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Thread: Star Wars: Tapestry, Volume III

  1. #106
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    The Dullahan left Cloud City that night, plotting a course for Corellia without issue this time. Along the way Tach explained to Lelah and Lola that Noth had to pull him for another job, but Brink would be stepping in to take his place. A little lie, but it could happen. The news was not recieved well by Lelah, but she accepted it. Fortunately, thankfully, Brink was at the starport. He was a rugged ex-soldier in his mid-40's. What military was he part of? "You're not allowed to ask.", he would reply. With military efficiency Brink greeted Tach and then took the twins to prep them for the heist mission. Tach, since he was finished here, climbed back aboard the Dullahan and started his trek for Coruscant.

    A short while into Tach's hyperspace jump he recieved a secure comm call from Noth. The hologram of the bothan materialized, "Noth, nice to see you. Good news, I hope."

    "Perhaps. I've temporarily reinstated your Troubleshooter status. There's a mission that will require someone of with your talents."

    "I'm interested!", Tach said enthusiastically, "This will mean I didn't actually lie to the girls. So, what are the details?"

    Noth arched his brow dubiously, "Remember, I said temporarily." Tach gestured somberly and allowed the bothan to continue. An image of a human in his late teens materialized on a nearby viewscreen. "The clients name is Cavis Turous. He has requested our help in locating his father."

    A second viewscreen displayed a picture of an older human. He had familial features to the younger human. "Sternin Turous stopped contact with his son shortly after winning the previous Coruscant Run last year. It is unknown if he is alive or dead. Regardless, Cavis wishes his father found. Our best chance at this will be to get involved in the Coruscant Underground Racing Circuit. Specifically, to get you invited into the Coruscant Run."

    Tach nodded absently as Noth continued the briefing. "Cavis has informed me that a Coruscant Run is going to be held next week. It's an illegal race that runs around the planet Coruscant, and most of it is literally underground. Courses are mapped in secret and only revealed to the racers during the runs via custom computers installed in each vehicle. The tracks consist of underground tunnels, abandoned underground structures, forgotten lower levels and so on. Tune your vidscreen to holonet channel 339 and use the keycode I sent you."

    Tach activated his vidscreen and set it for channel 339, punching in the keycode he was given. On the display was a race in progress. The vehicles were nothing like what he was expecting. They looked like heavily armored oversized skycars. Each were custom designed, likely reflecting the tastes of the driver, and were propelled by engines that would better suit starfighters.

    And the race coverage was top notch! They had camera's for almost every angle, covering the turns and straightaways for user enjoyment. There were even modified droidcameras capable of keeping up with the racers for a while.

    "Impressive. Looks dangerous and fun!", Tach commented.

    "And it's profitable.", Noth noted, "The organization behind the races charge customers just to view the video feed. By my estimates that's just a fraction off of what they make from the gambling."

    Tach nodded, "I can see the appeal. A new track every race, the accidents are bound to be glorious and it is much more interesting than swoop racing."

    As Tach watched the vidscreen one of the racers mistakenly took a turn too wide. He ricotched off what looked like a structural support and slammed into a wall. "Wasn't this sort of racing outlawed by the Empire?", Tach asked.

    "Technically, yes.", Noth answered, "But whoever organizes it manages to stay off the radar. The racers avoid using their real names to try to remain anonymous. They broadcast the event using a system that is not centralized, and as such is difficult to trace. There's also the bribary-"

    "Right, right, I get it.", Tach interrupted, "They cover their backs. So how am I getting into this race? And what will I be driving?"

    "One step at a time, Tach. There are hoops to jump through before the run. Get to Coruscant and deliver that package. It is already long overdue. And while you're at the spaceport pickup a Spot-On locator. You'll need it. Then we can get started.", the bothan stated flatly and ended the call.

  2. #107
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    Aboard the ISD Interrogator, on the fringes of the Denon sector:

    With his best uniform concealing the bandages over his blaster wound, his hair immaculately coiffed under a canted cap, and cologne masking the smell of bacta, Doule was ready to die as he always expected to. Well, except for the bacta and the wound. In any case, he had dressed as flawlessly as he could for his meeting with High Inquisitor Tremayne, because he didn’t expect to survive it.

    It was some time before Tremayne arrived, during which time Doule reflected on the life he had led, and the choices he made that led him to these final moments of his life. After helping Zealos Reil and Cali Bellum escape from certain death on the Inun, he had informed Tam of what he had done. The boy hardly reacted, nodding in understanding of the information and continuing on his way to the Nexus Room. Doule wasn’t sure how, but he could sense the boy’s fear; the entire ship could. It was as if the crew dreaded the arrival at Denon for the prisoner transfer that now, thanks to Doule, would never happen. When the journey was complete, it was Doule alone that had boarded Tremayne’s Star Destroyer to explain the failure.

    “My sources tell me, young captain,” said the smooth, resonant voice of High Inquisitor Antinnis Tremayne as he entered the conference room, “that you have failed to bring the prisoners who were entrusted in your care.”

    Doule took a seat across the large round table from Tremayne after the man sat in his own austere seat and gestured to the empty chair. When the Inquisitor sat, the cape of his robes had parted slightly, revealing a small cylindrical device attached to his belt: a handle—no, a hilt. Doule wondered how much pain he would experience from that iconic weapon before he, finally, succumbed to oblivion.

    “Come come, Captain.” Prompted Tremayne. “You can tell me what happened.”

    “I have no excuse, milord, and no way to clearly explain what happened.”

    “Surely it’s more simple than you’re implying, Captain. Two prisoners were placed in the brig on your ship, and subsequently disappeared. Two prisoners, I might add, with ties of acquaintance to a certain noteworthy member of your crew.”

    “You’re talking about Tam.”

    “Of course I am.” The man’s voice flowed from him like a warm current of air on a cold winter’s day. “I’ve received reports from security logs and ship’s crewmen corroborating the events as they transpired.”

    “Of course you have, milord. I turned them over to your subordinates myself.”

    “Do not consider me a fool, then,” said the Inquisitor, his tone turning icy and his cybernetic eye pulsing bright red. “I know what really happened.”

    “I assure you, milord, everything in my recorded account is—“
    “Silence!” Tremayne was instantly to his feet and Doule found himself shrinking in his tall, hard-backed chair. He straightened himself, consciously. It wouldn’t do to face death with fear in his eyes.

    “You cannot keep the truth from me, Todrin Doule,” continued the Inquisitor. “I predicted what would happen. You might say I even arranged it. You see, I’ve placed Tam Dawncaller in a crucial position of power; one which, if properly exercised, he could use to root out corruption in the Empire and become an agent of change in the galaxy. This was not a mistake, was it?”

    “N-no, milord. Not at all.”

    “Why do you agree with me, Captain? Explain your reasoning.”

    “The boy is…” Doule searched frantically for words that may just help him paint this debacle in a light where his actions—his betrayal—could be seen in a more favorable light, “…he’s volatile. He’s unpredictably hotheaded and supernaturally powerful. He needs guidance now and then to—“

    “And you think you can provide this guidance, Captain?” Tremayne actually chuckled! “Let me explain the real reason why you were given your new position. The captains of all the other ships in Morning Star Squad are petty, self aggrandizing, single minded blowhards: the cream of Imperial corruption. Tam can enter into their minds, and their eyes, and their wills much like you and I can move the fingers of a glove.” He flexed a black gloved hand for effect, then pointed at Doule. “But you. You’re different. The boy told me that you would carry out the will of the Empire not out of sniveling self interest but because you are a champion of the New Order. He told me of the events on Ryloth, the orders you gave, and the devotion to Imperial law you displayed. You were chosen for your position in the fleet because of your integrity.”

    “Thank you, milord,” Doule offered modestly. “I’ve always tried to—“

    “But then I get this report of yours.” Tremayne brandished a datapad before tossing it to the table with such force that the screen actually cracked. “I can understand if this… this fabrication of yours comes from some sense of protection for the boy, or some misguided need to cover up the less gracious parts of the work we have ahead of us, but I won’t be lied to, Captain.”

    Fabrication? Lies? “I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about, milord.”

    “This report indicates that you arranged and executed the escape of these two criminals before your rendezvous here.”

    “Indeed it does, milord.” Doule had been as honest as he could in his account, and found himself taking more than a little umbrage at being called a liar.

    Tremayne took his seat again. “So let’s set it aside, and begin anew, shall we? Explain to me what really happened, so that I can spare your life and we can move on with operations in a timely manner. Explain to me how Tam killed Zealos Reil and Cali Bellum.”

    Doule had enough discipline to stifle his surprised laughter. Was the Inquisitor serious? “I’m afraid I don’t follow.”

    “It makes sense to me that the boy would have… ‘massaged’ a few memories here and there to keep things quiet on the ship. For the sake of appearances, you know. But after the amount of trust he told me he had in you, I’d be surprised if he had done anything to cloud your perceptions of events.”

    “Cloud my perceptions?” Doule distinctly remembered Tam telling him he remained outside the network of psychic influence he maintained on the Inun. He also remembered Tam nearly turning Reil inside out without even touching him. But he could not deny the burn scar still healing on his chest, nor the sticky sweetness of bacta still clinging to his body. Had things really played out as he remembered them, or had it all been some fabrication, as Tremayne would call it, to hide Tam’s dark acts?

    “I see your eyes are finally opening to the possibilities, Captain. Understand that the boy you see on your ship is something more, and something far more dangerous. Accept that while on the surface he may seem calm and reserved, he has experienced horrors you may never understand. Come to terms with the fact that the power I have given him is intended for the betterment of the Empire, and that he will carry out tasks infinitely more ruthless and necessary than your order to execute a treasonous superior officer of Ryloth.

    “Finally, Captain Doule, I want you to understand that you must be honest with me at all costs. Morning Star Squad is, well, I suppose you could call it an experiment of mine. A field test of Tam and his abilities. Should he prove fruitful, then he will move on to bigger and better things. This can only come about if I am given accurate information. So no more covering up his—let’s call them ‘executive decisions.’”

    “And if he does cloud my perceptions? If he’s planting events in my head and my reports can no longer be trusted?”

    “Then it seems the integrity which earned you a new command beyond your earned rank has been called into question, Captain…”

  3. #108
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    "Dullahan, this is Control. Switch over to autopilot and we will bring you into port.", chimed a perky female voice through the comms.

    Tach flipped the necessary switches and gave control of the ship to the control tower. "Roger that, Control. The Dullahan is in your hands. Treat'er gently."

    "Autopilot control confirmed for the Dullahan. We will have you on the ground in five minutes. Welcome to Coruscant, sir."

