Proto stared out at the endless expanse of space before him, processors cycling the compiled data about every star, asteroid, and station as far as the receptor could see. A delicate clinking sound could not be heard as he drummed thin manipulators against his cylindrical skull. His voice modulated into nothingness as he vocalized several doubts and worries about his recent companions and their ambitions. A star shot across his vision, no data available. Filtering light levels down, he focused his photoreceptor on the system's distant star. He reviewed a video feed from scant hours ago.
"Where will you go?" Elayne asked him after Damon and Tam had departed.
"I am not quite certain yet. There is still much to be learned. I will likely search for more libraries, perchance I will find other Jedi. The Force has not shown me the way yet." The droid replied. His sensors whirred as he spoke.
"Well, good luck." The Jedi woman remarked.
"I very much hope it will not be necessary. Please contact me if you require my assistance." Proto offered, turning to his other two recent friends. Reil and Cali were packing their things together, bickering over where to go next. "The offer extends to you as well."
"Yeah, thanks," Reil called, diverting his attention momentarily. "But I've got to deal with HER first."
"Oh you-" Cali yelled at him as they descended back to arguing.
Elayne gave a chuckle as Proto bowed and walked off into the streets.
A data relay startled him from his meditation cycle.
[Diagnostics Complete. Ship systems prepared for System Departure.] came the Archaeologist's new voice through his feed. [Where shall I set a course to?]
[Where indeed...] the white Jedi pondered. Standing upright and turning his back to the planet far below, he walked silently to the dorsal hatch of the ship and made his way inside.
"Alright, we did it." Jason said as he ran after the cat-girl, looking behind his back to check for further pursuers. "Now everything we need to do is get to my ship and..." A 'click' and a head turned around later, and the scout was face to face with a blaster. "Why, hello there."
"Who are you? What do you want with me?" Jason groaned and raised his hands up, in frustration.
"I don't want you dead, obviously. Otherwise I would have just let you get captured and put into detention and then be raped till your ex-boss came to get you. Then, you would..."
"I know that!" Mir'isha growled a bit more and Jason sighed, as the blaster was dug a bit further in his face. "What I mean is, why did you help me?! So that you could get the bounty yourself?"
"Nope. I rescued you because I heard you are acquainted with Jedi." Jason said, and Mir seemed to relax a little more. "My name is Jason. I'm a Scout for the Rebels. You know, the one who want to overthrow the empire? Exploded a giant space station? Rings a bell?"
"... So?" Jason felt the impulse to face palm.
"Soooo... Jedi would be a nice ally to have, since there's a rumour that the emperor and Darth Vader himself are force users. The war is going to be long, and we're going to need every help possible." Jason explained, with a bit of a mocking tone, like he had to explain something obvious. "So, let us just be on our way to my ship..."
"I'm not going anywhere!" She aligned the blaster with his head again, and he groaned. "I don't trust you, and... My friends... My friends are coming for me!"
"... So, you want to stay here, after you broke out of detention, with half the station looking for you, to wait for 'your friends'?" Mir'isha didn't reply. She just stared back. Jason sighed in defeat. "Well, I can respect that, I guess. So... We hide and wait."
"... We hide... How?" Jason was about to say something else when he heard two sets of footsteps coming from behind the angle. He stuck his head out and found two soldiers of Obar coming towards their position. Their uniforms had helmets. He grinned and then pointed at them. Mir'isha understood. The two soldiers never saw the two blasters falling on their heads, knocking them out.
"I hope these two bathe regularly..."
"Fi... hey, Fi!"
The girl looked up. How much time had passed? Fi couldn't tell. She almost felt as though she'd been sleeping, but she was still crouched before the lifeless body of Inex Jonn.
"Did you nail 'im?" the trooper asked. His armour was painted red, the colour of Obar Mull. That was good.
"No," Fi replied vacantly. "I, uh... I found him here."
"And this one?" another one of Obar's troopers asked. He stood a little further down the corridor, over the body of a blue-painted trooper, one of Seema's forces.
Fi rose, dizzily. "No, he and... they were both here, lying just like this."
"Our mark wants the bounty for himself," the lead trooper concluded. "Makes sense. Inex wasn't worth anything to him, so he wasted him, and this trooper. Alright men," he commanded, "let's hit the hangars, double-time!"
"But, I heard them!" Fi interjected, causing the troopers to pause. "Just before they started shooting. I heard the guy tell the Farghul that his ship's docked on the starboard side, Seema's side. Definitely heard that."
