"Ladies and Mechanoid Gentlemen, this is your pilot speaking, we'll be taking off shortly. We're going to make a quick stop on the planet to pick up some errant crew, and then we'll be making a break for space. We'll be cruising at this things top speed at an altitude of beyond the planets gravitational range. Be advised; you may experience some turbulence as people try to blow us up. On the off chance we survive this, drinks will be served in galley, and our stewardesses will bring you packages of salted nuts."
Reil coaxed the Viper gently off the tarmac and floated it above the facility using it's repulsor lifts. As they hovered over the base Reil spotted Damon helping Tam, and Elayne making their way towards him, only to be cut off by a most unusual creature in fine fabrics.
“There they are. Lemme just bring her down, and we’ll be- What in the frell is that?”
Standing between the hovering ship and Damon’s team was a figure clad in what was a most impressive robe of several changing colours. The creature itself seemed to be normal itself, aside from the pincers that adorned its jaw. The being stood there, and appeared to be unarmed, but his very presence had stopped Damon in his tracks.
Reil cocked his head in puzzlement.
“How d’ya think they get the fabric to do that changing thingy?”
Proto gave a crossways glance at their pilot from the co-pilot’s chair.
“Is that really the first thing on your mind? Shouldn’t we be more concerned with whom that is?”
“Why, who is he?”
Cali craned over Reil’s shoulder for a better look.
“Who cares? He’s in our way.”
“Right.” Reil released the bottom turret from the forward locked position. “Get to the turret and sqwick whoever it is. We don’t have time to play nice.”
As Cali raced toward the turret, Proto scanned his memory banks for any clue as to what was in their way. Almost by accident he stumbled upon the file on Gen Dai.
“Master Reil, I have identified the creature. It is a Gen Dai. Their species is most unusual.”
Reil clenched his teeth as he tried to maneuver the Viper lower while tilting the nose up to give Cali more range with the turret.
“Didn’t ask for a biology lesson. Good co-pilots don’t interrupt when the pilot’s doing something tricky.”
“Based on what we know of Lord Pavana, I believe that is him there in front of us. His being a Gen Dai would explain much.”
“Who are you, Mr. exposition? We’re short on time, so instead of giving me a lecture, how’s about you divert power to the guns so Cali doesn’t run ‘em dry?”
“I don’t think that would be the wisest cour-“
Reil cut the droid off.
“I don’t see my lasers charging!”
The droid toggled the power controls.
“Lasers at maximum recharge.”
“That’s what I like to hear.” Reil used the intercom to signal Cali. “Fry ‘em.”
The quad turret opened up with a devastating burst that lanced right through Pavana, sawing him in half. Cali let out a triumphant whoop, just before the top half extended one of its arms to strike the ship, denting the hull.
Reil lifted the ship higher to avoid another attack.
“Holy crap! What the hell just happened?”
Proto began charging the shields as Pavana put himself back together.
“Gen Dai are physically unique creatures. No organs or bones, their whole body functions even when split or wounded. They have to be atomized to be destroyed. They can also use their entire body like an extended limb and attack us at seemingly impossible ranges.”
Cali began firing at will, as the creature had rejoined with his lower half, and was now rounding on Damon’s team, who had joined in the fray.
”So how do I kill it?”
Proto evened out power distribution.
“You don’t. Not today at least. Our primary objective is the recovery of Captain Aligeri. Try and force Pavana away from the others so we can move in and recover them.”
”Easier said than done. I’ll try”
Reil was already working on the next step.
“Alright, we’ll need a pickup spot nearby. . . Got it.” Reil signaled Damon on the comlink. “Damon?”
Reil could see Damon supporting Tam, and his voice sounded strained over the comm.
”Kinda busy here Zealos. What is it?”
“We’ve got a pickup spot about 200 yards east. Can you make it?”
”Yeah, we’ll be there. Just keep him off us a little longer.”
“Cali, you know what to do.”
”I’m trying, but this ain’t easy! He keeps jumping around! I can’t hit him!
