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Old 10-10-2005, 02:33 PM   #13
machievelli
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Carth

It was panic time by the time Danika and Bastila returned. We had been watching the race until the fight broke out, then the Bek in charge of the video feed told us that the Sith were coming down into the Lowercity in force.

Gadon had decided to take his people into the Undercity for a while to hide out. Mission had showed them the way through the now empty Vulkar base, and The essentials of Gadon’s organization had already been sent on. Danika told him of the promised land, and Gadon had been intrigued, but I didn’t know what to expect out of it. Mission and Zaalbar stayed with us, and Mission led us through a warren of trash chutes and sewer lines until we were back in the Uppercity near our apartment. We went there.

“Bastila! It’s good to see you safe! Now we just need to find a way off this rock.”

“You mean you don’t even have an escape route planned? What have you been doing in all this time?”

“Trying to find and rescue you.” Danika said. I could tell she was furious, and I was just glad it wasn’t aimed at me this time.

“I see.” Bastila commented with all the prim disapproval you would have expected from a teacher in grade school. “Well now that I have been ‘freed’, I can start assuring that this operation is run properly.”

“Now wait a minute, Bastila!” I snarled. “I know you’re new at combat, but a good leader doesn't berate her troops just because things aren’t as far along as you might like. Don’t let your ego get in the way of what we’re trying to accomplish, or let it drive you to take charge when you don’t know what the hell you’re doing!”

She looked as if her wallet had bitten her. “That hardly strikes me as an appropriate way to address your commanding officer, Carth. I am a member of the Jedi order, and this has been my mission, just remember that! My battle meditation has helped the Republic in several battles, and it will serve us here as well!”
“Your abilities might win battles, but it doesn’t make you a competent leader! A good leader listens to those below them that have seen more combat than you ever will! Or those that specialize in this form of mayhem!” I waved at Danika.

“Will you both just settle down?” Danika had crossed her arms, and was glaring at us in turn. “This is not helping matters.”

“Yes. You are right, of course.” Bastila looked to me. “I apologize Carth. You are quite correct that this is your area of expertise, not mine. What do you suggest we do?”

I sighed. I wanted to hit her, but it wouldn’t have helped. “First thing, we can’t get hung up on who is in charge. I’m a pilot, you have skills only the Jedi have, and Danika can cut her way through any problem. Not to mention that Mission is hell on wheels with a computer, and Zaalbar can fix anything we need fixed. This is a team, Bastila, not some group of raw recruits.“

“Well said, Carth. I stand corrected.” She cast a glance at Danika, then back at me. “I know there are people itching to escape this planet. Perhaps we can check the Cantinas and see what we might find.”

“Sure. That’s as good an idea as any.” Danika murmured I looked at her worried. She had always been the most gung ho of the crew, and this sudden change bothered me. She looked at Bastila, and flushed.

Bastila sensed it. “Is something wrong? You seem troubled by my appearance.”

“Something weird happened before I went to the swoop track. A vision of some kind.”

“A vision? A vision of what, pray?” Something about her tone didn’t ring true.

“Of you. You were with five others.” She closed her eyes. “All Jedi. You faced a Dark Jedi. Revan I think.”

“This is strange. Usually such visions are signs of force sensitivity.”

“What does that mean?”

“I really can’t explain it. Unless you can feel the force, and understand the terms, it is like telling a blind man about a rainbow. After all, one vision-”

“It isn’t just one vision.” Danika bit out. “I had them since the battle of Zanebra. Before I boarded the Endar Spire. Here as well.”

“It seems you might have some small connection with the force. It isn’t uncommon really. When we first met your own small skills must have fed off mine. It is possible that in the excitement of the aftermath of battles, your own skills allowed you to glimpse parts of my own life.”

“As someone I remembered from childhood?” Danika pressed. “Weeks of memories as clear as that window that never happened in truth?”

“I do not fully understand the Force. No one except the Jedi masters do. Once we have escaped, I will take you to them, and you can discover what is happening. However we have more on our plates than I would like to consider. Can we get back to the matter at hand?”

“Right,” Danika pushed herself up. “Mission, Zaalbar, stay here in the complex. We don’t want any incidents we can avoid.” She looked at Bastila, then at me. “Are you two coming? Or am I going to do all the work, and you two are going to kibitz from safety?” She flipped something toward Bastila, who caught it instinctively. It was a twin bladed lightsaber. “Yours I believe.”

