Monday, November 26, 2007
We had just sat down to enjoy a few drinks when a woman hurried into the bar from the street, looking anxious and moving quickly. She moved toward the back of the place, where we happened to be sitting, and slid into a dark booth next to us. She turned off the lamp on the wall and her face was fairly well concealed in the dim light.
Almost immediately afterward, two roguish looking beings burst through the door after her - a Trandoshan and a Klaatuian. They stopped just inside the door and looked around, murmuring to each other.
After exchanging a few confirming glances with each other, the three of us quickly picked up our drinks and moved to sit with the girl, who was quite obviously in distress. Shakalakahh's massive form effectively hid her from view while Ronin and I sat opposite.
"Everything alright?" I asked.
"Just keep sitting there, big guy," she said, "and it'll be just fine." She peered around Shakalakahh's arm cautiously. The two thugs walked away toward the opposite side of the bar, slowly examining the tables and booths, and the young woman seemed to relax somewhat. "The name's Tosh," she said, "Rensi Tosh."
After Ronin and I introduced ourselves and the Wookiee, Rensi explained her situation to us in hushed, hurried tones. She had traveled here in her ship, which had crashed a good distance outside of town. While attempting to travel overland into town, she ran afoul of some of the criminal element and was captured. As her captors had no particular reason to keep her and were also not particularly intelligent, she managed to escape soon enough. She surmised that the two fellows snooping around the bar were trying to track her down.
"Can you help me get back to my ship?" she asked us.
Before we had a chance to answer, the two goons were suddenly standing next to our table. They both pulled blasters, which they leveled at us, and spoke in gruff tones.
"Hand over woman!" the Trandoshan squawked in a crude imitation of the common tongue.
Shakalakahh reacted without warning, standing up and roaring fiercely. Such was the power of his cry and the enormity of his size that the pair of thugs were caught off guard. They both reeled backward, giving Rensi enough time to slide out of the booth from behind the Wookiee. She had a blaster in her hand and before I knew what was happening, there was a blast and the bright streak of plasma fire.
From a concealed pocket, I produced my little hold-out blaster. Training it on the thug nearest me, I fired a shot. By that time, Shakalakahh had managed to knock the other one to the floor with brute force. He appeared to be unconscious. My shot missed, but it was enough to send the thug running for the door. In an instant, he was out of our sight and the bar was quiet again.
Ronin quickly dug through the downed thug's pockets, coming up with some metal keys, a few loose credits and a power pack. He pocketed them and we made a hasty retreat.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Sleek grinned at me from the other side of the table. "Exactly. That's why you can't beat me."
As exasperating as it was to admit, the scoundrel had a point. He wasn't entirely undefeated, but at 20 games of Sabaac to my 3, his advantage was clear. Either his strategy was iron-clad, or he was cheating. Knowing Ronin, I expected the truth was somewhere in between.
Just then, Shakalakahh's growl sounded over the ship's intercom. We were coming up on our destination. Ronin and I rose and joined him in the cockpit of the Corellian Hawk.
Outside the front viewports floated the planet of Ord Mantell, its two moons hanging silently nearby. Shortly after departing Yormban Prime, we had dropped out of hyperspace briefly to change course. We had headed for Corellia, to throw any potential followers off our trail, and had then set a course for the Bright Jewel system more or less at a whim. We'd all heard that it was an interesting place to visit, but none of us had ever been there.
We put down just outside a small town, choosing to try to remain inconspicuous rather than draw attention to ourselves by setting down in a starport, which would immediately put us on the grid. It would mean some extra hassle for the repairs we had to make, but we decided the effort would be worth our protection.
The region we found ourselves in was a desert, spotted with odd rock formations and seemingly unending expanses of sand. It was late at night, and the temperature was well below the freezing point of water. We decided to rest for the night and venture into town the next day, to see what we could see.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Ronin's voice chirped back at me. "He's up top, why?"
"You mean on the roof?"
"That would be the hull. Yes. He's working on the power routers."
As forcefully as I could manage, I replied, "Make sure he stays there. Imperials."
Sure enough, at that moment a group of Imperial stormtroopers burst through the hangar door, followed closely by an officer, a lieutenant by the look of him. They moved a few meters into the hangar, then took up a formation that gave them covering positions on the hangar exits.
The officer took two troopers with him and headed for our ship.
"Lofor, they're boarding," Ronin's voice squawked at me from the comlink. "Where are you?"
"I'm in the cockpit," I replied.
