Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dark Tidings - 4

TS-429 adjusted the frequency of the holotranciever to make sure the channel was secure. The image flickered to life with the lean, shadowy figure cloaked in black.

"Mistress, we have located the wreckage of the lost transport ship." TS-429's even mechanical tone did not instill confidence in the expression of the recipient. "Initial forays into the structure have have proven difficult. The radiation detected in the area has diminished but is still potent enough to disrupt neural circuits in our droid forces."

"A minor detail," the willowy figure rasped.

"What are your dictates for incursion?"

"Begin landing your forces at once. I want all traces of that cat species eradicated from the moon. They are of no further use at this point and may become a liability. I already have solution in place to take care of the wrecked transport ship and it's contents. Transmit the coordinates of its location directly to Bane and his team. I don't want a repeat of what happened at Devaron."

A huge jolt rocked the command ship as warning klaxons sounded across the bridge.

"What was that?" the cloaked shape hissed.

TS-429 scanned the viewport as a battery of blaster fire ripped across the outer hull of the command ship. A B1 battle droid approached the tactical droid's station, "Sir, a fleet of Republic cruisers has just dropped from lightspeed into the system."

TS-429 whirled, "Deploy the fighters and hold them off until we can get additional transports on the ground. I don't want anything to get through the blockade."

"Handle this TS-429, and give Bane all the support you can. He is to report to me once he retrieves the holocron," the cloaked figure demanded.

"By your command," TS-429 replied and ended the transmission.

The relay signal was immediate. Swarms of vulture droid fighters raced from the confines of the blockade ships toward the approaching Republic fleet. The droid transports housed in the blockade fleet began to disembark heading planetward to carry out their mission of genocide.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Session 18 - A New Threat - Part 3

Paz slid her datapad back into a pocket of her coveralls. "Well, that's the gist of it," she told Mrrowl in a low voice, glancing anxiously over at Shre'ka. The young Cathar was conferring with Fey'qua'ri and Shas'tan about their assault on the mining facility. "What are you going to tell her?"

The Togorian flicked his ears back. His nose rumpled slightly, then smoothed. "The truth," he replied simply. "She deserves to know."

Paz caught at the felinoid's arm. "Yeah, but...Mrrowl, I'm afraid this might change things between the two of you."

Mrrowl patted Paz's flipper with a reassurance he did not feel before disengaging it from his arm. "That all happened a long time ago. Much has changed since then," he said over his shoulder to the Mon Cal as he walked over to Shre'ka.

She looked up at his approach.

"Mri'tan, there is something I need to talk with you about."

"Yes, Mrrowl?"

"The information Paz was able to retrieve...it seems there's a ship crashed some distance to the east of here. It appears to have been here a long time, around 4000 years."

Shre'ka smiled and nodded. "Yes. The skyboat of the First Ones. It lies beneath the Dark Tree in the center of the ta'niala. We know of this."

"Yes, well," Mrrowl continued awkwardly. "That ship was...is a ship of my people. It's a Togorian vessel."

Shre'ka's smile broadened. "I am not surprised. Sa'uuk has brought us together for a reason! Do you see, mri'te? I told you you were one of the People!"

"There's more to it than that," Mrrowl rumbled. "Those Togorians were transporting Cathar slaves to a world called Mandalor. For some reason the ship crashed and the survivors were stranded here."

Shre'ka frowned slightly. "Your people kept the People as slaves?"

The Togorian nodded, his ears at half mast. "Yes."

Shre'ka considered her mate closely. "Is that the way your people see the People now? If I were to go with you to your world, would your people see me as a slave?"

"No," Mrrowl answered with a growl. "Things are...different now."

Shre'ka's smile returned. "Then there is nothing to be concerned about, Mrrowl. That is the past now."

"Actually," Mrrowl sighed, "there is something else to be concerned about, mri'tan. Paz discovered your people were being experimented on to be used to search for a Sith artifact on board the ship. It seems radiation is leaking from the vessel somewhere, making it very dangerous for those hunting for the artifact to find and retrieve it."

Shre'ka looked at Mrrowl sharply. "Sith? There is Sa'ruk on the ship? The People are aware of this. That is why the Dark Tree and the area surrounding it has become corrupted over the years. The People avoid that place."

