View Full Version : Chapter 96

4 January 2005, 11:50 AM
Sorry about the 84.1 it was something I was editing one day and felt like sticking up here... Here's the latest:

4 January 2005, 11:55 AM

Truth be told, Thrace Starwind wasn’t feeling altogether steady on his feet as, arm across Thesme Solarin’s shoulder, he ‘helped’ the young Rebel Commander across the small warehouse floor to where senator Ivory Zurich and a blue tinge-armored bounty hunter stood beside the upright rigid remains of what was not another bounty hunter.

“It’s not 4-LOM.” Ivory told his fellow operatives as they approached.

The information interested the young Jedi but a shiver still ran down Thesme’s frame as she inspected the damaged head of the ‘droid’s duplicate.

“Can we get out of here?”

Usually her suggestions were based on propriety and prudence but this one was more personal and Thrace gave her shoulder a squeeze. It was probably the one spot she wasn’t bruised after the groups recently ended cornering by the broken mechanoid.

Ivory started towards the speeder that had brought the three Rebels to the warehouse. Parked in the middle of the floor where the deactivated protocol ‘droid who had driven them into the trap had left it, it bore scars from the brief firefight that had erupted around it.

The just arrived, and currently allied, bounty hunter had noticed the damage. “It won’t work,” her vocoded vocals informed them. “The central engine’s damaged and you need it to start the others.”

“Great.” Ivory spun around; all business now that a new course of action was set. The former Belialian senator had received his daily allotment of injuries earlier that day outside Al’s Alehouse and like Thesme had been mostly healed by Thrace’s Force proficiencies. His quick spin threatened to unbalance him for a moment.

Nos Polthuna was a typical Tralus city. An urban core, beautiful suburban areas which quickly gave way to nearly pristine wilds—this time including a seafront, a busy spaceport, and many cantinas equally provisioned with alcohols and beings who consumed them and were ready for whatever action they could find or devise. Commander Solarin, her beau Lieutenant Commander Starwind, and Ivory Zurich had made a stop at Al’s looking for the pilot who had shanghaied them to Tralus and locked the controls of his ship. It was a good thing Tyhe Sterling had thought to do that. Although not a pilot by training—Thesme in her righteous indignation would have gladly done everything in her power to get the Solar Riser to Durvoth without its captain. Sterling had picked a poor time to drown his sorrows over a misplaced co-pilot. During their search of the premises Ivory had blasted a pirate and in turn been blasted outside by his friends. Low profile was not an apt description of the trio’s search. Their wish to make use of a helpful ‘droids offer to find their friend had brought them here.

Ivory spotted a second speeder that was sitting in a slight alcove. He was a willing driver these days as he expanded his repertoire of talents past conning and convincing and so ignoring the accumulated dust jumped aboard and attempted to start the engines with little success.

“There’s power but nothing’s igniting.” he announced.

Shar moved over to the speeder and removed a cowl from the port engine after glancing at the indicators for a moment. She seemed to rummage for a minute or two as the remaining Rebels joined them.

“Your friends co-pilot has been captured.” Shar announced as she critically examined a stripped cable.

Thrace was taken aback at the sudden revelation. “How do you know that? By who?” He hoped it wasn’t true. He had never really grown to know Bronze even though she had been a default member of the unit for some time while serving on the Riser.

Shar’s helmeted visage turned for a moment to look pointedly at him. “The Imperials captured her here on Tralus.”

“Oh,” She would be privy to gossip like that as a bounty hunter, and a bounty hunter sponsored by a Moff. Still he felt like something needed to be said—That they should do something... He looked at the others but Shar had returned to the engine, Ivory was still checking controls, and Thesme seemed not to want to add anything.

Several sparks flew from under her gauntleted hands and Shar stepped back and waited expectantly as Ivory hit the activator again.

Ivory’s attempt sputtered the speeder to life and after a moment or two the idle seemed to relax to a fair facsimile of a speeders normal hum. Shar joined Ivory near the controls leaving the back for the young pair. Shar’s damage to the blast doors had been adequate enough to allow the speeder to exit and the neighborhood had been just seedy enough for CorSec not to investigate.

The drive back to the spaceport was less circuitous than their inbound route had been and Thrace sat quietly, troubled by unanswered questions about their ‘evacuation’ of Tibanna City, Thesme’s route to the city and the fate of her friend Caliak, Shar’s former sponsor, and now Bronze’s capture. It was a fully dark night now and traffic was light as approached the spaceport. At the entrance there was some congestion due to the usual comings and goings as well as those new arrivals still getting acclimated to Tralus’s driving etiquette. Shar indicated a far edge of the field and Ivory managed to bring the speeder to her indicated berth without flaming out any of the engines. Of course the terrain was much less rigorous here than on the moors of Belial’s southern land mass.

The streamlined Imperial Gray transport Redeemer reinforced Shar’s “business” contacts and stood waiting. As they approached the freighter its ramp slowly lowered with impeccable timing. Ivory parked the speeder off to one side.

