Hunt for the Red Silk
Original Star Wars Fan Fiction by "Free Trader"
Following is an idea I had for a sequel to "Wake of the Red Silk". This story takes place shortly before the events in "The Empire Strikes Back". Given my very limited "free time" these days, I'll doubt that I'll ever get to write it as a proper short story. What is presented below is a synopsis of the events.
SYNOPSIS: Ral Peleton’s free companion and young son are being held hostage in Ko-Ro-Ba until Ral can assure the Priest Kings that the secret approach vectors1. to Gor stored in the Red Silk’s navi-computer have been erased. Ral sends a coded message to Grus Gyre asking him to delete the approach vectors and explaining that if the Empire obtains them it can reach Gor and steal the Priest King’s “Flame Death” weapon, an inter-dimensional super laser that can beam through hyper-space and penetrate any deflector shield. Ral is unaware that the Red Silk was stolen from Grus.
By chance, Grus notices Alandra Zond, the ex-leader of the small pirate band that hijacked the Red Silk two years ago, about to be sold at a slave auction in Mos Espa. Grus buys her and offers to free her if she’ll help him recover the Red Silk. Alandra doesn’t trust Grus, but decides to tell him just enough to keep him satisfied until she can find a way to escape. Unfortunately for Grus and his crew, the ambitious Count Orlac has learned of the secret approach vectors aboard the Red Silk and dispatched his agents to Tatooine to retrieve Alandra.
Grus and his crew blast-off aboard the Ruptured Duck just as the star destroyer dispatched by Orlac arrives and opens fire. The Duck uses its recently installed turbo-boosters to elude the star destroyer long enough to make the jump to lightspeed. Grus thinks they’re out of the woods but doesn’t know that the star destroyer launched a swarm of micro-droids that attached themselves to the Duck's hull and are transmitting the tramp freighter’s location. Grus heads for Port Rogge on Tonga V, which Alandra claims is a favorite hide-out of her pirates. In route Alandra manages to unlock her movement-restricting electro-binders, and once the Duck is dirtside she quickly gives the crew the slip. She locates a former acquaintance, the retired smuggler Vel Roth, and convinces him to help her find passage off-world. Roth hesitantly agrees, but proves there’s no honor among thieves by turning Alandra over to Orlac’s agents. Roth doesn’t get the reward he expects though – one of the hooded, grotesquely masked men puts a knife in his gut as “payment”. Grus and Drolen Narlig arrive just as Orlac’s goons depart in their shuttle and find the mortally wounded Roth. With his dying breath, Roth gasps that he doesn’t know who took Alandra, but that they had “Core-Worlder accents”.
Grus and Drolen return to the Ruptured Duck and examine one of the position-transmitting micro-droids that Skeezix scraped off their ship’s hull. The minature droid’s ornately engraved body doesn’t look like typical Imperial Navy issue. A jump through hyperspace brings the Duck to Scrapyard, where Grus shows the micro-droid to his friend, the famous cyborg doctor Daisuke Ido. Dr. Ido remarks that he’s never seen anything like the tiny droid and suggests that only one person in the entire galaxy is capable of such complex, delicate work: Ido’s old teacher and mentor, Professor Synon. Doc Ido says that he used to correspond with Synon, but hasn’t heard from him since he accepted a position as Director of Advanced Projects with Arakyd Industries at their research facility on Corellia over a year ago.
Since the Imperial crackdown on travel to the Core Worlds, getting to distant Corellia won’t be easy. Ido suggests that he may know someone who can help and tells Grus to come back to his workshop at midnight. When Grus returns Doc Ido introduces him to a visitor: Commander Ajax of Alliance Intelligence. Ido confesses to Grus that he’s been secretly aiding the rebels. Ajax apologizes for the unsolicited contact, but explains that his informants intercepted Ral Peleton’s message and learned about Grus’ efforts to retrieve the secret approach vectors to the forbidden planet Gor and prevent the Priest King’s “Flame Death” weapon from falling into Imperial hands. Ajax adds that the Alliance shares a common interest with Grus and will supply the necessary access codes and credentials to help him get to Corellia. Doc Ido will provide a letter of introduction that will (hopefully) allow Grus to see Professor Synon. After that, it’s all up to Grus. Grus reluctantly agrees to accept the rebels’ help, and Ajax gives him a packet containing some hastily-prepared dossiers on Synon and several other key-figures in Arakyd Industries, including the mysterious Count Orlac. It seems Orlac has recently acquired a controlling interest in Arakyd and may be pursuing the “Flame Death” as a way of cultivating the Emperor’s favor. Ajax warns Grus that Orlac is rumored to be unscrupulous and amoral – if he is behind Alandra’s abduction, then he’ll likely resort to any means to learn the Red Silk’s location.
