Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Mrrowl switched off the holonet feed in their hotel room as Shre'ka adjusted the straps holding her crystal sword and her dagger to her hips. The weapons looked somewhat ludicrous with her elegant gowned attire, but she refused to leave them, and, Mrrowl noted, unable to help grinning appreciatively, there was no where to hide them dressed as she was. He just hoped they'd think she was a collector of unusual weapons.
"Well, that's just great," he rumbled. "The guy who helps us out with infiltrating Welborne winds up dead."
Shre'ka tugged uncomfortably at her dress. "What does that mean? Will the badges he gave us still work?"
The Togorian shook his head. His ears didn't flick in agitation, but Shre'ka could see his muscles tense beneath his fur.
"We'll find out," he replied.
The door chimed and Shre'ka let Sparg and Arden in. "Did you catch the news?" the Illyrian asked as soon as he stepped through the door.
"We're still going, right?"
The group set out.
"We're so pleased to have you tour our facility!" their guide greeted them when the group arrived at the Welborne factory.
Sparg, Mrrowl and Arden held their collective breaths, certain their concealed weapons would be detected. But after a security officer checked their badges at reception, the group was usured into a waiting area.
"Pardon the delay," their guide apologized,"Something's come up. I will return in just a moment."
"Uh-oh," Sparg muttered as he, Mrrowl and Arden positioned themselves at doorways leading into the room.
Shortly security officers erupted into the room, but the group was able to bring them down swiftly. While Sparg had Jate try to befriend the company computer, Arden and Mrrowl kept watch for any further guards. Shre'ka noticed something peculiar with one of the walls and investigated, discovering a hidden lift.
"Look!" she said.
Mrrowl stalked over and nudged her out of the way. Flexing his claws and giving his gear a quick check, he glanced back over his shoulder. "The rest of you will have to follow me. I'll try to hold whoever is down there off."
Sparg and Arden nodded. Shre'ka flicked her ears in anxiety. "We'll be right behind you," she assured him.
The lift took Mrrowl deeper into the complex, opening onto a short hall leading to a large room. Hearing several voices, he stepped cautiously forward, waiting quietly until the lift returned with Sparg, Jate, Arden and Shre'ka.
Arden used slinker ammunition to target guards around the corner, while Sparg ran in with Jate. The Illyrian screamed frantically, "Don't shoot! I'm just a tech! They attacked the guards upstairs!"
The surprised guards apparently believed him, for no one fired at the Illyrian as Shre'ka raced around the corner and with a wave of her paw knocked several large Weequay guards to the floor. Mrrowl followed hard on her heels bringing his axe down on unfortunate prone Weequay.
With everyone in the room occupied fending off a Cathar Force-user, an irate Togorian, and a gunfighting sniper, Sparg wasted no time. "Jate," he instructed, "Access the computer and find the Mako. Show me how we get to her." By the time the conflict had ended, the Illyrian and droid had not only found the Mako's location, but had also shut down the alarm activated by the Weequay's leader, passing it off as a safety simulation to boot. "This way," Sparg told the others. What he didn't tell them was Oneron Fil'vye had entered the building and communicated with him via the computer in an attempt to establish a truce.
After they took a few moments to recover, the group made their way to the hanger bay containing the Mako. A cautious look revealed several guards as well as numerous techs in the area.
Mrrowl growled. "Just get to the ship," he rumbled to Sparg and Shre'ka with a nod to Arden. "We'll cover you."
The Illyrian raced across the hanger bay, Jate keeping up easily with the aid of his rocket jets. Not pausing at the boarding ramp, he charged inside, heading to the cockpit. Shre'ka called upon Sa'uuk and raced after him, pausing at the ramp to wait for Mrrowl and Arden.
A tech stood nearby and she waved a paw at her, knocking her into the ship's hull. The tech staggered. "Run!" Shre'ka snarled at her and the tech obliged.
Mrrowl and Arden charged across the bay, firing shots at any guards that seemed intent on getting in their way. As they closed on the ramp, Shre'ka whirled and ran inside. She came face to face with techs fleeing the ship, hands up, and heard the Mako's engines whining to life. Leaving Sparg to his piloting, she began a quick check of the cabins and other ship areas to be certain no one else was aboard.
Mrrowl slid up against the ramp, a blaster shot whizzing close by his ear to smack into a stack of crates on the hanger bay floor. Wincing, he looked back for Arden and snarled as he spied none other than Oneron entering the bay, a human accompanying him. Sorely tempted to open fire on the Bothan himself as the guards gunned the human down, the Togorian followed Arden up the ramp. He yelled to the Illyrian. "We all in, Sparg! Let's go!" Mrrowl looked to the holostar gunfighter. "Go help him. I'm on the guns." Arden nodded as the big Togorian raced away.
Shre'ka found nothing overly amiss as she hurriedly checked the cabins, but entering the lounge area, she was brought up short by a Wellborne representative there. He raised his blaster, but she waved a paw and it failed to fire. Flattening her ears, she bared her fangs. "Get out!" she snarled and the representative fled.
Sparg held his breath on take off, hoping the dismantled panels the techs had been tinkering with wouldn't slow their escape. Swinging the ship around he noticed the Frayed Whip resting in the hanger as well as another freighter. He spoke to Mrrowl through com. "What a little target practice?"
The Togorian roared an affirmative and trained the laser turrets on the slaver ship. The vessel erupted in explosion. Techs, guards, and Oneron scattered. After a moment, the second freighter fell to the guns as well. "Shouldn't have run off and left us, you honor-less coward," Mrrowl muttered.
Escaping from Acheron into hyperspace, the group finally breathed a small sigh of relief. After tending to their wounds, Shre'ka meditated on Sa'uuk, still trying to search for Paz. An oddly clear image came to her of a place she had seen before--or at least, similar architecture she had seen before. She saw Paz, thankfully alive and well enough, confined not a cell, but to a room like one would find in a residence. The Mon Cal captain was frantically trying to figure a way out of her predicament.
Coming out of her trace, Shre'ka found Mrrowl checking the weapons in the Mako's armory. "I know where Paz is!" she told her mate.
Mrrowl backed his ears. "Then you better let Sparg know."
The Illyrian almost fainted. "How the--? What are we gonna--?" His one eye nearly bulged out of its eye stalk. "We can't go there! That's crazy!!!"
Arden tapped his chin thoughtfully. "Don't be so sure. The Hutts owe me a favor or two. Maybe I can convinced them to let us visit."
Sparg shook his head. "Even if they do, it's a trap, you know that." He turned to look at a light blinking on the com panel. "That's odd. An incoming message. Who could possibly be contacting us?"
Nevertheless he flipped the switch. "Ah! My friends!" a familiar voice spoke over the com. "I was starting to get worried about you. Are you coming to the rendezvous point?"
"Nivv!" Shre'ka exclaimed, delighted.
"Hey, Nivv," Sparg replied. "Uuuuhh, rendezvous point?"
"Yes," their friend continued. "You know, the rendezvous point to meet up with my yacht. After Gallo Memm returned to Vaynai, I found it prudent to leave there. I bought a yacht with the credits I made during the Tandalion concert. Oneron should have given them to you."
"Oh, uh, yeah," Sparg answered. "Do you think you could send those again? We ran into some trouble on Acheron and uh, well, Oneron didn't make it."
"Oh! Sorry to hear that! But he is a very resourceful Bothan," Nivv said amiably. "He's very good at getting out of trouble."
"As good as we are at getting into it?" Sparg muttered.
"What was that?"
"Nothing, nothing. We have the coordinates now. Thanks."
"Very good. I look forward to seeing you, my friends."
Sparg broke the contact.
"So, we are going to see Nivv?" Shre'ka asked.
"I think that would be wise," Mrrowl replied. "It will give Arden time to contact his Hutt friends and us a chance to resupply and ready ourselves before going to Point Nadir."
Everyone nodded agreement. As Sparg turned to key in the coordinates to the navcomputer, Shre'ka tried not to worry. After all, they had the Mako back. And soon, hopefully, they would get Paz back as well.
Thursday, February 23, 2012
She was blessed with a good crew and even better friends. She never wanted to be a ship’s captain and was tired of everyone looking to her to make decisions about everything except what she should be doing. How could she possibly rest while her parents were being held hostage and ransomed against the very corporation they founded. Why wouldn’t they just pay the price, whatever it was, and get them back? Short of that she and the crew of the Mako could rescue them. But her cousin couldn’t (or wouldn’t) tell her where they were.
“We could do it Reenic. Why won’t you trust me?” Paz pleaded into the holo recorder.
“It’s not that I don’t trust you Perca.” He said to her in his most patient and condescending tone. She resented his manner, but by using her real name she knew he was very serious now. “You do not understand everything that’s at stake here and it would be best if you stayed put for now and tried not to get into any further trouble.” He continued.