Fey'qua'ri nodded agreement. "It is forbidden for most to go there. It is very strong in Sa'ruk."

Paz stepped forward. "That's very wise, Sa'uuk Mo'at. But there's also danger from the radiation there. That's what's been causing everything in the nearby area to die off."

Fey'qua'ri nodded thoughtfully, but Shre'ka looked puzzled. "Radiation? I do not understand."

"Radiation is particles or waves of energy coming from a power source," Paz explained. "It can make you very sick or even kill a person. It depends on how powerful the energy source is and the amount of time someone is exposed to it. If the ship's engine core cracked and leaked, it's very likely some areas of the ship could have high levels of radiation contamination."

Shre'ka looked to her mentor. "If the Sa'ruk hunters seek this Sa'ruk artifact, we can not allow them to find it."

Fey'qua'ri nodded, glancing to Shas'tan. The clan leader drew thoughtfully on a pipe, exhaled, then nodded. "We will put together a War Party and leave at first light," he said.

"If I may," Paz offered, "We have a few suits that should protect against the radiation..."

Fey'qua'ri smiled at the Mon Cal, but held up a paw. "That is kind of you, but it is not needed. Sa'uuk will protect us."

Paz looked nonplussed, but made no further comment.


Three days swift journey on foot and the War Party stood in view of the Dark Tree. While they took a brief rest, Shre'ka pointed to the bog surrounding it. "Do not drink from the puddles," she warned her friends. "The water here is tainted. And watch for t'zzirl snakes and sa'naku as well. They are known to roost in the Dark Tree."

She noticed Hra'tan standing a short distance from Fey'qua'ri, Shas'tan and his sons, Mar'lo and Bo'ku. The big dark furred Cathar seemed agitated for some reason. Shre'ka wondered why he had agreed to come along. He had ceased being aggressive towards her or Mrrowl after his fight with her mate, but his manner had remained cool and less than friendly. He did not appear to be happy to be with them and she felt uneasy. She started to brush against Mrrowl and say something to him, but stopped herself. What could she say? That Hra'tan looked unhappy? They were approaching the Dark Tree! She wasn't happy either. The skin of her shoulders shivered involuntarily with something akin to a sudden chill.

Hearing a gasp nearby, she looked Fey'qua'ri's way to see the elderly Cathar bent slightly in apparent pain. She hurried to his side.

"Sa'uuk Mo'at? What is wrong?"

Fey'qua'ri tried to steady himself with his staff, a paw held to his forehead, a wince of pain on his face. "Sa'ruk...It is very strong...I sense..."

Shre'ka's eyes widened in alarm as she recalled her mentor's battle with the strange bandaged-wrapped Sa'ruk Mo'at not so very long ago, although it seemed to have been in a past life. "The Sa'ruk Mo'at?! He is here?!"

The old shaman drew a deep breath. His gray eyes met his foster child's blue-green ones. "This is beyond your skill, my daughter. You must take your friends into the skyboat and find the Shadow Object. I will take the An'uat, his sons and Hra'tan. We will deal with this." He raised his voice. "Mar'lo!"

The young hunter flicked his ears. "Sa'uuk Mo'at!"

"Take Shre'ka, Mrrowl and the off-worlders to the skyboat entry, then catch up with us." Mar'lo nodded acknowledgement of the command.

The shaman turned to go, but Shre'ka caught his arm. "Fey'qua'ri," she said in a low voice. "Watch Hra'tan. Something is not right." The Sa'uuk Mo'at patted her hand, nodding. Shre'ka squeezed his arm once before she dropped her paw. "Sa'uuk ah meh yah," she told him, flicking her ears and hearing Mrrowl echo the farewell behind her.

"Sa'uuk ah meh yah," Fey'qua'ri told her gently before he moved off with Shas'tan and the others. Shre'ka watched them go a few moments, then joined her friends to make their way into the bog, moving toward the Dark Tree and the ancient Togorian ship buried there.


Mar'lo pushed aside several twisted dead vines and branchlets. "Here," he told them.

"What's past the door?" EZ asked.

Mar'lo looked at him, shocked. "I have not been inside. It is forbidden!"

"Understood," Paz told the young hunter. "Thank you for your help."