    "Thank you.", Tach responded before switching off the comms. He then got up and made his way to the ship's galley. Once there Tach opened a refrigeration unit and then a panel inside the unit to extract a smooth silver briefcase. It had a handcuff attached to the handle with a sturdy durasteel chain. Next he went about collecting everything he should need for a stay on Coruscant; credit stick, passports, identification, datapad, weapons, personal shield generator, etc.

    Finally on the ground Tach plodded through the drudgery of spaceport politics. He was ready to be rid of the parcel that was now chained to his wrist. With the democracy hurdles jumped Tach made his way into the den of tourism and corporate advertising. The spaceport terminal lobby.

    Holovid advertisements surrounded Tach spouting promises of luxury vacations, the aircar of his dreams and enhanced virility. Storefronts flanked him offering overpriced food stuffs, drinks and useless trinkets. And annoying barkers kept trying to hand him pamphlets to nightclubs and hotels. He absently patted his coat to feel the reassuring presence of his DE-10's. The irritation of this place was almost enough to start a shooting spree.

    Tach quickened his pace towards the exit, deftly dodging lost tourists and huckster's. As he was passing a Biscuit Baron store the poster in the window caught his eye. Free Spot-On Locator's Inside. One per customer. Details inside. Remembering Noth's orders he entered the restaurant.

    The eatery was full of beings happily munching away at their meals. As Tach approached the counter a bored human female greeted him, "Welcome to Biscuit Baron, can I interest you in a Quicksnack or a cup of Ardees?"

    The smuggler shook his head, "Not hungry, thanks. Just need one of these." He snatched up a Spot-On Locator from the display on the counter and turned to leave.

    "Or perhaps you would be interested in our famous Bantha Breakfast Biscuit?", she continued with classic poor upselling technique.

    Tach stopped and looked at her curiously. "Isn't that the food that ate the population of an entire planet?" She answered with a confused blank stare. He pocketed the locator and exited the store, quickly making his way out of the starport.

    Finally outside Tach wasted little time flagging down an airtaxi. "Orez Quadrant, Sector ZZ9.", the smuggler ordered as he settled into the cab. As soon as the starport was well behind them Tach rested the briefcase on his lap. He then pulled out the locator, studying it for a moment. The device was a round palm-sized screen that proudly displayed the Biscuit Baron logo and played their annoying jingle when activated. It was a useful device so long as you didn't mind being alerted to every BB restaurant within a fifty kilometer radius at all times. Tach shut the device off and turned it over, then used a pocket multi-tool to pry it open and gain access to the circuitry. The duration of the taxi ride was taken up slicing the locator in preparation for his mission, and to wipe out the annoying advertisements.

    "Sector ZZ9. That'll be 76 credits, my friend.", stated the taxi driver. Tach paid with a quick swipe of his credstick, including a generous tip and exited the cab. The sector didn't appear to have changed much since his last visit. Still dirty and somewhat depressing for what used to be an active residential district. Now wasn't the time to wax nostalgia, though, he had a delivery to make. Following his mental map he waded through the maze of walkways to soon arrive at his destination; an unremarkable ground level home. With a ring of the door chime he was soon greeted by an unfamiliar voice.

    "We've been expecting you, Tach.", a polite droid voice sounded, "Please come in." In response the doorway opened to reveal a short entryway that ended in another solid door. As soon as Tach entered the first door locked soundly before the second one unlocked and opened. Extra security was a necessary precaution in this sector. Inside the smuggler discovered the source of the new voice, a well kept GH-7 medical droid hovered in wait within the sparsely furnished living room. "I have informed Master Zorthquin of your arrival. He wishes to oversee the delivery himself and will be with us soon."

    "Woozy?", Tach asked with surprise, "How's he been lately?"

    "I am well.", answered a gruff voice from behind Tach, "And I already told you not to call me that anymore."

    Turning about the smuggler was met with a life-sized holographic representation of a middle aged Arkanian garbed in proper noble regalia. "Wokael!", Tach stated happily, "It's good to see you again, my friend."

    The Arkanian nodded stoicly, "And you as well. Shall we get down to business, then?" Tach glanced down at the briefcase chained to his wrist. "Of course.", he stated and placed it on a nearby table. Sliding open a secret panel revealed a keypad upon which Tach entered a code. "Now, Wokael, your turn." Wordlessly the Arkanian commanded the droid and it proceeded to punch in the second set of passcodes. With a muffled beep and a series of metallic clicks the case was unlocked, along with the cuff on Tach's wrist.

    "Now if you could verify the contents.", Tach stated as he opened the case to reveal the two objects within. A single Jedi Holocron and a single Sith holocron. Wokael seemed to be staring at the holocrons, but Tach knew they were being scanned. "Confirmed.", the Arkanian finally stated, "I will notify Noth and authorize payment."

    "Excellent. Now with business concluded I must cut our reunion short. I do have other matters that require my attention.", Tach said hurriedly as he finished removing the cuff.

    "Not so fast, Tach. There is one more thing I need from you.", Wokael announced. Tach's expression changed to one of mild displeasure. "Time for a checkup, right?", asked the troubleshooter.

    "Correct. I need to make sure the implant is still working properly. Take a seat and relax. As you should remember it won't take long.", the Arkanian motioned to a chair. Tach begrudgingly agreed and sat down. The GH-7 droid hovered up to the smuggler holding a length of glossy silver wiring with an oddly shaped plug at the end. Tach reached back to an area just above his spine and tugged at the skin, causing a split that bled a few drops of blood. Within the gash was a port that would fit the strange plug. With programmed grace the droid secured the wire in place and started its diagnostics. Tach showed no discomfort, or any reaction, other than mild annoyance at the procedure. After a minute it was finished. The droid carefully removed the plug and the aperture disappeared, healing up almost immediately.

    "Diagnostics confirmed, Master.", chimed the droid, "The implant is performing within operational parameters. There are also entries of uses of the higher functions."

    Tach stood back up and shrugged with resignation. "I had a few rough spots. Now I really should leave. Until next time, doc.", Tach stated to the Arkanian with a friendly gesture. Wokael responded with a nod and the smuggler exited the house quickly.

  4. #109
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    The two men scurried across a wet and corroding catwalk, one of the dozen or so ribbons of metal suspended over an ocean of serpentine pipes. The air was old and stale, disturbed only by thousands of tiny droplets softly falling to ponderous depths and two pairs of feet padding against metal. The taller man led, occasionally checking a datapad; the shorter followed, clutching the guardrail and wrinkling his nose. “This is disgusting.”

    Anthan nodded. “Perfect place to hide. No surveillance down here. And, for obvious reasons,” he continued, gesturing to the morass of wet, festering pipelines “no checks down here either.”

    His friend pressed the coarse fabric of his jacket to his face and took a few inquisitor sniffs, and quickly suppressed a gag. With a grumble continued forward, breathing shallow breaths through his mouth and keeping his eyes away from the abyss below his feet.

    “You know, we could solve our entire inmate problem by just assigning them to do maintenance down here.” He said, gingerly stepping around a mound of unidentifiable content. “Put them on two-week shifts, rotate them out before they get used to the smell.”

    Anthan chortled. “Keep prison costs down, and great incentive. Free labor to boot. You might be onto something.”

    The other man felt a tug at his lips and the corners of his eyes. Immediately, he began suppress it, beating his face back into a physician’s carefully molded visage as he continued to walk. Then it hit him.

    I’m smiling.

    It felt unfamiliar, foreign, and that disturbed him. Had it truly been so long since he had . . .

    Nearly a year now. Nearly a year since there was something good in my life. Since we had each other when the galaxy was coming down on us. Since I danced, in that club on Mimbos. That had been the first time for years . . .

    He pushed the memory away. I’ve more important things to worry about, he told himself. Besides, that was a fantasy long dead and gone.

    The smile faded slowly, and was gone. With a sigh, he continued walking, hand tight around the filthy rail. He glanced down, immediately regretting the choice. “I feel like we should have brought a safety line.”

    “We’ll be fine. Besides, aren’t you the climber?” Anthan quipped.

    “Exactly.”

    As the pair walked, a low rumble began to fill the cavern, barely audible over the incessant dripping. The shorter man put a grimy hand on his friend’s shoulder, halting him “You hear that?” he asked.

    Anthan’s eyebrows knotted. “Hear wha--” he stopped, and then looked around, searching for the source. Nothing . The sound grew louder. The two men looked at each other, puzzled.

    A roar split the damp air like a thunderclap. It was deep, distant, like the scream of a ship’s engines heard from within the hull, reverberating through the expanse for a moment and dying away just as quickly.

    Anthan found himself crouched low to the grating, heart pounding in his ears and hand hovering over his blaster. His friend was beside him, a bit more composed. He cocked his head, but heard nothing besides the ceaseless drip of water on metal. “What the hell?” He stood up slowly, reaching for his comlink. “Hayes to dispatch, what just happened? Sounds like there was an explosion.”

    The signal came in distorted and crackling. “Ship smashed into a building sir,” said Zelnick “between . . . and Rakata.”

    Anthan’s face went pale. “What? Was it deliberate?” he demanded.

    “I don’t know, sir,” the tinny voice answered, anxiety audible through the static. “Wouldn’t make radio contact, possible that it was a terror--”

    A tidal wave of sound crashed through the cavern a second time, impossibly loud. Hayes buried his ears in the palms of his hands, but the cacophony lanced straight though him like a hot bolt. Fighting the black dots swimming across his vision, he forced his eyes up. What he saw turned his stomach turned to ice.

    The tapestry of walks and pipes was unraveling in a cascade of sparks and dust. Something was falling through, crushing everything underneath.

    “The Force . . .” he tried to say. He could not hear his own voice.

    The walkway began to undulate and quiver. Anthan braced himself, trying to cling to the handrail and keep his ears covered. His friend, who had been laying prostrate, fists on ears, snapped his head up and struggled to his feet. Gritting his teeth, the shorter man rushed over to Anthan and grabbed him by the shoulders. He was yelling something. Anthan could not hear it; he could not hear anything now, not the crashing, not even his own breath. He snatched up the comm before finding his feet, and the two ran down the heaving length of metal.

    It began to rain. Great drops of stagnant water bursting from a thousand broken lines pouring down on their heads. The shorter man felt his feet go up from under him and fell face first into the grating. He staggered to his feet again, tasting blood. Anthan was gesturing wildly at something up ahead. He wiped the soiled water from his eyes and kept moving.

    He could see it now, a durasteel tunnel at the end of the catwalk. The metal beneath his feet bucked and swayed as if trying to dislodge the two humans from off its serpentine back. They leaned on the rail and on each other as they stumbled forward. Just a little further now.