The lead trooper eyed her, his helmeted face unreadable. "Definitely?"
The trooper appeared to sigh, activating his comlink. "Port HQ, this is P-6. Inex is dead, and one of Seema's troops, as well. We've got reason to believe the mark and the prisoner have gone starboard. Should we pursue?"
There was a pause. Then, "Negative, P-6, do not pursue. Total lock-down going into effect. Take the bodies to the central border - Seema's people can have 'em. After that, increased patrols 'til Obar sorts this out with her."
"Affirmative," the trooper replied, he and his squad lifting the two bodies and carrying them off down the corridor. A moment later, orange alarm lights lit the corridor with an eerie glow.
"Attention, all personnel," a woman's voice intoned, "lock-down in effect. No vehicles will be permitted to leave the station until further notice. Carry on."
Alone again in the corridor, Fi unconsciously patted the blaster at her hip. Then she jogged off down the tunnel, her boots clanking on the metal grille.
I'll find you, Mir, Fi thought, wherever you are...
Damon worked quietly at his makeshift workbench, slotting pieces together and welding others into place. He'd known from the beginning that he wouldn't be able to craft the exact design he'd wanted with the time he had available (the datapads had said it could take months), so he'd gone with a much simpler design. He'd modify it later, when he had time.
"What are you working on?" Tam asked. The boy had been taking it easy during the jump, his mind eased by the fact that they were going in Fi's direction. He got a better look at Damon's workbench. "Is that a...?"
"Yeah," Damon replied. "This is going to be dangerous, and while I'm still a better hand with a blaster than a blade, I figure it might be good to have a lightsaber as backup."
"Do you even know how to use it?" Tam asked pointedly.
"Elayne let me use her lightsaber a few times, just to get the feel for it," Damon replied. "I should be able to apply what I learned from Dad and Verik."
He secretly wondered if that would be enough, and from Tam's face he could tell the boy wondered the same thing. However, Tam simply asked, "How close are you to being finished?"
"Not close enough," Damon said grimly. "I doubt I'll be finished before we reach Mull Station."
"You have a crystal?"
"Yeah," Damon said, displaying the gem he'd taken from the small pile of Pavana's personal effects they'd scavenged. "Once again, Lord Pavana lends us a helping hand."
The warning chime went off just then, prompting Damon to stand. "It's time." He looked regretfully at the workbench. "...Maybe I won't need it."
"Let's hope not."
"We have you on our scanners now. Please identify."
Tam took his eyes from the derelict Star Destroyer and toggled the communications switch. "Mull Station, this is the Drifter, requesting landing clearance."
"The station is currently on lockdown, Drifter. No ships are allowed on or off until further notice."
"Drifter copies." With a sigh, Tam let emotion reenter his voice and turned to the ship's gunslinging pilot. "Are you getting the same bad feeling I am?"
"She's alive," said Damon. "That's all I know. Obviously there's something going on, or the station would have just asked for the clearance code."
"Well, I don't think our new ship has the firepower to get into there by force. Do you think we should use the Force?"
Damon shook his head. "We'll find a way in, but I don't think we should turn the Force into a blunt instrument to do so." He added with a wink, "Not this time, at least."
"Fine. So do we just sit here and wait for the lockdown to end?"
"No, I think that, for once, we should let the Force use us..."
"This isn't going to work," said Tam inside his helmet as he and Damon pushed off from the hull of the Drifter in emergency vacuum suits. The dilapidated hull of Mull station loomed ahead of them, not growing in size enough to ease the boy's growing senses of both claustrophobia at the suit's life sustaining confines and the disorienting helplessness of drifting in the empty void of space.
Damon shushed into his own microphone. "They'll pick up our transmissions. We'll communicate with the Force and hand signals." Tam felt the gunslinger reach out with his feelings, using the Force to speed up his approach to their destination. Tam did the same and in time the two placed their boots on the hull.
Waving Tam over, Damon pointed to a rip in the hull. A small conduit was exposed to open space, no doubt once for use as ventilation. It would have had to be patched somewhere to maintain internal integrity, but Tam was starting to get the idea of what Damon wanted him to do. He reached into the opening and, placing his gloved palm against the cold metal face, reached out into the Force. Slowly, the ship's layout became apparent to him, like a schematic of both metal and energy. His mind's eye was filled with a seriese of large, hissing valve, roughly ten meters down from the narrow conduit. Tam relayed as much of that image as he could to Damon, who then nodded and got to his feet. Walking that ten meters, Damon activated his new lightsaber, and the green blade snapped to silent life. Tam felt the man's relief that the weapon actually worked, and as Damon plunged it into the ship's surface he felt its hum transmit through the hull and up his boots. Tam joined his own blade into the effort, and in time they had opened a larger hole into a chamber where the two of them could fit.
