“Let’s freeze her,” Bariss said.
“Then we have to transport her to the carbon freezing then back.” Tor protested. “How about we knock her out?”
“How about we carve her up like a turkey?” N3MO asked.
“I have sedatives,” Carson suggested.
“Yeah, let’s use those,” Tor agreed.
“How about the bundar root?” Carson asked.
“That’s trihexalon!” Tor reminded him.
“So?” N3MO asked.
Carson doped Aurra Siing up so she’d be awake in over 8 hours.
As dawn arrived, Tor felt nauseous. He approached Carson. “I feel strange. Can you give me a check up? See if there’s something medically wrong?”
Carson couldn’t find anything medically wrong with the Camassi.
Tor searched his feelings. He collapsed unconscious as he heard screaming and saw blood surrounding him. “N3MO, stop!” he tried to call out.
“Maybe this is related to what the Emperor did to Kithriss?” Kelyn suggested.
Carson brought Tor back around. Tor heard the screaming of children and saw Camassi children burning. Tor sat up wide-eyed.
“What’s wrong?” Kelyn asked.
“I felt a disturbance in the Force, like a thousand voices crying out in terror and they were suddenly silenced.”
“No, what’s really wrong?” Kelyn asked.
“Camaasi children dying!”
Tor reached through the Force to a childhood friend of his. He saw her running from a burning village and looked up to see star destroyers dumping a constant barrage of bombs.
The Jedi shook from anger. “The Empire has to pay. There is no end to the vengeance I will bring to anyone involved in ending my people and my way of life,” Tor said.
“Can we kill Siing now?” Bariss asked.
“Why are they attacking your planet now?” Kelyn asked.
“I don’t know,” Tor said. “We’re peaceful. We don’t have violent tendencies.”
“Except for setting people on fire?” N3MO asked.
“The Empire has no reason to attack Caamas,” Tor said.
“You just said why,” Bariss said. “You’re peaceful. Your people are diplomats. It’s what he wants to end.”
“You have a good point,” Tor said.
“The Emperor will meet his end at the end of my lightsaber.”
“I don’t have anything against that,” Carson said.
“It isn’t bad enough I was the only Jedi left in the universe, now I’m possibly the only Camaasi.”
“You have Master Denia,” Bariss noted.
“Could you communicate with Master Denia?” Kelyn suggested.
Tor reached out with the Force but could not make contact across the great expanse of Galaxy.
“We can be your guidance in these dark times,” Bariss said.
“There’s nothing you can do about it,” Kelyn said.
“There is something I can do about it. I can make the Empire pay.”
“You will make the Empire pay,” Kelyn said, but for now you need to control your feelings.”
Tor walked away and meditated/sulked. His friends walked in to find Tor unconscious, a lightsaber in each hand. N3MO confiscated them for safekeeping. The time arrived to go to the tournament. Kelyn turned to Tor. “Are you all right to come with us?”
“Try and stop me,” the shaken Jedi said.
Carson and Bariss noticed Silas entering the casino, despite the deal Khalic had cut with him and Switch yesterday. The gambler skillfully kept his distance from the heroes. Silas backed behind the bar into a maintenance area. N3MO and Carson wandered behind the bar. Bariss stood opposite Silas in front of the bar. “What are you doing back there?” Carson asked.
“I picked up a little technique for fixing the carbonation in the bubbly. It’s been a little flat,” Silas said adjusting dials. Carson studied what he was doing. If this was a bluff, then it was a good one.
“We’re about to start. I should get to the table,” Silas said.
“Mind if I talk to you a minute?” Khalic said, approaching.
“We’re about to start. Let’s walk and talk.”
Silas turned to find N3MO blocking the exit route. He was going nowhere.
“That’s what we want to talk to you about,” Khalic said. “The deal was we give you money to get your daughter back. You stay away from this tournament today.”
“I know,” Silas said. “I will get that money to you.”
“I can’t do that. I need more money.”
“The Galactic dream. I’m doing well. I’m going to win. I’ll give you a cut. Everybody will win.”
Khalic couldn’t argue with the rhetoric.
To N3MO, the story sounded romantic and epic. He couldn’t think of a reason to deny Silas this opportunity.
“If you don’t get out of my way, I’m going to call other security over here.” Silas said.
Bariss whispered to Khalic, “Got a weapon we can plant on him?”
