Dawn of Defiance: Buffalo NY

Reflections from Tor part 20

Tor sat on the Resurgence in a circle with Khalic, Master Denia, and Moppo. The four of them focused on the Force, guided by Denia’s wisdom and knowledge. They fed her power and together the group followed the twisting pathways of the Force that were the trail of Khalic’s recent dreams about a female zabrak jedi.

“Concentrate, children,” Denia coached as the others fed her energy. They focused and a moment later Denia exclaimed: “There!”

A vision rushed into the groups’ heads. They saw the image of a zabrak jedi, though only briefly. The face faded and sank into the ground. The vision pulled back slightly and revealed many large plants and fungi that stood out in fluorescent and neon colors.

Both Tor and Khalic gasped, their eyes flying open. They turned to face each other and cried out:


A couple days later, Tor and his friends had been given a new assignment and were preparing to leave. Tor approached Kelyn, concern running through him after the briefing revealed that their target was Nizon. Remembering the escape from Bespin and Kelyn’s reaction to the slave ship, Tor was worried about what this would do to the scoundrel.

Tor broached the topic with Kelyn, who assured him that he was fine. I hope so, Tor thought, looking at the scoundrel. Kelyn looks a little worse for wear. I wonder what trouble he got up to while I was gone. I’ll have to ask him sometime. But we have more pressing concerns now.

Tor stood in the cockpit of the Defiance, watching the blue tunnel of hyperspace as the ship flew towards Nizon. He watched as Kelyn pushed off the hyperspace lever and the blue tunnel turned back into pinpoints of stars. Tor’s eyes widened as he saw the dagger shaped hull of a Star Destroyer straight ahead of the ship.

Alarms blared in the ship as Kelyn grabbed the helm and Khalic jumped into the copilot seat. Tor turned, but not before catching sight of several fighters being deployed from the Star Destroyers hangar. He raced through the ship.

“Moppo, get to one of the guns!” Tor called as he passed through the common area. He followed his own advice and was soon in a gun turret. The massive size of the Star Destroyer was ominous as Tor began to blast at the fighters. The massive ship was almost on top of the Defiance and almost filled Tor’s viewscreen.

As the battle progressed, Tor was again proud of his young padawan, showing his aptitude for vehicle combat once more as he scored several hits. A massive explosion flared in the distance and Tor was floored at the maneuver that Bariss has pulled off. While Tor managed to get in a couple of hits, he was quite distracted between Bariss’ ace piloting and Kelyn and Rama’s jabs at each other over the comm.

Once most of the fighters were gone and the Star Destroyer left at the barrier of asteroids, Tor relaxed in his seat, leaving it to Kelyn to get the ship through the asteroids in one piece. He was startled as asteroids exploded. Chunks of the rocks floated and were dragged down into the planet for which they were headed. Tor tensed as he waited, fearing for those on the planet as the rocks flew at them. He relaxed as the sensors showed that they missed the major city, but Tor was still shocked that his team had put those people in such jeopardy.

He scowled at N3M0 and Rama as the two emerged from the gun turrets as the ship set down on the planet. He gazed up at the sky, knowing that the Star Destroyer was still up there waiting. He turned his gaze back to the horizon and gathered Moppo to him, wondering what other surprises lie in wait for them up ahead.

Be Mindful of the Force Edit
Here is a little errata to be included in my big post due to Khalic tagging along with Tor

Tor ran with the children, following their cues and laughed instructions. He struggled to keep up, but the younglings’ enthusiasm kept him motivated. He felt a slight disturbance in the Force as the day progressed. Not threatening, but something that was different or out of place nearby. He put it at the back of his mind and continued playing with the children.

A short time later, the children stopped suddenly, whipping their heads around and pointing to one side of the clearing. Khalic stood a short way from the edge of the clearing next to one of the huts. Tor’s jaw dropped.

“Khalic!” he called, jogging over to the young zabrak. “How did you get here? Is everything ok?”

The mechanic nodded, clearly relieved that he had found the caamasi in the remote reaches of the Unknown Regions.

Tor led Khalic to a small array of tree stumps and sat down. Khalic began to talk, reiterating some of the things he had told Tor during their time spent building the Defiance, with the mechanic explaining that he had been having strange dreams revolving around a female zabrak Jedi. Tor searched his memory again but his mind revealed nothing some rumors and a few tickles of memory.

Tor frowned and thought for a moment. He looked at Khalic sitting across from him. “I know that you haven’t been trained in the Force, Khalic, but I’d to attempt something and I’d like you to help me. Since the Force is giving you these dreams, you need to be involved.”

The young mechanic nodded nervously. “Stretch out with your feelings,” Tor coached. “Focus. Find my presence in the Force and follow me closely.” Khalic closed his eyes and his brow furrowed. Tor smiled as he felt the raw Force flow in erratic waves from the zabrak. With time and some control, he should be able to make quite a bit of use out of his abilities, Tor thought. Even if it’s limited to his building starships. His touches of insight could help in the fight against the Empire and restoring some of the Force in the galaxy.

Tor settled himself in and closed his eyes, reaching out the Force and the planet retreated from him. His mind soared into the galaxy. He felt Khalic’s presence and grasped at it with his mind. The mechanic reached back and clung to Tor in the Force. Tor led them through the swirling clouds of the Force, searching. He looked at the Force through Khalic. He saw the tints of the dreams, the wispy trails that they left behind. The two followed them, their minds racing through the galaxy. Tor frowned as he concentrated. The trails were broken and fragmented and soon dead ended. Tor felt a sense of familiarity, but it was vague and quickly vanished.

Reality quickly came rushing back as Tor opened his eyes. Khalic’s eyes fluttered open as well, the expression on his face clearly disappointed.

“I’m sorry, Khalic,” Tor said. “I can’t get a clear focus on it right now. But that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. It’s just too faint now. I urge patience. Perhaps once we return to the Resurgence, Master Denia will be able to assist us.”

“You should stay here though,” Tor continued. “There is much to learn here, and it can definitely help you in this search.”

The young zabrak nodded and turned to watch the children playing around the clearing. Tor watched him for a moment before standing. “Come on,” he said, encouraging the zabrak to stand up. “You’d be surprised how relaxing playing with them is.”

He smiled as the mechanic rose and the two trotted off towards where the rest of the group was, soon running with them throughout the clearing, enjoying themselves despite their setback.

Over the rest of Tor’s training, Khalic split his time between shadowing Tor and Chukal and spending time at the main group, learning some essentials from the people there.

Tor was pleased at the progress Khalic was making, although most of his own time was taken up by his own training from Chukal.

Chukal invited Khalic to follow him and Tor on the last day of Tor’s training. The mechanic agreed and the trio ventured into the jungle. Khalic sat with Chukal on a nearby tree as Tor struggled to lift the debris off of the shuttle that he had brought. Minutes later, Tor strained and managed to cast off the piles of rocks and trees.

Chukal congratulated Tor, presenting him with the necklace that symbolized the completion of his training. Chukal then turned to Khalic. “My people tell me that you have the power in you as well, youngster. And that you have potential.” He looked hard at the young zabrak. “You will find the answers you seek. But keep the power close and at hand.” He looked at Tor. “You have a good guide to lead you there.”

Khalic followed Tor into the shuttle and the two flew off. Tor dropped Khalic at the Defiance and the young zabrak started it up. The two ships took off towards space and a short time later they were both docked in the Resurgence, the zabrak and the caamasi emerging ready to proceed and continue in their ventures.

Be Mindful of the Force
This post is set during the down time between and is meant to show the furthering of Tor’s education in the Force. Mechanically, this is to allow me to use talents from the Mystic Talent Tree to qualify for the Force Disciple prestige class

The Resurgence drifted silently through space, traversing the Unknown Regions, occasionally making short jumps through hyperspace to throw off any forces that might be following them.

Tor sat cross-legged on the floor of a small room across from Master Denia. The two Jedi had spent several weeks in this way, or slowly wandering the ship, discussing the Force, how to use it, its philosophy, and what it represented. Moppo occasionally joined them but Tor had given him several other tasks as part of his training, knowing that he needed to focus with Master Denia and explore some of his troubling thoughts.

Tor had been glad to reunite with Master Denia after the troubles he had seen while in the company of his new friends. He sought to learn more from her, to gain an understanding of the events that had transpired.

As they had meditated on one of the first days they had been reunited, Master Denia’s brow furrowed slightly as she concentrated. “I sense the dark side within you, child,” she commented softly.

Tor cast his gaze at the bulkhead below. “I know, Master. I was unable to resist its pull. My-my people…they were murdered by the Empire. The entire planet turned to a smoking ruin of glass and death. When I felt the tremor in the Force and realized what had happened, I-I could not control my anger. Not after the purge of the Jedi as well. And when I found the one responsible…I killed him, Master. Fueled entirely by rage and anger. I fell to its tempting call.”

Master Denia paused for a long while, deep in thought. Finally, she brought her eyes to Tor’s. “I felt the disturbance in the Force as well. It was like nothing I had ever known before. And something that I too wish that I could not have to remember.”

Tor looked into the distance scornfully. “I shall never be able to forget, Master. My species’ memories are long lived. And we remember each thing as if we were still in the moment, able to feel the pain and senses of those who were actually there.” Tor closed his eyes tightly. “And I will forever remember what I did while under the control of my anger.”

“Your species’ ability is sometimes a grave one, child. But it may also be a gift as well.” Tor looked into Master Denia’s eyes. “The dark side will always be with you now, Tor. Once it has claimed a hold, it will always be present, whispering its evil intent to you, trying to bend you to its will. Your memories will never let you forget that. Hold on to them. Use them to bolster your resolve. They will remind you of what the dark side can influence you to do. Do not dwell on them, but be mindful of their presence. They will guide you. The light side will not abandon you if you do not let it.”

Tor returned to his meditation, and along with Master Denia, they lost themselves to the Force.

“Tell me, Master,” Tor said as he and Denia walked through the ship days later. “The Force flows through each of us in a different way. I can feel its pulse, but there sometimes seems to be an undercurrent that I can’t reach. Some further depth to be explored. What does this mean?”

The two stopped at a viewport and looked out at the billions of stars that populated the galaxy. Moppo, sensing that this conversation was not meant for him, moved some distance away, respectfully gazing out of a different viewport.

Master Denia seemed to be thinking deeply about her answer. Still looking out at the stars, she spoke. “The Force is like a river, Tor. It flows swift and powerful. Each of us is like a rock within the river, all connected by its current. Those who do not feel the Force are like pebbles in the river, not immune to it, but not able to perceive the wider world they live in.” She turned away from the viewport to look at Tor. “Those, like the Jedi, who can feel the Force are like larger rocks. We are large enough to alter the flow of the river, channeling it into different paths. Each of us is different, the various lines and shapes of our rocks changing how we interact with the Force. Your own rock may be larger than my own, or shaped in a way that is far different than mine.” A troubled look seemed to cross Denia’s face. “Your question is a valid one. But it is one that I don’t think I can answer.”

Tor’s fur rippled as he thought deeply about the implications of what Master Denia had said.

“I must warn you though, child,” Denia said softly, breaking Tor from his reverie. “The dark side is like a stain that runs through the river. If the rock is large enough, or shaped in a certain way, you will find that you may find yourself encountering it more often than you’d like.”

Denia turned back to the viewport as Tor stared at the floor, his face a mask of concentration and thought. After a minute, Denia turned and placed her hand on Tor’s shoulder. She too, had a troubled look. “Nothing more will we cover today,” she said in a near whisper. “Now is a time for contemplation.” She patted his shoulder once and turned, heading back through the ship. She passed Moppo and guided the youth away with her.

Tor paused before looking through the viewport. The stars still shone brightly, but the blackness of space seemed deeper than before, and Tor felt a certain unease, the view no longer providing a sense of peace and comfort like it had before.

On the fifth week of their journey, Tor again sat with Master Denia, both stretched out to the Force. Tor could feel the soft vibrations of the ship as it moved swiftly through hyperspace.

“Stretch out with your feelings,” Master Denia coached. Tor increased his concentration. A moment later he felt a change in the vibrations of the ship as it came out of hyperspace in a new sector of the Unknown Regions.

As he focused his thoughts, his mind suddenly encountered a puzzling presence. He sharpened his thoughts and turned them to a nearby bright spot that had appeared quickly into his mind. An image resolved in Tor’s mind of a small planet. On the planet he could see a bright glow that emanated from a small spot on one of the continents. “Master?” Tor asked, seeking confirmation from Denia.

“I sense it also,” she replied softly. “Be mindful. Concentrate.”

Tor obliged, winding his way towards the bright spot in the Force. As he concentrated, he felt a strange sense of depth. Its touch was comforting but elusive. Familiar but dangerous. It beckoned to him in a quiet way, urging him to explore but in a hushed warning tone.

After several long minutes, Tor slowly retreated his mind from the planet and back to the Resurgence. He opened his eyes to find Master Denia looking over his face.

“Master,” Tor said in a puzzled voice. “There is something nearby. A presence in the Force.”

“I too saw the glow in the Force.”

“It called to me,” Tor whispered.

Denia nodded almost imperceptibly. “This place spoke to you, Tor. I did not hear the voice the way that you did. There is something there that you must find.”

“I felt odd when exploring it through the Force, almost as if the Force could not tell me if it was light or dark.”

“You must be ready to accept what may be waiting for you, child. Until you are, the Force will be unable to guide you to the knowledge you seek.”

Tor rose swiftly. “I must explore this,” he said as Denia also stood.

“I know,” she said, a look of understanding in her eyes. “I will go arrange for the Captain to bring the ship close to the planet.”

Tor nodded. “Thank you, Master. I will prepare our things for the trip.” He moved to begin organizing the few supplies that were in the room, picking up two small packs.

“Oh no, child,” Master Denia said in a quiet voice. “I cannot go with you.” Tor stopped and turned to look back at the Jedi Master. She gazed back at him. “This place has called to you and you alone. The Force has led you to this place. There is nothing for me to gain there. But you have questions, questions that I am not able to answer. This place may hold the answers you seek, but beware. You may not like what you find.”

Tor looked at Master Denia for a long time before slowly nodding his head. “I-I understand, Master.” He began packing again as Denia walked from the room, an uneasy presence seeming to fill the room after she left.

Tor stood in the hangar of the Resurgence at the foot of a ramp leading to a small shuttle. Master Denia approached from a nearby lift tube, Moppo close behind. “Are you ready, child,” she asked as she approached.

Tor met her eyes and nodded. “Yes, Master.”

“Good,” she replied, looking over the shuttle. “I will look after Moppo and continue his training here on the ship. You will most likely not be able to communicate with us once you are on the planet. The Resurgence cannot stay here and wait, they must continue to jump throughout the Unknown Regions so they cannot be tracked. I’ve arranged for the ship to be back in this system in four months.” She met Tor’s eyes with a hard stare. “Until then, you will be alone. Do you understand?”

Tor nodded again. “Yes, Master,” he repeated, although quieter this time.

Denia inclined her head, deep in thought. After a moment she turned back to Tor.

“You must be mindful of the Force, Tor. Trust your instincts. Concentrate on the moment. Feel, don’t think.” She nodded in a definitive way and Tor picked up his pack. “The Force will guide you, child.”

Tor started up the ramp. As he reached the top he turned to look back down at Denia and Moppo. “Be mindful of Master Denia’s teachings, Moppo. She is wise and powerful and can teach you much.” Tor’s gaze met both of theirs in turn. “May the Force be with you, Master,” he said and turned quietly into the ship.

The ramp began to rise with a hiss, steam coming from the underside of the shuttle. Just as the ramp was nearly closed, a soft whisper broke through the noise.

“May the Force be with you, child.”