Shar wasted no time. “Let’s get off this rock.” She marched up the ramp.

Ivory seemed to agree and followed. He had removed the recovered data card from his belt and wanted to find any sort of technical area that might be aboard to help him analyze it.

Thesme was about to walk up as well but noticed Thrace hang back. With a somewhat impatient glance she grasped a ramp strut as if it could pull her upwards onto the ship and then offworld. She turned towards Thrace, mouth firm, eyes daring him to say what he was about to say.

“We can’t leave.”

He uttered the expected words without preamble.

“Thrace, what’s he done for us? He’s marooned us, placed us in jeopardy just being on this rude excuse for a civilized world, we’ve been shot at by pirates, and barely escaped one of the more ruthless bounty hunters in the galaxy!” Thesme was too agitated to retain her normal composure as she argued and had begun to pace. He’s a drunk, dishonest, poor excuse for an officer.”

“But he is one of us and a friend, or, as you put it earlier anyway, a friend of mine.”

Thesme had stopped her restless roaming and leaned back on the pylon, disregarding what it would do to her battleworn tunic. She rubbed her tired face with dirty hands—a sure sign of undiluted aggravation.

Thrace wasn’t sure if his argument was strong enough at this point, “I just can’t live with myself as a friend, a fellow Rebel, or a... Jedi, if I ignore situations like this. And if he hears about Bronze he’ll try something. If we thought his planned binge might get him in trouble...”

“Damn him! Thrace!” Thesme turned, furious, and punched the strut in her frustration, “If we do find him I’m going to kill him! He doesn’t deserve—“

Thrace’s comlink signaled; its performance greatly enhanced by his being conscious enough to answer it.

Thrace was concerned about her hand but Thesme ignored it and waited impatiently. He plucked the device off his belt and answered as he noted a curious Ivory coming back down the ramp to check on them.

“Thrace? Thrace! They took him, stormtroopers! Near the arch!”

“Stormtroopers?” Thrace was off balance by the information suddenly flowing at him from the hysterical Jevelle. “The arch? That’s where?”

There were Imperials here in the city.” Ivory told them factually. At Bawning’s, officers, a very serious blond woman and a couple well dressed guys.”

“You’re telling us now?” Thrace couldn’t believe it but what would they have done about it?

Thesme too had straightened; the current fire in her normally empathetic eyes was directed at the Senator, and didn’t need her current disagreement with Thrace to fan the flames, “A blond woman, officer; as tall as I am? Was it Tremath?”

“He wasn’t with us then.” Thrace noted, “He wouldn’t know her.”

“Who’s Tremath? What’s it matter?” Ivory could feel the tension at the ramps bottom.

“She was an Imperial officer on one our of early missions.” Thesme leaned in, “Tyhe captured her, impersonated her stormtrooper/’lover and brought her aboard the Ocean Flame.”

Ivory seemed unconvinced of the trouble.

“Her father is Moff Tremath. He brought a star destroyer with him and took the Flame, rescued her, probably sent her after Tyhe.” Thrace finished.

“Oh. Well what would we have done?”

“Nothing, something; maybe tailed her if we had known,” Thrace remembered the comlink. “Jevelle, do you know where they are now?”

Jevelle seemed stricken, “They just drove off in an Imperial security transport.”

Shar came down now to get the latest round of bad news and was asked to drive them to the Polthuna Arch where Jevelle would wait. Simply saying the bounty hunter was displeased is not enough.

The roads were not so empty as when they had returned to the Redeemer. Now their way led them towards the social and cultural center of the city along the seafront and many vehicles drove towards various destinations or simply cruised. The main thoroughfare along the beach’s boardwalk was pleasant enough—except for the anticipation of combat sure to lay in there future. Thrace had anticipated attacking the security speeder but had no idea how they’d return to either ship after a bold stroke such as that.

Ahead the spotlights illuminated the Polthuna Arch, an eleven-meter tall structure that commemorated some unknown aspect of Corellian society. The road split into a traffic circle around the arch and Shar swung the speeder away from the shore and around to the right side of the arch.

“Over there,” Thesme spotted Jevelle on the boardwalk.

Shar maneuvered to stay on the right edge of the road and pulled up to the boardwalk after two hundred seventy degrees of the circle had been completed.

Jevelle looked like she was in shock and Thrace let her in the back passenger compartment between Thesme and himself.

“They left just a few minutes ago,” Jevelle leaned forward and pointed towards the main road that exited the circle directly away from the sea, “We may even catch up with them.”

No one seemed ready to add anything and they proceeded in the indicated direction assessing their personal strategies. Shar didn’t waste any time and Thrace began to wonder if she had some access to CorSec bandwidths in her helmet. The currently neutral bounty hunter seemed overly eager to run through intersections despite the indicators and although they avoided any particularly close calls Thrace found himself looking behind their speeder for signs of traffic patrols.