    The doctor saw it first, a great beam barreling down toward their flimsy walkway. He grabbed his friend and threw himself forward, then grabbed at the perforated grating. With a terrible thrashing, the metal was torn out of his grip and he was thrown into the air, limbs flailing for a pipe, a cord, anything. The catwalk rushed up to meet him and his hand found a hold it smashed into his legs.

    He saw another figure falling to his left. Anthan! Keeping one filth-covered hand clamped onto broken catwalk, he lunged to his friend, catching the sleeve of Anthan’s jacket. The officer grabbed at his companion’s hand, kicking his legs desperately for footing. The doctor howled a soundless cry of pain as his arm strained to support the weight of two men. The sharp metal cut into his fingers, blood mingling with the water and grime. He threw all of his weight back and pulled, heaving his friend onto his chest. They clung to each other and to the walkway, which still struggled underneath them. Slowly, the tremors lessoned and faded into stillness until only the catwalk moved, swaying ponderously from side to side.

    The two lay immobile for a moment, trying to catch their ragged breaths. Anthan wriggled to his knees, white-knuckled hand still clinging to the twisted rail. They helped each other to their feet looked around. They stood on a tongue of metal jutting into a junkyard of ruined metal and stone. Shuddering, the officer turned back toward his destination, and walked with his friends the last few dozen meters to the tunnel entrance, then threw himself on his back and let his eyes drift close.

  5. #110
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    "Action!"

    Fi was continually blown away by the complete and utter transformation that overcame her friend Jyllis Tromso every time that simple word was shouted over the bullhorn. It was still clearly her good friend; the makeup that had been applied to the actress was minimal, and her costume was much like what Jyll might herself have worn, albeit on one of her more casual days. But her countenance and bearing were that of a completely different person, like an identical twin who'd grown up on a different planet, say. Fi was reminded of the sound of her old mandoviol, in the hands of another musician. The same, but... different.

    "You must understand," Jyllis, or rather her character, explained, "I have to leave. This is big."

    "Bigger than us?" Claude, her co-star, queried, managing to look dashing and vulnerable at the same time.

    Jyllis held the young man's face in her hands. "I don't know," she replied, "but it's bigger than me, and it's bigger than you. And I don't have time to do the math."

    "But surely there's time for one more kiss?"

    "We can have one, or the other," Jyll replied, raising herself up against him. "So what will it be? The time, or the kiss?"

    Claude stroked the girl's cheek, held her close, and leaned in.

    "Cut!" the assistant director shouted over the bullhorn. "What the...?"

    Fi looked for whatever had gotten the man's attention. It was hard to miss. The previously pleasing backdrop of idly floating beldons had started moving. Given the creatures' massive size and relative distance, they appeared to be moving slowly; serenely, even. However, it was obvious from looking at the nearer specimens that the giant globes were traveling at least as fast as a modern speeder - probably faster.

    "What's happening?" Jyllis asked no one in particular.

    "Something's spooked the herd," answered a member of the crew. "They're stampeding!"

    "Helm!" shouted the unit's production manager, "get us out of here... right now!"

    "Working on it!" shouted the man at the repulsorplatform's controls.

    Fi looked about fearfully. There were giant beldons all around the craft, moving in all directions and howling warnings in their deep, basso voices. It was impossible to predict which way they would go.

    "One's coming up from below!"

    Fi looked to starboard, where some of the crew were pointing. There she saw the top of a great, orange fleshy globe rising in the distance. As it rose, its outer bulk came gradually closer to the speeder. Fi ran to the port side of the platform, looking for the beldon's outer edge. It was there, far below, and kilometers in the distance.

    "Oh stars," Fi whispered, "it's going to hit us from beneath!"

    The production manager shouted to the man at the platform's controls, his voice clipped with fear. "You want to really stand on it now, Shoam."

    "We're not fast enough," Shoam explained nervously. "I don't think I can get us away!"

    "Just line up our back end with her highest point, and gun it!"

    "What do you think I'm trying to do here, Foss?"

    Fiola ran to Jyllis and circled an arm around the holostar, gripping her hand with one of her own. As she watched, and as Shoam steered the vehicle, the topmost portion of the rising beldon, roughly the size of Coruscant's famed Senate building, moved from the platform's starboard side to aft. The vehicle was moving away from the creature... but not fast enough. A gang of crewers at the back of the vehicle watched in horror as the beast continued to rise, perspective making it look for all the worlds like the vehicle was actually dropping onto the surface of the beldon. But this surface was coming up to meet them.

    "Come on, Shoam!" Foss urged the pilot. "Faster!"

    "She's gonna hit!" shouted one of the crewers.

    The surface of the rising creature smashed into the back of the vehicle, lifting it and causing its front end to slap violently down onto the beldon's surface. Thrown forward suddenly, everyone struggled to grab onto whatever protrusions they could find. Shoam kept the vehicle lined up longitudally with the creature, doing his best to keep them out of a sideways skid that would ultimately turn into a roll and kill them all. As the vehicle slid/flew down the side of the gargantuan creature, burning its skin and throwing it into more of a panic, its nose kept pointing ever further downward as it traversed the living globe. Fiola and Jyllis, still clinging to each other desperately, slid along with the others toward the front of the vehicle.

    It was a small fortune that the bow of the craft had been made up to look like the front of a luxury sail barge - there were ample ornate railings to grab onto. Unfortunately this was cinema-grade scenery, and not made to hold the weight of a few dozen men and women. As all present clung to it for dear life, with cameras, lights, and all manner of debris raining down over their heads and falling forward and away to oblivion, the railings began to pull free.

    "Fi," Jyllis wept quietly, "Fi, please don't let go of me."

    "I won't."

    The repulsorplatform was completely vertical now, the beldon a great, orange wall beside it. Then, suddenly, the craft traversed the beldon's widest point and was flying into the open skies of Bespin at full speed... straight down.

    "Get our nose up, Shoam!" Foss shouted. "Get our nose up!"

    The driver, hanging from the steering column by one hand, did his best to work the controls from his reverse angle. With difficulty, he leveled out the craft and, climbing back into the pilot's seat, regained control of the machine. All assembled rolled back onto the deck, many still gripping the broken faux-scenery in fright.

    "Are we all here?" Foss rose and shouted, "Is everybody here?"

    "I'm pretty sure we lost Nellis," somebody was saying over and over, "I think we lost Nellis..."

    "Nellis, where are you? Sound off! Frell, we need a headcount!"

    "No time," Fi shouted, "look!"

    And sure enough, the craft was completely surrounded by giant, panicked beldons, large as entire city districts and moving at terrifying speeds, blocking out the sun.

    "We're going to be crushed in here," Jyllis concluded with a terrifying, detached sadness.

    Trask, the leader of the Bespin Wing Guard security contingent, was on his feet and barked in commanding tones. "Right... nobody panic! I've radioed for several evacuation shuttles, and a cloud car is on its way to transport Ms. Tromso."

    "What about me?" Claude, Jyliss's co-star, demanded. "You can't leave me here!"

    "Sorry, sir," Trask replied sternly, "there'll only be room for one - and frankly, you can be replaced. She can't."

    The actor looked as though he wanted to protest, but instead sighed dramatically, gripped the broken, faux sail barge balustrade, and looked forlornly into the distance.

    "It really is a caste-system, this business of art."

    True to his word, Trask's twin-pod cloud car erupted noisily from the maelstrom and hovered over the moving repulsorplatform. The guardsman in the starboard pod, fully apprised of the situation, popped his hatch and slid out of the vehicle, moving quickly to help the other guardsmen present to gather the film crew into a tight group.

    Trask led Jyllis, with Fi in tow, to the vehicle. "Ms. Tromso, get aboard," he commanded, crouching down and making a step out of his joined hands.

    "I'm not leaving without Fi!" the actress protested.

    The guardsman bit back anger. "There isn't room! She can get out on the shuttle."

    "Whenever that gets here," Jyllis retorted.

    "No time to waste," Trask explained, seizing the woman's arm.

    Jyllis Tromso turned immediately to ice. To Fi, the sudden cold rage in her friend's face was actually kind of frightening. Sensing he'd overstepped a line, Trask released the actress. Jyllis held her arm, massaging it gently.

    "Let me make this perfectly clear, mister," she explained in slow, chilling tones. "Fi comes, or I don't go. Do you understand?"

    The guardsman stood stock still, thinking. His hand, Fi noted, rested on the butt of his blaster, across from her own blaster, which she'd surrendered to him earlier in the day. The man swallowed once, then motioned to Fi.

    "Come on, miss. Step up."

    Needing no further prodding, Fi stepped into the hand-step Trask made, and leapt upward while the guardsman lifted her from below. Catching the rim of the cloud car's open starboard cockpit, she pulled herself up, balanced herself on the speeder's hull as well as she was able, and reached back downward.

    "Come on, hon!"

    Boosted from below by Trask, Jyllis reached up and grabbed Fi's outstretched hand, pulling herself up to join her friend. Fi dropped into the cramped pod and commenced fiddling with the flight seat's controls, lowering it as much as possible. Presently, Jyllis landed painfully in her lap and pulled the small cockpit canopy down over their heads.

    "Gonna be a tight squeeze!"

    Outside the craft, Lieutennant Trask made his way around to the port side of the vehicle, where its pilot had his own canopy open, making a thumbs-up sign to the guardsman.

    "Not to worry, sir! I'll have them to safety in no time."

    "You'll do nothing of the kind," Trask commanded. "You're gonna stay here and help coordinate the shuttle evacuation. I'm taking the girl out personally."

    The pilot, expression of disdain evident even despite his goggles and large, domed helmet, set the cloud car to auto-hover and climbed out of the pod, sliding down its outer hull to land clumsily at Trask's feet. He rose, straightened.

    "Bucking for promotion, huh Trask?"

    "You might say that. Help me up."

    Moments later, the lone cloud car was fleeing the besieged repulsorplatform and navigating a course out of the herd of frightened beldons...
    Last edited by I. J. Thompson; 05-15-2012 at 05:17 PM.
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  6. #111
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    Reil felt a sense of calmness come over him as he settled behind the controls of his new ship. He sat still for a minute, just letting the serenity of it all wash over him. It had been this way the entire week he’d owned the ship. With everything that happened on Taanab and after, Reil hadn’t really had the time to notice how much he’d missed flying, but now that he was behind the controls, it all came rushing back to him. He grinned as began going through the pre-flight checklist. It wasn’t his X-Wing, in fact in maneuvered like a sleepy hut, but it was space-worthy and it was his. His grin faltered as the console went dead for a second, then powered on again. It was mostly space-worthy. The engine was beginning to power up, when a message came over the com.
    “This is Mei-ji Colony Traffic Control to Barloz freighter Whydah. I repeat this is Traffic Control to Whydah. Do you copy?”