“Just my custom blaster?” Khalic said, unwilling to sacrifice his weapon for Silas.
“Guys, there’s Jacc Mandelbrott over there. You have three seconds to step aside, or I call him over.” “Let him go,” Carson said reluctantly. “Keep eyes and ears on Silas,” Carson said over the com.
Only one table remains on the final day of the Cloud City Sabacc Tournament. Each of the competitors is intensely focused on the hand of sabacc cards in front of them, and there is a tension in the air as they compete to see who will take home an incredible prize.
All eyes are on the central table, and the Bith band from the day before produces only the faintest background music. The crowd has not thinned, but it now surrounds the last table, which is illuminated by lights from overhead. With the house lights dimmed, the final table in the middle of the room glows like an incandescent torch in the dark casino.
As play progressed, Bariss noticed Creeska removing a skifter from his jacket pocket. The Duros hurried over and caught the Rodian by the hand. “This contestant is disqualified. Cheater!”
“I am not a cheater. What are you doing?”
“What is this?”
Bariss asked disbelieving the Rodian wouldn’t give up after being caught red-handed.
Bariss showed it to Khalic who confirmed it to be a skifter, then he showed it to Jacc. “Get him out of here,” Jacc said.
“I’m innocent!” Creeska shouted. “They put it on me!”
“Wouldn’t surprise me if he planted the skifter on him,” Silas said loud enough for the table to hear.
Minutes later, Tor received a call from Switch, fretting about Moro’s position in the tournament. “I thought you were helping him,” Switch called out. “Do your job!”
“Switch,” Tor cut in. “I need a favor.”
“What kind of favor? More money for deadbeats?”
“I need any news from Caamas,” Tor said.
“Funny,” Switch said. “There’s absolute silence coming from that system. No satellites. No nothing. My contacts aren’t responding.
“Do you know why? It could be profitable information.”
“I think the Empire attacked it. I need you to look into this.”
“I sure will,” Switch said. “There’s good money in refugee transports.”
“Don’t talk about my people like that!” Tor yelled.
During a break between hands, Moro approached Tor. “I need help. Did you learn any of my competitors’ strategies?”
“Stay out of the bathroom with the old lady,” Kelyn said.
“That’s good advice any time, thank you very much,” Captain Moro responded.
Bariss, Carson and Khalic shared what they’d learned from their conversations with the opponents.
Lady Fioro holds her hand close to her chest, a confident smile gracing her lips. One by one, the other competitors fold, until only the Imperial officer Lt. Arandis and the Hapan woman remain in the game. Another round of betting raises the stakes, but it seems as though Lt. Arandis is feeling out her hand. He watches her for a long moment, eyeing her with the same savvy look he has given every other player he has defeated over the course of the tournament.
“I will wager every credit I have,” he says, pushing a pile of chips to the center of the table. The crowd gasps, but the other players—all except Lady Fioro—look confused. Her smile, however, deepens, and she reveals her hand: pure sabacc, the best possible hand in the game.
A cheer erupts from the crowd, but it is what happens next that draws your eye. Lt. Arandis tosses his cards haphazardly on the table, but as the credit chips are slid across the table to Lady Fioro, he begins arranging the cards once more. From left to right, he places the One of Coins, the Three of Sabers, the Seven of Flasks, then two credit chips, followed by Master of Staves, and lastly the
Queen of Air and Darkness, sliding them all into the neutral field to keep them from shifting. An instant later, you notice that they mproduce a number sequence: 137.12. While the audience cheers,
Lady Fioro stares intently at the cards, as though burning the sequence into her mind.
N3MO and Tor moved in to flank Lt Arandis as the final hand was played.
Adrianna emerged victorious. Jacc approached her with a datapad that provided access to the half million credit jackpot. “This was a wonderful tournament with fierce competition,” Jacc began.
Silas Draver marched forward.
“I’ll be taking that!” shouts Silas Draver. Drawing a blaster pistol from beneath his coat, he simultaneously pushes a button on the sabacc dealer droid in front of him. That droid, and two others, spin slightly as arms extend from their bodies, each one capped with a blaster pistol. Several members of the crowd also draw blaster pistols and turn them on their fellow spectators, clearly allied with Draver. The gambler levels his blaster pistol at Jacc Mandelbrott, causing his eyes to go wide in terror.
