main
side
curve

Saga - OT My Working Title Is Star Wars Garbage So I'm Going To Stick With That (With Cassian and K-2SO)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Ewoklord, Oct 15, 2017.

  1. Ewoklord

    Ewoklord Jedi Master star 2

    Registered:
    Feb 15, 2014
    Title: Star Wars Garbage (Might Pick Something Better Later)
    Author: Ewoklord
    Timeframe: A vague amount of time before Rogue One
    Characters: Cassian and K-2SO
    Genre: Adventure
    Warnings: Some people get shot? Nothing particularly gruesome or traumatic. General Star Wars fare.
    Notes: Just a story I've been working on for a bit. It's not done, but I figured I might as well put it out somewhere and maybe get some feedback. Expect many errors.

    The man sat on a rusted metal crate, upending his boots to drain them of sand. He would never get used to the conditions of desert planets, plentiful as they were around the galaxy. They always made him think, in contrast, of the icy plains and mountains of his youth. Unpleasant in their own right, but he’d trade anything to be there instead of here. He tapped the sole of his shoe forcefully with the palm of his hand a few times, hoping to dislodge any errant grains. Satisfied, he slipped the shoe back on.

    The large black droid, which had been watching the entire process curiously, slouched forward, gesturing towards the man’s feet.

    “Have you considered sandals?”

    The man smirked involuntarily as he tightened his laces. He stood, holstering the small blaster that lay on the crate next to him. The droid tilted his head, searching for photoreceptor-contact.

    “By my calculations, it would save you at least five minutes per planetary cycle.”

    “I would also look ridiculous, Kaytoo.”

    The droid turned to the door and approximated a sigh.

    “You are far too vain.”

    Blazing sunlight and accompanying heat washed in as the pneumatic door shunted open. The hovel they had been renting for their stay was located on the outskirts of town, unshielded from the frequent sand-storms, which explained the mound of granules that slowly poured its way into the room. The man shielded his eyes with his hand, peering once again into the city streets. Like most mornings, the usual bustle had just begun; vendors pulled their carts into the more profitable inner sectors, some with automated help and some without. A passing shadow offered brief respite from the glare of the sun as a freighter overhead made its way to the city’s starport.

    The droid, now standing outside, turned back to the man.

    “Do you think we will have any more luck today, Cassian?”

    He paused for a moment, long enough to give the impression of waiting for an answer, but short enough not to risk getting one.

    I do not,” he said, turning to the street.

    Cassian stepped over the mound, careful not to spill any sand into his freshly emptied boots.
    “Come on, Kaytoo,” he said, “He’ll have to come back some day.”

    “No, in fact, he does not. There is at least a sixty percent chance he has already left the system.”

    “We’ll just have to hope that’s not the case.”

    The droid paused. “I had not factored hope into the calculations,” he said. He stood still for a second, head tilting slightly as he recalculated. “Amend that, at least an eighty percent chance he has already left the system.”

    Cassian gave the droid a friendly thump on the back.

    “I’ll take those odds.”

    The odd pair made their way through the open streets of the city, keeping watch for Imperial patrols. Their path took them past the grand arena where old spacers claimed they held podraces, before the Empire put a stop to that. He remembered watching bootlegs of similar races in his youth; the speed and excitement was palpable even through the horrendous holo-compression. Another reason to resent the Empire, he thought.

    After a short stop at a small food-cart for an impromptu breakfast, the man and the droid turned the corner into the so-called “Night Life District.” Lined on both sides by restaurants, nightclubs, casinos and cantinas, the street looked considerably grungier in the daytime. Most of the establishments didn’t open until much later, but one sign shone insistently, day or night: Flordan’s Bar. The “F” didn’t shine quite as insistently as the rest.

    “Remember, stay out here, Kaytoo. We don’t want to spook him if he does arrive.”

    “Oh, yes. I am so scary.”

    Cassian looked the droid up and down quickly. “You’re seven feet tall and painted entirely black.”

    “Well, that is not my fault.”

    Cassian double-checked his holster before entering through the front door.

    “Have fun drinking without me,” Kaytoo called from behind him. “Again.”



    ******

    Water seeped in through the bars of the unusually moist prison cell. The diplomat’s arm ached where it had been fractured, punctuated semi-often with sharp spurts of pain. Thankfully she still had three she could use. By her reckoning it was the tenth or eleventh day she’d been in this cell, it was difficult to keep exact track without any natural lighting, as well as being on a planet with a bi-solar cycle she wasn’t entirely familiar with. She pondered why she even attempted to keep track of the days, for it was only a matter of time before it just became depressing.

    The now-familiar squeals of her captors echoed down the hall of cells, bringing with them the daily meal. It was only a meal by the loosest of definitions. As her green, snout-nosed guard pushed the bowl towards her, she once again found herself resisting the urge to vomit. She peered into the bowl, covering her nose and attempting to discern anything that looked even slightly edible. A chunk of what looked to be a dianoga tentacle squirmed slightly near the edge of the broth, and she quickly plucked it out and swallowed it. It wasn’t the most pleasant sensation as it made its way down her long neck, but it was food. She spent the next few minutes looking for anything half as edible, with only slight success.

    As she pushed the now half-empty bowl away, she heard another set of footsteps make their way down the hall. Not as plodding or ponderous as those of her guards, these steps sounded as if they were placed very deliberately. She knew these steps.

    The constantly sweaty Twi’lek slid into view, garbed entirely in black. His bulbous head-tails twitched lightly, wrapped around his neck like a grotesque scarf.

    Ta Grancha Jabba naga tah stuka chuba,” he said in the only language he seemed to speak. Inconveniently, it wasn’t one that the diplomat understood, but she had heard this phrase enough times to know what it meant.

    She nodded, and the greasy Twi’lek fished a key from somewhere in his robes and opened the cell door. Like many times before, she was escorted through the labyrinthine tunnels of this ‘palace,’ wending their way up from the depths of the dungeon to what she figured functioned as a makeshift ‘throne room.’ She had tried to memorize the exact route they took her on to get to the throne room, but after the fourth visit she realized that each time the route was almost entirely different.

    This time it brought her through a large congregation of the black, spider-like beings that seemed to roam the halls freely, even at times passing by her cell in the dungeons. The way their orange brains hung, pulsing in the jars beneath their mechanical bodies unnerved the diplomat, and she tried not to look too closely at any of them as the mass parted to let the group through.

    Soon after, the Twi’lek led her into the familiar large throne room, which was currently littered with the prone, sleeping bodies of numerous alien species. In the dim distant end of the room, she could barely make out the large mass of flesh that sat in its customary place atop a moving platform. The Twi’lek ushered her onward, and the mass came into clearer view, gaining a sickly green color and a tail that wriggled back and forth slowly. Beneath two orange eyes set high in its slug-like form, a dripping tongue lolled lazily out of a wide mouth. To the form’s left stood a dull blue droid, caked with months’ worth of slime.

    The large orange eyes focused on the diplomat as she approached, and the slug’s tongue twitched sporadically. It bellowed something in the same unintelligible language as the Twi’lek, motioning its arms towards the diplomat. The droid stepped forward slightly.

    “The Jabba of Hutt once again urges you to divulge any information about his activities you have shared with your colleagues in the Senate,” it said in its metallic voice.

    Both the droid and the slug waited expectantly for an answer. The diplomat’s arm once again jolted with pain, but she did not allow herself to cry out. She levelled her eyes with the slug’s, and repeated what she had told him every time before.

    “I have told the Senate nothing. I know nothing. I don’t understand why you refuse to believe me.”

    The first part was true, at least.

    The slug once again bellowed something unintelligible.

    “The Jabba of Hutt warns you that his patience wears thin. He is strongly tempted to let you serve as a snack for one of his multitudes of pets.”

    The diplomat had seen a selection of these on her many treks to the throne room. None of them seemed particularly pleasant to be consumed by.

    “I strongly advise that you let me return to the Senate at once. An official investigation into my disappearance will be launched shortly, if it hasn’t already. I highly doubt you want an Imperial platoon knocking on your door.”

    The slug laughed a deep, echoing laugh.

    “The Jabba of Hutt has no fear of the Empire.”