“There! That has to be it!” Jevelle broke the silence.

Ahead a block or two was a slight rise in the road and over its crest was disappearing a standard gray Imperial transport. Driving a little more carefully to avoid being made Shar closed the gap as the vehicle slowed ahead and turned to the right.

When the Rebels and friends reached the T-junction they followed the transport and assessed the terrain. They had emerged into what Thrace thought must be the administrative center of Tralus. Low hedges and roads surrounded a large green parkland square and along the outside of the roads were nearly continuous three and four-level buildings that were of a simple unostentatious architecture that screamed bureaucracy. The ring was broken by narrow alleyways that allowed access to the backs of the buildings at the corners and the road they had just turned off of and one directly across from it. Their target continued left around the square and the center building in that line was slightly taller than those around it. Aircars buzzed off and onto the rootop and the consensus was that it must be CorSec’s local or planetary central headquarters. Following but lagging they watched as the larger vehicle trundled to a near stop and then entered a large set of blastdoors on the near flank. Garage doors were also present on the HQ’s opposite flank and as they passed the doors closed behind Tyhe’s ride. Reaching the alley at the rows end Thrace had Shar pull over and the rest disembarked.

“Get back to your ship,” Thrace advised, “I’m sure we’ll be calling in the not to distant future.”

“I can see why Tyhe needed some excitement if you use him and his ship like you’ve used mine.” Shar growled before exiting the square a little more speedily than Thrace would have considered prudent.

Thrace had the sensation that everybody behind him was watching him and waiting for the plan.

“Well my first instinct is just to charge in the front door but that can’t possibly be the right thing to do.” Thrace thought out loud.

No one disagreed with his assessment.

A patrol speeder inched up to the right-side blastdoors and entered the garage while above several aircars departed on their patrols and errands.

“We’re going to need uniforms at the very least.” Thrace thought for another few seconds, “Jevelle, use a comlink and call for help. That should bring two or three officers to the alley.”

“I can’t!” Jevelle seemed somewhat terrified at having to act out the role.

“It’s easy,” Thrace explained somewhat unsympathetically, “Tell ‘em you’re out for a walk and some vagrant or over-stimulated local is beginning to threaten you...”

“But I’ve nev..”

“It’s academic anyway.” Ivory had kept watch out of the alley towards the CorSec building and now backed into the shadows, “There’s a speeder coming this way.”

Thrace realized that Jevelle had been standing out on the walkway and drawn attention just doing that. He joined Ivory and Thesme in the shadows.

The well-maintained speeders engine barely made a sound as it coasted up and a gentle huff emanated from beneath it as the repulsors reset to parking mode. Two gray-helmeted men climbed out and approached the young woman.

Jevelle needed no prompting to seem frightened by her situation and told a quick story much like the one Thrace had offered. When she pointed into their alley Thrace didn’t remember it including calling attention to the Rebels as part of the tale but Ivory’s and Thesme’s blaster fire quickly stunned them and the two men dragged the patrolmen into the alley.

Thrace quickly started pulling CorSec trousers on over his out of expediency. The other uniform was to ridiculously large for the women and too short for Ivory so the Senator stood guard as Thrace worked on his uniform.

“Another speeder is going into the garage.” Ivory turned to report. “Must be the end of a shift or something.” He looked back out, “Ummm, actually, it’s headed this way.”

“It must have seen the other speeder!” Thesme hissed and picked up the helmet Thrace had kicked behind him somewhere. “Hurry up!”

Thrace tucked in the last of his new shirt into the dark trousers and pulled the tight helmet Thesme tossed his way. He turned and walked out of the alley just as the second speeder pulled up alongside the first.

Thrace did not look good. Having pulled on the trousers and tunic over his own he looked extremely rumpled. He walked out of the alleyway and leaned on the first speeder as if resting from some pursuit.

“Report officer.” The new arrivals left their ride and stood across the first from Thrace.

“... A sergeant.” Thrace straightened up and tried to neaten his uniform. He did this merely out of panic but it served to make look nervous in front of a patrolman of higher grade. Still, he didn’t need any assistance looking nervous, as everything seemed to be quickly getting out of control. “Answering a disturbance call Sergeant,” he turned to indicate Jevelle but the young woman hadn’t accompanied out of the shadow. “Oh, grife!”

The Jedi turned back to the patrolman, both had their hands on their belts now, way, way too close to their blasters for Thrace’s peace of mind. He really didn’t want to either use his lightsaber here in the street or for that matter take out the men before him. An overly calm part of his brain wondered how many CorSec men and women would be inclined to not believe every piece of Imperial propaganda that was hung in front of them—I’m a Jedi here to rescue a political prisoner...nah.

The Sergeant made a motion with his free hand, “Why don’t you come over here?”

Thrace started to continue his failed con when two glowing blue arcs of energy emerged from beside him and stunned the newcomers.