“You’re right, I don’t understand. Because you won’t tell me anything!” She was losing her cool now which only compounded her irritation since she resolved to be the picture of composure during this conversation. “Look, I know you can’t tell me everything that’s going on here.” She said trying to regain her sensible demeanor. “But you can’t expect me to sit idly by and wait for news. It’s driving me crazy. If it hadn’t been for the Cathar rescue I don’t know how I would have coped with everything these past couple months.”
“That was a very unfortunate situation and you handled it better than you probably should have.” Paz knew he meant that as a compliment. “But you were lucky to pull through with all your scales pointing one direction and you know that’s the truth. You managed to get a price on your head with the Hutts, break into the home of Vaynai’s most influential nobles and instigate a Republic and Separatist conflict on Sorn V. Not to mention starring in a viral holovid where you attack part of the stage show at a Tandalion concert. Which one of those exactly falls into the ‘keep a low profile’ category?”
“Alright, alright.” Paz said while trying to hide her grin.
“I’m serious Perca. You’ve got to hold tight for now. You did manage to get rid of the Clone, right?”
“We didn’t get RID of him. He had to return to duty. I’ll miss him.” Paz said a little hurt
“Missing him is exactly what I was worried about. A single Clone in your motley crew only calls more attention to it. You’ll be able to come home soon and bring the Mako with you.” He said trying to lighten his tone.
“I will do my best to keep the Mako and me out of trouble until you send for me. Sometimes I think you’re more concerned about this ship than you are about me.” She said half serious.
“The corporation has a lot invested in that ship and it can’t fall into the wrong hands. You were the only one I could trust with it. Speaking of which, how is she?” Reenic asked seriously.
“Fine. I keep trying to tweak the engines and get a little more performance out of her.” She knew this would get a rise out of him.
“Unlikely! The propulsion system is all my design and you never were able to match me in that area.” He said defensively.
“That’s about the only area though.” She said playfully pressing her advantage. “Sparg is quite the wiz with these things and he managed to get an extra 5% out of the hyper drives on the most recent jaunt between systems.” She knew he wouldn’t believe her until he saw it himself. “When this is all over the two of you will have to compare notes. I’ve got something else I need to talk to you about regarding Sparg, but that can wait.”
Paz decided to ask what was really on her mind. “Did you discover anything about that extra board I found connected to the main computer? Did the schematic I created ring any bells with the design team?” Paz asked. She was more than a little curious to see what Reenic came back with. Her hopes were quickly dashed though.
“No one knows what that is or what it’s for. It’s nowhere in the main specs of the Mako. If we had it in our lab we could reverse engineer it. But, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. It’s probably a spare part from a test run.” Reenic said.
“Don’t you know about every piece of this ship, being the lead designer and all?” Paz asked knowing he only recently became the lead.
“If I had been lead when it was installed you bet I would have known what it is. Propulsion is my baby and I’m looking forward to hearing about this 5% increase your pilot managed to get out of my system. Hmmm” Reenic smiled into the recorder. “Get some rest Captain Paz. You’ve had a wild ride so far. Let’s make the rest of your journey, um … less adventurous.”
Paz fingered the small metal captain insignia Reenic had given to her the day she left with the Mako. It was the only connection she had to her old life and she treasured it. Reenic had said it represented her becoming an adult and would be the key to her surviving exile. “This gives you the opportunity to be whatever you want to be. It’s more than a symbol; it gives you power over others. Make sure you use that power wisely.” He had told her.
“I’ll do my best.” Paz repeated the same words she had said then, except this time she was lying. “Talk to you soon.” She said before terminating the connection. “But first I’ve got a meeting in the Vault with an old corporate buddy.”
Paz sat in contemplation for a moment and before standing to leave she removed the insignia from her collar and placed it on her desk. Scooping up her datapad she headed out the door and on her first step towards finding her parents.
Monday, February 13, 2012
…Paz...Paz, where are you?…
Shre'ka roused herself from her Sa'uuk trance with a sigh of resignation. For whatever reason--distance, Paz's current state of well being, inadequacy of the young Cathar's mystic skill, or possible interference from a Ruk Ro'at, a Shadow Hunter--she was unable to make contact with the Mako's Run Mon Cal Captain. She headed up toward the ship's cockpit, hoping the others had better luck obtaining information from Paz's datapad.
Sparg looked up when she entered. "Jate had a bit of trouble breaking Paz's encryption," he told her, "but he did manage to pull up these." The Illyrian held out the viewer which showed schematics of the Mako, with a few areas and compartments highlighted.
Shre'ka flicked back her ears. "What does it mean?"
"Dunno," Sparg admitted. "Either these areas have something she's looking for or…something important about them, who knows." He shrugged."Doesn't tell us much."
"What about a message?" she asked. "Was Paz able to leave us one about what happened to her?"
Sparg shook his head. "Doesn't look that way."
Shre'ka hung her head. "I was unable to reach her with Sa'uuk, not even to tell if she is alive."
Mrrowl placed a comforting paw on her shoulder. "We'll find her," he said. "You can always try again later. Besides, we should be arriving at the coordinates Jate and Oneron gave us shortly."
Sparg checked the navcomputer. "Yep," he agreed. "Looks like we'll be arriving…now!"
The Zygerrian ship, The Frayed Whip, dropped from hyperspace. Everyone's jaw dropped at the view before them.
"What the hell?" Mrrowl growled sharply.
In their path lay the remains of what appeared to be several ships, some of them quite large. Sparg cut in the sublight engines and promptly began to try to maneuver through the drifting obstacles of scorched and twisted structural debris. "Jate! Gonna need your help, buddy!"
As the Illyrian struggled to avoid a crash, the others stared apprehensively at the destruction. "What happened here?" Arden murmured to no one in particular.
The ship gave a sudden lurch. "Careful, Sparg!" Shre'ka exclaimed.
The Illyrian frowned. "We didn't hit anything! That was blaster fire!"
Instantly Mrrowl was racing to a gun turret, his footfalls thundering on the deckplates.
"Let me know when you're set!" Sparg yelled after him.
Arden threw himself into the seat beside Sparg and began to help.
Shre'ka's ears flattened. Who was attacking them? And why? Where they the ones who had destroyed these other vessels? Trying to still her thoughts, she closed her eyes, reaching out to Sa'uuk to see what she could find out.
The Illyrian pilot made way through the debris field with a dazzling display of combat maneuvers. Arden was able to scan their attackers, discovering there were three smaller fighter craft in pursuit. One couldn't keep up with Sparg's flying, crashing into a drifting twisted bulkhead of durasteel that the Illyrian had dodged past. Another fell to Mrrowl's guns. Shre'ka reached out to touch the minds of the two beings that she could sense nearby. One was frightened and wanted help, the other slammed its mind closed to her when she thought "Stop!"
The last fighter kept pace with them through the field, but finally fell to Mrrowl's guns. A cheer echoed through the ship. "There's still someone out there!" Shre'ka warned. "Someone who's frightened and needs help."
Arden scanned their surroundings while Shre'ka used Sa'uuk to sense where the being was located. Finally they managed to find a lone survivor on a small drifting damaged freighter and get him to safety. The human, called Wing Lauderman, told the group he was making a delivery to the local space station of the Varic system, the "second moon" of Acheron. Unexpectedly, the station and everyone there had come under attack by an unknown weapon that had devastated everything in the area.
"What could possibly have been able to do all this in a single attack? Certainly not a ship--even a capitol class," Mrrowl mused.
"I don't know," Wing replied. "I've made this trip many a time and I've never seen anything like this! Why, I could tell you about this one time--"
"Maybe later," the Togorian rumbled.
"What do we do now?" Shre'ka asked.
Her mate's eyes narrowed. "Have a little talk with Oneron."
"If you're quite through throwing me around, slinging this ship to and fro, I'd appreciate it. I tell you again, my people were to take your ship to the second moon of the Varic system."
"They're not here," Mrrowl growled, showing his fangs a little. "And neither is the moon. Luckily the Mako wasn't found among the wreckage."
The Bothan threw up his hands. "Then I don't know what to tell you."
The Togorians lips lifted dangerously. "You'd better start being more cooperative."
Oneron visibly cringed. Mrrowl grinned a distinctly unfriendly grin. Shre'ka started to feel a little sorry for the Bothan. "Where would they have gone if they could not get to the "moon"?"
Sparg scowled, watching Oneron closely. "Acheron, perhaps?" he suggested.
The Bothan shook his head. "No. Not there!"
"Wait! Wait!" Arden interrupted, holding up his hands. He looked to Oneron. "What I want to know is: what has happened between ya'll before that they don't trust you?"
Shre'ka flattened her ears, waving a paw to cut the holostar off. "Why not?" Shre'ka asked the Bothan, curious about Oneron's reaction.