    ******

    Standing aboard the bridge of the Arquitens-class light cruiser, the Imperial officer used her sleeve to polish the new pip on her rank badge. Agent, it informed any onlookers. A rank to be proud of. This assignment, however, was a different story. An entirely unimportant Xexto diplomat named Nel Dira had never appeared at her scheduled report on crime in the Outer Rim, and friends in the Senate had badgered the Imperial Security Bureau into an official investigation. Not a glamorous start for the ISB’s most promising new agent, she thought, but dues had to be paid.

    The desert planet loomed continually closer in the viewport, the light blue atmosphere forming a half-ring around the edge of the tan surface. Tatooine. A backwater if she’d ever seen one, but this is where the trail led. Reports placed bounty hunter Tharen Gol in the vicinity of the disappeared diplomat, and he’d recently resurfaced at local watering holes in the cities, if you could call them that, of Mos Espa and Mos Eisley.

    She moved forward, placing herself directly behind the helmsman. She always loved how her cream uniform contrasted with the black or grey of non-Intelligence personnel. Often non-intelligent personnel as well, she thought.

    “Helmsman,” she said, waiting for the man to transfer his focus from the complex trajectory calculations required in entering a planet’s atmosphere. The helmsman’s head turned slowly, eyes sticking to the dash a few seconds longer.

    “Agent Visant?”

    She couldn’t help but smile at the sound of her new title.

    “Put us down near Mos Espa,” she said, “I’d like to investigate there first.”

    “Right away, sir.”

    Agent Visant glanced out the front viewport one more time, then returned to her quarters. The door scanned her code cylinder as she approached, opening in time for her long stride to carry her through without pause. The small living quarters were largely unadorned, she hadn’t much time to settle in to her new assignment. On her desk sat a holophoto of another woman, one who looked much like Visant, but older. She wore a uniform in the more fluid, softer style of the Galactic Republic, and in her arms held a small child.

    Visant gave the holophoto a nod, and lay down on her bed. The provided mattress was much firmer than she preferred; she’d have to get another one moved in eventually. Her personal datapad pinged, notifying her of a received message. Rolling over on the bed, she grabbed the device, which lay face-down on a nearby table. The message was from a cousin, congratulating her on the recent promotion. News had apparently trickled down to her family in the mid-rim, it always took a couple cycles. The ship began to shake somewhat, signaling its entrance into the planet’s atmosphere.


    ******

    The rebel’s eyes flicked from face to alien face as he nursed his Jawa Juice. The Bantha Burger he had ordered an hour or so ago sat half-eaten on the duraplast plate in front of him. He had tried to put on a hopeful face for Kaytoo’s benefit, but Cassian knew in his gut this mission was a failure. There wasn’t anything they could have done. He played enough Sabacc to know that sometimes you just got dealt a bad hand. But every time he thought of that Xexto out there, his gut tightened.

    He knew that at any point in time she could spill her guts, both literally and figuratively. She didn’t know enough about the Rebellion for that to be a real threat to the organization, but the results of her investigation were vital to the effort. And the only people who wouldn’t want her dead over that information were the ones looking for her. He sighed deeply and sunk into the cushions of the repurposed grav-couch. He again thumbed his commlink.

    “Seen anything Kaytoo?”

    “Nothing out here,” the voice replied, crackling from the compression. “How does it look in there?”

    “A real party, only it seems Gol didn’t get the invitation.”

    “Perhaps he is fashionably late?”

    Cassian sighed. “Maybe, Kaytoo. Keep me updated.”

    “I will do that.”

    Cassian fit the commlink snugly into its holster, before resuming his scan of the patrons. The bar was filled with a variety of species from throughout the galaxy, somehow without a single Bith. At least that made it easy to tell he was wasting his time. He took another short sip of his Jawa Juice. The back entrance of the bar shunted open, sticking about halfway, as it always did. Cassian turned to the noise, preparing to add another count to the “Not Tharen Gol” tally, but wait- Silhouetted by the light from outside, a familiarly bulbous head awkwardly shuffled its way into the room. Supported by a tall, lanky body, the being now made its way to the bar, head slowly turning to survey the room. Cassian was quick to note the heavy blaster pistol slung low on the Bith’s hip. He stood, placing his glass on the table next to the burger, and carefully unbuttoned the latch on his own holster.

    The Bith motioned the bartender over, asking the old Neimoidian for a hard liquor, any hard liquor. Cassian picked his way through the crowd, eyes fixed on the newcomer. He whispered into the commlink.

    “Kaytoo, I think I see him.”

    “Would you like me to subdue him?”

    “No, I’m going to talk to him. Stay outside.”

    “You never let me talk to them.”

    “Quiet, Kaytoo.”

    The seat next to the Bith was empty, and Cassian slid easily into it. He took a moment to ensure that his safety was off, before tapping his target’s shoulder.

    “Excuse me,” he said, affecting an accent reminiscent of the Expansion Regions, “but I just have to ask you something.”

    The Bith turned, his large dark eyes narrowing in annoyance. “What?”

    “I said, I just have to ask you something.”

    “No, I know that, I mean-” The Bith’s head turned to the sight of the bartender bringing out a bottle of Corellian Whiskey that looked about as aged as he was. After a moment, he focused his eyes back on the unwelcome intrusion. “Spit it out.”

    “Why, you wouldn’t happen to be Tharen Gol, the Tharen Gol?”

    The Bith squinted suspiciously. “Who’s asking?”

    “Jif Gruben. I have a job you may be interested in.”

    Tharen shrugged and turned away. “Not taking jobs right now.”

    Cassian placed his hand on the mercenary’s shoulder, turning him back around. “It’ll be worth your while.”

    The Bith’s hand shot up, grabbing Cassian by the wrist. “I said, I’m not taking jobs right now.”

    A small yellow light appeared on Cassian’s belt. Not now Kaytoo! From it came a tinny voice.

    “Cassian! Stormtroopers!”

    The Bith looked down at the noise, momentarily confused. His eyes darted to the unclipped blaster hanging at Cassian’s side.

    “Who-?”

    Cassian reached for his blaster with his free hand, but not fast enough! Tharen pushed hard against Cassian’s chest, sending him tumbling from the seat. Gol reached for his own blaster, but Cassian’s foot shot out, spinning the chair. As Tharen attempted to extricate himself from the chair, Cassian stood up, once again reaching for his blaster. He levelled it at his target, saying “I don’t want to-”

    But Gol’s hands were once again too quick, batting the blaster’s barrel away and pulling Cassian in. A quick jab bloodied Cassian’s nose, but he responded with a headbutt, aimed at the divot in the alien’s forehead. Tharen staggered back, steadying himself on the counter. Cassian ducked to avoid the bottle of Corellian Whiskey aimed at his head, then launched himself into the still unsteady mercenary. His arms wrapped around the Bith’s neck, awkwardly attempting to force him into a headlock.

    “I just… want to… ta-”

    Cassian gasped as Gol’s fists found their target in his groin. Taking advantage of the loosened grip, Gol freed himself and kicked his assailant into the nearest table. Cassian attempted to get to his feet, but found no purchase, as he was suddenly hefted upwards by his armpits. A large Besalisk had grabbed him, and pinned his arms to his side. Cassian looked over to where Gol had been, and saw that he was in a similar predicament. The Besalisk’s hot breath smelled of overripe fruit.

    “No fightin’.”

    Cassian flailed his feet, to no avail. They wiggled about a few feet off the ground, kicking at air. The Besalisk gave him a hard squeeze, and Cassian got the picture. He relaxed, watching as the other bouncer hefted Gol over his shoulder. Patrons’ heads turned to watch as the two fighters were unceremoniously dragged to the entrance and deposited in the sand outside. Cassian noted with annoyance the granules that leaked into his boots, before rising to his feet. He and Gol both looked to the towering bouncers, who still stood in the doorway.

    “Don’t come back.”

    The door closed quickly, and the two outside eyed each other cautiously. Cassian caught his breath.

    “I just want to talk.”

    “That’s why you brought a blaster, huh?”

    “Necessary precautions.”

    “Thought I wouldn’t like what you had to say?”

    “Maybe. I need to know the whereabouts of Nel Dira. Thought you might know something about that.”

    “Nel Dira? Never heard of her.”

    Cassian’s eyes narrowed. “I don’t have time for this. I’m willing to pay you for this information.”

    “Pay me what? A private planet? A new identity? I’ll need them if I ever rat.”
    “I’m willing to-”

    Cassian’s eyes flashed to the side as he heard familiar loping footsteps approach.

    “Cassian!” Kaytoo said, coming to a stop, “I was trying to tell you about the Stormtroopers. Did you hear me?”