“Thank you!” Thrace half turned to Ivory and Thesme behind them before running out and finding the speeder controls on the side of the drivers’ compartment. Pulling the lever into neutral allowed the speeder to be pushed and with a tug on the steering column he managed to guide the vehicle into the alley.

“One of those guys was pretty short.” He told Thesme as he jogged past her holstering her blaster. Thesme took the hint and dragged the smaller man into the alley before stripping him of his uniform.

The alley was not particularly wide but there was a series of large junction boxes a ways down and Thrace managed to steer the speeder into a gap between several of them before powering it down. Running back to front Ivory had pulled the taller man’s uniform on and Thesme had just to button her tunic. She had paused to heavily medicate the stunned men.

Standing, she began tucking in the shirt but it was still quite obviously too large for the tallish, athletic, but obviously femininely framed Rebel. Ivory couldn’t help but laugh at the outcome but Thesme merely answered with an irritated leer and tossed his borrowed jacket back in the Senator’s face. Thrace and Ivory quickly stashed the sedated guards in the hidden speeder while the women climbed aboard the second and got it turned around. Thrace and Ivory soon joined them—Thrace has decided he wanted to use Tagge as a nom de plume while Ivory selected Torran. Thesme shrugged and drove the speeder towards the garage entrance.

Thrace spare a quick glance around the square but saw no activity and watched the top of top of the HQ building instead. It seemed there was always an aircar or two landing or departing and he began a quick fret about whether Tyhe would be immediately bustled into one of them and taken beyond their easy reach... Unlike the ease of infiltrating a building filled with armed guards and Imperials of course.

The speeder glided up to the doors and a quick rummage through a couple storage compartments revealed a small but coded remote. Thesme wasted no time in cracking it open and trying a variation or two in wiring before the doors separated and they moved into the garage shoving the control box beneath one of the seats.

Several speeders had been parked off to the right and Thesme maneuvered in that direction and parked. There didn’t seem to be any activity in the garage—most of the patrols must have left already, and Thrace had Jevelle walk an arms distance ahead of him towards a large pair of doors that were set in the wall shared with the HQ building. Next to the doors was a transparsteel booth and as soon as they approached a desk officer appeared.

“Hold it.” The man seemed far more inconvenienced than interested and passed a somewhat unseeing eye across the lot of them. Thesme tried to stay behind the men.

“What’s this?”

Thrace had put a hand on Jevelle’s shoulder and pushed her closer to the window, “We were patrolling out where they picked up that smuggler and picked this one up whispering into a comlink she ditched...”

“What smuggler?”

Thrace couldn’t tell if the man had been ordered to be coy or simply didn’t know what had entered the garage ten minutes before, “Ahh, the one the Imperials just brought in here.” Maybe he hadn’t been on duty? This was going to cause annoyingly disruptive questions...

“What Imperials?”

Thrace had a panic attack. At least if they had gone in the front doors... No that would have been worse.

“Look Lieutenant,” Ivory stepped up beside his friend, “Maybe they didn’t report directly to you. Maybe there aren’t even any Imperials who came in here a little while ago with a prisoner. Maybe it was just a routine patrol with a drunk? Who cares who brought him in or what or who it was that got brought in. Your problem is that the Commander is waiting for this accomplice and is going to be a little put off that you’re up her asking stupid questions while they wait for us. In fact make that extremely displeased.”

The officer thought it over for barely a moment before he punched a control and the doors separated, “Take her in.”

Ivory gave a single nod and pushed Thrace in the back to get him marching. The Rebels passed through the doors and it became evident they were on a lift that rapidly descended after the doors closed behind them.

Thrace began to ready his mind for combat that might lie ahead. It took a lot out of him to maintain and often diminished his ability to sense anything outside the range of his concentration but when faced with incoming blaster-fire he felt the trade-offs were worth it.

Just as he felt the reassuring sensation of his expanded tactical awareness he heard a woman scream and quickly turned his head towards the rear of the lift. Ivory was beside him now and paid little attention. Thesme, in the back, looked up from her own thoughts just for a moment but there was certainly no alarm in her expression. The scream had been tangible, and, peculiar? It had come to him, he thought now, across a great distance wafted upon the Force and had not been altogether human. An alien... Thara. Thrace wondered if it had come from his fellow officer sent o recuperate on Belial with Ivory’s fiancé... The doors slid open.

The sound of the opening doors caused them all to lean forward but the opening was on the right and Thrace, holding his deactivated lightsaber in the small of Jevelle’s back spun her quickly to hide it. They stepped out into a small-undecorated room, antechamber/checkpoint where an Imperial officer sat at a desk flanked by a pair of stormtroopers before another blastdoor. The officer was immediately skeptical but it seemed most good Imperials were. He waited. What was it with the waiting? Some sort of psychological ploy?

“We have the smuggler’s friend.” Ivory bluffed nonchalantly while indicating the frightened young woman.

