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Thinithil
25 December 2004, 07:41 PM
Chapter 95


The three Rebels finally found themselves on a corner looking across the intersection at the more unique taverns and restaurants on the boardwalk and the more common eateries inland from the seaside. The choice was upon them but Thrace turned to look behind the way they had come.

The gray protocol ‘droid was there, as he knew it would be, watching, about half a block away and the Jedi beckoned for it to catch up. The mechanoid stiffly advanced and was soon standing before Thrace and his two hungry friends.

“Yes sir, can I be of service sir?” The ‘droid helpfully asked.

“What are you called?” Thrace asked.

“My master can find..”,

Thrace stopped the recitation. “What is your designation?”

The ‘droids photoreceptors blinked. “I am FL-3PO, sir.”

Several warnings went off in the young Jedi’s head at the stated designation. All of the warnings were of course ignored by the often impatient, usually reckless, and by now ravenous man. The thought that struck him as most odd was the double prefix. Thrace had never met a protocol ‘droid with a double prefix and he started to say something. He turned to a quick glance to the sometimes careful and other-times rash ex-senator beside him but there was no hint of questions there. Thrace, although not wanting to ignore the curious anomaly—did just that.

“Who is your owner? Is he a local business man?”

“Sir, if you wish to meet him I could arrange that with no difficulty whatsoever.” Whatever instincts or logarithms churned in the cruddy 3PO’s innards sensed a sale and his attentiveness, as frustratingly focused as the next of his series, now became palpably and excitedly focused on Thrace.

“I would like to meet with him.”

“Space...”

The use of the nickname clued Thrace into the fact that Zurich was in his careful phase. The Senator was always careful with an idea of Thrace’s.

“I don’t think we should involve the machine here that may or may not have had something to do with me getting blasted back there.”

“What got you blasted back there,” Thrace shook his head, “was not playing well with others.”

Thrace had meant the pirates back at Al’s but from Thesme’s shift in posture she meant his intended her friends reminder to apply to the ungentlemanly behavior displayed by Ivory also back at Al’s.

“It’ll mean trouble. This is the underworld we’re dealing with.”

“The underworld already knows were here. That was Scallion Var back there and I introduced myself to him if he had any doubts.”

“Oh, well, then do whatever you want.” Although the sarcasm dripped like sqill-venom it was also meant in wholehearted seriousness. “It’ll be your fault anyway.”

“I can take you to him.” The ‘droid added hopefully.

“No. He can meet us.” Thrace looked around at the eateries along the avenue and his two Rebel friends.

Thesme seemed noncommittal to a specific locale.

Thrace saw a large-windowed restaurant with blue trim and shaded views. “Bawning’s across the street by the boardwalk. We’ll be there for at least the next ninety minutes. Tell your master to find us there.”

The ‘droid shuffled off, servos whining, into the evening traffic.



What character did the Corellian population have that set them so seemingly apart from the rest of humanity? The men tended to have relatively serious, if not over-professional, hair styles that accented their seemingly too serious demeanors. Thrace didn’t recall if had ever met a Corellian woman so he couldn’t really make any judgments there. Did the natives of this system seem to look down on everybody else? Certainly history gave credit for many of the pioneering hyperspatial navigating to Corellians—Perhaps they were smug about that? Whatever the distinction was the greeter at Bawning’s was a perfect example. Intensely coifed, sharp featured, quick jabs of meaningful words when called for only, Thrace shrugged.

The large windows facing the boardwalk and shaded by the cobalt tapestries that had drawn their attention were lined with semi-private high backed booths of polished wood and they were led to one upon their request. Thrace had a local brew while Ivory called for a native whiskey to fortify his displaced blood. Thesme squinted, probably wondering what the alcohol would accomplish when mixed with medicines she had recently finished injecting the senator with, she declined a drink though when she saw Thrace’s inquiring glance.

“I guess I’m just not in the mood.”

Thrace had been wondering about the woman’s reticence since the brief confrontation with CorSec. She had been releasing, at periodic intervals, signs of much stress she must be under. As much as he wanted to speak with her about it she seemed to resist conversations that detailed the interlude in her and Thrace’s relationship that now seemed certain to recommence when they located Captain Sterling and returned to Durvoth. The unit’s previous history had something to do with the mood swings as well and that admitted fact had nearly sunk his own soul into a self-incriminating abyss. Any recovery on her part seemed to be followed by a deeper withdrawal and the young man sitting across from her was feeling his curiosity turning to quiet concern.