    “Yes, Kaytoo. I heard you.”

    “Good. Because they are right over there.” His arm lifted, pointing to a white-clad group turning the corner onto the street.

    “Stop right there,” the one in front said, “We’ll need to see your identification.”

    As the Stormtroopers approached, Cassian and Tharen’s eyes met. They nodded simultaneously. Gol turned to the Stormtroopers. “What’s this all about?”

    “We’re searching for fugitives from the Emperor’s justice. Please present your identification.”
    As the two spoke Cassian nodded to his droid companion, who then sidled up next to the troopers. The one in front turned to face him. “KX-series droid, why are you not at your post? What are you doing here?”

    The droid focused his photoreceptors downward. “Facilitating human-cyborg relations.” He grabbed the lead Stormtrooper by the arm, swinging him bodily into his comrades. The Stormtroopers released a collective exclamation of surprise as the mass of white armor tumbled and clanked to the sandy ground. Tharen Gol quickly grabbed for his blasters and fired them into the mound. Screams and groans emanated from the group as he picked off the prone troopers. Finished, he holstered one blaster and turned to the droid next to him.

    “Thanks.” From his belt, he pulled a small, round device: a restraining bolt! He slapped it onto Kaytoo’s chest, and it quickly magnetized. The droid judderingly attempted to face his friend.

    “Cassian!”

    “I see it Kaytoo!”

    Tharen sprinted from the scene, Cassian’s bolts exploding puffs of dirt at his feet. Cassian slowed as he passed Kaytoo, but the droid’s protestations spurred him onwards. “Go on, I have subroutines for this.”

    Cassian saw Tharen disappear around the corner of the bar, but he wasn’t out of sight for long. Turning the corner, Cassian ducked out of the way as a swoop-bike bearing his target nearly took his head off. He spun to watch the bike go, but his eyes landed on a two-seated speeder slowly cruising down the main road. He ran to it, launching himself onto its hood with a thud.

    “Sorry.” He swung his legs into the driver’s seat, forcing the Chadra-Fan pilot from the vehicle with a squeak. The swoop-bike was still visible down the road, though the distance was growing every second. He floored the accelerator. Gol turned back to laugh at his defeated pursuer, but was surprised to see the two-seated speeder bearing down on him. Anxious to preserve his lead, he turned left into a convenient side-road, aiming to lose him in the streets. Cassian dumped power into the speeder’s repulsors and angled himself at the mass of short buildings to his left. The speeder rose quickly, clearing the buildings and cutting across the block diagonally. Below him, he could see the swoop-bike turning repeatedly as it navigated the maze of side-streets.

    Gol turned towards the source of the loud, mechanical whine, and was greeted with the sight of a large speeder hovering above the buildings behind him. He rocketed down a straightaway, barely missing a passing merchant’s cart, and set his sights on the outskirts of town. Cassian knew that once they got out of the city he would be left behind in a cloud of dust, so he un-holstered his blaster and tried to get a bead on his fleeing target. He was moving far too fast. The barrel of Cassian’s blaster flared red, and a chunk of wall to the swoop-bike’s right exploded in a flash. It was no use; he’d have to figure something else out. The whine from his repulsors increased in both intensity and pitch; they were overloading. He eased back on them and the speeder dropped to ground-level.

    The swoop-bike made one last turn into entrance plaza of the city, sending crowds of bystanders scrambling for safety. Cassian arrived seconds later.

    “Move! Move! Get out of the way!”

    Thankfully the crowds had slowed his quarry as well. But not enough! Gol cleared the entrance of the city, speeding out into the desert wastes beyond. Cassian punched the repulsors up once again, their whine grated his ears as they lifted the speeder above the crowd. He pushed himself up from the seat and stepped over the windshield, coming to a kneel on the hood. Seconds wasting, he extended his blaster to sniper configuration and brought the scope to his eye.

    He centered it on the bike, still hoping to take Gol alive.

    He thumbed the aim-correction button, which locked onto the bike’s heat signature.

    He took a half breath.

    The recoil punched the rifle’s butt into his shoulder. In the distance, the bike spun out of control, tumbling into a dune.

    The whine from the speeder’s repulsors reached an eardrum-piercing crescendo, before cutting out entirely. Cassian found the floor drop out from beneath him as his borrowed speeder plummeted to the street below. The air rushed from his lungs as he landed hard on the hood. He rolled off into the sand.


    ******

    “What do you mean they haven’t reported back?”

    Agent Visant wheeled to face her black-clad communications officer. The flat city of Mos Espa stretched out ahead of the Arquitens, a thousand feet below. The communications officer seemed somewhat confused by her question.

    “I-… they haven’t reported back, sir. We sent them on patrol but lost contact 10 minutes ago.”

    “Where did we lose them?”

    “They were heading to the entertainment district. Sir.”

    Visant scoffed at the idea of worthwhile ‘entertainment’ on a backwater such as this. “Send another squad. And contact local authorities.”

    “They haven’t been cooperative so far, sir.”

    “Well then let’s see if we can’t convince them to be more welcoming. Land close to their headquarters, I would like to have a word.”

    “Right away, sir.”


    ******

    Cassian…

    His vision blinked in and out of focus as his body shifted gently.

    Cassian… Are you alive?”

    He groaned.

    “You seem to be in pain. Good. That is preferable to being dead.”

    The large black droid came into focus, standing above him. The droid pulled himself up to its full height. “Imperial business,” he broadcasted loudly to the gaggle of onlookers, “Please go about your business.” He reached down and grabbed Cassian’s arm to pull him to his feet. Cassian dusted himself off.

    “Thanks, Kaytoo.”

    “Were you successful in your pursuit?”

    “Let’s find out.”

    The pair made their way through the crowd, Kaytoo’s repeated exclamations of “Imperial business” sent bystanders scurrying out of the way. When they reached the entrance of the city, Cassian stopped to pull out his quadnoculars. He focused them on the smoke rising in the distance. “It’s not looking promising.”

    “I concur.”

    Minutes later, they arrived at the scene. The swoop-bike had tumbled end over end, and it looked like its rider’s foot had caught in a strap. Consequently, Tharen lay next to the smoking husk, foot still in strap, neck and limbs splayed at awkward angles.

    “Congratulations!” Kaytoo exclaimed. “You stopped his escape.”

    “We were supposed to ask him about Nel Dira.”

    Kaytoo looked down at the still body. “Where is Nel Dira?”

    There was no reply.

    “It appears he does not know.”

    “I could tell.”

    Cassian plopped down on the non-smoking part of the wreck and, one at a time, emptied his boots of sand. He looked at the body and sighed. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go at all. He wasn’t sure what to do next.

    “What should we do next?” his companion asked.

    “Whatever passes for local authority will probably be looking for us. As well as the new Imperial presence. I don’t know, Kaytoo.” He stood and stretched his legs, and then he approached the body. “You should have just answered my questions.” He nudged the Bith’s face with his foot, turning it to the side. “Sorry.” Crouching down, he wedged his hands beneath the body’s torso and lifted. The body flipped, lying face-up as dark blood pooled in the sand. Cassian patted down Gol’s jacket, feeling for any lumps in pockets or secret pouches.

    “What’s this?” He pulled a small electronic device from the interior left pocket. It was a rectangle, only slightly larger than an Imperial credit chit. The burnished bronze finish bore no discernable inscriptions. He handed it to Kaytoo. “Can you run a scan?”

    “Of course.” The droid took the device in one hand while his other folded back, revealing a skinny interfacing unit. He stuck it into the opening, and his photoreceptors defocused. Cassian waited a few moments, searching for anything else of note on Gol’s body. Kaytoo removed the interfacing unit from the device. “It is a credit chit.”

    “Not standard, by the looks of it.”

    “Not Imperial credit, the device seems to have originated on Nal Hutta. It is for gambling.”

    “Can you tell how much it’s worth?”

    “Forty-six thousand, three hundred and thirty-two standard Imperial credits.”

    “Explains why he was celebrating. Come on, Kaytoo, let’s get out of here.”

    “Where are we going?”

    “How do you like gambling?”


    ******

    Nel Dira had a plan. It wasn’t a good plan, she knew that. But it was a plan. Her feet splashed about in the shallow water of her cell as she paced impatiently. She had tried sticking her long neck out through the bars to call a guard, but there had been no response. So, she waited.

