"All Troopers and Droids," the officer said with a shaky voice, "Focus your fire on—gulp—on the Jedi!"
Had he not been a Jedi, Link would have been proud of the fear that he put into the Imperial officer. But Link stayed calm and stoic, staring down the frightened Imperial officer. His mission was to protect the Princess and ensure her escape to safety.
"We'll come back for you, Link," Impa said while leading Princess Zelda away from the fray, "Once again, may the Force be with you!"
Link silently thanked her, but stood still against the Stormtroopers and droids.
"What are you waiting for!? SHOOT HIM!" the Imperial officer shouted. The Stormtroopers and droids unleashed a barrage of blaster fire at him.
But Link deflected the blasts with his lightsaber and Jedi reflexes. Sparks exploded where the laser blasts hit, which Link angled away from the buildings. The laser blasts came in fast, but Link moved out of the way while keeping his lightsaber blade upright.
"GET HIM!" the officer shouted.
Link stopped, but kept deflecting the laser blasts as the battle droids rushed forward. This was going to be difficult. But he ran forward, swinging the lightsaber while deflecting the blasts and cut the lead droid to pieces. He pivoted and swung at the next, cutting it down to pieces, too. More droids came. He spun in his spot, taking more droids down and letting out a mighty cry.
More droids and blaster shots came. Link deflected the blaster shots onto the droids and simultaneously cut the next droid down. He thrust the tip of his blade into the next one, pulled it out and stabbed a droid that had snuck up behind him. He drew it out and cut down two more droids in front of him.
He ran forward, deflecting more blaster fire. Several more droids arrived, but Link cut them down, too. He turned his attention to the Stormtroopers. They ran up to him, blasters a-blazin'. He blocked the shots with his lightsaber, directing them away from the Stormtroopers. When they got close enough, he took a big swing and cut their blasters in half, then pushed them away using the Force.
More Stormtroopers ran up to him. He kept deflecting their blasts and jumped out of the way, using the Force as his springs. The Stormtroopers, who had obviously never fought a Jedi before, stood stunned and unable to comprehend what was going on. Link Force pushed the Stormtroopers away again, grabbing their blasters from their hands in the process.
"Why did I have to deal with the Jedi?" the Imperial officer sighed.
Link would have sympathized with him… if he was not obviously arrogant and sadistic, at least that's what he could gather from a mind reading using the Force. But Link quickly realized that arrogance came from experience.
"CALM DOWN!" he shouted, still thinking rationally despite his fear, "There is only one of him! Surround and DESTROY HIM!"
Link was scared. The Stormtroopers moved to surround him. In the heat of the moment, he jumped backwards, away from the gathering Stormtroopers. They still let loose a barrage of blaster fire, forcing Link to not only block the blaster fire, but jump out of the way of the blasts. The blaster shots, which were not carefully deflected, exploded on impact with the surrounding buildings.
"CEASE FIRE!" The Stormtroopers stopped shooting at Link. "What, did you honestly think I was going to be shaking in my boots and let you run all over my Stormtroopers and battle droids?" the Imperial officer taunted Link, "You Jedi are not as invincible as you think! TAKE AIM!"
Link raised his lightsaber, ready to do what he could. "FI—"
The white of a speeder engine interrupted the proceedings and blaster fire hitting the Stormtroopers saved Link. Link, get in! He heard through the Force. He immediately deactivated his lightsaber and jumped into the waiting landspeeder, closing the door and sitting up as Impa jammed down on the accelerator.
"The Princess was in that speeder!" the Imperial officer shouted. More blaster fire erupted, hitting the speeder, but it was not enough. "The Princess is escaping in a pink SoroSuub landspeeder," he said into his comm, "After her!"
Link was still catching his breath in the back seat while Impa maneuvered through the streets of Castleton. "Thanks, Impa," he said.
"You're welcome," she replied. Princess Zelda turned around in her seat, extending her hand to Link. "Apologies it took us so long."