Arandis went for his blaster pistol, which security had missed earlier. The dealer droid unfolded, revealing mounted blasters that caught the lieutenant in the head from behind. His body dropped, knocking over the table. Lady Fiorno panicked and turned to flee. A dealer droid punctured her lungs with a well-placed shot.
“Give me the datapad! Give it to me!” Silas shouted at Adrianna. He didn’t see Khalic approach from the side and snatch the blaster out of his hand. The dealer droids responded with a barrage of blaster fire. The privacy wall behind Silas and Kahlic burst into flames.
A thug snuck up behind Bariss and blasted him from behind in the right hand.
Kelyn drew his blaster and fired at Silas, who side-stepped the shot. Tor walked along the bar, where he had been drowning his sorrows, raised a hand and sent two thugs flying. One of them he recognized as the Kel Dor Shadow he had let go from the hotel suite two nights past.
“I let you go, and this is how you repay me?” Tor barked.
Adrianna rushed Silas with a series of punches that couldn’t get past his armor.
Carson fired at Silas, who stepped back into the flames, which engulfed his shirt. Jacc took the opportunity to move away from Silas.
Tor used the Force to pick up the fallen Kel Dor and fling him at a thug standing close to Adrianna. The Kel Dor died on impact, and the standing thug’s back cracked.
Carson shot at the thug, but the impact of the flying Kel Dor shoved the thug out of Carson’s shot’s path. Silas, unlike Aurra, dropped to the ground and rolled until the flames went out. Khalic turned Silas’s pistol on him and pulled the trigger. The blast hit Silas’s back. Adrianna kicked, connecting with his head. Silas lost the ability to hear, and his head stung with a constant reverberation.
Khalic climbed onto the dealer’s table, pulled out the hydrospanner and tried to disconnect the droid’s power cables. The droid crashed down. Khalic leapt off, keeping his footing. A dealer droid fired at Adrianna, catching her right arm. Another dealer droid caught Bariss in the right leg from behind. Adrianna kicked the goon with the damaged back between the legs. He threw up and fell unconscious.
Bariss blasted at the goon fending off Adrianna. The blast ricocheted off the privacy wall and hit him in the right arm, up the arm and into some vital organs, killing the goon.
Kelyn popped out of the booth and blasted the goon in front of Jacc. The bolt hit the thug in the chest, knocking him unconscious onto the sabbac table.
N3MO stood over Silas, spinning his saw blade. As he swung, the blade popped off the mount, flew across the casino and slammed into the privacy wall behind Vorn Zaday.
Jacc got on the com. “Shut down all droids on the casino floor. I don’t care if it kills the whole grid. Turn it off now!”
“Will do,” the security officer in the back office responded and started typing on the computer station.
Kelyn blasted at a dealer droid, getting his shot between two pieces of armor on an arm joint. The blast went up into the droid’s core and blew it up. He spun toward another droid and blasted part of its armor off.
Adrianna ran up to a prone thug and kicked him in the ribs. The high heels broke a rib which punctured a lung, and the goon died.
The dealer droids pulled themselves higher so they could see all across the casino. Three of them turned their blasters on Kelyn. Blaster bolts flew, catching him in the right arm.
Tor turned to a dealer droid, extended a hand and used the Force to tear the armed dealer out of the ceiling. It fell a meter down, barely able to see over the privacy walls. Its targeting system remained in flux as sparks flew.
Khalic pocketed Silas’s weapon and produced his own specialized machine of death. He turned toward Silas and zapped him. Khalic headed toward another droid. Silas swiped at the mechanic, who shot back, knocking Silas unconscious.
Jacc threw himself onto a sabbac table and blasted at the droids, fighting defensively. Bariss’s shot pounded a droid’s appendage. Carson blasted a droid to where half its chassis lay limp at its side.
N3MO walked over and reattached his saw. He charged the wall blocking a droid and smashed through it. Adrianna sprinted out of the casino door.
Khalic leapt up onto another table and climbed onto the dealer droid. The droid spun and blasted, trying to knock the mechanic free. The droid failed. The hydrospanner got jammed into its innards.
Tor leapt the privacy wall onto the sabbac table. He raised a hand, and the Force blew the droid off the table. It bounced several times and smashed part way through the wall.
Bariss rounded the corner and blasted a droid, which swung on its mount, broke off and smashed part of a wall.
