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Thinithil
8 January 2005, 05:13 PM
97

The control deck of the Imperial built transport Redeemer was teaming with activity. The bounty hunter Shar had somehow been convinced by a pair of young Rebels to join them in a series of fights against mobsters, other bounty hunters, and of course Imperials instead of using the resources of the Empire to hunt the couple down and collect a sizable reward. “How the hell it had happened,” She had no idea.

Currently Shar was using every element of her ships power she could to escape the gravity of the planet Tralus. Another Rebel, Senator Ivory Zurich, stood just behind her not saying anything and that was just fine with her. Zurich had become as much of a nuisance as the Jedi and his girlfriend she had pursued across the galaxy of late. A commotion behind her soured her mood slightly more.

“Drop down, I can get the Riser out of here too.”

Captain Tyhe Sterling, looking terrible, had arrived and was demanding to be dropped off at his ship back in a Nos Polthuna landing quad. Too bad they were already half way to orbit and hyperspace but Shar didn’t get first refusal.

“No.” It was a cold voice; and raspier than normal. Normally Commander Thesme Solarin, late the belle of the Dantooine capital, sounded sweet-- especially when around her Jedi boyfriend Thrace Starwind. The young man had helped his companion into the cockpit but she had a hand up to her head and seemed less commanding than borderline unconscious.

“It’s my ship down there dammit!”

“Forget it Captain. You’ve got no favors to call in here and we’re punching out of here.”

“She’s right Captain,” Shar happily agreed.

“Look Tyhe, we’ve got Imperials, CorSec, bounty hunters, and pirates all looking for us,” Thrace noted that Tyhe had begun fiddling with his comlink, “If anybody down there did any research they’re now camped at your ship waiting for us to do just what you want...”

Tyhe was having no luck operating his comlink. Between torture, blaster wound, and whatever abuse he had incurred before the fun had begun he just couldn’t get his hands to work.

Thrace grabbed at the device and waited for Tyhe to give him the frequency desired. He handed it back to the smuggler when it appeared the feed had opened.

“Bronze! Bronze? You’re going to have to do me a favor.”

Tyhe’s copilot since rejoining the Alliance was a flame-haired bombshell who was, if possible, more complicated than the smuggler himself. No one in the unit had ever really got to know Lorimel Bronzeflame and she would have blasted anybody who actually used her name—she preferred ‘Bronze’. Somehow, even through “smuggler ethics” about keeping quiet over keeping quiet about ones past, Tyhe and Bronze had moved from a distant professional regard for one another to something higher but admitted by neither. Tyhe had sabotaged the relationship with an ill-timed dalliance and Bronze promptly quit. Tyhe’s desire to wallow in self pity had led the rest of them here with him when they should have been back at Plateau Base days ago.

“You’re asking me for a favor?”

The drama played out in front of everyone in the cockpit. Thrace wanted Tyhe to make the arrangement, Ivory was marginally interested because he was in the same room as the conversation, the two women couldn’t have cared less but one was still semi-conscious from recent injuries and the other was piloting the ship.

“Yes. Bronze, I need you to get the Riser to our latest ‘home’”.

“Home? I don’t think so.”

“You’ve got to. I can’t leave it down there with the riff-raff looking for me.”

“How can you possibly trust me? I just turned you over.”

“Yeah. I noticed that. But I do trust you. You may not trust me...and I’m sorry about that. But I need you to do this, please.”

Bronze knew she didn’t have a choice. Partially just to recognize his trust and partially because she had just turned him over to the Imperials; ‘Home’ was of course Plateau Base from where they had departed on that last mission.

“Where is it?”

“Thanks Bronze. 327.”

The comlink went silent.

“I’m going to jump; Two days to Durvoth.” Shar turned to reach a switch or two and eyed the group behind her critically, “From the looks of it you better all strap in or I’ll be peeling you off the insides of my ship. Sterling, the med-‘droid is where it was before.” The bounty hunter put her hand on a lever as a final warning and the Rebels evacuated to the lounge to buckle in.

*~*

The night before had been a quiet one aboard the Redeemer. The Rebels and allies had found what rooms, or space, they could to sack out. Nobody sought anything comfortable out. After the activities of the day all wanted rest regardless of the accommodations.