Pavana was indeed a difficult target. Jedi like reflexes combined with an ability to enlarge his limbs and propel himself inhuman distances meant that Cali’s shots all went wide. The ground around Pavana was scorched black from all the laser fire, and several sections had even turned to glass. But constantly having to dodge laser fire kept him from intercepting his quarry.
“That’s fine, just keep him dancing, they’re almost at the LZ.”
Suddenly the ship rocked as a rocket fired from a portable launcher impacted on the shields. Behind them on the ground, and closing fast were the remnants of the spaceport security, armed and angry.
“Sith, they’re right on top of us. . . Cali I need you to switch targets.”
”Can’t. He’s trying to get Damon and Tam. I stop and they die.”
Reil’s mind raced, trying to come up with alternatives.
“Proto, take the top turret, I’ll try and angle you to get some shots in.”
The droid hesitated.
“Why don’t you use the concussion missiles instead?”
“What missiles? When did we get missiles!?”
“Pavana filled the empty launcher as part of the preparations. Aren’t you missing the real issue though?”
“Oh, right.” Reil turned the ship to face the oncoming troops, while keeping the aft raised, so Cali could focus on Pavana.
“Just wait until they’re right under us. . . HA! GOT YOU NOW!”
The entire column of soldiers exploded as Reil pumped three missiles into their ranks.
Reil patted the firing control affectionately.
“You know. . . We might be able to vape Pavana with these-“
Proto quickly derailed that train of thought.
“Look, Damon and the others have reached the pad!”
Reil swung around and hovered just over the pad. He lowered the ramp, for the others to get onboard, and Cali switched to one of the ion cannons to keep them clear of any more intereference.
Damon brought Tam to the ramp first.
”We’re almost onboard. Just hold it steady. . .”
As Damon loaded Tam onto the ship, there was the sound of crumpling metal. Damon quickly hopped aboard.
“What was that!?”
Cali didn’t bother with the intercom this time, instead hollering from the gun well.
“Pavana got the turret! He just ripped it right off!”
The ship rocked as Pavana hit it again, knocking Elayne off balance as she was going up the ramp. Damon caught her hand and pulled her onboard.
“We’re in! Punch it!”
The giant purple crime lord shrank to a speck and the spaceport in which he stood fit within the frame of the viewport before Tam allowed himself to relax. “I think we’re clear, guys.”
Elayne was panting even more than Tam. “As clear as we can be.”
Proto entered the lounge area. “We will rendezvous with the Archaeologist shortly. It has hyperspace telemetry information that will help us track down Mir’isha and her abductor.”
“I don’t expect you all to come with me,” said Damon, his expression belying his intensity despite his relaxed posture against the wall. Once I have the information from Proto I’ll be going after Mir alone.”
The idea of Damon and he separating scared Tam, not because the boy feared for his own safety, but he feared what the gunslinger would do if he was in a room with that dark-skinned alien alone. “I care about her too,” he told Damon. “The idea of sitting back and letting you go after her alone bothers me.”
“Captain Aligeri poses a noteworthy idea,” offered Proto. “I doubt everyone aboard will be interested in pursuing the Snark.”
“The Snark?” asked Tam.
“The ship in which Inex Jonn absconded with our companion. Perhaps this is an opportunity for those who wish to find safer skies to do so…”
Alright. This is really disturbing... Jason had spent the last ten minutes browsing through every channel and data allotment system of the ship, and apart the things that have been added by the people who successively occupied the ship, he found nothing. Nothing belonging to the original crew of the starship. Its computer records were completely erased.
“No maps, no captain records, no weapon registry... Nothing.” He used his free hand to scratch the top of his head. Of course, there were no recorded videos either. He sighed and was about to give up when he thought about something else. The private mails of soldiers. They were usually stored in a relatively hidden and separate part of the memory banks of a ship because they were, indeed, private, but it was not the messages per-se that he was about to check.
To avoid soldiers sending messages containing damaging pieces of information in case they were intercept, or plain top secret news, a program automatically searched every messages sent. In case they found some 'hot' key-word, they blocked him and sent a warning to the captain. Also, they stored a copy of the possibly incriminating messages in an even more hidden and protected part of the memory banks.
