The Rebel Base had been abandoned, but only just. Darth Vader looked around at the room that had once been the control center. It was empty, which told him that the Rebels had had just enough time to evacuate before the Imperial fleet arrived.
The last group of Rebel ships had been forming up to make the jump to hyperspace as his fleet had arrived. Unfortunately, they had escaped before the Imperial fleet could hope to catch them.
Vader hadn’t sensed Luke among them, so he hadn’t been quite as enraged as he could have been. He’d ordered Admiral Piett to oversee the fleet while Vader himself joined the troops studying the remains of the rebel base.
Vader wasn’t sure why he felt the need to go down to the base, but he did. And now, after he’d visited the empty command center, he could feel the Force leading him onward. He gestured to two of the stormtroopers to come with him as he stalked into the hallway. He followed the proddings of the Force to another room. This one still had some equipment. It looked to have been some sort of exercise room. Why had the Force prodded him here? He looked around. In addition to a few weights, obviously left behind by accident, there were some bright yellow balls of some type.
Actually, Vader could remember seeing those yellow balls in most of the areas of the Rebel Base he had visited today. None of the other previous abandoned bases had those balls. They were something new. He gestured, and one of them shot up in the air toward him. Less than a second later, the Force screamed a warning at him, and he banished it toward the far wall. Just in time, because it detonated, leaving a large cloud of the something the same yellow color the ball had been.
Vader was suddenly glad for his mask as he stared, wide-eyed, at the sudden mess. He could feel the stormtroopers shock.
“Commander,” Vader said into his comm. “Beware the yellow balls.”
“Yes milord,” Commander Antilles- no relation to the rebel that flew with Luke- said. “We just discovered that they are some form of explosive.”
“Exactly,” Vader said. “Have the troops fall back to the landing zone.”
He turned to his escort. “Be cautious,” he ordered. “Let’s go.”
He could now hear muffled explosions in the distance as his men disturbed the yellow explosives.
Strangely, he didn’t feel any deaths in the Force, just a lot of shock and disgust. He was one of the last to arrive at the LZ, and he stared at the men there for a moment. Most of the troopers were covered in yellow, and two of the officers seemed to be having sneezing fits. “Commander?” he asked. The ships had somehow been surrounded by more of the explosive devices in the time he had been in the base.
Antilles grimaced. “It’s… pollen, milord.” he said.
“Yes milord,” Antilles said. “It gathers in clumps, then when disturbed, the energy in the pollen clumps is apparently enough to make it explode. The pollen is also very sticky, and only falls off with vigorous movement. Lieutenant Yackn believes this…”
Vader gestured and the commander fell silent. “Exploding pollen,” Vader said. “Well, I suppose anything in this galaxy is possible.” He glared at the large number of pollen balls around the ships. “And there is no way back to the ships without disturbing a large number of them, is there commander?”
Vader would have sighed, had his respirator allowed it. “Very well.”
Vader would have preferred to never remember the next few minutes. It was like the worst of the war, without anyone to destroy. His troops were jumpy, trying to aim at every explosion. He and the stormtroopers were wearing filters, but more and more of the officers were succumbing to allergy fits. The air had taken on a distinctly yellow haze. Finally, he was in his shuttle, and his troops were all in their transports.
The shuttle was covered in pollen. He was going to find pollen in the corners for months. He sighed as he connected to the Executor. “Admiral,” he said. “Have decontamination units standing by. All planet bound personal will need to go through decontam. It appears that the Rebel Base was located on a planet entering spring season. The pollen appears to be highly allergenic. Have medics with antihistamine injections standing by as well.”
“Yes milord,” Piett replied. Vader could feel his curiosity from here, but the good thing was the man would never ask.
“The pollen was also explosive, Admiral,” Vader said. “I judged that we were not going to get any other information from the base, and the pollen was only going to get worse. No deaths, but there are some allergy casualties among the officers. Most of the stormtroopers will likely need new helmet filters, as well.”
“Of course, milord,” Piett said.
They landed shortly, and Vader waited on his shuttle until the last of the troopers had entered the decontamination area.
Vader would have groaned as he looked down at himself. He was, like every other person who had been down on the planet, covered in the bright yellow pollen.
With a wordless growl, he headed for the decontamination suites. It wouldn’t do to have this menace spread through his ship.
He was going to need a new filter for his respirator as well, he just knew it. And he had to give orders to have the ships all thoroughly cleaned, inside and out.
At least now he knew why the rebels had left the planet.