Here is another chapter for ye huddled masses.
Chapter 2-Dreams and Bearings
It was foggy like I was walking through a mist. Yet I felt the strange sensation that I wasn’t there. I could see but not feel. I looked straight ahead and a face came into view.
It was a girl’s face with piercing blue eyes and it held a fierce look of determination. It then pulled away to reveal her wielding a yellow bladed lightsaber. She swung with short decisive strokes giving a final blow. She pulled her lightsaber back and held her free hand forward.
The clouds then rushed in. I tried to hold on to see more but it rushed in. The clouds swarmed in clouding my vision. Then I plunged into darkness.
I opened my eyes to see the soft glow of the overhead light. It was on low power as a kindness to me while I was out. I felt a slight pounding in my head as I slowly sat up and winced. Looking down I saw that my shirt and vest were gone and had been replaced by a pristine white bandage. I didn’t realize that I had been injured on the Spire and figured that with all that had happened, it was just the adrenaline that kept me from feeling it.
I sat up slowly and swung my legs over the edge of the bed. My head throbbed but it was dull enough for me to try to stand up. I let out a slight hiss of air as I stood up and looked around. From the looks of things I could tell that it was an apartment of sorts but one badly in need of a maintenance job. I noticed the threadbare carpet and a few dirt stains in the place. Now I’ll admit that I’ve stayed in worse places but the thing about them was that there was some semblance of order. Here that wasn’t the case.
I slowly wandered about the main living space, checking out my surroundings. I noticed the workbench at one end and my looted vibroblade lying on top. I looked near my bed for my clothes and found my black vest but no trace of my shirt. I thought to myself, Great a shopping expedition. I did not look forward to the experience. Looking around some more, I found a door that led to a kitchenette and at the other end I figured was a refresher or closet space.
Finding nothing to do I picked up my vest and checked my pockets automatically. All my credits were in their hiding places and a few other things I had brought were still there. I laid down my vest when I noticed the speeder cruise by. For a moment I thought I was back on Coruscant. A trip to the window clarified that it wasn’t. I had no idea what kind of planet I was on. I quickly whipped around when I heard a familiar voice say, “Good to see you up instead of thrashing about in your sleep. Must’ve been some hell of a nightmare.”
I saw Onasi standing at the door of the refresher. He had just finished his shower from the looks of things as he carried his towel and threw on the back of a chair. On another was hanging the ugliest orange jacket ever. The last time I saw something like that was when I accidentally dyed a Togorian’s fur the same shade of orange. That of course was when the bloody pirates tried to rob me of my cargo. I ignored the jacket as best as I could and since my headache was coming back, I retorted, “You would have too if your head kissed a bulkhead.”
“Probably so. There’s some Aspro on the table.” Onasi then pointed out a small vial.
I grabbed the tube and popped two in my mouth and took it dry. I waited a few minutes until the pain meds kicked in and I could look at Onasi and ignore the orange jacket. Luckily I didn’t have to talk first since he introduced himself, “I’m Carth. I was with you in the escape pod.”
“Right. Jason Gibbs but you can call me Gibbs,” I replied. I looked around and asked in a semi-bored voice, “So what slice of paradise are we in?”
Onasi replied, “We’re in an abandoned apartment on Taris. You were banged up pretty bad when our pod crashed but luckily I wasn’t seriously hurt. I was able to drag you away from the scene and sort of stumbled into this apartment. By the time the Sith arrived on the scene, we were long gone.”
I could have said a hundred things at that yet I said the hundredth and one thing, “I guess I owe you a thanks.”
“You don’t have to thank me. I’ve never left anyone behind on a mission and I’m not going to start now. Besides I’m going to need your help.”
It was abrupt but sincere. I’d been around the soldiers on the Spire long enough to know that if anything during a mission, no one gets left behind. How that worked in an explosive situation I wasn’t sure but I admired and respected the loyalty. Deralians worked the same way. Heck that’s why they signed up in droves after Telos. When Onasi asked for my help, I replied, “There’s always a catch.”
“Maybe you see it that way or you can think it’s a fair trade. Me saving your life for your help. Like a Hutt would.”
I couldn’t help it. In spite of my headache, I gave a chuckle. I replied, “Not bad Onasi. I may not be a soldier like you but I see your point. So what’s the plan?”
“Taris is under Sith control. Its fleet orbits the planet and they’ve imposed a planet wide quarantine but I’ve been in worse spots.”
I’ll bet. Out loud I said, “I could say the same. So what are we going to do?”