"Thanks anyway," said Link. "Impa, how did you—"
"I'm wise in the ways of the Force," said Impa, "But I can't discuss that right now." She pointed backwards at a pair of Imperial speeder bikes that were in hot pursuit. "Hold on, I need to get to the freeway."
"What for?" he asked.
"The safety of the Princess is of utmost importance," said Impa. She banked the speeder on a hard right turn, finding the freeway with ease. "Link, use this!" she said, handing the blaster back to Link.
"So uncivilized," he said as he took it.
"You got any better ideas, kid?" Impa asked.
"Right, sorry!" He carefully lowered the window of the speeder and stuck his arm out. It was difficult to aim, but with the help of the Force, he was able to target one of the speeder bikes.
PEW, PEW, PEW! Three shots was all Link needed to bring down the first speeder bike, on the passenger side of the speeder. He shifted to the left-hand side of the speeder and pointed his blaster at the Imperial scout and speeder bike. Several shots from the bike made him duck, but he came back out and let off three more shots. These ones, however, missed.
"I should've known," Impa said. "Here, Zelda—there's charges in the glove box!"
"Glove box!?" Link asked. Zelda pulled them out and handed one to Impa. She rolled down the window and despite the high speeds, let one go. It exploded under the speeder bike, sending the rider flying. "How did you—"
"Don't ask, kid," said Impa.
"Impa, is there a secure channel in this speeder?" asked Zelda.
"Unfortunately, no," said Impa, "It seems all the military's communications have been knocked out save for old radios and holograms, but the Imperials are no doubt listening in."
"So what are we going to do!?" Link asked.
"Where we're going, we have that secure channel," said Impa.
"What about the AT-ATs?" asked Zelda.
"At the rate they walk?" Impa asked, "Nah, we'll outrun them easily."
"Actually, there is something that can catch us," said Link. Impa looked in her side mirror and sighed.
"TIE Fighter," she said sardonically, "Just what I asked for."
The TIE Fighter let off a burst of laser fire. The road exploded in several spots beside the speeder, forcing Impa to swerve out of the way, almost flinging the Princess and Jedi into the windows. "BUCKLE UP!" she screamed.
The TIE Fighter let off another burst. Impa sensed where the blasts were going and maneuvered out of the way to avoid them. The road exploded harmlessly behind them. But the TIE Fighter was still hot on their tail. It wasn't what Impa wanted to see. And Link knew they had no weapons that could stop that TIE Fighter!
Another roar could be heard coming from the south. An X-Wing, with S-foils open, sped right towards them, guns a-blazin'. The TIE Fighter's wing broke off, and it barreled out of control, crashing on the side of the road behind them.
Link sighed as the X-Wing positioned itself next to the speeder. Link could see the pilot, who was with the New Republic, saluting them. Zelda flashed a light at him, using light-code to tell him to back off. The pilot heeded her order and the X-Wing peeled away.
"So where are we going?" asked Link.
"The old Temple of the Goddess," said Impa, "It's hidden and safe from Imperial forces."
Commodore Jansen was frustrated. "First, the Republic's representative is a Jedi," he said, "Then, you let him decimate your droids and forces. Then you let the Princess escape!?"
The Stormtrooper commander from earlier stood tall and firm, but Jansen could see the man shaking ever-so-subtly. "I'm sorry, Commodore!" he said, "It will not—"
"It already happened!" Commodore Jansen interrupted angrily, "The only reason I'm not letting Lord al-Ghul Force Choke you is because you would have defeated him if given the chance, a strategy I must commend, by the way."
"Thank you, sir!"
"You're no fun," Lord al-Ghul hissed.
"I am not supposed to be fun," said Commodore Jansen.
"My Master will be—"
"Displeased, but now we have a beachhead on this planet," said Commodore Jansen, "I'm sure he will make an exception."
"Don't interrupt me!"