He cast her a sullen look, but didn't answer.
Mrrowl blew through his whiskers, trying unsuccessfully to suppress a hiss. "This is pointless." He looked at Sparg. "Come on. Acheron it is."
"Do you want anything?" Shre'ka asked Oneron as they turned to leave.
"Yes!" the Bothan replied. "I want out of here!"
Shre'ka scowled. "Do you need food or water? Are you cold? Do you need a blanket?"
The Bothan crouched on the floor of his cell, glumly shaking his head. "No, thank you."
Shre'ka sighed, then turned and followed the others.
"You are cleared to land, docking bay 10."
Sparg responded with an affirmative to the neutral voice coming over com, guiding the Zygerrian ship in on final approach. Jate twittered softly at his side.
The others congregated around Wing, dubious looks on their faces. "I'm telling you," the human assured them, "my boss, Jaekin Morel, is the one to talk to. I've flown the run between here and the second moon many, many times--"
"So you've said," Mrrowl rasped.
"Uh…yeah…so my boss, he's connected. He can get you work or whatever you need with the Wellbourne company. They control the durasteel mining that takes place on Ancheron."
"You'll take us to see him?" Arden asked.
"Sure thing! Soon as we land."
However, as the group departed the ship, they saw a small group of officials approaching. The one in the lead waved a hand toward the vessel. "Did you just come from the second moon of Varic?"
"Not exactly, no," Sparg replied. "We're here looking for work. What's the problem?"
"That area recently came under attack," the official responded. "Any ships coming from that area are impounded until an investigation into the incident is concluded. You will, of course, be allowed to retrieve any necessary items you require before the ship is sealed."
"There are others still on that ship in cells," Shre'ka protested. "They could die if you leave them in there."
"Cells? Are you slavers?" the official responded.
"We're not the slavers," Mrrowl growled. "They are."
"Yes," Shre'ka nodded. "We freed ourselves and took over the ship."
"So you're thieves," the official replied.
"No," Sparg answered. "We don't want this ship. We're here to find our ship."
"I thought you were here looking for work?"
"Is there someone in authority we can turn the slavers over to?" Shre'ka asked.
The official shrugged. "Trafficking in slaves isn't illegal here."
"So they would be set free?" Shre'ka asked.
The official nodded, jotting some notes on a datapad. "It'd be best if you gathered your belongings and vacated the ship as quickly as possible."
"You are mad! All of you!" Oneron cried. "You can not possibly expect me to be seen on Acheron! I would be killed!"
"By who?" Sparg asked.
"That is no concern of yours," Oneron snapped. "But believe me, it would happen!"
"You can not stay on the ship," Shre'ka told him, exasperated.
"He…could," Mrrowl drawled, grinning.
Shre'ka snarled to herself. "The officials here are taking the ship into custody while they investigate the attack that destroyed the place you sent us! You can not stay here! You will die!"
"I'll die if I go out there!" the Bothan argued.
Arden thoughtfully tapped his chin. "What about a disguise?"
Sparg blinked. "Brilliant! One of those Zygerrian helmets should work!"
Oneron gave them a dubious look. Arden smiled. "Don't worry, friend," he said. "I have experience with make-up and costuming. You're own mother won't know you."
A disreputable tough surrounded by several scantily clad Twi'lek females looked up from talking to Wing Lauderman as the group approached his table at the back of the bar, The Flaming Pipe. "These are the people you were telling me about?" he asked.
Wing nodded. "Sure, thing, Boss. I told 'em how you could help 'em out with working for Wellbourne--"
"What happened to my cargo?"
"Well…there was an attack, see? I barely managed to escape with my life." Wing gestured to his rescuers. "I wouldn't have made it, if it hadn't been for them."
Jaekin Morel clapped a hand on Lauderman's shoulder. "Yeah, ok. Wing, go with these two fellas, all right?"
The tramp freighter pilot nodded and left, escorted by two of Morel's minions.
He turned once more to the group. "Now what can I do for you folks?"
Sparg stepped forward. "We're looking for a ship. Mon Cal design freighter. Wavedancer riding a mako shark emblem on it."
Morel nodded slowly. "Yeah…I've seen that ship. Interesting design. Up at the Wellborne facility, I believe."
"We need to go there then."
Morel smiled. "Of course. It'll cost, though."
Mrrowl returned the smile. "Of course it will."
Sparg braced himself. "How much?"
"20,000. In advance."
"Fifteen," Arden spoke up. "Half now. Half when you get what we need to us."
Morel considered a moment, then nodded. His smile widened. "While you wait, perhaps you'd care for some entertainment? Or a massage, perhaps?" He gestured and the Twi'lek females approached the group, smiling invitingly. Arden and Sparg followed them into the back, but Mrrowl and Shre'ka declined, finding a table for themselves. Shre'ka tickled Mrrowl under his chin. "Perhaps you would care to dance?" she asked. The Togorian smiled.
"You're a buyer," Morel told Shre'ka as he handed out badges to the group. "Security," with a glance to Mrrowl, "and," with a sweeping gesture to Arden, Sparg and Oneron, "mechanics and technical staff with an R-2 unit."
Arden handed over a cred chip which Morel swiped through a reader with a practiced flourish before returning it. "A pleasure doing business, friends. Good luck."
"Yeah, yeah. You might let a guy know the Twi'lek girls aren't going to be the ones doing the massages," Sparg grumbled.
Leaving the bar, they made their way down the streets following the road that led to the Wellborne Corporation headquarters. Oneron fussed with the helmet on his head. "I want a weapon," he demanded. "I need some means to defend myself."
"Not gonna happen," Mrrowl told him firmly.
Shre'ka tried to reassure the Bothan. "We'll protect you, don't worry."
As they were walking between two buildings, assassin droids suddenly stepped out from the corners behind and in front of them, immediately opening fire. As everyone dived for cover, Arden muttered, "I'd REALLY like to know what ya'll did to piss so many people off."
Realizing shots were coming from overhead, Shre'ka cried, "The roofs!" before calling upon Sa'uuk and leaping up beside one of the droids standing near the rooftop's edge. Calling upon Sa'uuk once more, she sent the droid staggering, damaging it slightly and knocking it down. She flung an outstretched paw toward the other droid and it went over the edge, falling to the ground below.
Hearing his mate's warning, Mrrowl roared and leaped for the opposite roof, his front paws catching the edge. Digging in with his claws, he pulled himself the rest of the way up with a snarl, promising quick destruction to the droids standing there.
Arden and Sparg drew their blasters and returned fire, damaging their attackers somewhat, but pinned down in the open. Oneron cowered behind them, cursing, then broke away to the rear, racing around a building corner and disappearing. "After him, Jate!" Sparg yelled and the droid ignited his rocket jets to pursue the Bothan.
Shre'ka spied other attackers running up to join the fight and realized they wore the same insignia as those they had fought rescuing her people from Gallo Memm's estate. The remaining droid stood up and fired at her, but she managed to dodge. With a wave of her hand, she drained its power and it clattered to the roof.
Mrrowl single-handedly battled two droids, his vibroaxe making a satisfying crunch as it bit into either of his attackers. Arden and Sparg managed to drop the assailants on the ground with a little assistance from Shre'ka who moved the power drained droid overhead of one attacker to drop it upon him, while stunning another.
Dropping back to the street, Shre'ka healed Sparg, who appeared to have been injured the most severely, with Sa'uuk. However one of Memm's men still lived. While the others discussed what to do with him, Arden pulled out a blaster and abruptly shot him, shocking Shre'ka. Needing to move quickly before authorities arrived, they followed after Oneron and Jate, but sadly the droid had been unable to catch the Bothan and he escaped.
Deciding to find a hotel to rest for the night and allow things to calm down, the group prepares to visit the Wellborne facility the following day to retrieve the Mako and resume the search for their missing captain…
To be continued...
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
"We're meeting Paz and Sparg at Nivv's soon," her mate, Mrrowl told her, his tone amused. "Can't you wait?"
Shre'ka's nostrils quivered as she watched the Nimbanese vendor handing out a kabob to a customer. She sighed, turning away from the cart reluctantly, pinning Mrrowl with a determined look. "Very well. But I'm getting bantha steak AND wall-eyed platterfish!"
Mrrowl laughed. "You got it!"
Hurrying on to Nivv's, they arrived to find the popular eatery surrounded by a growing crowd. Many of the people yelled excitedly, holding up cameras, setting off a multitude of flashes like so many bright stars. A holo crew was present as well, complete with vid gear. And at the center of this uproar calmly stood a smiling Corellian, dressed in a flashy coat and wearing an elaborate twin blaster rig. The human waved genially to the crowd, slowly making his way onto Nivv's floating restaurant, stopping to sign autographs as he went.
