. A frack of light burst to the ship's right just as they took another hit to the rear—still no sound from Z. Kalu panned to the light and it wasn't coming from a laser blast. In fact he had never seen anything like it before. It looked like a schism of some sort—like a sliver of space opening to another patch of space with strands of lightening traveling along the edge.
"What is that?"
Kalu shook his head and looked again. It was still there. He could be dreaming, but he felt a force-like pull coming from it. Legends of worm or black holes were always tossed around like old fishing stories in the cantinas, but nothing of schisms had ever been mentioned. He had no time to think anymore. They needed a way out and it provided a chance.
"If you're still with me, Z. Hold on!" Kalu yelled as careened toward the opening in space.