PDA

View Full Version : Star Wars: Tapestry, Volume III



Pages : [1] 2

I. J. Thompson
02-20-2011, 09:19 AM
(Note: Each volume of Star Wars: Tapestry contains 500 in-character posts. However, due to a couple recent moves, Volume III has been broken into three parts: the first 108 posts have since been deleted from the Wizards of the Coast 'Star Wars' boards, but have been preserved and will appear in the complete Volume III pdf. The next 124 posts can be found here (http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/group.php?discussionid=631&do=discuss).

As of January 2014, this game has almost reached its conclusion (and is likely to slightly exceed the 500 post limit). After the final post is made, all will be combined into a proper pdf of the complete Volume III. And now, back to the story! :) )

Fingon
02-24-2011, 07:11 PM
The boarding ramp shuddered and let out of loud hiss, then slowly began to lower. Immediately a familiar damp odor fled into the room, itching Dante’s nostrils with memories. Not old ones, either. A few seconds later the ramp was fully down, revealing a dirty landing pad, littered with run-down machinery, framed against purple blue sky. Dante sucked in a deep breath, letting the world’s air fill his lungs again.

Nothing had changed. And why should it? It had only been half a year.

He strode down the ramp.

“Welcome to Junction City,” Dante said as Bear caught up with him.

Bear was craning his neck around, trying to take in as much of this new planet as quickly as he could. “Gosh, it’s. . .”

“Run down?”

“Well, yeah,” Bear admitted, with a nod.

“That’s Junction,” Dante replied with a wry smile. “It was a trading hub years ago. Now it’s just a rest stop. Good people here, though.”

“I heard this used to be really rich, really wealthy, you know? Hutt traders and bands and mercenaries and everything else.”

“It did. You still have nice places here. A lot of the old building have been abandoned now, but before Junction was a jewel here in the outer rim.”

It also used to be home.

“C’mon, let’s get going,” Dante said and led the way off the landing pad. “We need to transfer the patients to the hospital.”

“And afterwards?” Bear asked as they walked.

“I know a few places we can stay.”

I. J. Thompson
02-26-2011, 12:12 AM
There was only darkness. Darkness, and cold.

The cold was nearly absolute, and it clung to the Dawncaller's interior like an unshakable curse. Dimly visible by the meager starlight that barely penetrated the transport's canopy, tiny ice crystals floated about the Dawncaller's interior like pollen, unbound by the laws of gravity.

For gravity had been the first system to go. Floating in The Whirl nebula with no direction and a dwindling power supply, the Dawncaller's main computer had been forced, in the interest of energy conservation, to make the hard choices. And its tiny mechanical mind had decided that gravity, compared to more critical systems like heat and light, must be sacrificed first.

So objects floated about the craft, like so many mindless aquatic animals. A stylus. A cup. A leather glove. Flecks of dirt. All barely visible in the darkness. Barely visible because, of course, the Dawncaller's problem of dwindling power hadn't been solved by the cancellation of artificial gravity. The ship's rudimentary computer had watched power levels recede even further, as the days went by, and become convinced that a second system needed to be shut down. In this instance, that system was light.

And without it, the interior of the Dawncaller became impossibly, unthinkably black. The only light was provided by the stars and the vague, morphing colours of The Whirl nebula, distantly visible out the cockpit glass, whose rays feebly did their best to illuminate the craft's bridge, wherein billions of ice crystals, floating among the more solid debris, did their own best to reflect those rays about the frozen chamber.

Frozen because, with power dwindling to nothing and no assistance in sight, the Dawncaller's little computer had been forced to make the hardest decision of all: maintain heat, warmth, the giver of life to any organics who may be aboard, or use that power to sustain its own operation. The decision was not an easy one, but finally the computer had decided that, given the presence of several perfectly serviceable vacuum suits aboard, it should preserve itself, to facilitate communication with any craft that might come in rescue.

And so, the heat was turned off. The computer, sadly, would never know if it had made the right decision; two short hours after the temperature controls were disengaged, the power was drained completely, and the computer went to sleep forever. Now, nothing stirred aboard the Dawncaller but the last gasps of air that her oxygen tanks had been able to spit out.

And the millions of ice crystals. Crystals emerging from the nose and mouth of a dark shape that rested in the pilot's chair, motionless. The shape had not stirred from the chair, and thus, had not been sent spinning about the cabin in the zero-gravity - and could not now, as it was securely fastened in place by tendrils of frozen condensation, icy ropes tying it to the pilot's seat.

Light.

It came from nowhere, it came from everywhere. It turned the bridge of the Dawncaller from what it was, to the exact opposite of what it had been. It reached into the ocular receptors, and from there the mind, of the shape, the girl, who sat in the pilot's chair. Fiola Shaku.

Fiola raised her head slightly, and the sound of ice breaking was like crashing cymbals in the former silence. The ice on her neck, her body. The clumps of ice in her hair, rattling and jingling like a chandelier. The droplets of ice floating about her in the zero-gravity cabin, bouncing off one another in reaction to her sudden movement. A cacophony. A symphony. In any event, the exact opposite of the silence Fi had known for countless days.

And the light!

Fiola raised a hand, breaking (shattering! Smashing!) more ice to do so, and raised it, fingertips blackened by the cold, in front of her face. The shadows it cast upon that frozen face, eyes nearly stuck shut with ice crystals, were a revelation.

Fi tried to vocalize, to talk to the light. All that emerged from her frozen throat was a weak clicking sound. She tried again.

"Hunh..."

The blinding, impossible light out the cockpit glass moved a little, side to side, then slightly closer.

"Hunh..." Fi said again, much more weakly this time. Who was she kidding? This was it. The light was here. The light was beautiful.

There was an impossibly loud clanging sound, and the Dawncaller shuddered as a result of it. Fi didn't feel either. She had breathed the very last of the vessel's bottled air. Its last gift to her.

She was done.

Ice Hawk
03-06-2011, 06:56 AM
Reil woke up in an unfamiliar bed, in an unfamiliar apartment, with a pounding headache.
Well at least that part’s familiar he thought wryly to himself as he rolled out of the bed rubbing his temples. He was pleasantly surprised to find that he was still wearing yesterday’s clothes, and would not have to spend a good fifteen minutes looking for his pants. Things are looking up already.

He strode into the apartments common area, to find Cali unconscious on a couch, in front of a holoplayer, after consuming what could generously be called only an eighth of her weight in surgary treats.

It was muted, but the light’s from the monitor still played over her while she slept. Zealos turned the player off, and surveyed the apartment. He was confronted by its sparseness, as it contained, aside from the couch Cali was passed out on, a small table with one chair to it, and very little else. Papers and clothes littered odd bits of the floor, and the beige-ish walls were surprisingly bare. The kitchen was relatively clean, but that was more from neglect, than any sort of active maintenance on the part of the owner.

Reil went into the kitchen with a serious intent to forge some form of breakfast. As he looked into the refrigeration unit, he mused that this was probably Steve’s apartment. There was a certain lack of furniture in the house, and a small shrine to the deities of take out in the fridge, that screamed bachelor. What real food Stephen had in his fridge sported several different types of mold. Zealos gave up on breakfast and lowered his sights to just making caf.

As Reil washed the caf pot, he splashed some of the water on his own face and tried to remember last night. There had been drinking, and arguing, which was par for the course in the Reil family. He and Stephen had been in the bar waiting for Cali. Cali had been late; Reil couldn’t even remember her coming in at all.

As the caf brewed, Zealos looked out the apartment’s window, and saw the whole town bathed in orange, as the sun finally set. He checked his chrono, it was almost noon, local time. They were running behind. He made his way back into the living room, and tried to wake Cali.
Reil gently tried rousing her but she mumbled something and rolled to face away from the intrusion on her sleep.

“Cali, wake up.” Zealos intoned, more strongly this time. Cali groaned as she struggled towards consciousness.

“Reil?” she asked groggily.

“ ‘S me. Come on, get up. We gotta find Stephen and be on our way ‘afore too long today. Where is he anyhow?”

Cali sat up, rubbing her eyes.
“He left with a waitress. Or, you know, more like she left with him. You were both pretty far out of it, and she seemed to know him. She gave me showed me where his place was, and told me about the key card under the mat.”

Reil tried to process this new information.
“You let a strange woman carry my brother off against his will?”

“It wasn’t against his will!” Cali protested, “It just wasn’t with his explicit consent either. . . I wasn’t gonna let her take him, but he was heavy, and I barely got you up those stairs and-”

Reil smiled and sat down beside her on the couch.
“It’s fine. You didn’t happen to get this waitresses name did you?”

Cali shook her head mutely and Zealos sighed.
“Well, I’m sure he’s fine, and happier for her taking him, but we’ve gotta get a move on.”

Cali got up and stretched.
“What’s your rush anyhow? I didn’t think you’d be eager to go back to your folks’ place.”

“I’m not. Time’s come that with leave Cold Water in the dust, but we’ve gotta do it today.”

“What’s so special about today?”

Zealos fought the urge to lay on the couch, and drift into comatose his own self.

“Last ferry before the rivers’ freeze leaves tonight, and we’ve gotta be on it.”

Cali looked at Reil skeptically.
“Freezing water? It was like fifty degrees out there yesterday, that water’s not going to freeze.”

Reil groaned.
“Cali, I grew up here alright? Just trust me when I say that the river is going to freeze, and we need to catch this ferry.”

“Fine, it’s fifty degrees out, and the water is going to freeze over. Where’s this ferry taking us anyway?”

“River settlement, called Twillingate. And then we’ll be off this rock, and on to better things.”

“Like what?” Cali challenged.

“I don’t know, but anything’s better than this.”

Cali grinned slyly.
“I dunno about that. You and Steve seemed to have a real good time last night. When I picked you guys up you could hardly stand.”

Reil cocked an eyebrow at Cali.
“We were having a good time, what about you?”

“What about me?”

“I recall that we were in that bar waiting for you. You were gonna watch the holo one more time while we had a few drinks. You could have watched it three more times, we were waiting so long.”

“I. . .lost track of time.” Cali admitted bashfully, “It was still light out though!”

Zealos rubbed his temples.
“Cali, it’s been light out for the three days we’ve been here, why would you be using that as your point of reference?”

“It got dark after dinner with your folks.” Cali insisted.

Zealos shook his head in bemusement.
“No it didn’t.”

“Yes it did. There were windows all over the house, and it got dark after we finished dinner.”
Realization dawned of Zealos.

“Oh, that. No the windows auto-tint.”

“They what?”

“They get dark at certain points of the day. Most homes have them, ‘cause of Taanab’s weird rotation.”

Cali eyed Zealos suspiciously.
“What do you mean by weird rotation?”

“ It’s about forty days long. . .”

“You can’t grow crops on a planet that has a day night cycle of forty days! That’s lunacy, there is now way agriculture could survive such extreme temperatures!” Cali declared.

“And yet. . . they farm.” Zealos gestured out towards the window, where barely past the town’s limits were rows upon rows of large wheat fields. “I dunno Cali, which is more likely, that you’re right, and all of these people have struggled fruitlessly for generations to get a crop out of this environmental nightmare of a planet, or that you’re wrong, and it just works.”

“It works out to be about 28 days of sun, and twelve days of total darkness, there’s no way a harvest can survive that!”

“Well boy, they sure had me fooled. It’s a good thing the girl from the desert planet where they farm moisture out of the air because it’s so inhospitable set me straight on the necessities of an agricultural planet. Why don’t you run downstairs, and share your theory with the rest of the town. It’s fine, I’ve got to wait for Stephen anyway, so we’ve got some time.”

Cali scowled, and stuck out her tongue.
“Well this is just great. I’m on a boring planet with a weird rotation. This detour of yours just gets better and better.”

“You’ll like Twillingate.”

“Why will I like Twillingate?”

“ ‘Cause I like Twillingate, and if you keep whining, I’m gonna pitch you off the ferry.”

“Provided we can get to the ferry at all.”

“Exactly. Now where the frell is Stephen?”

Cali sat on the arm of the couch.
“Do I have time to make breakfast, or do we need to start knocking on doors to find this waitress?”

“We’ve got time, just no food. There’s a pot of caf on, and it should be done by now.”

Cali wordlessly went into the kitchen. A few minutes later, she returned with two big mugs of black caf. Zealos took one from her, and nooded silently in thanks. They sat there in silence for a few minutes, and just as Reil was about to get up and get ready to look for his missing sibling, Stephen managed to drag himself through the front door.

I. J. Thompson
03-06-2011, 10:12 AM
The infirmary was serviceable, if not entirely antiseptic. Medical equipment covered every available surface, punctuated here and there by bandages, towels, and other implements of the trade. Over these presided a Too-Onebee medical droid, who worked contentedly in silence. Its steel chassis was painted a dull maroon, the colour of dried blood. This was not an aesthetic choice, but a practical one.

The droid looked at the nearby bacta tank, recently vacated, and set the device to drain its spent liquid contents and fill itself with a fresh supply. With that process in motion, the mechanical doctor strode to the bedside of the patient who had been plucked from the tank, once more checking her bandaged hands and feet. The patient, still dripping with bacta solution and emerging reluctantly from unconsciousness, groaned softly at the prodding. The medical droid noted her condition, and brightened slightly at the prospect of having someone to talk to.

"Ah, Miss Shaku," it greeted her in a deep monotone, "welcome back to Mull Station. I am pleased to report that, despite your injuries, you are alive."

The patient (Fiola Jean Shaku, Musician of Lord Obar Mull's Court, the droid had been told) didn't respond, but that was not to be unexpected. Her injuries had been severe. Thinking further, the droid opted to continue with its positive assessment of the situation.

"It will please you to know that, despite the extensive damage you sustained in the freezing, all of your anatomy has been preserved. Thanks to the bacta, the amputation of your extremities will not be necessary."

No response.

"However," the droid cautioned, not knowing what else to say, "I cannot advise you to expect to regain more than the most basic of motor functions. It is doubtful that you will ever be able to play the mandoviol again."

The prognosis garnered no immediate reaction. Her mind elsewhere, if it was anywhere at all, Fiola simply stared off into empty space. Then she raised herself up from the cot as best she could, propping herself up on her elbows, and spit directly into the robot's face.

The medical droid studied her another moment, then reached for one of the nearby towels, with which it dabbed at the fluid running down its steel visage.

"Are you upset?" it asked her. "Would you like a sedative?"

"I hate you," Fi rasped. "I've always hated you. Get scrapped. Get spaced. Die."

The Too-Onebee did its best to look concerned, making a mental note about the patient as it did so. "Interesting," it observed. "You believe that we have met before?"

"Shut up."

Although not well-versed in human psychology, the droid was accustomed to following orders. Thankful for a brief rest and recharge, it shut down.

Her tiny allotment of energy spent, Fi collapsed back onto the cot and did the same.

Fingon
03-07-2011, 03:37 PM
As Dante had already discovered, being dead did have certain advantages. However, having to avoid certain people so as to remain dead was not one of them. And going back to a city you had lived for nearly half a decade did not help.

“And I thought this was a good idea because. . ?” Dante muttered to no one in particular. At least the surgery had changed enough that he really was not the same person. Not legally, and apparently not to the casual viewer, either. It had not even been two hours after disembarking before Dante had encountered a sentient he had known (had “he” really known her? It was all terribly confusing), at a store no less. Dante had frozen and quickly began to contemplate the fastest way to leave the planet, but the Ithorian did not give him a second glance. It was a good thing they had only been casual acquaintances.

Careful. That was what Dante needed to be. Careful until he was safely off world again. But as long as he was careful, there was plenty that Dante had in mind to accomplish before he set off again. Things to check up on, places to see, maybe even a discreet visit or two. Granted, whole sections of the city would be off-limits, and if he was not careful it would mean another galaxy of trouble on his head. But that was not the worst part. The worst part was—

“So,” Bear said, interrupting Dante’s thoughts, “explain to me again how you lived here, but you don’t know anyone.”

That was the worst part. As usual.

“It was a while ago, and I wasn’t here for a long time, Bear.”

“Uh-huh,” came Bear’s unconvinced rebuttal, “I just don’t believe that in your time hear you didn’t meet anybody. Not friends, no enemies, not even just some buds down at the cantina? You worked here, didn’t you? You gotta know somebody.”

“I don’t want to talk about it, Bear. It was a long time ago and a lot’s changed since then.”

Bear shot his companion a sidelong glance. “You freak me out when you say things like that, you know. Makes me worry that something bad’s gonna happen and you just aren’t telling me about it.”

Dante nearly winced. It stung. It was the truth.

“Just. . . just trust me with this, Bear. As far as we are concerned, I don’t know anyone here.”

Bear sighed, his complexion troubled. “All right,” he said after a pause. “I’ll trust you, Atiles. And I won’t press you about it.”

Thank you, thought Dante, I’m sorry you got dragged into this, Bear. It wasn’t my choice.

I. J. Thompson
03-07-2011, 05:36 PM
"Do you want to talk about it?"

"Talk about what?"

Kappa tried his best to not look insulted by the question. It was relatively easy, given his impassive Duro features. But the insult still stung; clearly, there was plenty to talk about.

He was about to press the matter when Obar Mull's Morseerian bartender arrived, tray in one of several hands, with his drink. And with his companion's... third? Fourth?

"Duro Sunrise, gentlesir," the bartender announced in his strange, jittery language, placing the glass of orange fluid on the table. He then plonked another shot of lum down in front of the Duro's companion, sneered slightly, and moved off. Kappa watched him go, then turned back to the being slumped on the other side of the table.

"You almost died out there, Fi. Everybody's talking about it. Some people are saying you're too dumb to come back to port when your vessel's power levels are flat-lining."

The girl didn't meet her bandmate's gaze, merely stared into the newly-arrived spirit in its tiny glass.

"I guess I must be pretty dumb, then."

Kappa watched the girl reach out slowly, with her two bandaged hands, and lift the glass to her lips. She gulped the liquid down awkwardly, some of it dribbling down her chin. This she wiped away absently, soaking one of the bandages.

"Only, I know differently, see?" Kappa pressed on. "I know that you went directly to the co-ordinates of that Star Destroyer. Force knows why you did that, but you did. So... they did something to you, right?" His blue brow furrowed in puzzlement. "They drained your power, or something... and left you for dead?"

Fi laughed despite herself, and nodded condescendingly. "Yep, you're a regular prime-time holo detective, Kappa. They 'drained my power'." She snorted rudely, and motioned to the bartender for another shot.

Kappa ignored the insult, opting instead to change the subject. "Is it true you won't be able to play no more?"

Fi said nothing, merely held up her bandaged hands and frowned despondently.

"But," the Duro offered, "you can still sing, right?"

"Do I look like I have something to sing about?" Fi half shouted, drawing looks from the surrounding tables. And a few muffled chuckles.

Kappa shot a stern look at their audience, who took the hint and turned back to their drinks.

"So..." he concluded, "the band breaks up again, huh?"

"So the band breaks up again."

Surprising him, Fi held his gaze for the first time since he'd joined her at the table. "You'll tell Zoot?"

"I saw him earlier," Kappa reported dutifully. "He's, uh, 'in orbit' at the moment. I'll find him and let him know tomorrow."

"Right."

It was Kappa's turn to frown now, as he watched his bandmate, his friend, blearily try and pick up the new glass of lum that had just been placed in front of her.

"I'll respect your reasons, Fi, whatever they may be," he said. "But I want you to know something: you're not the only one who's suffered a near-death experience of late." He pointed toward his leg, or rather, to the place where the leg that had been blown off in Jason Greysands' recent attack on Mull Station should have been. "But the difference between you and me is, I want things to get good again...

"What do you want?"

Fi stopped fumbling with her little glass, looked the Duro straight in the eye, and smiled coldly. "What I wan," she slurred, "is for you to push off and let me drink in peace. Unnerstan?"

Kappa stared back at the girl, his features unreadable. Then he dropped a few coins on the table, thumbed his hoverseat to life, and glided out of Fi's sight and awareness.

Fi set back to work picking up her drink.

I. J. Thompson
03-08-2011, 04:53 PM
"Wake up."

The table shuddered from the sharp impact, causing the side of Fi's face to bounce painfully off its surface. She opened her eyes only slightly, reluctantly, corneas burning under the glare of the chamber's not-terribly-bright lights. Around her, the portside bridge of Mull Station spun dizzyingly, dangerously.

The formidable hunk of flab who stood above her appeared impervious to the relentless spinning, though his expression painted the picture of a man who was anything but pleased.

"If you're quite finished stinking up my bridge," the obese crimelord announced, his voice a dozen hammers inside Fi's head, "It's high time we see you off."

Fi tried dazedly to get a grip on her surroundings, to put a stop to the spinning. How long had she been here, in her employer's audience chamber/bridge? How long since her conversation with Kappa had taken place? Hours? Days? Time, for Fiola Shaku, had lost much of its meaning recently.

"Obar, you sunovagun..." Fi mumbled, trying to be charming. Failing. "I'm justa be sleepin' for a bit... I'm nuh botherin' nobody..."

"You're bothering me, wretch!" Mull answered her harshly. "Due to your recent excursion, I've lost a valued entertainer... and gained a worthless, slobbering drunk in exchange. That is a bad trade, do you understand?"

Fi didn't appear to be listening. "Shhh..." she replied with a sad grin. "I'm jus gonna sleep a lil more..."

Obar, chubby fists resting on giant hips, shook his head in disgust. "Not on my station, you're not. Lads."

Fi felt her stomach flip-flop as she was hoisted into the air by two of Obar's cronies, who carried the girl closer, but not too close, to the massive criminal.

"Ever since I was kind enough to have my people retrieve you from the jaws of death," Obar Mull said, "you've nearly drunk me dry, and done nothing in return but take up space. I simply cannot abide useless people."

"I'm fff..." Fi tried to reply, but forgot what she was saying as she was saying it.

"I want you off this station. At once. Incidentally, I had your Dawncaller restocked and made spaceworthy, back when we brought you in. You can count yourself lucky on that score," he scowled. "Had I known what you were going to turn into, I'd not have bothered."

Obar looked down at the deck, doing his best to hide his disappointment. He'd really liked Fi.

"If you can somehow find a way to make yourself useful again, I may - oh, for..."

The fat man felt his fists clench as he looked again at the girl, who had passed out entirely in the hands of his two heavies. She hadn't heard a word.

"Get her out of here."

I. J. Thompson
03-09-2011, 11:38 PM
The rhythms of the ship couldn't be called comforting, but they were at least constant. The steady basso thrum of the engines, currently idling. The counterpoint tick, tick, tick of something within the inner workings of the refrigeration unit. The gentle tones of a Sakiyan wind chime, intentionally hung too near the air circulator by Inex Jonn, now dead, back when the craft had been called the Skalen II... before it had been renamed the Dawncaller.

Dawncaller.

Fiola listened to the sounds, alone here in the crew lounge, just as she had done for the last couple of hours. The vessel was, once again, floating inert here in The Whirl nebula like so much stellar debris. Of course, it was only a matter of time before patrols from nearby Mull Station arrived to run her off. But for now, Fi was alone, and the galaxy was quiet.

Yet, not quiet enough.

She sat there, in the near-quiet, staring blankly at the lounge table in front of her. Two objects rested upon it. At her left hand, a freshly-prepared mug of piping hot spiced tea. Her favourite kind, untouched. At her right, her blaster pistol, lying on the table like a lump of stupidity. Obscenely, one of the only objects in the galaxy that could make good on the promises it made.

And of course, the sounds around her.

Fi reached out a hand. It was her left hand, still bandaged, and with it she picked up the cup of spiced tea, feeling its heat through both the cup and her bandages. She watched the steam rise, and breathed in its vapours. Then, slowly, she turned the cup over, spilling its contents across the table. Blankly, she watched the tea spread outward from the point of impact, swirls of steam dancing across its surface. Some of the liquid approached her side of the table, spilling off the edge and into her lap, soaking through her pants. It felt hot.

Fi put the cup down. That was tea. She picked up the blaster in her right hand and pressed it against her cheek, lining up the barrel with the centre of her skull. Tea would go where tea would go, but the contents of the blaster would travel exactly where Fi intended them to.

Simplicity.

Silence.

She sat there, for a time, blaster pressed against her cheek. Then she put the weapon down, staring at it. It didn't know what purpose she'd asked it to serve. It didn't know anything. It simply lay there, waiting to be fired in any one of a billion different directions.

By someone braver than she.

Fi sat for a time, thinking thoughts of her own. Then she rose from the lounge seat, pushing cup and weapon off the table and onto the cold deck plating, and walked briskly toward the Dawncaller's cockpit.

Fingon
03-11-2011, 09:26 PM
“I still think we should have gotten the model with a nav unit. These streets are more confusing than Nar Shadda, and trust me, Nar Shadda ain’t a walk in the park.”

“We’ll be fine, Bear. They were going to charge 70 credits for it, and besides, we don’t need it. I know the city.”

And indeed he did. Junction had been the closest thing to home the man named Dante had known since the academy. Ten years ago, that had been. Afterward, from planet to planet, trying to forget the lessons Imperial training had taught him. Finally he had come here. Not a luxurious location by any stretch of the imagination, but there was always work for a physician, and after a few years it started to feel like home. Until some false allegations from a second rate Imperial investigator came; then it was all over. Again. It had not mattered in the slightest that the charges were flagrantly fabricated, the Empire needed to make an example of “Rebel sympathizers” and shut down his practice. Then it was off to Boz Pity to get away from things. . . Dante batted away the thought as he would a stinging insect.

Then everything went wrong.

But this was a new start, or so he had told himself a thousand times. A fresh beginning. A clear record, one which he needed to keep clean. Where he could avoid any conflict with the Empire that had taken everything he held dear.

But how he longed to even the score. Revenge. . . it gnawed at his bones and haunted his dreams. It consumed his thoughts until he drowned his rage with wine, then it left for a while. But it always found its way back. There was no reason or method in it; he just wanted to hurt what had hurt him.

Taking in a deliberate, deep breath, Dante eased his white-knuckled fingers into a relaxed grip on the speeder’s controls. Not now, he thought¸ I can’t think of this now. He fixed his eyes on the serpentine path ahead of him, navigating from memory. It was just a few klicks more to where they were staying; the crewmen were already in the clinic, they had a week to stay here. First, to the hotel. There was a side street right here that would cut off a few minutes. He’d been on it a thousand times, it was right where-

Too late, Dante realized his mistake. That he had been on this street a thousand times was no exaggeration. He considered throwing the speeder into a hard turn and retreating back the way they had come, but he kept his course steady. He wanted to see this.

The speeder brought him over the familiar bends and dips in the road. He saw the new high rise some hopeful company had installed a few years before, the factory which had been abandoned for as long as anyone could remember, the marshy field that the local children loved to muddy themselves in, the hideous housing development that sat right on the corner, and then. . . there it was. Humble, one story with a basement, walls that used to be blue, double doors crafted with a coreworld decor, the pathetic tree that should have died decades ago still putting out new, feeble growth. It was all there.

My house.

Except now the windows were tinted and there was an eviction notice printed in bold letters on a sign by the road.

“Hey, what’re we slowing down for? We making a stop here?”

Dante quickly throttled the speeder up to velocity. “No, I just thought I saw something I recognized.”

I. J. Thompson
03-13-2011, 05:18 PM
The planet was here, pretty much right where she'd left it.

Fiola felt the ship shudder a few times as the hyperdrive disengaged, then she started the sublight engines and sped the Dawncaller toward the brightly-coloured ball that hung in the void outside the cockpit glass. How little the world had changed, in six-or-so long months. How completely Fi herself had changed in the same time. She thought back to her life before it all. Before him. She tried, at least. It was someone else's life, not her own. And somewhere back down the trail, it had already ended.

The orbital station was nowhere to be seen, though of course it might have been on the other side of the world. Fi was unconcerned. She expected no resistance, and she found none.

The globe's flat colours became peaks and valleys as Fi brought the Dawncaller into the atmosphere. The ship's computers held no topographical data on the planet, and of course there were no settlements. Fi engaged the sensors, setting their search parameters for metals, electronics, radiation. The sensors were quick in returning a result; across the entire world, there was only one such signature.

The ship flew over wide, swaying fields and through verdant canyons, while indigenous creatures looked up, startled by unexpected mechanical sounds. The Dawncaller then entered a valley, and Fi's heart leapt into her throat as she saw, wedged into the earth below, the marker she'd been looking for.

It was a ship. Or had been, some would say. It lay on one side, crashed and unsalvageable. The earth and foliage around it were scorched, as was the mile-long divot it had created in the earth behind it as it had skidded to its final resting place.

The Destiny's Light. The name seemed almost funny, now.

Fi brought the Dawncaller down at the edge of the clearing, near the derelict. She then sat motionless in the pilot's chair for a time, thinking. Her solution lay here, and was indisputable. Nothing would change it. Maybe that was why she hesitated. But the time for hesitation was done.

The ship's boarding ramp lowered, and Fi strode down it. Already she felt her hair grow heavy and her clothing begin to stick as the humidity enveloped her. Around her, the breeze whispered through flowers and trees of brilliant reds, oranges, and purples. A bird called in the distance, an anonymous greeting. It was, then and now, the most beautiful place Fi had ever seen.

Burista.

Fi walked further into the clearing, a stand of gaily-coloured jungle foliage on one side, the broken hulk of the Destiny's Light on the other. Tam had crashed it

don't don't don't don't

Tam.

Tam had crashed it. He hadn't been a good pilot. He'd survived, though, as had Fi and the other passengers. He'd survived. It had taken more than a starship crash to kill Tamander Dawncaller.

It had taken Fi to do it.

Fi turned her eyes from the Destiny's Light, and toward the gathering rain clouds. It often rained here. That, she could depend on. Among other things.

Fi sat down in the tall grass, cross-legged, and inhaled deeply. The air was, again, impossibly sweet. Fi sucked the scent in greedily, hungrily. It coursed into her lungs, and from there her bloodstream, where it was already working its peculiar brand of magic. Fi enjoyed the sensation as much as she could.

For she was finally going to pay the price. She'd been unwillingly rescued from the cold of space. And her blaster, simple instrument of death that it was, had a trigger she'd found herself unable to pull. But now, the decision was out of her hands - and anyone else's, as well. In two or three hours, the magic of Burista's unique flora would begin to take hold. The frightening, exhilarating whoosh-ing sound would return to her ears, and her blood would run hot. She would forget the difference between right and wrong, and would become slave to her new lustful, carnivorous programming. A few more hours after that, Fi supposed, and her mind would be completely eradicated. She would live out her final hours as a mindless predator, likely to be consumed by one of Burista's larger ones. It was the law of the jungle.

She cried a little. She thought about Tam. She wondered if she would meet him again.

The clouds continued to gather, as distant thunder echoed and little drops of rain began to fall. Fi opened her eyes and looked at the beauty of it all. It was a relatively good way to go, considering.

From between the sparse raindrops, an object approached. It was not, thank the Force, a man, come to save her. It was just a shape. A circle. Small, white. Floating. It came nearer, and chirped weakly.

Fi blinked in surprise, and rose to her knees in the tall grass. The object, the creature, came closer. Barely larger than her fist, hair matted and beginning to soak in the coming rain, it looked at Fi hopefully and chirped again.

"Muh..." Fi stuttered. "Mr. Mace?"

The creature squealed slightly, and floated eagerly into her grasp. Fi held the fabool gently, examining him. Mr. Mace appeared to be his old friendly, docile self. Clearly, the effect of Burista's plants and flowers had no effect on him. Malnutrition certainly did, though, as the little creature was noticeably lighter and bonier than Fi remembered him, and considerably less buoyant. Mr. Mace, her deceased love Tam Dawncaller's former pet, cooed happily at being held.

Fi laughed despite herself, in the now pouring rain.

"Well, come on then, little fella," she said, and stood up. Turning, she began walking through the tall grass, toward the Dawncaller.

"Let's get the hell outta here and find you something to eat..."

Ice Hawk
03-14-2011, 06:57 AM
Reil winced as the harsh light of the setting sun stung his eyes. He tried to ignore it as he drove towards his parents’ estate, but he badly wished for a pair of sunglasses. Cali snored gently, asleep, and head resting against the passenger side window. Zealos glanced in his rear view mirror at Stephen in the back seat.
“You know it’s convenient that showed up when you did. I was worried that I was gonna have to look for you. For all I knew you we’re going to spend all day with what’s her name. . .”

Stephen groaned from the back seat, nursing his head with an icepack that had melted some time ago.
“Cassandra. And maybe it’s convenient for you, but I for one do not appreciate staggering home, and up three flights of stairs, only to be absconded and thrust into the back seat of my own speeder and driven to the ass end of the county. Nor do I approve of how bright it is.”

Zealos shrugged, mostly from habit though, as Stephen was lying down and couldn’t see him.
“The sun is setting and we’re heading west. When we get home, I’ll write a very sternly worded letter to the ball of hydrogen on your behalf. In the meantime, I suspect you could improve your attitude by reflecting on how lucky you are that I waited for you at all, rather than just hotwiring the damn thing myself.”

Stephen hauled himself up into a sitting position.
“I don’t believe you could hotwire a speeder.”

“Maybe, maybe not” Zealos conceded, “But I could still smash a window and splice some wiring to pass the time.”

Stephen laid back down and groaned.
“Point taken.”

After a few minutes, Stephen broke the silence.
“Have you thought about what you’re gonna tell dad?”

“You mean about me taking off, and leaving him in the lurch?”

Stephen grunted an affirmative.

Zealos sighed.
“I don’t s’pose what I say will have much effect on how he reacts.”

Stephen shifted to get more comfortable.
“I suspect you might be right. But that didn’t answer the question.”

The rest of the drive proceeded in silence, but Steve’s question preyed on Reil’s mind, and even as he pulled up the drive way, he still lacked a satisfactory answer.

mack jace
03-20-2011, 05:41 PM
The stars in the sky were the same, they were always the same. It seemed like they never moved, even though Captain Gordon Antew knew better. Being stuck in an Imperial Star Destroyer for weeks on end, in one spot, in the middle of space tended to cause people to start to consider the galaxy around them. But Antew merely pondered his own role in the galaxy. The son of several high-ranking Imperial supporters, Antew had made it through the Academy only by way of his parents' influence, and wound up as Captain of the Spacewolf in much the same way.

Not to say that he was a terrible Captain, but several members of his officer corps thought they would likely do a much better job. This included Lieutenant Dyl Hartor, who was Antew's right-hand man, and also responsible for everything the Captain normally would oversee. He had a much better grasp on the tactics a naval officer should understand, and ran the drills for the crews like the instructors at the academy, and acheived results that made Antew look brilliant to the higher-ups. And so Antew got all the glory, and Hartor got nothng. But that would change.

Antew was on the bridge, milling about aimlessly as usual when the turbolift doors opened. Hartor approached him, producing a datacard with the results of the latest drills. "Captain, our fire crews have increased their accuracy by ten percent over the last drill, as well as decreased their response time. I suggest drilling them again within the week to ensure the continuation of such a performance."

Antew took the datacard absentmindedly, "Excellent work Lieutenant. I trust you to take care of that, as usual."

As usual is right, you worthless slimeball, Hartor thought. "Yes, Captain, it would be my pleasure." His face revealed none of the emotions that lay beneath.

As Hartor turned to resume his duties elsewhere, the sensor operator caught his attention, "Sir, we have a mark on bearing two-five-nine, sensors indicate a medium transport, with a transponder reading of Widowmaker." Hartor looked at the sensor board, which showed a ship no bigger than a YT-1300. Another crew member shouted out, "Sir, the transport is hailing us!"

Antew looked to Hartor for his next move, and Hartor nodded to the comm officer. On the holoprojector a being appeared, a human male, approximately twenty-five standard years old. His hair, which fell about shoulder length, was pulled back into a sort of top-knot, and he had a beard that nearly engulfed the lower portion of his face. His voice was quiet, but it had a subtle strength behind it, the strength of a man who knew his own power. "Imperial Star Destroyer Spacewolf, this is the Warship Widowmaker of Warlord Khazad Du'ul. I am here to discuss the terms of your surrender."

mack jace
03-21-2011, 06:21 PM
The bridge was deadly silent as Hartor escorted the supposed warlord for a meeting with Captain Antew. Hartor had convinced the captain that it was only one transport, with very few weapons, and even then not enough to damage the Star Destroyer. To assuage his worries, Hartor had ordered a squadron of TIEs to escort the ship in, and had detailed a squad of Stormtroopers to watch his every move. Hartor himself would ensure the captain's safety within his conference room.

As the door slid shut behind him, Hartor saw Captain Antew sitting at the far end of the table, looking slightly worried and uncomfortable at the situation he had been put in. And this is why they shouldn't put incompetent scum in charge, Hartor thought. He doesn't have a clue as to how to act, let alone what to say.

Luckily for Antew, it seemed that the guest was going to be taking charge. He was a tall man to say the least, standing nearly half a meter above Hartor, who could not be considered tiny. He carried himself with the poise of a trained noble, though his features belied experiences one could only see in battle. A scar, tiny but noticeable, ran from the right corner of his nose to the middle of his right cheek, and his hands, which could only be described as massive, were scarred and calloused. His brown hair, which had earlier fell to his shoulders was now pulled up into a full top knot, giving his head the freedom of movement otherwise unavailable. His eyes darted constantly wherever he walked, taking in everything he saw, even the seeming little details. He wore armor, though not full battle-dress; the armor was tinged purple and showed as many signs of battle as the man did. His shirt underneath was jet black, with dark red markings all over. This Khazad Du'ul was a very intimidating fellow, especially where Captain Antew was concerned.

"Captain Antew," he started, "greetings. My name, as I stated before, is Khazad Du'ul, and I am here to discuss the terms of your surrender."

Antew was puzzled. "Surely you must be joking? This is an Imperial Star Destroyer! One does not simply walk in and demand its surrender!" Antew was drawing upon his upbringing as the son of an entitled bureaucrat, and his voice dripped with loathing.

Khazad Du'ul merely smiled softly. "You are correct that this is an Imperial ship, though not for long. You see, I have come here to take it over, and use her as the flagship in the fleet I am gathering. Whether this happens peacefully or not is your choice."

Now Antew was dumbfounded. Here was this young man, demanding that he, a Captain of the Imperial Navy, surrender his ship to his army of one. Incompetent or not, Antew was not about to give this man anything of the sort. "Lieutenant Hartor, send this man to the brig, he will be tried for attempted extortion against the Imperial Navy, and if he is lucky will spend the rest of his life in the bowels of Kessel!" It took him a moment to realize that Hartor hadn't moved a muscle. "Lieutenant, perhaps you didn't hear me correctly. I said -"

"I know what you said, Antew," Hartor interrupted. "I'm afraid I am unable to comply with your orders, however."

"Wh-what? What is the meaning of this?" The beads of sweat formed on Antews forehead were now visible from the other end of the room.

"You see, Captain," Du'ul explained, "I once spent some time here on the ship, under your command, for several weeks after you left dock. During my stay here, I befriended the young Lieutenant here, and brought him to my cause. And, if luck is with me and he has completed his assignments, I do believe that the majority of your crew has aligned themselves with me. Now, I think it is safe to say that the ship will effectively be under my command from this point forward, the only thing left to do is figure out what your situation will be from now on." He paused, letting Antew absorb everything. "Should you choose to, I would be more than happy to welcome you under my wing, I'm sure I can find some position for you in my new organization, otherwise we will have to figure out some other accommodation."

Antew by now was flabbergasted. He slowly stood up, trying to take all of the new occurrences in stride. As he approached the door, Hartor knocked three times, revealing several stormtroopers standing ready to escort the former captain. "I will take some time to....to think it over, Lieutenant." Hartor and Du'ul both followed the group out of the conference room toward the bridge. Halfway there, Antew suddenly reeled, bringing his elbow up to clip the trooper next to him underneath the helmet, and simultaneously producing a small blaster in his palm. He raised it, leveling the barrel at Du'ul, and pulled the trigger, all within the blink of an eye. With a snap-hiss, a silver beam of light intercepted the blast and reflected it back to the shooter. The shot hit him between the eyes, killing him instantly.

Du'ul shut down his lightsaber and turned to Hartor, who was slightly put off by the engagement. "You didn't mention that he had that," he said, a slight tinge of venom on his words.

Hartor gathered himself quite quickly, "It's hard to talk about things that you don't know exist, sir. You as well failed to mention you were a Jedi." He locked eyes with Du'ul for a few moments, until Du'ul smiled. "Well, that's a fair statement. Now you know. Come, it's time we get this ship in gear."

Once on the bridge, Du'ul activated the ship-wide comm. "Attention, this is your new Captain speaking. As I'm sure you are all aware now, we have had a change in command. I am Khazad Du'ul, Warlord, and you are now under my command. If this doesn't sit well with you, arrangements shall be made to ensure you will not interfere with my operations. I run an entirely volunteer outfit, but I will not tolerate any dissenters or opposition on my ship. I shall say this to those who may be considering leaving us. Should you leave, you will be able to return to the Empire and resume your duties. By the time you notify them of these events we shall be long gone. But if you decide to stay, I can promise you that we shall all share riches beyond your wildest imagination. And with the new fleet that I shall be gathering in time, we shall have the entire galaxy handed to us on a silver platter. I give you ten minutes to decide, anyone who wishes to leave us can do so in that time." After ten minutes passed, Du'ul activated the comm once more.

"Well gentlemen. It is this moment that history shall recognize as the beginnings of the new galaxy. It is this ship, the people upon this ship, that shall be the harbingers of a new future. I have operated my entire life on the basis that talent and merit will outweigh anything in a person or group, and this is the way this ship, and the galaxy, will be run. No more special treatment, no more entitlement. You get what you earn, that is the most basic way of the world, and that shall be the way of the galaxy. Gentlemen, we sail now into the future!"

He turned to Hartor, "Lieutenant, or should I say, Admiral Hartor, you have the conn. Make course for the Bilbringi system."

mack jace
03-25-2011, 09:16 PM
The ship hummed quietly as it sped through hyperspace. Khazad Du'ul sat in the forward bridge staring out of the viewports. His face was impassive, his arms folded across his chest. To Hartor, he looked like one of the old Jedi, the ones from the holos he used to watch. It was odd, working with a Jedi, or whatever he was. Hartor knew that Du'ul knew what he was thinking, or feeling, but he always acted as if everything Hartor said was new. He treated him with respect, something Hartor wasn't used to. In the Empire, people were promoted based on who they knew, or how much money they made. Growing up on Commenor the son of merchant parents, Hartor knew little of luxury, but decided to try and make his own way in the galaxy. He bid his farewells and left to work on a trading ship. After a few months of skimming the surface with his funds, Hartor found his way to an Imperial recruiting post and signed his name on the dotted line.

And now here he was, a fugitive from the Empire in a stolen Star Destroyer. It probably wouldn't be long before the entire Navy was on their trail. And it was all because of a man named Khazad Du'ul. When Hartor first met Du'ul, in the mess hall of the ship, Hartor had had a particularly bad encounter with Captain Antew. Hartor vented to the only one who would listen, and that had been Du'ul. After, Du'ul explained to him an idea that he had, that he wanted to turn into a plan, but he wouldn't be able to do it alone. At first Hartor had laughed, thinking that the man was deranged, or an idiot, but as time went on Hartor realized he was neither of those things. And after a while, the plan started to make sense to him. So he started feeling out the rest of the crew's thoughts on their leadership, and the Empire, and he found that most of them were less than thrilled with their current assignment. With that knowledge in mind, he sent a message to Du'ul, with the words "The way is clear." With almost the entire crew behind him, Hartor had paved the way for the quietest mutiny in the galaxy.

Not that he was having any regrets at this point, though he had hoped Antew would have been able to live, but that was neither here nor there. He had done it to himself, and that was that. Now all Hartor could do was focus on the present, and the future. "Something on your mind, Admiral?" The question brought Hartor out of his thoughts.

"You tell me," he quipped. "You are, after all, the Jedi on board this ship."

"That I am," Du'ul said thoughtfully. "But I much rather hear those things coming from the person himself, as opposed to ripping it from his mind. I've found that it comes out much differently that way. Gives me a better sense of the man." Du'ul turned away from the viewports and stared Hartor in the eyes. This was becoming a more regular occurrence, where the two would look at each other, Du'ul searching Hartor's eyes and Hartor attempting to shield his thoughts. "Excellent work, Admiral. You're getting better every day. The key to retaining your own self is being able to disguise your emotions. You're quite adept at it now." Du'ul smiled, offering a handshake to the young man. Hartor took it, unable to help cracking a smile.

"I do appreciate the compliment, sir. Unfortunately I won't be happy until I can surprise you with my presence."

"Well, let me say that the day that happens will be an interesting day indeed, my friend." Du'ul paused, "Now, how are our preparations going?"

"Well," Hartor said, "We're becoming the regular pirate fleet as we speak. Flight crews have begun to, ah, customize their ships and equipment. Crew morale is at its highest since the ship left berth."

"Excellent, and what of accommodations for our future guests?"

"Well sir, that's what I was actually wishing to speak to you about. We don't know how many to expect, do we? I have made enough room for approximately fifty ships and their crews, plus about two hundred. I'm assuming we won't be having many more than that?"

Du'ul scratched his chin, "Hmm, I think that should be enough, we'll have to figure something out should there be more. In all likelihood we won't need that many spaces, but you never know. Jax Verot was always one hell of a recruiter."

"Well, in that case I'll try to make some more room, but I can't promise anything. Either way, we'll be approaching the Bilbringi system in a few hours. We should expect little resistance once there."

Du'ul smiled, "If Verot did his job, I'm sure we won't find much there at all."

mack jace
03-28-2011, 07:06 PM
The massive Bilbringi shipyards were eerily dark. Where normally lights and ships abounded, as the Spacewolf exited hyperspace there was almost nothing to show that this was the famed shipyard. Nothing, beyond the several corvettes and gunships that were now moving toward the ship.

"Hold fire, people," Hartor said. "Remember, they're assuming we're friendly, let's keep them thinking that way."

Du'ul was standing next to Hartor, taking in the same scene with a quiet smile on his face. "I don't think we'll have to worry about that Admiral." As he spoke, he nodded to the comm operator, who brought up an incoming transmission. The holoprojector showed a man fully dressed in armor, Mandalorian armor. His helmet was off, however, so right away Hartor knew this wasn't the famed bounty hunter. The man had a thick black mane of hair brushed back to reveal his face, complete with several scars.

"Khazad Du'ul, you crazy son of a gundark!" The man's voice boomed, startling several crew members.

"Jax Verot, you always had a way with words. I trust all went according to plan?"

"Damn straight it did! Me and my boys came in nice and quiet, knocked out their comms and defenses, and slipped right out, just like you said. Took a bit of a beating from the ships in the area, but it wasn't too bad." Hartor took a quick assessment of the ships in view: two frigates, three gunships, and two corvettes. Several of them were scarred with damage from the firefight, but seemingly none with major damage.

"Excellent work Jax, that's good news. And Pirta?" Du'ul asked the image.

"I'm just fine Du'ul," a voice from off-image said, "You just worry about making sure there's plenty of room for us aboard that junker of yours."

"I'm two steps ahead of you Pirta," Du'ul said, "Jax, send over that crew we talked about, and you can get moving on the next phase, if you're ready."

"Du'ul, I've been ready for this for longer than you know. I'll send some Irregulars over to you, and I'll even loan you Pirta for this job. I figure she's more than capable of following orders, and besides, she's better off nagging you than me!" He momentarily went off screen as a fist bowled him over. "See?" he said as he came back into view, nursing his jaw.

"That's more than fine by me, Jax. She's more than welcome. We'll be in contact with you soon enough."

Hartor listened to this conversation with great interest. Now they would be carrying a few hundred soldiers who answered to this Jax Verot, who presumably answered to Du'ul. And this Pirta woman, being the only female aboard the ship would have an interesting time keeping the rest of the crew at bay, though she seemed more than capable of doing so.

"I'll send a welcoming party down to greet our guests," Hartor said to Du'ul. "Who are these Irregulars?"

Du'ul laughed, "That's Jax's doing. He fancies himself as a great general, which I may say he could probably give the Imperials a run for their money. But these Irregulars are his Mandalorian Irregulars, men he handpicked to fight for him. These are tough beings, all inducted into the Mandalorian culture, and all with a fierce loyalty to Jax." Sensing Hartor's misgivings, he continued, "Don't worry, Jax is an old friend, and he trusts me, so they trust me. And you, by association. They'll do what needs to be done."

"I sure hope so. I must say, having this many Mandalorians aboard isn't exactly comforting, but I guess I'll just have to trust you." Hartor knew he didn't exactly have a choice. He was already deep within Du'ul's operation, and he was also the best man for the job, and the only man the original crew of the Spacewolf really trusted. There were some grumblings about their new Warlord, but Hartor promised them that he would make good on Du'ul's promises. There was a method to everything Du'ul did, Hartor knew that much. He just needed to have a little faith in the man.

Dawncaller
04-01-2011, 01:42 PM
Wiping his face with a clean towel, Todrin Doule looked at his face in the mirror. It seemed far older than what his twenty nine years should have accumulated. The scars from Ryloth had healed completely: the reminders of the boy he had left behind in a heat storm while he, Saral, and the last surviving stormtrooper had been rescued by a Sienar patrol shuttle.

They had avoided the worst of the storm by sheltering in a narrow crevasse of the scoured, sandy landscape. Unfortunately, there had been no room for the corpse of Captain Krieg, their commanding officer, and the three of them had watched as the sandblast devoured the body, bones and all. Doule hadn’t shed a tear for the treasonous man, but watching the hot winds slowly grind away until Krieg was nothing but bones had affected Doule deeply. That boy had been out there somewhere, and no doubt suffered a similar fate, consumed by heat and dust and ignominy.

As Doule dressed in a crisp new uniform he wondered—and not for the first time—if a trace of the boy would ever turn up: a few skeletal relics resurfacing from the Ryloth sands perhaps, or maybe an entire body, mummified by the arid wastes and locked in a visage of pain and terror. Doule shook the images from his mind and with them the memories of expeditions into the wastes to find the boy, all fruitless; of his subsequent investigations into the boy’s origin, discovering a decimated ranch on Dantooine and mysterious tales from neighbors, of careful probing into a string of events more faceted and fraught with conflict than he could possibly reconstruct after the fact; of contact with government entities who, politely but adamantly, persuaded him to stop. Doule knew that prying into the secrets of the Empire could lead to ‘early retirement,’ but he couldn’t deny an bizarre fixation on this boy.

The corridors of the Imperial Intelligence Headquarters on Kuat were a disturbing affair: the deeper one went into the facility the more the décor turned from stark, even bland appointments and fixtures to surreal, confusing twists and turns along tall, narrow passageways. Niches and alcoves lined the halls, screened by sensor masks so furtive communiqués could be carried out with even further privacy. This was a world of “eyes and ears only” and Doule worked very hard to not even give the impression of eavesdropping as he was escorted to deep into the heart of the Ubiqtorate.

He was deposited in a spacious anteroom with stiff-backed but well padded seats and a rather severe woman sitting behind a glossy black desk. To avoid the woman’s flirtatious gaze he kept his attention on a long tapestry lining the far wall. At first it seemed a bleak and aggressive piece of art, with threads often clashing and twisting among each other; those same threads, however, often came together smoothly with others to form complex and even beautiful motifs within the otherwise violent looking artwork. How like life, he thought, and as his eyes traced the intricate patterns his mind easily set aside recent harrowing events on Ryloth and the impending challenges he would face as he faced whatever consequences would come about from the loss of Tam Dawncaller.

As he traced the intricate patterns, Todrin Doule found himself inextricably drawn into the tapestry…

Ice Hawk
04-02-2011, 02:39 AM
As Reil and Cali dumped Lucrecia’s groceries on the kitchen counter, Virgil called to them from the living room.
“You’re late Zealos, we were expecting to be eating by now.”

Reil shrugged as he and Cali walked into the living room where Virgil and Lucrecia were sitting.
“I meant to be back earlier, but there was some drinking last night.”

Virgil didn’t look up from the data pad he was reading.
“I’m trying to look surprised for your mother’s benefit, but it just isn’t working.”

Lucrecia rolled her eyes.
“Don’t strain yourself overly much on my account dear, you might smile by accident, and hurt yourself.” Virgil looked up to retort, but then thought better of it. Lucrecia turned to Zealos, “Don’t worry about it; I’ll have dinner ready in no time. Where’s Stephen?”

Zealos looked at the floor.
“He’s in the speeder. . .”

“What’s he still doing in there?”

“Hiding. . .”

Lucrecia tilted her head in confusion.
“Why would he be hiding?”

“Uhmmm” Zealos paused as he tried to phrase his words carefully, “Cali and I won’t be staying for dinner.”

Virgil’s head bolted upright at this news, but Lucrecia’s smile never wavered.
“Don’t be silly dear, you’re under house arrest, we can’t let you can’t go out every night. Run and tell Stephen that you’re staying; he should stay for dinner too.”

Reil looked his mother in the eye.
“We’re leaving Cold Water. The last ferry before the freeze is running tonight, and Cali and I are gonna be on it.”

Lucrecia finally stopped smiling, as Virgil calmly rose to his feet.
“Ferry, eh? You’ll be heading to Mordin’s Harbour then.”

Reil shook his head.
“Close. Twillingate.”

“Ah.” Virgil nodded sagely, “You’ll be running off to Sunny then?”

“That’s the notion.” Reil turned to Cali. “Go upstairs and get our stuff, I’ll handle this.”

Virgil sneered as Cali left the room.
“You’ll handle this, will you? How, pray tell, will you handle running out on your mother and me; and violating the terms of your release?”

“By driving really fast?” Zealos offered.

Virgil glared.
“I am less than amused.”

Zealos grimaced.
“I’ll alert the media. Look Virgil, I appreciate that you came down and bailed me and Cali out-”

“Evidently.”

Zealos ignored him and pressed on.
“And I do feel bad for leaving you in a bind. . . Well bad is probably too strong a word.”

“Might I suggest giddy, or euphoric?”

“Anyway, the point is, I came here for a reason, and it wasn’t to trade barbs with you. I got places to be, and I can’t wait for the TAR to finish its investigation. I’m sorry that it worked out like this, but I didn’t do it to spite you. It’s just the way things had to be. . .”

Virgil shrugged and sat back down.
“Very well, go then.”

“Wait, what?”

Virgil turned his attention back to his data pad.
“Go, leave, flee, abscond, run, move, vacate, fly, depart, and decamp even; just get out of my house.”

Reil eyed Virgil suspiciously.
“That’s it? We can go?”

Virgil grunted irritably.
“I suppose you’ll have to wait for Miss Bellum to finish packing. Then yes, go away. Why, were you hoping for more?”

“Nooo, but last time I ditched home, you were somewhat more emotional about it.”

“The last time you left home, you were an insolent sixteen year old brat who was intent on quitting school and throwing away his future. Now you’re an insipid twenty-four year old criminal who wants to keep on being a criminal. You’ll have to excuse my apathy, but I believe the damage is done.”

Zealos tilted his head.
“H-uh, well that’s fine then-”

“You’re letting him leave?”

Both Zealos and Virgil turned to Lucrecia, who was now standing, trembling with rage. Virgil put down his data pad.
“I am positive I just had this conversation with Zealos. If he wants to consort with criminals then that is his choi-”

“HE’S YOUR SON, VIRGIL!” Lucrecia exploded, “He’s our son, my baby boy, and you’re just going to let him walk out on us for another eight years!?”

Virgil didn’t flinch.
“He’s not a baby Lucrecia, he’s a grown man who is free to make his own decisions. It’s not like I told him to run away the first time!”

“And you didn’t ask him to come back either! Listen to yourself; Zealos is your son, he is your child, and you’re indifferent to if he lives or dies!”

Zealos tried to intercede.
“I’m not gonna die mom. . .”

Lucrecia rounded on Reil with a fury.
“Don’t even speak! You waltz into our lives after making a mess of yours and then as free as the breeze try and walk away again?! I will not let you tear this family apart a second time!”

“HEY!” Reil felt his anger flare up, “I didn’t tear this family apart, I left because there wasn’t a family to tear apart. And I’m sorry if our broken home embarrasses you in front of your socialite friends, but that isn’t my problem!”

The slap came before Zealos was ready for it, and he stumbled back in pain and surprise. He opened his mouth to say. . . something, but then he noticed the tears in his mother’s eyes.
“How dare you say that! I love you. You’re my son, I’ll always love you, so you don’t get to belittle that love and demean it. And you don’t get to punish me for loving your father either.”

“What are you talking about, I never-”

“You never write, you never call, and you never visit. For almost a decade you punished me by ignoring me, leaving me to wonder whether you were alive or dead. You could have been dead; you might as well have been for all I heard from you. You spent hours arguing with your father the night you left, but you couldn’t spare two words for me. You thought Virgil was a bad father, and he had his faults, but was I so terrible you couldn’t even say goodbye? And I tried to forgive that pain; I ignored the fact that you were in trouble with the law, or that you were running around with young girls; I was just happy to have you home. So no, you do not get to just leave and tear my heart out again. I won’t allow it.”

Dawncaller
04-04-2011, 04:39 PM
The office’s anteroom had been austere and uninviting, but the office itself was grim and carried an air of foreboding. Centered among tall black columns was a broad desk, on one side of which sat Todrin Doule, bathed in pallid white light. Partially blinded by the bright spotlight, Todrin could barely make out the shadowy figure on the other side of the table.

The theatricality employed by many echelons of the Empire often amused Doule. To his practical mind, that kind of drama was unnecessary flamboyance. The Empire was the greatest power in the galaxy, and it didn’t need to flaunt its might like a runty little aeron. An honest presentation of strength is all that is necessary to maintain order in the galaxy; anything more is just antagonistic. Still the man—as his voice indicated—managed to intimidate Doule.

“Warrant Officer Todrin Doule. Born on Eraydia, Decimus Sector: son of the late Captain Wurth—“

“I’m sorry, I thought I was here for a debriefing, not an inquisition.”

“You’ll take care to speak when given permission, Officer Doule. The purpose of this… interview will reveal itself in time.

“Officer Doule: son of the late Captain Wurth Baskalar and of Preena Doule, and brother of eight half-siblings. Verify this information.”

“It is correct, sir.” What was this about? Was another of dear ol’ Dad’s illegitimate children causing trouble again? Would he have to remind the Empire once again that he had nothing to do with those scavenging non-entities?

“Your current assignment: chief shuttle pilot aboard the Nuntius under the command of the late Captain Angel Krieg, sent on a mission to deliver a sensitive package to Maw Installation. Verify.”

“Yes, sir, that’s correct.” Doule swallowed. So they were going to debrief him after all.

“Describe the status of this mission.”

“Mission failed, sir, due to…” he searched his mind for a proper way to describe what had happened, “due to a catastrophic astrogation mishap.”

The enigmatic interrogator leaned further back into the shadows. “Describe the nature of this ‘catastrophic mishap, Officer Doule.”

Doule took a deep breath. If he explained things correctly he might be able to get out of this without sounding completely barvy. “We set in a course from Temen III to the Maw Installation, but as the nav computer calculated the trip it… it hiccupped. Or something did. All of a sudden the screen reads we’re over Ryloth, and falling fast.”

“Over Ryloth,” repeated the interrogator. “What happened then?”

“We… crashed, sir. Most of the crew perished at this point.”

“Name the survivors.”

“Myself, my copilot Seeley Saral, and…” Another deep breath. If Doule explained the true nature of the death of the others this ‘debriefing’ could turn much more complicated, and possibly deadly. But if he lied to a member of the Ubiqtorate… “Captain Krieg, one stormtrooper, and Tam—I mean, the ‘sensitive package.’”

“Our records show three survivors,” offered the interrogator. Though his voice remained nonchalant and businesslike, Doule could sense the unspoken challenge to his report.

“Captain Krieg was... removed from his office… by the aforementioned stormtrooper per the conditions of Standing Contingency Order 65. The ‘sensitive package’ died of exposure to a local heat storm.”

“And there is proof to corroborate these events…”

“Krieg’s remains were recovered by the rescue team and the identity was confirmed by specialists.”

“And the boy?” It was the first time the interrogator had referred to Tam as anything but a ‘package.’

“He eluded us and fled into the desert. I can only assume his body is out there somewhere. We barely survived it ourselves.”

The interrogator responded with a pregnant silence. Doule had the impression that if he added anything else to his statement it would only hurt matters. “Sir,” he said quietly, “if I may add: I made several attempts to find the body after my rescue. After that I attempted to investigate the boy’s history…” A wave of horror washed over Doule. This was the purpose of his meeting with an agent of Imperial Intelligence: he had delved too deeply into a government secret (though he’d not really learned anything that sensitive) and he would now pay the ultimate price for it. His eyes closed, his body steeled, he lowered his head and awaited whatever pronouncement of death he would face.

“Todrin Doule, I am hereby authorized to offer you the rank of Captain in the Imperial Navy, with command of the Imperial Communications Vessel Inun. Do you accept?”

A captain? Not a sentence, but an advancement? Doule was a warrant officer, a non-combatant. Receiving a commission and captaincy was unheard of. Something truly bizarre was happening here, and he had a feeling that if he refused he’d never be allowed to speak of what little he already knew. Confused, worried about what his future may hold, but eager to follow this proverbial lagomorph into its warren Doule said, “I accept, sir.”

“Excellent.” The man across the desk got to his feet and extended a hand into the pillar of light encompassing Doule. Doule took the hand and gave it a firm, professional pump, then stood at attention and saluted. The enigmatic interrogator mirrored the stance and relieved the gesture. “You will report to Admiral Hermod at Orbital Docking Station CR-27 East for further debriefing...”

mack jace
04-04-2011, 10:33 PM
The sound of hundreds of beings moving about the hangar, maneuvering hoversleds packed with equipment from ships, was both wonderful and jarring to Dyl Hartor. Wonderful because his ship was finally alive again, as opposed to the past few weeks where they had just been sitting in space, now they were at work again, taking on new cargo, new blood, and it breathed life into his crew. Already the Mandalorians were becoming part of the crew, and the crew were becoming parts of the Mandalorians. He knew they would never fully be one, but it was as good as could be. His men were inspecting the weapons and equipment, of which there were all kinds, some Hartor hadn't even seen before, and the Mandalorians were showing his men how to better use their weapons, armor, and equipment.

There was still that uneasy feeling in the back of Hartor's mind though. It was unshakable, but he knew he was just being paranoid. Besides, the Mandalorians were under Du'ul's command, and Hartor's by corollary. As these thoughts crossed his mind, the de facto leader of the mercenaries crossed his vision. Pirta Verot was ruggedly beautiful, easily a head taller than most men, and walked with the confidence and power that comes with intimate knowledge of the self. From his vantage point on a walkway above the hangar, Hartor watched her as she moved deftly around her men, helping them where they needed it and giving them a quick shot to the back of the head when they needed one. Her hair hung loosely at her shoulders, sandy blonde hair resting on deep red armor.

As she made her way to the walkway, Hartor continued to watch the activity below. She stood next to him for a moment, taking in the sights, noting something on a datapad that was strapped to her wrist. "Quite the crew you've got here," Hartor said after a beat.

"That's right," she said, flashing a smile. "They're some of the best there is. Not many beings can say that they've walked away from the Irregulars alive. Except for maybe a few of those Deathwatch scum. But that's beside the point."

"Well I can certainly say that I've seen Nek dogs less well-trained, that's for sure." He produced a package of generic cigarras, and oferred one to her. She shook her head, producing two chrome tubes out of her armor, which contained two Haruun Kalian cigarras. Taking one, Hartor thanked the stars for having control over his own ship. It meant his rules, not the Empire's.

As the smoke filled the air she said, "No, they're not trained. They're disciplined. These men have the brains to think through any situation, and the guts to get the job done. It's what we call the ramikadyc, the "commando state of mind", great determination to get the job done. They're not unlike your stormtroopers." She took a puff on the cigar. "But the difference between my Irregulars and your stormtroopers is that the Irregulars have the support, the brotherhood between them and their leaders to help them make it through. The Empire doesn't have that."

Hartor thought that over for a second. "You make a valid point. It's a very good thing we have you on our side then. I'd hate to be looking down the business end of your rifle, or of any one of those rifles down there." A few minutes passed in silence, each keeping their thoughts private. Hartor glanced at Pirta, making his observations about her while she did the same to him. Knowing how to read people was something he was fairly skilled at, but he could get nothing out of Pirta. She was in a state of lockdown. It was intriguing to Hartor.

She smiled, sensing his curiosity. "Well Admiral, I should probably get back to my men. An army without a leader is just a bunch of weapons waiting to go off." She turned and made her way back down to the hangar bay floor, leaving Hartor to finish his cigarra alone.

Dawncaller
04-07-2011, 05:41 PM
After verifying the newly acquired security ident cylinders, the reception droid informed Doule that he was expected and directed him toward a secured meeting room, three levels up.

This was all happening too fast. Only hours ago he was a non-commissioned officer who had luckily survived a top secret transport mission and, having recovered, poked around into the history of the boy he was intended to transport. Now, after a brief but perilous interview with a member of Imperial Intelligence, he was a navy captain with a new ship at his command. Such circumvention of advancement protocol was usually an indication of high-level involvement, but what the highest levels of the Empire wanted with him was a mystery. Doule’s mind raced with possibilities: optimistically, he was a recognizably skilled soldier and the perfect choice as commanding officer of a ship despite his military position; pessimistically—and perhaps more realistically—he was the perfect scapegoat for a politically suicidal position, disposable no matter the outcome of his service. Everything in between, or all at once, seemed within the realm of possibility as well.

Three levels down, Doule stepped into a broad, grey meeting room. Around the large circular table were a dozen men, all wearing the rank insignia of captain, minus one who stood with the broad plaque of an admiral displayed on his chest. Doule oriented himself to this man and saluted. “Captain Todrin Doule, reporting as instructed.”

Admiral Harmod returned the gesture. “Welcome, Captain. Have a seat.”

Doule did so, painfully aware of the mockery and thinly veiled disdain from the other captains at the table; captains who appeared to have the experience and political acumen befitting ambitious Imperials. Doule had no such aspirations, preferring the satisfaction of fulfilled duty.

“As I was saying,” said Harmod, tapping controls to make several holographic ships appear in the air above the table, “at twelve ships we can hardly be considered a full squad, but our small size and technological advantage will make us an effective force for our given objectives. Assault Teams Aurek and Besh are light but powerful, each with an interdictor cruiser and a pair of Loronar Strike-class cruisers; a pursuit line consists of a Carrack-class cruiser, Nebulon-B, and a pair of blockade runners, all ideal for interception tactics.”

“Pardon me, Admiral.” One of the captains in the room leaned forward. “I understand the state-of-the-art Loronars and the swift pursuit line, but this is hardly enough to even take against pirates. I mean, that star destroyer is a Victory I; even in a surprise attack we’d be hard pressed to coordinate our firepower to make any difference.”

The admiral’s smile was inscrutable. “Indeed, Captain Whode, firepower will be a challenge, requiring unprecedented coordination. Luckily, that has been taken care of.” He pressed another button, and the viewpoint of the hologram zoomed in to the small shape indicating the twelfth ship of the squad. Its markings indicated it was much smaller than the others, smaller even than the corvettes. “This ship here is the lynchpin of the squad. Its communications abilities… well, I don’t know if I can call them ‘innovative’ but I’ve seen the experiments regarding its capabilities and if they function as projected the Empire won’t have to worry about coordinated attacks again. Thanks to the Inun, we’ll wipe the Rebellion from the galaxy and peace will be restored.”

The Inun. His ship. It was all making sense for Doule now. As captain of the “lynchpin of the squad,” he would be at least partially responsible for the smooth running of this experimental squad, and for carrying out whatever “communications abilities” this ship had. Because he was a recently commissioned officer, because he had no political or military ambition, he would be beholden and subservient to the much more experienced officers of the line. Or so went the logic of Imperial commanders. Doule wondered just how far his duties would require him to go...

The meeting concluded after a few more points of logistics and organization, after which Admiral Harmod dismissed the assembly. Doule remained in his seat, attempting to soak in the many dangerous aspects of his situation. It was some time before he realized Harmod was still in the room.

“Too much for a former warrant officer to take in?” Harmod sauntered around the table to stand near Doule, taking a seat near him. “I’ve seen your face before. You think you’re a puppet captain, don’t you.”

Straight-faced, Doule said, “It crossed my mind, sir.”

“Well, relax. You were handpicked for this job. I don’t know the details of it myself, but I know you were requested by name. They don’t do that for puppet captains.” He slapped Doule’s knee, as if he were some father figure, or if they were old drinking buddies. “Come on. I’m sure you’d finally like to see your ship…”

mack jace
04-11-2011, 05:53 PM
Hartor woke in a cold sweat. The nightmares were starting again, having returned from whatever dark corner of the mind they had been hiding in previously. These were not the nightmares of most people. For Hartor, his nightmares were much more tame, usually involving his life going in a direction he hated; it always involved him never leaving home. He remembered each one vividly, using them to push himself far and beyond his current position. This time was different. This nightmare he could not remember except for vague feelings of helplessness and fear. Those were staples of his dreams, but this time just felt different. He got up, dressed, and headed toward the bridge for the morning report.

The ship was still in hyperspace, having left Bilbringi hours ago. The crew was unaware of their destination, and Hartor could sense their distrust and dissatisfaction at that fact. They just have to trust me, he thought, much like I need to trust Du'ul. He half listened to the report from his lieutenant, thinking instead of the mission to come. The Mandalorians had been briefed on their part, and whatever crew members were involved were also briefed and held to secrecy for the duration of the mission. Hartor's own part in the mission was set in stone, though he was still unsure of Du'ul's role. He would have to ask him about that; it would not do to leave any loose ends.

Almost on cue, Du'ul arrived on the bridge, flanked by two Mandalorians, one of which, Hartor noticed, was Pirta. Perhaps she was acting as an impromptu bodyguard for the man, though Hartor was hard-pressed to understand why he would need one. As the group moved into one of the briefing rooms, Hartor outlined the report from his lieutenant. "Warlord, the crew seems ready to play its part in the mission, and the teams are also set and ready to go. All ship systems are showing green, and we have all of the necessary codes we will need."

"Excellent work, Admiral," Du'ul said. "I trust that you're prepared to play your role?" Du'ul seemed distant, as if he were focusing on something else, somewhere else. The inattention threw Hartor off as it was so uncharacteristic of Du'ul.

"I am. My only question is what role you will be playing in this whole thing. You haven't mentioned anything of it at all." Hartor sat down at the table next to Du'ul, while Pirta and the other Mandalorian sat opposite them.

"I have not, nor do I plan on revealing my part. Consider it part of my mystique, if you will, Admiral."

Hartor paused, trying to formulate his words in a respectable manner. "I understand that, but if I am to execute this mission well, I will need to understand the parts each member will play so that the mission can run smoothly. I'd rather we have that than keep your mystique intact."

Du'ul smiled, and said, "Admiral, you always were a stickler for details. And you never were one to mince words. I like that. Well, if you must know, I will be playing a backup role, in the event that something should go wrong I will be able to step in to complete the mission. I trust that is satisfactory for you?"

Hartor thought that it was less than he would have liked, but he supposed that it would do. He trusted Du'ul to do the right thing either way. He wouldn't do anything stupid. "Yes, Warlord, that's fine by me." Turning to the Mandalorians, specifically Pirta, Hartor asked, "Is your team prepared?"

"You bet," she said, her eyes flicking from Du'ul to Hartor. She rested finally on Hartor, and continued, "We've got our kits together, and my men are pretty amped for this. Not every day we get to be stealthy about things."

Hartor smiled, "Excellent, I'm sure this whole thing will go smoothly, but it will be nice to have some backup there with us in case things go south." The door slid open just then, revealing the conn officer standing at attention. "Yes, officer?" Hartor asked.

"Sir, we'll be approaching Praesitlyn in less than an hour."

mack jace
04-20-2011, 01:27 AM
Things had not gone entirely to plan. That was plainly evident to Hartor, who sat in the main control room of the Intergalactic Communications Center, his pistol pressed against the temple of an extremely nervous technician. The man was no older than twenty standard years, and he had clearly not anticipated anything quite like what happened to ever occur in his lifetime. He had been severely mistaken. The room was filled with monitors and workstations, most occupied by other technicians and administrators. At each exit, and at several strategic locations throughout the room, the Mandalorians Du'ul had brought along for the mission stood at attention, their armor and weaponry enough of a deterrent for anyone thinking of becoming a hero.

As Hartor glanced about the room, he could see Pirta standing close to where Du'ul was typing furiously, but purposefully, into a workstation. Suddenly, he stopped, and Hartor could almost feel the pleasure that the man felt at the accomplishment of the task. It filled Hartor with a sense of peace, almost serenity, that the mission had not been for naught, that blood had not been spilled for no reason. He flashed back to the initial breach of the building, thinking about the several defense troopers that he had gunned down. They had been the first men he had ever killed, but somehow he managed to put himself past that and continue with the mission. A mission that had gone very smoothly, almost too smoothly.

Du'ul turned to Hartor and smiled, "We have what we've come for, Admiral, I believe it's time for us to leave." He moved past the young man and Hartor and swiftly moved to the door.

Hartor turned to Pirta and said, "Right, let's get a move on then. Are the charges set?"

"Stang, I knew I forgot something," she said. Her face hidden by her helmet, Hartor couldn't tell if the sarcasm was accompanied by a smile or not. He assumed the best and returned one.

"Well, I know how you Mandalorians can be," he said. His comlink chirped, and he acknowledged it. "Admiral," came Du'ul's voice on the other end. "I think it's best if we make sure that this station cannot continue to be operational after we leave."

"I understand sir," he replied, "The charges are set and will be set off as soon as we're clear."

"I don't think you do understand, Admiral," his voice had a bit of an edge to it now, "I mean that I think it would be best if we left no one to care for the station once we left."

Hartor understood what he was saying now. Killing people in self-defense was one thing, but killing in cold blood? That was something he wouldn't have done even if he was still a part of the Empire. He still had some semblance of honor, and he was not about to let that bit of himself go, not yet anyway. He was about to start telling Du'ul exactly what he thought of that suggestion and where he could put it when a little voice in the back of his head made its presence known. If they left the people on the station alive, they could probably get the station up and running much sooner than otherwise. And if they got it back up and running, they would be able to track the Spacewolf to its final destination...and bring the might of the Empire to bear. If that happened, Hartor would be responsible for the deaths of all of his men, the ones who looked to him for their safety and security. Thousands of men, as opposed to the few in front of him. He shook his head, realizing that he had let his mind wander for far too long. He activated the comlink and said, "I...understand sir. We'll take care of things here."

He looked to Pirta and said, "We have our orders, let's get this over with." As he flipped the safety on his pistol, which caused the young man in front of him to jump slightly, Pirta grabbed his wrist.

"We Mandos may be killers, but we always have a good reason to kill," her voice was as hard as durasteel now. "I don't care what the warlord says" - she looked up to the other warriors in the room - "we do not kill unarmed combatants. The charges will take care of everything they could possibly work with, next to nothing will be left of the infrastructure. Trust me on that one." With what Hartor knew was a look that bored into his soul, she stared him down until he came to his decision.

Flipping the safety back, he looked around and said, "Fair enough, let's get a move on then, we don't want to stick around for too much longer."
__________________________________________________ __________

As the shuttle lifted off, leaving the station behind, Du'ul turned to Hartor. "Admiral, correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought I had asked you to take care of the people in that station."

Hartor swallowed, knowing this conversation was bound to come up. "You did sir, and we did, the best way I felt possible."

"Oh?" Du'ul feigned ignorance. "Please explain."

"The charges that we set are going to level the place, and so they would likely be killed in the process anyway." As if on cue, as the shuttle was about to break atmosphere, the pilot made the rest of the crew on the shuttle aware that the station had just suffered a catastrophic explosion. By the time emergency crews responded, the Spacewolf would be well away from the place.

Du'ul looked at Hartor for a few moments, his eyes still except for a barely perceptible glance toward Pirta. Had Hartor not been paying close attention he would not have caught it at all. "Fine. But next time, I ask that you listen to my suggestions. I have a reason for doing everything Admiral, I trust you will not forget that."

Fingon
04-27-2011, 12:22 AM
“Yes. Mm-hmm. Yes, that’s him. What’s his condition? And Robinowitz? So they’ll. . . excellent.”

Dante muted the comlink with his hand. “Looks like they’ll be out in two days,” he whispered over his shoulder to an eagerly hovering Bear. “So just a little bit longer planetside here and we’re off.”

“You sure they’ll be well enough to fly themselves?” Bear inquired, his voice low rumble.

Dante held up one finger and removed his hand from the microphone. “And you say they’ll be fully functional by then? Well, yes. . . well enough—yeah.” Dante nodded silently. “Perfect! Thank you. . . you too.” He snapped the comlink off and tucked it back into his belt.

“We’ll just book them passage to the right sector and Lanith will arrange for them to be picked up. They won’t be alone.”

“Right.”

Bear swung his arms and let out a sigh. “So. . . what now?”

Dante shrugged. “Whatever we want for another 30 hours or so. There are a few places to see here, if you’re interested.” He left the com-booth and entered the queue of a tram headed to the city center. “Besides, we should get out of this neighborhood.”

“No kidding,” affirmed Bear as he eyed the dim alleyways of the block. “Why did we come here anyway?”

Because I forgot that where we were supposed to go led us right past the office I used to go to every day.

“Took a wrong turn.”

“Of course,” Bear muttered as he fell in line behind his companion. There were a few dozen sentients in line with them, and a smattering more milling around the scantily-lit corridors. They had waited for the tram for nearly five minutes when Bear snapped his eyes open wide. “Sith!” he bellowed, his voice filling the station.

Dante, and the half-dozen sentients in front of him, jumped and whirled around. “What happened?” he demanded.

“Forgot my—pardon—satchel back at that store!” said Bear, pushing his way through the line of startled and grumpy sentients. “I’m gonna—‘cuse me—go grab it—sorry—real quick!”

“Bear, wait! It’ll be gone by. . .” he was already making his way down the walkway. “. . . guess I’ll wait.”

The time passed like a glacier on Hoth. He’ll be all right, Dante told himself as he stood in line, fidgeting. He can take care of himself. Besides, what’s the worst that could happen down here? He considered the question. Bad question, he concluded and sprinted after Bear.

Heaving the air in and out of his lungs, Dante strained to catch up. He shouldn’t have, Dante fumed as he boarded a people mover, shoving past the other passengers. The store was not far, just a few more bends on the walkway, and Dante figured he would be able to catch up in the long stretch before the second turn. There was hardly anyone on the walkway now. His lungs rebelling, Dante leaned against the rail to catch his breath. The stretch was long enough that he could ride it out, he figured. Wiping his forehead, he waiting until he rounded the corner and could survey the street.

The block was nearly deserted, and Bear was nowhere in sight. “Where could he be? He couldn’t have gotten that far. And I thought I saw him ahead. . . by that Duros. . .” The Duros in question was quickly retreating into a side passage with a few other sentients, supporting a figure who stumbled alongside him. They could almost be a group of buds going home after a few rounds at the pub, except for that the Duros was wearing. Straining his eyes, Dante made out the red wings and blade crudely colored on the sentient’s jacket. And the man alongside him, head lolling down, was. . .

“Bear.”

Rapidly, Dante considered his options, rejecting one after another nearly as quickly as they came to him. This was more than he could do alone. His mouth pulled into a thin line, he snatched up his comlink again and ducked into an alcove. He punched in a short sequence of numbers and listened as it connected.

“Operator, how can I help you?” a thin voice emitted from the tinny speaker. “Hello?”

Dante hesitated. This could be dangerous. But it might be Bear’s only shot. “Connect me to Junction Security. Now.”

Ice Hawk
04-29-2011, 05:10 AM
Zealos felt his guilt quickly being replaced with anger.
“You won’t let me? I don’t recall asking for permission! I’m twenty-four; my mommy doesn’t get to tell me what to do anymore!”

“If you leave this house”, Lucrecia whispered, “You’ll never be welcome here again.”

“Because y’all were so welcoming before.”

“I MEAN IT! If you walk out that door. . .” Lucrecia looked away, “You’re not my son. If you leave; don’t call, don’t come back. I don’t want you if you’re just going to leave us again.”

Zealos stood silent for a minute, but was saved the burden of replying by Cali, who had dragged their container to the bottom of the stairs.
“Ummm. . . Are you ready?”

Reil moved to help her carry the container.
“Yeah, we’re going.”

Lucrecia turned on Cali with a fierceness Reil had never seen come from his mother.
“You’re going to run out on us for her!? Some manner less, trashy, diseased schutta you picked up on Tatooine!?”

She practically spit out Tatooine, which in hindsight was a baffling place to put the emphasis on her scorn, but her venom was adequately conveyed regardless. Reil waited for Cali to react explosively, but she didn’t even look at Lucrecia as she hauled their crate to the door. Reil was about to react for Cali, but she grabbed his arm and whispered, “Let it go”, as she pulled him toward the door. Lucrecia made a sound like she had something left to say, one last insult to hurl at Cali perhaps, as they crossed the threshold, but it was cut off by Zealos slamming the door behind him.

Reil took the crate from Cali, and began hauling it to the speeder.
“You didn’t have to take that from her, y’know.”

Cali shrugged.
“She didn’t mean it. Not really, any how. . .”

“What she lacked in conviction was more than compensated with spite and petulance; she had no call dragging you into all this.”

Cali scoffed.
“I’m fair certain I was already part of this, even before you decided to go and get yourself disowned.”

Reil only managed to grunt a reply as he hefted the crate into the trunk of the speeder. Cali was silent for a moment, as she considered her words carefully.
“Look, Reil. . .”

Reil turned to her as he closed the trunk of the speeder.
“Yeah?”

“If, you know, you wanted to go back, and smooth things over with your folks, that’d be okay.”

Reil cocked his head to the side in confusion.
“What?”

Cali looked embarrassed.
“I don’t wanna stay, or anything, but it’s your family, and if we needed to wait for the next ferry, so’s you aren’t disowned anymore, I could bear it.”

“. . . What?”

Cali frowned.
“What do you mean what? I’m giving you a chance to make amends, you nerf-herder!”

Reil cocked an eyebrow.
“And this is something you think I wanted. . ?”

Cali was flustered.
“I. . . Well. . . Sort of? Most people think family is important, you don’t wanna even try to leave on better terms with your folks?”

Reil entertained the notion, briefly.
“Not really, no.”

Cali glowed beet red.
“Oh. I see.”

Reil gave the proposal some more thought.
“How exactly was this plan of yours supposed to play out, anyhow?”

Cali sighed.
“Forget it, let’s just get going.”

“No, I’m curious. Was I just supposed to go back in, and give some sort of sorrowful apology?”

Cali glared as she walked around to the passenger side door.
“Shut up and get in the speeder.”

“Or, were we gonna go back in, and yell psych or something, like it was some sort of sick joke?”

“I will hurt you unless you get into this speeder, right now!” Cali called as she closed her door.

Reil grinned as he settled himself in the driver’s seat.
“I’m touched that you care so much about it, just doesn’t seem like you thought this all the way through, y’know?”

“Stop talking, or I will kill you.” Cali threatened through clenched teeth.

“Didn’t think what through?” Stephen called from the back seat.

“NOTHING.” Cali said very loudly, ending the discussion.

Reil turned the speeder around, and began driving towards the docks. Stephen waited until they were out of the driveway, before he started asking questions.
“So, how’d it go?”

Reil shrugged.
“It went. I don’t really think there’s a good way to run away from home.”

“At least not a second time.” Stephen conceded, “Was Virgil as bad as you expected?”

Zealos shook his head.
“I’m not sure if he was better, or worse, but he defiantly didn’t behave the way I expected. Mom was worse than I expected, much worse.”

Stephen scratched his head.
“How bad was that?”

“Chewed out Virgil, then chewed out me, then disowned me. Called Cali a diseased schutta, to top the whole thing off.”

Stephen was silent for the rest of the trip, as he considered this. By the time they reached the docks, the sun had finally set. Fog started rising off the river, and it began to rain; the water coming down in torrents, as the air finally cooled enough for it to condense. Cali loaded their luggage onto the barge, as Zealos gave the keys to the speeder back to Stephen.
“I guess this is goodbye. Take care of yourself, Steve.”

Stephen grimaced.
“You too. I guess, after how things went at the house, we won’t expect to hear from you anytime soon, will we?”

“If you consider never to be outside of sometime soon, then yeah, I guess you might have a bit of a wait.”

“Look, Zealos. . . It was good seeing you again. Maybe you could drop me a line sometime?”

“Maybe. I should go, ‘fore Cali talks the driver into leaving without me.”

Stephen didn’t wait to see his brother depart. He was already pulling out of the parking lot before the ferry set sail.

Ice Hawk
05-04-2011, 04:25 AM
Wind and rain mercilessly pounded the boat, as it traveled down the river Tweeg. While the ferry was never in any actual danger, it did make life miserable for its passengers, quartered on the open deck. This amounted to Reil and Cali, and half a ton of packed grain.
Cali had the coat Reil had bought here strung between two crates, in a sort of makeshift tent. It wasn’t working, as she was still soaked. Cold an irritable, she turned to voice her displeasure with Reil, who was using his coat as a blanket, and making a serious effort to fall asleep despite the damp.
“You said we were going to be ridding a ferry down river.”

Reil groaned, and rolled over to face her.
“We are on the ferry. Shut up and go to sleep.”

“This”, Cali pointed emphatically to the deck of the boat, “is not a ferry. It’s barely a barge. It’s a borderline raft.”

Reil sat up and tried to wipe the sleep from his eyes, only to find his fingers numb. He began rubbing his hands together to try and keep them alive.
“They’re the same kriffing thing. I think I mentioned something about pitching you off if you kept complaining. . .”

Cali stuck her tongue out at Reil.
“Shows what you know.”

Reil rolled his eyes.
“Fine, what’s the frelling difference?”

“For one, ferries carry passengers; barges carry cargo.”

“Not many people take the ferry this time of the month”, Reil mumbled as he put his jacket on properly, “Give ya three guess why. . .”

“Plus, ferries have rounded bottoms; this one is a single flat deck.”

Reil looked at Cali with scrutiny.
“How in the hells would you know that? You grew up in a desert!”

Cali was indignant.
“I can read, you know.”

“Yes, but I never see you doin’ it. What, did you filch an encyclopedia when I wasn’t lookin’? I mean if it isn’t ferries and barges, you’re on about the impossibility of an agricultural industry here. . .”

“This weather should destroy crops!”

“Well it doesn’t. You’re on a boat filled with crop, so we can plainly see that the system works.”

“But how can it-?”

“I don’t know! Maybe a Jedi did it! I’m a pilot, I fly around and blow things up, I do not understand the complexities of nautical engineering, or agricultural developments, and I still don’t know why you do. If you aren’t going to sleep, go somewhere else!”
Reil laid back down and turned away from Cali, who sat and stewed for a couple of minutes, before taking Reil’s advice, and went exploring.

There were narrow paths through the crates of grain that was piled on the deck, but Cali had to feel her way for them, as the night sky above was overcast with rain clouds. More than once she slipped on the wet decking, but as she made her way aft ship, she spotted the light from the driver’s tower, which sat a ways above the cargo. She had to climb over several crates, because the path was hidden, but she finally made it to the door. As she entered the bridge of the boat, the driver turned to see who was intruding.
“Oh, it’s you.” He mumbled as he turned his attention back to steering the boat through the inky black.

Cali cautiously moved deeper into the bridge.
“Is it okay for me to be here?”

He turned to her in puzzlement.
“Sure, why not? It’s not like anyone else is taking up space. I was gonna go, and get yeh and yer friend to come in a bit, out of the cold, but I can’t be leaving the controls too long, and it’s tricky finding your way in the dark.”

Cali rubbed her arm, which had been bruised in one of the falls.
“You can say that again.”

He squinted a bit, then made a minor course adjustment.
“When you’re feeling a bit warmer, maybe you should go back and get your friend. I bet he’s chilled something fierce, and wouldn't mind sitting in here.”

Cali grinned capriciously, but the driver didn’t turn around to see it.
“Oh, no, he loves the rain. Can’t get enough of it.”

The driver scratched his head in bemusement as he peered into the storm.
“Really?”

“Oh, yes” Cali nodded emphatically, “He’d be mad if I disturbed him, I bet.”

The driver shrugged.
“T’each their own I guess. Wouldn’t be out on a night like this if I was a fish, myself.”

Cali rested against the far wall of the bridge, as the driver absentmindedly hummed a tune to himself. It sounded mournful, and piqued Cali’s interest.
“What song is that?”

The driver stopped humming.
“Naught but an old man’s song.”

“Could you sing it?” Cali insisted.
The driver chuckled, and then, somewhat off pitch, began to sing.
“Oh! Ye'll take the high road, and I'll take the low road,
And I'll be in Suthland afore ye,
But me and my true love will never meet again,
On the sunny, sunny banks of Lake Loman.

'Twas then that we parted, In yon shady glen,
On the steep, steep side of Ben's Coven,
Where, in golden hue, The river shore we view,
And the moon coming out in the gloaming.

The wee birdies sing, and the wild flowers spring,
And in sunshine the waters sleeping.
But the broken heart kens, that we’ll never meet again
On the sunny, sunny shore of Lake Loman.”

mack jace
05-13-2011, 07:33 PM
The door to the briefing room slid openly with a hiss, revealing Du'ul hunched over the table, studying several holocharts that were displayed in front of him. He was so deeply focused that Hartor thought he hadn't noticed him coming in, until he raised his hand to signal Hartor not to say anything. For a few minutes he stood there, watching Du'ul plot courses and study charts. He grew more and more focused as time went on, his movements becoming faster and yet deliberate at the same time. Suddenly he stood, fixing Hartor with one of his gazes. After a pause, he smiled. “Well Admiral, I think we may have our course.”

Hartor returned the smile, though he noticed he was putting less mirth behind it than usual, Du'ul cocked his head ever so slightly, almost as if he, too, had noticed the slight change. “Most excellent, I'll be sure to get us underway once we exit hyperspace.” He paused, then continued. “Warlord, I'm beginning to wonder just what it is that we're chasing here. You've mentioned treasure beyond our wildest imaginations, but you haven't exactly mentioned what it actually is.”

“You're most certainly right Admiral,” Du'ul replied. “But tell me, does it really matter what we're going after? You have command of a ship, of men who follow you and respect you, and you have the chance to become richer than any being in the galaxy. Shouldn't any one of those things be enough?”

Hartor drew his lips into a tight line. “Well, normally yes, but...well, say it's mere curiosity.”

“Ah,” Du'ul said with a short laugh, “curiosity. You know, curiosity killed the sand panther.” He paused, almost assessing the benefits of telling Hartor what it is he was going after. “Alright, I'll tell you. But first, I must ask you a question: do you believe in the power of the Force?”

Hartor gave a small grin, “The Force? The one that is supposed to hold the universe together? I've heard the stories, and obviously it must exist, otherwise Jedi would not have lasted as long as they did. But myself, I guess I would have to say that I'd rather feel the weight of a blaster in my hand than hope that this Force would be there to help me out.” He regarded Du'ul curiously. “Why what difference does it make?”

Du'ul smiled, “Oh it makes all the difference my friend.” He pointed to a star chart, that had focused on an empty area of space out past the Rim. “This is the place that we will find what we're looking for. What is hidden here, in this pocket of space, is a world lost to time, a place very few beings have ever heard of, and even less have visited. This is the place where, thousands of years ago, a warlord placed a great treasure deep within the recesses of the planet. This is the planet Aeterna.”

Hartor had a hard time believing that the empty bit of space held anything at all besides a few wayward asteroids or a comet passing through. He was almost sure that Du'ul had lost it, that he was leading them on a wayward quest for nothing, and that Hartor would have nothing to look forward to but a quick and summary execution from the Empire. Almost. There was a little voice in the back of his mind that told him that this was real, that Du'ul wasn't playing him for a fool. That he could actually find this treasure and never have to worry about anything again. And as he listened, the voice became louder and louder until all his former worries were nearly mute compared to this voice. One question still remained on his mind however. “And how do you know all of this, if this planet is so mysterious and secretive?”

Du'ul answered, and somehow it did not come as a surprise to Hartor when he said, “My friend, that warlord was me.”

Gunhaven
05-15-2011, 11:52 PM
Gaarworr looked up at the sky, or what was left of the sky due to Jynton's highrises. The aliens that looked up to him had started to speak up; they wanted more land. And since Gaarworr was, if anything, a protector of the people he went along with it. However he wouldn't be doing the work of expanding, that was left to the Rodian.

They had met shortly after Gaarworr showed up in the undercity. He couldn't communicate to the Rodian and she didn't bother to explain her past. He liked it that way, referring to his allies by their race and what they did versus the names he didn't care all that much about. But the Rodian, the Rodian's talent laid in her ability to get others to cooperate.
What had started as two people spread to a building. Then the building spread to a block. They moved slowly and kept to what could be considered the slums. After their sixth block joined their cause the Imperials started to take notice. It could be the fact that as they expanded Gaarworr insisted on removing most, if not all, humans. In his eyes all humans were alike: slavers, murderers, and power hungry. He viewed what they were doing as a safe home for the oppressed and humans certainly didn't fit that category.

But whatever the reason, the Imperials sent a few Stormtroopers to rid the area of the growing Pro-Alien movement. Of course, they didn't survive and the Territory suffered. Every week a dozen Stormtroopers came and every week a dozen heads were added to the line marking the Territory. And still, the aliens wanted more. So today the Rodian and Gaarworr headed out to talk to the leader of the nearby gang.

Ice Hawk
05-30-2011, 01:57 AM
Leaning on the barge’s port guardrail, Reil exhaled slowly, and watched as his breath misted in front of him. A thin layer of frost now covered the entire ship, and by now he was grateful for the cold, as it helped him to cool his temper and resist the urge to throttle Cali. He had awoken cold and miserable, only to find that she had spent the night warm and dry. Not that there was any particular difference between night and day, now that the sun had set.

Cali stood behind him, in silence, doing her best to appear penitent and remorseful. Reil almost believed it. He massaged his temples and tried to direct his thoughts to happier topics, like the lights of Twillingate, which he could see just off in the distance. It was only a small harbor town, but in the perpetual dark, it lit up like a beacon.

*******

It had taken just over an hour for the boat to close with the harbor, and once it had docked, the barge became a flurry of activity, as the dock workers rushed to unload the last ship before the freeze, and then get out of the cold. Reil and Cali managed to slip through the waves of workers, as they went about their work.

Cali set down their luggage, and turned to Reil expectantly.
“So now what?”

Reil shrugged.
“I guess we go to Sunny’s.”

Cali rolled her eyes.
“I figured that part, I meant how do we get there?”

“We walk.”

“You dragged us all the way out here on a raft, just to makes us walk the rest of the way?”
Cali grumbled.

Reil scowled.
“Yeah, you had a devil of a time, warm and cozy in the driver’s box. If you don’t wanna walk, that’s your business. It’s gonna get properly cold soon, so if you want to stay here and freeze, you be my guest.”

Cali muttered a few choice words under her breath, but followed Reil as he walked out of the marina. As they walked, Cali noticed that they were getting farther away from the center of the town, where it was brightest. It was getting harder to see, and there were few homes this way. Just as Cali was about to ask how much farther, Reil pointed to a massive lot, just a bit farther.
“There it is, Raxus Nadir.”

Cali turned to Reil, confused by the reference.
“Huh?”

“You know like Raxus Prime, the junk world.”

Cali looked at Reil expectantly, waiting for him to explain.
“Yes. . .”

Reil shrugged.
“You’ll get it once we’re there.”

Indeed, the reference made more sense once Cali saw it. The lot was twice the size of its neighbors, with a shack half the size of the most of the homes she’d seen. The rest of the property was taken up by no less than four light transports, all in various states of dismantlement, and disrepair. Between them were half assembled, or disassembled droids, swoops, two speeders, and seven different lawnmowers, with enough parts to build two more. Tools were scattered haphazardly throughout the mess, all exposed to the elements. Cali wrinkled her nose as the air stank of engine grease, fuel, and coolant, with a number of dead patches of grass to indicate where toxic fluids had leaked.

Reil breathed in deep.
“It’s good to be home.”

Gunhaven
05-30-2011, 04:15 AM
They ran into no problems as they transitioned the boundary between what they claimed was their Territory and the fellow gang's territory. However that didn't mean they weren't watched as they walked down the road. Gaarworr could feel the eyes of humans burning on him, some may have even lived where they were set up and forced out because of his actions. And yet nothing happened as they approached what they were told was the hideout for the leader, what was once a standard republic high-rise that has since fallen into disrepair like so many other buildings in the area.
Gaarworr knew his strengths and knew that it would be best if the Rodian went in by herself to speak with the leader. However, he had a duty to protect her to at least his office if not further. So the two of them entered the building. They were stopped by a half dozen human guards, all armed with blaster rifles and wearing blast helmets and vests over blue overalls. He started to raise his fists as the Rodian placed her hand on his arm and stopped him.
She explained to the guards how she had come to negotiate a deal with their leader. The guards listened and thankfully trusted her, giving the both of them a quick pat down before they led her to the elevator. Gaarworr was forced to wait outside until the meeting was finished or the Rodian called for him on her commlink. Thus Gaarwoor stood outside the hideout and waited for the Rodian or her call.

Dawncaller
05-31-2011, 12:37 PM
The vast shipyards of Kuat orbited the planet as a continuous ring of stations, docking ports, construction slips, and countless support satellites. The pilot of the small orbital ferry deftly maneuvered through the carefully coordinated spacelanes to arrive at its destination. Todrin Doule mused that, not more than a few months ago, he was in that same position: obediently shuttling ranked officials to their destinations. Instead, he was a mere passenger—no, he was one of those ranked officials now, on his way to his first command.

“Here we are.” Admiral Harmod leaned close and pointed out the viewport. Outside, the labyrinth of stations and platforms opened up to a brightly lit orbital drydock. “That one right there is yours.”

It was only half again as large as the pureball pitch he used to play on back home, small and slight and lightly armed, but it looked fast. It had the same distinctive wedge shape of anything Doule had seen come out of Kuat, but with two thick nacelles reaching port and starboard; a bristling array of communications equipment extended from each. It was the Inun, the “lynchpin of the squad,” and it was all his.