Tor sat in pilot seat of the cramped shuttle. He began the take off procedure, hitting several buttons and easing on the repulsors. He was no pilot but he knew enough to get him to the surface of the planet. Plus, he had picked up a bit of know-how from being near Kelyn and Bariss for so long.

As he thought of his friends, Tor hoped that they were safe and having less trouble than he was.

After a moment, Tor turned his attention back to the task at hand. He eased the shuttle across the hangar and out through the magnetic field. He drifted away from the ship for a moment before cutting in the sublight engines. Halfway towards the planet, Tor turned the shuttle around, bringing the Resurgence back into view. He watched the ship drift slowly through space. Suddenly, it sped up, seeming to elongate before disappearing into hyperspace. Tor felt Master Denia’s presence in the Force speed away with the ship, quickly vanishing into space, leaving nothing but the emptiness of space behind.

Sighing and knowing there was now no other choice, Tor turned the shuttle towards the planet and approached it, aiming for the continent that he had seen through the Force. As the shuttle broke through the atmosphere, Tor immediately was assaulted by a storm that the sensors hadn’t registered.

The shuttle was thrown around violently as huge gusts of wind blasted into it. Lightning flashed outside the viewport as Tor struggled to control the shuttles rapid descent. Warning alarms blared as the ship told him he was dropping perilously close to the surface of the planet. He remembered a trick that Bariss and Kelyn had talked about on a few occasions. He quickly cut in the repulsors at full power and killed the engines. The shuttle bounced on the repulsors but was still thrown around by the wind. Tor was unable to see anything through the viewport except swirling gray mist. He stretched out with his feelings, sensing how far below him the ground was. Still buffeted by the wind, he slowly began lowering the power on the repulsors, bringing him lower and lower. He extended the landing gear and lowered the repulsors to nearly zero.

Tor gritted his teeth as the shuttle connected with something solid, sending a hard impact through the cabin. The shuttle bounced, slid, and tumbled across the landscape. Tor could hear snapping and crumbling as he collided with trees and rocks. Finally, the shuttle came to an unsteady stop with a loud bang. Tor checked the instruments and miraculously he saw that nothing was terribly wrong. He shut down the engine and looked again out the viewport. The storm seemed to be lessening quickly, as if its sole purpose was to make his landing difficult.

He gathered his pack and lowered the ramp. He stepped out and was met with the sight of dense jungle. The storm was nearly completely passed, the clouds passing from the sun. Light streamed through the foliage, creating a bright mist with the moisture left from the storm. As the mist settled, Tor was immediately reminded of Felucia. While not as brightly colored, the jungle was dense and wild just like Felucia’s was. Tor sealed the ship and began to move through the jungle, letting his feelings guide his steps.

Tor trudged through the jungle for hours. The environment fought against him, and several times it nearly stopped his progress altogether. Eventually, Tor reached a small clearing and sat back against the trunk of a large tree. As he did, he stretched out with his feelings, trying to sense the presence he had discovered in space.

He felt the strange presence in the Force, but it was fluctuating and elusive. Tor could not determine which direction the presence was coming from. He couldn’t discern whether he was outside of it or in the midst of it. Tor’s brow furrowed in frustration as he concentrated.

It was at that moment that the jungle crashed in upon him.

Tor’s eyes flashed open as he saw branches, vines, and various plants fall violently towards him. He stood quickly and braced himself, reaching out to the Force and holding out his hands. The branches and vines whipped around him, slashing through his clothes and scratching deep lines through his fur and skin. The wind roared in his ears and the branches and vines creaked and snapped loudly, yet underneath it, Tor thought he could hear a sort of low laughing or cheering.

He struggled, trying to use the Force to push back against the onslaught. The cheering intensified and Tor heard a massive rumble followed by an intense cracking and snapping. He looked up and saw a massive tree the size of a space freighter come falling towards him faster and faster. Tor raised his arms and pushed back against the tree, the Force fueling his actions. The tree slowed, but it was barely noticeable. Tor marveled at the power that was being wielded against him. The scope of it was incredible, seemingly exponential.

Tor concentrated as much as he could, drawing as much of the Force to him as he knew how. He strained against the tree, pushing back with all the effort he could. Tor gritted his teeth and slowly, the tree came to a stop about ten feet from Tor’s head. The smaller branches and plants fell to the ground and the laughter and cheering immediately stopped, and was replaced by a growing chattering.

Tor struggled under the massive tree. He shifted his hands and the tree moved to the side at a slow pace. Once it was far enough away, Tor let go and the tree crashed to the ground, sending a small rumble through the earth. Sweat ran through Tor’s fur, and he breathed heavily from the effort of moving the tree. The chattering had died away, and Tor knew that whoever had been making the noise had moved away.

He looked around and suddenly saw a being materialize from the foliage. Tor tensed, preparing himself for a fight, but he sensed no malice from the being.

As it approached, it revealed itself to be a humanoid. It had a deep aqua colored skin covering an athletic body. The six fingers on its hands were long and dexterous. It had stiff hair that almost appeared to be long spikes in colors that ranged from red to blue. As it closed to within a few feet of Tor, he saw that is also had large eyes with deep purple irises.

“You have much power in you,” the being said. “But you have no sense of control.”

Tor was astonished that the being was speaking Basic here in the Unknown Regions. “You have knowledge of the Force?”

The being levitated a rock from the ground into his hand. He looked at Tor. “I have knowledge of what you call the ‘Force’. What you have is no knowledge of a greater realm of possibility. That is what I truly know.” He turned and began to move away into the jungle at a slow pace.

Tor followed a few feet behind. “The Force is a powerful ally,” Tor said, defensive about his abilities. “What is the knowledge you have?”

The being stopped at the edge of the clearing, next to where the jungle became congested again. The trees and plants suddenly split fiercely down the middle, creating a wide path into the jungle that went on for some distance. He looked back over his shoulder at Tor, a deep look in his eyes that spoke of tremendous wisdom. “My name is Chukal. I can tell that you have been gifted with knowledge, despite it being incomplete. But more importantly, I can see that you have potential, which is why you will follow me and why I will teach you what I know.”

Tor inclined his head at Chukal, knowing that he had found the presence he had sensed with Master Denia. He looked at Chukal, knowing that the road ahead was going to test him beyond anything he had known before, but knowing that he would push through it, that he had no other choice.

Tor stood upon a rocky outcropping, halfway up the side of a small mountain. Chukal stood several feet away, watching him work. Tor looked at a large group of rocks that rested on the rocky hillside. He stretched out his arms and called to the Force, struggling to hurl the boulders across the landscape like Chukal had been demonstrating for a week. He strained, closing his eyes in concentration, and felt himself get a hold on the rocks. Tor thrust his hands to side, trying to launch them as hard as he could. He opened his eyes, expecting to see the rocks flying into the ground as great speed. What he saw was the rocks tumbling slowly for several yards before coming to a rest again.

He sighed, disbelieving his lack of progress. He turned to Chukal whose face was downcast.

“I can’t do it, Master,” Tor said breathlessly. “I can move things with the Force, but to constantly generate that kind of power…it’s too much. I don’t have that much capacity for the Force in me.” He leaned against a nearby boulder, breathing heavily.

Chukal shook his head slowly, disappointment etched on his face. “It’s not about generating power. You have the potential for that power within you already!” He paced around the outcropping with an air of impatience. He grabbed Tor’s shoulder with one hand and with his other, pointed one of his long fingers into Tor’s chest. “You are not one vessel for the power, but many! You must think of it like a water cup.”

He moved to the edge of the outcropping, gesturing with his hands as he looked out over the landscape. “You fill up the cup with the power, yes. This much is true.” He turned back to face Tor again. “But what you fail to realize is that there is more than one cup! The more you know about the power, the more cups you are able to fill! Each technique and ability adds another cup, and each one can be filled. What you must learn is how to see these different cups in your mind. To realize that they exist and that they are in your possession! Once you can do this, you will see that you will be able to transfer water from one cup to another as needed, fueling what you are trying to do.” Chukal sighed and moved towards Tor, his skin almost seeming to glow in the fading light. “The more you learn about the power, the more it can give back to you. That, is what you must learn.” Chukal sighed and turned away, slowly walking down the side of the hill back towards the jungle trees.

Tor stared after him, trying to make sense of what his new Master had told him. After several minutes he turned back to the boulders and stretched out with the Force, sweat rolling through his fur and a groan of exertion coming from his gritted teeth.

Halfway down the hillside, Chukal stopped and smiled as the sound of a large boulder hitting the ground harder than it had all day reached his ears.

Over the next two months, Chukal showed Tor numerous things, trying to expand his views, trying to make him connect with the Force in new ways that Tor had not previously thought of. He showed Tor how to move through the jungle swiftly and fluidly, without disturbing the jungle itself. He showed Tor how to survive in the harsh mountains and how to survive the huge storms that arose almost instantly and were devastating in their ferocity.

Tor was making progress, but he still felt like he was missing something, some further possibility that he was barely able to graze with his fingertips.

He followed after Chukal, who was leading him somewhere they had not been yet.

“What will we be learning today, Master?” Tor asked as they moved through the trees.

“Today I will show you that you don’t need to think so much in order to achieve what you want. You need to push past the last blocks that you have.” He looked over at Tor. “You must unlearn what you have learned.”

Tor slowed slightly as Chukal’s words reminded him of Master Yoda, now presumably dead somewhere with the thousands of other Jedi who had been lost in the purge, all centuries of knowledge lost along with him. Tor felt a remembered sadness over the loss of the Jedi, realizing that his newest course of education was not an assignment that could be chosen, but a choice born of necessity. There were no other teachers for him, no other paths that could answer the questions he had. There was a time when he would have gone to the Jedi archives to search for other Jedi who had felt this same way. Then perhaps he would have talked it over with one of the Masters, maybe Master Mundi or Master Plo. But these options were no longer available. Tor looked ahead to Chukal. Chukal was his archives now, his source of knowledge. His understanding of the Force was far different than anything Tor thought he would have found at the Jedi Temple. He wondered how these new teachings would alter his development in the Force. He vowed to be sure to chronicle all of it when he completed his holocron someday, preserving everything that he had seen and learned for future Force users to access. He sighed as he realized that his holocron would be the only document to educate people in the Force since the Temple had been destroyed.

Lost in his thoughts, he barely noticed Chukal slowing down. Tor could see an opening in through the trees. “Are you prepared?” Chukal asked him as he stopped walking.

“Yes, Master,” Tor said, preparing himself for whatever brutal test Chukal had prepared for him.

Chukal nodded and stepped through the last of the trees, Tor following close behind.

The glare from the sun blinded Tor momentarily and once his eyes adjusted, Tor was shocked by what he saw before him.

Several small to large huts lined the clearing, made from simple materials. Around the entire space, small children of Chukal’s species ran and played, laughing joyfully. Tor took a step farther into the clearing and looked closer at the children. As they moved about, they would extend their hands, lifting and tossing small items with the Force, throwing them to each other, or tagging each other with clods of dirt. Some were using the Force to augment their physical abilities, leaping into the trees and racing around the clearing. They never stopped to rest, just continued on using the Force and playing.

Tor turned to Chukal, awestruck. Chukal was beaming, his purple eyes twinkling in a knowing way. “Come, come. Let’s go speak with them,” Chukal said, urging Tor forward.

As they came to the center of the clearing, the children all gathered around Tor and Chukal, excited to have others to play with. They pulled on Tor’s sleeves wanting him to join their games. He looked to Chukal who nodded. Tor let the children pull him off into a game of dirt throwing. He stretched out to his feelings and let the Force flow through him, lifting up small patches of dirt and tossing them around. He smiled, letting go of all the things clouding his mind, and allowed himself to become a vessel for the Force, the light he had felt from space filling him.

Hours later, Tor sat in the middle of the clearing, breathing hard after running with the children all day. The children and Chukal sat nearby, some still playing around the area. They were talking with Tor, going through some of the highlights of the day.

“How do you go so quickly from one thing to another,” Tor asked. “No rest in between. Straight from throwing around chunks of dirt to racing through the trees.”

The children laughed. One spoke up. “Silly! Each one let’s us do the other! The power never stops running if you don’t let it!” The child laughed as if he had told a very funny joke.

Another slightly older one piped up. “The more we know, the more it fuels each other thing. We weren’t playing, we were learning.”

Chukal let out a deep chuckle. “Truly wonderful the mind of a child is.”

Tor opened himself up to the Force, searching his feelings, and as he thought about what he had seen and done that day, and what the children had told him, he knew that they were right. He closed his eyes and as he did so, he could picture the many cups that Chukal had spoken of in his mind. He saw the bright glow of the Force filling each one, and as he focused, the glow began to travel freely between them.

Tor opened his eyes and found Chukal looking back at him with a small smile. Tor stood and looked around at the children. “Thank you,” he said to the children with a smile. “I had a lot of fun today.” The children seemed very pleased by this. They all got up and began to run around again, laughing and cheering louder than they had all day. Tor brought his gaze back to Chukal.

“Master,” he said, a determined look in his eyes. “I’m ready.”

Tor and Chukal spent the following weeks throughout the jungle and mountains, Tor advancing by leaps and bounds each day. Now that he could see the many vessels through the Force, Chukal was able to show him how to effectively and efficiently transfer the Force between them.

Soon, Tor was able to nearly seamlessly transition between powers, fueling them to be even stronger by funneling the Force from one vessel to another. Chukal would often look over his work with a look of satisfaction and pride.

Sometime later, Chukal again led Tor through the jungle. After several hours, they came to an area where there was a large mound of debris, large tree trunks and boulders, along with various other items piled high. The two stopped and surveyed the area.

“This is your last test,” Chukal said somberly. “Your ship is here. The storms have buried it.”

Tor looked at the large mound and could now see a hint of the small shuttle underneath it. He looked over the massive amount of debris covering it. It was a lot, even with the progress he had made in the last few months.

“I can’t help you,” Chukal said, taking a few steps back. “If you are ready, if you have learned what you came here to learn, then you will move it all. Focus. Visualize the flow of the power. You will succeed.” With that he backed away a little further, sitting patiently on a fallen tree.

Tor looked again at the mass of debris. He closed his eyes and stretched out to the Force. He felt his way through the Force, tracing the outline of the shuttle buried deep beneath the debris. He extended his senses outward, slowly encompassing the trees and rocks covering the shuttle. He focused, accessing the vessel in his mind that would allow him to move the objects. Tor brought the other vessels he contained within him into view, each full to the brim with the glow of the Force. He began to channel the Force from each vessel to him, preparing to fuel his efforts. Soon, the cup he was using was as full as it could be. Tor began to secure his grip on the mass of objects, feeling for the grip he would need to shift the mass. As he did, he realized that he didn’t have enough capacity within his cup to power his attempt.

Tor gritted his teeth, not giving up. He focused, and did something that Chukal had not taught him. He increased the size of the vessel he was using, increasing its capacity. He began to pour every ounce of the Force from each other cup into it, draining them and filling the one he was using ever higher. His grip tightened on the mound and it began to shake, ripping new roots from the ground and snapping bark off of the tree trunks.

Tor strained. He pulled every bit of power from himself as he could, just like Chukal had shown him. He then accessed his Jedi teachings, stretching out to the living Force and pulling in the Force from around him. He combined his two teachings, using them both to become a conduit for the Force.

Tor’s eyes snapped open as he felt his grip clamp down on the mound. He raised his hands and the debris followed, shaking and rumbling its way from the shuttle, branches and rocks snapping and crumbling. Tor raised the tons of debris until the shuttle was totally exposed. He moved his arms and the mass flew through the air until it fell to the ground a distance away with a crash that made the ground tremble and sent flocks of birds flying away from the area.