"Well," he said, "You're the schmoozer. Get to the gangway and start schmoozing. We're not hiding anything; this should be quick."
"Where are you?" I said, getting up and heading for the rear of the ship.
"I'm up top with Shaks. Hurry up, I don't want to be horizontal next to this smelly carpet for any longer than I have to." There was a quiet growl that cut off as Ronin's transmission ended. I switched the comlink to mute just as I came into the main compartment above the gangway.
The lieutenant and the two troopers were already in the ship. The lieutenant motioned to one of them, and the pair split in opposite directions. They began moving slowly around the perimeter of the room, obviously searching. For what, I wasn't sure.
Thoughts about the previous owner of this ship and the things he might have stowed away in it flashed through my mind. I forced them away as quickly as I could.
"Afternoon, Lieutenant," I said. "I see you found your own way in."
He sneered back at me. "I'd hold your tongue if I were you. Associates of Jorkat the Render are not highly regarded these days."
"That's a bit of a stretch," I said as nonchalantly as I could. "We only just met him a few hours ago."
The officer pointed a finger at me. "For your sake, that had better not be a lie. Jorkat has been nothing but trouble lately, and-" He stopped himself, hearing more footsteps on the gangway. We both turned to look.
Walking up the ramp, ahead of six more troopers, was a man dressed entirely in black armor. The only part of his body not covered was his head, which sported a long mane of jet-black hair and steely, cold eyes. A cape flowed behind him.
Immediately upon seeing him, I felt cold. This confused me, but I did my best to ignore it.
The man stopped just short of the lieutenant, who had snapped to attention, and then barked an order to the troopers. "Search it," he said sternly, "thoroughly." Then with his eyes on me, he told the lieutenant, "That will be all."
"Yes, Lord Cath," the officer said. Obediently, he headed down the gangway.
He looked me over slowly, saying nothing. Finally, he spoke. "What is your name?"
I sensed that deception might get us into even worse trouble. "Lofor," I told him.
"Where are you from?"
"Well," I said, "That's sort of a difficult question. Originally, I'm from Rori." I ventured a question, hoping my cooperative gestures would cause him to allow it. "Who might you be, if I may ask?"
"My name is Maxon Cath," he answered. "Have you been in contact with anyone matching this description?" He showed me a datapad with what appeared to be a composite image on its display. I looked at it, but did not recognize the person. I told Cath as much.
"He is a rebel spy," Cath said gruffly, "We are hunting down the lot of them. If you were to provide information on them, there would be a reward. There are bounties on the lot of their heads."
I shrugged. "Wish I could help you," I said.
He looked me over again, then said, "What is your next port of call?"
"Corellia," I said, citing the first planet that came to mind.
Just then the troopers returned from their search.
"It's clean, sir," one said. "There's no sign of them."
"Very well," said Cath. "I would advise you to depart immediately," he said to me. "Things are about to get very bad for Jorkat the Render."
"Right," I said, "We'll be out of his hangar directly. No reason to hang about anyhow."
"Goodbye," he said. A strange thing for an Imperial Lord to say to a common denizen, it occurred to me later. But I wasn't about to press my luck.
"Ronin," I said into my comlink as soon as Cath and his troopers were gone, "Get inside and get us out of here."
"Uh, okay," came his reply. "Where to?"
"Anywhere," I said, "but Corellia."
Saturday, September 22, 2007
The phoenetics of Shakalakaah's disdainful roar would be difficult to reproduce here. Suffice it to say, his meaning was clear enough. And I wholeheartedly agreed.
"Are we really going to try to fly that thing?" I said to Ronin. "It looks like...well, junk."
Ronin shrugged. "I don't see as we have much choice," he answered.
The ship appeared to be a freighter, some variant of the standard YT series. It had obviously been altered to a significant degree from its original configuration. Whether some of those alterations were intentional or unintentional was not entirely clear. The ship had obviously been through a lot. Some parts of the hull seemed to be outright damaged.
"I know a thing or two about flying" Ronin said. "Let's not judge until we get inside the thing and see what's what."
Unfortunately, the inside of the ship wasn't much of an improvement. Apart from the rather unpleasant state of general disrepair and neglect (we even saw what appeared to be Bith undergarments discarded in one corner), Ronin soon discovered that the operational systems needed some work. Checking the main computer revealed that one of the internal stabilizers was bad and the hyperdrive was faulty. It would run, Ronin said, but only on its backup function, which meant we wouldn't be getting anywhere in a hurry.
"But she can fly?" I asked.