"What the hell?" Mrrowl murmured under his breath. As they walked up, Sparg appeared among the throng, his one eye all but bulging from his eye stalk.
"Oh my god! Oh my god! Oh my god!" the Illyrian exclaimed, jumping up and down with unrestrained excitement. "Can you believe it?! I can't believe we're going to be eating in the same place as him!"
"With who?" Shre'ka asked, perplexed.
Sparg gave her an exasperated look. "With him!" he answered, stabbing a stubby finger toward the Corellian. "Arden Starslinger!!! That's who!" With that, the Illyrian made his way forward, elbowing bystanders none too gently in the knees as he did so. Mrrowl and Shre'ka followed. Reaching the Corellian, Sparg grasped Starslinger's hand, shaking it vigorously. "I'm so pleased to meet you!" he gushed. "I've seen all your holovids! I love your work!"
Arden grinned, shaking Sparg's hand with equal enthusiasm. "Why, thank you-uh--"
"Sparg," Starslinger replied. "Always nice to meet a fan!" He eyed the Illyrian shrewdly. "ALL my work, you say? You've seen 'The Good, the Bad and the Sarlac'?"
"How about 'Three Sith and a Jedi'?"
Arden grinned. "Ok, but here's OLD one. 'The Mystery of the Scarlet Sandpeople'."
Sparg's jaw dropped. "Are you kidding?! That's one of my favorites!"
A full filmography might have ensued, but Nivv himself came forward and usured the group into the restaurant. "Ah, my friends!" he said, as Shre'ka gave him a quick hug. "It is good to see you! I have your usual place if you like. And Arden," he continued, "you might want to meet this group, eh? They lead very interesting lives."
"You don't say," the Corellian replied. He looked around at the three. "Do you mind of I join you for lunch?"
Sparg nearly fainted. "Are you kidding?!" he exclaimed. "Of course, you can!"
Nivv showed them to their table and after taking their orders, excused himself.
Shre'ka was intrigued as Arden and Sparg continued to talk. She looked at Mrrowl. "I'm not sure I understand. Is he some kind of important ro'at?"
The Togorian considered a moment. "Not exactly," he replied.
"What was that?" Arden asked.
"Are you a revered hunter?" Shre'ka asked.
Arden placed his hands on his holstered weapons. "I know how to use these, if that's what you mean. But I don't really hunt. I pretend. I help tell a story."
"Oh!" Shre'ka exclaimed in understanding. "Like the storytellers around the camp fire or like cubs at play."
The conversation continued, but after some time had passed, Shre'ka looked around, slightly anxious. She looked at Mrrowl. "Where's Paz? Shouldn't she be here by now?"
Her mate growled, his eyes narrowing. "You're right! I've got a bad feeling about this!" Shifting in his seat, he scanned the lunch crowd and the Promenade, looking for the Mako's Run Mon Cal captain.
Gazing into her bracelet, Shre'ka reached out to Sa'uuk. Paz? Paz, we're at Nivv's. Where are you?
Shre'ka! a desperate voice called to her mind. Help! I'm in the Vault!
The Cathar stood abruptly. "Paz is at the Vault. She's in trouble," she said, turning to Arden. "I'm sorry," she told him, but we must go. Our friend needs our help."
Without waiting for a reply, she and Mrrowl headed out of the restaurant, Sparg not far behind. As the Illyrian followed, his comlink beeped. "What?!!" he cried before lunging forward to grab Shre'ka's arm. "That was Jate! He says someone's trying to break into the Mako!"
Mrrowl snarled. Shre'ka's ears went flat. Arden looked at the group with concern. "Can I help?" he offered.
The Togorian eyed the Corellian up and down, then nodded. He looked at Sparg. "Take Arden with you and get to the Mako. Shre'ka and I will help Paz. Go!"
No sooner were the words out of his mouth than Shre'ka was sprinting for the cavern tunnels that led to the Jungle Vaults. Sparg raced toward docking platform 287 as fast as he could go, Arden easily keeping pace alongside him.
Once at the entry to the Vaults, Shre'ka reached out with Sa'uuk to aid her in finding Paz. But all she found was Paz's crystal bracelet on the floor of a tiny alcove. Sadly she picked it up, grasping it in her paw while Mrrowl searched the surrounding shrubbery.
The Togorian held up a familiar device. "Look!"
"Paz's datapad!" Shre'ka breathed. "Perhaps she left a message on it!"
"I hate these things," Mrrowl growled, trying to punch the tiny keys. After a moment he looked up. "It's been encrypted."
Closing her eyes, Shre'ka reached out with Sa'uuk to make a telepathic link to Paz, but failed. "Mrrowl! I can't reach her!" She looked around frantically, spying an attendant. Running over to her, she asked, "Did you see a female Mon Cal here earlier? Do you know what happened to her?"
The attendant blinked. "I think some people came and took her."
Mrrowl moved up, towering over the attendant. "What do you mean? Who took her?"
"I didn't see it! The janitor! He saw it! He said a group of guys took her away!"
"Take us to him," Mrrowl growled.
As Sparg and Arden raced along, the Corellian spoke into his com link. Not long afterwards a sleek limo zoomed up. "Get in!" Arden told Sparg. The Illyrian complied unable to refrain form grinning delightedly in spite of his worry over Paz and the Mako.
"Jate!" Sparg called over his com link. "We're on our way! What's going on?"
"They've broken in!" the droid told him in excited chirps and whistles of binary.
"Stop them from taking off!" Sparg yelled.
"I can't," Jate's whistles came back. "They've locked me out! I have no control!"
Within moments, the limo pulled up to the docking platform just in time to see the Mako departing hastily.
Sparg called Security on his comlink. "Hey!" he yelled. "Someone's stealing our ship! Docking platform 287!"
"What was that platform again, sir?"
"Docking platform 287!!!"
"Yes, sir. No need to shout…uh, sir. That ship appears to have proper clearance to depart."
"Oh, no they don't!" the Illyrian retorted. "I'm First Mate of that ship! Don't you think I'd know if it was being sotlen or not?"
There was a pause. "I'm sorry, sir," the voice came back. "This clearance came from higher up. Can you come to the station and prove you're First Mate?"
"With a curse, Sparg broke the connection, keying in a different code. "Jate!" Sparg cried. "Do what you can to get access and find out where they're headed. Then get out of there! Quick! Before they leave atmo!"
Jate whistled an affirmative. Sparg turned a forlorn look Arden's way. "There goes our ride," he said.
"I told you. All I saw was this nicely dressed Quarren come up to the Mon Cal girl. They started talking, then four other Quarren that didn't look so nice came up behind her." He pointed to a nearby doorway. "They took her through there."
"If I may be permitted," Shre'ka said, reaching to touch his forehead. Closing her eyes, she reached out to Sa'uuk and looked into the witness's thoughts for a clear picture of what Paz's abductors looked like. After a moment she blinked. "Thank you," she told him. Then she and Mrrowl hurried out the doorway he had indicated. They ran along looking intently around, but saw no one or nothing that would indicate where Paz had disappeared to.
Mrrowl's com link beeped and they heard Sparg's voice. "They took the ship. Jate couldn't stop them, but he sent me coordinates of where they're taking it before he got away. Where are you? We'll come pick you up."
Mrrowl gave Sparg their location and looked at Shre'ka, a heavy sigh gusting through his whiskers. "Not much, but it's something, at least."
Shortly, Arden's limo picked them up. As the group discussed what they could do, Sparg's com link beeped.
"Hello?" the Illyrian said.
A friendly female voice came over the link. "Is this Sparg?"
Sparg frowned. So did everyone else. "Uh…who is this?"
"Is this Sparg?" the caller repeated.
Sparg sighed. "Yes, this is Sparg. Now who--"
"Hold, please, for Oneron Fil'vye."
Shre'ka shook her head, backing her ears. "What does HE want?" she growled under her breath.
"Sparg!" Oneron's silky voice exclaimed. "It's been a while since we last met. I have a job I would like to discuss with you. Please come to my office at once."
"Oneron, we're kind of busy right now! Someone's taking our ship!"
"Hmmmm…Yes. I see that proper request for clearance was made. Well, no matter, come to my office and we'll see what we can do."
Sighing, Sparg agreed. Arden gave instructions to the driver and before long they arrived at the Fil'vye Transport Tower. After going through Security and relinquishing their weapons, they were ushered past the atrium. Shre'ka eyed the strange avians perched in the rafters warily. She knew now that the Bothan kept them to suppress Force-wielders' abilities. Trying to keep her shoulders from shivering, she followed the others into Oneron's office.
Beside the Bothan stood a figure Shre'ka had seen in a Sa'uuk trance. It was a Nimbanel male, the crime lord Gallo Memm. He gestured and several guard appeared from the shadows with blasters leveled. "You're the ones who destroyed my home and stole from me?" he rasped. "I should kill you all right now, but I have a better idea for recouping my losses! Guards!"