Inside, their bodies were subject to the ship's artificial gravity so they deactivated their magnetic boot clamps. The small chamber was featureless except for one of the large circular valves from Tam's vision-- and of course the new skylight. The boy wondered what the next step of their entry would be, and in answer Damon just shrugged. He scrutinized the valve, running his fingers along the seal and expressing his confusion in the Force.
No, not confusion, a question. He wondered how the valve worked. Tam made one hand into a circle, while the other made a flat plane to represent the door. He moved his hands to show that the circular seal makes a quarter turn within the circular chamber to allow air to pass through. Damon nodded, then stood back held both hands out against valve. Tam thought, You push, I pull, and with each one straining his Force abilities, the valve swiveled open. A rush of air pushed them back against the far wall, but it ended as quickly as it started. The two Force users rushed into the next chamber before the valve's mechanism clamped it shut behind them.
Tam pointed to the next circular valve in the sequence and thought, Repeat...
Reil settled himself across the booth from Cali, who was impatiently prodding her scrambled -eggs with a fork. She kept prodding them for another minute or so, before finally addressing Reil.
“So. You get us a ride?”
Reil grinned wryly.
“I got you a ride. I have to work my passage.”
Cali raised an eyebrow.
“As what? They don’t need a pilot if they got this far to the rim themselves.”
Reil began looking through the menu.
“Manual labour. Apparently giving us a ride is cheaper than buying a droid. So how’s the food?”
Cali gave her eggs another poke before she replied.
Reil inspected her meal more closely.
“The eggs look fine to me.”
“I ordered the soup.”
The server droid came to take Reil's order.
“What’ll it be?”
Reil glanced over the menu for something guaranteed to be free of eggs. “The Special?” he asked hopefully.
“How would you like the eggs?”
“Incubated, raised, then fried and battered. Or over easy, chef’s choice.”
As the server left, Cali started pressing Reil for details.
“So what’s the ship?”
Reil took a sip of Cali’s water before replying.
“Bulk Freighter, The Orican Chief.”
“What’s an Orican?”
“Dunno. I don’t recon one exists, or that it has a chief. Some people name ships the same way they name race blobs; just string syllables an adjectives together ‘till it almost makes sense.”
“So when are we going?”
“Soon. What’s your rush, anyhow?”
Cali's temper began to slip.
“We’ve been on this station forever! Every day it eats up more of my credits, sitting around waiting.”
Reil raised an eyebrow.
Cali remained defiant.
“I didn’t see you around when I stole them, and we all found the ship together.”
“And how were you going to get off planet with no pilot?”
“Fine, our credits. We’re still burning through them, and until now, you hadn’t produced a single ship. If we couldn’t steal one, we should at least have chartered a transport properly, instead of waiting to hitch a ride.”
“Chartered ships ain’t cheap at the best of times, and I don’t fancy the extra we’d be charged to go to Taanab now.”
“Danger pay. Pirates hit it annually; around this time, every year.” Reil replied factually.
Cali felt her temper rise again.
“Then why’re we even going?! What could possibly be there that equals the worth of a turd.”
“Well, it’s my home town for one.”
Cali deflated a bit.
“Look, we’ve got a ship now, we’re leaving tomorrow early. I don’t like waiting around either, but it’s tough trying to get a transport that’s making a run to Taanab this time o’year. I wouldn’t be taking you there if there wasn’t something important that was there. I told you, I’ve got responsibilities that I need to take care of, and part of that means going to Taanab.”
Cali remained skeptical.
“These responsibilities, they wouldn’t have to do with the rebellion would it?”
Reil scanned the restaurant for undue attention before turning his attention back to Cali.
“What’s the matter with you? Are you trying to get us arrested? This is a public restaurant, you don’t just blurt that out.”
Cali was unrepentant.
“Yeah, it’s just Strom Trooper central here. I bet they’re gonna spring from hiding any second now.”
Reil was reluctant to give up the point, but the evidence was weighed in Cali’s favour. The station was Imperial free, and the restaurant was almost empty. In hindsight, that should have been clue as to why they shouldn’t eat there.
