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Thinithil
9 August 2004, 02:12 PM
Here's something (or several pieces of something) I've been working on.

Hope you like it...



Prologue

Part I

THE SYSTEM NEEDED NO ARMADA TO GUARD ITS REACHES. The ship was an armada in and of itself. Sleek, yet amazingly gigantic, it slipped into Bothan space, dominating all it could see, and even more importantly, all who could see it. Security had been infamously tight here of late and many wondered what the New Order had planned or foreseen which warranted the change. But that increased security was never as tight as when the Star Destroyer slipped into view and sailed silently past into the far reaches of the system.

THE YOUNG MAN GLANCED NERVOUSLY BEHIND HIMSELF. Anyone with a keen eye would have been able to tell how tense he was. Luckily those observers who would have mattered were not always known for their perceptiveness. Thrace Starwind was troubled about both his surroundings and himself. Just days ago he would have walked any street on the surface of the planet with confidence and perhaps even an air of arrogance. But a cycle or two past he had relented and listened to what he had taken to be an ‘old mans ravings’ of a ‘dear family friend’—more so in the last few weeks since his parents deaths at the hands of the Empire. In fact, he had now come to believe very strongly in what Syr Andru had spoken of and had been rewarded with an archaic weapon he had quickly taken to and a growing ability to control the, officially nonexistent, Force. All of this and then only fifty hours past Andru had fallen to a horde of white armored troopers. He had taken a score with him-- not that it had done him any good. In fact, because of the manner in which his Master had died, the Imperials would only look all the harder for the previously forgotten Jedi Knight’s young apprentice.

Now Thrace slipped through the narrow alleys of the old city, the dichotomy between shabby stonework nearer the spaceport and glass and transparsteel buildings nearer to the new city center contesting to the rapid rise of technology in times past. The tavern he slowly entered was of course darkened for the benefit of the patrons and as his eyes adjusted to the dim he found a small table on the balcony’s edge affording a view of the level below-- along with the establishment’s entrance.

Thinithil
9 August 2004, 02:16 PM
This seems to be the long part...




Part II

THE FREIGHTER’S PILOT HAD BEEN GRITTING HIS TEETH FOR the last ten minutes. His ship’s sensors had scanned the Star Destroyer on the Bothan system’s outskirts just as he had been entering Bothawui’s atmosphere. Thinking it over he had doubted that the Imperial ship’s sensors could have picked him up out of the multitude of ships above the planet. But, as an independent contractor who ran a large, albeit discreet, Alliance discount, he couldn’t afford not to be nervous. He had been told to drop off his passengers and depart at his leisure. He didn’t think the Alliance would mind if his departure wasn’t as leisurely as it could be. He reached for the com switch.

“Commander Solarin, you and your friends should strap in, we’ll be landing shortly.”

The attractive, young woman in the pressed, khaki fatigues glanced over to where her partner, Ruus Saal, sat fiddling with a computer port.

“Acknowledged.” The gravelly voice responded to her unneeded command. The Gran finished at the computer, lowered himself onto the acceleration couch near his commanding officer, and attempted to get the antiquated buckle fastened.

Thesme Solarin noted his difficulties, thinking about how her life had been one of luxury until her father’s rigid adherence to a social custom more antiquated than Ruus Saal’s acceleration strap buckles had forced her to choose between her family and the Alliance. Now, months later, the former belle of Bim Lantor was leading one of the Alliance’s newest SpecOps units on it’s first mission. She looked up the passageway towards the ship’s small laser battery where the third member of their group had gone before they had left hyperspace. She resisted calling Galac Scrut, reasoning that he was secure enough in the turret.

AN IMAGINATIVE OBSERVER WOULD HAVE ENJOYED watching the trio as they disembarked from the recently landed, rough looking freighter. There was a clean cut, attractively proportioned, blonde-haired woman in neat, surplus military fatigues; a Gran who looked ready for anything; and a figure in Mandalorian-influenced battle armor. Unfortunately for the newly arrived group, any air of respectability was removed when the freighter barely let them clear the ship’s landing perimeter before blasting off again. The armored figure shook his helmeted head; the woman seemed less pleased.