"Now wait just a minute!" Arden protested, his hands up. "I don't know what's been going on, but I'm not involved! I'm not with them!"
Memm smirked unpleasantly. "Well, you are now!" He gestured curtly to the guards. "Take them to the ship!"
Their hands bound with binders, the group was marched out under heavy guard. Shre'ka was seething. When the guards halted them at the Security station to gather their weapons, she touched Mrrowl and Sparg's minds through the crystal bracelets. Should we take our weapons back and attack them now? she asked. I am ready!
Best to wait until we are aboard the ship, Mrrowl warned.
Yeah, Sparg agreed. There'll be less of them to deal with. Besides, he continued in an amused voice, we're in need of a ship at the moment.
They were taken to a docking platform upon which sat a Zygerrian vessel. Several Zygerrians guarded the ramp. One, more ornately dressed than the others, stood overseeing the loading, a hulking male Togorian standing by his side. He was obviously the captain. As they passed by the two, Shre'ka nodded to the Togorian. "Fuurr’sssang," she said, greeting the felinoid in his own language.
The Togorian snorted, giving her a scathing glance before looking disdainfully away. He did not respond.
Shre'ka's ears flattened. "Prrat’sssang," she growled at him in insult for his rudeness, then continued on, her head high.
One of the Zygerrians activated his shock whip, intending to strike her with it, but the captain motioned for him to stop. "No," he said. "Not yet."
Entering the dark maw of the ship, Shre'ka touched Oneron's mind with Sa'uuk. Live, she told him grimly. Oddly, she sensed the Bothan as in pain. I intend to, came a determined answer.
The group was placed into two cells--Mrrowl and Shre'ka in one, Arden and Sparg in another. They were not the only prisoners. A Mon Cal, a Quarren, a Rodian, a Weequay and a Sullustan were also held captive.
A strange droid came by their cells to gaze at them a few moments. It shook its head. "Such a shame," it said cryptically before walking away.
Intent on freedom, Shre'ka and Mrrowl discussed a plan of escape after observing the guards. The Cathar informed Sparg of their idea silently via their bracelets.
The resourceful Illyrian was ready. Great! he told her. Arden and I are modifying his rocket boots into a rudimentary flame thrower! Just say 'when'!
The next time the nearby guard passed by, Shre'ka drew upon Sa'uuk and drained the power from his blaster. Then she waited until he met and spoke with the second guard. Once he returned to his post, Shre'ka called upon Sa'uuk once more, stunning the second guard. He dropped to the floor, unconscious. Swiftly, gesturing with an outstretched paw, she drew the guard's blaster to her. She handed it to Mrrowl with a grin that the Togorian mirrored ferociously. Turning her attention to the door, she informed Sparg they were ready, then struck the door with Sa'uuk's power.
The door shuddered, durasteel twisting and grinding in protest. The noise brought the remaining guard. "What's this?" he cried, hurrying toward them just as Sparg aimed his make-shift flame-thrower.
Shre'ka struck the door with Force again. It fell to the floor as the guard was caught in a gout of flame. She relieved the guard of his shock whip. Clothing and skin singed, the Zygerrian snarled in anger, raising his blaster to fire, but nothing happened. Mrrowl, on the other hand, had no such trouble, and shot him. The slaver dropped to the deck. Finding the keys, Sparg, Arden and the others were quickly freed. They managed to find their belongings, as well as Jate who was on the brink of being refitted as a service droid. Sparg had Jate access the ship's computer, learning the ship's layout. They were also surprised to discover Oneron had been imprisoned aboard as well.
Arming themselves, the group hurried toward the bridge, encountering a strange room with a gridded floor broken by four columns. Shre'ka tried to sense the best way to traverse the room, but could not. Arden stepped forward, going to the left. When he tried to move forward to cross the room, the grid activated, shocking him with electrical energy. The energy field kept him held securely in place. Mrrowl decided to stride straight ahead, intent on crossing the room as quickly as possible. Even so, the grid activated as he crossed, and the Togorian grit his teeth at the pain, forcing himself to keep going. Sparg followed behind him trying to tumble his way through. The Mon Cal prisoner braved the energy field as well, going to the right.
Realizing now what she could do to help, Shre'ka called upon Sa'uuk to drain the floor grid of its energy. She was partially successful and the group continued to struggle across. Sparg managed to tumble his way to the far door and tried to correctly punch in a code Jate had retrieved from the ship's computer. Unfortunately, his first attempt was not correct, triggering four laser cannons, one mounted in each corner, to activate and open fire. Mrrowl, Arden and Sparg managed to destroy the turrets, but not without injury or casualty. The Mon Cal captive was cut down, and Shre'ka knelt to murmur the Rite of Farewell to him before she made her way across.
With only the Sullustan and the Quarren still following, the group rushed down a hallway toward the bridge. Catching the crew by surprise, a vicious fight ensued with Mrrowl going claw to claw with the Togorian First Mate, their enraged roars echoing in the room. Sparg provided covering fire for Mrrowl and Shre'ka, pinning down many of the Zygerrian crew. Arden found his hands full when the Sullustan treacherously killed the Quarren and turned on the Corellian.
During the battle, Shre'ka realized the droid that had come to see them while they were in their cells was present--and wearing a bowler hat! Gasping in shock, she realized the droid was none other than Spivey. Alarmed, she waved a paw at him, rendering him powerless with Sa'uuk. The Zygerrians fought ferociously, but in the end were defeated. However, Spivey managed to reroute his power and fired a blaster at Shre'ka. Having felled the First Mate and seeing his mate threatened, Mrrowl lunged forward with a roar, burying his vibroaxe in the droid's head. Sparg fired his blaster at almost the same instant and the droid was finished, its heuristic processor destroyed. Meanwhile, Arden finally managed to gain the upper hand and defeated the Sullustan assassin.
With only one of the slaver crew on the bridge left alive and begging for mercy, the group began to secure the ship. They found Oneron and assisted him, but decided to keep him in his cell. The Bothan confessed he sent a crew of four humans and a Twi'lek to steal the Mako to 'keep it safe' from others trying to steal it. Giving Sparg the coordinates of their destination which fortunately for him matched the ones Jate had downloaded, the Bothan agreed to tell the crew the password to get his crew to turn the Mako back over to them.
Now enroute to rendezvous with the Mako's Run, the crew must try to discern Paz's whereabouts and discover what is encrypted on her datapad….
To be continued...
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Through this unbroken sea of bodies passed a strange eddie. At least, it would have been strange had not the observer been able to easily discern the large cat-like head of a Togorian towering above the crowd at the center of the disturbance. While many passed near the big felinoid, most jostled against the surrounding crowd to provide the brute with an unhindered walking space. If the wide array of weaponry he was carrying didn't advertise danger to the passersby, most shied away at the sight of the huge fangs displayed through his slightly parted lips.
Ducking a little to clear the frame, the Togorian strode into the shop, his verdant green eyes scanning across the requisite Twi’lek sales girls and their few patrons automatically. Sensing no threat, he stepped up to the proprietor, expertly unslinging a heavy blaster rifle and placing it on the dura-glass counter firmly enough that the supports groaned in protest for a moment.
“Err, yes, I am Lurzen, and that’s a fine, if worn, rifle you have there, umm, sir. Can I help you?”
Mrrowl’s piercing gaze finally fully turned away from the shop and focused on Lurzen, who blanched a little at the intensity. “This has proven....too small....for my needs.” A toothy smile accompanied the statement. “I am looking for something, well, more.”
“Such things can be had, however my furry friend, they are terribly expensive, “ Lurzen paused with a slick grin, assessing the look on the big cat’s face, “so hard to find.”
Wordlessly, Mrrowl produced a credit chip, sliding it across the counter to the shopkeep, who dropped it into a reader.
Lurzen checked the screen, then raised an eyebrow and shrugged as he assessed the ripple of muscles under the felinoid’s glistening gray pelt. “Well, this rifle is awfully large as it is. Though I do suppose someone of your stature could have a few more options. Of course, we don’t, well, officially sell some of these things, but perhaps you’d like to visit our VIP room?”
At the Togorian’s smirk, Lurzen gestured to a nearby sales girl, who replaced him behind the main counter. With a nod towards the back of the shop, Lurzen stepped to a sealed metal door, mindlessly keying in a complex code with a disregard bred from frequent repetition. Picking up his rifle and retrieving his credit chip from the reader, Mrrowl gave the store a last cursory scan and followed the Weequay into the back of the shop.
Passing through the doorway, a dimly lit room full of large crates met Mrrowl’s eyes. Black stencils in various character sets advertised explosives, grenades, missiles, just about anything one might need to wage a medium sized war on a backwater world.