“It runs on minimal crew,” Harmod explained, “which makes room for a full platoon of army troopers, a lance of scout troopers, and naval security staff. Her bay’s got a pair of ATPTs in it as well as the lance’s bikes…”

Doule’s imagination reeled with the military potential he suddenly commanded. “We’ll be conducting ground combat, then?”

Harmod’s uncomfortably close mannerisms shifted as his features became more guarded. “Our squad is… versatile. We need to be ready for any mission. There may even be contingencies where the Inun is sent ahead to reconnoiter and establish a foothold before the rest of the squad arrives.”

Versatile indeed. Doule didn’t relish what his imagination now offered: alone on a planet with only a handful of troops and awaiting firepower from overhead. Doule had entered the Fleet Academy for a reason: he was no ground-pounder; still, the thrill and freedom of leaping ahead of the others with a small but swift task force had a certain appeal. Doule found himself looking forward to polishing his crew into a skilled and dutiful group of veterans.

Given the size of the Inun, the tour of the interior was brief. It had a standard design for lesser Imperial craft: tight corridors, tighter bunks, and no space wasted. There were only a few exceptions to this economy of living space: commanding officers and meriting visitors were afforded some degree of luxury in private suites, the engineering room boasted two floors of technical stations and a maintenance platform overhead, and the crew enjoyed a rather sizable mess hall for the proportions of the ship.

There was another large space, which Harmod informed him was called the “Nexus room,” a large almost spherical space located at the center of the communications trunk. Within that space was a semicircle of a platform, at either end a door and stairs curving up to a higher platform. The wall by the lower platform was lined with long, narrow windows, offering a vista Doule sneered at silently. Typical Imperial architecture: always a fitting backdrop for the melodramatic.

What really captured Doule’s attention about the Nexus room was in its center and not its walls. Mounted on a column of power conduits and technology—which Doule failed to recognize—was a large metal sphere. “What’s this, Admiral?”

The Admiral was distant and guarded again. “Need to know, I’m afraid.”

“You mean I’m not allowed to know about equipment installed in my own ship?”

“For now, at least. All I can tell you now is it has to do with the communications array. Once the squad has gone through its shakedown, I’m sure you will have been fully briefed about the Nexus.”

“You’re ‘sure’? I don’t understand what you mean, sir.”

Harmod clapped him on the back and smiled. “You aren’t the only one who feels like a puppet captain, Doule…”

mack jace
06-14-2011, 12:10 PM
It took all of Hartor's willpower not to laugh right off at Du'ul's answer. "Come now, Warlord. Do you really expect me to believe that you've been alive for thousands of years? Seriously, how do you know about this planet?"

Du'ul smiled, "Admiral, it's true. I am thousands of years old. And I'll tell you how it happened.

Back in the time of the Old Republic, thousands of years ago, I was a young Jedi apprentice to Master Tharcor, a well-respected and powerful member of the Jedi Order. We were sent on a mission to a world that was rumored to be home to powerful Force-users, and our mission was to see if we could bring them into the fold of the Jedi. It took us several weeks of searching, but we finally found the world we were looking for, and even from space we knew it would be everything we had hoped for. We could feel the Force radiating from this planet and it occupants, and so we were eager to land and get to know the place.

We were directed to a primitive little spaceport, and were greeted by throngs of locals who had detected our Force presence and wished to come speak with us. It was incredible, every person there was as strong as or stronger in the Force than most Jedi I knew, even the more powerful members of the Council. We were brought before their High Council immediately because they wanted to speak to us, their wisest people talking to the Republic's wisest people. It was when we met the Council that things became interesting. Expecting to meet some of their oldest and wisest, we were instead greeted by a group of people no older than eighteen standard years. At first we thought it was a polite joke, or a misunderstanding, but we realized this was not the case. In fact, we realized that there was not an older person in sight!

We kept our curiosity to ourselves for the most part, knowing full well that this was probably a highly guarded secret, and we did not wish to intrude or seem as if we were coming to take any such secrets. After several weeks, we finally did ask them why there were no older people around. They gave us a single answer: The Well.

When we asked what "The Well" was, they took us high up into the mountains, a trip that took days and days. Finally we reached the summit, and there was a massive door in the side of the mountain. One of our guides, the "oldest" member of the Council, reached out and pulled the door open with merely a wave of his hand. My master tried to move it a centimeter and was unable to, that is how heavy the door was. These people were far more powerful in the Force than anyone in the history of the Galaxy! This was an incredible discovery for us, and for the Jedi Order. We walked deep into a cave at the top of the mountain, and there, in the middle of the cave, was a brightly lit well of water. It was the clearest water I had ever seen, but the well extended down far past the extent of the light. They told us the well came from deep beneath the surface of the planet, and was cooled as it came to the top. They said that the water was imbued with the Force, and that any who drank from it could receive eternal life through the Force.

Naturally, we were curious about the water. They told us they had brought us there to taste of the water, to become one of them, to learn their ways so that we could show others as well. My master stepped forward, and reached down to sip the water. As soon as the water touched his lips he began to radiate energy. They asked him to step away, but he took a deeper gulp of the water, and then the energy turned to electricity that arced out from the center of his being. I could feel the Force - and the dark side - growing around him.

He lit his lightsaber and began to attack us. It was all I could do to survive the onslaught. One of the council members called out to me, told me to drink from the well, that it was the only way I could stop him. I managed only a tiny sip, but instantly I felt rejuvenated, and I struck my master down, an act that I will never forget. But they thanked me, and told me that I was now the Warlord of Aeterna, that all of Aeterna - for that was the name of the planet - was now in my debt. I told them that I was a mere apprentice, that I didn't know how to be a warlord, that I didn't want to be a warlord. But they begged me to stay, they began building me a massive fortress befitting a warlord, and so I stayed. For years and years I stayed. Eventually I decided to become the warlord they wanted me to be, and I had them build me factories to produce ships and shipyards, and I produced a fleet. Then I went on the warpath.

I stored the spoils of my war on the planet, and for years I struck out from my hidden base. Soon, the Aeternians grew dissatisfied with all of the killing. When I asked them what they expected a warlord to do, they told me they had wanted a warlord who would conquer and teach, not conquer and pillage. They finally attempted to overthrow me, but I had been growing stronger in the Force by day, until finally even their most powerful Force-user could not touch my power. I ordered a bombardment of the planet, to quell any further resistance to my rule. The last remaining High Council member was on my ship at the time, and the destruction of the planet practically killed him. His last words were this: For the suffering you have brought to this planet, you shall wander the galaxy for five thousand years, never knowing peace.

The next thing I knew I woke up on a ship different from the last one I had been on. I attempted to get back to Aeterna, but I found I could no longer remember the coordinates, or even the sector of space it had been in. All of my work as Warlord had gone to waste. Since then, I have wandered the galaxy, learning, being, waiting. And now, those five thousand long years have passed and I shall have my spoils at last."

mack jace
07-06-2011, 10:52 PM
Hartor took the story Du'ul told him in silence, absorbing the words and everything they meant. After a few moments of silence, he finally fixed Du'ul with an inquisitive stare. "So this whole thing really was about treasure? That's it?" He almost couldn't believe it. With five thousand years, the best plan Du'ul could come up with was to wait? That did not sound quite right. And yet, he knew that Du'ul had not just waited, but like he said, he learned. Du'ul was powerful, very powerful indeed. Powerful enough to convince an entire Imperial Star Destroyer crew to mutiny and leave the Empire. Powerful indeed.

Du'ul had turned back to the star charts, and as Hartor surfaced from his thoughts he saw the navigation officer standing next to him, listening to Du'ul. Moments after he left the room, the ship shuddered and Hartor knew they were on their way to Aeterna. Du'ul looked up and said, "As I was saying, yes, this really is about the treasure. But it's not merely the physical treasures that I'm looking for. It's the Well. That is the true treasure of Aeterna. And imagine, once all of you have immersed yourself in the Well, we will have an army even the Empire will not be able to defeat!"

That did sound like a good plan, Hartor had to admit. Even though he wasn't exactly a believer in the Force, he knew it existed, or at least, something existed that allowed Du'ul to do the things he did. And if everyone on the ship could do those things...Hartor couldn't even imagine the possibilities. And plus, if this whole thing turned out to be a sham, they'd still be rich beyond their wildest imaginations, which was a bonus, to be sure.

Hartor excused himself, and left Du'ul to his charts. Outside the briefing room stood Pirta, armor, weapons and all. "Admiral, it seems we've got our heading, finally."

"We do," he replied motioning her to follow him. They stepped into the turbolift to head down towards quarters. "Warlord Du'ul managed to figure out our final destination from information taken from Praesitlyn, and we're en route there now."

Pirta, helmet off, smiled a mirthless smile. "Right, Warlord Du'ul." She turned to look Hartor in the eyes, "You realize you're being played, right? Like a bad children's game?"

Hartor laughed through his nose. "In what way? By Du'ul you mean? Jedi mind tricks only work on mindless thugs, not someone like myself." It felt a little odd praising himself like that, but he knew it to be true. And besides, there was nothing wrong with a little self-assurance.

"True, but that's only if the person is being tricked into doing something they wouldn't want to do. I read your files, you were a great asset to the Empire who got passed over because you weren't as rich as others were. You got stuck with a pointless assignment, assigned to a nerfherder of a commanding officer. You wanted out, but couldn't do it yourself. I've seen Du'ul in action. He can do things other Jedi would never have dreamed of being able to do." He took this in silence. She continued, "Think about it. An entire Imperial Star Destroyer crew that just so happens to think the exact same way as you do, and Du'ul just magically appears right when it's best for him to? Something doesn't add up." A moment later the door opened and Hartor stepped out. He turned to see Pirta still standing in the turbolift. "Just keep your eyes open, is what I'm saying. And watch your back." The door slid shut and Hartor heard the turbolift head below-decks. It did make sense, what she had said. But it all seemed right too...Hartor's head started to hurt, and he hoped that tonight sleep would come easy.

Fingon
07-13-2011, 02:23 AM
The room was dim and filled with the muted hum of a hundred voices speaking in as many tongues mixing together over the melody slow ballad played through tinny speakers. Tendrils of smoke drifted along the booths, complimenting the aroma of the generous amount of intoxicant that was constantly ordered, served, and drank down. Some sipped it, some savored it, some let it slide right down into their gut like water. Dante Atilles sipped his. It was a crystal blue liquor from Malastare, thick and bitter. Little by little the glass was drained down lips grizzled by several days’ unshaved hair.

He shouldn’t have been there. The scruffy-faced man knew it. He ought to have been going to meet with the authorities, reading his equipment, searching news feed, something. Something to find and free Bear. But instead he was here, sipping his alcohol. And he hated himself for it.

He hated himself because he could so easily justify this one drink. No matter that his companion and friend had been abducted. No matter that every minute could very well have counted. The drink came first, even now. Besides, he could not really do anything until the port authorities rallied and were ready to begin a search, and that would take a few minutes more. So he drank on.

“What’s happened to me?” This was not the first time Dante had asked himself that question. And it was not the first time that no agreeable answer came. He looked around the salon, his eyes flashing the same sapphire color as the drink at his fingers. It was everything he detested about society, here in one place. And he in the middle of it.

He stood to go and jostled against a four-eyed alien on his way out. The being shoved him back, barking a Huttese obscenity through its shapeless speaking orifice. The blue-eyed man retorted with a particularly explicit profanity of his own and tried to brush past. A fist in his gut stopped him short and sent him staggering. As if on cue, the music stopped and someone with rough hands propelled Dante back toward his opponent, then joined the newly-formed circle which cut off the human from any easy escape.

This was not the first time this had happened either. And Dante knew there would only be one way out.

Orpheus
07-13-2011, 03:46 AM
He had promised himself that Ferai Junction would be diffrent. That for once he wouldnt have to stand there while someone told him that the shipping contract had been given to someone more "reliable." Of course, as usual, he'd been wrong.

Now, like so many times before, Matrim Locke sat in some seedy bar drinking bottom shelf liquor while he tried to decided if he was going to buy fuel, or pay another few days of docking fees. He nursed his repulsive drink, wincing with every sip, and stared into the swirling liquid in his cup, looking for answers. He wasnt suprised when it didnt surrender any.

"I didnt think it would be like this when I mustered out you know." Matrim said to the alien sitting on his right. " I thought that I'd by a ship, start freelance trading, and then retire a decade or two later. Who knew that I'd spend six months and all of my savings being told that I wasnt qualified?"
The alien looked at him, bleated something, and turned the other way. Matrim decided that the bleat sounded sympathetic.

The music stopped and the voices in the bar went quiet.
Only one thing that could mean.
Matrim stood up and turned around. Sure enough, a ring of aliens had formed around what may have been the only other human in the bar. The whole bar quivered with anticipation.

I'm not going to let some other down on his luck human get trashed by some aliens. Not today.

Matrim sauntered through the fixated crowd towards the ring of aliens. On his way he aquired a conveniently unoccupied chair. He crept up, tightend his grip on the chair, and prepared to bring the chair down on a unsuspecting alien. Someone cried out to him, but it was too late. The yellow-green humanoid turned his head just in time to catch the rapidly descending chair on his face. They met with a solid thump and the alien crashed to the floor. Everyone in the bar turned thier heads and stared and him, the aliens with outraged disbelief, and the human with regular disbelief.

Matrim let the chair drop and stepped up next to the other human.

"Hey there, I'm Matrim Locke."

Then the aliens remembered they were in a fight.

Fingon
07-19-2011, 04:36 PM
"Hey there, I'm Matrim Locke.”

Dante sized up the man who decided to interject himself into the bar fight. He was taller and older than Dante, clean shaven and wearing a stylized flight suit that would have been nice if it had been clean and several years newer. He had strong, defined features, but his eyes were bleary and red, as if he hadn’t slept for days. For all his stature, however, he didn’t seem a fighter.

“A pleasure.” The newcomer man might not be a brawler, but he was better than nothing. Besides, this was no longer a fight—the floor erupted into a free-for-all, the larger beings gleefully joining the fray, the more fragile ones scrambling out of the way. Dante only had time to tell his new friend to get back-to-back with him before the pair of humans was engulfed into a torrent of strikes and multi-lingual screams. One particularly ugly gran smashed his fist into Dante’s face, sending the scruffy-faced man reeling.

The shorter human could taste the blood running down his face and stinging his eyes. It was times like this that Dante cursed his biology. Why hadn’t his race evolved to be ten feet tall, or covered with protective armor, or with incredible strength? Or maybe claws, those would have been good too. Then again, the bloodied man thought through the haze that clouded his vision and mind, it could have been worse. We could have been Jawas.

Dante was dimly aware of a hand at his shoulder, dragging him backward. He tried to struggle against it. His efforts were responded with a smack to the face a gruff voice in his ear. “It’s me, nerf herder! I’m getting us out of here,” the voice said. And that seemed like a good enough idea.

mack jace
07-26-2011, 11:01 AM
Another night, another nightmare. Hartor was almost getting used to their presence, but he would never be prepared for the feelings that came with his waking moments. He found himself sitting up in his bunk, staring at the wall for quite some time before pulling himself together. He couldn't remember this dream either, and that was disconcerting. He made his way to the refresher, and splashed some cold water on his face to bring him out of his thoughts. He stared at the man in the mirror, wondering how he had gotten to this point in his life. Things had been going so well, up until he met Khazad Du'ul. Relatively well, anyway. Now, he was a fugitive, being led by a man who may or may not be clinically insane. Hartor thought himself insane as well, considering all that had happened up to now. But when he looked in his eyes, he did not see the eyes of a madman, he saw the eyes of someone who merely wished to change his lot in life, and had made some mistakes along the way.

As he stared through his reflection, he began to hum a tune that he had not heard since he was a little boy. It was a completely instrumental song, the main theme of one of his favorite holos as a child. The story was an epic, and the music to go along with it was equally so, and it had always made the hairs on his neck stand up when he heard it. As a child, he had been filled with the desire to become a hero when he heard this song, wanted to go out and rid the galaxy of evil, to become a legend. Over time that desire had fallen to more practical dreams, but now, remembering the song, he could feel that desire swell within his heart once more. His eyes hardened with his will, and he became determined not to let himself, or anyone else with him, go down in history as just another person caught up in events. He would be the one to shape events from now on, he was the master of his own destiny. He nodded to the man in the mirror, knowing that things had changed.

Dawncaller
08-25-2011, 03:40 PM
Shakedown of the Inun was nearly complete. Todrin Doule was not surprised with the initial resistance he faced when his crew realized he had the position thanks to Imperial string-pulling instead of paying his dues as a ranking officer; it took some time for them to appreciate both his competency and his desire to listen openly to the experience of the enlisted crew. Hierarchy was a tool of organization aboard the Inun, not a weapon to threaten and subdue subordinates. His crew was adjusting nicely.

Of course there were exceptions: officers who still felt jilted by his unprecedented advancement and frequently grumbled about formal complaints and petitions to officials evidencing the mistake of Doule’s captaincy. No official action had come from these appeals, suggesting to Doule that they were either set aside in order to see how this unprecedented command structure would play out, or that they were simply ignored.

But what was only simmering frustration aboard the crew of the Inun was often outright hostility on the part of the other captains of Morning Star Squad, as it had been dubbed. They made no attempt to hide their opinions of how Doule’s position cheapened their own advancements in the Empire; they often assumed they could order Doule around as if he was still a non-com, and even on occasion issued commands to his crew directly, disdainfully bypassing his authority. Doule tried to deal with these problems as amicably and professionally as possible, but he couldn’t deny how the arrangement rankled. He had spoken with Admiral Harmod on several occasions, but the leader of Morning Star Squad often just laughed, patted him on the shoulder, and reassured him that once all the components of the squad were in place and operational such problems would resolve themselves.

Such consolation always reminded him of the Nexus room aboard his ship and the spherical apparatus at its center. What was it? The core of some new superweapon in the Imperial arsenal or simply a hoax: a decoy to attract the attention of Rebel forces, to be sacrificed along with its phony, expendable captain? Doule often spent such despondent thoughts in the Nexus room itself, circling about the central apparatus on the stairs and platforms in a contemplative mosey. For some reason he found comfort in the room, more so than in his own quarters, as if by simple proximity he would be able to coax out the secrets of the Nexus sphere. He often examined the sphere, gazing at the curved panels, seams and joints, wondering what could be inside.

“Captain Doule.” A security guard stood at one of the doors to the room, aware of the standing rule that Doule’s privacy could be interrupted by important information without fear of reprisal. “You have visitors.”

Visitors? The fact that Doule wasn’t expecting visitors told him that this was an Imperial superior; even the sanctimonious captains of the rest of the squad has the courtesy to announce their arrival. “I’ll see them in there, Lieutenant. Thank you.” In the Nexus room, whoever his visitor was wouldn’t be able to ignore the sphere—the proverbial two-ton bantha in the room—and may finally be persuaded to offer information on its role in the squad’s purpose.

The man who entered was a tall man in dark robes: the unofficial uniform for the Empire’s intelligentsia. His stark features seemed pleasant and agreeable despite the garish cybernetic implants comprising one eye and much of his face around it. And he looked looked all too familiar.

“When last I crossed your path, Lord Tremayne, I was ordered to escort a young boy to the Maw installation.”

“Excellent memory, Captain Doule.” The man paced along the lower of the room’s two platforms, his arms placed comfortably behind his back. “I congratulate you on your subsequent successes.”

“You’ve no doubt read my report on the mission’s failure. I did everything I could, given the circumstances, and my current position was none of my doing, I assure you.”

“Failure?” The High Inquisitor gave an uncharacteristic belly laugh. “No, my good captain, there was no failure. And concerning your new rank and command, I had a hand in that, so your defensive statements are unwarranted.”

“I see. Forgive my candor, Lord Tremayne. I’ve felt frustrated and poorly informed in my new position.”

The tall man waved a dismissive hand; the only apology Doule could probably hope for. “I’m here to change that, Captain. I assume you’ve been told very little about the nature of this room.”

“That is correct, my lord.”

“Because the nature of the Nexus is a closely guarded secret. Only moments ago, Admiral Harmod was given the explanatory files. His reaction was… noteworthy. What I’m about to explain to you requires a great deal of open-mindedness.” He spun around to face Doule, his mechanical eye a piercing red blaze. “What do you know about the Force?”

“I’m familiar with history, milord. The Jedi were a major power in the galaxy until their attempted coup was thwarted by Emperor Palpatine and those loyal to him. The Force was the purported source of the Jedi’s mystical power.”

“’Purported,’ Captain? You don’t believe in the Force?”

“As you said, milord, your briefing requires open-mindedness.”

“Well put, Doule. You may have a future in the political arena.”

Tremayne pointed a finger at the Nexus sphere. “In that sphere will sit a powerful being, sensitive to the ebb and flow of the Force.” He gestured to the cables and junction tubes extending to the port and starboard. “The sphere is linked to the communications array in such a way that it can augment the being’s unique abilities, enabling unprecedented communicative and coordinating capabilities. In full operation, the ships of Morning Star Squad function as extensions of this being’s body; hands, limbs, weapons. The crews are conduits of control, neural pathways acting in concert to ensure instant and complete cooperation.”

Tremayne’s eyes, both real and replaced, shone with religious fervor, yet his words were madness. Doule recalled learning about species in the galaxy that existed in what was called a ‘hive mind,” all working together, and no individuals. The image of Morning Star’s personnel operating like worker drones at the whim of some psycho-despot made him shudder. Tremayne at the helm of this magical monstrosity was truly frightening, and Doule wondered if there was some way to safely extricate himself from this situation.

“The experience is much more subtle than you imagine, Doule,” said Tremayne, far too observant of Doule’s distress for the captain’s liking. “The crews are still in full control of their faculties, but their awareness is drawn to opportunities for action. The petty selfishness and squabbles you’ve faced with your fellow captains and crew will dissolve as common causes take precedence, and this squad will function with the greatest precision in all the fleet.”

Doule took a deep breath. “I understand the value of such capabilities, milord, but I must ask why you chose me for this station. I was a non-commissioned shuttle pilot up to this point.”

“The captain of this ship has to be someone in whom the Force user can place a certain degree of trust, to understand and cooperate with his directions while he focuses on the grander movements in the theater of war. You’ve shown exceptional skill, a remarkable sense of duty, and a tenacity that is all too rare in Imperial ranks. I have no compunctions with bypassing Imperial chain of command and granting you a captaincy.

“But I must point out that I didn’t choose you.”

No? Tremayne expected Doule to be a trusting lackey while he explored his delusions of supernatural grandeur, but he hadn’t chosen him? “May I ask who did?”

“I did.” A new voice came from the same door Tremayne had entered through moments ago. It was a young voice, but tempered with a cool, purring certainty that spoke of a lifetime, however brief, of determination and adversity. When Doule turned to see who was speaking, he saw a boy whose youthful vigor had been whetted into a pallid, bladelike resolve, apparent more than anything else in dogged but inextricably sad blue eyes. He saw a ghost.

He saw Tam Dawncaller…

Ice Hawk
08-28-2011, 05:08 AM
Reil stood at the side of the road, grinning with nostalgia as he looked over the property. Cali looked it over to, and was less than impressed with their new accommodations. The property was a scrap heap, and on top of that, the actual house was a dump. The roof was sagging; the paint was peeling off and an ugly white with puke green trim.

“This is home?” She asked with a mixture of disappointment and incredulity.

Reil kept smiling.
“As close as it gets, anyhow. Come on, I should probably tell Sunny we’ll be staying with him for a bit.”

As they picked their way through the front yard, or the forward debris field, Cali couldn’t help but wonder about their new host. Zealos had not been forthcoming with any details.
“So, is Sunny like a relative of yours, or something?”

Reil snorted as he picked his way through the yard with considerably more ease than Cali.
“Nothing so unfortunate. He’s the one who took me in when I ran away from home.”

Cali had to climb over a rusted hull panel to keep up with Zealos.
“Why’d he do that?”

Reil paused for a moment to let her catch up.
“You’d have to ask him.”

Reil ignored the front door, and Cali followed him around to the side of the house. The property dropped off quite steeply a few feet in, and they had to jump down the ledge.
“So you don’t have any idea why he helped you?”

“Sunny does things for his own reasons, speculating on what they might be don’t interest me overly much.” Reil said as banged on a door that lead to the basement of the house.

The wind began to pick up as they waited, and Cali shivered as she felt it cut through her heavy jacket. “So how do you know he’ll help us now?”

“Truth be told, I don’t know that he will”, Reil said just as the door unlocked, “But I take that to be a very good sign.”

Inside it was dark, and filthy, and cold, almost as bad as it had been outside. Buckets full of dark liquids gave off a terrible smell and odd pieces of machinery were littered about here as well, but there was a clear path between the doorway and the far end of the basement, where there was a workbench. Sitting at the workbench was an older man, so fat the chair he was sitting on looked as if it could go at any minute. He had a stubby cigara lit, and he sat there sizing up his new guests.
“Zealos, that you?”

Zealos sighed.
“If you’d turn on a light, you’d see for yourself who it was.”

The fat man laughed.
“Doubt it. Eyesight’s not what it used to be. I always knew you’d come crawling back.”

Reil raised an eyebrow.
“Did you?”

“I was gonna give you a proper trade, a mechanic’s a good living, but you knew better! Too good to be mucking about in grease, you had to go be a fighter pilot! Well how’d that work out?”

“I was shot down.” Reil conceded.

“HAH! Well, you aren’t dead. Got that part right, heya? I don’t suppose you brought your ship here, maybe I could take a look at ‘er.”

Reil shook his head.
“It was scrap Sunny.”

Sunny scowled.
“Bah, like you’d know! I could have taught ya how to put it together blindfolded, but you never had any time for lessons. ‘That’s broken, can’t be fixed’, ‘It’s a wreck, not worth the time’” He mimicked. “Well now you’re short a ship, so who’s the clever one?”

Reil sighed.
“For the record, it exploded. It was literally just scrap metal. And secondly, I never actually saw you fix anything, while I was living here, so when were you going to school me in your mechanical craft?”

“I fixed lots of things. Like that swoop, whasshisname brought in.”

Reil tried to recall the incident.
“Harque’s swoop?”

Sunny nodded.
“ ‘Attsa one.”

“You rigged it to explode!”

The fat man took umbrage to that.
“He wanted it to explode! Split the insurance money with me. . .”

Zealos rubbed his temples.
“Be that as it may, blowing it up, even on purpose does not in any sense of the word; qualify as ‘fixing’ it. I would have been better prepared for a career in demolitions than mechanics apprenticing with you.”

Sunny struggled out of his chair and flicked a light switch. It didn’t help overly much.
“Hah! That would have been worse than your becoming a fighter pilot. Come here, lemme get a look at you.”

Zealos stepped forward and extended his hand to shake but Sunny pulled him close and mussed his hair instead. As Zealos pulled free Sunny turned his attention to Cali, who had been waiting patiently for someone to remember her.
“Who’s this then? Got yourself a girl have you?”

Zealos hesistated for a minute before answering. I've been with Cali for months and I still don't know what I've got. Or what I want.

In the meantime Cali stepped forward and took Sunny's hand.
"I'm Cali, Reil's partner."

Sunny grinned.
"Partner eh? In what sort buisness?"

"The keeping out of jail sort." Zealos replied. "I was hoping you could help us out with that for a bit."

Sunny sighed.
"Yeah, I reckon I could help with that. I suppose you'll be wanting your old room back for a time."

"A room for Cali as well. Ya know, you don't have to look so pained about it, we won't be here more than a week."

Sunny shrugged.
"It feels like it's been month's already."

Ice Hawk
09-18-2011, 07:37 PM
Sunny gave Cali the code to unlock the front door, and Reil sent her out to bring their luggage inside and unpack. Just like how Reil had sent her upstairs at the house to pack it and bring it outside, and just like how he had sent up upstairs to unpack a brief two days before that, and then there was the time before that where she had been stuck with the same job.

“I am not the frakking butler!” She called back over her shoulder as she exited the workshop.

“Not with language like that, you’re not!” Reil called back as he closed the door to keep out the cold. Or to keep in the cold; Cali couldn’t quite decide whether the cutting winds outside, or the damp chill inside had been worse.

As Cali tried to retrace her steps back up to the front of the house, she couldn’t help but contemplate on all the things this planet did to make her miserable. There were the little things like getting arrested for accidentally smuggling spice, or getting smacked around by the police, or that the whole planet is devoted to agriculture making it mind numbingly dull, or staying with people who hated Reil, or staying with people who hated Reil in a stupid town with nothing to do, or the fact that it had crappy river transit. Then there were things that were so mind bogglingly torturous that it seemed like the planet was going out of its way to punish her, like the rapid weather shift between intense heat and chilling cold, or the 15 days of complete and utter darkness, or the fact that they now lived in a literal dump; like the places people go to dispose of their trash. This was a stupid planet. Reil was a stupid person for bringing them there. And if she had to carry this kriffing, gor-rammed crate up one more flight of stairs. . .

She was sparred that particular horror, as Sunny’s shack was only a single level. The front door opened right into the kitchen, which, in breaking with the style of the exterior was not a complete mess. Aside from a pan and two plates in the sink, it was more or less acceptable. She dropped the container and moved on to explore the rest of the house. Straight through the kitchen was the dining area, which was just a round table with a bench at one end, and a couple of chairs at the other. It looked dusty, like it hadn’t been used in ages. On the walls around the table were some old paintings. A old freighter with the words Seagrun written on its side, a group of old men sitting around smoking, watercolours of a city she’d never seen. From the dining room she turned right, into the largest section of the house. It was a big open space, like a sort of common area, and where the kitchen and dining room had both been painted the same bright white as the exterior, this room was very dark, with stained wood and few windows to let in the light. There was a couch against the left hand wall, and a sitting chair on the right hand one, with an exposed fusion furnace, which Cali assumed was how this place was going to be heated. On the far end was a sort of wooden partition that sectioned off the common area into another two rooms, but didn’t extend all the way to the ceiling. Cali assumed that these were the main bedrooms. The one that was behind the furnace had a piece of starship hull insulation hanging in front of it, probably to keep from cooking the occupants of the room. Cali could only see the two rooms though, so she moved her stuff in the room farther away from the furnace and figured Reil would have to find his own place to sleep. . .

Ice Hawk
09-26-2011, 06:04 AM
With Cali taking care of the luggage, Zealos and Sunny were left alone in Sunny’s workshop. Zealos seated himself on a table that didn’t have any dark liquids pooling on it.
“So. How are things?”

Sunny groaned as he sagged back into his chair, which made uncomfortable squealing sounds as he did. The chair didn’t collapse though, so Sunny reclined in it and took a long draw off his cigara.
“Why don’t we skip the small talk, and you tell me why you’re here?”

Zealos frowned.
“I told you why we’re here; we needed a place to lay low.”

Sunny shook his head.
“If you were in serious trouble, you wouldn’t have come here. Too obvious; first place the police would look, since you hid here before.”

Zealos shrugged.
“I can’t really argue with that, though I doubt the TAR would ever come here in any advent. The River towns police themselves and they don’t exactly warm to outsiders.”

Sunny nodded.
“So. . . Why’d you come?”

Zealos cocked an eyebrow and ignored the jab.
“Do I need a reason to visit an old friend?”

Doyle snorted in derision.
“You ain’t the visiting type Zealos. Three years you lived here, and then you get a job on a ship, and I never hear from you again. Five years, never a call or a message-”

“Inkabunka. I really don’t believe this, I mean I expect it from Virgil and Lucrecia, they’re insane, but when you start whining about how I never call-”

“I ain’t criticizing; I’m just telling truths. You don’t visit Zealos, just isn’t who you are. So you showing up outta the blue raises some red flags; and you telling me you didn’t come here for something specific insults my intelligence, so: why are you here?”

“I have business with Doyle.”

“This would be the town to do it in then, but if that were the case you would’ve gone to see him first. Why didn’t you?”

“He doesn’t exactly know we have business yet. I was hoping you’d help me out, give me an introduction.”

Sunny raised an eyebrow.
“Me? I haven’t worked for Doyle since before you were born. You did a job for him before you left; make your own introduction.”

“You haven’t worked for anybody since before I was born. And this business we have; it isn’t so much business as I need a big favour from him.”

Sunny rolled his eyes.
“Great. You want me to stick my neck out for you while you waste the man’s time looking for handouts. That sounds like a fine plan. Why don’t I just call his wife fat, and his kids ugly to seal the deal?”

“I’m not asking for handouts, I just need some information he has, and then we’ll be on our way.”

“I really don’t think Doyle’s the man to give you what you want.”

“Well he’s the only one around here who has what I want, so I have to try.”

Sunny sighed.
“Fine, I’ll see what I can do.”

Zealos cleared his throat. Sunny glared at him.
“What?”

Zealos rubbed the back of his neck anxiously.
“That, isn’t the only thing I came here for. . .”

“I knew it! So, whadya want?”

Zealos sighed.
“Advice.”

Ice Hawk
10-07-2011, 02:56 AM
Sunny started laughing so hard he began to choke on cigara smoke. Coughing and hacking he struggled for breath.
“That was a good one. . . Too good maybe; I feel light headed.”


Reil frowned.
“What’s so damn comical about me needin’ advice?”


Sunny shook his head grinning.
“Nothing, you’ve needed advice your whole life; just never seen you take anybody’s.”


“Great. Have yourself a grand guffaw. When you’re finished, and I’m just tossing this out as a suggestion, maybe you could hear me out and impart some of that sage wisdom you’re s’posed to have.”


“Don’t get tetchy. What’s the matter?”


Reil sighed.
“It’s Cali.”


Sunny frowned.
“What’s wrong with her?”


“Nothing!” Reil got off the table he was sitting on and began to pace, “It’s not her.”


Sunny rubbed his eyes and counted to ten.
“All right; so what’s wrong with you?”


Reil threw his arms up in defeat.
“I don’t know what to do with her!”


Sunny looked puzzled by that.
“Like, you don’t where to put it?”


Reil blanched.
“What? No! Why would you think that?”


Sunny raised his hands defensively.
“Hey; you’re the one pacing and shouting that you don’t know what to do with women.”


“I didn’t say that! I said I don’t know what to do with Cali.”


“Well, unless I’m very much mistaken, she’s a woman.”


“She’s a girl!”


“Kinda the same thing here Zealos.”


“No, I mean she’s just a girl; she’s only seventeen.”


Sunny thought about that for a second.
“Wow, really? That’s kinda young for you to be fooling around with ain’t it?”


“ARGHHH!” Reil took a minute to calm down, “There is no fooling going on between me and Cali.”


“Then what’s the problem?”

Ice Hawk
10-13-2011, 03:10 AM
Reil sighed. And now we get to the heart of the matter.
“The problem is that I’m going back to the Rebellion as soon as I can, and there’s no place for her there.”

“That’s it?” Sunny growled. “That’s easy; just don’t go back to the Rebellion.”

Reil frowned.
“I’d appreciate it if you could be serious for one minute here.”

“I am being serious. Plenty of ways you could fly for a living, one’s that don’t involve you joining terrorists and ending up as a silhouette on some Imperial’s TIE.”

Reil exhaled deeply, and watched his breath mist in front of him. It was getting colder.
“Look, I have to go back, there are people. . . They need me there, alright?”

Sunny shrugged.
“Fine then, go and take her with you. Problem solved.”

“What is Cali going to do in the fleet?”

“Same things other people do there. Kill people and spread freedom I suspect.”

And wouldn’t that be a radical departure from the present? Reil grinned as he thought about it.
“The fleet doesn’t take in strays-”

“That’s a good policy. I think I’ll adopt it from now on.”

Reil felt his blood pressure begin to rise again.
“You’re mad, I get it! I don’t care, but I have received the message. People in other counties are aware of your displeasure with my decision; can we please get back to the point now?”

Sunny rolled his eyes.
“Why do you even need to find a place for her? Why can’t she just go back to whatever she did before you two hooked up? Platonically. Allegedly.”

“Because she was a slave when we met.”

“Perfect, I know just the guy to give us top billing.”

Reil was not amused.

“You know, you were a lot more fun before you met up with whasshername.”

Reil’s mood blackened.
“Her name is Cali.”

Sunny shrugged.
“Right, Cali. You know, her being a slave still doesn’t explain why you’ve gotta be the one to decide where she goes. I mean, you set her free right?”

“Of course I did-”

“Then why doesn’t she just figure this out for herself?”

Reil cocked his head to the side.
“She’s seventeen, I can’t just leave her to fend for herself.”

Sunny looked at Reil, and then formed his words slowly.
“So you’re saying. . . and I want to make sure I understand this; is that at the age of seventeen, she is not capable of looking after herself, and needs you around to make decisions for her.”

It clicked in Reil’s mind just what Sunny was alluding to.
“Woah now, this is completely different from when I left home!”

“Yeah, you were a year younger, and not half as pretty.”

“I’m just trying to do what’s best for her, and her life before meeting me involved cooking meals and emptying trashcans. That doesn’t leave her with a lot of skills to fall back on, so I have to make a decision here.”

Sunny began coughing and hacking furiously. Reil jumped up to help him when he heard “Virgil” in between the wheezes. Reil sat back down, fuming, and Sunny miraculously recovered, and began grinning.

“One of these days, you’re actually going to be choking, and just for that, I’m not going to help you.”

“I’ll manage somehow, I’m sure. Listen Zealos, have you even talked with her about this?”

Zealos fumbled for the words. While technically he hadn’t brought the subject up with Cali, there had been perfectly good reasons. He just couldn’t think of any.
“I suppose this is something I should go do now, huh?”

Ice Hawk
10-20-2011, 08:29 AM
Reil opened the garage door, and waited for Sunny to haul his fat self toward it. The wind had picked up, and was now howling fiercely, as snow began to come down, making it hard to see. Reil grimaced.
“I suppose it would’ve been too much to hope that you’d started up the furnace already?”

Sunny grunted.
“Why yes, of course I did. And then I took a big pile of cred-chits, and just hurled them into the fire as well.”

Reil began picking his way through the field back to the house.
“Yeah because heating your home in this,” Reil gestured at the snow whipping around them, “would just be frivolous.”

Sunny navigated his own scrap piles with considerable grace considering his bulk.
“We’ll I’ll be turning it on now. . .”

Inside, the house was dark and cold. While Sunny fiddled with the furnace, Reil was about to turn into his old room when he noticed that Cali was already in it. Wrapped in every single blanket the room contained, and still shivering, Cali was dead center in the mattress, which didn’t leave room for anybody else. Not that there would have been anyone else, Reil reminded himself. He turned to Sunny, and gestured towards the front of the house.
“Is the bed in the other room still there?”
Sunny nodded.
“Yeah, I think it’s still set. Ain’t seen much use in a while, but it’ll do ya for the stay.”



***************************



In the morning Cali awoke to the sounds of breakfast. Reil was in the kitchen, frying something that smelled like eggs and bacon, but the meat was too charred for positive identification. Quietly she sat down at the table across from Sunny, who occupied most of the bench on his own. Sunny smiled as she sat down.
“Good mornin’ miss.”

Cali yawned, and nodded her response.

“How’d you sleep?”

Cali rubbed the sleep from her eyes.
“A’right I guess. It was cold though.”

“Well I started up the furnace last night, so you should be fine now.”

Cali was silent for a minute, then perked up.
“Is your name actually Sunny?”

Sunny chuckled.
“Nah. It’s Saul. Saul Delas.”

“Then why do they call you Sunny?”

“ ’Cause of his sunny disposition.” Reil called in from the kitchen.

Saul snorted in laughter.
“I’m just a warm and radiant person I guess.”

Reil carried two plates of eggs and . . . charred meat into the dining room, and put them in front of Cali and Sunny. Cali picked at the bacon.
“You killed it. With fire.”

Reil shrugged.
“Fine, next time I’ll just bring it to you raw. Would like me to just bring you the meat, or do you want the animal, live and wriggly?”

Cali stuck out her tounge, and made exaggeratedly pained faces as she crunched on the bacon. Reil rolled his eyes.
“Well since you’re eating what was to be my breakfast, I guess I’ll just go make more.”

“Pro tip here Zealos, cook the bacon, don’t punish it with hellfire.” Sunny called as Zealos headed back to the kitchen.

Cali picked at her eggs for a minute or two, before turning to Sunny.
“So, Reil was being all evasive about this. . .”

Sunny looked up from his meal in puzzlement.

“Why’d ya take Reil in? When he ran away from Virgil I mean?”

“Subtle!” Reil called from the kitchen.

Sunny took a moment to choke down the bacon before answering.
“Well you see, it’s something of a long story. You see when I was young, I prayed to the Fates for wealth and power. So for my avarice, they cursed me with compassion instead. And then, one day, a skinny kid with a stupid haircut and terrible taste in music showed up at my door begging for a place to stay. So yeah, that really bit me in the long run.”

“Mayhap you should pray to less fickle gods.” Reil chimed in from the kitchen.

Sunny grinned.
“Now where’s the sporting attitude in that?”

Zealos sat down beside Cali with his own breakfast, noticeably less burnt than theirs.
“Hard to imagine you doing anything sporting.”

“What’s that s’posed to mean?”

Reil took a bite of bacon.
“It means you’re not exactly gonna be running any marathons soon. Or ever. Give it time, and a downward slope though, and you could probably out roll the competition.”

Sunny looked indignant.
“You try keeping in shape with a bad back, see how far that gets you.”

Reil shook his head.
“You know, I don’t think it’s your back that’s the problem, so much as your missing organs.”

That got Cali’s attention.
“Wait, what?”

Reil tried to recall the specifics.
“You’re down to what, one lung, one kidney, partial liver?”

“And a bad back.” Sunny insisted.

Cali tried to wrap her head around this.
“Why?”

Sunny shrugged.
“I hurt my back, almost thirty years ago. Wrenched it real bad, and the hospital couldn’t fix it. I couldn’t work, couldn’t walk, had no one to take care of me, so they had to put me on these pain killers. They work well and all, hardly feel the back now, but they’re like a poison. The more my body tries to filter it out, the more it damages those organs.”

Cali didn’t quite know how to react.
“Oh, I’m sorry I didn’t know-”

“Sunny’s conveniently leaving out the part where he was only supposed to take them for a year before switching to a different medication. It was never a long term solution.” Reil interjected.

“Those other meds were no good. Couldn’t hardly move from the pain.” Sunny grumbled.

“And they didn’t stop the shakes.” Reil said pointedly.

Sunny glared at Reil.
“I seem to recall that this is my house, and you happen to be a guest in it. I don’t particularly care for your tone.”

Reil shook his head.
“Gods forbid I speak of good sense, and reason. No instead I should just let you die slowly from toxic pain medication. The smoking and the drinking aren’t exactly helping either.”

Sunny cocked an eyebrow.
“Like you’re anyone to talk.”

Reil grinned.
“Don’t know what you’re talking about. Never smoked a day in my life.”

“I hear being self-righteous and preachy can be just as harmful to one’s health.”

Reil raised his hands up in mock surrender, so Cali chimed in again.
“I’m confused, you were only supposed to be on them for a year, so why do they keep giving you more?”

“ ‘Cause I need ‘em.” Sunny grumbled.

“But they’re killing you.”

Reil shrugged.
“No law against being terminally stupid. Since Sunny’s giving the pills to himself, nothing anyone can do.”

“The law has many punishments for the atrocities we inflict on others, but has no recourse for the terrors we inflict on ourselves.” Sunny stated.

Reil rolled his eyes.
“Sunny has the soul of a poet. A dead one, most like.”

“Your concern is touching. By the by, I’m heading into town today to set up your ‘introduction’ with Doyle, while I’m doing you that particular favour, on top of giving you a place to stay, again, is there anything else you need?”

Reil shook his head.
“Nah, I’m good. Wait, actually, while you’re in town, could you pick up some power packs for blasters? About six should do us.”

“Yeah, I could pick those up.”

“You want me to give you credits for them?”

“Nah, don’t worry about it. Anything else you need though?”

“My dress from Ryloth needs mending,” Cali interjected. “Is there a seamstress in town?”

Reil cringed.
“You know I really don’t think that’s necessary-”

Sunny cut him off.
“I know a good tailor that could probably take care of that.”

Reil sighed.
“Of course there is.”

valdaran
10-20-2011, 06:59 PM
Tey exhaled slowly, his breath condensing into a roiling cloud of vapour in the night air. His ears and nose just cold enough to sting, he was grateful for the long thick coat protecting his torso from Jodrell's cold nights. The sleepy town he had called home for the better part of a year was silent, a serene vigil to the astronomical parade taking place high above the planet. Looking up at them Tey caught himself remembering old friends, lost to time, battle, and occasionally just damn bad luck. Sitting back slightly on the rock he was perched on, he shifted the uncomfortable weight of the rifle in his hands. It had taken a while to adjust to the idea of carrying the damn thing; to his mind a rifle was a tool of war, not self-defence like the pistols he'd spent the better part of two decades getting used to.

When he heard the voice behind him he nearly jumped out of his skin "Jord you still stick out like a dieting Hutt"

Hoping the older man hadn't seen his reaction he turned around "And you Bellek still haven't learnt not to sneak up on people with a gun in their hands."

"Doesn't excuse the fact you're still out here plain as day. You'd have been better off in that streambed a little ways down the slope." Bellek stated sagely. Pushing sixty years old, the native of Jodrell was the oldest member of the militia, and far and away the craftiest. It had taken a fair bit of work, but he'd weened Tey, now going by Jord Eran, off cities and taught him how to survive out here in the sticks.

"I did think about that," Tey replied, "but line of sight there's limited, and I'd rather be able to see anything coming from a distance than miss something"

Bellek had a wonderful habit of dismissing notions he disagreed with merely by shrugging "You'll here the engines on one of these ganger's swoop bikes for miles, no need to watch every which way."

"And if someone else comes calling?" Tey asked tersely. The townsfolk seemed to live in a rose tinted bubble, where the only problem in the galaxy was an aggressive swoop gang nearby.

"Jord, I've said it before, and I'll say it again, you are the most paranoid man I've ever met. Who else is going to be out to cause any real trouble? Now go get some sleep before you start imagining the Empire's legions descending on town."

Gruting affirmation Tey slung the rifle over his shoulder, and began to head back towards town. He glanced up at the sky above him as he walked, still gently marvelling at the stars. Out here without light pollution the galaxy really was something to behold. Even having been chased across it, even outside it at one point, he still longed to travel it again, to experience a dozen new challenges in a month, to meet new people, see new worlds laid out like marbles beneath an orbiting ship. He laughed humourlessly at his own folly; a year ago the one word he would not have used to describe his life was dull, but here he was, longing for... purpose. Even when running, his life had direction, whether it was merely surviving to the next day, or trying to protect one of his travelling companions. Not that he'd done a wonderful job there, he remembered grimly, as he peeled off the rough clothes he wore when out on patrol. He'd been so tied up in his own quest he'd barely thought about how they would fare, and now he was safe from the Empire it was all he could think about. As he slept, he saw the faces of that group of misfits, all fighting for their lives against insurmountable odds, cut off and alone, and then as if he had no hand in his own fate, he saw himself wading in to help them, as if he was merely a Dejarik pawn in the hands of destiny, answering a call.

He awoke, sitting bolt upright, and smiled grimly.

He had a purpose again.

Ice Hawk
11-02-2011, 07:25 AM
There was a glaring flaw in Reil’s plan that he was only now realizing, as he paced the between the kitchen and the living room. There was nothing to do at Sunny’s place. It was a shack miles away from what could only loosely be described as a town, and its sole occupant for years was an aging fat man who spent his entire days sabotaging mechanical equipment and consuming narcotics. Well to be fair there was a puzzle, and a deck of cards, but frankly neither of those were appealing in the slightest. Growing up here, Reil had actually spent most of his free time in town, and Sunny had conveniently left with the only working speeder, in the middle of a steadily intensifying snowstorm. Cali looked as bored as Reil, as she was sitting in the living room with her vibro-blade out, and was using it to remove rocks from the treads on the bottoms of her combat boots.
I should probably find something to keep her occupied. Reil mused, If she’s already playing with weapons, then there’s really nowhere to go but down when the cabin fever starts to get bad.

Nothing really came to mind though. Reil supposed that now might be as good a time as any to bring up how he was going back to the Rebellion and was going to abandon her like Fi, Tey, her family, and basically everyone else she’d ever met. Why not squeeze every emotion laced, terribly dramatic, horribly personal screaming match all in one trip? That’s just efficiency that is. On the other hand, leaving it to the last minute was probably going to backfire horribly. In that Cali would probably fire blaster shots into his back.

As Reil walked into the living room, he just knew this was going to end badly.
“Uhhh, Cali, we should talk. Without you brandishing weapons.”

Cali flicked the last rock out of the treads of her boots and put the blade away.
“Are we going to talk about why you dragged me out to the ass end of the galaxy, and when we’re leaving?”

Reil sat in a chair across from Cali.
“Surprisingly, enough, yes. Yes we are.”

“I’m all ears then.”

Reil sighed and tried to figure out where to begin.
“I came here to meet with a local gangster named Doyle. He runs a smuggling racket out of Twillingate, and he’s had dealings with the Rebellion in the past. I’m hoping that he can give me the location of his contact in the Rebellion, so I can join up again, and make my way back to my old unit.”

Cali absorbed that.
“So how did getting arrested, meeting your parents, drinking with your brother, fighting with your parents, and coming here in an unnecessarily uncomfortable fashion help you in furthering that plan?”

Reil winced.
“It didn’t so much. Curiously enough, I didn’t think we’d be arrested, and we were going to come her first, before the long night, then leave. But, we’re here now, and hopefully we’ll be meeting with Doyle soon. Then we leave.”

Cali nodded pensively.
“How are we leaving?”

Reil shrugged.
“On a ship. Any ship.”

“If I recall correctly, taking ‘any ship’ got us arrested last time.”

“What are the odds that it would happen a second time?”

“Since now we’re wanted for violating our house arrest, probably pretty good.”

“Touche’.” Reil inhaled, then exhaled, trying to brace himself for what came next, “When I go back to the Rebellion-”

“There won’t be any place for me there.” Cali interrupted.

“What?”

“I’m not stupid Reil, I knew you wanted to go back to the Rebels already, that’s why we left Damon, remember? And I’ve got problems of my own without signing up for someone else’s war. So either the Rebellion accepts spectators aboard their vessels, or something’s gotta give.” Cali sighed, “Hell, I’ve been trying to talk to you about this since before we left for this frelling mudball, but you’d always avoid the question. So here we are.”

Reil rubbed his eyes, suddenly feeling very tired.
“Yeah, I guess we are. Listen, Cali, is there somewhere you’d like to go? Someone who you’d want to stay with, we could find your parents mayb-”

“Don’t go.”

“What?”

“Don’t go back to the Rebels. Stay with me.”

“And do what?”

“Anything” Cali made a sweeping gesture with her arm, “Everything! You can fly, and I can shoot, we could do anything we wanted! We could be smugglers, or pirates, or bank robbers, or mercenaries. It doesn’t matter what!”

“I don’t want to be a pirate or a merc or a bank robber. And neither should you! I mean, I guess this gets confused when we’ve been rolling into one crisis from the other but you’re a teenage girl. You should be in school, learning things for a job that doesn’t require frequent homicide. I didn’t kill Bartock so you could become a criminal; I did it to give you a chance at a normal life.”

“Frack normal and frack you!” Cali shouted as she got to her feet. “You don’t get to be normal growing up as somebody’s property. You don’t get to go to school, get a nice job, live the good life after growing up getting beaten for breaking dishes, or spilling caf. You don’t settle down and raise a family after seeing your parents auctioned off and sold off world. I’m gutter trash from Tatooine, and the only way to change that is with blasters and credits, so don’t you frelling talk to me about normal!”

For the first time it dawned on Reil how utterly unqualified to help Cali he was, and had been from the start. He remembered chiding Tey for being naive in wanting to free all of Bartok’s slaves, when they had no way of providing for them. If that was naive than his notion of looking after Cali by dragging her through more blood and killing was pathetically quaint.
“I’m sorry.”

Cali sat back down.
“Don’t be sorry. You set me free. Be a smuggler, I notice you didn’t have a problem with that option.”

Cali grinned, and it was infectious. Reil was smiling even as he shook his head.
“Cali, I have to go back.”

Cali’s face didn’t betray any emotion.
“Why?”

Reil struggled to respond.
“I don’t really know why. . . But I do. It’s who I am: Flight Officer Zealos Reil. I can’t escape it.”

Ice Hawk
11-08-2011, 09:56 AM
There was an awkward silence as for a few minutes, as they sat facing each other. Cali finally broke the stalemate by getting up out of her seat.
“I should go then.”

Reil was confused.
“Wait, what?”

Cali headed back into her room, and began bundling up her half of their possessions.
“You don’t want me here, I won’t stay.”

Reil got up.
“What are you talking about?”

“You just told me that you wanted me to go. I’m going.” Cali called from inside the room.

Reil scowled.
“I said nothing of the sort!”

Cali poked her head out of the bedroom door with a glare.
“Oh really? Then what did you mean when you said you were going back to the Rebellion, and you wanted me to leave?”

Reil bit back his frustration.
“I didn’t say I wanted you to leave.”

“No.” Cali conceded as she returned to gathering her half of their luggage. “You just said you’re going back to the Rebellion, so you were going to stick me somewhere else.”

Reil sighed.
“I can’t keep you with me in the fleet. . .”

“I am not a pet to be kept!” Cali spat.

Outside the room Reil cringed. Smooth Zealos, real smooth.
“I didn’t mean. . . It’s just that you can’t come with me to the Rebellion.”

Cali emerged from the room with her clothes, and the bag of credits, and dumped them on a chair in the living room. Her fist was clenched in frustration, and spoke slowly.
“I don’t want to go to the Rebellion, Zealos.”

“Well what the frell do you want!?” Zealos kicked the chair in frustration, and then took a breath to calm down.

Cali looked at Reil, and he noticed her eyes were watering.
“You. I wanted to be with you.”

Reil opened his mouth to speak, and then closed it. He didn’t have anything to say to that. Cali took a deep breath, and regained her composure.
“But since you don’t want me around, I’ll just go somewhere else. I just need something to put my stuff in.”

Reil found his voice.
“That’s not fair Cali. . .”

Cali fixed Reil with a very cold stare.
“How so?”

“It’s not that I don’t want you around. . . I. . .” Reil stumbled over his words, “I do. I want to stay, I wish I could stay, but I have to go back. I have to go back to the Rebellion, and-”

“Stop! Just stop right there. You don’t have to go back to the rebellion. That’s a lie. And what’s worse is that it’s a lie for your benefit, not mine. You had a choice, between me and the Rebellion, and you didn’t choose me. And you know what? That’s fine, it’s your life; you do what you want. But what you don’t get to do is lie, and say you have to go back, and pretend like you didn’t make a choice. You chose, and you didn’t choose me.”

That pretty much ended the debate. Cali found a duffel bag of sorts, and began stuff clothes into it. She put on her coat and was almost to the door before the absurdity of situation caught up to Reil.
“Where are you going to go?”

Cali shrugged.
“In town for starters, and I don’t know from there.”

Reil shook his head.
“It’s forty below out there, dark, we’re several kilometers out, and the snow is knee deep. You can’t go out in that.”

Cali remained defiant.
“I’m not staying here.”

Reil rubbed his temple.
“You’ve kinda got nowhere else to go.”

“I’ve got everywhere else to go! The only person I know for sure who doesn’t want me around is you, so I’m leaving!”

Reil sighed.
“Look, just stop all right? I will find you somewhere to stay, I don’t know, maybe set you with some kind of work, before I go. A factory, or a ranch or something.”

“I’m not going to hang around, and pretend like this didn’t happen, until you find a convenient time and place to dump me. I don’t need someone like you to find me someplace to stay; I’ll be just fine, on my own.”

Cali threw open the front door, and felt the icy wind tear right through her coat. Snow covered everything, and it was pitch black, except for where house lights on the road into town reflected off the snow. The sky was overcast, and Cali could barely make out the road. Cali stood in the doorway for a few more seconds, watched her breath mist in front of her, then shut the door. She round on Reil in fury.
“Don’t. Say. Anything.”

Cali shut herself in her room while Reil sat down and tried to feel less like scum.

Fingon
11-17-2011, 08:41 PM
Something was throbbing. A low, dull, throb that seemed to sear a nerve each time. Its unmistakable rhythm highlighted each contusion and every square in of swollen tissue, inexorably cutting through a fog of imperception.

“. . . nothing serious, especially compared to some of the . . .”

“. . . it just doesn’t match up, I told you . . .”

The lights were an unforgiving, yellow-less glow, the air flat and sterile. The bed was neither comfortable nor stiff, the air just cold enough to be uncomfortable. The voices were precise, professional, and conceited.

He knew exactly where he was.

He coughed. The conversation stopped, right on cue, and was replaced with a flurry of hands and reassurances, gently ordering him to relax and to take it easy and to just answer a few simple questions. He warded off both with expert proficiency.

“Yes, yes, thank you . . . No, I’m fine. Yeah, a nasty fight . . . Bacta cream, plenty of fluids and bed rest, I know . . .” He was seated now, and that was half the battle. He picked out the youngest of his ministers, a blond fellow in his early twenties. “This isn’t the first time I’ve been in a fight; can I go?” He stood as he said it.

“Don’t you think you should stay just a bit longer, sir?” the yellow-haired man replied in a coddling voice, shooting a quick, questioning look to a Bothan who was obviously his superior. The alien quickly nodded, his fur rippling, and the younger man stood to block the exit, his hands held out. “Sit down, or you will be seated,” the hands said.

The throbbing skipped, and then began to crescendo. “Please, I’d really like to go.” His voice was higher, more strained. Neither human nor Bothan moved. “It isn’t lawful to hold a patient against his wishes. I demand to be released.”

“Not before I get some questions answered,” boomed an all-too familiar voice. He whirled around, and the throbbing stopped altogether for a second. “What the hell is going on, Luis?” asked Lt. Hayes, tossing a news article and medical diagnostic onto the bed. “And why are you dead?”

I. J. Thompson
12-04-2011, 10:00 PM
"Good morning!"

Blue sky. White walls. Windows, windows. In the ceiling, all around.

"Ten hours this morning in the City of the Clouds, Lon... and it's shaping up to be a beauty!"

White sheet. Formality. The chamber was perfectly comfortable with or without it. Fi flung the sheet aside, stood, stretched in the morning sunlight.

"...It certainly is, Lora! And speaking of beauty, allow me to introduce our next special guest on the program..."

Twinkling holograms, blue, on the bedside table. Fi grinned, grabbed a pillow, and threw it at the pair.

"...emerging holostar and honoured guest in our fair city..." the host went on, oblivious to the pillow that flew through him and his colleague, knocking a water glass from the table, where it shattered on the floor. "Jyllis Tromso!"

"Wha?" the boy cried, alarmed at the sudden disturbance and wondering where the white sheet had gone. "'S'matter?"

"Rise and shine, sunshine!" Fi sing-songed, grinning at the hapless young man. "Ten bells. You should have been at the office an hour ago!"

She headed toward the kitchen, bare feet slapping happily against the immaculate white floor. There, bobbing in the morning sun, floated her tiny companion, largely silent but obviously enthusiastic.

"Mace!" Fi cried, cuddling the tiny creature, "how about a little breakfast?"

She set to work gathering the Fabool's morning meal, while the boy, clothing retrieved and mostly replaced, entered the kitchen.

"Smells good," he remarked, nuzzling Fi's neck, his arms encircling her from behind. "Enough for me?"

"It's not my breakfast, idiot!" Fi laughed, placing the dish in front of the Fabool, who floated down toward it eagerly. "Have your assistant bring you something."

"I'd rather you bring me something," the boy replied, gently holding Fi's smooth form and turning her around to face him.

Fi grabbed a koarfruit from a nearby bowl and bit into it, speaking around the dripping orange globe. "Plans."

"Plans," the boy repeated.

Fi shrugged.

"Will I see you tonight?"

Fi pulled the fruit from her mouth, chewed, smiled. "You might."

He grinned, uncertainly. "Will you see me?"

She smiled. "We'll see."

He kissed her, tasting the koarfruit juice on her lips and chin, then made for the apartment's door, already calling up the morning's agenda on his datapad. Pausing momentarily in the doorway, he called back.

"You love me!"

"You love me!" Fi retorted as the door closed. Then she turned toward the great windows and their streaming sunlight, thought about retrieving some clothing of her own, but instead took a moment to pump her fist in the air and shout.

"Woo!"

Ice Hawk
12-07-2011, 09:07 AM
Cali heard Sunny and Reil arguing from inside her room. She could tell Reil was pacing back and forth, and heard a chair groan as Sunny settled into it.

“I don’t know what to do with her. . .”

“Don’t do anything; she doesn’t want you around anymore.”

“I can’t just leave her here! Where will she go, what will she do?”

“That’s not really your concern anymore, is it? You told her what was what, and she said she doesn’t want your help. This is really quite straightforward; I don’t see why you’re so slow with it.”

“Oh frack you! Now I’m the bad guy? I don’t want to drag a teenage girl around into a war zone, and somehow that’s unreasonable?”

“I don’t recall saying anything of the like. Rebellion ain’t a place for a young woman, mind you, you don’t have to go back there either.”

“Don’t start with this, please? It’s not like it would even make a difference if I wasn’t going back to the Rebellion, I shouldn’t be running around with teenage girls in the first place! Ever since I met her, people have been shooting at her, trying to sell her back into slavery, trying to cut her hand off, or just shoot her some more, because that what people like to do apparently! And do you know what I did in response to all of this shooting and the like?! I bought her guns! I am clearly not a capable guardian, and should not be responsible for anybody’s welfare, let alone hers. . .”

“Then how come you’re so damn fixated on finding her someplace to go? Frankly, now I don’t think you should be looking after her.”

“I. . . just. . . You know what? You’re right. I said my piece, she said hers, I should just leave it at that.”

There was the sound of a chair being dragged back, presumably as Reil sat down.
“So, at least tell me everything went fine on your end.”

“Doyle’s holding court in the back room of the McAllister hall tomorrow night. It’s on the same night as the Scouring festival though, so the place is gonna be packed, and you’ll have to dress the part or they won’t even let you in the front door. On the other hand, I hear they picked up a new band from High River, so once you’re finished making an ass out of you and me, you’ll have sommat to take your mind off of Doyle crushing rejection.”

Reil sighed audibly.
“I am so glad I can always count on your support. Do I have an appointment time?”

“Nah, it’s an open sorta affair. Doye’ll see every petitioner in turn.”

“If it’s an open affair, why did I even need you then?”

“Oh, I’m sorry, are the free accommodations and critical information on when this is taking place not good enough for you? Well be sure to take it out of my tip.”

“Yeah, yeah, fine I’m sorry. Look, with all that’s happened, I think I should spend the night someplace else; but do you think Cali could stay here for a bit after I’m gone? A couple weeks maybe? Just until she has enough to strike out on her own.”

“Yeah, sure. Listen, Reil, take care of yourself out there, heya? You might not survive the next crash.”

“I’ll be fine, just look out for Cali.”

There was the sound of the front door opening, then shutting. Silence followed. Cali quietly exited her room, and found Sunny sitting in the kitchen alone, nursing a cold cup of Caf. She grabbed a cup out of one of the cupboards, and sat down beside him.
“So Zealos is gone?”

“Yep.” Sunny took a sip of the cold Caf, regretted it instantly, and set it back down. “I suppose you heard most of that particular exchange.”

Cali arched an eyebrow.
“I did. I hope it wasn’t for my benefit, ‘cause I’m not impressed.”

“Despite whatever you might think of Reil, know this: I have better things to do with my time than to put on a farce for your benefit or his.”

Cali reached for the pot of Caf, instead of replying, but Sunny grabbed it first.
“I’ll make a fresh pot”, he explained as he went into the kitchen.

Cali considered her next move carefully.
“You know, you don’t have to put me up. I’ve still got some credits, enough probably to get. . . somewhere else. . .”

“But probably not much further than that.” Sunny returned from the kitchen, letting the Caf brew in the kitchen. “You don’t have to stay if you don’t want, but I’m not kicking you out. This isn’t the best town for. . . anything really, but once the sun rises, the work’ll pick up again, and you can leave with some credits to keep you comfortable when you go elsewhere.”

Cali considered this.
“So, there’s no work right now?”

Sunny shrugged.
“This is a river town. Boats come with wheat and live stock from up the river heading down, and down river with farm equipment heading up. We’re just a way station for holding certain cargo, and a place for river drivers to rest up. The river’s frozen over, so there isn’t much work right now. It gets pretty lively when the sun’s up though.”

“So how come there’s a gangster here, who can lead Reil back to the rebels?” Cali inquired.

“Because this is a river town that large amounts of foodstuffs and equipment pass through. The Empire regulates trade strictly, so it’s difficult for people like the rebels to buy food legitimately. Doyle owns the docks, and maintains a private hanger that unscrupulous pilots rent space in. Occasionally, some food goes missing. Naturally, Doyle feels obligated to cover the cost of the corporations lost merchandise, and food mysteriously turns up on the black market.”

“And the corporations don’t figure it out?”

“Figure what out? All the grain the goes missing is replaced at retail value, and the grain that makes it through is worth more because of the shortened supply. I suspect that if Doyle could actually do more business, they’d encourage him to. But Twillingate isn’t exactly special. There are a lot of river towns on Taanab, and they all have private hangers.”

Cali considered this.
“That’s the lamest criminal syndicate ever. Of all time. This is like if Mos Eiesly had suburbs.”

“I prefer it that way myself. Exciting crime is a lot more likely to get you killed.”

I. J. Thompson
12-07-2011, 11:42 PM
"Ladies and gentlebeings, The Blue Room and the Count Xun Orchestra are proud to present... the vocal stylings of miss Fiola Shaku."

Strangely nervous, Fi stepped to the mic. It was odd to be onstage without a mandoviol in her hands. But Obar Mull's medical droid had weeks ago predicted that, due to her frozen extremities, Fi wouldn't play the mandoviol again. Thus far, the droid's prognosis had proven correct. Fi had so far regained enough manual dexterity to write her own name with a stylus, but it seemed that mandoviol playing could be permanently out. Maybe with practice, she could pull off the nalargon. Or the Ommni Box.

But now, her voice was what she had. It was shaky, no doubt (weeks of crying had that effect), but Fiola was no longer focussing in that direction. She was looking only forward. Upward.

The applause was polite, as the lights came up, but not disinterested. The Blue Room was an extremely upper-crust supper club, light-years from the kind of venues Moonbeam Levels used to play, even at the height of their popularity. In fact, no one employed at The Blue Room, including bandleader Count Xun, had even heard of Moonbeam Levels. It was only through the influence of Whatsisname, her new boyfriend, that Fi had been granted an audition. And thankfully, it had gone well.

But the audition was over, and this was the real deal. Fi stood before the mic in a sparkling white dress (when had she last worn a dress? Fi didn't remember, but would have bet it had something to do with senior school), her dark brown hair done up high, and exuded a confidence she didn't feel. Unsure what to do with her hands, she grasped the mic stand as the Count Xun Orchestra began the first few bars of the old standard, 'It Was Always You'. Fi opened her mouth to sing.

And just as quickly as it began, it was all over. Fi assumed she must have done well, as the applause was considerably more enthusiastic than it had been upon her introduction. She bowed, smiled, and did the things that one does. Then, as though in a dream, she found herself walking off the stage.

"That was wonderful!" exclaimed Marce, the Sullustan stage manager. "The band was really into it, too," Marce went on, adjusting her headset, "you could feel it!"

"Thanks, Marce!" Fi replied graciously, slapping hands with the girl and making her way backstage. Feeling electrified and slightly nauseous, she found her dressing room and entered, closing the door behind her.

It was empty, which was strangely surprising. Even in Moonbeam Levels' heyday, Fi had always had to share a dressing room with several sweaty bandmembers. In truth she'd have preferred some here, as the silence in the chamber was deafening. There was a vanity with lights, a mirror, beauty products, and a chair. And Fi.

She sat, thought about the stage she'd just left. Thought about her name, announced over the PA and printed on posters in the lobby. Fiola Shaku. If any Imperial officers were relaxing in The Blue Room tonight, they might certainly take an interest in that name. Fi didn't mind, really. The Empire could catch her again. They could lock her up, they could shoot her down. But as of this moment, Fi was alive. And she intended to do as much living as possible.

For Tam.

There were flowers on the dresser, and a bottle, cool and smooth. Champagne, courtesy of Whatsisname. Fi knew the boy's name, of course, could recall it when necessary. The boy who'd not only gotten her this audition, but who had also co-signed for the luxury apartment here on Cloud City, Bespin, that Fi never would have gotten otherwise. No matter; if tonight's reception was any indication, Fi was going to be financially and socially independent soon enough.

Fi studied herself in the mirror; her face, her glamorous dress and hairstyle, and laughed. She'd been dead for weeks. So had Tam. But unlike Tam, she had the option to come back. And she meant to come back. For him. For Tam.

Fi reached for the bottle of champagne, just as a knock sounded on her dressing room door.

"Who is it?"

"It's me," a voice replied, "I mean, me... Marce. There's someone to see you!"

Gibson8088
12-15-2011, 10:52 PM
High above Zonju V a YT-1930, the Dullahan, ascends towards the vacuum of space.

"We have left the atmosphere of Zonju V, sir.", chimed TC-90, "Plotting course for the hyperspace jump to Corellia."

Tach leaned back in the co-pilot chair, watching the silver droid work the navigation computer with an amused expression.

"We will be able to jump in three minutes, sir."

"Good.", Tach responded as he got up from the chair. He watched the planet slowly slip behind them through the transparasteel glass, "Think I'll check on our passengers and...". An incoming transmission alert rudely interrupted him.

With a grumble he ordered the droid into the co-pilot seat and took the helm. A quick scan of the radar revealed a 3-Z light freighter on an intercept course. "Bennet. I was expecting you."

He flipped on the vidscreen and was met with the face of a very angry, unshaven Corellian. "Hi chuba da naga, peedunky?", Tach asked with a sarcastic tone.

"You son of a shag! You stole my contract!"

This wasn't the first time Bennet lost a job to Tach. He had acquired several thanks to this incompetent smuggler before. This conversation would obviously not end well.

"Hmm, no.. no I didn't. But I did pick up a contract from a client who had been waiting over a day for his courier to show up."

A glance at the radar showed Bennet was still closing, almost in weapons range. Tach looked over to TC and nodded. It obediently left the bridge to ready the passengers for the trouble to come.

"That was my contract, lumrunner, and you stole it from me! Now how are you plannin' to pay me back?"

The smuggler feigned a moment of thought, idly stroking his chin. "You were the absent courier, weren't you? Did you get trashed on some cheap Renan Irongut and wake up with a rodian prostitute again?"

And there it was. The look. The 'I'm going to kill you!' look he loved so much. Tach had become quite familiar with this look and its many variations. This day it's the steely-death glare, nostril's flaring and teeth tightly clenched behind the frame of an angry grimace coupled with a low growl look.

"Jig time, Tach!"; transmission terminated.

And this was the response Tach was used to, as well. He pushed the Dullahan into evasive manuevers, but not before a volley from Bennet's ship had its fun with the shields. Inside the vessel shook violently while the alarms began screaming for the pilot's attention; shield's were down to %60 already and some power couplings were not happy at all!

"Frak! That sithspit got upgrades this time!" Keeping one hand on the controls Tach desperately kept the ship on a spiralling path as he activated the ship's com system with the other. "R3, squeeze some speed outta those engines! Now!"

A series of frustrated beeps and chirps responded, but within two breaths the ship was accelerating to match its new top speed. It's a good thing, too, as Bennet's gunners seemed to start figuring out how to aim at a wildly moving target.

Now it was the navigation computers turn to talk. She's ready to go, just as soon as they were clear of Zonju V. With a hard pull of the controls Tach forced the ship into as tight of a loop as possible. A risky move seemed to pay off and started putting some distance between the spacehoppers.

Unfortunately, Bennet's gunners managed to line up the YT in their sites and opened fire. This time, they got lucky. The bolts from their laser cannons cut separate paths of destruction across the ship before they were out of range.

Back on Dullahan the bridge was a picture of smoking and sparking chaos. Tach coughed and fanned the smoke from his view to look through the cockpit window's. Bennet's ship was coming about to close in for round three. And adding salt to the wound the systems status screens didn't have much hope to offer:

Shields: Critical
Navigational Computer: Communication Error
Engines: Overheating - Emergency Shutdown Initiated
Life Support: Nominal
Hyperdrive: Unavailable
Backup Hyperdrive: Available

Tach brutally removed a maintenance panel and disconnected the navicomputer from the circuit. Then grabbed a nearby datapad and used a universal connector to plug it into the navicomputer circuit. Fired up the datapad, trudged through the security and menu's then ran an emergency override program.

"Connecting... error!", chimed the program.

Tach frustratingly pounded his fist against the computer panel and it objected with a shower of sparks.

"Connected. Enter or say destination, please."

"Grid coordinates K 18, planet Bespin.", he ordered.

"Please wait while calculating route. Estimated time - 5 minutes.", it replied politely.

He pulled a length of glossy silver wiring from his pocket and attached one end to an available port on the datapad. "I simply don't have that kind of time."

//-//

From Bennet's 3-Z it seemed he had won. Tach's ship was dying and he would finally be rid of this scumbag once and for all. He let himself smile, inflate with a bit of pride for once, even. In just a few moments that sleemo will be vaporized and he could finally climb his way out of the hurt vector Tach put him in. The mere thought of it started to make him chuckle.

But the laughter was short lived as before he could close in the YT slipped into hyperspace and was gone.

I. J. Thompson
12-16-2011, 11:28 PM
The dressing room door opened, stage manager Marce shuffling awkwardly out of the way of Fi's caller. The caller, a young woman, stood in the doorway looking grand. She was tall, poised in a shimmering violet dress topped by loose curls of red hair cascading down about her shoulders. The woman's cosmetics and attire suggested the attention of at least one personal stylist, but her manner had the relaxed grace of an individual accustomed to working for a living. She lifted an alabaster hand toward Fi, and waggled several well-manicured fingers in greeting.

"Hi!"

"Hagh..." Fi began, struggling with the champagne bottle, "Hi?"

The woman stiffened slightly, embarrassed. "I'm sorry," she explained, "I didn't mean to barge my way back here." She swept a lock of fiery hair from her face.

"I'm Jyllis Tromso."

"Jyllis..." Fi began, trying to recall the name. Then it hit her. "Oh, the actor!"

The woman grinned, though obviously still feeling a little awkward. "You didn't recognize me?"

"I've been hearing about you coming to Cloud City on the programs recently," Fi clarified, "but I've never seen you."

"Really?" Jyllis asked, not offended, but genuinely interested. "I just won the Corusphere for Best Actress in Hedgemont Falls."

Fi shrugged apologetically. "I... I haven't been out to the flicks in a while."

Still standing in the dressing room doorway, Jyllis Tromso absorbed this information. "Well then, Ms. Shaku," she declared, "you've never heard of me, you're the lead singer and mandoviol player of Moonbeam Levels, and you're cracking a fresh bottle of champagne. Which means," she grinned, "you're my new best friend. May I come in?"

Fi grinned back at the girl, and kicked a dressing chair into a welcoming position near her own.

Gibson8088
12-20-2011, 12:16 AM
The datapad, now sitting on the floor of the bridge, announced a successful arrival but its audience was absent. Instead he was sitting in the pilots chair, staring out at the planet Bespin while casually puffing on an ambrian cigarette. The drug had always helped abate the static in his head.

Tach snuffed out the cigarette before taking the controls and directing the ship towards Bespin. Their time in the hyperspace jump was plenty enough for the engines to cool and get patched up to a 'reliable' status. But better safe than sorry seemed to be a good motto to follow at the moment, so he fired up the comm and called ahead to Cloud City. "Cloud City control, this is the Dullahan. Can you read me?"

A prompt and professional male voice replied, "This is control, we read you, Dullahan. Go ahead."

"I'm requesting a tow service as soon as I hit atmo. My ship got hit pretty hard by pirates and she may try to fall outta the sky. Can you guys provide the net?"

"Understood.", responded the professional voice, "Follow the coordinates I'm sending you and our emergency team will be waiting. Follow their directions and you will brought in safely."

"Heh, no nonsense. I understand. Thank you, control."

"You're welcome, sir. Good luck."

Tach switched off the comm and focused on getting the ship planetside safely. Entering the atmosphere had thankfully gone well; though a damaged power junction box, hanging onto the hull with distressed metal and willpower, lost the fight with physics. It neatly snapped off, ricocheted off the hull and dived into the clouds below.

A few moments passed and as promised an emergency team of four tow vehicles had arrived. Each carefully manuevered into place and attached to the Dullahan with grapple arms. "Dullahan, cut your engines. We will take you in from here.", ordered a voice over the local emergency channel.

Tach nodded to the lead ship and disengaged the engines. His vessel dipped a little as the tow ships took on the weight. Taking advantage of this free time Tach went ahead and transmitted his ship registration info. Unplanned stops like this had always caused a mess with Imperial customs paperwork. It'd been a good practice to start early.

Now Cloud City was visible on the far horizon. There was still some time to wait so the smuggler took this opportunity to contact his client. He grabbed the datapad from the floor and plugged it into a spare comm interface. Clear current program, enter voiceprint code, activate encryption and connect to holonet channel... success!

Tach pulled a portable holoprojector from his coat pocket and activated it. The image of a well dressed but angry bothan appeared. "Tach!", the holo growled, "I take it since you're calling me already there's been a problem."

"You know it. Bennet took some offense to losing the contract and shot up my ship!", he emphasized with a sweep of his arm at his damaged bridge, "I'm going to be stuck in Cloud City for a while."

"Skrag!", the holo-bothan covered his face with his hand, "Does he know you set him up again?"

Tach beamed with some pride. "Nah, I don't think so. The guy is an umron. I set him up with plenty of H4b laced booze and he didn't remember a thing. The rodian in his bed was.. for fun." A chuckle escaped as he painted a mental picture of the scene.

"Fine, fine. No need to go on.", the holoimage crossed his arms while glaring at Tach, "Is the cargo undamage."

"Of course! The girls are just fine."

"I don't care about them!", he stated heatedly then pointed at Tach for emphasis, "You know what cargo I'm talking about!"

"Aww, now now, Noth. Twin Rutian's are very rare and valuable." Holo-Noth glared at Tach, so he dropped the subject. "Don't worry, your cargo is safely hidden and unharmed."

"Good. Now don't waste anymore of my time. Fix the ship and get that cargo here fast!", Noth ordered and ended the transmission. Tach exhaled slowly and shook his head. Outside the ship Cloud City filled the viewport. They had arrived and were being gently lowered to an available maintenance pad. It was time to get ready. Tach packed several important items into a satchel before heading down to the access ramp.

Fingon
12-23-2011, 03:25 AM
Hayes had a new office. Larger, more colorful, with two narrow floor-to-ceiling windows which framed his desk. He also was not a lieutenant any more, something the neat plaque proudly announced. Capt. Haynes. Captain of police over an entire sector of Junction City. The officer himself looked different, even after just eight months, more grey dotting his short-cropped hair and more lines around his eyes. But Hayes was still unmistakably himself, still perfectly recognizable, something which could not be said of his guest.

The shorter man fidgeted ceaselessly, his stubble-covered lips pursing over and over again, but without a word escaping from them. He was wiry, but his skin hung a little loosely on him, especially under his grey-toned eyes. The jacket he wore was tattered and stained with liquor and specks of blood. He was . . . almost someone Hayes had known.

But that man had died four months ago. Hayes had found the report when the doctor never returned back to his home.

What have you done to yourself, Luis?

Taking in a deep breath, the brawl-battered man addressed his host, his voice tremulous but methodical. “Anthan, I know this is probably the last thing you expected, seeing me again, and like this, and I’ll tell you, but right now I . . . I need to go.”

Haynes coughed into his hand. “I wanna know what happened. Everything, from when you left.”

The seated man responded with a mirthless laugh. “I couldn’t possibly tell you all that’s happened. But I will tell you,” he quickly added,” I just. . . I need to go. Now.”

“Luis, my boys picked you up—what’s that face for?—they grabbed you from some drifter who dragged you away from a bar fight, and you expect me to just let you jive back out? What happened to you out there?”

“I told you, I’ll explain everything, just let me finish—”

“Finish what? Got another brawl to start? Luis, you—frell, you wince at your own name! You’re not leaving here until—”

“It’s not me, Anthan!” He was standing now, his hands squeezed into fists at his side. “My friend he . . . it was one of the gangs, they nabbed him. Must have stunned him first, he was bleeding. I called security and we were about to—”

Haynes put his hands on his guest’s shoulders and tried to ease him back into his chair. “You were in a bar, drinking, Luis.”

“I know!” The thin man shouted, throwing off the officer’s hands and walking to one of the vertical windows. “I know, dammit,” he repeated, pounding his fist against the pane. “They weren’t going to arrive for another twenty minutes, and . . . I . . .” his voice faltered. “I didn’t care,” he choked out. “One drink, and then I would help the cops find him. But before then, I didn’t care.” Hugging his dirty jacket around him, he turned slowly to face his old friend, who stood watching, stony faced. “Help me, Anthan. Help me find him.”

Dawncaller
01-03-2012, 05:50 PM
The tension in the air was palpable as Doule stared across the Nexus Room in silence. Inquisitor Tremayne, standing between them, unobtrusively moved to one of the exits and said, “I’ll leave the two of you to become… reacquainted.”

Even after he left, Doule had no words. When he last saw Tam Dawncaller, the boy had leapt into the blowing sands of a Ryloth heat storm and presumed lost. After that event, Doule had devoted his time to investigating the boy and his nature, but nothing he discovered gave any indication that Tam was actually in league with the Empire. Had this all been some kind of test?

It was Tam who broke the silence. “You’re confused. You do remember me, don’t you? It hasn’t been so long since Ryloth.”

“I do remember,” said Doule, searching for words to describe the maelstrom of uncertainty in his head. “It’s just that you were pronounced dead.”

A wry, calculating smile insinuated itself on Tam’s once-boyish features. “That is for the best at this point. Knowledge of my existence has proven to be too much of a lightning rod in recent months. Perhaps now that rumors of my demise are spreading I may be able to find some peace.”

Doule watched the boy turn to ascend the curved flight of stairs toward the upper catwalk of the nexus room. Tam’s steps were measured, contemplative, as if through his feet he was acquainting himself with the room. He finally reached the apex of the cylindrical room and pointed his eyes through the delicate machinery of the nexus sphere toward Doule. “This room is my station aboard the Inun; the tool of my trade and my prison. My place is locked away within the Empire, a spinning sprocket to drive its war machine.”

“You were with the Empire all along? Why the escape on Ryloth, then?”

“I didn’t understand my destiny then.” Tam continued walking, descending the room’s other stairs to complete his circuit around the room. “At the time my instinct was to flee, wading through hells much more dangerous than Ryloth to find freedom. Agents of the Empire have been pursuing me for some time now, and until now I never understood why. All I ever wanted was to be left alone, to pursue my own life…”

For a moment the hard demeanor melted, and Tam once again looked like the frightened, vulnerable fourteen-year-old Doule remembered. But just as quickly the mask of dark confidence resituated itself and Tam was again that small but disconcerting figure that had entered the Nexus Room.

Doule cleared his throat. “If I may ask, milord, are you a Jedi? Or a—what is it—a Sith?”

Once again that complicated smile appeared. “That’s a very binary observation of the situation, Captain. I am not your lord, nor do I consider myself part of any one group of Force disciples. I want you to consider me your friend, Doule, or failing that, at least a compatriot. I’ve learned some interesting things about the galaxy and those that would claim it as their own. Many of them seek to use me for their own ends, like a tool in their hands.”

“A puppet,” Doule interjected, not denying the similarity with his own feelings about his advancement and commission.

“Yes,” said the boy, “yes, a puppet. I chose you for this position because I knew you would understand the sentiment. Tremayne and his ilk mean to use me to carve out their own piece of the galaxy, even to challenge the Emperor himself if it suits their whim, but I have no interest in such pursuits, nor do I suspect do you.”

Doule took an involuntary step backward. The boy’s words—his very gaze—seemed to resonate with the captain’s emotions. Beneath the hard, darkened countenance was the same boy, looking for an opportunity to run away once and for all. “Tam,” he said, “I want to help you however I can, but I have no interest in the political maneuvering I see around me; plots that, if I may be so bold, could destroy the Empire I have given my word to serve.” He focused his attention back into those complicated, cold blue eyes and said, “If my commission aboard the Inun is to dutifully serve in defending Imperial worlds and citizens then I am proud to have been selected for the captaincy, but if my role in this squad is as a pawn to bring about the downfall of the Empire then I respectfully ask that you find someone else to participate in your operations.”

Tam held the hard stare a moment longer, then a smile broke through, clear, genuine, and possessing a sense of satisfaction that Doule thought would now be alien to the boy’s tortured soul. “That’s exactly what I wanted to hear…”

Ice Hawk
01-13-2012, 12:25 PM
The first thing that hit Cali as she walked into the dance hall, was the warmth. Contrasted with the cold, dark outside, the hall was an oven, as furnaces roared and people mingled and danced. The next was the sound, a deafening roar as a hundred conversations, laughter and angry shouts, fought to drown out the band, their instruments twanging with a slow bluesy melody. Finally, she caught sight of the colours; reds and violets whirled together on the dance floor, as men in green suits chatted with women in blue gown by the buffet tables. As she struggled out of her coat, suddenly flush from the heat, Cali heard Sunny enter behind her. “Is it everything you imagined?”

Cali took it all in for a moment.
“It’s, uh, it’s actually pretty impressive.”

Sunny grinned.
“Well it ought to be, at least for your first time. After a while, they sorta loose their shine.”

Cali handed her coat to coat check, and gave her pink dress one last look over before she joined the party. “Seems pretty shiny to me.”

Sunny did likewise, and tried to smooth back his hair. “It’s an alright Shindig, of sorts. There were better years.”

Cali cocked an eyebrow.
“Right. So what’d the other years have that this don’t?”

“Standards for one thing.” said a voice behind them. Coming in behind them was a middle aged man with dark black hair and a full beard. His hairline was just begging to recede, and the odd wisp of white speckled his beard, but he was tall and strong. “Mr. Delas, what brings you to our humble little gathering? You’ve never been much the social type.”

Sunny grinned and extended his hand, which the bearded man did not take.
“Well Doyle, it gets awful lonely out in my home; and the little miss had never seen a scouring festival before, and I figured that just wouldn’t do.”

Doyle nodded.
“That’s right, I heard your boy was back in town, and he brought a pretty thing with him. This is she I presume?”

Cali butted in.
“That’s right, Cali Bellum. I take it you’re the Doyle everybody goes to see?”

Doyle grinned as he looked her over.
“I suppose I must be. Well, as you pointed out, people are waiting to see me, so I must be going, but you and Mr. Delas have a good time now.”

As he walked away, Cali stuck her tongue out at him, only to feel Sunny swat her for it.
“Ow! What was that for?”

Sunny frowned.
“I drove you here on the condition that you’d behave. No stirring up trouble, no making a scene with Reil, no mocking powerful crime bosses. We aren’t even through the door, and you’re mucking up the deal. That, and sticking out your tongue is just juvenile.”

They waded through the party, and for the most part were ignored. Sunny made a be-line to the buffet table, and Cali found it difficult to mingle with the rather tight-knit community. She was getting lots of strange looks and no invitations to dance, which she chalked up to being an outsider, and wound up sitting at the bar alone. The bar tender looked at her curiously, but didn’t bother asking her for ID when she ordered one of the cocktails.



************************************



Reil was ushered into the small room in the back. As the door shut behind him, he noticed three figures seated at the other side of a big table, and single chair in front of him. He already knew who they were, but as he sat down, he still took stock of them. On the left was Leroy Brown, a pimp with a fondness for gambling, he was dressed obnoxiously, and his hands were practically encased in precious metals and stone, from all the rings he wore; he was all but ignoring Reil to stare daggers at the man on the far right. On the right was relative newcomer William McCoy, formerly known as Slim. He was true to his name, thin as a rake, but had a whip-like quality. McCoy was ignoring Brown, and staring intently at Reil. Doyle was in the middle, doing his best not to look bored.
“Mr. Reil; I did not look to see you again, what with you going off to be a big-time pilot and all. How can I help you this evening?”

“Hello Doyle. Frankly I did not look to be coming back but the circumstances have driven me here none the less. As for my needing to speak to you, I think you might prefer we did it in private.”

Doyle smiled and gestured to his compatriots.
“Zealos, these are my trusted business partners. You know them both, right?”

Zealos nodded politely.
“Mr. Brown I am familiar with, but I’m afraid I only know Mr. McCoy by reputation. I was more familiar with your predecessor, Jim Walker, when he was running the gambling hall. Is it true you cut him in a hundred places for hustling you?”

McCoy grinned.
“I also shot him in a couple more. I didn’t see the point in leaving that particular disagreement open for continued discussion. Anyway, Mr. Reil, whatever you have to say to Doyle, you can rest assured we have his full confidence.”

Reil grinned back at him.
“So did Jim Walker, but I digress. Well Doyle, since you asked I need your contacts to give me the location of the nearest Rebel fleet.”

This wiped the smiles off everybody’s faces, and Reil spent the next few minutes outlining his situation, and explaining why Doyle should do this and Doyle weighed the arguments carefully before passing judgment.
“No.”

Reil blinked.
“What do you mean no?”

“I was under the impression the word is self explanatory. I will admit that coming up to me with a request like that is . . . bold to say the least, but I have no need of bold. No Zealos Reil, bold is not a quality I admire.”

“The Rebellion will reward you for bringing me to them, I guarantee it.”

“You are more liberal with their credits than they are, I assure you. I have dealt with many peoples on many worlds, and none of them ever feel the need to honour promises made by strangers.”

Reil scrambled for a solution.
“Then I’ll pay for the information.”

“Dealing with the Alliance is a lucrative arrangement. If I sold you their location, even if you did turn out to be legit, they’d break our contract just on principal. Secrecy is sort of a binding clause in this arrangement. To make it worth my time, you’d have to be sitting on millions to make up for lost revenue, and if you had that kind of cash, you wouldn’t be coming to me, so no.”

“There’s gotta be something I could do to-”

Doyle leaned back in his chair, and made a serious face.
“No. There’s nothing you can do. Frankly, even if you did have something Zealos, I don’t like you. I don’t like that you’re from out of town; I don’t like that you’re a wanted criminal hiding in my town; I really don’t like that your daddy is with the law. But most of all? I hate the fact that you’re an idiot, and would come down here on this night of celebration and waste my time. ”

This broke the stoicism of the other two, with Leroy Brown just grinning, his smile revealing several golden teeth, and William Maccoy breaking down, and laughing outright. Reil got up to leave, seething with rage and frustration. Just as he reached the door, Doyle called out to him. Reil turned, for the faintest of moments hoping Doyle had changed his mind.
“And Reil; enjoy the party.”

The door shut in Reil’s face. Reil saw red, and was about to shout some invective through the door to Doyle, when he felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned to see a middle aged woman in a fashionable dress standing behind him.
“I apologise for my husband. Doyle wouldn’t recognize an opportunity if it hit him in the jaw.”

Reil was in no mood to be mollified.
“And you would?”

“Yes, I imagine I would. What Doyle doesn’t realize is that we need someone like you. Even if he did he would never admit it, he’s too proud. I however, am quite practical. Walk with me, listen to this opportunity, and see if it does not raise your spirits.”

Intrigued, Reil followed the woman as she walked away from the party.
“And what would this opportunity be, Mrs. . ?” It occurred to Reil that he didn’t actually know Doyle’s last name. Actually, he wasn’t sure if many people knew his last name.

“McGrath. But please, call me Meredith.”

“All right, so why does Doyle need me?”

“Because you’re an outsider.”

“I grew up here. Sorta.”

“And then you left, and no one even noticed. And soon you will leave again, and it will not trouble anyone here.”

Reil frowned.
“You have a funny way of making someone feel needed. . .”

“Then let me explain. Life is very sedentary in this town, the locals don’t change, and even the people from elsewhere have been dealing in this town for so long that they are practically part of the landscape. But it appears fortune has a special place in her heart for both of us; because I can only lend my assistance to an outsider, and likewise only an outsider can be of use to me.”

“Here comes the catch.”

“There’s always a catch. Life would be boring if everyone had what they wanted; then I couldn’t dangle a prize in front of you and watch you leap through hoops to get it. But this task you won’t find so terribly unbearable. As a matter of fact, I dare say it would even be on your way. I want you to steal a ship.”

Reil was immediately suspicious.
“What kind of ship?”

“The troublesome kind. A trader owed a sum of credits to both Maccoy and Brown, and used his ship as collateral, then skipped town. Brown went to collect, only to find Maccoy’s men already aboard. Certain words were exchanged, then certain blaster fire. Doyle has had to step in and confiscate the ship himself to halt anymore blood spilling, but he cannot hold it indefinitely.”

“All this over one ship? The three of them own the whole damn spaceport.”

“For what it’s worth, I’m told it’s a very nice ship; but that has little to do with it now. Men have died for it, so that means neither of the two buffoons can back down without looking weak. As long as there is that ship, there can be no peace, and without peace the delicate balance that runs our humble community will crumble. For those of us who have seen the rest of the galaxy, Twillingate is a meager thing, but these men are sad little kings of their sad little hills, and have never dreamed for more. And they would set the town alight before they ceded their small fraction of power. Normally this wouldn’t bother me, but I made the foolish mistake of falling in love and marrying one of them.”

“So you want me to steal a ship and then. . ?”

“Leave. You will have made an enemy of Maccoy and Brown, and even Doyle, though he ought to kiss your feet for the service. Their influence wither’s and dies off world, but if you stay on Taanab, you will die.”

Zealos grinned.
“The wrath of these sad little kings is terrible indeed.”

Her eyes narrowed.
“More so their wives. If you bungle this job, or breathe a word of it to anyone, I assure you, the consequences will be more severe than you could imagine.”

“I dunno, I can imagine quite a bit.”

“Then put it to good use and come up with an imaginative way to steal the vessel. Else wise I might regret approaching you, and instead warn Doyle, so that his guards kill you in the attempt.”

Reil shrugged.
“I’ve been threatened before, and by much scarier women than you, I might add. So, if you’re done trying to frighten me, let’s talk payment.”

She smiled coyly.
“Payment? You get a ship.”

Reil sighed. Here comes my first hoop and she hasn’t even dangled the prize.
“Yeah, but I could steal any ol’ ship. Ones that’d be less hazardous to my health. You want me to steal a particular ship, and incur some fairly hostile sentiments. What are you going to give me, to entice me to steal your ship?”

She smiled, which Reil took to mean that he had passed his first test.
“I can provide to you the location of Doyle’s contact in the Rebellion. Or near enough that it makes no difference.”

Reil balked.
“Near enough?”

She produced two data cards, and held out the first.
“I have my own web of contacts. One of them is on Ord Mantell. Give him this, and he will provide you the location of your precious Rebellion.”

Reil was skeptical.
“And how do I find him?”

She handed him the second data card.
“These are the directions on how to find him, and how to approach him without getting shot. It’s encoded, but I made sure the nav-computer on the Concordia can access it.”

“The what?”

“The Concordia, your new ship.”

I. J. Thompson
01-13-2012, 11:44 PM
"I know!" Fi exclaimed in amusement, "It's like, 'yes, I'm who you think I am, so either say hello, or stop looking at me already!"

"Totally," Jyllis Tromso agreed. "Or worse, they just walk up and take a holosnap of you, without even saying a word."

"Ick! Do people really do that? I don't think I've ever had that happen before."

"They do, and you're not missing anything. More?"

"Yes please!"

Fi watched as her new friend poured more of the champagne that her new boyfriend, Whatsisname, had had sent here to her dressing room. The bottle was large and heavy, causing the holostar difficulty in ensuring its contents all went into the glasses. A fair bit made its way onto the landscape of the dressing table, but that was alright - here at The Blue Room, there were people to take care of that sort of thing.

Fi lifted the elegant champagne flute from the table, trying to hide the care that she was taking in doing so. The nerve damage in her fingers was still extensive, and she could barely feel the glass's surface against her fingertips. She didn't want to accidentally crush the glass by gripping it too hard.

"But, Fiola..."

"Call me Fi, Jyllis."

"Deal. And call me Jyll."

"Deal."

"But Fi, whatever happened to the Levels? I mean, you guys were really getting popular there. Why did you break up?"

"Oh, that," Fi sighed. "We didn't break up, not really. The other members got... stolen."

Jyll stopped mid-sip, raising an eyebrow and speaking around her glass. "Stolen?"

"Well," Fi explained, "It turned out our manager, Quorice, had been getting a lot of our financing through some pretty shady channels. Like, a Hutt."

"Oh no."

"Yeah. So when we found out what Quorice had been up to, and what kind of interest he'd accrued, we didn't want to pay it, 'cause we'd never signed any deal in the first place."

"Right."

"We all intended to meet with Graza's - Graza the Hutt's, that is - associates. Right here on Cloud City, as a matter of fact, since we were booked here, anyway. I came here later than the others, and when I got here, they were all just... gone."

Jyll swallowed her champagne, swept some copper curls from her face, and began to fill their glasses once more. "But you didn't try to find them? Do something?"

"What could I do?" Fi asked, sipping the bubbling liquid. "I was just a girl alone. I guess I was, I dunno... scared." Fi thought of the long months that had followed the dissolution of her band, Moonbeam Levels, and how radically her definition of the word 'scared' had since changed.

"Scared?" Jyllis scoffed. "Honey, you're the girl who performed 'You're Not Allowed to Say No' at the Seven Rings Music Awards."

Fi narrowly avoided spitting out her mouthful of champagne in laughter at the scandalous memory. "But that was different! That was just my career on the line. It's different when it's your neck." She considered. "A girl can always get a new career, but she can't get a new neck."

"Wisdom!" Jyll agreed with a dazzling grin, and raised her champagne flute into the air. "To our necks... and may they stay where they're supposed to be for many years to come!"

"I'll drink to that!" Fi agreed and raised her glass, as Jyllis Tromso thrust her own toward it.

It was not a heavy impact. But given the delicacy with which Fi's desensitized fingers were holding her glass, it was all it took. The champagne flute was knocked out of her grip, bouncing in her lap and spilling the liquid all over the front of her sparkling white dress, where it fizzed merrily. Both of the young women screamed in surprise, Jyll's scream turning immediately into howls of laughter. In a moment Fi was laughing as well, tears of amusement and relief streaming down her face.