"And don't second-guess me unless your Master allows you to!" Commodore Jansen replied, getting in Lord al-Ghul's hood, "Go ahead, try to Force Choke me! Your Master will be most displeased!" Lord al-Ghul growled and looked away. "For now, we will have to process the Hyrulean prisoners. The ones who escaped will likely regroup and with the Princess on the run, she will no doubt be a symbol of resistance. And with the government out of the city and the King and his sons off-planet, that makes our job even harder. Oh, I wish Grand Admiral Thrawn was still alive."
"I heard he was cloned," said the Stormtrooper commander.
"That clone is dead," said Commodore Jansen. "But no matter. Commander, begin your search for the Princess. Lord al-Ghul, you will need to find the Triforce."
"I can probably find the Princess AND the Triforce," al-Ghul said with a sinister smile.
"Then I want multiple teams looking for both," said Commodore Jansen, "We only have a short window until Hyrulean and New Republic forces regroup and counterattack. Now GET MOVING!"
The Temple of the Goddess was 100 klicks outside of the Castleton city limits in a heavily forested rural area. The trio had to maneuver through the thick woods in the speeder until the stone façade of the Temple, complete with a smashed statue of the Goddess Hylia—of whom the Temple was built in honor of—resting on top of it.
Link looked in awe as he got out of the speeder, wondering just what the statue might have looked like in the past. It did not look as if it was destroyed during the Galactic Civil War—the damage and decay looked decades, maybe even centuries old. The moss and vegetation only seemed to prove this hypothesis, as did the pieces lifted from it and deposited nearby.
But the fact that Impa and Zelda came here only meant that the inside would be different.
Indeed it was. The inside was, despite being housed in crumbling ruins, very well kept-up. The paint looked fresh, it was dusted and the furniture was purely something only royalty could afford.
"This is where the Royal Family goes in the case of attack," Impa said, walking up to a computer console.
"No one except a select few are allowed to know about it," said Zelda, "We should be safe here."
"What about the secure channel?" asked Link.
"It's available here," said Impa.
"What are you going to do?" he asked again.
"Send a distress signal to the Republic," said Zelda, "And a warning to my father and brothers to stay off the planet."
"And what about a counterattack?" asked Link.
"I will inform the military that I am still alive via this channel," she said, "They will know what to do. Despite what it looks like, I am not that good when it comes to military strategy. Daphnes is the strategist."
"We also have enough supplies to last us for several months if we need it," said Impa, "The Temple was last restocked just two weeks ago."
"Well, I'm not surprised," said Link. "Will I be able to contact President Organa-Solo and Grandmaster Skywalker through that channel?"
"This is only to Hyrulean government and military," said Impa, "I doubt it."
"He can tell Pipit," said Zelda, "He can relay your message."
"Thank you very much," said Link.
It was in that moment that the events of the previous two days caught up to him. They'd felt like such a blur that he didn't know much of what was going on. He let out a deep sigh and sat down on the nearest chair, rubbing his face and composing himself as best he could. He was still breathing heavily, and he was still sweaty from the skirmish with the Stormtroopers earlier. No doubt he did not smell very good. He probably needed a clothes change, too.
But there were other questions he had to ask. "Impa, are you a Jedi, too?" he asked.
"How did you know?" asked Zelda.
"She reached out to me with the Force," he replied.
"No, I am not a Jedi," said Impa, "I am a Sheikah. Now, I know what you are going to ask, so let me remind you that there are other Force users besides the Jedi and Sith."
"I believe you," said Link. "Are there any more Sheikah left?"
"Sadly, I doubt it," said Impa, "We were especially targeted by the Empire because of our Force skills. I believe there's only a handful of us left. We've guarded the Royal Family from the shadows for centuries. But now it looks like we're nearly extinct."
Though she did not show it, Link sensed Impa's devastation. "You're not good at hiding your feelings," he said.
"And neither are you," she replied, "You were scared."
"I was not!"
"You're a terrible liar, too," said Impa.
"I'm new at this," Link said, sheepishly looking away from the glowering Sheikah, blushing brightly enough to catch Zelda's attention.
"You admitted it," said Impa, "That's good. With experience, that fear and nervousness will go away. But you can't let it control you."