“I saw on your service records that you understand a remarkable number of alien languages. That’s pretty rare in a raw recruit but it should come in handy while we search for Bastila.”
I was listening but when I heard the name, it rang a bell in the dense fog of my brain. “Bastila is who?” I shrugged my shoulders.
“That smack did more damage to your head than I thought,” Onasi was astonished that I had no idea who he was talking about. I spent my time smuggling. Like I’m going to care about important people unless they hired me. I think Onasi figured this out to a degree since he did read my service records. So he explained, “Bastila’s a Jedi. She was with the strike team that killed Darth Revan.”
Oh the old good Jedi versus bad Jedi ploy. I shrugged my shoulders again, more to stretch them than to be rude. “So what makes her so special?”
“Bastila’s no ordinary Jedi. She has a rare ability called Battle Meditation. Through the Force she can influence her allies while making her enemies lose their will to fight. Of course there are limits to what she can do but her Battle Meditation has enabled the Republic to fight this war against Malak.”
“I see. So we rescue the Jedi damsel in distress, find a ship, and blast our way through a blockade. So where do we start looking?”
I don’t think Onasi was expecting that but from what he told me, Bastila was important to the Republic war effort. Now don’t call me patriotic but I have had enough experience around criminals to know that when you have an asset that is in your favor, you protect it at all costs. This Jedi was an asset to the Republic and since I signed up as a civvie hire, I was obliged to help Onasi out. Sue me for my Deralian heritage.
He did recover and was able to respond, “While you were out I did some scouting around. There are reports of a couple of escape pods crashing in the Undercity. Probably a good place to start but the Undercity’s a dangerous place. We don’t want to go there unprepared. The Lower City is overrun by swoop bike gangs waging an unending war for control and in the Undercity is even worse. There’s no way for the Republic to get in through the blockade. If we’re going to find Bastila, we have to do it ourselves.”
“Alright,” I agreed. I kind of figured that the moment he first mentioned the blockade. “Let’s get to it.”
“We can use this apartment as a base and probably get some equipment and supplies while we’re here. Just remember we have to keep a low profile. We won’t do Bastila any good if we get caught. I’ve heard some grim stories about Jedi interrogation techniques. They say the Force can do terrible things to a mind. It can wipe away your memories and destroy your very identity.”
“Don’t get all too dark there Onasi,” I replied. I’ve heard tales too but in times like these, it’s better to think positive and not have dark thoughts hang over your heads. “We’ll find this Jedi and get off this rock. Just stay a little optimistic.”
“I’m more of a realist,” Onasi replied.
“So am I but a constant reminder of bad thoughts tend to be counterproductive.” I headed towards the refresher intent on getting a little clean. “By the way, does the survival pack include a spare shirt?”
Before Onasi could reply, a knock sounded on the door. Instinctively I reached for the nearest weapon, which happened to be a blaster, and held it towards the door. I asked, “You expecting company?”
Onasi gave a nod and walked towards the door. I wasn’t being too careful. I found a vantage point to shoot the intruder if I had to. The door opened and a green Twi’lek stepped in. He spoke in Huttese, “I see your friend is finally awake and he’ll appreciate the shirt clean and mended. If you need anything else, you can visit my kiosk down the hall.”
He laid down a package and turned around and left. Onasi picked up the bundle and tossed it on the table. “You needed a new shirt so I asked around. Refresher’s through the door.” He pointed the way.
I laid down the blaster on the table and retrieved the package. It was a shirt and for a moment I felt ready to dash into the fresher and hide but my pride wouldn’t allow it. I gathered up my clothes and went to take a shower of sorts. Once inside I began a cursory inspection of my injuries and found a hairline scar near my hairline and found that my blaster wound had healed. Examination of my face revealed a soul patch on my chin.
Normally I go about clean-shaven but the last few weeks I paid little attention to shaving and it grew out pretty nice. Deciding to keep it, I continued my inspection and went through the motions of a shower. I emerged twenty minutes later feeling like I just won a hundred thousand credits. Onasi was at the workbench working on his blasters when I came out. I asked, “How many more repairs you need?”
“Just upgrading a few things. I worked on your vibroblade while you were out. Pretty nice weapon.” Onasi got up and walked to the far side of the room. “Alright soldier. Let’s get going.”
I kept my amusement to myself as I grabbed my vibroblade and attached it to my belt. I knew that I was going to have to break the shell of reserve somewhat if Onasi was going to work with me. People tell me I’m a pest but I know when to quit. Since Onasi knew so much about me, I wanted to know something about him. “Hey Onasi.”