“If we hadn’t paid him in advance I’d deduct a thousand for that maneuver.” Thesme groused as she used her hands to brush the worst of the debris out of her shoulder length hair.

“A little dirt will just make us fit in better while we look for the Jedi.” Ruus Saal reasoned.

“He just wanted to get out system before that Star Destroyer got too close. Getting off of this rock will be far more interesting than getting on if it hangs around.” Galac had monitored the Imperial cruiser from the weapons turret.

“Terrific,” mused Thesme out loud, “mission one barely underway and we’ve already achieved a level three status. Split up, we meet over at that green cantina in seventy-two hours unless notified otherwise.”

Ruus Saal and Galac moved off leaving Thesme to scan the gigantic, walled spaceport tarmac. Other ships were resting, scattered around, being refueled, loaded, and unloaded. One made her skin crawl. It was a smallish personal ship with odd markings and custom modifications sprouting out at unaesthetic intervals. It looked to her like a bounty hunter’s ship. “Blast it!” She thought while heading for the city. “Hadn’t she taken this mission to leave musings like that behind her?”

THE COLORS IN THE TALL, TRANSLUCENT, AND unbreakable tumbler continued to swirl and change hues as the stir-stick settled to the side. The young man watching the colors was not hypnotized, as a casual observer might have predicted, rather, he was intensely interested--in a resigned sort of way; he could be complicated.

As the color of the drink before him settled from a dark midnight purple, to red, and finally a soft orange-pink, the Bothan Blast’s (‘BB’ for short among the tavern’s regulars) most intensely alcoholic and toxic phase, the young Jedi sighed in an even more resigned sort of way.

He wasn’t concerned about the effects the drink could have on his body and mind. In fact, he desired the effects the ‘blast’s color indicated potency would bring. Among the earliest of the skills he had mastered from his master’s teachings had been the control of toxins and poisons upon his body. “And at this level,” he mused, “it would be much closer to poison.”

But not because of what the color indicated, but merely because of the color did the young Jedi sigh. He had seen the color many times before. He had begun receiving visions nearly as soon as he had begun meditating in his studies of the Force. His teacher, Syr Andru, had remarked on his ability to receive what eddies of the Force could bring to a disciplined mind. And this color had been noticed by Thrace in many of his quiet contemplations.

Tall towers reaching for the sky, impossible gantries crossing from tower to tower, people, ships, and ‘droids everywhere he could see, and always the beautiful, serene, rose, and pink hued clouds dominating the sky.

At times he would see electrical machinery sending vast arcs of power in his direction. Sometimes he would see a blaster pointed and fired in his direction. Usually, however, he merely heard a voice calling his name from somewhere above him.

These days he rarely seemed to have time to attempt to bring the visions into focus. His parents, Macedon and Lydia Starwind had organized and led rallies to protest the Galactic Empire’s tightening grip on the Bothan system and the increasing regulation of the interplanetary merchant and shipping industries. Thrace was now wanted for family ties to anti-government radicals, and of course his known association with Syr Andru. Practicing forbidden religions had been added to his list of “crimes” and he had remained well hidden in one or another of several safe spots he and Andru had set up scattered around the city.

Now, he was at a loss. He could simply try and make Bothawui a hot place for the Empire. But one person... eventually his funds, and his luck, would run out. The government had frozen his and his family’s accounts.

“So, let’s click down our assets.” He thought in a downright moody fashion while taking a large sip of his ‘blast’:

-- Funding for a prolonged guerilla campaign—virtually none
-- Experience as a resistance fighter—decidedly none
-- Contacts with any sort of underground or anti-Imperial organization--
-- Big sip on drink
-- --none

He decided to stop at that point and take yet another large pull on his drink.

