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.