“Yes. Is something on your mind?”
“Since we’re going to work together, why don’t you tell me a bit about yourself?”
“Me?” I think the question startled him but he was willing. “Well I’ve been a star pilot for years. I’ve seen more than my fair share of battle but I’ve never seen anything like the slaughter these Sith animals unleash. Not even the Mandalorians were that senseless. My homeworld was one of the first to fall to Malak’s fleet. The Sith bombed it into submission and there wasn’t a damn thing our Republic forces could do to stop them.”
I knew that Onasi was from Telos so he felt the loss hard yet something about it made me think there was something more to the story. “You make it sound like it was your fault.”
“It shouldn’t be fault. I followed my orders and did my duty, that doesn’t mean that I failed them. It shouldn’t.”
Onasi was getting worked up and I could see that something was eating at him. I sensed I could ask one more question but that was all. “Them?”
“Sorry. Nothing. You probably mean well with your questions it’s just that I’m not used to talking about my past much. At all really.”
“That’s all really,” I emphasized it with a hand gesture.
“You got it.”
I made a mental note to write about this in my journal. Right now my feet were itching to get to business. I activated the panel and opened the door. I slipped into the hall and Onasi followed my lead. Not far were two Duros being tormented by a Sith and his droids. Not my way to start a day with a fight but I got the feeling that Onasi and I were getting more than we bargained for.
“What’s this? Humans hiding with aliens? They’re Republic fugitives! Attack!”
“I don’t think this is a good idea Gibbs.”
“We need the creds.” We scouted around our side of the Upper City and were cooling our heels in the cantina. We had hit several stores in the area but Zelka was the most helpful. Besides the healing and reasonably priced supplies, he let us know about some of our Republic friends. It appeared that more pods landed reasonably well than I thought but the soldiers in them weren’t going to be able to help.
Zelka told us that their injuries were terrible and that most wouldn’t survive. Since Onasi and I couldn’t do much, we thanked Zelka and promised to keep his secret. In addition to that, we learned of a rakghoul serum that could cure the disease the creatures that harbored it gave. It wouldn’t be easy getting a supply from a patrol in the Undercity but I was determined to repay Zelka’s kindness one way or another.
We checked out the elevator to the Lower City. Finding it locked, I suggested that we backtrack to the cantina and chat up any Sith to try and find some way in as well as find some credits. Onasi was against it since there was the risk that whoever we chatted up might wise up on us. Me? Well I was confident that I could make any Sith soldier warm up to me especially the ladies. As soon as we entered the cantina, it turned out to be a little difficult.
My first mistake was bumping into a spoiled brat who threatened to ‘fire’ me after one word from her daddy. I didn’t care much about that since I didn’t work there anyway. I do admit that her comments about my choice in clothes was like an annoying pinprick. The brat had never been in the thick of a battle with space pirates nor tried to come to a deal with a Hutt nor faced off a backstabbing cheat and his pack of Kowakian monkey lizards in a blaster fight. I would have given it to her right then but it was Onasi who said, “Be careful what you say. I get the feeling this spoiled brat could be more trouble than she’s worth.”
So I just gave a polite smile and apologized while offering to get her drink. At that moment the bloody waiter showed up with the tray of drinks. I took the moment to slip away and continue my search. Mostly I saw a bunch of bored nobles drinking and complaining. I figured that we might have some time to wait so I looked at Onasi and said, “Well I’m hungry. How about you?”
“How can you think of food at a time like this?”
“First order of business: survival. Besides I don’t see any potential Sith candidates. We could use the time to take a breather and plan our course of action.” I gave one of my more friendly grins at Onasi.
Onasi considered my words and agreed to it. “You’re right. Lead on Gibbs.”
“That was generous of you giving him 200 credits. I just hope that we won’t be needing those credits later on.”
“We can always go a few rounds of Pazaak in the cantina. Besides this Davik Kang is nothing but a two bit loan shark.”
I think my comments surprised Onasi since after all I was a smuggler but I hey. I have my standards. I disapprove of borrowing from loan sharks but a guy like Largo needed a break so I gave it to him. I left Onasi to think about this while I read the numbers to find the right apartment for the party.