He was a long, long way from the life of adventure he’d envisioned not so long ago. Tomorrow, he’d take out something Imperial, he decided. “But what would that prove?” The Empire wouldn’t miss a stormtrooper here or there. He needed to cause a number of disruptions, events that would lead to inefficiency and headaches for the Imps. Bothersome acts would lead to greater logistical problems within the garrison’s bureaucracy as official after official became aware of the problem. This would eventually bring the Empire down on him and him alone.

“Good plan,” he swirled and downed the last of the drink, “but the only one I’ve got.”

“Thrace Starwind?” An odd voice asked from behind him.

Thrace hadn’t thought becoming more tense and uneasy than he currently felt could even be an option; he had been wrong and answered with a terrible tri-d drama cliché.

“Who wants to know?”

A figure slipped into the seat across from him at the small table on the rail. It was a Gran—which accounted for the odd voice. The three eyed alien pressed a call button and ordered a drink from the responding server ‘droid.

Thrace took the moment to observe his new companion. Any enemy that didn’t attack immediately quickly became more of a curiosity to him than a threat. The Gran’s wardrobe seemed unremarkable—a cross between any spacer’s good change of clothes and the stuff found at any military surplus store. He was too clean to be street-scum; and any good I.S.A. agent would have covered that detail by being as filthy as the next vagrant. The blaster Thrace had momentarily spotted was not Imperial but it was military. The belts, pouches, and miscellaneous accessories were all in good shape and apparently well maintained. He would have expected that a two-bit slug would have shoddy, unkempt equipment that was tossed in a corner when not in use.

One didn’t usually detect a lot of pride in a common hoodlum.

Only some sort of up and coming gangster (or a common hoodlum with a massive ego) would have the vanity to look this clean in a dive like this. Thrace let his fear depart.

Now he was really curious.

“My name is Ruus Saal.” The enigma said as a ‘droid delivered his drink. “We’ve been sent to Bothawui to reach the Jedi Knight, Syr Andru.”

Thrace’s eyes narrowed at the sound of his teacher’s name. Or maybe it was that last sip... “You won’t...”

“We know of his fate.” Ruus Saal interrupted. “Extremely unfortunate, for everyone concerned.”

Thrace wondered if the alien was feeling the emotions his voice seemed to betray.

Grans’ were difficult to read he concluded.

Ruus Saal had continued. “We discovered that he had an apprentice...”

Thrace decided it was his turn to interrupt. “Who’s this ‘we’?”

Ruus Saal glanced innocently around him at the other tables and their patrons. “The Alliance.” He whispered as best a Gran could. “A small group of us were sent to bring Syr Andru to an Alliance rendezvous point. Obviously our primary mission is unattainable but it would be considered a success nonetheless if we brought back another Jedi Knight.”

Thrace fidgeted. “I’m not a Jedi Knight. I was just a student when Syr Andru was killed and I don’t have the experience to be some great asset.”

“Understanding the Jedi hierarchy is beyond me.” Ruus Saal was excited to have achieved his objective. “Are you willing to come off-world with us?”

Thrace hesitated while a ‘droid picked up his empty glass. It would be awhile until he had another ‘Blast’ but it was going to be worth it. He was in the game; and not looking just to commit some act of sabotage before the Imps found him and had him killed as an example of youth led astray by some strange occult religion, this was the real thing. He suddenly didn’t feel like drinking.

“Oh, I’m in. How are we getting off this rock?”


“TWENTY HOURS AND I’M OFF THIS PLANET.” THESME thought as she sipped the vile “Bothan Blast”. She observed the hand that held her drinks glass.

“Well dad, I hope you’re happy.”

That hand had once touched nothing but argentum cutlery, crystal, and formal gloves of obscure fabrics. Recently it had held med-kits, blaster pistols, and god-awful drinks like this one. She didn’t think she was being conceited, she merely wished she would adjust a little more quickly to the quality of life.