Tor let out a breath that he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. He turned and saw Chukal standing next to the fallen tree, his mouth open in an awestruck smile. He approached Tor, beaming widely.

“You are ready, Tor,” he said proudly, his purple eyes sparkling. He put his hand on Tor’s shoulder. “You exceeded any of my expectations. Perhaps I should not have been so judgmental of these ‘Jedi’ teachings you spoke of.” He chuckled softly. “Our time has come to an end. You have learned all you can from me, and now it is time for you to return to your own place in the galaxy.”

Tor nodded and looked at the shuttle. He looked back at Chukal. “Before you go,” Chukal trailed off as he reached behind his neck and untied the necklace that he wore there. He held it out to Tor. It was made of a tough looking sort of twine, and was populated by several long claws and brightly colored beads, the largest of which sat in the middle, an entrancing blend of blue and green, a small burst of orange at its center.

“This is the mark of completion for your training,” Chukal said as Tor gingerly took the necklace from him. “It is the highest honor that I can give you. It has been passed from mentor to student since long before any time in memory. I want you to have it.”

Tor gently tied it around his own neck. As soon as he had, it immediately felt like it had always belonged there and he felt a warmth from the Force as it settled into place.

“Take it and carry it with you in your travels,” Chukal said, smiling warmly. “Remember what you have learned here, it will serve you well.” Tor put his hands on Chukal’s shoulders and Chukal did the same to Tor.

“I won’t forget what you’ve taught me, Master. I’ll try to come back someday and tell you how it helped me.” They released their grip and Tor walked towards the shuttle. He keyed the ramp to open and as it hissed open he faced Chukal again. “The power will fuel you, Master,” Tor said, using the traditional phrase that Chukal had told him. “And thank you.”

Chukal smiled back. “May the Force be with you, Tor,” he said, smiling broadly. Tor grinned back as he walked up the ramp and it began closing behind him.

Tor began the preflight check and started the engines. He eased on the repulsors and the shuttle rose off the ground, shaking loose the dust and dirt that had covered it since his arrival. As the shuttle rose higher, Tor saw Chukal sitting on the same fallen tree, looking serenely after him. As he brought the engines online, he waggled the shuttles wings as he sped off.

As he moved across the landscape, he passed near the clearing where he had met the children. They were still there, playing again. As he flew over, Tor took the shuttle in a loop and he saw the children raise their arms, cheering. He chuckled and took off again, and as he did, the children leaped into the trees, following him as far as they could. Tor turned the ship towards the sky and burst through the atmosphere into space, the planet shrinking into a twinkling green orb behind him.

He moved away into the middle of the system, settling back into the chair. Mere moments later, an alarm beeped on the console. Tor sat up and suddenly the Resurgence popped into space a short distance away. Tor smiled. “Master Denia sure has impeccable timing,” he said, keying in the codes to land the shuttle.

As Tor stepped down the ramp into the Resurgence’s hangar, Master Denia and Moppo were waiting for him, a smile on their faces. Tor and Denia bowed to each other and Denia put a welcoming hand on Tor’s shoulder.

“Welcome back, child,” she said warmly. “It’s good to have you back.”

“It’s good to be back, Master,” Tor said, returning her smile. “I’ve learned so much.” He looked down at Moppo. “And I hope you have as well, padawan.” Moppo smiled widely, his eye stalks stretching upwards, clearly glad to have his Master back.

Denia’s fingers brushed the necklace around Tor’s neck, inspecting it. “Yes…I can tell that you have gained new knowledge. I could sense it as soon as you landed.” Her face wrinkled as she focused for a moment. “You have a new presence about you. A depth in the Force.” She smiled widely again. “I’m glad that you found what you were looking for.”

The three moved off into the ship, Tor beginning the long story of the training he had received from Chukal. After some time, they found themselves in front of the same large viewport where Tor had discussed feeling that there was something more for him to learn. As he looked out again with Master Denia, telling his story, Tor felt none of the uneasiness that he had felt the last time he had stood here. He felt confident and eager to reunite with the rest of his friends and to continue their mission against the Empire. Tor also thought of the holocron and his goal to complete it. He had much knowledge to impart upon it and he now felt confident that he would be able to succeed.

At that moment, the floor hummed and vibrated, and as Tor, Denia, and Moppo looked out the viewport, the stars elongated and the Resurgence shot into hyperspace, carrying Tor forward towards his next adventure.

Reflections from Tor part 19
The end of this leads into my big post about the down time, just in case it seemed a little vague

Tor jumped into the back of a T-47 speeder, taking the gunner seat behind Kelyn and calling to Moppo to ride with Bariss, hoping the Duros’ skill in the cockpit would protect his padawan.

The group took off after Kevin, racing across the wintry surface of the planet. Tor reached out to the Force, and used its insight to help guide Kelyn through the series of obstacles before them.

Within minutes, Kevin had crashed his speeder in a construction area. As they followed, Kelyn nicked a laser field and the ship lurched, and the motions caused Tor’s stomach to contract, making him lose his last meal on the controls in front of him. Tor cleaned himself off as best as he could while Kelyn landed the ship, and the two jumped out quickly to chase after Kevin. The others quickly followed and soon the group squared off with Kevin.

He made an impassioned speech, and Tor could see its effects on his allies, their gun hands drooping and their faces slacking in confusion. Imperial lies Tor thought. Kevin moved away, convinced he had gotten through to everyone, but Tor struck out with his lightsaber, taking off Kevin’s thumb. He moved after him and called out to his apprentice, urging him to see through the deception.

Tor’s padawan shook his head to clear it before running over to Kevin and raising his hand. He felt the Force blast out from Moppo and it bowled Kevin to the ground, knocking him unconscious. Tor beamed at his apprentice, proud of his focus and concentration. The others came forward and praised the young gungan, giving him a few backslaps and a respectful look from Bariss that was quickly interrupted by the sounds of starfighters racing towards them. The group gathered up Kevin and got back into their speeders, taking off to rendezvous with Khallic and the Defiance.

Some time later, before the group left to meet back up with the Resurgence, Tor met with Kelyn. The two began to talk and the conversation soon turned to the escape from Bespin, particularly Kelyn’s persistence in investigating the slave ship. The scoundrel revealed that his father had designed and built several ships, and that the Shackles of Nizon appeared to be one of them.

“Each one is special,” Kelyn said, a nostalgic look in his eyes. “Although I don’t know why.” Tor could sense that he was holding something back, but decided not to press Kelyn any more than he already had.

“I’d be more than willing to lend you my assistance in searching for the ship, should you decide to pursue it, Kelyn,” Tor said, clapping a hand on Kelyn’s shoulder.

“Thanks. I’d appreciate that, Tor,” Kelyn replied. Tor sensed gratitude from Kelyn and smiled, pleased at the conversation the two had shared.

A day or two later, the group had returned to the Resurgence. Captain Verana, after they had turned over the Mon Calamari mechanic for breaking the com lockdown, had informed them that the group would have some time before their next mission.

This is a good time for me to talk with Master Denia, Tor thought. There are some things I wish to speak with her about. A depth of the Force that has been tugging at my mind. Gathering Moppo, Tor set off to locate Master Denia, ready to fill her in on his recent experiences, and to hopefully gain some answers to several questions that had been gnawing at his mind.

Questions whose answers I don’t know, Tor thought. And answers that I’m not sure I’m ready to hear.

Bariss' Thoughts: Family

Looking back I thought Carson was lucky to have Kevin as a brother. After all the years apart Kevin took Carson at his word and was more than willing to help, and surprisingly that help and generosity was shared with a group of people, aliens, that Kevin never knew. Even when Kevin knew that we, including Carson, had slaughtered Imperials, Kevin’s main source of income, Kevin still helped us out although it was all because we were with his brother. A family bond. I felt warm whenever I saw how brotherly Kevin was. A warmth that I needed then since Cpt. O’Keefe was no longer with us. My own feeling of family ties are becoming more and more distant, and while this group I’m in are comrades and friends of mine I don’t know if I’d call them family. We are being bonded closer with all the extreme actions that we do, but I just don’t know.

It’s a shame that Kevin was an Imperial all this time, the warmth I was feeling is replaced with anger. How much of his helping us was only so that he could betrays us later? How could he seem so…so warm while preparing our ends? … Kelyn. Kevin’s actions were sounded out as Kelyn was trying to have what was rest of the enemies in the hanger surrender. Of course I know Kelyn better than that, he would have executed those who did surrender, but Kelyn was smooth about it. One would have to know him to know what he was about to do.

How much like Kevin is Kelyn? I have agreed with most of Kelyn’s actions, aside from the jokes, do I have to be weary of betrayal from him?

Rama is also an unknown. He’s a bounty hunter whose after Imperials, that is bad for business. Is he actually who he says he is or is he like Kevin, waiting for his chance to cash in on our heads?

Reflections from Tor part 18

Tor watched Moppo fly at a goon deep in the palace on Castell. Moppo’s lightsaber flashed and hummed, but the small gungan was unable to connect on any of his strikes.

His attitude and enthusiasm is in the right place, Tor thought. But I must teach him focus and control. Despite the young padawan’s inability to hit the group’s foes, Tor was proud of his skill at dodging the returning fire, putting his natural gungan reflexes alongside Tor’s experience to duck out of the way of blasters. He has potential, he just needs more guidance. I have my work cut out for me.

Some time later Tor and his allies were in a large hangar, ready to deal with the gossam in exchange for Talnar and the droids. Tor sensed the stormtroopers just before he saw them. He raised the alarm just as the stormtroopers, along with numerous other beings, burst into the hangar. At first, Tor felt overwhelmed, but he felt a glimmer of hope as he saw three Felucians join the mob facing them.

I have good relations with the Felucians, Tor thought, thinking back to how the group helped the tribe with the local Imperial prison some time ago. I have to try and talk to them!

Tor reached out with the Force, using telepathy and his species’ memnii ability to talk with the Felucians, showing them the events from the group’s adventure on Felucia, and stressing that Tor and his allies meant them no harm.

The feeling he got back shocked him with its harshness and clarity. He knew the aliens would not back down from their quest to harm them. Tor blasted aside some pirates and squared off with one of the Felucians, his newly constructed lightsaber ignited, its powerful light highlighting the shadows between them. The Felucian launched a Force Blast at Tor. Gathering the Force around him, Tor dissipated the energy, advancing closer. The Force swirled between them, and soon the fight was over, with assistance from the others.

Tor moved back to Moppo, who, while not having done much damage again, had managed to again avoid the incoming attacks. He knelt and began to talk with the young gungan about what had happened, when he was interrupted by the whirring of an airspeeder engine. Rising to his feet, Tor looked past the hangar doors and saw Kevin, Carson’s brother, standing in full Imperial regalia in an airspeeder, an angry look on his face as he surveyed the destruction.

He scowled and the speeder quickly turned and took off. The rest of the group began to scramble, looking for transport. Tor looked back down at Moppo, putting a hand on his shoulder.

“Patience and concentration, apprentice. It’s not over yet.”

Who am I?
Arriving late to this session, I took the abrupt arrival of my character as an opportunity for another dream sequence and another glimpse into Kelyn's past...and future?

I had just returned from another typical (legitimate, just over break-even) cargo run. It was early morning on Talus, and the sun was rising over our modest home on the outskirts of Qaestar Town as Tralus sunk beneath the mountains. I crept upstairs through the silent house, knowing my wife and two daughters would be in bed together.

They always slept with her when I was away.

There they were: my wife Amelia in the middle with Adria and her little sister Bella snuggled at her sides, nestled under her arms. I stood in the doorway for a moment, watching them sleep. I wished I could make a better life for them. I wished I wasn’t away so often. It’s hard on her, and the kids barely get a chance to know me before I’m off to the Ridge and my leased freighter to bring home just enough to cover our household until the next trip.

I walked into the room toward the bed. Bella wasn’t snoring. She always snored. Like a roba. When I was home, putting them to bed, I’d have to turn her over so her sister could sleep. But she was quiet now. All of them were. I knelt over and kissed Amelia on the cheek.

She was cold.

She wasn’t moving. None of them were. Not jerking in their sleep, not absently dragging their hands across their faces or readjusting themselves.

Not opening their eyes and smiling groggily at me and saying “Hi, daddy.”

Not breathing.

The police told me it was a gas leak, but I saw the captain, shaking his head and looking askance at me with pity, head low. I knew Amelia was unhappy. Depressed, even. I just didn’t think she was that bad off. I cursed aloud, causing a few of the technicians to glance up at me as they zipped up the last of three bags. One big one, two little ones. Just before they closed the last one, I caught a glimpse of Bella’s little face. Her bump of a nose, pursed lips, almost transparent eyelids.

We used to call her our little butter sculpture. Now she was a sickly blue, features sagging.

Now she was dead.

If only I’d got back sooner. If it weren’t for my antique hyperdrive. If I could afford more. Give them more.

I didn’t think she was that bad.

I started sobbing as soon as they left with the bodies.

I just wanted to hear Bella snore again.

§ § §

You know when you’re in your speeder, not on any wild adventure, but just cruising, just going from point A to point B — and suddenly you’re there? I was in a dim, stinking corridor, hanging back behind the others as they gathered around open cell doors. All I heard was chattering, to a woman, fairly attractive but for her swollen eye and cut lip and various tell-tale signs of Imperial torture. Bariss was talking with a squat man, and seemed more wary of him than the rest were of the woman.

“Uh, guys, I’m just gonna go back here and rest a while. Not feeling myself.”

I walked down the corridor, rubbing my eyes, shaking my head, running my hand through my hair, trying to “wake up” from whatever happened and regain my sense of now. There was some scuffling behind me as I went, but it was all like sound through water, reverberating into gibberish. I turned a corner and stopped for a moment, feeling a little light-headed.


My eyes went wide and I reached for my blaster and let out a yelp, “Ahh!” Squeezing the trigger, one of the guards went down with a sizzle. Turning back towards the group, I catch Bariss land a shot against a tall man in a leather duster and fedora. Tor is waving his hands as a whirlwind of debris surrounds the man, obscuring the site where Khalik is attempting to set up one of his turrets. Tor turns and runs back toward me, taking half the ineffectual fire of our portion of the guards. I grin at him, “You always come when I call.”

The woman is yelling. Well, speechifying in that annoying way Carson does at times. It always bugs me, but it does seem to give us some sort of boost — in spite of my visceral distaste for the dramatic battle speech. N3M0 stomps past her and around the far corner. There is a whoosh, a whiff of gas, then the strong scent of burnt flesh and armor.

Must be trying out his new flamethrower.

Bariss is still muttering to the other prisoner. Carson is scrambling back and forth. It all seems chaotic, and I’m still out of sorts, but it’s comforting. It’s combat.

I take a shot at another of the guards. Time slows. The blue bolt slides from my barrel and towards his face. I see the shock in his expression, the knowing. Then he has no face, and neither does his friend behind him. Tor gestures and another is thrown like a rag doll against the wall, neck twisting as he slides to the floor.

Suddenly, a huge red beast comes howling down the hallway towards us. How did I miss this guy before? He banks around us and towards our remaining duo of foes, unslinging a massive vibroaxe from his back as he approaches, bringing it down like a scythe and splitting one cleanly in half. I yelp again, belatedly, “Ah!”

Immediately after, a Gungan youngling follows, flapping his elastic legs and arms and wielding a — a lightsabre? I ask myself, “Meepo?” and turn to Tor, who shrugs as the little fella flails ineffectually at a guard who’s too shocked by the sudden decimation of his squad to do much, but obviously doesn’t need more than a few instinctual sways backward as one of the clowns of Naboo’s hinterlands makes like a Jedi knight. Just as I’m ready to turn a giggle into a guffaw at the sight, Bariss arrives with his half of the tiny ex-prisoner population, bringing the guard down with a flash of well-placed deathlight.