    Reil sighed as he took the call.
    “This is Whydah to Mei-ji Control, we logged our flight plan over an hour ago, what seems to be the trouble?”

    “Recieved your flight plan Whydah, no problems there. Your docking fees are another matter. Records show that there were insufficient funds to pay the fees, and your clearance for takeoff is denied until they’re paid.”

    Reil frowned. Well that’s not good. He began skipping non-critical systems as he went through the checklist.
    Mei-ji Control, I think there’s been some kinda mistake; I’m looking at my bank statements now, there’s definitely enough money there. Check with your billing department, make sure they weren’t overcharging the account.”

    The station’s traffic control responded promptly.
    “Your complaint is acknowledged Whydah, we are checking with our billing now. Clearance to leave is still denied until this is sorted however. Cease power-up procedures, and await further instructions."

    Reil’s frown worsened. That didn’t buy me any time at all. He began diverting power away from charging the shields to speed the power-up. The ship lifted off on its repulsors, and Reil began edging it toward the hangar exit. The voice of the traffic controller crackled over the com again, noticeably angrier than he had been before.

    Whydah, we detect that you are still powering up! You are not cleared to leave the station. Cease flight, and return to your landing spot at once or we will-”
    The traffic controller was cut off mid-threat as Reil closed the com channel, and pushed the throttle to full, blasting out of the hangar bay.
    “Boring conversation anyway.”

    As he cleared the hangar exit, his sensors picked up two Starchasers launching from the station as well. He switched on the inter-com system. “Cali, I’m gonna need you to get to the turret.”

    Already on my way!”

    Reil pitched the Whydah into a steep dive, and ran the freighter parallel to the stalk that extended out the bottom of space station, hoping that the fighter’s wouldn’t risk hitting the station. It turned out the fighters weren’t terribly concerned about hitting the station, as the freighter rocked from blasts to its aft shields. Reil began to punch in co-ordinates into the navi-computer, as Cali unleashed a barrage of fire, forcing one of the fighters to break off its attack. Reil hit the inter-com again after a particularly long burst from Cali in turret.
    “Ease up Cali, I’m not charging the guns, so you’d better not drain them!”

    “Well then hurry the frell up and get us out of here!”

    Just then the navi-computer came up with the hyperspace solution. Reil pulled the Whydaw out of its dive, and made a straight run to jumpoint. The ship rocked as it took another blast from the remaining Starchaser, and Reil had to shunt energy to the shields to keep them from collapsing. All of a sudden the turret stop firing and Reil could hear Cali swearing without the intercom.
    “The frakking gun’s outta juice!! Hurry up and make the jump!”

    The freighters shields were about to give way, when Reil pulled the lever that sent the Whydah hurtling into hyperspace. Reil exhaled slowly and he let go of the controls, and reclined in the pilot’s chair. Cali grinned as she entered the cockpit through the door behind him, and she hopped into the co-pilots chair.
    “That was bracing. You know I really appreciate the extra steps you’re taking to keep things interesting around here.”

    Reil rolled his eyes.
    “Well I was just worried you didn’t feel like you had enough to do.”

    Cali twisted the chair to face Reil, and propped her legs up on the console in front of him.
    “So why were they mad this time, forget to file the flight plan again?”

    Reil frowned and swatted her legs, so she put them back down on the ground.
    “No, I didn’t forget to file the flight plan. We ran out of money, and couldn’t pay our docking fee.”

    Cali was less impressed with that news.
    “Well that’s not good.”

    Reil rolled his eyes.
    “And here I thought you were having such a good time.”

    Cali arched an eyebrow at Reil.
    “It’s not my fault the last two deliveries you lined up for us were weak-tea. We need credits, fast. You should reconsider my idea.”

    Reil frowned.
    “I am done thinkin’ about that, and you are to stop bringing it up.”

    Cali sighed.
    “But if we just scouted some locations. . .”

    “It takes at least three people to rob a bank Cali”, Reil held up the correct number of fingers for emphasis, “One to crack the safe, one to watch the crowd, and one to drive the getaway car. We are just two, and I am not going back to jail after all the trouble we went through to get this ship!”

    Cali threw her hands up in defeat.
    “All right fine, we’ll just stick to your super legal smuggling, and running out of spaceports without paying so people try to shoot us down. This is a great plan.”

    Reil sighed.
    “This next job will be different. We got a client who wants us to ship a whole bunch of cooling agent for carbonite freezing to him on Bespin, and while we’re there, we can pick up a boat load of cheap tibanna. We’ll be arriving there around mid-day tomorrow.”

    “All right, that does sound like a good plan.” Cali conceded. Cali was pensive for a moment, and then looked at Reil suggestively. “So, we’ve got almost two days; what d’you wanna do until then?”

    Reil considered this.
    “Well the shields need charging, so do the guns, and I’ll need to run a full diagnostic on the power supply because it’s taking too long to power up and I’m still getting those flutters in the cockpit. In the mean time, you should check the cargo, and make sure none of the crates bounced loose with all the excitement, and it might be a good idea for us to go over the ship controls again, because you’re still a little shaky on those.”

    Cali groaned.
    “That’s gonna take forever!”

    Reil stood up and mused her hair.
    “Joys of being a ship owner. C’mon, you know the drill, we work before we play.”
    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.

  7. #112
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    The Storm IV-model twin-pod cloud car raced through the bright, mid-afternoon skies of Bespin, at top speed and in a straight line.

    Inside the craft's starboard pod, two young ladies did their best to endure the ride in a pod made to fit one. Relieved to have been rescued, they were nonetheless subjected to extreme discomfort.

    "Jyllis," Fi asked, sitting in the flight seat with the other girl crammed into her lap, "would you mind shifting over a bit? Your elbow's digging into my - ow!"

    "Sorry," the holostar replied, "I can hardly move." She squirmed to find a new position. "Is this better?"

    "No!" Fi yelped. "No, that's definitely not better! Could you maybe lean back, sort of, straighten yourself out?"

    "Yeah, sure," Jyllis replied sarcastically. "Just let me tear off this dashboard first and throw it out the window."

    Fi laughed and was rewarded with a mouthful of her friend's crimson curls, which she did her best to spit out. "What's happening up there? Can you see anything? Where are we?"

    "Hang on, I can barely turn my head, up here," Jyll replied. "Well, we've cleared those creatures. Wait, we're in a cloud now. Hang on a second... okay, we're coming out. Hey, I can see Cloud City. We're headed straight there."

    "It'll be nice to get out of this blasted pod," Fi remarked.

    "That can wait," Jyll stated flatly. "Pilot?" she called into the comm. "Pilot, don't bring us back to the city. We need to go back and make sure the crew get out okay. Pilot?" She waited a moment, cursed. "What was this guy's name again?"

    "Trask," Fi supplied. "He said his name was Lieutenant Trask."

    "Trask," Jyll demanded, "don't go back to the city. We need to see if we can help the others. Is he reading me?" she asked Fi, who struggled beneath her.

    "Can't be sure. Can you find the comm unit?"

    "I think this is it here. Doesn't look much like any comlink I've ever used, though."

    "Shipboard comms can be a little different. Has it got any lights on?"

    "Yep - green."

    "Green means an open channel. If we'd muted our end, it'd be yellow. And if we'd muted him, it would be red."

    "But it's definitely got power?"

    "Yep. Otherwise there'd be no light at all."

    "Of course. Sorry. I think I'm still a little shook up."

    "You and me both!"

    "So he's definitely ignoring me?"

    "I'd say so. Mute our side then, would you?"

    Jyll flipped a switch, which set the indicator light to the expected yellow. "Done. Why won't he answer?"

    Fi squirmed beneath her friend. "I don't want to alarm you, but there have been several attempts to capture you lately, miss."

    "You think he's in on it?" Jyll groaned. "But he's with the police!"

    "Every man has his price. Do we have any piloting controls in here?"

    Jyll looked around. "No, just guns, I think."

    "Well, hang on," Fi replied, "we'll think of something."

    The cloud car was over the city now, coming in for a landing on one of the many platforms. There was a thunk! as the vehicle dropped its landing gear and then came to rest on the platform, engines shutting off. Outside the craft, ladders emerged from the platform to meet each pod.

    "What do you see now, Jyll?"

    "Oh blast," the actress replied, "he's getting out, and he's got his blaster drawn!"

    Fi took stock of the situation. She was stuck underneath her friend, clad in shorts and a simple shirt - and a holster whose blaster she'd given up to Trask earlier that morning, for 'security purposes'. This was bad. She struggled beneath her friend, trying to flatten her back against the seat's bottom and raise her right leg beside Jyll.

    "Look defeated," she ordered her friend. "Look scared."

    Jyllis smirked. "Your directing style leaves a lot to be desired, Ms. Shaku."

    "You would prefer 'faster, more intense'?"

    "Anything but that."

    The Wing Guardsman climbed the ladder to the girls' pod, banged on the canopy twice with his blaster, then popped it open from the outside.

    "Ms. Tromso, you will be required to-"

    Fi's foot caught the guardsman directly in the face, breaking his nose, which fountained blood. Wounded and surprised, Trask lost his grip on the pod and fell backward to the platform.

    "Up!" Fi shouted, "Get up! Up!"

    Jyllis was up and out of the pod in a flash, balancing on its hull and giving Fiola the space she needed to extricate herself from the craft. Her body tingling from lack of circulation, Fi knew she couldn't even walk straight, much less fight. Instead, she threw herself from the vehicle, landing directly on Trask, who lay on the platform below. The guardsman howled as Fi's left knee connected with a very sensitive part of his anatomy.

    In a flash, Fi had Trask's blaster out of his hands and held it toward the man's face as she retrieved her own blaster from his belt and tossed it to Jyll, who scrabbled to catch it. Trask, in unbearable pain but refusing to be beaten, gambled that Fi wouldn't shoot him and grabbed the singer around the throat.

    He was right. Fi dropped his blaster and tried to roll away. Trask rolled with her to the edge of the platform, finally overpowering the girl and, straddling her chest, commenced choking the life out of her. Powerless, Fi fought for air and hoped for the best.

    It came in the form of a blaster bolt, fired by Jyll into the guardsman's chest. Trask flew backward, over the edge of the platform and down to a level far below. Fi clawed her way upright, gasping for air and grabbing the guardsman's pistol again.

    "Jyll," she choked, "That was a really good shot. I think you missed your calling."

