by Max Barry

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by The Swinging Jungle of Baloo Kingdom. . 11 reads.

Rome Wars: A New Pope (Part 5)

INT. DOCKING BAY 94 - DAY

[Umana and a half-dozen grisly alien pirates and purple creatures stand in the middle of the docking bay. Umana is the grossest of the slavering hulks and his scarred face is a grim testimonial to his prowess as a vicious killer. He is a fat, slug-like creature with eyes on extended feelers and a huge ugly mouth.]

Umana: Come on out, Barlyy!

[A voice from directly behind the pirates startles them and they turn around to see Barlyy and the giant, Nooooooooooooooo, standing behind them with no weapons in sight.]

Barlyy: I’ve been waiting for you, Umana.

Umana: I expected you would be.

Barlyy: I’m not the type to run.

Umana: (fatherly-smooth) Barlyy, my boy, there are times when you disappoint me… why haven’t you paid me? And why did you have to fry poor Cerata like that… after all we’ve been through together.

Barlyy: You sent Cerata to blast me.

Umana: (mock surprise) Barlyy, why you’re the best smuggler in the business. You’re too valuable to fry. He was only relaying my concern at your delays. He wasn’t going to blast you.

Barlyy: I think he thought he was. Next time don’t send one of those twerps. If you’ve got something to say to me, come see me yourself.

Umana: Barlyy, Barlyy! If only you hadn’t had to dump that shipment of spice… you understand I just can’t make an exception. Where would I be if every pilot who smuggled for me dumped their shipment at the first sign of a Callistan starship? It’s not good business.

Barlyy: You know, even I get boarded sometimes, Umana. I had no choice, but I’ve got a charter now and I can pay you back, plus a little extra. I just need some more time.

Umana: (to his men) Put your blasters away. Barlyy, my boy, I’m only doing this because you’re the best and I need you. So, for an extra, say twenty percent I’ll give you a little more time… but this is it. If you disappoint me again, I’ll put a price on your head so large you won’t be able to go near a civilized system for the rest of your short life.

Barlyy: Umana, I’ll pay you because it’s my pleasure.

EXT. DOCKING PORT ENTRY - ALLEYWAY

[Nooooooooooooooo waits restlessly at the entrance to Docking Bay 94. Kirby, Baloo, and the robots make their way up the street. Nooooooooooooooo jabbers excitedly and signals for them to hurry. The darkly clad creature has followed them from the speeder lot. He stops in a nearby doorway and speaks into a small transmitter.]

INT. THE TAVERN SPACEPORT - DOCKING BAY 94

[Nooooooooooooooo leads the group into a giant dirt pit that is Docking Bay 94. Resting in the middle of the huge hole is a large, round, beat-up, pieced-together hunk of junk that could only loosely be called a starship.]

Baloo: What a piece of junk.

[The tall figure of Barlyy comes down the boarding ramp.]

Barlyy: She’ll make point five beyond the speed of light. She may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts, kid. I’ve added some special modifications myself.

[Baloo scratches his head. It’s obvious he isn’t sure about all this. Nooooooooooooooo rushes up the ramp and urges the others to follow.]

Barlyy: We’re a little rushed, so if you’ll hurry aboard we’ll get out of here.

[The group rushes up the gang plank, passing a grinning Barlyy.]

INT. BRITEANNIA KNIGHT

[Nooooooooooooooo settles into the pilot’s chair and starts the mighty engines of the starship.]

INT. THE TAVERN SPACEPORT - DOCKING BAY 94

[Baloo, Kirby, NAIS, and KOE move toward the Briteannia Knight passing Barlyy.]

NAIS: Hello, sir.

EXT. TATOOINE - THE TAVERN - STREET

[Eight Callistan stormtroopers rush up to the darkly clad creature.]

Tsartrooper: Which way?

[The darkly clad creature points to the door of the docking bay.]

Tsartrooper: All right, men. Load your weapons!

INT. THE TAVERN SPACEPORT - DOCKING BAY 94

[The tsartroops hold their guns at the ready and charge down the docking bay entrance.]

Tsartrooper: Stop that ship!

[Barlyy looks up and sees the Callistan stormtroopers rushing into the docking bay. Several of the troopers fire at Barlyy as he ducks into the spaceship.]