Smiling generously, Lurzen wrote a few figures on a scrap of flimsy. “Rorrvar, “ he called out, “I need you to fetch me a special item for our customer here.”
A Wookie with a tan colored pelt emerged from an aisle between the crates, gave a whuff of acknowledgment, and took the flimsy from Lurzen. Scanning it a moment, the large, furred creature nodded, howled something, and then disappeared around a corner, head turning back and forth as if looking for something.
“I have something very special for you my big friend, “ Lurzen said to the large felinoid, “it fell off of a transport that was leaving Sorosuub, and I’m sure nobody will miss it. I hear they sometimes mount these on armored speeders, but I’m thinking you may just be able to handle it.”
Mrrowl’s face broke out into a toothy smile as the Wookie staggered up with a very large case bearing SoroSuub markings. The smile turned into a yawning evil grin as the case latches were popped, revealing a six foot-long large bore Heavy Blaster Cannon.
“The SoroSuub Sur-Kill XR-4 Heavy Blaster Cannon.” Lurzen said with a flourish of his hands. “If the XR-4 can’t handle it, you’d better be a fast runner or have an airstrike on stand by”
With a soft grunt of effort, the Togorian hefted the huge weapon, expertly sweeping it back and forth a few times to get a feel for the weight and handling. Lurzen knew immediately that he had a sale and settled on an obscene number.
“For you, my fine friend, 8,000 credits.”
Lurzen winced as the cat’s delighted smile turned into something far more hungry looking.
“I’ll make you a deal little Weequay, “ Mrrowl rasped, staring intently at him, “12,000 for this, and you’ll throw in a Class 4 Personal Shield, delivered to my ship. I tried to blow up an enemy recently and was impressed at how his little gadget deflected the grenade. Of course, the thermal detonator he dropped on his foot took care of the problem. Helluva mess to clean up, though.” An evil chuckle followed the pronouncement before Mrrowl’s face settled into the serene, deadly look of a predator stalking prey through the forest.
Running some figures through his head, Lurzen concluded that there was still quite a bit of profit in the offer, and nodded quickly. Even with Rorrvar nearby, the presence of this felinoid was starting to make him nervous.
“That’s acceptable. I...I’ll arrange delivery of the crate to your ship.” the shopkeeper stuttered, letting out a relieved sigh when the cat’s face reverted to a contented look.
Mrrowl gave Lurzen their landing pad number and ship identificatin as he swiped the credit chip for half of the funds. “Half on delivery of course little one, your kind’s treachery and deceit has not left me very trusting or tolerant of failure. I’ll expect delivery by the end of the day, or I’ll be back.”
Turning his back on the nodding, and now perspiring, arms dealer, Mrrowl stalked from the shop, barely noticing the small personal space afforded him on the crowded promenade.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Emerging from the Vraaladash, the crew of the Mako's Run stared about in shock. Several Republic LAATs had crashed in various positions nearer the treeline, their debris scattered about across the expanse of the ta'niala. As they watched, hundreds of droids broke from the tree line, advancing implacably forward.
Paz pointed to one of the downed ships. "Look!" she shouted.
Crouching within the cover of one the LAAT's damaged hulls, a couple of troopers were pinned down alongside a brown-robed Weequay. A familiar blue-skinned figure wearing a duster, wide-brimmed hat, and binder cuffs was slouched a bit further in.
"They need help!" EZ cried. "The droids will overrun them!"
Mrrowl's nostrils flared and he growled, his ears flattening dangerously. "Weequay!!!" he snarled, baring his teeth.
Shre'ka understood her mate's caution. Closing her eyes, she felt along Sa'uuk in an attempt to discern the Wee'quay's intent. She blinked and looked to her mate. "He does not seem to mean us harm. Let's go help them."
Paz and Shre'ka headed toward the downed vessel, carrying one of the altered Cathar between them, struggling in the soft footing of the bog. After a moment, Mrrowl snarled again, then hefting the other Cathar over one shoulder, followed. EZ ran with them a ways to gain some distance from the ancient Togorian vessel, then waved them on.
"You go on ahead. There's something I need to do." So saying, he began preparing equipment to call down an air strike on the advancing droid forces, rapidly going over Republic emergency frequencies in his mind while fervently hoping allies were close enough to help.
Meanwhile Paz, Shre'ka and Mrrowl reach the small Republic force at the LAAT. The Weequay quickly stepped forward, beckoning them to take cover. "I am Master Akon," he told them.
"Where are Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi and Jedi Ahsoka Tano?" Shre'ka asked.
"They are not here," Master Akon replied. "They sent me instead. Do you have the holocron?"
"Yes," Shre'ka answered.
Master Akon smiled, obviously relieved. "Very good. Give it to me," he said, holding out his hand. "I will take it to them."
Shre'ka backed her ears and scowled. "No!" she growled. "I will give it to Jedi Master Obi-wan Kenobi or Jedi Ahsoka Tano! Not to you!"
The droids advancing from the tree line opened fire. "Look out!" Mrrowl hissed in warning.
Paz ducked to one side, trying to put as much hull as possible between herself and the Separatist force. "That's a lot of droids," she muttered to no one in particular. Taking careful aim and returning fire with her blaster, she instructed her IG-88 droid to do the same.
Shre'ka looked that way as well. When she did, Master Akon pulled a blaster from his robes and shot at her. Perhaps warned by Sa'uuk, Shre'ka miraculously managed to dodge out of the way. She and Mrrowl turned on the Weequay with twin snarls of outrage as the "troopers" also join the Weequay impostor in the attack. Noticing a hole and scorch marks on the Weequy's robe from blaster fire, Mrrowl lunged furiously toward the fake Jedi. Swinging his vibroaxe in a vicious arc, he managed to wound the Weequay. Calling upon Sa'uuk, Shre'ka struck all the attackers with invisible force, knocking them to the ground.
With Mrrowl's attention focused on the Weequay, Shre'ka's with the troopers, and Paz's with the approaching droids, Cad Bane drew a round object from within his coat, tossing it into their midst. The explosion of the thermal detonator caught all three friends unaware. Staggered, they were unable to react as the bounty hunter, speaking quickly into a comlink, leaped nimbly to his feet and stepped forward, aiming a device on his wrist at Shre'ka.
A cable swiftly shot out, wrapping itself around the her to bind her tightly. Smirking evilly, Bane tried to relieve Shre'ka of the Sith holocron. The Cathar noticed his attempt and managed to free a paw enough to claw his hand away. Undeterred, the bounty hunter fired his rockets boots, and despite her struggles, he began to drag Shre'ka from the battered wreckage toward a Weequay saucer ship that had landed nearby. The ramp lowered and a Verpine emerged from the vessel only to be picked off by EZ who was trying his best to thin the numbers of the advancing droids from his position and now deal with this new threat as best he could.
Continuing to struggle as Cad Bane pulled her ever closer to his ship, Shre'ka managed to grip her dagger and tried to cut the cord to free herself, but to no avail. His hands full with other combatants, Mrrowl roared in frustration as his mate was dragged away. Seeing the danger, Paz tried to shoot the cable in two with her blaster, but missed her aim as the droids closed in and open fire.
"Grab her!" the Mon Cal yelled to her IG-88 droid.
The droid obeyed, catching hold of Shre'ka's leg with a strong metal hand. It was dragged along as well, but helped to slow down the escaping bounty hunter. Faced with possibly being overrun by the advancing droids, Bane cut the cable himself with an angry snarl.
"Another time, then," he assured Shre'ka, before turning and fleeing up the ramp into the ship.
Mrrowl received some unexpected help when one of the Separatist droid's blaster shots took down 'Master Akon'. With a last swipe to finish off the "troopers", he charged after Bane and onto the ship just as the ramp closed and the vessel lifted off.
"Mrrowl!" Shre'ka gasped, as she struggled from the cable and clambered to her feet, watching the departing ship in dismay.
Something threw her to the ground and everything seemed to go silent. An instant later the ground bucked like some great beast of dirt and rock. A deafening roar filled the air. Shre'ka looked around wildly. The world seemed to tilt and sway crazily. At first she could not make sense of what had happened, but finally she saw the great plume of smoke and fire rising high into the sky from the fallen Vraaladash.
Wincing from her wounds, she painfully stood up, looking around for Paz. The Mon Cal, too, had been hurled to the ground from the force of the explosion as had most of the advancing droids. Many were clambering to their feet however, and Shre'ka knew she wouldn't last much longer against them...unless....
She turned to Paz. "Shoot me!" she cried.
The Mon Cal blinked. "What?!"
"Shoot me, Paz!" Shre'ka repeated. "Please!"
Still her friend looked uncertain. "Y-you sure about this, Shre'ka?"
The Cathar nodded, glancing toward the droids. "Hurry!"
Paz grimaced, unable to keep from looking surreptitiously around for Mrrowl. "Okay, if you say so," she muttered, pulling the trigger.