It doesn't matter my fingers don't work quite right. It doesn't matter I can't play the mandoviol anymore. I have made a friend.

Their laughter was interrupted by an urgent knocking on the dressing room door. "Who is it?" Jyll asked on Fi's behalf, the singer busily mopping up the spilled champagne with a cloth.

"It's, uh, it's me. Marce."

"Marce!" Fi called to the Sullustan stage manager. "Get in here and have a drink!"

"I'm actually calling for Miss Tromso," the girl called through the door. "She has a visitor."

"Oh, stars!" Jyll exclaimed, "My date!"

The holostar leaped out of her seat, violet dress spinning dazzlingly around her, and opened the door. There stood a sour-faced, sharply-dressed man of some fifty years, looking uncomfortable. "Darling," the man spoke politely, uncertainly, "your dinner has gotten quite cold."

"Helly!" Jyll exclaimed, turning back toward Fi, "dear, may I present my boyfriend, Helbert Strand."

"Charmed," the man said.

"Likewise!" Fi replied, taking a sip from her refilled glass.

Presently another man was at the door, this one much younger than Strand, and much more handsome. "Fi," the young man called, "sorry for the delay. I was held up at the office."

"No problem," Fi replied, sidling up to Whatsisname and wrapping an arm around his neck. "Jyllis, Helbert, this is..." she struggled for the name.

The young man peered at her uncertainly. "Nox."

Fi grinned in relief, giving him a friendly punch on the arm. "Just testing ya honey. This is Nox. Nox Wexler."

Helbert Strand appraised Nox Wexler head to toe, as if deciding how best to carve him up for Lifeday meal. "Enchanted. And just what exactly is your game, dear boy?"

Recognizing another gun, Nox grinned winningly at Strand and offered a hand, which the older man shook professionally. "Why, I'm a magician, good sir," he explained. "I take small sums of credits, and turn them into large ones."

Strand smiled coolly. "Grand."

"And you?"

"Oh," the older man answered breezily, "my interests are many and varied, though at present it is tibanna gas that brings me to Cloud City."

"I see. And naturally, the lovely and talented miss Jyllis Tromso needs no introduction." Nox bowed deeply, as the actress genuflected politely.

Nox Wexler straightened, taking in the mostly-empty bottle on the dressing table and the front of Fi's soaked dress, "I take it you received the champagne?"

Fi held up her hands in mock apology and shared a snicker with Jyll. "Outta fuel, sport. Shall we," she reached back into the dressing room door and clicked out the light, "make for greener pastures?"

Elvish_Jedi
01-14-2012, 07:51 PM
Deleted.

I. J. Thompson
01-15-2012, 05:40 PM
The airspeeder whistled smoothly between Cloud City's towering buildings, a speck of light and sound in the early morning blackness and quiet. Jyllis Tromso handled the rented vehicle like a pro as Fi looked on admiringly, while Helbert Strand and Nox Wexler, confined to the vehicle's almost nonexistent back seat and thoroughly emasculated, tried to make the best of it as their thighs pressed awkwardly against each others' in the confined space.

"You're a pretty good driver!" Fi observed, as Jyllis brought the group around another hair-raising curve.

"I love it," Jyllis said. "I can't get enough of moments like this."

"I should take you for a ride in my ship sometime," Fi offered.

"A ship!" Jyll gushed as she swerved to avoid a fellow late-night aerial motorist. "Stars, I'd kill for a ship of my own!"

"But," Fi asked, puzzled, "surely you can afford one?"

"Of course," Jyll answered, with no hint of pride or boasting. "But when I'm on a shoot, I can't drive myself anywhere, for insurance reasons. I have to be chauffeured around - even planetside. So I could buy a ship, but I could only fly it on my time off, which isn't so often."

"Ah. Well, I'll be happy to take a turn chauffeuring for you!"

Jyllis said nothing, but Fi could see her in the dim light the speeder's dashboard provided, grinning ear-to-ear.

"I have to say," Nox Wexler offered from the cramped back seat, "I'm a big fan of your work, Ms. Tromso. I've seen all your holos."

This caught Fi's attention, and she turned around to look quizzically at her boyfriend. As far as she had ever seen, the boy's definition of 'art' amounted to little more than a minimum six-figure business deal or a high-energy gravball match.

"Oh yeah?" Jyllis Tromso replied immediately, a faint hint of challenge in her tone, "which one is your favourite?"

Caught offguard, Nox did his best to fill in the blanks. "Uh... well, it's hard to choose, you know. I like them all. Especially the ones where you play really... you know... strong roles. I like the, uh, strong roles."

Fi smirked, and flicked a switch in the rented speeder's dash. Presently, a clear partition raised itself between the front and back sections of the vehicle, soundproofing either side. "Sorry about that," she giggled, "I usually try to let him speak as little as possible."

"No worries," Jyll laughed, "I get that all the time."

Fi watched the city's many buildings fly past in the darkness, thought about asking a question, decided not to, and did anyway. "So," she began awkwardly, "what's the deal with your... 'boyfriend'?"

"Helly?" Jyll asked. "What about him?"

Fi giggled nervously. "Well for starters, he's old enough to be your Auntie!"

Jyll cackled at Fi's choice of words. "Oh, Helbert's harmless. And no, he's not my boyfriend. It's just important for a man in his position to be seen with a woman from time to time."

"I see. And what's in it for you?"

"Honey," Jyll began as she brought the vehicle in to a stomach churning and clearly illegal dive, "it may surprise you, but Helbert Strand's an extremely well-connected fellow. In fact, he pretty frequently plays cards with the head of Holopolis Pictures."

"Wow," Fi remarked, looking at her new friend in the darkness. "I guess business is business. 'No romance', right?"

Jyll took a second to look away from the fast moving landscape, reached out to touch Fi's hand, and smiled wearily at her. "'No romance'."

They flew on in silence for a moment.

"Of course," Jyll continued, "I now must ask, what's up with sport-o back there? He doesn't strike me as your type."

"He's not," Fi said immediately. "But he makes for a lovely distraction!"

Jyll grinned that celebrity smile again. "'No romance'?"

"'No romance'."

Blinking lights erupted in the darkness behind them, gaining fast. "Blast!" Jyll hissed, "it's the law!"

Fi flicked the switch to lower the partition between the speeder's front and back, revealing Helbert and Nox engaged in a lively discussion about the comings and goings of liquid currency. "Attention, passengers," Jyll announced in a mock-official tone, "it appears we've been invited to pull over by Cloud City's finest."

"Fear not, darlings," Helbert Strand soothed them in his anything-but-soothing icy tones as he reached for his credchip, "I shall take care of this. If the population of Cloud City is a menu, you can be sure that its Wing Guard count among the appetizers."

Jyll brought the rented speeder down onto the appointed landing pad as ordered, where a squad of the city's blue-clad guards were already gathering. Within moments the squad's captain was at her window, his fellows arrayed behind him and looking closely at all the vehicle's occupants, while the Wing Guard speeder, one of the burgundy twin-pod numbers, hovered nearby, just in case.

"Alright, miss," the captain began by rote, "where's the f-"

Jyllis Tromso grinned winningly at the startled official. "Was I going too fast, officer?"

The captain huffed in surprise for a moment, doing his best to collect himself. "Ms. Tromso! I mean, it is you, Jyllis Tromso, from the pictures, isn't it?"

Jyll batted her eyelashes dazzingly. "You recognize me?"

"Miss," the captain gushed. "I'd recognize you anywhere. I've seen all your holos!"

"Really?" Jyll replied in almost-but-not-quite modesty, "which one is your favourite?"

"Lovers' Moon," the captain replied immediately. "I... I saw it six times."

At this, Fi turned about in her seat, shooting Nox an amused and accusing look.

"Listen, Miss Tromso," the captain began sheepishly, pulling a glossy photo of the actress from inside his uniform tunic, "I'm a little embarrassed but, I heard you were visiting here, and I just thought, on the off chance, if I saw you..."

"You'd like an autograph?" Jyll smiled, taking the photo and grabbing a stylus from the vehicle's dash. "Who shall I make it out to?"

The captain actually bounced a little in his excitement. "Rommin," he beamed, "Captain Rommin."

The actress scrawled out the autograph. "Here you are Captain, and thank you for the compliment. Now did you need to talk to me, for some reason?"

Captain Rommin huffed nervously as he took the photo back. "Well, you were flying a little fast, and not quite sticking to your lanes. Please take it easy, okay? We all want you to be safe."

"Of course, officer," Jyll obliged, "and thanks again!"

"Thank you, Miss Tromso!"

And within moments, they were back in the air.

Fi tried to make sense of what had just happened. "That..." she began ineffectually, "was pretty darned great."

"Celebrity has its problems, as you know," Jyll explained, "but it certainly has its advantages."

"I guess that's the difference between drama people and music people," Fi observed. "Try pulling that little maneuver as a musician, and you're likely to get yourself a body search and a night in the tank!"

They all laughed (all but Helbert Strand, who did his best to put away his credchip without anyone noticing), as the speeder zoomed off into the gathering purple of early dawn.


* * *

"Would you look at that, Trask?" Captain Rommin beamed. "'To Captain Rommin - all my love, Jyllis Tromso'. In her own hand! My wife'll never believe it!"

Lieutenant Trask smirked. "Your wife's gonna demand half of that, along with everything else."

"Shut up, Trask."

Lieutenant Trask laughed good naturedly, and walked off to an area away from the other guardsmen. Retrieving his comlink, he dialed quickly.

"Trask, here. Yes. Yes. Positive ID. It's definitely her. Airlight-model speeder. Silver. Rented. Just tell him, okay? And make sure to tell him who called in with the tip. Trask. Yeah."

Pocketing the comlink, Lieutenant Trask rejoined his squad on the landing platform.

Ice Hawk
01-24-2012, 03:03 AM
Cali felt her mood sour, as she stared into the empty cocktail glass. A few minutes ago she had caught a glance of Reil hurrying off into the back rooms in the company of some old woman. Which was fine. Great, even. Reil was free to associate with as many aged, wrinkled harlots as he could find. Sunny was still at the buffet, though he had been over briefly to share with her the wonders of some kind of hot cheese. All in all though, this party was not turning out the way she hoped. She was tired of being ignored and stared at in equal measure, and she was fermenting serious plans about harming the lead singer of the band.

The band was fine, and the girl actually had a decent voice but Cali felt a nerve twitch as the singer belted out song after song of poor lovelorn girls desperate for their men. It was wretch worthy. The latest song was the worst, some serious ballad about a Socorran girl who threw herself at some spacer as soon as he walked into a bar, and then gets all weepy eyed and teary when the spacer finally left her. What exactly had she expected to happen?

Cali was so wrapped up in this that she didn’t hear the band call a break, and only noticed that the music had stopped when she saw the singer standing beside her ordering a drink.
“What’s the matter kid, did anybody tell you it’s a party?”

“Huh?”

“You’ve been scowling since you sat down. Mostly at me, I might add.”

Cali shrugged and finished her cocktail.
“Don’t feel much like dancing with you moaning on and on about how much you miss your man.”

It was the singers turn to shrug.
“I just play what pays the bills. People like this stuff.”

“Maybe if you were a better singer you could make money singing decent songs.”

The girl took her drink from the bartender.
“Owch.” She took a sip of the bubbling liquid in her glass, then she leaned backwards on the bar and grinned wickedly at Cali. “Did I touch a nerve?”

Cali rolled her eyes.
“No, you didn’t.”

The singer kept grinning.
“It really looks like I did.”

Cali glared at the singer.
“I don’t care what it looks like! I’m fine, shut up, and go away.”

The singer put up her hands in mock defense.
“Hey, my bad. How about I make it up to you?”

Cali sighed.
“By doing what?”

“Just watch me.”

The singer winked at Cali as she walked over to one of her band mates. At first Cali thought she was bringing the musician over to her, but they walked past the bar, and back on stage. The musician began strumming a slower tune, as the singer began.


Vera flew the coop when she was only soft sixteen
She hopped the first and fastest train with some lousy libertine
He'd spun a pretty story and he'd stole away her youth
And everyone was shocked 'cos Vera always told the truth
Oh, her slip surprised them all 'cos Vera always told the truth

Vera dumped that lying lout in the dust behind the train
He'd angled for a child but caught a heartless hurricane
He wasn't worth a blaster, she just pushed him off the side
And she thanked him for her freedom, she was eternally polite
Vera thanked him for his trouble, she was nothing but polite

Vera ran with lawless men who trembled when she talked
She never flinched, she never smiled, and her gun was always cocked
At twenty-one she terrorized the whole of the frontier
And they feared her faithful justice, they knew Vera was sincere
Oh, they ran from Vera's posse 'cos she was perfectly sincere

Vera rode along the whole of her ferocious life
She never met a boy she didn't think deserved the knife
Not a one of them was worthy in her steady steely eyes
'Cos they are fright’ed for their flaws and Vera always sneered at lies
Yeah, she found all men were liars and Vera couldn't live with lies

It was not 'till Vera's dying days her hard heart bled desire
The man who shot her through was the only man she could admire
That mortal wound awoken her, the final balm could soothe
And she said "I think I love you" and Vera always told the truth
Oh, as she died she said "I love you" and Vera always told the truth



The singer climbed down off stage and sat beside Cali again, with her eyebrow cocked.
“So?”

“Vera dies? Your only song with a decent female protagonist and you kill her off?”

The singer rolled her eyes.
“God, there is just no pleasing you is there?”

Cali shrugged.
“It was a pretty good song.”Then she extended her hand. “I’m Cali.”

“Dixie Dawn”, she said as she shook Cali’s hand. “So, how long have you been a music critic?”

Cali smiled.
“I’m not, really, I just spent a lot of time with this singer. . .”

“Anyone I might have heard of?”

Cali’s grin widened.
“She was nobody special.”

The two talked for a while, but then Dixie had to do another set on stage. When she finished, the party was mostly winding down. The rest of the band took off permanently, but Dixie stuck around to chat with Cali.

“So I’m stuck here until the river thaws, and I can find some work. And then I’m still stuck here until I make enough money to go somewhere else.”

Dawn leaned back in her chair.
“Like where?”

Cali shrugged, a little more helplessly than she would have liked.
“The core maybe? I dunno. I’m new to this space traveling on your own. I just know I want to get off Taanab.”

“I know the feeling. So what kind of work are you looking for?"

“Whatever pays. Truth be told, I’d like to get myself established in something better than menial labour. Something where I get to use my guns. Nothing stupid like a swoop gang, or petty stuff; I want to be a bounty hunter, or a mercenary or something more than somebody’s cook and secretary.”

Dawn glanced askew at Cali.
“Riiiight. So killing things is your first inclination in that regard?”

Cali smiled ruefully.
“We can’t all be singers.”

“Musicians.” Dawn corrected. Then she looked pensive. “And, I don’t know if I should be telling you this, but if you’re looking for the rough kind of work, I might know a guy who’s hiring now.”


**********************************

Dawn led Cali through the maze of back rooms in the hall. Cali had thought about telling Sunny where they were going, but decided against it. She had the feeling he’d encourage her towards more ‘respectable’ work, and frankly it was none of his business what she did. Finally, they came to an office room. Dawn opened the door, and inside Cali saw three men. Two were listening intently to the third, a thin, wiry man, as he lectured them.
“It’s got to happen soon; before Doyle makes a decision, one way or the other, we’ve got to show that we’re in charge, and it’s our ship. Now-”

Dawn coughed loudly.
“Uhh, Will? It’s me; I brought someone to see you.”

The thin man looked up at Dixie.
“So I see. Who the hell is she?”

Dixie was about to introduce Cali, but Cali was already stepping into the room. She extended her hand, which he did not take.
“Cali, Cali Bellum. I hear you might have work for me.”

Will cocked an eyebrow.
“I do? Somehow I doubt that very much. I already have a service that takes care of my cleaning.”

Cali retracted her hand.
“What?”

Will made a gesture at her clothing.
“You’re a maid right?”

Cali recoiled like she’d been struck.
“What? NO! Why would you think that?”

Will made a confused face.
“Because you’re dressed like a maid?”

“I AM NOT!”

Will sighed.
“You really are.”

“Yeah, that’s a maid outfit. I thought you wore it to the party as a joke or something.” Dawn chimed in.

Cali blushed a deep crimson as she fought to keep her anger in check.
“I. . .Fine. Whatever, that is not what I’m here for.”

“What are you here for?”

“Dawn told me you needed someone to handle some rough business.”

Will rubbed his temple.
“Dawn told you, while dressed in a maids uniform, that I needed help, and brought you here to be part of my nefarious criminal schemes.” He turned to Dawn. “Really, Dixie? Are you actually trying to humiliate me, or is this a legitimate effort? Because I’m not sure which would depress me more.”

Dawn held up her hands.
“She said she was looking for this kind of work, and I know you’ve got some kind of situation going on. I think you should give her a shot.”

Cali was more intrigued than angry at this point.
“What situation?”

Will threw his hands up in the air.
“Leroy Brown is the situation. He’s a pimp, and a sore loser, but he holds his nose in the air around me, gives me no respect. I caught his boys trying to boost a ship that was left to me, and he’s afraid to settle this like a man, and goes squealing to hide behind Doyle’s skirt. Well, I’ve had enough, and I want Brown out of the way.” Will looked Cali over one last time. “But I don’t think sending in a pink maid so he laughs himself to death is the message I want to sen-”

Cali’s pistol was pointed right at his head.
“I can kill a man just as easy in a maid uniform as anything else. Are you satisfied that I’m capable, or do you need a demonstration?”

Will grinned.
“I’m satisfied.”

Cali put her pistol away and took a seat.
“So do you want me to steal the ship or. . .”

Will shook his head, still grinning.
“No, I have a much better plan in mind for you.” He extended his hand, which Cali shook. “My name is William, William McCoy. It’s a pleasure to be working with you miss Bellum.”



*********************************

The plan was simple enough. Leroy Brown lived in an apartment above his own bawdy house. Cali could slip in the back, pretending to be one of the call girls. Apparently her dress was such, she could blend right in. She felt her face redden at the reminder. I can’t believe none of them ever told me. When this is done, I’m going to stab Reil.

Once inside, the only tricky part would be getting into Leroy’s apartment. McCoy didn’t know where or how the guards would be situated, but he figured they wouldn’t bother a whore on her rounds, and it wouldn’t be out of character for one to go to Leroy’s room.

About a block away from the bawdy house Cali stopped, took a deep breath, and checked to make sure no one could see her pistols poking out of spots they shouldn’t be. It’s going to be fine. Get in, shoot him in the face, get out.

As Cali walked through the alley that led to the bawdy house, she noticed a few other girls hanging around the back door smoking. She started preparing stories in case they challenged her at the door, but none of them gave her a second glance. Inside it was much the same, the girls were busy working, and the men were busy giving the girls work. It suddenly dawned on Cali that she didn’t know what she’d do if someone approached her. She wasn’t going off into a private room with any of these losers, but if she refused someone, they’d probably cause a big stink, and the whole plan would go to hell. Cali did her best to look unappealing and unobtrusive, as she made her way up several flights of stairs, and luckily escaped all notice.

It wasn’t until she made her way all the way to the top that she met someone who was very clearly a guard. He was standing outside the door to Leroy’s apartment, looking bored. Cali marched up to him with a confidence she was not feeling, and smiled sweetly.
“Leroy’s expecting me. Could you let me in?”

The guard gave a half smile and mumbled “sure”, and went right back to looking bored as he keyed in the entry code for the apartment. The apartment was dark, and when the door shut behind her, Cali felt like she was being swallowed by the shadows. She took a few minutes to let her eyes adjust, and to get her breathing back to normal. This was no big deal. She’d shot people before. She’d stabbed people before. Just never in their homes while they slept. Focus! This is the real thing. I do this right, and I won’t be breaking my back on some dock for crap pay. This is what I wanted, remember?

Cali drew a blaster, and set about finding the bedroom. When she did, she winced at the sound the door made as it slid open, but the lights didn’t come on automatically, and that was something to be thankful for. The bed was curtained, and she could hear breathing. Cali tore back the curtain with one hand, and leveled the blaster in the other at. . . some girl lying in the bed.

The noise woke the girl up, and for a moment, she and Cali were transfixed in time, as they stared at each other in confusion. Then she noticed the blaster in Cali’s hand, and her eyes widened. Cali saw what was coming, she knew the girl was going to scream, but she hesitated.

When the scream came it was blood curdling. Cali was already backing away from the bed, when she heard the door swish open as the guard rushed in. Cali turned, pulling her second blaster out and-

Cali didn’t feel the blaster shot cut through her stomach. She didn’t even notice dropping the blaster in her right hand. She just felt the strength leave her limbs, and she fell to her knees, facing the doorway. Then the pain hit her and her vision swam. Her other blaster was in her left hand, and she tried to point it at the assailant. He might have said something like “don’t” or “stop” but she couldn’t focus enough to make it out. She had almost leveled it with him, when he shot her again.

I. J. Thompson
01-25-2012, 11:02 PM
The sensation of a tiny tongue licking the tip of her nose startled Fi out of a deep but all-too-short sleep. The perpetrator, a tiny Fabool puffball called Mr. Mace, chirped in apology and floated upward, hovering above the bed. Fi held a hand over her eyes to block out the brilliant midday sunlight beaming in through the giant windows in the bedroom's ceiling and walls, gradually becoming aware of another body next to her own, warm and deeply asleep. Fi turned toward her companion, to nudge Whatsisname awake and tell him he was late for work again.

Surprised she was, then, to see an avalanche of copper curls cascading over her white pillow, and a bare, pale shoulder pointing up to the sky - the holostar, Jyllis Tromso, deep in sleep and dreams. Fi groggily pieced the events of yesterday's late night/early morning together. She, Jyllis, and their dates Nox 'Whatsisname' Wexler and Helbert Strand had been joyriding in a rented speeder. After a brush with the authorities, they'd found themselves being tailed by an unknown party and had nervously set down at the rental outlet to return the speeder and shake their pursuers. The much-older Strand had bid them adieu, in search of after hours adventures of his own, while the remaining three revelers had taken public transport to Fi's apartment, where Nox, uncharacteristically silent, sat watching holos and smoking cigarras while Fi and Jyll retreated to Fi's bedroom to talk, share a bottle of something-or-other, and watch the sun rise.

Fi supposed that she and the girl had crashed right here, while Nox had eventually made his way to his office. Rising, she dimly noted that she was still wearing last night's white sparkly dress, now rumpled and unkempt. She'd have to get something proper on, she thought. But first, food.

She made her way to the apartment's kitchen, with Mr. Mace following close behind in hopes of a meal of his own. But the kitchen was not empty.

"Good morning," Nox greeted her, holding a cold cup of caff and looking anything but cheery.

"Hi, doll," Fi replied, yawning and trying vaguely to straighten her unruly dark brown hair. "Shouldn't you be at work?"

"I called in," he replied, "took the day off. I thought we could do something together. Something special. You know, just the two of us."

"Like what?" Fi asked, unintentionally sounding a lot more suspicious than excited.

Nox's face tensed as he gripped his cup. "Blast, I don't know," he said, "what would you like to do?"

"Babe, I don't know," Fi replied, sensing exactly how she was coming across, but too tired to really care. "That was a pretty late night, and I've got another show at The Blue Room tonight. I should probably just stay in. You know, rest the pipes."

Nox nodded professionally, tossing the cold contents of his cup into the sink. "Right," he said sarcastically, "'you' should. Not 'we' should."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

The young man placed the empty cup on the counter as gently as he was able and turned to face her. "Fi, sometimes I think you don't actually love me at all."

Nox, sometimes I think you actually have a clue.

"That's crazy," Fi replied, trying to smile, and failing. "You know how I feel about'cha."

"How?"

Fi tried to look at him, but couldn't. Keeping her gaze fixed on the kitchen's immaculate white floor, she said, "I think you'd better leave."

Nox stiffly walked toward the apartment's front door, pausing there to look at her once more.

"Is this it?"

Fi sighed, still unable to meet his gaze. "Yeah," she confessed, "I guess this is it."

And then he was gone.

Fi seated herself on one of the kitchen stools, waiting for the ache of guilt to come. But it did not. Nox would survive. He was young, handsome, and lovable, in his way. Not to mention wealthy. And alive. There would be other girls. He'd do alright.

She sat in silence for a time, until she became aware of another person in the room. Jyllis Tromso stood in the bedroom doorway, looking disheveled but resplendent in Fi's white bathrobe. "Did I just walk in on something?"

Fi looked at her new friend uncertainly. "I think I just broke up with Nox."

Jyll remained in the doorway, choosing her words carefully. "Is that... a bad thing or a good thing?"

Fi laughed, feeling the tension drain away. "It's a good thing, I guess," she admitted. "In the long run."

The actress nodded, smiled. "Well then, she asked, "how about some breakfast?"

Fi grimaced. "Alright, but I have to warn you - I'm a lousy cook."

Jyll laughed winningly. "Silly," she chided, entering the kitchen and flinging open the door of the refrigeration unit, revealing its contents, "I was making you an offer."

Fi's eyes sparkled.

"I'll make the caff!"

Gibson8088
01-26-2012, 03:54 PM
Imperial red tape. The process was never fun, efficient or quick. When you have a flight plan and land uneventfully at your destination the paperwork was generally short and easy. But if you emergency land after a pirate attack...

"Sir, can you please tell me who attacked you and where?", asked the bored imperial customs officer sitting at a desk.

This was probably the third time Tach had been asked this question. It was a typical tactic; keep asking the same questions over and over until the story changes. But by now the smuggler was getting tired of it. "Bennet O'Reilly. In a 3-Z light freighter over Zonju V.", Tach stated clearly frustrated.

The officer appeared to make notes on his datapad. "And why would he want to attack your ship?"

Tach was looking over his ship, assessing the damage he could see from the customs office window. And it looked pretty bad. "Why not? He's a pirate. And I will be filing charges against him with the Imperial navy. Now will you clear my ship for repairs?"

"Not yet.", he stated flatly, "We still need to assess the condition of your ship for the investigation and perform a contraband sweep. Standard operating procedure, citizen."

Ah, yes, I know this game. "I understand, sir.", Tach responded. He reached into his satchel and drew out a Pocket Secretary datapad, offering it to the officer. "I think this will help speed things up. It has all the information you will need."

The officer cautiously took the datapad and quickly realized he was given something extra. From behind the datapad he pulled a credit chip. A hint of suspicion painted the officers' face as he inserted the chip into his own datapad. But a few moments later;

"I can have your ship ready to leave in a couple days.", he announced. Tach smiled and nodded then turned back to look at the Dullahan while the officer busily worked his computer console, hacking at the red tape holding the smuggler down.

"And tonight I'll finally be able to take the wife to The Blue Room.", the officer murmured to himself. This comment had caught Tach off-guard for a moment. An imperial officer engaging in small talk was not common.

Taking a seat in one of the uncomfortable chairs he asked, "What's The Blue Room?"

"One of the finest dinner and dance establishments on Cloud City. My wife's been aching to go since she heard Fiola Shaku would be singing there. Now that I can afford to..."

Tach cut him off, "Fiola who?"

With an incredulous glare the officer asked, "Where have you been for the last few years?"

"One side of the outer rim to the other. I don't have the luxury of stopping by major cities long enough to find out what's new and popular, you know.", the smuggler stated.

"Fair enough. I'll tell you what. You've been very... co-operative... in making this investigation go smoothly. And you will be here for a couple of days. So I'll set you up at a nearby hotel; with the Imperial discount, of course."

"Of course!", Tach emphasized with a smile.

"And I can arrange a reservation for you at The Blue Room tonight, if you are interested."

"Absolutely! Can you make it a table for three? I want to take my passengers with me."

The officer looked at his terminal thoughtfully for a moment, "Yes, I can arrange that. Here,". He handed Tach his datapad back. "I've uploaded your information. You are good to go."

Tach stood up, accepted the datapad and shook the officers hand. "Thank you, Officer...?"

"Lamek. Next time you visit Cloud City call me ahead of time, alright?"

"Yes sir, Officer Lamek." Tach gave a friendly wave and departed.

Once outside the customs building he drew a comm unit from his pocket.

"TC, bring the girls to the merchant district. We're going clothes shopping."

Fingon
01-27-2012, 02:38 AM
He was lying on an unkempt bed, bleary eyes tracing the patterns on the ceiling. The room matched the bed, colorful and cozy, filled with leaning stacks of books and trinkets. A model Eta-1 hung from the cluttered shelf. The ship that Pablo-Jill flew when he came to the planet. The whole world was nearly lawless, he had learned at school, but the Jedi Knight was able to defeat the warlords and unite most of the continent behind his leadership. They all learned about Pablo-Jill here.

They said that, because of Pablo-Jill, the Force smiled on the world and protected it, and also those who had to leave until they made their way back again. The thought gave him hope, and he whispered a short prayer, like his mother had taught him.

“Bring him back to home and cradle, back to where he is meant to be. Guide his journey; grant him strength and wisdom to use it. And that all things are done as they must be . . . .”

“Bring him back home, please.” The last bit was his own, and he bit his lip as he said it. He held the black military cap clutched close to his chest and curled up on his side, hiding his face from the pink-stained light creeping in through the window.

He heard the door creek open and soft footsteps navigating his booby-trapped floor. A soft hand ran its fingers through his hair and caressed his face. “Hey baby,” she said in a voice that he wanted to bury himself into.

“He said he wasn’t going again.” He clutched the cap tighter.

She continued to stroke his black hair and lighted a kiss that felt like the sun peeking through storm clouds on his forehead. “I know. He didn’t want to, you know that.”

He felt the stinging in his eyes and tried to hide it. “But he promised,” he demanded, his voice betraying the tears he wouldn’t show.

“I know, baby. But he needs to be out there, to keep the soldiers safe. To keep us all safe.”

“He promised,” the dark-eyed boy persisted, his voice breaking. Turning, he looked into his mother’s eyes, red-rimmed like his. “They don’t need him! They said that it was the last time. They said.”

“Yes they did. But things changed, and now they need him again. They need the best,” she answered in her honey-toned voice, but not even that could sooth him.

He shook his little head. “They have the clones, they should send them, not real people.”

“Baby, don’t say that--”

“But they don’t matter! It doesn’t matter if one of them dies, ‘cause there’s a billion more. But I only have one. . .” He couldn’t finish, and threw his arms around his mother instead, burying his face in her lap. “If he doesn’t come back . . .” He couldn’t stop the tears any longer.

“Shhh, it’ll be all right, honey,” she said, cradling him in her arms.

She held him until his sobs died down to slow, shuddering breaths. Gently, she lifted his trembling chin. “Luis, listen to me. Your father is doing something great. He’s saving people. We’re all creatures of the force, even the clones. And they need him as much as we do.”

“He’s coming back, right?”

She smiled the way she always did when father was gone. “Of course he is, baby. Of course he is.”

--

Anthan stood next to him in the subway car, watching him with eyes furrowed. He must been have for some time now. “You feeling up for this?”

“Yeah,” replied the black-haired man as he fiddled with his jacket and stoop up straight. “Just thinking.”

“Right.”

He glanced over to the man who had once been his friend. Less than a year ago. And now it felt like a great divide separated them.

He cleared his throat. "Did I ever tell you about how my dad fought in the war?"

Dawncaller
01-28-2012, 02:46 PM
The atmosphere aboard the Inun changed when Tam arrived. The boy rarely visited the many stations of the ship, keeping either to the Nexus room or within his small, spartan quarters nearby. He didn’t have to; the crew talked about him all the time.

At first, Doule thought it was because of Tam’s age. Young men weren’t a common sight on Imperial vessels, especially those within a specialized naval squad organized by a High Inquisitor. But the men on the ship weren’t scandalizing over the boy’s age; they weren’t scandalizing about anything in particular. They just talked about him. All the time. Topics varied, from anecdotes about him asking a pointed question in the cargo bay to stories about experiences they’ve had while standing guard at the Nexus room. It was never about any inconvenience at clearing out the mess hall so Tam could eat in solitude or compulsory extra-vehicular maintenance assignments on the boy’s say so. As far as the men were concerned, Tam Dawncaller could do no wrong.

And that’s when Doule realized what was really going on: Tam was in their heads, perhaps literally. He remembered the explanation Tremayne had offered about the sphere in the Nexus room and its otherworldly abilities. Tam sat in that sphere often, enclosed within its ancient looking apparata. Again the disturbing imagery of the Inun’s crew functioning as drones in some alien hive society came to Doule’s mind, and he felt like he had to confront Tam about it.

He couldn’t think of how to start. “Tam…”

The boy was in the Nexus room, staring intently out of the aft-facing windows, and didn’t move as he responded. “The crew’s behavior is disturbing you.”

The boy had articulated Doule’s exact thoughts on the matter, and that disturbed the captain all the more. “That’s an understatement, if I may say so.”

“I like to think of this as the ‘adjustment period’ of the process.”

“You’ve done this before?”

“Not to this extent, but Tremayne ran several… experiments.” Tam’s voice was one of distaste and guilt. “It may ease your concerns to know that, of all the men on this ship—on all the ships of Morning Star Squad, in fact—you are the only one I leave outside my area of influence.”

So everyone else in the entire squad was behaving as Doule’s crew was? Were they all talking about Tam like Doule’s men? And why am I exempt from his thrall?

“I know it’s a lot to take in, and I hope you can keep all this to yourself. My connection with the crews is something on a less than conscious level, and I doubt that if you told anyone they would believe you. Your credibility in this squad and on this ship is shaky enough as it is. I’d hate to see that destroyed.

“You’re my safety net, Doule. I’m trusting you to give me your outside view as I operate the squad. I’m in the clutches of the Empire now. I’ll play my part in its war machine until the time comes when I can show Tremayne and others what a mistake it is to try and control me. Watch me, Todrin, and make sure I don’t become a worse monster than they are.”

As Doule stared into those tired, frightened eyes, he wondered if he was even capable of seeing such a thing and take measures to prevent it. He also wondered, with dread and horror, if he was already too late…

Ice Hawk
01-29-2012, 03:03 PM
Cutting through the fence had been easier than Reil had hoped. Encouragingly so. The security around the hangars was so lax it was almost like no one expected anyone to really try. Reil corrected himself mentally. That’s because they don’t expect anyone to try. No one around here would be this stupid. Except me, apparently.

The lights were off in all of the hangars, and the only real security protected the payroll in the main office at the front of the compound. Reil crossed the snow covered landing pad to the one that house the Concordia, and frowned. The silence of the night was broken by the crunching his boots made as he tramped through the deeper drifts of snow. It didn’t seem to matter how lightly he tried to step, the crunching sounded deafening. Finally Reil came to the right hangar, and was surprised to hear voices. He supposed he should have figured Doyle would station guards to personally watch over it. Reil moved around to the back entrance, which was wide open.

Inside there were two thugs, trying desperately to force the sealed hatch at the ship’s entrance ramp, as well as the bodies of what had probably been the ship’s guard. Reil frowned as he looked at them. They had been shot at their posts, their weapons weren’t even drawn. The two trying to force their way onto the ship had their backs to Reil, and hadn’t noticed him yet. Reil drew his blaster.

They hadn’t needed to kill the guards, Reil mused; the hangar was remote enough that no one would have heard the stun bolts. Reil aimed. The blue stun bolt caught the first thug and threw him backwards into the second. Reil caught the second one with a blast as he struggled out from underneath his comrade, and tried to draw his weapon. They both laid unconscious at the bottom of the Concordia’s ramp.

Reil didn’t holster his weapon right away. His thumb played on the setting from stun to kill. It wasn’t too late to change his mind. No one would ever know. Reil sighed. He wasn’t here to play law man and dispense justice. Reil wasn’t even sure why he cared, for all he knew, he might have had to kill the guards himself, if they hadn’t beaten him to the punch. Reil shoved his pistol back in its holster, and walked towards the ship. He spared one last glance at the two would be thieves, and then stepped over them to key in the access code Meredith gave him.



*****************************

Reil inspected the interior of the Concordia, and was forced to admit; it was a damn fine ship. A Muurian transport that had been completely overhauled, and refitted with a faster hyper drive, better shields, and real Nerf hide on all of the seats. Whatever the trader had done to go so deep in debt, Reil hoped it was worth it because this was a fantastic ship.
Reil settled himself in the seat beside the navicomputer and considered just using the computer to read Meredith’s disks, rather than stealing the ship and getting shot at. Reil supposed the point was moot, because she would probably try to have him killed if he skunked the job anyway. And it was a really nice ship.

Reil’s thoughts were interrupted by a signal on his comlink. He checked the frequency, but he already knew there were only two people who would be calling him. It was Sunny. Reil considered not answering it. Cali had done something, and Saul wanted Reil to sort it out rather than get his own hands dirty. Maybe he should ignore it, and let Cali sort it herself. She was all independent now, right? Reil sighed and answered the blasted thing.
“Wha’d she boost, and who’d she boost it from?”



*******************

Reil ended the call, and quietly moved to the pilot’s seat. He powered up the repulsors, and goosed the ship out of the hangar, and on to the pad. When he was clear of the hangar, he pointed the nose skyward, and punched the throttle, blasting off the landing pad.



*************************

The automatic doors swung open. Reil was jogging down the pristine white entrance hall toward the receptionist. He slowed, and finally stopped, as he saw Doyle move into his way, flanked by two officers of the TAR. The officers moved towards Reil but Doyle held up a hand.
“Easy boys, you remember our deal. He’s all yours, after I’m through with him.”

He turned to Reil and smiled.
“You and your girlfriend have stirred up quite a hornet’s nest Zealos. Been taking lots of risks, making bold decisions. I think we had a talk along this vein earlier in the evening. That’s quite a ship you came here in.”

Reil bit back his anger.
“I’m just trying to get by Doyle.”

Doyle smiled.
“You look like you’re doing better than just getting by Zealos, it looks like you’re even getting a little greedy. Now, I know we’ve butted heads, but this is-”

Reil cut Doyle off.
“You misunderstand; I’m trying to get by you. You’re in my way.” There was a pause, then “Get out of my way.”

Doyle frowned and stepped forward, to get right into Reil’s face.
“You don’t seem to understand the situation you’ve caused. You’re not going anywhere until I get answers. And if I don’t get the answers that I like-”

Reil poked the barrel of his blaster into Doyle’s stomach.
“It’s been a long night Doyle, so here’s some friendly advice: Don’t push me, and I won’t shoot you.”

Doyle smiled at that.
“A belly wound, Zealos? In the middle of the hospital? Why not threaten me with a paper cut, it’d be just as effective. ”

“The ship is on the landing pad; feel free to take it back. And we’ll talk, after I’ve seen her.”

Doyle stepped back, and made a big show of graciously stepping out of Reil’s way. Reil approached the receptionist, when Doyle called out to him.
“She’s still in Bacta. Down the hall, take two lefts.”

Reil began jogging again, down towards the tanks.

Ice Hawk
02-01-2012, 06:46 AM
The first thing Cali was aware of was the smell. Sickly and sweet, like fruit left out in Tatooine’s suns for too long. Then she could taste it, like it coated her mouth. She groaned and she struggled to open her eyes, but the light was blindingly white and her eyes began watering. She tried to sit up, but was rocked with pain. Then she felt a hand on hers and heard a familiar voice.
“Hey, take it easy, they just brought you out a little while ago.”

Cali struggled to stay lucid.
“Reil?”

“Yeah, I’m here.”

Cali groaned.
“Aw damn it, they sent me to the annoying hell. . .”

She heard Reil chuckle.
“You know it’s talk like that, that got you sent down here in the first place. With a cleaner mouth and a better attitude, you could have wings and a harp and the whole shebang.”

She smiled at what she hoped was Reil. Her eyes still hadn’t adjusted, but she could sorta make out shapes.
“And here I thought it was all the thieving and killing that would do me in.”

“Nope, pessimism and casual blasphemy; gets ya every time.”

Cali worked her jaw trying to get the taste out.
“Reil, could you get me some water or something, my mouth tastes like-”

“Bacta,” Reil said as he lifted the glass to her lips, “and you should be glad of it. It was a close thing for a while. If they had got you in the tanks any later, you might not have made it.”

Cali drank greedily, but it only washed some of the taste away. She pushed the glass away when she was finished, and tried to sit up again, more slowly this time. The room finally came into focus as she did. It was white, white floors, white walls; the ceiling was made out of white panels, which the bright fluorescent white lights were interspaced between. There was a sheet to her left which partitioned off the rest of the room, and to break with the monotone it was an ugly peachy colour, with a barely visible floral pattern that had faded from so many washings.
“Where am I?”

Reil was sitting in a fold out chair beside her bed, looking haggard, and more than a little shabby. Quietly Cali expected that she should be grateful for the Bacta smell, because he looked like he hadn’t showered in days.
“Greyson Medical Center, in Mordin’s Harbor. They had to air lift you out of Twillingate to get you here in time. You were in the tank for five whole days; they only brought you here a couple of hours ago.”

“What happened?”

Reil grimaced and folded his arms.
“Two blaster shot wounds, through the stomach, the other in the shoulder. You went into shock after that, and the guard called emergency services. Or do you mean you want to know what you were doing in the penthouse level of a bordello? ‘Cause I got questions on that score myself.”

Cali closed her eyes and laid back down. She was feeling woozy.
“Wha’d he go an’ do that for?”

Reil was confused.
“Shoot you? Because you broke into someone’s home and pulled a gun on some poor girl.”

Cali shook her head.
“Call ‘smergeny crevices, I mean.”

Reil took her hand and squeezed it.
“I don’t know; but I’m glad he did.”

Cali didn’t respond as the pain medication kicked in and she passed out again. Reil watched her sleep for a while, until his eyes started getting heavy, and it began to hurt when he blinked. Reil jolted awake when he felt someone lightly kick his leg to get his attention. Doyle was standing in front of Reil, holding two disposable cups of caf.
“You know, if I was going to have her killed, I probably would have had it done before she reached the hospital. You should go rest in an actual bed,” he wrinkled his nose, “or take a shower or something.”

He handed one of the cups to Reil, who took it and began sipping it.
“As much as I appreciate your concern Doyle, and the caf, what are you doing here?”

Doyle pulled up a chair across from Reil and sat down.
“I thought we might have our chat now, since she’s out of danger and all.”

Reil rubbed the sleep from his eyes.
“All right, I guess you’ve been patient enough. What do you want to know?”

Doyle frowned.
“Did you kill my men?”

Reil blinked, and tried to focus.
“You mean in the hangar?”

Doyle nodded. Reil took another sip of caf before answering.
“No. Dead when I got there. Two guys trying to force the ship’s door. I stunned them, took the ship.”

Doyle sat back and relaxed.
“You didn’t do them any favours you know, those boys you stunned. My men found them, and were very unhappy about what happened to their friends. I thought maybe you hired them to do the theft with you, and then turned on them at the last second, but I guess if you were going to do that, you would have just killed them.”

Reil grinned
“I’m so glad you think so highly of my scruples.”

Doyle shrugged.
“Well Zealos, you did steal a ship. That’s kind of a strike against you.”

Reil sighed.
“I gave it back. That has to count for something.”

Doyle smiled.
“It does. Last question for you, why’d you steal that ship?”

Reil drained the last of the caf before answering.
“Nerf hide seats. Just can’t put a price on comfort like that.”

Doyle stopped smiling.
“Cute. You know what I mean, which one hired you?”

Reil arched an eyebrow.
“You sure you wanna know?”

Doyle frowned.
“Your question implies that I don’t.” He considered this, “Sometimes, not knowing is the better option.”

“You’ve been married a while, h-uh?”

Doyle massaged his temples in frustration.
“For the record, neither Brown or McCoy hired you?”

Reil leaned forward.
“For the record, no one hired me; I just wanted a ship off-world. Are we done?”

Doyle stood up.
“You and I are done. I’ll still need to sort out what happened with Ms. Bellum, but she can rest a while longer.”

Reil stood up, and tossed the disposable caf cup towards the garbage container on the far side of the room. It bounced off the side, and went rolling out into the hallway. He turned back to Doyle.
“Are we square?”

Doyle smiled.
“Yes Reil, you and I are square.”

Reil nodded his head in the direction of the door, where two TAR officers stood guard outside.
“Would taking care of that be part of us being square?”

Doyle shook his head.
“No Reil, no it would not. You and Ms. Bellum are going to have to answer for violating your release, and Ms. Bellum will be facing attempted murder charges as well. The case against her is quite strong. For what it’s worth Zealos, I convinced them to drop the charges of grand theft on you.”

Reil sighed.
“Great, thanks. I assume you can show yourself out?”

Doyle made his way towards the door.
“Call me when she’s ready to talk Zealos. And make it soon.”

When he left Reil slumped back into his chair, feeling more tired than before.

Ice Hawk
02-06-2012, 12:10 PM
Cali groggily slipped out of sleep, and sat up. The pain wasn’t so bad now. She wasn’t sure if that was because she was healed, or was just under some really good medication. She tried to work her shoulder, and found that it was still quite sore. The skin around the wound was all red and swollen, but there wasn’t any actual trace of the blaster shot and it didn’t look like it was going to scar. Cali wasn’t sure how she felt about that. It hadn’t exactly been a night she wanted to remember, but still, a scar would have been kinda cool. She prodded at her stomach, and that hurt like hell. She assumed it looked the same, but she wasn’t about to strip off the medical gown and check with Reil sleeping near the foot of her bed.

He was propped up between two folding chairs, resting his feet in one while slouched in the other. It didn’t look comfortable. She couldn’t tell what time it was, she couldn’t see any clocks, and the window at her bedside only showed more of the same, black skies, snowy grounds. This planet sucked. Reil grunted in his sleep, and turned precariously onto his side in his makeshift hammock-chair crossbreed. Cali was reluctant to wake him, at least when she didn’t know how long he’d been asleep, but watching him sleep was boring. And little gross, with the drooling and all. She cleared her throat.
“Reil?”

Reil rolled again, this time his foot caught on an edge of the far chair, pulling it out of place, and the whole set up collapsed on him.
“Ahahow! Ow. What? What is it? More water?”

Cali shook her head as Reil got up.
“No, I was just wondering what time it is.”

Reil arched his back, trying to work the kinks out of it.
“And you woke me up for that?”

Cali sighed.
“Well I didn’t think you’d topple like that if I did.”

“How exactly did you see waking me up suddenly working out?”

“Well how did you picture waking up at all would work out, situated like that?”

Reil rubbed his eyes.
“Better than that, I suppose.” He checked his chrono. “It’s three o’clock in the morning. Anything else you’d like?”

Cali considered this.
“I’m kinda hungry.”

Reil sat one of his chairs right ways up.
“So, you want me to get you something to eat?”

“If it’s not too much trouble.”

Reil sighed, as Cali smiled sweetly at him, and batted her eyelashes. Kind of; really it looked more like she was just having trouble seeing in the dark, but Reil couldn’t help but grin at the gesture. The kitchen was closed, and he had to climb down three flights of stairs to find a vending machine, followed closely by one of the TAR agents who had been stationed outside of Cali’s door. Reil had considered giving one of them some money to go fetch it, but they probably would have just pocketed the credits anyhow. And then he’d just be sitting in the room for fifteen minutes with Cali waiting, until it became obvious that her food was never coming, and that would be awkward.

Reil finally returned with a bag of something salty, and a can of carbonated syrup. Cali smiled as she took them from him.
“Thanks.”

Reil smiled back and took off his chrono, placing it on her nightstand.
“So you can check for yourself next time.”

Reil was about to sit down and go back to sleep, when Cali stopped him.
“Reil?”

“Yeah?”

“Why are you here?”

Reil shook his head, trying to clear it. Riddles in the dark weren’t really his thing.
“ ‘Cause you got shot?”

Cali frowned at the evasion.
“No, that’s why I’m here. You were gonna do some deal with Doyle, and go back to your fleet. Why haven’t you?”

Reil resigned himself to the fact that sleep just wasn’t in the cards.
“Deal with Doyle didn’t go through. Actually, he laughed me out of the meeting, like Sunny predicted. After that, I heard you were shot, and they were taking you here, so I rushed over, to see that you were being taken care of.”

“Well that was sweet of you, but as you can see, I’m right as rain. More or less.”

Reil arched an eyebrow.
“Are you asking me to leave?”

“Nononono.” Cali held her hands up defensively. This wasn’t going as she’d hoped. Cali struggled for the words. “Look, it’s just that. . . You look awful Reil.”

Reil frowned.
“Thanks. Right back at ya.”

Cali’s temper flared.
“Well I was shot, what’s your excuse?”

“It really does sound like you’re asking me to leave.”

“NO.” Cali sighed. “Look, it’s just; I know you don’t wanna be here, okay? I made a big deal about going off on my own, and then I mucked it up and got shot, and now you’re stuck here babysitting me, waiting on me, no bed, sleeping on chairs. I’m grateful, don’t mistake that, but I know this is throwing a wrench into you going back to the fleet, and you don’t have to do this anymore. I guess that’s just what I’m trying to say.”

Reil arched an eyebrow.
“You say this, after, you woke me up to tell you the time and get you snacks?”

Cali smiled sheepishly.
“I was hungry.”

Reil grinned in turn and shook his head.
“Well, as much as I appreciate the sentiment, and it was big of you to say all that, let me tell you what I was doing while you were getting yourself riddled with holes. Doyle laughed me out of the meeting, and I was prepared to go drown my sorrows at the bar, when his wife approached, and made me an offer. Doyle’s lieutenants, McCoy and Brown, were fighting over a ship, and Doyle was caught in the middle of it. She wanted me to steal the ship, and take it far away, and in exchange for doing this, she’d give me two discs that would lead me to the Rebellion.

Well I took the ship, and was about to leave this place in the dust, when Sunny called. Said that you’d ditched him, and he’d gone looking for you. He heard that you’d been shot, and moved here, to the hospital. Well I ended the call and flew right here. You were already here, by the time he called; they’d gotten you into bacta right away. Doc’s told me when I got here that you were in no danger, but I was terrified, watching you float in the tanks. You were like a dead thing, just bobbing up and down. That was awful.

They brought you out of those after almost a week, and you were practically healed up, but you still weren’t awake, and that worried me. And then you finally woke up. I cannot fully describe the relief I felt at seeing you awake, but it was intense, like my stomach had been twisted, and knotted before, but suddenly it undid itself. But you had never been in any real danger, not once the call had been put in to the paramedics. I haven’t been waiting here for you because I was worried about you pulling through.”

“Then why?”

Reil sighed and sat on the edge of her bed.
“I’m not ready to be without you. I just. . . I wanted to be with you. I still want to be with you. Even if that meant not going back to the fleet. If you still want me around, anyhow.”

Cali leaned forward, and kissed Reil.
“That was quite a speech. Did you rehearse it?”

Reil smiled and kissed her back.
“Once or twice.”



*****************************

Reil laid beside Cali, his back propped up against the head of her bed. Cali was beside him, resting her head on his chest. They sat in comfortable silence for a while. Cali finally broke the silence.
“Do you still want to go back?”

Reil turned to look at her.
“Hmmm?”

“To the Rebellion, do you still want to go back? I mean, not to stay, or rejoin, or anything. But if you wanted to go back, and explain to your friends. . .” She let the suggestion trail off. Finishing that statement would only spoil things. Explain what to his friends? That he left them for me? What am I going to do, stand there and smile like an idiot while he tells them he’s very sorry for abandoning them to fight on alone, but he can’t stay because of me? Why even bring it up now?

Reil sighed, and shook his head.
“Not really. Not that it matters now anyway.”

Cali smiled, relieved that they weren’t going to dwell on the issue, but was confused by the last part.
“Wait, what do you mean it doesn’t matter now?”

Reil looked her in the eyes.
“Well we’re under arrest now.”

“What?” Cali asked sharply.

“Arrest. The police came with the paramedics; they’ve got you on attempted murder, and found that you were wanted by the TAR for breaking your house arrest. The TAR caught me when I got here; I’m wanted for breaking the arrest too.”

Cali practically bolted out of bed.
“What!?”

Reil jumped up and held her back to keep her from ripping and IV out or something.
“The TAR, they’re outside your room, waiting for Doyle to clear them to arrest us. Listen, settle down. It’ll be okay.”

“Why are you so calm about this? We need to get out of here! We need to-”

Reil sighed.
“Do what? Run? You can hardly stand. Just lay back down.”

Cali would have fought harder, but she found she was exhausted from even that simple exertion. She laid back down and tried to catch her breath.
“So what? We’re just gonna wait for them to ship us off to jail?”

Reil sat back down.
“There’ll be a trial first. Mostly a formality, since the cases against us are airtight. And then I’ll be going to jail. Looking at about three years, since my record’s mostly clean, and that other stuff about the smuggling and the shootings has more or less resolved itself, and I plan on co-operating with law enforcement. They will probably drop the parole violation with you, if you plead guilty to the attempted murder, which I suggest you do, because they will prove that quite easily in a court of law. And then it really depends on whether the judge decides to try you as a minor or as an adult. You’re facing a minimum of five years either way, probably not much more than that, since you never actually hurt anybody, but if you’re tried as a minor, you’ll spend it in a juvenile detention facility, and as an adult, you go to jail. Aim for being tried as a minor. But yeah, we just wait for it to happen.”

Cali tried to wrap her head around what Reil was saying.
“There has to be something you can do, someone you can call. . .”

Reil shook his head.
“Sunny came by, about two days ago, to drop off your stuff. The TAR is holding it right now. After that, he washed his hands of us. Life has become very hard in Twillingate for him, what with the ship theft, and the attempted murder. Everybody knows he put us up, right before we went and caused all this trouble. Between that, and breaking our parole with Virgil to go see Sunny, we’ve just about burned every bridge I had here. Doyle just wants the affairs sorted neatly, before he ships us off to prison.”

Cali’s mind raced, as she tried to think of a solution.
“What about the ship? We could try and make a break for space, we could go hide with the rebels!”

Reil shook his head.
“Doyle took the ship back when I landed here. Look, Cali, I knew what was going to happen before I ever touched down. I know this is a lot for you to take in, and it’s not a happy picture I’m giving you, but the alternative was that you bled out in the penthouse floor of a bawdy house.”

Cali was quiet for a while.
“This is my fault, isn’t it? We both got caught because I screwed up.”

Reil didn’t know what to say, so he just held her.



*******************************************

The next few days were very difficult. Cali alternated between blaming herself for getting them into this situation, and blaming Reil for giving up and meekly accepting it. Reil figured she was mostly just scared, five years daunting prospect for anybody. Not that three years was looking much better. On the third day Doyle stopped by, and was given a brief overview of what had happened. All he was really looking for was confirmation the McCoy had ordered the hit, and went on his merry way. Then the TAR officers came, and took them away.

Cali was put in the detention center’s infirmary, while Reil was given a cozy cell to himself. In solitary. He wasn’t in there more than a few hours, when he got his first visitor.

I. J. Thompson
02-06-2012, 10:49 PM
Fi was just putting the finishing touches on her makeup for the evening's performance when her comlink beeped for attention.

"Yo!"

"Fi?" the caller responded, her voice sounding tinny over the small device. "It's Jyllis."

"Hey doll," Fi smiled, "what's up?"

"Well, it turns out it was a lucky thing that I crashed at your place last night," the actress laughed nervously. "Somebody broke into my hotel room."

"What?" Fi put her makeup brush down and sat bolt upright. "Who? When?"

"They don't know who it was," the voice replied, "but the door was discovered forced open on the morning breakfast run. Crazy, huh?"

"Too crazy," Fi agreed, looking in the mirror and noticing how wide her eyes were. "Are you safe? Where are you?"

There was a momentary pause, and the sounds of muffled movement. "Oh I'm fine, don't worry. Actually, I'm here at The Blue Room right now. Me and Helly are just being taken to our table. Also, when my agent found out, he flipped and hired me a bodyguard. So I should be good."

"Ooh, a bodyguard," Fi teased. "Is he cute?"

"Depending on your tastes. Helbert sure seems to like him."

Fi giggled nervously. "Well, you be careful, okay? Where are you sitting?"

"House left, about halfway back. It's pretty dark back here, I don't know if you'll see us with the stage lights on."

"I'll be looking for you. Be safe, okay? And enjoy the show. I'll come find you after."

"Roger!"

Fi snapped the comlink off, studied her reflection in the dressing room's mirror again, then stood and made for the door, which Marce was already on the other side of.

"Oh, Fi!" The stage manager greeted her, "you're on!"

Fi followed the Sullustan girl down the hall to the strains of the Count Xun Orchestra, already in progress, growing louder as she approached the backstage left area. "Knock 'em dead!" Marce said, compulsively adjusting her headset once more before disappearing into the darkness. The band wrapped up its number, and with a brief introduction from the formal-but-congenial Count Xun, Fi was on.

The applause was a little louder tonight, the crowd a little larger. A good sign. A quick count-in from the percussionist launched the orchestra into the up-tempo standard 'Take a Good Look', Fi laying into the vocal part with confidence and ease, even despite the absence of her treasured mandoviol.

It is getting easier!

Knowing the lyrics by heart, Fi could concentrate on scanning the crowd. There were couples dancing, which was always a welcome performance-booster. A straight-laced Imperial cat and his wife, the woman looking adoringly at Fi and clapping her hands after almost every line she sang. Must be a Moonbeam Levels fan, Fi mused, surprised and delighted that middle-agers like this woman and her husband would have heard of (let alone been a fan of) her old band. There were others, too. A pair of leafy plant-beings, wearing no clothing to speak of but decked out in some of the finest jewelry Fi had ever seen. A pair of sexy, blue-skinned Twi'lek ladies dancing with a lone gentleman. He was interesting; well-dressed, but with a manner about him that suggested a more colourful life than the rest of The Blue Room's clientele. A pair of tipsy Gotals, struggling to stay on the beat but clearly having the time of their lives. No sign of Jyll and company, though. As expected, it was too dark in the seating area to make out anyone, even despite the small glowlamp that rested at the centre of every table.

The song concluded, the Count Xun Orchestra segued into the ballad 'I'll Be Here'. It was one of Fi's favourites. She gripped the microphone stand aesthetically, smiled at the Imperial woman (who smiled back tenfold), and relaxed herself so she could hit the low notes.

She was happy.

Ice Hawk
02-08-2012, 01:39 PM
Reil groaned as the cell doors opened to reveal the same stocky detective that had interrogated him on their first arrest. He was smiling, so Reil took that to be a very bad sign. The detective motioned for Reil to get out the cell.
“Well, would you look at that; after all your jokes and powerful connections, you wound up in jail again. What’s the matter kid, your friends didn’t think you were hi-larious either?”

Reil grinned ruefully despite himself.
“As a matter of fact they didn’t. I was so hurt I turned to a life of crime to deal with my frustration. How’s the hand healing, by the way?”

“It’s just fine, funny man. How’s the biter?”

Reil frowned.
“She’s been better actually. Any chance you’re gonna take me past the infirmary, and I might check up on her?”

The idea amused the detective.
“You’re asking me for favours now? How do you really see that ending?”

“Well if I’m really lucky, it ends wither her biting you again, and me being there to see it this time.”

The detective glared at Reil.
“No, we’re not going by the infirmary. I want you to see something, so we’re gonna take a little walk.”

Reil sighed.
“All right, but if this turns out to be a ploy to take me on a long walk across the beach, I’m going back to my cell.”

The detective pointed down a long hallway.
“Shut up and start walking.”

As they walked through the detention center, Reil became acutely aware of the fact that the detective was the only one guarding him, and that he hadn’t bothered to shackle Reil’s hands or feet. This was probably as good an opportunity to escape as he was ever going to have. Good being a relative term, since even if he did get the drop on the detective, and managed to subdue him, he’d still be in the middle of a detention center, filled with cops, and designed to prevent escape. And that wasn’t even counting trying to get Cali out. Reil sighed, and resigned himself to prison life, when the detective told him to stop. They were at a window, overlooking the landing pad. Reil cocked an eyebrow.
“Look, this has been fun and all, but if you’re done marching me around, I actually preferred sitting in my cell.”

The detective grinned and checked his chrono.
“Just keep looking out the window. You’ll see in a minute.”

Reil looked out the window towards the empty landing pad. This was rapidly becoming a chore.
“All right, I’m looking. I’m not sure why I’m looking but I am. What am I looking fo-?”

Immediately, a Lambda class shuttle touched down on the landing pad. Painted on its central wing was the Imperial emblem. Reil felt his stomach sink, as he finally figured out what this whole thing had been about. The detective began to chuckle.
“It seems that someone called in an anonymous tip about you having a connection to the Rebellion. The Empire apparently takes potential terrorist threats very seriously, and they sent someone down to investigate. Your case, and the girl’s, are going to be turned over to the Imperial authorities. While I am a little sad, that I can no longer personally be involved in sending you to prison, I am consoled by the notion that Kessel, or someplace just like it, is where you’ll be for a very long time.”



************************************



Reil was put back into his cell, only to be taken to an interrogation room; only to be left to wait for an hour, until finally, an Imperial Lieutenant, flanked by storm troopers entered the room. He was a young man, his uniform pressed and neat. He was probably almost of age with Zealos, if not younger, and the fact that he outranked Reil was a little annoying. He sat down across from Zealos and smiled warmly, laying a recording device on the table, but not bothering to switch it on.
“Hello Mister Reil, I apologize for not being able to address you by your rank, but unfortunately our mysterious informant did not know it. If you would share that information with me, I would be happy to amend my opening statement.”

Reil smiled.
“Does that really work?”

The Lieutenant shrugged.
“Sometimes, when the subject knows that they’ve been caught, and would like to start the proceedings with dignity. Would you like to start this way?”

Reil was skeptical.
“It’s hard to be dignified digging for spice. Or do you let them go, if they cop to being a terrorist right away?”

The Lieutenant shrugged again.
“I have no say in what happens to anyone, that duty falls unto the sentencing comity. I can only decide whether or not to charge you. As for being a terrorist, I always file Rebel cases under Prisoner of War.”

Reil rolled his eyes.
“Well that’s very kind of you, but since you send both kinds to Kessel it makes very little real difference. I’m starting to suspect that you may not be what I’m looking for after all.”

The Imperial tilted his head in confusion.
“I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”

Reil tried to explain.
“Let’s say for the minute, hypothetically, that I was with the Rebel Alliance, and I was willing to co-operate with your investigation. Now just supposing that I had some very valuable information, that an Imperial officer, like yourself, only more useful, could use to buck for a promotion. What could I, hypothetically, get in return for my co-operation?”

The officer eyed him suspiciously.
“What would you want?”

“Amnesty.”

“Well based on whatever you gave us, I could certainly see not pressing charges on an Imperial level, and handing you back over to the local authorities.”

Reil laughed.
“Local authorities. You think I’d give up valuable information, promotion worthy information, in exchange for the privilege of rotting in a Taanab jail? Don’t they screen the applicants for your job at all?”

The Imperial sighed.
“Fine. What do you want? Hypothetically.”

“Like I said, amnesty, not just for me, but for a Miss Cali Bellum, currently in the infirmary, under arrest for attempted murder. And I do mean amnesty, like you wipe our records clean, and drop us off on a planet or station far from here, and we never cross paths again kinda amnesty. Could you do that? Hypothetically.”

The Lieutenant shook his head.
“That’s asking a lot. I’d have to hear the information first, then get authorization to make that kind of deal.”

Reil grinned.
“I’m not giving you anything, until I have a deal in writing giving Cali and I amnesty.”

The officer frowned.
“Then we appear to be at an impasse.”

Reil thought about this.
“Look, call your superior, and tell him the information deals with an incident over Ryloth about four months back, and that I have information about the disappearance of the Interdictor Cruiser Disrupter.”

Gibson8088
02-11-2012, 12:59 AM
Select: Drink -> Brandy -> Dornean brandy

Thank you, your drink will be delivered soon.

The dim glow from the table's menu faded and Tach was able to focus on the entertainment once again. On the dance floor were the twins, still dancing with the crowd; all seemingly entranced with Fiola's music. It wasn't hard to see the allure of this singer. She has charisma, confidence and a melodic voice that refuses to be ignored while on the stage.

Being pleasent to the eyes helps, too. Bet there are plenty of fans that'd like to..; his thoughts were interrupted by an attractive pantoran female stepping between him and the singer. "Your drink, sir.", chimed the waitress as she handed Tach a glass of brandy. He thanked her and placed a generous tip on the serving tray.

As the waitress was turning to leave a borish voice stopped her. "Hold up, babe. I want a drink." The voice belonged to a foppishly dressed human; male, around his teens with well groomed hair. When he sat down at Tach's table, uninvited, the odor of his expensive cologne permeated the area. He gestured towards Tach, "Get me one of what he's drinking.", the noble ordered. She scowled at the teen and turned to leave, recieving an unwanted pop to the backside from the juvinile as she retreated.

Tach sipped from his glass as he waited for the unwelcome guest to speak up. But no reason was given for the intrusion, all the teen seemed to want to do was stare at the dance floor. Pointedly the kid was staring at the twin Rutian's.

"What do you want?", the smuggler stated in a tone that conveyed his distaste for the youth.

The teen quickly turned around to face Tach. "Wha, ah, yes! Sorry, I was just admiring your shags. Quite a set you have there!", the teen spouted with zeal, "I've never seen you in here before. Are you new? What's your name?"

"Yeah. Tach.", Tach replied flatly.

A few moments passed as the teen seemed to wait, expecting Tach to say more. Once he figured out nothing more was going to be said he continued. "Uh, yes, well. My name is Jeffrey Kard Yonrem. Pleased to meet you, Mr. Tach.", he stated proudly as he flourished his arm about to offer a handshake.

Tach ignored the extended hand and asked again, "What do you want?"

Jeffrey retracted his hand with a hint of confusion and insult on his face. "Straight to the point, then. Very well, I am interested in your shags. Both of them, name your price."

"They are not for sale.", replied Tach with practiced patience.

"Oh sure they are! Come on, name a price. My father is CFO for the Cloud City Imperial Bank so you know I'm good for it! How much do you want for them?", he asked with authority.

"Listen, they are not for sale. They aren't even mine, alright?", the smuggler stated, he finished the last of his brandy and continued. "I'm just transporting them."

The teen looked confused, as if a thousand questions went through his head. "So... you're just a runner or something?"

Tach glared at Jeffrey, "Yeah. Sure. I'm just a runner."

All around The Blue Room applause had broken out as Fiola finished her ballad 'I'll Be Here'. The runner turned his attention towards the singer and joined in the applause. All the while the band had started leading the music towards an upbeat rock piece. Odd as it was, it sounded familiar. But he liked it!

"A runner, huh? That would explain why your suit looks like you bought it off the shelf. Hey, I know! How much are they paying you? I can triple the offer! You look like you need the money, anyway."

Tach was visibly aggravated by this point, "Sorry, kid, not going to happen. I have my reputation to keep."

The noble kid chose to remaine determined, "Frak your reputation. You spacers do this kind of thing all the time. Just say you lost them or something."

The smuggler leaned towards Jeffrey and fixed him with a steely glare, "Listen, kid. Reputation is more important than credits in my line of work. Unlike you, I don't get an allowance. I don't get to call up daddy and ask him to buy me a new toy. I earn my living based on my reputation. If that means turning your offer down so my future employers will know I'm reliable then I will gladly do it. But, just in case you don't understand what I'm telling you then allow me to sum it up in words you might understand. Go frak yourself!"

Jeffrey seemed to take the tirade well. His eyes had narrowed, followed by a brief metallic sound and Tach felt the barrel of something pressed to his gut.

Tach calmly kept his gaze on the kid, "Seriously? A holdout blaster?"

Jeffrey nodded.

"Nice. What kind?"

"Model Q4."

"Really? Good choice.", Tach replied politely.

"I had it customized with a wrist holster."

"Is that so?"

"It's for defense.", Jeffrey hissed.

"Of course. But you really don't want to do this right now.", Tach stated seriously.

"And why is that?"

Tach nodded his head towards the walkway, "Your drink is here."

Jeffrey had only gotten a brief glimpse of a waitress with a shocked expression on her face. Tach managed to deftly guide his noble nose into the uncaring table, knocking the kid unconscious.

"What the frell is going on?", the pantoran waitress demanded.

Tach held up Jeffrey's limp arm with the holdout blaster. The blaster was attached to a sliding wrist holster. "Let's call it a... hormonally fueled poor decision."

"I see. Well, is he..?"

"No, he's just out cold.", the smuggler responded. "Sorry about the mess."

"It's okay. I'll have security take care of it.", she stated while handing Tach the noble's glass of brandy, "I'd say it's on the house but the sleemo already paid for it."

Tach smiled, "Thank you." The waitress returned the smile and winked before returning to her duties.

The song was nearing its conclusion as Tach relaxed and sipped his drink. He watched with amusement as the bouncers carried Jeffrey out of the club when he suddenly remembered, "'Darling Reprobate'! I love this song!"

Dawncaller
02-12-2012, 12:28 PM
Leaning over the shoulder of the communications technician, Doule studied the information on the screen. Admiral Harmod had sent orders for the Inun to rendezvous with a shuttle in the Sistooine system. Why he had chosen to send his ship alone-- rather than one of the swifter, more heavily armed craft of Morning Star Squad-- was anyone's guess. The information memorized, he stood, clapped the crewman on the shoulder in appreciation for his work, and exited the bridge to go find Tam.

He had decided some time ago that he would inform the boy of decisions he made on the ship. Perhaps this forthright behavior would serve to maintain and strengthen a sense of cooperation and exchange between them. Tam had been quite tight lipped about the purposes of Morning Star Squad, and Doule couldn't deny how that irked him. It's hard to work well in a military unit when your very purpose is unclear.

When he was even younger than Tam, Doule's mother had always told him his insatiable curiosity would some day get the better of him. Doule couldn't help but wonder if his mother would laugh at how her prophecy had been fulfilled, but he also couldn't help but wonder what deeper gears were turning in these events, gears he was sure Tam knew about and hoped to learn about himself.

Tam liked to roam the corridors from time to time, Doule knew, and a brief consult with a random officer confirmed that the boy had last been seen heading toward Deck Two, near the barracks. Doule made his way through the twisting corridors of the ship toward that area, but when he found Tam he stopped dead in his tracks.

A crowd had gathered, murmuring and scandalized, in a major intersection of the hallway. At the center of it all stood Tam, pressing a crewman up against the wall. No, not simply pressing; he had clutched the fabric of the man's shirt and had thrust him up against the wall. The poor crewman, who was nearly a head taller than the boy and clearly outweighed him, shouted for mercy as his feet dangled more than a decimeter off the ground. "I'll have no such filth on this ship or anywhere else," the slim boy roared. "Understood?"

Doule pushed through the crowd, shouting for everyone to go back to their duties. When he reached the center he caught Tam's attention. The boy's teeth were bared in a feral snarl; his eyes were twin blazes of yellow, like binary stars in the black of night. What could this man have done to raise such supernatural ire from Tam Dawncaller?

The boy blinked, and slowly let the hysterical man slide to the floor, who crumpled there in a blubbering heap. "Doule," he said, coming back to himself, "I..." But there were no more words, and he ran down the corridor.

Doule saw to the devastated crewman. There was no apparent mark on the man, but he would probably need to go to the infirmary for a checkup and at least a sedative. "What happened, Mr. Paisan?"

Paisan collected himself before saying, "I don't know, Captain. He came out of nowhere and just attacked me."

Doule noticed a crushed device in the man's hand. It was-- rather, used to be-- a datachip, commonly used to store video or audio information. But it was made of sturdier stuff than what Paisan could have crushed in his own hand. "What's this, Paisan?"

"Just some holorecordings of a concert, sir. Moonbeam Levels, sir. I was just talking with Bolly about how my sister told me the lead singer was making a comeback and he said he wanted to hear some of her music. I was about to hand this over when it just went 'crunch,' just like that. Right in my hand. The next thing I knew..." The man's story ended in uncontrollable sobs.

"That's alright, Paisan. Let's get you to the infirmary..."

***

Doule found Tam in his quarters. The lights were off, but brilliant, kaleidoscopic blue shine of hyperspace came through the small viewport. The captain couldn't help but feel like he was walking into the den of some hungry beast.

"Doule," said the boy from somewhere inside the room.

"We've been ordered to make a rendezvous in the Sistooine system, in orbit over the moon Telti. We'll be taking on a prisoner of war for transport to Denon.

"Tam, can I ask what happened?"

Tam's silhouette emerged from the shadows. "Paisan will be asking for a transfer in the coming days. Grant it to him."

"Of course, Tam, but a transfer won't simply erase what happened. The crew is rattled, and given that I see no offense on Paisan's part I have to admit that my own curiosity at your actions has been piqued."

"Piqued?"

"Yes. Piqued."

"Well then," said Tam, brushing past Doule as he exited the doorway and walked down the corridor toward the Nexus room, "let's just call it 'a fit of pique' and leave it at that..."

I. J. Thompson
02-15-2012, 08:08 PM
The sight of a limp form being carried out of The Blue Room's seating area caught Fi's attention. That was certainly out of character for the venue as she understood it. From the bandstand, she traced the path back to the table the unconscious young man had come from, and sure enough, there was that man, the guy who'd been dancing with those two Twi'lek girls, sipping his drink and looking pleased with himself.

Fi was no stranger to rough characters (her recent adventures had introduced her to plenty), but she understood that The Blue Room was not the sort of place they normally frequented. Her thoughts turned immediately to Jyllis Tromso, here in the ballroom and pursued by someone, and her suspicions were raised.

The orchestra wrapped up the final few bars of 'Darling Reprobate', a Moonbeam Levels song arranged for the ensemble by its leader, Count Xun. Fi smiled automatically and bowed, then stood and held an arm out to the orchestra, who stood and bowed also. After these Count Xun himself bowed formally, treating Fi to a wink and a rare, tight-lipped smile.

In a moment Fi was backstage, stage manager Marce upon her immediately.

"That was really good, Fi! Even better than last night!"

Fi strode quickly down the short corridor that would bring her to the seating area. "No time to chat, Marce!" she apologized. "I have to meet my friend!"

Pushing the door open, Fi entered the ballroom, looking desperately for Jyll and watching for the mysterious man who'd caught her eye.

Ice Hawk
02-16-2012, 03:43 AM
It was not a pleasant shuttle ride to . . . wherever they were going. Reil was fuzzy on the details as the Imperial Lieutenant had been in something of a rush after receiving his orders. Apparently Reil had given just enough information to get him and Cali thrown from pan to flame, as they were to be moved from Taanab to a more secure location for further questioning immediately.

Immediately worked out to be about two more days luxuriating in a very nice jail cell for Reil, as the Lieutenant frantically filled out paper work. Normally in cases like this someone high enough on the food chain, who had the clout and budget necessary to cut through the red tape would be handling the operation. Unfortunately for the Lieutenant, he had neither. Reil’s case of course was very straightforward, a simple prisoner transfer from local custody to Imperial. Cali was the real headache, which Reil felt was only appropriate.

Not only did she have to be medically certified as fit for off world transfer, her whole file had to be created from scratch, since she legally didn’t exist. Birth certificate, medical history, criminal record all had to be created, luckily there was some data already available to be added to the last category. Somewhere in the bottom of a desk, Chuv Bartok might have had a report or an invoice that recorded Cali’s birth, but it had never made its way into any sort of government database. Assuming he kept records at all.

And so the poor Lieutenant spent two agonizing days hunched over a writing desk filling out forms, with only the visions of his captain bar’s to keep him going. At least, Reil assumed that was his motivation. The Lieutenant hadn’t actually spoken with Reil since their interview, and Reil had to piece it together with brief conversations with his TAR jailers. Now, finally, that was all over, and the shuttle was off the ground and carrying them. . . someplace worse in all likelihood. No one had mentioned the deal Reil had tried to strike since the meeting, and every time he tried to bring it up, he was assured it would all be worked out when they arrived at their destination, which Reil took to mean that they probably weren’t going to uphold their end of it.

He kept that information to himself though. Cali had been less than thrilled to hear that they were going to be co-operative with the Imperials. But the relief on her face had been palpable the moment Reil mentioned that he had found them an out. Watching the fear and anxiety drain from her had washed away any lingering doubts Reil might have had about what he was doing. He was under no illusions that he was selling Tam down a very dark river, and probably Tey, and Damon and anyone else involved, but that all seemed so distant now. Unimportant even.

Well Reil had no doubts until now, as he sat in a cramped durasteel box filled with Storm Troopers, which was hurtling through space to bring them to a place filled with even more Storm Troopers. Now he was fairly sure he was going to be tortured until he confessed all he knew, and then he and Cali would be spaced. This plan seemed so much better on Taanab Reil mused.

The shuttle shuddered slightly as it exited hyperspace. Reil couldn’t see into the cockpit from where he was seated, but there was some commotion, and the shuttle crew called the Lieutenant to the cockpit. He couldn’t make out everything they were saying but he did hear, “What the frell kind of ship is that?” Then the commotion died down, and the unusual ship made contact. Reil surmised that it ordered them to dock, because that’s what followed after a brief parlay over the comms. There was the usual docking procedure, and then Reil and Cali were escorted off the shuttle by the Lieutenant and his Storm Troopers down some narrow halls until they reached a much larger room, where the Captain of the vessel stood with his own security officers, waiting for them. The Lieutenant marched up to the Captain and saluted smartly as he came to a halt in front of him.

The Captain returned the salute.
“Lieutenant Fisher I presume?”

The Lieutenant dropped the salute, and merely stood at attention.
“Reporting, Sir.”

“At ease, Lieutenant.” The Captain assumed a more relaxed position as well. “I am Captain Doule of the Inun, and I will be accepting the transfer of prisoners onto my ship. You’ll be debriefed, and then you and your crew can go on their way.”

Lt. Fisher frowned.
“Erm, yes Sir.”

Doule arched an eyebrow.
“Something wrong, Lieutenant?”

Fisher was obviously becoming more uncomfortable.
“Um, well Sir, I was under the impression that I would be still attached to this case. I was the one who discovered that the prisoner had valuable information, and was able to convince him to co-operate so. . .”

Doule gave the Lieutenant a very hard look.
“You were misinformed. The prisoner’s information is of a sensitive nature and is going to be handled discreetly. Where is the prisoner?”

Reil raised his manacled hands over his head and waved.
“Over here. Hi. There’s two of us actually.”

“I see.” Doule motioned for one of the security officers, “Sergeant, escort the prisoners to brig for now, I’ll get this sorted out later.”

Reil and Cali were led through the narrow halls of the ship, until they reached the brig, where they were placed in separate cells. Reil sighed as he laid down on the tiny cot his cell afforded him. This plan was so much better on Taanab.

Dawncaller
02-18-2012, 12:55 PM
The two prisoners were placed in the two separate brigs across the hall from each other. Doule wasn’t sure if such measures were necessary at first, but after looking at almost a decade’s worth of infractions and criminal involvement in the records of one Zealos Reil, and a much shorter but more violent criminal history of Cali Bellum, he felt it was better to err on the side of caution and keep them apart.

Lieutenant Fisher had been adamant about staying aboard to ensure successful transfer of the prisoners, and it took some coaxing to get him to share the information he had gleaned from Reil to make him such a high profile individual. When Fisher mentioned the mysterious disappearance of the Disrupter, Doule was taken aback. That event had come up in his own investigations before his current assignment; investigations surrounding the disappearance of a young by named Tam Dawncaller.

Could there be a connection?

At his insistence, Fisher had grudgingly relented, boarding his shuttle to return to Tanaab. The Inun, in turn, set in a course for Denon for interrogation. Given that Reil may know something at least tangential information about Tam and his tempestuous history, Doule decided to conduct a small interrogation himself.

“What can I do for your, Captain?” the man said, lounging on his cot with nonchalance.

“I have a few questions for you.” He dismissed the pair of stormtroopers to wait out in the hall. “If you have a few minutes.”

“I’ve got nothing but time.”

“Tell me what you know about Tam Dawncaller.”

The man’s eyes hardened with recognition, but only momentarily. They quickly relaxed and closed as Reil found a more comfortable position on the cot. “Like I said, Captain,” he said as he placed his hands behind his head and kicked his boots off, “I’ve got nothing but time. I meant, in case you didn’t notice, that I don’t have anything else. Especially answers.”

“This isn’t an interrogation, Reil. It’s a… It’s an inquiry; a personal request. Once we arrive at Denon you’ll be in the hands of High Inquisitor Tremayne, who probably will interrogate you and cause harm as he does so.”

“And you’re going to tell me that you’re not so cruel.”

“I am willing to petition for leniency.”

At that the prisoner gave out a short, sardonic laugh. “You’re new at this, Captain, I can tell.” He sat up and gazed through the durasteel bars. “I’ll tell you this much, and it’s the same I told that Lieutenant who brought me here. I know something about the disappearance of the Disrupter, and I’ll say more after a guarantee of release and an expunged record for both of us.” He pointed toward the bulkhead blocking the way to Cali’s cell.

“Decimated remains of the Disrupter were found in several sectors, from Wann Tsir to Reytha. Can you tell me how or why this wreckage came to be stretched out as far from Ryloth—its last known location—as the Ootmian Pabol?” The prisoner remained silent, so Doule added, “I’m willing to tell you anything I know, and even provide you what protection I can, if you will just let me know what, if anything, this event has to do with Tam Dawncaller…”

Ice Hawk
02-21-2012, 02:34 AM
Reil studied the Captain’s features, trying to guess at what his motivations might be. After a long pause, Reil still couldn’t discern anything.
“What if this has nothing to do with Tam Dawncaller? I don’t recall ever mentioning him. What if the information I give you has absolutely nothing to do with this “personal inquiry” of yours? You still gonna protect us?”

Reil didn’t bother gesturing at the bulkhead this time, but the Captain knew who he was referring to.
“If the incident had nothing to do with Tam, then that still tells me something. And you will still have what protection I can offer you.”

Reil sighed.
“Which won’t be much will it? I mean you’re big cheese on your little ship here, but once we get to wherever we’re going, you’ll be handing me over to Tremanye, and that will be the end of our blossoming friendship. And then, all the petitions in the ‘verse won’t amount to a hill of beans. Tell me Captain Doule, if I co-operate, and your boss still decides to have Cali and I killed, what are you prepared to do?”

Doule frowned.
“I’m not sure what you mean.”

Reil got off his cot and faced Doule, who was standing on the other side of the cell’s bars.
“What I’m asking is that when push comes to shove would you defy orders, jeopardise your career, your ship, your men, brave all dangers and mount a rescue to honour a bargain you struck with a killer and a Rebel?”

Doule held Reil’s gaze.
“No.”

Reil grinned and flopped back onto his cot.
“Well, you gets points for honesty. Will you at least feel bad when they kill us?”

Doule considered this.
“A little fatalistic aren’t you? There’s no reason to suspect that if you co-operate fully that you and the girl will be executed. Even if you don’t strike a deal, your crimes aren’t that severe.”

Reil gestured at the cell in a sweeping sort of motion.
“This place doesn’t exactly foster optimism. Truth be told I don’t know that your boss will kill us, strictly speaking, there could be torture. Or he could torture one of us, and kill the other. Or he could torture us both, chuck us in prison, and let us rot until old age or despair finally does us in. The point I’m trying to make here, is that no matter how this ends, I don’t see it ending well.”

Doule was silent for a moment.
“It would be regrettable, if that were to happen.”

Reil frowned.
“Okay, honesty is still appreciated, just not as much now.”

Doule arched an eyebrow.
“Well how sad do you want me to be, in the event that you are executed?”

Reil grinned.
“I want poems and lamentations, and an official mourning period. Maybe you could get the crew together and hold a little ceremony, have some of the more senior officers give a few words each . . .”

Doule grinned despite himself. Briefly.
“I’d have to look into it. But if we could veer away from the self-indulgent fanfare for just a moment, I’d like to get back to my original line of questioning.”

Reil feigned ignorance.
“Which was?”

“Was Tam Dawncaller involved in the disappearance of the Disrupter?”

Reil sighed. He couldn’t really see any more point in being coy. And he couldn’t help but wonder at what the man’s personal fixation with Tam could be.
“Yeah, Tam’s involved.”

There wasn’t a huge reaction from Doule, but he stiffened a bit, and his eye’s took on an intensity Reil hadn’t seen from the man before.
“How involved?”

Reil considered for a moment how to best phrase his next sentence.
“Well if you think personally flinging it across the galaxy with his mind is involved, I’d say he borders on heavily.”

Reil waited to hear protestations along the line of “Preposterous!” or “Impossible!” but Doule just stood there processing the information. Finally he seemed to reach a conclusion.
“I think I need some context here, how do you know he destroyed the Disrupter with his mind?”

“All right, so, this is kind of a long story, so bear with me. Cali and I were on Ryloth, and there was a bit of local trouble.”

Doule’s eyes narrowed in suspicion.
“Your file said you were wanted for questioning regarding the murder of a shop keeper, and the robbery of his store. Would this be the local trouble you’re referring to?”

Reil shrugged.
“Kinda? I mean our biggest problem was the violent shoot out with a group of slavers in the sewers of the city, but the other thing happened too. While we were getting shot at, we met up with Tam, and then I guess the noise bothered this giant lizard thing, because it showed up and started eating the slavers. Which was quite lucky for us. Anyway, we all piled onto their ship, and tried to make for a less troublesome world, when we were stopped by Imperial Port Authority. Apparently the ship we were on, the Emigrant, was under orders or something to dock with the Disruptor. So when we tried to flee, they scrambled fighters and the cruiser moved to intercept us. It was then that we were saved by the timely intervention of another ship, the Nova Viper. It helped clear some of the fighters for us, and then this guy, Athelias got on the com and asked for Tam. He said he was a Jedi, and he asked Tam to use the force, to move the Disruptor. Well Tam did like he said, he went into kind of a trance, and the ship just disappeared. Then Tam’s nose started to fountain blood, and he passed out. I never saw him try anything like that again.”

Doule considered everything that had been said before responding.
“I’ll need to verify your story’s authenticity, you understand. As best as I can anyway. If what you say is true, then you might just have revealed to me something very important.”

Reil lay flat on the cot and closed his eyes.
“Yeah, you go and do that. Have fun fact checking.”

Just as Doule was leaving, he turned to Reil one last time.
“The Jedi Athelias, what do you know about him?”

Reil didn’t open his eyes.
“I know he’s dead, so he can’t help you now. I wouldn’t go probing further than that Captain. It wasn’t a happy story.”

Elvish_Jedi
02-24-2012, 01:06 AM
Koga Darcstarr stared at the data-pad, watching as numbers and letters scrolled across the screen. His pale yellow eyes narrowed as statistics and figures showed large amounts of resources and funds being channeled... where?

What is Tremayne up to? Something big, but what?

Koga doubted outright treason or a coup; the resources would only build a large capital ship; but something was going on. Something Tremayne wasn't telling the Emperor.

Koga flicked a button on the 'pad, trying to find where most of the goods were going. He shifted nervously in the tight space, sweat sliding down his back under the shadow-suit he wore. Hanging upside-down in a narrow maintenance tunnel under the mansion of one of the most powerful and dangerous men in the Empire was not a pastime most ordinary beings would relish. But Koga was not a ordinary being... and the Emperor had ordered him to undertake this mission. And the Emperor's orders were as good as Koga's own desires. What the Emperor wanted done, Koga wanted done. That was why Koga Darcstarr was the Emperor's Hand.

Koga adjusted the wire that ran from the data-pad in his hand to the thick cable running along the wall. Splicing the line in without setting of an alarm had been one of the more difficult things Koga had done in his life. He knew he would never get a chance like this again; it was only luck that he had found an old tunnel connecting to the tunnels under Tremayne's extensive house.

The screen changed, showing a page with two words: "Access Code?". Koga thought. There was one code, a code that Palpatine himself had given, that just might, possibly, work. Holding his breath, Koga entered it. The screen flashed and changed to another two words: "Access Granted".

Koga let out his breath, and peered intently at the screen, waiting for it to load.

Just a few more seconds....

And the everything went very incredibly wrong.

The Force shouted a warning to him half a second before the two white-armored troopers appeared around the corner, their foot-steps muffled by the thick coating of dust on the floor, blaster rifles raised a read to fire.

Before Koga could even reach for his blaster, before he could silence the troopers with a blast of Dark Side lightning, the troopers acted. Black gloved fingers jerked durasteel triggers, sending fiery bolts of concentrated plasma flashing from E-11 blaster rifles. The bolts screeched down the tunnel, quicker than thought, and sparks erupted from service panels and energy carrying wires.

Koga felt pain blast through his hand, but he hardly felt it. His attention was focused totally on the data-pad that fell from his suddenly limp fingers, clattering to the dust covered floor. Everything seemed to move in slow motion as the 'pad hit the ground, face up. The glowing screen blinked, and Koga's eye caught one word, the letters traced like green fire. Dawncaller. Then the screen went black as the depth of space.

Fingon
02-25-2012, 02:24 AM
Anthan led his companion down a series of dark and stale-smelling hallways, listening intently. “Hold up,” he interrupted, glancing back at the black-haired man following him, “you mean that your father was over an entire fleet?”

“It was a small attack wing attached to one of the main fleets,” the shorter man said, shrugging. “He wasn’t one of the admirals, if that’s what you mean.”

Anthan stopped at a key-padded door and began to punch in a code. “No, I mean that he was a commander in the Republic Navy.” A light at the doorknob flashed red; he cursed and tried again. “Your dad’s one of the old war heroes, and I never even knew. After—what’s it been, two years?—you never once told me.” The door opened and he stepped in, beckoning his friend in behind him.

“Come to think of it, you never talked about your family. At all.”

The shorter man cocked his head for a moment. “No, I never did, did I?” He said, slowly. “Not to anyone.”

“Not that it’s my business, but why is that?”

The two each took a seat. It was an old conference room, with an ovular table surrounded by wheeled chairs that squeaked as the men settled into them, and lit only by a singular, flickering lamp at the table’s head. The dark-haired man stifled a sneeze and batted at the dust swirling past his face. “I don’t really know. It just never seemed . . . the time to.” He leaned back in his chair, which squealed in protest. “There aren’t too many good memories I have of home,” he admitted.

The taller man busied himself on his datapad, this fingers dancing over the illuminated surface. “Was it hard with a father as, you know, celebrated as yours?”

Anthan’s friend shook his head. “It never really came up, to be honest. His rank and accomplishments. It was more just . . .”

“Just what?”

“It’s a bit of a story.”

“Well, we’ll have some time,” Anthan answered, pocketing the datapad. “Just got word from headquarters; they verified your story, caught part of it on a security camera. One of the gangs, it looks like. They do muggings, mostly; we’ll have to see what they wanted with your friend. Don’t worry,” he added quickly, “we’ll find’em.”

“We need to,” the dark-haired man replied, moving to stand,

“We will,” Anthan assured, putting a hand on his friend’s arm. “We gotta wait for more info, otherwise we’re just shooting in the dark. Like I said, we have some time.”

“Your dad did come home, right?”

“Yes. I guess . . .”

“Now what in the galaxy is that supposed to mean?”

“The war never seemed to leave him.”

I. J. Thompson
02-26-2012, 03:33 PM
"Fi!"

Jyllis Tromso was on her feet beside her party's table, arms outstretched toward the singer in greeting. Fiola embraced her warmly, sharing the customary kiss over each shoulder, and then held the holostar at arms' length, taking in her expensive, shimmering gold gown. "Didn't wanna stand out, huh?" she snickered.

"I refuse to live in fear," Jyllis proclaimed loudly as they seated themselves. "Especially of someone inept enough to break into my hotel room while I'm not inside it."

"Do you think it was whoever was tailing us last night?" Fi asked. "Did they take anything?"

"'A', I actually have no idea who it was. And 'B', I didn't - oh! We've just popped a bottle of Azuria - pre-Clone Wars. Have some!" She summoned a waiter to come and fill a glass for her friend. "And 'B', I didn't notice anything gone, but I don't really carry a lot of valuables when traveling, so who knows. By the way, great set just now. Helly really enjoyed it, too."

"Yes," the sour-faced, aging entrepreneur agreed, "I make it a policy to never visit the same entertainment establishment two nights in a row, but I must say, I do not entirely regret having done so this evening."

"Well, there's praise!" Fi remarked, her face twisting involuntarily. "And you are?" she asked, turning toward Jyll's new bodyguard, the table's final occupant.

"Oh, you won't get a word out of him," Jyll explained. "He can't speak. Or won't, anyway, who knows. Helbert's taken to calling him 'Muscles', though. Isn't that cute?" she jiggled her eyebrows up and down in amusement while the bodyguard, eyes unreadable behind an impenetrable pair of dark glasses, smiled broadly.

"Charmed," Fi smiled back, before taking in the surrounding tables. "But are you sure it's wise to be out in the open like this?"

Jyll looked around, untroubled. "An attack or something? Right here in The Blue Room? Imagine!"

"Actually," Fi replied, sampling her glass of Azuria and trying not to let her amazement at its flavour show, "there's been one! Do you see that guy over there," she pointed, "with those two Twi'lek girls?"

"How could I miss him?" Jyll snorted. "The nerve, bringing slaves in here."

"Whoah, wait a minute. Slaves? Who said anything about slaves?"

"Look closely," the actress told her. "See those collars they're wearing? It's a dead giveaway. I had a bit part in a holo about this stuff when I was just starting out."

"But why bring slaves here?"

Jyllis's expression turned stormy. "He's probably showing off his wealth."

"Not necessarily," Helbert Strand interjected. "He might be the merchant. This could be as good a place as any to make a sale."

"Gross! Helbert, how can you talk about those poor girls like they're simple numbers on a datapad."

Strand smiled patronizingly. "I don't make the rules, dear girl. And business is, after all, business."

"Helly," Jyll retorted, raising her glass to her lips, "sometimes I wonder why I keep you around."

Fi kept watching the mysterious man and his girls. "You know, maybe they're just as happy to be offworld. I was on Ryloth a while ago," she recalled, "some pretty nasty stuff happens there."

Jyll took a tiny bite from what was left of her meal and pushed the plate away from her. "Well, whatever they may think of being bought and sold, I still think it's gross..."

Elvish_Jedi
02-29-2012, 01:18 AM
Koga raced down the cramped, pitch-black tunnel, trying to dodge pipes and wires seen only with the Force. Somewhere below the troopers or what was left of them lay, incinerated by a high powered thermal detonator. Quick and rather lethal, a detonator did have one or two drawbacks: it rendered one's ability to make a inconspicuous retreat almost nil, due to the large amounts on noise and light that accompanied setting one off. However, it also had the ability to remove almost all traces of whatever happened to be in the area when it was set off. It was for the latter reason that Koga had dared to make use of the one he had brought along.

Flipping over a low-hanging pipe; which was rather difficult when one was trying to also trying to dodge a web of security beams; Koga consulted his wrist computer. It showed that the tunnel entrance should be somewhere up ahead.... He turned a corner, slipping a little in the thick dust, and sprinted forward; lean, clean-shaven face and dark hair whipped by what he hoped was air from the mouth of the tunnel and not a wind kicked up by the thrusters from a shuttle full of Tremayne's troops.

Coming around the last bend, Koga caught sight of a glimmer of blue light, seeping in from the entrance of the Not-So-Secret-Now tunnel. He also caught sight a large and very indestructible looking grate that had been lowered into place in front of the entrance, and now blocked any chance he had of escape. Koga came to a stop, staring through the heavy durasteel beams at the mouth of the passageway, only a few dozen feet away. It might as well have been light-years. It would take at least ten minuets to cut through the grate... and he could already hear the footsteps of running troopers echoing behind him.

Koga squinted through the lattice-work of metal again. He could hear the engines of something large, probably the troop transport. He gritted his teeth. This just kept getting better and better. The first group of troopers rounded the corner, raising their blasters. Koga whirled, lightsaber slipping into his hand, the blade weaving sheets of crimson light as he deflected the blaster bolts back at the white clad soldiers. Two troopers fell, and Koga thrust out his left hand, feeling power surge from his hand in a wave that blasted three more to the ground, their armor splintering into shrapnel. He leapt forward, his blade slicing through the last trooper, the black body-suit the man wore melting and charing as the beam of plasma sheared through it. The trooper's helmet hit the floor with a clang, followed shortly by the rest of his body.

Koga turned back to the grate, and then he saw the armored bulk of the nose of a assault ship smash through the stone around the tunnel mouth , making quite a mess of stone and dirt. The heavy blaster cannons built into the nose glowed as the sensors locked onto his position. Apparently Tremayne was taking no chances with the reported Jedi running lose beneath his mansion.

However, if the ship had enough firepower to destroy him, it also had the firepower to destroy the grate.... and as the beginning of what felt like either hope or wishful thinking trickled though his mind, Koga grinned at the faceless pilots behind the dirt streaked canopy of the ship, then saluted with his lightsaber and let the Force flow through him.

Dawncaller
03-03-2012, 03:42 PM
As he walked the corridors of the Inun, Todrin Doule was of two minds about how to proceed.

On the one hand, the prisoners in the brig had firsthand experience with Tam Dawncaller. The man, Zealos Reil, had confirmed Doule’s suspicions about Tam’s involvement with the disappearance of an entire Imperial cruiser, and had thus placed one more piece in the puzzle of exactly who Tam was and why he had so much interest to Tremayne and the Empire. But more than that, Reil had shown that Tam had been involved with a Jedi, which opened up a whole new set of questions. It was all too much for Doule to take in at once, so he’d departed without another word.

The other hand of this situation was that Reil had already demanded something in return for his information. If Doule tried for more he’d have to consider violating his oath and duty to the Empire. Reil would no doubt demand an immediate release, and even if Doule relented and helped them escape whatever fate they faced at Tremayne’s hands, he may inherit that fate should he interfere.

Doule had contemplated going to the young girl kept in the other cell for some clarification, but despite her healing injuries, Cali Bellum was proving more belligerent than her counterpart and the security officer had deemed it necessary to keep her stunned.

So Doule made his way to the Nexus room, unsure what to say to Tam. Would he say everything on his mind, confess his investigations into the boy’s past, and announce that Tam had a ‘friend’ in the brig? Would he find a more roundabout way to confirm Reil’s story, keeping Tam in the dark about his deeper interest? With the boy’s apparent abilities, would that even be possible?

“Tam,” he said, entering the Nexus room. The boy was nowhere to be seen, but he could very well be inside the Nexus sphere itself. Doule ascended the stairs to open the chamber and speak to the boy directly. “Tam, I wanted to talk to you. We’ve taken some prisoners aboard, and apparently…”

The Nexus sphere was empty!