    What seemed like hours passed. Still no one came. She sat down, ready to accept defeat, at least for today, when she heard something approaching in the distance. Not the plodding footsteps of her porcine guards, or the ballet-dancer steps of the greasy Twi’lik. But a soft, metal tink-tink-tink. She knew the sound. It was the sound of those horrid spider-like droids and their spindly legs. She approached the bars and stuck her head through. Down the hall to her left, she could see a shape crawling its way through the darkness, tink-tink-tink-ing as it did so. She shivered involuntarily. She would never get used to those things. But-

    She called out. “Hey!” She motioned frantically with three of her four, slender arms. “You! Uh…” She realized she wasn’t entirely sure what that thing was. “Spider… droid?” She continued to flail her arms, hoping to grab its attention.

    Tink-tink…tink.

    It turned on its thin legs and stopped in the middle of the hallway. What seemed to be the front of it was now facing toward her, its brain glowed orange in its briny liquid. “Yeah, you!” The Xexto said, pointing. “Over here.” She shook her head vigorously, her neck undulating. The thing tink-tinked its way closer to her bars. It stood in front of her. She squinted at it, unable to discern anything useful from its robotic appearance. “Uh…” she stammered, “What’s your name?”

    The being stood silently for a moment, before responding with an intense barrage of clicking noises.

    “I’m sorry, I don’t understand that language. Do you speak basic?”

    The being paused once again, then said “Mo gootu?”

    “Sorry, I don’t speak that either.”

    The brain pulsated softly. The being’s vocoder then blurted “Mmyes, is this understandable, then? A real, wotsit, common tongue, yes?”

    Dira smiled. “Yes! Yes, I understand you now.”

    “Good, then. What’s the meaning of this intrusion? You’ve yanked me out of contemplative thought, and there had better be a cracking good reason.”

    “Sorry,” she said, “but I’ve been imprisoned here for the last few weeks, and I was wondering if you would do something for me.”

    “Do something?” The spider took a half step back. “Pah! We B’omarr Monks are beyond the frivolities of ‘doing things.’ Absurd! Laughable!”

    Dira was taken aback. “What? You don’t do anything?”

    “Right, you seem to be fairly uninformed about the whole ‘Monk’ thing. We, I, have ascended beyond corporeal form, into-”

    “-a brain in a jar?”

    “Well, yes, technically. But it’s what it means. Symbolically.”

    “And what’s that?”

    “We’ve learned all there is to learn. We’ve become, wotsit, beings of pure knowledge.”

    The gears began to turn in the diplomat’s slender head. It was a long shot, but worth a try. “So, you’ve learned everything, then?”

    “Yes. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be a, as you so eloquently put it, brain in a jar.”

    “Then it would follow that you know everything, correct?”

    “It would, yes.”

    “What would happen if you helped me escape?”

    “Well,” he thought for a moment, “I wouldn’t do that. So, nothing.”

    “Say you did, what would happen?”

    “That’s a preposterous question.”

    “Are you telling me you don’t know?”

    “No, I-” he tinked backwards. “That doesn’t count.”

    “Oho,” Dira laughed. “Solid excuse right there.”

    “It’s not an excuse.”

    “When has ‘that doesn’t count’ ever not been an excuse?”

    “You’re an absurd creature, and I will no longer subject myself to your ravings.”

    As the spider-creature-thing moved away, Dira called out “Your brain doesn’t deserve that jar!”

    Furious, he rapidly tinked his way right up to the bars, pointing a spindly leg accusingly. “You take that back!”

    “I’m just saying, you can’t claim to know everything when you spend every day walking the same halls. How long have you been here?”

    He thought for a bit. “Two-hundred and seventy-six cycles, almost exactly.”

    “Who protects the galaxy?”

    The droid-brain scoffed. “Why, the Jedi and the Republic of course! Everyone knows that!”

    “Wrong.”

    “What?”

    “The Jedi were wiped out, and the Republic is no longer. The galaxy is now under jurisdiction of the Galactic Empire.”

    “I have no records of this.”

    “Maybe it’s because your records are two-hundred and seventy-seven-”

    “-six”

    “-six years old. The galaxy’s moved on. You-” she rapped the top of his metal carapace, “are out of date.”

    The orange brain that floated in its jar seemed to twist inward on itself, pondering the situation laid before it. It came to a conclusion. “I could do with an… update, of sorts. How would you propose this be done?”

    “Though the guards seem to have abandoned me for now, they’ll be back. Do you think you could manage to grab the key from one of their belts?”

    “That should be possible.”

    “Also, what’s your name? I probably- probably should’ve asked that earlier.”

    “At one point I was known as Farin. Now I go by The Enlightened Being of Eternal Knowledge.”

    “Mind if I just call you Farin?”

    “Not particularly.”

    “Good. Now keep an, uh, eye out for those guards.”


    ******

    Cassian Andor squeezed a packet of nutrient liquid into his open mouth, barely gagging at the dusty taste. He opened his eyes and two of his fingers pushed and prodded at the uneven chrome container. They pushed one final bubble of thick liquid through the hastily torn hole at the corner. Satisfied he had gotten most of it, Cassian tossed the wrapper out the open window of the taxi.

    Kaytoo’s head lazily followed the shining packet as the wind caught it, eventually forcing it to the never-ending sand that moved quickly underneath. “Littering? My, you are a rebel.”

    A quick smile touched Cassian’s lips as he rolled his eyes. The last hour-and-a-half had been relatively free of their usual banter; they could never be sure if the surly Weequay up front had really soundproofed the cabin. Up ahead the dunes gave way to more solid ground, brown sandstone chunks jutted up from the flats. Cassian leaned his head out the window. His hair flapped about from the speed and stinging granules kept his eyes at a permanent squint, but sitting atop a rise in the terrain he could make out the distinctive flat dome of Jabba’s Palace.

    He returned his head to the safety of the cabin. “Nearly there.”

    “May I remind you that I am equipped with a state of the art planetary coordinate system?”

    “You may not.”

    “Well.” The dull black droid, crammed uncomfortably into a seat many sizes too small, repeatedly flicked the locking mechanism of the nearest door. “You know,” he said, after a medium-length stretch of silence, “sometimes I wonder why you do not utilize me to my fullest capacity.”


    “What do you mean by that?”

    “I mean that I am a highly advanced military security droid, outfitted with cutting edge sensors and analytical suites, yet often you would prefer to, both metaphorically and literally, stick your head out the window like a badly trained kath hound.”

    “Sometimes you have to fly by instinct, Kaytoo. Those sensors don’t give you the full picture.”

    “They receive the full picture in considerably more wavelengths than you seem to be aware of.”

    “That’s not what I mean. It’s the…” he paused, searching for a better word, “human element.”

    “Do humans possess an additional sensory gland that my records do not indicate?”

    “No, Kaytoo, it’s not specific to humans. Or organics, even. It’s trusting your… core self. Over your senses.”

    “That sounds both irresponsible and stupid.” Kaytoo shook his head slowly.

    Cassian sighed. “It is.”

    The two sat in silence for the remainder of the ride. The cheap speeder-taxi crested the final hill, arriving at a towering brown door cut into the side of a large temple. Cassian lifted the side-door of the enclosed speeder and slid out. He stood alternatingly on one leg, and then the other, attempting to get the blood flowing again. K-2SO unfolded himself from the opposite seat and rose to his rather impressive (if slouched) height. The Weequay barked something in heavily slurred Huttese, Cassian nodded in response and tossed a small bag of coins through the front window.

    “What do you think?” He asked his lumbering companion.

    “It is definitely large.”

    “Very insightful, Kaytoo.”

    The pair stood at the base of the massive door, their forms dwarfed by the mass of rusted metal. With a loud clank, something resembling a robotic eye on a stick shot forward from a hole slightly above Cassian’s head. It spat out a short, sharp question in Huttese.

    “Jif Gruben, and this is-”

    Another clipped sentence. The eye snapped to stare at Kaytoo.

    “This is my droid companion, KX-37. Don’t worry, he’s entirely reprogrammed.”

    “Blast the Empire!” Kaytoo chimed in.

    The eye snapped back to Cassian. It waited expectantly.

    Cassian fished in his jacket pocket and pulled out the credit chit. He held it close to the mechanical eye. “We’re here to try our luck. We came into a windfall recently, and we’d like to multiply it.”