Mar'lo nodded. "Sa'uuk ah meh yah," he told them, then swiftly departed.

Paz looked at Shre'ka and offered her a suit. "For the radiation. Last chance."

Shre'ka smiled and placed the suit in her pack. "My People are strong. Sa'uuk will protect me."

"I'd feel better if you'd wear it," Paz muttered under her breath. "You bearing cubs and all." Paz turned back to the door, examining it closely. "It looks to be an outer lock door. This is an exterior part of the ship. No power. Figures."

"Let's try the manual control," Mrrowl suggested, wondering briefly how wise he'd been to leave his suit back on the ship. He shrugged mentally. Too late to worry about it now. There was nothing for it but to continue forward and hope for the best.

With the door open, they peered into the dark interior beyond. "I'm on point," EZ said, stepping to the front. Mrrowl followed with Shre'ka in tow and Paz and two of her IG-88 droids bringing up the rear.

They had not gone far when they discovered a couple of battle droids in the corridor. However the droids were crumpled to the ground, obviously no longer functioning. EZ looked them over. "No blaster fire."

Paz unconsciously checked the fastenings of her suit. "Must be the radiation. The data from their outposts said they were unsuccessful at adapting the droids to it so they could search for the holocron. These droids certainly seem to prove that."

Mrrowl flicked his ears. He glanced at Shre'ka, beginning to regret this already. "Do you feel all right?" She nodded. "Ok, we keep going. Paz, you think you can get some power going in here?"

The Mon Cal looked around. "Think so, if we can find some kind of power junction or terminal. There's another door here. Let's see what's beyond it."

"Wait," EZ said. "Before you open that, let's check this side corridor." The others followed the clone trooper into the blackness, lit only by the light on his helmet. EZ stopped short. "Another droid. Same as the others."

Suddenly one of the IG-88s buzzed and crackled, collapsing to the deck. Alarmed, Paz turned to the second one. "IG-88, report status!"

"Affirmative. Operating at 80 percent," the droid responded.

"Return to the entry and wait there," Paz ordered.

"Affirmative," the droid answered before clanking back down the corridor and out.

The group returned to the door they had discovered and after manually opening it, they stepped into a new corridor just as dark as the first. However, Paz noticed a power relay and began tinkering with it. "This is old! Not sure this'll work," she said as she tried to reconnect wiring and replace burnt diodes with their present day equivalents. "Ah! There, that should do it!"

Lights flickered to life and the soft hum of power filled the corridor. Bolstered by this success, the group continued to explore the ship, coming to a room with computer access. Paz's technological skill again proved invaluable. She pulled up a schematic of the ship as well as the Captain's log. "You sure you want Shre'ka to hear this?" she asked Mrrowl in a low voice. The Togorian brusquely motioned for her to play the file.

The screen filled with a visage not much unlike Mrrowl's, but older, with a great scar tracing its way from the Togorian's striped fur temple across one eye which had been rendered white and unseeing to end along the opposite cheek. The being identified himself as Captain Grouularr of the Togorian vessel, the Vraaladash. He related they were transporting a holocron containing ship schematics and a shipment of Cathar slaves from Cathar to Mandalor when the hyperdrive relay cracked and brought them out of hyperspace. Due to the subsequent radiation leak, the crew was unable to repair the damage, several dying in the attempt. The log showed a great space of time following that entry, before another entry from Captain Grouularr reported that the Cathar slaves were able to free themselves, and with food low and the radiation spreading, had agreed to work with the remaining Togorian crew to survive on planet while they awaited rescue, eventually settling away from the site when their hope for discovery had dwindled. His final entry requested for his log and the flight recorder/transponder on the bridge to be returned to his family's house on Togoria, if it was ever found.

The room darkened a bit when the screen went black. Shre'ka bowed her head, lowering her ears. "Fuurr’sssang, Skyboat Mo'at Grouularr," she murmured.

Mrrowl's ears flattened. He looked at Paz. "Where is the bridge from here?"

Paz pointed it out. "But, Mrrowl," she protested, "The bridge sits above the engine core. The radiation level there is probably going to be high!"

Ignoring her warning, Mrrowl hurried down the corridor. "We're getting that recorder!"

Shre'ka, Paz and EZ had to run to keep up. They reached a small hall leading to the bridge.