She stormed out before I could answer. Bastila followed, and so did I.

A Twi-lek had stopped Danika outside the door, and was in a conversation with her. Danika signaled for privacy, then when the Twi-lek departed motioned us forward. “Remember Canderous?”

“The Mandalorian from the Wasteland? Yeah.”

“Full name Canderous Ordo. He wants to see me. It seems my swoop bike racing fame intrigues him.”

“We really-” Bastila began.

“The Upper level Cantina here in South City is where he wants to meet.” She looked at Bastila coolly. “You did say we should check out the cantinas.” She led the way to Larrim, and bought two long hooded traveling robes. “Here.” She thrust one at Bastila. “Your face is a little too well known here.” She slid into the other one pulling the hood up.


Cantina

Danika

I was furious. Someone had messed with my mind after Bastila’s rescue, and I didn’t know how or why. Her reaction, brushing it off as if it were unimportant bothered me even more. If someone was using the Force, and it wasn’t her, who could it be?

Carth wasn’t helping. I could see that his mistrust extended far beyond me, and while I felt slightly better about that, the arguments could soon destroy us. I was used to working with a smoothly running team as a soldier. Impediments are dealt with or transferred out at my level or lower, before they could become a danger to others. But here I was technically the low man on the pole.

I could feel their eyes on me as we walked on. The way they had been circling like a pair of female Thorm in a nesting dispute I expected a fight, and as we walked I could overhear it.

“I was wondering Bastila, how were the Vulkars able to capture you after the crash? Were you unconscious?”

“No, I was conscious. But my force powers had been exhausted in the battle for the Endar Spire. If I hadn’t been using them up until the moment I crashed you may never have gotten off the ship alive.” Her voice was low and angry.

“Fair enough.” Carth’s tone was light, but I could sense him closing for the kill. “But I’ve seen you Jedi in action before. How did those thugs get past you’re lightsaber?” Her answer was too low for me to hear, but Carth repeated it as if it were the punch line of a bad joke. “You lost it? How do you lose a lightsaber?”

“I couldn’t find it after the crash. I was looking for it when the Vulkars surprised me.”

“Wait a minute, let me get this straight. You lost your lightsaber and were looking for it, and they surprised you?” He laughed. “I mean, isn't that a violation of the Jedi rules or something?” He laughed, and I was actually glad to hear it. He had been too grim before.

However this wasn’t helping. “Leave it be Carth.” I said over my shoulder.

Bastila however was defensive. “This is no laughing matter, Carth! My lightsaber must have come free of my belt, fallen under a seat or something. The Vulkars must have found it among the wreckage.”

“Hey, don’t get mad! I just think it’s funny that the hope of the Republic, the great and legendary Bastila would lose her lightsaber and be caught by a group of thugs! When you write this up for the history books, I would suggest you leave that part out.”

“I do not consider myself worthy of a legend, Carth. However you are right, there is no need for the Jedi council to know every nuance.”

A figure was moving toward me and I recognized Zelka. He was exuberant, and ran up, catching me by the shoulders. “You found it!”

“Found what?” I asked.

“The cause of the rakghoul plague!” He said. “The plant you brought to my lab. It’s a specimen of the Koodro bush! According to the medical records the initial victims of the plague were people who had severe allergic reactions to the pollen!”

“What?” Bastila came forward. He looked at her, but beyond answering her question to me, he ignored her.

“When Taris was settled there was a small primate that was called a Bookri. They tended to get into everything and were noxious in their habits, and finally the government mounted an extermination operation. They’ve been extinct for about two hundred years. But the Bookri pollinated the Koodro! The plant evolved sufficiently for its pollen to cause the rakghoul disease at first, and being bitten passed it to those not allergic to it! It was nature trying to circumvent an obstacle we created!” He hugged me. “Now all we need to do is find a small animal that isn’t noxious to act as a pollinator instead!”

“Then I leave it to you.” I said.

“But you deserve credit! I want to report it to the City governor, get you a medal!”

“No.” I shook my head. “I did what had to be done, Zelka, that’s all. You live here, you’ve dealt with the plague all your life. You take the credit.”