“All right, we’re not in any immediate danger. Still doesn’t explain why you’re so uppity. That particular question might have been left for later, when we’re in private.”
“It feels like we’ve been here for months, and you still haven’t told me why we’re ditching Damon and Tam-“
Reil interjected to defend himself.
“It hasn’t been months! It’s been. . .” Reil quickly did the math, “Alright, it’s been a while. Not a month, though-“
“And to compound it, you’ve been wasting money on this frippery!”
Cali pointed at the new clothes Reil had purchased for her.
Reil raised his gaze slightly above Cali, and made a silent prayer to the powers that be. Not this again . . . Please not this again.
“It’s not frippery! Normal girls have more than one dress.” Reil tried to explain.
Cali was implacable.
“I liked that dress! You said you liked it too!”
Couldn’t I just dig out my spleen with a spoon instead? There’s a spoon right here!
“I do like it. Really, I promise. But it’s been through a lot. Sewers on Ryloth, the academy on Gamorr, Rothana. . . well not much happened to it on Rothana, but Rishi and Owara. . . That’s a long time to be wearing the same dress, no matter how much you wash it. It needs to be mended properly. Besides, those are good clothes, they look good on you.”
Cali grumbled, but was mostly mollified.
“So, is it the rebels?”
Reil sqeamed a bit with his answer.
“Yeah, well. . . more or less. I mean I have to get back there soon, but getting back is trickier than you’d think.”
Cali accepted that.
“So, you have a lead on Taanab?”
“The start to a lead. This should go faster than when I first tried to find them.”
“How long’d that take?”
Reil winced as he tried to get the exact date.
“About two years. Two and a half, tops.”
“Perfect. Just perfect.”
"Have you seen anything?"
"No, not yet. If they really are on Seema's side of the ship, they're as good as gone."
Damon and Tam kept quiet, hoping the guards would have no need to examine the storage closet they'd taken refuge in. After a few seconds, however, the guards moved on. Damon breathed a sigh of relief. The last thing they needed was to alert the entire station that they were there. His pistols were too loud for stealth, and he didn't have enough confidence in his new lightsaber -- hurriedly put together as it was -- to put it to the test just yet.
"Do you think they were talking about Mir?" Tam asked softly. Damon grinned.
"The entire station's on lockdown and the guards are searching for someone?" he said. "That sounds like Mir's work to me. And Fi can't be too far behind."
"I wonder who Seema is," Tam frowned. "Does someone else control part of the station?"
"I don't know," Damon said thoughtfully. "We need to--" He stopped abruptly as a strange feeling washed over him, like thousands of tiny needles pricking at his skin. Then it passed, though from the look on Tam's face he hadn't been the only one to feel it.
"What was that?" Tam asked, trying to catch his breath.
"I'm not sure," Damon said, similarly out of breath. "But...it felt familiar somehow..."
"Wait here until I call for you."
"What do you intend?" The Falleen woman appraised her companion. "I doubt Mull will be happy about the way you convinced his men to let us aboard the station."
Verik simply smiled. "Concerned about me, Naveena?"
The Falleen raised her chin. "You're a valuable ally. It would be unfortunate if Mull decides to take his anger out on you."
"He won't," Verik said. "Just stay ready, will you?"
He walked down the ramp into the docking bay, where a squad of Obar Mull's troops stood ready to receive him. "Obar Mull wants to see you now," one of them said, the blaster in his hands underlining the...urgency of the request.
"Why is the station locked down?" Verik asked, putting the weight of the Force behind his question. The guard's eyes glazed over.
"A prisoner escaped...someone we were holding for Ghull. We believe she's on Seema's side of the station."
"I see," Verik said. He motioned subtly with his hand. "Go back and tell your master that Ghull's representative is here. I will find your missing prisoner, and I will do so as quietly and subtly as I can."
Of course, he neglected to mention that Mull had more to worry about than an escaped Farghul. While he was looking for her, he'd also keep an eye open for the other presence he'd felt aboard the station -- that other, familiar presence...
I've finally found you, Damon.
"Hail Seema... Or something."
"Would it kill you to act like a soldier?!"
"Yeah, cause these guys are oh so soldier like." Jason rolled his eyes at Mir's comment, while testing his new blaster rifle's weight. "They're a bunch of cut-throats, thieves and assassins. Not exactly soldier material."