“Heya, Bariss. Nice of you to make it.”

His big red eyes grin back at me. They have to. Being a noseless, lipless Duros, he doesn’t have much else to grin with on his face.

Just as silence settles into the block, Khalik breaks in over the com with an urgent call for assistance. We follow his directions to a closed door, which Bariss and I easily rig to slide open, revealing a large room and a deafening sound of rushing air. Tor’s magic force-fingers are ripping the housing from a huge fan just inside the entrance. The blade creaks loudly then goes spinning across the room, nearly taking the heads off a few of our group.

I look at Tor, then back to where we came from. “How did he get here so fast?”

Fortunately, Khalik’s head is far below the blade as it sinks into the wall to my left with a loud and oddly satisfying thunk. Khalik? He’s sliding down toward the red glow of an incinerator taking up much of the lower half of the far wall. Ahead of him, a half-dozen charred skeletons slip past the edge and disappear with an audible “puff” of smoke. Khalik vainly reaches for one of many blackened shinbones planted in a miniature forest of magnetic boots stuck solidly to the floor.

As if by instinct, Bariss and I unreel our grappling hooks. His slings towards a control console spotted near a corridor on the right side of the room, but it clanks off and spools back toward him. I look around, then up, seeing grates on the ceiling and easily launching mine up, swinging halfway between the door and Khalik, bringing me dangling like a spider beside N3M0.

“Hey, buddy. Enjoying the flamer?” I imagine he chuckles, but his head merely turns, servos whirring, as the blackened nozzle of his new toy retracts.

Bariss takes another shot at the ring toss, this time switching off the remaining fan. My ears pop as the room goes from bottled hurricane to dead calm. I unhitch my grappler and let myself down to the floor. Khalik rests his face in his arm in relief, his hand clutching a boot.

“Hey, nice boots.” I walk down and switch off the grabber mechanism of one pair, sitting down and taking off my own boots. “I’ve been needing a new pair. Perfect fit.” Bariss isn’t so lucky in our little shoe-shopping interlude, but Khalik manages a pair. Tor doesn’t seem interested, and there was no way these were going to fit on Meepo’s stubby elephant feet.

Soon enough, we’re off our feet and back on the trail, down the remaining egress labeled “Reactor Core.” We exit into a large, dark room, at the center of which sparks and ripples the power plant of … wherever we are. Our fedora-wearing friend is here with three of his friends. I turn to Tor and ask, “Who is this guy?” Uncharacteristically, he responds straight to the man with an insult along the lines of his being an ersatz Cad Bane.

“I’m the Marshall. Marshall Nacassem.”

N3M0 didn’t wait for the introduction. Before the last syllable spilled from the Marshall’s mouth, our deathbot friend was swinging his chainsaw to catch it. Unfortunately, the metaphorical last name was all he managed to mangle as his swing went wide. I take a shot, and like something straight out of the cartoons, the guy ducks, his hat floating in mid-air as my bolt flies under it and over his head.

“What the hell? Did you see that?” I turn to Bariss, but he’s done aiming and does what neither N3M0 nor I could accomplish, blasting the face off “The Marshall.”

I grin, “Not much of an end boss.”

Crickets chirp. Nobody gets my jokes. Sometimes it’s like I’m from another galaxy. Far, far away.

In any case, Narcassem finds himself in a chasm. Of the reactor core. His hat flutters upward then settles toward the feet of one of the bodyguards, now without any body to be guarding. Bariss’s red eyes bulge and he says, as if in a trance, “I want that hat.” I flash him an odd look. Maybe he’s compensating for missing out on the boot loot.

A few bolts and blades later, the room is quiet but for the hum of the core. Bariss has his hat, but I chuckle as he tries to fit it over his big-ass head. Khalik is circling the reactor control panel, rubbing his chin. I know what he’s thinking.

“Go on, man. Blow it up. You deserve it.”

Carson, who’d been shielding the female through much of the fight, pipes in about how this palace has been here for millennia, that it holds priceless artifacts chronicling the history and culture of his people.

“We can’t just blow it up.”

The girl, eyes glassy, staring forward through her good eye, deadpans her vote:

“Blow it to Hell.”

Doc gapes, then shuts his mouth and throws his hands in the air. Tor relents on the condition we sound an alarm first in case there are any innocents remaining in the building. We all nod solemnly. Well, we all appear to nod with some semblance of solemnity. Khalik is already finished rigging it to blow, dusting his hands off as he rises from the control panel. He punches a button on the top and klaxons begin to wail, satisfying Tor’s condition.

“All done.”

I ask, “Hey, do you think you could, like, make it melt down and sink to the planet core, taking the whole damn world with it?”

The others just give me a look. They’re not even shocked anymore when something like that comes out of my mouth.

The floor begins to rumble. That’s our cue. We all rush back down the corridor. I follow, since I still don’t know how the hell we got here or where “here” is besides what Doc said about it being a palace. We finally reach a huge rotunda. There’s an information desk here for tourists. As the others dodge falling priceless statues and architecture, I hang back a bit and reach over for a microphone. “Uh, cancel the alert. Just a drill. A very realistic drill. Everyone stay at your posts and your supervisors will evaluate your responses in a moment.”

I don’t think any of my guys heard me. They’d already dashed out the main entrance. I rush out, pulling off an impressively cinematic roll through the open doorway before joining them safely out of harm’s way. Well, our harm’s way, I guess.

There’s a rumbling, then a muted explosion from below. The ground shakes, then the palace simply crumbles into a massive cloud of dust.

I stare at it for a moment, then look back at the others, also admiring our handiwork. Except Carson, of course. It was his culture we were destroying—

“Hey, wait, I remember — we were going to storm the palace!” They all look at me like I’m insane. I point to the woman. “And you’re Rosie, right? Carson’s girlfriend?” I swear Doc blushed a little as she looked toward him. “And Carson’s brother, he had something to do with this. Oh yeah, he said you’d,” I rudely pointed to Rosie, “been taken into Imperial hands to be killed at midnight.” I checked my watch. Quarter past. “Pretty good timing, huh?”

We all pile into the speeder Carson’s brother Kevin had loaned us. We hadn’t left him on good terms, but he had given us five more — even more above top of the line — to settle a deal with the Oquan gang to get “the droids we were looking for” and save his son, Carson’s nephew, from gangland retribution. We’d dropped the speeders at a safe spot in the wilds, and were waiting on the Oquan to contact us. I took another look at Bariss’s escapee. Wrinkly, long-necked, shrivelled-looking blue guy. “Hey, you’re Gossam, right?” He nodded.

Bariss added, “He is. And he’s going to lead us to the Oquan.”

§ § §

Once back on the Defiant, we all collapsed in the lounge. The Gossam introduced himself as Ossun and said he had the frequency for Rel Acoi, the human leader of the Oquan on Castell. While we arranged a meeting with the big guy for the next morning, Carson did what he could for Rosie’s wounds, but he was hurt himself during the rush out of the palace. Indeed, there were plenty of scars to go around. While it seemed a flawlessly cinematic escape, clothes were torn and a few of the group were wincing and nodding in and out of consciousness.

Tor suggested what he called a “Force Trance.” We’d have plenty of time before the meeting, and afterward we’d all be feeling fine.

I asked, “And you? You’d be under, too? What, do you have some kind of internal Jedi alarm clock? I don’t want to oversleep and miss our payoff.”

Tor nodded, “I remain fully aware the entire time.”

So, down we all went. Even the Gossam. It was either that or mesh tape him to the hull for the duration.

We weren’t asleep exactly. It was sort of like being hypnotised. Nobody thinks they can be, but in the right hands (like Tor’s), just a few words and gestures and the next thing you know you’re awake. Except it wasn’t quite like that. It wasn’t as if we had blacked out and just woke up refreshed like in a video game. I clearly recall spending a lot of time with Bariss. He was wearing that damn fool hat — the fedora! He’d mesh-taped it to his head, and was strutting around proudly.

“Sorry about the big-ass head comment.”

He looked at me with a raised eye-ridge. “What big-ass head comment?”

“Uh, nevermind. You know what, I know you love that hat, but it doesn’t really suit you. Have you ever thought of a … top hat? Maybe a stovepipe?”

Bariss rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Yeah, yeah, I think that’d work.”

“Totally, man. A big purple stovepipe top-hat.”

§ § §

We arrived the next morning at Hangar 26 in a nearby but out-of-the-way and nigh abandoned spaceport. True to his explanation, Tor’s trance had fully refreshed us all. Even Rosie’s Imperial keepsakes were gone, and she wasn’t looking half-bad. Rel Acoi was waiting for us. I had expected another squat Gossam, but Rel was a ruggedly handsome guy, despite his facial scars, perpetually twisted grin, and ragged thrift-store buccaneer attire. The mag-shields parted to let us through. Khalik handed him the transponder giving the coordinates to where we’d stashed the speeders. Rel motioned us in toward his office.

“Just let me check them out, and then we’ll call this a smooth transaction.”

“And Talnar?” I asked him as he kept walking. Khalik was with me. The others hung back. Talnar was captain of the ship that had “crashed” here on Castell and had held the droids Maya had sent us to look for. Well, along with rescuing the captain. Lieutenant, officially, but this is practically a rebellion, so what does rank count for?

Rel shrugged toward the door he was unlocking. “In here.” He wasn’t talking much. I thought the palace would be the climax of our Castell adventure, but this one gave me that feeling. He’s not going to open up the door and help us carry the boxes to our ship and wave goodbye all smiles and good times.

We’re not getting out of here without a fight.

I fingered my blaster. I wanted to kill him right there, straight through the frackin’ back. He opened the door and we walked down a short corridor into his office. Beyond a large glass window opposite the hangar wall was another room, smaller than the hangar but still quite large. Ten crates were stacked neatly. In the corner of the room was Talnar, gagged and bound.

Rel knelt back against his desk and didn’t say a word as I unraveled the gag around Talnar’s mouth. From outside, Tor calls, “Hey, Rel. You always keep a complement of Stormtroopers around your place?” I stopped, just as the last bit of gag fell away.

Talnar gulped for air and then yelped, “It’s a trap!”

“Yeah, thanks, Ackbar.” I shifted away from Talnar as Rel chuckled and stood up straight. He watched me moving, hand on my blaster. He turned his head slightly and yelled back out, “What can I say? The Empire pays well.”

The next instant, he’d pulled a cannon — a blaster cannon! — from his desk and let out a howl as he unleashed a spray of charged bolts at me. The window behind me shatters, the door to the cargo room is ripped into jagged metal shreds, and me — I’m fine.

“You missed?”

Rel hefted the weapon for another go, but not before I squeezed off a shot.

And missed.

Rel smirks, casually holding the cannon in the crook of his arm as he takes a swig from a flask. “Nice shot, boy.”

“I’ve still got better aim than you — and without having to use a damned cannon.”

He laughed heartily, then jerked as something bit him in the leg. I’d forgotten all about the strill. Khalik had explained how he’d become attached to him early on during the palace raid. Rel kicked the beast and it yelped. Though fierce, this one wasn’t much more than pup.

Behind us, troopers popped from behind the droid crates. Khalik vaulted through the shattered window and went full auto on them with his weapon. Two quickly went down, leaving one retreating to a better position.

From outside in the hangar, I could hear a battle raging. I knew there were at least Stormtroopers, then I heard someone yell, “Pirates!” Pirates?

Rel sets his cannon the desk and produces a fist-sized metal ball with a small red button on top. “Pirates, Felucian beastmasters, a flock of mynocks. I can’t recall if I invited anyone else to our little breakfast buffet.”

He tossed the ball in the air, then caught it, fingering the button.

“Sorry, kid. Gotta go. Catch!”

He presses the button and it starts beeping and flashing. He throws the thermal detonator into the cargo area, where it rolls to a stop near the crates — and Khalik’s feet.

“Khalik — incoming!”

Rel rushes out of the office, the strill chasing him. I turn and quickly get a shot off as he passes, striking him dead center in the back. He staggers, but runs on. Khalik calmly kneels down, picks up the ball, takes out his pocket toolkit, tweaks a little, and it goes silent. He shrugs, grins, and winks at me, just as a blaster bolt shoots past him. I take quick aim and fire back, quickly dispatching the last of the threats in this area. Khalik jumps back through the window and out towards Rel as I start to untie Talnar. I hear the baying of Khalik’s strill pup and then Rel yelping in pain again, a little louder this time. Good dog. Show him your Mandalorian side.

As I’m finishing untying Talnar, I ask, “Do you know how we can get those droids you’ve got in there working for us?” Before he can answer, we hear the revving up of N3M0’s chainsaw. An unbelievably copious amount of warm, wet, splatter rains down on us from the hallway. “N3M0, you carbon-scored clanker! I wanted to torture that son of a bitch!”

Talnar wipes blood from his face with his sleeve and asks, “Do you have the control console?”

Console, console, con— right, Khalik had retrieved it from Talnar’s crashed shuttle and repaired it when we were on good terms with Carson’s brother. «Khalik!»

Khalik happened to be a little busy at the time, so I ran down the hallway just as he was setting up a turret. He handed me the console from one of his innumerable pockets and got back to work. Before rushing back to Talnar, I took in the scene in the hangar. Four pirates in jetpacks had apparently hopped in through the open back half of the hangar, up a sheer cliff. Two, maybe three Felucians and the same number of mynocks were soaring towards Bariss and Rama (the big scary-looking red guy with the vibroaxe — I finally remembered him) as they attempted to take out the remaining half-dozen or so Stormtroopers.

Back to Talnar. With his help, I was easily able to adjust the console to take voice commands. I spoke into its receiver: “Activate!”

From the cargo room beyond the shattered window, crates exploded into splinters as ten crab droids burst from them. “Assemble in the hangar area to my left, two columns of five droids each, staggered for clear fire, facing toward the southwest exit.” Through the wide door they marched, single file, down the hallway. I winked at Talnar. “Got a plan.”

As I walked to the end of the hall, I spoke again into the console: “Broadcast, loudspeaker, as follows.” I paused, then, “Put down your weapons.” I heard a slightly synthesized chorus loudly repeating my voice in the hangar. “I’m walking through Rel right now. He’s a sticky puddle. No one is left to pay you, to command you, or to offer you safety. You are vastly outnumbered.” I then repeated, “Put down your weapons, put your arms or equivalent appendages in the air, walk toward the droids, and stand still. You will not be harmed.”

Khalik heard this last part as I approached him and whispered, “They’re stormtroopers. They’re not going to just give up.” I mouthed back, “What makes you think I’m telling the truth?” Then, to the console, “Deactivate broadcast mode.”

The scene was quite different from when I’d been there mere minutes ago. Several of my allies had commandeered armored vehicles with some pretty hefty firepower. There were two stormtroopers and one Felucian left, with a mynock fluttering around Bariss and Rama near the stormtrooper melee. I raised my blaster and quickly shot it down. It flopped to the ground in a puff of noxious fumes. Wouldn’t want any of those near the shiny new droid army we’ve assembled.

A moment later, Rama and Bariss had finished off the stormtroopers.

One Felucian left.

He wasn’t surrendering.

An anonymous blaster shot forced him out of the game.

Nobody. Nobody left. Not a soul. I’d spent this battle essentially untying a battered rebel captain and releasing the droids, and it didn’t do a damn bit of good. I went over the battle in my head — had I killed anything? A stormtrooper. I was going to march these bastards up to the droids, hands behind their heads, then unleash on them, killing them all. I grinned, imagining the expression of horror on Tor’s face. And Bariss, but he’d love it.

And now? They’re just sitting there like skroggin’ tinnies. And I knew it was a trap from the beginning! From the moment Rel reached for his office door, with my hand on my blaster, I could have just downed him right then and there.