Doule’s course back to the brig was not as slow or meandering as when he left it. He heard the banging and screaming long before he reached the hallway, where two security officers saw him and shrugged ineffectually. When he opened the door he found Tam Dawncaller standing in front of the cell. Zealos Reil was still inside the cell, blood streaked across his skin and clothes, shaky fingers clawing at his neck and his feet kicking in the air. Nearly a meter in the air…

“Tam!” Doule grabbed the boy’s shoulder, but the next thing he knew he flew out the door and slammed into the bulkhead on the far side of the corridor. His head rang as if he’d been hit by a landspeeder, and when his vision eventually stopped being a blurry swirl of stars he saw Reil drop to the deck inside his cell, unmoving.

The two security officers helped Doule to his feet, tending to the spot of red emerging from the back of his head. “What is this, Tam?” He met the boy’s fierce but oddly distant eyes. “What am I seeing here?”

“The less you know, Doule, the better. ‘Outside view,’ remember?”

Doule remembered. “Safety net, Tam.” Was all he felt comfortable saying in front of the two crewmen. “Remember?”

From the softening of his eyes, fiery yellow returning of those guarded, apprehensive blue irises, it was clear that Tam finally remembered too. He stepped out of the brig cell and rushed past Doule, disappearing around a corner of the corridor.

Doule looked at the man in the cell, laying in a growing pool of blood. “Officers, contact the infirmary. Tell them to bring a hover-gurney…”

Elvish_Jedi
03-03-2012, 11:53 PM
Koga felt the Force, in the sound of the storm troopers rapidly approaching behind him, in the thick durasteel beams in front of him, in the armored ship hovering behind the grate. He reached out, touching the copilot's mind. Into the ordered, stark thoughts he planted one suggestion. Fire. The copilot cocked his head as if listening, then his hand curled around the control stick and his finger found the trigger. Red light blasted through the tunnel, heat seared the stone and dirt, incinerating troopers and melting metal.

Just before the blast, Koga leapt towards the roof of the passageway, his hand grasping a thin pipe; pulling the Force around himself like a cocoon. The heat washed above and below and around him, the sound of crashing durasteel struck his ears. He dropped to the floor, boots smoking from the heat, and surveyed the ruined grate. Behind it the shuttle floated, scorched but otherwise unharmed.

Koga gathered the Force, sending himself hurtling though a gap in the twisted durasteel, straight towards the shuttle. He landed just beneath it, his blade already raised. Two steps brought him to the boarding ramp, and four slashes opened it. Koga leaped into the dim interior, red lights matching the glow of his lightsaber. He stalked to the door, opening it with a twist of the Force. Troopers turned, but Koga acted first, his 'saber lashing out to burn though armor, destroy weapons, and remove limbs. Within minutes the area was cleared.

Koga sprinted through the cockpit doors just as they closed, pointing his blade at the pilot and copilot.

"Lets make this easy, shall we? Pilot me off the planet, and I'll let you live."

The men declined, reaching for their blasters as they spun to target him. Lightning surged from his hands, catching the troopers and sending them convulsing to the ground, smoke streaming from bone-white armor. A gesture of the Force threw the bodies across the cockpit, clearing the seats. Koga sat down in one, strapping in. His fingers danced across the control panel, lights blinking as he flipped switches and pushed buttons.

"Lets see what this thing can do...."

Gibson8088
03-07-2012, 09:48 AM
"Did you girls enjoy yourselves?"

Both girls adjusted their lekku to drape down their chests and replied with polite bows. They looked a bit fatigued but quite sated from their night of dancing.

"My pleasure.", Tach responded, "Now let's get back to the hotel. I've had enough adventure for one day and.." He had let his voice trail off. The curious gaze of Fiola Shaku met his, derailing his train of thought. Next to the singer sat another vision of loveliness with an expression of disgust painted upon her face with an older gentleman of some business import to her left. All protected by a brutish looking dark shade wearing bodyguard standing watch by the table.

"I haven't been glared at like that since this morning.", Tach murmered to himself. It seemed his night wasn't over quite yet. With a motion of his hand he asked the twins to follow as he made his way over to the table.

Like a magic golem from a fantasy holovid the shade wearing bodyguard silently blocked Tach's path. "Hey, I come in peace. See? No weapons.", Tach had stated as he opened his coat and showed he wasn't armed. Stoic silence was the only reply. "'smatter? Need permission to talk or something?", Tach stated sarcasticly.

"Is there a problem, stranger?", the businessman asked with a professional tone.

Tach turned to address the gentleman. "Not really, no.", the smuggler answered, "I just want to know why I'm being stared at like I'm some kind of devil by the lovely young ladies at this table."

"Well are you?"

"No, sir. Just your average somewhat successful spacer here to spend his perfectly legal and honestly earned credits."

The businessman smirked and gave a single chuckle for the bad joke. "I see. Please, sit down and join us.", he pointed towards an empty seat across from him, "Muscles, if you could.."

"Absolutely not!", the attractive red haired femme retorted. She glared at the businessman, "Helly, why would you allow this slime to sit at our table?"

Fiola watched the actress with concern. "Jyll..?"

Helly addressed Jyll calmly, "Jyllis, trust me on this. Please."

"No! I don't want him anywhere near me!", the actress had stood up from her seat in a huff and fixed a lethal glare at Tach. With practiced poise and grace the actress slowly was making her way around the table, approaching the smuggler as she spoke. Her voice was conveying a rising animosity the closer she came to the object of her ire, "People like you shouldn't be allowed here. People who treat sentient lives as if they are jewelry to wear or toys to be played with and thrown away later or sold off!"

As the svelte figure was squaring off defiantly with Tach her friend and beau both looked on with differing measures of intrigue, worry and concern. "That is why we look upon you as if you are a devil." And in a flash before anyone could react Jyllis had reeled back and landed a strong slap across Tach's face, leaving behind a reddish imprint and a bleeding scratch from an aggressive fingernail. "Now take your playthings and leave this place!", she had ordered with an authority that would crumble normal men. Fiola appeared next to her friend in an instant ready to protect her anyway she can. Muscles was reaching into his coat in case the situation escalated.

Tach gingerly touched his new injury and studied the blood that had coated his finger. Then he studied the actress before her. She was fueled by anger, self-rightiousness and if her hint of swaggering was an indication, a bit of alchohol. But even in the face of such fury and hostility Tach had showed no signs of huff in return. Quite calm was his reply, "I don't own them. In truth it is my responsibility to see to their safe transport to Corellia."

Helbert was already rubbing his temples in frustration with thoughts of lawsuits dancing in his head. But the actress was not defeated yet, "Into the hands of some lecherous pervert, no doubt!"

"Well, I don't know the noble in question personally.", he responded with a shrug.

It was Helbert's turn to question, "A noble?"

"Yeah, look.", the smuggler answered as he directed Helberts attention to the collars the twins wore. Engraved upon each was a family crest, indicating ownership.

Helbert nodded an affirmation, "He speaks the truth. Jyllis, dear, please sit down before he has you arrested."

Both Fiola and Jyllis looked towards Helbert with shock. "What?!", they both said in unison.

The businessman shrugged defeatedly. "He's on legitimate business and you assaulted him. If we're lucky all he'll ask for is a tidy sum for compensation."

"Jyll, please.", Fiona pleaded to the actress as she took her hand assuringly, "Let's not make this any worse."

Inside Jyllis had wanted to lash out at the sleemo who ferried the innocent girls to forever be the property of some monster. She wanted to whisk them away to the freedom they deserved. But Helbert was correct, as he has been before, and it was time to stop. Keeping the guise of defiance up she allowed Fiola to escort her back to her seat. Tach also took a seat in the chair offered earlier.

Once settled Tach extended a hand towards Helbert, "The name's Tach. And you already know my profession." Helbert accepted the greeting, shaking his hand firmly. "Helbert Strand, varied interests are my game. Currently looking out for the lovely young lady at my side, if you understand my meaning."

"Of course, sir.", Tach replied politely, "But do not be concerned. I do not wish to cause any problems or even seek recompense for tonights incident." Helbert arched his brow with curiousity while Fiola and Jyllis seemed a bit surprised.

"You see, Miss Tromso,", Tach continued as he faced Jyllis, having extended his hand to her in greeting, "I agree with you and hold no animosity. This slavery business is a terrible thing, but if I didn't take this particular job it would have been worse."

Jyllis seemed genuinely surprised but confused and not ready to accept his greeting just yet. Tach continued, "See... if I didn't, well, acquire the contract to transport the ladies they would have been hauled by a man of far worse morals than myself. You get what I mean?" She thought for a moment and nodded, accepting his greeting with a brief handshake.

Tach then met the gaze of Fiola, extending his hand once again in greeting. "Miss Shaku, always a pleasure to meet such a talented and lovely young artist such as yourself.", he said with some intentional doting, "I quite enjoyed your performance this evening, though I think the ladies enjoyed it more."

Fiola seemed to smirk and gave a mock suspicious glance towards the smuggler. She shook his hand and stated, "A little early for the flirtations, isn't it?"

"I hope not.", he answered with a smile.

"Tell me something,", Fiola had stated while the mood still seemed to be light, "speaking of performances, just what was going on at your table? I saw some guy getting dragged away from it while on stage."

All the occupants of the table were staring at Tach. "Oh, that?", he replied casually, "Well, his name was Jeffrey, noble son of a CEO of a bank here. Tried to force me to sell the ladies to him at gunpoint. I wasn't having any of that so I...", he made a motion to mimic the faceplant he put Jeffrey through, "Bam! Knocked him out cold and had security take it from there."

The group just looked at Tach, processing the casualness he expressed in sharing this story. He looked over at Fiola again and smiled, "Still too early for flirtations?"

I. J. Thompson
03-07-2012, 11:11 PM
Fi stared back at the smuggler, her face clouded in thought. Then she rose from her seat.

"We should get out of here. I'll need to get changed. Jyll, come with, huh?"

The actress rose unsteadily, accompanied immediately by her hulking bodyguard. "No, you stay here, 'Muscles'," Jyllis instructed him gently, "keep an eye on Helly."

"Oh yes," Helbert Strand invited, pulling one of the vacant chairs very near himself. "Please!"

The massive bodyguard merely folded his arms and stood at Jyllis's side, eyes unreadable behind his dark glasses.

"Ugh," Fi sighed, "whatever."

She led the pair backstage and into her dressing room, where she stopped, taking stock of the situation and fixing 'Muscles' with a stern gaze.

"What's wrong with this picture?"

The silent brute tilted his head slightly in confusion, then nodded curtly, taking a single step backward through the dressing room door and rotating himself outward toward the hall, alert to any threat. Fi closed the door behind him.

"Jyll, you've got a thing or two to learn about the word 'incognito'. Aren't you supposed to be in hiding?"

"But Fi, someone needed to stand up for those poor girls!"

Fiola removed her dangling earrings, tossing them on the dressing table and pulling the bokli sticks from her hair, letting it spill down around her shoulders. "I agree that slavery is wrong, Jyll, but you can't change the worlds... especially by going around slapping people!"

Jyllis took a seat, and held her hands up. "I admit, I have a temper. And this Tach person seems to be okay, but... they're being bought by a noble? 'Noble' doesn't always mean noble, you know what I mean?"

Kicking off her shoes, Fi shrugged off her dress and draped it over the back of the room's other chair. "Well, it's out of your hands, so try to be cool, okay?"

"I will buy them."

Fi snorted. "You're gonna buy them? Isn't that just a tiny bit hypocritical?"

"And take them back to their homeworld!"

Fi regarded her new friend silently for a moment, then reached for the functional black pants she'd worn before the night's gig and began to pull them on. "You don't have a ship."

"You do."

"Jyll, I can't just hop in the Dawncaller and go gallivanting off someplace... I've got six shows a week in this joint! And how do you know they wouldn't just get sold again?"

Pants buttoned, Fiola stepped into her boots and studied her reflection in the mirror for a moment, her eyes resting on the blue jewel that hung low on its silver chain around her neck, remembering where she'd got it. And how.

"Besides," she added distantly, "I don't want to go back to Ryloth."

"Then I'll buy them and set them free! Right here on Cloud City!"

"Honey," Fi laughed in exasperation, grabbing a flowy shirt from a hook and slipping into it, "I don't want to generalize, but those girls didn't exactly look like administrators or tibanna gas miners to me. They're going to need skills, training..."

"Then they can stay with us!"

"...Us?"

"At your place... until they're on their feet! I'm sure they won't be any trouble."

Fiola stood for a moment in thought, then reached for her blaster in its holster and cinched it around her waist. "Jyll, you've got enough problems right now without taking on two more. But," she softened, "I sort of agree with you. I'll harbour these girls for a while if -if- Tach is willing to sell them to you." She held out a hand.

"Deal?"

The holostar took Fi's hand and shook it professionally, then used it to hoist herself up and out of her chair, standing close to Fi and looking her square in the eye.

"Deal," she smiled.

Fi rolled her eyes in amused disbelief, then turned and opened her dressing room door, on the other side of which stood Jyll's silent bodyguard, his blaster pointed directly at her face.

Fi was fast, her blaster in hand in the blink of an eye and pointed at the bodyguard. But 'Muscles' was faster. He hit her gun hand hard, her blaster clattering to the floor. Fi dropped immediately to retrieve it, opening herself up to a kick that sent her flying back against her dressing table, her head bouncing painfully against it. The impact knocked Fi out cold.

Before Jyllis could make a sound, the man blasted her with a stun beam and was beneath her before she hit the floor. Hoisting the unconscious young woman over one shoulder, he silently made his way down the deserted hallway toward The Blue Room's back exit...

Ice Hawk
03-08-2012, 05:02 PM
Reil heard the door to his cell open. He rolled off the cot and onto his feet expecting to meet Doule on the other side of the bars. It was not Doule.
“Hello Reil.”

Zealos stood slack jawed as he stared at Tam Dawncaller. “Hi” was all he managed to say as his brain experienced something akin to gridlock as a hundred thoughts all rushed in his mind, vying for priority. How’d he get here? What’s he doing in my cell? Does this mean Damon’s here too? Does this make the information I gave Doule more valuable, or less? Did I lead the Imperials to Tam?

Tam eyed Reil wordlessly as the pilot struggled with his mental paralysis. He seemed to either be waiting for Reil to say something, or reaching some kind of decision. After a few moments of silence, he spoke again.
“What are you doing here Reil?”

Reil’s brain unstuck itself long enough to come to some fairly important conclusions. No, I couldn’t have led the Imperials to Tam. I didn’t know where he was to begin with, and I never told Doule about him and Damon looking for Mir. Besides, they just picked me up; there hasn’t been time to catch him. Or bring him on the ship for that matter. Which means he was here before me? Something’s very wrong here.
“Got arrested. Got sent here. What are you doing here though, and why aren’t you in a cell?”

Tam seemed amused by the notion; Reil could see the edges of his lips curl. But it never quite made it to a smile, and it was quickly replaced with a far more serious expression.
“You shouldn’t be here Reil. You’re upsetting a very delicate balance, you could ruin everything.”

Reil grimaced as an uncomfortable thought edged its way into consciousness. He finally noticed what Tam was wearing. The drab black of an Imperial uniform. Only it didn’t look like a uniform on such a young boy. It was like a costume. An Imperial costume. Except Tam wasn’t acting like he was wearing a disguise.
“Yeah-huh. Tam, where’s Damon?”

Tam’s look of seriousness turned into an outright frown.
“I don’t see what Damon has to do with you disrupting my plans.”

“I dunno. Maybe nothing. Maybe a lot. Used to be a time when you wouldn’t have plans to disrupt on an Imperial warship. So what changed?”

Tam’s mood seemed to be worsening the deeper Reil probed.
“Nothing changed. I was simply shown the truth about f . . .” the boy trailed off for a second. “About everything. But now I have a plan, only you’re ruining it!”

Reil felt his temper flare.
“Well I’m very sorry if I’m upsetting you and your delicate little plan. Gods forbid I inconvenience Tam Dawncaller and his special frakking destiny while he turns himself into a weapon for the Imperials! In case you missed this, because you’re too busy being special, I’m in a jail cell, so it’s not like I can just leave.”

It was then Reil noticed a tightening, at first around his neck, and then his whole body. It was getting difficult to breathe, as his body felt like it was in a vice. He looked at Tam, and noticed the boy was glowering at him, mumbling to himself.
“I can remove you, before you ruin everything.”




**************



Reil could taste the bacta as he felt himself regaining consciousness. He was on a bed, in a white room, and he noticed Doule talking with a medical droid.
“How bad was he?”

The droid beeped for a second before responding.
“Patient experienced severe bruising along the face and torso due to excessive pressure. Bleeding was caused by the skin being pulled taught and. . . fracturing under the stress. Bacta has alleviated swelling, and healed all cracks in dermal tissue. No scarring anticipated, will make full recovery in two days.”

Reil struggled to his feet, and Doule, noticing Reil’s return to waking, turned to face him.
“How are you feeling?”

Reil steadied himself on a tray of. . . something.
“I’m fine.”

Doule looked doubtful.
“Really?”

Reil flipped the tray on its side in rage.
“NO I’M NOT FRELLING FINE! What the frack just happened Doule!?”

Gibson8088
03-09-2012, 10:06 PM
Once the women had left earshot Tach spoke up, "I think I better go. There's been enough trouble and I don't think I can stand anymore today." He was tapping out a request for a taxi on the datascreen embedded in the table.

"Fair enough, but before you go explain something to me. Why didn't you sell the slave girls when that kid had you at gunpoint?", Helbert asked.

"C'mon, Helbert.", Tach replied wryly, "Even you know the value of a reputation."

Helbert nodded in agreement. "Indeed I do. Here, take this.", he reached into his coat, drawing out a business card, "I could use someone like you."

Tach accepted the card. "I can't make any guarantees. I'm working for someone else right now."

"That is fine. But if you need work give me a call first, alright?"

"Heh, alright. Pleasure meeting you, Mr. Strand.". The smuggler rose from his seat and extended his hand, which Helbert shook. "Likewise, Tach."

With the chat concluded Tach and the twi'lek's had exited the club to an awaiting airtaxi; a model with a large windscreen, single drivers seat, a wide bench seat in the back and an open canopy to favor a wide variety of species. The trio climbed in the vehicle and tried to get comfortable. A task not easily accomplished with the worn seats provided. "Eclipse Luxury Hotel. And break the speed limit if you can, please."

"You got it, mac.", barked the middle-aged human driver. With a quick flip of the meter and a push on the accelerator the experienced driver had them in the air and cruising along the designated flight lanes over Cloud City.

True to his word the taxi driver sped along the the traffic lanes, passing over, under and to the side of other vehicles. With no enthusiasm Tach studied the aircars as they passed them. There was a gentleman in a one-seater blabbering on his wrist comm, a happy couple cuddling in the back of another airtaxi, two guys yelling at each other in a transport and then a well dressed gentleman wearing dark shades in a sporty open canopy model two-seater with a passed out woman in the passenger seat. Funny, she looked familiar. And so did the driver.

"Driver! Slow down! Match traffic speed!", Tach ordered. The driver agreed with a grunt as the smuggler studied the occupants of the sporty aircar. Sure enough, that looked like Jyllis and her bodyguard. He pulled a comm unit from his pocket and dialed in Helbert's number.

Helbert answered the call cheerfully enough, "Change your mind, Tach?"

"Helbert, have the girls returned yet?", he asked with urgency.

"No, not yet, why?", was the reply.

"'cause it looks like your bodyguard is out here with Jyllis in his car! I hope I'm wrong, but I suggest you check on the girls!"

"What?!", Helbert exclaimed in a panicked tone, followed by the noise of rattling glasses, people objecting as they were pushed aside and heavy feet tromping through the club. "Fiola! Fiola where's Jyllis?!", there was a pause, "She's knocked out. Frak! Tach, you still see Jyllis?! You gotta rescue Jyllis for me! Please! I'll pay! Whatever it takes! Tach?!" The panic in the man's voice could almost be felt.

"Helbert! Calm down!", Tach ordered, "Get Fiona a medic.. and I'll handle Jyllis. Wait for me at the club. Understood?"

"Yes, understood. Please! Save Jyllis! Return her to me, okay?", the businessman begged.

"Alright, Helbert. Don't panic. Get Fiola some help. Tach out." He switched the comm off.

"What the frak was that all about, mac?", the eavesdropping cabbie had asked.

"A kidnapping.", Tach stated bluntly, "I need you to get me closer to that red aircar." He pointed at the vehicle. It was at a lower altitude and behind them a bit.

"Whoah, no way, pal! Bein' a hero ain't part of the job."

"I got 500 cred here that says otherwise.", Tach retored as he held up a credchip. "A'right, then.", the cabbie relented greedily as he accepted the credits.

"I'll need a weapon.", Tach stated. The taxi driver reached down and pulled out a hydrospanner, "Best I can offer. Take it or leave it."

Accepting the spanner the smuggler held it firmly, the tool indeed had sufficient weight to be a club. "That'll do. Now slow down and pass over him fast. Then take these ladies back to the hotel. I'll be a while so if you wait with them you'll get the spanner back and an extra 500 cred. Deal?"

"Deal!", the driver agreed enthusiastically! The taxi slowed enough to fall behind the target vehicle, then as casually as he could lined the taxi up so the sporty aircar was directly ahead and a couple meters below it. Tach watched it carefully then announced, "Go!"

As if he was recreating his favorite holovid action scene the cabbie gunned the taxi forward and then down, flashily cutting off the bodyguard. Muscles might have been surprised by the rude taxi driver, his expression revealed nothing. But he was definately caught off guard when the figure of Tach theatrically landed upon the hood with a metallic thud and brandishing a hydrospanner like a madman. The smuggler had knelt down to keep a sure footing and grabbed hold of the windsreen for support. "Pull over!", he commanded before swinging the spanner overhead, bringing it in bonecrushing contact with the shaded fellow's right shoulder.

It was the first time Tach heard a noise ever escape Muscle's lips, a howl of pain. The goon released hold of the wheel to nurse his injured shoulder, an action that sent the car into a gradual descent. Tach was still able to keep his footing on the hood luckily enough. "I said pull over!", he ordered again and waved he spanner menacingly. With a defiant growl the bodyguard grabbed the controls with his one good arm and pushed the vehicle into a steep dive. Tach's footing slipped but he was able to keep a firm grip on the windshield, averting a fatal fall.

Glancing below, impact with a strip of casino's and bars was going to happen within the minute. Looking back at the vehicle's occupants Tach caught the bodyguard fumbling with his coat, awkwardly trying to reach for his blaster with his uninjured arm. Jyllis, safely held up in a sitting position by the inirtial restraints, was still out cold and blissfully oblivious of the situation. "Frak!", Tach complained, "How can so much flarg happen to one guy in one day?!"

Tach watched the bodyguard closely as he finally drew a stun pistol from within his jacket, he took a couple of awkward shots at the smuggler. Being right handed and shooting around the windshield proved harder than it looked for the brute. But the confidence of being safe from melee with the unwelcomed hood ornament influenced the shaded one. He chose to lean around the glass to line up for a sure shot. Tach took a chance, hurling the hefty hydrospanner at Muscle's generous forehead. The impromptu weapon connected with a satisfying crack, tumbled clumsily for a moment then fell victim to the aircar's false gravity to land in the lap of Muscles-the-unconscious.

Sparing no time Tach hoisted himself into the cockpit of the runaway vehicle. The bodyguard's girth was taking up the entirety of the drivers seat; and his foot still rested on the accelerator! Thankfully Jyllis's lithe figure afforded the man room enough to brace himself and still have a free hand to grab the controls. Just in time, too, as the panic'd screams sounded before he pulled the control yoke.

The car was almost levelled out when it hit the street, slamming the nose of the vehicle to the ground in a shower of sparks. Ahead was a group that would be unable to flee the furious craft in time! Tach pulled the yoke, ordering the vehicle to take flight. Now a casino sign tried to bar passage! Bank left. A coffee shop sign! Bank right. Pedestrian bridge! Pull up.

Looming ahead was what less savory types would call art. It was a huge neon sign for Lawtfah's Luscious Lollies Gentlebeings Club. Standing next to the enourmous letters was a giant blue neon twi'lek, scantily clad, provocatively posed, smiling teasingly with ruby red neon lips and holding a neon lollipop. Occasionally the neon girl would bring the neon candy treat to its lips so that a pink neon tongue would lick. It was through this work of art the rampaging aircar rocketed through in an impressive display of sparks, electrical explosions and freshly loosed neon gas. Several onlookers gasped while others ooh'ed and ahh'ed. Once the chaos had settled the sign was only able to luminate the red lipped smile with the tongue flickering briefly and the letters "wtf Lol".

Tach spied a street that was thankfully free of traffic. He guided the car in line with it and eased the vehicle down until the skids made contact with the street. Once on the ground he then enabled the emergency shutoff. He braced himself and Jyllis should any unexpected surprises crop up again, but it seemed luck was with him this time. The car eventually skidded to a halt and the engines sighed in relief as they dissipated heat.

Wasting no time Tach pulled Muscles from the vehicle and unceremoniously threw him into the street. Then the spacer searched his victim's pockets, the kidnapper wisely carried nothing else with him. Might have been a pro. So, Tach took his shades and pocketed them, hopped back into the car and fired it up. Engines were still pretty warm but functioning. He eased the car in the direction of The Blue Room and floored it.

Tach dialed up Helbert's comm. "Helbert? I have Jyllis with me. See you at the club in eight minutes."

The smuggler indulged the thanks and promise of reward now gushing from his comm. "Helbert.", Tach interrupted, "I don't want your money or anything okay? Just..", he paused a moment, lost in a thought, "Just meet me behind the club in eight minutes."

About halfway to their destination Jyllis had begun recovering from the stun blast. Stuns were typically not fun to recover from as side effects included nausea, dizziness, aches and waking up in strange places; to name a few. Avoid mixing with alcohol.

Jyllis groaned as she gradually became aware of her surroundings. Lights and buildings blurred past her and consistently remained out of focus. Trying to get her bearings she lolled her head around to focus on the driver. With some effort she was able to make out the driver. To her unpleasant surprise it was Tach, right hand on the wheel, left arm resting on the door with his head resting against his hand. He was staring ahead pensively lost in thought.

"You...?", she tried to raise her head but a wave of dizziness advised against it.

"Try to relax.", Tach suggested indifferently, "Stun bolts can be nasty. The effects will wear off sooner or later."

"Where are you taking me?", she demanded weakly.

Tach pointed absently ahead, "Back to The Blue Room. To Helbert."

The actress nodded slightly, accepting for the moment Tach didn't mean her any harm. "I remember...Muscles.", Jyllis rasped, "He.. hurt Fi. And then shot me. What happened?"

Tach shared in brief the events from when he spotted the car to its unceremonious landing in the streets. He made sure she knew Helbert had found Fi and was helping her, as that seemed important to the actress. The story had lasted the remainder of the trip as by the end Tach was pulling the car around the back entrance.

"Thank you, Tach.", Jyllis stated sleepily, "Helly will reward you properly."

It's not always about money., he thought to himself, but remained quiet to avoid an arguement. Instead he just smiled politely.

I. J. Thompson
03-10-2012, 12:05 AM
"Darling!" Helbert Strand beamed, arms spread wide as he emerged from The Blue Room's back entrance, "I'm so pleased you're alright!"

"Not half as pleased as I am," the actress replied distractedly, massaging her temples as she clumsily extricated herself from the speeder.

"And how disappointing that 'Muscles' turned out to be such a villain!"

"Plenty of fish in the sea, Helly," Jyllis smirked, despite the pain in her head. "Where's Fi?"

"Here," Fiola called, being led out of The Blue Room's back entrance by Marce. Deep concern showed on the stage manager's face, despite her impenetrable Sullustan visage.

Jyllis was upon the singer immediately, clutching the girl in a fierce embrace. "Fi! Are you okay?"

"Just a bump," Fi replied groggily, "I've had worse."

Helbert straightened stiffly. "How in the worlds did such a person come to be your bodyguard, Miss Tromso?"

"I'll have to call my agent," the actress replied. "He's the one who hired a bodyguard. I guess he called the wrong security company!"

"Or the real bodyguard was replaced by you-know-who," Fi volunteered.

"Whatever happened," Helbert announced, "we have Tach to thank that things didn't turn out much, much worse."

"That we do." Jyllis Tromso let go of Fi, taking in the smuggler, who leaned nonchalantly against the beat-up speeder. "Sir, I am in your debt. Thank you." She paused, then said it again.

"I mean it... thank you."

The smuggler smiled. "I can do the right thing. Once in a while."

Fi stepped forward. "I'm gonna get her home. But we should stay in touch. My frequency's 54S^12z. Will you call us? If you learn anything more about this, I mean?"

Tach finished entering the digits into his comlink, then gave her a relaxed salute and began climbing back into the speeder. "Will do."

"And don't forget to contact me, as well!" Helbert Strand called.

Tach gunned the speeders' engine, and rose into the Cloud City night.

Fi smiled at Jyll, grabbing a fistful of the actress's crimson curls and tugging them gently. "And you're coming with me, girl," she grinned. "Have you ever heard of 'hot chocolate'? An old friend of mine introduced me to it once..."


* * *

The medical team loaded the unconscious muscleman into their speeder, while a small contingent of Wing Guard looked on in boredom. As far as altercations in Cloud City's wee hours went, a lone, unconscious individual with a bleeding head wound was certainly not the most glamorous. While a couple of the Wing Guard assisted the medics, others of their number smoked, joked, or filled the time however they wished.

One of these stood apart from the rest of the group, comlink in hand. He spoke in hushed tones, not wishing to be heard by the rest of his squad.

"...I said he's down. Double down. Your man with the shades. Well, the shades are gone, but it's the same guy. Yes. Well, does your boss want this done right, or not at all? Just tell him. And tell him I want another payout for the info. No, last night was last night, and this is tonight. New info, new pay. What? You know my name. Trask, with a capital 'T'. Tell him to contact me if he wants this done right."

Snapping off the comlink, the Guardsman moved to rejoin his fellows...

Dawncaller
03-12-2012, 12:42 AM
“I wish I had an answer for you.” Doule considered his words before continuing. “If I hadn’t intervened, he probably would have killed you.”

“Thank you for stating the obvious, Captain.”

Doule breathed in sharply, to stay his impatient reaction to Reil’s disrespect. When he knew he could respond with calm words he said, “Why did he want to kill you?”

“Who knows? He’s Tam fracking Dawncaller! The kid’s been flying off the handle since I’ve known him! If you didn’t know that then you’re in for a real treat on your ship here.”

“I’m gathering that, Reil. What I’m wondering is what might have brought it on. You’re acquainted with each other, but why, only minutes after reuniting, was he doing… whatever he was doing… to you?

“I’d have to chalk it up to my animal magnetism, Captain.”

“Reil, I’m going to repeat this, and I hope you recognize it for the threat it is: if I hadn’t intervened, he probably would have killed you. He may do it again. Understand?”

The look on Reil’s face showed the same level of aloof incredulity, but it seemed tempered now with an agreement for cautious cooperation. “Look, Tam walked in and accused me of disrupting his plans. Never mind whatever his plans might actually be, but it’s not like it was my choice to even be here.

“Is Cali okay?” he added.

“She’s under constant watch, and I’m to be informed if Tam appears anywhere near the brig.”

“Right, because Tam needs to be anywhere near the brig to…” Reil sat up on the recovery bed. “Look, Doule, your droid says I’m recovering. You can threaten me all you want, but Cali’s innocent. Relatively innocent, anyway. She doesn’t deserve Tam’s… attention. Put me in her cell, give me your—”

“Quid pro quo, Reil. I find it amusing to see you making demands on my ship, especially after being so tight lipped. I tried being upfront with you, and I’ve offered you what amnesty I can—“

“Save it, Captain. Your ‘amnesty’ goes as far as the airlocks of your own starship, and no further. Perhaps not even that far, with that little peedunky roaming your corridors. So Cali and I will either end up as the boy’s latest victims or we’ll survive to end up in Tremayne’s hands. So what does your duty tell you to do here, Doule? Leave us in the cage with your pet monster, or hand us over to the monster you don’t ostensibly control?”

It was hard to admit, but Reil had a point. Doule was in no position to make demands either. He walked to the door of the sickbay, and gestured for a pair of naval officers to enter. “Take him to the cell with the other prisoner. We’ve still got lots of blood to clean out of the other one.” He turned to Reil. “I’m tired of bandying words with scum like you…”

Gibson8088
03-14-2012, 12:33 PM
It was late and Tach was ready for this night to be done with. He had parked the aircar a few blocks from the hotel; hopefully it will be stolen. At the hotel he paid the taxi driver what was promised, plus a small bonus to bungle the story if he was questioned. And, of course, went ahead and returned the hydrospanner. Now painted with a smattering of blood.

Minutes later Tach was in his hotel room, a fairly spacious domicile with some luxury amenities. Included were a water shower, stocked wet bar, decent furniture and a single large bed that could accomidate six humans if need be.

Tach took little time shedding the dress costume, stripping down to underwear and a shirt. The suit was ruined from the night's activities and only served now to fill the wastebin properly. Then he reached into his satchel resting on a nearby chair to retrieve a portable scanner. As one of the girls closed the privacy screens on the windows Tach activated and tuned the device.

A few moments passed. "Room's clean.", he announced.

"Little paranoid are we, Tach?", the first twi'lek chimed as she unclasped her dress, letting it slip off her body into a heap on the floor.

Tach returned the device to his satchel, noisily withdrawing a few small motion detectors. He looked in the twi'lek's direction, seeming to give no notice to her nakedness, and replied, "After tonights escapades, Lelah, I think it's warranted.", then proceeded to place the detectors around the entrance in a functional pattern.

"I'm Lola!", she admonished.

"No, she is.", Tach was referring to her twin, who had already disrobed and was climbing into bed.

Lelah huffed at Tach then turned to her twin, "Lola, just how does he figure it out?". Her sister gave a resigned shrug. "Maybe it's because I'm prettier.", she offered sleepily. Lelah replied to her sister with a rude gesture, but it went unnoticed by the napping twi'lek. So Lelah turned her attention back on Tach, who had just finished his task and set the door to 'Do Not Disturb'. He picked up his travel bag and was heading towards the bed.

Reacting quickly Lelah had barred the smugglers path. She stood before him in mock defiance, crossing her arms in front to deliberately frame her chest. Tach recognized the game, and Lelah would not be denied. He painted a veil of ignorance before speaking up. "What?", he asked innocently enough.

"You're secret.", she commanded, "Out with it!"

In his worst parody of a holovid gentleman Tach countered, "Modest lady, I know not what you ask of me."

"My sister and I.", she stated, undetered. Peering at him suspiciously she asked, "How are you able to tell which one of us is which?"

"Oh? Is that all? It's the birthmark.", he stated falsely and moved to walk around Lelah. She was quick to intercept Tach, wagging her finger quite accusingly at him.

"Nuh uh, sleemo. As you can see.", she presented herself with a flourish of the hands and a quick pirouette, "I have no birthmarks." Tach's gaze then fell upon Lola, "And neither does she!", Lelah interjected, stopping that train of thought fast in its tracks.

"Alright, alright.", the liar raised a hand defensively. He glanced down at her feet, "It's your legs."

"Huh?", Lelah blurted genuinely confused. She peered down at her legs and then back at Tach, "What do you mean?"

"Your legs.", he revealed in a convincing tone, "One of them is shorter than the other."

"What?!", was the twi'lek's reply. This wasn't possible. She looked again at her legs. The knees seemed to line up properly. Her ankles, toes, heels, all appeared properly symmetrical. She even rested her hands upon each knee in a vain attempt to measure their proportions. The nature of the deceipt did not cement fully until she heard the stifled chuckling from the bed. There Tach did lie, covered by the blanket, head resting comfortably in hand while watching Lelah's struggle. He even placed his bulky satchel neatly upon the bedstand without alerting the poor girl.

"Oh you scoundrel!", she shrieked incredulously, though her expression of glee belied the words. The game would continue!

Tach quickly tapped the switch to extinguish the lighting in the room. He then ducked beneath the cover of blankets as a child would to hide from monsters that lived in closets. "Night night!", he called out to Lelah between laughs.

Acting quickly the twi'lek leaped upon the sheets, ferreting out her quarry with ease. She cast off the protective covers, revealing her prey, and commenced an attempt to grapple the man. Tach fought back playfully, an endeavor that was a greater measure of heavy petting than it was a playful struggle. But the twi'lek had eventualy come out on top, literally, pinning her opponent to the bed.

Lelah brought her face close Tach's. "I've got you now!", she bragged. Her voice was thick with aphrodisia. "Last chance to tell me what I want to know." Her offer was generous, but the man refused to reveal his secret knowledge.

"Do your worst.", he gladly exclaimed. And so she started her relentless assault upon the smuggler, a deep passion fueled kiss that was to be followed by a vicious strike upon his remaining flimsy garments. The battle only escalated from there.

Lola happily ignored the activities. Her sister was happy. Her sister got to choose.

I. J. Thompson
03-14-2012, 11:41 PM
It was an uncharacteristically gloomy morning on Cloud City, thunder booming outside the apartment's tall windows. Fi looked out of them, her view obscured by the drops of moisture that slid down the outside of the transparisteel barriers. Beyond these, the gentle rain and thick mist turned the neighbouring buildings into indistinct, grey shadows.

In counterpoint to the rolling thunder, Fi could hear Jyllis Tromso, in the apartment's bedroom, speaking into her comlink. The actress's voice rose and fell, a dramatic melody accompanied by the basso rumblings outside. Fi patiently sipped her cup of caff as she watched Mr. Mace, her fabool companion, nibble at his morning meal.

"Well, that's sorted."

"Who was it?" Fi asked, sliding a second mug toward Jyllis as her friend climbed onto one of the kitchen stools.

"Pondan. My agent," Jyll explained, gratefully accepting the caff and inhaling its vapours. "Boy, was he scared! Thought I was going to fire him on the spot. But he's been in touch with the security agency. Turns out the real bodyguard is missing. 'Muscles' must have done something to him and taken his place. They offered me another bodyguard for free for a whole month."

"Oh yeah? What did you say?"

"I said, if you find a stinkbeetle in your soup, you don't necessarily want a new soup."

"Sensible," Fi grinned, sipping the caff.

"Besides," Jyll smiled back, gripping her mug in two hands, "I have you."

Fi snorted. "Me? This might be a distant memory for you, Jyll, but I basically got beat up trying to save your skin last night!"

"We'll call that one 'practice'," the girl replied, raising her cup in salute.

"Are you going to leave Cloud City?"

"Can't. I'm actually here to shoot a new holo. The Tide, it's called. We start tomorrow."

"You're shooting a picture called The Tide on a gas giant?"

Jyll grinned. "It's a metaphor, I think. I only read the script once. It's a juicy part, though, and they tell me I should be wrapped in about fifteen days, if all goes well."

Fi considered. "So... how will you keep safe?"

Jyllis reached across the table to tickle Mr. Mace's belly, the fabool flapping his tiny wings in appreciation. "I'm serious, Fi. You can be my bodyguard."

Fi laughed loudly, the sound incongruous with the morning's sombre silence. "Hon, you know I'd plug any sucker for ya, but this is the kind of thing best left to professionals."

Jyll considered. "Like Tach?"

Fi took a slow swig of her caff. "Somehow, I don't think Tach is the type to stay in one place for too long. Speaking of which," she added with a mischievous grin, "shouldn't you be meeting with him to see about buying yourself a couple of Twi'lek slave girls?"

"Ouch!" Jyll protested in mock-indignation, "Fi, you wound me!" She thought a moment, her face turning serious. "Honestly, I'm not in the mood anymore. There's something about being almost-kidnapped that sort of saps your sense of altruism."

Fi drained her mug. "Well then," she posed, "what are we gonna do today?"

The actress looked out the windows at the gloom, then turned toward the musician with a gleam in her eye. "Have an extended breakfast and watch some tacky daytime dramas?"

Fi grinned. "Jyll, I like the way you think!"


* * *

The ex-'bodyguard' stood stoically, if not proudly. His shades were gone, exchanged for a bulky bandage around his head.

"So you were beaten, then."

'Muscles' stiffened with indignation. "Yes, boss. A rogue element interfered."

"I need details, Kroff."

"His name is Tach," Kroff replied, "a slaver, smuggler, or something. He wasn't part of the plan. Jumped on my speeder, busted my head with a spanner."

"And it was Trask, our man in the Wing Guard, who was able to keep you out of the courts."

"Yes."

"Trask, who's been offering to handle this from the beginning." The being pondered a moment. "Sloat!"

"Yes, sir!" the technician Sloat piped up.

"Contact this Trask, and tell him to proceed as he feels appropriate. Jyllis Tromso will be mine." The being stared into the distance.

"Oh yes, she will be mine..."

Fingon
03-16-2012, 02:05 AM
It was happening tomorrow. He had waited for so long that he had begun to doubt whether it was even real, and not just another fairy tale. Even a week ago, it had seemed like it would never actually come, that the story would never actually end and the day would float ahead into the future, tantalizing him like it had for so long. But not it was not in a year, or a month, or a week, or even in a few days.

It was tomorrow. Father was coming home. Tomorrow.

The boy strained at her mother’s restraining hand, wriggling free and running on ahead. “C’mon, mama!” he laughed, his feet barely touching the pavement. The day was a typical cold and hazy, but it was midsummer on Alderaan as far as the boy was concerned. His mother called after him, trying to make her voice stern, but a thin smile betrayed the excitement bubbling up in her as well.

“Ma, come on!” the boy insisted, throwing open the front door of his house.

“Remember to take off your sh-” Ramana Santiago began, but her son had already disappeared inside. And right now, she did not care if he muddied up the floors or not. She had not seen her son this happy . . . ever, she realized. Her eyes softening, she allowed herself to laugh along with her boy, a soft and regal chuckle which the house rarely heard any more. She pressed a tanned, elegant hand to her face to hide the smile which was blossoming from her lips and followed her son into their house, letting the trail of dirty footprints and disheveled décor guide her.

“What’s all the hurry for?” she asked, finding her son in his room, furiously tearing through his closet.

The boy looked back at her, dumbfounded at her question. “Everything’s gotta be ready. Everything’s gotta be perfect,” he answered simply, returning to the mostly-empty closet and extracting a dark navy, wrinkled suit which he threw on his bed. That accomplished, he darted across the room and began to sift through the toys on his desk and floor. With a triumphant cry he held up a small, scratched Eta-1, the paint faded and chipped on the corners and a fat blob of glue on the left side of the spaceshield. They had put it together, he and his father, a long time ago. For years it had never left the boy’s side.

She laughed again, this time deep and rich. “Luis, you still have to wait another whole day,” said she, pulling her son into her arms and squeezing him tight, to muffling his protests.

“Mom!” he contended, wriggling out of his mother’s grip. Free from her embracing arms, he look up at her with his brown eyes, dark like his fathers’. Deep sienna eyes that held far more pain and fear than they should. “I need it to be perfect,” he said, his voice tremulous, “I’ve thought about him coming back over and over and . . . I just want things to be like how they were. And I know he’ll want everything to be perfect.”

“Oh baby,” Ramana soothed, taking her child back into her arms and holding him close, pursing her lips when Luis could not see them. She knew he was right. “Don’t worry, Luis. Just remember that papi’s coming back for good. Remember that, no matter what.”

For good . . .

---

There were four other half-families waiting with them in the heat of the day: mothers in their best dress and their children, wearing their own formals, lined up beside them. They all wore gray and crimson, the colors their husbands and fathers would be wearing. Luis tried to stand at attention like his mother had told him to. The wind kept buffeting him and kicking sand into his eyes, and the red sun, staring down like an enormous bloodshot eye, sent trickles of sweat down between his shoulder blades, tickling the small of his back mercilessly. Before five minutes where through his hair had lost all semblance of the perfect part it had before and his shirt was halfway un-tucked.

His mother fussed over him, battling his unruly hair and trying to tame his suit, but it was an uphill battle. “Be still,” she whispered into his ear, her voice void of the softness she usually spoke with. The boy did his best to obey.

But his mind was not on that dusty landing pad. It was thirty klicks above his head, where a military shuttle would slam into the stratosphere and carve its way across the maroon sky. Two years he had waited for this day. Two years when communiques had been infrequent at best, and never more than half an hour.

Two years without his father.

Squinting his eyes against the offending dust, the dark-haired boy scoured the sky for the telltale contrail. They had been here for too long.

“Tranquilo, mi hijo,” his mother commanded, placing a hand on his shoulder.

Was something wrong? Could something have happened on the flight back to Ord Mantell?

“Just wait a little longer.”

Why wasn’t anyone telling them what was going on?

And then he saw it, like an evanescent snake slithering across the atmosphere. In an instant the hiss of the wind went deaf in his ears as every particle of will concentrated on that wisp, led by a tiny speck. That speck streaked toward them, growing larger and larger with lightning speed, until it was like a star cruiser bearing down them, engines screaming with blue fire. The roar of the ship engulfed his senses until all he could hear was the slow, pedantic beating of blood through his ears. The craft seemed to fill his entire field of vision, gilded steel slashed with regal red, growing still larger until it hovered mere meters above his head, blasting him with hot air mired with dust.

Then the shuttle was resting on the landing pad, proud and majestic as a dragon. It sat dormant, sighing out great billows of white gas and steam from its seams. Abruptly, it gave a great growl and a triangular ramp descended, propelled by its hydraulic fangs. For what seemed an eternity it waited, the exposed door into the beast’s interior shut tight. And then, as if bending to the boy’s infinite force of will, the door hissed open.

Anxiety curdled into despair in Luis’s small stomach as unfamiliar face after unfamiliar face began to file out, some turning to stand at attention, others hurrying down the ramp. Biting his lip, his pleading eyes bore into the entryway. And then he saw someone, shorter than most of the other men, but who instantly demanded the attention of everyone there. His jacket was emblazoned with ribbons and his beard streaked with gray, but he walked with all the energy and cockiness of a man half his age, and his dark-sienna eyes carried an authority that none here dared question.

It was him. Older, greyer, but him.

The retuning men formed a semicircle, surrounded by the larger arc of their waiting wives and children, each standing at attention still. Most of the women began to blink, and not just because of the dust, and the children struggled to be obedient to what their mothers had drilled into them. The pilot of the shuttle, a captain by rank, shouted in a phrase in old Ord Mantell, and each of the fathers snapped into a salute which the captain returned, wishing them all a farewell. The men turned about face and saluted their waiting families, who all returned the signal as well. Father locked eyes with his wife, then his boy, and beamed the most radiant smile the boy had ever seen.

He could not stand it any longer. Vaguely aware of his mother calling after him, he found himself running as fast as he had ever run before, until he flung his arms around his father’s waist and buried his head into his belly, laughing and sobbing all in one. Bliss poured through his veins he felt his father’s familiar scent filled his nostrils and he looked up. He scrubbed the tears from his eyes and looked up.

His heart crashed down through his stomach and dropped around his shoes. His father, he was . . .

“What are you doing?” an indignant voice smoldered, hard and sharp as a blade. “Get back in line. You’re humiliating me. And tuck your shirt back in.”

Luis was suddenly acutely aware of his surroundings. He was the only one who had broken formation, and every pair of eyes was on him. His face burned. He could not seem to look anywhere but at the toes of his shoes. He could not remember where he was supposed to be. Somehow he found it. He remembered he was supposed to be happy. He could not quite remember why. His mother was tucking his shirt back in; it must have come loose again. She whispered into his ear and he saluted, like they had rehearsed. They were still looking at him, he was sure. He did not dare see if he was right.

Then his father was walking toward him, and he remembered why he was supposed to be happy. He tried to smile, but his father wore small scowl which only lightened when mother looked at the greying man. His parents embraced, long and passionate. Then he and his father embraced, and finally father smiled at him. He dared to smile back. Remembering, he fished something out of his pocket; the miniature Eta-1. “Papi, remember this?” he asked, holding it up in front of him.

In a flash, all the hardness and disapproval rushed back into Henan Santiago’s handsome face. With a harsh hand he swatted the model from his son’s grip, sending it skipping across the ground. “Don’t ever show that again, Luis, do you understand?”

“Hernan,” Ramana interjected, her voice reprimanding.

Captain Santiago fixed his wife with his imperial eyes. “We’ll talk about this later. Do you understand, hijo?” he repeated to the boy.

Luis nodded, mute. He felt his father’s arm pull him close. He balled his little hands into fists and squeezed his eyes shut. He wasn’t going to cry. He couldn’t cry.

Father would hate it if he cried now.

Gibson8088
03-16-2012, 11:21 PM
Lelah sluggishly woke from her slumber to the aroma of tasty breakfast treats and quality caf. She sat up, stretched, yawned noisily and rubbed the sleep from her eyes. It was more for show than it was to help her wake up.

"Good morning, big sister.", Lola chimed cheerfully. She and Tach were sitting at the meal table, opposite each other with a selection of breakfast foods set between them. Lola was eating a proper meal of various fruits with the practiced etiquette of a noble. Tach was demolishing a stack of panna cakes with enough manners to be called polite. He would occasionally glance at the nearby viewscreen. It was showing news from the local Holonet station.

Lelah studied the pair suspiciously. Both were already dressed. Then Lelah noticed her sister was wearing freshly applied makeup and Tach had shaved and trimmed his moustache and beard. "You let me sleep in.", she stated dubiously.

"Oh, that was my idea.", Lola announced innocently, "It sounded like you had trouble falling asleep last night."

Lelah childishly stuck her tongue out at her sister, then removed herself from the bed and approached the table. As she reached for a bowl of fruit Lola gently swatted away her hand. "Manners first, dear.", she scolded, "Wash up, dress then make yourself presentable. Remember our role." Lola emphasized the point by directing Lelah's attention to the shower.

With a sigh Lelah conceded, her sister was right. Still, the twi'lek was hungry so she defiantly snatched up a zoochberry and bit into it before making her way to the shower.

On the viewscreen Tach was watching the muted news announcer, a male human, drone on about a topic of non-interest when The Blue Room's logo appeared. He unmuted the broadcast, suddenly interested.

* * *

"...caught this incredible footage last night from The Blue Room lounge." A holovid of Tach's encounter with Jyllis Tromso began to play. It was amature, with shakey camera, poor quality and all. Shot from a table that was behind Tach, likely by some rabid fan of the actress.

"It appears the famed actress was harassed by a slave trader last night. Sources tell us that the unknown slaver attempted to proposition her when she responded with this." The news studio had even dubbed in a slapping sound effect to match the video!

"Not my best moment, I will admit.", Tach muttered nonchalantly. Lola giggled.

The announcer continued, "I think it's safe to say this holovid starlet will have nothing to do with scum like him. Unfortunately, attempts to reach Miss Tromso for comment have been unsuccessful. Next up! Spy in the Skies? We received a number of reports about an unusual fight that broke out in the airways above. Our own Rue Nitha interviewed the witnesses."

They inserted a fancy transition and then played video of the interview between an off-camera female and a teen couple. "Can you tell us what happened?", the interviewer requested.

"Well, I was drivin' my girl here to Zolam's Diner for our third date. So, all of a sudden she starts yellin' at me 'Lookit that! Look! Check it out!' so I looked over.", he had to breathe, "There was this guy landin' on the hood of this other guys car!"

"Just like in the holo's!", the girlfriend interrupted, "You know, like those action spy ones. He just, whoosh!, jumped from this airtaxi onto the bad guys speeder! Totally astral!"

"Yeah!", agreed the boyfriend energeticly, "So he starts beatin' the bleep bleep outta the guy drivin' the car with a stun baton! I, ah, tried to watch what I could, but, I had to, um, drive safely 'cause my dad, you know, he would kill me if I wrecked his airspeeder, again. Cause, he just bought it."

"Were you able to get a good look at either of them?", inquired the interviewer.

"I think the spy was in a dress suit, and so was the driver.", the girlfriend added.

"And, uh, I think there was a babe in the speeder, too.", he glanced at his girlfriend, "But I didn't get a good look. Cause, um, was too busy drivin'."

"Oh yeah!", the girl interrupted again, "Say, could she have been his girlfriend? Oh, how romantic would that be?"

"Thank you for your time.", there was a transition to the Cloud City HoloNet logo, "We were able to track down the taxi driver of the mysterious agent." With another smooth transition the video transformed to the gruff airtaxi driver from last night.

Rue started her interview with vigor, "We understand you are the driver who had a stranger jump from your taxi. Potentially an Imperial agent?"

"That would make sense.", the driver replied, "The guy payed me up front for the fare. I head off towards a club just like he asked, then next thing I know he's gone halfway there!"

"Did you get a good look at him?", the reporter asked, genuinely interested.

"Naw, couldn't see his face real good. I think he was wearin' some kinda holomask! Makes it hard to see their face, y'know.", answered the driver.

* * *

Tach laughed through the rest of the news clip. "I did not pay that guy enough. That lie was beautiful!", he exclaimed.

Lola nodded in agreement. The next piece was about the new threat of illegal swoop racers and how one of them terrorized a plaza by flying through at 'dizzying speeds', 'threatening the lives of innocents' and ended up destroying the expensive sign for a popular club.

By this point Lelah had returned; washed, dressed and presentable. Tach switched off the viewscreen as the twi'lek joined them at the table. She prepared herself a modest meal of fruits and a pastry, eating the meal with well practiced etiquette. Lola poured a glass of blue milk and politely offered it to her sister, who accepted it cordially. Tach finished off his panna cakes, though lukewarm were still quite tasty. He then picked up his glass of caf and made his way to the hotel windows to observe the storm. There was a lightning strike in the distance, but nothing a station like Cloud City hasn't experienced before.

Lelah idly swished her glass of milk around as she mulled over the strange events from yesterday. She turned in her seat to look in Tach's direction. He looked at ease, casually enjoying his beverage. "Hey Tach?", she called.

"Hmm?", he responded simply.

"Just why did you help that actress?", Lelah asked coldly, "She despises you. Even slapped you. Why bother helping someone like that?"

There was a viscious bout of lightining outside, followed immediately by the cacophonous torrent of thunder. In the light of the strikes he saw a rememberance of a figure menacingly lunging at another, in the noise the indelible echo of a scream. Tach closed his eyes and drew a deep breath, exhaling slowly as he pushed the memory aside.

"He risked his life to save us, Lelah.", Lola offered, "We were helpless, like her. No one around us wanting to or able to help. Maybe that's why-"

"We were slaves, Lola!", the sister argued. She traded her veil of prim and proper for angry and yelling, "Slaves! Put on stage to dance and strip! Whored out when that bludfly needed money! She!", Lelah pointed in a random direction for effect, "Is a famous actress, with credits pouring from her pockets! She has a man who could have bought her rescue! She would have been saved easily enough. Tach did not need to risk his life for her!"

Lola stared with bewilderment at her older sister while Tach digested her message. The smuggler put on a smile and turned to face the irate twi'lek. "You're right, Lelah. It was foolish, but consider this. Her man owes me a favor now.", he explained with roguish flair, "And I think I know just how he can repay."

Tach went over to his suitcase, pulling out and donning a pair of shoulder holsters. "How?", Lola finally asked.

"My ship. Helbert is a businessman and may have contacts that can help to finish this quickly." He grabbed his pair of DE-10's and flashily holstered them, then donned his jacket. "I'm going to the dock to assess the repairs needed. You two stay here."

It was a weak excuse, but Lola understood as she glanced down at her sister. Lelah was sitting at the table in angry silence, absently stabbing at the fruit on her plate.

"If there's trouble, you know what to do.", Tach stated. Lola nodded and the smuggler exited the room.

Elvish_Jedi
03-17-2012, 11:55 PM
White mist floated across Koga's vision. Faces and figures flashed through it, people he'd met, people he fought, places he'd been.

A vision?

He saw a room on a starship, a platform in the center, pipes and wires spreading out from it like sun-rays. It seemed like a power-core... but where was the power source? The platform was empty....

The vision changed, showing a face that changed every few seconds, back and forth between two different versions. Different... but similar in some ways....

The vision wavered, then the mists began to fade. A bright blue light shown; Koga turned his eyes away from the brilliance.... and then he woke.

He was sitting in the smashed cockpit of a starship of some kind. It seemed familiar... and then the memories flooded back. Tremayne's mansion, the flight through the tunnels, fighting his way into this very ship. The three Star Destroyers that had tried to cut him off as he escaped the planet.

Koga suddenly became very aware that almost his entire body hurt. His head, his chest, and his hand... most of all his hand. He held it up to inspect it.

Not too bad... at least it's still there.

He looked out the cracked canopy at the blue giant star he had ended up by. The hyperdrive had cut off as he was half-way through the jump, stranding him here. Koga ran his uninjured hand through his hair. He was in for a lot of work....

---

The hyperdrive was finally ready. One short jump, if he was lucky. Koga headed back to the cockpit and strapped himself in. Checking the navicomputer, he saw that the closest planets were Ord Mantell and some backwater planet called Feriae Junction. He started to enter the coordinates for Ord Mantell... and then felt a strange sensation. Almost automatically, he deleted the coordinates and replaced them with those of Feriae Junction.

Something about that planet... I think the Force is guiding me on this.

Koga pressed the hyperspace levers forward, and with a protesting rumble the ship blasted away, leaving the blue star to stare at the emptiness of space as it had for millennia.

I. J. Thompson
03-18-2012, 02:01 PM
The Reclamator I hung high above the gold and pink planet of Bespin, a mismatched hulk painted in equally mismatched colours. Its engines inert, it simply sat in orbit, rolling lazily and reflecting the light of the system's distant sun.

Aboard, in a chamber lit only by an old-model holoprojector, a small Toydarian man sat on a large, lumpy couch. He was leaning forward, elbows on knees, listening to the holofilm and anticipating every word its characters said.

"Ha ha!" the being laughed in answer to one of the lines. Then he grabbed a large handful of chop chips from a nearby bowl, vented some intestinal gas, and stuffed the chips into his maw, crunching contentedly. The chamber's hatch opened.

Rammo the Toydarian covered his eyes in annoyance. "Kroff, get in here n' shut the door," he commanded, "you're lettin' in the light!"

Kroff, his head still bandaged, did as ordered and stood patiently, waiting to be addressed.

"Would you look at that picture?" Rammo marveled. "I'm watching Hedgemont Falls. It's a pirate copy, regular mugs can't even buy this yet." He slapped the couch beside him. "Sit down and watch it with me! I can restart it from the beginning, if you want."

"Boss, I just watched this with you a couple days ago."

"Don't be a stick in the mud, Kroff," Rammo commanded. "Sit."

The hulk of a man did as ordered, couch squeaking, while his boss turned his attention back to the holo.

"Would you look at that smile, Kroff?" Rammo swooned as an image of Jyllis Tromso, Hedgemont Falls's principal actor, shimmered on the holotable. "Have ya ever seen such a precious jewel?"

Kroff nodded dutifully. "Good lookin' woman."

Rammo suddenly paused the image and turned to Kroff, his eyes pleading. "Did she smell good, Kroff? How did she smell?"

The man fidgeted uncomfortably. "She, uh, I don't know. She smelled like a person, I guess."

Rammo rolled his eyes at the brute's lack of sensibilities, broke wind again, and reached for some more chop chips. "No matter," he munched, "soon, she'll be sitting right here beside me, on this very couch," he looked dreamily at the space his employee now occupied. "Right where you are now..."

Kroff shifted uncomfortably. "This part of the couch has a spring sticking out, boss. You want I should tape it up before she gets here?"

"Don't waste the tape!" Rammo admonished him sternly. "One tiny spring will be a minor detail when Miss Tromso finally beholds the opulent empire that is Rammo's Reclamation Company, Incorporated!" The Toydarian took flight as he announced the name, hung in the air awkwardly for a moment, then descended back to the couch and reached for more chips.

"So what's the news from Trask," he munched, "my informant in the Wing Guard?"

"Not much," Kroff confessed. "Miss Tromso's been inside a private residence all day."

"Whose?"

"The singer's. Fiola Shaku."

Rammo wiped a greasy hand on his shirt. "And what do we have on her?"

Kroff folded his hands. "Records show she's had some scrapes with the Empire, but her outstanding warrants were retracted, for some reason. Apart from that, just the basic stuff. Works at The Blue Room, as we know. Has a ship called the Dawncaller berthed in the Port Town docks.

Rammo reached for his comlink. "Sloat!"

It took a moment for the pilot/technician, far away across the vessel, to respond. "Yes, boss?"

"Keep an eye on the sensors," Rammo commanded. "You see a ship called the Dawncaller lifting off, I wanna know about it."

"Okay," the voice returned, crackling with static. "But, boss? I've been at the board ten hours, now... was hoping for a little shut eye."

"Double-time!" Rammo announced cheerfully. "For both of you! This is Rammo's Reclamation's finest hour, and I know that neither of you wants to miss it. Keep to your posts!"

Kroff rose from the tattered couch. "You want me to take the shuttle back down to the city n' help out this Trask?"

"Yes!" Rammo replied. "But first," he added, holding his bowl out toward the man. "I'm outta chop chips."

Kroff took the empty plastic bowl from the Toydarian, and smiled his wide grin again.

"On it, boss."

Gibson8088
03-20-2012, 09:52 PM
Getting the Dullahan repaired swiftly wasn't going to prove a challenge. The YT-1930 was stock with only minor alterations. It was a pretty new ship, so parts were readily available. And the damage was not as bad as initially thought, thankfully. Just slipped a few credits here, sliced a scheduling terminal there and within a few hours the ship was ready to launch.

The greater challenge lay with what Tach felt he had to do next. He was waiting patiently in the captain's quarters, drinking a glass of whiskey. The holoprojector powered up in response to an incoming call. There were a series of symbols that appeared briefly, notifying the viewer that the security protocols successfully shook hands then winked out. In thier place was a lifesize holo-image of Noth. The creature was nothing if not prompt.

"I do hope this is good news, Tach.", growled the bothan.

"Well, sorta.", the smuggler replied with a timid smile, "The ship is fixed. I'll have the girls on Corellia by tonight."

"But?", terse and coupled with a scornful glare.

Tach looked down and nervously ran his fingers through his hair. "I won't be able to participate in the heist.", he confessed.

Noth did try to sigh in a disappointed fashion, but it sounded more like a grumble. "Why?"

"Umm, well.", he stalled, trying to find the words to best explain the situation, "Potential... emotional complications... regarding a participant involved in the mission?"

The bothan glared at the human, standing like a statue for a moment before speaking. "I can already guess this is in reference to Lelah. I'll need more information before a decision can be made. Give me a report on what went on since last we talked."

This wasn't an unusual request to Tach. On many occasions the bothan had simply asked for the whole story. It proved quicker than constantly requesting details and interrupting sentences with interrogatives. So Tach shared. From the landing in Cloud City the day before to Lelah's irate outburst, omitting the more intimate details of course. Noth took diligent mental notes as the human spoke.

"I see.", Noth stated wisely, "Consider yourself off the heist. I'll have Brink take over the job. At least he will keep his hands off the girls!"

Tach grimaced at the admonishment. But Noth continued, "Finish up and then bring that cargo to Coruscant. I might have another job for you when you arrive. I have to speak with my superior about this."

"Seriously?", Tach balked, "It can't be that bad."

"This is the third time I've had to pull you from a mission because of, how did you put it? 'Emotional complications'. It is that bad. Trust me, I'm not looking forward to it, either." Noth seemed to adjust his suit nervously. "Get to work. Noth out."

Tach grunted in frustration and finished off his whiskey before leaving the ship. "Time to pack up.", he mumbled to himself as he exited the dock.

Dawncaller
03-25-2012, 11:19 PM
"Tam."

The Nexus Sphere sat perched atop a pylon of electronic junctions and energy capacitors. Its smooth, rounded surface was not currently sealed, and split equatorially along a zigzagging, trapezoidal seam that conjured the image of huge chomping teeth. Doule peered inside, seeing only slivers of detail: the claustrophobic mass of wires and bronzium antennae; the confusing twinkle of indicator lights and holographic displays; the boy who sat-- no, floated-- in the middle of it all, scrunched up as if cradled in some perverted technological womb.

"Tam," Doule repeated, "we need to talk."

"You've done enough talking." There was no indication of movement from within the spherical chamber, but Tam's voice echoed within it nonetheless. "Zealos Reil has told you everything about me."

"Not everything."

"He told you about the Disrupter."

Doule was starting to get used to how the boy always seemed to read his mind. "He did."

"Then he's told you more than you need to know about me."

"Tam, I don't understand all this. You tried to kill that man down there, and he said you might try to kill the girl too."

The seam of the Nexus Sphere opened further as the massive teeth peeled open like petals of some grotesque metallic flower. Tam emerged from his glowing cocoon, but his eyes never met Doule's. "Cali Bellum; no, I don't think I'd kill her. It was because of her that I first began to see the true colors of... of how this galaxy works, and what I need to do within it. I should be thanking her. Besides, even if she knew enough about me to be a threat, nobody would believe her. The girl is an urchin, nothing more. Reil on the other hand..."

"...Has a rap sheet as long as a windleaper's hind leg. He hardly qualifies as reliable witness."

"You believed him." The boy had a point. If Doule had so readily accepted Reil's account of things-- more importantly, if the man was willing to use his information to parley with Imperial authorities-- then he could draw attention to Tam that the boy obviously didn't want. It was all starting to make sense now.

"Tam," Doule said at length, "you asked me to be your objective observer, a sort of safety valve to keep you from becoming the monster you want to destroy. You almost crossed that line today, and I'll be damned if I ever let you cross it."

The boy silently turned to face him, but his eyes spoke volumes of fury. Behind the ire, however, Doule saw abject fear in the boy, a terror so raw and desperate that, for a moment, Tam seemed like a small, helpless creature; a fabool trapped in a nest of gundarks. Then the durasteel glare returned, and the boy marched off to his private quarters.

Yes, it made sense now. Having been chased for so long, haunted not only by past cataclysms wrought by his own hand but by those who would seek to harness such power, Tam was now willing to take measures to ensure no one else would be able to pursue him.

Doule would have to take measures of his own, and quickly...

Ice Hawk
03-26-2012, 08:18 AM
Cali was sitting her cell looking at the lovely decoratively blank gray walks, when she heard the tromp of boots. The door to her cell swung open, and Reil was unceremoniously tossed inside. Cali sighed as she helped him to his feet, and then to the cot.
“I take it securing our release is not going as planned?”

Reil winced as he laid down.
“I may’ve hit a snag or two, but overall, I think things are going in the right direction.”

Cali was skeptical.
“How d’ya figure?”

Reil propped himself up on his elbows.
“Well for one, they haven’t shot me yet. And two, now we’re in a cell together.”

Cali looked at the one person cot that Reil fully occupied, and then made a sweeping gesture at the rest of her cell which was barren.
“Yeah, this is a huge improvement; now one of us will be sleeping on the floor, rather than comfortably in a cot.”

Reil grinned.
“Firstly, these cots aren’t that comfortable. And I’d suggest sharing the bed, but having the guards outside would make it more than a little awkward.”

Cali tried her best to look serious.
“Why, Mr. Reil! I’m just not that kind of girl. It’s most improper before you to speak of things like that before you’ve even broken me out of jail. Ungentlemanly even.”

Reil smiled as he laid back down.
“My apologies, I forget myself. Of course it’s improper of me to say that to a lady of such virtuous and moral upbringing.”

Cali stuck her tongue out and pushed Reil’s legs to one side so she could sit on the cot. Cali looked pensive for a moment then frowned. Reil arched an eyebrow.
“You know if you’re that worried about it, you could probably ask our guards for a second cot.”

Cali looked confused for a second.
“Huh? No, it’s not that. I thought the bacta smell had finally gone away, but now I smell it again.”

Reil grinned sheepishly.
“Oh, that’s probably me.”

Concern crept into Cali’s voice.
“Reil, why would you smell of bacta?”

“Well the obvious answer is that I was in a tank of bacta, so the better question is why did I need to be submerged in bacta.”

Cali glared at Reil.
“Why were you in a tank of bacta!?”

“Presumably to stop the bleeding, the medical droid described it as dermal fracturing, but thankfully I was unconscious at that point. . .”

“Damn it Reil! You told me you’d be fine, ‘cause you were going to co-operate with them!”

Reil held up his hands defensively.
“I am co-operating! I told our freshly promoted captor all about Tam and the Disruptor.”

Cali bit back her frustration through clenched teeth.
“Then why’d they torture you?”

Reil shrugged.
“They didn’t.”

Frustration replaced concern completely as Cali felt her blood pressure rise.
“Reil, if you don’t start making sense soon, I’m going to kill you myself.”

“Hey, I was the one who was hurt, why do you get to be mad at me?”

“Because. . . I just. . . Shut up, and tell me what happened.”

Reil sighed helplessly.
“I can’t do both.”

“Apparently you can’t do either.” Cali snapped.

Reil grinned.
“Touche`. “ Reil’s grin faded as he reminisced about his recent brush with death, “Tam’s onboard the ship. He came to visit me in the cell, and then just went insane and tried to kill me with his mind powers.”

Cali massaged her temples as she tried to take it all in.
“Tam . . . is on the ship, and he wants to kill you?”

“That is correct.”

Cali struggled to make sense of everything.
“Why. . ?”

“On the ship? Not in a cell? Trying to kill me?” Reil offered helpfully.

Cali sighed.
“Yes.”

“All good questions. Unfortunately I don’t know the answer to any of them. Tam mumbled something about me upsetting his plans or some such, but honestly I have no idea what set him off. I get the feeling he’s slightly crazier than when we left him. I think Fi might have dumped him again.”

Cali got to her feet.
“How can you be so calm about this?”

“It isn’t easy,” Reil confessed, “I had to be put on some pretty good pain medication to get this relaxed.”

“So you’re not in any pain?”

Reil considered the question.
“Actually, I am still kinda sore, but I don’t mind it now. Remind me later to try and get the name of this stuff.”

Cali scowled.
“Great Reil, you lie there and be all euphoric, and I’ll just fend off the insane telepathic teenage killer by my lonesome.”

Reil swung his legs off the cot and sat up.
“Firstly, I think that might make a decent band name. And secondly, fend him off with what? We don’t have any weapons, and he doesn’t need to be anywhere near us to attack us. Hell, maybe he could even use the ship against us or something. I hate to be pessimistic about our odds of survival should Tam get in another murderin’ mood, but unless the guard outside is actually willing to protect us, which I’m not sure he is, then we are frakked.”

Cali laughed bitterly.
“I bet you regret looking after me in the hospital now.”

Reil smiled.
“Because before, being with you was such a picnic? I’m not crazy about all the time I’m spending in jail. Or the attempted murder. But I don’t regret going back for you.”

Cali sat down beside Reil.
“That’s sweet. Terminally stupid, but sweet.”

Fingon
03-27-2012, 08:35 PM
Anthan contemplated up his companion. He had seen the doctor discouraged and despairing before. An Imperial corrections officer had come for some “routine investigations,” based on a false accusation levied against his friend’s clinic. His license was revoked, his property seized, and for some time it looked like there was no chance of recovery. He had been bad for a few months, real bad, and Anthan could not blame him. But even at his worst then, the doctor always had some tenacity left in him, a glint in his eye or strength in his handshake that betrayed the hope he still harbored. Anthan had also seen him grieve over those who died under his hand, and suspected that he remembered every last one.

But something was different about the police chief’s friend now. As much as he tried to hide it, that hope was gone. Desperation and defeat were the only things that shone in his eyes now, and his frame slouched as if weighed down by a terrible weight. Anthan had not noticed it until the doctor started talking about his past, but now the gangly, dirty man was barely recognizable. “Things never got back to how there were before, did they? How you wanted it to be?” Anthan asked.

The thin man shook his head, slowly. “Everything was different after that; the food we ate, the things we talked about. It was like. . . like he was someone else. Someone I didn’t know anymore, and who didn’t know me either.” Suddenly a smirk twisted his lips into a bitter smile. “Though, I guess that is exactly what happened. Two years is a long time when you’re that young, and even longer when you’re dealing with life and death every day. We both . . .”

“Became different people.”

“Yeah, I suppose that’s right.”

“I don’t know why I’m telling you all this, Anthan,” he confessed, after a moment of silence. “I’m sorry to be crying my life story to you.”

“Don’t be. I think you’ve needed to talk for a long time now, and have someone to listen.”

“You don’t need to listen to all this.”

“No I don’t. But that’s what a friend does,” Anthan replied, the hint of a compassionate grin on his lips and in his eyes. His companion studied him, eyes wide, before cautiously returning the gesture.

The officer’s comm beeped.

“Hold up,” he said, bringing the bulky communicator to his lips. “Hayes here.”

“Captain, this is Zelnick. I’ve been searching through those police files you told me to look at.”

“And?”

“It’s like I said, nothing out of the ordinary. The gangs haven’t been any more active than we would expect them to be, according to our records.”

“Hm. So much for that.”

“Actually, sir, that isn’t the case. I decided to do a bit of digging, outside of our own reports.”

“What do you mean?”

“To start, I went for ‘missing sentient’ posts from the sector, searching through the names of people who stopped planetside, but were not scheduled to stay here for long. Took the computer a few hours to sort through the data, but I have dozens of cases. Can’t prove that they all disappeared here, but--”

“Too many to be coincidence.”

“And that’s not all. Looks like some someone’s been picking up on homeless and unregisters as well. Nothing that would be reported back to us.”

“How many?”

“No way to tell for sure. Maybe sixty in the past three months.”

“That’s a lot of bodies. What are they doing with them? How many corpses have been showing up?”

“Again, no more than usual. Not even a fraction of the number who’ve been kidnapped.”

Anthan paused, grinding his teeth together. “What do you make of it? The gangs here aren’t smart or big enough to pull something like this off.”

“Not by themselves. It’s possible that they could be pooling resources, but--”

“We all know the chances of that.”

“Precisely. More likely an off-world entity is sponsoring one or more of them. Haven’t found anything, though.”

“We’ll see what we can dig up from down here. Call in a few units--”

“Already did, captain. They’re waiting your call. By the way, I’ve been through the tapes, and caught a few of the other abductions. Looks like we’re dealing with the Ravens—at least they’re the ones who have been grabbing people. Latest sources say they’ve set up shop somewhere underneath the industrial district, near the Cencil building.”

Anthan glanced up at his companion, his expression somewhere between shock and admiration. “Zelnick, you’re brilliant.”

“I know sir.” The call ended with a snap of static.

Dawncaller
03-30-2012, 03:24 PM
The two prisoners were on the cot in their cell, the man reclined with his head resting on the lap of the young woman. They were framed within the screen of the observational terminal that Doule watched from outside the brig. He faced a threshold now: he saw no reason for the prisoners to be subjected either to Tam Dawncaller’s murderous attention, or to their intended destination in the hands of High Inquisitor Tremayne; on the other hand, they were experienced, unrepentant criminals, and interfering with what they had coming to them meant betraying a trust and duty to which Doule had pledged his life.

“Saretti,” he said to the terminal operator, not taking his eyes from the monitor. “Where is the boy?”

Saretti tapped at her controls. “Shipboard sensors indicate that Dawncaller’s in the cargo bay.”

“Excellent. Could you go down there and let him know I’ll join him there shortly, and that I’ll be bringing the prisoners with me.”

“Sir?”

“He’ll know what I’m talking about. Go please, Saretti. We’ll be joining you shortly.”

The woman cautiously rose from her seat and entered the turbolift annex. Once she was gone, Doule calculated the time he had. It wasn’t much so he had to pull the trigger on his plans now.

First, to dismiss the guards. “Boys, I need some time alone with the prisoners. Why don’t you go stop by the mess and pick up a caf. Tell them it’s my orders.” Given their recent track record in the brig, Doule would have to consider cycling in a fresh set of guards. Some crewmen who may be able to keep a bit more order. But for now, these boys would luckily serve his purpose.

Next, the prisoners. He entered the room and met the eyes of both Reil and Cali on the other side of the bars. Sitting up on the cot, Reil said, “I thought you said you were done with me.”

“I am. Get to your feet. I’m taking the both of you to Dawncaller. He can deal with you.”

At that, Reil rose to his feet. “So you treat me just to throw us to the gundark? I can see you’ve decided who you serve.”

“Yes,” Doule said distantly, “I’ve made a decision.”

“And so we pay for it,” Cali snapped. “We die so you can stay on that little sithspawn’s good side!”

Doule keyed the cell’s controls and the bars slid out of the way. “Follow me.”

Cali looked as if she had a particularly scathing response, but Reil stopped her. Her emotions found a new outlet, and tears began to flow. “Alright,” said Reil. “Let’s go, Captain.”

Doule emerged into the corridor outside, which was thankfully still empty. Reil and Cali followed, wearing wrist binders. They didn’t go far before a crewman turned a corner and noticed them. Doule drew his blaster and pointed it at the prisoners. “Hurry along, Bulthner. Let’s not give them any opportunities.”

Bulthner indeed went about his business, and Doule motioned with his weapon for the prisoners to continue. They came to a shallow flight of stairs that looped around as it descended to the deck below.

“You might as well shoot us now, Captain,” said Reil as he led the way down the stairs. “Killing us yourself might offer you a sliver more dignity than letting Tam have his way with us.”

“You and your big mouth,” muttered Cali.

Doule stopped. “Alright, this is the end of the line, then.” He opened a panel on the wall to reveal a manual control for a wall access panel. The bulkhead hissed open to reveal a cramped entranceway leading to the hatch of an escape pod. Doule motioned for them to come closer. After removing their manacles, he stepped aside. “You should be able to make it to Ailon or maybe Atapap in this bucket.”

Reil almost seemed more surprised than Cali. “Captain?”

“I said I made my decision. Don’t give me a chance to change my mind, Reil.”

The Rebel and his girlfriend didn’t need to be told twice. In a flash, Cali had disappeared in the escape pod, waiting for Reil to follow. “You’re gonna get flak for this.”

Doule actually smiled. “Don’t tell me you’re actually worried about me, Reil.

“I actually have one more question. There was an incident aboard shortly before your transfer. Tam assaulted a crewman because of some musical group he was listening to. Moonbeam Levels, or something like that. And in your cell you and Cali talked about someone named Fi. Is there a connection?”

Now Reil smiled. “Trust me, Captain, you’ll live a lot longer if you don’t go down that road.” He took the blaster from Reil, said, “Thanks for the ride,” and shot Doule before disappearing into the escape pod…

Elvish_Jedi
03-31-2012, 11:29 PM
Koga gritted his teeth as a piece of the ship's hull ripped free and hurtled past the canopy, disintegrating into a long trail of white-hot debris. The voice of the ground control officer now held a definite note of panic.

"Unidentified ship, please reverse course now! You are currently on a direct collision course with a inhabited town!"

"I'm trying! I don't even have steering!", Koga shouted. "You'll have to evacuate the area!"

The officer was doing a admirable job of not collapsing into hysterics. "We aren't receiving you! Please reverse course now!!"

Koga glanced out the side viewport and saw the comm antenna hanging by a few frayed wires. Then the wires snapped and the antenna blasted away out of his vision.

"Oh. That explains it."

The town was now visible below, a grid on a patchwork of green and brown. It was apparent that Koga was headed for the dirtier section of the city, as that part was a dingy gray, as opposed to the bright silver of the rest of the town.

Koga estimated about five minutes before he hit. Not much time. He ignited his lightsaber and plunged it into the canopy, melting through the tranparisteel. The canopy ripped away and quickly followed the antenna. Wind tore at Koga, making it hard to see. Holding on to the seat with one hand, he stripped off his utility belt and blaster, then hesitated. His lightsaber.... How was he going to hide that?

Koga stared at it, thinking about what it meant. His time, his memories... his symbol as the Emperor's Hand. He gritted his teeth. There was only one thing to do. Koga dropped the lightsaber to the ground, then aimed his blaster and blew it into a thousand glowing bits.

Using the Force to push himself forward, he pulled himself to the edge of the hole, then flipped himself into the air, watching the ship blast underneath him and rocket into a tall building. The building seemed to move in slow motion as it came apart in a huge glowing fireball, scattering bits of twisted metal and glass.

The pitted duracrete wall of some kind of factory rushed towards him. He was doing his best to slow himself with the Force, but he could tell this was going to hurt. A lot.

Koga cannoned into the wall. A blast of white-hot pain, then absolute darkness.

Gibson8088
04-10-2012, 11:25 PM
Noth's form appeared on a platform, his avatar building and resolving into the body of a well dressed bothan. All around him the virtual space stretched out as complete darkness in all directions, save for the path ahead. It lead up to a well lit door of popular Coruscant design. The bothan approached it confidently, pausing only when he stood before the closed entrance.

"Adjudicator Noth requesting access to Mayvehn Doyen Aurlene's Domain.", he announced professionally.

Three ident card depressions formed upon the surface of the door. << Provide security keys. Red. Blue. Purple. >>

Noth held up his hand, as if holding an object between two fingers. A clear red card quickly resolved between the fingers, of which he placed in the first indentation. He then did the same for a blue card then purple.

<< Clearance accepted. Welcome Adjudicator Noth >>

Without delay Noth stepped through the entryway to find himself in a massive room. It seemed to be as large as a hangar bay, but in the style of an Arkanian science lab with multiple levels within. Nearly all the space was occupied with equipment of numerous types and lab tables on which experiments were being performed.

Floating in the center was an Arkanian male seated in a bulky hoverchair. Holograms of data orbited the man, of which he would study. Sometimes he dismissed a piece of data with a wave of his hand, and it would disappear. Other times he would manipulate it and push it away where it would fly to an experiment; upon reaching the experiment it would dissolve and the target experiment would change.

Next to the bothan was a bacta tank inside of which was a human analog with a serious chest wound. As he watched the wound seemed to be healing, but slowly. A bubble of data appeared before the tank and quickly floated to the Arkanian's outstretched hand. He took the data and unrolled it, grabbed a piece of square data from nearby, combined the two and flicked it back to the bacta tank. Inside the tank a silvery cloud of sparkling liquid manifested and swam into the analog's wound. It appeared to start healing at a rapid rate until there was a flash of red on the tanks' panel. Within the tank all movement stopped. The red peeled off the panel and formed into a sphere of data that floated to orbit the Arkanian, awaiting inspection.

"Welcome Noth. It is good to see you again.", came a lovely voice from behind Noth. He spun around to meet the friendly gaze of what some would consider a comely Arkanian donning a conventional dress.

"Doyen Aurlene, thank you for seeing me today.", Noth said politely with a curt bow. He would have preferred to skip the pleasentries and get straight to the point, but etiquette does have its place.

"Such formalities, Noth. I fear this is business related and not a casual visit." She did not hide her disappointment.

"That would be correct. I have had to remove Tach from an assignment.", he stated firmly.

Aurlene's brow furrowed realisticly. She performed a sweeping motion with her hand and the pair were now in an office. The Arkanian was seated in a chair behind a desk and Noth was sitting in a chair opposite her. This sort of thing generally unnerved the bothan.

"Explain the situation to me.", Aurlene requested. Noth placed his hand on the desk and lines of data flowed from him into the tabletop. A holoprojection appeared where his hand had rested to replay his earlier conversation with Tach. "I see. You made the right call. He should not be allowed to participate in the robbery. So why come to me with this?"

"He's growing more adventerous and arrogant.", Noth stated with disapproval, "Even on some the simple pickup and transport duties he finds a way to play action hero. But he does show results so I'm requesting permission to restore his Troubleshooter status. I feel he's endured enough with initiate level duties."

Aurlene studied Noth thoughtfully. "So you conclude his behaviour is a plea to have his status restored?"

"That is what my programming has concluded with the information I know. Unless there is something else?", he let the question trail off.

"Nothing I can reveal at this time. ", she stated dismissively, "Your request shall be granted. As chance would have it there is an event coming up I think Tach would be an excellent candidate for."

Aurlene stood up and spread her arms out over the desk, palms facing each other. Between her hands a holoprojection of the planet Coruscant began to materialize. Once formed points began to highlight on the globe with flags of information.

"Are you familiar with the Coruscant Underground Racing Circuit?"

Ice Hawk
04-12-2012, 03:57 AM
Reil watched out the escape pod’s only view port as the Inun faded into the distance. He turned to Cali.
“And you thought we were gonna die.”

Cali bristled at the admonishment.
“We were going to die. And I don’t know why you’re looking so smug, you didn’t do nuthin’.”

Reil grinned.
“Didn’t I? Doule didn’t decide to release us all on his lonesome, he needed to be persuaded. I had to talk us out of jail again. As in, for the second time.”

Cali pointed an accusatory finger at Reil.
“Firstly, it was your fault that we got arrested the first time. And you didn’t even bail us out then, you got your dad to do it, if anyone got us off that ship, it was me.”

Reil cocked an eyebrow.
“This should be rich. How in the Seven Corellian Hells do you figure you had anything to do with busting us out of prison?”

“Clearly Doule didn’t want the death of a teenage girl on his hands, and decided to save her. And her oafish boyfriend, so’s she didn’t suffer from survivor’s guilt.” Cali grinned wickedly, “A nice thought, but he needn’t have bothered.”

Reil had to work to keep his face straight.
“Riiiight, he mistook you for a delicate little wallflower. Who, y’know, has been arrested twice, and was about to be put away for attempted murder. It’s a good thing he didn’t come with us, ‘cause I think he’d be insulted.”

“It’s a good thing he didn’t come with us, ‘cause if he did he’d be bleeding all over the pod.” Cali shot back, “Seriously Reil, you didn’t have to shoot him.”

Reil shrugged.
“I know, but it felt good. And it’ll be a cold day on Tatooine before I take a lesson in restraint from you.”


*************



It was a long, and largely uneventful pod ride to Atapap, a Duros colony world. Local emergency services recovered the pod, took down their statement about being survivors from an attack on freighter, they were given temporary visa’s and sent on their way. The escape pod was scrapped for parts, the proceeds of that transaction mostly going to cover the costs of their rescue. A small sum was left over which was barely enough to afford lunch.

Cali picked at the remains of her food, as Reil parted with the last of their credits paying for the meal. She frowned and pushed the plate towards the middle of the table as he sat back down across from her.
“So, what do we do now?”

Reil shrugged.
“Broke on an indifferent world, with the Imperials hunting for us? I suggest we get us a ship, and keep flying.”

Cali was less sure.
“I don’t really object, but we only have to one blaster; that’s not much to build on. Maybe we could stick around, work up enough to at least decently arm ourselves before we go wandering. I mean, I know they’d arrest us if they found us, but the Imperial’s would have to look really hard to find us now.”

Reil cocked an eyebrow.
“You know a lotta folks hiring grounded pilots and unsuccessful assassins?”

Cali frowned.
“That was a cheap shot.”

Reil grinned.
“Seemed gentle to me, all things considered.”

Cali rolled her eyes.
“Fine, so assuming we get a ship; which we don’t have yet, what am I supposed to do on it?”

Reil was quizzical.
“What?”

Cali’s expression grew more serious.
“I mean your job is self explanatory, you fly the ship. What do I do, cook, clean, and look pretty?”

Reil’s brow furrowed in annoyance.
“After all the fuss you kicked up when I talked about going back the Rebellion? We could be smugglers or pirates or frelling ballerinas, except you wouldn’t know what to do with yourself on the ship? I mean it’s a bit late to be bringing second thoughts up now.”

Cali sighed.
“Don’t misunderstand, I wanna come with you; I just want to be doing something more with my life than what I was doing for Bartok, y’know?”

Reil was somewhat mollified.
“Yeah, I can appreciate that. And it occurs to me that ship ownership can be rather taxing on an individual. I could use someone manning the turret, and after a significant number of lessons, maybe a co-pilot.”

Cali couldn’t hide her surprise.
“You’re gonna teach me to fly the ship?”

Reil shrugged.
“If you wanna learn. I’d stand a much better chance of staying outta jail if I could get you to stay outta jail first, and a set of skills beyond cooking, cleaning, infiltration and assassination might be a good way to accomplish that. That being said, it’s something of a dangerous galaxy, and I’d need someone to just watch my back sometimes too.”

Reil placed their blaster on the table, and slid it towards Cali, who took it slowly. “You’re teaching me to fly, and giving me the blaster?” She asked incredulously.

Reil grinned.
“I’ll pick another one up soon enough. In the meantime I trust you to keep me safe.”

Cali tucked the blaster away.
“Yeah, I reckon I could do that. Provided that you don’t harp on and on about the jail time.”

Reil took on a more serious tone.
“Now, I want you to understand, having the gun is not license to break into people’s homes and try to kill them for credits. The appropriateness of killing folks is strictly context sensitive. You can only shoot people if they’re trying to kill us. Or they look like they’re gonna try and kill us. Or if they try and steal my new ship.”

Cali rolled her eyes.
“The ship that we don’t even have yet. How do you propose we steal a ship with only one blaster anyhow?”

“I don’t propose we steal anything. I’m talking about buying a ship.” There was a pause, and then Reil sighed, “All right, out with it.”

Cali looked genuinely puzzled.
“Out with what?”

“This is the part of the conversation where I propose we do something legally, and then you object to it on the grounds that you’re slightly unstable and seem to take an unnatural pleasure in committing crime. So go on then, get it out of your system so we can move past it.”

Cali held her hands up in mock surrender.
“I have absolutely no objections, protestations disparagements or nay saying to express. I am simply waiting to hear your brilliant plan on how we buy a ship with no money.”

I. J. Thompson
04-21-2012, 06:45 PM
It was an absolutely resplendent morning in the open skies of Bespin. A gleaming, golden sun was illuminating the majestic white cloudscapes, and all was framed by a vast sky of perfect blue.

Fiola Shaku and Jyllis Tromso sat together and sipped sparkling water at a small, white table aboard the large repulsorplatform, the site of the first days' shooting for Jyllis' new holofilm The Tide. One end of the platform had been dressed up to look like the prow of a luxury sail barge, while the other end was cluttered with personnel, filming equipment, and lights. Fi was surprised to see just how many lights seemed to be needed, even on a perfectly sunny day like this one.

Fi's new title of 'bodyguard' seemed to be largely an honorific, as there was a decent-sized squad of Cloud City's Wing Guards operating as security. Their leader, a businesslike young officer named Trask, had politely explained to Fi that she couldn't have her blaster aboard, and had been nice enough to hold it for her so that she could remain with Jyll and enjoy the rest of the day's shoot. Happily relieved of her 'duties', there was nothing to do now but enjoy the sunshine and watch the magic happen.

Said magic had been temporarily postponed, however, as a small herd of Bespin's exotic, massive beldons had floated up out of the clouds and into view. A discussion had ensued as to whether the crew should try to work the gaseous giants into the shoot, and the film's director, a soft-spoken Ithorian named Morsan, had decided that they should. Now, the hoverplatform floated near and around the herd as the film's Director of Holography tried to arrange a pleasing composition.

"The public would be pretty disappointed to learn that ninety percent of a holoactor's job consists of waiting around," Jyllis remarked with a smile.

Fi nodded toward a dashing young figure a few tables away, currently having his makeup done. "What do you make of your co-star?"

"Claude?" Jyll asked, looking over at the man. "He seems nice enough I guess. Though I think he's feeling a little awkward, seeing how the Powers That Be have placed our big lip-wrestling scene right here at the top of the schedule."

"That would be pretty awkward!" Fi giggled.

Jyll smiled knowingly. "I think they do it like that so they can get the goods before the actors have a chance to start annoying each other, down the line."

"A sound strategy," Fi marveled.

"Ms. Tromso," a talent wrangler interrupted politely, "we're almost ready. If you'll come for a touch-up?"

"Duty calls," Jyll announced, taking another sip of her sparkling water and rising from her seat. "Be here when I get back, Fi?"

"I will!" the singer beamed as her friend walked away and took a seat in the makeup chair. Fi breathed in the clean air, soaking in the sight of the beautiful clouds and the giant, elegant beldons, the perfect quiet, and the warmth of the sun on her face and legs. Leaning back in her chair, she adjusted her sunglasses, closed her eyes, and felt absolutely fantastic.

Ice Hawk
04-29-2012, 05:09 AM
Reil and Cali stood in front of a Duros Lending House.
“This is how.” Reil said, gesturing at the building.

Cali cocked an eyebrow at Reil.
“You want us to get a bank loan?”

Reil seemed unusually enthused at the prospect.
“Yeah, we borrow the money to buy the ship. Your mind’s been blown. I can tell.”

Cali sighed.
“Reil, they’re never gonna lend us the credits to buy a ship.”

“Not a brand new ship, that’s well outta range,’ Reil conceded, “but we should be able to scrape enough to buy a decent used one, and maybe some gear for ourselves. It’s a bank Cali, they loan people money to buy things like ships all the time.”

“Not to people like us Reil! No money to put down, nothing to hock, interstellar criminals wanted by a tyrannical regime, the list goes on. No one in their right mind would lend us money. I wouldn’t lend us money.”

Reil smirked.
“Yeah, but that’s just because miserly and disagreeable. This’ll work; we’ll just leave out the part about being criminals. Interstellar or otherwise.”

“Give me one good reason as to why this should work.”

“Simple, we’re on a Duros world.”

Cali’s expression grew quizzical.
“I don’t follow.”

“Duros have a very strong lending tradition,” Reil explained, “it’s a big social stigma to fail to repay a debt, so they’ll be much freer in doling out the money. Plus, Duros love space, so the fact that I’m buying a ship has to count for something.”

“Reil, there are two very serious flaws with your plan. The first is, we’re not Duros, so there isn’t any social stigma to us faulting our loan, so’s they wouldn’t expect us to pay back the loan; and secondly, these are Duros bankers. These are the Duros that saw all their friends go up into space, and decided they’d rather focus their efforts on accounting. I don’t think they’re gonna care what you’ll be buying unless you can pay it off.”

Reil stubbornly refused to let go of the idea, but Cali had drained some of his enthusiasm.
“Look, worst comes to worst, they shoot us down, and then we’re no worse off ‘cept for half an hour wasted. C’mon, we’re already here.”

Cali sighed, and shook her head in resignation.
“All right, fine, you’ve got me invested in this failure.”



*********************

Jorga Dwan was a middle-aged and somewhat bitter Duros. His skin was now more grayish than blue, and his face was so usually contorted into an unamiable expression that smiles sometimes troubled him. He didn’t think of himself as a harsh being though, in private he fancied that he was ever alert to greet the redeeming instincts of his fellow sentients, and was too often disappointed. Which was of course a private delusion of his; he was just humorless and conceited at the best of times. This fact was frequently pointed out to him by his relations, and lately; more troublingly, his own inner monologue. He was grappling with these issues, when a human couple walked into his office.

He stood from his desk, and did his best to appear welcoming.
“Greetings travelers, how can Jorga Dwan be of service to you?”

Reil and Cali took their seats in front of his desk.
“Hello, traveler Dwan, I’m Zealos Reil, and this is my partner Cali Bellum, and we’re looking for a loan.”

Dwan sat back down at his desk, and tried to size up their financial reliability.
“I assume you have a specific purpose for this money, yes?”

Reil nodded.
“Yeah, we’re looking to buy a ship.”

Dwan nodded sagely.
“Good, will this be your first time owning a vessel?”

Reil considered this.
“Uh, no. We had a ship before, but we were attacked by pirates, and forced to eject in an escape pod. We were recovered here, and we’re really quite anxious to get our business up and running again.”

The Duros looked puzzled.
“Your business?”

Reil grew more enthused as he got more invested into his lie.
“Yeah, we ran a supply service, freelance. In the attack, we lost our cargo and our ship, so it’s really important we get something to replace it soon.”

The Duros took this to be a good sign.
“Very good, there’s just a few things we need to go through before we can begin process your loan.”

It quickly became apparent to everyone involved that this was not going well. The Duros banker looked at them helplessly as he tried to grasp what they asking.
“So, you have no money to put down towards your loan, correct?”

Reil sighed.
“Yeah.”

“And you have no equity to leverage against the loan?”

Reil fought to bite back his frustration. The Duros was on the brink of kicking them out of his office, and Cali had grown bored, and was now fidgeting in her seat.
“But I told you, we’d leverage the ship we bought as collateral for the loan.”

Dwan was skeptical.
“The ship you’d be buying with our money, and which you haven’t even picked out yet. That ship, yes?”

“Yes.” Reil said through clenched teeth.

“And while you assure me that your financial records are immaculate, they are based locally on Taanab, so we would be forced to wait a week to ascertain that; what with the spotty nature of the Holonet these days.”

Reil tried to put the conversation back on a more positive track.
“But we can’t afford to wait a week. We’ve been marooned here with no money, and after a week, our business would be so devastated there’d be no point in even getting a loan.”

It wasn’t entirely a falsehood, they really couldn’t afford to wait a week, and their odds ever getting a loan would drop to below zero if they waited for Reil’s financials to arrive, with his criminal record stapled right alongside.

Dwan straightened up in his chair, and tried to look as compassionate as he could.
“I am sorry for your troubles Captain, they sound many; but this is not a charity, it is a place of business. I must look after my employer’s money, just as you would be expected to protect your customer’s cargo. I’m sure you understand. Under the current circumstances, I cannot approve you for a standard loan.”

Reil had all but resigned himself to failure, when Cali sat bolt upright in her chair.
“Wait a minute, Duros like stories right?”

The banker fixed her with a glare that indicated more irritation than outright offence.
“Yes, and we love it when humans make assumptions about our character, based off broad stereotypes of our entire species. Which is good for you, otherwise this whole conversation would have become really awkward.”

Reil winced, but Cali was undaunted.
“I’m no stranger to sarcasm, sir, and I am sorry if I caused offence, but it seems to me that even if you had no interest in my story, other Duros might place value on it.”

Dwan was still peeved, and dropped most pretenses of civility.
“So you think because I’m a Duros that I’m just going to forget thirty years of banking experience, and hand you big stacks of credits for that I’m just going to forget thirty years of banking experience, and hand you big stacks of credits for whatever Bantha spit story you weave out of the air?”

Cali smiled sweetly.
“I think it can’t hurt to hear it, Traveler Dwan. And also, it’s one helluva story.”

Dwan considered this.
“All right, I will listen. But I make no promises that I’ll give anything in return.”

Cali took a moment to collect her thoughts, and then launched into the story.
“All right, no poodoo, there I was. . .”

Reil watched in amazement as Cali crafted an epic: of family and betrayal, of crime and punishment, of romance lost and rekindled, and of the prisoner’s lonesome existence paralleled with his jailor’s dilemma between duty and morality.
“. . . and then we barely made it to the escape pod. The ship was coming apart around us and just as we got clear of it, we saw the port cargo hold explode, venting the rest of the ship’s atmo. Everything was dead quiet, as we drifted away from the whole thing.”