"Oh... Right." Mir acknowledged. Jason shook his head.
"No matter what they say, the uniform doesn't make the man, but you're probably just shaken by the whole ordeal. Normally you would have gotten it, right?"
"... Right." She replied, nodding. "So... You're with..."
"The ones who don't like what we have at lunch. Yeah." Jason replied, knowing better than to speak of their respective allegiances out loud while being in incognito. "You can understand why I would like to meet with the new cooks."
"... I still don't trust you." She said, turning away from him. Jason shrugged his shoulders.
"Meh, whatever. I'm going to meet them, if I stick around you for a while."
It had been a while since Damon's brother had been on the station, but Fi recognized the young man immediately. Verik strode purposefully from the hangar, with that Falleen woman, likely Ghull's first officer, at his side. They, with their boss Tarvos Ghull, had previously come to Mull Station to post a bounty on Mir'isha and, by extension, her Jedi friends. Now, they (minus Ghull himself) had come to collect. Obar had only sent the message out about Mir's capture within the last hour, which indicated to Fi that Ghull's pirate horde had never truly left the Whirl nebula, and had returned at record speed.
Fiola's suspicions were confirmed by a voice broadcast, echoing across both sides of Mull Station's main dorsal hangar. "All pilots, to your stations! This is not a drill. Protect the station. Do not engage pirate vessels without orders!"
Around her, Fi was accosted by station personnel, pulling on flight gear and running confusedly. Among them was a good contingent of guards, trying to enforce the lockdown and checking the identities of the pilots before allowing them to board their fighters. One of those guards turned to her, drawing his blaster and pointing an accusing finger.
"You! Singer! What are you doing on the flight deck? You can't be here!"
Fi held her hands up in apology. "Came to get something from my ship. No worries, though... it can wait!"
"That it can," the red-painted trooper guard replied, not lowering his blaster. "Tell you what, I'll even be a nice guy and give you ten seconds."
"Thanks... I think!" Fi replied, turning tail and booting it up the corridor.
Well, she'd come looking for Mir'isha, and instead had found Verik Aligeri, who also was looking for Mir. Fi hoped the Farghul and her strange captor hadn't gone to Seema's side of the station. Fiola was a known member of Obar's court, and would most certainly be beaten to within an inch of her life if she ventured over there, to the starboard side. With any luck the pair-
Another mob of pilots and guards was coming down the corridor, pushing civilians aside and making for the hangar that Fi had just left. Rather than get bowled over by the group, the girl ducked into a nearby maintenance closet, sighing exhaustedly as, eyes closed, she leaned back on the tiny chamber's door, shutting it behind her.
There were two men in there.
The pair were lying unconscious, stripped down to functional shorts, shirts, and socks. Their faces were familiar.
Two of Obar's more junior guards. Regular fixtures on the dance floor, when Fi and her band played. She'd shared a drink with each of them, at one time or another. And now here they were, lying unconscious in a supply closet, their armour nowhere to be found... which meant that somebody else was wearing it.
Fi reopened the maintenance closet's hatch, and slipped back out into the corridor.
*Hours earlier* "Beep... beep." *Shetk* "Unidentified vessel respond" "This is Mull Station's flight deck officer. I repeat forward your ships docking codes now or prepare to be boarded upon landing" Cassus opened one eye and grinned, "Well their friendly" "Stupid Bot! Your supposed to send the codes" "Forgive me sir but I was not updated with the newly hacked docking codes" The IG series droid stated.
Cassus sat forward, kicking his droid companion in the process. "Thank you sir" quickly shot from the IG unit, as it fell to the floor. "ALPHA, BRAVO, 11790, DELTA, OMEGA." Cassus waited with a small hope that the code would fail and the real fun could begin. "You are cleared for landing!" "Dammit!" he thought.
"IGGY?" "Sir my proper ID code is IG-301 and..." Cassus stood, "I don't care, just make sure you have the codes next time or I'll scrap'ya!" Then walked to the back of the ship and geared up for the hunt.
*Present* Slightly distracted by the voice broadcast, echoing across both sides of Mull Station's main dorsal hangar. Cassus put his eye to the sight once more and focused on his target as she walked now back up the corridor.
"Interesting" He murmured, as his target ducked into a small room and out of sight. No more than a moment later and she was back out on the move and Cassus shadowing her every step.
"This better be worth my time Ghull !" He thought as he stopped, took a knee and marked his target. "Sent here to follow up on some lead and not even a kill order!"