He just stared after me as we walked on.

I could feel Bastila’s eyes on me, and I glanced back. I signaled her forward, and motioned for Carth to hang back and give us room.

“What’s on your mind, Bastila.”

“That incident made me curious. I wanted to know more about what you and Carth have been up to before we joined forces.”

“We were looking for you.”

“Yes, I realize that. But it was more than a simple search. From what that man said, you also found the cause of a massive plague. Besides, I doubt someone had put up flashing signs with the words ‘This way to the Jedi’ on them.” I chuckled visualizing it. “On top of which you avoided detection by the Sith, discovered my predicament, convinced a swoop gang to sponsor you in the race, won it, and then killed the Vulkar leader in a manner and circumstance that ended the war below. That is quite a resume for just a couple of days.”

“I had a lot of help. Carth, Mission, Zaalbar.”

“Your modesty does you credit, but your answer does not. While everyone you have mentioned did their part, from what I have seen you were the catalyst that caused the changes needed. When you were chosen to join this mission I don’t think any of us expected this much from you. A Jedi could have succeeded of course. “ She said it deprecatingly. “But she would have had to draw heavily on the force to succeed as you have.”

“I think the Jedi underestimate we poor folk that don’t have your abilities.” I commented dryly.

“Perhaps.” She admitted. “But not all those able to use the force are within the order.”

“The Sith.”

“Well of course the Sith! But there are those that were never found when they were younger. The ones that show exceptional gifts. Gamblers who are always lucky, racers and pilots who don’t fly as much as become part of their vehicle. Entertainers who can sway an audience with just their voice. These are what we call Force-sensitive.

“It is obvious to me that you were working through the Force, or the Force chose you because of your own innate abilities. There is no other answer possible. However I do not know what to make of it. Perhaps if you weren’t... I should say, if you were still a child, the Jedi might have offered to train you. But as it is...”

“Can you speak plainly? Of is that against some Jedi rule?”

She flushed. “I have overstepped my authority and upset you as well. Such matters are best left to the Council. For now, let us say that you are gifted. Hopefully between your gifts, my Jedi powers, and the skills of your compatriots, we can win the day.”


Carth

They stopped talking as we reached the Cantina entrance. A Sith stood outside, and even with his visor, I could feel his glare. He didn’t recognize either Danika or Bastila but that wasn‘t surprising, there are a lot of aliens with body modesty taboos. That was good because we weren’t home free yet.

This was an upscale place, what you would expect in Upper Taris. Soft mood lighting, music that didn’t grate on the ears. Not that I liked the music. I was, well, too sweet and sickly. The small sign denying droids and aliens was even tastefully done.

The doorman didn’t want to let us in, but the mention of Canderous moved him out of the way. Danika moved through the crowd, then stopped at a table. Seated there was Canderous.

I respect Mandalorian warriors, and felt it was an honor to have defeated them, but I have never liked them. There are exactly three classes of citizen among the Mandalorians. Leader, warrior, and everyone else. I had seen the carnage they had dealt on worlds, and it came because the people they were fighting had never grasped that. A Leader can give an order, and if it is not obeyed, the one who receives it can be killed without compunction. Only those gifted in the arts of war or science ever reach that pinnacle. Warriors can give an order, and again it must be obeyed. Failure to do so again means your death. But some of the people they conquered resisted. Some very well, the Cathar race comes to mind. In those cases the ones who fought them were honored. One man on Ruthenia killed 29 Mandalorian warriors before he was caught. They executed him, but then buried him in their own graveyard with a Mandalorian marker with his kills listed. In fact none in the graveyard had been as well honored.

What they could not abide was incompetent or passive resistance. Resistance was dealt with harshly. Not with casual brutality, for nothing the Mandalorians do is ever casual. But with swift and violent retribution. As much as we used propaganda highlighting their brutality, the Mandalorians had fought a clean war by their lights. Almost perfectly clean by our own. Of the fifty or so ’atrocities’ that we screamed at only about six or seven were true. Our record wasn’t that clean.

Those we captured during the Mandalorian Wars were confused by our reactions. The servant had been given an order and questioned it! The people had seen what happened to those who resisted, but they continued to resist! It wasn’t until Revan and Malak with the Jedi that had followed them that things changed. The Mandalorians had been soundly beaten, but Revan had dealt with them as a Mandalorian would. They had respected her for that.

