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Teaser Chapter - Anakin

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***** Please note. This teaser chapter was pre-released before the official launch date. What you read below may not be in sequence with the story as published to date. *****


Anakin sprinted to a disabled heavy landspeeder, finding cover next to Republic soldiers and classmate Holis Veladrian. The firing of the vehicle's functioning turret pounded in his ears and shook his body. It joined a chorus of spitfire that engulfed the passway through a biolithic stone forest on Ord Mantell. Enormous creatures once roamed this region in bygone ages, which deposited layers of stones through physiological processes. Erosion wore away at the stones unevenly, such that columns rivalling a bantha's height jutted from the ground.

Unfortunately, the natural wonder provided effective cover for the enemy guerilla forces blasting on the Republic force’s location.

"This is Gold Leader," came a voice in Anakin's ear. "The convoy has successfully been redirected along Worwack pass. Advance party, fall back to where the defensive perimeter is stronger. You must hold off the insurgents as long as you can, while we get the cargo to safety."

Coordinates flashed across Anakin’s cybernetic contact lenses. It was quite a ways to retreat.

He glanced over at the vehicle. "Anyone left inside this thing?"

"Negative," said Holis. "Turret's fired remotely. You ready to head out?” Anakin nodded. “I'll cover you."

She signalled to the four soldiers with them, and they left the cover of the speeder. Holis and Anakin sprayed wildly at the enemies among the bioliths, as the team fell back.

It was odd to shoot at other humans. In prior exercises they'd fought wild beasts, and once faceless bipedal shades, but nothing that looked to Anakin to be so real. It made Anakin feel uncomfortable, but oddly amidst the smoke and noise, it was hard to feel like you were really aiming at anyone or anything; just the "them." It was chaos.

Several blasts took out the turret on the landspeeder. Now nothing but a giant paperweight, Anakin applied the force, hoisting the object up and hurtling it towards the source of blaster bolts amongst a group of bioliths. It wasn't something he could do in the real world, but in the sim he could pretend he was some sort of god. A jedi. The speeder crashed into several pillowing, rock pillars, tumbling several down, and silencing blaster fire.

 "Show off," complained Holis. "Why didn't you think of something more useful like moving the speeder around as portable cover to put between us and their bolts?"

"Hey, I didn't see you doing anything. And I can still do that." He reached out. The speeder rattled, wedged strongly amongst some rocks. Maybe not, then.

 "Anakin, watch your side!" Holis yelled. The insurgent force, observing their retreat, had come out of hiding and charged. Holis pulled on some loose rocks, and sent them tumbling toward the approaching enemy line, tripping up and making soldiers jump out of the way. With another motion, she pulled several rifles straight out of their hands.

Away from the cover, the enemies were easier to see. Anakin leveled his blaster on one of the incoming assailants, about to pull the trigger, when he froze. The moving target had a face resembling his brother Owen's. What was going on? He moved his blaster over and targeted another enemy -- it was his friend Garesh. He hesitated, and all went grey. He'd been taken out by enemy fire.

Within minutes, the sim was over. The stone forest turned a pale transparent blue, the vehicles disappeared, and Anakin and his classmates all appeared in front of a middle-aged man with a thick moustache and impeccable posture: Master Boril Hildebrant. The former Jedi knight commander was more intimidating than Anakin had expected, even when in sim. Did he work to be that prickly, or was it his natural demeanor?

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