Khalic saw the table vanish beneath him as the dealer droid spun to face Tor. It blasted the Jedi who used the Force to negate the blast’s power. Below Khalic, Moro applauded and took another swig of brandy. The other droid fired at N3MO who swung beneath the blasters to hit the machine. The blast caught N3MO in the thigh. Circuits overloaded. Appendages fell limp, but it remained operational. The droid fired again. N3MO swung high and caused the droid to explode. Moro looked at his drink. “That is one hell of a cocktail.”
The other droid fired a volley at Tor, who summoned the Force to protect him in a shield.
Bariss fired at the droid Khalic dangled from. The mechanic hung on for dear life as the droid shook under the impact. Half the droid collapsed off the chassis. Tor leapt back over the privacy wall, caught his foot and fell prone. The Jedi hurried to his feet before anyone could see his mistake.
Carson knelt next to Adrianna and brought her to. Organs were missing where blaster bolts had hit her. If only he had his surgical kit with him.
Khalic completed ripping the droid’s innards out. It stopped moving. Jacc heard on the com, “Hang on. Execute e-a. They should be off now.”
“Thanks,” Jack muttered. “You’re fired.”
The heroes gathered around Lady Fiorno. “My name is Mirana Fiorno. I’m from Hapes but I’m no noble. My father was a pirate, and I was raised on his ship. I pretended to be a noble woman.”
“Where’s Darga?” Tor asked.
“Docking bay 4414. The other side of the city. He’s been living on his yacht. Now that he has the codes, I doubt he’ll be in Cloud City within the hour.”
“Rest in peace,” Tor said.
“I wish there was more I could do,” Carson said. “You’re missing vital organs.”
“What do you know about the slave transport?” Tor asked.
“The slaves are used up, decrepit. Taken from a secret Imperial project. Darga sells them to slavers at his Cato Neimoidian base. If you wish to catch the Hutt, you must catch him now.”
Fiorno died in Carson’s arms.
The Sarge entered the casino and said on his com, “All security, be on the look out for suspects in file Beta C6. They shot up the Royal Casino and murdered an Imperial officer and Hapes noblewoman. Consider them armed and dangerous.”
Jacc stepped out from under the table. “What are you doing? These guys saved my life.”
“Step away from these criminals Jacc. This is none of your business.”
Tor stepped forward. “Stand out of my way. Provide us with a transport to Docking Bay 4414 or you won’t live to see the outside of this room.”
“You’re the one who won’t survive,” the Sarge threatened.
“Do not mess with me today,” Tor warned.
The Sarge’s mind crumbled under the power of the Force.
Tor stepped over the body and headed for the exit.
Did that really happen? Carson pondered. On every billboard in Cloud City is a picture showing the heroes with the caption: Extremely Dangerous.
“That isn’t even a good picture,” Carson said.
“All right. There’s plenty of scum out there. Let’s win this one for Lt. Arandis, who they cowardly shot down,” an Imperial officer said, bolstering his stormtrooper troops.
Kelyn opened the door to the casino. N3MO ran through and smashed through a door across from him. He wound up on a ledge overlooking Bespin. To his left was a door leading to a bank’s offices.
Tons of laser fire flew from the side of the casino through the doorway N3MO had entered.
Khalic and Tor moved out to see the stormtroopers. Khalic fired. Tor lifted his hand and used Force slam to bowl over a handful of stormtroopers.
The Bespin guards ran from the far side of the platform. “Protect the platform at all costs, men,” the Wing Guard captain commanded. The Wing Guards fired at Tor, pounding him in the back. Carson sat down to apply bacta bandages to Bariss’s injuries.
The Wing Guards turned their blasters to N3MO. Multiple laser blasts slammed into the side of the bank.
Bariss fired at the Wing Guards. One fell over dead and tumbled toward the planet below.
Khalic fired again at the stormtroopers. One fell dead off the platform. The mechanic pulled out a thermal detonator and prepared to set the timer.
Tor looked at the stormtroopers, and half the walkway exploded into flames. The burning troopers flew into the air. Tor looked up at the billboards and saw the combustion broadcast live. Things weren’t looking good. A barrage of blaster bolts flew through the open doors of the traffic control building catching Tor in the side.
Kelyn fired at a stormtrooper, catching him in the foot as he tried to fall back from the crazed Jedi and his well-armed associates.