After the meeting Grus returns to the Ruptured Duck to find technicians sent by Ajax swarming over his ship. Drolen excitedly informs him, "They're installing a Class One hyperdrive!"2. The rebel technicians work quickly, and a mere two days later the refitted Duck lifts from Scrapyard and heads for distant Corellia. As the tramp freighter speeds through hyperspace Grus carefully studies the dossiers provided by Ajax. The information on Orlac is disturbing – the Count is believed to use barbaric forms of torture as a means of getting what he wants – and for “entertainment purposes”. Grus doesn’t feel any affection for Alandra, but he doesn’t want to see her suffer either.
Speaking of Alandra, she’s already enjoying Count Orlac’s “old-fashioned Corellian hospitality”. In the dark sub-basement dungeon of Orlac’s palatial mansion she struggles uselessly against her cruel chains. Alandra isn’t particularly brave, but unfortunately for her she really doesn’t know the location of the Red Silk. Her ex-crewmates didn't bother to tell her where they were going after they turned her over for the bounty, and she doubted they'd be going back to any of their old haunts. To make matters even worse, Alandra hasn’t been able to convince her captor of her sincerity and has had to endure the Count's increasingly brutal attempts to extract information from her.
After successfully passing through the Imperial blockade the Ruptured Duck arrives at Corellia and is finally granted clearance to land. The Imperial presence on Corellia is almost oppressive and storm troopers in their white armor are everywhere – all for the “protection of the citizens”. Grus’ cover story is simple and as close as possible to the truth: he was sent by Dr. Ido to confer with Professor Synon about a process for implanting human heads on cyborg bodies. Grus has brought data on Tiana Antipodal with him as a means of legitimizing his story and gaining Synon’s trust. Yet despite all his careful preparations, Grus is halted by Imperial Customs. He’s starting to wonder if he’ll ever get through when an attractive girl wearing the uniform of an Imperial Navy lieutenant suddenly bursts through the check point shouting “Darling!” and plants a big kiss on Grus. Her cap falls off and her long red hair falls free as she wraps a leg around the startled free trader, much to the amusement of the Custom’s officials. She then excitedly announces, “This is my fiance Grus, and we’re getting married next week!” Her announcement is met with a round of applause and handshakes from the customs agents, who suddenly expedite Grus’ processing. Grus isn’t sure what to think but plays along with the charade. It isn’t until after they’ve left the starport and boarded a repulsorlift cab that the girl reveals she’s really an agent sent by Ajax to help Grus. Grus isn’t at all happy about this new development. Lara Prion, the rebel agent, bluntly informs him that she doesn’t like the idea of working with some scruffy, self-serving, credit-hungry free trader either, but “orders is orders”. Lara has gotten herself posted to the security force guarding the Arakyd research lab and has also managed to get herself “noticed” by Count Orlac. If Grus will play his part right, they’ll hopefully be invited to one of Orlac’s infamous parties at his mansion. She explains that if their luck holds they’ll be able to use the opportunity to locate Alandra Zond before she divulges the location of the Red Silk. Lara admits that she isn’t sure Orlac is holding Alandra, but he’s the most likely candidate given their limited intelligence.
The following day Lara escorts Grus on a tour of Arakyd's facilities. Grus notices that the uniform she's wearing is snug fitting to show off her "assets." Lara has carefully arranged for them to cross paths with Count Orlac, and the leecherous old noble can't take his eyes off of Lara's chest. Her display has the desired effect: Lara and Grus are invited to a party the Count is hosting in two days. Grus and Lara use the time until then to practice their "engaged couple" routine.