Ivory felt immensely relieved to have the chance to sit at last. He wouldn’t admit but being blasted had taken a lot out of him and the stimulants were beginning to fade. Thesme had sat down on the side of the booth facing the main entrance and her Jedi-boyfriend (how long had that been going on) slid in across from her and then him next to Thrace. He couldn’t see the occupants of the other booths behind the young woman but could see the access to the second exit at the far end of the windowed restaurant front. Thrace was trying to make conversation with his nervous girlfriend and had begun to inhale an ordered sandwich. Thoughts aplenty were suffused within Ivory’s mind. He supposed the catalytic member of the fraternity was his disenfranchisement with Alliance command. He had officially become a member of the extraordinarily fledgling Diplomatic Corps to make a mark on the galaxy’s outlook upon what the official Government referred to casually as a rebellion. Palpatine’s extra-chancelloresque powers had removed any hope of reform from the collective hands of the Senate and civil war had resulted. But even the Alliance had begun acting like the government he fought against. Sending him and the rest of the realigned 642nd to Ralus on a mission that was a mere smokescreen was an insult in some ways to the relatively recently commissioned units string of successes. It was the incredible and avoidable danger that they had encountered that made him believe he should return his credentials though. They had blindly flown into the heart of an Imperial base, an Imperial base that had seemed to be expecting them, and been shot down and scattered from the start. They had lost several members of the team, mostly junior officers, and that would have not happened if they had been allowed to make any of the calls. There hadn’t been anything approaching an exit strategy involved and those who had linked up thanks to tribal natives managed to escape with a ship and the faux prize with more death in the wake of that adventure. Perhaps he would turn his thoughts to his homeworld and its government, marry a beautiful, young, and apparently powerful woman waiting for him on Belial, and let the Alliance go its own way. He had served and while away his mother had been killed, Belial torn apart, and he was tired of being gunned down on a weekly basis.

Through the bottom of his glass Ivory noted a group depart a booth and make towards the far exit. A tall woman with the complete opposite of a meek countenance, severely styled short blond hair, and a suit that but for the lack of any insignia was a military officers uniform led three Corellian gentleman with equally severe yet slightly different suits and expressions away from their booth. Ivory’s bismuthian crystal tumbler hit the table with a solid ‘thunk’ and he realized that he had been observing the four core-worlders more critically than he had realized. It had occurred to him that they could even be Imperials but why join Thrace in the throes of speculative paranoia? Glancing at his own associates he noted that neither had seemed to notice and with one last sip finished off his whiskey.

Thesme combined a glance at her chrono with a half-hearted stretch and sighed agitatedly as another trail ran cold.

“Back to the ship?” Ivory asked.

Thrace did not want to give up but did not have any magical solutions to add. “Maybe something will turn up on the way back.”

“Only a “Jedi” could be optimistic.”

Thesme slid Ivory a cursory glance but leaving credit for their meal on the table they left via the main entrance where Thrace was nearly traumatized by the sudden appearance of the tardy ‘droid.

“My apologies sir,” FL had apparently noted the young man’s start, “my master wasn’t able to meet with you in the time prescribed. I have been authorized to bring him to you?”

“I’m not sure that would be good enough.”

Thrace was hesitant. A sudden inspiration of dread had crept into his mind at the ‘droid’s offer and although he couldn’t say exactly why he wanted to end their relationship with the machine and its master.

“Why not now, Thrace?” The cautious hunch had not been received by Ivory who also saw an opportunity to needle his friend. “You were willing to have him join us for lunch but now meeting with him isn’t something you want?”

“There’s a difference between his meeting us in a local bistro and us being taken to some shady who-knows-where.” Thrace thought the evidence was compelling but Ivory apparently wanted to see their current undertaking through.

“Where is the meeting to be held?” Ivory inquired.

“I’d be most glad to transport you there myself.” FL seemed happy to be winning, “My master has allowed me to bring a vehicle for your convenience.”

Down the avenue in front of the restaurant a speeder was parked and waiting. It wasn’t new or old and included the wear and tear of a typical speeder a person saw gliding down a city street. The passenger compartment was spacious enough for the three Rebels to sit not uncomfortably but there was no conversation during the drive. FL gradually left the sea behind and drove through several night-lit shopping and business districts before the view started becoming more that of an industrial urban center. The drive would have been pleasant for any of them if they hadn’t each been lost in their own thoughts. Warehouses now dominated the view and with a final twist and turn the speeder approached a set of blast doors at the end of a building as innocuous as any they could see. After a moment the doors separated and the speeder slowly floated in to park. As the engines cycled down and powered off completely the three passengers became accustomed to a relatively dim red glow that suffused the buildings interior. Except for where they had entered directly behind large crates were set and piled on all sides. A door could be seen on the opposite wall and another speeder was apparently stored in an alcove to their right. Thrace looked up at their ‘droid escort but as soon as he did he noted the rigidity and slight lean of the now deactivated mechanoid.