Talnar limped up behind me and put his hand on my shoulder. “Guess you didn’t need them after all. Looks like your handful of friends here are better than a squad of battle droids.”

I shrugged off his hand, smirked, and walked away, back to Rel’s office. I sat in his chair. Atop his desk was the cannon, a datapad, and a remote control. I casually flipped it on. The opposite wall lit up with the local newscast.

« Prominent local contractor Jaan Jebeck spoke for the crowd gathered around the rubble of the the palace. “We will rebuild. But priceless artifacts of our culture and history have been forever lost. Those responsible for this cruel and cowardly act of terrorism will be brought to justice.” »

« In the shadow of the palace attack, another tragedy. A local family was murdered in cold blood last night as they slept in their downtown home. Sector Rangers have been to the scene and after relaying their findings to the OCI central databank have found definite correlations between this and other savage multiple homicides, most recently on Bespin’s Cloud City during the annual Sabacc tournament… »

I clicked it off. I could hear the muttering of my fellow killers outside, Bariss looting the dead and asking, “Anybody want this?” I grinned at the blaster cannon on the desk, then my face slacked and I stared into the blackness of the cargo area. The post-battle racket of my comrades bantering and the sparking of machinery dampened into silence.


I could almost hear Bella snoring.

I didn’t feel like crying.

I wanted someone to kill.