Let's see... Bingo. He had found what he was looking for. Tons and tons of messages. Now the problem was to find any concerning what had happened on the ship at the end of its days of military usage, since he doubted anyone would risk an emergency message to be blocked because of a security check. Unless someone did it on purpose. That was what he was counting on.
He started checking the data, especially for the time and day of sent messages, and he found what he was looking for in the last message of the about 200 ones stored. A single isolated message submitted twenty solar days before the previous one. He downloaded it along with fifty more. He flinched as he felt the usual headache pass by for a brief second. “Hmm... Damn uncomfortable...”
He retracted his finger probe and his arm went back to normal. He walked out of the medical bay and started to head towards the hangars, where he would be waiting for the supplies he had paid for and pass there the rest of his time. That was the program, before he noticed that the hangar's door was opening and the only thing stopping him and the others of dying of cold in the space was the force field.
He saw a ship being escorted to the opening entrance by two of the starship's fighters, while he got out the way the moment he saw people carrying blasters coming from behind. So, either whoever was on that ship was someone important, or he was someone not really liked, or both.
... And there goes my curiosity again. He approached his own ship and started working with the junctures, while keeping an eye on what was probably going to happen in a few minutes. Also, the hyperdrive had really rocked the hull of the ship. It was in need of a fix.
Inex Jonn descended the Snark's boarding ramp with hands raised in the air, jets of steam flanking his arrival. Two guards were upon him immediately, blasters out, their faces unreadable behind that old clone armour, which was painted red, designating them servants of Obar Mull. The same red as that of the ARC-170s that had escorted the Snark in here. The same red as the flight suit that Inex wore... the same flight suit he'd stripped off the body of one of the Snark's crewmen which his ex-partner Ellex-Zerozero had killed.
Yes, off to a great start.
"Gentlemen," Inex greeted them warmly, "thank you for your attention. If you'll-"
"Can it," one of the red-painted troopers ordered him, nodding toward his fellow. "Check 'im."
The other guard had Inex's blaster away in a flash, and proceeded to frisk him roughly. As he did so, Inex had time to take stock of the station's dorsal hangar bay. There were plenty of beings about; red-clad Obar staff, and plainclothes civilians alike. The hangar's central channel was naturally deserted (with no atmosphere, it had better be), but across it, Inex could see the dorsal hangar's starboard side. And within it, in addition to more civilians, the Sakiyan could see the blue-clad troops of Seema Mull... and they could see him.
Well, so much for keeping a low profile.
"He's clean," the trooper who'd been frisking him reported, "just the blaster and the knife."
The lead trooper's blaster didn't lower. "Where's yer 'prisoner'?"
Inex smiled, sharp teeth gleaming. "Actually, I was hoping you'd help with that. If you'll accompany me?"
The trooper eyed him suspiciously through his helmet, then motioned back up the docking ramp. "Go."
Inex turned and strode back up the ramp and into the Snark. Thus far, things were going rather well. 'Well' meaning he was still alive. Though now that Seema's forces had seen him, he might not be so much longer. He supposed it might be a good idea to ingratiate himself with the faction that didn't have standing orders to kill him.
"It is so good of you gentles to assist me," he told the troopers. "I continue to be impressed by-"
"Save it," the lead trooper told him. "I had a buddy on this ship, dirtbag."
Okay, so that's out.
Opting to remain silent, Inex led the pair to the refresher inside which he'd locked his quarry, the Farghul Mir'isha. The door's panel was broken, hanging from a jumble of wires that the Sakiyan had jury-rigged to keep it locked from the outside. As the guards kept their weapons trained on him, Inex twisted some of the wires together, and was rewarded with the sound of the hatch opening.
In the blink of an eye, Inex just caught sight of the Farghul, still bound, crouched on the head and poised to pounce. Mir'isha leaped forward like a shot, barreling head-first into the second guard who, arms pinwheeling, fell backward, the woman on top of him.
