One of Thousands
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Kirkwall/The Free Marches
Current Game: Dragon Age II
Prologue Part I: KOTOR III: Tret'ye Srazhenie (Third Battle)
(Author's Note: This is a sequel to the Vremya series. I've changed the original title from The Galactic Sundering, and machievelli actually wrote this prologue. Enjoy, and Happy Holidays!)
The long-range transit shuttle dropped out of hyperspace, arcing toward the planet. Belarust was in the Outer Rim beyond Mandalore, one of the few not attacked during the Mandalorian Wars simply because it was worth little or nothing to the galaxy in general. The battered little shuttle was about what you would expect to come here. Almost 50 years old, she was 25 meters long, five meters wide at the pencil-shaped body. Fat and stubby, with a pair of gull wings spread from the center, making her 10 meters wide in flight. But looks can be deceiving…
“Tell me again why they sent us,” Mira asked. She leaned back into the co-pilot’s seat. Her eyes were on the controls as Bao-Dur piloted them.
“They had to send some of us to the rescue-”
“I know that.”
“-and you still need to get your pilot’s license-”
“I know that too.”
“-And you’re the best hunter and I can teach an ape to fly-”
“Oh, thank you so very much.”
Bao-Dur glanced at her, and she could sense he was having fun teasing her. “Well, you are better looking than the average ape.”
“No, you blasted Iridonian! Why us, as in you and me?”
“It was a tough choice, really.” He went on without pausing. “It came down to Mical, Atton and Jolee begging that I go and take you with me.”
“What?” Mira sat up, a look of hurt on her face. “They asked you to take me specifically?”
“Well…” He gave her a blank look. "It had to be one of you: Brianna, Visas or you, as long as one of you was gone for a while. Besides, they all agreed it fit your sense of humor more than the others.” She stared at him, stunned and confused. “It’s because of that little play you all like to do in front of witnesses…”
She smirked. “You mean our stretching exercises.”
“Bad enough you used to make Atton’s heart race with them. But then you found out how easily flustered Mical was, and then you tried it on Jolee and almost gave him a heart attack. So they asked me to take one of you away so they could get some rest.”
She giggled. Bao-Dur looked at her. “What’s so funny?”
“Well, Sasha just turned fifteen and she wants to learn…”
Bao-Dur thought of the four women still at the temple of Dantooine and sighed. “Well, it was a thought.”
“Besides,” she added smugly. “I wasn’t the one who thought of it first.”
“Oh, dear,” Bao-Dur whispered.
Mira paced by the ship. The situation was confusing. A group of Exchange thugs here had found half a dozen younglings: children with Jedi potential. They had also found seven more who had not already been picked. But instead of turning them over to Goto’s men, they had come up with a more ambitious plan. What would the Jedi do if they knew thirteen children were being held captive? Why, they’d send a Jedi to rescue them, of course. With a blade at a child’s throat, they would surrender.
Of course, what they got, Mira grinned, was us. It had taken her three days to find their lair and scout it as only a professional bounty hunter could. Bao-Dur had planned the extraction with all the skill of a technician and student of the General he revered.
Now Mira had to wait. The ship had to be hot and ready to lift off, and they couldn’t leave her like that without someone ready to lift. So she paced here, waiting.
She heard a noise and paused, looking toward the ship. There was only one way into the landing bay, and she had paced in front of it. Slowly she continued her pacing, but moved now toward the edge of the landing pad. There were a pair of slim legs sticking out from a panel beside the side hatch. Mira paced over, looking at the small tool kit on the ground, the sandals kicking in the air. The person seemed to be shoving farther in, as if hiding in the armpit of a giant bird. A hand slid out, sliding across the tools, shoving aside hydrospanners and circuit testers, then lifting a magnetic equalizer. It disappeared back into the panel.
“Wouldn’t that be easier with the keycard?” Mira asked. The legs stilled.
“Oh, Sithspit!” The legs squirmed, and the slip of a girl slid from the panel. She was fourteen or fifteen, and glared up at the woman only slightly taller than she was. “Bounty hunter, eh? Going to turn me in for the bounty?”
“Why?” Mira asked. “Why would a bounty hunter be interested in… a Jedi youngling?” The girl was defiant, and Mira smiled at the stance. She had the kid by about ten kilos, and years of experience. “Chill down. We came to rescue you and the others.”
“Really.” The girl sounded like she would sooner have believed in the great spirit of space instead.
Mira reached for the center of her back, and a straw-yellow blade snapped into being. The eyes watched it, and she saw a dawning hope. The blade disappeared again. “Yes. As soon as my friend gets back with the others, we can leave.”
There was a noise like giggling, and Mira looked around. The girl motioned, and from the shadows, children came--a dozen of them, all facing her. She looked around, then at the defiant leader before her. “Ah, so you didn‘t need our help?”
The children watched her with expressions running the gamut of nervous to defiant. The one before her, a year older than any other, merely looked smug. “We left them wishing they had never heard of Jedi.”
Bao-Dur walked toward the ship, shaking his head. The den the thugs had been using was still there, sort of. Someone, a master slicer, had gotten there before him. The lights went out, then every alarm went off at the same time. All of the plumbing had backed up explosively in the darkness and emergency lights were flashing off and on, and the cooking gas had somehow gotten released in a large-enough concentration that when someone had overreacted shooting at shadows, the resulting explosion had leveled the building. The children were dead; they had to be. No one else had escaped from that burning hell.
He looked at the ship, a hand reaching back for the lightsaber on his right hip. The ship was silent, the ramp open invitingly. A trap. He slid forward, using every bit of his skill to slip aboard unnoticed. Whoever was waiting-
Bao-Dur heard chatting from the rear of the ship. It had been an in-system shuttle before the renovation, and now would carry a crew and a dozen passengers by adding bunks against the bulkheads and a kitchen/dining area with an attached refresher at the rear before the engine room. Bao-Dur crept aft, looking through the open hatch.
A dozen kids were scattered around the room, lounging and sitting anywhere they could find space, even sitting cross-legged on the deck. Each had a bowl and were shoveling food down as if they hadn’t eaten in a week. Then, as if they had all been expecting him, they turned. He noted that too many of them held those utensils as if they knew they would be excellent weapons…
“Hey, Bao-Dur.” He looked back as Mira came from the control room with a girl inches smaller and pounds lighter walking beside her. “Meet Becca Solis. The leader of our little band of lunatics.“ The girl nodded, not sure how to deal with him. “Becca left us nothing to do but getting them back to Dantooine.” She walked into the room, tousling a head here and there as she grinned.
“She left that shambles?"
“We did,” Becca retorted. “I may be the oldest, but I wasn’t the sneakiest or best at hacking their system. I just gave the others a nudge in the right direction.”
“Between them they made those men wish they had picked something safer to trap, like maybe a rancor.”
The children giggled as Bao-Dur sealed the hatch. He pushed through them to the cockpit. Becca sat in his chair, feet up on the control panel, for all the world relaxing as if she were in her own room.
“Feet off.” Bao-Dur shoved her legs off. “Up.”
“Have a care, Bao-Dur.” Mira walked past, sitting in the co-pilot’s seat. “Becca, could you get us some tea?”
The girl looked at Bao-Dur, then flounced from the compartment. Mira watched her go, smoothly bringing up the engines. “Don’t give her too much grief, Bao-Dur. I think I found my first apprentice.” She smiled. “Becca Solis. Someone to make all of the men squirm when she reaches her full growth. She‘s already expressed an interest in Te-rehal-Vor.”
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