    "There's a shuttle coming," Jyll observed, and sure enough, a craft was landing on the platform. Through its cockpit glass they saw a familiar face, though his head was now bandaged, staring at them intently as he brought the shuttle in.

    "It's 'Muscles'," Jyllis said, "that fake bodyguard who tried to kidnap me!"

    Fi clutched Trask's blaster, grabbed Jyllis's hand, and the pair sprinted madly for the entrance back into Cloud City...
    Last edited by I. J. Thompson; 05-18-2012 at 07:15 AM.
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  8. #113
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    Cali yawned and rubbed her eyes as she exited their cabin, and nearly ran into a line of low hanging electrical cords that weren’t there when she went to bed. The cords extended all the way down the hallway toward the cockpit, with various ceiling and wall panels pulled out to expose the wiring. She followed it all the way to the refresher, which Reil was outside of, stripping the insulation off a particular cable, while wearing protective gloves.

    Cali sighed as she approached.
    “I’m gonna guess that I can’t take a shower this morning.”

    Reil looked up from his work.
    “Hmmm? No, everything’s fine in the ‘fresher. Probably. I ran the diagnostic, and it said the weird power flutters were coming from this panel, of all places. I figure it’s a damaged cable, but they’re all insulated so I can’t see from the outside.”

    Cali arched an eyebrow.
    “Does this in any way seem safe to you?”

    Reil turned away from his work again.
    “What? I’m wearing gloves.”

    “You’re also stripping wire when the power’s on. Do you even know anything about ship’s electrical systems?”

    Reil shrugged.
    “When I started? Not so much. Now I can do this!”

    Reil reached deep into the wall panel and twisted something, and across the hall the galley’s doors opened.
    “Impressed yet?”

    Cali frowned.
    “Seriously Reil, this is extremely dangerous.”

    Reil grinned as he returned to his work.
    “Relax, I’m not a moron, I powered down this whole corridor before starting. Only thing running right now is auxiliary power to open doors and stuff.”

    Cali pointed up to the bright white light of the standard light fixtures.
    “Then shouldn’t this hallway be on auxiliary lighting as well?”

    Reil looked up and scanned the hallway. Then he very gently put the wire he was stripping down.
    “Uhhh. Yeah. I think it should be, actually.” Reil pointed to the tool box that was just out of his reach. “Cali toss me the electrical tape there, will ya? And, uhh, stand a bit farther back.”

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

    Reil managed to tape up all the exposed wiring, re-insulating it. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough time to clean up the entire hallway, as Reil still had to restore power to the corridor before they dropped out of hyperspace, so cables still hung out in odd places along the hallway as they reverted to real-space.

    “So, we’re agreed then, we’re gonna leave the electrical systems to a qualified mechanic?”
    Cali emphasized the last two words of the sentence, hoping it would sink in.
    Reil rolled his eyes.

    “Yes, fine, now pay attention, I’m trying to teach you something here. These are your scopes,” Reil pointed to the two circular monitors sitting amongst the controls, “the one on the left shows you a dot for every ship in sensor range in front of the ship, and the one on the right displays a dot for every ship behind us. The scope also gives you the relative position of the ships, the closer these dots are to the center of the scope, means the more directly the ships are to being in front or behind us; but when a dot moves away from the center it means that the ship is no longer directly in front or behind us. Are you following me so far?”

    Cali nodded her head dutifully, and tried to suppress a yawn. Reil sighed and went on with the lesson.
    “If it heads towards the top of the ring, it’s above you, if it heads down to the bottom, it’s below you, etc. If it’s right on the edge of the scope, that means it’s on the precipice of moving from in front of you to behind you, or vice versa, so be careful of that; and always note, the brighter the dot is on your scopes, the closer it is to you.”

    This time Cali actually did yawn, eliciting a scowl from Reil.
    “Cali, this is important. I need you alert and focused.”

    She held up her hands apologetically.
    “I’m sorry. But you already taught me about the targeting computer; how when you target something its dot gets bracketed on the scope, identifying it from the others and you use that to keep your target in front of you so you can blast them. That seems like the most important bit.”

    Reil frowned.
    “The most important bit is staying alive, and that’s what your scopes will help you to do, more so than any targeting computer. With the scopes you can take stock of every ship in the area in relation to you, where your targeting computer forces you to focus on one ship; and that’s when someone sneaks behind you and blasts you to smithereens. Situational awareness, that’s what your scopes give you, and if you don’t use that, then you won’t last long as a pilot.”

    Cali sighed.
    “Yes sir, Captain Reil, sir.”

    Reil’s expression eased.
    “You know, you don’t have to sound quite so sarcastic when you call me Captain.”

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

    Cali had heard of Cloud City before their delivery job. She had heard a few of the more poetically inclined spacer’s describe it as the jewel of the outer rim. And at first, she was inclined to agree that it was quite impressive, suspended in the clouds, with sky-scrappers draped in luxury poking out the top of the dome like structure. Of course, all of that was reserved for the rich and well to do, and the dock they occupied in Port Town was far from luxury. Making matters worse was the fact that the client was running extremely late, leaving Reil and Cali sit around the hangar waiting. Cali was growing restless, while Reil was growing increasingly impatient with Cali’s restlessness.

    “The buyer’s skunked us!” Cali groaned, “We’re wasting time just waiting for him, ‘cause he ain’t gonna show.”

    Reil tried to keep a lid on his temper. He didn’t particularly like waiting around for the buyer like this either, but the alternative was a much grimmer scenario he didn’t want to deal with right now. In the mean time, Cali was doing her best to make Reil painfully aware of her displeasure, constantly complaining about the wait. Or she might have mentioned it twice, hours apart from each other, and it’s just getting hard to maintain perspective right now. Reil decided that it might be best for the both of them if Cali didn’t have to suffer alongside him.
    “Look, Cali, I can handle this. Why don’t you take a walk or something?”

    Cali was puzzled.
    “A walk?”

    “Yeah, go out, see. . . Port Town. There’s gotta be something to do around here.” Reil thought about what would probably be available in Port Town, “Something free, or inexpensive, and at least quasi-legal. I can handle the deal.”

    Cali was excited by the prospect of not waiting around in the dirty hangar bay, but reticent to leave Reil by his lonesome.
    “Are you sure you don’t need me to watch your back on this? We don’t know this Will Dalines.”

    “William Delyons,” Reil corrected absentmindedly, “And you’re probably right about him not showing up at all. But if he does show, I doubt he’d start anything, we’re both businessmen making an honest deal.”

    “With smuggled goods.” Cali said pointedly.

    Reil frowned.
    “Weren’t you off to take a walk?”

    Cali grinned.
    “Fine, I won’t go far though, so call me on the com-link if the buyer does show up.”

    Cali wasn’t gone more than five minutes when the buyer finally did show up, with two men flanking him. He called out to Reil from across the hangar as he approached.
    “You’re Captain Reil I presume.”

    Reil nodded.
    “And you must be Mr. Delyons?”

    The man smiled generously as he and his men stopped in front of Reil.
    “My associates call me Billy, Captain Reil, and it is pronounced De Lyons.”

    Reil frowned.
    “Oh, uh… sorry, Mr. De Lyons, I mean Billy. And, uh, folks generally just call me Reil.”

    De Lyons nodded sagely.
    “Think nothing of it, Captain Reil. Now, may I also presume that you have my cargo aboard your vessel?”

    Reil grinned.
    “Got a hold full of cooling agent, ready to be shipped,” Reil’s grin faltered a bit, “Uh, you guys didn’t seem to bring enough men to unload the ship. I mean, we agreed that you guys would be responsible for unloading and transport to its final destination, so what, do you have more guys coming?”

    Mr. De Lyons brushed away Reil’s concerns.
    “Oh, I wouldn’t worry. I’ve got a private docking bay on a lower level. We can fly your ship there to have it unloaded.”

    Reil didn’t like the sound of any of that.
    “You must be confused, because we never talked about anything like this when we made the deal. My ships not going anywhere, now if you need more time to bring around workers we can wait but-”

    Mr. De Lyons shook his head.
    “I fear it is you who are confused, Mr. Reil. It’s quite simple really, we’re stealing your ship and its cargo.”

    Reil had figured as much.
    “Well then. You still didn’t bring enough men.”

    Reil didn’t bother going for his blaster, but De Lyons men both drew done on him. Billy smiled warmly.
    “Mr. Reil, we are trying to be reasonable here. We want your ship, not your life. You should think very carefully about whether or not a pile of metal and wires is worth your life. If however, you are determined to fight the good fight for honour and principle, my boys will obligingly put you down.”

    Reil was saved from answering by the whine of a blaster, and the thug on Billy De Lyon’s collapsing face down, with a hole in his back. The other turned quickly to face the threat, but caught a bolt in the temple for his trouble, dropping his body to the floor as well. Mr. De Lyons went for his blaster, but Reil beat him to the draw, so he simply tossed it to the ground and raised his hands.
    “I give up! I surrender! Don’t shoot!”

    Cali walked up behind De Lyons with her blaster drawn. She flashed a toothy grin at Reil.
    “So, do you want this one, or do I get all three?”

    “You can’t shoot me!” Billy protested, “I surrendered!”

    Reil considered this.
    “I dunno Billy, I’ve been having kind of a rough day so far. I reckon I could shoot just about anyone today.”

    “It was just business!” He tried, weakly.

    Reil arched an eyebrow at that.
    “Noooo, business is when I do the job you requested, and then I get paid. I did the job, and then I didn’t get paid. Now that’s bad enough on its own, but to add insult to injury, you then wrong me further by trying to rob me of my ship. I’m almost obligated to shoot you at this point.”

    “I have children!” He pleaded, “Three helpless children, and a poor pitiful wife!”

    Reil sighed and holstered his weapon.
    “This is just getting sad now. Are you moved at all by this Cali?”

    Cali kept her pistol trained on Billy.
    “Don’t care nuthin’ for his children. Don’t care nuthin’ for his wife.”

    Reil shrugged, indicating that Cali could have her way, when Billy De Lyons came up with the one thing that might save his life.
    “I can get you the money!”

    Reil considered this for a moment, almost hoping Cali would shoot him anyway, saving him the trouble of deciding, and then motioned for Cali to stand down.
    “I’m listening.”

    “I can get you the money, you just have to give me a week-”

    Reil cut him off there.
    “You can have two days. That’s all. If, at the end of those two days, you do not have the money, I am going to track you down. And I don’t care if I find you at home with your wife and kids when I do.”

    Mr. De left with as much dignity as he could muster. When he was gone Reil turned to Cali.
    “You arrived just in the nick of time.”