The lead guard was faster. Clobbering Inex painfully on the neck, he pointed his weapon at the Farghul as Inex fell beside her on the deck. "Freeze!"
Coughing from the blow, Inex turned and smiled at Mir'isha as the other guard fought to pull himself out from under her.
"Welcome to Mull Station..."
Reil glanced suspiciously in Proto’s direction.
“I’m just going to assume that your comment was aimed elsewhere, and that you haven’t been poking 'round my head. “ Reil turned to the rest of the crew.
“I’m out. I liked Mir, and I’d like to help rescue her, but I have other responsibilities that I’ve ignored for too long as it is. Besides, all I’m really good for is flying ships, and you have more than enough qualified pilots as it is."
There was silence as everyone took the news in.
"You guys can drop me and Cali off at the nearest station. We should pack quickly; so we don't slow you down. Won't be takin' much anyhow."
“Hmm, seems like they're getting rowdy, in there...” Jason was keeping an eye and in this case an ear on the sounds coming from the inside of the ship, and from the attitude of the guards and the sounds he was hearing, maybe the meeting wasn't going really smoothly.
Good thing that there were things like gullible guards, like the one who had stayed behind while the other two entered the ship. His face screamed gullible and bored all over it. He approached him very slowly, with nonchalance... Or at least, what Jason thought was nonchalance. He was basically skipping there. He was weird like that, and that was the guard's first thought as Jason basically showed himself in the rodian's face. “So, big bad guest?”
“Ahhh!” The rodian guard almost shot Jason for the scare. “Y-You stupid human! You want to die?”
“Nah, I'm pretty positive I could dodge a point blank shot from your rifle.” The Obar guard couldn't get if Jason was actually serious or was pulling his antenna. “So, what's with the commotion?”
“Hmmm...” Jason removed himself from the guard's face, allowing him to relax. The rodian decided to humor the man just to get him out of his cranial follicles. “Bad guest. Inex Jonn's the name. Last time he was here, he stole that ship and killed its occupants while he ran away. Now, he's come back with a bounty that interests the boss a lot.”
“A bounty? And it interests Obar a lot? Why is that, I wonder.” Jason dangled forward to look at the rodian from down to up, who in turn shook his head.
“Can't tell you. Boss's orders. It's strictly confidential.” Jason 'hmm'-ed.
“Ahhh, whoe is me! Or something like that!” The rebel scout did his best impression of a hurt spirit and put his hands in the pockets of his Echani fiber armor. “I'll guess I'll just have to console myself while looking at this holo-signed picture of Greeata Jendowanian...”
“WAIT!” He smirked to himself. Bingo. He hadn't met a single rodian yet who wasn't a fan of that singer. He picked up a small orb out of his pocket, which displayed, indeed, a picture of Greeata with her autograph on it. The guard extended his hand, tentatively reaching for it. “Is it... Is it real?”
“As real as your elongated mouth, my green friend. Got it at one of her concerts.” Jason grinned as he pulled back his hand. “I have two, and one is for me to give to a good friend of mine... A good friend who might even be so good as to tell me everything I want to know.”
“I-I can be that friend! I can!” Hook, sink, and liner. He handed him the holographic picture which he basically snatched out.
“This Jonn brought back with him a woman. A farghul with a big bounty on her head, courtesy of her ex-employer, Tarvos Ghull.” The rodian was cradling the little sphere like it was a ring, even if Jason himself didn't know what that metaphor meant. He put a hand to his chin, stroking it in a pensive manner.
“Hmm... So he put a big bounty just to get back at a farghul who defected? Is it a matter of honor or what?” Most pirate captains only thought of money and profit, if they were good ones, and Ghull was in-famous enough to be. It made no sense to him to spend that much just to get an ex-crew member back.
“Nonono, it's not her he's interested in. This I heard from the boss talking with Ghull... Seems like she has information on two Jedi. She traveled with them, it seems.” Jason dropped the idiot facade for a brief second, there. Jedi. That simple word earned his full attention and focus.