"That's what Grand Master Skywalker told me," said Link.
"I have the utmost respect for him," said Impa, "But you need it drilled into your head—"
"Impa, could you please go outside and see if there are any Imperial fighters nearby?" Zelda interrupted.
"Yes, Your Majesty," Impa said before departing.
Zelda sat down near Link, rubbing her face and showing the stress that Link was already feeling. "My apologies for Impa," she said, "But she can be rather strict. When I was a little girl, she was cross with me for chasing after my father's pet womp rats."
Link should not have found it funny, but he did. "Thank you, Princess," he said, "I needed to laugh."
"So did I," she said. And now the full gravitas of the situation hit the both of them like a falling Rancor. "I just saw my planet's defenses fall in a matter of minutes. This is the worst day of my life."
To Link, what sounded like a typical adolescent complaint sounded… reasonable. "I'm sorry, Princess," he said, "I don't know what could have gone wrong."
"A lot went wrong," she said, "There was no one thing. But…" She rubbed her face and shuddered. Link could see her shaking and trying not to get emotional. But it was hard for anyone in this situation.
Link had always seen royalty from a distance. They always looked cold and distant. But here, he was sitting next to the Crown Princess of his homeworld, and she was showing Hylian emotion. It wasn't hard for him to feel empathy and sympathy for her. "I'm so, so sorry," he said.
"Stop apologizing," she said, "It's not your fault."
"Maybe we should discuss something other than the invasion," he said, "And the botched coronation."
"Botched!?" she laughed, "It went off perfectly, if you ask me! Are you saying it was botched because the party was cut short?"
"It was botched for me!" he replied, "I barely knew anyone!"
"For a Jedi, you sure get scared a lot!" said Zelda, "I thought fear was the path to the Dark Side!"
"Grand Master Skywalker said fear is a normal emotion," said Link, "It was how we faced our fears that prevented us from going to the Dark Side."
"Of course," said Zelda, "Grand Master Skywalker learned his lesson from the past. By the way, did I hear you taunting the Imperial commander?"
"Well, he never said it was—"
"It was a yes or no question, Greenwood."
"Yes, I did. He was scared, too."
"A Jedi using fear as a weapon," she said, "I don't know what to think about that."
"I'm sorry," he said, "I just learned differently from your average Jedi."
"I can see that," said Zelda, "I'm not sure if fear is a good weapon for a Jedi."
"Are you afraid?" he asked.
"Not of you," she replied, "But other than that, I am terrified."
"Why did you be so—"
"Honest? You're a Jedi, you could read my thoughts if you wanted to."
"I'm glad you're not afraid of me," he said, "I'll admit I was nervous around you, but—"
"Make one wrong move towards Her Highness and I'll throw you out of this Temple, laserbrain." Link jumped in his seat as Impa walked towards the two of them with an annoyed expression on her face.
"I wasn't doing a-anything, I was just getting to know—heh, heh, heh!"
"Now I KNOW you're scared of Impa," Zelda muttered.
"And you should be," said Impa, "Unlike Jedi, I CAN use fear as a weapon and not turn to the Dark Side."
"Nerf herder," Link muttered.
"What was that!?" Impa snapped.
"What do we do now, Impa?" asked Zelda.
"Now?" asked Impa, "We go on a quest."
"A QUEST!?" Link shouted, "Are you insane!? We need to—"
"Find the Triforce!" said Impa, "Did you forget why the Empire attacked Hyrule? We cannot let them have the Triforce!"
"Oh, right," said Link, "But how—"
"It is a legend, but there is a way to obtain the Triforce," said Impa, "You have to earn it."
"Courage, Wisdom, Power," said Impa, "Those are the three parts of the Triforce. If you show all of them, you will be rewarded with it. And to earn them, you will have to go on a quest to prove you have earned them."
"So when do we start?" asked Link.
"Technically, now," said Impa, "But we need to rest. All three of us will leave after breakfast tomorrow morning."