    Cali grinned sheepishly.
    “It turns out there’s not much to see in Port Town.”

    Reil sighed.
    “Tell me you at least found a bar nearby before you came back. I really can't face the rest of today sober.”
    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.

  9. #114
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    "...the accident. There has been one confirmed death, with all other members of the holofilm's crew accounted for - except for the film's star herself, Jyllis Tromso. Witnesses at the scene report Ms. Tromso having been evacuated before themselves, and it is believed that she has returned to the city. Citizens are urged to report..."

    Fiola walked slowly down the shop's aisles, pretending to read packages and compare prices while listening to the broadcast.

    "...also this hour, one of Cloud City's own Wing Guard, one Lieutenant Belmore Trask, has fallen to his death from a landing platform in sector S1. Authorities have not disclosed whether the death was accidental, or if foul play is suspected. Again, Jyllis Tromso, holostar and recent Corusphere winner, missing after shocking beldon stampede..."

    Fi numbly paid for her purchases, had them placed into a bag, then stiffly carried the bag out of the shop and into one of Cloud City's smooth beige corridors. Turning a few corners, she located a public refresher, went inside, and stood in the centre of the lavatory. Stepping to the mirrors, she tapped out a rhythm on one of the sinks.

    Tap, ta-tap tap TAP!

    "Thank goodness!" Jyllis replied, emerging from one of the stalls, "I was starting to think something had happened to you!"

    "I caught some of the news," Fi replied, throwing the bag on the basin and revealing its contents. "It's a big deal."

    "I'm flattered and distressed," Jyll replied. She dug into the bag's contents, pulling out a flimsy headscarf printed with the pattern of some spotted animal, and a pair of overlarge sunglasses. "What did they say?"

    "Well, they covered the beldon stampede, and they talked about Trask, too. It's weird, but they didn't say anything about Trask being shot. Maybe the Wing Guard have figured out that we killed him in self-defense?"

    "Or they're all in on it, and they want me to come forward so they can-"

    It was at that moment that a Lutrillian woman entered the refresher and headed toward one of the stalls.

    "So I said to her," Jyllis said immediately, pulling the spotted scarf over her head to conceal her copper curls, "'excuse me, but I totally put the shoes on hold yesterday', right?"

    "Uh... right?" Fi replied.

    "And she's all, 'well, do you remember who you spoke to?" Jyll continued, her voice rising half an octave.

    "...and?"

    "And! I'm like, 'well, I don't know, but she had a big nose.' So she says, 'I think you mean Cynva', and I'm like, 'I definitely mean Cynva!' And she leaves, and comes back, and says, 'well there is a pair in your size on hold, but they're for someone named Glorel'! And I'm like, 'well, duh! Glorel is my middle name, and it's the one I use when I put shoes on hold!'"

    "Shut up!"

    "Serious! And she says, 'well, I'll need to see some ID', and I say, 'do I look like-'"

    The Lutrillian woman concluded her business and left, leaving the pair in peals of near-hysterical laughter, holding each other upright. Jyllis was the first to compose herself, placing the sunglasses onto her face, her hair concealed by the spotted scarf.

    "How do I look?"

    Fi studied her friend. "Like a celebrity who doesn't want to be recognized."

    "Hoo, boy."

    "But," Fi elaborated, "not any specific celebrity who doesn't want to be recognized!"

    "That'll have to do."

    The pair exited the public refresher and marched down the corridor, light with mid-afternoon foot traffic.

    "Have you got a plan?" Jyll asked.

    Fi nodded. "We get to the Dawncaller, down in Port Town, and get out of here. You can team up with the crew again somewhere safe, right?"

    "Sure can," Jyll agreed. "Funny thing is, we could have shot this anywhere and just added the beldons in post. But Morsan likes realism, above all. Have you seen 'Muscles' skulking around?"

    "No, but he'll find us. Cloud City is big, but not that big."

    "What about your stuff? Is there anything in your apartment that you need?"

    "No, I don't think there's anything there that I..." Fi stopped. "Oh, no."

    "What?"

    "Mace."

    "Huh?"

    "Mr. Mace."

    "Your pet?" Jyll replied, grabbing Fi's hand and pulling her down the corridor. "I'll buy you a new one."

    "You don't understand," Fi stopped her. "He belonged to someone... someone important to me. And, well," she sighed, "the little guy kind of helped me through some stuff. I don't expect you to get it."

    Jyllis softened and squeezed her hand. "Lead the way, Fi."
    Last edited by I. J. Thompson; 05-24-2012 at 11:41 AM.
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  10. #115
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    Reil and Cali settled into the back booth at a bar that’s cleanliness exceeded most of Reil’s expectations. It wasn’t seedy at all. He was a little disappointed by that, a seedy bar in the under city would have suited his mood better. It was mostly empty, and the few patrons there were occupied themselves by sitting in rapt attention, watching a news story unfold about some stupid movie production. The waitress brought over a bottle and two glasses, and while Reil sipped his whiskey, Cali was still feeling some of the kick of adrenaline and was more than a little agitated.
    “I still don’t see why we didn’t leave that hut-spawn in a pool of his own blood.” She grumbled.

    Reil grimaced with irritation.
    “Because he’d be dead. He can’t pay us if he’s dead.”

    Cali was unsatisfied.
    “He’s not gonna pay us anyway. You let him crawl away, and now his gonna hold up until we’re gone like a vrelt. We should have shot him to send a message.”

    Reil arched an eyebrow.
    “A message to who? Anybody off world won’t know that we shot De Lyons, and I don’t think he was powerful enough to make anybody on this world care that we shot him either. Aside from soothing your vanity, he doesn’t do us any good dead, and alive, he might just pay. And we need him to pay.”

    “We don’t need him.” Cali said pointedly.

    Reil knocked back the rest of the whiskey in his glass, and set it down more forcefully than he’d intended.
    “Yes, we need him. We came all the way out here on his promise that he’d pay for our cargo. If we don’t get paid for this job, we don’t have enough money to fuel the ship, let alone keep it in repair. We’ll be on the drift before we find another buyer elsewhere.”

    Cali found Reil’s melancholy disquieting. It was more than a little unreal to see him hunched over and brooding about his troubles. Actually, Reil had been taking this whole, ship owner thing really seriously in general.
    “Reil, what would you do if you couldn’t fly?”

    Reil considered this.
    “Cry deeply, and then die destitute and broken. Actually those last two might happen anyway.”

    Cali frowned.
    “I’m serious; you must have had other interests and stuff.”

    Reil shrugged.
    “ I like holos, and the odd book, but in terms of interests I’d put towards careers? I’ve wanted to be a pilot since I was a kid. My grandfather was a deck hand on a navy ship, and the pilots used to talk about the missions they flew in the clone wars with him. Or around him, more like. When I was growing up, he used to tell me the stories, with some slight alterations, and I was hooked.”

    Cali’s interest was piqued.
    “What kind of alterations?”

    Reil smiled at the recollection. “Well, for one he used to tell the stories like he was the pilot.” He stopped smiling, “It wasn’t until I was older that the truth came out.”

    “Oh.”

    Reil carried on. “And for another, nobody ever died in them. The bad guys were droids, and the heroes always made it back to the hanger to drink and brag about their kills. When I joined up with the Alliance they beat that out of me pretty quickly. War is war, and people died on both sides.”

    “Did you lose a lot of friends?” Cali asked with slight trepidation, her curiosity outweighing her reluctance to bring up bad memories. Reil had never really brought up his time with the Rebellion before in any specific sense.

    Reil was caught off guard by the question.
    “Hmmm? No, not really. My squad was pretty lucky I guess. It didn’t hurt that we had a pretty light assignment. One of the Y-Wing pilots bought the farm early on, but Tohle was the only wingman I ever lost, and you couldn’t really call us friends.”

    “Why not?”

    Reil shrugged.
    “He was my Lieutenant and flight leader, and he never let me forget it. He wasn’t exactly a jerk, but we went through training together, and when he was promoted above me, he wanted there to be no question of who was in charge.”

    “How come he was promoted above you?” Cali inquired “Was he a better pilot?”

    Reil snorted in derision.
    “Tohle wasn’t bad, but I could fly rings around him. Inside the sim-pod I posted the highest scores of the squadron, and outside, I had the most kills of our entire flight. Which wasn’t much, we were a pretty green unit, but it still bothered him. He logged in twice as many simulator hours as me, trying to beat me or maybe just show me up and impress the brass. Seems like wasted effort now.”

    “So why?”

    “A career of insubordination.” Reil said, grinning ruefully, “And if I had to admit it, he was better leadership material than me. He was much more mission focused, and he was always watching out for the other squad members more than he was trying to get kills. I really wanted to be an Ace, and that took up a lot of my focus.”

    Cali was pensive as she soaked all this up, and Reil poured himself more whiskey. When Reil was finished pouring, Cali poured herself her first glass. The bitter liquid burned her throat, and she remembered liking the fruity drinks she’d had on Taanab better. She grimaced as she finished the glass.
    “You know, you shouldn’t worry about the cargo. We’ll find a buyer soon, someone who isn’t liable to try and rob us again.”

    Reil grinned as he watched her drink the whiskey.
    “Yeah I suppose. That was some pretty impressive shooting, by the way. Have you been practicing?”
    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.

  11. #116
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    The faces rippled, distorted. The were bubbles floating around them, and for some reason everything seemed green. Odd.

    Well, at least he hadn't... been... been what? What had happened? In fact, what had ever happened to him? He realized he no memory of a past life. Panic seized him. He flailed about, his arms and legs swishing through some liquid, bumping against a hard, smooth, curved surface. Who was he?

    **********

    The taller of the two men looked at the figure flailing in the tank and shook his head.

    "Seems a bit agitated."

    The shorter man leaned forward and pressed a few buttons on a glowing control panel. The thrashing slowly died down to a feeble swirling of limbs.

    "Well, that'll keep him down", the short one said. "Lucky thing we found him, too. In good shape, at least before he ran into whatever beat him up. Maybe that explosion?"

    The taller man looked thoughtful.

    "I don't know. It's a ways from the crash site, but he could have dragged himself...." The man shrugged. "Oh well, not our job to find out where he came from. Just as long as no one comes looking for him."

    The shorter man chuckled. "He'll be good for at least five or six... er, donations. Besides, he won't need his heart or lungs anyways. Not like he's going anywhere. And we'll just grow 'em back."

    The taller man gave a small smile. "That we will. Nothing with more profit in it than a little organ trading. And who wold have thought of such a clever way to keep the 'donations' coming? Ah well, lets move along."