    The eye stared at the chit for a few moments. Wordlessly, it shot back into the hole in the door, which clanked shut. Suddenly, the massive rusted block began to rise.
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2018
    Ewok Poet and Kahara like this.
  2. Kahara

    Kahara Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 3, 2001
    If this is garbage, then I guess I love garbage!



    Seriously, this is off to a good start. My favorite parts are every single thing K-2SO says and Nel's hilarious negotiations with the brain spider.

    Unsolicited advice: It's a bit longer of a chapter than most writers post here. I don't mean that as a critique or value judgment; I just know that most of us here read longer stories in tiny increments. (Me, for example. I have a day job and the attention span of a hummingbird.) If it's in smaller chunks, it's likely more people will read the story. Makes it easier to find where you left off reading.

    [face_laugh]
     
    Ewok Poet and Ewoklord like this.
  3. Ewoklord

    Ewoklord Jedi Master star 2

    Registered:
    Feb 15, 2014
    Thanks! Yeah, I agree on the length; this wasn't really something I was writing with the intent to post, so I just kind of copy and pasted what I had when I made the decision. The next segments (whenever that happens) will probably be quite a bit shorter.
     
    Kahara and Ewok Poet like this.
  4. Sith-I-5

    Sith-I-5 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 14, 2002
    Due to my own circumstances, and nothing to do with your story, I read up to the diplomat being taken up to the throne room, and realising that she was being taken different routes.

    I thought you caught K2-S0's voice, manner, and the dynamic between him and Cassian really well; and was very impressed with your description of the desert planet, hovel that let sand in through not being shielded, and the town's morning economy and traffic.

    I was smirking from the droid's observations and suggestion that Cassian could wear sandals.

    Good beginnings.

    8/10

    PS. I wasn't going to mention the length, but I just spotted Kahara mentioning it above. I was initially reading this on my phone as it recharged on my bed. Later, calling the story up on my actual PC, seeing the length of your post actually put me off trying to take up where I left off, and to just write the review.
     
    Kahara, Ewok Poet and Ewoklord like this.
  5. PlanetSmasher

    PlanetSmasher Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Mar 14, 2017
    I don't understand this "length" reasoning at all. Either it's interesting and it hooks you, or it does not. If you're hooked, you just want to keep reading.

    I was definitely hooked. I started reading while I was at work, and stopped at the part where Cassian permanently, and unintentionally, stopped Theran's escape.... Then I resumed and finished it when I got home. It was a very good read, and I look forward to more.

    If you are worried about length, then look for natural ends of scenes to start a new chapter. For example, at the end of Agent Visant's scene as the ship entered the atmosphere could end chapter one. Where Cassian ask's Kaytoo, "How do you like gambling?" - could end chapter two. Finally, where the big door starts to open for Cassian and Kaytoo, could end chapter three. A chapter per post.

    But like I said before, I found the story engaging enough that I WANTED to keep reading to the end, and I did. I will say this, however, before I started reading, I did think, "Whoa! That's long! If you hadn't hooked me, I would have stopped reading. Think of this, however. Even if it were short chapters, if I wasn't hooked, I would have stopped reading anyway.

    But I was hooked. So, yeah. I'm looking forward to more.

    EDIT:

    As far as titles go, how about a generic, "The Adventures of Cassian and Kaytoo." Or, "The comedically generic, "The Misadventures of Cassian, and His Lovable Droid, K-2SO." Or.... (I'm being silly about the titles, don't pay any mind to that part.)
     
    Kahara, Ewok Poet and Ewoklord like this.
  6. Ewoklord

    Ewoklord Jedi Master star 2

    Registered:
    Feb 15, 2014
    Agent Visant’s lips twitched into a satisfied smirk as she looked across the desk at the badge-wearing, tusk-quivering Aqualish who passed as local law enforcement. His empty resistance had quaked and crumbled under the weight of true Imperial authority, as was always the case for backwater sheriffs.

    “Orta ortunga wota,” he said. Roughly translated: “I will cooperate fully, please to not kill me for I am a coward who flees at the first sign of danger and a clear symptom of the disease infecting the galaxy to which the Empire is the cure.”

    A curt “As expected,” was deemed the only necessary reply. The Aqualish flopped his unwieldy flippers onto the control console on his desk, bringing up a myriad of holograms, each depicting various intersections and street corners. He narrowed the selection to only those near Flordan’s Bar, where the missing patrol had been found piled. Many had survived their wounds, but were in no state to give a report. The holo keyed backwards quickly, showing the secondary patrol drag their bodies into place, drop them, and then leave. The bodies sat in a mound for a time, before a collection of scum-types ran into view in reverse. He paused the recording as the large, familiar droid held one Stormtrooper high above the others.

    Agent Visant leaned closer to the holo, its low-quality blue interlacing obscuring much of the detail. One thing was for certain, however: that droid was a KX-series enforcer droid. Imperial make; using Stormtroopers as a blunt weapon was definitely against its programming. The other two figures were much less clear. Both were vaguely humanoid, one’s head was noticeably larger than the other. A Duros, perhaps, or a Neimoidian. The hologram rewound slowly. The two humanoids had been escorted out, and seemed to be at each other’s throats. A barfight gone out of control? Possibly. But why execute Stormtroopers over a simple barfight? And there was still that mystery KX droid. Visant had heard they were somewhat susceptible to reprogramming, but something wasn’t right about this.

    “Can we see where they went?”

    The sheriff played the holo forward in real-time. The KX droid seemed allied with the less bulbous humanoid. The view then changed, a different holo-camera in a different intersection, following the two humanoids. They switched from holo-camera to holo-camera for a time, tracking the speeder pursuit, the less bulbous one’s speeder disappearing entirely for a time. Finally, the larger speeder crashed to the ground in the middle of a crowded square, sending its pilot tumbling into the sand. Crowds dutifully parted around this tableau, and a few minutes later the KX droid came to its owner’s aid. They both soon disappeared from view of any holo-cameras.

    “Where is this?” Visant asked.

    “Karuta nnuota,” the Aqualish replied blubberingly, bringing up a map.

    Agent Visant nodded. She turned to the troopers flanking the door behind her. “Comb this to see if they pop up again.” She stopped in the doorway of the sheriff’s office. “Of course, I expect full cooperation. Those options I presented earlier are still on the table, if you would rather.”

    She wasn’t sure if the squeal that followed her out was any word in particular, but it was easily translatable nonetheless.

    The Patrol Transport that had shuttled her to the surface waited expectantly outside, its repulsors still thrumming. The deep vibrations of the ship resounded in her chest as she made her way up the strangely precarious steps to the passenger hold. The white-clad squad arrayed around the perimeter regrouped, joining her aboard. The orange-pauldroned Sergeant straightened. “Sir.”

    Visant replied with a quick nod. “Take me to the large square to the north of here,” she said into her commlink, “You’ll know it when you see it.” The repulsors thrummed louder as the ship began its ascent. With her free hand, she pressed down on her black cap, securing it against the turbulent winds of takeoff.

    A few minutes later, her commlink blinked. “Is that it, Agent?”

    The Patrol Transport swiveled in the air, presenting her with an unobstructed view of Mos Espa’s entrance plaza. “Yes, that’s the one. Put us down near the center.” She scanned the plaza as her transport skimmed low over the crowds. “There,” she said, pointing. The transport blared its klaxon briefly, warning the masses of civilians out of the way as it landed. Visant lowered her hand from her cap to the blaster at her hip as she stepped off the side, bee-lining for the crashed speeder. The crowd parted in front of her with excited mumbling; no one wanted to be in the way of an ISB Agent with a determined look on their face. Diminutive robed creatures gathered around the wreck, chattering animatedly with each other, yanking off bits of plating and scraps of electronics from the husk. Before she knew it, her blaster was in hand, pointing straight into the air. She squeezed twice and the brown robes scattered into the general bustle.

    What was left of the speeder seemed rather run-of-the-mill. The repulsor drive was completely burned out, taxed beyond its limits, explaining the crash. The hood bore a large dent, presumably from the humanoid who had fallen rather forcefully onto it only an hour or so earlier. Why had he been standing on the hood? Not a safe place to fly a speeder, and he did have his weapon drawn…

    She stepped onto the hood of the speeder and looked straight ahead. Nothing. She considered the burned out repulsor drive and motioned to her Stormtrooper sergeant, who was busy telling onlookers to “Clear the area.”

    “You there. I need you to climb up here with me.”

    The Sergeant nodded in affirmation, and stepped up onto the trashed speeder.