EZ caught the Togorian by the arm. "Let me and Paz go!" he offered. "We have the suits to protect us!"

Paz nodded vigorously. "Yes, Mrrowl, stay back! Think of your mate and cubs! You and Shre'ka wait back here. We'll get the recorder for you."

Mrrowl looked from the clone trooper to Paz and laid a heavy but gentle paw on each of their shoulders. "I appreciate the offer, my friends, but this is something I must do. However, if you would, stay here with Shre'ka."

Reluctantly, they nodded. The Togorian looked at his mate. "Stay back here, mri'te."

Shre'ka nodded, though she murled unhappily to herself. She knew why Mrrowl wanted her to stay back and she knew why he was insisting on getting the recorder himself. She could not find it in her to ask that he stay and betray his honor, but something occurred to her and she brightened. "At least let Paz go with you," she suggested. "She can help you retrieve the recorder quickly."

Mrrowl paused, then nodded. "Come on," he told the Mon Cal. Paz needed no encouraging. She raced down the hall with Mrrowl and they entered the bridge, closing the door behind them. Mrrowl shuddered a bit once inside, feeling a wave of nausea sweep through him. "Oh, yeah, there's radiation in here," he grated.

Hurriedly, the two managed to locate the recorder/transponder and remove it from the console housing. Returning to where EZ and Shre'ka awaited them, they then headed to the elevators Paz had located on the schematic. Attempting to take one of the lifts to the lower level, they were shocked when they were suddenly attacked by three strange looking felinoids with white unseeing eyes.

A furious fight ensued and the hulking creatures were swiftly put down. Shre'ka leaned down to examine them closely, realizing with a shock the beings were mutated Cathar, indeed three of the Nine that had been assumed dead. A strange red crystal was embedded in the forehead of each tribe member. Angrily Shre'ka pried the crystals loose. Gently speaking to each of the deceased Cathar in turn, she called them by their name, telling them to be at peace and for Sa'uuk to be with them.

Gathering the crystals, Shre'ka placed them a short distance down the hall, then calling upon Sa'uuk smashed them to bits. A strange red vapor arose from the crystals, dissipating into the air as she watched, growling in her throat.

"We may encounter more of these," EZ warned her.

Shre'ka turned an ears-flat look the trooper's way. "There will be no more killing of the People!" she snarled.

EZ cocked his helmeted head to one side. "Yeah, but, they're trying to kil-"

Shre'ka's fur bristled. She bared her fangs. "There-will-be-no-more-killing-of-the-People!"

Mrrowl glowered down at the trooper. "Set your weapon for stun."

EZ complied, shaking his head. Paz stepped up beside him as they continued on. "My weapon doesn't have a stun setting," she said quietly, giving the clone trooper a significant look.

Entering the lift, the group continued down to the lower level and emerged from the elevator. There they encountered two more of the mutated Cathar. With weapons and Shre'ka's Sa'uuk powers, they stunned both tribesmen to unconsciousness. Paz pulled some tape from her pack to bind their hands and feet. Shre'ka realized dealing with the embedded red crystals in their foreheads would have to wait.

"We should wait until the metal medical man on the skyboat can see what he can do to help them," she said.

"Good idea," Paz agreed, nodding.

"They should be all right for now," Mrrowl said. "Which way is the Sith artifact?"

Shre'ka concentrated a moment. She scowled, pointing down a hall. "That way!"

The group hurried down a hall to another door. Opening it, they and two humans stared in shock at one another. The humans immediately began to raise blasters. Mrrowl swung his axe down on the one in front of him as Shre'ka stepped beside him. Calling upon Sa'uuk, she hurled the unfortunate human into his comrade standing behind him, sending both crashing against the far wall. They slumped to the ground.

Mrrowl and Shre'ka stepped through the door just in time to see none other than Cad Bane holding a strange item in his hand. Pocketing it, he briefly touched the brim of his hat, giving Shre'ka a wry smile. "Nothing personal, little lady. Just business," he rasped before darting down a far corridor.

Mrrowl and Shre'ka chased after him. EZ and Paz were following hard on their heels when the Mon Cal and Clone Trooper were brought up short by another group of bounty hunters emerging from a far room. EZ fired, the blasts from his weapon immediately ending their threat. He ran to the room to make sure the situation was under control and noticed several wired charges placed about the chamber, lights blinking.