The officer seemed too interested in them instead of Jevelle, “CorSec shouldn’t be on this level.”

Thrace, in a blur of motion, shoved Jevelle to the left away from Ivory and incapacitated the left-hand trooper before sidestepping quickly and sending another slash at the second. Ivory was very nearly as surprised as the dodging second guard and after drawing his blaster missed his shot at the officer who was rising from behind his desk.

Thrace’s secondary swing had missed his second target and he heard the armored figure radio some sort of tactical alert into his comm-unit. With a quick backwards stab beneath his arm Thrace’s violet blade found it’s mark and the stormtrooper fell to his knees before collapsing. Ivory’s second shot had also found its target and after rebounding off the wall behind him the officer fell across the desk.

Ivory turned to assess the controls of the blastdoor but Thrace had already bypassed them with a gaping hole cut through the center. Not wasting any time he ducked through the elliptical opening and followed the jogging Jedi.

The passage they had entered was long, pale in color, and barren of anything. No doors begged to be searched and there didn’t seem to be any immediately obvious security concerns. To the better trained, or more paranoid, members of the Rebel group this was troubling by itself. Ivory hadn’t really paid serious attention to their bearing but wondered if this was some sort of service corridor leading back under the HQ building that perhaps even CorSec was unaware of.

Thrace had reached what had appeared in the featureless distance to be the corridors ending but was instead a t-junction. Instead of looking around the corner as soon as he reached it the young man waved for the others to slow and quiet their approach.

Thrace pulled up sharply a good meter short of the intersection. From both directions he heard the same sound he had heard during his last visit to Tralus—The telltale sound of stormtrooper boots on smooth finished floors. He edged forward and peered around the corner to find a pair of troopers jogging in his direction from both directions. Forgetting for the moment that he was in a CorSec uniform he pulled back around the corner and signaled to the rest about the threat.

“You. What’s CorSec doing on this level?”

Thrace started when he realized the sounds had stopped and the armored figure just around the corner was addressing him. He silently nodded towards the left in the hope that his comrades would get the idea and stepped around the corner without answering. Both pairs of troopers had indeed stopped several meters short of the intersection and had lowered their blasters in his direction as they assessed whether this ‘guard’ was the reason for the alert.

Thrace didn’t wait for them to become more proactive and with a hiss of energy ignited his lightsaber and managed in one long sweep to take out the two Imperials on his side. A quick shot had escaped the blaster of the second one to fall but it had been nowhere near its mark and quickly turning Thrace saw a plume of blaster fire erupt from the spot he had just vacated around the corner. Ivory emerged, one of the stormtroopers dropped by his blasters firepower, and as he drew a bead on the second who had attempted to circle around Thrace before noting the Jedi’s back-ups, saw the figure raise his arms in surrender—caught completely by surprise. Ivory was surprised as well by the sight.

Thesme quickly came forward and relieved the man of his weapon while Thrace looked down the branched passage. To the left were several small inconspicuous doors while to the right the corridor ended in another minor blastdoor with a short-radius security camera on the wall above it. Thrace pushed the trooper towards the armored portal and stopped where he felt he was just out of its field of view. He spun him around to face him and indicated the corners alongside the door where the others would seem to be able to hide out of sight.

Thrace stood in front of the blank-faced soldier and held up his lightsaber; the violet-white blade seemed to hum more ominously in the quiet. In fact it was that quiet that was making Thrace more nervous than usual when on a raid. They had been compromised he felt by the earlier stormtroopers alert and yet there wasn’t a squad and two thirds racing down on them at that very instant. Not even an alarm sounded. He hated it when his worst case scenarios didn’t play out as suspected. For one dramatic second he eyed his sabers energy blade before steeling himself he placed its tip just short of the point directly between the troopers shaded eyes.

The Jedi shrugged towards the blastdoor, “You—Get us in, or, you’re going to hear this blade sizzle through you mask just an instant before it enters your brain.”

Thrace waited for a moment and the trooper nodded just slightly as if he only wanted Thrace to notice.

Thrace had no idea what the thinking processes taking place inside the mask were and released the activator; his lightsabers blade seemingly cascaded down into its grip.

“Can a Jedi really say that sort of thing?”

Thrace turned the trooper around and prodded him towards the door while he found space in the hidden corner with Ivory. He had no idea if the Senator was being serious or not but had felt haste was their best ally down in the bowels of a strangely under-guarded maybe/maybe not Imperial facility that should have been brimming with armed men and women trying to arrest or kill them. He noted that neither Ivory’s or Thesme’s blaster had ceased pointing at the stormtrooper’s chest.

“We need more men,” The trooper announced simply. “There’s several infiltrators and they’ve managed to get past security.”