Thrace found Ivory late the next morning in Shar’s workshop. The small room was equipped with many of the small gadgets needed to clean and repair weapons and equipment plus several neither Jedi or Senator or could fathom. Ivory was bent over a circuit card trying to attach some vague interface or piece of circuit diagnostic equipment to it. Thrace had nothing to add and had virtually no experience in the technical fields. Ivory had only slightly more skill and after many curse-laced minutes the diagnostic screen lit up with an intricate “map”. It was a strange looking series of lines and intersections that made little sense to either man although the consensus seemed to be that it appeared to be the schematics of a power grid.

“Vape it.”

“What?” Ivory started and looked over at the Jedi.

Thrace was far more concerned with what the card could do than what it meant, “This thing could bring 4-LOM right down on us and it we should destroy it before we even get close to Plateau Base.”

Ivory could think of no argument worth making and didn’t waste time thinking of one, “Check.” Ivory placed the card on the more durable heat resistant portion of the workbench and pulled out his blaster. Setting the controls on a low level he covered his eyes and blasted away.

The disintegration of the card was virtually total.

Shortly after most of the group began stirring the next morning, slightly earlier than the morning before, Shar made an announcement and the Redeemer emerged from hyperspace. Durvoth was the very picture of an inhospitable planet. The atmosphere seemed milky and gaseous but that was observational error. In truth the surface of Durvoth was a sea of methane and other gases held by a peculiar inversion of atmospheric temperature and circulation below a layer of breathable air. The problem with settling on the world was that only one small plateau poked an orogenic headland above the poisonous fumes. Not suitable for anything but taking a breath of fresh peculiar air and surveying a layer of swirling vague nothingness—the plateau and planet had remained free from colonists or interest of any kind.

Perfect for an Alliance base.

Carved into the plateau was a series of caverns that served as Plateau Base. The installation served as a staging ground for many of the important missions the Alliance undertook in the region. With virtually no traffic for light-years transports could be brought in containing resources and personnel for those missions. Ivory and Thrace had nearly been captured by the Empire when the Astro Bolt, their inbound transport, had been hijacked and barely missed its rendezvous with the Star Destroyer Vindicator. That had been just previous to their assignment of the Ralus mission and they were a little behind schedule getting back.

The deck officer on duty was taken aback by the ship landing in his bay and promised himself that a full scan, a really complete scan, would be made of the ship. The gray form was sleek enough to see that some attention had been given to form over pure utility but the design was clearly of the Imperial minimalist school. He made his way over to it as soon as the brief blast of the repulsor jets wafted past him and as he approached the transport various nozzles emitted the sudden but normal blasts as various compartments inside the ship equalized their pressure with the planets atmosphere. The ramp lowered immediately and a peculiar assemblage disembarked. A tall young man with dark-blond hair came down the ramp speaking with a slightly taller, darker complexioned man. The younger one wore a plain green tunic and buff trousers. Unlike the taller man he wore no sidearm but did have a metallic cylinder hanging from his right hip. It didn’t look like any blaster he had ever seen. Behind the two came an attractive and young woman who also wore the buff trousers and green tunic as if out of the same package as the previous passenger. She was followed by a battered looking Corellian and a teenaged girl who seemed as if she were completely out of place except for her blaster. The group paused as he met them.

“Lieutenant Commander Starwind? Commander Solarin?” Was there an officer here?

The two in the khaki trousers and green shirts looked up and he addressed them. Was Starwind wearing a lightsaber?

“Sirs, General Kerliss is waiting for your arrival in the tactical area,” He motioned a junior officer who jogged over. “The lieutenant will show you the way.”

“It has been a while.” The taller man quipped.

“General’s orders, um,” he quickly glanced at his datapad and put a name to the expected arrivals, “Senator Zurich. My orders say something about wanting you not to be sidetracked?”

The seemingly unarmed man smiled at the remark but his fellow officer seemed angry at some element of the statement.

The lieutenant did a quick spin and moved off with the entourage and the Deck Officer turned to log in the ship, life went on.

Thrace may actually have not been able to find his way to the control room and was as happy as not for the escort even if it was an implied rebuke. The halls, some natural and others hewn from rock, were mostly enclosed by walls and panels as they led inwards towards the operational center of the base and he couldn’t stop a sigh escaping as they moved smartly to see their CO. He had always desired to belong to the Alliance and be of service to it since meeting up with Thesme and the others who had found him on Bothawui. Their previous base of operations had been the Calamari Strike Cruiser Ocean Flame but it had been lost shortly after they had been reassigned from it to Plateau. The Ralus mission they were so tardy in returning from had been their first mission from here and it still felt like home of sorts.

It also meant that Thesme would be leaving for Antilles—the base she had been reassigned to.