"Uuuuhhhhh...Captain Paz?"

The Mon Cal ran up beside him, her eyes widening in alarm. "Thermite! There are charges set out here, too!"

"Well...see if you can disarm them!"

"I'll try," Paz replied, setting to work.

Mrrowl and Shre'ka gained on Cad Bane even as one of his accomplices fled past, outdistancing them all. Drawing upon Sa'uuk, Shre'ka stunned the Duro and Mrrowl's expertise with melee weapons allowed him to knock the infamous bounty hunter prone. Unable to escape, the Duro reeled as Shre'ka stunned him again, collapsing on the deck.

Shre'ka removed the object from the bounty hunter's coat, putting it in a pouch on her belt. It occurred to her that it was not safe to leave Cad Bane alive, but he had had her in his sights before and spared her life. He was a hunter, a very dangerous one, but not an indiscriminate killer. And he had helped them when they were attacked by the Mandalorian and his bounty hunters at the apartment on Vaynai. She could not take his life. Not like this. Not this time.

She looked at her mate. "I owe him a life. I will not take his," she said before turning to run back the way they had come.

Mrrowl snarled, looking down at Bane. His ears flattened. It was foolish to let the Duro live. He knew it. If he had any sense of things, the bounty hunter would probably be on their trail very soon. But like Shre'ka, the Togorian recalled the Duro's aid on Vaynai. Honor demanded payment in kind. A heavy sigh gusted through his whiskers.

As he pondered the situation, one of Bane's henchmen came to a sliding stop just out of range of Mrrowl's axe. "Just business..." the big cat muttered, then directing a fierce glare at the henchman, he hissed "take your Boss and get out of here!" Pondering thoughts of honor and doing the "right" thing, the Togorian hurried down the corridor after Shre'ka.

When Mrrowl and Shre'ka caught up with Paz and EZ in the hall, the Mon Cal's frightened eyes warned the two felinoids of disaster.

"Thermite charges!" Paz warned. "They're trip wired! I can't disarm them! They've been set for remote detonation! We need to get out!"

Mrrowl roared in alarm, realizing that Bane probably possessed the remote and practically shoved Shre'ka down the corridor toward the lifts, Paz and EZ hard on his heels. They gathered up the two Cathar and rode the elevators up to the top level, running down the corridors and out the entry.

Stumbling away from the Vraaladash, they were all startled to see a battle raging outside. Laser and blaster fire crisscrossed the air as several Republic ships descended from the sky, a smoking Separatist ship engine core plummeting to the ground with a fiery crash. A much smaller ship closer by ascended into the air, obviously attempting to make a swift departure.

Even with her heart pounding as she and the others fled from the ship as fast as they could, Paz couldn't help but smile. "Shre'ka!" she shouted triumphantly. "Your message got through!"

to be continued...

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Vraaladash Captain's Log

Here is the holodata recovered from the entries in the Captain's Log on board the wreckage of the Togorian transport Vraaladash.
  • Ship is to deliver holocron containing schematics for Corsair and consignment of Cathar slaves.
  • The Hyperdrive relays cracked and caused a radiation leak that crashed the ship.
  • Radiation killed most of the Togorian crew attempting to repair it.
  • Captain Grouularr relates the conditions many weeks after the crash – food low, radiation spread.
  • The remaining castaways formed a pact for survival casting off their former differences.
  • After many months they finally abandoned hope of rescue and have taken to the forests to forage.
  • Their settlements are now far away from the site to avoid the radiation.
  • Captain’s last wish was to return the flight recorder and log to his family house of Falmuur on Togoria.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Dark Tidings - 3

The holotranciever crackled to life. He hated having his breakfast interrupted by business. Oeneron leaned forward to stab the button and a blue light spilled into the deepest cracks of his office.

A hooded figure with a lithe and graceful silhouette hissed a lifeless greeting. "What do you have to tell me of the events at Memm's Estate, Fil'vye?"

"All I can assure you, Mistress is the artifact is safe." The Bothan leaned back and absently stroked the long tuft at his chin.

"So you have it, then?"

"Not exactly."