The mission, as she should have known after she was showered with debris at its onset, was a virtual failure. Syr Andru had been killed by a detachment of stormtroopers before they had arrived. She had taken note of the official and unofficial versions of the story for her report. Officially he had been slain while attempting to sabotage the Imperial garrison’s HQ. Unofficially he had been ambushed at his home and nearly taken an entire squad with him. Both stories seemed more than a little exaggerated.

Ruus Saal had reported a lead that might keep the mission from being a complete loss but the odds of finding another retired Jedi Knight on the same planet seemed remote to her. She pushed the empty glass away from her and wondered if the proprietor would sterilize it before using it again. She stopped that train of though when possible implications came to mind. She felt a yawn coming; her training in field medicine had warned against the use of stimulants instead of proper sleep but it seemed to be a draw when she compared the hazards vs. the lack of sleep she had gotten in the dive she had found last night.

“If Ruus Saal thought I looked ‘realistic’ after our dust bath he should see me now.” She rose to leave but half way up she froze.

Sitting in the far corner, back to the wall, was a curious looking mix of circuitry and insectoid design. It was 4-LOM. She lowered herself back into her seat hoping the ‘droid bounty hunter hadn’t noticed.


THRACE GAZED AROUND THE TAVERN’S MAIN FLOOR FROM the table he and Ruus Saal had reoccupied. Besides theirs, the tables along the other walls were also in use and with all the other patrons standing at the various bars he couldn’t spot the Quarren. Qualgorn Bartousch, the Quarren, was a spacer they had found who had been willing to meet them here tomorrow morning and get them off of Bothawui. Soon after that deal had been struck, however, a paranoid streak that had until now lay dormant in Thrace had caused him to wonder if things hadn’t perhaps gone too smoothly. Bartousch had hardly quibbled at all on a price and agreed quickly to the deal. He hoped he wasn’t feeling an alien-bias and felt justified in fearing that perhaps the pilot had recognized him from a wanted posting. Concerned as he was about his own future he felt he should be mindful of Ruus Saal’s and his Alliance friends.

Happily, Ruus Saal had agreed with his assessment and the two had gone with another pilot they had contacted who could get them out tonight.

Borlok Gaxx, the second pilot they had found, was perhaps the most nervous individual Thrace had ever met. The fact that Gaxx was a Twi’lek didn’t help matters as his prehensile appendages telegraphed his moods and gave him something to unconsciously fidget with. When the two Rebels had first approached Gaxx he had been reluctant to provide them with his ship’s services. After some initial bargaining (that included promises of larger payoffs at the conclusion of the job) Gaxx had agreed to meet them later. Even the possibility of receiving that many credits was worth the risk to him.

Thrace felt that if the Twi’lek wasn’t actually the planet’s best dramatic performer he was the best way off Bothawui. Gaxx had the skills, the ship, not a lot of backbone; he would do virtually anything if the price was right, and he was also susceptible to threats. Of course neither Thrace nor Ruus Saal had threatened him outright, it was simply necessary when bargaining in their position to let their new pilot know that a double-cross would be inadvisable. They were discussing leaving the tavern to meet Gaxx and finalize their agreement when the Gran noticed something.

Ruus Saal tensed. “We may have a problem shortly.”

“What is it?” Thrace attempted to glance slyly around the tavern and didn’t notice any problem.

The Gran remained unmoved but lowered his voice. “Four men have entered the bar and seem to have taken note of us.”

Thrace glanced down and over towards the door allowing his peripheral vision to do most of the work. Sure enough, four thugs seemed to be working their way towards them around the bars perimeter and up the far stairs. One of the thugs seemed to be watching them intently out of the corner of his eye.

“They’re going to try to flush us out of the main door.” Ruus Saal assessed. “They must have some friends waiting out there.”

Thrace glanced up at the main bar on the front wall. It ran the entire length and ended at the entrance. Their potential captors were now working along the wall away from the bar. A gap in the center of the main bar led into a small back room from which serving ‘droids occasionally passed. If that was a storeroom there may be a door leading into the alley beside the establishment for deliveries.

Hopefully.