    “Right. Now I’ll need you to put me on your shoulders.”

    The trooper paused for a moment. “Uh, yes sir.” He bent his legs and Agent Visant clambered onto his back, slipping momentarily on the smooth plasteel armor. He straightened up.

    There was something in the distance, now. She could barely see it.

    “Sergeant.”

    “Yes, sir?”

    “Electrobinoculars.”

    “Yes, sir,” he said, releasing one of her legs to grab at his belt. For a second, Visant tipped precariously to the right, but she quickly stuck her arms out to the sides to counteract the imbalance. She grabbed the electrobinoculars from the Stormtrooper’s hand, bringing them up to her eyes and focusing in on the whatever it was in the distance. Partially covered by sand, but still smoking, sat a swoop bike. The target. She handed the electrobinoculars back to the trooper and hopped off his back.

    “Thank you, Sergeant.”

    “Of course, sir.”

    Once they reached the wreckage of the bike, Agent Visant’s feeling about this was proven correct. The sand dyed a dark brown around his body, Tharen Gol, bounty hunter and suspected kidnapper, lay lifeless. She was on the right track. Her commlink blinked.

    “Agent Visant here.”

    “TK-363, sir. We’ve located where two of the perpetrators reentered the city. They’ve since left, though, took a shuttle service out.”

    “Find out where they were taken.”

    “Already called, sir. Reportedly their shuttle was headed to a, uh, Jabba’s Palace.”

    Jabba.

    Blast.

    ******
    Nothing particularly eventful here, just wanted to get back to it a bit.
     
    Kahara and Ewok Poet like this.
  7. PlanetSmasher

    PlanetSmasher Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Mar 14, 2017
    Nice detective work on Agent Visant's part. She's obviously dedicated to her duty. She'll get those rascals, yet! I hope you keep this going. I want to see where this goes.
     
    Ewoklord and Kahara like this.
  8. Ewok Poet

    Ewok Poet Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2014
    Since I have a huge list to comment on, I thought I'd say that I'm that stealth fan of this story. ;) Just in case you wonder who was that. An Ewok's gotta help another Ewok. :D
     
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2018
    Ewoklord and Kahara like this.
  9. divapilot

    divapilot Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 30, 2005
    Cassian on Tatooine!:eek::D
    I hadn’t put this story on my list because frankly the title discouraged me at first, but boy am i glad I took a look! It’s fantastic. I love the banter between Cassian and Kaytoo - perfect. You’ve got Cassian down perfectly - the dogged, hard-scramble way he pursues a lead, his risky behavior (firing a sniper shot off the hood of a fast moving speeder!!!). Love your OCs, too. I like how you’ve gotten the GFFA flavor here too. Looking forward to more.
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2018
    Ewoklord, Kahara and Ewok Poet like this.
  10. Ewok Poet

    Ewok Poet Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2014
    I think the title confused pretty much everybody. But that was why I clicked to read on day one. I guess I use some reverse logic. :p
     
    Ewoklord and Kahara like this.
  11. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    HI there. I wasn't sure what to make of the title either [face_laugh] but Kaytoo and Cassian are a wonderful snarky team. Visant seems competent. Nel Dira and the Spider "brain in the jar" -- [face_mischief] "You need an update" [face_laugh] is too right if Faren doesn't know the Empire has taken over :p
     
  12. Ewoklord

    Ewoklord Jedi Master star 2

    Registered:
    Feb 15, 2014
    With a rusted squeak and a metallic clang, the iron gate swung open into a shadowy hallway deep beneath Jabba’s Palace. Nel dropped the key into the thin layer of sand with a muffled thud, and nodded at her many-metallic-legged compatriot. The brain rotated ever-so-slightly in what could be interpreted as a return nod.

    “Alright, Farin, you’ve walked these hallways forever, what’s the quickest way out?”

    “Erh, do you want the quickest way or the, ah, safest way?”
    “Is there a middle-ground?”

    “No.”

    “Safest it is, then.”

    His fine-point-feet carried the mechanical spider skittering down a passage, leaving Nel to catch up. They crissed and crossed countless empty hallways, stopping when a pig-like squeal echoed in the distance.

    “You are a Xexto, correct?” Farin asked as they rounded a corner, cutting through an alternate route.

    “Good to see your records are up-to-date in that, at least.”

    “My latest census records indicate that Tatooine has a rather sizable permanent Xexto population, but they all immigrated from the moon Quermia.”

    “Xexto from Quermia? I take it back.” The durasteel door they approached did not open in front of them, and did not respond to any button-presses on the nearby panel.

    “Locked. Know another way around?”

    “Hmph, locked? They dare lock me out of my own Monastery?! Give me a minute, those presumptuous fools won’t know what hit them.” He jammed a short limb into the port at the panel and waited, mumbling. “Mm, no, not recognized. Not that one either. One of these old codes has got to- aha!” The door cracked open. “The very first access code, hard-wired into the system. Even if they knew it was there, they’d have to rebuild the entire security system to change it! Well, in we go.”

    They entered a small room. What was once a place of meditative peace was know stocked from wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling with weapons of all sorts. DLT-18 laser rifles on racks lined the walls, thermal detonators stacked in crates. Nel approached a familiar-looking long, metal crate, and cracked its lid. T-7 Ion Disruptors. Outlawed by the Senate years ago, they had been flooding the underworld in recent months, prompting her investigation in the first place. And now here they were here. But who was supplying them? Most of the galactic supply had been confiscated years ago, but these ones seemed new. She shook her head to clear it, no time to figure it all out now, just time to get out of here. She grabbed a loose DL-22 heavy pistol, as insurance, and followed Farin through the next door into an adjacent hallway.

    “By your coloration, you hail from Troiken, yes?” the spider asked.

    “Born and raised.”

    “Then what brings you all the bloody way out here? Tatooine isn’t exactly the most hospitable of planets, especially for your kind.”

    “Senate business.” Nel grimaced in pain as her arm swung at an odd angle and collided with a low-hanging glowlamp.

    “Ah, the Grand Galactic Senate! I should have known that ruffian Chol Ebat was up to his old tricks!”

    “Who now?”

    “The Supreme Chancellor, of course! You say you’re a senator and you don’t even know the Supreme Chancellor by name? Rather!”

    The Xexto laughed and widened her already bulbous eyes. “That’s why the name sounded familiar! Chancellor Ebat, he’s the one who was ‘vote-of-no-confidenced’ for the affair with the Celegian senator, right?”

    “I- they were just close friends, weren’t they?”

    “Not what the holovids say. ‘Sides, he’s been dead over two hundred years.”

    Farin paused for a moment. “Dead?” he said quietly. But the moment passed. He lifted one of his long spindly legs and pointed at a rusted metal door. “Through there, and we should exit the premises.”

    “Thank the force, I don’t think I could stand another identical hallway.” She stepped to the bulky control panel that sat on the wall next to the door, and pressed the largest, most appealing button. With a motorized whirr, the door slid upwards, slowly revealing a giant hall, filled to the brim with flashing lights and loud noises and revelers in various states of intoxication, fighting at card tables or scooping credits as they poured out of one-armed gambling machines.

    “Well. You weren’t wrong; apparently I do need an update.”

    ******

    Cassian and Kaytoo followed a greasy Twi’lek with teeth sharpened to a point through the dank halls of Jabba’s Palace. They tromped down a winding staircase, many of its steps lacking definition from the years of foot-travel. After a few minutes, the Twi’lek opened a metal door and motioned in: ahead of the group lay one of the most raucous casino floors Cassian had ever seen. Just from the entrance, he could see three fights in-progress, and many more likely on their way. The sabacc tables were full-to-bursting, and Cassian spotted armed Gamoreans patrolling around the outside, to make sure none of the fights got too out of hand. Each exit deeper into the palace was covered by at least two guards. This would be tough.

    The Twi’lek parted with some oily words, and the duo stepped down into the fray.

    “You see the guards Kaytoo?”

    “Sorry, what?”

    “The guards. Any ideas?”

    “I-” he paused, then leaned over a nearby shoulder. “You can’t possibly be thinking of playing that hand, can you?”

    The Snivvian grunted and snuffled in irritation. “Whataya doin’ givin’ away my bluff ya dumb droid?”

    “That hand has only a five-point-two percent-”

    Cassian grabbed one of the droid’s long arms and pulled. “Kay.”