The Duros had been respectfully silent through the whole thing, finally broke his reprieve.
“So what happened next?”

Cali shrugged.
“We kept drifting. Luckily we got close enough to this planet, and we were rescued.”

The Duros was pensive for a moment, then he reached a decision.
“You weren’t wrong, that was quite a tale. Unfortunately it does not change your lack of finances, or does it help you establish positive credentials. In fact, at several points in your story, not only do you display a willful disregard to the safety of your own, and other people’s property, but you seem to possess a blatant disregard for the personal safety of anyone in the vicinity.”

Cali looked crestfallen, and even Reil had to admit being more than little optimistic, watching her tell the story. The Duros continued speaking however.
“I still can’t give you a standard loan, but what we could do is increase the interest rate to factor the higher risk you pose. I could approve your loan with an additional twenty percent interest to be paid in one standard year. It’s harsh, but it’s the best I can do.”

Reil agreed immediately, and there was much signing of papers that ensued afterwards. When all was said and done, and the couple left his office, Jorga Dwan took a great deal of pleasure in proving all of his nay-sayers wrong. He had helped a hard working couple get back on their feet, after a terrible ordeal. He wasn’t a hard hearted man after all. This good feeling had gradually worn away by the end of the day, and by the evening he was his humorless self. His mood worsened however the following week, when Reil’s credit ratings came in, with his criminal record attached to them.



************************

As they exited the lending house, Reil glanced sideways at Cali.
“That story you told. . .”

Cali gave him a look of pure innocence.
“What about it?”

Reil frowned.
“That was the plot to, and much of the dialogue from, Deadly Viper Assassination Squad.”

Cali grinned sheepishly.
“It was a good holo.”

Reil sighed, then smiled.
“Well I can’t argue with the results, but what do you think’ll happen when our banker friend see’s that someone turned your story into a holo?”

Cali shrugged.
“If we’re lucky, he’ll be too embarrassed to report us, and if we’re not, then I guess we don’t need to worry about the high interest rate he stuck us with.”

Reil considered this.
“I’m surprisingly comfortable with that.”

I. J. Thompson
04-29-2012, 03:52 PM
"How's it coming?"

"It's coming."

"Blast it, Kroff, be specific! Do you have her yet?"

The muscleman grimaced in annoyance, steering the shuttle with one hand while trying get his headset on properly over his bandaged head. "Sorry boss, I'm just trying to get into position here. Me and this Trask have come up with a new plan, and I needed some extra time to get ready."

"What?" Rammo barked over the comm. "A new plan? I didn't approve that!"

Kroff grinned. "Not to worry, boss. This new plan is actually better than the old one. We've had some good luck down here, and we should be able to get the girl out without raising any alarms."

Somewhere in orbit aboard the Reclamator I, the Toydarian salvage merchant considered this. "Well, if you think it's a good idea, then go for it. But it'd better work!"

"It should."

"What?"

"It will."

"Right. Keep me posted. Rammo out!"

Kroff pulled off the annoying headset and tossed it onto the dash, then itched the spot under his head bandage where that smuggler had clocked him a couple nights ago. A good, clean hit. He'd been knocked right out cold. The chase had reminded Kroff of his mercenary days, and he smiled at the memory. His present position working as enforcer to an interplanetary garbage man meant Kroff didn't get to see much combat, and it appeared he might be getting a little soft. Most of his work these days involved making sure that Rammo's customers and business rivals didn't try to push the little Toydarian around, and that had more to do with simple intimidation than with combat ability. He'd have to step up his training regimen. Maybe get a sparring droid. Despite appearances, his boss's pockets were deep - and if all went well here on Bespin, Kroff could probably treat himself to one of the really advanced units.

If all went well.

"Well, I'm sorry to have to do this, big fella," Kroff spoke, looking out the shuttle's cockpit at the giant animal, globe-shaped and kilometers across, that floated before him. "I know you didn't do nothin', but business is business, you know?" He powered up the gunnery controls, which whined loudly in the cockpit, and wrapped his hands around the sticks. "Now hang on, this is gonna sting a little bit..."

Without preamble, Kroff opened fire on the giant beldon.

Gibson8088
05-01-2012, 12:16 AM
The Dullahan left Cloud City that night, plotting a course for Corellia without issue this time. Along the way Tach explained to Lelah and Lola that Noth had to pull him for another job, but Brink would be stepping in to take his place. A little lie, but it could happen. The news was not recieved well by Lelah, but she accepted it. Fortunately, thankfully, Brink was at the starport. He was a rugged ex-soldier in his mid-40's. What military was he part of? "You're not allowed to ask.", he would reply. With military efficiency Brink greeted Tach and then took the twins to prep them for the heist mission. Tach, since he was finished here, climbed back aboard the Dullahan and started his trek for Coruscant.

A short while into Tach's hyperspace jump he recieved a secure comm call from Noth. The hologram of the bothan materialized, "Noth, nice to see you. Good news, I hope."

"Perhaps. I've temporarily reinstated your Troubleshooter status. There's a mission that will require someone of with your talents."

"I'm interested!", Tach said enthusiastically, "This will mean I didn't actually lie to the girls. So, what are the details?"

Noth arched his brow dubiously, "Remember, I said temporarily." Tach gestured somberly and allowed the bothan to continue. An image of a human in his late teens materialized on a nearby viewscreen. "The clients name is Cavis Turous. He has requested our help in locating his father."

A second viewscreen displayed a picture of an older human. He had familial features to the younger human. "Sternin Turous stopped contact with his son shortly after winning the previous Coruscant Run last year. It is unknown if he is alive or dead. Regardless, Cavis wishes his father found. Our best chance at this will be to get involved in the Coruscant Underground Racing Circuit. Specifically, to get you invited into the Coruscant Run."

Tach nodded absently as Noth continued the briefing. "Cavis has informed me that a Coruscant Run is going to be held next week. It's an illegal race that runs around the planet Coruscant, and most of it is literally underground. Courses are mapped in secret and only revealed to the racers during the runs via custom computers installed in each vehicle. The tracks consist of underground tunnels, abandoned underground structures, forgotten lower levels and so on. Tune your vidscreen to holonet channel 339 and use the keycode I sent you."

Tach activated his vidscreen and set it for channel 339, punching in the keycode he was given. On the display was a race in progress. The vehicles were nothing like what he was expecting. They looked like heavily armored oversized skycars. Each were custom designed, likely reflecting the tastes of the driver, and were propelled by engines that would better suit starfighters.

And the race coverage was top notch! They had camera's for almost every angle, covering the turns and straightaways for user enjoyment. There were even modified droidcameras capable of keeping up with the racers for a while.

"Impressive. Looks dangerous and fun!", Tach commented.

"And it's profitable.", Noth noted, "The organization behind the races charge customers just to view the video feed. By my estimates that's just a fraction off of what they make from the gambling."

Tach nodded, "I can see the appeal. A new track every race, the accidents are bound to be glorious and it is much more interesting than swoop racing."

As Tach watched the vidscreen one of the racers mistakenly took a turn too wide. He ricotched off what looked like a structural support and slammed into a wall. "Wasn't this sort of racing outlawed by the Empire?", Tach asked.

"Technically, yes.", Noth answered, "But whoever organizes it manages to stay off the radar. The racers avoid using their real names to try to remain anonymous. They broadcast the event using a system that is not centralized, and as such is difficult to trace. There's also the bribary-"

"Right, right, I get it.", Tach interrupted, "They cover their backs. So how am I getting into this race? And what will I be driving?"

"One step at a time, Tach. There are hoops to jump through before the run. Get to Coruscant and deliver that package. It is already long overdue. And while you're at the spaceport pickup a Spot-On locator. You'll need it. Then we can get started.", the bothan stated flatly and ended the call.

Dawncaller
05-06-2012, 08:52 AM
Aboard the ISD Interrogator, on the fringes of the Denon sector:

With his best uniform concealing the bandages over his blaster wound, his hair immaculately coiffed under a canted cap, and cologne masking the smell of bacta, Doule was ready to die as he always expected to. Well, except for the bacta and the wound. In any case, he had dressed as flawlessly as he could for his meeting with High Inquisitor Tremayne, because he didn’t expect to survive it.

It was some time before Tremayne arrived, during which time Doule reflected on the life he had led, and the choices he made that led him to these final moments of his life. After helping Zealos Reil and Cali Bellum escape from certain death on the Inun, he had informed Tam of what he had done. The boy hardly reacted, nodding in understanding of the information and continuing on his way to the Nexus Room. Doule wasn’t sure how, but he could sense the boy’s fear; the entire ship could. It was as if the crew dreaded the arrival at Denon for the prisoner transfer that now, thanks to Doule, would never happen. When the journey was complete, it was Doule alone that had boarded Tremayne’s Star Destroyer to explain the failure.

“My sources tell me, young captain,” said the smooth, resonant voice of High Inquisitor Antinnis Tremayne as he entered the conference room, “that you have failed to bring the prisoners who were entrusted in your care.”

Doule took a seat across the large round table from Tremayne after the man sat in his own austere seat and gestured to the empty chair. When the Inquisitor sat, the cape of his robes had parted slightly, revealing a small cylindrical device attached to his belt: a handle—no, a hilt. Doule wondered how much pain he would experience from that iconic weapon before he, finally, succumbed to oblivion.

“Come come, Captain.” Prompted Tremayne. “You can tell me what happened.”

“I have no excuse, milord, and no way to clearly explain what happened.”

“Surely it’s more simple than you’re implying, Captain. Two prisoners were placed in the brig on your ship, and subsequently disappeared. Two prisoners, I might add, with ties of acquaintance to a certain noteworthy member of your crew.”

“You’re talking about Tam.”

“Of course I am.” The man’s voice flowed from him like a warm current of air on a cold winter’s day. “I’ve received reports from security logs and ship’s crewmen corroborating the events as they transpired.”

“Of course you have, milord. I turned them over to your subordinates myself.”

“Do not consider me a fool, then,” said the Inquisitor, his tone turning icy and his cybernetic eye pulsing bright red. “I know what really happened.”

“I assure you, milord, everything in my recorded account is—“
“Silence!” Tremayne was instantly to his feet and Doule found himself shrinking in his tall, hard-backed chair. He straightened himself, consciously. It wouldn’t do to face death with fear in his eyes.

“You cannot keep the truth from me, Todrin Doule,” continued the Inquisitor. “I predicted what would happen. You might say I even arranged it. You see, I’ve placed Tam Dawncaller in a crucial position of power; one which, if properly exercised, he could use to root out corruption in the Empire and become an agent of change in the galaxy. This was not a mistake, was it?”

“N-no, milord. Not at all.”

“Why do you agree with me, Captain? Explain your reasoning.”

“The boy is…” Doule searched frantically for words that may just help him paint this debacle in a light where his actions—his betrayal—could be seen in a more favorable light, “…he’s volatile. He’s unpredictably hotheaded and supernaturally powerful. He needs guidance now and then to—“

“And you think you can provide this guidance, Captain?” Tremayne actually chuckled! “Let me explain the real reason why you were given your new position. The captains of all the other ships in Morning Star Squad are petty, self aggrandizing, single minded blowhards: the cream of Imperial corruption. Tam can enter into their minds, and their eyes, and their wills much like you and I can move the fingers of a glove.” He flexed a black gloved hand for effect, then pointed at Doule. “But you. You’re different. The boy told me that you would carry out the will of the Empire not out of sniveling self interest but because you are a champion of the New Order. He told me of the events on Ryloth, the orders you gave, and the devotion to Imperial law you displayed. You were chosen for your position in the fleet because of your integrity.”

“Thank you, milord,” Doule offered modestly. “I’ve always tried to—“

“But then I get this report of yours.” Tremayne brandished a datapad before tossing it to the table with such force that the screen actually cracked. “I can understand if this… this fabrication of yours comes from some sense of protection for the boy, or some misguided need to cover up the less gracious parts of the work we have ahead of us, but I won’t be lied to, Captain.”

Fabrication? Lies? “I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about, milord.”

“This report indicates that you arranged and executed the escape of these two criminals before your rendezvous here.”

“Indeed it does, milord.” Doule had been as honest as he could in his account, and found himself taking more than a little umbrage at being called a liar.

Tremayne took his seat again. “So let’s set it aside, and begin anew, shall we? Explain to me what really happened, so that I can spare your life and we can move on with operations in a timely manner. Explain to me how Tam killed Zealos Reil and Cali Bellum.”

Doule had enough discipline to stifle his surprised laughter. Was the Inquisitor serious? “I’m afraid I don’t follow.”

“It makes sense to me that the boy would have… ‘massaged’ a few memories here and there to keep things quiet on the ship. For the sake of appearances, you know. But after the amount of trust he told me he had in you, I’d be surprised if he had done anything to cloud your perceptions of events.”

“Cloud my perceptions?” Doule distinctly remembered Tam telling him he remained outside the network of psychic influence he maintained on the Inun. He also remembered Tam nearly turning Reil inside out without even touching him. But he could not deny the burn scar still healing on his chest, nor the sticky sweetness of bacta still clinging to his body. Had things really played out as he remembered them, or had it all been some fabrication, as Tremayne would call it, to hide Tam’s dark acts?

“I see your eyes are finally opening to the possibilities, Captain. Understand that the boy you see on your ship is something more, and something far more dangerous. Accept that while on the surface he may seem calm and reserved, he has experienced horrors you may never understand. Come to terms with the fact that the power I have given him is intended for the betterment of the Empire, and that he will carry out tasks infinitely more ruthless and necessary than your order to execute a treasonous superior officer of Ryloth.

“Finally, Captain Doule, I want you to understand that you must be honest with me at all costs. Morning Star Squad is, well, I suppose you could call it an experiment of mine. A field test of Tam and his abilities. Should he prove fruitful, then he will move on to bigger and better things. This can only come about if I am given accurate information. So no more covering up his—let’s call them ‘executive decisions.’”

“And if he does cloud my perceptions? If he’s planting events in my head and my reports can no longer be trusted?”

“Then it seems the integrity which earned you a new command beyond your earned rank has been called into question, Captain…”

Gibson8088
05-08-2012, 12:36 AM
"Dullahan, this is Control. Switch over to autopilot and we will bring you into port.", chimed a perky female voice through the comms.

Tach flipped the necessary switches and gave control of the ship to the control tower. "Roger that, Control. The Dullahan is in your hands. Treat'er gently."

"Autopilot control confirmed for the Dullahan. We will have you on the ground in five minutes. Welcome to Coruscant, sir."

"Thank you.", Tach responded before switching off the comms. He then got up and made his way to the ship's galley. Once there Tach opened a refrigeration unit and then a panel inside the unit to extract a smooth silver briefcase. It had a handcuff attached to the handle with a sturdy durasteel chain. Next he went about collecting everything he should need for a stay on Coruscant; credit stick, passports, identification, datapad, weapons, personal shield generator, etc.

Finally on the ground Tach plodded through the drudgery of spaceport politics. He was ready to be rid of the parcel that was now chained to his wrist. With the democracy hurdles jumped Tach made his way into the den of tourism and corporate advertising. The spaceport terminal lobby.

Holovid advertisements surrounded Tach spouting promises of luxury vacations, the aircar of his dreams and enhanced virility. Storefronts flanked him offering overpriced food stuffs, drinks and useless trinkets. And annoying barkers kept trying to hand him pamphlets to nightclubs and hotels. He absently patted his coat to feel the reassuring presence of his DE-10's. The irritation of this place was almost enough to start a shooting spree.

Tach quickened his pace towards the exit, deftly dodging lost tourists and huckster's. As he was passing a Biscuit Baron store the poster in the window caught his eye. Free Spot-On Locator's Inside. One per customer. Details inside. Remembering Noth's orders he entered the restaurant.

The eatery was full of beings happily munching away at their meals. As Tach approached the counter a bored human female greeted him, "Welcome to Biscuit Baron, can I interest you in a Quicksnack or a cup of Ardees?"

The smuggler shook his head, "Not hungry, thanks. Just need one of these." He snatched up a Spot-On Locator from the display on the counter and turned to leave.

"Or perhaps you would be interested in our famous Bantha Breakfast Biscuit?", she continued with classic poor upselling technique.

Tach stopped and looked at her curiously. "Isn't that the food that ate the population of an entire planet?" She answered with a confused blank stare. He pocketed the locator and exited the store, quickly making his way out of the starport.

Finally outside Tach wasted little time flagging down an airtaxi. "Orez Quadrant, Sector ZZ9.", the smuggler ordered as he settled into the cab. As soon as the starport was well behind them Tach rested the briefcase on his lap. He then pulled out the locator, studying it for a moment. The device was a round palm-sized screen that proudly displayed the Biscuit Baron logo and played their annoying jingle when activated. It was a useful device so long as you didn't mind being alerted to every BB restaurant within a fifty kilometer radius at all times. Tach shut the device off and turned it over, then used a pocket multi-tool to pry it open and gain access to the circuitry. The duration of the taxi ride was taken up slicing the locator in preparation for his mission, and to wipe out the annoying advertisements.

"Sector ZZ9. That'll be 76 credits, my friend.", stated the taxi driver. Tach paid with a quick swipe of his credstick, including a generous tip and exited the cab. The sector didn't appear to have changed much since his last visit. Still dirty and somewhat depressing for what used to be an active residential district. Now wasn't the time to wax nostalgia, though, he had a delivery to make. Following his mental map he waded through the maze of walkways to soon arrive at his destination; an unremarkable ground level home. With a ring of the door chime he was soon greeted by an unfamiliar voice.

"We've been expecting you, Tach.", a polite droid voice sounded, "Please come in." In response the doorway opened to reveal a short entryway that ended in another solid door. As soon as Tach entered the first door locked soundly before the second one unlocked and opened. Extra security was a necessary precaution in this sector. Inside the smuggler discovered the source of the new voice, a well kept GH-7 medical droid hovered in wait within the sparsely furnished living room. "I have informed Master Zorthquin of your arrival. He wishes to oversee the delivery himself and will be with us soon."

"Woozy?", Tach asked with surprise, "How's he been lately?"

"I am well.", answered a gruff voice from behind Tach, "And I already told you not to call me that anymore."

Turning about the smuggler was met with a life-sized holographic representation of a middle aged Arkanian garbed in proper noble regalia. "Wokael!", Tach stated happily, "It's good to see you again, my friend."

The Arkanian nodded stoicly, "And you as well. Shall we get down to business, then?" Tach glanced down at the briefcase chained to his wrist. "Of course.", he stated and placed it on a nearby table. Sliding open a secret panel revealed a keypad upon which Tach entered a code. "Now, Wokael, your turn." Wordlessly the Arkanian commanded the droid and it proceeded to punch in the second set of passcodes. With a muffled beep and a series of metallic clicks the case was unlocked, along with the cuff on Tach's wrist.

"Now if you could verify the contents.", Tach stated as he opened the case to reveal the two objects within. A single Jedi Holocron and a single Sith holocron. Wokael seemed to be staring at the holocrons, but Tach knew they were being scanned. "Confirmed.", the Arkanian finally stated, "I will notify Noth and authorize payment."

"Excellent. Now with business concluded I must cut our reunion short. I do have other matters that require my attention.", Tach said hurriedly as he finished removing the cuff.

"Not so fast, Tach. There is one more thing I need from you.", Wokael announced. Tach's expression changed to one of mild displeasure. "Time for a checkup, right?", asked the troubleshooter.

"Correct. I need to make sure the implant is still working properly. Take a seat and relax. As you should remember it won't take long.", the Arkanian motioned to a chair. Tach begrudgingly agreed and sat down. The GH-7 droid hovered up to the smuggler holding a length of glossy silver wiring with an oddly shaped plug at the end. Tach reached back to an area just above his spine and tugged at the skin, causing a split that bled a few drops of blood. Within the gash was a port that would fit the strange plug. With programmed grace the droid secured the wire in place and started its diagnostics. Tach showed no discomfort, or any reaction, other than mild annoyance at the procedure. After a minute it was finished. The droid carefully removed the plug and the aperture disappeared, healing up almost immediately.

"Diagnostics confirmed, Master.", chimed the droid, "The implant is performing within operational parameters. There are also entries of uses of the higher functions."

Tach stood back up and shrugged with resignation. "I had a few rough spots. Now I really should leave. Until next time, doc.", Tach stated to the Arkanian with a friendly gesture. Wokael responded with a nod and the smuggler exited the house quickly.

Fingon
05-10-2012, 02:40 AM
The two men scurried across a wet and corroding catwalk, one of the dozen or so ribbons of metal suspended over an ocean of serpentine pipes. The air was old and stale, disturbed only by thousands of tiny droplets softly falling to ponderous depths and two pairs of feet padding against metal. The taller man led, occasionally checking a datapad; the shorter followed, clutching the guardrail and wrinkling his nose. “This is disgusting.”

Anthan nodded. “Perfect place to hide. No surveillance down here. And, for obvious reasons,” he continued, gesturing to the morass of wet, festering pipelines “no checks down here either.”

His friend pressed the coarse fabric of his jacket to his face and took a few inquisitor sniffs, and quickly suppressed a gag. With a grumble continued forward, breathing shallow breaths through his mouth and keeping his eyes away from the abyss below his feet.

“You know, we could solve our entire inmate problem by just assigning them to do maintenance down here.” He said, gingerly stepping around a mound of unidentifiable content. “Put them on two-week shifts, rotate them out before they get used to the smell.”

Anthan chortled. “Keep prison costs down, and great incentive. Free labor to boot. You might be onto something.”

The other man felt a tug at his lips and the corners of his eyes. Immediately, he began suppress it, beating his face back into a physician’s carefully molded visage as he continued to walk. Then it hit him.

I’m smiling.

It felt unfamiliar, foreign, and that disturbed him. Had it truly been so long since he had . . .

Nearly a year now. Nearly a year since there was something good in my life. Since we had each other when the galaxy was coming down on us. Since I danced, in that club on Mimbos. That had been the first time for years . . .

He pushed the memory away. I’ve more important things to worry about, he told himself. Besides, that was a fantasy long dead and gone.

The smile faded slowly, and was gone. With a sigh, he continued walking, hand tight around the filthy rail. He glanced down, immediately regretting the choice. “I feel like we should have brought a safety line.”

“We’ll be fine. Besides, aren’t you the climber?” Anthan quipped.

“Exactly.”

As the pair walked, a low rumble began to fill the cavern, barely audible over the incessant dripping. The shorter man put a grimy hand on his friend’s shoulder, halting him “You hear that?” he asked.

Anthan’s eyebrows knotted. “Hear wha--” he stopped, and then looked around, searching for the source. Nothing . The sound grew louder. The two men looked at each other, puzzled.

A roar split the damp air like a thunderclap. It was deep, distant, like the scream of a ship’s engines heard from within the hull, reverberating through the expanse for a moment and dying away just as quickly.

Anthan found himself crouched low to the grating, heart pounding in his ears and hand hovering over his blaster. His friend was beside him, a bit more composed. He cocked his head, but heard nothing besides the ceaseless drip of water on metal. “What the hell?” He stood up slowly, reaching for his comlink. “Hayes to dispatch, what just happened? Sounds like there was an explosion.”

The signal came in distorted and crackling. “Ship smashed into a building sir,” said Zelnick “between . . . and Rakata.”

Anthan’s face went pale. “What? Was it deliberate?” he demanded.

“I don’t know, sir,” the tinny voice answered, anxiety audible through the static. “Wouldn’t make radio contact, possible that it was a terror--”

A tidal wave of sound crashed through the cavern a second time, impossibly loud. Hayes buried his ears in the palms of his hands, but the cacophony lanced straight though him like a hot bolt. Fighting the black dots swimming across his vision, he forced his eyes up. What he saw turned his stomach turned to ice.

The tapestry of walks and pipes was unraveling in a cascade of sparks and dust. Something was falling through, crushing everything underneath.

“The Force . . .” he tried to say. He could not hear his own voice.

The walkway began to undulate and quiver. Anthan braced himself, trying to cling to the handrail and keep his ears covered. His friend, who had been laying prostrate, fists on ears, snapped his head up and struggled to his feet. Gritting his teeth, the shorter man rushed over to Anthan and grabbed him by the shoulders. He was yelling something. Anthan could not hear it; he could not hear anything now, not the crashing, not even his own breath. He snatched up the comm before finding his feet, and the two ran down the heaving length of metal.

It began to rain. Great drops of stagnant water bursting from a thousand broken lines pouring down on their heads. The shorter man felt his feet go up from under him and fell face first into the grating. He staggered to his feet again, tasting blood. Anthan was gesturing wildly at something up ahead. He wiped the soiled water from his eyes and kept moving.

He could see it now, a durasteel tunnel at the end of the catwalk. The metal beneath his feet bucked and swayed as if trying to dislodge the two humans from off its serpentine back. They leaned on the rail and on each other as they stumbled forward. Just a little further now.

The doctor saw it first, a great beam barreling down toward their flimsy walkway. He grabbed his friend and threw himself forward, then grabbed at the perforated grating. With a terrible thrashing, the metal was torn out of his grip and he was thrown into the air, limbs flailing for a pipe, a cord, anything. The catwalk rushed up to meet him and his hand found a hold it smashed into his legs.

He saw another figure falling to his left. Anthan! Keeping one filth-covered hand clamped onto broken catwalk, he lunged to his friend, catching the sleeve of Anthan’s jacket. The officer grabbed at his companion’s hand, kicking his legs desperately for footing. The doctor howled a soundless cry of pain as his arm strained to support the weight of two men. The sharp metal cut into his fingers, blood mingling with the water and grime. He threw all of his weight back and pulled, heaving his friend onto his chest. They clung to each other and to the walkway, which still struggled underneath them. Slowly, the tremors lessoned and faded into stillness until only the catwalk moved, swaying ponderously from side to side.

The two lay immobile for a moment, trying to catch their ragged breaths. Anthan wriggled to his knees, white-knuckled hand still clinging to the twisted rail. They helped each other to their feet looked around. They stood on a tongue of metal jutting into a junkyard of ruined metal and stone. Shuddering, the officer turned back toward his destination, and walked with his friends the last few dozen meters to the tunnel entrance, then threw himself on his back and let his eyes drift close.

I. J. Thompson
05-14-2012, 07:41 PM
"Action!"

Fi was continually blown away by the complete and utter transformation that overcame her friend Jyllis Tromso every time that simple word was shouted over the bullhorn. It was still clearly her good friend; the makeup that had been applied to the actress was minimal, and her costume was much like what Jyll might herself have worn, albeit on one of her more casual days. But her countenance and bearing were that of a completely different person, like an identical twin who'd grown up on a different planet, say. Fi was reminded of the sound of her old mandoviol, in the hands of another musician. The same, but... different.

"You must understand," Jyllis, or rather her character, explained, "I have to leave. This is big."

"Bigger than us?" Claude, her co-star, queried, managing to look dashing and vulnerable at the same time.

Jyllis held the young man's face in her hands. "I don't know," she replied, "but it's bigger than me, and it's bigger than you. And I don't have time to do the math."

"But surely there's time for one more kiss?"

"We can have one, or the other," Jyll replied, raising herself up against him. "So what will it be? The time, or the kiss?"

Claude stroked the girl's cheek, held her close, and leaned in.

"Cut!" the assistant director shouted over the bullhorn. "What the...?"

Fi looked for whatever had gotten the man's attention. It was hard to miss. The previously pleasing backdrop of idly floating beldons had started moving. Given the creatures' massive size and relative distance, they appeared to be moving slowly; serenely, even. However, it was obvious from looking at the nearer specimens that the giant globes were traveling at least as fast as a modern speeder - probably faster.

"What's happening?" Jyllis asked no one in particular.

"Something's spooked the herd," answered a member of the crew. "They're stampeding!"

"Helm!" shouted the unit's production manager, "get us out of here... right now!"

"Working on it!" shouted the man at the repulsorplatform's controls.

Fi looked about fearfully. There were giant beldons all around the craft, moving in all directions and howling warnings in their deep, basso voices. It was impossible to predict which way they would go.

"One's coming up from below!"

Fi looked to starboard, where some of the crew were pointing. There she saw the top of a great, orange fleshy globe rising in the distance. As it rose, its outer bulk came gradually closer to the speeder. Fi ran to the port side of the platform, looking for the beldon's outer edge. It was there, far below, and kilometers in the distance.

"Oh stars," Fi whispered, "it's going to hit us from beneath!"

The production manager shouted to the man at the platform's controls, his voice clipped with fear. "You want to really stand on it now, Shoam."

"We're not fast enough," Shoam explained nervously. "I don't think I can get us away!"

"Just line up our back end with her highest point, and gun it!"

"What do you think I'm trying to do here, Foss?"

Fiola ran to Jyllis and circled an arm around the holostar, gripping her hand with one of her own. As she watched, and as Shoam steered the vehicle, the topmost portion of the rising beldon, roughly the size of Coruscant's famed Senate building, moved from the platform's starboard side to aft. The vehicle was moving away from the creature... but not fast enough. A gang of crewers at the back of the vehicle watched in horror as the beast continued to rise, perspective making it look for all the worlds like the vehicle was actually dropping onto the surface of the beldon. But this surface was coming up to meet them.

"Come on, Shoam!" Foss urged the pilot. "Faster!"

"She's gonna hit!" shouted one of the crewers.

The surface of the rising creature smashed into the back of the vehicle, lifting it and causing its front end to slap violently down onto the beldon's surface. Thrown forward suddenly, everyone struggled to grab onto whatever protrusions they could find. Shoam kept the vehicle lined up longitudally with the creature, doing his best to keep them out of a sideways skid that would ultimately turn into a roll and kill them all. As the vehicle slid/flew down the side of the gargantuan creature, burning its skin and throwing it into more of a panic, its nose kept pointing ever further downward as it traversed the living globe. Fiola and Jyllis, still clinging to each other desperately, slid along with the others toward the front of the vehicle.

It was a small fortune that the bow of the craft had been made up to look like the front of a luxury sail barge - there were ample ornate railings to grab onto. Unfortunately this was cinema-grade scenery, and not made to hold the weight of a few dozen men and women. As all present clung to it for dear life, with cameras, lights, and all manner of debris raining down over their heads and falling forward and away to oblivion, the railings began to pull free.

"Fi," Jyllis wept quietly, "Fi, please don't let go of me."

"I won't."

The repulsorplatform was completely vertical now, the beldon a great, orange wall beside it. Then, suddenly, the craft traversed the beldon's widest point and was flying into the open skies of Bespin at full speed... straight down.

"Get our nose up, Shoam!" Foss shouted. "Get our nose up!"

The driver, hanging from the steering column by one hand, did his best to work the controls from his reverse angle. With difficulty, he leveled out the craft and, climbing back into the pilot's seat, regained control of the machine. All assembled rolled back onto the deck, many still gripping the broken faux-scenery in fright.

"Are we all here?" Foss rose and shouted, "Is everybody here?"

"I'm pretty sure we lost Nellis," somebody was saying over and over, "I think we lost Nellis..."

"Nellis, where are you? Sound off! Frell, we need a headcount!"

"No time," Fi shouted, "look!"

And sure enough, the craft was completely surrounded by giant, panicked beldons, large as entire city districts and moving at terrifying speeds, blocking out the sun.

"We're going to be crushed in here," Jyllis concluded with a terrifying, detached sadness.

Trask, the leader of the Bespin Wing Guard security contingent, was on his feet and barked in commanding tones. "Right... nobody panic! I've radioed for several evacuation shuttles, and a cloud car is on its way to transport Ms. Tromso."

"What about me?" Claude, Jyliss's co-star, demanded. "You can't leave me here!"

"Sorry, sir," Trask replied sternly, "there'll only be room for one - and frankly, you can be replaced. She can't."

The actor looked as though he wanted to protest, but instead sighed dramatically, gripped the broken, faux sail barge balustrade, and looked forlornly into the distance.

"It really is a caste-system, this business of art."

True to his word, Trask's twin-pod cloud car erupted noisily from the maelstrom and hovered over the moving repulsorplatform. The guardsman in the starboard pod, fully apprised of the situation, popped his hatch and slid out of the vehicle, moving quickly to help the other guardsmen present to gather the film crew into a tight group.

Trask led Jyllis, with Fi in tow, to the vehicle. "Ms. Tromso, get aboard," he commanded, crouching down and making a step out of his joined hands.

"I'm not leaving without Fi!" the actress protested.

The guardsman bit back anger. "There isn't room! She can get out on the shuttle."

"Whenever that gets here," Jyllis retorted.

"No time to waste," Trask explained, seizing the woman's arm.

Jyllis Tromso turned immediately to ice. To Fi, the sudden cold rage in her friend's face was actually kind of frightening. Sensing he'd overstepped a line, Trask released the actress. Jyllis held her arm, massaging it gently.

"Let me make this perfectly clear, mister," she explained in slow, chilling tones. "Fi comes, or I don't go. Do you understand?"

The guardsman stood stock still, thinking. His hand, Fi noted, rested on the butt of his blaster, across from her own blaster, which she'd surrendered to him earlier in the day. The man swallowed once, then motioned to Fi.

"Come on, miss. Step up."

Needing no further prodding, Fi stepped into the hand-step Trask made, and leapt upward while the guardsman lifted her from below. Catching the rim of the cloud car's open starboard cockpit, she pulled herself up, balanced herself on the speeder's hull as well as she was able, and reached back downward.

"Come on, hon!"

Boosted from below by Trask, Jyllis reached up and grabbed Fi's outstretched hand, pulling herself up to join her friend. Fi dropped into the cramped pod and commenced fiddling with the flight seat's controls, lowering it as much as possible. Presently, Jyllis landed painfully in her lap and pulled the small cockpit canopy down over their heads.

"Gonna be a tight squeeze!"

Outside the craft, Lieutennant Trask made his way around to the port side of the vehicle, where its pilot had his own canopy open, making a thumbs-up sign to the guardsman.

"Not to worry, sir! I'll have them to safety in no time."

"You'll do nothing of the kind," Trask commanded. "You're gonna stay here and help coordinate the shuttle evacuation. I'm taking the girl out personally."

The pilot, expression of disdain evident even despite his goggles and large, domed helmet, set the cloud car to auto-hover and climbed out of the pod, sliding down its outer hull to land clumsily at Trask's feet. He rose, straightened.

"Bucking for promotion, huh Trask?"

"You might say that. Help me up."

Moments later, the lone cloud car was fleeing the besieged repulsorplatform and navigating a course out of the herd of frightened beldons...

Ice Hawk
05-16-2012, 06:17 AM
Reil felt a sense of calmness come over him as he settled behind the controls of his new ship. He sat still for a minute, just letting the serenity of it all wash over him. It had been this way the entire week he’d owned the ship. With everything that happened on Taanab and after, Reil hadn’t really had the time to notice how much he’d missed flying, but now that he was behind the controls, it all came rushing back to him. He grinned as began going through the pre-flight checklist. It wasn’t his X-Wing, in fact in maneuvered like a sleepy hut, but it was space-worthy and it was his. His grin faltered as the console went dead for a second, then powered on again. It was mostly space-worthy. The engine was beginning to power up, when a message came over the com.
“This is Mei-ji Colony Traffic Control to Barloz freighter Whydah. I repeat this is Traffic Control to Whydah. Do you copy?”

Reil sighed as he took the call.
“This is Whydah to Mei-ji Control, we logged our flight plan over an hour ago, what seems to be the trouble?”

“Recieved your flight plan Whydah, no problems there. Your docking fees are another matter. Records show that there were insufficient funds to pay the fees, and your clearance for takeoff is denied until they’re paid.”

Reil frowned. Well that’s not good. He began skipping non-critical systems as he went through the checklist.
“Mei-ji Control, I think there’s been some kinda mistake; I’m looking at my bank statements now, there’s definitely enough money there. Check with your billing department, make sure they weren’t overcharging the account.”

The station’s traffic control responded promptly.
“Your complaint is acknowledged Whydah, we are checking with our billing now. Clearance to leave is still denied until this is sorted however. Cease power-up procedures, and await further instructions."

Reil’s frown worsened. That didn’t buy me any time at all. He began diverting power away from charging the shields to speed the power-up. The ship lifted off on its repulsors, and Reil began edging it toward the hangar exit. The voice of the traffic controller crackled over the com again, noticeably angrier than he had been before.

“Whydah, we detect that you are still powering up! You are not cleared to leave the station. Cease flight, and return to your landing spot at once or we will-”
The traffic controller was cut off mid-threat as Reil closed the com channel, and pushed the throttle to full, blasting out of the hangar bay.
“Boring conversation anyway.”

As he cleared the hangar exit, his sensors picked up two Starchasers launching from the station as well. He switched on the inter-com system. “Cali, I’m gonna need you to get to the turret.”

“Already on my way!”

Reil pitched the Whydah into a steep dive, and ran the freighter parallel to the stalk that extended out the bottom of space station, hoping that the fighter’s wouldn’t risk hitting the station. It turned out the fighters weren’t terribly concerned about hitting the station, as the freighter rocked from blasts to its aft shields. Reil began to punch in co-ordinates into the navi-computer, as Cali unleashed a barrage of fire, forcing one of the fighters to break off its attack. Reil hit the inter-com again after a particularly long burst from Cali in turret.
“Ease up Cali, I’m not charging the guns, so you’d better not drain them!”

“Well then hurry the frell up and get us out of here!”

Just then the navi-computer came up with the hyperspace solution. Reil pulled the Whydaw out of its dive, and made a straight run to jumpoint. The ship rocked as it took another blast from the remaining Starchaser, and Reil had to shunt energy to the shields to keep them from collapsing. All of a sudden the turret stop firing and Reil could hear Cali swearing without the intercom.
“The frakking gun’s outta juice!! Hurry up and make the jump!”

The freighters shields were about to give way, when Reil pulled the lever that sent the Whydah hurtling into hyperspace. Reil exhaled slowly and he let go of the controls, and reclined in the pilot’s chair. Cali grinned as she entered the cockpit through the door behind him, and she hopped into the co-pilots chair.
“That was bracing. You know I really appreciate the extra steps you’re taking to keep things interesting around here.”

Reil rolled his eyes.
“Well I was just worried you didn’t feel like you had enough to do.”

Cali twisted the chair to face Reil, and propped her legs up on the console in front of him.
“So why were they mad this time, forget to file the flight plan again?”

Reil frowned and swatted her legs, so she put them back down on the ground.
“No, I didn’t forget to file the flight plan. We ran out of money, and couldn’t pay our docking fee.”

Cali was less impressed with that news.
“Well that’s not good.”

Reil rolled his eyes.
“And here I thought you were having such a good time.”

Cali arched an eyebrow at Reil.
“It’s not my fault the last two deliveries you lined up for us were weak-tea. We need credits, fast. You should reconsider my idea.”

Reil frowned.
“I am done thinkin’ about that, and you are to stop bringing it up.”

Cali sighed.
“But if we just scouted some locations. . .”

“It takes at least three people to rob a bank Cali”, Reil held up the correct number of fingers for emphasis, “One to crack the safe, one to watch the crowd, and one to drive the getaway car. We are just two, and I am not going back to jail after all the trouble we went through to get this ship!”

Cali threw her hands up in defeat.
“All right fine, we’ll just stick to your super legal smuggling, and running out of spaceports without paying so people try to shoot us down. This is a great plan.”

Reil sighed.
“This next job will be different. We got a client who wants us to ship a whole bunch of cooling agent for carbonite freezing to him on Bespin, and while we’re there, we can pick up a boat load of cheap tibanna. We’ll be arriving there around mid-day tomorrow.”

“All right, that does sound like a good plan.” Cali conceded. Cali was pensive for a moment, and then looked at Reil suggestively. “So, we’ve got almost two days; what d’you wanna do until then?”

Reil considered this.
“Well the shields need charging, so do the guns, and I’ll need to run a full diagnostic on the power supply because it’s taking too long to power up and I’m still getting those flutters in the cockpit. In the mean time, you should check the cargo, and make sure none of the crates bounced loose with all the excitement, and it might be a good idea for us to go over the ship controls again, because you’re still a little shaky on those.”

Cali groaned.
“That’s gonna take forever!”

Reil stood up and mused her hair.
“Joys of being a ship owner. C’mon, you know the drill, we work before we play.”

I. J. Thompson
05-16-2012, 11:54 PM
The Storm IV-model twin-pod cloud car raced through the bright, mid-afternoon skies of Bespin, at top speed and in a straight line.

Inside the craft's starboard pod, two young ladies did their best to endure the ride in a pod made to fit one. Relieved to have been rescued, they were nonetheless subjected to extreme discomfort.

"Jyllis," Fi asked, sitting in the flight seat with the other girl crammed into her lap, "would you mind shifting over a bit? Your elbow's digging into my - ow!"

"Sorry," the holostar replied, "I can hardly move." She squirmed to find a new position. "Is this better?"

"No!" Fi yelped. "No, that's definitely not better! Could you maybe lean back, sort of, straighten yourself out?"

"Yeah, sure," Jyllis replied sarcastically. "Just let me tear off this dashboard first and throw it out the window."

Fi laughed and was rewarded with a mouthful of her friend's crimson curls, which she did her best to spit out. "What's happening up there? Can you see anything? Where are we?"

"Hang on, I can barely turn my head, up here," Jyll replied. "Well, we've cleared those creatures. Wait, we're in a cloud now. Hang on a second... okay, we're coming out. Hey, I can see Cloud City. We're headed straight there."

"It'll be nice to get out of this blasted pod," Fi remarked.

"That can wait," Jyll stated flatly. "Pilot?" she called into the comm. "Pilot, don't bring us back to the city. We need to go back and make sure the crew get out okay. Pilot?" She waited a moment, cursed. "What was this guy's name again?"

"Trask," Fi supplied. "He said his name was Lieutenant Trask."

"Trask," Jyll demanded, "don't go back to the city. We need to see if we can help the others. Is he reading me?" she asked Fi, who struggled beneath her.

"Can't be sure. Can you find the comm unit?"

"I think this is it here. Doesn't look much like any comlink I've ever used, though."

"Shipboard comms can be a little different. Has it got any lights on?"

"Yep - green."

"Green means an open channel. If we'd muted our end, it'd be yellow. And if we'd muted him, it would be red."

"But it's definitely got power?"

"Yep. Otherwise there'd be no light at all."

"Of course. Sorry. I think I'm still a little shook up."

"You and me both!"

"So he's definitely ignoring me?"

"I'd say so. Mute our side then, would you?"

Jyll flipped a switch, which set the indicator light to the expected yellow. "Done. Why won't he answer?"

Fi squirmed beneath her friend. "I don't want to alarm you, but there have been several attempts to capture you lately, miss."

"You think he's in on it?" Jyll groaned. "But he's with the police!"

"Every man has his price. Do we have any piloting controls in here?"

Jyll looked around. "No, just guns, I think."

"Well, hang on," Fi replied, "we'll think of something."

The cloud car was over the city now, coming in for a landing on one of the many platforms. There was a thunk! as the vehicle dropped its landing gear and then came to rest on the platform, engines shutting off. Outside the craft, ladders emerged from the platform to meet each pod.

"What do you see now, Jyll?"

"Oh blast," the actress replied, "he's getting out, and he's got his blaster drawn!"

Fi took stock of the situation. She was stuck underneath her friend, clad in shorts and a simple shirt - and a holster whose blaster she'd given up to Trask earlier that morning, for 'security purposes'. This was bad. She struggled beneath her friend, trying to flatten her back against the seat's bottom and raise her right leg beside Jyll.

"Look defeated," she ordered her friend. "Look scared."

Jyllis smirked. "Your directing style leaves a lot to be desired, Ms. Shaku."

"You would prefer 'faster, more intense'?"

"Anything but that."

The Wing Guardsman climbed the ladder to the girls' pod, banged on the canopy twice with his blaster, then popped it open from the outside.

"Ms. Tromso, you will be required to-"

Fi's foot caught the guardsman directly in the face, breaking his nose, which fountained blood. Wounded and surprised, Trask lost his grip on the pod and fell backward to the platform.

"Up!" Fi shouted, "Get up! Up!"

Jyllis was up and out of the pod in a flash, balancing on its hull and giving Fiola the space she needed to extricate herself from the craft. Her body tingling from lack of circulation, Fi knew she couldn't even walk straight, much less fight. Instead, she threw herself from the vehicle, landing directly on Trask, who lay on the platform below. The guardsman howled as Fi's left knee connected with a very sensitive part of his anatomy.

In a flash, Fi had Trask's blaster out of his hands and held it toward the man's face as she retrieved her own blaster from his belt and tossed it to Jyll, who scrabbled to catch it. Trask, in unbearable pain but refusing to be beaten, gambled that Fi wouldn't shoot him and grabbed the singer around the throat.

He was right. Fi dropped his blaster and tried to roll away. Trask rolled with her to the edge of the platform, finally overpowering the girl and, straddling her chest, commenced choking the life out of her. Powerless, Fi fought for air and hoped for the best.

It came in the form of a blaster bolt, fired by Jyll into the guardsman's chest. Trask flew backward, over the edge of the platform and down to a level far below. Fi clawed her way upright, gasping for air and grabbing the guardsman's pistol again.

"Jyll," she choked, "That was a really good shot. I think you missed your calling."

"There's a shuttle coming," Jyll observed, and sure enough, a craft was landing on the platform. Through its cockpit glass they saw a familiar face, though his head was now bandaged, staring at them intently as he brought the shuttle in.

"It's 'Muscles'," Jyllis said, "that fake bodyguard who tried to kidnap me!"

Fi clutched Trask's blaster, grabbed Jyllis's hand, and the pair sprinted madly for the entrance back into Cloud City...

Ice Hawk
05-23-2012, 09:04 AM
Cali yawned and rubbed her eyes as she exited their cabin, and nearly ran into a line of low hanging electrical cords that weren’t there when she went to bed. The cords extended all the way down the hallway toward the cockpit, with various ceiling and wall panels pulled out to expose the wiring. She followed it all the way to the refresher, which Reil was outside of, stripping the insulation off a particular cable, while wearing protective gloves.

Cali sighed as she approached.
“I’m gonna guess that I can’t take a shower this morning.”

Reil looked up from his work.
“Hmmm? No, everything’s fine in the ‘fresher. Probably. I ran the diagnostic, and it said the weird power flutters were coming from this panel, of all places. I figure it’s a damaged cable, but they’re all insulated so I can’t see from the outside.”

Cali arched an eyebrow.
“Does this in any way seem safe to you?”

Reil turned away from his work again.
“What? I’m wearing gloves.”

“You’re also stripping wire when the power’s on. Do you even know anything about ship’s electrical systems?”

Reil shrugged.
“When I started? Not so much. Now I can do this!”

Reil reached deep into the wall panel and twisted something, and across the hall the galley’s doors opened.
“Impressed yet?”

Cali frowned.
“Seriously Reil, this is extremely dangerous.”

Reil grinned as he returned to his work.
“Relax, I’m not a moron, I powered down this whole corridor before starting. Only thing running right now is auxiliary power to open doors and stuff.”

Cali pointed up to the bright white light of the standard light fixtures.
“Then shouldn’t this hallway be on auxiliary lighting as well?”

Reil looked up and scanned the hallway. Then he very gently put the wire he was stripping down.
“Uhhh. Yeah. I think it should be, actually.” Reil pointed to the tool box that was just out of his reach. “Cali toss me the electrical tape there, will ya? And, uhh, stand a bit farther back.”



*****************************



Reil managed to tape up all the exposed wiring, re-insulating it. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough time to clean up the entire hallway, as Reil still had to restore power to the corridor before they dropped out of hyperspace, so cables still hung out in odd places along the hallway as they reverted to real-space.

“So, we’re agreed then, we’re gonna leave the electrical systems to a qualified mechanic?”
Cali emphasized the last two words of the sentence, hoping it would sink in.
Reil rolled his eyes.

“Yes, fine, now pay attention, I’m trying to teach you something here. These are your scopes,” Reil pointed to the two circular monitors sitting amongst the controls, “the one on the left shows you a dot for every ship in sensor range in front of the ship, and the one on the right displays a dot for every ship behind us. The scope also gives you the relative position of the ships, the closer these dots are to the center of the scope, means the more directly the ships are to being in front or behind us; but when a dot moves away from the center it means that the ship is no longer directly in front or behind us. Are you following me so far?”

Cali nodded her head dutifully, and tried to suppress a yawn. Reil sighed and went on with the lesson.
“If it heads towards the top of the ring, it’s above you, if it heads down to the bottom, it’s below you, etc. If it’s right on the edge of the scope, that means it’s on the precipice of moving from in front of you to behind you, or vice versa, so be careful of that; and always note, the brighter the dot is on your scopes, the closer it is to you.”

This time Cali actually did yawn, eliciting a scowl from Reil.
“Cali, this is important. I need you alert and focused.”

She held up her hands apologetically.
“I’m sorry. But you already taught me about the targeting computer; how when you target something its dot gets bracketed on the scope, identifying it from the others and you use that to keep your target in front of you so you can blast them. That seems like the most important bit.”

Reil frowned.
“The most important bit is staying alive, and that’s what your scopes will help you to do, more so than any targeting computer. With the scopes you can take stock of every ship in the area in relation to you, where your targeting computer forces you to focus on one ship; and that’s when someone sneaks behind you and blasts you to smithereens. Situational awareness, that’s what your scopes give you, and if you don’t use that, then you won’t last long as a pilot.”

Cali sighed.
“Yes sir, Captain Reil, sir.”

Reil’s expression eased.
“You know, you don’t have to sound quite so sarcastic when you call me Captain.”



***********************************



Cali had heard of Cloud City before their delivery job. She had heard a few of the more poetically inclined spacer’s describe it as the jewel of the outer rim. And at first, she was inclined to agree that it was quite impressive, suspended in the clouds, with sky-scrappers draped in luxury poking out the top of the dome like structure. Of course, all of that was reserved for the rich and well to do, and the dock they occupied in Port Town was far from luxury. Making matters worse was the fact that the client was running extremely late, leaving Reil and Cali sit around the hangar waiting. Cali was growing restless, while Reil was growing increasingly impatient with Cali’s restlessness.

“The buyer’s skunked us!” Cali groaned, “We’re wasting time just waiting for him, ‘cause he ain’t gonna show.”

Reil tried to keep a lid on his temper. He didn’t particularly like waiting around for the buyer like this either, but the alternative was a much grimmer scenario he didn’t want to deal with right now. In the mean time, Cali was doing her best to make Reil painfully aware of her displeasure, constantly complaining about the wait. Or she might have mentioned it twice, hours apart from each other, and it’s just getting hard to maintain perspective right now. Reil decided that it might be best for the both of them if Cali didn’t have to suffer alongside him.
“Look, Cali, I can handle this. Why don’t you take a walk or something?”

Cali was puzzled.
“A walk?”

“Yeah, go out, see. . . Port Town. There’s gotta be something to do around here.” Reil thought about what would probably be available in Port Town, “Something free, or inexpensive, and at least quasi-legal. I can handle the deal.”

Cali was excited by the prospect of not waiting around in the dirty hangar bay, but reticent to leave Reil by his lonesome.
“Are you sure you don’t need me to watch your back on this? We don’t know this Will Dalines.”

“William Delyons,” Reil corrected absentmindedly, “And you’re probably right about him not showing up at all. But if he does show, I doubt he’d start anything, we’re both businessmen making an honest deal.”

“With smuggled goods.” Cali said pointedly.

Reil frowned.
“Weren’t you off to take a walk?”

Cali grinned.
“Fine, I won’t go far though, so call me on the com-link if the buyer does show up.”

Cali wasn’t gone more than five minutes when the buyer finally did show up, with two men flanking him. He called out to Reil from across the hangar as he approached.
“You’re Captain Reil I presume.”

Reil nodded.
“And you must be Mr. Delyons?”

The man smiled generously as he and his men stopped in front of Reil.
“My associates call me Billy, Captain Reil, and it is pronounced De Lyons.”

Reil frowned.
“Oh, uh… sorry, Mr. De Lyons, I mean Billy. And, uh, folks generally just call me Reil.”

De Lyons nodded sagely.
“Think nothing of it, Captain Reil. Now, may I also presume that you have my cargo aboard your vessel?”

Reil grinned.
“Got a hold full of cooling agent, ready to be shipped,” Reil’s grin faltered a bit, “Uh, you guys didn’t seem to bring enough men to unload the ship. I mean, we agreed that you guys would be responsible for unloading and transport to its final destination, so what, do you have more guys coming?”

Mr. De Lyons brushed away Reil’s concerns.
“Oh, I wouldn’t worry. I’ve got a private docking bay on a lower level. We can fly your ship there to have it unloaded.”

Reil didn’t like the sound of any of that.
“You must be confused, because we never talked about anything like this when we made the deal. My ships not going anywhere, now if you need more time to bring around workers we can wait but-”

Mr. De Lyons shook his head.
“I fear it is you who are confused, Mr. Reil. It’s quite simple really, we’re stealing your ship and its cargo.”

Reil had figured as much.
“Well then. You still didn’t bring enough men.”

Reil didn’t bother going for his blaster, but De Lyons men both drew done on him. Billy smiled warmly.
“Mr. Reil, we are trying to be reasonable here. We want your ship, not your life. You should think very carefully about whether or not a pile of metal and wires is worth your life. If however, you are determined to fight the good fight for honour and principle, my boys will obligingly put you down.”

Reil was saved from answering by the whine of a blaster, and the thug on Billy De Lyon’s collapsing face down, with a hole in his back. The other turned quickly to face the threat, but caught a bolt in the temple for his trouble, dropping his body to the floor as well. Mr. De Lyons went for his blaster, but Reil beat him to the draw, so he simply tossed it to the ground and raised his hands.
“I give up! I surrender! Don’t shoot!”

Cali walked up behind De Lyons with her blaster drawn. She flashed a toothy grin at Reil.
“So, do you want this one, or do I get all three?”

“You can’t shoot me!” Billy protested, “I surrendered!”

Reil considered this.
“I dunno Billy, I’ve been having kind of a rough day so far. I reckon I could shoot just about anyone today.”

“It was just business!” He tried, weakly.

Reil arched an eyebrow at that.
“Noooo, business is when I do the job you requested, and then I get paid. I did the job, and then I didn’t get paid. Now that’s bad enough on its own, but to add insult to injury, you then wrong me further by trying to rob me of my ship. I’m almost obligated to shoot you at this point.”

“I have children!” He pleaded, “Three helpless children, and a poor pitiful wife!”

Reil sighed and holstered his weapon.
“This is just getting sad now. Are you moved at all by this Cali?”

Cali kept her pistol trained on Billy.
“Don’t care nuthin’ for his children. Don’t care nuthin’ for his wife.”

Reil shrugged, indicating that Cali could have her way, when Billy De Lyons came up with the one thing that might save his life.
“I can get you the money!”

Reil considered this for a moment, almost hoping Cali would shoot him anyway, saving him the trouble of deciding, and then motioned for Cali to stand down.
“I’m listening.”

“I can get you the money, you just have to give me a week-”

Reil cut him off there.
“You can have two days. That’s all. If, at the end of those two days, you do not have the money, I am going to track you down. And I don’t care if I find you at home with your wife and kids when I do.”

Mr. De left with as much dignity as he could muster. When he was gone Reil turned to Cali.
“You arrived just in the nick of time.”

Cali grinned sheepishly.
“It turns out there’s not much to see in Port Town.”

Reil sighed.
“Tell me you at least found a bar nearby before you came back. I really can't face the rest of today sober.”

I. J. Thompson
05-23-2012, 11:39 PM
"...the accident. There has been one confirmed death, with all other members of the holofilm's crew accounted for - except for the film's star herself, Jyllis Tromso. Witnesses at the scene report Ms. Tromso having been evacuated before themselves, and it is believed that she has returned to the city. Citizens are urged to report..."

Fiola walked slowly down the shop's aisles, pretending to read packages and compare prices while listening to the broadcast.

"...also this hour, one of Cloud City's own Wing Guard, one Lieutenant Belmore Trask, has fallen to his death from a landing platform in sector S1. Authorities have not disclosed whether the death was accidental, or if foul play is suspected. Again, Jyllis Tromso, holostar and recent Corusphere winner, missing after shocking beldon stampede..."

Fi numbly paid for her purchases, had them placed into a bag, then stiffly carried the bag out of the shop and into one of Cloud City's smooth beige corridors. Turning a few corners, she located a public refresher, went inside, and stood in the centre of the lavatory. Stepping to the mirrors, she tapped out a rhythm on one of the sinks.

Tap, ta-tap tap TAP!

"Thank goodness!" Jyllis replied, emerging from one of the stalls, "I was starting to think something had happened to you!"

"I caught some of the news," Fi replied, throwing the bag on the basin and revealing its contents. "It's a big deal."

"I'm flattered and distressed," Jyll replied. She dug into the bag's contents, pulling out a flimsy headscarf printed with the pattern of some spotted animal, and a pair of overlarge sunglasses. "What did they say?"

"Well, they covered the beldon stampede, and they talked about Trask, too. It's weird, but they didn't say anything about Trask being shot. Maybe the Wing Guard have figured out that we killed him in self-defense?"

"Or they're all in on it, and they want me to come forward so they can-"

It was at that moment that a Lutrillian woman entered the refresher and headed toward one of the stalls.

"So I said to her," Jyllis said immediately, pulling the spotted scarf over her head to conceal her copper curls, "'excuse me, but I totally put the shoes on hold yesterday', right?"

"Uh... right?" Fi replied.

"And she's all, 'well, do you remember who you spoke to?" Jyll continued, her voice rising half an octave.

"...and?"

"And! I'm like, 'well, I don't know, but she had a big nose.' So she says, 'I think you mean Cynva', and I'm like, 'I definitely mean Cynva!' And she leaves, and comes back, and says, 'well there is a pair in your size on hold, but they're for someone named Glorel'! And I'm like, 'well, duh! Glorel is my middle name, and it's the one I use when I put shoes on hold!'"

"Shut up!"

"Serious! And she says, 'well, I'll need to see some ID', and I say, 'do I look like-'"

The Lutrillian woman concluded her business and left, leaving the pair in peals of near-hysterical laughter, holding each other upright. Jyllis was the first to compose herself, placing the sunglasses onto her face, her hair concealed by the spotted scarf.

"How do I look?"

Fi studied her friend. "Like a celebrity who doesn't want to be recognized."

"Hoo, boy."

"But," Fi elaborated, "not any specific celebrity who doesn't want to be recognized!"

"That'll have to do."

The pair exited the public refresher and marched down the corridor, light with mid-afternoon foot traffic.

"Have you got a plan?" Jyll asked.

Fi nodded. "We get to the Dawncaller, down in Port Town, and get out of here. You can team up with the crew again somewhere safe, right?"

"Sure can," Jyll agreed. "Funny thing is, we could have shot this anywhere and just added the beldons in post. But Morsan likes realism, above all. Have you seen 'Muscles' skulking around?"

"No, but he'll find us. Cloud City is big, but not that big."

"What about your stuff? Is there anything in your apartment that you need?"

"No, I don't think there's anything there that I..." Fi stopped. "Oh, no."

"What?"

"Mace."

"Huh?"

"Mr. Mace."

"Your pet?" Jyll replied, grabbing Fi's hand and pulling her down the corridor. "I'll buy you a new one."

"You don't understand," Fi stopped her. "He belonged to someone... someone important to me. And, well," she sighed, "the little guy kind of helped me through some stuff. I don't expect you to get it."

Jyllis softened and squeezed her hand. "Lead the way, Fi."

Ice Hawk
05-26-2012, 07:23 AM
Reil and Cali settled into the back booth at a bar that’s cleanliness exceeded most of Reil’s expectations. It wasn’t seedy at all. He was a little disappointed by that, a seedy bar in the under city would have suited his mood better. It was mostly empty, and the few patrons there were occupied themselves by sitting in rapt attention, watching a news story unfold about some stupid movie production. The waitress brought over a bottle and two glasses, and while Reil sipped his whiskey, Cali was still feeling some of the kick of adrenaline and was more than a little agitated.
“I still don’t see why we didn’t leave that hut-spawn in a pool of his own blood.” She grumbled.

Reil grimaced with irritation.
“Because he’d be dead. He can’t pay us if he’s dead.”

Cali was unsatisfied.
“He’s not gonna pay us anyway. You let him crawl away, and now his gonna hold up until we’re gone like a vrelt. We should have shot him to send a message.”

Reil arched an eyebrow.
“A message to who? Anybody off world won’t know that we shot De Lyons, and I don’t think he was powerful enough to make anybody on this world care that we shot him either. Aside from soothing your vanity, he doesn’t do us any good dead, and alive, he might just pay. And we need him to pay.”

“We don’t need him.” Cali said pointedly.

Reil knocked back the rest of the whiskey in his glass, and set it down more forcefully than he’d intended.
“Yes, we need him. We came all the way out here on his promise that he’d pay for our cargo. If we don’t get paid for this job, we don’t have enough money to fuel the ship, let alone keep it in repair. We’ll be on the drift before we find another buyer elsewhere.”

Cali found Reil’s melancholy disquieting. It was more than a little unreal to see him hunched over and brooding about his troubles. Actually, Reil had been taking this whole, ship owner thing really seriously in general.
“Reil, what would you do if you couldn’t fly?”

Reil considered this.
“Cry deeply, and then die destitute and broken. Actually those last two might happen anyway.”

Cali frowned.
“I’m serious; you must have had other interests and stuff.”

Reil shrugged.
“ I like holos, and the odd book, but in terms of interests I’d put towards careers? I’ve wanted to be a pilot since I was a kid. My grandfather was a deck hand on a navy ship, and the pilots used to talk about the missions they flew in the clone wars with him. Or around him, more like. When I was growing up, he used to tell me the stories, with some slight alterations, and I was hooked.”

Cali’s interest was piqued.
“What kind of alterations?”

Reil smiled at the recollection. “Well, for one he used to tell the stories like he was the pilot.” He stopped smiling, “It wasn’t until I was older that the truth came out.”

“Oh.”

Reil carried on. “And for another, nobody ever died in them. The bad guys were droids, and the heroes always made it back to the hanger to drink and brag about their kills. When I joined up with the Alliance they beat that out of me pretty quickly. War is war, and people died on both sides.”

“Did you lose a lot of friends?” Cali asked with slight trepidation, her curiosity outweighing her reluctance to bring up bad memories. Reil had never really brought up his time with the Rebellion before in any specific sense.

Reil was caught off guard by the question.
“Hmmm? No, not really. My squad was pretty lucky I guess. It didn’t hurt that we had a pretty light assignment. One of the Y-Wing pilots bought the farm early on, but Tohle was the only wingman I ever lost, and you couldn’t really call us friends.”

“Why not?”

Reil shrugged.
“He was my Lieutenant and flight leader, and he never let me forget it. He wasn’t exactly a jerk, but we went through training together, and when he was promoted above me, he wanted there to be no question of who was in charge.”

“How come he was promoted above you?” Cali inquired “Was he a better pilot?”

Reil snorted in derision.
“Tohle wasn’t bad, but I could fly rings around him. Inside the sim-pod I posted the highest scores of the squadron, and outside, I had the most kills of our entire flight. Which wasn’t much, we were a pretty green unit, but it still bothered him. He logged in twice as many simulator hours as me, trying to beat me or maybe just show me up and impress the brass. Seems like wasted effort now.”

“So why?”

“A career of insubordination.” Reil said, grinning ruefully, “And if I had to admit it, he was better leadership material than me. He was much more mission focused, and he was always watching out for the other squad members more than he was trying to get kills. I really wanted to be an Ace, and that took up a lot of my focus.”

Cali was pensive as she soaked all this up, and Reil poured himself more whiskey. When Reil was finished pouring, Cali poured herself her first glass. The bitter liquid burned her throat, and she remembered liking the fruity drinks she’d had on Taanab better. She grimaced as she finished the glass.
“You know, you shouldn’t worry about the cargo. We’ll find a buyer soon, someone who isn’t liable to try and rob us again.”

Reil grinned as he watched her drink the whiskey.
“Yeah I suppose. That was some pretty impressive shooting, by the way. Have you been practicing?”

Elvish_Jedi
06-01-2012, 01:24 AM
The faces rippled, distorted. The were bubbles floating around them, and for some reason everything seemed green. Odd.

Well, at least he hadn't... been... been what? What had happened? In fact, what had ever happened to him? He realized he no memory of a past life. Panic seized him. He flailed about, his arms and legs swishing through some liquid, bumping against a hard, smooth, curved surface. Who was he?

**********

The taller of the two men looked at the figure flailing in the tank and shook his head.

"Seems a bit agitated."

The shorter man leaned forward and pressed a few buttons on a glowing control panel. The thrashing slowly died down to a feeble swirling of limbs.

"Well, that'll keep him down", the short one said. "Lucky thing we found him, too. In good shape, at least before he ran into whatever beat him up. Maybe that explosion?"

The taller man looked thoughtful.

"I don't know. It's a ways from the crash site, but he could have dragged himself...." The man shrugged. "Oh well, not our job to find out where he came from. Just as long as no one comes looking for him."

The shorter man chuckled. "He'll be good for at least five or six... er, donations. Besides, he won't need his heart or lungs anyways. Not like he's going anywhere. And we'll just grow 'em back."

The taller man gave a small smile. "That we will. Nothing with more profit in it than a little organ trading. And who wold have thought of such a clever way to keep the 'donations' coming? Ah well, lets move along."

The two men santered down the hallway, peering at the almost endless rows of green filled tanks. Their voices trailed away into the darkness.

**********

Through the haze that clouded his brain, the thought traveled. Who am I? He pushed out with his mind, desperate, but found nothing. Who am I?

Gibson8088
06-15-2012, 01:38 AM
Kill switch, closed. Keycode, accepted! The dashboard of the cherry red Stingray lit up without hesitation. Tach's modified Narglatch AirTech hotrod still responded like the day he left it; if a bit dustier. With the flip of a couple of switches the cold-start generator activated followed by the satisfying roar of the turbines firing up.

I wonder..., Tach thought to himself. He hopped out of the car and checked the storage compartment. In it the first thing he found was his old gunmans duster. It was a dark grey trenchcoat with the emblem from his old gang on the back. The roaring head of a gurreck with Feral Gurrecks in Aurek lettering below it.

Also in the compartment was the rest of his gear; a pair of dark grey reinforced swoop racing boots, buckle-on dura-armor leggings and vest for the occasional shootouts that happened. The equipment did help protect the wearer, but was mostly for looks. Thus explained the lack of helmets. Waxing nostalgic Tach removed his coat and boots then proceeded to don his old street racing gear. It all still fit, and the comfortable feeling from the worn material of the trenchcoat resting upon his frame brought a smile to his face.

Tach took a practiced leap that landed him comfortably back into the drivers seat, then gave the engine a couple of revs. They returned hostile growls in response while the vehicle shuddered against the brakes keeping it in place. An excited cackle escaped the troubleshooters lips as he loosed the parking restraints and sped the car out of the parking garage and into public traffic.

After about an hour of joyriding Tach took the opportunity to hook up the locator to the aircars' systems and dialed up Noth. Less than a few moments passed before, "Took you long enough!"

Ignoring the grumpy bothans' jibe Tach replied, "Locator installed, sir. Gimmie the briefing, Noth. What do I need to know?"

With expected professionalism Noth began, "The first step will be to find a sponsor. Win a sponsor street race or you will not be able to compete in the underground run. Once you've got a sponsor they will provide what you need, including the use of their ricksha."

"Is that what they call those beasts? Interesting.", Tach stated as he barrel-rolled through an intersection. "Anything else I should know?"

"Yes. Some of these sponsors can be.... rather eccentric.", Noth appeared to be studying a datapad.

Tach tilt-dodged an oncoming vehicle, "My curiousity is piqued. Do go on."

"Well, for example there is a candidate racing for a local casino. The ricksha is painted to promote the place while the driver and his navigator have to wear garish 'high roller' costumes." The bothan almost sounded like he was happy sharing the information.

"Ugh, I see.", Tach replied with distaste, "Wait, did you say navigator?"

"Yes, you will need to find a navigator to accompany you.", Noth replied matter of factly.

"Frak!"

"Good luck, Tach.", the bothan replied before ending the call.

Tach descended to a lower altitude as he entered an abandoned industrial sector. Slaloming the derilict equipment had helped him think in the past, perhaps it could do so again today.

I. J. Thompson
06-15-2012, 11:10 PM
"...once again, singer and musician Fiola Shaku, formerly of the music group Moonbeam Levels and currently employed at The Blue Room, confirmed to have been in the company of holostar Jyllis Tromso when she was last seen. Citizens with any knowledge of either woman's whereabouts are urged to contact..."

"Well, Fi, that's that," Jyllis sighed as she tickled Mr. Mace's small, furry belly with one delicate finger, "you are officially involved."

"I wonder why they still haven't fingered us for Trask's death," Fi pondered as the news program on her apartment's holoprojector gave way to advertisements.

"Probably they want us to feel safe to come forward, and then -wham!- busted."

"Or they know it was self-defense and they don't want to disgrace the Wing Guard."

"Or Pondan's been throwing hush-money at them."

"Pondan?"

"My agent."

"Oh yeah. Well, one thing's for sure, they'll probably be here any minute."

Jyllis shifted on the kitchen stool as the little Fabool floated affectionately about her shoulders. "Do you think we should just wait? Turn ourselves in and try to explain everything?"

Fi considered. "No, I think your first instinct was right. If Trask was in on the scheme to kidnap you, we don't know how many other Guardsmen might be, as well. For all we know, Baron Calrissian himself might be involved."

Jyll laughed, still looking mildly ridiculous in her disguise of spotted headscarf and dark glasses. "No way. That guy threw a fancy dinner for me and my people when we arrived here, and I assure you he's up to many things, but kidnapping isn't one of them."

Fi smiled in relief. "Well then, we carry on as planned: get to Port Town and the Dawncaller, and get out of here."

Jyll rose from her seat. "Do you want your blaster back?" she asked, holding the weapon out toward Fi. Fi looked at the blaster, then from her holster she pulled the sidearm she'd taken from Trask. She studied the man's silver, wicked-looking blaster, standard-issue among the Wing Guard, then shook her head.

"No, you keep it. The safety on this one's kinda screwy, and I have a holster - you don't. Safety first."

"Gotcha," Jyll obliged, tucking Fi's blaster back into the back of her pants. "Shall we?"

"Yeah," Fi nodded, marching toward her apartment's door and looking quickly through the peephole.

'Muscles' was right outside.

"Blast!" Fi whispered. "He's found us!"

Jyll began to shake slightly. "What do we do?"

"We take another exit."

"This place has another exit?"

"Not really. Come on, you guys."

Jyllis and Mr. Mace followed Fi to the apartment's living room, where Fi opened the transparisteel partition that led onto the chamber's small, semicircular balcony. The trio stepped out into the pink light of gathering sunset, and surveyed the scene. Fi motioned toward a neighbouring balcony that extended from the same exterior wall, fully two meters away, on their left. "We're gonna take a little detour through my neighbour's place," Fi informed them.

"Oh Fi, I don't know," Jyllis shuddered, looking at the vast emptiness below them. "It's a long way down."

"Try not to think about it."

As the girls mustered up their courage, Mr. Mace flitted tantalizingly across the void between the balconies, then hovered over their destination, looked at them inquisitively, and chirped once. Bracing herself against the wall, Fi climbed up to stand uncertainly upon her balcony's railing. A warm, gentle breeze blew around her.

"Fi," Jyll breathed, "Fi, do not mess this up."

Fiola breathed deeply once, twice, and did her best to imagine she was standing on simple, flat ground. Then she leaped.

A split-second later, the bottom of her left foot came in contact with the top of her neighbour's balcony railing and she leapt forward again, falling clumsily to the center of the balcony. Giving mental thanks to the cosmos, she rose, dusted off her shorts, and held out her hand toward Jyll.

"See? No problem."

Looking completely unconvinced even despite her disguise, Jyllis climbed Fi's railing, also bracing herself against the wall, and stood upon it. Without preamble, she leapt immediately, emitting a tiny yelp of fear as she did so.

She came up short. As she began to fall, Fi strained forward, gripping the girl in a fierce, back-breaking hug as Jyll's lower half slammed against the balcony railing. Fi pulled back with all her might, yanking the holostar over the rail and, falling backward, pulling the actress down on top of her.

They lay there, panting and terrified, as the pink of Bespin's sunset slowly turned to purple. Then Jyll held Fi's chin in one hand and kissed her full on the lips.

"My hero."

Fi laughed. "Shut up, stupid!"

They rose, examining the balcony's transparisteel door. "Is it locked?" Jyll asked.

"Not for long."

Fi blasted the exterior panel, and the partition opened obediently. The girls and their Fabool entered the apartment whose occupant, thankfully, was not at home. Marching through the domicile, the trio came to its front door.

"Right," Fi commanded, "We're gonna go straight out, and you guys follow me and do what I say, okay?"

"Roger, over," Jyll saluted, "niner."

Fi bit back hysterics. "I'm serious! This guy isn't messing around. Ready?"

Jyllis drew her blaster. "Ready."

"One... two..."

Fi thumbed the switch, the partition lifted, and she leapt out into the hallway, pointing Trask's blaster at an extremely surprised kidnapper, one door down, who raised his own blaster ineffectually. Fi sent a barrage of shots in his direction, causing the man to run for cover.

"Follow me!" Fi shouted, "run!"

The trio raced around a bend in the corridor, Fi leading them to a small hatch in the corridor wall. She twisted the lever, yanking the hatch open, and pointed down the steep -but not completely vertical- tube inside.

"Into the garbage chute, Ms. Tromso!"

"Oh Fi," Jyll groaned. "Are you serious? I mean... gross!"

"I saw it in a holo once, but I think we can do it."

Mr. Mace flew down the tube in a flash, but Jyll was not so enthusiastic. "Do you smell that? I'm serious, smell that..."

An only slightly mis-aimed stun blast from 'Muscles', aka Kroff, who'd taken cover behind the bend in the corridor, was her answer. Fi returned the favour with another torrent of blaster fire while Jyllis pulled herself into the tube and, with a squeal of disgust, slid away toward some unknown destination. Sending a few more shots in their assailant's direction, Fi also climbed into the tube and followed Jyll, the hatch slamming shut behind them.

Fingon
06-26-2012, 12:25 AM
Shaking the last bit of frost from his coat, Luis bustled down the hallway, blowing into his hands cupped around his mouth. He did not need to count the hallways anymore, and he let his feet lead him to his destination. It was a pristine room, white and earth tones accented with blue, a vitrified glass screen dividing the chamber in half. The air was still, almost reverent, and always quiet. And right now it was the most important place in the whole galaxy.

Quieting his breath, he entered into the room silently and stood next to another man, taller and with streaks of grey in his hair and beard. “How’s she doing today?” Luis asked tentatively, breaking the hallowed stillness. The older man offered no response.

Luis glanced up, nervously. “Papa?”

Hernan Santiago twitched his lips into a grimace. “The same as ever. A little worse every day,” He said in his low bass voice. He did not look at his son.

Luis waited for his father to add more. He didn’t.

“Papa . . . I think you should get some rest.” The young man said at length, placing his hand on his father’s arm.

Hernan shook it off. “Is that your infallible medical opinion?” he spat back.

The doctor tried to ignore the barb. “You’ve been here all day again, Papa.”

“Of course I have,” Hernan retorted. “I want to spend what time’s left with her.”

Luis sighed. “I know, I know.” He stood next to his father; a dozen centimeters shorter and nearly 15 kilos lighter. Both had hoped he would have grown larger; the doctor still had some of the clothes his father had bought for him in his youth, the ones he was “going to grow into.” They still were too big.

“You haven’t been here much lately,” Hernan mused, his voice a deep rumble.

Luis shrugged. “There’s . . . been a lot to do. Especially now.”

“That’s not an answer,” Hernan scoffed. “If I didn’t know better, I would say that you don’t seem to care.”

Luis stood mute for a moment, too shocked to respond. “You know that’s not true,” he managed to say, a semblance of a chuckle on his lips.

Hernan cocked an eyebrow. “Do I? How many times did you tell me that ‘when you care about something. . .’”

You make time for it, you sacrifice for it.

Luis clenched his teeth. “That’s not fair, papa.”

Hernan faced his boy, his voice swelling. “This is your mother, for the galaxy’s sake! You spent entire nights buried in your foolish books or capering with that girl you fancied so much, and now you can’t even afford a few hours for her?”

“Don’t you dare talk to me about not making time for her,” Luis snapped back, determined not to show how much his father’s words had stung, nor that he had asked the exact same question. “Every time you left crushed her, and you went, promising that it would be the last time. But you needed the glory, didn’t you?”

Hernan’s face turned a dark red. “You think I wanted to--”

“Yes I do! You loved that war more than you loved either of us, didn’t you?” Luis knew it wasn’t true, even as he said it. “And now you want to pretend like you can make up for it? She hasn’t even been conscious for three days now; a few weeks’ devotion won’t make up for the years you weren’t here. I’ve been running the entire house, again, just like I had to before. And you won’t do anyone any good standing here until you collapse.”

“More good than you did running off to be a frelling nurse!” Roared the older man. “If you’d learned a damned thing at that school you would have noticed something was wrong before this.”

“Or if I had cared enough, right?” Luis said, his voice sharp and bitter. “Do you really think that you’re the only one this hurts?”

Hernan paused, and then lowered his voice. “You keep talking about how much you had to give up to get here, how much you have to do because I won’t. Tell me, is there any price on the life of our Ramana?”

“Papa, that’s not what I--”

“So go home and do your precious work. Let me show her I love her, the only way I have left.”

Luis fought back the tears stinging the corners of his eyes. “I didn’t do this. Don’t act like this is my fault.”

Hernan walked past his son and placed a hand on the glass, gazing with gleaming eyes at the small, dark-haired figure laid on a hospital bed. “One we thought it was enough to defend our borders,” he began, his dark eyes still locked on the sight of his dying wife. “But those days are long past. The Republic tried, and it fell. We tried too, but it’s not enough, not against the likes of these. They’ll take any risk to hurt you, any way they can. They don’t rest, they won’t stop until every last one of them is laid in his grave. We tried fighting a defensive war, and untold millions died because of it. And Ramana,” he paused, choking on the name, “will be the latest casualty.”

Luis pursed his lips. They had been here before, so many times. “Lake’s Syndrome is still an active disease. Rare, but it does make its way this far coreward sometimes. There’s no evidence--”

“Is that what the broadcast told you?” Hernan retorted, a sad smirk on his face. “You think they would permit the press to run a story about a successful attack? Not even you can be that naïve.”

“You’re jumping at shadows again,” Luis said, as gently as he could manage.

Hernan laughed bitterly. “You have no idea how foolish you sound right now. I wish you were right, on the Emperor’s throne I wish you were right. The war never ended, it only changed forms.”

“Papa, stop.”

“I held the line at Boz Pity,” Hernan continued, his voice swelling, “plunged my ships into hell above Coruscant, fought the monster Grevious and his troops here on this very dirt. I’ve risked my life again and again, to kill them before they could strike again. We are still very much at war, after all these years. And I will still give everything I have to keep what family I have left safe.” Finally, he turned, dark eyes col and hard as he regarded his son.

“Like you should have.”

---

He felt someone shaking his shoulder. Someone was talking, but he couldn’t make it out. There was a terrible ringing in his head. The shaking grew more persistent, the voice louder.

“Luis . . . wake up buddy.”

He opened his eyes. It was Anthan, bruised and filthy. His mouth was moving, but he could only make out some of the words.

“. . . had me scared . . . out . . .”

He sat up with his friend’s help and touched his ear. He felt a warm trickle running down to his jaw. The doctor turned his head to the other side.

“. . . hey buddy, you all right there? You’re not looking so good.”

He cleared his throat and coughed. “Yeah. I think so. I . . . I think I blew out one of my eardrums.”

Anthan nodded gravely. “C’mon, let’s get you out of here,” he said, helping his friend to his feet.

The doctor groped for the wall to steady him. “No, we need to find Bear.”

“Not now,” the cop replied, exasperation edging into his voice. “This was a wild womp rat chase to begin with, we’re not going to find anything in this mess. Let’s get you to a hospital.”

The doctor shook his head. “No! I need to find him. I’m not going to stop now.”

“Doc, it’s time to fall back and regroup. Make sure our men are all right, take care of the people in that crash. If those thugs were around here, they’re packing up and relocating right now.”

“Which means they’ll be shaken up and unprepared--”

“No,” Anthan cut in, his patience running thin. “Look, I know how hard this is for you. I saw how it ate at you every time you lost a patient, but trust me here, what we need now is--”

His comlink, forgotten at the bottom of a pocket, began to chirp.

“What now . . . Hayes here, go ahead.”

“Captain! You all right down there?”

“We’re alive. Heading back to the surface. What’s the status?”

“Most of our men were outside the implosion zone, but Pike and Tanniken are hurt. Rigel’s heading down to extract them now. The blast zone is a mess, hundreds injured. Emergency vehicles en route.”

Anthan grunted. “Good. Find me the quickest way out of here.”

“Sir, there’s something you should know about that. The collapse must have caught some of them men; we picked up an unencrypted signal from them, honed in on the point sent and point received. They’re spread thin right now, checking their assets and digging out their boys. If there was a time to hit them, it’s now, sir.”

The cop paused, his teeth gritted. “We still have twelve of our officers ready?”

“Eleven until Pike is stable. What should I tell them, sir?”

“Tell them to move in. Take position and wait for my signal.”

“Ten-four.”

Anthan snapped his commlink closed and glanced over to his friend, who wore a triumphant grin on his face. “Not a word out of you,” he snapped and led the way down the access tunnel.

Ice Hawk
06-29-2012, 04:58 PM
Cali sighed, and spun her empty shot glass in circles on the table. The bar was starting to fill up, and if Reil had his way they’d be here for hours still.
“I think we spend too much time in bars.”

Reil considered this.
“No, I’m leaning the opposite way. I don’t think I spend nearly enough time in bars.”

Cali frowned.
“You’re hardly an objective opinion.”

“Why’s that?”

“Firstly because you’re the one who always wants to go to a bar,” Cali said pointedly, “and secondly, because you’re drink.”

Reil was confused for a moment.
“Drunk?”

Cali nodded emphatically.
“Exactly.”

Reil felt his hackles rise at the implication.
“I’m not drunk. There’s like half a bottle left.”

Cali stared at the bottle.
“Just the one?”

Reil nodded slowly.
“Yeaaah.”

“Oh. Well that’s not the point.”

Reil never got to hear exactly what was the point, because someone had turned up the holo projector to hear the news, and this announcement went through the bar: “Once again, singer and musician Fiola Shaku, formerly of the music group Moonbeam Levels and currently employed at The Blue Room, confirmed to have been in the company of holostar Jyllis Tromso when she was last seen. Citizens with any knowledge of either woman's whereabouts are urged to contact. . .”

The din of the bar picked up to compensate for the noise, before Reil could make out the contact information. He turned to Cali.
“Fi? I mean our Fi? It couldn’t be right?”

Cali shrugged.
“Probably not, but so what if it is?”

Reil frowned.
“It sounds like she’s in trouble.”

Cali scoffed.
“Yeah, palling around with holostars, that’s tough. Lemme break out the world’s smallest synthesiser to play a sad song for Fi and her troubles being famous.”

Reil took a deep breath, and exhaled slowly before replying.
“She’s missing. Or at least the authorities are looking for her. That seems fairly serious.”

Cali arched an eyebrow.
“So what if it is? We’ve got problems of our own. If you wanna go looking for trouble, let’s try and track down that De Lyons guy.”

Reil would have shook his head in disbelief, except this actually seemed pretty consistent with Cali’s behaviour.
“What’s your problem? Fi’s our friend, we should at least see if she needs help.”

Cali held up two fingers.
“One: we don’t even know it’s the same Fiola. Two: even if it is the same, she ditched us on Rothana remember? We don’t owe her anything.”

Reil snorted.
“She didn’t ditch us, she just. . . left suspiciously without word or warning. You know, you didn’t seem that upset about it at the time.”

Cali’s eyes flashed with anger.
“No, but Tam was. And how’d that work out for us?”

Reil cocked an eyebrow.
“Us? Can I assume you’re referring to the incident on the Inun? Don’t you go playing the martyr now, I was the one Tam used to paint the walls red. And because of it, I get jurisdiction in this matter, and I say we lend Fi a hand.”

Cali wasn’t interested.
“You can if you want to, but count me out. I’ll be back at the ship, you know trying to sell our cargo so we can refuel and get off this scrap heap.”

Reil sighed.
“That’s fine, but I won’t be cutting you into the reward.”

Cali perked up at that.
“Reward? What reward? The news didn’t mention anything about a reward.”

Reil rolled his eyes.
“Nooo. But you said it yourself now, she’s rich.”

Cali withdrew into her own little world as she considered that.
“Rich. . .”

Reil grinned.
“You said it yourself, rich, famous, and she’s with that holostar, who is equally, if not more rich and famous.”

Cali practically beamed at the thought, but Reil continued.
“But you know, if you don’t want in, that’s fine. You know, I might even do it for free, it clearly being the moral thing and all.”

Cali snapped out of her reprieve with an expression of genuine concern. For the money Reil safely assumed.
“No!”

Reil had to stifle a laugh.
“So, you’re in?”

Cali shrugged.
“Fine. But tell me this, how do you propose we go about helping them if they’re missing?”

Reil was stumped, so Cali got to spend the rest of the evening gloating silently. Reil was still working out some way to contact Fi on their way back to the ship. He didn't think his thought process was muddled by the alcohol in anyway, until the door to a nearby trash compactor began talking to him.
"Ummm, help? The door won't open from this side!"

I. J. Thompson
06-30-2012, 12:12 AM
"Boss? You there, boss?"

On the bridge of the Reclamator I, Rammo the Toydarian batted Sloat's hand off the comm control and thumbed it himself. "I'm here! What's our status?"

"Well," Kroff replied, somewhere down there on Cloud City, "Ms. Tromso and the singer jumped down a blasted garbage chute."

"And you followed them?" Rammo demanded.

There was silence. Then, "Boss, I'm doing all I can here, but I don't want to get killed."

"So where are we?" Rammo demanded.

"They're obviously headed for the singer's ship," Kroff explained. "I'll stake it out. We still on double-time?"

"Double-time," Rammo seethed. Then he cut the connection off.

He hovered there, looking at nothing in particular and scratching his rump thoughtfully. Romance, he concluded, is hard work. Here he was days into the courtship, paying Kroff and Sloat double-time all the while, with not even a peck on the cheek to show for it. And then there was the matter of Trask, his newly-bought agent in the Bespin Wing Guard, now dead somewhere down there on Cloud City. He was genuinely sorry about that. Although, Trask being dead also meant that Trask no longer needed to be paid, so Rammo supposed it was a net gain, all things considered.

One thing was for sure; when Ms. Tromso was finally delivered to him, she was bound to be delighted by the lengths to which he'd gone to win her heart. Women love that kind of stuff, Rammo supposed.

Don't they?


* * *

It had been a long way down, to Port Town. The curving chute that Fi, Jyllis, and Mr. Mace had leaped into to escape their pursuer had taken them to what Fi supposed was the ground floor of her apartment building, where the trio were unceremoniously dumped into a mobile garbage tank. At the tank's controls was one of Cloud City's ubiquitous Ugnaughts, who drove the scow down a long, dim tunnel. Fi and Jyll had alternately threatened and pleaded with the foul little being who, due either to a distaste for humans or a simple reluctance to see his workday complicated unnecessarily, had ignored them. They'd descended several lifts, the girls scrabbling against the tank's grubby walls all the while, until they arrived at a large, foul-smelling chamber where the Ugnaught backed the scow up against one of the walls and could be heard flipping switches and activating the vehicle's machinery.

At this, the tank rose on one side, a hatch was lifted on another, and the girls and their fabool companion had been dumped, along with a ton of stinking refuse, into another chamber. This chamber had a door, and Jyll tried it. It didn't open, and there were no controls on the inside. The actress clenched her fists and bellowed angrily at the cold, steel walls. Her flimsy disguise of headscarf and dark glasses had disappeared somewhere along the way, but due to the accumulated filth, she was largely unrecognizable. Fi was sure that she herself looked about the same.

Fi also had a bad feeling about what this chamber's walls were soon going to do. She didn't want to alarm Jyll, but had explained that their best hope at this point, really, was to call for help. Which they'd done, for about thirty minutes, Fi's fears growing stronger all the while. Some of their shouts had drawn catcalls, or even laughter. Most had drawn only silence. But then, like a miracle, their final plea had drawn no words but the blissful sound of the hatch opening. The garbage-covered pair spilled out into the corridor.

"Thank you," Fi sputtered, "oh stars, thank you!" She rose to her feet. "I-"

Zealos Reil was standing right in front of her. Zealos, and Cali. Cali Bellum.

"Ze!" Fi could only say as, despite the sludge, she gripped the man in a fierce hug. The pilot did his best to hold the girl, nose wrinkling from the smell, and keep her upright.

"You're on the news," he explained, pulling Fi off of himself and brushing at his clothing. "Got yourself in some trouble?"

Fi laughed in hysterical relief as Jyllis and Mr. Mace rose behind her. "We have to get away," she explained, "someone's trying to kidnap Jyll. I, oh - this is Jyll..."

"Hi," the holostar greeted them meekly, looking thoroughly un-holostar-like.

"At least one of the Wing Guard are in on it," Fi continued. "We have to get to the Dawncaller..."

"The..." Reil asked, stepping back, "the dawncaller?"

"My ship," Fi clarified. "It's berthed in... oh, stars. I have to tell you. I have to tell you about Tam..."

Zealos Reil looked Fi square in the eye and nodded soberly. "We know."

Fi wiped sludge from her face. "No, you don't," she continued, tears coming to her eyes. "I have to explain."

"Fi," Jyll laid a hand on her friend's shoulder, "Fi whatever this is, if it's hurting you, you don't have to do this now."

The singer shrugged off Jyll's hand. "I do. I've needed to tell someone, and didn't think I'd ever get the chance." she composed herself. "Zealos, it's my fault. What happened to Tam... it's because of me." Then she broke down.

Zealos stood in puzzlement. "Wait a minute. It's your fault that Tam's joined the Empire? That he's turned to the Dark Side?"

Fi wiped away at the tears and grime. "The... dark? Zealos, I'm trying to tell you," she explained tearfully, "Tam is dead."

Cali stepped forward. "Fi, how long have you been here?"

Fi shrugged, annoyed by the pointless question. "About three weeks, I guess."

"Yeah?" Cali countered. "Well, we got to enjoy some of Tam's hospitality nine or ten days ago. He's not what you remember, and Zealos can tell you just how alive he was."

Fi stood stock still, mouth hanging open.

"Come on," Reil offered, looking uncomfortably at the bystanders present. "Let's find someplace more private. We have a lot to talk about."

Gibson8088
07-04-2012, 03:04 AM
Coruscant
Industrial District
Danza Quadrant
Sector A7G
Abandoned Industrial Supplies Factory

The dusk sun painted lines of shadows upon the massive entrance to the abandoned factory. A lone figure strolled through the entryway, pausing to wearily survey the area. She was tall for a human female, perhaps five foot nine inches in height and her long brown hair was pulled back in a ponytail. To a casual observer she would have appeared to wear dirty garments of a common nature. In truth her outfit was closer to those of some old Jedi order, worn and damaged from frequent action and quite soiled. Secured to her back was a tech backpack, the only item she seemed to possess that was clean.

"So,", she mumbled quietly to herself, "just what am I doing here?" Closing her eyes she tuned out the sights and sounds of the debilitated factory; listening only to the ebb and flow of the force that was around her. And it warned the human that danger was near. Opening her eyes she instinctively turned and peered into the shadows that cloaked the catwalks above. A pair of beastly glowing eyes were staring back at her.

Within a second she had her lightsaber in hand but did not ignite the blade. "Who are you? What are you doing here?", the brunette demanded.

The figure leaped from the walkway above and landed on the factory floor with enough force to crack the pavement and kick up a thick plume of dust. As soon as the cloud settled the human was able to perceive the figure before her. Standing over two meters tall, was a Shistavanen with black fur who was garbed in a dark grey outfit with a crimson red vest over the shirt. And both of his hands were gauntleted up to the elbow with black metal. Upon closer inspection of the metal gloves she could see holdout sheathes along the inside forearms.

The Shistavanen placed a hand upon his chest. "I am Paxan.", he introduced in a low gravelly tone, "Pack Alpha of the Blood Trackers Clan." He then pointed towards the human for emphasis. "And I am here to claim the artifact you possess."

She kept her guard up. Paxan's words spoke the truth of his intent. A sinister air surrounded the creature, but was unable sense anything beyond that. "I am Elayne, no extra titles.", she mocked, "And the artifact is not for you."

"Ah, but you see youngling, it calls to me. It will be mine. Now, will you hand it over to me?", his voice grew malevolent, "Or must I take it from your corpse while I dine on your flesh?"

Elayne responded with a glare, then positioned herself in an Ataru defensive stance and activated her saber. It's violet blade illuminated the area around her. "Very well, then.", Paxan stated as he lowered himself into a crouching position, "Give me a good fight and I shall speak of you honorably while I feast on your body."

Paxan burst forward with unnatural speed at Elayne, of which she was only able to dodge with force enhanced senses. The Shistavanen spun around and charged again with an arm outstretched to clothesline the human. Elayne managed to elude it but at the cost of a chance to counter-attack. He ran up a support beam only to leap from it towards the human, his right fist hammering down on the spot Elayne just evaded and cratered the floor. The girl took a risk and struck at the creature with an overhead strike.

Paxan blocked with his left arm, and when Elayne's violet blade met the black metal her weapon shut off! A sinister chuckle came from the creature as the human attempted to reactivate her weapon. "Phrik-Cortosis alloy. Expensive but worth every credit.", Paxan gloated as he rose to his feet and fixed Elayne with a deathly stare, "Now, youngling, what shall I say about you during dinner?"

Her instincts yelled Run!, the force added Upstairs!

“Perhaps I will tell my pack about your exceptional reflexes and how you almost struck me with your blade.”, Paxan continued. Elayne channeled the force into a telekinetic punch that launched the Shistavanen further into the factory, then ran. Upstairs.

Up and up, lefts and rights, Elayne followed her intuition to navigate the massive structure. She eventually found herself in what appeared to be the offices of the once active business. As she ran she tried activating her blade again and was rewarded with the familiar snap-hiss of a working lightsaber. She shut off the weapon and hurried down the hall. From the distance Paxans' taunting could be heard, "You cannot escape me, youngling! I know your scent!"

Another left turn led to a long corridor that ended in a T connection with windows to view the city outside. She started to rush towards the intersection. Which way? Left or right?, she asked herself. The response was unexpected. Straight! Elayne called upon the force and gave herself speed then threw a telekinetic punch to knock out the windows.

The timing was perfect. Glass fragments and pieces of window frame burst forth that left a debris free corona of which Elayne leapt through.

The view was perfect, too. She could see a lot of the scenery from this height.

Where the frak am I supposed to land?!

*** *** ***

Tach was parked on the roof of an office spire, a structure built for the sales and administration staff of the forgotten factory below. His last run through a makeshift course revealed a need to adjust some of the aircar's computer parameters.

"..and z-axis float buffer, plus point three five percent.", he mumbled to himself while he punched in the last bit of data, "Compile!" With a tap on the datapad it beeped to confirm, then it beeped again when it was finished. Then there was a 'whoosh' like noise coupled with the sound of glass shattering nearby. Glancing in the direction of the noise Tach noticed a figure sail through a curtain of sparkling fragments, only to succumb to gravity and start a fall towards the grounds below.

"What the f...", the smuggler started to say before being drowned out by the roar of his speeders' engines firing back up. In the next moment he was on an intercept course with the free-falling body and carefully guiding the vehicle to attempt a rescue. As soon as the speeder was matching course and speed, he rolled to face the open cockpit towards the jumper and got a clearer view of the her.

It was a female. Quite attractive. Long brown flowing hair, panic stricken brown eyes, an outstretched hand that seemed to desperately reach out towards the car. Oh, right! Tach grabbed hold of her arm and helped her navigate into the passenger seat. Once she was secured he leveled the speeder back out.

"Keep going!", the female urged as she turned to look back at the spire, "Get us away from here fast!"

Tach relented with a nod and sped up, piloting his car off the factory grounds. He notices she was holding onto a lightsaber in her left hand with a white knuckled grip. "May want to hide that.", he offered while pointing towards her weapon. She looked at it momentarily as if it had just manifested into existence then sheepishly tucked it into her robes.

"Name's Tach.", he said and offered up a hand in greeting.

"Elayne.", she replied tersely as she gently shook his hand, "Thanks for the rescue."

"Glad to help. Not often I get to see Jedi take a dive out of seventy story buildings. Feel like sharing your story?"

Elayne sighed and shook her head. "No, not really."

"Fair enough.", Tach replied politely, "Then you got some place you would like to be dropped off?"

She was silent for a moment, as if concentrating, then glanced at Tach with what may have been a confused expression. "Um... no, I don't."

Tach arched a brow as he looked at the woman, but resigned the subject with a shrug. Something was on her mind but he wasn't about the press the matter. Instead he drove, traveling via the established airspeeder routes until they entered a residential district. It was then the Spot-On locator sounded an alert. According to the device a candidate race was about to start in an hour.

"So, Elayne, how do you feel about speeder racing?"

She looked confused again.

Ice Hawk
07-05-2012, 02:33 AM
They were only a short walk from where the Whydah was berthed, but Reil could tell Fi was seething with impatience. He lengthened his stride to keep up with her, leaving Jyllis and Cali to bring up the rear of their little group. Cali sized up the holo-star, and was disappointed to find that she didn’t look nearly as glamorous in person, but that might’ve just been the trash caked on her. Hopefully she was still rich. Jyll for her part noticed the attention she was getting from Cali, and stuck out her hand.
“Hi, I’m Jyllis.”

Cali returned the handshake somewhat reluctantly.
“Cali.”

Jyllis grinned somewhat bashfully as Cali tried to wipe her hand off on the wall.
“Charmed, I’m sure.”

Cali tried to nod with enthusiasm she wasn’t feeling.
“Yeah, sure. Probably.”

As they entered the hangar, Reil keyed in the access code to lower the ship’s ramp.
“Ladies first.” He said, giving a mock bow.

Fi went up first, then Cali, and just as Jyllis was about to embark she turned around and noticed the half washed stain of red on the hangar floor. She turned to Reil.
“Is that bl. . . What is that?”