“If we can’t use the front door, we use the back door.” Thrace allowed Ruus Saal to follow his gaze towards the bar’s gap.

The thugs were now advancing across the balcony towards them. The time was now.

“Let’s go!” Thrace’s whispered signal was in direct contrast to his energetic dash that immediately followed. He took his lightsaber from his shoulder pouch as he ran.

Ruus Saal followed, blaster drawn, and the yells and shrieks told them that they were being pursued.

Thrace burst through the gap. With at least five blasters involved the bartender didn’t seem like he felt he wanted to get involved. The heavier man in the back room started to protest but cut it off when Ruus Saal rushed in with blaster held high. The Rebel hit the controls that closed the door and his blaster locked it.

“Back door?” Thrace asked the stockman curiously.

The employee still looked like he wanted to stick a vibroblade in the two of them but pointed around a full storage shelf.

Thrace led the way and hit the button that opened the door. Muffled complaints from the door into the bar told them of their pursuers discovery of that doors controls status.

Darkness had begun to fall outside and the twilight was deepened in the narrow alleyway the delivery entrance had opened into. Thrace tightened his grip on his deactivated lightsaber in anticipation of trouble at the alley’s end but found it sooner. Turning to his left towards the alley’s entrance he nearly ran into three more thugs placed here to prevent their escape.

“Why are ruffians so easy to underestimate?” Thrace wondered.

In accented basic one of the thugs signaled his comrades that the Rebel’s surrender was not going to be an option and three blasters lifted their way.

Ruus Saal’s and Thrace’s reflexes were quicker.

As Ruus Saal blasted the left-hand thug Thrace’s instantly ignited lightsaber struck and injured the middle one who had just spoke. The only adversary who had remained unscathed decided to stay that way and ran off.


“OF COURSE IT NOTICED.” AN ANNOYINGLY PANICKY VOICE in Thesme’s head told her. “It’s a ‘droid programmed to notice.”

At Alpha Base her friend Rill had told her of an intelligence report indicating her father had hired 4-LOM to find her. She had never believed the bounty hunter would have found her so quickly. A large group near the ‘droid stood and departed but 4-LOM made no indication of noticing them, or her.

Thesme began to plan. 4-LOM was nearer the door but would need to negotiate a series of labyrinthine booths to reach it. With even a second’s advantage Thesme thought she could make it out the door and--she had no ship to run to, no base to reach, and no one she could send a message to that the bounty hunter would simply intercept.

A matron ‘droid began to seat a large party where the earlier group had left and had partially cut off 4-LOM—There would be no better time.

Leaping to her feet Thesme raced for the door while drawing her blaster and sparing a glance towards her antagonist. He, it, had risen but was restrained by the unseated patrons. Thesme made it out the door and onto the street.

The street outside was a pedestrian mall, there was no vehicle traffic, and only those beings immediately near her noticed the rumpled, dirty, and blaster-wielding young Rebel. A commotion from inside the bar caused her to dash across the mall towards an alley to the next street over as it became apparent that an impatient 4-LOM was now forcing his way through the crowd.

“Solarin! Stop now or I’ll fire!” 4-LOM’s unreal voice emanated from the doorway. “Your father wants you back fully functional!”

“Angry? Terrified? Hysterical?” Thesme’s mind raced through possible emotions and feelings. “She really ought to be concentrating on the task at hand!” She told herself.

A blast hit the wall next to her as she darted into the alleyway. She cringed unconsciously but there was no debris. “Stun shot.” The refuse in the alley wasn’t slowing her progress by that much and there were several piles of junk halfway down she was able to use as cover. Glancing the way she had come she saw 4-LOM eyeing the alley from it’s entrance. With a sudden roar and plume of smoke he rose from view on jets apparently built into his mechanical frame.

Thesme sprinted for the end of the alley and noticed the traffic moving from her right to left. She saw some retail shops beyond the vehicles and thought that perhaps she could shake her pursuer by entering one of them. As she emerged from the alley she quickly took note of the current absence of traffic and spun too her right, blaster raised.