The bolt caught Shre'ka full in the chest, Paz was sure of it, but the energy beam dissipated and amazingly some of Shre'ka's wounds seemed to mend. The Cathar sighed in relief and looked at Paz, gratitude in her blue-green eyes. She smiled. "Thank you."
"Just don't tell Mrrowl," Paz replied, ducking as droid blaster fire shot dangerously close.
Growling, Shre'ka ran toward the LAAT hull and drawing upon Sa'uuk, lifted the wreckage from the ground, hurling it into the oncoming droids. It landed with a crash to crush many of the metal warriors, but the others just kept coming. Her ears fell. The droids had them surrounded now, blasters leveled. She went over to Paz to help her up and with a gentle touch on the Mon Cal's shoulder, allowed some of her vitality to flow into her friend. She bared her teeth and snarled at the droids as Paz stood tall, lifting her head defiantly.
Y-wings streaked through the sky overhead. A rumbling roll of deep booms followed and droids went flying. Startled, Shre'ka and Paz turn to see a Republic Attack Shuttle landing nearby. The vessel disgorged two squads of Coruscant Shocktroopers along with a Togruta and Gotal, both adorned in brown robes, as well as a strangely dressed Cathar.
Seeing the Shocktroopers, Shre'ka snarled, her ears going flat. She held her crystal weapon in front of her threateningly. Paz gripped her blaster tightly, uncertain.
The Togruta stepped forward. "May the Force be with you," she told them. "I am Master Shaak Ti, and this is Master Batal." The stranger then gestured with a delicate red-skinned hand to the female Cathar standing a little bit behind them. "And this is Senator Vash'ti, representing the homeworld of Cathar. We have been sent to aid you by Master Obi-Wan Kenobi."
Shre'ka's expression did not improve. "If that is so," she spat, "then why do you travel with these?" She gestured to the Shocktroopers standing in disciplined ranks nearby.
Shaak Ti looked nonplussed. "We always travel with a contingent of troopers," she replied.
Shre'ka stabbed a clawed finger at the elite warriors. "A group of these attack me, my mate, and my friends on Vaynai," she growled. "They tried to kill my mate and friends and take me captive! They must go from here!"
Shaak Ti spread her hands in a placating gesture. "I assure you, they mean you and your friends no harm..."
Shre'ka snarled. "Send them away! Now!"
Shaak Ti considered the angry Cathar before her a moment, then motioned for the Shocktroopers to go back aboard the shuttle.
Mrrowl's footfalls thundered up the ramp as the Togorian charged into the Weequay ship. He was not so much after Bane as he was control of the vessel. He hoped if he and the others could commandeer the ship, they could use it to escape from the droid army. Familiar with such vessels from his past pirating days, he charged down the corridor toward where the bridge should be, noting damage and other dead crew caused by subsequent shots from EZ trying to stop the vessel from taking off prematurely.
Axe held at the ready, the big felinoid came upon a tableau--Cad Bane with a couple of Weequay and a Rodian manning various control panels. Ignoring the others, Mrrowl went straight for Bane. One of the Weequay, bearing a force pike, stepped to intervene. Mrrowl growled. The Duro bounty hunter fixed Mrrowl's jade stare with a dark crimson one before he waved his guard away.
"Nothing personal, big kitty, you understand. Just after the holocron, that was all. What do you say I drop you any where you like and we call it even for today, eh?"
Mrrowl's throat rumbled ominously. His paws flexed, claws griping his axe tighter.
Bane arched an eyebrow. "Last chance, big cat. What do you say?"
Mrrowl's eyes narrowed. "Any where?"
Cad gave the barest of nods. "Any where."
Mrrowl snarled. "Take me back."
Cad Bane gestured to his pilot. "You heard him." He favored Mrrowl with a sly smile. "Don't worry. We'll get you close."
Shre'ka sagged with relief when Mrrowl touched her mind using his crystal bracelet, letting her know he was not only safe, but where to come pick him up. As he had been equally relieved to discover she, Paz and EZ were safe, now assisted by Republic forces.
Overcoming their initial mistrust for the moment, traveling back to the village was fairly quick via the shuttle and the group was informed upon arrival that the villagers had been busy fighting their own battle against the droid army. While the friends rested and recovered from their wounds, Senator Vash'ti visited with the Ra'van'ti leader and elders as well as those of the other tribes, expressing a desire to establish ties between the People and both their distant brethren on Cathar and the Republic.
For her part, Shre'ka kept her opinions about off-worlders mostly to herself. After all, she was not a leader of her People, not yet. Her old mentor did discuss the issue with her one evening when she visited him at the former home they used to share.
"These crystals," she told her foster father, placing a hand on her own weapon. "The metal men are interested in these as are the off-worlders. I fear for our People and for the Cave of the Ancients."
Fey'qua'ri nodded solemnly. "That is indeed why they are here." He puffed on his pipe thoughtfully before continuing. "This Senator Vash'ti, her offer will appeal to some of the People. Some of them may wish to travel the stars to see the lands of our lost kin, and some may not. It may take some time, even many years perhaps, for the People to decide what they wish to do."
"Senator Vash'ti has said a person will be needed to represent the People to this Re'pub'lic," he went on. "I am thinking this person would best be someone who has traveled the stars before."
Shre'ka backed her ears. "I do not think I would be a good choice, Sa'uuk Mo'at," she protested. "Mrrowl is my mate and Paz, Sparg, and EZ are my friends, but for the most part, I do not think much of the off-worlders. I do not trust them."
Fey'qua'ri smiled slightly. "Perhaps that is why you would be a good choice to represent the People. You would hold our interests close to heart, not theirs."
Shre'ka did not reply, but she remained thoughtful for some time.
Paz opened her eyes and sat up in her bunk on board the Mako, a hand reaching for the small sport blaster under her pillow. A light tap sounded at the door. "Captain?" a familiar voice called softly. Throwing back the covers, the Mon Cal put the blaster in her desk drawer along with a framed hologram that had fallen to the coverlet when she fell asleep. Moving to the door, she opened it and smiled down at the short Illyrian standing there. His worried expression stole the smile from her face.
"Sparg? What is it?"
The Illyrian jerked his head toward the cockpit. "A priority message over the Holonet. Encrypted." His one eye looked at her significantly. "It's from Oneron."
Paz muttered a curse under her breath and hurried to the bridge, Sparg right behind her. "Play it," she ordered.
Sparg touched a control and a holographic image of the Vaynai Transport Company's operator and head schemer, Oneron Fil'vye, shimmered into pale blue life.
"Greetings, Captain Paz," he began silkily. "It has been far too long since last we spoke, yes, much too long. This distresses me. Good friends should stay in touch, Captain, don't you agree? However, I did receive your message about giving me a hand in the future, and I wanted to tell you, I think I have a job for you and your crew." The Bothan's smug smile was maddening. "A special job that should take care of all your past debts to me. A simple little task, really. I assume you still have the item we discussed previously, hmmmm? All I need for you to do is to deliver it to a Mistress Salacious on a space station called Kemplex 10. I am sending you coordinates with this message. Yes...deliver the item to her and use the 'delivery' to bring me proof she will not trouble me further. I believe her kind have special weapons that are dear to them, do they not? 'Deliver' the item to her and bring me her weapon as proof I will never need fear her displeasure again, you take my meaning, Captain Paz? Do this for me and all your debts to me will be considered paid in full."
The hologram shimmered once, then vanished. Paz looked at Sparg. "Ready the ship for departure," she said.
Sparg's one eye nearly popped out. "But-but," he spluttered, "Captain! We can't trust him! He's setting us up for sure! It's a trap!"
Paz scowled. "Undoubtably."
Sparg stared at her determined face in dismay. "What about the others?"
Paz sighed. "I'll talk to them. Ready the ship."
"Please, be seated."
Shre'ka and Mrrowl made themselves comfortable as Master Shaak Ti took a seat opposite them. The Togruta's calm gaze flowed over the big Togorian, then settled on the tiny Cathar by his side.
"Regrettably, Master Obi-Wan Kenobi and Padawan Ahsoka Tano could not be here," she explained. "They are currently assisting the war effort in other regions, but they wanted to be sure to send you their well wishes."
"Thank you," Shre'ka replied. "I hope they are well. The Ra'van'ti owe them a great deal...And I thank you, Master Shaak ti, for you and your warriors coming to our aid."
Shaak Ti nodded. "We are servants of the Republic," she replied. "We are pleased to be of assistance to your people, but there is much left to be done to ensure the safety of your tribes here. The Republic hopes to establish ties with your world. I am sure Senator Vash'ti wishes to as well. She is most eager to reunite the Cathar here with those of your people's homeworld."
Shre'ka backed her ears slightly. "Perhaps, but this is the home of my People."