"This vexes me, Fil'vye. You assured me the facility would have complete discretion. That has been compromised, my apprentice has been killed and our property absconded. This does not induce confidence in the Fil'vye Transport company among myself nor my colleagues."

"Only, a minor setback I assure you. Shortly the item will be delivered to you and all will be well."

"See to it. It would be most unfortunate for your business if the Republic were to renew their interest in annexing Vaynai regardless of the wishes of the aristocracy."

"Now, now, threats are not necessary, Mistress. You will have your artifact and a bonus to boot."

"We shall see."

The image abruptly vanished. The Bothan pondered a moment. This may work out for him after all.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Session 17 - A New Threat - Part 2

"There it is," Mrrowl growled softly, pointing to the mining center up ahead, it's lights easily visible in the darkness of the jungle night.

The Togorian crouched as low in the brush as he could, hoping the gray and black striped pattern of his fur would help conceal him in the night shadows of the surrounding forest. Shre'ka knelt silently by his side, peering out at the ore refining operation, well lit by powerful halogen lights mounted on tall posts placed at regular intervals around the facility. Paz, shadowed by one of her IG-88 bodyguards hunkered down on the Cathar's right, her large dark eyes taking in the many Separatist droids as well as the many aliens, made up mostly of Rodians, Mon Cal and Quarren that were moving about the mining camp.

Paz gave Shre'ka a nudge. "All the people appear to be wearing uniforms--and they're unarmed!"

Shre'ka nodded, whispering Paz's observation to Mrrowl. The two felinoids had flown a recon flight over the site much earlier in the day to see what they would be up against, but certain smaller details had evaded their detection. Although the droids had so far ignored them, believing them to be part of the indigenous population and therefore no threat, Shre'ka had not dared to get her sa'naku to fly too close to Separatist installations. She wasn't sure how long their luck would hold out before the droids would decide to start firing on natives that appeared too curious.

Mrrowl shared her concern. That was part of the reason he had spoken in favor of EZ and his remaining troopers to stay behind and help guard the Ra'van'ti village, just in case one or more of the droid patrols stumbled across it. Sparg, too, had remained, keeping the Mako's Run ready for instant departure to extract the villagers to safer ground should it prove necessary.

He growled softly. "I can launch a grenade right into their refining plant from here, but it'd be better if I had a flammable target. Plus if these people are being forced to work here, we need to warn them before we start blowing up the place. Any ideas?"

"There's lots of Mon Cal walking about," Paz pointed out. "If I had one of those uniforms, I could blend in with no problem."

Shre'ka smiled. "I will get us uniforms," she giggled, scuttling through the brush to move closer to the perimeter. At the forest's scarred edge, she paused, wrinkling her nose at the smells emanating from the mining site, her ears flattening at the careless destruction of the living jungle of her home. Raucous music issued from a nearby prefab building, growing momentarily louder as a male Mon Cal emerged from within, swaying a bit drunkenly as he went, letting the door slam shut behind him.

Shre'ka glanced around cautiously and not seeing anyone else or any droids nearby, slipped out of the cover of the jungle and approached the Mon Cal, speaking simply to him in his own language. "Hello. What you do here?"

The Mon Cal was a bit taken aback. He blinked his eyes, peering blearily at Shre'ka. "Why...we mine the crystals, of course."

Shre'ka flicked her ears back. "Why you do that?"

The Mon Cal shrugged. "So I can eat, I suppose. So I can live."

"You not want work here? You want be free?"

The Mon Cal seemed to sober somewhat. "Uuuuhh, well, yes, I want to be free. We all would." He waved vaguely to the droids. "But the droids will shoot us if we try to leave."

Shre'ka nodded in understanding. "No worry. We help. Can you get us clothes?" she asked, pointing to his uniform.

The Mon Cal tugged at his gray coveralls. "You want some of these?"

Shre'ka nodded, pointing to the forest edge. "Throw them in there."

"Hey, you!" a robotic voice called. "What are you doing?"

Shre'ka smiled encouragingly at the Mon Cal when he glanced anxiously at the approaching droids. She began to back away. "Bring clothes quick when can. We help." Turning, she scampered back into the jungle, melting into the shadows as the droid patrol walked up.

"You!" One of the battle droids said, giving the Mon Cal a shove. "What were you doing? You shouldn't be talking to the natives! It's not allowed! We'll have to report this!"