Leaving them to it, with instructions to hail me if they needed my help (which would be, admittedly, limited when it came to mechanics), I had a look around the ship.
For the most part, the interior seemed to be standard build for a YT freighter. A few partition walls had been removed to make room for extra cargo. A secret compartment in the captain's quarters had been fortuitously left open. While it was empty now, I noted its presence, as such a thing could easily come in handy.
I returned to the cockpit, intending to learn what I could about the vessel's history from its computer records. As soon as I sat down, though, I saw something that made me forget all about it.
"Ronin," I said hastily into my comlink, "Something's up."
Through the windows of the cockpit, I saw a small, greenish being running into the hangar, flailing his arms wildly and wailing in what sounded like Rodese. I knew very little of this language, but there's one word that seems to be universally understood:
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
We retrieved our drinks from the dispenser and sat down around a table in the corner. There was little conversation. We were tired, essentially stranded and not altogether looking forward to dealing with a crime lord for the second time that day. It's not that any of us were champions of virtue; quite the contrary. I think Ronin Sleek and Shakalakahh have seen their fair share of entanglements. But the simple fact of Render's status required that we be constantly on our guard, on the lookout for tricks and traps. The stress, added to Render's unpleasant disposition, did not make for a pleasant experience.
I suppose it was these thoughts that led me to have the feeling. I wasn't sure what else it could be at the time.
All I knew is that as we were sitting there, each of us lost in our own thoughts, I began to develop a very bad feeling. It came from the core of my being and radiated outward, affecting every pore and hair on my body. It was a distinct feeling of unease. I felt like a troop of soldiers had just walked into the room, each of them carrying blasters pointed directly at me. I even looked around to see if anyone had, in fact, walked in. But we were alone, as ever.
Before long, Sleek threw back the last of his drink and muttered, "Alright, let's get this over with." We left the cantina. I wondered if we might leave my uneasiness behind, as well, but it followed me, to my dismay. There was definitely something wrong. Without knowing what, though, I was reluctant to say anything to the others.
Then, however, we passed by a viewport to the outside of the station. To our surprise, we saw three Star Destroyers very close by, hanging in space in a tight formation. I felt a moment of relief, as I now realized that my uneasy feeling was not imagined. Somehow, I had known that the Empire had arrived. My thoughts flashed briefly to my days at Aurillia.
We found our way back to the turbolift leading to Jorkat the Render's palatial suite. A few words from Ronin Sleek got us past his guards. And before long, we were before him, for the second time that day.
"The long and the short of it, Jorkat," said Ronin, "is that we need a ship."
Jorkat laughed. "As if I had ships to spare, Sleek. Besides, haven't you seen our neighbors?" He motioned at a nearby viewport, where one of the newly arrived Star Destroyers could be seen. "There will be no ships leaving this station. Not today, anyway."
"So it's a blockade?" Shakalakahh growled.
"Of course it's a blockade, you hairy beast," answered Jorkat, who apparently understood Shirywook. "Three Star Destroyers is a little much for a routine trade inspection, wouldn't you say?" His voice was thin and raspy.
"Look," said Ronin, "Let's save the games for another day. I know you've got ships, you just don't think we've got anything worth trading. Well, I can tell you, we do."
The Render scratched his chin. "I'm listening," he hissed.
Ronin proceeded to explain that he and the Wookiee had in their possession an additional amount of the substance they had recently been commissioned to obtain for Jorkat, some unique compound that was apparently a cure for an illness that he had. I was not party to this mission, so the details were somewhat unclear to me. But it appeared that the pair had held an "ace up their sleeve" after delivering the mission's prize.
"You held out on me, Sleek," growled Jorkat the Render after hearing this information.
Ronin shook his head. "No, I held out on those saps we came back with. I had to make sure I didn't get screwed over. They could have taken my share and bolted."
Jorkat scowled, but appeared to accept this. "How much do you have?" he asked.
Sleek nodded at Shakalakahh, who produced a container. It appeared to hold about a liter or so of a bright, shining liquid. "Enough for you to synthesize," said Ronin, "And to then sell. It could make you a lot of money, if this stuff is as rare as you say."
Jorkat considered, eyeing us over. "Well," he said finally, "I do happen to have a ship in hangar now that isn't being used. It's here for repairs. I suppose we could work something out for it. The compound, say, plus twenty thousand credits?"
Inside, I winced. I had a feeling we were being taken. But there was little choice.
"Fifteen," said Ronin, "and launch codes to get us past the blockade."