The bounty hunter had landed in the center of the avenue blocking the traffic. There was a cacophony from behind the front several rows of repulsor-craft and such as drivers vented their annoyance. “Be reasonable, dear Thesme.” 4-LOM oozed in a manner much too familiar for a ‘droid of ordinary disposition.

“Eat spice!” The unladylike colloquialism was all she could think to yell back as she squeezed two shots in his direction. The sound of the ‘droid being condescending made her skin crawl.

4-LOM dodged the shots with relative ease. “Now, now...” He began until in mid sentence he was brushed to the side and nearly run down by what was possibly the dirtiest repulsor-cab Thesme had ever seen.

“Is everything on this planet filthy?” Apparently the lack of respect the driver had for the bounty hunter was related to the respect he had for the exterior of his cab. Then, Thesme had an idea.

The cab was accelerating and nearly to her position. Running towards it on an intersect vector Thesme fired on the run at her target, the rear casement of the cab. Stun bolts began to hit the street around her as she dove for the now ‘open’ vehicle. She was aware of the cabbies livid expression but had no time to ponder the potential repercussions as she found herself bouncing around the passenger compartment.

“What do you think you’re doing woman?!” The driver was in mid curse as Thesme raised herself and turned to peer out the rear window.

“Just keep going and take that first right turn.” Thesme tried to sound controlled.

4-LOM had ceased firing. His stun shots were ineffectual on the cab and he took to the air once more.

Thesme was very nearly tossed back out the way she had come in when the cab made the hard right at speed.

Lady, I’m not being disrespectful of whichever slug is your boss but you are going to pay for that damage!” The driver was still fuming but apparently comfortable enough with hoodlum antics that he seemed to be taking the events in stride.

“Yeah, sure, no problem...” Thesme trailed off while studying the road ahead. Within a few seconds they would be passing underneath a half block wide pedestrian overpass and another idea was gelling. “Slow down just enough so I won’t kill myself when I get out under that walkway.” She quickly reached for her belt.

“No one’s leaving until I get my hands on a load of credits!” The driver was yelling. He began lowering his velocity when a pouch struck the windscreen beside him and showered him with credits of numerous denominations. “You got it.”

Money equaled politeness.

“Gun it when I’m gone!” Thesme opened the door and made an exit no more conventional than her entrance. She heard the door slam shut and engines whine as the cab left her far behind.

Thesme was unable to see the cab recede, as she was busy rolling along the street for many meters. She lay stunned for several seconds before getting to her feet. One brave pedestrian approached her as she rose but backed off immediately when he noticed the blaster pistol she still grasped.

The young Rebel critically eyed the building she faced. It appeared to be an office facility with public shops around it at street level. She quickly entered through a public access and headed down the corridor at a brisk pace. She holstered her blaster when she noticed it in her hand. “This building must be blocks wide...” She thought to herself. “If I can get through and find another cab on the other side I’ll be home free.” Thesme wondered how bad she looked currently. “If Rill could see me now...” She almost laughed and then her comlink beeped in an emergency staccato.

“Oh...Terrific.”

Thinithil
9 August 2004, 02:18 PM
Don't worry, there's only four parts...


Part III



THRACE AND RUUS SAAL LEFT YET ANOTHER SPACERS’ haven several kilometers from the spaceport. After being sure they had left all pursuit behind they had called the nervous Twi’lek and Borlokk Gaxx had agreed to join them to finish the deal. Now, wasting no time, they set out for the Proton Racer, and life in the Alliance.

Something caught Thrace’s attention across the street towards the top edge of the three-story building whose like lined most streets of this antiquated section of the city. Peering closely, he spotted an oddly robed, blaster rifle wielding, insectoid appearing ‘droid.

“Give up Rebels.” The ‘droid called down. “You’re more valuable to me if you can still walk.”

“It’s 4-LOM, “ Ruus Saal informed Thrace as they scuttled into a doorway. “A bounty hunter who has been after a member of our team for awhile.” He leaned out and squeezed a few shots in the ‘droid’s direction.