The trooper’s line seemed reasonable to Thrace but as every second ticked by his nerves frayed much, much more. After he believed he had counted to thirty and the trooper had given no sign whether or not he had been answered, nor had the door opened, Thrace raised his saber again and ignited it while steeping out of cover. The trooper took a step or two back but Thrace ignored him and turning quickly started slicing at the portal. It took him two solid semi-circular hacks before he could kick it in and during the second go he heard the peculiar crackle of a blaster set on stun. No one said anything and the trooper hadn’t been armed so he assumed he needn’t worry about the Imp, for a while, at least.

Thrace’s eyes were drawn to an opaque energy screen that seemed to bisect the octagonal room. The field was emitted between a pair of two-meter posts that were just far away from the walls of six-meter wide room to allow the stormtroopers to surge around it blasters blasting.

Thrace quickly rushed the two on the right and a quick slash dropped one. Blaster-fire behind him sounded like Ivory’s lucky blaster and a quick glance showed one of the two Imperials on that side drop as well. Thrace had the advantage in close quarters and quickly spun out of his second troopers arc of fire; a second sweep behind him felled the armored Imperial.

Thrace couldn’t see through the energy screen and stepped around it prepared for more fire. Ivory’s blaster had ceased its firing as well and Thrace trusted the Rebels had dispatched the remaining guard. No bolts of energy rushed at him but movement behind a fixed black chair in this half of the chambers center caught his eye.

A stately woman in crisp Imperial uniform tugged a disheveled but familiar freighter captain in front of her as a shield.

Thrace hadn’t really seen a lot of Lieutenant Commander Syra Tremath during the Kwenn infiltration. Mostly he remembered her disheveled unconscious form draped over Tyhe Sterling’s shoulder. The fact Tyhe had killed the stormtrooper whose armor he was then wearing and the fact that the trooper had been very high on Tremath’s romantic charts led to Tyhe’s current disheveled appearance. It looked as if even the few minutes he had spent in the rooms chair had been trying minutes. Syra was tall, nearly as tall as Tyhe, and her short blond hair and steely gray eyes made her seem exceptionally formidable—even for an Imperial. The woman now wore Commander emblems and held the manacled Captain Sterling in front of her seemingly focused entirely on Thrace.

“Drop the blade, Jedi.” She slowly backed towards what appeared to be an open turbolift behind her and now showed a small blaster.

Thrace had no serious intention of either deactivating or dropping his lightsaber and instead took one slow step forward.

The young Jedi was afraid they had come all this way only to watch Syra escape with her prize. His mind was still far too focused on wielding his lightsaber and although he tried several times to tug her blaster out of her grip he never felt as though he affecting it in the slightest.

Syra sensed something was amiss though. Whether she felt something in her gun hand or just wondered why Thrace wasn’t speaking, attacking, or capitulating, she hesitated.

To further her run of bad luck when cornered by elements of the 642nd Syra was then hit by a powerful bolt of ruby energy. Ivory didn’t pull any of his blasters punch and although the powerful modified weapons explosive discharge caught Tyhe nearly as much as it did the Imperial officer it did serve to separate the two. Stunned, Tyhe fell into the room while Syra stumbled backwards into the lift and was hidden when the doors slid shut.

“Oh no, Zurich won’t cause your death,” Thesme jogged around Thrace and up to the prone Captain Sterling. Kneeling beside him she began rummaging through her disguise’s belt pouches knowing that somewhere there would be at least rudimentary first aid supplies. She glanced back at Thrace and nodded towards the lift, “Get that thing open!”

“Yes sir,” Thrace responded somewhat cheered that his worst-case-scenarios had not come to pass. Moving up to the door he noted that it would take some rudimentary code to open and he began to try and recall Thesme’s lessons on lock slicing. His first efforts were unsuccessful.

Thesme didn’t have time to grade Thrace’s attempts. Virtually immediately after she had administered a stimulant to Tyhe the smuggler’s fuzzy perceptions saw nothing more than a blond-haired woman kneeling over him and his hands quickly grasped Thesme around her throat.

Thesme grabbed at the hands trying to strangle her. She was angry after a fashion for feeling guilty over her unsanctioned search for Thrace, angry at Thrace for not completely understanding her dedication to the Alliance cause, angry at Ivory for his poorly-timed attempts at comedy and loutish behavior more befitting a rutting bantha rather than a former senator, and furious at the man throttling her for bringing her to this wretched excuse for a civilized world and making her deal with all of this damn baggage!

“Tyhe you fool! It’s me!”

Clearness of vision returned to Sterling’s eyes and his hands loosened their grasp.

Thesme reached across her body and backhandedly slapped the Captain so hard the affect was much as if he had been stunned once more. Standing and straightening her uniform Thesme smiled a wry unkind grin at the man, “Sorry.”

Tyhe knew she wasn’t sorry.

Thesme wanted to be away from the man. She looked over at Thrace by the doors, “I’m going back with Jevelle... make sure we don’t have any back-ups coming from behind.” Thrace nodded and she quickly stalked back around the screen.