Jorkat laughed. But he eyed the canister with a greedy squint. "You drive a hard bargain, Sleek. For seventeen, she's yours. I can't give you launch codes, because I don't have them myself. But I can get you past the blockade. I have an understanding with the Imperial governor of this station."
"Fair enough," said Ronin, and just like that we had purchased a ship we had never seen, which was reported to be damaged, for the price of a canister of compound that was probably worth untold riches to the right person.
Desperate times, as the saying goes, call for desperate measures.
We headed for the hangar to inspect our purchase.
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
How to summarize? I found myself, as the direct consequence of several misadventures, on a colossal space station orbiting Yormban Prime. I had never seen such a place before; once several individual stations, this one had been combined and connected over many decades until it now stretches a full quarter of the way around the circumference of the planet below. The station is home to 300 million people. It is truly an awe-inspiring place.
Sunrise behind Yormban Prime
The pair had a delivery to make to Jorkat the Render, a crimelord of ill repute (is there any other kind?) who made his headquarters at the station. Having joined the group only recently, I was only partially informed of what was going on. Some credits were exchanged, some acquaintances of Sleek departed, and the three of us were on our own in Yormban Prime Station.
I couldn't remember the last time I was without a ship. It must have been during my early days on Tatooine, but that seems like another lifetime now. You don't realize the truly life-sustaining nature that a simple starship can take on until you find yourself without one.
Yormban Prime Station did not prove to have very good prospects for finding a ship, either. The three of us had some credits all together, but short of hiring a privateer and his own ship and crew, there was almost nothing to be found. The only ship we could find for sale was a barely-functional ARC-170, in which we theoretically could have fit (though the Wookiee would have found it a tight squeeze). But that ship was essentially a snub fighter; we needed a transport more than anything, something for the long haul. And something that was ours.
Eventually, with reluctance, we decided there was nothing to be done but to return to Jorkat the Render (or "Mr. The Render" as Shakalakahh is fond of jokingly calling him). We had no connections in this place save him, and he happened to be the one person on the station who was truly connected. It seemed we had no choice, though the prospect of dealing with such an unpleasant character appealed to none of us.
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
"My name is Maast Lofor," I said, "I'm here to rescue you."
It was the fifth such group that I had discovered that week. Rohak had wasted no time in putting me to work for the Aurillians, and had sent me off with Whip to organize a plan for locating several villagers who had been captured by the Sith.
Whip's information was sketchy at best, but it was enough to provide a vague picture of what had happened. During the assault, several groups of villagers had been seen being led away from Aurillia with Sith escorts, presumably for their own nefarious purposes. Their headings had been noted and scouts had reported signs of their movement a few days later, but there was no more detailed information as to their locations. It would be up to me to find them.
I had a fully fueled speederbike with me, a machine that seemed completely alien to the Aurillians. I could travel much faster than even their fastest scouts, so I volunteered to head up the search. I stored the information we had in my datapad and set out.
It didn't take me long to locate the first group. For some inexplicable reason, the Sith were holding them less than five kilometers from the village. It seemed that there was clearly a greater plan at work here, but how this piece fit into it, I could not guess.
Nevertheless, the guards posted with the stolen villagers were weak and ill-trained, and quickly dispatched. Over the course of a week I was able to locate all five of the missing groups and lead them back to Aurillia in safety.
It was a small thing, really, in light of the brutal destruction the village had faced as a whole. But having those five groups of Aurillians back meant a lot to the community. It seemed to give them a small measure of hope, and for that I was grateful.
Rohak expressed his own gratitude to me by giving me a statue that was crafted by Aurillian artisans and represented their village. It was a beautiful piece of art, though getting the five-foot high piece of granite home on the bike seemed like it would be a challenge in and of itself.
Then I was offered the true reward: knowledge.
From the unlikeliest of places came a wealth of information. It turned out that Whip, the small, unassuming man who was the first Aurillian I met, was something of a specialist in survival skills. These were not everyday survival skills, either. As an Aurillian, Whip was Force sensitive, and knew how to manipulate and channel the Force to enhance certain skills. He demonstrated to me his uncanny skills at things like maneuvering difficult terrain (he could move up nearly vertical cliff faces with ease and virtually walk on water over short distances) and interacting or avoiding indigent animal life (I watched him, with my own eyes, mask his own scent and presence and walk into the middle of a pack of hungry Rancors, just to tap one on the nose).
For the next several weeks, I spent all of my time with Whip, learning to survive. My knowledge of the Force grew.