“We’re going to have to run for it.” Thrace thought out loud. He froze when he spotted a familiar face in the street. “Gamblyr!”

A nattily dressed young man with a well-kept blaster at his hip paused and looked in their direction. “Thrace?” The young conman seemed shocked. When Ruus Saal fired several more times in the direction of the patient 4-LOM Gamblyr quickly joined them and clasped wrists with the minor Jedi. “You’re mixed up in this?” He looked over at Ruus Saal and indicated the commotion in the street in a single gesture. “You were always the quiet one.” He seemed somewhat impressed.

“The past can be deceiving.” Ruus Saal interrupted in a businesslike manner. “Can you use the weapon you carry?” He added skeptically.

Thrace’s friend drew his blaster, spinning it on his finger before gripping the stock in a comfortable manner.

Ruus Saal seemed satisfied.

“Quiet one or not I’m not sure if I’m destined to get clear of this jam.” Thrace observed.

The reunion had lasted long enough for Ruus Saal. “This jam is going to get worse, the odds are not in our favor.”

“Odds?” Gambly perked up. His lifelong friendship with Thrace left no doubt that he was going to help the pair. With a nod to the Gran he jumped out of the doorway gun pointed high. “Anyone care for a friendly game of chance?”

Ruus Saal followed and the pair unleashed a withering and well-aimed stream of fire at 4-LOM. The ‘droid used his jet packs to rocket away from the edge of the building’s top and the Rebels and friend sprinted for the spaceport. Blaster shots screamed down from overhead from the hovering bounty hunter. At this range all the blasts did was startle the street regulars and scare the hell out of a group of lost tourists. Twisting down a few side streets in the short-blocked old city they attempted to lose their pursuer. Eventually the archaic stone arches of the spaceport’s main entrance came into view at the street’s end.

“I don’t see your bounty hunter but are those his friends cutting us off from behind?” Gamblyr panted as some more blaster fire splattered around them.

Thrace glanced over at the determined Ruus Saal and then the approaching archway. As he attempted to determine whether or not they would be ambushed at the gate, 4-LOM rocketed down and landed atop the main arch.

Ruus Saal heard Thrace mutter a Bothan curse. “Don’t become discouraged,” he told his recruit, “this has gone as smoothly as any Alliance operation as you’re likely to go on.”

The sentiment was less encouraging than intended.

4-LOM began firing at them as the two humans and two humanoids took cover thirty meters short of their goal. Gaxx had said nothing for the duration and was either about to have the Twi-lek version of a stroke or else was engaged in an obscure religious rite.

Ruus Saal and Gamblyr checked the power levels of their blasters and with a quick coordinating glance exchanged between them stepped onto the street and once more lay suppressive fire at 4-LOM’s location. With their weapons nearing overheating, the Rebels finally forced the bounty hunter to withdraw and, with the thugs now a little too close for comfort behind them, the foursome raced through and onto the spaceport’s tarmac. The thugs took cover near the entrance as 4-LOM began firing from above and behind.

“I’m gone!” Gamblyr called to an astonished Thrace. “I’ve got credits to earn, but you have fun!” Before Thrace could do more than yell his thanks to his friend as they ran, the young con artist had peeled off and dove into one of the taverns which coated the inside of the spaceports walls, finding safety in Bothawui’s underworld.

Thrace, Ruus Saal, and Gaxx continued to zig-zag out onto the field until they finally took cover behind the landing pylons of Gaxx’s freighter. Borlok worked the controls for the landing ramp as the advancing thugs’ shots began coming uncomfortably close. The Jedi began to suspect a problem.

“Would you like to lower the ramp?”

“I can’t!” The nearly hysterical Twi-lek shot a venomous look at Thrace. Gaxx was flinching at the sound of every shot whether outgoing or incoming.

“You couldn’t tell this wasn’t your own ship?” Thrace was incredulous.