Tsartrooper: Blast ‘em!

[Barlyy draws his laser pistol and pops off a couple of shots which force the stormtroopers to dive for safety. The pirateship engines whine as Barlyy hits the release button that slams the overhead entry shut.]

INT. BRITEANNIA KNIGHT

Barlyy: Nooooooooooooooo, get us out of here!

[The group straps in for take-off.]

NAIS: Oh, my. I’d forgotten how much I hate space travel.

EXT. TATOOINE - THE TAVERN - STREETS

[The half-dozen tsartroopers at a checkpoint hear the general alarm and look to the sky as the huge starship rises above the dingy slum dwellings and quickly disappears into the morning sky.]

INT. BRITEANNIA KNIGHT - COCKPIT

[Barlyy climbs into the pilot’s chair next to Nooooooooooooooo, who chatters away as he points to something on the radar scope.]

EXT. SPACE - PLANET TATOOINE

[The Briteannia Knight zooms from Tatooine into space.]

INT. BRITEANNIA KNIGHT - COCKPIT

[Barlyy frantically types information into the ship’s computer. Little KOE appears momentarily at the cockpit doorway, makes a few beeping remarks, then scurries away.]

Barlyy: It looks like a Callistan cruiser. Our passengers must be hotter than I thought. Try and hold them off. Angle the deflector shield while I make the calculations for the jump to light speed.

EXT. SPACE - PLANET TATOOINE

[The Briteannia Knight pirateship races away from the yellow planet, Tatooine. It is followed by two huge Imperial regiondestroyers.]

INT. BRITEANNIA KNIGHT - COCKPIT

[Over the shoulders of Nooooooooooooooo and Barlyy, we can see the galaxy spread before them. Baloo and Kirby make their way into the cramped cockpit where Barlyy continues his calculation.]

Barlyy: Stay sharp! There are two more coming in; they’re going to try to cut us off.

Baloo: Why don’t you outrun them? I thought you said this thing was fast.

Barlyy: Watch your mouth, kid, or you’re going to find yourself floating home. We’ll be safe enough once we make the jump to hyperspace. Besides, I know a few maneuvers. We’ll lose them!

EXT. SPACE - PLANET TATOOINE

[Callistan cruisers fire at the pirateship.]

INT. BRITEANNIA KNIGHT - COCKPIT

[The ship shudders as an explosion flashes outside the window.]

Barlyy: Here’s where the fun begins!

Kirby: How long before you can make the jump to light speed?

Barlyy: It’ll take a few moments to get the coordinates from the navi-computer.

[The ship begins to rock violently as lasers hit it.]

Baloo: Are you kidding? At the rate they’re gaining…

Barlyy: Traveling through hyperspace isn’t like dusting crops, boy! Without precise calculations, we could fly right through a star or bounce too close to a supernova and that’d end your trip real quick, wouldn’t it?

[The ship is now constantly battered with laserfire as a red warning light begins to flash.]

Baloo: What’s that flashing?

Barlyy: We’re losing our deflector shield. Go strap yourself in, I’m going to make the jump to light speed.

[The galaxy brightens and they move faster, almost as if crashing a barrier. Stars become streaks as the pirateship makes the jump to hyperspace.]

EXT. SPACE

[The Briteannia Knight zooms into infinity in less than a second.]

EXT. GULAG STAR

[Alderaan looms behind the Gulag Star battlestation.]

INT. GULAG STAR - CONTROL ROOM

[Admiral Xeno enters the quiet control room and bows before Governor Mathuvan Union, who stands before the huge wall screen displaying a small green planet.]

Xeno23: We’ve entered the Alderaan system.

[Plus Nova Imperii and two tsartroopers enter with Princess The Gold Mines. Her hands are bound.]

The Gold Mines: Governor Mathuvan Union, I should have expected to find you holding Plus Nova Imperii’s leash. I recognized your foul stench when I was brought on board.

Mathuvan Union: Charming to the last. You don’t know how hard I found it signing the order to terminate your life!

The Gold Mines: I was surprised you had the courage to take the responsibility yourself!

Mathuvan Union: Princess The Gold Mines, before your execution I would like you to be my guest at a ceremony that will make this battle station operational. No star system will dare oppose Sorianora now.