He had been tasked of exploring back-water and normal words to look for potential allies for the Rebel alliance, for the upcoming next battle with the empire, and the subsequent civil war. It was bound to be a civil war. Other scouts had been assigned with similar tasks, but all had been ordered this: keep an eye open for Jedi.
They had been supposed to have been all wiped out years before, but they had found proof that that maybe some were still alive, training the next generation, or just simply surviving, waiting for an occasion to strike back. “... Thanks, my friend. That really will be a great story for my wookie grandchildren.”
So, he now had a mission, he thought as he left the rodian thinking about the disturbing implications of that last sentence. To make sure that the farghul girl survived, and that meant that he would have to help her escape and then leave the station. Good thing his supplies had just arrived. He felt like in the end, it would be another high speed escape. He uncovered his arm again, since it was time to check those messages he had downloaded, and also to check if that particular system was functioning optimally. I think I will need to use it... Well, not really use it, just... Well, leverage, I guess.
After the time well spent on fine tuning her servos, and polishing off the dust and sand out of her joints, Shynite settles herself into the hot oil tub she had brought up from out back.
Harlin's shop was full of odd's and end's, finding the hot oil tube was just a matter of digging it out, and hauling it up the stairs.
Luckily Shynite had found and opened the crate of pit droids, they where a big help.
After the her soak, she went about laying out the items she will need for her appearance at the cantina on the marrow, and shut herself down for the night.
In her state of slumber the essence of the planet, seeps into her silicon mind. Imparting upon her flashes, images of swoops and speeder bikes, of dust and spilt blood, of slaves and a shadow behind it all.
Rising the next day, her internal chronometer warning her of the time. Shynite gathers her things and readies herself for her first appearance as a dancer in many a years. Though she often danced for her own enjoyment, she had not danced in front of a crowd or group since before she was Shynite, back when her droid body was Sheen. Back before her father and master Raxon had conceived her.
"It has been a very long time since Sheen has graced a stage." she thought to herself. "I hope I do not disappoint." she mused.
Shynite pulled up on Rhainnon in front of the Stones Throw cantina and left Rhainnon to find his own parking spot. She walked in greeting the bouncer as she did.
"Ura' is waiting for you." he said as she passed.
"To be expected." she replied in a matter of fact tone.
The cantina was lively that night, patrons had lined the bar, and few tables were open. She walked to Ura'Ren's office in the back taking note of the patrons and the stage on which she would perform.
"There you are. You are ready for your first day?" Ura' asked.
"Yes, I have brought the music I will require." she said, handing the data disk to Ura'.
"Good I will get the lighting and music ready, you are on in 15." and with that Ura' slipped the data disk in to the counsel at her desk and started to sink the music data and lighting.
"Nice choice in music." Ura said flatly.
"Thank you I was unsure but I felt these would be appropriate." Shynite replied as she slipped out of her travel robe and into a shimmer cloth shall, and let her fiber cord hair out of it's long braid to fall freely about her shoulders, with the slight tinkling of metal on metal.
"We've found a place," Elayne reported. "A small station, mainly used as a refueling point for various shipping companies. With luck, Reil and Cali should be able to find a ride there to wherever they're going."
Damon nodded. "And what about you?"
Elayne shrugged. "I feel sorry for Mir'isha, but there seems to be little we can do for her now." She looked away, clearly unwilling to look him in the eye. "I am sorry."
"I understand," Damon said. The shortness of his reply, as well as its tone, made it clear he understood all too well. This wasn't the apology of someone whose path lay in a different direction, like Reil's, but the apology of someone who had looked at the risks and deemed the life of a friend a far cheaper cost. Elayne's face reddened.
"I'll seek transport on a different ship from Reil and Cali's," she elaborated. "There will be less chance of discovery that way."
Damon nodded but gave no further response, instead turning to look out the viewport. After a minute's silence Elayne left the room, and Damon was alone with his thoughts.
