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Thread: Star Wars: Tapestry, Volume III

  1. #91
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    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.

  2. #92
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    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.

  3. #93
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    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.

  4. #94
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    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."
    Last edited by I. J. Thompson; 03-18-2012 at 01:16 PM.
    Star Wars: Tapestry
    A 6+ year campaign draws to a close...
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  5. #95
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    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.
    Last edited by Gibson8088; 03-20-2012 at 08:57 PM.

  6. #96
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    Point of No Return

    "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...

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    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.”
    Zealos Reil thought he was hot
    so he left the sim-pod cold
    on his eighth mission he got shot
    and that's all there is to be told.
    Draw your own conclusions rookies.

  8. #98
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    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.

  9. #99
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    Pull the Trigger

    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…

  10. #100
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    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.

  11. #101
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    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?"

  12. #102
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    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.”
    Last edited by Ice Hawk; 04-15-2012 at 09:54 PM.
    Zealos Reil thought he was hot
    so he left the sim-pod cold
    on his eighth mission he got shot
    and that's all there is to be told.
    Draw your own conclusions rookies.

  13. #103
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    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.
    Last edited by I. J. Thompson; 04-21-2012 at 05:53 PM.
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  14. #104
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    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.”
    Zealos Reil thought he was hot
    so he left the sim-pod cold
    on his eighth mission he got shot
    and that's all there is to be told.
    Draw your own conclusions rookies.

  15. #105
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    "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.
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