    Kaytoo resisted the pull, looking at Cassian. “I am only giving advice.”

    “These people don’t want advice.”

    “They obviously don’t have the slightest grasp of probability.” He turned his head back to the Snivvian. “Moron.” He gave Kaytoo a glare, looked back at his cards, and folded.

    “That’s not what we’re here for, Kay. The guards, any ideas?”

    After a momentous effort, Kaytoo managed to drag his head away from the cavalcade of bad decisions happening at every table in the nearby area. “Right. Right. Guards.” He swiveled his oblong head to analyze the situation. “I see two guards at each exit and seven- make that eight walking the floor.” His eyes alternately dimmed and flashed for a few seconds. “We’ve only got a fifteen percent chance of fighting our way through that, less depending on reinforcements.” He tilted down to look at Cassian. “Only one of us needs to search the palace, I could create a distraction.”

    “How’s that?”

    “Start a fight.”

    Cassian looked to his left, where a knock-down, drag-out brawl between a Nosaurian and a Pantoran had just upended a sabacc table, sending cards and dice flying into the crowds. “I don’t think that’s going to work. Any other ideas?”

    “Oh yes.” Kaytoo calmly replied. “Start a big fight.”

    “How is that-?” Cassian started, but Kaytoo had already loped away toward an empty seat. He squatted awkwardly over it and motioned toward the dealer.

    “Don’t worry, I’ll handle it,” the droid said as splayed his cards in front of him. Cassian shook his head and examined each doorway. He sidled his way through the heavy crowds to get a closer look at the far door, which was flanked on both sides by large, green, dripping pigs. Their stench grew stronger the closer he got. Each door looked the same, but for some inexplicable reason, this one felt right. A base, gut feeling. He tip-toed to see above the crowd and looked back at the table Kaytoo had chosen. The droid now sat with an ever-growing pile of credit chits mounded on the table in front of him. A short Ortolan stood on one leg and pointed the other accusatorily at Kaytoo, his trunk writhing in irritation. Cassian couldn’t hear over the bustle of the crowd, but he could guess. Organic folk didn’t like gambling with droids, felt it was an unfair advantage. And, to be honest, it probably was. Cassian turned back to the door, looking for the best approach to sneak past. From the side? Straight on ahead?

    Suddenly and without warning, the door slid open. Against the shadow, Cassian saw two figures: a short droid of some kind and- a tall Xexto?! A loud trumpeting blared from above, and Cassian looked up. Flying through the air was the blue Ortolan, a smooth arc from the sabacc table straight into one of the doorway’s guards, knocking him against the wall. The other squealed with surprise, before charging down into the crowd. Now!

    Cassian shoved a multitude of species from his path as he ran towards the two figures, who seemed momentarily taken aback at the sudden chaos. He sprinted up the steps, passing the distracted Gamorrean, and came to a stop in front of the open door. The Xexto, startled, levelled a heavy blaster pistol, Cassian quickly raised his hands above his head.

    “Nel Dira?” he asked, then turned to look at the strange mechanical spider, “And company?”

    “And company?! I’ll have you know that I am The Enlighte-

    “Yes, I’m Nel Dira. This is Farin.”

    “I’m Fulcrum, I’m here to-” he started. With a skreeee a green piggish blob bounced off the steps and through the door, sending the group scattering. Cassian shot the distant Kaytoo an annoyed look. “We’re here to rescue you.”

    “Did the Senate send you?”

    “Yes,” he lied. But it wasn’t worth explaining now. “We’ve got to get you out of here.”

    “Farin is coming with me.”

    “Fine, but I won’t slow down for him.” The brain made a pah of disapproval. Cassian pulled a long-distance commlink from his belt and held it to his mouth. “Command, this is Fulcrum. Target located, sending coordinates for extraction.”

    There was a moment of weighty silence.

    “Hold, Fulcrum, we’ve experienced minor delays. We’ll get there as soon as we can.”

    “Blast. Nel, do you know where they keep the speeders?”

    “I don’t-”

    “I must say, questions regarding the layout of this palace should be directed towards me.”

    “Well, do you know?”

    “Erh. No. But, I did see a rather large sail barge in my wanderings some years ago.” He paused. “My plans show the quickest way down is through the old ventilation system, you fellows should be able to fit. They sealed the vents off years ago, they’re only in my earliest plans; I don’t think the current residents even know they exist.”

    “That’ll have to do- Kaytoo!” The large black droid turned his head toward the noise, away from the two gamblers he held by their necks a considerable number of feet above the ground. “Time to go!” With a disappointed slump of his shoulders, the droid dropped the two aliens to the hard sandstone floor below before barreling bull-headed through the crowd.

    He stood to his fullest height and shook the diplomat’s hand. “I’m Kaytoo-Esso.” He motioned towards Cassian. “He’s here to rescue you.”

    ******

    Agent Visant surveyed the approaching palace from a distance. Ancient, it looked. Older than most settlements on Tatooine. She had never interacted with Jabba’s crime family before, but one didn’t work in intelligence for long without hearing stories. One of the most prominent Hutt gangsters, Jabba presided over much of this sector of the galaxy, running spice and selling slaves and conducting all manner of illicit business. A disgusting creature who lacked any sense of morality, decency, or order. Also, he smelled. At least, that’s what she had heard.

    Her Arquitens thrummed along speedily, casting a long, undulating shadow in the desert sun. It was a gamble, bringing her light cruiser. She wasn’t sure how Jabba would react to this show of force, but she decided that, seeing as there was a large chance of things going south, she would rather have this at her back than just the small shuttle. “Stop here.” It was still a distance away from the palace; she didn’t want to come off too aggressive. As the engine hum changed to a different key, a commotion caught her eye. She grabbed a pair of electrobinoculars and focused in on what appeared to be a large garage door, which was slowly opening. Flares of blaster fire paffed off of the sand from inside, and out from the shadow emerged what appeared to be a large hovering sea-boat. Scorch marks burned into the metal sidings as smaller skiffs came alongside it, firing heavy blasters. An opportunity.

    “Ready ion blasts,” she commanded.

    “Ready, sir.”

    “Zero in on the larger ship.”

    “Target locked.”

    “Fire once.”

    A blue ball of energy erupted from one of the ventral cannons, slowly traveling through the air before finding its target. The boat crackled with lightning before nosing down into the nearest dune.

    “Prepare my shuttle.”

    Soon after, Visant found herself stood in front of a large green slug, flanked by a squad of her finest stormtroopers. Between the two were three prone figures: a bearded human male, a large black Imperial droid, and a gangly Xexto female. She recognized the last one as Nel Dira, the unimportant diplomat that had dragged her all the way out to the back end of nowhere. Her dissatisfaction with this dead-end assignment quickly faded, though, when she saw the state of the alien. The last few days had evidently been rough on her, and her broken arm told a tale in itself. Jabba truly was the scum of the galaxy. And, she noted, he did smell.

    The slug bellowed a question in Huttese. A blue translator droid stepped forward and began to speak, but Visant held up her hand, before responding in his native tongue. “The Empire has come to retrieve what is ours.”

    Jabba laughed in an unsettlingly jolly fashion. “And what does the grand, illustrious Empire bring to bargain with?”

    “The Empire does not bargain.”

    That is a lie.”

    ******

    Nel Dira blinked her large black eyes quickly a few times to chase away the fogginess. She brightened as the crisp Imperial uniform resolved. It was an intelligence agent, and she seemed to be conversing with Jabba in Huttese. With one of her long elbows, she jolted Cassian awake.

    “Whuh-”

    “The extraction,” Nel said, “it arrived.”

    “Oh-” Cassian cut himself short.

    “What?”

    “This is bad,” he whispered.

    “I don’t understand.”

    “When I told you I was with the Senate, that was only partially true. I was sent by a group of senators to bring you back independently. They feared that otherwise the results of your investigation would never see the light of day.”

    “But the Empire doesn’t have any reason to-”

    “You don’t know? I thought you would know.”

    “Quiet,” the white-clad Intelligence agent barked at Cassian in basic. She looked to Nel Dira with softer eyes. “You’re Nel Dira, correct?”

    “Yes.”

    “I’m Agent Visant. I’m here to retrieve you.”

    Cassian whipped his head around the room, trying to get the measure of just how screwed he was. One ISB Agent, four stormtroopers, six Gamorrean guards, and one oversized maggot. He tested the strength of the durasteel binders holding his wrists together. Strong. The measure was this: immensely screwed. Kaytoo was still out, splayed on the floor next to Cassian. Maybe when he rebooted-

    “You. Who are you?”