Things were not happening as they had in the dream. At least, not in the specifics. This gave Damon some hope that Proto might be right, that the future wasn't set in stone. The telemetry that the droid had provided had been helpful in determining the Snark's general destination, and Damon's own suspicions had already given him a place to start looking. The cryptic conversation between Tarvos Ghull and his unknown ally that Damon had dreamed of mentioned a place called "Mull Station". It was a start, if nothing else.
"Hey," a voice spoke from behind him. Damon turned to see Tam, his backpack slung over his shoulder. "I brought you some stuff." From the backpack Tam pulled out the twin pistols Damon's father had left him, as well as Damon's signature red longcoat. "You left them with me, remember?"
"Thanks, Tam," Damon said, taking the pistols and securing the gunbelt to his waist. It felt good to have them at his side again. Then he slipped the coat on. "Gotta rescue Mir in style, right?"
Tam grinned. "You got it."
"You don't have to come, you know," Damon said. "I'm not doubting your courage or your skill, but this isn't going to be pretty."
"I've known Mir almost as long as you have," Tam pointed out. "She's my friend. And she'd do the same for me."
"Yeah, she would," Damon replied. He glanced out at the stars. "I just hope we get to her in time." It was all too easy to imagine what kind of welcome Ghull would give Mir. Damon knew she wouldn't break like she had before, and that would enrage Ghull to no end.
"We will," Tam said. "I'm sure of it."
"I hope you're right," Damon said darkly. "Because if he's hurt her in any way, I'll make sure he gets exactly what he deserves."
"I would like to accompany you, captain..." Proto spoke, photoreceptor whirring. Damon looked at him, expectant of the rest of the sentence he knew was coming. With a smirk, he started the droid's next sentence.
"But..." The captain intoned.
"But I believe I must take some time for the maintenance of the Archaeologist. I have several upgrades planned, and now would be a good time to start them. If you wish, I can accompany you, and stay on the fringe of the operation area, in case you are in need of extraction. But before that, before any of us disperse, I would like to offer you all access to the archives I have stored. They are mostly Jedi history and training manuals, but my Master compiled several volumes on droid construction, Force-strong artifacts and locations, and various methods of brewing tea."
"Thanks, we may take you up on that." Damon said, before turning to Tam.
"So," said Damon, "looks like it'll be just you and me."
Tam nodded, and looked around the room. In some Tam sensed regret, sympathy, and powerlessness. In others, a bitterness he found hard to understand. Everyone was parting ways, and on as good of terms as possible given their turbulent time together. It turns out Fi was only the first mynock to jump ship...
But Tam couldn't do it. Of all the strange beings he'd met since the life he left behind on Dantooine, Damon Aligeri and Mir'isha had been the kindest and most trustworthy. Tam owed them more loyalty than to anyone else in the galaxy. "I supposed we'll be taking the Viper, then."
Damon raised his eyebrow. "You have a problem with that?"
"I was just wondering, what with how familiar it's becoming among our enemies-- not to mention that we made an enemy by stealing it-- that maybe we should consider using a ship that's less... high profile."
Elayne stepped forward. "He has a point. The Nova Viper is an ideal ship for large groups of ne'er-do-wells, which is why Pavana made his modifications."
"Yeah," said Reil, "but the new paint job and everything makes it 'low profile' doesn't it?"
"Tell that to Inex Jonn," said Tam, glaring at the pilot.
"If you are suggesting a wholesale shift to the Archaeologist," chimed in Proto, "it's unavailable, as I stated before."
Cali threw her hands up in the air. "So what, do we just drive it into a star and run for the escape pods?"
"That's not what I'm saying at all!" said Tam. "And it's that kind of thinking that has gotten us into trouble time and again!"
Reil snorted. "Funny, I always thought it was you and your crazy 'Jedi tricks.'" He waved his hands in the air in mockery of Force techniques and gestures, prompting Elayne to roll her eyes.
"Small minds always attack what they don't understand."
"Enough!" said Damon, silencing everyone. "This is not the way we should end our time together. I can't do anything but go after Mir. I never asked any of you to come with me, and if now is the time we part ways let's do it without rancor..."