    The two men santered down the hallway, peering at the almost endless rows of green filled tanks. Their voices trailed away into the darkness.

    **********

    Through the haze that clouded his brain, the thought traveled. Who am I? He pushed out with his mind, desperate, but found nothing. Who am I?

  12. #117
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    Kill switch, closed. Keycode, accepted! The dashboard of the cherry red Stingray lit up without hesitation. Tach's modified Narglatch AirTech hotrod still responded like the day he left it; if a bit dustier. With the flip of a couple of switches the cold-start generator activated followed by the satisfying roar of the turbines firing up.

    I wonder..., Tach thought to himself. He hopped out of the car and checked the storage compartment. In it the first thing he found was his old gunmans duster. It was a dark grey trenchcoat with the emblem from his old gang on the back. The roaring head of a gurreck with Feral Gurrecks in Aurek lettering below it.

    Also in the compartment was the rest of his gear; a pair of dark grey reinforced swoop racing boots, buckle-on dura-armor leggings and vest for the occasional shootouts that happened. The equipment did help protect the wearer, but was mostly for looks. Thus explained the lack of helmets. Waxing nostalgic Tach removed his coat and boots then proceeded to don his old street racing gear. It all still fit, and the comfortable feeling from the worn material of the trenchcoat resting upon his frame brought a smile to his face.

    Tach took a practiced leap that landed him comfortably back into the drivers seat, then gave the engine a couple of revs. They returned hostile growls in response while the vehicle shuddered against the brakes keeping it in place. An excited cackle escaped the troubleshooters lips as he loosed the parking restraints and sped the car out of the parking garage and into public traffic.

    After about an hour of joyriding Tach took the opportunity to hook up the locator to the aircars' systems and dialed up Noth. Less than a few moments passed before, "Took you long enough!"

    Ignoring the grumpy bothans' jibe Tach replied, "Locator installed, sir. Gimmie the briefing, Noth. What do I need to know?"

    With expected professionalism Noth began, "The first step will be to find a sponsor. Win a sponsor street race or you will not be able to compete in the underground run. Once you've got a sponsor they will provide what you need, including the use of their ricksha."

    "Is that what they call those beasts? Interesting.", Tach stated as he barrel-rolled through an intersection. "Anything else I should know?"

    "Yes. Some of these sponsors can be.... rather eccentric.", Noth appeared to be studying a datapad.

    Tach tilt-dodged an oncoming vehicle, "My curiousity is piqued. Do go on."

    "Well, for example there is a candidate racing for a local casino. The ricksha is painted to promote the place while the driver and his navigator have to wear garish 'high roller' costumes." The bothan almost sounded like he was happy sharing the information.

    "Ugh, I see.", Tach replied with distaste, "Wait, did you say navigator?"

    "Yes, you will need to find a navigator to accompany you.", Noth replied matter of factly.

    "Frak!"

    "Good luck, Tach.", the bothan replied before ending the call.

    Tach descended to a lower altitude as he entered an abandoned industrial sector. Slaloming the derilict equipment had helped him think in the past, perhaps it could do so again today.

  13. #118
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    "...once again, singer and musician Fiola Shaku, formerly of the music group Moonbeam Levels and currently employed at The Blue Room, confirmed to have been in the company of holostar Jyllis Tromso when she was last seen. Citizens with any knowledge of either woman's whereabouts are urged to contact..."

    "Well, Fi, that's that," Jyllis sighed as she tickled Mr. Mace's small, furry belly with one delicate finger, "you are officially involved."

    "I wonder why they still haven't fingered us for Trask's death," Fi pondered as the news program on her apartment's holoprojector gave way to advertisements.

    "Probably they want us to feel safe to come forward, and then -wham!- busted."

    "Or they know it was self-defense and they don't want to disgrace the Wing Guard."

    "Or Pondan's been throwing hush-money at them."

    "Pondan?"

    "My agent."

    "Oh yeah. Well, one thing's for sure, they'll probably be here any minute."

    Jyllis shifted on the kitchen stool as the little Fabool floated affectionately about her shoulders. "Do you think we should just wait? Turn ourselves in and try to explain everything?"

    Fi considered. "No, I think your first instinct was right. If Trask was in on the scheme to kidnap you, we don't know how many other Guardsmen might be, as well. For all we know, Baron Calrissian himself might be involved."

    Jyll laughed, still looking mildly ridiculous in her disguise of spotted headscarf and dark glasses. "No way. That guy threw a fancy dinner for me and my people when we arrived here, and I assure you he's up to many things, but kidnapping isn't one of them."

    Fi smiled in relief. "Well then, we carry on as planned: get to Port Town and the Dawncaller, and get out of here."

    Jyll rose from her seat. "Do you want your blaster back?" she asked, holding the weapon out toward Fi. Fi looked at the blaster, then from her holster she pulled the sidearm she'd taken from Trask. She studied the man's silver, wicked-looking blaster, standard-issue among the Wing Guard, then shook her head.

    "No, you keep it. The safety on this one's kinda screwy, and I have a holster - you don't. Safety first."

    "Gotcha," Jyll obliged, tucking Fi's blaster back into the back of her pants. "Shall we?"

    "Yeah," Fi nodded, marching toward her apartment's door and looking quickly through the peephole.

    'Muscles' was right outside.

    "Blast!" Fi whispered. "He's found us!"

    Jyll began to shake slightly. "What do we do?"

    "We take another exit."

    "This place has another exit?"

    "Not really. Come on, you guys."

    Jyllis and Mr. Mace followed Fi to the apartment's living room, where Fi opened the transparisteel partition that led onto the chamber's small, semicircular balcony. The trio stepped out into the pink light of gathering sunset, and surveyed the scene. Fi motioned toward a neighbouring balcony that extended from the same exterior wall, fully two meters away, on their left. "We're gonna take a little detour through my neighbour's place," Fi informed them.

    "Oh Fi, I don't know," Jyllis shuddered, looking at the vast emptiness below them. "It's a long way down."

    "Try not to think about it."

    As the girls mustered up their courage, Mr. Mace flitted tantalizingly across the void between the balconies, then hovered over their destination, looked at them inquisitively, and chirped once. Bracing herself against the wall, Fi climbed up to stand uncertainly upon her balcony's railing. A warm, gentle breeze blew around her.

    "Fi," Jyll breathed, "Fi, do not mess this up."

    Fiola breathed deeply once, twice, and did her best to imagine she was standing on simple, flat ground. Then she leaped.

    A split-second later, the bottom of her left foot came in contact with the top of her neighbour's balcony railing and she leapt forward again, falling clumsily to the center of the balcony. Giving mental thanks to the cosmos, she rose, dusted off her shorts, and held out her hand toward Jyll.

    "See? No problem."

    Looking completely unconvinced even despite her disguise, Jyllis climbed Fi's railing, also bracing herself against the wall, and stood upon it. Without preamble, she leapt immediately, emitting a tiny yelp of fear as she did so.

    She came up short. As she began to fall, Fi strained forward, gripping the girl in a fierce, back-breaking hug as Jyll's lower half slammed against the balcony railing. Fi pulled back with all her might, yanking the holostar over the rail and, falling backward, pulling the actress down on top of her.

    They lay there, panting and terrified, as the pink of Bespin's sunset slowly turned to purple. Then Jyll held Fi's chin in one hand and kissed her full on the lips.

    "My hero."

    Fi laughed. "Shut up, stupid!"

    They rose, examining the balcony's transparisteel door. "Is it locked?" Jyll asked.

    "Not for long."

    Fi blasted the exterior panel, and the partition opened obediently. The girls and their Fabool entered the apartment whose occupant, thankfully, was not at home. Marching through the domicile, the trio came to its front door.

    "Right," Fi commanded, "We're gonna go straight out, and you guys follow me and do what I say, okay?"

    "Roger, over," Jyll saluted, "niner."

    Fi bit back hysterics. "I'm serious! This guy isn't messing around. Ready?"

    Jyllis drew her blaster. "Ready."

    "One... two..."

    Fi thumbed the switch, the partition lifted, and she leapt out into the hallway, pointing Trask's blaster at an extremely surprised kidnapper, one door down, who raised his own blaster ineffectually. Fi sent a barrage of shots in his direction, causing the man to run for cover.

    "Follow me!" Fi shouted, "run!"

    The trio raced around a bend in the corridor, Fi leading them to a small hatch in the corridor wall. She twisted the lever, yanking the hatch open, and pointed down the steep -but not completely vertical- tube inside.

    "Into the garbage chute, Ms. Tromso!"

    "Oh Fi," Jyll groaned. "Are you serious? I mean... gross!"

    "I saw it in a holo once, but I think we can do it."

    Mr. Mace flew down the tube in a flash, but Jyll was not so enthusiastic. "Do you smell that? I'm serious, smell that..."

    An only slightly mis-aimed stun blast from 'Muscles', aka Kroff, who'd taken cover behind the bend in the corridor, was her answer. Fi returned the favour with another torrent of blaster fire while Jyllis pulled herself into the tube and, with a squeal of disgust, slid away toward some unknown destination. Sending a few more shots in their assailant's direction, Fi also climbed into the tube and followed Jyll, the hatch slamming shut behind them.
    Last edited by I. J. Thompson; 06-17-2012 at 08:24 PM.
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  14. #119
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    Shaking the last bit of frost from his coat, Luis bustled down the hallway, blowing into his hands cupped around his mouth. He did not need to count the hallways anymore, and he let his feet lead him to his destination. It was a pristine room, white and earth tones accented with blue, a vitrified glass screen dividing the chamber in half. The air was still, almost reverent, and always quiet. And right now it was the most important place in the whole galaxy.

    Quieting his breath, he entered into the room silently and stood next to another man, taller and with streaks of grey in his hair and beard. “How’s she doing today?” Luis asked tentatively, breaking the hallowed stillness. The older man offered no response.

    Luis glanced up, nervously. “Papa?”

    Hernan Santiago twitched his lips into a grimace. “The same as ever. A little worse every day,” He said in his low bass voice. He did not look at his son.

    Luis waited for his father to add more. He didn’t.

    “Papa . . . I think you should get some rest.” The young man said at length, placing his hand on his father’s arm.

    Hernan shook it off. “Is that your infallible medical opinion?” he spat back.

    The doctor tried to ignore the barb. “You’ve been here all day again, Papa.”

    “Of course I have,” Hernan retorted. “I want to spend what time’s left with her.”

    Luis sighed. “I know, I know.” He stood next to his father; a dozen centimeters shorter and nearly 15 kilos lighter. Both had hoped he would have grown larger; the doctor still had some of the clothes his father had bought for him in his youth, the ones he was “going to grow into.” They still were too big.