Reality began to creep into their thoughts and with a soft hiss a green cloud began to emanate from the boxes in front of their speeder. Thrace clambered over the side and helped pull Thesme down as she stepped up on the seat and jumped down beside him. They quickly exchanged glances to affirm the others readiness—Thesme gripped her blaster and Thrace his deactivated lightsaber. Ivory had climbed out on the far side but before any plan or question could be voiced blaster bolts tore out of the gas.

Thrace felt the momentary panic of a situation rapidly spiraling out of control but as he saw Thesme quickly fit a breath filter to her face he calmed and managed ease his own body into a state where the fumes wouldn’t affect him. Thesme took cover behind a large crate and motioned for him to join her.

It certainly seemed to Thrace only one shooter was part of the current trap and with a determined look at Thesme he spun and activated his violet-bladed saber. Thesme’s wide-eyed return glance made it obvious that she did not favor his plan but he was determined and with a sudden dodge moved a fair way before a sudden volley came precariously close and pinned him beside the speeder. Gathering his seemingly aggressive reserve of resolve he spun around, sidestepped once more, and advanced on their unseen adversary. Muzzle flashes were distinct to him now although he couldn’t see who was holding the gun and with another step it became his turn to feel the impact of blaster fire on his shoulder. Spun to the ground, Thrace began a channeling that would allow him to remain conscious to at least gain cover. This time there was no drama to cling to and as darkness took him he wondered who in the world was buzzing his comlink.

Ivory couldn’t believe his eyes. Starwind was a magnet for blaster bolts. So why did he keep getting himself in situations that got him shot? Thesme looked a little tense where Thrace had left her and Ivory grimaced, concentrating on where it seemed like the shots were coming from. Resting his pistol on his arm—braced on top of the crate he had ducked behind, he rattled off two or three quick shots. Lifting his head he thought he saw a glow in the slowly dissipating cloud his own filter had protected him from. An eruption of sparks quickly faded and he hoped he had hit the weapon of their assailant. He thought of advancing but the sudden intrusion of multiple blaster rounds showed him that he had either missed or the gundark had a second weapon. Remaining low he noticed his comlink blinking and hit the switch.

“Ivory? What the hell is going on down there?”

“No small talk?” Ivory baited Shar—clearly perturbed, her natural state, but at least it wasn’t her shooting at them. That was a positive. “Where are you?”

It was hard to hear her voice over the echoing of the shots. “I’m landing now. Your Jedi didn’t answer his comlink and it took me longer to get here than Sterling’s ship.”

“Well, get a fix on my signal. Thrace is down and we’re trapped in a warehouse.”

“That’s unbelievable!”

Ivory knew that what trust existed between the Rebels and the bounty hunter was tenuous but she was genuinely helpful of late. “Just get here as soon as you can. There was some gas and I can’t make out how many we’ve got here.”

“Whatever. Try to survive. You’re not far off.”

Ivory was certain he heard what sounded like laughter as the connection closed and he shoved his comlink in a pocket. The shots had stopped for the moment and scurrying quickly he moved up a crate to more oblique angle and rested his gun on his arm again looking for some movement in the red-tinged shadows. Nothing. Ducking again he glanced again at Thesme who had fired a few rounds herself and now seemed to be steeling for a break out. The young woman suddenly sprinted out from behind her cover. She was spry, Ivory gave her that, but instead of heading directly for more cover her initial vector took her close to the fallen Thrace. Ivory’s demeanor stiffened and he started to shout but the young woman had no intention of staying in the line of fire long enough to get hit herself and apparently had just wanted at the very least a cursory glance at her lovers injuries.

Their quiescent opponent suddenly began an alarming stream of fire at her and Thesme nimbly took a running step and dove headlong behind a crate. Even as her body lanced athletically through the air a crimson bolt struck her midriff and it’s vector sent the young woman rolling backward into another crate—Out of sight but unmoving.

Ivory swore and peered around his crate. A bolt sizzled by so closely that it took a moment for the Senator to shake his head clear of its dazzling proximity. He quickly poked his lucky blaster over his cover and fire twice turned and ran around the far end of the container. Apparently this was what his opponent had expected and another shot hummed near—this one actually grazed him and his reaction to the superficial burn was to spin, collide with the wall, and land on his hands and knees several meters closer to the sniper and behind another obstruction—Thank the Lords.

Once more the firing had ceased and Ivory gambled that his rival was assuming him downed. Bracing himself he suddenly stood straight up, arms out in front with two hands on his blaster, his eyes narrowed as he now perceived what appeared to be another ‘droid, but he didn’t hesitate and shot...

The creature’s rifle moved in slow motion to Ivory who really, really didn’t want to get blasted twice in one day. Just as he saw the rifle raised his own shot intersected the ugly weapon and there was an incredible explosion. Side-stepping so as not to be in the same place when the smoke cleared he kept his pistol raised.