Count Orlac's party turns out to be a pleasant evening of dining and dancing, and not the wild orgy that Grus and Lara expect. At one point the Count invites Lara up to his library to see his collection of rare manuscripts. Lara accepts the Counts invitation - expecting him to make a move on her - and is surprised when he actually shows her manuscripts! Grus uses the opportunity to look for Alandra, but finds nothing to indicate she's being held prisoner. It isn't until the party is over and Lara and Grus are invited to spend the night at the mansion that the Count's "kinky" side is finally revealed. Alone in their room Lara becomes unexpectedly aroused and makes wild, passionate love to Grus . . . with the lights on! Grus' ego is only slightly bruised when she whispers to him afterward that it was all a show for the Count, who she claims was secretly watching them via a concealed spy-cam. None of this seems to have gotten them any closer to learning the whereabouts of Alandra, however.
Frustrated by their lack of progress and becoming doubtful of Lara's motives, Grus decides to take matters into his own hands. Arming himself, he tells Drolen to get the ship ready for take-off and then wait for him to return. An after-dark stake-out of the Count's mansion finally reveals mysterious hooded figures arriving in small groups at a side entrance. Grus intercepts a lone arrival and "borrows" the Imperial's hooded robe and mask to gain entrance. The scene inside the mansion is in stark contrast to the dinner party of just a few nights ago. Masked slave girls escort the guests to a vaulted chamber where they gather in a circle around an intricately carved throne flanked by a pair of purple robed guards. After all the guests have arrived a scarlet robed, masked figure enters and sits in the throne. As the scarlet-robed newcomer addresses his audience, a large hologram of him materializes above the room. The speaker's ornate mask hides his face, but Grus recognizes his voice to be the Count's. The Count's speech is startling: he chides the Emperor for failing to stop the rebellion and speaks of a "New Order" that will lead the Empire to victory. He boasts that he will soon be in possession of a new super weapon that will assure the total and complete defeat of the "rebel scum" and allow him to oust the weakling Palpatine. The Count then orders "the prisoners" to be brought in. Grus isn't surprised to see Alandra deposited unconscious at the Count's feet, but is shocked when a pair of hooded guards drag Lara into the circle. Lara's uniform is ripped off and she is chained by her wrists between two pillars. The Count prepares to whip her as an example of "what happens to spies and traitors". Lara defiantly shouts that the building is surrounded by Imperial troops, but the Count simply laughs at her "feeble bluff". Grus takes the cue and, drawing his blaster, shouts "Imperial Security!" and fires repeatedly over the assembled throng. Grus' blaster fire has the desired effect: the crowd panics and stampedes toward the exits. The Counts tries to restore order, but falls and is trampled by his own followers. Grus frees Lara, who grabs a robe from one of the fallen followers and then helps Grus carry Alandra out of the mansion. They "borrow" an airspeeder and zoom away from the mansion just as a platoon of stormtroopers arrives to restore order.
Back at the Duck, Alandra regains consciousness and, in a rare show of genuine gratitude, thanks Grus for rescuing her from captivity. She sheepishly admits that she unfortunately doesn't know the whereabouts of the Red Silk and expresses doubts that her former crew would go anyplace she knew about. Grus is disheartened by Alandra's admission, but Drolen is just plain angry about wasting time on a "wild bantha chase". Lara says that it wasn't a total waste since Count Orlac has been put out of business - thanks to Grus. Grus decides they're wearing out their welcome in the Core Worlds and should probably return to the Outer Rim. After the crew says their goodbyes to Lara, the Ruptured Duck blasts skyward. Grus decides to head for Coyn in the Elrood Sector first, where they should be able to sell the cargo of high-tech goods he acquired with Lara's help for a tidy profit. While on Coyn they unexpectedly get their first news of the Red Silk from fellow trader Desdemona. Desdemona tells them that her ship, the Blind Luck, was attacked by a freighter matching the Red Silk's description two days ago while leaving the Kidron system. She says the pirates' attack was amateurish and that she was able to elude them long enough to jump to lightspeed. Desdemona's news is practically red hot, so the Ruptured Duck quickly departs Coyn for nearby Kidron. On her new Class 1 hyperdrive it takes the Duck only three hours to reach Kidron, which Skeezix says is home to the High