Fast Times In Padaar

Fenn taped two grenades together and hurled them down the hill. They landed in the midst of the troopers, almost invisible against the snow. Four of them went flying and lay still. Bariss took off in his Headhunter and scanned the area around the snowtroopers. He found an armored airspeeder behind them.
Fenn taped two more grenades together, but the wind blew the grenade back a bit, and it only wounded a handful of troopers. Kelyn reached the ridge and popped a blast into the commander’s shoulder. Khalic hopped on the swoop bike and zipped to the battle. He drew his pistol and fired a barrage of shots at the snowtroopers. The commander hit the ground when he heard the swoop approaching. He took a grazing wound as his fellow troopers were blown away.
Tor leapt over the ridge and landed behind the troopers. He used the Force to slam the two stormtroopers. One’s neck snapped. The other’s back broke as he tumbled into a snow-covered rock.
Carson picked up the commander’s datapad. Khalic hacked past the security functions. Password: Palpatine. Apparently, this squad was responding to reports of heavy blaster fire and an alleged transport crash.
The rebels’ ships headed for Padaar, the capitol city. Halfway there they noticed a convoy headed back to the city. It included tanks and speeder bikes, plus speeders that looked identical to the one destroyed by the Jewel. Bariss noticed a bridge up ahead. He and Fenn planned to race ahead and take out the bridge. Khalic suggested using the ion cannon to disable the lead tank once on the bridge.
Tor ordered Khalic to find the Oquan’s channel. “We know you kidnapped a human male and stole cargo from his ship. This is your last chance to stop and turn it over,” Tor said.
“We didn’t steal anything. We found it. It’s ours. You don’t know what we have. You’re on our channel. Get off it or we’ll kill you.”
Khalic fired a warning shot in front of the lead tank. “Our ship clearly outclasses you jalopy tanks,” Carson said.
“Hey, we like our tanks. Gui Ven here painted them. Heh heh!”
Bariss lost his temper and blasted the bridge. Fenn followed up with a blaster bolt of his own. Tor reached out with the Force and caused the bridge’s scaffolding to detonate. The bridge collapsed into the river.
“Look, you’ve got nowhere to go,” Carson said over the com. “Why don’t you just surrender?”
“Tell them we’ll buy it from them,” Kelyn said.
They could hear the Oquans’ ears perk up. “You have credits?” the Oquan asked.
“Of course we have credits,” Kelyn replied.
“How about we negotiate?” the Oquan asked.
“From whom?” Kelyn asked.
“Since you decided to blow up a bridge, an Imperial patrol is on the way. I suggest you get off this frequency, and we’ll get in touch with you in twenty-four hours.”
“Why don’t we follow you back to wherever?”
“Because no one knows our secret tunnels!” the Oquan spat as the vehicles began turning around.
The rebels all saw a squad of TIE fighters rushing them.
“Khalic, how about we keep this new ship smell a little longer? I hate to get it dinged up just out of the garage.” Kelyn suggested.
“It has to be broken in sooner or later,” Khalic said.
Kelyn fired ion blasts at a TIE. Its engines started sparking, and it dropped in altitude. As the TIEs approached, Tor caught a TIE, destroying its steering yoke. The gunnery droid finished off that starfighter.
Carson dove after a TIE, lasers firing. The TIE juked out of the way. The laser fire hit a mountain top, causing an avalanche to crush a bantha herder’s cottage. Bariss pursued a TIE into a canyon and squeezed the trigger. Ice shards rained down on the ship, piercing cables and Happiness. Bariss fiddled with the controls to shut down the engines then did a reverse thrust to blow out the ice crystals. Then, Bariss got the ship going forward again.
Kelyn frazzled another TIE with the ion cannon, and Carson kicked another TIE’s butt. Fenn popped up over a foothill and sent lasers through the cockpit. The ship exploded.
Fenn blasted the last TIE fighter. It spiraled out of control and crashed onto the remains of the bantha herder’s cabin.
“We better get out of here,” Kahlic suggested.
Carson suggested landing the ships in a valley outside the city. Bariss, embarrassed by his starfighting performance, opted to stay behind, guard the ships and meditate on his performance. “Don’t get caught by bounty hunters who are trying to kill us all. Have fun at the city,” Bariss said as his companions hopped on the swoop bikes and zipped away.
Padaar is a city built under and on top of a mountain. The poor live under the mountain and spend their time in cantinas built into the tunnels. The wealthy live on the upper echelons of the mountain, in luxury estates surrounded by force fields that keep the elements from disturbing their lives.
“What kind of family do you have here?” Tor asked Carson.
“My brother Kevin runs a speeder sales shop,” Carson said.
“You think he could cut us a deal?” Tor asked.
“I’m sure he could. He sells some nice stuff. We could be riding in style.”
“I’m sure you’re anxious to see him,” Tor said. “I’m big on family cause I have nothing.”
“Moppo’s your family,” the padawan Gungan said.
“Moppo’s my burden,” Tor muttered to himself.
They reached the location where Kevin’s speeder shop used to be, only to find it replaced by a Biscuit Baron. “Sweet, caf!” Tor shouted.
A waitress droid hovered over and said, “Welcome to Biscuit Baron. Would you like to try a Baron Bit?”
“No thank you,” Carson said. “Could I see a manager?”
“Oh dear,” the droid said. “If you would like to leave a comment speak at the beep and it will be forwarded to Biscuit Baron Incorporated.”
“I’d just like to speak to the manager of this location,” Carson said.
“Actually, I’d like to try a Baron Bit,” Kelyn said and took a donut. “What’s the filling in this?”
“Sugar and jellies from Chandrilia.”
A moment later, a hunchbacked Gossam walked out the door and approached. “Hi, I’m Elato the Manager. Is there something I can do for you. Of course there is. The droid said so.”
“There used to be a speeder sales lot. What happened to it?”
“We built a Biscuit Baron here.”
“Do you know what happened to it? Did they go out of business?”
“Stang no. They’re doing great. They’re on second level, next to Snob’s Hill.”
“Fantastic,” Carson chuckled.
“You come back again and see us at Biscuit Baron.”
“We’ll make a point to. I’m sure Kelyn would love some more of your sugary biscuits.”
“Hey,” Kelyn grumbled.
In super flashing lights at the gates to Snob’s Hill, a holosign advertised Castell Luxury Speeders. A booming voice came from speakers surrounding the lot. “Super Speeders! We have Nagarltech. If you haven’t flown in a Nagaraltech, you haven’t flown!”
“This is your brother’s used speeder lot?” Tor asked.
“I guess so,” Carson said.
“I didn’t think it would be like this.”
“It wasn’t like this.”
N3MO noticed several armed bodyguards patrolling the lot. The others noted sentry droids patrolling in an organized strategy. The whole facility was obviously run by a central droid somewhere inside.
Inside there were waterfalls and fountains. On top of the waterfalls, five brand new speeders hovered and rotated a meter above the water. A protocol droid stood in one of the speeders delivering a sales pitch. “And don’t forget to ask for Kevin’s custom modifications.”
A receptionist droid addressed the group. “Hello gents. Would you like me to pair you with a sales person closest to your species?”
“We’d like you to pair us with Kevin,” N3MO said.
“Do you have an appointment with Kevin?”
“I’m Kevin’s brother. I’m visiting from…”
“Retinal scan.” Beep. A light flashed in Carson’s eyes. “Identification matched. Stand by.”
The droid motioned them over to a lift tube that took them up to the third floor, a luxury penthouse. The furniture was adorned in bantha leather. A wall sized window looked out on the site of Carson and Kevin’s parents’ house… before an avalanche took it out. Kevin was fully bearded and rotund as a barrel.
“Carson, is that you? I never thought you’d come back.”
“Things changed,” Carson said.
“Introduce me to your friends,” Kevin said.
“This is Tor. He’s our mechanic…”
“Mechanic, huh? We are so behind since the changes. We could use some help if you’ve got time.”
“My mechanics is more for personal tinkering,” Tor bluffed.
“You’re modest,” Kevin said.
“I’m not!” Khalic spoke up. “I worked for Incom for a few years designing starships. If you need any help I’d be willing to provide it.”
“What brings you to town?” Kevin asked.
“We’re in town for a few days and looking for some transportation.”
“We have the best fastest transportation on Castell,” Kevin bragged. “Take this. It’s the brand new Rian 327. You can’t go wrong with this.”
“Very nice,” Carson said, looking at the hologram of the speeder.
“What brings you here again?” Kevin asked.
“Just helping out some friends. Recovering some stuff that was taken from them.”
“You mentioned before the changes,” Kelyn said. “Are you talking about this new shop?”
“I’m talking about the New Order,” Kevin said. “The New Order finally reached Castell. It gave my chief demographics the extra income they needed to purchase two or three speeders. My business took off. I’m the only one with the contracts to the major speeder manufacturers. Snob Hill is knocking at my order. Soon I’ll have a house there.”
“What do you mean the New Order?” Tor asked.
“I’m talking about the Empire, my friend.”
“So you’re saying you made a deal that will ensure you can avoid any Imperial complications?” Kelyn asked.
“I didn’t make any deals. The Empire came in, shook things up, and I came out on top.”
“As any good businessman would,” Kelyn said.
“I think it was a combination of luck, having the skills and the dream. Before I just didn’t have the economic conditions to support my services.”
“Do you provide service for the Empire?” N3MO asked.
“The Empire only has a token presence here, some patrols and a distant base. They get all their stuff from Kuat. They have no style. All their ships are dull gray. Look at this one, cherry red, like we used to race in back in the day.”
“Those were good times,” Carson said.
“Some people lost things. Was it Rosie?”
“No. Some people I know lost some droids.”
“Mechanics droids?”
“I really don’t know.”
“So, do you have any embarrassing stories about Carson” Tor asked.
“Back when he was at school, he used to ditch classes and hang out at this café where he had a crush on a waitress. That waitress tripped and spilled an entire pot of caf in his lap.”
“No wonder he had to become a medic,” Tor joked.
“They went out for three years after that,” Kevin said.
“You never mentioned that,” Tor said.
“It wasn’t just Adrianna,” Carson said.
“Two people joined together by caf,” Tor laughed.
Taking a break in Kevin’s garage, Kahlic fiddled with the control pads Fenn had found in the Jewel’s wreckage. They were busted droid controllers. They required a lot of replacement parts, but they seemed to be able to give verbal instructions to individual or groups of droids. Khalic showed the busted controller to Kevin, who suggested he see Cotan, a Twi’lek infochant. Kevin used Cotan to acquire illicit modifications for his clients’ speeders. “Cotan usually lunches at Prit’s Pit. It’s a dive under the mountain where people go to discuss things they don’t want overheard. It’s one of the few weapon’s free guaranteed places on Castell.”
The group decided to visit Crystal Canyon today to find Tor’s lightsaber crystal. As they flew closer in the new speeder, they saw numerous barn roofs saying SEE CRYSTAL CANYON. They had to scale the fence to get onto the property, since the park was closed for winter. They shuffled past closed Biscuit Baron stands and an R2 droid retrofitted to serve as a vending machine. It shuffled back and forth as if it was freezing, which it probably was.
Then, they reached the enormous canyon. Pillars of crystal glaciers climbed out of the kilometer-wide gorge, tall as skyscrapers. The blue and white crystals glistened against the winter landscape. The Force directed Tor down into the gorge. He turned back to his companions. “The Force is telling me I need to go down there. I don’t ask any of you to follow me if you don’t want to.”
“We’re with you, Tor,” Kelyn said.
As they began to climb down, Tor thought he caught a glimpse of shadows moving between the crystals. It was in the shape of a Gungan child. “Did anyone else see that?” Tor asked.
“See what?” Kelyn answered.
“It must have been a trick of the light.”
“I have some meds for this type of thing,” Carson said.
:So you’ll just know… you’re being guided?” Kelyn asked.
“Are these crystals small?”
“Yes, unless I want my lightsaber the size of a small planet, which is an interesting idea but not practical.”
“You can’t take a crystal from the seven lightsabers we found?”
“That would be cheating?”
“Can I borrow one of those lightsabers?” Kelyn asked.
Kelyn opened the saber up and dropped its crystal. “Hey look, there’s a crystal!”
Tor whipped his head around as he thought he heard screaming.
“Are you all right, Tor?” Kelyn asked.
“I must be getting closer to the right spot,” Tor responded cautiously. He thought he heard an explosion, but it was just echoes from N3MO stepping heavily on some ice. Then, Tor saw a Camaasi child looking out at the crystals. He ran over to her and stopped midstep as she vanished. It was just a trick of the light.
“Tor, where are you going?” Kelyn asked.
“The Force is testing me somehow,” Tor replied embarrassed.
“What did you think you saw?”
“A small Camaasi child.”
“But that’s impossible,” Kelyn soothed. “All your people are dead. You can’t be led by your feelings.”
“I have to. That’s my teachings.”
Darkness fell over the canyon. When Tor looked up he swore he briefly saw a Star Destroyer looming overhead. The ground crumbled under Tor’s feet as he got a little too close to the edge of the plateau. He stumbled to safe ground.
Everyone heard music drift across the canyon. “If you’re traveling across the Galaxy and you get hungry, you need to stop in to the Biscuit Baron.”
Ahead of the group was a barbed wire fence, declaring DANGER! KEEP OUT! N3MO cut through it, and the rebels passed beyond the tourist-approved zone. Tor looked ahead and saw two Camaasi children on fire, running as fast as they could away from Tor. The Jedi took off in pursuit.
“Where are you going?” Kelyn yelled.
“Children. They’re dying!” Tor shouted.
“There’s no one there!” Kelyn shouted.
Tor kept running. He ran a little too close to the edge and vanished from sight.
Tor was aware of moving very quickly after the children, whose flesh was peeling away. Limbs broke off.
N3MO ignited his jetpack and took off after Tor.
Tor felt through the Force that something was horribly wrong. His head cleared. The children vanished. The jagged crystals he was plummeting toward became very real. He reached out to grab any handhold in the wall of crystal. His hands were slashed to ribbons. He reached up as he saw N3MO flying toward him. Their hands latched. The force of the fall sent N3MO out of control. The duo spun about wildly, narrowly missing the vibrolance like crystals reaching out to impale them. Tor reached out with the Force. He sensed a strong crystal approaching. He reached out with one hand and caught it, then let go of N3MO. The droid hovered next to him as Tor gazed in wonder at this magnificent crystal jutting out of an iceberg-sized larger crystal. Tor dared to look down and saw he was twenty meters away from falling into a maw of deadly crystal shards.
“Tor!” Kelyn yelled down. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine!” Tor shouted. “N3MO’s here too. He’s hovering.”
Kelyn used his macrobinoculars to look down at Tor dangling from a crystal. “Tor!”
“How about that crystal? Is that it?”
“You know, I think it might be,” Tor declared.
“Just pull it out.”
Tor sat on N3MO’s shoulders and used the Force to yank the crystal from the glacier into his hand, “N3MO, upward and onward, if you please.”
Halfway up the droid and Jedi heard the jetpack run out of fuel. N3MO fired a grappling hook to the top. Carson saw it launch right above his head. He sidestepped before it dug into the rock he was standing on. N3MO and Tor climbed up.
“Did you get it?” Kelyn asked.
Tor showed him the blue crystal.
“How much do you think it’s worth?” Kelyn asked.
“It’s priceless,” the Jedi barked.
Tor sat down with the holocron Master Denia had given him. An image of Denia appeared. “Hello Tor, what knowledge may I help you find?”
“Master, I found a lightsaber crystal through the Force, but I do not know what kind of crystal it is.”
Using the holocron, the group studied the found crystal. It was an Echo Shard Crystal. They are found in the fragmented shards that have died. They are capable of holding the echoes of the presence of the attuned Force user inside it.
“I’m going to build my lightsaber here,” Tor announced. Go on back. Leave me a swoop bike.”
“I don’t think you should stay here by yourself,” Tor said. “And I don’t want you taking my bike. You’ve been seeing a lot of things.”
“That’s why I think I should do it here. If you don’t want to leave me transportation, I’ll com you when I’m ready to be picked up.”
The next morning, Khalic was working in Kevin’s garage when an R4 unit rolled up behind him. It whistled, “Come with me.”
It rolled into a corner, out of sight and sound from the other mechanics. Kahlic followed. A hologram appeared. A human dressed in the Oquan armor addressed him. “Greetings, I am Rel Acoi, leader of the Oquan. At noon, meet with Cotan at Prit’s Pit. He will give you the details of our meeting.”
The hologram turned off, and Khalic could hear the R4 erasing segments of its memory.
Tunnel 327 is dingy and sordid. Few beings flitter through, wishing to spend as little time in the tunnel as possible. A few speeders scream by. A bright yellow sign declares Prit’s Free Pit over a red sign that reads Guaranteed Weapons Free. The lobby is utilitarian. To the left two thugs sit behind a blasterproof window. “You’re new here,” the first one says.
“Put your weapons in the box over there, and key in your own combination,” the second one said.
“Deposit fifty creds each,” the first one said.
“Then pass through the weapons detector,” the second one said.
“Will we…” Kelyn began.
“You’ll get your weapons back when you leave,” the second thug said.
“I don’t think our droid will fit in that box,” Kelyn said.
“Disassemble his appendages please,” the first thug said.
“Is it all right to bring in outside food?” Kelyn asked, waving his lunchbox.
“Run it through the scanner,” the second thug said.
Kelyn did. Alarms blared. “The food you can take in, but the mess kit goes in the box,” the first thug said.
“I’m not very hungry,” Kelyn moped.
After depositing the weapons, the group passed through the blaster doors into the restaurant, which was little more than a cave with tables scattered around, within a maze of privacy walls. People whispered at the tables, eyes flittering about to make sure no one was eavesdropping.
The group saddled up to the bar to inquire with the barmaid which patron was Cotan. “I’m looking for somebody,” Carson told the bartender.
“That’s why most folks come to Prit’s Pit.”
“That’s a lovely looking hand you have,” Kelyn said looking at the bartender’s extended hand, palm up.
“It looks lovelier with green paper in it.”
“I happen to have a green notebook,” Kelyn said.
“How much should we pay her?” Carson whispered. “How about thirty credits?”
“Thirty credits?” Kelyn said. “I thought you had like three hundred thousand credits?”
“You could start your own bar with that dough,” the barmaid said. “How about you pay me fifty credits to not tell everyone here how much you’re carrying?”
“You could’ve taken him for three hundred thousand credits and you settled for fifty?” Kelyn asked the barmaid.
“He’s paying me to not tell everyone how easy a mark he is,” the barmaid responded. “You’re a lousy scoundrel, aren’t you babe?”
“I’m having a bad day. All my people were destroyed. My whole planet. My whole species.”
“The dinner theater auditions are across the hall.”
“Look for the obese Twi’lek eating all the seafood.”
“Thanks,” Kelyn said. “You aren’t really going to tell all these people how much money he has?”
“Would I do that?”
“Give her an extra thousand. You can afford it.”
“She wouldn’t have known if you hadn’t told her,” Carson said. He paid a thousand credits to the barmaid.
“Open tab for you this afternoon,” the barmaid said.
“Thanks, I’m sure I’ll be taking advantage of that,” Carson said.
“And I hope I’ll be taking advantage of you,” Kelyn said to the Twi’lek.
“If you get any starring roles in holodramas, look me up. Not while you’re doing dinner theater.”
“I don’t do dinner theater, babe. I do Shakespeare in the space park. Bye.”
“Let’s go talk to our fish-eating Twi’lek friend,” Carson said.
“Maybe we shouldn’t surround him,” Kelyn suggested.
“Screw it, I’ll go,” Carson said.
“Maybe I should assist you,” Kelyn said. “Before we go, how many credits do you have left?”
“I’m down to a thousand.”
“Blast! You have way more than a thousand credits!”
“Will you keep your voice down?”
“Let me see your cred book.”
“I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”
“Mine has nothing in it. I thought I was going to get something from selling those Z95s. Instead it went into the ship Khalic built. I like the guy. I think he builds great ships, but I think he spent too much.”
Carson handed Kelyn the cred stick.
“Blast! You’ve got a lot of money!” Kelyn shouted.
All conversation in Prit’s Pit stopped.
“I showed you so you wouldn’t say it to the bar,” Carson said.
“You got a lot of honey,” Kelyn corrected.
Conversation started again.
Carson approached the table. An obese Twi’lek shoveled trays of seafood down his throat. “You’re Cotan, aren’t you?”
“Yes I am. What can I do for you?” the Twi’lek replied.
“I’m looking for some parts.”
“Are you an actor?”
“No, but my friend is.”
“Good, I’d like to see him do a scene. Act! Entertain me!”
“I just did a great scene for the barmaid. Maybe you could get her to tell you about it. I’m not feeling it.”
“You are boring me. Go away!”
“Oh wait, I just remembered,” Kelyn interjected.
“Too late. You have bored me. Be gone.” Cotan turned to Carson. “You are boring me. Make your point or be gone.”
“I need a mutli-signal processor…”
“Oh you’re those people. Three hundred credits.”
Carson paid.
“Have your friends over there reach under the chair closest to the wall. They’ll find the parts. Before my food gets cold, perhaps you’d like to discuss the other matter?”
“I know who you are. The Oquan know who you are. They know who your family is. Because of that, things are not as simple as when you struck a deal with the pirates. Before you arrived, your nephew struck a deal with the Oquan to shall we say ‘liberate’ a number of vehicles from your brother’s inventory. He backed out of the deal, and the Oquan are quite angry. You will need to deliver your nephew or the five promised speeders to the Oquan before they will negotiate.”
“I will need to discuss this with my associates,” Carson said.
“It is as I figured it would be. Good day to you sir.”
“Enjoy the rest of your meal.”
“For one hundred credits I will tell you who that gentleman approaching us is.”
Carson paid.
“His name is Ritin. He is an Imperial snitch. I do not know if he is interested in you or me.”
Ritin approached and said, “You will come with me now.”
“Why,” Khalic asked.
“I have it on good authority you are traitors to the Empire.”
N3MO asked Khalic in Binary if he should pin Ritin to the wall.
“Carson, who’s your friend?” Kelyn asked.
“I’ve never met the man,” Carson responded. To Ritin he said, “I suppose if you’re going to make accusations like this…”
“Do not make a scene.”
“So leave us alone,” Khalic ordered.
“Very well,” Ritin said, stepping behind a stalagmite. “Get them!”
“Here we go again,” Kelyn said and slugged Ritin between the eyes. The snitch staggered back, allowing Kelyn a chance to kick his ankle out from under him. Ritin hit the ground, knocking over a dessert cart. “Excellent! Excellent!” Cotan bellowed, applauding.
Kelyn noticed a giant red creature in the corner offer a scary grinchy grin. Two humans worked their way forward, preparing to attack. One of them ran forward. The red creature reached out as the thug passed by, driving his fist in the back of the thug’s head. Something cracked. The body went limp and dropped.
A thug charged N3MO and punched the droid. A loud ringing sound echoed through the Pit, and N3MO drove a hole through the goon’s face, knocking out all his teeth. The body dropped.
Carson kicked the snitch in the face. Blood and teeth popped out. “Let’s show these guys how we take to being disrespected,” Carson shouted.
Kelyn kicked Ritin also, breaking his neck. “Oops, I hope that wasn’t a bad thing to do,” Kelyn said.
N3MO lifted a marble chair off the ground and hurled it at approaching thugs, crushing him into goo. The thug behind the chair fell over as the floor shook with the force of the impact. Bariss ran over and kicked him in the ribs.
Cotan called, “More occee fish, waiter! Prit, why can’t you have this show every night?”
The bartender winked at Carson and said, “Open bar is only good until the bouncers getcha, baby.”
A goon ran up on Kelyn from behind. Kelyn ducked and popped the thug in the face, dropping them. Three goons surrounded N3MO and started punching him, to no effect.
“Get ‘em, dinner theater actor. Get ‘em!” the barmaid yelled.
Kelyn shouted back, “Get the bouncers out here. We didn’t start this. He did!” Kelyn continued to kick Ritin’s corpse. He turned to swing at an attacking goon. The goon ducked and Kelyn spun around uncontrolled, knocking over trays of greasy seafood.
Carson climbed onto a marble chair and kicked a thug in the kidneys.
N3MO picked up another marble chair and swung it at one of his attackers, smacking him into jelly. The swing continued, terminating another attacker. The droid roared, causing the surviving thugs to quake in their boots.
Bouncers swarmed in, beating Bariss with stun batons. Several bouncers raced toward a thug they’d cornered. One of them knocked a hidden blaster from under a table. It went off, causing a rock slide that took out both bouncers and thug.
Kelyn rifled through Rinit’s pockets then stood up, hands in the air. “Listen, we didn’t start this. We’ll be happy to just leave.”
“Then get out! Right now,” a bouncer grumbled.
“Do we get our weapons back?” Kelyn asked, pocketing the listening device, Imperial ID and cred stick he’d taken from Rinit.
“Once you’re out,” the bouncer said.
“Come on guys, let’s go,” Kelyn said.
N3MO swatted another thug with the marble chair and continued the swing to crush all the bones in the other thug’s upper body. N3MO dropped the chair and headed for the exit.
The bartender called after Carson, “Come again. Bring all your credits.”
Kelyn called back, “Sorry for disrupting your dinner, Cotan.”
“Hey, thanks for the show,” the Twi’lek said and stuffed another bite of clawfish into his mouth.
As they got out the door, the box of weapons got jettisoned into the street. It bounced off a speeder, which nearly crashed into the side of the tunnel, bounced off the tunnel wall then returned into the street. Roma’s box met a similar fate.
N3MO wandered into the street to get the box. A speeder truck zipped through the tunnel and slammed into the droid. It crumpled like a squeezebox and flipped over N3MO. The damaged droid snarled, “I’m walking here.”
Roma hurried into the street to get his box. It was damaged in the unlatching section, so the combination was useless. He used a sonic screwdriver to try and undo it. The combination mechanism shorted out.
“N3MO, bring the box to the sidewalk,” Khalic ordered as a speeder zipped past him.
The droid hauled it to the sidewalk. Khalic opened his and Roma’s boxes as Kelyn checked the cred stick he’d taken from Ritin. Ten thousand credits. “Hey Carson, I have almost as much money as your fifteen thousand.”
“That’s a hundred fifty thousand credits,” Carson corrected.
Khalic looked at Roma. “Sorry you had to get caught up in that.”
“Nice fighting, Elmo,” Kelyn said. “You seem a little tongue-tied. My name’s Kelyn. KEL-yn.”
“My name’s Ramma-Anung.”
“Bless you,” Kelyn said. “What did you say your name was?”
“Thanks for helping us out there.”
“It was kind of fun. I don’t like Imperials. I’ve been following this one for a few days now.”
Kelyn pulled out Rinit’s ID. “This one?” Kelyn burst out laughing. “Did you see me kick his head in? I shot a guy in the face before, but this one was with my fist. It’s like it was my destiny.”
“What do you do for a living?” Kahlic asked.
“I was training under a bounty hunter.”
“Trained? You aren’t now? Did you kill him?” Bariss asked.
“I left him because you was a blasted human,” Ramma-Anung said.
“Whoa! I think at least two of us are human,” Kelyn said. “Does it matter that I killed an Imperial?”
“Maybe we shouldn’t be having this conversation in the most obvious place, since we just took out a bunch of Imperial goons,” Carson said.
“Come on Ramma. Get on my bitch seat,: Kelyn said.
“They may have planted bugs,” Khalic said and searched the ships, unable to find any.
“Maybe we should just kill Victor and make the Oquan happy,” Kelyn suggested.
“How come all your solutions involve killing?” Carson asked.
“It’s just the easiest way.”
“I can see why our Caamasi friend doesn’t like you much.”
“Guys, you’re doing this wrong,” Bariss interrupted. “We steal the speeders, make a meeting with the Oquan, kill them all, take the droids and return the speeders.”
“That isn’t very covert,” Kelyn said. “Haven’t we been… no, we really haven’t been very covert this time around.”
The group decided to see Kevin about Victor. They found him in his mechanics garb working in the garage. “Khalic, thank goodness you’re back,” Kevin said. “We got a butt load of repairs in. Massive accidents. Look at all these dents.”
One of the dents was N3MO shape and sized.
“I’ll get right on it,” Khalic said and set to work.
“While I’m in town I figured I’d drop in and see how Victor’s doing,” Carson said.
“He’s living at a transport park over by the river. He works here. He likes to hang out with his friends at the transport park.”
“You have anything to drink?” Kelyn asked.
“Ale good?”
Kevin threw Kelyn a fifty credit bottle of Corellian ale. “Thank you.”
“What’s up with Victor?” Kevin asked.
“Whatcha mean?” Carson asked.
“You haven’t asked about Victor in ten years.”
“I figured it’s due time to talk with him and see how he’s faring since that tragic avalanche. We have to try and stick together somewhat.”
“I never expected to hear those words from you but I guess there’s a first time for everything.”
“Kevin, couldja cut us a deal on three speeders?”
“I can give you the family deal.”
“Carson’s got a hundred fifty thousand.”
“That’s about right.”
Carson sighed. Kevin gave Kelyn a couple more bottles of ale and watched them go. They chatted by the speeders. “We’re going to go see Victor before we tell Kevin his son’s mixed up with organized crime, pirates, these jetpacking midgets.”
Victor’s transport park looked like the collected pit areas of a podrace. Everyone works on their hotrods and race around. Competing music from droids turned into super speakers compete against the engines. They walk up to a Dug, who’s working on a speeder bike. Carson approached and said, “I’m from off planet and looking for a relative. His name is Victor. Do you know him?”
The Dug looked past Carson at the bottle in Kelyn’s hand. Kelyn tossed it his way. “Here you go, bud.”
“Thank you,” the Dug said. “Who did you say you were looking for?”
“My nephew Victor.”
“Aw, Victor! He’s a good racer for a human, but better mechanic if you ask me. If wish he’d work on my speeder, but he only works on his own speeder. You tell Victor to work on Chapanama’s speeder! Victor’s in transport two.”
After thanking the Dug, they headed over to Transport 2, where they found Victor working on his speeder, his back to them. Ten droids surround Victor as a super surround system. Victor tries to sing along in Huttese. Kelyn walked up to Victor and started singing along. Victor jumped back. “What the stang you think you’re doing, old man?”
“I was only messing with you,” Kelyn said. “Have an ale.”
“Sith yeah!” Victor said and chugged the ale. “That’s some bantha sweat there.”
“That was some singing, er, there, in your voice throat.”
Victor saw Carson. “Uncle C, what are you doing with this brain-bolted guy? No offense and thanks for the ale.”
“Haven’t seen you in years. Figured I’d drop in and see what’s goin’.”
“I’m goin.’ I’m making some fast speeders, winning some races.”
“Heard you’ve been working on a lot of the speeders around here… like Chapanama’s.”
“Stang! He only wishes I worked on his. I only work on mine. I need every advantage I can. Those Dugs can fly.”
“He asked me if I’d ask you to help him sometime, so I figured what the hell. So, still working at Kevin’s?”
“It pays some bills. Gets me access to parts.”
“I heard some rumors around that someone was planning a heist on Kevin’s place.”
“Carbon flush!” Victor shouted and hopped onto his speeder. It bolted out of the transport park.
“What the hell?” Kelyn asked. “Real subtle, Carson. No wonder your family jumped under an avalanche.”
N3MO fired his grappling hook, catching the speeder. It dragged him behind, swinging him back and forth, slamming into various transport houses. The droid climbed toward the speeder as the others took off after Victor on swoops and speeder. Victor turned behind him, seeing N3MO almost at the back fender. “Aren’t you as cute as a Gammorean’s sister?” Victor asked, put the speeder on auto pilot and pulled out a vibroblade. He began to climb over the seats toward the grappling hook. Victor tripped and fell headfirst into the backseat as N3MO reached the vehicle. The heroes’ speeder and swoops pulled up alongside Victor’s hotrod.
“Get this guy off my speeder!” Victor screamed.
“Stop your speeder,” Kelyn called over. “We just want to talk.”
“Look at the size of that blade.”
“He isn’t going to hurt you if you stop the damned speeder.”
“Emperor’s black bones!”
“You’re going to get yourself killed!” Kelyn shouted. “Land the damned speeder.”
“All right!” Victor climbed back to the pilot’s seat and began setting down the speeder.
“N3MO! Down!” Kelyn called.
The vehicles came to a halt in a rocky area far from the mountain.
“We were talking to a Twi’lek called Cotan,” Carson began.
“He got me some sweet parts for this thing,” Victor said.
“We’re looking for some information about stolen droids.”
“Well fuse by bus bars.”
“Basically he said someone was supposed to pull a job where he was going to steal five speeders from Kevin’s.”
“Just say it. It was me.”
“Why didn’t you go through with it?”
“The old man started working in the garage again. Realized he wasn’t so bad.”
“You have any contacts? Any way for us to get information about where those droids are?”
“Sounds like Cotan doesn’t want to help until he gets the speeders,” Carson said.
“Or you,” N3MO added.
“So Victor, do you have any way to contact these people who want the speeders?” Bariss asked.
“They go through messages, usually from droids.”
“How many hotrods do you have?” Bariss asked.
“Four. But they want top of the line.”
“Could you make them look like the…”
“They’ll kill me if…”
“We’re going to have to kill someone, and since you’re Carson’s family, it looks like we’re going to have to kill the pirates,” Bariss said.
“You’re going to kill all the pirates!” Victor laughed. “They have tanks. They have jetpacks.”
“We have N3MO,” Khalic said.
“Get twenty of those and we’ll talk,” Victor said.
“So you’d rather we blast you?” Bariss asked.
“We don’t have to blast you,” Kelyn said. “N3MO here has a chainsaw. Listen, we need the droids back. This is more important than you and your petty crimes. You want to hang out here in the trailer park and do jobs for the mafia or whoever that fat guy was…”
“I don’t!”
“We need the fucking droids back. Are you going to help us?”
“How can I help you?”
“I don’t know. Surrender. Say you’re sorry. Let us show them your head. Ask your father for help. You said you were getting it back together. Mending fences.”
“And I go ask him for five top of the line speeders to give to the pirates… do you think things will be all right after that?”
“Listen, we’ll go with you. We’ll help you out. Your uncle will help you out.”
“What do you suggest, uncle? You think it’s a good idea to cut my head off?”
“Absolutely not. I think it’s worth talking to Kevin.”
“Okay,” Victor relented.
The group flew back to Kevin’s shop. “What’s up?” Kevin asked, seeing how pale his son’s face was.
“Carson, why don’t you tell Kevin exactly what is up?” N3MO suggested.