Earlier, after winning a couple of duels in the dueling ring, I managed to single out a potential female Sith soldier. I gave Onasi a slight elbow to indicate that I found a mark and made my move to go chat her up. I found out that the girl was indeed a Sith soldier. One that was pissed that she had to be posted here on Taris. Experience taught me that it is best to sympathize while giving your own tirade on your problems. Needless to say, it worked and she opened up like a fountain and poured out her woes. She was on the verge of giving some important details when she stopped herself saying that the senior officers didn’t like it when the junior officers talked about their jobs. “I’ve got a shift at the military base but some of us junior officers are having a party afterwards. Most of us won’t be going back to put away our uniforms. I’d really like to see you again. You want to come?”
It had been a stroke of luck that she mentioned that uniforms were going to be there and a party no less. Better than trying to beat up a gang of soldiers and stealing the uniforms. I asked, “Alright if I bring a friend?” I then indicated to Onasi who was trying to look occupied with his meal.
She stole a glance and smiled at me, “No problem. I know someone who’d keep him company.”
Now we were looking for the apartment number that she had given to me. As we got closer, I could hear the music pulsing so loud, I could feel the floor vibrations. I looked at Onasi who gave me a shrug indicating that we should go in. At the door, I pressed the button that rang the chimes. I doubted anyone could hear the standard ding-dong over what I could only assume was the latest song. I hit the button two more times as well as kicking the door hard with my boot.
Sarna, the girl that invited me, was the one that opened the door. She shouted over the noise, “You made it. I was beginning to think you weren’t going to show. The party is getting under way so come in.” She then latched her arm around mine, dragging me in while Onasi followed behind at a discreet distance until he was accosted by another female soldier who promptly began on the flirting much to his embarrassment and my amusement.
Meanwhile I turned my attention to Sarna who was trying to persuade me to try some Tarisian ale. Frankly I don’t like the stuff but my line of work has led me to be diplomatic and part of it was developing a head for alcohol and other strange cuisine. “You’ve got to try this Tarisian ale. It tastes like heaven. We should’ve conquered this planet years ago.”
I took the proffered cup and made it look like I was taking a sip. A plan began to form in my mind. One that was at one end very low but at the other end necessary. I began to make friends with her, encouraging her to drink more while observing that the others around her were doing the same, getting more tipsy the more they drank. I saw Onasi in a corner trying to fend off the advances of a very drunk girl with little success. At the top of my lungs, I shouted, “Let’s play Pazaak juma rules!”
“Ain’t got juma,” someone said.
“Shut up,” Sarna replied, “We’ve got Tarisian ale. We can use that.” She then smiled sweetly at me, “How do you play?”
Piece of cake as Onasi would say.
I noticed that I had the girl’s attention and flashed a smile in her direction but my voice addressed the room, “Well. The rules are…”
It took three rounds of drinking and some skifting on my part to get everyone soused to the point that they passed out. Onasi turned off the music as I gathered my Pazaak deck and pocketed it in my belt. “Well that was easy,’ I said and began to rummage through the packs that had been shoved in a corner. I managed to find one that looked like it would fit Onasi and flung the pack at him. Finding one to fit me, I gathered the pack and slung it over my shoulder and took a look at the room.
Onasi was at the door ready to open it. I nodded and we snuck out. We said nothing until we were out of the complex and making our way back to the abandoned apartment. I considered talking to Onasi some more but it was he who asked me, “Let me ask you something. I’ve been going over the battle aboard the Endar Spire in my head over and over but some things just don’t add up. I’d like to hear about it from your perspective.”
“I really wasn’t in a position to see much unless you count cutting a swath to the escape pods.”
“Just curious. I just find it odd that a new recruit happens to be one of the survivors. Then again you aren’t a greenie to the whole issue of survival given your previous line of work.”
I could detect suspicion in Onasi’s voice. I didn’t blame him really. Most smugglers have a notorious reputation but I wasn’t a fool enough not to notice that this could be an inconvenient annoyance. I replied, “The joys of smuggling. As for being assigned to the Spire. I’m in the dark as much as you.”
“Well your transfer was requested by Bastila’s party. Well the Jedi requested numerous things and practically took over the whole ship.” Onasi was looking straight ahead when he said that and I could see a slight frown as he said that.
“Don’t know anything about that. I figure though that it is best we keep our mind focused on the business at hand,” I replied. Onasi readily agreed saying that finding Bastila was our priority now and thinking about trivial things was distracting. Frankly I was relieved but I couldn’t help but think about the bit of information that I had learned. Until now, I assumed that my transfer was because of a need for an experienced translator and one who traveled the lanes out here. Now finding out that the Jedi requested me was something that was perplexing. It had me wondering why as Onasi and I turned in for the night.