The Mon Cal spread out his flippers. "Please, I didn't do anything! This strange creature ran out of the jungle to look at me, then ran away!"

Shre'ka watched the exchange with a bit of apprehension and sighed in relief when the droids appeared not to have spotted where she went and let the Mon Cal continue on his way. After a short while he returned, edged carefully over to the brush and tossed a couple of coveralls in the undergrowth. Shre'ka quickly snagged them, and with a soft "Thank you!" to the Mon Cal, she scurried away.

Returning triumphantly to Paz and Mrrowl, she held up the coveralls. "Will these work?"

Paz grinned. "Like a charm." She donned one of the garments, rearranging her gear, making sure to keep her ion pistol handy.

"The people are being forced to work here," Shre'ka informed them as Paz made her preparations. "They would leave if they could. I think the droids are here to protect them from the beasts of the jungle as they work, but to also keep them from running away."

Mrrowl fingered his weapons, his ears laying flat. His lips lifted from his fangs. "We're going to do something about that!" He looked to Paz. "Shre'ka and I will take your droid with us and circle around to the south. Once you have warned the people near the refinery and found a flammable target, just say the word and we'll attack."

Paz nodded and slipped away to the mining camp, walking up behind a group emerging from the bar. She strode purposefully toward the refinery just like she belonged and was heading there to start her shift. No one stopped her.

Grinning, Mrrowl motioned to Shre'ka and the two slipped around to the south side of the camp, the IG-88 in tow. Arriving a bit closer to the refinery, they peered cautiously out, waiting for word from Paz. Shre'ka noted the distance to the nearby command center with its communications array and power generator.

Paz made her way to the refinery hardly able to believe her luck. None of the droids seemed any the wiser. Looking around, she noticed a ladder going to the second level and climbed up. There she encountered a Rodian and another Mon Cal.

"Hey!" she told them in an urgent, low voice. "Get the other workers away from here!"

The Mon Cal blinked. "What?" The Rodian eyed her suspiciously. "Why?"

Paz waved them away impatiently. "Because we're going to blow this place up! Now warn the other workers and get out of here!"

The Mon Cal continued to stare at Paz in shock. The Rodian clapped him on the shoulder. "Come on! Let's go! We've got to warn everybody!"

They hastily departed. Paz watched them a moment before looking around for flammables. "You don't need to worry so much about warning the Quarren," she muttered.

After searching a few minutes, she found what she was looking for. Scrambling down to the ground level, she started putting some distance between herself and the refinery, motioning for any straggling workers she encountered to do the same. Using her crystal bracelet, she sent an image of Mrrowl's target to him.

"Now!" the Togorian and Shre'ka heard. Mrrowl snarled, launching a grenade as Shre'ka sprinted forward toward the command center.

The grenade hit its mark but the explosion failed to rupture the containers. Alarm klaxons began to wail. Shre'ka leapt to the roof of the command center and calling upon Sa'uuk, ripped the communications array completely loose from the building.

Mrrowl launched a second grenade hard on the heels of the first. This one also found its target, the force of the explosion rupturing the tanks of combustibles. The refinery rocked in the following explosion. Shre'ka fought to keep her footing on the nearby command center and control of the communications array, to keep it from falling on top of a Mon Cal who happened to be working atop the building at the time.

Battle droids and crab droids began to organize, heading toward the refinery to investigate. Encountering some of them, Paz fired several shots with her ion pistol, managing to disable some of the droids as the workers fled the area. Spying a couple of the battle droids approaching the command center, Shre'ka dropped the communications array on top of them, telling the Mon Cal to get to safety.

Dropping to the ground on the far side of the command center, Shre'ka uses Sa'uuk to drain the power from the generator, plunging the camp into semi-darkness. Seeing Paz in trouble fighting a crab droid, the young Cathar rushes to aid her.

Mrrowl charged from cover toward the command center. Several droids spotted him and the IG-88 droid and opened fire. The Togorian and droid return fire, destroying several droids before Mrrowl tries the door. In the excitement of the attack, he spent a moment trying to punch a code into the panel to enter the command center before he remembered he needed to open the door manually. With a snarl, he began cranking the manual access.