“This is my ship you fool.” Gaxx remained focused on the keypad this time. “Someone has engaged the security back-up codes and now I can’t remember them.”

Thinithil
9 August 2004, 02:20 PM
there may have been a better way to do this but hey...it's me...


Part IV

RUUS SAAL NOW SOUNDED OFFICIALLY WORRIED. “HERE they come!” He called as the Thugs sensed their dilemma and charged.

Latches giving and the brief hiss of unequal atmospheres preceded the Twi-lek’s uncomfortable chortle as the ramp finally began to descend. Borlok Gaxx and Ruus Saal charged up into the freighter followed by Thrace who had decided he wasn’t feeling all that melancholy at all about leaving Bothawui behind him.

At the top of the ramp Thrace and Ruus Saal had to quickly sidestep as Bozzluurthas, Borlok’s copilot, joined Gaxx on his way to the cockpit. Thrace had never known a Freglen pilot before and wondered about the association between Gaxx and the short furry alien as he found his own way to the ship’s common area.

Thrace stopped short when he finally found it. The lounge was not unlike any other ship’s lounge he had ever seen. Well-used couches and acceleration chairs separated here and there by rounded tables. The walls were bedecked with tubes, instruments, and the occasional souvenir or ‘trophy’ he thought. He wondered at the mindset of the average independent spacer; the outside of their ships were generally in just good enough shape to be deemed spaceworthy while the insides were usually so chaotic and disorganized it was a wonder anybody could find anything ever. Maybe it was some sort of protection against pirates. If the pilot could never find anything useful or valuable in a short period of time neither could a criminal, at least it evened the odds.

The joy for the spacer must be in the piloting; it certainly wasn’t in the housekeeping.

However, it wasn’t the state of Gaxx’s ship that halted Thrace in the lounge. Standing across from him, before turning and heading aft, was a menacing armored figure that looked like he should be in cahoots with 4-LOM. The remaining figure briefly braced herself against a bulkhead as the freighter finally took off. The appealingly proportioned, athletic young woman seemed to Thrace to possess both an aura of command and a mysterious demeanor that seemed to Thrace out of place in a ranking officer. It wasn’t as if she was out of her depth, merely out of place, as if she should be at some Moff’s grand ball and not living a life of hit and run warfare. Neither impression was projected strongly enough to overshadow the woman’s good looks though and Thrace felt himself drawn to her from some intangible level; a fact that both appealed to--and worried him. He realized he had been staring at her even as she studied him with a mixture of practicality, measured calm (or was it shyness), and personal curiosity.

Her voice when she finally broke the silence was pleasant-sounding and just a little deeper than Thrace had expected. “You’re a Jedi Knight—the student of Syr Andru?”

“I was Syr Andru’s student but I’m not a Jedi Knight.” Thrace caught her lightning quick glance at Ruus-Saal who had seated himself near a computer console.

The Gran nodded to the young woman, Lieutenant Commander Thesme Solarin, meet Jedi Thrace Starwind.

Somehow, he was sure he didn’t know quite how, but Thrace felt entirely at ease. People seemed to have a very high opinion of him. “I was my master’s apprentice—I haven’t earned the honorific yet.” He was sure he could trust both Ruus Saal and Thesme with his life. It didn’t mean he knew what else to say.

Thesme knew of Jedi via history and propaganda, as did most of her generation. There had been no Jedi on Dantooine in her lifetime but she had always been intrigued by the order and their devotion to the mysterious “Force”. Older people used the Force in oaths and epitaphs but now the mere mention of the “religion” was practically grounds for arrest. She had never thought she would meet a Jedi and had jumped when offered the chance to rendezvous with one and deliver him to a waiting cruiser. Still, she had expected to meet a wise old man or an elder statesman the likes of she had known in happier days at home, not an energetic young man her own age. And yet--she sensed much in him, he emanated trust and trustworthiness.

It didn’t mean she knew what else to say:

“You’re younger than I’d thought you’d be.” Was all she could think of.