Canderous motioned toward the seats, and we sat. He waved, and drinks arrived. Danika sipped her tea, and watched him.

“I saw your runs in the swoop race. Very impressive for a first time rider. I was even more impressed by what was shown of the fight before transmission was cut. You seem like someone who gets results regardless. I can use someone like you.”

“If I want to be used, perhaps.”

“Fair enough. I work for Davik Kang and the Exchange. The hours aren’t great, but they offered a fortune for my services, and we Mandalorian Mercenaries are in high demand. But lately, the work has become boring and pointless. He’s been using me as if I was a common thug.”

I nodded. Mandalorians don’t mind scut work, but disrespecting them can be deadly.

“But until this blockade is lifted, I can’t get off this rock. So I decided that when my chance came, I would get out of here, and you’re the key.”

Danika nodded. “And how you expect to do this?”

“I've got a plan to get out of here through the blockade but I need someone I’m sure can do their part to help.”

“Careful.” I said. “Mercs aren’t known for their consciences. He might be baiting a trap, or setting you up for a fall.”

Canderous looked at me, measuring me in an instant. “I’m talking with her, not you.” Then he turned back to Danika. “I saw you win the swoop race, and I figured, anyone crazy enough to take the chances you did might be willing to do something even crazier, but with a bigger payoff. Something like breaking into the Sith Military base.” He watched us, but his eyes were locked on Danika’s face, judging her reaction.

“You have my attention.” She said.

He relaxed incrementally. “What I need is for someone to get the Sith launch codes from the base. Without them the fleet above will blow any ship trying to leave the atmosphere away. With them...”

“Why should I help you? If I had those codes I could take them, steal a ship and be out of here myself.” Danika replied.

“I’ve seen the ships here. The really good ones have been confiscated by the Sith. But there’s a ship they don’t know about. I can get us out of here on the Ebon Hawk.”

“A JT 4100. Big deal.” I commented.

“A JT 4100 with the Mod 4 upgrades, and Mark 19s installed.” Canderous corrected.

I was shocked and excited at that. The Mod 4 upgrades made it faster with heavier armor and shields. The Mark 19s were blaster cannon used on the newer corvettes! They could punch out even an Interdictor class cruiser if you were very lucky and very close. He grinned evilly at the look on my face. “Good enough for you, flyboy?”

“And how are you going to manage stealing Davik’s ship right under his nose?” Danika pressed.

“Not so fast, kid. Bring me the codes, and I will tell you the rest of it.”

“How am I supposed to get into the Base?” She asked. “The door obviously has encryption to stop me. Not to mention whatever guards are inside.”

“Haven’t been paying attention to the news, have you? The Sith Governor launched a major operation to find Bastila when she was seen at the track.” He glanced at the woman, then back to Danika. “Something like a thousand more came down from the fleet and the guard units in the base were drawn down to minimum to do it. As it is, they’re finding it more difficult than they imagined. All of the bike gangs have buried the hatchet right in the nearest Sith head. They’ve retreated into the Undercity and are tearing them up with ambushes and lightning raids by armed bikes. If fifty men come out of there alive, I’ll be surprised. As for the encryptions, I have just what you need. Davik wants the codes too, and he commissioned a droid from the shop across from the elevator in North City. Janice Nall is a Twi-lek, but she’s a wizard with custom droid design and manufacture. Just tell her I sent you and pay for the droid.”

“Won’t Davik be upset when the droid doesn’t go to him?”

“Why? Who do you think he put in charge of the commission?” He motioned toward himself. “Davik commissioned it, but I was the one who talked to Janice. He won’t care who picks it up as long as the launch codes come his way. But I’m known to the Upper city, and if I hit the base, the Sith will send an army down to take out Davik’s estates. Or blow it from orbit. I need you.”

“I sense no deception from him, which is surprising.” Bastila mused. “This may be exactly what we need.”

“Are you in?” Danika nodded. “Then meet me at Jayvar’s Cantina down in the Lowercity when you have the codes.” He tossed a coin on the table, and left.

Last edited by machievelli; 04-07-2006 at 10:41 AM.
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