Paz and Shre'ka notice the miners are fleeing to a ship resting on a landing pad some distance away. Concerned they will be destroyed by the Separatists if they take off, Paz tried to call after them, but is ignored.

"We've got to warn them!" she told Shre'ka as a STAP patrol swoops in.

"Go!" Shre'ka replied, gesturing Paz toward the ship. The Cathar stepped toward the closing STAPs and drawing upon Sa'uuk struck them with its power. An invisible force send the droid STAP patrol flying. Looking after her friend, Shre'ka sees Paz disappear up the ramp as the engines ignite. Looking around for her mate and seeing only the IG-88 droid, she noticed several more crab droids approaching from the east, apparently recalled from a patrol.

Calling upon Sa'uuk as the IG-88 opens fire, Shre'ka manages to destroy one of the three crab droids. The remaining two scuttle closer, one going after the IG-88 while the other comes for her. It struck at her with a claw, wounding her. Falling back out of its reach, she cuts back across its path to head toward the command center, concerned for Mrrowl. Belatedly Shre'ka realized she should have used her bracelet to check on her mate. The pursuing crab droid overtook her and a slash of one of its powerful claws struck her down.

The Togorian had managed to enter the facility and was fiendishly battling several megadroids inside. Managing to defeat the droids and take control of the command center he noticed the IG-88 droid falling back before its attacking crab droid. With a snarl, he slammed his vibroaxe into the crab droid, destroying it. Ears flat, he looked around for his mate, gasping when he spotted her lying on the ground.

On board the commandeered ship, Paz shoved her way through the crowd of miners to the cockpit and managed to persuade the pilot to land. As soon as the vessel touched down, she sprinted back to the camp. Spotting her friends, she ran over to them, pulling out a med pack.

"Help me," she cried to Mrrowl as she tried to bandage Shre'ka's wounds. Hissing in distress, the Togorian assisted her. The two friends sighed in relief when the Cathar opened her eyes.

Leaving Shre'ka in Mrrowl's protective care, Paz entered the command center and slicing into the computer systems made some very important and interesting discoveries...

To be continued...

Friday, September 2, 2011

Data Recovery

The following is the recovered data from the core computer records found in the various locations leading up to the discovery of the crash site of the Vraaladash.

• Garrison outposts have been set up for recon and defense
• 3 patrols are garrisoned at each Outpost
• 4 Outposts are currently within 300 clicks of one another
• Outposts keep 1 active patrol as guards and send two patrols to the perimeter then trade them out

• The outposts form a perimeter around the main mining camp
• 6 additional mining camps are under construction
• 3 Patrols enforce the mining settlements
• Other mining camps are distributed globally at the location of other crystal deposits

Mining Settlement
• 65 Quarren, Mon Cal & alien miners are slave labor captured from the Vaynai Archpelago
• Droid forces include 3 Patrols guarding the Mining Settlement
• Senator Tikkes is in charge of the Central Mining Operation
• Powerful crystals are being mined for a superweapon under construction by the Confederacy
• Sorn V was discovered by the Republic but filed away and ignored for centuries
• a lost transmission signal over an unused bandwidth called attention to the moon
• The signal is no longer active but the droids are looking for it’s transmission source
• The signal is suspected of originating to the east of the mining settlement at the designated coordinates

Crash Site of the Vraaladash
• The Vraaladash, an ancient Togorian prison ship, was transporting captured Cathar to Mandalore
• The Cathar descendents of the castaways have built up a tolerance to the radiation over time
• The radition immunity can be amplified in the native Cathar by a dangerous mutogenic process
• The crashed ship also contains a Sith Holocron sought by Lord Tyranus
• Mutated Cathar were to be sent into the ship to search for the missing Holocron
• Radiation leaks or something else are masking the crash site location, scans are undetectable
• Droid patrols have been widening their search for the crash site but have not found it yet

How is it possible that the Confederacy has determined there is fatal radiation corrupting the moon Sorn V when they have not discovered the exact location of the crash site? How is the crash site being masked from sensor scans and confounding the droid forces? How did the separatists learn of the Cathar immunity and tolerance to the radiation effects over time in order to devise their mutagenic program?

All of these questions and more will be revealed in the next exciting episode of Clone Wars: Mako's Run!