The Gold Mines: The more you tighten your grip, Mathuvan, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.

Mathuvan Union: Not after we demonstrate the power of this station. In a way, you have determined the choice of the planet that’ll be destroyed first. Since you are reluctant to provide us with the location of the Bluecrownite base, I have chosen to test this station’s destructive power… on your home planet of Alderaan.

The Gold Mines: No! Alderaan is peaceful. We have no weapons. You can’t possibly…

Mathuvan Union: You would prefer another target? A military target? Then name the system!

[Mathuvan Union waves menacingly toward The Gold Mines.]

Mathuvan Union: I grow tired of asking this. So it’ll be the last time. Where is the Bluecrownite base?

[The Gold Mines overhears an intercom voice announcing the approach to Alderaan.]

The Gold Mines (softly) Dantooine.

[The Gold Mines lowers her head.]

The Gold Mines: They’re on Dantooine.

Mathuvan Union: There. You see Lord Imperii, she can be reasonable. (addressing Xeno) Continue with the operation. You may fire when ready.

The Gold Mines: What?

Mathuvan Union: You’re far too trusting. Dantooine is too remote to make an effective demonstration. But don’t worry. We will deal with your Bluecrownite friends soon enough.

The Gold Mines: No!

INT. GULAG STAR - BLAST CHAMBER

Plus Nova Imperii: Commence primary ignition.

[A button is pressed which switches on a panel of lights. A hooded Callistan soldier reaches overhead and pulls a lever. Another lever is pulled. Plus Nova Imperii reaches for still another lever and a bank of lights on a panel and wall light up. A huge beam of light emanates from within a cone-shaped area and converges into a single laser beam out toward Alderaan. The small green planet of Alderaan is blown into space dust.]

INT. BRITEANNIA KNIGHT - CENTRAL HOLD AREA

[Kirby watches Baloo practice the lightsaber with a small "seeker" robot. Kirby suddenly turns away and sits down. He falters, seems almost faint.]

Baloo: Are you all right? What’s wrong?

Kirby: I felt a great disturbance in the Force… as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.

[Kirby rubs his forehead. He seems to drift into a trance. Then he fixes his gaze on Baloo.]

Kirby: You’d better get on with your exercises.

[Barlyy enters the room.]

Barlyy: Well, you can forget your troubles with those Callistan slugs. I told you I’d outrun ‘em.

[Baloo is once again practicing with the lightsaber.]

Barlyy: Don’t everyone thank me at once.

[NAIS watches Nooooooooooooooo and KOE who are engrossed in a game in which three-dimensional holographic figures move along a chess-type board.]

Barlyy: Anyway, we should be at Alderaan about oh-two-hundred hours.

[Nooooooooooooooo and the two robots sit around the lighted table covered with small holographic monsters. Each side of the table has a small computer monitor embedded in it. Nooooooooooooooo seems very pleased with himself as he rests his lanky fur-covered arms over his head.]

NAIS: Now be careful, KOE.

[KOE immediately reaches up and taps the computer with his stubby claw hand, causing one of the holographic creatures to walk to the new square. A sudden frown crosses Nooooooooooooooo’s face and he begins yelling gibberish at the tiny robot. NAIS intercedes on behalf of his small companion and begins to argue with the huge Nooooooooooooooo.]

NAIS: He made a fair move. Screaming about it won’t help you.

Barlyy: (interrupting) Let him have it. It’s not wise to upset Nooooooooooooooo.

NAIS: But sir, nobody worries about upsetting a droid.

Barlyy: That’s ‘cause droids don’t pull people’s arms out of their socket when they lose. Nooooooooooooooo is known to do that.

NAIS: I see your point, sir. I suggest a new strategy, KOE. Let Nooooooooooooooo win.

[Baloo stands in the middle of the small hold area; he seems frozen in place. A humming lightsaber is held high over his head. Kirby watches him from the corner, studying his movements. Barlyy watches with a bit of smugness.]

Kirby: Remember, a Baloominati Knight can feel the Force flowing through him.

Baloo: You mean it controls your actions?

Kirby: Partially. But it also obeys your commands.