Shaak Ti wisely let the matter drop for now. "There is another matter," she said. "The Sith holocron. Were you and your friends able to retrieve it from the crashed vessel?"
Shre'ka hesitated a moment, flicking a quick glance at Mrrowl. Finally, she nodded. "Yes, I have it."
"May I see it?" Shaak Ti asked.
Shre'ka considered. Was Shaak Ti like the other "Jedi", the Weequay who tried to shoot her when she refused to hand over the holocron before? Reaching out to Sa'uuk, she sensed no hostility from the Togruta, but she hadn't from the Weequay either. Perhaps Master Shaak Ti would feel freer to try and take the holocron by force if Mrrowl was not present. Many found her mate intimidating--and rightly so! She turned to him. "Will you please leave us, Mrrowl?" she asked.
Her mate looked at her, his green eyes widening ever so slightly. His ears flicked. After a moment, he nodded and left without a word.
Shre'ka turned back to Master Shaak Ti when he had gone. "No, I will not give you the holocron," she said.
Shaak Ti looked neither pleased, nor disappointed. She merely nodded acceptance. "Very well. May I ask what you will do with it?"
"I would destroy it, if I knew how," Shre'ka growled. "It is Shadow. It is dangerous."
"I can show you how," Shaak Ti offered. "One must use the Force to destroy it."
The Togruta's willingness to aid in the destruction of something she apparently wanted gave Shre'ka pause. "Why do you want the Shadow Object?" the Cathar asked.
Shaak Ti's gaze met her own. "The Sith holocron is dangerous, true," she admitted. "but it also contains much knowledge that would be useful and beneficial. That is why the Jedi Order wishes to preserve it."
"And you could keep it safe?" Shre'ka asked.
Shaak Ti nodded.
The Togruta smiled. "The Jedi temple on Coruscant. I assure you, there is no safer place."
Shre'ka flicked her ears uncertainly. "I will have to think on this."
Shaak Ti bowed. "As you wish. May the Force be with you."
Shre'ka returned the Togruta's bow as she turned to leave. "Sa'uuk ah meh yah."
Shaak Ti stared thoughtfully at the door, her hands clasped behind her back, long after Shre'ka had gone. EZ had given her a full report not only on the activities of his squad, but the observations he and his team had made during their time here. She had felt prepared for her interview with the young Cathar Force user, but still found herself astonished. How extraordinary these people were! Primitive, true, and lacking in the finesse of Jedi perhaps, but their connection to the living Force was quite impressive! Most back water world Force users she'd encountered commanded only rudimentary powers of the Force at best, but from what EZ had told her, these adepts, the young Shre'ka in particular, possessed skills that would challenge Jedi--and Sith! EZ himself had seen it!
The Sith! Shaak Ti's brow furrowed in concern. The discovery of the holocron was disturbing enough, but now it was beginning to appear as if the ancient enemies of the Jedi had returned! She hoped Shre'ka would reconsider giving the Sith holocron to her. The Togruta sighed, seating herself comfortably once again in her chair. Closing her eyes, she cleared her mind and meditated upon the Force.
"So there you have it," Paz said to Mrrowl and Shre'ka as they all sat around the mess table on the Mako's Run sharing some tea. "I've ordered Sparg to ready the ship for departure. I know it involves killing this Mistress Salacious, but I'm taking Oneron up on this deal." She glanced at the two felinoids uncertainly. "I guess what I need to know is if you'll be coming along."
Shre'ka looked at Paz earnestly. "You and Sparg were the first off-worlders I met, Paz," she began. "If it hadn't been for you I would not have been able to find and rescue my People. I have sworn ka'met'ma to you, my friend. I will help you however I can. Besides, Sa'uuk has shown me this Mistress Salacious. She has been commanding the Shadow Hunters we have encountered while trying to locate and free my People all along. She is behind this...and she has much to answer for."
Mrrowl placed a paw over his mate's. He favored the Mon Cal with his best ferocious grin. "We're in," he told her.
Paz grinned back.
"There is something I wish to ask..." Shre'ka said, looking to Paz and her mate. "...of both of you. Master Shaak Ti wishes to take the Shadow Object to be kept safe at the Jedi temple on Coruscant. She says it has information that could be beneficial, but she has offered to show me how to destroy it. What do you think I should do?"
Mrrowl and Paz exchanged a look. "Give it to Master Shaak Ti," they replied in unison.
Sparg was beside himself with glee as the Mako's Run lifted off from Sorn 5 escorted by Master Shaak Ti's Republic attack shuttle and two Jedi Starfighters. As they approached the Separatist blockade ships currently engaged with the Republic attack forces, he chuckled grimly. "You call yourselves pilots?" he muttered. "Let's see if you can do this!"
As the ship jinked and jostled its way through the blockade, Paz shot the Illyrian an irritated glare while she punched coordinates into the navicomputer. "Try not to shake us up any more than you have to, Sparg."
The Mon Cal punched the all-ship button. "Look sharp! We're coming up on them! EZ! Mrrowl! Ready on those guns! Shre'ka! Find us a path!"
Acknowledgements came back over the open channel. In a few moments, laser fire shot out to blossom against some vulture droids that ventured too close as the Mako slipped and careened along, their escort struggling to keep up. Shre'ka pointed a way by a Separatist command ship. Sparg frowned at first, then noticed the Republic cruiser moving in to flank it. He grinned and dove the Mako in closer.
"Hang on!" he yelled. "Not far now...we're clear!"
"Coordinates in!" Paz warned. "Prepare for hyperspace!"
Moments later, the Mako's engines flared with brilliance and the freighter jumped, disappearing from real space. Cheers came over the com as EZ and Mrrowl abandoned the turrets and came forward.
"We made it!" Ez said, relieved.
Mrrowl, Paz and Sparg grinned.
Shre'ka smiled and nodded, but canted her ears back. She wasn't sure what, but she sensed something had gone horribly awry....
To be continued....
Saturday, October 8, 2011
Droid debris clattered across the hull of the shuttle as the copilot opened up the forward cannons to clear a path through the dense collection of ships. The passengers were jostled against the bulkhead.
"Commander! Follow the Mako past the Control ship to port," Shaak Ti ordered.
"Yes, General," the pilot replied and attempted to match Sparg's wild slip as he rolled the Mon Cal freighter toward the enemy.
Shaak Ti cast a worried look to Baatal, "I see what he's doing. If we can skim close enough to the surface of the Control ship, we will be under their gun range and hopefully it will buy us time."
Baatal nodded. "Caaaaptannn, have yooouuu plotted the hyperspace jump to Coooriscaaant?"
The clone trooper furiously worked the the controls of the navcomputer, "Not yet, sir! There seems to be some interference with getting a lock."
Shaak Ti could see the Mako through the viewport dive and light her engines as the ship winked out into hyperspace on its way to Kemplex X. Suddenly the shuttle lurched and pitched to starboard.
"General!" the clone pilot called. "We're caught in a tractor beam!"
Baatal cast his glance again at Shaak Ti, "Whaaaat caaaan we do-o-o against that?"
She reached for her lightsaber and tucked the Sith Holocron beneath her robes, "Not much, but there are alternatives to fighting."
|Kemplex X Station|
Kemplex X is an orbiting way station for cargo transfer, refueling and recreational services in the Outer Rim Territory orbiting Belderone near Felucia. The station is currently under control of the Confederacy of Independent Systems and provides resupply and repair facilities for a vast number of droid forces. It was recently upgraded to house a high number of civilian personnel and manufacturing facilities for a capital ship construction contract.
Republic Sienar Systems has a significant satellite office in the Belderone system and uses Kemplex X as its main center of trade with the Confederacy. As such, it is in the corporation’s best interest to keep things running smoothly. So while there are certainly undesirable elements present, the station is still safe for your average travelers and tradesmen. For the most part the port is clean and efficiently run, with no obvious signs of the criminal element running things behind the scenes. To a casual observer Kemplex X looks much like any other deep space port.
There are a few notable differences however. First, the laws are very lax. For example, it is permissible to openly carry weapons and there is little risk of being detained due to minor infractions such as bar fights or public intoxication. Laws against gambling, prostitution, and drug use are only enforced when it benefits the company. Taxation is at the minimum possible levels, making this an attractive place to do legitimate business. The computer systems are also isolated and heavily screened for maximum privacy – contracts, bank transfers, and other electronic transactions can be completed without leaving an electronic trail. This, of course, appeals most to those doing not-so-legitimate business.
All of the real estate on the station is ultimately owned by Sienar Systems, though most is leased out.
The main administration area, command deck, and portions of the promenade deck are on permanent lease to Confederacy of Independent Systems for legal reasons. Revoking these leases would allow the law to declare the station unsafe and so shut it down.
Kemplex X is based on the Future Armada: Argos III material published by Ki Ryn Studios.