City of Refuge. The droid explains that the city was set up by refugees - just about everyone there is hiding from someone else. Bounty hunters and slavers are definitely not welcome there, as Ral Peleton learned from personal experience! Grus suggests that pirates probably wouldn't be welcome either, since they'd draw unwanted attention to the High City. Alandra remarks that her former crewmates are certainly stupid enough to try using the High City as their base. Sure enough, as the Ruptured Duck prepares to land Drolen notices the Red Silk parked in plain site at the starport. Grus is both excited and puzzled: Kidron has its own system defense which includes four ion cannons guarding the High City, a Corellian corvette and an odd assortment of fighters. Surely the pirates can't be operating too close to Kidron or they'd be intercepted. Regardless, they still have a problem: how to get aboard the Red Silk and erase the approach vectors to Gor from the ship's navi-computer. Alandra suggests that she simply approach her former crewmates and buy them a few rounds of cold utoz. Drolen thinks its a stupid idea, but Grus believes it might work. It means trusting the pirate girl at her word, but Grus figures that they haven't got much to lose at this point. Alandra is out for revenge against her former pirate crew and plays her part very well. She convinces her ex-crewmates that she's not mad at them for turning her in anymore and has a "sweet deal" she needs help with. Several rounds of utoz later her ex-crewmates are all "buddy-buddy" and bragging about how one of the City High Council members cut a deal with them that allows them to use the High City of Refuge as a base of operations in exchange for a percentage of their booty. While Alandra entertains her ex-crew mates, Grus and Skeezix sneak aboard the Red Silk. The pirates haven't even bothered to change any of the access codes, and the approach vectors are soon history . . . along with all the other jump coordinates stored in the navi-computer.
(Okay, this wouldn't be much of a story if something didn't go wrong! So now we cut to the obligatory chase scene . . .) The pirates figure out they've been hoodwinked and give chase. The Red Silk is still slightly faster and more maneuverable that the Ruptured Duck, and Grus discovers to his dismay that the pirates have apparently added a homemade concussion missile launcher to her weapons. A concussion missile launcher that unexpectedly malfunctions and causes the Red Silk to abruptly vanish in an expanding ball of incandescent gas.
Grus and his crew head towards Gor in hopes of being able to get a message to Ral Peleton that the approach vectors have been erased only to discover an Imperial Navy task force lead by a Super Star Destroyer approaching the forbidden planet.3. It seems that all their efforts didn't matter after all. As the crew watches in dispair, a life-sized hologram of Ral suddenly appears on their ship. Ral's image thanks Grus and his crew for their efforts, but tells them that the fate of Gor is in the hands of the Priest Kings. He urges them to quickly get as far away from Gor as they can! Drolen heeds Ral's warning none too soon - the entire planet suddenly jumps into hyperspace. The resulting gravitational wake is so powerful that all of the Imperial Navy ships are destroyed in the parsec-wide implosion. Grus, Drolen and Alandra watch in shocked silence. Then Grus remembers something that Ral once told him about the Priest Kings being able to move Gor through space-time to another galaxy if necessary in order to preserve it from the ravages of the Empire.
"Perhaps," he thought, "Gor now orbits another star in a galaxy far, far away . . ."
1.The location of Gor is not a secret, but only spaceships which follow a specific sequence of approach vectors known only to Gorean traders are allowed to approach and land on Gor. All other vessels are vaporized by the Priest Kings' inter-dimensional "Flame Death" weapon.
2.The Alliance can afford to install a reconditioned Class One hyperdrive on the Ruptured Duck simply because it would take our heros too long to travel to the Core Worlds without it.
3.Apparently the Imperial Navy believes that the new Super Star Destroyer can withstand an attack by the "Flame Death", since it didn't have the approach vectors. Regardless, the Priest Kings obviously had enough of the Empire and decided to move Gor to another galaxy.
The above story includes terminology and concepts from the "Gor" series of science fiction novels by John Norman. STAR WARS is TM and © 1996 by Lucasfilm Ltd. Any use of copyrighted material or trademarks anywhere in this story should not be viewed as a challenge to those copyrights or trademarks. This original story is the intellectual property of Free Trader and is intended for personal, non-commercial entertainment only.