When they arrived in the main control center the General didn’t bother wasting time but turned to see them approach. The bearded officer had the deserved reputation for being a brusque taskmaster and with a curt series of gestures he dismissed their ‘guide’ and summoned an aide who handed the newly arrived each a memo disk.

“The prodigal team returns,”

Thrace didn’t waste time musing over whether this was a humorism or a scolding.

“I won’t mince words,” The General continued. “Commander Solarin your CO at Antilles has been expecting you.”

“Yes sir,” Thesme seemed discomfited but resigned.

Kerliss was eyeing them one by one but his words were initially still for the young woman, “Your transport will depart in fourteen standard hours. Captain Sterling report to Captain Zetris. Senator Zurich I am to inform you that all is well on Belial and the plan is going smoothly.”

“Plan?” Ivory had been only half listening and not expecting to be addressed by the military commander. He had no idea what plan he had set in motion on his homeworld.

“The message came in from Special Agent Xandoril, Senator.”

“That’s my plan, Ivory,” Thrace spoke up out of his own reverie, “Thara? Oriana?”

“Oh, that plan.” Ivory thanked the General.

“There’s more. You may have noted the yacht in the landing bay? It’s been dispatched from Belial for your use. At your convenience they expect you to return home.”

Ivory looked thoughtful.

“That’s all. Your quarters assignments are on your disks.” The General turned away but then faced them again before they left and looked pointedly at the Thrace and Thesme, “Don’t stray.” He turned and was immediately caught by another officer for another consultation.

Thesme’s face was blank but after a polite semi-smile for Thrace she went in search of her assigned room. Everyone else went their own way as well, their thoughts, like Thesme’s, kept to themselves.

Thrace walked towards his own room realizing that those nights in Tibanna City with himself and Thesme sharing a room were over for now. In fact he didn’t know what was over and what was not. In fourteen hours she would return to Antilles Base and her new assignment in the Trandar system. “Grife.”

“What?”

A technician had been walking past as he swore but it had been one of Thesme’s Dantooine colloquialisms and the tech had no idea what the young man in the strange civilian clothes had just said.

“Nothing. Sorry.” Thrace smiled at the coincidence and turned back on his slow walk. The tech shrugged as well and returned to his own duties.

Thoughts and memories returned to the Jedi’s mind as he strolled in more or less the correct direction. He had heard a scream, journeying across the Force, back on Tralus but the report said all was well on Belial. Rumors had reached him of Thesme captured briefly and imprisoned on Altrar but she either denied it when he brought it up or laughed it off, and the coincidences of Imperial and bounty hunter related natures that had started with his and Ivory’s near capture en route here the first time and not really abated since...

He actually did walk headfirst into the door of his room. He placed the diskette in the panel having forgotten to officially tell the computer-lock that the room’s assigned resident had arrived. In the future the door would open when he depressed the panel beside it. Moving to his bed he sat and refused to lie back knowing he’d drift off. He was going to have to meditate on the Belial and Altrar “events”. He wanted to check in on Thesme as well but decided to give her some space beforehand to settle in as well. Beside him on the bed were two sets of his preferred uniform: A blue tunic, navy jacket, and gray trousers. He took a brief sonic-shower and wished for the hydro facilities of the Bespin locale.

He laughed as he thought of Thesme hating this even more than he. She had adored the antiquity of the accommodations.

He walked over to the network station at the desk. He needed to get his hands on some credits, why had he never checked his pay vouchers he didn’t know, and he decided to send a memo to Ivory. It took only a minute to send the missive asking the Senator to check in with both his household, the Zandor’s, Oriana, and Thara. If Ivory could reach all concerned Thrace could rest with that scream being more of a meditational aside rather than a paranoid concern.

As he hit send an incoming message appeared from the General. He punched it up wondering how the CO would find a way to be borderline insulting in print:

To: Command Personnel 642nd Recon; Commander Solarin, Captain Sterling
Fr: CO Plateau Installation; Durvoth
cc: DCOs, AISP, CIB,
Re: Mission Debriefing; Ongoing Concerns


No official duties will be expected of you for the remainder of this evening. However at 0800 LST please make yourselves available in briefing room 7 to discuss last assigned mission; concerns related to said mission; ramifications and speculative causations and steps/orders to remedy problems related if any.

All leave cancelled
All transfers postponed till notification

This meeting is non-rank specific--COMPLETELY MANDATORY

Regards,

General Kerliss
Commanding Officer
Plateau Base; Durvoth

Well, the “completely mandatory” line might be insulting...