Thrace had barely heard Thesme’s announcement since the door was still giving him trouble. Ivory stood nearby but had no advice when Thrace suddenly remembered a small kit he had once been issued for almost this very purpose. Checking he belt he found the small electronic screen, similar to a small datapad, that also had a small plethora of many colored wires emanating from it.

Ivory looked dubious as Thrace picked up a stray fallen blaster rifle and cracked open the code-key box with the stock.

“No problem,” Thrace muttered. “Forgot I had this thing.” He used the screen to check for live connections behind the keys and inserted the appropriate wire to bypass the code. The device finally radiated a cool blue color and Thrace punched the override.

The success was not complete. In fact there wasn’t any success. Sparks flew from around the bypass, more sparks than a little security box should throw, and with an unfortunate clash a security door sealed off the turbolift even more completely.

Thrace was slightly dazzled for a moment after the short circuit and thought he heard more explosions in the distance. He wondered if he had set off some sort of bizarre chain reaction.

“Thrace! Hurry it up there’s six more troopers back here!”

Thesme’s situation appraisal finally confirmed Thrace’s expectations and pocketing the unhelpful gizmo he shoved it in a pocket and ran back towards the rearguard.

Thesme spared a glance while Jevelle kept firing. Down the corridor half a dozen stormtroopers were moving in and out of what cover they could find while keeping up a withering stream of fire.

“Couldn’t get it,” Thrace confessed. “Security’s too high or something.”

“I’ll get it,” Thesme pumped a few more quick shots at the Imperials and with a grimace peeled herself off the wall and jogged back towards the interrogation room.

A quiet but tension-filled series of minutes spilled by as Thrace and Jevelle faced off versus the troopers while Thesme cursed and back-engineered her way through the security doors and then the lifts doors. Thrace wasn’t sure if Jevelle had hit any stormtroopers and kept busy with his ancient violet-bladed lightsaber deflecting shots that seemed ready to pass them back into the chamber. Thesme’s satisfied exclamation indicated success and Thrace sent Jevelle back to the lift. Hesitating for a moment he turned himself and sprinted back.

“Ivory,” Thrace almost panted, drained from exertion, concentration, and his constant mental struggle to keep his Force-heightened reflexes at the surface. “Call Shar and have her buzz the roof!”

Ivory began fumbling with his comlink and the lift began to climb upward. After what seemed like too short of a time compared to their ride down it slowed and stopped.

“It can’t be that fast? Can it?” Jevelle wiped sweat dampened hair from her forehead.

Thesme studied the indicator for a moment before taking a tool off of her belt and beginning to pry the control board off the wall, “Nope. They’ve engaged the emergency locks to stop us... We’re not far from the top. I don’t know why they didn’t just cut the power.” She deftly crossed a few wires, licking her fingers after a small arc of current shocked her. Concentrating she turned a quick scowl at Thrace and the lift once more began to climb.

Thrace didn’t know what to make of the glance. Thesme’s moods had left his capacity to predict shortly after their arrival on Tralus. He made a promise to himself to work on his security skills very soon and then the lights went out and the car stopped.

No power could be sensed anywhere around them.

“Dammit Thesme!” Ivory couldn’t resist.

“Shut up...” Thesme’s blunt response was rooted in her anxiety as much as her frustration at with the unmannerly senator.

“We’ve got to get out of this thing.” Thrace studied the lifts door, “If they can control the power maybe they can control where it goes.”

“I’m working on it.” More sparks flew from where the young woman at the controls feverishly crossed wires and fuses until after frantic moments, each waiting to feel the lift begin to drop, the doors suddenly slid open. “We’re a level or two away down from the roof. Find another way up!”

Tyhe stumbled from the turbocar still a little worse for wear. The smuggler had appropriated a blaster rifle from the floor of his recent accommodation and glanced around as the group moved away up the hallway. The level they had emerged onto was mainly an administrative one based on what the various plaques beside the doors read. All the offices were dark leading to more consternation at the discernable lack of interference.

Maybe CorSec simply never expected this sort of behavior from prisoners and their friends?

A door caught Tyhe’s attention, “Over here...” He smacked the doors control and it hissed upwards, “It’s a maintenance access.”

Thrace had been following the group along. Until now he had sensed no imminent danger but frankly, while he kept his combat instincts honed with some concentration he knew it would practically take a blaster shot to make him take notice. Still something caught his attention behind them as they began entering the small equipment strewn room. He couldn’t tell if it had emerged from the turboshaft or from around the far corner but a spherical security ‘droid was moving up on them and igniting his lightsaber he stood ready to deflect any shots aimed at their retreating forms.

When it sounded as if all had passed through the door the Jedi backed in as well and shut the door before inserting his lightsabers blade cleanly through the control panel in hopes that the door would be fused shut for a few minutes at least.