Reil sighed.
“That was. . . some earlier unpleasantness. Don’t trouble yourself about it.” Jyllis seemed hesitant. “C’mon, they’re waiting for us.”

The only room Reil and Cali had bothered to furnish were their own cabin, so Reil had to lead them into the cargo hold, where he and Cali made some makeshift chairs out of crates, by lying them flat, in a sort of circle. As they all sat down Fi released Mr. Mace, and the Fabool began to explore the back areas of the cargo bay. Reil hoped it was housebroken.
“I’m sorry the ship’s a little sparse, we haven’t had much company to-”

Fi cut him off.
“Reil, what do you mean Tam is alive?”

Reil rubbed the back of his neck nervously.
“It’s kind’ve a self explanatory statement.”

Fi was insistent.
“Reil, tell me now! What happened?”

Reil launched into his story.
“Well. . . There was some trouble, and Cali and I got pinched by police and then turned over to the Imperials.”

Fi nodded for him to keep going, eager for Reil to get to the point.
“And they took you to Tam?”

Reil hesitated, not sure how much of the story he wanted to get into in front of Fi’s actress friend.
“ More or less. . .”

Cali butted in.
“After you opened up your big mouth about the Disruptor.”

“Which happened after you got yourself shot and arrested, so stow it.” Reil snapped, and then regained his composure. It’s all outta the bag now. “I attracted the attention of somebody big, Truman or Terryman or. . .”

Fi’s eyes narrowed.
“Tremayne?”

Reil snapped his fingers as he felt a tingle of recognition.
“Sure, I think. Anyway, we were put on this ship headed for a meeting with Tremayne. But before we get there, the captain of the ship pulls me aside to have a little chat. Very interested in Tam. We finish our chat and. . .”

Fi was horrified.
“Reil! What did you let slip?”

Reil threw his hands up in protest.
“If I could finish! The reason he wanted to know so much about Tam was because he was working with him, and Tam was making him uncomfortable. You see he, Tam, was already on the ship, working as some sorta crew. And he was actually pretty mad about me being there. So Tam came and paid me a visit in my cell, and that went poorly so he tried to get rid of me, in a violent and painful way that involves the phrase: Dermal Fracturing. Do you know what that is? ‘Cause I didn’t until he used his powers to squeeze me so hard my skin cracked.”

Fi shook her head as she tried to process this.
“No, that can’t be true. I saw his body.”

Reil frowned.
“Me too, when he was pummeling me with his mind powers.”

Fi looked at Reil earnestly, pleadingly almost.
“Are you sure it was him?”

Reil felt a twinge of irritation.
“Ye high? Soulful blue eyes? Blond, looks a little underfed? Can move things with his mind! Yeah, I’m pretty sure it was him.”

If Fi noticed the sarcasm she didn’t react to it, as she was consumed by her own thoughts.
“He’s alive.”

Reil sighed.
“You’re not focusing on the part where he’s evil, and tried to kill me. It’s kind’ve a big deal. The Imperial Captain stopped Tam from killing me, then helped me and Cali escape before Tam could take a mulligan. So here we are. ”

Fi’s quiet contemplation was replaced with steely resolve.
“We have to help Tam. . . I have to help Tam. I can’t just abandon him.”

Cali couldn’t hold her tongue any longer.
“Again you mean?”

Reil glared at her.
“Stifle it. Look, Fi, I know this is a shock for you, but I need you to think this through. We can’t help him, because he doesn’t need help.”

Fi looked at Reil is disbelief.
“How can you say that? You just told me the Imperials have him, we need to. . !”

Cali cut her off.
“The Imperials don’t have him, he is them. He’s joined, or turned, or whatever you wanna call it. Tam is in league with the people who are bad. He’s with the bad people, is this sinking in yet Fi!"

Jyllis who had been silent up till this point leaped to her friend’s defence.
“Hey! Leave her alone!”

Cali rounded on the actress.
“Stay out of it! This doesn’t concern you.”

Jyll stood her ground.
“It concerns me the way you harass Fi. She’s done nothing to you!”

“And what would you know about what she’s done to. . . any of us!” Cali spat “We don’t know you, and you don’t know us, so you can take your attitude and shove-”

Reil put a halt to fight before it got out of hand.
“Shut up! Both of you, just shut up. Cali, just back off. Ms. Tromso, Fi is our friend, so I ask that you give us some leeway in how we interact,” Reil tossed a significant glance at Cali, “but there will be no more harassing.”

Fi reasserted herself back into the conversation.
“Reil, I don’t know if Tam is evil or what, but I need to help him.” Fi’s hand slipped into Jyllis’, as she started to gain confidence, “I am going to help him. If you aren’t going to help me save him, at least help me find him. I need to do this.”

Reil sighed, mindful of what he was about to do.
“ I’ll help you. All the way if I can.”

“What!?” Cali balked.

Mentally Reil amended his statement to add: If Cali doesn’t shoot me first.
“I’ve been doing some thinking. And I figure Tam is too dangerous the way he is. I admit to being a little sore at the beating I took, but more than that, he’s like a living weapon of mass destruction, and he’s off his rock. But the truth is, I don’t have anything that could go up against the Imperials, and frankly I don’t have anything that could go up against Tam if he got in a foul mood. So, what you really need Fi, is friends who could go up against the Imperials.”

Fi looked unsure.
“You mean the Rebels? I wouldn’t know where to begin. . .”

Cali glared at Reil.
“And neither would we!” She said firmly.

Reil dreaded the fight that this was gonna cause.
“I might have a lead on that. . .”

Cali’s tone was low and menacing.
“Reil. . .”

“Which we can discuss later. All this talk about Tam has gotten us a little ahead of ourselves. Why don’t we back up and you can tell me what the hell is going on with you two, and why people are looking for you?”

I. J. Thompson
07-07-2012, 09:25 PM
Fi was silent, lost in thought. Jyllis cleared her throat and leaned forward.

"Someone's, well... someone's trying to kidnap me."

Zealos Reil's face was a stony mask, but it was preferable to the outright hostility on Cali's. Jyll bit her lip in thought, then continued. "Three nights ago. We were joyriding, and I noticed we were being followed by someone."

"A speeder was behind you," Cali summarized, eyes trained toward the cargo hold's ceiling, "sounds serious."

Jyllis ignored the remark. "I didn't really care either, but then the next morning, I learned my hotel room had been broken into. We hired a bodyguard, and that night, the bodyguard - 'Muscles', we called him - attacked Fi and abducted me! None of us saw it coming. Luckily, a smuggler - I don't remember his name..."

"Tach," Fi supplied, lost in thought.

"Tach. He saved me. Fi and I spent the next day at home - at her place - and then today, on the shoot... well, I guess you saw the news."

"We did," Reil nodded, "though they kinda glossed over the details."

"I don't know if that beldon charge was a coincidence," Jyll stated, "but that guardsman, whatever his name was..."

"Trask," said Fi.

"He, Trask, tried to capture us and we, well, we killed him. But he tried to kill Fi first! Then 'Muscles' showed up again, we ran, and... here we are."

"And so you need a ride out of here?" Zealos asked, leaning back on his crate.

"No," Fi interjected, mentally rejoining the group. "I have a ship. But we could sure use some help getting to it, just in case."

"Oh, right," Zealos nodded, "the, uh... the Dawncaller."

"Then, we could meet up in orbit," Fi urged, "and go find your Rebellion."

Cali cleared her throat and folded her arms across her chest. "Let's talk terms."

Reil raised a hand. "Cali, maybe you oughta leave the diplomacy to me."

"You!" the girl retorted, "sure, and we can enjoy sitting around here with an empty tank and a hold full of cooling agent for the next few years..."

Reil frowned. "Cali's got a point. This boat's not going anywhere 'til we unload our cargo and refuel. It could take days to find a buyer."

Jyll's posture straightened as her eyes lit up. "Could I borrow your comlink?"

Zealos Reil sat in quiet confusion for a moment, then, with a shrug, pulled the device from his belt and offered it to the grime-encrusted holostar. Jyllis keyed a number daintily, trying to dirty the comlink as little as possible, and in short order was connected with her intended contact.

"Helly! It's me. Yes, it's me. I'm fine. Seriously, I'm fine. Fi's fine too, thanks for asking. I'm nowhere, that's all you need to know. Seriously. Listen, I need a favour, okay?" At this she paused, wiping a filthy hand on her pants.

"I need you to buy a cargo of cooling agent, could you do that? Well, surely one of your people could use it! It's down here in Port Town. Helly, I'm not saying you have to come to Port Town, but surely you could send a crew, right? Fantastic. Sure, his name is," she put a hand over the comlink's receiver. "I'm sorry, what did you say your name was again?"

"Reil."

"Rail?"

"Reil."

"Reil. You can reach him at this frequency in, say, twenty minutes. Yes, it's his comlink. Thank you so much, Helly-doll! And don't you worry - we'll be clubbing again in no time." she snapped the comlink off and handed it back to its owner.

"There, you see?" Jyllis grinned winningly at Cali, a moldy slice of some sort of red vegetable falling out of her hair as she did so, "it's all arranged."

Zealos Reil rose from his cargo crate, straightened his shoulders and adjusted the blaster at his hip.

"Let's make tracks."


* * *

A short time later, Kroff stood in the cramped Port Town alley, straddling the unconscious Wing Guard sentry he'd had to stun ten minutes prior outside of the docking bay that housed the Dawncaller. Jyllis Tromso and the singer had indeed come here, just as planned. Unfortunately, that was about all that had gone according to plan - the pair had been escorted by Zealos Reil and Cali Bellum, strangers to Kroff, and all four of them were armed. Jyllis and the singer had entered the hangar, shutting the hatch behind them, while Reil and Cali had gone back the way they'd come, arguing all the while.

"And you made your move?"

Kroff sighed, itched his bandaged head in exasperation, then tore the bandage off in annoyance and tossed it into one of the alley's far corners. A gentle breeze in the corridor felt good on his bald scalp. "No boss, there were four of them. I couldn't stun 'em all, especially with all these bystanders coming and going. Now, Ms. Tromso and the singer have sealed the hatch. I'd expect them to lift off at any moment."

"What was the name of the ship again?"

"Dawncaller."

"Alright," Rammo sighed over the comm. "Get back to the shuttle and get up here. We'll take over. You're done down there."

Kroff stepped out of the alleyway, adjusted his suit, touched his headwound gingerly, and spoke into his comlink.

"See you soon."

Gibson8088
07-14-2012, 01:36 AM
"So, Elayne, how do you feel about speeder racing?

Elayne glanced at the man in confusion. "That came out of the blue." she thought to herself. “I think they are pointless contests. The fastest speeder racer gets to inflate their ego.”, she answered bluntly, “Why?”

Tach looked towards the Jedi with a smirk and pointed at the Spot-On Locator. “Because we're going to enter one soon.”

“Alright.”, she replied with disinterest.

After a momentary pause Tach spoke up. “But there's plenty of time to tell me about yourself.”

Elayne sighed in frustration. “Listen, Tach was it? Let me give you a quick summary. I'm on a, well, for lack of a better word, a quest. I've been following the guidance of the Force for some time now. About a week ago it started guiding me to that factory. In said factory I met an evil wolf thing. Insert a fight that I had to jump out of a window to escape.”, she paused to make an exasperated gesture, “And so here I am now. Once the Force speaks to me again I will be out of your hair.”

“Wow, so the Force gives you everything you need, does it?”, Tach asked unimpressed.

“Basically. It's been the only friend I've had.”, she shared bitterly.

Tach nodded politely. After a moment of thought he stated, “Because it doesn't judge you.”

“Fracking straight it doesn't judge me!”, she snapped harshly, “It doesn't care about how I was raised, or my choices and mistakes! I ask and it answers, no complications.”

“If I were to guess, I'd say you ran with an interesting crowd.”, Tach quipped.

Elayne shrugged, “That they were. Maybe I'll get to tell you about them, sometime.”

“Why did you leave?”

She looked away from Tach, fixing her eyes on the distant horizon. “It was time to follow my own path.” Looking back at him she started to size up the man. “What about you? What's your story?”

“I'm on a quest, too, actually. I've been hired to locate a missing family member for a noble.”, Tach explained, “More specifically, his father. This illegal racing circuit is the only lead we have. And if you're interested I do have a pressing need for someone with your particular talents. It pays very well, too.”

“What would you need me to do?”, Elayne asked, clearly unsure of this offer.

“I need a navigator. The navigator keeps an eye on vehicle systems, the track for shortcuts, movements of the other racers and such. Basically you'd keep me informed on important details I could miss.”, he described.

“Hmm, this is definitely a change from the pace I'm used to. Is there anything else I should know?”, she asked pensively.

“Well, other than it being illegal, it's also dangerous.”, he shared thoughtfully, “And considering who you are I must tell you that we will be doing things-”, Tach paused to find the right words, then continued cautiously, “-that are not Sith or Jedi compatible. Will you be comfortable with that?”

Elayne considered his words before answering, “I'll be fine. Quite honestly, right now both paths do not appeal to me.”

“Oh!”, Tach blurted in surprise, “You're a Gray Jedi?”

She arched her brow in confusion, “What's a Gray Jedi?”

“A Jedi that isn't consumed by the Dark but also chooses not to follow the Jedi Code.”, he stated bluntly, “If you like I can tell you all about it later. Say, over dinner?”

Elayne nodded sagely, “Sure.” Her thoughts were reeling at the idea. Jedi who walk the line between light and dark? Why am I only hearing about this now? She looked over at Tach again with a mix of respect and disbelief. And why am I hearing it from him?

Tach guided the Stingray down into the city streets, carefully following the beacon of the Spot-On. Ahead he had spied their destination, the starting line of the race. Three other drivers had already arrived and were waiting.

“Here we are!”, Tach announced, breaking Elayne from her train of thought. “Now don't bring up the mission. From here on out you're my navigator.”

Elayne nodded curtly and hastily removed her backpack and vest, revealing a clean white shirt she wore underneath. “Best to not look like a Jedi, then.”, she said as she dumped the items onto the floorboard, followed by sheathing her lightsaber in her boot.

“Good thinking.”, Tach responded with a friendly wink as they stopped at the line. He took little note of the other racers, that was until one of them opened their mouth.

“Where'd you get that old thing? A junk yard?”, bellowed a teenage human male. He was seated in a new custom built Narglatch AirTech speeder.

“I found it.”, Tach replied in a dismissive tone.

“Bah, whatever. Hey, babe!”, he called out to Elayne. She looked over at him with an annoyed expression. The human continued unfazed, “Why don'tcha ride with me? After I win this race I'll show you a good time.”

Elayne forced a sweet smile and replied in a sing-song voice, “Sorry, I only associate with intelligent lifeforms.”

Tach found the comment quite amusing, but the boy had not. “Why you little b-”

An ASN-121 had hovered up to the speeders and uncaringly cut the boy off. “Welcome racers. Please start your engines.”, it announced in a mechanical voice, “Race will begin in 10...”

There was an alert from the Spot-On. Waypoint download complete. Next waypoint in 5km. it reported and showed the direction to their first waypoint.

The hotshot youth had fired up his turbines and revved them loudly with typical teenage gusto that drowned out the droids voice. He looked over at Tach while the others started their vehicles and smirked confidently.

“8...”

Tach just flipped three switches purposely and fired up the turbines of his speeder. The roar they gave during start up was enough to give the flamboyant youth pause.

“7...”, the droid's voice was barely audible at this point.

“Brats like that get under my skin.”, Elayne shared with irritation.

“6...”

“With your looks you'll have to get used to it.”, Tach informed.

“5...”

Elayne smiled at the compliment, “Flattery won't get you anywhere, Mr. Tach.”

“4...”

“But it's a good start.”, she added.

The droid was continuing its countdown. “3...2...”

Tach held the brake while pushing in the throttle. His turbines cacophonous roars drowned out the noise of the other racers.

"1... Go!", commanded the ASN. Like a shot from a blaster the racers quickly disappeared into the distance, leaving the lone droid on a quiet street.

Dawncaller
07-15-2012, 03:12 PM
Outside the viewport of his shuttle, Doule saw the Inun, poised and oriented for a hyperspace jump leaving Denon, no doubt to rendezvous with the rest of Morning Star Squad. He had come to think of the ship as his home—his own—but after his meeting with High Inquisitor Tremayne he wondered just how much he could claim. Even his own memories might not be his own…

He could almost sense it as he stepped aboard the prototype craft, the “lynchpin of Morning Star Squad,” as it had been described to him. Though he was ostensibly the ship’s captain, he knew that the crew’s true leader—the chittermite overmind sending psychic instruction to its grub workers—had never left. He gave a cursory acknowledgement to the deck officer who greeted him with a salute and informed him that the Inun was ready to jump at his command. Then, brushing past the rest of the welcoming entourage, Doule made a bee line for the Nexus room.

The chamber was awash with oscillating blue light, cast by the kaleidoscoping confusion of hyperspace outside the room’s tall viewports. Tam was inside the elevated Nexus sphere at the center of the room, no doubt, but Doule didn’t want to wait for him to come out in his own due time. He marched up the curving stairs and along the catwalk so that he could bang on the Sphere until the boy opened it up.

But just as he was about to do so, the sphere cracked along its jagged seam and, silhouetted by the twisting hyperspace light, Tam Dawncaller emerged. “You’re upset, Doule.”

“Damn right I am. I just got back from a meeting with High Inquisitor Tremayne.”

“That can be upsetting, yes.”

“Do you know what he told me?”

“That your report was a lie, and that Tremayne believed I had killed Reil and Cali.”

Nonplussed, Doule’s ire began to lessen. “Yes, yes he did. It was quite confusing, really.”

“That’s why you’re here, Doule.”

“To be confused?”

Tam walked past him on the catwalk. “Tremayne orchestrated that whole prisoner transfer. He wanted me to kill the prisoners.” Reaching the bottom level of the Nexus room, the boy looked out the bank of tall, narrow viewports. “Remember when I told you that you were here as my safety net?”

Doule made his way down the catwalk stairs. “You almost killed Reil. I helped him escape before you could try again.”

“You kept me from becoming the monster that wants out of me. It’s harder every day to keep that monster at bay.”
“So I’m holding its leash.” Doule’s stomach sank. What would happen when he couldn’t keep that monster inside Tam any more, or if it turned back on him? He wasn’t a captain, or even an Imperial officer any more, really. He was a wrangler; some degenerate keeper of monsters in the dungeons of some Hutt palace. But this was Tam. He didn’t know why, but he wanted to help the boy. “I can hold onto it better if you can explain what’s going on.”

“Tremayne knew I’d try to kill Reil, and Cali too, because he knows I want to cover my tracks.”

“Cover your tracks?”

“I mean, erase everything. The Tam you knew is long dead. I know you’ve thought this; I’ve felt it. The galaxy needs to know it too. Tam Dawncaller isn’t around anymore, and every trace of his existence is a blight on the galaxy.” The boy turned to Doule, and there were tears welling in his cold, sunken eyes. What could have happened to turn this boy into the broken, walking corpse of a creature he saw?

He placed a hand on the boy’s shoulder. “Tam, I can’t begin to understand what’s happened since Ryloth. All I know is that there must be something out there that isn’t a blight. Something you’ve left behind that might be worth keeping? Something that might…”

“That might bring me back? No. Nothing.”

“Tam,” Doule began, unsure of whether he should finish the sentence, “who is Fiola Shaku?”

* * *

Doule’s eyes fluttered open, and his vision slowly focused on a medical droid leaning over him. “So good to see you conscious again, Captain.”

“Where am I?”

“You are in the sick bay aboard the Inun, Captain.”

“What? How did I get here? What happened?”

“We aren’t sure of the cause, but you suffered blunt force trauma to the head. There may be some memory loss.”

Thanks for the update, Doule thought. “Where in the galaxy are we?”

“In the sick bay aboard the Inun, as I said, Captain. It appears the memory loss is still in effect.”

“No, you bucket of bolts, where in the galaxy? What is our current location?”

The droid paused only a moment as it interfaced with the ship’s information network. “We are currently in orbit over a planet called Owara, Captain…”

Elvish_Jedi
07-19-2012, 02:58 PM
He was awake. At least, he thought he was. It was so hard to tell where the dreams left off and reality began. But the dreams always seemed so confused, not like this. This felt real. The... feeling... what was it called? He didn't remember. But he could feel. Feel the being standing in front of him, feel the smooth, curving walls of the tank he was floating in, feel the line of other presences to the left and right of him, some faded and dim, others still bright. Somehow, he could feel.

He reached out with the feeling, to the presence in front of his tank. The presence was doing something, something that had to do with him.

Suddenly, the tank vibrated. A low, incredibly deep thrumming noise flowed through the liquid and through him. He felt himself moving, upwards it seemed. His head broke free of the liquid; he felt the cool air on his wet hair and skin. It was then that he realized he hadn't opened his eyes. But he didn't want to. Somehow he knew he had to keep still.

The rest of his body slid out of the liquid. He could now feel that he was strapped to some kind of board. He carefully tested the strength of the manacles, and found that there was no way he could move the hard durasteel. Durasteel. Somehow he knew what durasteel was. It was used to make spaceships, and....

Relief flooded through his mind. He almost shouted, but the tube that extended down his throat through his mouth prevented that. But the feeling of relief soon passed. He now remembered parts about the world in which he lived, but... who was he. He still didn't know that.

The hydraulic sound increased, and he felt himself moving again, turning so that he lay on his back. He slowly was lowered down, then the movement stopped. He tensed. The being he felt in front of him was approaching. He felt there was something wrong about the presence. It wanted to do something to him. Something that would cause him pain. He tensed even more, and the feeling started to flow through his like a raging river. The feeling mounted, pulsed, pushing at him from inside, trying to get free. He readied himself to unleash the feeling as soon as the presence got close enough. The footsteps clanked on the metal floor, comeing closer, closer....

I. J. Thompson
07-19-2012, 10:34 PM
In orbit around the planet Bespin, Rammo the Toydarian sat restlessly in his captain's chair on the bridge of the Reclamator I, drumming his clawed fingertips rhythmically on the top of one knobby knee. How long had he waited since Kroff's last call? Thirty minutes? In which time the man had re-boarded their shuttle down on Cloud City and inched ever further into orbit and back toward the creaky old salvage ship. In all that time, the Dawncaller was nowhere to be seen.

The Reclamator I shuddered slightly, and a distant, muffled clang could be heard. From years of experience, Rammo knew it was the door of his flagship's modest hangar closing.

"Kroff and the shuttle are back aboard, chief."

Rammo looked at Sloat, slumped in the pilot's seat. The unkempt young man was beyond exhausted, having waited several shifts for something, anything to happen, but afraid to grab a quick cat-nap for fear that his double-time pay might be rescinded. The pilot rubbed his red eyes wearily, took another swig of cold caff, and shifted uncomfortably in his chair.

"How about now?" Rammo barked.

Sloat jumped slightly at the sound of his employer's voice, then looked at his sensors for the thousandth time. "Zip, chief," he shrugged, "they're not here."

Rammo scratched an armpit impatiently. He'd been certain - certain - that the girls would have lifted off before Kroff did. What are they waiting for? Did the Cloud City authorities bring them in? Do they have some sort of cloaking device? Rammo dropped his almost-nonexistent chin onto one fist and considered. Maybe I should have told Kroff to stay on the city until the girls had lifted off for sure.

"'Zip'..." the little Toydarian echoed thoughtfully. "You mean, there's nothing on the sensors at all?"

"Oh, there's been plenty of traffic coming and going in the area," Sloat yawned in reply, "but I've been staring at this scope like a hawk, and there's been absolutely no sign of the Dog Collar."

"Hnh," Rammo grunted. "I find it odd that..." His eyes widened. "The WHAT?!?"

"The... Dog Collar?"

"Dawncaller! DAWNCALLER, you numbskull!!!"

"Sorry, chief, I guess I thought you said-"

"Don't think! Never, ever, think! It's not in your skill-set!" Rammo took flight, hovering angrily over the back of the pilot's chair. "Check again! Dawncaller! D! A! W! N!..."

"I got 'em!" Sloat answered, snapping upright. "One-ten degrees to port, five clicks out!"

"Come about!" Rammo shouted, "Pursue! Intercept! Catch them! Catch them!"

Stars whirled from left to right out the bridge's dirty windows as Sloat brought the massive salvage ship around. As its course straightened, a tiny fleck of reflected light could be seen floating in the distance.

"Gaining," Sloat reported dutifully, his boss's wings flapping behind him. "It's weird... they're just sitting there. Almost as if they're waiting for someone."

"They're gonna get someone," Rammo beamed. "Full speed! Ready the tractor beam!" Then he flew higher and spun around, arms outstretched, and sang tunelessly.

"'I'm in the mood for love...!'"


* * *

"Fi," Jyllis exclaimed, returning from a cursory exploration of the Dawncaller and settling into one of the cockpit's contour seats, "This is a nice ship! What did you pay for it?"

At the vessel's controls, Fiola peeled a strip of sticky, slimy plastic from one of her bare legs and tossed it to the deck, cursing that morning's choice of shorts over slacks. "I..." she grinned impishly, recalling her adventures with Inex Jonn, seemingly so long ago, "I sort of inherited it."

Jyll grinned, her face - both of their faces - still encrusted with sludge. "Is your offer still open for me to take her for a spin?"

"Oh yes," Fi nodded, "soon's we're out of danger, I'd love to see what you've got."

Jyll took in the Dawncaller's vast array of controls, and wished she could touch them without soiling them with her grubby hands. Helm, gunnery, shields, navicomputer, sensors...

Sensors.

"Fi," she breathed, "there's something big coming in... really fast!"

"That'll be Reil," Fi answered.

Jyll studied the display. "No, no way... it's capital scale."

Fi felt the weight of dread appear, like an anvil in her chest. They were at zero velocity. Hands shaking, she engaged the accelerator. "We're outta here."

Engines firing, the Dawncaller began to move as their pursuer drew closer.

"It's called Reclamator I," Jyllis observed, looking at the sensors. "You know it?"

"Never heard of it," Fi replied nervously, banking the Dawncaller away from the approaching capital ship and slowly gaining speed.

"Can we jump to hyperspace?"

"It'd be suicide, we don't have a course computed."

"Oh, Fi... blast! After all this..."

As Fiola brought the ship to top speed, its engines started to groan and, sure enough, the velocity gauge began to count back down toward zero..

"What's happening?" Jyllis pleaded.

"They've got us in a tractor beam," Fi explained. "I can either shut us down, or blow us out."

Jyllis said nothing, simply slumped in her seat and buried her face in one hand.

Fi disengaged the Dawncaller's engines...

Gibson8088
07-21-2012, 03:51 AM
It was about to be a bad time to pour tea. The resident of the topmost north facing apartment had just set down his empty teacup. Then carefully picked up his kettle full of fresh hot tea and was about to pour when he heard a distant roaring noise outside. He had looked out the window to know the origin of the growing noise another sound joined in. Turning back to the table he noticed the teacup had begun a dance to the beat of frightful vibrations that were echoing the approaching noise. Then there was such a sound that the man who was going to enjoy the tea dropped his kettle to desperately run into the other room in a vain attempt to avoid whatever was sure to hit his home. But then the sound was gone, and his home wasn't hit, though his kettle, his teacup and his fine decorations would beg to differ.

...Meanwhile, half a click away...

“That sleemo's still ahead of us!”, Elayne bellowed. She seemed displeased with the start of the race since the young upstart managed to jump ahead. Tach's Stingray was coming up second at this point.

“C'mon! Can't this thing go faster?! You got boosters, right? He has boosters! What's this thing got?” Tach double-checked the passenger seat, just so he was sure that Elayne didn't fall out and get replaced by a cheerleader. “What happened to 'pointless contests to inflate their ego'?”, Tach asked with much amusement.

“Palpatine's balls, Tach! We are not losing to that laserbrain!”, Elayne yelped then pointed ahead, “Look! He's already rounding the first waypoint!” The checkpoint being pointed at was in front of a high class hotel that looked stunning, all lit up under the night sky. The following checkpoint was at a sharp left turn from the hotel, of which the kid was already heading towards. “Hit a Go Faster button!”, she demanded energetically as she flicked that pointing finger towards the dashboard. Tach just shook his head and stated flatly, “I don't use boosters.”

Elayne sort of huffed. “What kind of a racer doesn't use boost-”, the rest of her sentence transitioned smoothly into something like a shriek as Tach jerked the wheel, pointing the nose of the speeder sharply into the turn. The speeder then continued to slide through the turn at a completely unsafe velocity. Then through the checkpoint, then smartly straightened out after it smugly careened past the hotel.

“What?”, Elayne sputtered, “Was that?”

“A turn.”

“We went sideways! Really fast!”

“Yep.”

“You gotta teach me that trick sometime!”

“Maybe.”

The stunt did prove to be more than flashy, it was effective. Tach's speeder was able to maintain speed and was now catching up to the race leader. Then after a few more moments was alongside him. Elayne whooped and shot a rude gesture at the driver of the Airtech.

“The Brat Side of the Force is strong within you.”, Tach said mirthfully.

“Oh shut it!”, Elayne responded in her best prudish voice and gave Tach the same rude gesture, “I'm having fun!”

“Turn!”, Tach warned before wrenching the speeder into another inertial compensator straining turn. Elayne had woohoo'd through this one. She then kept an eye out for the new second place runner.

“Hey he made it around the turn.”

Pause.

“Tach, I think he's catching up.”

Another pause.

“Yeah, he's definitely catching up.”, Elayne warned with a tinge of worry in her voice.

“Tell me when you see white smoke.”, Tach requested.

“'kay!”

Tach counted down from five on his hand. When he reached one Elayne confirmed the white smoke. “What does the white smoke mean?”

“Boosters run hot. That's why I don't use 'em. He's flushing coolant through the boosters for rapid cooling. It's an amateur mistake to attempt it this early in a race.”, Tach explained casually, “Next step is going to be black smoke with interesting noises.”

The Airtech had finally caught up to Tach's speeder. And then there was black smoke. And there were very interesting engine noises. And cursing from the amateur driver as his speeder began shutting down important systems. Elayne smiled sweetly and waved as the red Stingray pulled away.

”Cali probably would have enjoyed this.”, Elayne had thought quietly to herself. She looked back at the second placer, ”Though, she likely would have shot that guy at the starting line.”

After a few more waypoints(Tach had put extra effort into making them flashy, just for Elayne's enjoyment) an alert chimed in to announce an incoming call, of which Tach accepted. “Congratulations, driver.”, a male voice announced with a holovid quality regal tone, “You have earned the privilege of driving for me. Please, meet me at the location I have uploaded to your locator in three hours so that we may get better acquainted.” The transmission ended and the locator beeped as a new waypoint downloaded.

“Three hours. Plenty of time for that dinner I promised you.”, Tach offered with a smile.

“Great! I'm starved! It's a date!”, Elayne replied enthusiastically.

With a nod Tach veered the craft purposely in a certain direction for a specific destination. There was a brief pause before he spoke up again. “Um, Elayne, I have to ask. What was with that change? I mean from bitter and indifferent before the race straight to adrenaline fueled enthusiasm with a helping of cocky trash talking?”

“Umm..”, Elayne started modestly. Was she blushing? “Well, I was having fun. I had no idea that this silly sport of yours was this exciting. I've never done anything like this before.”, she shared bashfully.

“Are you serious?”, Tach replied with surprise, “Never been to a club? Celebration of some sort? A party? Anything?”

She remembered a party, on Rothana, but she had to stay behind on the ship. Had to avoid the 'Imperial eye'. All she got was take-out and undeserved enmity from being an unwitting messenger. Elayne frowned at the memory and replied quietly, “No.”

“Well, then, that's gonna change!”, Tach stated firmly in an attempt to restore her better mood.

Elayne allowed herself a smile at the man's enthusiasm. “That's kind of you but.. I do stand out a bit. Jedi sometimes have trouble blending in. Like we're trouble magnets or something.”

“Give me a chance, dear Elayne.”, Tach said smoothly, “First we're going to my Image Designer, then I'm taking you shopping. Dinner will be slightly delayed.”

Ice Hawk
07-22-2012, 05:13 AM
Cali was still furious with Reil on the way back from the Dawncaller, so Reil was waiting until they were in their hangar before trying to talk with her. To, y’know, protect innocent bystanders from the shooting. And the cursing. Just as they got in however, Reil’s comlink rang. Reil sighed, and took the call, as Cali ignored him and went up the ramp into the Whydah.
“This is Reil.”

“Hello Mr. Reil, my, associate, tells me you have some cargo I need to buy from you.”

Reil glanced back at the ship, and then focused.
“Yeah. . . That I do.”

Mr. Strand and Zealos hammered out the details of his purchase, in a relatively quick amount of time. Zealos’ entire hold of cooling agent to be picked up by Strand’s people immediately, for the low, low price of twelve thousand credits. And Reil was never to call him ‘Helly’ ever again.

Reil was satisfied with the deal, although in hindsight he should have taken the time to define immediately, because it was half an hour later, and he was still waiting for the frelling movers to come and take his cargo. He didn’t want to go see Cali until this was concluded, because. . . Well it was mostly because he was stalling, but what if the movers came and they were still arguing? What if they came and she really had shot him? That would be awkward. No, better to let her fume for a bit longer.

He filled the time by going over the finances with this trip. If he factored in the fuel costs, the landing fees, bar tab, what he was going to have to spend getting the electrical worked on by real mechanics, what he’d need to save so that they could afford to buy new cargo and sell it, and food for the next week, he was pocketing all of seven hundred credits. His most profitable run yet. On the upside though, no taxes!
Reil sighed. Flying an X-Wing and killing Imperials had been so much more straightforward.



*************




When the movers did arrive, they made up for lost time in a hurry. Their foreman handed Reil credits, Reil in turn lowered the cargo ramp, and they went to work. It was all very professional, no smoke breaks, no chatting, nobody mentioned that they couldn’t lift this kind of cargo because of union rules and they’d have to wait and bring someone else in on it. Quietly Reil wondered how much these guys were getting paid, because it looked like they must be making more than him.

Reil inspected the empty cargo when they were finished and gone. It looked empty. Which was good, he supposed, since that meant they didn’t leave anything behind. Which would have been bad. He raised the ramp and sighed again. Can’t stall any more. Time to face the music.

Reil found Cali in the cockpit, sitting in the pilots’ chair. She swivelled to face him before he could begin.
“Is this boring you Reil?”

Reil was caught off guard by the question. For one thing there was no shouting, and for another, no swearing.
“Is what boring me?”

Cali made a sweeping gesture at the cockpit.
“This. Playing at being the captain.”

Reil frowned. Confused. More so than before.
“I’m not playing at anything. I am the captain. I actually have documentation supporting that!”

Cali shook her head.
“That’d be fine, except at first opportunity to do so, you’re off to find to rebels with Fi and track down Tam, all the while we got bills to pay, and troubles enough with going off on same damned idealistic crusade!”

Reil tossed her the credits.
“We just got paid today. Which is entirely thanks to the fact that I wanted to help of out Fi and her damned idealistic crusade! I’m not playing at anything Cali. Why, is this just a game to you?”

Cali sighed.
“No, it’s just. . . I’d get it, alright? If you were not happy with how things were going. I mean, we only just escaped being sent to the spice mines, or worse, and ever since we did escape we’ve been scraping to get by, and the work isn’t really falling into our laps. We needed this job just to get off the station, so I’d get it if this was you throwing in the towel and heading back to the rebellion.”

Reil sat down in the co-pilot seat.
“That’s what you’re worried about? That I’d give up on the Whydah to go chase after Tam?”

Cali nodded mutely.
“That’s ridiculous, it’s my ship, I’m not giving it up!”

Cali glared at Reil, who quickly amended his statement.
“Our ship. But the point’s the same, I’m not abandoning the Whydah.”

Cali frowned.
“Aren’t you though? Tracking Tam won’t fix the power surges in the cockpit, and Fi’s movie star friend isn’t gonna keep being able to sell our cargo for us. And the Rebels. . . Are we gonna make cargo runs in between your combat mission’s now? ”

“We’re tracking Tam ‘cause he used to be our friend, and because he’s dangerous the way he is. Dangerous to us,” Reil stressed, “And no, Fi’s friend isn’t gonna be able to sell our cargo, but that’s fine since we’ll do it ourselves. Like we were doing before. And there will be no combat missions for the Rebels. Ever again. You made it clear last time where you stood on that, so all we’re gonna do is give them a heads up, and then they might even buy some of that cargo from us. Just a quick: Hey there’s a crazy force user around who can rip ships apart with his mind, might wanna look into that, and while you’re looking buy our illegal goods. So no I am not giving up on our supply business. This is just. . . something we need to pursue, alright?”

Cali sighed.
“If this is that important to you, then, yeah, I can put up with it. I still don’t see the percentage in doing this, but we got paid today and that’s a start. So long as keeping the ship running and kitchen stocked comes before helping the helpless killer child, we’re good.”

Reil grinned.
“Careful now, you start agreeing with me and doing the right thing, and pretty soon you’ll develop a conscience. And then before you know it, you’re a real girl with feelings and everything.”

Cali stuck out her tongue and began going through the pre-flight checklist.
“Shut up.”



***********************




As the Whydah broke atmosphere, Reil began searching the scanners, trying to locate the Dawncaller. When he finally did, he noticed there was a much bigger ship already docked with it.
“That wasn’t part of the plan. Bring us in closer Cali, I don’t like this.”

Dawncaller
07-22-2012, 08:57 AM
Imperial Center, Owara

The smoke of new fires mingled with a new wave of stormclouds, bringing about that smell that Captain Gilian Errolt had grown to hate. The smell, strong and unmistakable, was all that remained of another of the Imperial resistance cells; the desperate Lord Pavana spared none of the city’s buildings in bringing and end to Errolt’ brave resistance fighters. Who knew how many were left now? Hundreds? Dozens? Just his own cadre of men?

His beleaguered soldiers had fought bitterly and bravely, but in the end Pavana’s own forces had proved too strong. They had driven the Imperials from their base in the abandoned mine, surprising resistance forces by digging in from other sites. Errolt and several of his trusted men had stayed behind while civilians had fled, and had barely escaped themselves before the tunnels were overrun with Pavana’s scum. It was a bittersweet feeling, pressing the button that triggered the detonation string on what they had come to consider their home for so many months so that it came crashing down on those reprobates.

The new home for the Imperial resistance was in Imperial Center itself. It seemed fitting, really, that their final redoubt would be in a place so named. They had wrested control of the planet’s communications relay, and surrounded it with several traps which would keep Pavana’s men busy should they try to make their way in, but it hadn’t stopped them from whittling away at those who found refuge elsewhere.

Somewhere in the back of his head, Errolt couldn’t help but blame all this on Ziro Caldera and his ragtag followers. He couldn’t deny the help they had been when they were here, but that was the caveat. He had no idea whether or not they had accomplished the missions he had given them—no idea whether the Empire had heard his message or not—and since they up and left without the slightest report back to him, he may never know. Like all other ‘freedom fighters,’ they had their uses, but in the end they exhibited a lack of discipline that inevitably led to disappointment or worse.

There was no denying that every day had been worse since their actions on Owara. His paranoia spurred, Pavana had redoubled his efforts on securing the planet for himself. Errolt and his men had considered sending another message to the Empire, but any outward transmission would have given away their presence like a lone shrieker. So they waited; it was only a matter of time before, booby traps or not, Pavana would bring an end to the Imperial resistance on Owara.

“Sir,” Stebs tapped Errolt on the shoulder. “You’re not gonna believe this…”

He directed Errolt’s attention to see Teece, her broad smile redirecting joyful tears to trace wide courses down her blue cheeks. “It’s an Imperial signal, Gil. Look!” She removed a headset from her ears and switched it to the central holoprejector, where a man stood in Imperial uniform.

“—iral Harmod of the Star Destroyer Edacious. Let it be known that the violent seizure of the planet Owara is contrary to the will of the Emperor and will be curtailed by any force necessary. If there is any Imperial resistance with the power to do so, please respond. Repeat, this is Admiral Harmod of the Star Destroyer Edacious…”

“Well,” grinned Errolt, “looks like my message got through after all…”

Dawncaller
07-24-2012, 05:02 PM
“I’m glad to hear from you, Admiral,” Captain Errolt said to the blue-scanned ghost before him. “We’re hanging on by a thread down here.”

“Hold your ground, Captain. We’re preparing reinforcements for descent.”

“With all due respect, Admiral, I don’t know if it will get here soon enough.” Out of the corner of his eye, Errolt saw Stebs flash a hand signal at him before leveling his rifle out of a small, smashed out window. On the other side of him, Teece was gathering vital equipment, including a blaster pistol she looked like she could barely handle. “By sending you this message, we’ve given away our hiding place and Pavana’s men are on their way. We’ll do the best we can, but by the time your landing craft reach us there might not be anything left to rescue.”

The holographic admiral considered this then turned to some unseen assistant. “We’ll have to do something faster, then. Commander, scramble the Seemacs.”

The transmission closed as orbital forces got to work, and Errolt set about preparing himself to hold on long enough for help to arrive. Sidling up to him, Teece said, “What’s a Seemac?”


High in orbit above Owara, the Star Destroyer Edacious angled its bow toward the war torn settlements below. Like fire wasps from a hive, a dozen swift spearheads burst into flight, trailing lambent clouds as they punched into the planet’s atmosphere. Reaching ground level, these rockets leveled off and transformed, unfolding to reveal triangular maneuvering fins and a pair of proton torpedo launchers. The cruisemissile assault craft (http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Cruisemissile_assault_craft)—or CMAC—was designed by the Empire for near-instantaneous precision strikes.

The best pilots the Academy could muster were chosen to guide these swift engines of destruction to their targets and deliver ordinance with greater accuracy than more traditional TIE bombers. Jinrai Squadron took to this particular mission with enthusiasm, approaching Imperial Center so low to the ground that their twin thruster engines ignited the already scorched fields surrounding the besieged city.

Ahead, an army of warriors loyal to Lord Pavana amassed, their attention directed on the few brave remnants of the planet’s Imperial garrison who tenaciously held their ground behind makeshift ramparts and hastily fashioned IEDs. The hostiles never saw the CMACs until they saturated the courtyard near the city’s communication center with a barrage of proton torpedoes.

As the smoke cleared, a young Wroonian woman climbed to the lip of a crater and shielded her eyes against the bright flames to watch the squadron bank around for another pass to confirm the hit.

“So those are Seemacs…”

I. J. Thompson
07-26-2012, 07:51 PM
Kroff dropped to one knee and took cover at the side of the Reclamator I's main airlock door, wiped a bit of perspiration from his brow with the back of one forearm, and readied his pistol. A deep breath in, a deep breath out. Then, he reached up and thumbed the switch.

The hatch lifted obediently, revealing the interior of an eight-meter docking tube, fully extended. At the other end of this was the Dawncaller's main airlock, its hatch also raised. And inside, the targets - Jyllis Tromso and her friend, Fiola Shaku - also taking cover, with blasters raised in his direction.

"Don't try it," Kroff warned. "I'm a really good shot."

"Ah, 'Muscles'..." Jyllis, on the left, sneered, "so you can speak. I think I liked you better before."

"Just one thing right now," Kroff answered through clenched teeth, "my name ain't 'Muscles'. It's Kroff."

Fi adjusted her aim, and called up the tube. "Your name's gonna be Prisoner Six-Thousand Twelve when this is all over, buddy. Count on it."

Jyllis nodded. "I'm betting you're not fast enough to shoot us both, Kroff," she paused. "So what's it gonna be?"

"I don't need to shoot you both," Kroff called back. "Just her." He nodded at Fi, upon whom his blaster was trained. "So... what's it gonna be?"

There was silence a moment. Then, wordlessly, Jyll placed her blaster on the ground.

"Right," Kroff nodded. "Now you."

Fi swallowed tensely, and dropped her own blaster on the deck.

"Good. Now, come forward. Slowly."

The girls obeyed, standing and walking up the tube. They stopped a few meters from their captor.

"Are they secured?" came a voice from around the corner.

"They're secured, boss."

"Jyllis Tromso!" Rammo the Toydarian gushed, coming around the corner with wings flapping, "Allow me to introduce my- BLEAGH!" His eyes widened at the unexpected sight and smell of the garbage-covered girls. He looked back and forth between them a few times, then reached into a vest pocket and brought forth a well-thumbed photo of the actress. Looking at the pair again, he finally settled on Jyllis.

"What the hell happened? You look terrible!"

Jyllis Tromso stood in slack-jawed confusion for a moment, before her face - what little could be seen of it - reddened with rage.

"Excuse me?"

Rammo shook his head in annoyance. "Oh, this'll never do. Kroff, take her down to the showers, let her get herself cleaned up."

"What about the other one?"

The Toydarian's face twisted in thought. "Hnh... you're right, I guess I'll have to keep 'em together. Okay, bring her, too. But don't let 'em run the hot water for more than five minutes," he commanded. Then, wings flapping, he retreated around a bend in the corridor.

"And no peeking!"

Kroff bristled slightly at the implied insult to his professionalism, then shook it off and waved his blaster toward the opposite end of the corridor.

"This way."


* * *

Success!

Rammo hummed happily as he entered his quarters, doing an awkward little dance with his gangly arms and stubby legs as he floated in the air. Then, he spun about and smacked a fist against the comm.

"Sloat! Sloat... you awake?"

After a moment, a groggy voice replied. "Ayuh?"

"Hyperspace! Let's go pick up the crew, so I can show them my bride!"

"Okay chief, but... the Dawncaller's still attached. You want me to dump it?"

Rammo paused at this. He'd got a good look at the Dawncaller as they'd overtaken and docked with it, and it was a wizard ship. Starlight-class, sleek, black and shiny. Of course it wasn't exactly salvage per se, but he was most certainly going to have to dump its owner, the singer, sooner or later. Why let her have the ship back? It would only aid her in reaching the authorities and reporting him. Better to drop her on some backwater planet, keep the ship, and sell it later.

"No, hang onto it. We'll perform the ceremony here, then Kroff can man it and we'll all rendezvous at Rhiev to pick up the crew."

"Roger," Sloat replied. "Hey, chief? I've been at the board for three shifts... could use a little bunk time."

Rammo considered. "Have a look at the scope. Anything suspicious out there?"

"Nah, chief. Nothing I'd call suspicious."

"Thank you for your views, Mr. Sloat. But I'm asking you if there's anything out there that I'd call suspicious."

"Uh, no... nothing suspicious. Sir."

"Well, stay awake and keep your eyes peeled. This is my big day!"

"Roger," the pilot said wearily, and broke the connection.

The Toydarian hovered there a moment, then busied himself digging through the various rubbish that littered his quarters.

Where is it?

Then, upon a high shelf, underneath a dusty particle fusion coil, he found it - an elegant black box. He opened it.

Inside the box was a shiny, purple satin bow tie that Rammo had bought years ago to wear at his elder sister Harka's wedding. Rammo winced at the memory of what a fiasco that event had been. Harka was a winged witch of the worst kind, ordering her family and bridal party around like a true taskmaster, and later, at the reception, Rammo himself had actually ended up getting into a fist fight with the groom. Still, even he had to admit that it was a nice bow tie. Thirty-one credits. The salesman had wanted forty-nine for it, but Rammo had talked him down.

He flew over to his quarters' grubby mirror, grabbed the bow tie, tossing its box onto the dirty chamber floor. Then he fastened the accessory around his neck and grinned admiringly at his reflection.

"Lookin' sharp!"

Dawncaller
07-29-2012, 11:08 AM
As the Seemacs continued their attack, underslung laser cannons keeping time with the deafening downbeats of proton torpedo detonations, Errolt emerged from cover and sprinted across the craters and debris that was once the courtyard outside the communications building in Imperial Center. So accurate had been the reinforcements' onslaught that not a single neighboring building had suffered damage more serious than a few blast marks and broken windows. So powerful had been the onslaught that Errolt was actually having a hard time accomplishing what he had set out to do: find a survivor. He could barely even identify the species of several bodies.

A blaster bolt zinged through the air, missing Errolt's head by mere centimeters. Instinctively he ducked into a roll and, while maintaining an erratic pattern of movement, waved his arm in a message pattern that meant, "Disable, don't kill." From his own spot near the communications building, the sharp eyed trooper Stebs fired his own sniper rifle, sending the bolt crashing through the third story window of a nearby building that hopefully left the target alive enough for a little interrogation.

Errolt approached the building quickly but cautiously, wracking his memory for what he knew of the building's floor plan. It was a standard prefab edifice, likely configured to serve as office space for administration support services. The third floor would most likely be dominated by one large space of cubicle terminal stations. The being who had nearly shot Errolt-- and that Stebs had likely winged-- would no doubt be somewhere in that room.

Instead of using the front doors, however, Errolt slipped along the side of the building and forced open the door to the emergency exit stairway. As he did so, an alarm klaxon throughout the building added itself to the rhythm of strafing Seemacs outside. Errolt cursed himself silently; he had chosen these back stairs for more surprise than arriving in the turbolift would have offered, but with the alarm blaring he might as well have made an appointment. No sense in complaining now. With any luck, the Pavanan sniper was under the impression that an entire platoon was converging on him. That fear was something Errolt could use.

Ascending the stairs to the third floor reminded Errolt that his days of active field service should probably come to an end soon. Some island pension property on a paradise world sounded nice, and maybe he could convince Teece to leave her own career and take up beach bumming with him. She always talked about having a traditional Wroonian wedding back on Pantora, and maybe he'd oblige her...

Pausing briefly at the third floor landing to catch his breath, he peered through the small transparisteel window of the door, then ducked back against the wall as a high powered blaster bolt smashed through and superheated the space where his head had been. The sniper was still up, and he was mad.

Errolt entered the room at a crouch. It was impossible to see the whole of the office space, even when he peeked over the cubicle half-walls. Support columns and free-standing terminal kiosks staggered the room, and the sniper could be hiding behind any one of them.

So, he thought, the tusk cat enters the minoviper's den...

As he made his way between the cubicles, careful to keep his head down, Errolt noticed that all the alarm klaxons in this room had been blasted. Apparently the sniper hadn't liked the noise, and preferred the office space to be eerily quiet, strangely isolated from the cacophony outside.

Finally, Errolt spotted the sniper, or rather, his feet. The being was leaning against one of the cubicle walls near the bank of windows through which Stebs had winged him, and he had carelessly left his thick, splay-clawed toes in plain view. Errolt burst into the open space to catch the sniper off guard, but when he trained his blaster on the sniper and shouted to see hands in the air, he began to realize his mistake. The sniper, a Besalisk by the looks of him, lay slumped against the wall, his wide, toothy mouth aslack, with a broad tongue lolling out to the side. Four thick arms draped lifelessly on the floor, one still holding a high-powered blaster rifle. An experimental toe poke from Errolt confirmed it: the sniper was dead.

But if the sniper was dead, who had shot at Errolt when he first arrived?

"You should know," a reedy, feminine voice said as the barrel of a blaster jammed into Errolt's back, "that Lord Pavana has us use the buddy system..."

Ice Hawk
08-01-2012, 08:51 AM
The Whydah crept towards the Dawncaller and the ship it was attached to at a leisurely pace. Reil was hunched over the com.
“Dawncaller this is Whydah, what’s your status, over?”

There was no reply from Fi, and no activity from either ship. The Dawncaller wasn’t even powered up, if it wasn’t for the Reclamator I holding it in place, it would have drifted off by now. Reil sighed.
“Turn your back on them for five minutes, and they go get themselves kidnapped.”

“You don’t know that,” Cali chimed helpfully as she took the ship on a wide turn around the Reclamator I, “I’ll bet there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for this so we don’t have to investigate.”

Reil turned and cocked an eyebrow at her.
“Like what?”

Cali grinned lopsidedly.
“Maybe they’re asking for directions?”

Reil considered this.
“Who’s asking for directions, Fi or this new ship?”

Cali shrugged.
“Either, or.”

“So rather than just transmit nav data, they parked, came aboard the Dawncaller, and then powered it down, because. . . nav computers work better when they’re offline?”

“Seems legit to me. Case closed, let’s go on ahead and make the jump to lightspeed, and let those wacky celebrities catch up later.”

Reil considered this.
“Sure thing.”

Cali paused, and turned to Reil.
“Wait, really?”

Reil nodded sagely.
“Yeah, I’m convinced. Stopped and asked for directions. ‘Course, Fi and Jyllis never told me where they wanna head to, so we better dock and get some directions ourselves.”

Cali frowned turning back to the controls.
“You’re a bad person, getting my hopes up like that.”

Reil sighed.
“Yeah, I’m just terrible. Assuming that they are kidnapping Jyllis and Fi, and not having a grand ol time manually scanning star charts, I’d assume most of the crew is probably by the tube connecting the ships. So I want you to dock on the far side of that, and I’ll take a look around, see if I can spot some celebrities.”

Cali turned to face Reil.
“You take a look around? I’m coming in with you!”

Reil shook his head.
“I’ll need someone manning the ship, in case the crew of the Reclamator I notices that they’ve got an extra ship attached to their hull. Then you’ve gotta pull back well out of this things range and alert the authorities. The Reclamator I is way out of the Whydah’s weight class.”

Cali was less than thrilled with this plan.
“Why don’t we just do that now then? The whole planets looking for Jyllis, we could just call Bespin Wing Guard and have them sort this out.”

Reil grinned wryly.
“Since when are you a fan of law enforcement?”

“I’m not, but this is one of those rare occasions when we don’t have anything to hide. Let the police take the risks, we can just sit back.”

Reil shook his head again.
“Naw, Fi seemed to think some of their guards were dirty, if we call them now they might well tip off the Reclamator I that we’re here and trying to rescue them. Better to save it as a last resort.”

Cali still wasn’t convinced.
“Well then you stay on the ship and I’ll go in and rescue them.”

“No.” Reil said flatly.

Cali frowned.
“Why the frell not?”

“Because I don’t know what’s on the ship, and it’s probably really dangerous.”

“I can handle danger!” Cali insited.

“So can I. And I want you on the ship while I handle it.” Reil declared, closing the discussion.

Cali manoeuvred them to the far side of the Reclamator I, as Reil prepared to board. Preparing in this case being filling his pockets with spare power cells. He glanced up to see how Cali was doing.
“Don’t come in too sharply, we don’t want them to know we’re here.”

Cali compensated by veering sharply away from the Reclamator I.
“Don’t get too far, we don’t wanna look like we’re avoiding it.”

Cali tossed an annoyed look over her shoulder at Reil.
“You said to keep our distance.”

Reil nodded.
“Yeah, keep your distance, but don’t look like you’re trying to keep your distance.”

Cali gave Reil a blank look.
“What?”

Reil shrugged.
“Y’know, fly casual.”

Cali gritted her teeth in frustrations.
“This is why you should be flying and I should go in.”

Reil mussed her hair as he exited the cockpit.
“If they spot you, there won’t be any room for subtle flying, just blast away and call in the cavalry. You don’t need me for that.”

Dawncaller
08-02-2012, 11:59 AM
With his hands placed carefully and conspicuosly on the back of his head, Errolt silently cursed falling into the trap and not chasing after the sniper-- snipers, actually-- without backup.

Keeping her rifle trained on Errolt's heart, the Pavanan sniper walked around to face him directly. Her olive skin and crown of tiny thorns gave her away as a Zabrak. "What have we here?" she said, eyeing the plack on his uniform. "An Imperial captain! Things must be rough if you guys are putting captains on the front lines.

"Step away from the window," she added abruptly, motioning with her blaster. "Let's not hang around and wait for your sharpshooter friend to get a good shot at me. Poor Segen made that mistake." She stepped over the dead Besalisk, and beckoned for Errolt to follow. "Lord Pavana will be happy to get his hands on another officer. He just loves torturing information out of you guys before watching you die..."

Errolt ignored the rest of the female's rambling threats. "You aren't going to get very far out there, what with my friends in the sky."

"Who says we're going outside, you arrogant feke! We're taking the tunnels."

"Tunnels?"

"My, but you bucketheads are thick! Pavana's been digging underground bases since he got here. We've been crisscrossing the planet under your Imperial noses for years; you'll never find all of us."

"Spoken like a true upstart," Errolt scoffed. "You might wipe us out, but you're so used to seeing your cause as nothing more than a protest that you won't know what to do with Owara once you have it."

That did it. Something snapped inside the Zabrak woman, and with a contralto snarl she cracked the butt of her rifle across Errolt's skull. The man fell to the ground, rolling toward the sniper and kicking out with a leg to sweep her off her feet.

But the woman was ready, and she was spry. She easily skipped out of his reach and brought her blaster rifle to bear on him. Errolt resolved himself to the imminent death he would experience at the hands of this younger, better warrior.

When the volley of blaster bolts pierced the air, however, Errolt never felt the white hot char of blaster bolts steal away his life. He looked up, and saw the Zabrak sniper diving for cover behind a cubicle wall, narrowly avoiding a rain of blaster bolts.

As he dove for cover himself, Errolt looked for the source of the fire and saw, peeking through the smashed window of the stairwell door, the most beautiful golden eyes he had ever seen, framed within the blue face of the woman who had stood by him through so many hardships on Owara. "Teece!" he shouted. "Get back!"

She heeded him just in time, for the Zabrak sniper had switched her blaster to an automatic mode, spraying enough fire that the stairwell door turned to atoms. The whole office space filled with heat and smoke, which Errolt used to shield his own attack. Lunging over the half wall, he landed on the Zabrak and wrenched the gun from her hands. He dealt the woman the same rifle blow she had given him, and after confirming her unconsciousness, he said, "Nice shooting there, Teece."

The Wroonian woman stepped through the gaping hole that was once a doorway. "I didn't even hit her, did I?"

"You distracted her," he offered, "which it turns out is all I needed to get the upper hand." After a moment, Errolt decided that the encounter warranted him saying something he'd never told her before. "I love you, Teece."

"I know," she said, wry nonchalance masking her inner thrill. "Why else would I stick my neck out to save your pretty pink choobies? Now come on, let's get that backrocket bimbo back to the comm center before she wakes up..."

I. J. Thompson
08-04-2012, 12:05 AM
Mr. Mace bobbed impatiently in the air on the Dawncaller's darkened bridge. The Food Lady had ordered him to wait here and, though the little fabool couldn't understand human language, he had concepts like 'stay' pretty much down. However, as far as he was concerned, his obligation to obey such commands diminished in direct proportion to how much time had passed since the words were uttered - and though he couldn't really tell time either, Mr. Mace felt that enough time had passed to afford him a little leeway.

Fluttering his tiny wings, the downy white globe floated aft, toward the ship's lounge. People tended to spend their time there, and it was also the one place on the small transport where he was most likely to be given treats. It was a good place.

Alas, no people - and thus, no treats. Nonplussed, Mr. Mace studied the chamber, settling his attention on the chamber's starboard wall, on his left. Part of it wasn't a wall anymore! That was interesting.

The hole in the wall connected to a tube, made of more of the same stuff that the Dawncaller was made of. Mace flew up the tube, and found... a whole new place! The thrill of discovery coursing through his veins, the little fabool sniffed the air. It smelled weird here, but certainly not uninteresting. With a pioneering spirit and an empty belly, Mr. Mace picked a direction at random and set about exploring the Reclamator I...


* * *

In the salvage vessel's galley, Rammo the Toydarian, on wings of his own, flew to the chamber's cold unit and wrenched its door open. Retrieving three large, torpedo-shaped sandwiches encased in plastic, he tossed them onto some plates he'd arranged on one of the galley's two large tables and, with a dirty knife, cut the plastic wrappings from them. Studying the sandwiches for a moment, their ends hanging off the plates, he abruptly grabbed one of them and tossed it back into the cold unit. Then, using the dirty knife once more, he cut one of the two remaining sandwiches in half and divided these between two of the plates. Examining the arrangement, he grunted in satisfaction and seated himself in front of the large sandwich, of which he took a big bite. A door panel buzzed.

Rammo dropped the sandwich onto his plate. "Enter!" he called out around his mouthful, adjusting his bow tie.

A hatch hissed open, on the other side of which stood Jyllis Tromso and Fiola Shaku. Though dripping wet and totally un-styled, they were finally clean. The clothing they'd worn, soiled beyond any hope of repair, had been thrown into the trash and replaced with ridiculously large, neon-green salvage coveralls with reflective silver stripes around the wrists, waist and ankles. They stood uncertainly until Kroff, blaster trained on them both, directed the pair into the room.

"Come, sit!" Rammo invited, "Eat!"

The girls looked at each other. The truth was, neither of them had had a bite to eat since before that morning's shoot had begun, and they were ravenous. Their host appeared to mean no immediate harm, and Kroff, though certainly armed and dangerous, didn't appear to be trigger-happy. They wordlessly took a pair of the table's many plastic chairs, and set to work on the sandwiches.

Barely noticing Fi, Rammo watched Jyllis eat and nodded his approval. "I bet you're wondering why I invited you here!"

The actress paused momentarily, then took another bite. "To have me call my producers and announce your ransom demands."

"Ransom?" the Toydarian asked. "Ms. Tromso, you misunderstand; you are about to become Mrs. Rammo, the wife of me, Rammo, President and Chief Executive Officer of Rammo's Reclamation Company, Incorporated!"

Fi's jaw dropped, revealing a good portion of half-chewed sandwich. "You want to marry her?"

Rammo's face twisted in irritation. "Lady, I don't want to marry her, I'm going to marry her!"

"Thanks," Jyllis replied, taking another bite, "but I decline."

"But you don't know me yet!" Rammo offered. "Are you enjoying the sandwich? They're usually five credits apiece, but I get 'em from a guy who gives me twelve for thirty!"

"It's rubbish," Jyllis retorted and kept eating.

Rammo frowned. "Well, after the wedding, we'll sample the instant noodles."

"This is a big ship," Fi observed. "Where is everybody?"

"Shore leave!" Rammo supplied. "No sense paying everyone to sit around on a job that me, Kroff, and Sloat could pull off ourselves." He turned again toward Jyllis. "You human women love a thrifty thinker, isn't that right?" he asked, waggling his brow ridges up and down.

"What I love," Jyllis returned, "is for a guy who's made a mistake to face up to it, and make it right."

"Seriously," Fi agreed. "What, you think you can conduct a wedding at gunpoint?"

"Countless weddings have been conducted at gunpoint on many worlds for centuries," Rammo countered. "Why, on my own planet, King Flogar married his beloved at gunpoint, and they eventually went on to produce nineteen offspring!"

Jyllis put down her sandwich. "I'm gonna be sick."

Rammo studied the actress, unsure if she was being serious. "Kroff, find her a bucket."

Jyllis Tromso straightened in her seat, and faced the Toydarian with a piercing gaze. "Mr. Rammo, I want to be clear with you. We can't get married."

"Of course we can," the Toydarian protested. "You've got your Maid of Honour, and I've got my Best Man..." he nodded at Kroff, who nodded back.

"But who's gonna perform the ceremony," Fi interjected, "you?"

"Of course!" Rammo beamed. "I'm the ship's captain! That's all it takes!"

"Rammo," Jyllis interrupted, "I won't marry you. And it's not because of a technicality. It's not even because we are of a different species. It's because you are a jerk. Do you have an equivalent of that word in your native language? It's because you are the cause of at least one senseless death, because you've terrified me and my friend, because you've brought me here against my will, and because you are, when all is said and done, even despite your crummy bow tie, a jerk. Have I made myself clear?"

Rammo the Toydarian dropped his sandwich onto his plate, sat in silence a moment, then flew to one of the galley's comm panels and smacked a switch. "Sloat," he demanded, "do you hear me?"

"Yeah, chief," came the reply, "wassup?"

"No interruptions," the Toydarian seethed, "we're performing the ceremony right now!"

Ice Hawk
08-07-2012, 06:38 AM
Reil sighed as he passed the broken turbolift for the second time. He was going in circles already. He took out his comlink.
“Hey, Cali?”

The response was immediate.
”I’m here! Trouble?”

Reil frowned.
“Of the less than exciting kind. I’m lost.”

There was a pause.
“Lost? It’s a spaceship Reil, not a hedge maze. What do you mean you’re lost?”

Reil’s frowned deepend. If looks could kill, the comlink might’ve suffered some mild discomfort.
“Yeah, well I’m not proud of it, but I can’t seem to find a way into the rest of the ship. I’ve done a full lap around the lower levels. It looks like these used to be crew quarters, but they’ve been stripped and retrofitted to hold. . .”

“Cargo?” Cali supplied helpfully.

“Junk.” Reil decided upon. “Anyway, I’ve found a lift up to the upper decks, but the control panel down here is busted, so I can’t call it down. I’d need somebody to bring it down before I could take it up.”

Cali started to grow impatient.
“And? Whadya want me to do about it, call their bridge and complain?”

“Well aside from your really helpful sarcasm, I was hoping the computer had finally identified the make of the ship, so you could pull up some schematics for me.”

“Nope, the computer still doesn’t know what the hell you’re on. You’ll have to find your own way up.”

Reil rolled his eyes.
“Typical.”

Reil was about to put away his comlink when Cali chimed in again.
“You know, if I were you, I’d look for something important to break.”

Reil considered this.
“Well that'd make me feel better, but I don’t see how it would help.”

He could hear Cali sighed from across the com channel.
“Because if it was important enough, they’d have to send someone down the lift to fix it.”

Reil looked up at the network of pipes over his head thoughtfully.
“Hmmm. . .”


**********************************

Cali waited expectantly at the com, as it fell silent on Reil’s end for several minutes. Then it crackled to life.
“Well that outta do it!”

Reil sounded so proud, Cali wondered if he even remembered it was her idea.
“The turbo lift is coming down?”

“Well, no, not right this second. But soon I’ll wager.”

Cali was skeptical.
“What makes you so sure?”

“I busted the outflow to the water tank. Someone will be down any minute to try and stop the venting.”

Cali frowned.
“Well that’s good. I think. Where’d you get the water to drain to though, I thought you were stuck on that deck?”

There was pause.
“Drain? Ummm, yeah. . . Well I don’t really have a spot to drain it. So now it’s mostly around my ankles.” Reil admitted sheepishly.

“Reil!” Cali shouted into the com.

“Relax, Cali, everything is fine.”

“Fine? You’re flooding the compartment you’re in! How is that fine?!”

Reil spoke in soft soothing tones.
“Cali, relax. Right now alarms are going off in the cockpit alerting the pilot to the water leak. They’ll send someone down any minute to fix it. And when they do, then I’m on the lift up, and it’s some other poor sap whose job it is to deal with it. ”

Cali was unconvinced.
“You’re sure?”

“Don’t worry. I’ll bet news of the leak is all over the ship right now, if they’ve got a pilot who’s even half awake.


*******************************
Aparently half awake is too much to ask for these days, Reil noted ruefully, as the water level was already past his waist, and still no activity from the lift. He had thought about heading back the Whydah, but it seemed that to prevent flooding the entire lower level the ships computer had sealed the hatchway into the other rooms.
"Okay, I could, maybe be in some peril here."

Gibson8088
08-07-2012, 05:34 PM
“What do you think, Tach?”

Elayne was trying on her third outfit at a trendy clothing shop, Fiery Matter, and studying herself in the mirror. Not long ago the pair was finishing up with a skilled Image Designer where Elayne settled on her new hair style. ”It's called a short jagged cut fringe bang style.” with “Perma-Dye hair treatment, it's all the rage.” to keep the hair purple with black streaks. When Elayne had asked Tach why she needed to change her appearance he answered with ”To blend in with the racing scene. Besides, how many Jedi, Dark or Light, have you seen with stylish hair and wear modern clothes?”. Elayne shared that she honestly hadn't thought of this before.

“I mean,”, Elayne continued as she studied herself in the mirror, “I can move quite freely in this outfit, and it is surprisingly comfortable, but”, she turned to view her outfit from another angle, “isn't this just a bit too revealing?”

The Jedi was wearing quite the outfit; a pair of sturdy black boots that stop just above the ankles, black leather shorts decorated with a pair of red pinstripes that run down the hips. Snug upon her waist was a combat worthy belt with attached thigh holster. And for the torso was a black and red sports bustier coupled with a black short sleeved jacket that stopped just below her ribs.

“Tach?”, Elayne asked at the reflection of the quiet smuggler behind her. He finally changed out of that ridiculous trench coat and body armor into a decent leather jacket. At the moment it would appear he was enjoying the vision that stood before him. Admiring her jimp, fit figure-

“TACH!”, the vision of loveliness snapped, waking Tach from some strange hypnosis. Thinking quick he replied appropriately, “What?!”

Elayne crossed her arms in front of her and attempted a stern expression, but was unable to hide an amused smirk. “I take it you approve of this outfit?”

“Uh huh!” He nodded, too.

Tach was caught off guard when she started giggling. A Jedi was actually giggling! He smiled at Elayne then turned to the shopkeeper. “We'll take it and the other outfits she tried!”, he said as he handed the being an amount of credits. Returning his attention back to Elayne he asked, "Ready to go?"

“Yes! Take me to dinner, you lech.”, Elayne commanded with a smile, “I'm hungry!”

The pair soon left the shop and took off into the skyways of Coruscant. After a few moments she mentioned to Tach, “While I do like these clothes there's not really someplace for my-”, she held out her lightsaber to finish her sentence.

Tach acknowledged her concern with a nod, “I was thinking about that in the store. Think I have an idea you'll like.”

“Really? It looked like you only had one thing on your mind back there to me.”, she mischievously replied.

“Hey!”, he objected with feigned offense. Elayne smiled sweetly. Tach returned her smile and shook his head in defeat, “Okay, I'll grant that it is somewhat difficult to concentrate with you in that outfit. But I'll manage.” She blushed and giggled again! Tach was feeling he could happily get used to that sound.

I. J. Thompson
08-07-2012, 07:36 PM
On the bridge of the Reclamator I, two separate sounds fought for supremacy. One was mechanical - an alarm, beeping urgently, tied to a flashing red readout on one of the bridge's computer screens:

CRITICAL FAILURE:
PRINCIPAL AQUA-TANK OUTFLOW
STATUS:
COMPARTMENT E-13 FLOODED 60%, ALL ADJACENT HATCHES SEALED
REQUIRED ACTION:
DISPATCH REPAIR TEAM. MANUAL BAIL AND OUTFLOW REPAIR REQUIRED, PRIORITY ALPHA
ACKNOWLEDGE - 25...

The second sound was organic. It was that of Sloat, the vessel's young pilot, head thrown back in his chair and snoring loudly.

ACKNOWLEDGE - 13...

The pilot twitched in his chair briefly, lost in dreams of faraway places. A thin stream of drool ran from one corner of his open mouth and, still asleep, Sloat reflexively lifted a hand and wiped it away.

ACKNOWLEDGE - 7...


* * *

Jyllis Tromso and Rammo the Toydarian stood in the vessel's galley, flanked by Fi and Kroff, the man still holding his pistol in his hand. Rammo looked admiringly at Jyllis, his prisoner/bride-to-be, adjusted his purple satin bow tie, and read further from a large, old-style book he held in one hand.

"...so it has been, and so it now shall ever be, love everlasting, in wellness, in illness, in prosperity, in poverty, until our wings no longer lift us - uh, you can ignore that part..." he looked closer at the book. "Across the stars, be it known that this man, Rammo, takes-"

At that moment an alarm klaxon began blaring, painfully loud in the chamber, accompanied by wildly spinning red lights. Rammo's face curdled in frustration as he dropped his book onto one of the mess hall's two large tables and flew to the comm unit again.

"Sloat! Sloat... are you there?" There was no reply. "Sloat!"

Another moment of silence. Then, "Ayuh chief, I'm here. What's going on?"

"You tell me!"

"Uh..." there was another pause, made worse by the blaring klaxons, then: "Looks like we've got a busted water outflow on E-deck... there's a compartment flooding down there."

"And what were you doing when the call came? Sleeping?"

"Well... sorry chief, but I musta dozed off for a second. Like I said before, I'm a little tired."

"You're gonna be a little fired if you don't get down there and sort it out! I'm gettin' married here, for cryin' out loud!"

"Okay chief, but... who's gonna man the scope?"

Rammo paused, trying to think despite the klaxon's hooting. Send Kroff down to E-deck instead? That'd be the quickest solution. However, it was slightly possible that his fiance, for whatever reason, might get cold feet about the wedding at the last second. Better to keep Kroff -and his blaster- right here.

"Forget the scope! I'll take my chances. Get down there and fix it, and I expect a report the minute everything's under control!"

"Roger."

Rammo flew back to the group, picking up his book again and searching for where he left off.

"Across the stars, be it known that this-"

The alarm klaxons were drowning out his voice.

"ACROSS THE STARS," he shouted, "BE IT KNOWN THAT..."

Unmatched in volume, the alarms continued.

"Oh, stuff it," the Toydarian seethed in frustration, tucking the book under one arm.

"Let's all go up to the bridge and watch the sensors."


* * *

The noise in the corridor was terrifying to Mr. Mace. Such an interesting place, his exploration of which was ruined by the unnerving noise and flashing lights. He flew further down the corridor and was forced to stop at a closed hatch. The little fabool studied it, looking for any sign of comfort. All that was offered was a tiny bit of human language:

E-13

Of course, Mr. Mace was incapable of reading such language, but Human letters meant order - and with all the noisy chaos surrounding the little fabool at that moment, he felt like he could use a little order.

He waited nervously beside the hatch...

Dawncaller
08-08-2012, 06:10 PM
A planet-wide broadcast on Owara:

Citizens of Owara, I am Captain Osiris Errolt of the Imperial Army. Let it be known that Imperial Center has been retaken, and a squad of capital ships are currently in orbit, positioned to enforce Imperial law. This message is the final effort of the Empire to sue for peace with Pavanan insurgents, after which point we will bring order to Owara with expediency.

I now address Lord Pavana directly: doubtless, His Excellency has the wherewithal to receive this message and to respond in kind, but at this point the most effective mode of expression is through action. Call off the forces that plague and pillage the innocents of Owara and capitulate with the demands of justice.

Now, to those of you who have pledged yourselves to Lord Pavana and his organization: renounce your fealty and you will be granted leniency. The planet's economical infrastructure has been sundered due to our prolonged warfare. Perhaps together we can rebuild what your master has so myopically undone.

And to those within the sound of my voice who have remained loyal to the Empire despite untold hardship and tragedy: yours is the mettle that makes this empire great, and I commend you for your accomplishment. When possible, I encourage you to make your way to Imperial Center. Failing that, establish contact with us however you can, and we will arrange rescue services to see to your needs according to triage.

This broadcast marks the turning point for the war on Owara, either Lord Pavana will exercise wisdom and cease hostilities, or the power of the Imperial Navy will root Pavana from his warren with starfire!

Errolt Out.


The broadcast quietly played on a continuous loop in the background, allowing Errolt to idly appreciate the smartness of the dress uniform he had worn for the holorecording. Teece had found it stowed in some locker of the communications center, and while it hadn't fit Errolt as well as his own uniform it was certainly cleaner.

It was best to look as presentable as possible when speaking on behalf of the Empire, and he had done exactly that. One way or another, this was the turning point on Owara; he could feel it. Sitting here, with Teece quietly collating transmitted responses to his broadcast and Stebs quietly watching out the window for Pavana's next wave of invaders, Errolt knew that the end wasn't far off.

"Here's the latest batch," said Teece, handing him yet another datapad. "Most of them are in Basic, but there's one that's encrypted. It's not any of the algorhythms I've been cleared to use, so my guess is it's a military code."

"Thanks." That was good news. Military codes meant military men, possibly more garrison survivors. He plugged his code cylinder into the datapad to begin the decryption process. "Any word from Pavana?"

The Wroonian shook her head. "He's holed up, scared as a jakrab. That's my guess." She probably wasn't far off. Lord Pavana was known for his paranoia, so it was no surprise that he'd made no response. The attacks had come to an end as well, but it was too early to tell whether that meant Pavana had agreed to the cease fire or whether his forces were simply assembling for a final, apocalyptic battle.

Stebs announced the arrival of Asyn Baka only moments before the pilot entered the communications center. The captain of Jinrai Squadron kept his Seemac pilot on three-man patrol rotations; when he wasn't out on his own turn to patrol, Baka returned to the center to coordinate his pilots with the operations of the Edacious and the rest of Morning Star Squad in orbit overhead. Errolt found it infuriating, to be honest. The pilot was predictably arrogant, befitting a fighter ace, but he also insisted on being present for every communication with the navy ships. It could easily be dismissed as a desire to stay in the loop, but Errolt couldn't help but feel like Baka just didn't trust him.

The pilot strolled into the room, his bright white flight suit looking as impeccably spotless as if there was no carnage outside. "Captain," he said, removing his helmet to show his narrow black eyes and smugly canted brows, "the crime lord's forces are nowhere to be seen. I suggest we contact Morning Star Squad for further instruction."

Errolt stifled a snort. Spending so many months with no living superiors, he was used to making his own decisions. Baka's seeming dependence seemed humorous now, but Errolt reminded himself that it was all part of Imperial order; yet another thing that made him long for retirement. Finally, he said, "Transmission commencing."

When the holographic being materialized in the air, however, it was not Admiral Harmod. Instead, a young boy, seated in a cross-legged position, floated in the air. Errolt rechecked the transmission details, and saw that it was not the Edacious with which he had connected but a small communications vessel called Inun. He was about to apologize for the mistake when the boy spoke.

"I'll speak with Captain Errolt alone."

Without the least bit of protest on his face, Baka stood and left the room. Teece met Errolt's eyes, smiling with encouragement, then she left as well. Finally, with much hesitation, Stebs picked up his blaster rifle and stepped outside.

That voice; Errolt had heard the voice of the boy before. He recognized the boy's face too. "Hello, Mace. Long time no see..."

Dawncaller
08-10-2012, 01:16 PM
Captain Errolt tried not to let his emotions show. He was determined to hear the boy's story before speaking his mind. "How is Captain Ziro and the rest of your entourage?"

"There is no Captain Ziro," said the boy cryptically, "just as there is no Mace." Aliases, then; it was the most likely explanation.

"How long has it been since you disappeared from Owara?" Errolt mused. "Two months? Three? I had dismissed you as fickle spacers, incapable of true Imperial discipline. But now I see you've returned, and with a squad of starships, no less." He kept his own words equally ambiguous, not wanting to give voice to inaccurate assumptions or unfounded blame. After all, the presence of Morning Star Squad suggested that 'Mace,' and perhaps the others as well, had been covert Imperial operatives all along. It wouldn't be prudent to insult them now that they'd returned in force. But if that's the case, he thought sardonically, it would have been nice for them to at least let me know...

"I've come here with a specific objective in mind," said the hologram of the boy. "Morning Star Squad not only facilitates that goal, but it allows me to accomplish other ends; blasting two mynocks in one shot."

Errolt was aghast. "You speak as though you're in command of this rescue mission!"

"You speak as though I'm not." Even through the imperfections of bluescan holography, the boy's eyes looked haunted and inhuman. "I command the crews of this squad by the same means I coordinated our initial efforts on Owara: psychically heightening awareness of pilots, gunners, and commanders; planting telesuggestions that ensure teamwork, implicit understanding, and a division of labor that operates with-- as you put it-- 'expediency.'"

The Imperial captain could no longer keep his outrage from showing. "And what about the soldiers? What about my men that you sent to their deaths with your mind control? And Admiral Harmod? How does he feel about being your puppet; just a pawn you can move-- or even sacrifice-- on a dejarik table?"

"I used to look at it as a game," the boy admitted, "but I've now come to see the subtlety of my abilities as something more like a composer, bringing together an orchestra and inspiring a virtuoso performance. But instead of musical instruments, we have starfighters and turbolasers. Instead of tablature, I use the Force."

The Force. Errolt was no stranger to its existence. He was old enough to remember the Jedi, and their treachrous attempt to assassinate Palpatine so long ago. The Empire cut its teeth on the elimination of Force users, but Errolt knew that there were those who pledged fealty to the Emperor, functioning as his elite operatives. Even Darth Vader styled himself as one of the legendary Sith Lords. Was this boy 'Mace' a young member of those ranks?

"I must correct you on another point, Captain." The boy must have leaned closer to his holorecorder, for the device adjusted its aperture so as to transmit only his head, and at roughly four or five times its actual size. The effect was ominous and domineering, and Errolt took an involuntary step backward. "You said earlier," the sinister youngling continued, "that this was a rescue mission. Given the reports you have given, we can't afford devoting resources to evacuation."

All the outrage that Errolt had felt washed away in a cold wave of bewildered shock, encapsulated in a single word: "What?!"

"As you told Admiral Harmod, Lord Pavana's organization has built a network of underground tunnels. Our sensors confirm this fact, and Pavana could be anywhere on the planet. We will be initiating Base Delta Zero (http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Base_Delta_Zero) to eliminate the threat he poses."

The words hit Errolt like a blow to the head. Base Delta Zero! It was a military directive that had its share of hushed stories, hyperbolic jokes, and emergency instructions. Everybody knew somebody who knew somebody who had participated in an exercise where the objective was to turn the very mantle of a planet to slag. Errolt had heard his share of stories, but he believed few of them. Even the mention of it now was difficult to process. "And you won't evacuate first? What about the civilians? There are innocent people loyal to the Empire down here."

The boy's words were cold and matter-of-fact. "Acceptable losses, given the circumstances. In the time it takes us to sow loyal Imperials from this benighted, blighted planet. Pavana could launch enough starships to overwhelm our blockade capabilities. The crime lord could be on any one of those craft or, given his physiology, all of them at once, to be reassembled from those parts of his homogeneous body at some other stronghold. It's better to keep his malignant terror contained on Owara and eliminate it swiftly."

All those people who had fought and struggled and hoped for an end to the war on this planet would finally receive it, but not in the way Errolt had promised in his broadcast. After a final fiery nightmare, it would be over for them all. Teece would die along with the rest of them. "Please," he said, his voice cracking. "Please just send one shuttle. You remember Teece, right? She's innocent."

The large, holographic eyes looked oddly perceptive, and even a little disdainful. "You love her."

"I do."

At that, the boy's face took on a frightening, predatory grin. "Good. Doomed love will make this all the more excuisite."

"What are you talking about? If you aren't here to rescue us, then surely you're here to kill Pavana and destroy his crime ring. What do Teece and I have to do with this? Why do you have to destroy what we have?"

"Lord Pavana's destruction is only a convenient benefit of our work here. The second mynock, as it were."

"And what's the first mynock? What's here to make you want to decimate the entire planet?"

"You."

"Me?" Errolt thought he had been incredulous before, but this really took the prize. "What did I do to warrant destroying a planet? Why don't I just hand myself over and you can spare Owara?"

"And capitulate with Pavana? No, it is decided. You have a few moments before my ships are in position to begin. Use that time as you wish, and consider it the extent of my mercy."

Errolt regarded 'Mace' with a measure of coldness equal to what this jackal of a boy had given him. "And with that time I demand to know the reason for my death, and the deaths of everyone on this world."

"Think of it as my own personal house cleaning. When all is said and done, you won't be around to bear witness of my existence. History is hard to erase when there are so many voices still trying to write it..."

Dawncaller
08-13-2012, 10:34 AM
In the silence of space, the starships of Morning Star Squadron quietly arranged themselves into a double chevron formation, the star destroyer Edacious taking the point position with its two assault lines orderly trailing to either side. The squad's swifter pursuit line craft formed the second chevron, with the small Inun at its point. Their movements were graceful and organized, like a migratory flock soaring over the curvature of Owara.

But the quiet grace of the starships belied the flurry of activity contained within. Captains bellowed orders over the dins of their respective bridges while their crews shouted status reports. Gunners powered up their stations, priming their weapons. Pilots scrambled to their fighters, preparing to launch. The frantic preparation wasn't the result of panic, however, but rather an excited anticipation at the opportunity to truly test the power of the squad. The crew's enthusiasm resembled that of an orchestra, with individual musicians tending to their instruments, fine tuning them for the coming performance.

For his own role in the operation, Tam Dawncaller had taken his position within the Nexus sphere aboard the Inun, crouched at the core of a vast array of transistors, antennae, and other apparata that would direct and amplify his control of the Force. With this ancient Sith technology, Tam could touch the minds and wills of every crewman of the squad, inspiring them to meet their potential. He felt their suspense mount, settled into their stations and ready to begin; it was as an indrawn breath, a tensing of the fingers over instrument keys, and the placing of a bow on a string. He felt Admiral Harmod receive these reports of readiness and, like a downbeat from a conductor, he said, "Fire."

A bright, brassy cymbal crash of turbolasers issued from every ship at once. Moments later, plumes of destruction blossomed on the planet below. With a tempo established, Morning Star Squad began its pattern of orbit, cruising forward to ensure that no square kilometer of the planet's crust escaped the assault. The turbolaser batteries strafed left and right, a staggering, staccato tattoo that built like an arpeggio of destruction, from cracking the topsoil to superheating it, and finally converting it into atomized incandescence. The first movement of this inexorable symphony had begun with all the fanfare of an Imperial march.

Far below, the inhabitants of Owara became aware of the role they were to play in Dawncaller's masterpiece, and their panic laced the Force like a flurried counterpoint of woodwinds. As each settlement and underground installation succumbed to the fire, sharp, discordant deaths resolved into warm silence, swallowed by the growing tectonic maw.

In a crescendo of desperation personal shuttles, tramp freighters, and starfighters powered up to blast off before they were consumed. Many were caught in the blast wave, adding their erupting power cores to the percussive splash of laser fire. But some did get away, trailing grace notes of hope as they rocketed for the stars. At this, the pursuit line broke formation, spreading out across the planet's upper atmosphere on interception vectors. Wings of TIE fighters poured from their motherships, adding the screams of their ion drives to the mounting chaos. The objective was total annihilation, and the Force sang with the anguished cries of the fallen.


On the ground below, another movement played out, adding its heartbreaking melody to the impending destruction. Osiris Errolt, captain in the Imperial Army, burst from the communications center to greet the stunned and confused faces of Baka, a fellow Imperial captain and leader of the talented Jinrai Squadron; Stebs, a loyal Imperial soldier; and Teece, his beloved girlfriend. Errolt wanted to tell them everything, about how and why death approached on such swift heels, but no words came to his mouth. Instead, he simply took Teece in his arms, kissed her passionately, then, holding her tight, he rested his chin on top of her head and let the tears flow.

Then he saw the Seemacs, landed but warmed for flight in the next patrol, in the cratered courtyard. Their pilots were nowhere to be seen.

Errolt turned to Baka then, and without any words, the two men proposed their ultimatums. He and Teece were going to get in those flying missiles and flee Owara before it was utterly destroyed. Baka, with explicit secret orders, would not let them escape the fate Tam Dawncaller had prescribed for them. They made a run for the ships, but the younger, swifter Baka closed the gap quickly, producing from a hidden sheath a wicked looking blade from some ancient martial tradition. With a single swipe, he struck Errolt's heel, hamstringing his quarry.

Shouting for Teece to keep going and save herself, Errolt rolled over to face his murderer directly. The fighter ace's eyes, which had always been disconcertingly arrogant, now shone with an eerily cold yellow. These were not the eyes of the man who had imposed himself on their communications center bastion only a few days ago, they were the eyes of the boy, who was no doubt watching Errolt's final moments through the eyes of the killer.

But apparently the pilot's attention-- and that of the boy who guided his actions-- was so intently on Errolt that Stebs' bantha rush went unnoticed. He tackled Baka, and when the two men finished tumbling it was with Stebs on top, who lifted his sniper rifle like a club and smashed it against Baka like an enraged Sand Person. He didn't stop until the pilot's impeccably white flight suit was stained with red. Finally, his strength spent, Stebs collapsed backward and turned to look at Errolt. The hilt of Baka's blade stuck out of his chest, while the rest of it had punched through his armor as though it were flimsi. When his eyes met with those of his captain, they were lifeless.

With the help of Teece, Errolt managed to limp to the Seemacs, and none too soon, for a glowing horizon approached. Neither of them were pilots and the controls seemed far more sophisticated than those of a civilian airspeeder, but in time they were lifting off, with the fiery razing of Owara's Imperial Center hot on their heels.

But only the first verse of this movement was complete, and the two Seemacs increased the tempo of the chase when they closed in their triangular wings, firing their rockets in an upward trajectory. But no sooner had they risen above the smoke and steam that spread over the planet than they ran into a crisscrossing net of laser fire from TIE fighters. They juked and rolled, but their novice skills were no match for trained Imperial pilots. Errolt let out a silent scream as he watched Teece's Seemac burst with flame, and only moments later he was engulfed as well. Their voices added to the growing chorus of death and destruction.


Aboard the Inun, Tam Dawncaller reveled in the emotions of his immolative composition. As Imperial Center was consumed, so too was the secret base in which Lord Pavana had hidden to recover from injuries and hide from hostile forces; he had not counted on Morning Star Squad. As the ringing of a massive gong, the agitated mantle of the planetary onslaught swelled and pushed through the crust, melting Pavana's underground bunker in moments and rendering he and his entourage into their constituent atoms. The volcano burst forth, sprinkling the sky with shimmering chimes of rock.

Similar calderas blasted forth at every latitude of Owara, and Morning Star Squad gained altitude to stay above range of this destructive climax. The crust of the planet had cracked, and its burning blood seeped into the open air, covering the world with fresh stone. The symphony of scorched earth had reached its explosive end. Stray fighters and bombers withdrew to their carrier craft, and glowing, overtaxed turbolasers finally ceased their belches of fire.

There was one final statement to this composition; a coda, quiet and brief, but no less disturbing than the previous movements. It was a din of confusion, broadcast among the few surviving escape craft around Owara, as they tried to make sense of what had just happened. Morning Star Squadron, after sundering an entire planet, had risen into space and, without any sensor trace of course alignment or hyperdrive acceleration, had simply disappeared…

Gibson8088
08-17-2012, 04:26 AM
Chi'ko's was one of the restaurants that catered to the upper crust of the criminal world. Their specialty was privacy and anonymity. When you wanted to dine without the CSF listening or your rivals, and you can afford it, you would go to Chi'ko's.

Soon the couple was being escorted to their private dining room. It was tastefully decorated in noble fashion, with a well stocked bar along with other sundries. Almost like an upscale hotel, but without the beds. Elayne had to admit she was a bit awed by it all. “This is quite impressive. I've never been in a place like this before.”

Tach was already at the bar preparing a drink. “That's because you're not a criminal, politician or noble. Drink?”

“Umm, just a glass of wine, please. Nothing strong.”, she requested politely as she placed her backpack on the table, “So, which are you, Tach?”

Tach skimmed through the wines and drew forth a bottle of Blossom Wine. The bottle popped crisply as Tach pulled the cork. “Criminal, but I prefer the title Gentleman Rogue.”, he declared as he filled a glass with wine.

After grabbing the drinks he joined Elayne at the table. “Though I do like to pretend I'm noble, Milady.”, he said as he offered her the wine with a regal flourish. The Jedi gave what she felt was a noble nod before smirking as she accepted the drink. After a few sips of the wine she spoke, “So, tell me more about the Gray Jedi. You did promise, after all.”

“And I keep my promises.”, the rogue stated as he ordered his meal from a menu tablet. After completing his order he handed the menu to Elayne and proceeded to share what he knew of the Gray Jedi.


-=< >=-

Paxan's face was painted in a vile toothy grin as he pulled Elayne's discarded vest from the red aircar. He had successfully tracked his prey and it was time to lay the trap. Without any remorse the humanoid canine drug a metal claw across the hood of the vehicle, leaving scars in the metal that exposed the machinery beneath. Now that the trap was set Paxan retreated into the shadows to patiently wait for his quarry to show.


-=< >=-

The couple continued their talk through dinner, Tach sharing his knowledge about the Gray Jedi beliefs and history while Elayne offered her thoughts. She was still unsure how to interpret the knowledge since she was still believed in the “such and such leads to the Dark Side” stigma.

Tach stopped her with a scandalous statement, “There is no Light or Dark side.”

“What do you mean? Of course there's a Light and Dark side!”, Elayne responded in shock.

“Alright, then, answer me a few questions. Can a Light Side Jedi slip towards the Dark?”, Tach asked politely.

“Yes, of course.”

“Can a Dark Side Jedi ever do enough good to be redeemed?”

Elayne thought for a moment, “I'd like to think so. Anyone should be able to redeem themselves if they try.”

“So, logically, one with control of the Force can switch sides. Good to evil and vice versa, correct?”

“Well, yes. But the temptation of the Dark Side-”, she let her statement trail off.

“Is a farce.”, Tach finished, “Evil will do evil, whether with the Force or a gun or a stick. There are Light Side powers that can be used for evil and-”

Elayne's eyes lit up in understanding as she remembered something, “-Dark Side powers that can be used for good! Like with Tam!”

“With who?”

“Tam, young force user prodigy.”, she shared offhandedly, “He got in a snit because Miss Fiola Shaku”, Elayne said with sarcasm, Tach had carefully hid his recognition of the name, “took off and he was causing trouble in an attempt to chase after her. The crew was having difficulties trying to calming him down so I”, she shrugged helplessly, “well I used the Force to choke him out a little until he passed out.”

Tach laughed at the mental image, “See? Just what I'm talking about. Force use is all about intent. You had no intent to kill the boy, just incapacitate. Sounds like you are on the right path.”, he finished with a kind smile.

Elayne smiled in return, “I think I understand. But what about those who fully embrace the Dark Side? I've heard about their power, and how some change physically.”

“You mean becoming some ugly looking pieces of filth?”, Elayne nodded the affirmative so Tach continued, “Well, from what I've figured out I think it's stress. They gain power from extreme negative emotions. Like fear and rage can cause an adrenaline rush that will give a temporary boost to strength and focus. It also applies to the Force, so to keep the power they must maintain their extreme emotions. For a normal person these stresses will eventually manifest physically as wrinkles, hair loss, etc. For a Force user they are different since the Force will effect them bodily. In my opinion, if you can reign in your emotions after the job is done you should be fine.”

Tach had paused long enough to finish off his drink while Elayne stabbed at a vegetable on her plate and ate it. Then the smuggler continued, “If you're angry, be angry! No since in fooling yourself to believe you shouldn't be, but just keep in mind what you intend to do. Force use is about intent. You intend to hurt someone, the Force will help you do it regardless of whether you use a Force Push or Lightning. Understand?”

Elayne nodded in agreement and asked quietly, “Will you.. help me learn?”

“I-”, he looked at her curiously and shrugged, “-well, I can try, I guess. But I obviously can't teach you any force powers.”

“Oh! That's okay, I have all I need here. One of the strangers I traveled with, um Damon I think, inherited a lot of datapads from his Jedi family. Lots of useful information on those things! I managed to get a memory upgraded Versafuntion88 datapad and copied all of his files!”, she confessed smugly with a grin, “Here, I'll show ya!” Elayne opened her backpack and reached in to pull out the datapad. As she tugged it out a cylindrical object with strange runes had rolled out and stopped when it hit Tach's dinner plate. Upon it was what looked like a family crest.

Tach was staring at it quietly with an emotionless expression forced on his face for several moments. Elayne watched him worriedly as she waited for the man to ask the obvious questions she thought he would be asking now. After some time she broke the silence timidly, “Tach?”

In an eerily calm icy tone he asked, “Did you steal this?”

“What? No!”, she replied in surprise, “It was given to me by Jedi Master Shadowsilver. I met him while I was in the Outer Rim. He helped me when I ran into trouble, then took me under his wing to help me enhance my force and combat skills. Best teacher I've had, well, ever! Then about two weeks ago he forced that thing into my hand and made me vow to find his brother. Insisted I leave immediately to do it, even. So I left the planet and have been trying to find his brother since. I don't suppose you know who his brother is, do you?”

Tach's expression had turned to one of disgust as he picked up the strange device. “Yeah, I do.”, he stated indifferently as he studied the crest.

“Thank goodness. Who is it? And what's that thing for?”

“His name his Wolfe Quinn Shadowsilver, last remaining sibling of the Noble House of Shadowsilver. And this artifact is proof of his status in that noble family.”, Tach explained.

“Oh no.”, Elayne said in a whisper as she felt the weight of his words. Jedi Master Shadowsilver was dead. “Do you know where his brother, Wolfe, is?”

“Vow you will never let what I am about to share with you leave this room.”, Tach demanded icily.

“I swear, no other will know.”, she vowed.

Tach nodded and glared at the artifact. Then picked up a sharp dinner knife and cut a gash into his left thumb that bled a small amount of blood before looking at the object again. “Bet it hurt you like hell to have to do this, didn't it Lucius?”, he growled before pressing his bleeding thumb to the crest.

The runes began to glow brightly as a tangible wave of force emanated from the artifact.

Ice Hawk
09-01-2012, 01:49 AM
Sloat was sprinting towards the lift to E-deck toting a welding kit. He skidded around the final corner when a puffed up ball with eyes flew in front of his face. He did a sort of spinning hop to keep from crashing into the fabool, as he finally managed to stop himself. Panting a little, he set down his tools and took a minute to inspect the poor creature he’d almost flattened.
“Hey there little guy, where’d you come from?”

The fabool hovered in front of Sloat mutely, but expectantly. He wracked his brain trying to come up with the answer. Finally he snapped his fingers in comprehension.
“Hey! I bet you came over from the Dawn Collar didn’t you?”

The fabool cooed noncommittally. Sloat picked up his welding kit.
“Well, I don’t have anything for you right now, I’ve gotta go fix the water tank. Maybe I’ll get you something when I get back.”

If Mr. Mace was disappointed by that, he didn’t give any indication. Sloat climbed into the turbo lift, and sent it all the way down to the flooded compartment. The compartment had almost completely flooded, when the lift reached the right level the doors opened spilling water into the turbo lift. Sloat was about to search through his bag for a re-breather when he was grabbed by something as it forced itself into the lift.

There was a moment of pants wetting terror, until Sloat figured out that the figure in the lift with him was not in fact a water monster, but instead a very wet angry man, holding a gun to his head. It turned out not to be a very helpful revelation in alleviating the pants wetting terror.

The man turned and hit the button to send the lift back up. Sloat considered trying something while his head was turned, but decided against it. They rode the lift back up in silence, and when the doors opened to let them out his assailant shoved Sloat out of the lift and up against the far wall. Sloat closed his eyes and waited for the blaster shot. It never came. Instead he heard:
“What the frell is your problem!?”

Sloat turned to face the gunman in confusion.
“Buh?”