Now having a straight line of sight at the revealed figure it was indeed a ‘droid as unmoving as FL-3PO still in the speeder. Frozen in its last position, what appeared to be 4-LOM, stood behind a crate with its cerebral plating blown away by the weapon explosion. Another explosion sounded from behind and spinning to face the entrance-blast doors they opened roughly to reveal Shar, a heavy blaster rifle still smoking, crouchingly enter the warehouse.

“You missed the fun!”

“I see what you mean.” Shar eyed the still forms of Thrace and Thesme.

Ivory was intent upon a closer look at 4-LOM, “See if you can help Thrace.”

Shar’s rifle lowered to least ‘ready-for-action’ position it ever reached as she walked towards the comatose Jedi. She tapped the front of her helmet while looking at Ivory. “Was it the gas? Oh,” The young mans complexion seemed fine but there were several burns from blaster fire on his shirt. With a shrug she stuck a simple breath filter over Thrace’s mouth. She wasn’t sure if he had just been lucky or used his arcanery to resist the fumes but it couldn’t hurt. A quick application of healing gel and synthflesh followed by a strong dose of stimulants soon elicited a quick quiet groan before he pushed himself up to sit in the floor rubbing his face and eyes, removing the mask he seemed surprised and annoyed to find there and leaving it on the floor before suddenly noticing the armored figure crouching next to him.

“You’re welcome.”

“Sharra?” The confusing blurriness of his vision coalesced into the standard ‘where am I’ of a victim and then the more astute look Starwind generally wore. “Thanks. It’s better than waking in you stasis chamber.”

Shar shrugged both at his use of her older name and his reference to their traditionally antagonistic roles. “See to your girlfriend.” She stood with a quick glance at Thesme. “I’m going to see what Zurich found up front.”

Thrace immediately pushed himself to his feet and after a deep breath or two that Shar thought seemed to bring a rush of healthier color to his face strode over to where the Lady Solarin lay stretched on one side with her blaster on the ground beside her.

Shar walked toward the front of the warehouse and paused only momentarily by the still deactivated protocol ‘droid in the speeders control seat. She wondered about taking it if they had actually slain the robotic hunter but decided it would have enough installed pitfalls to make it not worth the time. Relaxing more she shouldered her rifle and ran a hand over the speeder. Several shots seemed to have hit the central pylon and she doubted less than an hours work would get it running again.

Ivory examined the ruined head of the ‘droid bounty hunter. Nearly half of the cranial casing was blown away from the weapon explosion including an entire large photoreceptor. It was mesmerizing to study the intricacies of ‘droids workings but a glance behind him showed that Shar was standing from beside Thrace now and would be heading his direction. Much of 4-LOM’s arm was damaged as well, one hand was completely blown off and the outer casing on one arm was rent and torn. Something caught Ivory’s eye, a piece of that casing that wasn’t bent but opened on hinges. A small compartment had been revealed and taking some care not to cut himself on the fatigued edges Ivory removed a circuit-covered data card of some sort. He studied it for a moment or two.

“Well, don’t notch your lucky blaster just yet.”

“What?” Ivory was taken by surprise at Shar’s voice beside him. He took a half step away from the second frozen ‘droid of the day while placing the card in his belt.

“Here?” Shar indicated some encryptions on 4-LOM’s neck that Ivory would have paid less than no heed. “That’s a trinary code some bounty hunters use within what small guilds survived the wars. ‘4-LOMb’. Looks like Starwind’s and Solarin’s friend left a dupe behind to keep up watch well he hunted more fertile grounds. Would have worked except for your lucky shooting.”

“My lucky shooting seems to have been good enough.”

“He seems to have taken out his primary targets easily enough.”

Ivory’s smile was somewhat mirthless, “Thrace never does well with bounty hunters.”

Midnight_Marauder
25 December 2004, 08:26 PM
Great story! :D I love the dialogue in this piece. I can tell you know alot about Star Wars and you know what your'e talking about. Or, if you don't, you know alot more than I do...Is this the beginning of the story? I'd really like to see what happens next. Also, I like the fact that you left the reader hanging at the end of the story, it really gets him/her excited about what's going to happen next. I know I'd really like to see where this story goes with time...

Thinithil
27 December 2004, 04:34 PM
Thanks for the kind words!

This is near the tail-end of an ongoing story based on a d6 campaign that's been up and running since '87.

The title is correct in that this is Chapter 95 (of 96)and about half are written up in this fashion while the others are in a longish summary form awaiting the write up.

I'd love to get these into the OJ but it has been problematic with all the staff turnover. I'm biding my time waiting to check out the new regime...heh heh heh... What? Sorry! It has been rough with changes and real life but I'm confident it's going to be great! The OJ that is...

Actually I'd like to volunteer for duty if the need arises and help out on the OJ...That AND save the time space continuum... Read the constitution!