    “You haven’t been here much lately,” Hernan mused, his voice a deep rumble.

    Luis shrugged. “There’s . . . been a lot to do. Especially now.”

    “That’s not an answer,” Hernan scoffed. “If I didn’t know better, I would say that you don’t seem to care.”

    Luis stood mute for a moment, too shocked to respond. “You know that’s not true,” he managed to say, a semblance of a chuckle on his lips.

    Hernan cocked an eyebrow. “Do I? How many times did you tell me that ‘when you care about something. . .’”

    You make time for it, you sacrifice for it.

    Luis clenched his teeth. “That’s not fair, papa.”

    Hernan faced his boy, his voice swelling. “This is your mother, for the galaxy’s sake! You spent entire nights buried in your foolish books or capering with that girl you fancied so much, and now you can’t even afford a few hours for her?”

    “Don’t you dare talk to me about not making time for her,” Luis snapped back, determined not to show how much his father’s words had stung, nor that he had asked the exact same question. “Every time you left crushed her, and you went, promising that it would be the last time. But you needed the glory, didn’t you?”

    Hernan’s face turned a dark red. “You think I wanted to--”

    “Yes I do! You loved that war more than you loved either of us, didn’t you?” Luis knew it wasn’t true, even as he said it. “And now you want to pretend like you can make up for it? She hasn’t even been conscious for three days now; a few weeks’ devotion won’t make up for the years you weren’t here. I’ve been running the entire house, again, just like I had to before. And you won’t do anyone any good standing here until you collapse.”

    “More good than you did running off to be a frelling nurse!” Roared the older man. “If you’d learned a damned thing at that school you would have noticed something was wrong before this.”

    “Or if I had cared enough, right?” Luis said, his voice sharp and bitter. “Do you really think that you’re the only one this hurts?”

    Hernan paused, and then lowered his voice. “You keep talking about how much you had to give up to get here, how much you have to do because I won’t. Tell me, is there any price on the life of our Ramana?”

    “Papa, that’s not what I--”

    “So go home and do your precious work. Let me show her I love her, the only way I have left.”

    Luis fought back the tears stinging the corners of his eyes. “I didn’t do this. Don’t act like this is my fault.”

    Hernan walked past his son and placed a hand on the glass, gazing with gleaming eyes at the small, dark-haired figure laid on a hospital bed. “One we thought it was enough to defend our borders,” he began, his dark eyes still locked on the sight of his dying wife. “But those days are long past. The Republic tried, and it fell. We tried too, but it’s not enough, not against the likes of these. They’ll take any risk to hurt you, any way they can. They don’t rest, they won’t stop until every last one of them is laid in his grave. We tried fighting a defensive war, and untold millions died because of it. And Ramana,” he paused, choking on the name, “will be the latest casualty.”

    Luis pursed his lips. They had been here before, so many times. “Lake’s Syndrome is still an active disease. Rare, but it does make its way this far coreward sometimes. There’s no evidence--”

    “Is that what the broadcast told you?” Hernan retorted, a sad smirk on his face. “You think they would permit the press to run a story about a successful attack? Not even you can be that naïve.”

    “You’re jumping at shadows again,” Luis said, as gently as he could manage.

    Hernan laughed bitterly. “You have no idea how foolish you sound right now. I wish you were right, on the Emperor’s throne I wish you were right. The war never ended, it only changed forms.”

    “Papa, stop.”

    “I held the line at Boz Pity,” Hernan continued, his voice swelling, “plunged my ships into hell above Coruscant, fought the monster Grevious and his troops here on this very dirt. I’ve risked my life again and again, to kill them before they could strike again. We are still very much at war, after all these years. And I will still give everything I have to keep what family I have left safe.” Finally, he turned, dark eyes col and hard as he regarded his son.

    “Like you should have.”

    ---

    He felt someone shaking his shoulder. Someone was talking, but he couldn’t make it out. There was a terrible ringing in his head. The shaking grew more persistent, the voice louder.

    “Luis . . . wake up buddy.”

    He opened his eyes. It was Anthan, bruised and filthy. His mouth was moving, but he could only make out some of the words.

    “. . . had me scared . . . out . . .”

    He sat up with his friend’s help and touched his ear. He felt a warm trickle running down to his jaw. The doctor turned his head to the other side.

    “. . . hey buddy, you all right there? You’re not looking so good.”

    He cleared his throat and coughed. “Yeah. I think so. I . . . I think I blew out one of my eardrums.”

    Anthan nodded gravely. “C’mon, let’s get you out of here,” he said, helping his friend to his feet.

    The doctor groped for the wall to steady him. “No, we need to find Bear.”

    “Not now,” the cop replied, exasperation edging into his voice. “This was a wild womp rat chase to begin with, we’re not going to find anything in this mess. Let’s get you to a hospital.”

    The doctor shook his head. “No! I need to find him. I’m not going to stop now.”

    “Doc, it’s time to fall back and regroup. Make sure our men are all right, take care of the people in that crash. If those thugs were around here, they’re packing up and relocating right now.”

    “Which means they’ll be shaken up and unprepared--”

    “No,” Anthan cut in, his patience running thin. “Look, I know how hard this is for you. I saw how it ate at you every time you lost a patient, but trust me here, what we need now is--”

    His comlink, forgotten at the bottom of a pocket, began to chirp.

    “What now . . . Hayes here, go ahead.”

    “Captain! You all right down there?”

    “We’re alive. Heading back to the surface. What’s the status?”

    “Most of our men were outside the implosion zone, but Pike and Tanniken are hurt. Rigel’s heading down to extract them now. The blast zone is a mess, hundreds injured. Emergency vehicles en route.”

    Anthan grunted. “Good. Find me the quickest way out of here.”

    “Sir, there’s something you should know about that. The collapse must have caught some of them men; we picked up an unencrypted signal from them, honed in on the point sent and point received. They’re spread thin right now, checking their assets and digging out their boys. If there was a time to hit them, it’s now, sir.”

    The cop paused, his teeth gritted. “We still have twelve of our officers ready?”

    “Eleven until Pike is stable. What should I tell them, sir?”

    “Tell them to move in. Take position and wait for my signal.”

    “Ten-four.”

    Anthan snapped his commlink closed and glanced over to his friend, who wore a triumphant grin on his face. “Not a word out of you,” he snapped and led the way down the access tunnel.

  15. #120
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    Cali sighed, and spun her empty shot glass in circles on the table. The bar was starting to fill up, and if Reil had his way they’d be here for hours still.
    “I think we spend too much time in bars.”

    Reil considered this.
    “No, I’m leaning the opposite way. I don’t think I spend nearly enough time in bars.”

    Cali frowned.
    “You’re hardly an objective opinion.”

    “Why’s that?”

    “Firstly because you’re the one who always wants to go to a bar,” Cali said pointedly, “and secondly, because you’re drink.”

    Reil was confused for a moment.
    “Drunk?”

    Cali nodded emphatically.
    “Exactly.”

    Reil felt his hackles rise at the implication.
    “I’m not drunk. There’s like half a bottle left.”

    Cali stared at the bottle.
    “Just the one?”

    Reil nodded slowly.
    “Yeaaah.”

    “Oh. Well that’s not the point.”

    Reil never got to hear exactly what was the point, because someone had turned up the holo projector to hear the news, and this announcement went through the bar: “Once again, singer and musician Fiola Shaku, formerly of the music group Moonbeam Levels and currently employed at The Blue Room, confirmed to have been in the company of holostar Jyllis Tromso when she was last seen. Citizens with any knowledge of either woman's whereabouts are urged to contact. . .

    The din of the bar picked up to compensate for the noise, before Reil could make out the contact information. He turned to Cali.
    “Fi? I mean our Fi? It couldn’t be right?”

    Cali shrugged.
    “Probably not, but so what if it is?”

    Reil frowned.
    “It sounds like she’s in trouble.”

    Cali scoffed.
    “Yeah, palling around with holostars, that’s tough. Lemme break out the world’s smallest synthesiser to play a sad song for Fi and her troubles being famous.”

    Reil took a deep breath, and exhaled slowly before replying.
    “She’s missing. Or at least the authorities are looking for her. That seems fairly serious.”

    Cali arched an eyebrow.
    “So what if it is? We’ve got problems of our own. If you wanna go looking for trouble, let’s try and track down that De Lyons guy.”

    Reil would have shook his head in disbelief, except this actually seemed pretty consistent with Cali’s behaviour.
    “What’s your problem? Fi’s our friend, we should at least see if she needs help.”

    Cali held up two fingers.
    “One: we don’t even know it’s the same Fiola. Two: even if it is the same, she ditched us on Rothana remember? We don’t owe her anything.”

    Reil snorted.
    “She didn’t ditch us, she just. . . left suspiciously without word or warning. You know, you didn’t seem that upset about it at the time.”

    Cali’s eyes flashed with anger.
    “No, but Tam was. And how’d that work out for us?”

    Reil cocked an eyebrow.
    “Us? Can I assume you’re referring to the incident on the Inun? Don’t you go playing the martyr now, I was the one Tam used to paint the walls red. And because of it, I get jurisdiction in this matter, and I say we lend Fi a hand.”

    Cali wasn’t interested.
    “You can if you want to, but count me out. I’ll be back at the ship, you know trying to sell our cargo so we can refuel and get off this scrap heap.”

    Reil sighed.
    “That’s fine, but I won’t be cutting you into the reward.”

    Cali perked up at that.
    “Reward? What reward? The news didn’t mention anything about a reward.”

    Reil rolled his eyes.
    “Nooo. But you said it yourself now, she’s rich.”

    Cali withdrew into her own little world as she considered that.
    “Rich. . .”


    Reil grinned.
    “You said it yourself, rich, famous, and she’s with that holostar, who is equally, if not more rich and famous.”

    Cali practically beamed at the thought, but Reil continued.
    “But you know, if you don’t want in, that’s fine. You know, I might even do it for free, it clearly being the moral thing and all.”

    Cali snapped out of her reprieve with an expression of genuine concern. For the money Reil safely assumed.
    “No!”

    Reil had to stifle a laugh.
    “So, you’re in?”

    Cali shrugged.
    “Fine. But tell me this, how do you propose we go about helping them if they’re missing?”


    Reil was stumped, so Cali got to spend the rest of the evening gloating silently. Reil was still working out some way to contact Fi on their way back to the ship. He didn't think his thought process was muddled by the alcohol in anyway, until the door to a nearby trash compactor began talking to him.
    "Ummm, help? The door won't open from this side!"
    Last edited by Ice Hawk; 06-29-2012 at 09:37 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.

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