The man was still holding his blaster, but was no longer pointing it at Sloat. He wasn’t even really looking at Sloat, and was beginning to pace angrily.
“Seriously, do you guys get paid by the hour or something? ‘Oh look, a compartment is filling up with water, I better give it a few weeks to fill up before I investigate; I sure hope nobody is stuck down there and relying on my timely intervention’.” He turned on his feel to face Sloat and stuck a finger out accusingly. “I mean never mind that it’s a safety issue, how are you gonna fix it now?! You can’t weld pipes under water numbskull!”

Sloat blinked.
“Umm. . . Yes, you can?”

The wet man cocked his head in surprise.
“Really?’

Sloat nodded his head vigorously.
“They make special tools for it.”

His assailant was skeptical.
“Do you have these tools here?”

Sloat shook his head. He was rewarded for his honesty with a smarting blow to the inner ear.
“Then my point is still valid! Fracking smartass. . .”, the assailant waited for Sloat to stand back up. “Arright, now I’ve got some questions for you, and you’re gonna cough up the answers, got it? Lie to me or refuse to answer, and we’ve got a problem. And if we’ve got a problem, it really just means you’ve got a problem, got it?”

Sloat rubbed his head.
“Yeah fine, just stop hitting me.”

I. J. Thompson
09-02-2012, 05:41 PM
Mr. Mace stared at the lift hatch that the Friendly Man had entered, waiting for him to come back out. He didn't.

At least the alarm klaxons had stopped. Mr. Mace hung idly in the corridor, enjoying the peace and quiet. Then, remembering that where one human came from, there were often others, the little fabool elected to float back up the corridor, in the direction that the Friendly Man had come from.


* * *

Rammo the Toydarian led Jyllis and Fi along one of the corridors on A-deck, with Kroff and his blaster bringing up the rear. Fi held her comically large, neon green jumpsuit up at the hips to avoid tripping on its long legs, and stumbled against an oily bulkhead.

"Why's it so dark in here, anyway?" she asked. "Everywhere we go, it's like two out of three bulbs are missing."

"Economy!" Rammo beamed. "In taking out most of the bulbs, I can run this vessel on eighty percent of its normal electrical requirements!"

Jyllis curled her lip. "Oh, how I love a cheapskate."

Rammo grinned at the perceived compliment and led the group around another bend in the corridor, where he stopped short. In front of them floated an animal, small, white and puffy, who chirped in surprise.

"What is this?" Rammo demanded.

"Mr. Mace!" Fi called out. "I told you to wait on the ship!"

The fabool looked at everyone in confusion, then waggled his wings in a way that he knew most beings found 'cute'.

Rammo, floating on wings of his own, studied the diminutive creature. "This is your pet? It's horrible!"

"Hey," Fi countered, "look who's talking!"

Rammo studied the creature in disgust. "It's so small... and fuzzy, and... ah... ahh... AHH... BBBBZZZHHHAAAHH!!!!"

Fi, Jyll, and Kroff looked at one another uncertainly.

"You okay, boss?" Kroff asked.

The Toydarian wiped his dripping snout, looking at the others with red, stinging eyes. "I dink I'm having a reac- ack- SSHHHYYYAAHHHN!!!" The Toydarian flew backward with the force of the sneeze.

"Uh..." Kroff asked, "orders?"

"Blow id oud duh airlog!"

"Hang on!" Jyllis cut in. "Rammo, I've known this animal for... well, a long time, and if you destroy it, I will never marry you! Do you understand? Never!"

The Toydarian, snout dripping and tears running from his stinging eyes, considered this.

"Vine... led's juzd ged do duh bridge..."

The group, with Mr. Mace in tow, followed the Toydarian around more corridors until they arrived at their destination, where they were surrounded by a handful of empty chairs and banks of quietly beeping machinery.

"Jeg id oud, Grovv," Rammo commanded.

Kroff leaned dutifully over a sensor panel, studying its display. "Well, it looks pretty thin out there."

"Wud?" Rammo asked, then sneezed again. "I dink my ears are blugging ub."

"I said there's not much traffic out there... except for one ship, a little close for comfort."

"Wud's id doing?"

"Not much, just sort of crawling around on low power."

"Joyridig?"

"Not much 'joy' that I can see. Looks more like they're just killing time."

"Wud's de name ub it?"

"Whydah."

"Begause I need do know, Grovv!"

"No, I said that's its name - the WhyDAH."

Fi looked at Jyll, and Jyll looked at Fi. A nervous nod was passed between them, and then the pair lunged forward, pushing Kroff against the sensor panel. With the top-heavy man almost tumbling over it, the girls turned and ran for the bridge's exit.

Kroff was faster. Regaining his balance, he turned and reached out, grabbing the back of Jyllis's bright green salvage suit and pulling her back toward him.

"Jendly! Jendly!" Rammo shouted.

Seeing that her friend was caught, Fi leaped into the fray, punching at Kroff's face as best she could. The muscleman grabbed Fi by the face and thrust her away from him, where she landed painfully on the bridge's deck plating. Despite eyes swimming with stars, the musician was able to see, connected to the bottom of the pilot's seat, an emergency fire extinguisher. Yanking it from its clips, Fi regained her footing just as Kroff was gathering Jyll into an unbreakable hold. Fi swung the extinguisher with all her might, noting with a sort of detached amusement that it connected precisely with the recent wound on the man's wide, bald head. Swinging again, she hit Kroff in the same place once more for good measure, then opened the extinguisher's valve and sprayed it about the bridge randomly, coating their surroundings in a thick, impenetrable mist.

With Jyll within arm's reach, Fi wrapped an arm around the holostar's waist, pulling her out of the stunned man's grip and backing up into the chemical fog. Somewhere in the mist, Rammo the Toydarian was yelling orders incoherently.

"Mace!" Fi called, "Mr. Mace! Here, boy!"

The fabool emerged from the fog, his downy fur hanging limply with airborne chemical condensation. Fi sprayed the bridge again for good measure, then led Jyll and the fabool back out into the corridor.

"Get to the Dawncaller!" she commanded, still clutching the extinguisher.

"Which way?" Jyll demanded.

"I dunno!"

Gibson8088
09-04-2012, 03:19 PM
Outside of Chi'ko's Paxan was waiting patiently in the shadows when he felt a ripple of Force energy. Something had happened with the artifact. It wasn't gone, but it was changed somehow. ”Makes no difference.”, he thought to himself, ”I will claim it from her corpse if I have to.” Blood Trackers had a reputation for never failing a mission to maintain.


-=< >=-

Elayne was hiding behind the only cover she was able to find in the split second her reflexes registered something was wrong. That strange artifact started to act weird, and in her lifetime when something acted weird the safe bet was it could explode. But there was no explosion. Instead she was hearing a couple of light objects rattle as they hit the table and a mirthless grunt from Tach.

Hazarding a peek at the fallout she rose from her cover and was not met with a scene of destruction, but instead a smuggler who was eying his wrists with disgust. She moved closer to him to get a better view of what was holding his attention; a pair of unusually designed bracers of black and silver metal. They were unnaturally glossy and when Tach rotated his arms to view the top it was revealed that the same crest that marked the artifact was also on the bracers; a Penrose triangle. Below the emblems were three crystals, two clear and one with a silvery sheen.

“Tach, what just happened?”, Elayne asked carefully. Tach took a calming breath before answering dully, “I just became Baron Shadowsilver.”, Elayne's eyes were wide with surprise, “It would seem I'm the last living member of my family line.” Now Elayne had to sit down.

“I'm so sorry.”, she said almost in a whisper.

Tach furrowed his brows in agitation. “Well I'm not.”, he grunted.

Elayne gaped at him in shock. “What?”

“I said I'm not sorry they're gone.” On the table Tach had spied two new objects, a datachip and what looked like a miniature holocron. Tach pulled out a datapad from his trusty satchel, “If they wanted me in their family they'd have treated me like family.”, as he spoke he grabbed the datachip and inserted it into the datapad and began scanning the contents.

“I don't understand. What happened?”, Elayne asked with concern, “Did they hurt you?”

“In a manner of speaking. I was invisible to them.”, Tach stated matter of factly. Upon seeing the worry on her face he continued, “Where I'm from, being able to use the Force is a sign of status. So, when 'mommy' brought me into this verse and found out I can't use the Force, guess what happened!”

“But you were their son, their flesh and blood!”, the young Jedi argued.

“Ah, but family is not on that important list. No Force talent means I have weak blood, I'm something lesser. As a result, they tried to make me invisible. They hid me away because I was an embarrassment in their society and then they tried again. Now I have a brother who's the son they always wanted.”, Tach explained bitterly.

“That's horrible!”, Elayne responded with disgust, “So, what will you do now that revenge is not an option?”

“I like how you think!”, Tach said with some awe, then skimmed over the datapad and shook his head, “As for now, we stick with the current mission. This chip has all the information I think I'm supposed to learn about my society on it. Rules, accounts, traditions and so on. It's a lot to take in but I can mull over it later. So far what I do know that”, Tach pointed at the small holocron, “is some kind of a message from dear brother Lucius.”

Elayne picked up a napkin and wet it in the melted ice from a wine chiller. “So why don't you listen to it?”, she asked as she took his hand and began to clean away the blood from his thumb. Tach relaxed a bit, enjoying the attention and soft warm touch of her hand.

The smuggler sighed and was about to grab the holocron when Elayne interrupted him. “Tach, your cut is gone!”

Tach visibly tensed up at the news, “Umm, yeah. I'm a quick healer.” Elayne crossed her arms and gave him the 'yeah right' look. “I'll tell you about it later, okay? Shall we listen to the message?”, he pointed at the cube in an attempt to deflect the subject elsewhere. Elayne glared again then nodded.

With a light tap the cube sprang to life and projected a ten inch tall hologram of a regally dressed human in his late thirties/early forties with long black hair. He looked at Elayne, his expression one of recognition, then glanced warily at Tach before looking at Elayne again. “What is going on, Elayne? Where is my brother?”, it asked.

She opened her mouth to speak but was interrupted by Tach. “Never one to do anything half-assed, eh Lucius? Others would just send a message while you imprint yourself into a holocron!”, he berated humorously.

Elayne huffed at Tach before speaking. “This is your brother, Lucius.”, she declared as she pointed at the smuggler.

“This is not impossible.”, the hologram stated with irritation.

“Why?”, Elayne asked simply.

“Well,”, Tach said plainly, “I guess it's because your older brother is supposed to look older than you.”

Ice Hawk
09-13-2012, 06:08 AM
As Sloat led Reil through the ill lit corridors of the Reclamator I, Reil felt the need to fill the somewhat awkward silence between them, on account of Sloat being at barrels end.
“So. . . You are actually being paid by the hour?”

Sloat groaned.
“Yes, for the last time, I’m being paid by the hour. I’m being paid overtime as a matter of fact.”

“Y’know kid, if I were you, I’d seriously be re-thinking my career. I mean even if you didn’t have me, waving a gun and slapping you around, on a good day you’re still risking serious jail time. This whole kidnapping and ransom gig isn’t worth time and a half.”

“I don’t get paid time and a half, it’s full double time.” Sloat tossed back defensively.

Reil stopped and waited. Sheepishly Sloat stopped and turned to face him.
“Yeah, that seemed more reasonable in my head.”

Reil shrugged.
“It’d pretty much have have had to. Seriously, for future reference, if you’re gonna carry on this life of crime, make sure you’re getting paid out of the take. Not this double time minimum wage crap.”

Reil indicated with the pistol that Sloat should keep moving. As Sloat resumed the guided tour, he mumbled resentfully to himself.
“No take to be had. If I wasn’t getting paid a wage, wouldn’t be getting paid at all.”

Reil frowned and came to a halt for a second time.
“Come again?”

Sloat turned to face Reil with an irritated expression.
“Boss is a respectable business guy.” Sloat paused thoughtfully, “Well he’s a business guy anyway, he’s got money; he isn’t doing this to ransom her.”

Reil tightened his grip on his blaster.
“You have three seconds to make this not creepy by telling me what your boss does want with her.”

“The boss doesn’t wanna ransom her,” Sloat explained patiently, “He’s in love. He want’s to marry Miss Tromso.”

Reil cocked an eyebrow.
“Yeah, you failed, this just got super creepy. Wait a tick, I almost drowned because your boss has a fraked up way of proposing?” Reil lowered his pistol and used his free hand to massage his temples from the pounding headache this revelation caused. When he’d recovered enough, he pointed an accusatory finger at Sloat “And you, you’re honestly okay with what you’re a part of, here? A poorly paid part of, I might add.”

Sloat shrugged.
“I’m just the pilot. Boss tells me where to go, and I fly him there. What he does after I get him there is his business.”

Reil didn’t let the point go.
“Yeah, except you’re flying him to places where he tries to kidnap and marry people! You can’t just ignore that part.”

Sloat shrugged again.
“Look, whad’ya want from me? Rammo’s been a really good boss to me, so I’m sure he’d be an alright husband. Buuuuut, since you seem kinda bent on stopping that from happening, we should get a move on. They were having the ceremony up ahead.”

Reil sighed.
“Yeah, fine, but we’re gonna revisit this talk afterwards.”

Sloat rolled his eyes.
“Oh boy, can’t wait.”



****************************




There was a table with a two plates of half eaten sandwiches and a podium in the room, to lend credence to the theory that this was where the wedding was to take place. It was the lack of people performing their nuptials that vexed the room’s current inhabitants. Reil and Sloat stood in the vacant room, both with a vague expression of disappointment. Sloat’s was mixed with the fear of realising his assailant might actually kill him now. He turned to Reil.
“Maybe they’re finished?” He suggested weakly.

Reil gestured with his blaster.
“You’d better pray that isn’t what happened.”

Sloat looked panicked for a moment, as he tried to think up a place, any place that the boss might have relocated to. Reil seemed to be getting impatient when suddenly, inspiration struck.
“Birdge! They’re probably on the bridge!”

Reil took a step back so that he was no longer blocking Sloat’s way to the doors.
“Lead on then.”



*****************************************




By the time they reached the bridge, it was obvious that this time they had just missed them. A fire extinguisher laid empty on the floor, and its residue coated several consoles. Unfortunatly, once again, they had missed all the excitement, and were now once again, standing in an otherwise unoccupied room. Sloat began to really fear for his life, having disappointed his captor twice now. Reil sighed.
“You know, normally, people who get kidnapped at least have the gorram decency to wait and be rescued. . .”

I. J. Thompson
09-19-2012, 10:49 PM
"This is starting to look familiar."

Jyll looked around. "Yeah, we came by this way when we were brought aboard, I think."

"I wonder what deck we're on," Fi wondered.

"B," Jyll supplied. "I saw a sticker on the wall further back."

Fi nodded. "I like the sound of that. Judging by the outside of this tug, when we docked, I'd say the connection was definitely on B-deck."

The pair rounded a corner, Mr. Mace floating along silently behind, and, miracle of miracles, they were treated to the sight of the docking tube entrance they'd come through a short time ago. Only this time, the hatch that led to the tube, and the Dawncaller, was closed.

Fi scanned the connecting corridors nervously. "Looks like they were already here, and sealed the hatch. I wonder why they'd leave, and not just wait for us?"

Jyllis rubbed her hands together. "Rammo didn't strike me as the most patient guy in the worlds."

"Right," Fi agreed. "They were probably worried we'd find another way off the ship. That shuttle we saw Kroff flying earlier had to come from somewhere."

Jyll nodded. "Or the escape pods. Any other ships in the area would be alerted to a pod's beacon."

Fi stepped up to the hatch's panel and examined it. "Well, she's sealed up tight. Password protected. Maybe we should try to find one of those pods."

"Let me try."

Jyll stepped up to the panel and quickly typed in a combination of letters. The hatch slid neatly into the ceiling without argument.

Fi looked sideways at her friend. "Was it-"

"Yep."

They entered the tube.

A few short meters, and they were aboard the Dawncaller, Jyllis scooping their blasters up from where they'd dropped them on the deck earlier.

"Cover us, will you?" Fi asked, "I want to check something."

Jyll nodded, taking cover in the ship's hatch and pointing her blaster up the docking tube while Fi headed for the Dawncaller's bridge. In moments, she returned.

"Well, the Whydah's definitely out there, alright, just loitering around." She massaged her forehead with the back of one hand. "I don't get it - if Reil's sensors are operating, he must see that we're docked here."

Jyllis bit her lip in thought. "You don't suppose he found some way to come aboard, do you? Left that girl of his to keep the engine running, and came here to try and rescue us?"

"Reil?" Fi tossed the idea around. "No," she concluded, "no I can't see him taking a foolish risk like that, not knowing who he'd be dealing with, and all."

"I mean, that'd be crazy," Jyll said.

"Crazy," Fi echoed, nodding. Then, "Yeah... yeah, he's definitely aboard."

"Uh-oh... and so?"

Fi bounced slightly with adrenaline, and took her blaster from Jyll's hand. "We can't leave, with Reil thinking we're still aboard. We have to find him, and three blasters are better than one. You game?"

Jyll raised her own blaster to shoulder height and smiled. "I wouldn't mind meeting our 'host' again, now that the odds are more even."

Fi grinned and grabbed a pair of boots from a corner of the ship, pulling them on and tucking the annoyingly long legs of her neon green salvage suit into them. She offered a pair of flat shoes to the taller girl, who waved them away, preferring to remain barefoot.

"Mace," Fi called to the little fabool, "you st- no, wait. Come along. If Rammo's allergic to you, that can help us. Plus, you make a pretty tiny target." The fuzzy animal flapped his wings in agreement, not understanding the implications, but happy to be included.

"Right," Fi nodded, leading the group back into the oily corridors of the Reclamator I. It wasn't long before the trio heard at least one pair of booted feet running up the corridor.

"Okay, Ms. Tromso," Fi grinned as they all took cover, "showtime."

Elvish_Jedi
09-20-2012, 03:29 PM
He could feel the hostile presence coming closer. He braced himself to release the pent up energy he could feel sizzling through his veins. The footsteps stopped. Right next to me. He heard metal sliding on metal, then a clink. A male voice muttered something. Just a little bit closer.... He heard to more foot steps, then he let the energy burst from him like water from a collapsed dam.

His eyes snapped open at the same time, so he was able to see what unfolded. It all seemed to unwrap in slow motion. A middle aged human male was flying through the air, a look of shock on his face. Bits of metal, shards of glass; the tank must have broken, yes, liquid was everywhere; tools, and what was left of the thing he had been strapped filled the space around him like a flock of hawkbats. Then time sped up and the man smashed into the wall with the glass and the debris and the metal. The man and the rest of the flying chaos crashed to the ground, broken glass mixing with metal, all drenched in a thick greenish liquid.

That was... loud. I better get out of here. He looked around at the mess, saw that the unmoving man crumpled under the durasteel wall was wearing some kind of white lab coat, and then he turned and raced down the dark hallway, past rows of tanks filled with the same liquid. Most had various members of different species floating inside, some with tubes and wires connected to them. He payed them no heed. The was nothing he could do for them.

The door at the end of the hall was a thick grey slab of some pitted metal. How am I going to open that? It's too big to even use the... feeling, Force... to move it. He looked down the hall, searching for another exit. Then, quite unexpectedly, with a deep rumbling, the door opened.

Ice Hawk
09-26-2012, 07:58 AM
Cali glared at the hulking scrap collector floating outside the Whydah’s cockpit, directing angry thought’s at Reil, who for all she knew, had managed to drown himself. Our Hero, ladies and gentlemen. She frowned, and tried to reach Reil on his comlink again, but there was no answer. While that could mean any number of innocuous things, like Reil having shut off his comlink to stay stealthy, or he could had dropped it, or that it’d been damaged but Reil was fine, it could also mean that he’d been captured, or shot, or was face down in a flooded room all bloaty and corpsy, waiting for a maintenance worker who never came.

Cali hit the console in frustration. This was fracking typical of Reil. Of course he couldn’t just leave Fi on the ship; he can never leave well enough alone. Not an hour ago, they ran into a talking trash compactor, and Reil just had to poke around in it and find Fi and her magical bag of endless troubles, and oh goody, she felt like sharing. On Gamorr, there was a lost Sith Academy, so naturally Reil was the first one to suggest they go investigate it. On Rothana, Reil just had to whip out his blaster to protect poor defenceless Tam from Elayne. Civil war breaks out? Of course Reil had already joined the Rebellion. On Tatooine, he runs across a slave girl, so of course he kills her master and takes her under his wing.

Cali felt some of her venom drain, as that last traitorous thought crossed her mind. Sitting here fuming wasn’t accomplishing anything. Slowly, she goosed the engines to bring the Whydah back into position to dock with the Reclamator.



*************************************


Sloat waited for the inevitable burst of anger from his captor, but it never came. Reil instead sighed again, and sat behind the controls. Sloat was puzzled.
“What are you doing?”

Reil waved dismissively as he poured over the console.
“Sitting.”

“I can see that. . . but. . . I mean doncha wanna go after your friends?”

Reil turned and cocked an eyebrow.
“What for?”

Sloat fumbled for his words.
“Well. . .uh. . . Aren’t ya worried about if Rammo catches up with them again?”

Reil shrugged and went back to the console.
“He can’t really hurt them if he intends to perform the nuptials. Besides I’ve got complete control of the ship from here. I could drop the shields, or call the police, or just lock the ship down so the next time I go looking for Fi she’s still fracking where she’s supposed to be.”

Sloat nodded in comprehension.
“Ah. That makes sense. So which are you gonna do?”

Reil turned around again.
“Uh. . . I don’t know. I guess whichever system I get working first.”

Sloat blinked.
“You don’t know how to work the ship?”

Reil became defensive.
“I know how to work lots of ships! Just not this specific one. . . Ships ain’t all the same you know! Why does nobody get that?”

Sloat held up his hands defensively.
“Yeah! No! I get it! I’ll ah. . . I’ll just let you work. In silence.”

“Thank you.” Reil said as he rolled his eyes and returned to his work on deciphering the control scheme for the console.

With his captor’s back to him, Sloat began edging towards the exit. Slowly at first, he began to grow bolder, until he was just a hands breadth from making it out the door. He braced himself ready to make a dash for it. Right then his foot hit the empty fire extinguisher, sending it spinning across the bridge. Reil spun in his chair and fired immidiatly, and the bolt struck the spot Sloat’s head was only the second before, as he went sprinting down the ship’s corridor. Reil frowned.
“Well that can’t lead to anything good.”

Reil was about to return to the console when a thought struck him.
“Aww, frack me, he was the pilot!”

I. J. Thompson
09-27-2012, 07:50 PM
As far as days aboard the Reclamator I went, this was one of the worst that Sloat could recall. The young man, already in his boss's bad books for bungling the name of the Dawncaller, had fallen asleep at his post and awakened to embarrassing alarms and the order to go and bail out a flooded compartment on E-deck. Now, he wished that that was all he was doing. Ambushed and bashed about by an intruder, pushed, prodded, and forced to give the guy the guided tour without so much as a please or thank you, and now, on the run from said intruder, Sloat shuddered to think what would happen if the man caught up with him again.

Still, maybe he could salvage the situation. Find Rammo. Report the intruder. He might even be a hero! Then, Kroff could take care of the guy. That was his job, after all. Sloat longed for the comforts of his own job; sitting, bored out of his mind, in the pilot's chair.

The day became just that much worse, then, when he rounded a bend in the corridor and found two women, Fiola Shaku and Jyllis Tromso, standing in his path and pointing their blasters directly into his face.

"Who are you?" Fi demanded.

"Who are you?"

"We asked you first!" countered Jyll.

"I work here!"

Fi nodded. "Ah, right... the pilot. 'Sloat', yeah?"

Sloat looked back and forth between the two girls and their pet fabool that he'd run into before. "And I suppose one of you two must be Miss Tromso. Shouldn't you guys be at a wedding right now?"

"We're looking for someone," Fi said.

"Someone's looking for you!"

Fi held a hand flat in the air above her head. "About yea high? Brown hair? Probably in a bad mood? You've seen him?"

"Sure, I seen him. He just beat me up and took me hostage, but I got away!"

Fi considered this. "Well then, it's a good thing you've had some practice, 'cause now you're our hostage."

"Aw, come on!"

"We have to find our friend fast, and you know where he is."

"I don't wanna see that guy again, he'll clobber me for running off!"

"We'll talk to him for ya," Jyll interjected.

The man sighed. "Heard that one before."

Fi waved her blaster in the direction Sloat had come from, back up the corridor. "March."

They marched.

"Oh, and incidentally," Fi added, "if you try leading us directly to Rammo, you'll regret it."

Sloat shrugged. "I don't much want to run into him, either. He sees me being led around by you two, he'll fire me and dump me on the next rock, for sure."

Fi studied the gangly young man as they walked along the corridor. "You know, Sloat, you don't look to be much older than I am. Did you ever think about, I dunno, maybe going back to school? Getting yourself a career that's a bit more legit?"

"Said the girl waving the blaster around," Sloat retorted, rolling his eyes.

"Shhh!" Jyll interrupted. "You hear that?"

They listened. Booted feet, quiet but audible, coming closer from around a bend ahead of them. With Sloat thrust out in front, the girls and Mr. Mace rounded the corner to find...

"Reil!"

Their friend stood there, blaster at the ready. Then he lowered it and, looking thoroughly nonplussed, stood with a fist on one hip and pointed a finger at them.

"Fi, in the future, it'll be a lot easier for me to rescue you guys if you would resist the urge to go sightseeing."

"Sightseeing? We came back to rescue you!"

Sloat smirked. "I can see you guys are a real 'elite unit'."

"Shut up!" they all chorused.

"You got a ride off this scrap heap?" Fi asked Reil.

"Cali's on her way," Zealos Reil nodded. "We should-"

At that moment a stun blast shot out of a connecting corridor, barely missing them all...

Ice Hawk
10-09-2012, 11:47 AM
Shamefully, Reil didn’t react as quickly to the first stun bolt as he should have. There was a moment of confusion as the three rescuers, the lone hostage, and the singular pet watched the stun bolt continue down the hall, and strike an opposing wall, concluding in a shower of sparks. The second one to sail past them finally clued them in, however, and Fi and Reil spun to face the attack, peppered the offending corridor with lethal fire, while Jyllis grabbed Sloat and held him at gunpoint.

As a group they slowly worked their way back towards the bridge, harassed by the intermittent shot Kroff managed to lob their way in between bursts of fire. Reil turned to Fi, “This is some rescue. You came back for me, didn’t you have a plan for getting out?”

I. J. Thompson
10-24-2012, 10:56 PM
The fact was, they were pinned. Sure, there was ample corridor behind them - even a Y-junction in the near distance. But to get to it fast enough, they'd have to open up their backs to the stun beams that Kroff kept sending in their direction. So, Reil, Fi, Jyll, and Sloat did their best to become part of the corridor walls while Mr. Mace cowered behind Fi's shoulders.

Both sides of the fight fully aware of the stalemate, the blaster fire stopped for a moment, and Rammo the Toydarian hollered down the corridor.

"Well played, ladies," he cackled, "well played! I should have checked out the inside of your ship; Kroff told me about your friend on Cloud City... I might've known you'd smuggle him aboard as backup! I suppose that blonde girl of his is sneaking around here somewhere too, eh?"

Fi fired another warning shot up the corridor and turned to Reil. "You hear that? He thinks we brought you in on the Dawncaller-"

"-and he has no idea the Whydah's around here," Reil finished.

"Do you think Cali's re-docked by now?"

"She ought to've," Reil answered as they all ducked the sizzling blue rings of another stun beam.

Fi nodded. "We can use that. Reil, do you think you can get Jyll to the Whydah?"

"And where are you going?" Jyll demanded, gripping Sloat by the hair and holding her blaster against his neck.

"To get to the Dawncaller. If we can shake these guys, that's where they'll go back to. And Rammo wants you, Jyll, not me. He sees we're not together, he'll probably drop me and try to find you."

"Probably???"

"I gotta agree with Glamour Puss," Reil nodded as he fired a few more shots up the corridor. "Dump the ship, Fi - we've got mine. It's too risky to go off on your own."

"But I won't be on my own," Fi replied, grabbing Sloat by the overalls and pulling him upright, taking cover behind him.

"You'd better stop firing," she yelled up the corridor, "I've got your man!"

In the distance, they all heard Rammo cackle again. "Keep him! I'll get another one!" And with that, more blasts thundered their way.

Fearing for his life, Sloat leaped back to one of the corridor walls, his hands finding a panel there and feverishly punching digits into the keys. Instantly, a heavy-duty hatch slammed down, separating the group from their pursuers.

"That oughta hold 'em for a while."

"What are you doing?" Jyllis demanded.

The pilot shrugged. "Handing in my two-minutes' notice. That is," he coughed, "if you guys can give me a ride someplace."

Reil ignored the question. "Will the hatch hold?"

Sloat ran a hand through his unkempt hair. "I figured a way to slice a parallel code in a lot of the hatches aboard, in case I wanted to catch some shut-eye. Boss thinks it's a malfunction. I think I can help get me and - Fi? Fi. To the Dog... Dawn... Dawncaller."

Fi smiled nervously at the others. "See?"

Reil frowned. "I don't like it."

"I hate it!" Jyll exclaimed.

Sloat turned to Reil. "You must've docked on the starboard arm, huh? When we split off, you need to take the right corridor, go straight through the next intersection, and then go right again, and you're there. But we have to move!"

Zealos Reil studied the young man, then simply nodded.

"Right."

"Fi..." Jyll pleaded.

Fi squeezed her hand. "It'll be alright."

They all ran down the corridor to the Y-junction, then split off into two groups, with Mr. Mace bobbing along behind Fi and Sloat...

I. J. Thompson
11-03-2012, 02:48 PM
Sloat whacked one slender fist against the solid, closed hatch. "They won't be coming from that way."

"So that's it?" Fi asked. "All clear 'til the Dawncaller?"

"Well, they won't be able to come at us from behind, anyway."

"Good enough."

They ran around a short bend in the corridor and found themselves at the mouth of the docking tube, on their right, that led to Fi's ship. The corridor continued aft ahead of them, dark and vacant, and also split off to their left, where nothing stood but a ladder built into the center of the corridor, leading up to a round hole in the ceiling and A-deck.

"Nobody here," Sloat remarked.

"Do you think they're in my ship?"

"Naw. If they were, we could just dump 'em like yesterday's trash."

"I hope Jyll and Reil are okay," Fi said. Then, pocketing her blaster in her green coveralls, she turned to run down the docking tube to the Dawncaller, the young pilot and Mr. Mace struggling to catch up.

A muffled thump from behind, followed by a shout, froze them in their tracks.

"Freeze!"

The trio turned to find Kroff crouched on one knee at the foot of the ladder, his blaster trained upon them and his face all business. Rammo the Toydarian then fluttered down from the opening above, scrutinizing them all and sneezing violently at the sight of Mr. Mace. Then he cupped his hands around his snout and called out loudly.

"You gan gum oud, Jylliz, my love! Dere's doe ezgabe!"

Fi put her hands on her hips, trying to look relaxed and get a hand on her weapon at the same time without Kroff noticing - and failing at both.

"I hate to break the news, Rammo," she told him, "but you've been had. There was another ship attached. With any luck, Jyll's taken off and she's making the jump to hyperspace right now."

The Toydarian blinked a moment in incomprehension, sneezed again, and then his eyes widened and his face curdled with rage.

"Grovv..." he commanded, "gill her."

Kroff pointed his blaster at Fi's heart, and they all heard him switch his blaster's setting from stun to kill.

Nervously, Sloat stepped in front of Fi.

"Nothing doing, chief," he stammered, "me n' her are getting out of here."

"Sloat-" Fi began.

"I'm scrap anyway," the young pilot shrugged.

"Gill HIM!" Rammo shouted.

There was a moment. Then, Kroff put his free hand on his raised knee and, stiffly, rose up to stand opposite the Toydarian.

"Nope."

Rammo was incredulous. "WHAD?!?"

Kroff sighed. "I'm drawin' a line. You want me to catch that girl for you, fine. But I'm not shooting one of our own, boss. You can do whatever you want."

Seething with impotent rage, Rammo the Toydarian looked back and forth between Kroff, Fi, Sloat, and Mr. Mace, as if trying to decide who to throttle first. Then he sneezed again and fixed his gaze upon Kroff, snout dripping and eyes narrowed.

"We'll dog aboud thiz lader... now, gum on!"

With a flutter of blue wings, he was gone up the corridor. Kroff held his position for a moment and turned back toward the fugitives, where Sloat stepped forward awkwardly.

"Thanks, partner," Sloat said.

Kroff gave the young man a mock salute and a broad smile. "Clear skies."

Then he was gone, too.

Fi, Sloat and Mr. Mace bolted for the Dawncaller's cockpit.

"What are the odds of them running us down," Fi asked, "or catching us in the tractor beam again?"

"Pretty much zilch," Sloat said immediately. "Kroff's pretty handy in the shuttle, but he's a novice in a big bucket like the Reclamator."

"That's good news," Fi remarked, leaping into the pilot's chair. "Now strap in and power up the comm, would you? We need to know how the others are doing."

"Ayuh."

With an echoing metallic clang, the Dawncaller detached itself from the bulk of the Reclamator I and sailed off into open space over the golden planet Bespin.

Dawncaller
11-04-2012, 01:55 AM
On the bridge of the Inun, near Bothan Space.

He had watched it all happen from this bridge, partitioning the viewports so that he could watch the destruction from several vantage points and also take in the horror with his own eyes. The fire had spread below Morning Star Squad, and the crust of Owara had eventually cracked, spilling forth fiery death. Moments later, the superheated landscape had disappeared, replaced by an eerily calm starfield. Tam Dawncaller had committed an atrocity…

…and Todrin Doule had let him.

He wasn’t sure why he had just stood by and allowed this to happen. Perhaps it was his still-recovering concussion, or simple shock at the lengths to which this boy—no, he could hardly be called a boy anymore—had gone to achieve his ends. Perhaps Tam had gone back on the promise he had made, using his disconcerting psychic powers to keep Doule from interfering.

In any case, Doule now felt that he needed to take control again. “Lieutenant,” he said, “transmit a message to the nearest holonav beacon. I’ll be right back to see the results.” He didn’t stop to hear the officer’s acknowledgement, stepping into the bridge’s turbolift.

Confusion filled the corridors of the Inun, as technicians and gunnery officers stepped out of their stations to ask about their current relocation. Doule had his suspicions about the answers to those questions, but he didn’t want to voice them until he had confirmation. Instead, he brushed past his crewmen and marched straight to the Nexus room.

“Tam,” he said when he stepped through the blast door, “we need to—“ but his voice failed him suddenly. Moments later, he realized he couldn’t breathe, as if an invisible hand wringed his neck. As he dropped to his knees, frantically drawing on a thin whistle of air, he noticed the snap of his belt holster popped open and his blaster magically levitated out of its holster. He rolled to his side, still gasping, and watched the Nexus Sphere crack open with a hiss. A small form emerged, and the floating blaster drifted into its hand. “So that you don’t shoot me,” the boy said as he walked down the stairs.

Doule would have insisted he had no such intention, but his lips were still wordless. His vision was even beginning to tunnel.

“You came to subdue me, Doule. You need to know that you can’t do that.” He released his grip on Doule, and the captain coughed and wheezed until the panic of near death subsided.

Doule perched himself up, sitting on his haunches to wait until the room stopped spinning. “You asked me to,” he said with a hoarse voice.

“What?”

“I said you asked me to subdue you. You told me that the whole reason you wanted me aboard was to keep you in check. I was supposed to keep you from doing things like… Owara.”

The boy didn’t respond.

“Instead,” he continued, “I find myself in sick bay with a concussion and a front row seat to a Base Delta Zero given at your command. All because I mentioned some singer.”

“She wasn’t some singer,” said Tam. “She was all I ever had.”

Doule knew better than open his mouth. The slightest misstep could end with him forcibly ejected through one of the room’s viewports. He got to his feet and looked into the boy’s eyes. They were red, and sunken, and streaming with tears. Before Doule realized what happened next, those eyes had squeezed shut and buried themselves against his shoulder. Tam had collapsed, leaning on Doule for support, and began to sob uncontrollably.

This was one of the most difficult things Doule had ever had to do. The captain wrapped two awkward arms around the boy, doing his best to ease the anguish they both were feeling. Then he carefully peeled the blaster from his hand, weighed it contemplatively in his own, then quickly put it against Tam’s head and pulled the trigger…

Ice Hawk
11-05-2012, 01:17 PM
As Reil tried to retrace his way back to the lift to E-Deck, Jyllis followed behind, more than a little reluctantly. After their third dead end, Reil stopped for a moment to try and get his bearings.
“I hate this ship.”

Jyllis’ patience had reached its final tether by this point.
“We’re wasting time. If you can’t find a way back to your ship, we should try and get back to Fi!”

Reil shook his head.
“If she’s lucky, Fi’s already off this bucket. If not, then we could be wandering right into the middle of their shoot out.”

Jyllis was adamant.
“All the more reason to go back for her then if she could be in trouble!”

Reil tried to be reassuring.
“Fi’s perfectly capable of taking care of herself. We’re supposed to be drawing them off, since you’re then one they want remember?”

Jyllis was not convinced.
“What if that Sloat guy tries something? Switches sides again?”

Reil cocked an eyebrow.
“What’s he gonna do, make puppy eyes at her? Fi’s got a gun, and the kid has not proven himself to be overly menacing.”

Jyllis stirred as if to go back.
“I have to do something, I can’t just leave her behind.”

Reil felt his own frustrations bubble over.
“No one is getting left! Unless you go back, in which case, you are getting left. ‘Cause Fi is gonna be on her ship, thinking I’ve got you, and I’m gonna be on my ship either way, and Cali’s gonna be on my ship giving me hell for even coming here in the first place, so you decide here and now; do you want to be on my ship, or do you want to go back and forcefully wed Rammo? ‘Cause if it’s the second one, that’s fine by me, I wish you hundreds of fat children. On the other hand, if you’d like to keep on having wacky space hi-jinks with Fi, we need to get going.”

Jyllis took a long moment to consider the implications of getting left behind. It seemed to sober her of any rash inclinations. She still didn’t seem sold on the notion of leaving however.,
“But what if. . ?”

Reil frowned.
“Look, Fi’s probably on the Dawn Caller right now wondering what’s taking us so long. But, if for some totally unforeseeable reason Fi is in trouble, we’ll know as soon as we get back on the Whydah, and we’ll come right back to get her. Again. They wouldn’t hurt her if they wanted to use her to get to you.”

Jyllis nodded, more confident in their plan now.
“All right, so where do we go?”

Reil looked down either side of the main hallway they were in and grimaced.
“I got nothing.”

Jyllis looked about ready to clock Reil, when she noticed something else.
“You’re all wet.”

“Hmmm?” Reil took a second to process that. While he was no longer drenched from his aquatic adventure, he was still firmly in the realm of quite soggy and had simply stopped noticing. “Oh, right, it’s a long story. I’d rather not get into it.”

“Well does it have anything to do with that?” Jyllis pointed down the hall, where water had spilled out onto it from one of the branching paths.

As they moved over to investigate it, Reil noticed the big sign that said E –Deck .
“Here we go then.”

The hall to the lift was slick with water, and when they reached the lift entrance they could see why. Water bubbled up through the bottom of the lift’s door. Reil frowned as he worked through what that meant.
“The whole lift tube must be flooded now. Y’know, I thought those things were supposed to be airtight.”

Jyllis turned to Reil with notable concern.
“The lift won’t work if it’s flooded, even if it doesn’t fry the electrics, it couldn’t displace all that water to get us down there.”

Reil shrugged.
“It wouldn’t matter really, all the doors out of the room at the end of the lift are sealed shut anyhow.”

Jyllis’ face flushed red with apoplexy.
“THEN WHAT ARE WE EVEN DOING HERE!? I thought you had a plan!”

Reil looked at the actress in polite bemusement.
“Me? No. Fi had a plan. I have a ship. Fi also has a ship, but that’s neither here nor there.”

Jyllis took a step back from a clearly cracked Reil, but then narrowed her eyes in suspicion.
“You’re doing this on purpose, aren’t you?”

Reil broke out into a grin.
“Only some of it.”

Miss Tromso was not amused.
“Unless you really have lost it, I assume you’re taking the time to pester me because you’ve already found another way down to your ship?”

Reil’s smile widened.
“Just one.”



*************************




Reil managed to deftly crawl out of the way as Jyllis came sliding down the chute to land on top of him. After she came sliding out they helped each other to their feet, so that they could amongst the junk they’d landed in.
“Ugh! Garbage chutes. Why is it always garbage chutes?”

Reil moved over to the door control.
“Dunno, this is my first time. You seem to frequent’em though, maybe it’s you?”

Jyllis glared at Reil, who decided to shut up for the time being and focus on getting back onto the Whydah. As the door the raised to let them through, and angry, banshee like scream of rage and frustration was carried down the hall to for their listening pleasure. All too aware of what was causing the noise Reil took the lead again, stopping just outside the pressure the door to the flooded lift entrance. There, in front of the pressure door, wielding Reil’s fusion cutter, and practically snarling in fury, was Cali, manically trying to burn through the door.

Cali stopped when she noticed them approaching. She turned, and looked Reil over.
“You okay?”

Reil nodded.
“I’m fine. A little cold.” He motioned back towards where the ship was docked, “We should get out of here.”

Cali looked visibly relieved, and rushed up to meet Reil. At first it looked like she was moving to embrace him, but then she shifted her weight onto one foot, cocked her arm back, and pivoted, in a single fluid motion, all to give her the maximum force for punching Reil in the bicep.
“Augh! What the hell was that for? I think it’s gonna bruise. Ow.”

“Good, by the time it heals, I hope you’ll have remembered how to use one of these again.” Cali whipped out her comlink to illustrate.

Reil stopped clutching his wounded arm long enough to fish out his own comlink.
“What are you talking about, my comlink is working just fine.”

To underscore how fully functional it was, when he pushed the button to activate his comlink, it began to make a fizzling sound, and a small whisp of smoke exited the device.
“H-uh, must have shorted out when I got wet.”

Cali glowered at Reil for a moment, then simply headed back toward the ship. Reil and Jyllis followed her, and ignored the muttered cursing that preceded them.




**********************************



As the Whydah disengaged docking, and spun around to catch the Dawn Caller, Cali sat in the co-pilot’s chair, busy entering in co-ordinates for the Nav computer while Reil was on the com to Fi.
“Yeah, we’re all good to go. I’ve got a jump planned just out of the system, then you can pick up your lady friend, and we can talk about where to go from there.”

”Sounds good.” The com crackled back, “We’re ready to jump when you are.”

As soon as Cali finished with the computer, Reil transmitted the co-ordinates to Fi, and pulled the lever to send them hurtling through hyperspace. They sat for spell, looking at the swirling blue together, until Reil turned in the pilots chair to face Cali.
“You know you broke my fusion cutter.”

Cali shrugged.
“You broke your comlink first.”

“I- How does that even relate?”

Cali sighed.
“If you hadn’t been an idiot and flooded the room you were in, and by doing so shorted out your own comlink, I never would have gotten worried about you, and tried to cut open the door, saving your precious fusion cutter.”

“That’s a nice story, but I think we both know the truth. You’ve missed Fi terribly since she left, and you just had to be part of her rescue.”

“You rotten liar. You take that back.”

The look of mock horror on Cali’s face broke Reil’s own stoicism, resulting in a huge grin.
“You know, it’s so touching, how much you care for our old friend, I think I ought to let Fi know just how devoted you are, even if you can’t show it sometimes.”

Cali stood and tried to look as severe as she could manage.
“You take that back or I will punch you in the bruise.”

“You see, it’s talk like that,” Reil said point a finger accusingly at Cali, “That lends credence to my theory. Sure, you say you’re worried about me, but the minute I’m back, safe and sound, it’s all bruises and threats.”

Cali dropped all pretense of anger, and gently seated herself in Reil’s lap.
“So what you’re telling me is you need a gentler display of affection?”

Reil leaned in closer.
“That’d be nice start.”

“It can be arranged.”
Cali kissed him softly then pulled back.

Then she hauled off and poked him in the bruise before jumping to her feet. Reil bit his lip and clutched his arm.
“Ow! Frack me!”

Cali couldn’t hide how pleased with herself she was.
“But first you need to get the movie star off my boat.”

“Our boat.” Reil corrected without thinking, “Wait, damn.”

“And try to pick us up a re-ward will ya?” She called back to him as she headed to their quarters.

I. J. Thompson
11-05-2012, 06:45 PM
"Well boss, the scope's clean... I guess both ships made the jump to hyperspace."

Rammo the Toydarian yanked off his purple satin bow tie and threw it to the deck plating of the Reclamator I's bridge. Then he thought better and flew down to it, picked it up and dusted it off and, tie in hand, flew back to his captain's chair.

"Romance's a shaky market, eh, Kroff?"

"Plenty of stars in the sky, boss."

Rammo pondered this as he picked one of his nostrils thoughtfully.

"I guess it's like they say... 'if you love something, set it free. If it doesn't come back, you've probably saved yourself a lot of money.'"

They sat in silence for a time.

"So... coordinates are laid in for Rhiev, boss. We gonna go pick up the crew?"

"Punch it."

Stars turned to lines, turned to the whirling tunnel of hyperspace. The Toydarian and the human rose from their seats, making their way aft, into the labyrinthine interior of the Reclamator I.

"So what now, boss?"

Rammo considered.

"How about a holo? Have you ever seen Quasar of the Heart? It stars Lealla Brim. What a doll! A little short, but soooo cute!" Rammo rubbed his meager chin thoughtfully.

"Hnh... I wonder if she's single..."


* * *

The Whydah and the Dawncaller hung together in the vast, dark void, almost invisible in the absence of any local starlight. A short tube extending from the Whydah's hull connected the two vessels, and it was within this tube that all the organics present were assembled.

"Fi!"

Jyllis Tromso gripped Fiola Shaku in a fierce hug, holding the musician close and long, oblivious to the others. Cali watched their embrace, smirking in amusement.

"Nice outfits," she remarked, referring to the matching neon green salvage coveralls the pair wore.

Fi let go of Jyll reluctantly. "Cali," she began, "Cali, thank you for getting her - her and Reil - out of there. I mean it."

Cali crossed her arms. "I'll put it on your tab."

Sloat stepped forward. "Hi, miss Cali, I'm Sloat." He extended a hand, which the girl didn't take. "Me n' that guy," he indicated Reil, "are kinda buddies."

"Let's not go crazy," Zealos Reil countered. "Pretty much, we just need to figure out what we're gonna do with you."

"Hey man," Sloat spread his hands, "any rock with a Type I atmo and a Tateburger franchise'll suit me. I'm easy."

Fi looked at the others. "It's a good question, though... where are we going?"

Reil swept his arm outward in an exaggerated gesture of hospitality.

"Come aboard, gentles," he invited, "and let's talk about it..."

Dawncaller
11-06-2012, 01:07 AM
Aboard the Inun.

There was pain. No, not pain… Something, though; it was clear that something wasn’t right.

My eyes are closed. So open them already...

Slowly, Tam Dawncaller’s eyes flickered open. It was some time before the blurry glare of the light gave way to actual vision.

“Good. You’re awake.” That voice… Todrin Doule… Doule had shot him. He had foreseen it through the Force, and still it happened.

“You,” Tam said. “I’ll kill you…” The memory of pinching off the Imperial Captain’s trachea came back to him, and he reached out to finish the job…

Nothing happened.

“I assume you’re actually trying,” said Doule, “and it seems that the little trick Tremayne taught me actually worked. It’s a cocktail of neuroinhibitors he claimed would keep a Force user subdued but conversant. I would have done it sooner, but I didn’t realize just how surreptitious my actions had to be.

“Well,” he added, “conversant enough. I want to get to the bottom of this, Tam, and I don’t want to let you out of here until I am assured you won’t go on another rampage.”

Tam looked around. He was in the sick bay of the Inun, strapped to a sickbed and with a hypoinfusor glued to his temple. “Is this a mutiny, Doule?”

“A mutiny assumes several things, Tam. One: that I’m looking to overthrow the organizational hierarchy of this vessel; I’d like it to stay how it is. Two: that anyone would support such an action; you’ve pretty much brainwashed the whole crew already, to say nothing of the captains in the rest of the squad. Three: that you have any place in said hierarchy to begin with; you have no military rank or station—“

“And yet I led the entire squad in its first operation, and with spectacular results.” Tam did his best to look intimidating while prostrate and immobilized. It seemed to have some effect, as Doule seemed to change his tactics.

“You tried to kill me, Tam. Twice.”

“I’ll try for a third, once you give me the chance.”

“What changed, then?”

“What?”

“You brought me on this ship—gave me a fast-track commission and everything—so that I could serve as your safety valve. I think you called me a ‘lynchpin’ at one point. Now you want to kill me. Have you changed your mind? Do you no longer need me to keep you in check and make sure that you don’t become the same monster you’ve set out to destroy?”

Captain Doule moved beside the medical droid. “I presume you chose me for this assignment based on my actions on Ryloth. I had a senior officer killed because he stepped outside of his bounds. You reacted with fear at the time, but I can only assume that, over time, you felt I was capable of doing that to you if need be. I must admit that I probably couldn’t have done it at first, but after a concussion, near strangulation and threat of further violence, I’m well prepared now. One command to this medical droid and…” He let his own threat hang in the air.

Tam snarled. “You think that after this anything will be the same?”

“Not in the least. In fact, I’d prefer they weren’t.”

“I need only wait for the first opportunity, then I will be out of these shackles and you will be dead.”

“Another threat.” Doule sighed, and moved toward the sick bay’s hatch. “I ask you again: what changed? When you’re ready to answer that, then I’ll return.”

Tam shouted after him, but in vain. He shouted for hours and hours, letting his voice go hoarse and guttural with rage and frustration. He continued shouting, long after the medical droid had run out of tasks to accomplish and had powered down. With it, the lights of the sick bay dimmed.

Tam continued shouting in the darkness…

Ice Hawk
11-10-2012, 02:11 AM
There were no crates in the cargo bay this time, so they all had to crowd into the cockpit, which had the only other chairs. Reil and Cali nabbed the pilot and co-pilot seats, leaving Fi and Jyll to take up the console spots. Sloat stood in the door way and looked put out.
“You don’t have any other furniture? Like, not even one fold out chair?”

Reil rolled his eyes.
“Feel free to go wait on the Dawn Caller, we’ll be sure to tell you what we decide.”

Sloat didn’t reply, and instead focused on trying to find a way to comfortably lean against the door frame. Fi took the opportunity to get them back on track.
“Reil, didn’t you say you had some kind of plan to contact the Rebels?”

Reil suddenly seemed rather sheepish.
“I don’t think those were my exact words. . .”

“Near enough to them.” Cali said, with more than touch of disapproval.

Reil sighed.
“Okay, but plan is a really strong word. I’d just like to put that out there first.”

Cali frowned.
“Spit it out already.”

“All right, fine. When we were on Taanab, I was hired to steal a ship. As payment for taking the ship I was given two data pads. One of them would give me instructions on how to make contact with an information broker on Ord Mantell, the other was supposed to be his payment so that he’d help me make contact with the Rebellion. Obviously, some stuff happened, and I no longer have the data pads, but whoever I was going to meet should still be on Ord Mantell. If we can find him, he might be able to lead us to the Rebellion, and then the Rebellion might just help us with Tam.”

There was silence, as everyone took the information in. Cali was the first to break it, then it was like the flood gates opened and a wave of criticism followed.
“I’m smelling a lot of if coming off this plan.”

Jyll was next.
“Wait, whoever you were going to meet, so you don’t actually know their name? How are we ever supposed to find them?”

Even Sloat.
“I’ve been to Ord Mantell, it’s on the other side of the core and back out towards the Rim. That’s a long trip with nothing to show for it.”

Fi had more confidence in Reil.
“If that’s all there was to it, I doubt you’d have brought it up. Why do you think we’d be able to find this information broker?”

Reil relaxed a little.
“I figure if Doyle knows him, then he must do some business with Taanab. That means there should be some kind of obvious connection between him and shipments from Taanab, even if they look innocuous on the outside. It’s a long shot, but I don’t exactly hear any better plans forthcoming.”

Cali was still reluctant.
“That still leaves us the problem of trekking half way ‘cross the galaxy with nothing to show for it. Credits don’t exactly grow on trees out here.”

Reil shrugged.
“Ord Mantell is port world. We should be able to come across something to make it worth our while.” He turned to Fi, “This is your call though, I guess. I mean I said I’d help you, and this is the best that I could come up with, but if you’ve got something better. . .”

I. J. Thompson
11-10-2012, 11:20 AM
"No," Fi replied, "No, I can't say I have anything better. I've never been to Ord Mantell..."

"It's kind of a dump," Sloat explained, "but it's pretty laid back. Gonna be a long ride, though."

"How long?"

"Days, for sure, no matter how you plot it."

Fi looked awkwardly at Jyll, mindful of the other eyes present. "I guess... you'll be wanting to get back to your shoot?"

The actress grinned and kicked Fi gently in the leg. "It'll keep."

Reil stood, signaling the end of the discussion. "Okay. I'll get the navicomputer to work on the coordinates, and pass them on to you guys."

"You want a hand with that?" Sloat offered.

"Nope. I got it. Just wait for the coordinates, and don't make any alterations once you've got 'em. We should fly in tandem."

"See you on the other side," Fi smiled. Then she, Jyll and Sloat left the Whydah's bridge. Reil sat down again, activating the navicomputer as he did so.

"'One big happy family'," Cali muttered under her breath.

"What was that?"

"Nothin'."

I. J. Thompson
11-15-2012, 09:08 PM
Fi awakened with a jolt, her heart pounding and her brain struggling to place itself somewhere in the universe. Then, she slowly remembered: the Dawncaller. Hyperspace. Ord Mantell-bound. Fi couldn't seem to recall the dream that had frightened her so, but knew that if she didn't get up and walk it off, she could easily end up back in its clutches.

A warm body was curled up next to Fi, one arm draped protectively across her. Jyllis Tromso. Fi did her best to gently slip out from under the sleeping actress, who snored softly once and then rolled away to face the wall. Fi rose in the chilly dimness, grabbing a robe from a hook on the wall and pulling it on. Then she thumbed the bunkroom's door open and stepped out into the Dawncaller's lounge area.

A second door stood on her left, behind which Sloat slept soundly, dreaming dreams of his own. Fi passed that door and came to the lounge's food preparation area where, squinting in the darkness, she activated the hot water unit and placed a cup under the spout. Standing on tiptoe to reach a high cupboard, she brought down a container of Inex Jonn's Sakiyan tea, opened it, and crunched a small fistful of the brittle brown leaves into the steaming cup. This she carried over to the Dawncaller's lounge table, sat down, and placed it before herself.

Inex Jonn, Fi thought with a smile. His tea. Hell, his ship. Not that he'd be needing it. Inex Jonn had died as he'd lived: messing around with other people's lives for his own gain. Fi felt no real sorrow at the loss. How could you feel sorrow for such a man when there were better people, good people, people with futures, having their lives stolen away every day?

People like Tam.

But Tam was alive.

"Tam is alive."

Fi whispered it into the empty chamber, tasting the words she'd dared not say, dared not think, since Zealos Reil had delivered the news. Though she certainly hadn't made peace with Tam's death, she'd been forced to accept it. The boy she'd loved, and sworn to protect, and summarily abandoned... all the while thinking she was keeping him from harm. Until now, she'd been able to blame that man -Tremayne- for Tam's death. Now she knew Tam was alive, and evil, and had joined with the Imperials... and there was every reason to believe that Fi herself was the cause.

She had to help him. And if she couldn't help him, she had to stop him. But how? With that power of his, 'the Force', and his rage -his completely justified rage- and with an army behind him?

Of course, Zealos Reil seemed to think that they might be able to raise an army of their own.

Fi shivered in the dark. It was all so beyond her. And now she was dragging Jyll right into it. Fi sat there in the darkness, lost in thought, her fingers playing an arpeggio against the side of her cup. Her injured, clumsy, useless fingers.

The same fingers that had mere hours ago been firing blasters, swinging fire extinguishers and, a short while later, helping Jyllis Tromso out of her coveralls.

Fi looked at her hands in the dimness, the same hands she'd been told would never work properly again, and hadn't. Until now.

I guess I just needed a reason.

Fi rose from the lounge table and quietly returned to her bunkroom, closed the hatch, and locked it. Shrugging off her robe, she slipped under the bed's heavy blankets and lay down beside Jyll, who still slept peacefully. Fi pressed herself close against the sleeping actress from head to toe, taking comfort in the girl's warmth and smoothness, knowing that sleep would not be coming back to claim her any time soon.

Gibson8088
11-16-2012, 12:08 AM
“Well, I guess it's because your older brother is supposed to look older than you.”

Elayne studied Tach for a moment, comparing his appearance to the one of the hologram. Tach looked every bit that of an early-twenties human in fit shape, as opposed to the worn mid-forties image of the man in the hologram that called him brother. Deciding it was best to avoid the headache from trying to think about this situation Elayne just shook her head and went for a glass of wine.

“Yes, well.”, the irritated Lucius hologram stated, “While I'm sure this has an interesting story behind it there are several matters we need to discuss.”

Tach cut him off quickly, “Is this going to take long? We have someplace to be right now.”

Lucius-holo replied arrogantly, “What ever it is I'm sure it can wait-”

Tach had shut off the holocron before Lucius finished his sentence and dropped it into his satchel. “Not even death can daunt that man. Thankfully he now has an off switch.”, muttered Tach before finishing his drink.

“He was nice to me.”, Elayne commented casually.

Tach shrugged, “He has good taste.” Elayne smiled and the smuggler put his empty glass on the table. “Collect your things. We've got someplace to be.”


-=< >=-

The pair soon exited the restaurant in the direction of Tach's airspeeder. As they got closer Elayne noticed the damage to the hood. “Tach! Look!”, she stated while pointing in the direction of the vehicle. He made an irritated grunting sound before roughly shoving Elayne to the side.

She reacted quick enough to spin around and catch the sight of Tach getting brutally tackled by a familiar creature of black furry fury. Summoning her lightsaber from her gun holster into her left hand she ignited it to draw his attention. “Paxan!”, Elayne spat through gritted teeth, the word laced with venom.

The Shistavanen turned from the crumpled heap that was Tach towards the Jedi and grinned menacingly. “Youngling! We have some unfinished business, girl.”, he growled as he took a slow step towards Elayne. With a quick flick of his wrists a saber appeared in each hand and ignited with a crimson glow. “Just give me what I want and perhaps I will let you and your mate leave.”

Elayne stole a glance towards Tach and noticed he was stirring a bit. She returned her glare back to Paxan and gave him a mocking smirk. “Afraid I can't do that, furball.”, she proclaimed as she assumed a defensive stance. Paxan gave a feral grin and went to charge Elayne before his world exploded in electric blue pain.

Disregarding the smuggler had proven to be a mistake. While Paxan chose to focus on Elayne Tach had used the opportunity to draw his DE-10's and open fire upon the Shistavanen with both barrels. A continuous barrage of the blue blaster bolts connected with his back, right arm and head before Paxan could mount an effective defense to the assault.

Paxan howled in pain and righteous indignation as wounds were peppered up and down his form. It took a moment before he recovered his focus and mounted what he could manage of a defense, able to block and deflect most of the blaster fire. But with Elayne jumping in and pushing her own assault it was decided the fight would be a loss. Mustering what energy he had left Paxan called upon the force and leaped atop the restaurant and fled the scene in a rooftop to rooftop esape. He swore this would be the only time he underestimated that human male.

Tach rolled to his feet, sweeping his blasters around the area slowly in case of another attack. “Who the frack was that?!”, he demanded a bit heatedly.

“Paxan. Leader of a group calling themselves Blood Trackers. He's after that artifact you're now wearing.”, Elayne answered.

“Your friend from the factory?” Elayne nodded. Tach just shook his head and holstered his blasters. “Let's get out of here. I'm sure some form of law enforcement is on its way and I don't fancy another delay.”

Elayne hopped into the speeder followed by Tach. He winced as he leaned back into the seat, an action not missed by the jedi. “You alright, Tach?”

Tach fired up the speeder and took to the air. “Yeah, I'll be fine. Getting hit by three hundred pounds of angry muscles isn't fun. I'll have some bruises for a little while. Are there any other horribly angry sentients like that after you?”

Elayne shad contemplated the question for a moment. When she didn't seem to answer Tach asked, “You have to think about it?”

“Oh, so someone like you doesn't have a list of enemies?”

“Touche'.”

The pair soared over the cityscape in a companionable silence until they reached their destination; a top floor luxury condo with amenities, including personal landing pads. Tach selected a pad and brought his speeder in for a landing. The usual greeting party of personal bodyguards met the pair and received the usual introductions. So, after they left their weapons in the speeder they were escorted inside to meet the sponsor, a blond human male in garish business attire being served a drink by an attractive young pink skinned, dark blue haired female Zeltron.

“Ah ha!”, the blond called out excitedly, “You're the new racer? Excellent! Please, have a seat. Lana dear can we have some drinks for our friends?” The man wore a genuine used speeder salesman smile on his face as Tach and Elayne sat across from him. Lana brought over drinks, running an appreciative eye over Tach as she served him. “Now, I believe introductions are in order. I am Jeffrey Sole, an unofficial representative of Fusion5 Studio's. And you are?”

Tach and Elayne introduced themselves respectively, shaking the mans hand each in turn. The smuggler then asked, “Fusion5 Studio's? The holofilm company?”

Jeffrey's grin remained scarily bright as he nodded fervently, “Yes, that is correct! Let me tell you all about it...”

Gibson8088
11-19-2012, 08:44 PM
Jeffrey excitedly launched into what was a well rehearsed explanation of his unofficial representation of Fusion5 Studio's. He was part of a Professional Advertising Committee, or PAC, and they abuse the rules of the law to allow legitimate companies to branch into illegal and/or unethical practices without penalty. In this case, the film studio was wanting to make a movie about a down on their luck couple risking everything they had to participate in an illegal underground race for the prize money, and as such a better life. The studio didn't want to spend the money for filming the action sequences, hiring stuntmen, buying equipment or pay for that pesky insurance. They also wanted the film to be 'based on an actual story'. So, along came PAC who, for a reasonable fee, will get them the footage from the races and since real racers will be involved it will be based on an actual story. According to Jeffrey the studio will be safely recording all the parts between action scenes in a studio with hired talent.

Rumor was the film will be called Full Burn. The lead roles are going to be offered to someone Tach had never heard of and someone he had, Jyllis Tromso. Tach managed to keep his recognition of the name to himself.

“All we ask of you and your partner is to keep this information to yourselves, put on a good show and stay in the race as long as possible.”, Jeffrey said happily, “And if you somehow manage to win the Run there may even be a bonus in it for you. How's that sound?”

Lana had brought Tach a fresh drink and gave him an amused smile. Tach smiled in thanks and held his drink out for a toast to Jeffrey. “It sounds like we have a deal.” Jeffrey clinked his glass to Tach's and both downed a few gulps to seal the deal.

“So, you ready to meet the Beast?”, Jeff asked casually. Tach arched his brow curiously so the man clarified, “The ricksha you will be piloting?”

Tach put his glass down and nodded, “I'd love to see it.”

The four exited the flat out onto a landing pad that was occupied by a rather plain looking large transport vehicle. Inside it, though, were living accommodations fit for a decent recreational vehicle with a state of the art garage attached to the back end of it. Inside this garage was one of the meanest looking airspeeders Tach had ever seen.

It looked like a twenty foot version of a Rihkxyrk Assault Fighter, but with more armor, a two-person cockpit mounted closer to the middle of the craft and painted in an intimidating black and red paint scheme. Sandwiched between the armor 'skirts' Tach could make out a pair of thrusters of a design he was not familiar with, but they did look scary. “I can see why you call it the Beast.”, Tach commented.

“That's because it IS a beast!”, happily shouted a young girls voice from an adjoining room. Bounding into the room was the source of the voice. A short but energetic skinny framed girl with short wavy gold hair and blue eyes filled with mirth wearing overalls that seemed to have a tool in every pocket. She zeroed in on Tach and continued, in the same tone and volume, “Wait until you hear it roar!”, she turned to the room she emerged from, “Daddy, can I start the Beast?! Pleeeeaase?”

Following the call 'daddy' entered the room and was a complete opposite of the girl. A man in his mid-forties with a complexion that was paler than the girls' lightly tanned skin. He was also large, easily breaking six foot four inches in height and packed with muscles from years of working on equipment. His hair was a thinning mop of salt and pepper but he held the same mirth his brown eyes as the girls'. “Alright, Spanner, but only for a little while.”, he relented in a kind voice.

Spanner whooped in triumph, actually pumping a fist in the air with a victory hop and clamored into the cockpit. The group could barely see the top of her golden hair when she settled into the seat but could hear the clicks and whirring sounds as she initiated the start-up sequence. She was also giggling in anticipation throughout the process only to have it overwhelmed by the sound of the engines firing up with a roar that would make any die-hard airspeeder racer envious. The top of her head disappeared as she scooted down to rev the Beast a few times, and if one listened closely enough they could hear the girl laughing excitedly. Eventually she powered down the vehicle and climbed out of the cockpit to slide down the side of the vehicle to land gracefully next to Tach. “Tadaa!”, she cheered, throwing both hands in the air to accent her cheer, “What'd'ya think? I helped put it together you know.” Spanner was bouncing on the balls of her feet as she waited for Tach to answer.

“I think it's wonderful!”, Tach gushed, “You know, since I'm going to be driving it then perhaps you should help me get familiar with it. Give me an idea of what to expect and how it works. Can you help me with that?”

Spanner gave Tach a big goofy grin and dragged him to the front of the Beast, then proceeded to start explaining the ricksha in details that would surprise any engineer. Her father watched the interaction and began to chuckle heartily. “Well, he's going to be busy for a while.”, turning to Elayne he held out his hand, “Name's Walsh. Walsh Strider.”

Elayne took his hand and gave it a friendly shake, “Elayne. And that's Tach.”, she nodded her head in her partners direction.

Jeffrey piped in, “As you can guess, Elayne, this is your tech crew. They will take care of the ricksha. And they'll show you your quarters. Lana and I have to register your names for the next race, which is in about six hours. So, if you'll excuse us.”

“Oh!”, Elayne exclaimed, “Could you put me under a different name?”, she pleaded.

Jeffery nodded in understanding, “Sure. It's not an usual request. What would you prefer?”

“Umm.”, she pondered for a moment, “How about Tiana?”

With a nod Jeffrey agreed and turned to leave. Lana, however, seemed to linger to watch Tach curiously. He was listening to the small girl intently, taking her seriously and offering her praise at points as she proudly showed off the work done to the ricksha. It took Jeffrey calling to her twice before he got her attention and left.

“I'm very proud of her, you know.”, Walsh said to Elayne as he watched Spanner with a smile on his face, “Dita has been the light of my life ever since I found her.”

“I can see why. She's a genius!”, she turned to look at the towering man, “Not trying to sound rude but, well, I don't see a family resemblance.”

Walsh nodded, but showed no signs of offense, “I rescued her, you can say. On one of my jobs we came across a Kiffar encampment that was destroyed. As we searched it for survivors I heard her crying from within the rubble of a building. She was only a year old, too young to have received their tribal markings. Soon as I picked her up she stopped crying and fell asleep while I held her. The whole group decided she had adopted me and, honestly, I couldn't argue with that.” He smiled brightly as he recalled the memory. “I couldn't let her go after that. Whoever attacked the clan would try to come for her should they learn she survived. So, I decided to raise her as my daughter. Less chance of trouble that way.”

Elayne nodded at that. No one could argue with such logic and he seemed quite taken with girl. “So how did she earn the name Spanner?”, she asked with an amused grin.

Walsh chuckled heartily, “When she was five years old she got her hands on one of my hydrospanners and took apart an engine I'd been working on for a month!”, he stopped to stifle some laughter, “I swear she'd only seen me use the thing, never handled one until that day. When I saw what she was doing I asked her jus' what the heck she was doing. She said it was still broken on the inside and was going to find the 'broken thing' inside it ta' fix it! I didn't believe it until she pulled out a fuel array and showed it to me. Sure enough, there were micro-fractures in it.” Walsh shook his head, his expression one of bemusement and pride, “Please don't tell anyone this, but that girl has a gift, I tell you. She can, well, feel what is going on in a machine. Since that day I've been teaching her all I know. With her gift she learns and understands faster than anyone I know.”

“I've heard some Kiffar have a gift similar to that. Her's is certainly... unique. Tach and I will keep this safe.”, Elayne mentioned with some surprise.

“Thank you. And yes, she is very unique.”, Walsh stated fondly before changing the subject, “Now, I'm sure you could use a shower and some rest before your first race. Lemme show you the quarters you two get. Spanner will deliver your partner when she's done with him.”

Elayne nodded wearily as it was a busy day for them both and followed the large man. “What's going to happen to Tach's speeder and our stuff in it?”, she asked as an afterthought.

“I'll take care of it, I promise. We have space in the garage to for the speeder. You can get your things once it's on-board.”, he stated before opening a door to a simply furnished room. It had the necessities; dresser, bathroom with shower stall, desk and one queen sized bed. Elayne groaned internally at the pro's and con's of sharing a bed with Tach.

“Thank you, Walsh. I'll see ya later. Try to not to let Spanner keep Tach up too late.”, she said with a small smile. Walsh gave a small chuckle and a curt nod before heading back to the garage. Elayne entered the room and went straight for the shower.


-=< >=-

Tach's head was spinning. When Spanner started telling him about the ricksha she started out at hyper. As she continued giving him the tour of the vehicle managed to talk even faster with a mix of giddiness, pride and technical details that even he was having trouble keeping up with. The kid was a gorram prodigy! Her tour ended back in the cockpit where she went over the systems again, just to be sure Mr. Tach understood them.

“I am impressed! Spanner, you and your father are amazing. With this thing I don't think I can lose!” Spanner beamed proudly and sat up a bit straighter in the passenger seat. “But there is one change that I need to make.”

It was as if Tach just kicked Spanner's puppy, her expression was crestfallen. “But... why? What's wrong with the Beast the way it is?”, she whined.

Tach backpedaled quickly, “What? No! Nothing is wrong, it's just-”, he paused and put on a thoughtful expression, “-well, I guess you wouldn't know about that.”, he finished casually.

Walsh had quietly entered the garage and found himself curious about this conversation so he stayed near the doorway to eavesdrop. Spanner's eyes had narrowed and she asked Tach suspiciously, “Know about what?”

“Well,”, Tach started flippantly, “that any good racer always adjusts their maneuvering repulsors when they get in a new vehicle, of course. That way we can fly our best sooner.”

Spanner looked thoughtful for a moment then nodded. “That makes sense. But those kinds of adjustments would take a while. Like, days!”

“I've got my ways.”, he said mysteriously. The girl cutely narrowed her eyes at him again and demanded, “How?”, as if retaining this information was a crime.

Tach arched a brow in amusement and smirked. “Can you keep a secret?” Spanner gave her best serious nod so Tach continued in a lowered voice, “I have a computer in my head.”

The girls eyes widened in awe. “Really?”, she squeaked.

He pulled a silvery cable from inside his jacket. “Watch this.”, he said as he inserted the oddly cut round end into the back of his neck and plugged the other end into the vehicles data port. In half a moment the screens on the panel lit up to show calibration values that rapidly began changing until finally settling on the values Tach wanted. He looked at the amazed girl and asked, “What do you think?”

Big blue eyes gazed at Tach in surprise for a moment before huge smile crept across her face. “Can you reprogram my datapad?!”, Spanner asked excitedly.

From the doorway Walsh had a coughing fit that sounded a lot like laughter.


-=< >=-

An hour later Tach was finally able to make it to his quarters. He dropped the luggage from his speeder next to the dresser, took a shower and went to bed. Elayne was already asleep dressed in a plain oversized shirt. He had carefully climbed into the bed to not wake her and quickly fell asleep.

As they slept the transport took flight and headed in the direction of their first race.

A few hours later Tach was woken up by a soft rapping noise on the door. Quickly getting his bearings he found an arm draped over him that was attached to an Elayne who was snuggled up against him. Best not cause her any embarrassment this early on., he thought to himself and cautiously untangled himself from her before answering the door.

Upon opening the door Tach found a bouncy Spanner holding a recently reprogrammed datapad to her chest. “Hi Tach! Jeffrey wanted me to tell you that we will be arriving soon so get up and get ready.”, she announced happily.

Tach smiled at her, “Thanks, we'll get ready.”

Spanner then leaned closer and whispered, “Thanks again for fixing my datapad. I haven't told anyone your secret.” She then waved and bounded back towards the garage.

Tach just smiled to himself, headed back into his room to wake up Elayne. After a few tries she finally lost the battle to stay asleep. “What?”, she mumbled.

“Time to get up. It's showtime.”


-=< >=-

“Galaxy wide, we're live!”, announced the tech as the illegal video feed began to broadcast.

Subscribers as far out as the Outer Rim watched their screens light up with a “Coruscant Run” tag followed by the word “Preliminaries” forming under it, all the while some rock music from an unknown group was playing. Moments later the image had faded out to show a backdrop of twenty screens each focused on the drivers in this event while an unseen male announcer spoke, “Welcome ladies and gentlebeings to another exciting preliminary race. Today we have twenty drivers vying for enough points to be accepted into the much anticipated Coruscant Run! The drivers are..” As each driver, along with their navigator if they had one, was introduced their video feed was brought forward.

Eventually the announcer had reached the last entrant. “...and representing an independent sponsor we have a newcomer to the scene. Tach and his navigator Tiana!”

Volfe
11-30-2012, 04:09 AM
The Mandalorian stood at the landing pad, critically eyeing his ship. Or at least the smoldering remainso his ship, and the second one that had rammed it full force. He had been on a bounty while his squad had off time. Sadly to say, his target seemed to give remote commands to his ship. Bandomeer. He should have known such a low profile planet would be trouble. Glancing around he found some signs of life in his rangefinder.

Setting off steadily he left the now useless scrap. He flipped on a remote beacon transmitting a request for pickup on any passing ships. A pity. He liked his last ship. He removed his helmet for some air, and some food. Once in town he would not have the relaxation needed to wander with his face in view. That, and people always remembered the wrong things. As if a Mandalorian wouldn't be enough.

Ice Hawk
12-03-2012, 04:05 AM
Reil slowly roused into consciousness, as he noticed that he was freezing. His head felt heavy with sleep as he propped himself up and tried to figure out why he was so cold. It turned out to be fairly obvious; while he slept he had been reduced to a single, thin sheet, while beside him Cali had cocooned herself in a wealth of blankets and was snoring gently. He sat up fully and gently prodded Cali. She struggled against her own cocoon for a second as she woke, and settled down as she got her bearings.
“What?”

“There’s a blanket thief about. You should be careful, you’ve got a lot of the warm ones.” Reil said wryly.

Cali rolled in her ball of blankets to face Reil, looking as contrite as she could manage.
“It’s cold in here.”

“We’re in space. Space is cold. But I thought the idea was that the blankets would cover the entire bed, so that we can both be warm.” Reil suggested.

Cali shook her head.
“Nope. In space it’s everyone for themselves.”

Reil grinned, even as he rubbed his hands together to improve their circulation.
“That was fast; don’t I get a memo or something, before you leave me out in the cold?”

“Nope.” Was all Cali said before she rolled away from him, and tried to get back to sleep.

Reil laid down beside her and whispered in her ear.
“So, what would I have to do get a blanket from you?”

“Pry it from my cold dead hands.” Cali tossed over her shoulder.

That elicited a snort of laughter out of Reil, as he considered whether to retort, or just take her up on her challenge. A casual glance at the chrono by their bed however, forced Reil to abandon any plans of staying in bed. He reached over and shut off the alarm before it sounded, and then wearily got up, and began looking for some pants.

By the time he’d managed to get dressed and make it down to the cockpit, he was running closer than he really should to bring the Whydah out of lightspeed. As he pulled the lever that changed the blue swirl into the long beams of light, to finally the individual stars that made up real space, he heard Cali enter the cockpit behind him. She was still draped in one of the blankets like a cloak. Reil swivelled his seat to face her.
“It’ll take us a bit to get clearance to land; you could go back to bed for a bit anyway.”

She yawned and shook her head.
“It’s fine, I feel like making breakfast anyway.” She sat down in the co-pilot’s chair to look out the cockpit at Ord Mantell for the first time. “So this is it?”

Reil smiled.
“It is. Unless I’ve made a very serious error.”

Cali wasn’t overly impressed.
“It’s. . . kinda crowded.”

Reil nodded in silent agreement, as they looked at the many moons of Ord Mantell. Only about eight were in sight, the others, including the twin moons were on the other side of the planet, but it gave the planet a cluttered feel, watching it from this far back. They sat in compensable silence for a few minutes, as Reil brought them closer to the planet. Then the silence seemed to drag some.
“Cali?”

Reil turned to see Cali, head slumped into her chest, dozing off again in the co-pilots chair. He sighed as he began making preparations for their landing.
“So much for breakfast.”

I. J. Thompson
12-13-2012, 08:17 PM
"So that's Ord Mantell," Jyllis Tromso observed in the Dawncaller's cockpit.

"Never been here?" Sloat asked.

"No, but I was in a holo set there, once."

"Which one?" Fi asked.

Jyll looked unusually sheepish. "It was early on in my career... a horror flick called Terror Planet. I didn't have much to do - just run around in a skimpy outfit and get my head ripped off by a -what do you call it?- 'Mantellian Savrip'. Heard of 'em?"

Fi nodded uncomfortably. She'd seen a Mantellian Savrip. Not in real life, but while playing Dejarik. Playing Dejarik with Tam.

"Well," Fi shook the thought away, "I'm sure we'll do better this time." Thumbing on the comm, she opened a channel to the Whydah.

"Reil? Cali?" she called, "You there? What's your plan?"

Dawncaller
12-14-2012, 11:01 PM
Aboard the VSD Edacious

Unsurprisingly, the conversation at the post-Owara debriefing was filled with celebratory declarations and the typical posturing of Imperial officers drunk with the heady tonic of victory. Captain Whode, leader of the squad’s pursuit line, was most boisterous of all, but he had a large cadre of captains who joined him in unsealing casks of raava and sharing tales of their personal exploits in the operation. Doule sat silently, listening to their discussion and wishing he could be anywhere but in that conference room, which was lit only by the display terminals and holographic projections detailing their actions on Owara.

“So I told the chief,” said one between chuckles and sips, “either you get that power diverted to the forward shields or we’re all gonna fry, and… poof! We were gone! No more firestorms or thermal blowback, just the sweet silence of space…”

Another continued with his own conversation. “Oh yes, I saw several ships scrambling for takeoff as well. Not many escaped my vessel’s laser fire, mind you, but those who did will not soon forget the Macerator—or the rest of Morning Star Squad, of course…”

A pair got into an argument of who among them had effected the most destruction. Truth be told, it was likely the Edacious herself, since she was by far the most heavily armed, but each captain had performed efficiently so…

Doule mentally slapped himself the moment such thoughts entered his mind. It was too easy to sterilize what they had done by thinking of it in terms of military skill and achievement. The squad had performed an atrocity, pure and simple, and Doule was probably the only one in the room who knew that it had all been orchestrated by a child panging with heartbreak.

Or was he? There were those captains in the room who sat quietly at the long table in the dimly lit conference room, going over operation reports and ship system analyses. Perhaps they were truly interested in the information, or perhaps they too were attempting to plunge their consciences into the purifying fire of raw data. Doule liked to think that he wasn’t the only one to recognize how what they had done changed everything completely. He decided to say so.

“And what of it, Doule?” said Whode. “You aren’t a man—a true warrior—until you have the blood of battle on your hands.”

This elicited a response from one of the quiet men in the room. “Battle? What battle? This, my dear captain, was a massacre.”

“All the more evidence of our Imperial might!” was the response from someone else, reinforced with resounding cheers and the clinking of glasses.

“And what of the might of those Imperial soldiers we burned? There were survivors who could have been evacuated…”

“And clue Pavana in to our plan of action? No. A swift and decisive strike was necessary if we were to accomplish our objectives.”
“Which was what, exactly? What did we truly accomplish with such a brazen action? I’ve never harbored any moral compunction with asymmetrical warfare, but when I learned of our target, and the extent to which we would be going, I…”

“So you went along with the operation, played your part, and you feel guilty. Go say one of your little prayers, send all those people off to their oblivions, and tell the Force to be with us in our next engagement.”

The talk soon degenerated from there, and Doule could no longer listen. Instead he fixed his eyes on the datapad in front of him and pretended to care about what was on the screen. With a single phrase he had unleashed the tensions in the room, allowed everything to be given voice, and now the captains were practically at each other’s throats. Lynchpin indeed. Those who had organized Morning Star Squad had given it one fatal flaw: Doule and the Inun were not in fact the ‘lynchpin’ starship and its captain; they were the self destruct trigger. He had neutralized Tam Dawncaller—no mean feat—and had subsequently undone whatever work and preparation had been required to make all of these captains cooperate with such trust and cohesion at Owara. By ones and two, the captains had left the conference room, their satisfaction replaced with disillusionment and their solidarity replaced with recalcitrance. At length the room was empty, and Doule got to his feet to leave.

“A moment please, Captain…” It was Admiral Harmod, sitting quietly outside of the light of the holograms. Doule realized he had hardly said a word since the meeting had started, apparently content to sit back and watch the debacle Doule had caused. “I’d like you to finish what you said earlier.”

“Sir?”

“You said that everything had changed completely thanks to Owara. I want to know what you meant.”

“No disrespect, I assure you,” insisted Doule. “I only meant that Tam’s—our actions at Owara put us out in the open. As I understood it, we were a secret task force at Tremayne’s disposal. I would hardly call what we did covert.”

“Young man,” said Harmod, getting to his feet and moving to the exit, “you have no idea how right you are…”


Aboard the ISD Interrogator.

Tremayne raised his chin, allowing a satisfied smirk to grace his lips. “Yes, a young boy, and a clever one at that. He knows I have plans for him, and refuses to comply. He even deludes himself into thinking that he’s the one in charge!”

“And Owara?”

“Our reports show that it’s a total loss,” Tremayne said. “I’m not sure why he chose it as a target, but I know he’s been there before. Perhaps someone had wronged him there, and now that he had the means to exact his revenge he—“

“And where is this boy currently?”

Tremayne chose his words carefully. “The squad has yet to report in, milord. I’ll inform you as soon as I hear from them.”

“This boy is no longer your concern, Tremayne,” the larger-than-life holoprojection of the helmet of Darth Vader dominated Tremayne’s communications suite. “I will carry out my own search for Morning Star Squad, and when I find it I will discover the true extent of your treachery.”

With typical abruptness, the Dark Lord of the Sith had ended the transmission before Tremayne could salvage the situation. This wasn’t good at all…

Ubiqtorate
01-12-2013, 10:13 PM
A suitably long pause hung from the Dawncaller's com before Reil's voice broke the silence.


"Well...we're gonna get clearance to land," he said, "and then, uh, maybe we can meet up with you somewhere once we're dirtside?"


Fi's shoulders slumped as she shook her head. Jyll rubbed her forehead, rocking back in her chair. Only Sloat had anything to say. "You really don't have any kind of plan, do you?"


"You've been here for everything we've come up with so far," quipped Fi.


Sloat made a sound that was somewhere between a sigh and a snicker. "All right," he said, "now, I'm not interested in your rebellion, or whoever you're trying to throw in with here, but I'll give you a little help here, since it sure looks like you could use it."


"What did you have in mind?" groaned Jyll.


"There's a little place in the Trader's Quarter called the Brawl and Grill," replied Sloat. "Ever hear of it?"


Fi and Jyll shot each other dubious looks. "Brawl and Grill?"


"It's as bad as it sounds," confirmed Sloat. "But if you're looking for people with information, that's the place to be. There's bound to be someone who knows something about...anything."


Fi glanced at Jyll, who avoided her eyes while rubbing her neck.


"Look, it's not like either of you are coming up with anything better," prodded Sloat. "Besides, it's not like I care if you come along, since I'm heading that way whether you come with me or not. It's a good place for a guy like me to get some work."


"All right," conceded Jyll. "The Brawl and Grill it is."


Fi switched open the com channel. "Hey, Reil, you ever hear of a joint


called the Brawl and Grill?"


A shorter silence ensued. "Brawl and Grill?"


"Don't ask..."


Three hours and entirely too much paperwork later, the Dawncaller touched down on the dusty pavement of the Worlport docking bay. A low, brown haze hung over the street outside the docking bay, flanked by rows of buildings in various states of neglect.


"So this is it," stated Jyllis. "Ord Mantell."


"Does it look like it did in the holos?" asked Fi.


"It's...dirtier," replied Jyll. "And brighter, to be honest. I think all of the shots I did were at night. Well, that, and they were all on a sound stage on Setar."


"Well, then, let's go see what the real thing has to offer," prompted Fi.


She reached out tentatively and took the taller woman's hand, then felt her heart flutter as Jyll's fingers locked around hers.


Sloat blushed and looked away. "Do I need to give you two a minute?" he asked.


"I'm sure we're just fine," demurred Jyllis.


"Although if you wanted to run ahead, I'm sure we could catch up," added Fi.


Now Sloat rolled his eyes. "Well, whatever," he conceded. "If you need me, I'll be at the Brawl." He briefly outlined the directions and skittered away.


"Think that's the last we'll see of him?" asked Fi.


"I doubt it," replied Jyll. "But I don't really care. I'm, uh, I'm actually just happy for some time alone. With you, I mean."


Fiola beamed. "Jyllis Tromso, are you nervous?"


Jyll laughed. "I'm a better actress when the cameras are actually rolling," she admitted. "But come on. Daylight's wasting."


The street outside the docking bay opened up into a marketplace where vendors from the unassuming to the outlandish hawked goods in just as great a variety. Far from the faded brown facades of the surrounding buildings, the market was alive with colored banners, music, and the mingling smells of foods and perfumes.


Breaking free of Jyll's hand, Fi twirled in a circle, throwing her hands in the air. Between the ordeal on Bespin and the slow recovery from her injuries, Fi hadn't felt this alive in...well, it didn't matter how long.


She smiled back at Jyllis. "Bet you can't find me!" she cried before dashing headlong into the crowd.


"But...Zealos and Cali!" Jyll called after her. "Won't they be waiting?"


"They can wait!" yelled Fi.


Fi didn't make Jyllis search very long. Within a minute or two, as the actress peered hesitantly around a jeweler's stand, the musician popped out behind her.


"You found me!" shouted Fi. "And look what I found you!"


"Numidian pearls!" replied Jyll, taking the strand Fi had triumphantly held up. "And purple! My favorite. Really, Fi, I couldn't possibly..."


The Duros manning the booth coughed nervously as Jyll turned to him. "All sales are final, ma'am."


Fi smirked. "I guess you're stuck with 'em now."


"Why...then, thank you," said Jyll. "Really, it's been a long time since anyone thought of me, you know? Not just of who I am."


"Stick with me, doll," quipped Fi. "I'll make sure you're number one."


Jyll smiled until Fi finally broke the growing awkward silence. "Well, come on!" she said. "I wanna keep exploring this place." She dashed forward again, finally stopping in front of the imposing facade of what looked to be some kind of converted theater. The sign above the marquee marked it as Jax Maxa's Antiquities and Oddities Exhibit.


"Hey, Jyll," asked Fi, "wanna see the wildest and weirdest Ord Mantell has to offer?"


"'It will amaze...it will amuse'?" replied Jyll, reading from the large posters on either side of the entrance.


"Come on, it will be fun!" coaxed Fi as she pulled Jyll toward the entrance with both hands. "Besides, I need to be amused."


She approached the box office, where a beautiful woman sat at the window. At least, Fi supposed she had probably been beautiful once, before years of hard living on Ord Mantell had taken a lot of that. Still, she had a kind smile, and her eyes sparkled.


"Two adults, please," said Fi.


"Certainly," replied the woman. "That will be thirty credits."


Fi's eyes widened slightly, but Jyll was already there with the money.


"Right this way," said the woman, directing them though the main door. "The show is just getting started in the main hall."


They entered into the converted lobby of the theater. It was filled with what Fi could really only describe as...oddities - a strange collection of trinkets from throughout the galaxy, ranging from bizarre to nearly obscene, with equally varying degrees of veracity. The savrip's claw seemed real enough, but was probably not such an unusual find on Ord Mantell, although Fi wondered how the savrip's felt about having the severed digit of one of their kind on display for paying gawkers. The hair from one of the angels of Iego looked suspiciously like shimmersilk, and while Fi had never heard of Jumine Miedis, she suspected that the shark-men who allegedly lived there did not actually have teeth made out of polyresin.


Jyllis finally spoke first. "Well, this place really is...unique."


"Yeah," replied Fi, backing away slowly from a vial containing what looked like some kind of pickled rodent. "I'm not sure how much of this is actually real." Still backpedaling, Fi nearly jumped out of her skin as a shriek sounded in her left ear. She whirled to face a mouthful of teeth snapping at her.


Caged teeth, thank the Force. About a third of a meter long, the animal trapped in the cage appeared to be all teeth and spines, and it appeared to be hungry. It had apparently been lying quietly in its cage intil Fi had gotten too close, then had tried to make a meal out of her ear. The plaque next to the cage was labeled "Nexu (miniature). Cholganna."


"Who does that?" cried Fi, cursing at the small caged beast, which smacked its jaws a few more times, followed its tail around the cage once, and promptly lay back down to sleep.


Jyll laughed out loud. "You should have seen the look on your face!" she said. "Come on, let's see what jumps out at us in the next room." She led Fi into the main hall. It was an elliptical room, about twelve meters at its longest and eight meters at its widest. There were about thirty other patrons there to watch the show, focused on the human in the center, who Fi assumed was Jax Maxa. He was a middle-aged man, or perhaps a little older, with a few traces of silver in the mostly black hair visible beneath the brim of his tall black hat. He had a thin mustache and was wearing a monocle, but otherwise his face seemed almost completely undistinguished. He was the sort of person you could see a hundred times on the street and not remember seeing before, or really describe after, but in spite of that, Fi thought there was something familiar about his eyes.


The long tails of the man's red coat swung whenever he gestured dramatically, which was constantly. He stood on a short dais in the center of the room, barking intensely at the crowd around him. "...but of course the best known of these were the Jedi Knights," he continued from the well-rehearsed monologue in which he had been too deeply enthralled when the two women entered even to notice their arrival, "warrior who had fought to defend the galaxy for thousands of years. But in those deepest, darkest hours, when their Republic needed them most, the Jedi forgot their purpose. Although in battle they appeared valiant, when corrupt forces threatened to tear the very fabric of the galaxy, inside the hearts of the Jedi had turned black as space. Many, we would later learn, were in fact in league with those separatists, aiding and abetting them even as they swore their oaths to drive them from the galaxy. For those in the audience who are old enough to remember, I know that you like me," here Maxa paused for a moment to clear his throat, "I know that you, like me, can never forget how a few of those Jedi, the darkest and most corrupt, plotted to overthrow the government, finally attempting to take the life of our beloved Chancellor Palpatine."


A few of the older members of the audience nodded knowingly as their children and grandchildren looked to them for assurance. Fi cringed inside, although she was careful not to let it show. She'd seen a Jedi in action. A young one, certainly, but he had been a Jedi. And Jedi were noble, valorous, and strong. But the empire had taken that. Taken that from him. Taken that from her.


Oblivious to Fi's inner pain, Maxa continued. "So pervasive was the conspiracy among the Jedi Order that it became necessary to remove them all, and so our beloved Chancellor, now Emperor Palpatine, sent his forces to rid the galaxy of the evil Jedi scourge. With forces led by the magnificent Darth Vader, they swept the last vestiges of that corrupt order away, establishing a new order."


Maxa paused again, his head bowed, fingers pressed together. As if on cue (and it certainly was on cue, thought Fi), a trap door appeared in the floor and a pedestal arose, with a latched silver box sitting on top.


"What I am about to show you," whispered Maxa conspiratorially, "is illegal, from the Core to the Outer Rim. Certainly, in the Core, such a thing as this could never be seen, but here, fortunately, we are farther from prying eyes, and so I am able to share with you a sight few others have seen - a true artifact of the Old Republic." Slowly, dramatically, Maxa opened the box, revealing three cylinders, each about thirty centimeters long, resting on a black velvet cloth.


"The enduring symbol of the Jedi Knights was the weapon they carried," explained Maxa. "To many, they were synonymous with the Jedi themselves, and it should be so, since the Jedi were truly one with their weapons."


Lifting the centermost of the three lightsabers from the cloth, Maxa ignited it. The lights in the room darkened at the same time, leaving Maxa's face bathed only in the eerie orange glow of the saber.


Suddenly, what had been familiar to Fi in Maxa's eye became unmistakable. The hair was darker, and he had gained some weight, but it was definitely still him. As "Jax Maxa" prattled on about how a skilled Jedi could rend a thousand enemies without suffering a single wound, Fi found she could no longer handle it, and she burst into the crowd. "Master Kenlan!"

Ice Hawk
01-13-2013, 06:56 AM
Reil, Cali, and now Sloat sat on what could, stretching the value of the words involved, be called the Brawl and Grill’s patio section. In truth it was just a busted table left on the street, and a couple chairs they’d pulled from inside, but the weather was pleasant outside, and the interior of the Brawl was not. The service was lousy however, even giving allowances for the fact that they weren’t, technically, in the restaurant, you’d think someone would have at least come out to check on the chairs.

Cali was feeling surprisingly chipper, not even bothering to grouse about how late Fi and Jyll were, which Reil attributed to her being well rested.
“All right, my turn, it starts with an R.”

Reil briefly looked up from his data pad to survey the street the bar’s, “patio”, looked out on, and entertained the notion of joining the game between Cali and Sloat. There was a Rodian across the street selling bootleg holos that might have caught Cali’s attention, but that seemed obvious. The Trandoshan lifting fruit onto to a flatbed transport seemed more likely.

“Rodian.” Sloat called out first, opting for the obvious choice.

Cali shook her head and smirked.
“Nope.”

“Reptile.” Reil suggested, pointing to the Trandoshan.

“Wrong.” Cali beamed as she sensed victory.

Sloat gave a few more guesses, along the lines of rocks, R5 unit, red R5 unit, and are you sure it wasn’t rocks? While Cali grew increasingly more smug. Finally, it was time to call it, and put poor Sloat out of his misery.
“Fine, you win Cali. What was it?”

Cali paused, letting the tension build.
“Running late.”

Sloat blinked.
“What?”

Cali shrugged.
“ ‘S what Fi and Jyll are doing.”

Sloat’s confused expression gradually turned into a frown. “That’s cheating.” He said with a little more hurt in his voice than a grown man should have allowed.

Cali stuck her tounge out at him.
“Says who?”

Reil sighed.
“Abstract concepts run kinda contrary to the spirit of eye spy, Cali.”

Cali shrugged unapologetically.
“Whatever, you guys lost so I get to go again. Starts with W.”

Wise to the new rules introduced, this was much easier for Reil to guess.
“Where the frell are they?”

Cali nodded.
“More or less. Starts with S.”

This time Reil turned to Sloat.
“Seriously, you’d said they were right behind you, what the frack is taking them so long?”

Sloat took a moment to catch up on the subtext.
“Whoah, wait a minute, when did this become my fault?”

Reil made a motion to check his chrono, then remembering it wasn’t there, made a rough estimate instead.
“About forty minutes after you showed up and told us Fi and Jyll were right behind you.”

Sloat held his hands up in protest.
“They said they’d catch up! I’m sure they can’t be much longer.”

Reil was implacable.
“Some people. You agree to work together on something, and then they just disappear, without notice or warning, leaving you just sitting and waiting. I have a lot to do today, I don’t have time to sit while they frolic in the marketplace.”

Cali perked up at that.
“I don’t remember there being anything else we had going on.”

Reil slid the data pad across the table to her.
“Notice just went up an hour ago for people to go an inspect it, and it’s going to auction tonight.”

Cali looked over the contents and whistled softly to herself.
“That’s a lot of. . . well that’s a lot. But their asking price is a bit too reasonable for that much treasure.”

Reil nodded.
“I know, that’s why I wanna go check it out myself. If it does check out, maybe we could offer a bit more than they’re asking, and buy it straight, without the auction.”

Cali nodded in agreement.
“Y’know, if it does check out, that probably means it’s stolen. And then if we buy it, our cargo bays full of hot merchandise, just waiting for a random inspection.”

“Yeah I know, that’s also why I wanna get a move on with this whole Tam thing. Once we know where we’re moving next, I can line up a buyer, and we can just pretend that the cargo was obtained through clean and virtuous living. Except at the rate Fi and Jyll are going, we might as well just make this place our permanent residence.”

Cali was too busy being enraptured by the prospect of serious credits to be mad at Fi.
“I could go.”

Reil considered the proposal.
“Are you sure?”

Cali shrugged.
“Yeah, why not. It’s not like I care about finding Tam anyway.”

Reil frowned.
“As heartwarming as that sentiment is, I meant are you sure you could handle the deal?”

Cali was less than thrilled to have her abilities questioned.
“Yes Reil, I think I can manage exchanging goods for money. I’m vaguely familiar with the concept.”

“It’s your vagueness that worries me. You’ve been known to take a different approach to acquiring goods, and I won’t be there to back you up if another Aqualish tries to cut off your thieving hands.”

Cali sighed, and rolled her eyes. “I’ll be good” and then, a bit more earnestly “I promise I won’t frack this up.”

Reil sighed, fished out his cred chit, and tossed it to Cali.
“Not a deca-cred over eight thousand.”

Cali caught the chit, and took off down the street, back towards the hangars. Reil sighed, and prepared to settle in for a long wait, until Sloat’s voice broke in on his reprieve.
“Starts with J.”

I. J. Thompson
01-13-2013, 04:21 PM
As the eyes of all present turned toward her, Fi immediately regretted the outburst. She wasn't the worst offender in the worlds when it came to speaking first and thinking later, but she definitely had her moments - and this one was right up there.

'Jax Maxa' peered into the dimness, his vision partially impaired by the brilliant orange blade that glowed in his hands. "Who said that? Step forward."

Fi did as she was told, nervously shouldering her way past assorted onlookers while Jyllis followed close behind. 'Maxa' held the saber aloft, studying the girl. Then his un-monacled eye, in an almost-imperceptible microsecond, lit with recognition.

"Correct."