Blowing Up Bespin

The heroes stood with their backs to the hangar exit, nothing but sky below. Wall-to-wall stormtroopers stood between them and escape. Khalic plopped down the turret droid he’d just built. It aimed at the white and put a large hole through his chest. The Gungan children ran through the hangar, making a b-line for the crane. N3MO charged a trooper, sending him flying, then bouncing off a large crate. Bariss shot a trooper between the eyes and fell back from the enemy fire. Carson fired into the ionized air. Kelyn fired at the enemy, blowing a stormtrooper away.
The stormtroopers broke into different directions, trying to pen in the spreading-out PCs. Lasers flew over Tor’s head. Bariss ducked from blaster bolts as he ran. Tor raised his hand at a group of troopers. Debris whipped about them and pierced their armor, impaling them. Khalic blasted a trooper in the helmet. He fell backwards dead against a stack of crates. Khalic moved to the side and opened a blast door. Bariss exterminated a stormtrooper and headed through the open blast door, circling a pit.
The surviving stormtroopers fell back, taking strategic cover amidst the crates and machinery. The Gungan children fiddled with the crane controls, successfully lifting a large crate. They swung the crate. The troopers tried to back out of the way but got nicked by the flying box. The box came loose and crushed the troopers beneath it.
“I am not wanting to have to compete against Gungan children,” N3MO sighed.
Tor ran around the speeder truck to reach the children. These kids are my responsibility, he thought.
N3MOpicked up a crate and threw it at a stormtrooper. It sent the trooper flying backward and smashed him into another box. The electronics inside it went haywire, electrocuting the trooper. He lifted another crate and dumped it onto another trooper.
The com buzzed. “Hey gang, it’s Sirona. What’s up. Listen, you know that Star Destroyer that showed up in-system a few days ago?”
“Please don’t tell me it’s back,” Bariss said.
“Okay honey, I won’t. But the ship I’ve been watching, the Shackles of Nizon, it’s moving… and quickly for a tibanna gas hauler.”
“We’ll take care of it,” Bariss said.
“Sirona,” Tor said, “Can you come and pick up the kids?"

The sun setting over Bespin’s horizon casts the entire atmosphere in a red-orange glow. The beauty of this scene is broken up by the cloud cars, some with two pods and others of a sleeker, more aerodynamic design, racing toward you. As the first blaster bolts pass to either side of your vessel, the cloud cars still too distant to get a good shot, you can tell that they mean to take no prisoners.
Khalic fired a concussion missile that took a direct route to the cloud car. It went up in a fireball.
“Infidel dogs! Blast them all!” Carson shouted over the com, getting the adrenaline flowing through his companions’ veins. Carson squeezed the trigger, pounding a cloud car.
“Does anyone know if Tibanna gas would make a really big boom?” Kelyn asked.
Tor, Bariss and Khalic shouted in unison, “Yes!”

Kelyn’s missile overshot the speeder. Bariss launched a missile. Debris rained down on Bespin. The tibanna barge’s automated turret whirled on Carson’s Headhunter and challenged his shields’ strength.
A group of cloud cars ganged up on Kelyn’s ship. He juked the controls, weaving between the lasers. Two more cloud cars ganged up on Carson, who had taken the lead.
The double-pod cloud car stayed back from the single pods and took sniping shots at the heroes. One blast pounded N3MO’s vehicle. More blaster fire rocked Kelyn’s ship, before the double-pod cars made a u-turn to get out of range.
One of the Gungans on board the Banshee lined a cloud car in his sights and fired, setting the engines on fire. “I knew there was a reason I brought you along,” Tor thought to himself. He put his sights on the same ship and blasted the other engine off. It fell to Bespin below.
Kelyn broke to the left and launched a missile at it. A ball of sparks and fire, still under pilot control kept chugging away. It spun on Kelyn and blasted.
Bariss fired at one of the cloud cars attacking the Banshee, did a loop and came back down firing at the other cloud car attacking the Banshee. Khalic swerved toward the sparking ship hounding Kelyn. A laser blast later turned the cloud car into a ball of fire.
N3MO passed over the tibanna platform and ejected, landing on the roof. Bariss dodged blaster bolts meant for him. One of the lasers struck N3MO’s ship, which exploded. The cloud car ducked away from the blast, prompting the Banshee’s crew to unload.
Khalic flew in fast at a cloud car, holding the trigger down. Bariss shot behind the ship attacking Carson and sent a missile into its aft. Boom. The Banshee’s crew began to crush its opponents. Kelyn pumped another missile into an enemy ship. The blast was adjacent to the Banshee. One of the Gungan children panicked, thinking the transport was falling apart. He leapt from the turret, racing down the corridor screaming.
He tripped over some cables and tumbled to the bridge, where Sirona screamed at him to get back to his post.
The Gungan in the turret blasted another cloud car out of the sky. Tor fired where the ship had been and sent his lasers into Kahlic’s ship. N3MO patched into the scomp link and hacked the platform, seizing control of the turret. He began firing at the remaining cloud cars.
Bariss flew behind Carson and aimed at a cloud car, in front of Carson. “What are you doing?” Carson yelled as the missile lock alarm kept screaming.”
“It’s okay. I know what I’m doing,” Bariss said. The missile shot under Carson’s Headhunter and disintegrated the cloud car.
The fast-learning Gungan pounded the last cloud car.
The Gallofree Medium Transport identified as the Shackles of Nizon floats in space, illuminated by the light from Bespin below. A massive Tibanna gas hauling starship, laden with the explosive substance, barrels through space directly toward the slave ship.
However, between you and the Tibanna gas hauler is nearly an entire squadron of the Empire’s TIE fighters. Ten of the flat-winged vessels scream toward you, lasers flashing even at a great distance.
“We have a big bomb going to crash into the slave ship in 30 seconds,” Bariss announced over the com.
“Well, we need to stop it,” Kelyn said. “Can we blow it up?”
“Of course we can,” Bariss assured him. With that, he launched a missile that slammed into the tibanna hauler. The vehicle spewed dark smoke and showed flames belching from inside it… but there wasn’t evidence the tibanna tanks had ruptured.
“Okay guys, this thing can take one or two more missiles before it blows. It can still hit the Shackles, so hit it fast,” Bariss pled.
Then, the Star Destroyer Assiduous emerged, shadowing the starfighters. “Oh shit,” Kelyn said.
Tor reached out through the Force, searching for Inquisitor Draco’s presence. Draco was there. He knew Tor was there, and he knew about the children.
Kelyn rocketed forward, taking a wide curve around the TIE fighters.
Khalic fiddled with the circuits to turbocharge the engines. He and Bariss surged forward. Kelyn rocketed toward the slave ship. The TIEs turned tail and gave chase.
Bariss crossed some wires, sending his ship hurtling at breakneck speed to catch up to the TIEs.
Carson raced forward and blasted a TIE. Three TIEs swarmed over Carson. One tried to pin him down in a dogfight, but Carson slipped out of the trap. Another group of TIEs tried to catch Khalic in a dogfight. He easily rolled out of the snare. He over charged the engines and bolted all the way to the Shackles of Nizon. The TIEs pounded his ship as he passed by.
The Banshee targeted a TIE. The bolts limited its escape choices, allowing N3MO to blast one of its engines and crumple a wing.
A couple of the Imperial ships flew toward the Shackles and began raining blaster fire over its hull.
Kelyn flew away from the swarm of TIEs and sent a missile at one of them.
“Hit ‘em with everything you got!” Carson called over the com.
Missiles flew from the heroes’ ships, turning the TIEs into plummeting shrapnel.

From where he was flying, Kelyn could see the Trandoshan slavers fighting the slaves in the bridge. The scoundrel flew in and nudged the Shackles just below the bridge. Kelyn’s ship shuddered under the impact. The transport rocked, sending slaves and slavers sprawling. Bariss fired at the TIE in front of him, blowing him to pieces. He spun around in a loop and came down to fire at the TIE that was adjacent to the destroyed TIE. The vehicle’s engines fizzled, and the ship flew out of control toward the planet below.
Bariss rocketed toward the remaining TIE and delivered a missile into its cockpit. It exploded in a ball of fire. The Shackles of Nizon suddenly whirled around and leapt to light speed. A message appeared on the Banshee’s screen: We have gained control. Thank you.
“Go slave rebellion,” Tor cheered. A chill ran down his spine as he saw the approaching Star Destroyer and the Inquisitor Captain.
Another message appeared on the Banshee’s screen. The image on the screen resolves to show the bridge of the Star Destroyer Assiduous. Standing before the viewscreen is a darkly handsome man wearing long, flowing robes. The hilt of a lightsaber hangs from his belt.
“My sensor operators tell me that your ship will be far enough from Bespin to jump to hyperspace before I can reach you. I congratulate you on your victory here, but know this: the Inquisitorius never rests. My name is Valin Draco, and I will find you and make you pay for meddling here. You may have bested that slimy Hutt, but I can assure you that the affections of an Inquisitor are not so gentle.”
“Hun, how about we go hang out back at the Resurgence. I’d rather be there than in a cell,” Sirona chided.
“That sounds like a really good idea,” Khalic said.
The Banshee and Headhunters leapt from the Bespin system.