[Suspended at eye level, about ten feet in front of Baloo, a "seeker", a chrome baseball-like robot covered with antennae, hovers slowly in a wide arc. The ball floats to one side of the youth then the other. Suddenly it makes a lightning-swift lunge and stops within a few feet of Baloo’s face. Baloo doesn’t move and the ball backs off. It slowly moves behind the boy, then makes another quick lunge, this time emitting a blood red laser beam as it attacks. It hits Baloo in the leg causing him to tumble over. Barlyy lets loose with a burst of laughter.]

Barlyy: Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.

Baloo: You don’t believe in the Force, do you?

Barlyy: Kid, I’ve flown from one side of this galaxy to the other. I’ve seen a lot of strange stuff, but I’ve never seen anything to make me believe there’s one all-powerful force controlling everything. There’s no mystical energy field that controls my destiny.

[Kirby smiles quietly.]

Barlyy: It’s all a lot of simple tricks and nonsense.

Kirby: I suggest you try it again, Baloo.

[Kirby places a large helmet on Baloo’s head which covers his eyes.]

Kirby: This time, let go your conscious self and act on instinct.

Baloo: (laughing) With the blast shield down, I can’t even see. How am I supposed to fight?

Kirby: Your eyes can deceive you. Don’t trust them.

[Barlyy skeptically shakes his head as Kirby throws the seeker into the air. The ball shoots straight up in the air, then drops like a rock. Baloo swings the lightsaber around blindly missing the seeker, which fires off a laserbolt that hits Baloo square on the seat of the pants. He lets out a painful yell and attempts to hit the seeker.]

Kirby: Stretch out with your feelings.

[Baloo stands in one place, seemingly frozen. The seeker makes a dive at Baloo and, incredibly, he managed to deflect the bolt. The ball ceases fire and moves back to its original position.]

Kirby: You see, you can do it.

Barlyy: I call it luck.

Kirby: In my experience, there’s no such thing as luck.

Barlyy: Look, going good against remotes is one thing. Going good against the living? That’s something else.

[Barlyy notices a small light flashing on the far side of the control panel.]

Barlyy: Looks like we’re coming up on Alderaan.

[Barlyy and Nooooooooooooooo head back to the cockpit.]

Baloo: You know, I did feel something. I could almost see the remote.

Kirby: That’s good. You have taken your first step into a larger world.

INT. GULAG STAR - CONFERENCE ROOM

[Callistan Officer Saye Amyra stands before Governor Mathuvan Union and the evil Dark Lord Plus Nova Imperii.]

Mathuvan Union: Yes?

Saye Amyra: Our scout ships have reached Dantooine. They found the remains of a Bluecrownite base, but they estimate that it has been deserted for some time. They are now conducting an extensive search of the surrounding systems.

Mathuvan Union: She lied! She lied to us!

Plus Nova Imperii: I told you she would never consciously betray the Rebellion.

Mathuvan Union: Terminate her… immediately!

EXT. HYPERSPACE

[The pirateship is just coming out of hyperspace; a strange surreal light show surrounds the ship.]

INT. BRITEANNIA KNIGHT - COCKPIT

Barlyy: Stand by, Nooooooooooooooo, here we go. Cut in the sublight engines.

[Barlyy pulls back on a control lever. Outside the cockpit window stars begin streaking past, seem to decrease in speed, then stop. Suddenly the starship begins to shudder and violently shake about. Asteroids begin to race toward them, battering the sides of the ship.]

Barlyy: What the…? Aw, we’ve come out of hyperspace into a meteor shower. Some kind of asteroid collision. It’s not on any of the charts.

[Nooooooooooooooo flips off several controls and seems very cool in the emergency. Baloo makes his way into the bouncing cockpit.]

Baloo: What’s going on?

Barlyy: Our position is correct, except… no, Alderaan!

Baloo: What do you mean? Where is it?

Barlyy: That's what I’m trying to tell you, kid. It ain’t there. It’s been totally blown away.

Baloo: What? How?

[Kirby moves into the cockpit behind Baloo as the ship begins to settle down.]

Kirby: Destroyed… by the Callistan Empire!

Barlyy: The entire starfleet couldn’t destroy the whole planet. It’d take a thousand ships with more firepower than I’ve…

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