He deactivated the lightsaber, and the room's house lights came back up. "The young lady is correct," he continued, turning back to the small crowd with a comforting smile. "Master Kenlan, among others, was indeed a respected member of the treacherous Jedi order, and a master swordsman. But," he turned again toward Fi, "Kenlan As-Buka was a simple knight of the order, young one, and not a member of the Jedi Council. You are familiar with Jedi history and lore?"

Fi cleared her throat uncomfortably. "I've... heard a thing or two."

Kenlan's eye twinkled. "I'd be interested in hearing about your experiences. But-" he straightened, indicating the rest of the crowd, who were beginning to shuffle impatiently, "if you'll permit me?"

"Of course," Fi answered, then waved sheepishly at the others. "Sorry."

A short moment later, Fi and Jyllis were back in the Worlport street, squinting in the afternoon sunlight.

"What was that all about?" Jyll asked.

"That guy," Fi explained, "I know him."

"The barker? You really do get around!"

"Believe me, he's anything but a carnival barker. I have to tell Reil!" Then, fishing her comlink from a pocket, "oh, stars. I guess it's time we turned these things on!"

They did so, and soon Fi had a channel open to Reil's comlink.

"Yo," a voice answered.

"Reil?"

"Naw, it's me, Sloat. Fi, what's the holdup? I've been here at the Brawl & Grill covering for you guys, you know."

"Covering...? Oh Sloat, shut up. We went sightseeing."

"Hey," the young man objected, "none o' my business."

"Are Reil and Cali there?"

"Ayuh. Well, Reil is. Cali's gone off someplace."

Fi made a mental note to expect problems. "Will you pass on a message for me?"

"Pudu!" Sloat interjected. "It's pudu, isn't it?"

"Huh?"

"Oh, sorry. Talkin' to Reil. Now, what?"

"Listen: just tell him I've made a bit of a discovery here, and I want to check it out. We'll meet you guys there in about another thirty minutes?"

"Shouldn't be a problem. We're still waiting for our drinks."

"Right. See you soon." Fi snapped off the comlink, then looked at Jyllis, who smiled back at her in amusement.

"You want to go back inside and talk to 'El Mysterio Moustachio', don't you?"

Fi giggled guiltily. "You mind?"

Jyll laughed. "Mind? No. Want to join? Not really. I think I'd like to look around the bazaar a little more. Do you mind?"

At that moment a speeder whizzed by, one of its occupants shouting something unintelligible at the pair. The girls ignored him.

"You'll be safe?" Fi asked, her brow furrowing with concern.

Jyll patted the blaster at her hip. "Pssshhhh."

Fi smiled in relief, looked around them, and before even realizing what she was doing, leaned forward and upward and kissed Jyll softly, slowly, on the lips. Jyllis returned the kiss and then, smiling at the singer, tapped her gently on the chin with the tip of one finger and turned away, sauntering up the street.

Fiola watched her go, and then suddenly, involuntarily, broke into a grin that brightened her face from ear to ear. Unable to wipe the smile from her face, she turned it toward the Antiquities & Oddities ticket woman, who smiled back warmly, and then Fi re-entered the building.

Dawncaller
01-15-2013, 10:23 PM
Through the twisting maelstrom of hyperspace, a rickety looking tramp freighter has made its escape from the Alderaan system (http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/First_Battle_of_the_Graveyard). Inside the cockpit, its captain leaned back with his feet propped up on the console before him. “I told you we’d make it, Chewie.”

His Wookiee copilot responded with a skeptical huff.

“You think I’m scared of Boba Fett? Didn’t you see us beat him back like a flitgnat?”

A dug, sitting behind the other two, rumbled in Huttese.

“Don’t you get started! Admiral Ackbar ordered us to Ord Mantell for repairs. Then we’ll take the holocron back to the Rebellion and—“

The captain was interrupted by a warning alarm flashing under the heel of his boot. He quickly re-postured himself to read the report. “Holy… Chewie, prepare to drop from lightspeed!”

The dug spat out an interrogative, to which the captain replied, “You go take the dorsal turret. Dropping from hyperspace like this can mean only one thing…”


“Admiral,” the junior officer saluted as he came to Harmod’s side, “Our interdictor cruisers have intercepted Renegade Squadron. The Millennium Falcon was the last of their fleet to leave the Alderaan system.”

“Thank you, Lieutenant.” Harmod turned to the officer seated on his other side. “Please open a channel.” Once he had the ready signal from the communications officer he said, “Renegade Squadron, this is Admiral Harmod of Morning Star Squad. Heave to and prepare to be boarded. Should any vessel attempt to evade us, we will be forced to destroy you.” He signaled the comm. officer to end the transmission, then said, “Now, hail the Inun. I need to see if our secret weapon is behaving himself.”


“Yes, Admiral, he is…” Doule searched for the right words, “contained.”

“Then he is capable of fulfilling his role in our operation here?”

“I’m afraid not, sir. He’s in the sickbay, incapacitated for our—for his own good. We’ll have to carry out your orders without his help.”

“Captain,” said Harmod, showing just enough irritation without breaching professionalism, “we have our orders, from Tremayne himself, to capture these Rebels and retrieve the information they’ve stolen. Are you going to impede our success, or facilitate it?”

Doule remained silent. Harmod’s words were nonsense. Oh, it was true that High Inquisitor Tremayne had ordered Morning Star Squad to assist in the debacle that had occurred in the Alderaan system by intercepting the Rebel starships and to obtain the information they had found among the asteroids that were once an entire planet, but that was only part of the story. In the first place, Tremayne said that they must be unobtrusive in their efforts, which implied that grandiose gestures only available through Tam Dawncaller’s involvement were out of the question. Secondly, the Rebels hadn’t stolen a thing from the Empire, they had simply outdone Imperial forces in seeking out the hidden intel; for Harmod to imply that the Rebels had taken something that rightfully belonged to the Empire was objectively untrue, and was probably a poor attempt to try and persuade Doule emotionally. Finally, and most importantly, the fleet that had been pulled from lightspeed was in poor fighting shape, thanks to the valiant efforts of Imperial vessels in Alderaan, and Morning Star outnumbered it. Doule sincerely doubted that his decision to keep Tam out of commission would impede the squad at all.

“Captain Doule,” said Harmod, “I await your response.”

After a deep breath, he said, “I regret, sir, that I cannot comply. His actions at Owara show how unstable he truly is. What will we unleash should I release him?”

“That’s not your concern, Captain. What is your concern is the execution of orders given to you by a superior officer. If you are unable to do so, then I’m sure there are others who can step in to relieve you of duty.”

Doule looked over his shoulder. The small bridge of the Inun was populated with only a handful of officers, and all of their eyes were on him. Even with his Force abilities neutralized, there seemed to be enough residual influence that they were still loyal to Tam and, by extension, to Admiral Harmod. His word, foolish as it may be, was law to these men. Doule knew they wouldn’t hesitate to remove what they saw to be a weak link in the chain of command, perhaps violently so. The bridge was thick with the tension of Doule’s decision, and to his own chagrin, the man felt cowed.

“Admiral, I will of course obey your orders, but expect a formal submission of my protest.”

“Very well, Captain. Proceed.” Doule made his way to the turbolift, feeling as though he was traipsing through a nest of gundarks…


“This is Solo.” The tramp freighter captain’s voice echoed through the bridge of the Mon Calamari cruiser also caught in Morning Star Squad’s trap. “The Falcon’s in bad shape and I don’t think we can take these ships head on. What do you think, Serra?”

Col Serra (http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Col_Serra) absently fingered his beard as he considered the predicament. “They’ve already dispatched boarding shuttles, and those strike cruisers are circling around to fully contain us. In a matter of minutes we’ll be surrounded by TIE fighters. You know what that means, don’t you?”

"I’m guessing you aren’t talking about surrender, Serra.”

“No, Solo. I’m not. Renegade Squadron, if any of you are having regrets about joining, it’s too late to back out now. Arm all weapons, reroute all nonessential power to your shields, and get ready to fight. We’ve got two Interdictors this time, but that won’t stop us from punching free of this. Wait for my signal to open fire…”


Two crewmen carried Tam’s unconscious frame at Doule’s direction, who nervously fingered a revival pack in his hand. When the boy awoke would he still be filled with murderous hatred? Would he have those strange mystical abilities that made his homicidal whims a reality? Whatever happened, it was on Harmod’s head. All Doule could do was come in afterward and clean up whatever mess came out of this, if he even survived.

In the Nexus room, the two crewmen carefully placed Tam into the sphere. Doule pressed the revival pack to the boy’s neck and, at length, his eyes fluttered open. “Listen closely, Tam,” Doule said. “I’m reviving you and neutralizing the inhibitor. We’re under orders to retrieve information that these Rebels found. After that we’ll see what happens, but for the time being you need to cooperate. No Base Delta Zero, okay?”

The boy lay in the bowl of the Nexus Sphere, rubbing his forehead. “You sound scared, Doule.”

“You have no idea, Tam.”

“Don’t think I have forgotten what you’ve done to me.”

“I won’t. We can deal with that later. For now, I need you to march to Harmod’s fife.”

Laughing, Tam sat up. “Right, I’ll march to his fife. I can already feel the tensions rising among all ships, both Rebel and Imperial." Closing his eyes, Tam slowly began to levitate within the center of the Sphere. Before the apparatus had completely enclosed him he said, "Go to your battle stations; we have work to do…”

Ubiqtorate
01-19-2013, 04:30 PM
Kenlan As-Buka (or Jax Maxa, if you prefer) spotted Fi as she walked back into the hall. "Folks, that's going to wrap up today's show," he announced. "Thank you all for attending."

A shocked murmur arose from the small crowd. Finally they started mulling toward the exit. "Just when things were starting to get good," grumbled one. "I'm not sure those lightsabers were even real," whispered another. "I want my money back," complained a third.

"Marva will be happy to provide vouchers for a future show," proclaimed Kenlan as the crowd trickled out.

Finally, the room was empty, except for Kenlan and Fi.

"You should not have come back," said Kenlan.

"You knew I would," replied Fi.

Kenlan nodded.

"Kenlan, it's Tam," began Fi. "He's..."

"Tam is dead," interrupted Kenlan.

Fi shook her head emphatically. "He's not, though," she explained. "Zealos and Cali, they..."

"Tam is dead," insisted Kenlan, slamming his palm against the now-closed case holding the lightsabers. "Whatever you may have heard to the contrary is...grossly misleading. And between you and me, miss, you're better off if you never again mention the name 'Tam Dawncaller,' to me or anyone else. Take my advice. Stay as far away from it as you can."

"We're going after him," stated Fi defiantly. "That's why we came to Ord Mantell. Zealos has a contact who can get us in touch with the Rebellion, and they'll help us find Tam."

"Then you're three times a fool," retorted Kenlan. "Once for coming here, once for going after Tam, and once for getting involved with the Rebellion."

"It's...it's the Force that's brought us together again, Kenlan," said Fi. "Don't you see? It's all coming together. You still have a part to play in this."

"And there's a fourth time," replied Kenlan, "for ever believing that there's one all-powerful Force controlling everything." He picked up the case holding the lightsabers and began to stride for the exit. At the door, he turned one more time to look back at the young woman. "You're a pretty girl, Fi," he said. "Shame you'll be dead by thirty."

With that, Kenlan left her alone in the hall.

Ubiqtorate
01-20-2013, 03:36 PM
With an urgency that belied the nonchalant manner in which he had sauntered out of the main hall, Kenlan waved the woman from the box office into the small office opening off of the lobby, marked "PRIVATE" on the door. Once they were both inside, he locked the door and started throwing open the drawers in the imposing wooden desk that was standing against the wall. Pulling a large gray travel bag out of one of the bigger drawers, he dumped the contents from one drawer into it, and then another. He scurried to the wall on the opposite site of the small office, quickly scanning through a row of datapads on a shelf and selecting a few to add to the bag. The rest were unceremoniously dumped on the floor, shattering the screens of not a few.

"Jax, what are you doing?" asked the woman.

"No time for talk, Marva," barked Kenlan/Jax. "We've got to get out of here, and soon. Did you clear out the register totals from today's shows?"

"Not yet," replied a befuddled Marva. "We've still got two more shows this evening. Why would I..."

"There are not going to be two more shows this evening!" shouted Kenlan. "Grife, woman, don't you understand what's going on here?"

Marva started to cry. Kenlan stood up from the bag he was crouched over and walked over to embrace her. "Marva, Marva, baby, i'm sorry," he said. "I didn't mean to shout. Things are just happening so fast."

"It was that woman, wasn't it?" asked Marva.

"Which woman?"

"The one who was with that famous girl from the holos," replied Marva. "They were here this afternoon. She was wearing a disguise, but I recognized her. They left together, and then the other girl came back alone. It was her, wasn't it?"

"Marva, I don't have time to explain everything right now." answered Kenlan. "Baby, calm down. I need you to trust me right now."

"Did you sleep with her?"

"What? No!" replied Kenlan - truthfully, for once. "Look, Marva, I promise I'll explain it all later, but for now we just need to keep moving. Now, can you give me a hand with this desk?"

With some difficulty, they pair succeeded in moving the desk about a meter away from the wall. Kenlan allowed himself a nervous smile. This office, and the heavy wooden desk that had come with it, were the main reason he had chosen to set up shop in this particular venue. The room was utterly secure, completely soundproof...and featured a trap door hidden beneath the desk, which opened into a network of tunnels running beneath the entire marketplace, and a good portion of the spaceport beyond. It had been built by smugglers at the height of the trade disputes that had eventually led to the Clone Wars. Now it was the most valuable of the "antiquities" in Jax Maxa's collection. Well, one of the most valuable. Kenlan still had all of the lightsabers in his possession - he had made sure of that even as he beat a hasty retreat. A lightsaber would likely be the only way through the honeycombed durasteel wall and door surrounding the office. Brute force would be the only way in, and that could take hours or even days. Heavy explosives might eventually work, but it would take a skilled expert in demolitions to break through the door without taking the rest of the theater - and most of the marketplace - with it.

Kenlan carefully ran his fingers along the particular seam in the tile floor. It was indistinguishable from other seams, but with the proper pressure applied in the appropriate location, the floor swung away to reveal a rough stone staircase beneath.

"Jax...what is this?" asked Marva, fear creeping into her voice.

"I told you, baby, I don't have time to explain," repeated Kenlan. "Now, do you trust me?"

Frozen, Marva paused, peering into the gaping maw in the floor. Slowly, tentatively, she began nodding her head.

"All right," said Kenlan as he guided her into the darkness. "This will all be over soon." As he descended the staircase, he pulled the trap door closed behind him.

In the office, had anyone been left inside to see it, the crack around the trap door sealed tightly, becoming once again indistinguishable from the rest of the floor around it.

Ice Hawk
01-23-2013, 06:42 AM
“ C’mon, this is a good one, I promise.” Sloat pleaded.

Reil shook his head violently.
“I said no. We are not playing twenty questions.”

Sloat sighed, and slumped in his chair in defeat.
“Fine, what do you wanna do then?”

Reil glared at Sloat.
“I want Fi and Jyll to show up so we can get the damn show on the road!”

Sloat looked sheepish.
“Well yeah, I just meant, besides that.”

Reil shook his head in disbelief.
“There is no besides that. We’re not friends, and we’re not bonding. Why are you even still here?”

Before Sloat could respond, Reil spotted Fi as she sprinted down the street towards him.
“Finally, ya know there’s no point in running, you’re already late.” He called out to her.

Fi stopped and caught her breath before answering.
“Huh?”

Reil sighed.
“Never mind. You’re here now, we can finally get moving.”

Fi still seemed confused.
“Moving? Where?”

“Well I thought we’d check out some of the bigger cantinas, and you and your lady friend could ply spacers with drinks; see if anybody knows something about smugglers from Taanab who might lead us to our Rebel.” Reil outlined, “ ‘Course if that fell through we could always bust into-”

Fi cut him off.
“We don’t have time for that!”

Reil blinked, then reclined in his chair.
“Of course we don’t; that’s why you went a frolicking in the market, because we’re pressed for time.”

“I found someone in the market!” Fi looked deeply serious as she delivered her news. “Reil, I found Kenlan As-Buka.”

Reil blinked again.
“Who?”



*****************************



As Cali walked into the back showroom of the auction house she noticed she wasn’t the only person checking out the goods. There were a number of other Captains, all obviously enticed by the low prices they’d seen advertised; the biggest crowd was in front of a short, greasy man, standing in front of his cache of portable bacta salves, which was priced so low he was practically giving it away. Being an auction and all, the final price of any given lot would go up in the actual auctioning part, but with such a low starting bid there was a good chance it would still go well below market price. That also made the buyers skittish, so the lot of them were eyeing the greasy man’s goods with suspicion. This did not seem to bother the cache’s owner.
“Step right up and take a look. One hundred per-cent genuine bacta salves at ridiculously low prices! I’ll be here if you have any questions, but I guarantee you won’t have any complaints!”

Cali bent over an open crate, and handled one of the portable tanks.
“They’re branded.”

The owner turned to face her, and smiled.
“Why yes they are little lady, ever batch of bacta has its manufacturers seal placed upon the canister, so you know the quality of the product. This particular batch is fresh from the Zaltin corporation refineries.”

Cali shook her head.
“No, I mean they’re branded with Imperial Military markings. These wouldn’t happen to be stolen, would they?”

The owner’s smile flickered for a second, and then he carried on.
“You, young lady are hitting all of its selling points, practically doin’ my job for me. ‘Course they ain’t stolen. They are branded with Imperial markings, ‘cause they’re military surplus. That’s right, I picked them up at auction not two weeks ago, and now I am passing my savings directly on to you the customer.”

Cali still wasn’t satisfied, she turned and faced the owner directly.
“I wanna open the canister.”

The owner started to get annoyed.
“Well I’m sorry little la-”

“Cali.”

“Well I’m sorry miss Cali, but I am not in the habit of giving out free samples. If you are in need of bacta I suggest you go to hospital.”

Cali rolled her eyes.
“I don’t want a sample, I want to smell it.”

This time the owner just looked baffled.
“You what?”

Cali sighed.
“The smell, bacta has a distinct smell. I want to see if your products smell like they should.”

The distinct crevices of a frown were beginning to form on the owners face, and his tone began to sound dismissive.
“And what would you know about bacta smells, child?”

“It’s Cali”, She said as she breathed in deep to keep calm, “And I spent a week floating in a bacta tank, and then another two trying to get the smell off of me, so I think I know a little something about it.”

One of the other prospective buyers overheard their conversation and joined in.
“She’s right, I’d know the smell anywhere too. Got cut real bad a year back, could still smell it for a month after. Now I’d like you to open a tank, and let me have a smell.”

“That is enough!” The owner declared. “I will not crack open my merchandise so that you may waft in its vapours, all on the whim of a little girl!”

A huge mountain of a man spoke up, quieting the rest of the room.
“Ain’t just the girl. I wanna smell it too. These prices make me itch. Too good to be true.”

The owner was not moved.
“Well I am sorry you feel that way, but I still refuse. My product speaks for itself, it does not need to be smelled.”

To his credit, the owner didn’t even flinch as the huge man stared him down. There was a long, tense silence as they faced each other, and just when it looked like violence might ensue, the huge man turned, and walked away, taking his money to greener pastures. A few other Captains followed him, but most still seemed interested, though there were jeers and cat calls for a tank to be opened, that they might be satisfied.
“As I have said before, I will not open my product. If any of you have any real concerns, I would be happy to address those.”

Cali called out into the crowd.
“He’ll talk about your concerns, except the one you have right now? Does that sound like a man who has confidence in his product?”

Judging by the murmurs through the crowd, the consensus seemed to be that it did not. Now lots of Captains were leaving, and the ever thinning crowd of people who stayed were growing agitated and vocal. Seeing his profit margin evaporate as clearly as the people leaving, the owner capitulated.
“All right! Fine! We’ll have a. . . smell test.” The greasy man shook his head at the thought, then leveled an angry finger at Cali, “But it can’t be her! She’s trying to poison the well against me. I want an impartial smeller!”

It took a few minutes for candidates to be selected, and have their bacta smelling qualifications verified, but eventually the mob did send someone up to smell the portable bacta tank. Reluctantly the owner opened a tank, and the representative breathed in deeply. There was a pause, and then, a shaking of the head.
“Nah, it don’t smell right. It smells fishey.”

There was a question from the crowd.
“You mean, figuratively?”

The representative shook his head again.
“Naw, like literal fish. It’s got a fish smell. I don’t know what this is, but I ain’t buyin’ it.”

That was the final nail in the coffin, and now the entire crowd moved to exit the auction house. Stunned, the owner tried to process his reversal of fortune, when Cali sidled up beside him, smiling.
“So, what is in these containers?”

Dawncaller
01-23-2013, 03:37 PM
Squadrons of TIE Fighters and the motley starfighters of Renegade Squadron crisscrossed in an explosion of dogfights. While the Rebels doggedly pushed their way through the swarms of Imperial starfighters, it was at great cost: the TIE fighters, in addition to their overwhelming numbers, were fighting with a coordination and efficacy that ended in the loss of many good pilots.

As the Millennium Falcon weaved through this chaos, both turrets belching laser fire, Han Solo’s unending prayer that his beloved ship would come out of this in one piece was interrupted by the declarative roars of his copilot. “What, Chewie?” he shouted over the rumble of what must have been another blown power cell. “What is it? Whaddaya see?”

The Wookiee snarled a quick explanation as he gestured at the sensor display. His paw deftly ran over the controls until the readout shifted to view the capital ships that were sidling along Renegade Squadron’s own larger vessels. One of them, smallest of the Imperial craft, was emitting a power signature far beyond what would be expected for its size.

“Yeah, pal, I see it too.” Solo threw his ship into an evasive spin and opened his comm. channel. “Serra, this is Solo.”

A staticky voice responded. “This better be good, Solo. By the time we can take out either of those Interdictors Renegade Squadron will be scrap!”

“Have a look at your sensors, and switch to vector…” he quickly glanced at his own display, “gamma. See that little ship hanging back?”

“Yeah, I see it. The Inun, right?”

“That’s the one. Chewie’s got an idea that we should target her instead.”

“You know I trust Chewbacca more than I trust you, Solo,” said Serra. “Lead the way.”



“Set shields to maximum forward,” said Doule as he watched the battle lines shift. “I think they’re targeting us.” He silently registered the acknowledgements from within the bridge. “Gunnery teams, prepare all batteries. Those starfighters are coming in hot!”

Taking the last few moments to assess the tactical situation, Doule took some satisfaction at how efficiently the TIE fighters were dogging the heels of the Rebels. Starfighters erupted into clouds of debris and detonated fuel supplies. Others fell back to stave off the onslaught while the rest continued their run. Perhaps the Rebels would be destroyed before they reached the Inun, and Doule’s orders would be moot.

But then this freighter punched through the cloud of dogfights, twisting its implausible bulk through laser fire as it rocketed forward at implausible speed. A wave of bombers followed close behind, spreading out into an attack echelon. “Gunnery teams, target the Y-Wings and that fast freighter. If they deplete our shields we’ll be done for.” But despite the skill of the Inun’s gunners, most of the ships made it through the screen of defensive fire. They released their payloads as they strafed the length of the Inun, and the bridge’s viewports blacked out to protect against the sudden flare of light.

Doule gripped the railing of his command podium to overcome the tremors rippling throughout the ship as he shouted, “Lieutenant, report!”

“Shields down to twenty three percent, sir! One more hit like that and we’ll lose critical systems!”

“Acknowledged, Lieutenant.” Doule straightened his uniform. “Patch me through to the Edacious,” he said, and when the transmitting indicator on his console lit up, “Admiral Harmod, we’re taking direct fire, and can’t take much more. Please send whatever reinforcements you can to keep these bombers at bay.”

Harmod’s voice echoed throughout the bridge. “Copy, Inun, but these Rebels are cutting us off. Before we can take out the starfighters we have to blast this cruiser and blockade runners out of the way. Perhaps you can convince your young friend to try something…”

“Understood, Admiral. Inun out.” Doule switched his comm signal to the Nexus room. “Tam, did you copy?” When no answer came he added, “Tam, we’re getting blasted here, and we need you to pull a little green rabbit out of your hat.”

“If you need to talk to me,” said the young man’s voice, “come say it to my face.”

Such belligerence would get them all killed! With a sigh, Doule stepped down from his command podium and moved slowly to the turbolift.



Han Solo let out a triumphant whoop. “That’s how it’s done, Renegades! Serra, you keep those cruisers at bay while we come around for another pass.” His hands played over the controls of the Millennium Falcon like a master musician, and she swung around in an impossibly tight maneuver to target the Inun once again. His copilot bellowed something interesting.

“Well, if they’re stupid enough to have no rear shields up, then we’ll just have to launch these next missiles right up their thrusters.” He took a moment to eye his sensors. “Look here, Chewie. See that bank of ventral viewports? I think we can punch through their hull right there and cause some serious damage.” He switched back to a broadcast channel. “All bombers, I’m sending you targeting coordinates. Let’s chew a hole into this spot and see if we can’t bring this little Imp ship down!”

Dawncaller
01-24-2013, 12:47 PM
As he rushed into the Nexus room, Doule shouted, “Tam, open up that contraption right now!”

The Nexus sphere split open along its horizontal seam to reveal Tam Dawncaller hovering cross-legged inside. He looked down from his perch high above the man. “Captain…”

“You do realize we’re under fire, do you not?” Doule gestured to the stars through the bank of tall, narrow viewports on the aft bulkhead. “One more hit, and we’re nothing, Tam. Don’t you see that?”

“I do see it, Captain.”

It took a moment for Doule’s nonplussed reaction to wear off so he could speak again. “And you’re just going to sit there? You’re going to make me come down here—leaving my battle station, mind you—and plead with you to get us out of here? Do you want to die or something?”

And that’s when it hit him. At Owara he had lashed out, systematically destroying a planet and every living thing on its surface. Now, he had swung to the opposite extreme: death by Rebel. “Tam,” he said quietly, “what’s this about?”

“When I was little,” Tam said from inside the sphere, “I would go on walks to get away from it all. Just me and my… just me, and nobody else. Then the Empire stepped into my life. My parents are dead, I was constantly on the run from people who knew what I was supposed to do with my life, and the girl that I thought was the love of my life turned out to be a complete lie. To top it all off, now, even after I’ve been giving the Empire what it wants from me, there are still people who want to tell me what to do, and even punishing me when I don’t do it!”

That nonplussed feeling came back to Doule, but not so much that he was unable to say, “But you asked me to do that, Tam. You told me to keep you in check; you told me to prevent you from becoming the monster you said you wanted to defeat; you were telling me what to do. So when do I get to throw an angsty little fit about how everybody in this entire fleet has ideas about what they’d like to do with me? I guarantee it’s not the same as what they have planned for you, but—“

He was interrupted by the acting bridge officer broadcast across the ship. “All hands, brace for impact!” Doule turned and looked out the viewports to see a growing glow quickly resolve into a barrage of incoming concussion missiles…



The Millennium Falcon and the Y-Wings had slowed to watch the incoming explosion of their salvo, but their pilots stared in blank confusion. The missiles cruised through empty space, for their target, the Inun, was no longer there. Han Solo looked at Chewbacca, but the Wookiee only mirrored a look that was, frankly, nonplussed. “Well,” said Solo, “I guess now we’ve got one hell of a ghost story to tell…”

I. J. Thompson
02-08-2013, 10:04 PM
"Kenlan As-Buka!" Fi repeated. "The Jedi - actually, I'm still not sure if he's a Jedi - who trained Tam! I first met them both together, at the same time! We have to-"

Fi and her companions looked awkwardly around themselves at the bar's other patio tables, which had begun to fill with the quitting-time crowd, many of whom were now looking in their direction.

"Uh," Sloat said awkwardly, "I'm gonna go see if I can beat the high score on the Laser Ball machine. Catch up with you guys later?"

"Yeah."

"Sure."

Looking irate, Zealos Reil tossed a handful of coins onto their table and rose, walking out into the Worlport street with Fi following close behind.

"Reil," Fi explained, "Kenlan and Tam, they're, well... they're connected! In the Force! Kenlan could lead us right to him!"

Reil stopped and spun about. "Fi - hey, where's Jyll?"

"She went to look around the bazaar. You were saying?"

Reil exhaled heavily. "Fi, I know it doesn't much look like it, but we're on kind of a 'covert-op', here. And believe me, looking for contacts in the Rebel Alliance is bad enough - you might not want to be shouting about Jedis in front of the general population."

"It's 'Jedi'."

"Is it?"

"Pretty sure."

"Well," Reil continued, "so you've found yourself a Jedi. A maybe-Jedi. What did the wise old wizard say to you?"

"He said we shouldn't try looking for Tam. He said we'd be killed."

"And you think we won't?"

Fi searched Reil's eyes for any hint of sarcasm. There was none.

"I don't know," she confessed, looking at the dusty ground. "I guess I never really thought about how all of this was going to end."

"Well, I have," Reil replied, straightening. "Like I told you Fi, Tam is powerful. Scary-powerful. And he's got an Empire behind him. And his own little fleet. You can bet that whoever put him in charge of that fleet did so because of that power. Which means they're all behind him. Now this may shock you Fi, but there are one or two things in this galaxy that mean as much to me as Tam does to you-"

"Reil, I've never thought there wasn't-"

Zealos Reil gently held up a hand, intent on finishing. "What I'm saying is, I fear for a galaxy where a boy with a power like that - a temper like that - is in charge. And I'll do whatever it takes to see that doesn't happen."

Fi looked down again. "You mean to destroy him."

"Oh hell, I don't know," Reil replied, kicking absently at some gravel. "Maybe he can be, like you say... 'rehabilitated'. Or something. All I know is we're never gonna get near him with just a handful of blasters and some good intentions."

Fi looked into his eyes. "And when we do get near him? What then?"

Reil returned her stare for a moment, then looked away, uncertain.

Turning, Fi gazed down the street, where pourstone buildings reflected the pink light of early sunset.

"I guess we'll know when the time comes," she thought aloud.

"I sure frelling hope so!"

The pair looked at each other. Then, without warning, they burst into peals of near-hysterical laughter. When the laughter subsided, they raised their arms awkwardly toward one another, dropped them again, and laughed some more. Settling for a firm handshake, they nodded respectfully toward one another and then, turning, watched Ord Mantell's sun continue its descent toward the distant horizon.

tinkerghost
02-10-2013, 10:39 PM
6 Months Ago

Dvakon bolted straight upright covered in sweat. It had been years, but there was no mistaking that feeling ... the dream that wasn't a dream. "I never expected this to be retirement, but a bounce on the Holonet would have been enough," he said as he threw off the blanket and headed to the fresher.

An hour later, he stood in front of the counter in his junk yard. Resting his hand gently on the counter, he whispered, "It was fun while it lasted." The data-pad clinked lightly as he dropped it, "The Last Will and Testament of Bin'at Dilvas" clearly visible on the screen as he turned and walked to the back of the yard. Opening the door of a junked air-taxi, he passed through to the airlock of the ship carefully buried under the large pile. Three minutes later, the debris shuddered as the ship came to life - slowly falling away to reveal the antique Citadel Cruiser as it lifted to the sky for the first time in almost thirty years.

Present day

The space around Ord Mantell folded in on itself and spit out a ship. "Farthest Horizon to Ord Mantell flight control, requesting landing clearance for Worlport."

"Ord Mantell flight control to Farthest Horizon, landing permission granted. Flight path has been transmitted, please do not deviate."

"Farthest Horizon to flight control, flight path received and warning acknowledged. Farthest Horizon out," Dvakon cut the radio. Looking at nothing in particular he addressed the universe, "I'm here, I certainly hope you know what you're doing."

Twenty minutes later, the landing ramp opened and Dvakon strode out. His black slacks had a military press, and his pale blue shirt was reminiscent of an Old Republic uniform. He looked around briefly before checking the position of the sun. “DACS, lock her down, but keep sharp. We're going to need to leave quickly.”



Having registered the ship as booking passengers, he looked around and found the spot on the wall from his dreams and leaned against it. With his left foot resting on the wall and his right hand lightly resting on the stun baton on his right thigh, he smiled briefly as he thought of the times he had leaned against the walls of The Senate waiting for a Jedi or Senator who needed transport to the backside of nowhere.

tinkerghost
02-26-2013, 05:49 PM
As the sun set, Dvakon touched his comm and said, "DACS, we have a problem - our guests are late. I really don't like it when things go sideways before they start."

"I'm not surprised nobody showed up. I never could understand how you expect people to appear out of nowhere just because you had a dream they would. Want me to file a plan to get out of here?"

Kicking off the wall, he headed into the landing bays, "Hmmm, file a plan for somewhere remote & calculate a jump. Send down the long coat I'm going into town to see what's up. Something's rattled things."

As he walked into the landing bay, the lower door opened and a J9 droid stepped out holding a shoulder harness in one hand and a long coat in the other. Taking the harness, Dvakon buckled it on before transferring the stun baton from his thigh to his back. Unbuckling the thigh harness, he handed it to the J9 as he took the coat. Pulling on the coat, he shrugged his shoulders to settle it. "Keep an eye on the desk, our guests may still be coming."

After about 20 minutes of wandering, Dvakon found himself standing outside a small bar. He was passing the door when something seemed to catch his attention. Looking quizzically at the door, he stepped forward & entered the bar. As he walked through the crowded bar, his head pivoted around like a hunting dog seeking prey. As he crossed the pub, he stopped dead.

Slowly pivoting, his eyes darted from face to face - dismissing them quickly as he moved to the next. Finally, looking at the doors to the patio he muttered to himself, "Why is the white bird here?"

Moving to the patio, he stood just to the left of the door and his gaze tracked across the tables until it fell on a couple sitting looking at the last colors of the sunset. He stood there for a minute, arguing with himself over whether or not talking to her was a mistake. With a shrug, he made his decision and headed towards the table. "Excuse me for interrupting, but I believe we need to talk," he said to the young woman.

Fi looked up at the man who had approached their table. He appeared to be about 35, dressed in black dress pants, a blue shirt, and a long black jacket. “Do I know you?”



“Hah,” the short snort of laughter was tinged with a bit of exasperation. “Not yet, and to be honest, I'm fairly certain we weren't supposed to meet tonight.” Dvakon shrugged, “I'd love for you to just accept that you know things that I need to know and let it go at that, but it never works that way.”


Reil interrupted him, “I think you need to go.”


Dvakon looked at him and then looked back at Fi, “I'll skip the preliminaries and simplify things: In a dream, I saw a fledgling bird who's soul has been eaten by the black birds that surround him. To fill the void, he's drunk the blood of a planet, but it did nothing but stain his feather's crimson. A white bird seeks him to offer him a new soul.”


He paused and looked at the couple. His gaze fell back to Fi as he continued, “I'm aware it sounds insane, but I know you're the white bird. I need to know about the fledgling and I am willing to pay for the information.”

Ice Hawk
02-28-2013, 07:39 AM
There was a tense moment of silence as all three of them stood standing in the street. The new comer was oddly expectant, while Reil and Fi waited patiently for the previous exchange to make sense. After a minute, they were all equally disappointed but Reil was the first to compose himself.
“Well, that was. . . something. Listen pal, if you’re not gonna leave, do us a favour and stay here, while we go someplace else, alright?”

Reil and Fi made to move away from the lunatic, but he blocked their path.
“This is important.” He pleaded, “The symbols, you know what they mean. Some part of you does at least, even if you don’t know what I mean. I need to know what they mean too.”

Reil smiled politely, still trying to disentangle them peacefully from the crazy man.
“Well that’s something of an issue, since we don’t know what you mean. You know what they say about people who assume, doncha?”

The man shook his head.
“I don’t, actually.”

Reil frowned.
“Oh. Well people who assume make an ass out of. . . Y’know, it’s not important right now. Tell you what is important, you getting out of our way now, because I think we’ve been more than patient with you.”

The man didn’t move.
“I can pay you. Both of you. But I need to know. Now.”

Reil and Fi both rested their hands on their weapons, and the crazy man took a step back, and seemed to reach for something else. Fi spoke up.
“Listen, I don’t want your money, and if you don’t let us pass, disappointment is going to be the least of your problems.”

For a moment it looked like the man might make a move, and wind up with two holes in his chest for his trouble. But the moment passed, and the stranger shook his head and smiled apologetically as he stepped out of the way.
“I’m sorry, this must have been strange for you.”

Reil and Fi nodded in thanks and made their way past him. He called out behind them as they made their way down the street however.
“It’s okay, I wasn’t supposed to meet you yet. It’s okay; we’ll talk later, when the time is right.”

“Not fracking likely, pal.” Reil muttered to himself as he and Fi made it to a more crowded intersection. When they were reasonable sure they weren’t being followed any more, they took a moment to get their bearings.

Fi looked around for any land marks, and eventually settled on a street heading south.
“I think Kenlan’s place was back over this way.”

Reil raised an eyebrow.
“Why would we wanna head over there? There’s nothing back that way.”

“Kenlan’s over there.” Fi said matter-o-factly.

Reil sighed.
“Fi, can you maybe understand why I don’t want to take time out of our day to hang out with your octogenarian jedi friend. Didn’t he say he thought this whole thing was suicide anyway?”

“Reil he can help us.”

Reil was skeptical.
“Did he say that he could help us? Did he even say he wanted to?”

Fi didn’t meet Reil’s eyes.
“Well. . . not in so many words.”

“He told you to leave him alone, didn’t he?”

Fi was beginning to grow exasperated with Reil.
“Look , Kenlan is important. I can feel it.”

Reil gave Fi a wry smile.
“You can feel it? You know who else has pretty strong feelings? The birdman back there. You want I should sign him up on this little adventure too?”

Fi grinned at the thought and shook her head.
“No, it’s just. . . It’s different with Kenlan, we started off together, Kenlan, Tam, and me. It seems right that we should finish it with him there. However this turns out. And hey, isn’t your plan that I hang around in bars and get hit on by drunk spacers?”

Reil shifted uncomfortably.
“That’s kind of a loose interpretation, I suggested that maybe drinks and pretty girls would make spacers more talkative, maybe tell us who we need to be looking for.”

Fi rolled her eyes.
“Talkative, huh? So that’s what the kids are calling it these days. Yeah, I think I can speak for Jyllis too when I say we’d rather not get groped in a bar.”

Reil looked offended.
“No groping! Just. . . y’know, you bat your eyes and giggle a bit, and I bet we’ll be through it in no time.”

Fi was unimpressed.
“Yeah, I’m going back to talk to Kenlan. If you wanna giggle at spacers, knock yourself out.”

Cali caught up to them before Reil could think up a witty retort.
“Hey, whacha all doing standing out here for?”

“Arguing.” Reil admitted.

Cali fixed him with a dry look.
“No, really? You, argue? I just can’t imagine it so.”

Reil rolled his eyes.
“Har har har, you know, you can almost pass for a lady, right up ‘till you open your mouth. How’d the thing go?”

Fi looked somewhat lost.
“What thing?”

Cali ignored her.
“It went fine. I told you I could handle myself.”

“How good is fine?”

Cali grinned impishly.
“That’s a surprise. You’ll have to wait until later.”

Reil frowned.
“I’m not terribly fond of surprises, Cal.”

Cali stuck out her tounge.
“Well tough. So what were you arguing about?”

Reil pointed an accusatory finger at Fi.
“She wants to waste time trying to enlist some crazy old circus Jedi.”

“And Reil wants us to go flirt in a bar and get groped by drunken spacers.” Fi shot back.

Cali gave Reil a concerned look.
“Really? Is that something we maybe need to talk about?”

Reil was indignant.
“What I suggested, was that maybe Fi and Jyll could use their feminine whiles to charm a name, or an address for our information broker, so that we could get off this rock. Then Fi went and made it all smutty.”

Fi snorted with derision.
“Because it was such a classy idea to start with.”

Cali held up her hand to stop the bickering.
“Whatever! I get to cast the tie breaker, and I say. . . We go meet Fi’s jedi!”

Reil turned to Cali.
“What?! You’re siding with her?”

Cali shrugged.
“Gee Reil, I have no idea why I might find the idea of meeting a Jedi more appealing than hanging out in another bar with you.”

Reil sighed in defeat.
“Fine, let’s just get this over with.”

They managed to retrace Fi’s steps, and found themselves outside the building Kenlan had been performing. After a quick poke around, it was obvious that he wasn’t still there, but he hadn’t left any clues as to where he might have gone, which quite possibly could have been the idea. Reil couldn’t help but feel a little smug at the turn of events. Cali kicked the side of the building as they walked back outside.
“So now what?”

Fi looked like she was ready to pack it in, when she noticed a vendor across the way.
“Sir, Sir!” She called out as they approached the stall, “Did you see what happened here?”

The stall vendor took a quick look up at the building Fi was referring to and shrugged.
“Eh, maybe I see something, maybe I don’t. It’s so hard to keep track of these things.”

Cali sighed.
“So that’s how it’s gonna be huh? Maybe this will help jog your memory.” She said as she laid a handful of credits onto the stall.

The vendor looked at her blankly.
“Five credits? You’re gonna try and bribe me with five credits?”

Cali was unfazed as she grabbed more credits out of her pocket.
“I see, you’re playing hardball huh? I can respect that. But I think this will persuade you.”

The vendor looked down at his new wealth, then he looked back up at the group.
“Eight credits. Is this a joke to you people or something?”

“I’m amused.” Reil piped up behind the two girls.

Fi sighed, “For god’s sake Cali.” and pulled out a sixty credit chip.

The vendor snatched it up, and then looked thoughtful.
“Yeah, that building there? Didn’t see nothing.”

“What!?” Fi exploded.

The vendor shrugged.
“A little while ago, they cancelled shows. I didn’t notice anything else. Didn’t even see them leave. Maybe there’s a back way out.”

“That’s it?”

The vendor shrugged again.
“Have a nice day.”

Fi was livid.
“Give me my sixty credits back!”

“Hell, gimmie my eight credits back.” Cali chimed in.

“All sales final.” Was all the vendor said in response. After that, he began ignoring them. Cali suggested violence but Riel vetoed that plan. Left with no other alternative Fi made a quick call on her comlink to let Jyllis know where to meet them, and then turned back to Reil.

“All right, fine, now I want to go to a bar.”

Ubiqtorate
03-01-2013, 08:28 PM
As light from the dilapidated corridor streamed into the even darker tunnel beyond, Kenlan and Marva found themselves blinking to adjust to the change. Kenlan peered into the corridor, first right and then left, before motioning to Marva that the coast was clear and waving her into the corridor. As he shut the door behind them, Marva took stock of her surroundings.

"Wait a minute," she said, realization dawning, "this is our apartment building! Jax, please, just tell me what's going on here."

"Not just yet, sweetheart," insisted Kenlan. "We need to hurry upstairs before someone sees us here."

Marva looked in disbelief at the door they had just come through. "All this time I figured that was just a utility closet."

"Come on, Marva," urged Kenlan. "We need to get upstairs."

Still hesitant, Marva followed him up the three flights of stairs to the cramped apartment they shared. As they entered, Kenlan double-barred the door behind them. Home at last, Marva collapsed into a dusty chair that sagged even under her relatively slight weight and began to sob.

Sliding another chair next to her, Kenlan put his arms around the woman. "Baby, I'm sorry it had to be that way," he began. "I'm sorry...I'm so sorry. I hoped this would never have to happen. I just wanted to keep you safe. Baby, we knew trouble might come, that's why we had to be ready. I'm sorry I didn't tell you. I just didn't want you to worry. You shouldn't have to worry about this. I didn't want to drag you into it. I hoped maybe we could stay away from it."

"Stay away from what, Jax?" asked Marva as she collected herself. "I've never even seen this side of you."

Kenlan paused and swallowed before he began. "Before I came to Ord Mantell, you know I was in the rare goods trade."

Marva nodded. "Before your business partner took the money and left," she confirmed.

"That's right," smiled Kenlan. "Well, we had a number of deals that were still in progress when he disappeared on me. And we didn't just deal in antiques. We dealt in all forms of fine art, really, including the holos. When Vorlon took the money, we had just signed a deal to produce a holo starring Jyllis Tromso. To say the least, when they found out the money was gone, Tromso and her people were...very upset. Upset enough that they tried to have me killed."

"Jax, that's terrible!" exclaimed Marva.

Kenlan nodded reassuringly. "It's all right. I wasn't hurt in the attempt. But I knew I had to get away. See, legally, they have no claim to me or any of my property. But the truth is, baby, when you get into the business of some of these holoproduction companies, well, what's 'legal' doesn't really have any bearing. They're big and powerful, and they do whatever they want."

"And the Empire doesn't stop them?"

"Well, the Empire tries to do what it can, but it's a big galaxy with lots of problems. If it weren't for that awful Rebellion, the Empire might have more resources available to take on the big syndicates. Isn't that what we formed this New Order for in the first place?"

"The Rebels need to be stopped," concluded Marva. "If everyone would just agree...I mean, the Emperor was elected by the democratic process in the first place. Can't they see that?"

"Someday, baby," replied Kenlan reassuringly, wrapping his arm around her shoulder and resting her head on his chest, "someday. Until then, though...I hate to say this, but we've got to get out of here."

"What?" asked Marva, perking up. "Right now? But we're not ready! I know we were planning on getting out of here eventually, but we don't have enough money."

"I know, baby," admitted Kenlan. "Which is why I actually need you to stay here for a little bit."

"I'm not leaving you..." began Marva before Kenlan cut her off.

"We can't both leave yet, and it's not safe for me to stay here," insisted Kenlan. "Surely you can see that." He waited for Marva's affirmative nod. "Now, we have enough money for my ticket off-world, and at least enough for both of us to get by for a week or two. Once I'm set up on the next planet, I'll send for you. It will only be a couple of weeks at most. I promise."

"I just don't want you to go," groaned Marva.

"I know, sweetheart," affirmed Kenlan. "I don't want to go, either. But it's for the best. I'm doing this for both of us, you know. Really, it was staying here even this long that was the mistake. ord Mantell's no place for a girl like you. Or a guy like me, or a show like ours. Nothing but dirty spacers and riff-raff here. I'm going to set us up someplace nicer, honey. Someplace where people aren't so tight with their credits. Then, in no time, we'll be able to have it all, baby. We can get that little villa on Aquilaris you wanted. Right on the water. You and me. Won't that be nice?"

Marva smiled, her head resting again on the man's shoulder as he sat on the rickety arm of the chair. "Tell me more, Jax," she implored.

Kenlan patted her lightly on the shoulder. "All in good time, baby," he deferred. "All in good time. There's a lot to do, though. I've got to take the next shuttle out. I'll only take the few things I need, but I'll have to get those together."


As Marva clutched tightly to his leg, he began to finger the strap of her shirt lightly. "Of course," he suggested, "the next shuttle doesn't leave for a few more hours yet..."

tinkerghost
03-02-2013, 10:57 PM
The old man sat in the dark musing over the irony of life. The soft glow of an ancient holoplayer providing just enough illumination to see the mess he had made of the room. Books, actual books not recordings, were strewn around the room in a half-hazard fashion each held open to a page with the corner of some other book.

He was a “Great Man”. For 50 years his research had shaped the modern understanding of the rise and fall of the Sith Empire. His opinion settled debates. His words were a gospel to students throughout the galaxy. And he was wrong.

Ever since his thesis, he had rejected the myth of the Nachan va ki’Nachani - “Nightmare of the Nightmares”. There had been no proof, only rumor and events easily explained by either Jedi delivering justice or Sith Lords seeking, as he himself had put it, promotion through assassination. There were no “Hunters of Nightmares”, no “Guardians of Dreams”, no Sith Hunters - they were mythic heroes, stories created to give hope to people in a hopeless situation.

His was a nice neat world, it had no need of shadowy government projects. It held no place for a thousand year conspiracy by worlds subjugated by the Sith Empire. It was a world that rejected the concept of genetically engineered warriors trained from the time they emerged from their artificial wombs to hunt Sith, and it was a world that didn’t include the holocube sitting in front of him.

The Great Library of Korriban listed the cube as an entertainment cube dating from 4000 BBY. However as soon as he had seen the image of it, he knew that it was older than that. If it’s shape and size hadn’t given it away, the logo of the Imperial Intelligence Bureau in a lurid red color should have told the mistaken cataloger of it’s origins.

He reached out and touched the start key again, and was immediately greeted by the oversized head of a Bureau functionary reciting the document number, date, and a promise of a slow painful death for viewing or disseminating the following information without proper authorization. The warning was suddenly replaced by the summary hologram:

The dark hall was suddenly illuminated by the overhead lights as the far door opened and a tall figure stormed through. Throwing his helmet and cloak on a table as he passed, his gate clearly indicating his agitation.

“Who do these insects think they are? How dare they attack MY citadel?! I will crush them and then I will slaughter their families. When I am finished with them their suffering will be remembered forever!” the black clad figure fumed as he stormed into his inner sanctum.

“Awww, are you having a bad day?” the light alto voice echoed in the chamber - it’s mocking tone dripping with contempt.

“Who are you! How dare you enter here without my permission!!!” the figure’s outrage only evoking a tripping laugh from the shadows. “Lights!” he commanded and the chambers lights came up - revealing young woman clad in a black combat skinsuit calmly standing in front of the Sith’s throne.

“Blood calls for blood, and I’m the person the blood you’ve spilled calls to.” The intruder turned to face the Sith squarely - her hands negligently holding a rod about 45 CM in length. “If you think it’s been a bad day so far, it’s about to get much, much worse.”

The Sith pulled out his lightsaber and lit it. “I’ll kill you!” The blood red light of his lightsaber giving his face a sickly cast.

The intruder simply smiled. With a sound like a steel snake striking,the two ends of the rod extended into a 2M long staff. A deep violet glow filled the staff, trapped by a delicate lattice work of black mesh wires.

The Sith’s hand snapped out as though to grasp the intruders throat from 10M away. For the briefest moment he seemed to smile, then dropped his hand as his prey slipped through his grasp as easily as water. “You didn’t think it would be that easy did you?”

The Sith Lord stepped cautiously forward, bringing his lightsaber to an attack position while his opponent closed the distance with a light step dancers the galaxy over would kill for. The initial clash was nothing more than the Sith’s attempt to gauge her skill in a series of rapid strikes - strikes the woman either casually brushed aside in a shrieking shower of sparks with the staff or simply ignored as the beam of coherent energy missed by millimeters.

Disengaging and rapidly stepping back, the Sith spread his fingers and sent a web of lightening towards the woman who mocked him. As it reached towards her, the web coalesced into a single pulsing strand and wound it’s way around one end of the staff like a snake climbing a tree. “I expected better from you, “ her tone was almost disappointed as she flicked the snake at the table - shattering it and setting the cloak alight.

Surging forward with a speed the Holoprojector had trouble displaying, the woman launched an attack that seemed to be more a wall of destruction falling on the Sith than a series of strikes - the movement of the staff far surpassing the capabilities of the projector to render it clearly. Only by tracking the powerful discharges of violet energy could the watching scholar keep count of the blows.

By the time the Sith could disengage, his face was blistered from a parry too close to his head, limping from a strike to his leg, and his left arm hung useless with a strange bend between his elbow and shoulder. “Your time is over. The Jedi come for you. The people no longer fear your power.” The words were delivered like another series of attacks, each sentence striking for the heart of the being who only understood strength and respected only power.

Summoning his dwindling strength, the Sith Lord thrust his right hand forward, and though the heavy throne 15M away was tossed to the back wall with enough force to shatter it, the only sign the wave of Force had any effect on the woman was a light brushing of her hair as if the air circulation system had chosen that moment to begin blowing.

The woman launched into another attack, quickly striking and shattering the hand holding the lightsaber. With a strike that shouldn’t be possible from her small frame, the fight was ended as she did a full spin, a violet explosion caving in her opponents breastplate as the side of the staff slammed into his chest hard enough lift him from his feet, and throw him against the wall.

Dazed and mortally wounded from the blow, the Sith Lord raised his shattered hand, possibly to beg for mercy or to offer his killer anything she wanted in exchange for sparing him. Either way, his shattered lungs could offer no voice to his plea.

Looking at the crumpled form in front of her, she spoke: “We learned the meaning of mercy from you." She negligently flicked the end of the staff at him - a short jet of violet energy spiting out from the end of the staff and scoring the wall as easily as it decapitated him. “We were diligent students.”

Raising her staff one handed, she brought the butt down on the discarded lightsaber - shattering the crystal as thoroughly as she had shattered it’s owner and his power.

The remainder of the cube was data on the time, place, and assorted other details that once would have excited the old man. Now, he paused the recording and changed the focus to view the woman framed only by the far wall of a hallway long gone.

With her serene expression, lithe build, auburn hair, and alabaster skin, near human artists across the galaxy would happily use her as the model for a local goddess. However all the “Great Man” saw were her eyes. Eyes of an impossibly bright green.

For 50 years he had destroyed her history and her legacy - attributing the acts of her kind to power hungry madmen or heroes thousands of lightyears away. Across 5000 years he felt the power of those eyes - eyes that had born witness to the death of monsters, and now calmly judged him from the hologram. Eyes who’s very existence would grant his career and legacy the same mercy their owner had learned from the Sith.


The small news orb descended from the sky hovering above Dvakon for a moment before speaking, “Boss, you have a problem.”

“Hah, I think that's the first time you've said that to me - usually I'm saying it to you." He shrugged, "all things considered, she didn’t try and have me arrested as a nutter. Besides, I’ve met the white bird now, I can track her when I need to.”

“Boss, what are you talking about? Nevermind, I probably don’t want to know. No, YOU, personally, have a problem - some egg head on Korriban just released a paper & a hologram. Boss, he says you exist & the hologram is very convincing.”

That got Dvakon’s attention. “Show me!”

The small news orb projected a small hologram in the air - clearly showing the brutally short fight - and ending with the woman standing in mid air in front of Dvakon. His hand started to reach for the image but stopped before making contact. “Merciful Blessings always was a bit of a bloodthirsty drama queen, but dead and dust for an age and still not willing to sit out a fight....” His voice trailed off and the look on his face was hard to decipher - perhaps half remembered pain and half pride in a friend’s accomplishment.

“No DACS, I don’t think that’s trouble; I think it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen. I doubt it changes anything - current events will have to run their course, but perhaps after that ...”

He took a last look at the hologram, gazing at the same green eyes that looked back at him from the mirror every morning and smiled. “Shut it down. We’ll wait for our guest until morning, then we’ll either take him where he needs to be, or we’ll figure out where we need to be.” As the hologram dissipated, Dvakon walked back towards the spaceport - a smile on his face and in a better mood than he had been in in a long time.

DogSolitude
03-03-2013, 02:06 AM
Mith stuck his odies over his head and engaged them, then turned to look at the test grids mounted on the ceiling of the Stormcrow shuttle. Each grid was a large square that contained nine smaller squares within. Each of the smaller squares was a different density. There was a grid for standard lowlight and another for infrared. If you could see all nine boxes on the grid clearly then your odies were functioning. Satisfied that his optical enhancement device was working correctly, Mith sat back and listen to the whine of the repulsor lift as it charged for lift off.

Able squad had been split into two teams for this mission, with callsign designations as Phazer One and Phazer Two. Each team would be transported by Stormcrow shuttles, with two Stormcrow gunship variants flying as escorts. A disposable remote Mynock drone was already flying over the insertion site, giving the team leader real-time information on the target up to the point of drop.

A dim red light near the front of the cramped cabin flashed three times quickly. Mith and his teammates each responded with a thumbs-up indicating to the flight engineer that they were prepared for launch. Inaudible over the sound of the shuttle engines, the engineer spoke quickly over his intercom microphone to the pilot. Quickly thereafter, he tapped the top of his helmet three times with the palm of his hand to indicate impending lift off. As if on cue, the shuttle began to rise.

I. J. Thompson
03-03-2013, 03:58 PM
The last of the day's sunlight was now little more than a vague purple glow, quickly fizzling out behind the western buildings of Worlport, Ord Mantell. Fiola Shaku, Zealos Reil, and Cali Bellum marched down a busy metropolitan street, now thick with afterwork repulsor and foot traffic. In short order they found themselves standing in front of another bar, this one's name emblazoned on its front wall in twisting, lighted script: Olann's. The trio looked at one another, shrugged their shoulders, and went inside.

While Olann's certainly couldn't be called high-class, it was at least a few notches better than the strictly-working-class Brawl n' Grill, where drinking was Job Number One and anything else was a mere distraction. Here, the sounds of music and merriment were a welcome change, as was the tasteful lighting in various shades of pink and green, and all three companions felt themselves shaking off a weariness they didn't realize they'd had. A large bar ran the entire length of the sizeable chamber's far wall, and between it and them, numerous round tables filled the floor, each of these ringed by a low-slung, comfortable-looking couch. The trio piled into one of these, leaning back and spreading their arms and legs out, feeling pretty darned good for what seemed like the first time in a long time.

But old habits died hard; though not a word was spoken, all three began to realize just how vulnerable they were there, leaning back, so close to the ground, while the bar's passing servers and patrons towered above them.

"Say," Reil proposed, "do you wanna..."

"Yeah," Fi agreed, and they all reluctantly rose from the soft, circular couch and headed for the bar instead.

Here, Reil took one of the nice, high barstools, while Fi selected the one on his left and Cali, after a moment, took the one on his right. A quick word with one of the barmen sent the man off to collect their drinks. That business underway, Reil rose again.

"Hey you guys, I'm gonna hit the 'fresher. Don't run off, huh?" He grinned, and went on his way.

And then there were two. Fi and Cali sat in awkward silence, separated by Reil's empty barstool.

Among other things.

Fi cleared her throat nervously. "How's it going, Cali?"

"It's going."

The drinks came.

Fi studied the younger girl, both their faces bathed in the bartop's dim blue light. Then, inspiration struck.

"Hey," Fi said, reaching to the back of her neck with both hands to unclasp the necklace, with its brilliant blue jewel, that she and Cali had stolen on Ryloth a seeming lifetime ago. "I want you to have this," she offered, placing the necklace on the bar in front of Reil's drink. "It probably should be yours, anyway... considering." She attempted a smile, which faded fast.

Not looking at Fi or the jewelry, Cali placed her left hand on top of the necklace and dragged it toward herself, then slid it off the bar where it dropped into her right hand and was stuffed unceremoniously into a pocket. She sipped her drink.

"Cali," Fi said softly, "I'm sorry."

"Of course you're sorry," Cali countered, continuing to look straight ahead. "You dropped your friends like a hot stone and now they're not your friends anymore. It ain't hyperdrive science, Fi."

"I did what I thought was right."

Cali sneered. "For who, me? For your precious Tam Dawncaller? Nice work, Fi. Look how that turned out." Her eyes still fixed forward, she continued.

"And now, here we go again - gearing up once more to do what the fabulous Miss Fiola Shaku thinks is 'right'."

Fi hardened. "You want out?"

"No, I don't want 'out'. I'll stick with Reil, thank you very much. At least I understand him. But let me tell you something..." she warned, Looking Fi in the face at last.

"Whatever happens to Reil... happens to you. You got that?"

Fi met her gaze squarely, and said nothing.

"Hi guys!" Jyllis Tromso interrupted, striding toward them oblivious to the several sets of eyes that followed her trajectory and sliding onto Zealos Reil's barstool without preamble. "Sorry I took so long. There are some real treasures to be found in that bazaar, to be sure! I'd have been here sooner, but I had to take a few things I bought back to the Dawncaller. Oh, and I fed Mr. Mace... he's looking a little depressed, Fi, we should probably take him for a float around the block tomorrow, when the sun's up. Oh, I see you guys ordered me a drink already. Thanks!" Lifting Reil's glass to her lips, she took a thirsty sip.

"Glagh!" the actress exclaimed, wincing from the taste. "What is that stuff?"

The sound of a throat clearing got Jyll's attention, and she turned to find Zealos Reil standing over her shoulder, an expression of amused disapproval on his face.

"Corellian whiskey," the pilot replied, "my favourite."

Ubiqtorate
03-05-2013, 08:48 PM
In the quiet darkness of the apartment, Kenlan stood up gently from the bed. Stealthily, he crept from the cramped bedroom into the even more cramped common room. He opened a travel cylinder and gently placed a few items inside. He didn't need much - a clean shirt had always been enough for him, and even that wasn't always necessary - but there were a few things that would still be critical here. The clean shirt or two that he did toss into the bottom of the cylinder were more for padding than anything else. The data chit was really the most important thing. And the lightsabers. No matter how bad things had ever gotten, he had never left without the lightsabers.

His small pouch packed, Kenlan crept through the hallway. Through the open door, he could see Marva's sleeping form in the bedroom, her bare shoulders reflecting the narrow beam of light that passed through the doorway. Kenlan sighed, keeping his breath as quiet as possible so as not to wake her. She had to know, didn't she? There had been...how many others? Dozens? Mostly younger than Marva, perhaps, but no more naive. In just a few hours, Marva would wake up in an empty bed in an empty apartment. Soon after that, she would have to start putting the shattered pieces of her life back together. Collateral damage. Marva had been a necessary tool, and she had served her purpose.

The door behind Kenlan glided shut as he left the apartment for the last time. He tiptoed down the stairs, his pace picking up as he stepped out of the building into the pre-dawn light of the street. He made only one stop before heading to the spaceport proper, at an autobank kiosk tucked away on one of the side streets just out of sight. Drawing the secure data chit from his travel case, he inserted it into the machine's slot and keyed in his code sequence.

Kenlan smiled slightly as the string of numbers glowed up at him from the screen. The truth was, there was more than enough in the account for him and for Marva. They could have gotten off-world and laid low for maybe even a month or two. The thought gave Kenlan pause for just a moment before he finally shrugged and entered another command. One final invitation remained on the screen:

"REMAINING BALANCE 0.00 CONFIRM TRANSACTION/CANCEL"

No turning back now. Kenlan tapped the glowing "CONFIRM TRANSACTION" holobutton. He withdrew the chit, made a motion to toss it back into the travel cylinder, but thought better of this and put it in a small pouch he wore around his neck beneath his clothes. One couldn't be too careful.

It hadn't been meant to go this way, reflected Kenlan as he slipped toward the spaceport. It had always gone this way before, but Kenlan really was getting too old for this sort of thing. The last con, the one before this, had been meant to be the last con. Then he was going to take the money and retire. It would have bought a lot more than a villa on Aquilaris, the haul Kenlan had lifted from the previous owner of the ship he had named Destiny's Light. Probably not enough to buy an entire planet, but a terraformed moon, or at least a large continent on some backwater world far away from the major space lanes, would not have been out of the question. And the farther from the major space lanes, the better. He had hoped for a quiet retirement, maybe even with Fi and Tam. But then there had been the business on Burista, followed by the strange affair with the Ququor, and their brief adventures on Tatooine, Corellia, and Temen III...

Temen III. Where it had all fallen apart. Kenlan had been able to escape with his own life, but he and Tam had been separated. Kenlan had devoted all of his resources to finding Tam before the Empire did, and had played the hand beautifully, but sometimes the cards just weren't there. In his guise as captain of an Imperial naval vessel, Kenlan had scoured the galaxy looking for his old apprentice, but soon rumors started to reach his ears. The Empire had some new secret weapon, people were saying, a closely-guarded secret that allowed them to coordinate battle movements with a precision previously thought impossible. There were rumors of a single commander pulling the strings of this elite squadron. some even said it was the work of a young boy. This had been dismissed as preposterous, of course. What boy could have the ability to coordinate battle movements of trained, veteran soldiers twice his age? The rumor had been quickly squashed, and Kenlan had never heard it again, but he had already heard enough. It was fitting, really. He had played the High Inquisitor for a fool, and in return had been played for a fool himself.

Kenlan had not given Tremayne the opportunity to revoke his commission. The ruse in which he, Kenlan, had faked his own death had been elaborate and complete. The shuttle he had supposedly been on had disintegrated into a plasma of component atoms - not one molecule had remained intact. The "disaster" had had the disadvantage of being somewhat obvious - Kenlan suspected that the Empire knew all too well that the explosion had been staged, since even the most catastrophic equipment failures were not so thorough - but it made up for this weakness by being completely untraceable. Running had always been one of Kenlan's strong suits.

And so he had ended up here, established yet a new identity, and done his best to blend in. It was supposed to be a quick job. Within a week or two, he should have had enough money to get back to Mimbos and get his money back from Olli. But the short con hadn't worked as planned, and Kenlan had always been just a little bit short. Well, this time, he'd have to make do. There would be no more cons, no more changes of disguises.

And no more Tam. And no more Fi. No, he wasn't taking anyone with him this time. He'd find that moon, or continent, or whatever it ended up being, and just settle down. Maybe he'd find himself a lady friend half Marva's age, or maybe two, but other than that, it would be just Kenlan As-Buka, himself alone.

So why was he still using that name in his head?

He'd had more names than he could count, although he had remembered them all. It was not unusual for him to become so caught up in whatever part he was playing at the moment that he referred to himself in his own thoughts by that assumed name. He couldn't even remember the last time he had thought of himself by his original name, the one his mother had given him, and it would probably sound alien to him now.

But for some reason, "Kenlan As-Buka" had stuck.

It was quiet on the streets. Dawn would come in less than an hour now, but usually there was more activity than this, especially so close to the spaceport. Space had little concept of day or night, after all, and spacers kept their own schedule, coming and going at all hours, day or night. Most of the bars never closed, and when one did, it was a good bet that one nearby was just opening, so the inebriated smugglers, traders, and mercenaries simply poured out of one and into the next. The megalopolis planets near the core, places like imperial Center, Coronet, and Nar Shaddaa, got more credit for it, but in reality it was cities like this that never slept. But tonight, except for Kenlan and a handful of others who passed each other quietly, careful never to make eye contact, the streets were deserted.

When Kenlan rounded the corner to where the spaceport's main public terminal stood, the scene was quite different. Where there had been quiet solitude on the streets outside, here at the terminal was a noisy, angry mob. Looking up at the display holos above the ticket desks, Kenlan quickly ascertained the reason for the ruckus. Typically, the holos displayed the schedule of arriving and departing shuttles with the origin or destination, and the schedule arrival or departure time. In place of the times, however, each line on the schedule this morning simply read "Cancelled."

Frowning, Kenlan forced his way to the front of the crowd, where a frazzled-looking Rodian woman was frantically trying to direct traffic.

"Yes, yes, I'll get you on the first flight to Mon Gazza as soon as it's rescheduled," she was saying, although Kenlan could honestly not ascertain whom she was addressing. "No, I'm afraid I'm not sure how long it will be. I'm very sorry for the inconvenience. I can offer you complimentary hotel vouchers or..."

"Ma'am," Kenlan interrupted, "ma'am, I'm sorry, I'll be out of your way very quickly. I just need one ticket on the next flight. I don't care where it's going - just get me on one that isn't cancelled."

"I'm sorry, sir, they're all cancelled," replied the Rodian. "The port has been closed. We haven't been told yet when it will open, but we'll update you as soon as we hear anything."

"What about private transport?" asked Kenlan.

"I'm afraid I don't know about that, sir," apologized the Rodian. "But it's a system-wide closure, so I don't believe private craft are being cleared to launch, either..."

"Ma'am," interrupted a pudgy human dressed in what may have been a nice suit once, but which should have been replaced long ago. "Ma'am, I'm not sure you understood me before. I absolutely have to leave for Mon Gazza today. I can't afford to..."

Kenlan ignored the rest of the conversation as he skulked away from the ticket counter. A system-wide closure would explain the lack of activity on the streets, which in turn would confirm the woman's hypothesis about private craft not being granted clearance to land or depart.

But a system-wide closure could mean only one thing: a military interdiction. And a military interdiction, in Kenlan's mind, could mean only one thing.

He was too late. Tam was already here.

tinkerghost
03-06-2013, 12:41 AM
“Boss, get your ass up!”

Dvakon rolled out of bed, fully awake with a 6“ black knife in his hand. With no opponent in the room, he responded “DACS what’s up?”

“We just went into lock down - full military interdiction in system. Some ships are up there - and I didn’t read any hyperspace signatures coming in.”

Pulling on clothes, he entered the cockpit and pulled around the pilot’s chair before dropping down into it. “Give me the tactical data.”

A low whistle echoed through the room as the full tactical came up - the planetary positions overlayed with the new ships positions and incoming trajectory. “I’m counting a couple of big boys up there - I doubt you’re going to be able to get through alone. How did they get in without you seeing them?”

“No idea boss, one second they weren’t there, the next there they were, coming in declaring an interdiction. IFF reports coming off of them show some heavy damage - looks like at least one is ready to fall out of the sky. Woah, check that - the hyperdrive cutouts are pinging heavy. At least one of those big ones is an interdictor. We’re not getting past them without some serious mojo.”

“DACS,” Dvakon’s voice was little more than a whisper, “check the subspace comm, deep bands - the deeper the better. Let me know if there was a static burst just before the ships appeared.”

“Give me a sec, I wasn’t listening at the time.” A few seconds later, “yep, seemed to spike about half a second before they came in.”

“He’s here. He just brought a whole fleet through the shadowed road. I don’t think that’s ever been done before.” He stood up. “Open the armory. You get a chance to run safely, take it. I’ll meet up with you.” His face had the same look of serenity as the woman on the holo.

Moving back through the ship, he entered the dojo. Rather than the normal off white walls with meditation glyphs, the walls had opened to show a collection of weapons that would impress the most hardened bounty hunter. Stripping, he pulled out a black chest with a blue/green glyph executed in a single crystal. Opening it, he took out a black skinsuit. Slipping into it, he pulled out a necklace with a black medallion with the same glyph hanging on a black chain.

After slipping into the shoulder and thigh harnesses, he walked down the wall, slipping knives, spikes, and other weapons into sheaths in the suit or on the harnesses. Pausing, he pulled on the second thigh harness and pulled out a tray of cylinders. Quickly slipping them into pockets.

In front of a rack of pistols he ran his hands over them before before pulling down a holster belt and wrapping it around his hips. Selecting a pistol and holster he attached them to the belt and added several additional power cells for it.

Clipping his baton to his thigh, “DACS, close it up and lock it down.” The walls moved back into position and reset with a click. The J9 droid walked into the room and began picking up the discarded clothing. “Boss, you’re seriously worrying me here. You’re packing enough gear to take on an army.”

Dvakon picked up some chalk and began to draw a series of glyphs in an ancient form of Sith. “I hope I don’t have to. Have the 9 pull the mats off the floor, I need it clear.”

The J9 began in one corner and began stacking the mats revealing another series of glyphs painted on the floor.

“Boss I don’t understand how a bunch of half formed thoughts are going to help us here.”

“The glyphs are symbols which have meanings ingrained in my subconscious. They help me focus. When I’m out, clean the board.”

"Out? Where are you planning on going?"

Standing in the center of the room, his eyes went unfocused as he invoked his old training. His body starting to sway as he felt for and then matched the ebb and flow of the Force in the area, hiding within it like a fog bank. "Hunting" was his only reply.

Dawncaller
03-06-2013, 11:09 AM
“Where are we now, Tam?” The concussion missiles had disappeared moments before impact, and it was only Doule’s experience as a star pilot that let him notice that the stars beyond them had suddenly shifted into new constellations. Doule turned when the boy didn’t respond. The Nexus sphere was still open, but Tam was no longer floating inside. He wasn’t even visible. Doule rushed up the curved stairway to the sphere’s entry catwalk and let out an involuntary gasp. Tam lay in the shallow bowl of the sphere’s bottom, curled up and unmoving. Forgetting himself, Doule shouted and leapt into the sphere, gently turning the boy over.

Dark streaks trailed from Tam’s nose, mouth, ears and eyes, but those eyes fluttered open. “Where are we?”

Despite himself, Doule chuckled. “That’s what I was asking you. Are you okay?”

Slowly, carefully, Tam sat upright, testing his cracking joints. “Even with the amplification of the Nexus Sphere, my ‘little trick’ takes a lot out of me.”

Doule flipped the comm off his belt. “Captain to astrogator, captain to astrogator: calculate our current position and report.” Doule waited, placing a hand on Tam’s shoulder to provide what stability he could.

“Captain, sensors indicate we’re in the Bright Jewel system, within a few hours of Ord Mantell.”

“Good,” said Doule. “Hail the planet and let them know we’re coming in for repairs.”

“Belay that!” shouted Tam, and his exclamation prompted a fit of coughing. He shakily got to his feet, then stepped past Doule and out of the Nexus Sphere. “We have to lock the planet down. Military interdiction. Contact Admiral Harmod and tell him to deploy troops and heavy ordnance. Perhaps he should hire a nearby bounty hunter to spearhead the effort.”

“What?!” Doule got to his feet and followed the boy closely as they left the Nexus room. The corridors outside were a chaos of flashing sparks, hanging junction cables and frantic repair crews. “How do I explain to him that we’re supposed to carry out a military interdiction when we’re barely a pursuit squad. The Inun itself is falling apart!”

Tam stopped at the door to his private quarters. Before stepping in he said, “Don’t worry, Captain. More will come…”

Ubiqtorate
03-06-2013, 09:04 PM
Out. Out. He had to get out. There had to be a way out. There had been other rumors, too. Kenlan had heard some spacers talk about what had happened on Owara. If Kenlan's hunch was right, he had to get off the system before Ord Mantell suffered the same fate.

No matter how strong the interdiction was, Kenlan knew there would be someone willing and able to run the blockade. Smugglers, rebels, there were many who had the inclination to work outside the system, and the means to do so. Kenlan wouldn't be choosy. His political affiliations had always been...malleable, for lack of a better term. Put more simply, Kenlan was on the side he was always on - his own.

Now he just had to find a place where someone who fit that description might be found. There. That one looked pretty good. A little more upscale than some here on Ord Mantell, but he wasn't exactly looking for a two-cred pirate in an off-the-line YT-1300, now, was he? Someplace with a little more affluent clientele might be exactly what he was looking for, since the kind of person he was looking for would only be looking to be hired by a slightly more affluent clientele.

He stepped through the doors just as dawn was breaking over the horizon. It was still dim inside the room, but Kenlan's eyes adjusted quickly.

There she was. Right at the bar. Jyllis Tromso was with her, and a few others that Kenlan didn't recognize, but it was definitely her. From the look of things, they had been here all night.

Instinctively, Kenlan turned back for the door, but it was too late. His eyes caught hers, and the recognition was unmistakable.

Kenlan had a decision to make now. He could do what he was best at, and run again, or he could face his destiny, if destiny it was. Certainly something seemed to keep bringing them together.

He sat down, ignoring the incredulous look on the woman's face. "Miss Shaku," he said, "it appears it's time we sort this business out once and for all..."

Dawncaller
03-07-2013, 11:44 AM
The lights in Tam’s private quarters automatically activated as he entered, but dimmer. One in the far corner began flickering, and Tam quickly gave a command to cut the lights before the visual irritant became too much. He needed quiet, and solace; a different isolation than what he found inside the Nexus Sphere.

In there he was alone, certainly, but he was connected to everything. It was as if he were set apart, up on a pedestal, and a small, subconscious part of the thousands of crewmen on all the ships of Morning Star Squad were eagerly awaiting instruction. The metaphor of a conductor leading a symphony came to his mind again, and the pressure to perform.

He needed to get away from that pressure for just an hour—for a minute even—so that he could recover. His head was still buzzing from pulling the Inun and all the other ships away from the Alderaan system and dropping them near Ord Mantell. They had initially come for repairs, which were sorely needed, but the minute Tam regained his faculties he instantly sensed something in the system. It was a presence, attuned to the Force and inexplicably ancient, somewhere on the surface. And it had noticed Tam instantly, like a hungry laigrek.

This was a familiar feeling. It was the look he got from all those who had ever come to him with tales of destiny, safety and even power. Power. Tam had grown to hate that word, even the concept of it. It was the lifeblood of the dark side, a vast font for wealth, cruelty, or even just to salve the insecurities of beings the galaxy over. Tam could sense it all, snaking between the stars and coalescing anywhere one being sought to stand above another. Countless beings fueled their own selfish ends with this pervasive power, from the vindictive loser of a schoolyard scuffle to Palpatine himself, surrounding his throne with Imperial might. Even this new presence on Ord Mantell stood at a convergence of aggression and might, and once again the image of a laigrek entered his mind, with its predatory eyes fixed on him and its sharp, scything limbs tucked away until it was time to strike.

They will never leave me alone.

Tam sat on the floor of his quarters and drew in strength and rejuvenation from the Force. If it ever came to it, he would draw in all of the galaxy’s dark power, sapping the galaxy of its evil and turning it back on itself, so that all the cruel beings of the world would feel the searing cost of their own ephemeral ambitions. Tam held the Force within him like an indrawn breath, then, with a literal exhale to match the proverbial one, sent the Force coursing outward. It would find for him the location of this new being, this hungry, desperate laigrek…

DogSolitude
03-07-2013, 08:55 PM
The Stormcrow platform was designed be small, stealthy, and fast. Mith could feel his body shift gently against his buckled restraints as the inertial compensators kicked in and the shuttle accelerated rapidly. A dim digital readout located on the front bulkhead of the cabin counted down the minutes and seconds till insertion. It was just past midnight local time and they would be flying low and fast to avoid detection.

The gunships would arrive first and saturate the facilities with stun and flash grenades. There would be no energy or blaster weapons used, as their beams would be easy-to-follow to the point of origin, thus giving away the shooter. Even the commandos were using kinetic rifles with no tracer rounds. During the initial assault, the gunships would also blast holes into the walls on the north and south sides of the compound. This would (hopefully) give the impression that the raid was coming in through these two locations. The barrier breaches would also serve the dual purpose as evacuation routes for the commandos if they needed to exfiltrate the compound on the ground.

Ice Hawk
03-09-2013, 06:28 AM
Jyllis ordered Reil a replacement whiskey, and then the drinking began in earnest. Reil was about three quarters through his first bottle when a big crowd all moved into the bar at the same time. They seemed to be together, but there were an odd mix: Humans, Sullustans, a Mon Calamari, a Rodian, even a Wookie. They all looked well armed, but they were obviously there to relax, rather than start something.
Reil didn’t pay much attention to them, until later, when he noticed two of them had peeled off from the main group, and were trying to engage Cali in conversation. Reil put down his drink and sighed.
That’s not going to end well. . .

Reil just caught the end of what they were saying as sidled up beside Cali.
“What do you mean you’ve never heard of the Millennium Falcon?”

“Should she have?”

Cali turned around to face Reil. She gestured back with her head to the guy leaning at the bar, and rolled her eyes. Reil grinned, and pulled up a closer stool so he could join the conversation proper, and size up Cali’s new friends. The one with all the talk about aluminum falcons was young, probably not much more than nineteen, and blonde, and was either clean shaven, or just couldn’t grow a beard yet. His pal was maybe forty, and seemed more interested in his drink on the table than anything going with Cali. Reil and the older guy exchanged a polite nod, while the kid puffed himself up.
“It’s the fastest ship in the galaxy! It’s the ship that made the Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs.”

Reil and Cali exchanged blank glances. Then Reil took on a patronizing tone.
“You realize that a parsec is a measure of distance right? Not a unit of speed.”

The blonde kid’s eyes narrowed.
“Of course I know that. I’m not an idiot.”

Reil grinned as he tried to hold his tongue and failed.
“Don’t rule nothin’ out sport.”

Cali snickered, and the boy turned beet red, but he persisted.
“You’re just displaying your ignorance. The Kessel run is normally about eighteen parsecs long, but the Falcon, Captain Solo managed to run her through the Maw, and drop it down to eleven and a half.”

Reil waited a beat before responding.
“So he cheated? That hardly seems worth bragging about.”

It took a second for the smug grin to wash off the kid’s face.
“He. . . What? No! He did not cheat!”

“There was a route, he took a short cut. Sounds like cheating to me.” Cali chimed in. “If his ship’s really that fast, why didn’t he just set the record for shortest time completing the route?”

The boy stumbled over his words in his apparent frustration.
“I- He- You’re supposed to cheat! I mean- It’s not cheating. You’re supposed to take the shortest route you can. The only way to shave off time on the Kessel run is to fly closer to black holes in sublight speed. Only the fastest ships around can make even a tiny dent in the run, and the Falcon saved herself nearly seven parsecs.”

“Why don’t they just fly the normal route faster?” Cali queried. “I mean, if they’re already faster than all the other ships, why don’t they just beat them on the safer route? It’s spice they’re running isn’t it? Spice prices are determined by the black market, based on supply and demand on a macro scale, not how fast you individually deliver shipments of it. I mean sure, if ships were consistently taking the shorter route, in mass numbers, it would eventually affect the price of spice on a macro scale, but you’ve already said that they don’t, and even if they did, all it would do is increase the supply of spice, thereby lowering the price overall. The economics of the scenario just don’t really seem to provide any incentive to undertake such a risky maneuver.”

There was silence for a moment, as the three males took time to process that. Reil signaled to the bartender, who topped up his glass in the meantime. Finally, Reil decided to break the ice.
“Yeah. What she said.”

The kid looked like he was searching for an answer, when a door on the far side of the cantina hissed open, and some tall, spindle-headed droid stepped into the light, armed to the teeth. Reil scratched the back of his head in bemusement.
“What the hell is with that thing?”

The next thing Reil knew, the older guy had grabbed him and was heaving him behind the bar, while the blonde kid did the same for Cali. The four of them landed in a tangled mess under the counter. Then all hell broke loose. Blasterfire erupted everywhere, people screaming, an explosion on the far side of the bar went off, then a stray bolt clipped the bar tender, and Reil saw him drop to the floor. He scrambled to his feet, and helped Cali up, as they peeked over the counter, they saw the spot they’d been sitting in was charred black. The air was full of smoke, and the lighting had gone out, making it difficult to see. Reil called out to their friends.
“Fi!”

A hand shot up behind and overturned table that had been only lightly peppered.
“We’re here! We’re all right!”

Someone in the darkness heard the noise, and popped off a shot in their direction. Reil and Cali both drew, and sprayed the offending area in response. It seemed to be quiet after that, the sounds of blasterfire having moving on out of the bar.
“We’re behind the bar, we’re gonna try to get to you, then make a break for the exit!”
Someone behind the table gave them a thumbs up.
“Sounds good!”

Reil, Cali, and their two rescuers, tried to keep below the bar as they made their way around to the table. There was a tense moment as they hopped the bar, and scrambled to get behind the table, but there was no further blaster fire. Taking advantage of the quiet, they all sprinted to the exit, and caught their breath out in an alley, across from the bar. It was then that Reil noticed the old guy Fi had added to their merry band.
“Who’s your friend?”

Fi pointed to the blonde kid and his companion.
“I could ask you the same question. Reil, this is Kenlan.”

Reil’s expression soured.
“The Jedi, huh? That’s just great. Well this is. . .”

The kid stepped forward first.
“I’m Dylan, and this is-“

“Dunn.” The quiet man finished, extending his hand. “Corporal Dunn, Renegade Squadron. Sorry to inconvenience you folks, but we need to get back to our unit.”

Just then there was the distinctive sound of helmet speakers crackling.
“You all, freeze!”

The group turned to see a lone stormtrooper standing in the street outside the alley, doing his best to keep his weapon trained on all seven of them at the same time.
“You’re all under arrest. Don’t move!”

Stormtroopers must not see much action on Ord Mantell, because when they all drew down him, he froze, unable to decide who to shoot. All seven shots connected, and sent his body flying backwards towards the bar. Reil peered out down either end of the street, to see if more were on their way, but they seemed to be alone for now. He did however catch a glance of a chicken walker, over a couple blocks, making its way down the main street though, towards the source of more gunfire. Reil turned to the two rebels.
“Yeah, I don’t think making it back to your squad is an option. Things are about to get very tense around here.”

“We can’t just abandon our squad!” Dylan protested.

“You’re no good to them dead. We have ships, away from the shooting. We’ve actually been trying to make contact with the rebels.”

The corporal nodded.
“All right then, we’ll hitch a ride with you.”

Reil took a second, and tried to remember where exactly their hangar bay was.
“Great. . . Now does anyone remember where we parked?”

Ubiqtorate
03-09-2013, 03:42 PM
"Even if we can get to your ship, what then?" asked Kenlan. "Unless you're a lot better pilot than Solo back there, you'll never make it past that anti-aircraft gun over there. And even if you can, the entire system's locked down. How fast is your ship?"

"Who's we?" asked Reil. "I don't seem to remember inviting you along."

"Relax, Zealos," replied Fi, "he's with me."

"Then you get him out on your ship!" exclaimed Reil. "I didn't come here to make new friends."

"Actually, Zealos, we did come here to make contact with the Rebellion, right?" asked Cali.

"Yeah. So?" replied Reil.

"So whoever we met in the Rebellion, it would be someone new, right?"

"Where are you going with this, Cali?" led Reil.

"I don't know," demurred Cali. "I just hoped whatever Rebels we met would be friendly..."

Zealos paused. "Yeah, but that's not what i...oh, fine. You can tag along. But keep your head down."

"I could say the same to you, kid," replied Kenlan. "This isn't my first nerf roundup." He looked up the street to where the blaster fire was moving closer. "Things are going to get hot around here really fast, though. We've got to keep moving and watch our backs." Kenlan pulled a blaster from underneath his jacket, drawing a suspcious look from Reil.

"I thought you were a Jedi," said Reil.

"Better to keep a low profile," explained Kenlan. "Now...where's the ship?"

Reil looked around, gathering his bearings, then pointed to the direction where the battle was heating up. "That way," he said.

"You're in the West Complex?" asked Kenlan.

"Yeah," confirmed Reil.

"Come on," replied Kenlan, pointing his blaster in the opposite direction. "I know another way around."

I. J. Thompson
03-10-2013, 09:12 PM
Fiola Shaku and Jyllis Tromso stood in the alley watching Kenlan, Reil, Cali, and the two rebels sprint away from them and around the side of a darkened building.

"Well," Jyll observed, "there goes your Jedi."

Fi simply stared up the alley as the end of the night's darkness coalesced into the long, blurry shadows of breaking dawn.

"I'm not sure this was worth spending an entire night in that bar," Jyll went on, "but shooting that stormtrooper was certainly fun."

Fi turned and looked at her friend, her expression unreadable.

"Hey, honey," Jyll softened, "you want to chase after them? Say the word."

Fi looked back again in the direction the others had gone. Then she wordlessly holstered her blaster and motioned for Jyll to do the same. Grabbing the actress's hand, Fi led the girl out of the alley and into the street, raised a hand to the early morning traffic, and within thirty seconds the pair were in the back of a repulsorcab, fleeing the combat zone and making for the outskirts of the city...

I. J. Thompson
03-11-2013, 07:32 PM
The metropolitan centre of Worlport, Ord Mantell sparkled dazzlingly as it was silhouetted by the day's rising sun. In the back of the repulsorcab, Fiola Shaku watched it in silence.

"Fi," her comlink crackled to life. "Fi, where are you? We lost you somehow. Give me your position and we'll try to come back for you." It was Zealos Reil.

Fi continued to stare at the city's centre as the sun continued to rise.

"Are you going to get that?" Jyllis Tromso asked.

Fiola retrieved the comlink from her belt, hands shaking, and turned it off.

"Fi!" Jyllis exclaimed. "What did you do that for? He's probably worried about you!"

The musician offered only silence.

"Why are you doing this?"

Fi turned to look at her companion, her eyes wide despite the blinding rays of dawn.

"I honestly don't know. I just..." she struggled, "I just feel like I'm supposed to."

"Huh," Jyll remarked, uncharacteristically inarticulate.

They drove on.

"Coming up on the West city docks," the cabbie announced. "Beats me why you wanted to come this way; I could have got you there in ten minutes... for a tenth of the price."

"This is fine," Fi replied absently.

"Don't know what you hope to accomplish there though," the man went on, "she's locked down tight. I've done nothing but drive people away from there for the last two hours."

"Look, just drive, okay?" Fi blurted out. The cabbie grumbled something imperceptible, but did as told. In short order, they arrived at the spaceport proper and, having paid the driver handsomely, were out of the cab and into the crowd. While many of the city's travellers had since left the area in exasperation, those who remained were a surly lot - transport crews with cargo to move, people whose livelihood depended on leaving Ord Mantell at once. There were angry shouts and jeers from all around and, despite the early hour, the smell of rancid sweat that warned of imminent violence.

"The spaceport is closed, by order of the Empire!" A tense voice bellowed into a broadcaster. "We will make an announcement the moment the transport ban is lifted! Please disperse!"

The crowd roared in anger, and Fi and Jyll did their best to avoid the angry fists that shook all around them. Fi looked about fearfully, searching for some sort of sign, some reason why she'd come here in the first place. Then, she found it.

"Fi!"

A pair of arms were waving at her in the chaos. Fi grinned in relief and ran toward their owner, hugging him fiercely despite herself.

"Sloat! What are you doing here, laser-brain?"

The young man grinned at the insult. "I ended up signing on to a big freighter last night - the Katanga."

"That's good!" Fi replied, shouting to be heard over the din.

"No, not really," Sloat laughed. "We've got a hold full of high-grade spice to run to Nar Shaddaa. Real big payout. Seemed like a good idea last night - and then, you know, this..." he raised his hands to indicate the chaos around them. Much of the crowd was made up of extremely rough-looking individuals in brown coveralls, the name Katanga stencilled on the back. Fi noticed that Sloat himself was wearing the uniform also.

"What are you going to do?" Jyll asked Sloat.

"If we don't get out of here," Sloat hollered, "it's Kessel for all of us. And personally, I think I'm much too pretty for prison."

"You know they've got an anti-air cannon?" Fi warned.

"Ayuh. But the skipper's betting they won't risk shooting down a large freighter right over the city. Still, things could get ugly. You guys be safe, huh?"

Fi smiled at the young pilot and punched him on the arm. "You too."

"Please disperse!" The port official commanded again. Fi looked in the direction of the noise, and saw a large loading door, standing open, where several nervous-looking armed guards stood at the ready. In front of these was a speeder with a wicked-looking blaster cannon atop it, aimed at the crowd. The man inside held a microphone to his lips.

"There will be no admittance through this portal! Please, stand aside so that citizens within the port may exit!"

The crowd - Katanga crew and otherwise - roared in anger again, surging closer to the speeder and the loading door. It was all that Fi, Jyll, and Sloat could do to remain standing as the crowd pressed around them.

"Forget it!" The port officer in the speeder commanded his men via the public-address system, "Shut the door! Close it!"

One of the guards hit a switch, and a great wall of metal began to descend from above, sealing the entrance. Now, for the assembled spacers, it was do or die. In a terrifying instant, the crowd swarmed the area. Fi saw the speeder's blaster cannon open up on the crowd, though she didn't see who, or how many, were hit. What she did see was a terrifyingly large, black-furred Wookiee reach into the speeder's cab, grab the official by the throat, pull him from his seat, and throw the man over his shoulder and into the mob. Just as quickly, a more nimble member of the Katanga crew (a Squib, as it happened) leaped into the speeder's now-vacated driver's seat and stomped on the accelerator. Just as quickly, the being hit the brakes when the craft was directly beneath the heavy, descending door and leapt out.

There was a bone-chilling squeal of metal-on-metal as the door crushed the speeder, and Fi watched as the craft's hull split open, gouts of flame and acrid black smoke erupting from its insides like blood from a lizard on a back-country road. Still, the speeder's bulk was sufficient to keep the giant door from closing completely - there was still a half-meter gap, filling with smoke and flame, between it and the ground.

"It's gonna blow!" Someone shouted. "Go! Go!"

Without waiting to be told, Fi and Jyll raced for the opening and rolled through the tiny gap, bouncing off of assorted boots, elbows, and knees as they did so. Now inside the darkened port, choking on smoke, they pulled themselves to their feet. Fi cast a glance over Jyll to make sure she was alright, and was shocked to see that the woman's hair was on fire.

"Jyll! Jyll, hold still!"

Fi banged her hands against the actress's burning hair, choking on the fumes, and successfully put it out.

"That was too close!" Jyll remarked.

"Run, run!" someone shouted.

They ran up the corridor.

It was then that something ignited within the crushed speeder. The shock wave of the blast threw the pair forward as flame erupted from behind them. Fi could hear the screams of the beings who'd come through the hatch too late, and said a silent prayer for them. Then, she and Jyll drew their blasters.

"Set for stun," Fi ordered and, along with the pack, they ran. As they did so, Fi became aware of the man running beside her: Sloat, his eyes wide with terror, holding nothing more than a spanner he'd retrieved from one pocket or another. Still, the port personnel the group encountered in the corridor weren't prepared for a mob like this one, and almost all of them simply stepped back, holding their hands in the air and allowing the enraged spacers to pass.

Soon, they arrived at the hatch to the Katanga's docking bay. Sloat stopped running, gasping for air, and saluted the girls.

"You guys, it's been interesting."

Fi smiled. "May the... you take care of yourself, Sloat."

"Damn straight," Sloat agreed, and ran like hell for his ship.

Fi and Jyll did the same.

It wasn't long before they were there. They boarded the Dawncaller, powering up immediately as the fabool Mr. Mace fluttered about, chirping nervously. The vessel groaned as it rose, engines protesting being called into service so suddenly. As they crested the top of the port's walls, Fi and Jyll's view was filled with the immense bulk of the freighter Katanga, rising steadily and being shot to bantha burger by the port's anti-airship cannon. It seemed the Katanga's captain's assumption had been wrong: the cannon stood between the port and the city. If the Katanga chose to fly toward it, endangering the city, its command section (and most of its crew) would be the primary target. If they flew to one side or the other, they'd be opening up their defenceless flanks to the cannon. The Katanga had no choice but to fly directly away from the cannon, and Worlport - presenting a smaller silhouette and putting as much distance between it and them as they could, but eliminating the concern of a crash in the city.

The cannon took full advantage, tearing the freighter apart. Fi and Jyll watched helplessly as explosions erupted all over the Katanga, escape pods shooting in all directions. Then, it began to fall.

Be safe, Sloat, Fi said to the cosmos, and gunned the engine.

As the Katanga crashed into the planet with a thundering impact, the spaceport cannon turned its sights on the Dawncaller. Fi turned the vessel directly into its path - for a moment. Then, when she'd cleared the spaceport walls, she brought the vessel back down, into the streets of Worlport.

"Fi, what are you doing?"

A mere seven meters above the ground, the Dawncaller screamed down the streets of the city, as ground traffic stopped and pedestrians dove for cover. Fi fought to remember the city's layout as she flew the craft toward Worlport's east side. The Starlight-model transport's axehead-shaped cargo bay clipped three streetlights in a row, shearing them in half and sending them flying. Fi hoped the deadly projectiles would land somewhere away from the people below.

And just that fast, the city, and the cannon, were behind them. Fiola Shaku angled the Dawncaller toward the upper atmosphere, sat back in her seat, and hoped for the best.

Dawncaller
03-12-2013, 01:39 AM
It was gone.

Alone in his quarters, Tam blinked in astonishment. The Force-sensitive presence—that ‘laigrek’—was gone. He had been homing in on it and it had simply… vanished. Was he chasing ghosts, or was this…? With a deep breath, Tam washed his mind clear of the shock and growing terror, keeping it at abeyance long enough to stretch out with his feelings once more. The ‘laigrek’ was gone, and there was no trace of it.

Well, Tam had been able to localize the presence—before it disappeared—to the planet’s capital, Worlport. Tam sensed a disturbance on the ground, blossoming with pain, anguish, and the released tension of a frustrated mob succumbing to violence. He got to his feet and activated the direct commline to the Inun’s bridge. “Captain, this is Dawncaller.”

“Go ---ead, Dawn----er.” Doule’s voice was crackled but audible. It was mostly his tone that clued Tam into what he had said.

“Inform the rest of the squad that they should continue their blockade maneuvers. We’ll be going down to the surface.”

“Ple-----peat,” said Doule. “I do----ow if I copied th--.”

Apparently Tam’s words were as choppy as Doule’s. “Contact the Edacious,” said Tam, slipping into a more repetitive mode of communication. “Tell Harmod to continue, repeat, continue, with blockade operations. Land the Inun in Worlport, so we can effect repairs and deploy our forces. Take us down there, Captain.”

“--uess I did copy the---st time,----caller. Rog--wilco.”

Tam stepped back from the wall-mounted device, then sat back in his meditation posture to continue the search for that ‘laigrek’ being…


Even though the turbolift door had opened with plenty of time to pass through, High Inquisitor Tremayne stood outside it, not yet passing through. The simple intelligence managing the turbolift’s functions found itself in a conundrum. Should it leave the door open, giving the being the opportunity to leave at its leisure, or close the door to comply with security and privacy protocols? To the program’s great relief, Tremayne finally passed through the door, and it closed with an almost audible sigh.

“Lord Vader,” Tremayne said, walking along a , “I trust your travel here was uneventful.”

The Dark Lord of the Sith sat within a brightly lit, spherical chamber that he used for meditation and medical attention, like a dark gemstone in an opalescent jewel case. “That is none of your concern, Inquisitor. This is your opportunity to demonstrate your cooperation with my current task.”

“You need only say the word, milord.” Tremayne took a moment to look around the room. Vader’s meditation room was spacious and spare, with hardly any attention to comfort considered. It was cold, isolating, and unwelcoming. It only served to reinforce the growing sense of doom Tremayne felt. He and Vader had been at odds for years, and rivalries both spoken and unspoken had passed between them on several occasions. When last they spoke, Vader had made it clear that Tremayne should distance himself from Morning Star Squad. Why was Vader including him in his search now?

“You can begin by providing me with the location of Morning Star Squad.”

So Vader couldn’t find them either. Tremayne kept his smile within himself. “Given the nature of the boy’s., er, psychology, he’s given a rather long leash. The autonomy comes at a price, of course, but I assure you that he is still under our control.”

“Your assurance is noted, Inquisitor. However, my sources were able to track its whereabouts to our current location.” Vader gestured to the open space within his room and the air filled with the flickering rays of an activating hologram. A slowly expanding field of asteroids drifted within the projection, and Tremayne was able to see what was left of Alderaan. “The squad intercepted a group of Rebels here,” Vader said, pointing out a red marker as it appeared, “after which is abruptly disappeared.

“As I understand it,” he continued, “this is within the scope of the squad’s abilities, but what I want to know, and what you’ll explain to me, is exactly who this boy is and where he came from…”

Ubiqtorate
03-12-2013, 02:46 PM
"She's still not answering," announced Reil, clipping the comlink back to his belt.

"No time to wait for them," insisted Kenlan. "You say they have a ship of their own?"

"Yeah, docked not too far from ours,"