After a brief stay in the medbay, the heroes were met by a shiny golden protocol droid. “Excuse me, but Admiral Varth would like to have a meeting with you in the command room.”
The heroes followed, a spring in their step from destroying Darga and freeing the slaves. The door to the command room opened, and Kelyn started gagging and hacking as a cloud of dark smoke from a hooka drifted out to engulf him.
“You!” Varth screamed, pointing at the rebels, his face beet red. The heroes thought he might swallow his cig. “Take a seat.”
“What part of covert don’t you understand? You… That’s what I thought. Your droid I fully expected this behavior from. Nothing but a killing machine. Back when I was fighting the klankers, I killed thousands of them! But you, mechanic,” turning to Tor, “When did you decide to start igniting security forces on fire?”
“We got the job done, didn’t we?” Tor suggested.
“COVERT!” Varth screamed. “You were not supposed to kill the Chief of the Wing Guard by making his brain explode.”
“He was pulling a gun on me.”
“Covert! You were not supposed to kill an Imperial officer!”
“In the defense of the mechanic, we would have killed a lot more people had he not been there,” Kelyn said in Tor’s defense.
“It was on the holonet.”
“Isn’t one less Imperial officer a good thing?” Tor asked.
“Not when our agents across the Galaxy report bounty hunters approaching them with holoimages of your faces.”
“That should take the focus off your other agents,” Tor said.
“You are in our main ship. If they find you, they find us.”
“What would you have done?” Tor asked.
“Covert. I’d sneak around, get the information then kill the Hutt.”
“We got the information,” Tor said.
“Yes, and now you have every bounty hunter in the Galaxy looking for you and our ship. You are going to bring everybody to us.”
“That’s easy to fix,” Bariss said. “Send us back out on the Banshee, and…”
“Captain O’Keefe will no longer play a part with these missions,” Varth said. “The Banshee, with some of your own people decided to destroy Imperial warships over Bespin. Do you not think there weren’t droid drones recording this?”
“What would you have us do?” Tor asked. “Get blown out of the sky and not bring the information back?”
“COVERT! Have you been listening to this stupid droid for too long?” Varth pointed at Kelyn. “You, make me understand what he was thinking.”
“He was under stress,” Kelyn said. “It was a difficult time and a difficult situation.
Throughout this campaign, Tor has kept us level and there came a tipping point where things couldn’t be handled any other way.”
“So you’re talking about blaster shock?”
“Tor’s just a mechanic. He didn’t blow the guy up. He combusted. It just happens.”
“Spontaneous combustion does not just happen.”
“There’s a lot of tibanna gas around,” Kelyn said.
“Your faces are on Imperial military channels, with the words find, kill and destroy.”
“Maybe they’ll be starstruck. We’re famous now,” Kelyn said.
“You’re going to be struck,” Varth threatened. “If it was up to me, I’d turn you in. I’d call Boba Fett and split the credits with him and cut my losses. Verana won’t let me. Go to Verana’s office. I don’t want to see you anymore.”
“I hope that kind of anger doesn’t cloud your military tactical thinking, or you could get us all in more trouble than we’ve gotten you in.”
“I don’t think that’s possible,” Varth shrieked.
“Oh come on, we accomplished the mission,” Kelyn said. “I don’t know how important covert was to the mission. We rescued some kids.”
“You won the battle but cost us the war.”
“Isn’t there a Jedi proverb that says if you lose yourself in war, you lose the war. Maybe Tor could say it better,” Bariss added.
“The last thing we want is to jeopardize the cause. We’ll see the captain then clear out our stuff,” Kelyn said.
“If only that’s what he wanted,” Varth grumbled and turned his back on the rebels.
“Good day sir,” Kelyn said and headed for Verana’s office.
Verana sat serene behind his desk. “How red was Varth’s face?” he asked.
“It looked like it was going to pop,” Kelyn said.
“As red as the sunset on Tatooine,” Tor added.
“He’s a jackass but he’s a valuable asset,” Verana sighed
“Let’s take him to the front lines and see how he handles things,” N3MO suggested.
“That’s what happens when you spend too much time in management,” Verana agreed.
“Hopefully we didn’t screw up as bad as he made us think,” Khalic said.
“What did you learn? I will tell you up front our patron supports you a hundred percent despite the publicity.”
Tor said, “We discovered Darga was trading tibanna gas for slaves.”
“I can’t imagine where all that tibanna gas is going,” Khalic said.
“Do you think they’re building a new fleet?” Verana asked.
“Or some kind of superweapon,” Kahlic suggested.
“That would explain why they’re keeping it away from the Senate.”
“And why they brought a Star Destroyer… commanded by an Inquisitor… to bear on it,” Tor said.
“That means you’re on the right path,” Verana mused. “In light of the publicity, we are cutting ties with Sirona O’Keefe. She’ll lay low for a while and retrofit her ship so it’s unidentifiable as the ship that attacked Imperial craft at Bespin.”
“So, we’re without a ship,” Kelyn said. “If only we had three hundred thousand or half a million credits.”
“Um, I might be able to help with that,” Khalic said.
“How could you possibly help with half a million credits?” Tor asked.
Khalic produced the datapad.
“Is that what I think it is?” Tor asked.
“It sure as hell is.”
“How’d you get that?”
“Adrianna crossed some bounty hunters on the way back to the hotel. Cad Bane didn’t see a reason to take this.”
“Was she there?” Tor asked.
“She way,” Khalic said, “But most of her brain wasn’t.”
“Cad Bane!” Kelyn exclaimed. “My father and I barely escaped him. If Varth’s right, we’ll run into him again soon.”
The group decided to go to Sluis Van Shipyards, where Khalic had made peaceful relations with the Verpine. Kelyn arranged for a Wookiee smuggler friend to deliver the parts Khalic needed to build a new ship. Once the ship was ready, they’d go to Castell, Carson’s homeworld, to find a lightsaber crystal for Tor.
Before leaving the Resurgence, Tor visited Master Denia, who presented him with a holocron she’d prepared for him, explaining everything he’d need to know about lightsaber construction. “While traveling, dedicate all your time to the Force sensitive Gungan child you rescued. Show him the true nature of the Force,” Master Denia said. “Also, I have learned about the slaves you rescued. This troubles me greatly. I will meditate on it at length. I believe it is an important clue to unraveling the mystery of this Sarlacc Project.”
Over the next month, Khalic built the prototype for the X4 Gunboat. He also upgraded Bariss’s Headhunter by adding quad cannons and proton torpedoes. N3MO acquired a gunnery droid. Khalic wrapped up his mechanical mayhem by attaching a gigantic flamethrower to N3MO’s arm.
During the stay, a Sluis Van executive approached Fenn. “Maybe this is speciest, but I heard Bothans can acquire sensitive information. We haven’t been able to confirm anything, but there are rumors the Kuat Shipyards are doing massive work for the Empire. Would you be able to uncover the scope of these projects?”
“How much is it worth to you?”
“500-thousand credits.”
Fenn got in touch with his people. Several days later he received word several Bothans were executed trying to get this information. The spynet wanted the price to go up ten percent to cover their losses.
Fenn asked the executive for more. “That’s outrageous! You’re taking advantage of us. That’s why we only deal with our own kind,” the Executive ranted. “Why do you need more?”
“A couple people died trying to get your information,” Fenn explained.
The executive sighed. That makes sense. You will receive all the credits once you acquire the information.”
The Spynet discovered Kuat Shipyards was pumping out TIE fighters and other spacecraft for the Imperial Navy at a rate never before seen in the Galaxy. Fenn delivered the news and received payment. “Thank you for the information,” the executive said. “Hopefully this will be the beginning of a mutually beneficial relationship with the Bothans. We shall begin an appropriate production response.”
The ship was gleaming and ready for its christening.
“What shall we christen it?” Bariss asked.
“What shall we christen it with? Corellian ale?” Tor asked.
“Isn’t Corellian ale contraband?” N3MO asked.
“That’s what makes this appropriate,” Tor said.
“My first idea is the Defiance,” Khalic said.
The group found it appropriate.
“Is the ship a he or she?” Bariss asked.
“A she!” Khalic said. “You call yourself a pilot.”
“I’d blast you if you didn’t fix up my ship,” Bariss said.
Carson and Tor called Switch. “Hello,” the droid said. “I hear it is very bad business to take out a loan on somebody and then blast him. Do you not agree?”
“I feel like I’m going to pay you back,” Khalic said.
“I know you are,” Switch said. “I also appreciate all the dramatic footage you’ve provided Darth Rosie to watch on the holonet. She likes the part where the security guards catch fire and their hats leap three feet in the air.”
“Good special effects,” Carson said.
“Very good special effects,” Switch agreed. For fifty credits I’ll let you know who’s been asking around about you.”
“Good deal,” Khalic said and paid Switch in full.
“Thank you,” Switch said after he received payment. “Do you remember Maya?”
“Is she still on Sel Zonn?” Tor asked.
“No, she is on a Corellian Corvette. It appears she last lost something and needs your help finding it. Shall I have her contact you?”
“Sure,” Carson said.v
“Thank you,” Switch said. “This has been most profitable and fun.”
“Have you heard any more about Caamas?” Tor asked.v
“Unfortunately there was a one percent survival rate. The Empire used something called planetary bombardment, and Caamasi apparently burn well.”
Kelyn launched the gunship. It felt like it had been built for him alone. The two Z95s flanked the X4 as they leapt to lightspeed. An hour later a communication came in. The viewscreen showed Maya dressed in the Alderaanian Security Agency uniform.
“Hello,” Maya said.
“Hello Maya. How’ve you been?” Tor asked.
“Busy running errands,” she said.
“Switch told us you were looking for us.”
“Yes, one of my errand boys has gone missing. It doesn’t look too promising, but I was hoping you would head to Castell and take a look.”
“We’re headed to Castell right now,” Tor said. “Is there anything you can tell us about your errand boy?” Tor asked.
“I’m going to send you coordinates to where my ship is drifting just outside the Castell system. I don’t want to go into details while there’s a chance of prying ears overhearing us.”
The Defiance came out of hyperspace and approached a Corellian Corvette. A voice on the com said, “This is Tantive IV. Please identify yourselves.”
“This is the Defiance,” Kelyn said.
“What is your destination and purpose?”
“We’re here for Maya.”
“You have clearance. Prepare to dock.”
The Defiance docked while the Headhunters stayed on patrol.
Maya was all hugs upon sight. “I have a mission for you.”
She activated a holoprojector showing Castell and an unfamiliar freighter pursued by a Guardian-class light cruiser. A spectacular battle ensued. The little ship was more than the Guardian bargained for. After a final volley, the freighter tumbled into the atmosphere. The Guardian was too damaged to pursue and puttered away.
“The freighter is one of ours,” Maya said. “It’s called the Golden Jewel. It’s Captain is Captain Talnar. We think he entered the system to relay a message through our encrypted satellite. Either he didn’t want to tip off the Imperials or didn’t get a chance. If his mission was successful, he was returning with a cargo hold full of droids. He must be retrieved. He doesn’t have much time. The Empire will send for reinforcements. “
“Sounds like a straight forward rescue mission,” Khalic said.
“It’s your planet,” Tor said to Carson. What can you tell me about it?”
“Castell is the homeworld of the Gossam,” Carson said. “They joined up with the Corporate Alliance and was exploited for mining. Now, because of the Empire the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, and the Gossam are doing whatever they can to stay afloat.”
“How strong is the Empire’s presence on Castell?” Carson asked.
“They’re just gaining full control, like when we were at Sel Zonn.”

The rebels returned to the Defiance and set a course for Castell. Kelyn led them into the mountains. Blizzards with seventy kilometer per hour winds tried to sweep the ship into a canyon wall, but Kelyn maintained perfect control, traversing the wind currents and debris spilling over the mountain tops. “Awesome ship, Khalic,” Kelyn said.
“Thank you,” Khalic responded.” He studied the computers, trying to track the Golden Jewel’s beacon. He found it just to port. “Port!” Khalic called.
Fenn frowned. That would slam them all into a canyon wall. “Don’t!” he shouted.

“Starboard!” Fenn continued. “There’s a mountain.”
As Kelyn turned he thought he could reach out and touch it. He wanted to slam Khalic’s face into it. Kelyn caught a current that sent him upward so he could loop away from the mountain. “Thanks for the warning, guys,” Kelyn said. “Khalic, you build really good ships.”
N3MO and Fenn honed in on the Jewel’s resting place and led Kelyn to the narrow valley it was strewn across.
Kelyn brought the Defiance crashing into a snow bank. The bridge went dark momentarily. Then, the ship emerged from the other side and continued airborne. Tor saw a good landing place southeast of the beacon. The ships came down gently in the space Tor pointed out.
Kelyn put on his all temperature cloak and walked to the edge of the plateau. He pulled out the electrobinoculars and looked out over the fuselage lying in the valley. It had probably been there about twenty-four hours.
N3MO and Khalic took a swoop bike to the fuselage. Khalic looked around. Carson and Tor took another bike. Carson trudged around the ship. The cold got to his bones, and he collapsed. Tor was there to help him get back on his feet. “Home air not agreeing with you?” Tor asked.
“Let’s say I wasn’t much for spending time in the mountains,” Carson said.
Fenn studied the snow around the fuselage where the airlock had been sliced open. Tracks in the snow came and went. Blaster and grenade damage were apparent on the transport and a destroyed speeder. Talnar may have been wounded but survived. The cargo was gone.
Khalic found two control pads damaged in the bridge.
Kelyn turned on the computers and reviewed the security footage. He watched Talnar’s valiant efforts to land the ship, as the Jewel fell apart around him. He saw the rebel barricade himself inside the ship and bravely fight off his attackers. Finally, a pair of grenades made it into the ship and knocked Talnar out. Several Gossam cut open the airlock with fusion cutters and removed Talnar and his cargo.
“I sense lifeforms northwest of the ship,” Tor announced. Fenn joined Tor to check it out.
Carson studied the recorded images of the Gossam. The uniforms were similar to a local pirate gang that was starting up when he still lived here: the Oquan. Before he could say anything, Fenn came over the com announcing, “We have stormtroopers here.”

Reflections from Tor part 17

“I’ll stay and construct my lightsaber here,” Tor said, looking at the shocked faces of his comrades as the braced themselves against the swirling cold.

“Are you sure?” Kelyn asked, incredulously. “What about the ship? That seems better than here where you’re reminded that you’re the last of your species.”

Tor shrugged off the scoundrel’s comments about the caamasi, another in a long string of jabs against Tor. Tor knew that it was Kelyn’s way of staying aware of the situation, and his way of trying to keep the mood lighter, regardless of who the joke was about.

“I’ll be fine. The Force is strong here. It brought me here for a reason, and this is where I need to complete this portion of my journey.”

“Fine, fine,” Kelyn said, turning away with the rest of the group. “Just let us know when you need to be picked up, I guess.” Tor watched as the group faded away into the swirling snow.

Tor pulled from his pack a small cloth that he laid in front of him as he sat down in the snow, the cliff face behind him. He set the components he needed on the cloth and then looked at the icy blue crystal that was still held tightly in his hand. He placed it with the other components and closed his eyes.

The Force surrounded Tor, keeping the cold and the wind at bay. He remembered the type of lightsaber he wanted to make from the holocron Master Denia had given him. Focusing, Tor stretched out with his feelings. Before him, the components lifted gently into the air, rotating slightly and slowly organizing themselves.

As he concentrated, the Force that surrounded the Crystal Canyon put flashes of the earlier hallucinations back into Tor’s mind. Images of caamasi children running and burning threatened to disrupt his focus, but Tor persisted, bearing the mental assault. If the Force wanted him to experience this, then he would see it through to the end.

The crystal glowed brightly as the various components closed around it, sealing it inside. Tor used the Force to connect each piece internally. Eventually, the last piece was in place. Tor concentrated on the crystal, using the Force to attune it to his own energy. As he did, he felt the power of the crystal resonate within him, sensed how it would echo his energy to anyone searching for him.

As he attuned the lightsaber, the Force began to give him new visions, shifting from the tortuous hallucinations he had had before. Now Tor watched as images of other Jedi collecting crystals were put into his mind. He saw them as they attuned their own lightsabers and carried them out into the galaxy, using them as an instrument of peace against evil for generations. The images of countless Jedi paraded before him quicker and quicker.

Tor’s eyes flashed open and his newly completed lightsaber dropped into his outstretched hands. He felt the cool steel in his hands and sensed the crystal that was attuned to only him inside. Tor ignited it, and an icy blue blade snapped to existence. The long-handle lightsaber felt right in Tor’s hands, and he knew he had successfully completed his task.

Tor stood. One last thing, he thought as he remembered the last of the images he had had during his construction. He reached into his pack and found a parcel, wrapped and hidden securely in secret pouch. He took it and unwrapped it. Moments later, he was swathed in the Jedi robes he had not worn since before the Jedi purge. The tan and brown felt fitting and made him feel more at one with the Force.

No longer will I hide what I am, Tor thought. I must be a beacon for justice and peace, just as the Jedi have always been. People will see that there are still those that resist the Empire, that they have not managed to eliminate all resistance.

Tor ignited his new lightsaber again, completing the feeling of unity with the Force. He deactivated it and hung it next to the hydrospanner lightsaber. He pulled out his comlink. Ignoring the numerous messages from Kelyn, he activated it. Soon enough, the scoundrel answered.

“I’m ready to go."


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