Sliding aside a hatch the group emerged onto the rooftop of the CorSec building. The roof was smoothly surfaced and marked with lines and circles that designated landing, loading, and parking areas for more of the aircars and speeder bikes/swoops used to patrol Nos Polthuna from above. Across the rooftop was apparently a heavier lift that fit flush into the surface and retrieved and delivered vehicles from the garages below. Next to the lift was a small roofed hut used by duty officers or whatnot—it wasn’t very large.

Thrace glanced around the city-horizon. The buildings were now lit in the night and the cool breeze wafted more directly seaward here above much of the city architecture. There was no sign of Shar’s Redeemer and Thrace wondered how many of distant insect like lights were potential trouble for them.

“Look out!”

Thrace wasn’t sure who yelled the warning but looking at the kiosk across the way he saw four stormtroopers storm out with blasters ready and firing. One shot was directly at Thesme just ahead of him and with a quick lunge he stepped up and blocked the deadly bolt away into the night sky.

Thesme had been studying the sky as well looking for their ride but the others quickly dropped a trooper each leaving the last to regret his lack of cover and leap back into the relative safety of the shed.

Tyhe kept firing at the shed trying to discourage any more soldiers from emerging.

“I can’t get Shar on the link!” called Ivory to the rest of the party.

Thrace grimaced not knowing what their next move ought to be. Diving back into the hatchway would provide cover but limit their offensive abilities as well as keep them from being ready when and if Shar arrived. Glancing over at Tyhe he saw the Captain spin to a knee as shot grazed his arm, “Ivory! We need you gun—toss the comlink to Jevelle and start blasting!” Thrace began to get nervous.

Tyhe remained crouched and kept as constant a stream of fire as he could on the troopers position, “Call R-4 and tell him to bring the Riser...”

“He can’t,” Jevelle paused from her turn on the unresponsive communicator, “There’s no way he’d be able to manage it!”

“How do you...”

Heavy blaster fire suddenly ended the conversation as Thrace’s worries over the specks of light became a reality. Four Imperial speeder bikes had over-flown them and sent them diving away from the blasts. Thrace tried to coordinate with Thesme; shielding her behind his flashing lightsaber, warding off an incoming shot, while she attempted to draw a bead on the circling and diving targets.

“This isn’t working,” Thrace muttered to himself as much as anyone else. They were going to have to retreat if they could find the time.

“Watch it!”

Another warning was called out as three stormtroopers again dove out of the shed and began their own spray of fire.

“Grife,” Thrace glanced around but it looked like they were firing pretty much in his direction and he began a resolute advance upon the Imperials. He had crossed four or five meters and blocked the three had attempted at him, trying to place them where he couldn’t easily reach all of them, when he heard Thesme’s groan as she was hit by speeder fire. He attempted to glance back but a flash of white before him drew his attention and another half a dozen troopers issued from the now battle scarred hut.

“General Kerliss was not going to be pleased at the capture of a special operations here on the rooftop of a CorSec HQ building.” Was all that Thrace could think. He backed into pure defense mode and moved back to where Thesme lay unconscious on the roof surface.

It didn’t occur to Thrace for a moment that the heavy blaster fire suddenly seemed aimed at the Imperials and only when the sudden blasting roar of repulsors being fired above him made him jump did he look up to see the sleek form of the Redeemer hover above him with ramp lowered.

It would be barely a microsecond before Shar’s sarcastic tone would ask why they weren’t already aboard but Thrace never gave her a chance. Lifting the unconscious young woman in his arms he let his battle mentality fade and jumped aboard the Imperial looking transport. He speculated that it was that very design that had probably bought them those few seconds on the roof when they had been so grossly outnumbered and outflanked. Moving quickly into the sparse commons above the ramp he kicked the controls for a bench and laid the limp form on the hard surface. “How many times had Thesme looked down at himself, wounded, unconscious; she was so beautiful, and yet the lifestyle she, or they, had chosen was filled with pain and battle-scars—duty and,”

“Where the hell are the rest?” It was by far more angry than sarcastic but it was unmistakably the very annoyed voice of Shar yelling from the cockpit.

Thrace broke his devotion over Thesme and sprinted, slipping, down towards the hatch. Jevelle had made it up onto the ramp but didn’t have the strength to help lift the injured Tyhe and Ivory aboard.

“Just a sec,” Thrace jumped back down and gave both men a hand up. He could hear the sounds of the stormtrooper’s blasters popping against the ships shields and hoped the bikes lacked anything but the worst angle at the struggling Rebels. Jevelle finally pulled Ivory aboard and Thrace hopped up for the second time. Thrace could faintly hear that Shar’s outburst had become far more colorfully laced and punching the ramp closure he leaned next on the ships intercom, “Go, go, go!”

Although the others sprinted for the cockpit Thrace felt detached and paused to kneel beside the quiet form of the woman in the poorly fitting CorSec uniform. Placing a hand over her wound he began the esoteric connection that would soon heal the worst of his lover’s wounds.