    That was to Cassian now. He gave Nel a very serious look. “Jif Gruben. Gambler.”

    “Mm. And what was Jif Gruben, gambler, doing on a stolen sail barge with a missing diplomat and a reprogrammed Imperial Enforcer droid.

    “Must’ve had too much Savareen Brandy.”

    “I see. You will also be accompanying me to Coruscant for interrogation.”

    “I don’t think that’s how this is going to go.”

    “Because neither of us would ever reach Coruscant.”

    “I fail to understand.”

    “Oh, don’t act like you don’t know exactly why you were sent here. The information about who’s been supplying weapons to the Hutt Cartels could never reach the Senate.”

    Nel Dira shook her head in confusion. “I don’t- I never found who was behind it, only that the Hutts were relying on them to hold their grip on this sector.”

    “You found some of the pieces, pieces we need to prove it. By my associates found the rest, found who was behind the flood of disruptors in the underworld.” Cassian lifted his head defiantly and looked Agent Visant straight in the eye. “The Empire.”

    Visant seemed legitimately taken aback at this claim: maybe she didn’t know after all. “That’s preposterous, why would the Empire-”

    Cassian scoffed. “The Hutts were losing control here, but they couldn’t dare let anyone know. If word got out, blood in the water would bring the Pykes or Black Sun, and force them from this sector for good. And you would have to be deaf not to have heard the whispers of resistance against the Empire in the Vasch system, Utaruun, even the Arkanis Regency. Whispers that have conveniently been silenced as the Hutt cartel reasserted its grip. It doesn’t matter how many innocents have died by the hand of the crime families, as long as they don’t threaten peace and stability, is that right?”

    “T-that’s not true!” Agent Visant sputtered indignantly. A slow, rolling laugh bounced off the walls and seemed to fill up every inch of the room.

    “The Jabba of Hutt says only this: it is.” The hallways on all sides suddenly flooded with heavily armed and armored enforcers of all kinds, pointing their assorted weapons at both the prisoners and the Imperial escort. The stormtroopers bristled, bringing their E-11s to level, but Visant motioned to hold.

    “My light cruiser is stationed outside. With a word they can blast this ‘palace’ into oblivion. I suggest you let us go our separate ways.”

    “The Jabba of Hutt knows that none may learn of this particular precarious situation, and you all represent dangerous loose ends. The Jabba of Hutt comforts you, he will feel no joy as he kills you all.”

    “I don’t think that’s how this is going to go either.”

    The droid tried its best to translate a noise of general confusion.

    “Because this isn’t all of us.” He lunged forward into the thin layer of fine sand, flattening himself as much as possible. Hanging from the ceiling above him, having slowly and carefully crawled into position through a system of vents that had been closed off for the last five-hundred years, Farin, used a short, mechanical limb to hock a thermal detonator into the center of a large crowd of thugs. With a concussive blast and a ball of flame, mix-and-match parts of countless alien species scattered through the throne room. In the ensuing chaos, flashes of blasterfire began to trade between the stormtroopers and the remaining criminals.

    Cassian shoved himself to his feet and aimed a kick squarely at Kaytoo’s still-motionless head. The clang could scarcely be heard over the commotion and blaster fire, but after a few seconds the photoreceptors brightened and Kaytoo sat up. Cassian met him with his eyes. “You okay, pal?”

    The droid approximated a blink. “I shouldn’t have been out that long. I’m sorry, Cassian.”

    “Don’t worry about it, Kay. You came around just in time to get us out of here.” Kaytoo easily bent Cassian’s binders apart, then moved onto Nel. Cassian looked up. “Steady, Kay, stand right there.”

    “Why?” Another dull clang as Farin dropped from his perch onto Kaytoo’s broad back, clinging on with his spidery limbs. Nel Dira, still somewhat reeling from the explosion, grabbed at a nearby blaster, removing it from the limb it was attached to. She swung it towards the alien slug, but found no-one there. There must have been a passageway, some sort of secret exit. If she could find it, maybe-

    Cassian grabbed her shoulder and pulled her away from the dais. “We need to go. Now.” Arming himself, he looked for an exit. There! One of the side-entrances was emptying, only a few enforcers crowded the doorway. He turned back to Nel.

    “I see it,” she said. She had now filled all three fully-functional hands with heavy blasters scavenged from the morass. A blossom of red-and-green laserfire spewed out of her hands and into the doorway, eradicating everything that it touched, leaving only a steaming heap of broken bodies and chipped masonry. “There’s our opening!” she yelled.

    ******

    In the confusion, Agent Visant lost track of her quarry. The cheap thugs Jabba threw at them were no match for trained Imperial stormtroopers, but there were so very many of them. “Sergeant!” she yelled, “Do you have visual on the target?”

    “Do not have visual.”

    “Well, get one!” She fired her standard issue RK-3 into the crowd with pinpoint accuracy, noting with a smile that she hadn’t lost a step since her academy days. She whirled around to aim at Jabba, but found the slimy cretin had snuck his way out in the confusion. Suddenly, a near-blinding blast of multi-colored light erupted ahead of her. Blinking away the purple-and-yellow afterimages, she saw the source: Nel Dira, wielding three pistols. She was followed by the rest of the prisoners. Visant leveled her pistol at the mouthy bearded man, but stopped herself before firing. What if what he said was true? What if he was the only way Nel would reach the Senate and report her findings?

    “Sergeant!” she yelled over the tumult, “We’re getting out of here!”

    The sergeant fired his E-11 at a far too-close-for-comfort Rodian, burning a molten hole into where his sparkling eye used to be. “That’s a negative, agent. We pull back, there’s no chance any of us get out of here. You go ahead, we’ll hold them off here long as we can. Our call for reinforcements was jammed, you’re going to have to signal manually.”

    She gave him a curt nod. “Thank you, Sergeant.” The E-11 fire increased in intensity as her white-clad squad arrayed out, holding back the masses of criminals that flowed forward. Visant ducked towards the doorway, narrowly dodging stray blasterfire. She found the steps to the entrance littered with fresh bodies, left behind by the escaped prisoners. It wasn’t long before she reached the entrance; in the dunes ahead, she saw the group arrayed. She fired a warning shot at their feet, and when they turned towards her she pointed with her free hand at the floating Arquitens above. The message was clear. Nel dropped her blasters in the sand, but the bearded man kept his in hand.

    “How do you think this plays out? Truly, I want to know,” he asked.

    “You turn yourselves over, and I take you all back to Coruscant.”

    “You really believe that? I saw your face in there, you really didn’t know the Empire was behind this.”

    “I have seen no proof.”

    “But if they are, do you think there’s the slightest chance Nel Dira survives the trip back? Have you seen the numbers of deaths in Imperial transit? The real numbers, not the ones they give the Senate.”

    She had. They were higher than she’d like. “I- you-,” she sighed, shocked at how easily she was swayed to doubt the Empire. “You may be right. But what’s the alternative, I just trust you to return her? A stranger who won’t even give a real name?”

    A pod on his belt blinked with yellow light. “No. You won’t trust me,” he said.

    “Then wha-”

    Heat. The heat hit before the pain. She looked down at her pristine white uniform, now marred with a carbon-black hole, punched straight through at her breast. Her fingers faltered, her pistol fell to the sand. The ringing in her ears drowned out any sound, but she could feel the shockwaves as a small blue ship appeared from the sky and dropped what must have been a small ion charge on the Arquitens, sending it listing to the left. She again made eye contact with the bearded man, whose blaster was still orange-tipped from heat. His mouth moved, but she could not make out the words. As he turned away to lead his group, she tipped forward into the hot sand, and saw no more.

    ******

    Kaytoo-Esso steadied himself on the overhead bar of the U-wing as it thrust itself away from the surface. Out the window, he could see the Arquitens still listing from the ion charge. He attempted to calculate the probability they would reboot before the U-wing escaped their firing range. He conked his head with a metal hand; for some reason his tactical analysis module wasn’t engaging. Must have been the ion blast from before, still messing with his circuits.

    “Cassian,” he said, “I can’t provide you with any tactical analysis.”

    “So, you’re not going to tell me what percentage chance we’ve got of getting out of here alive?”

    “No, Cassian. I’m sorry.”

    The human laughed for some reason. “Guess you’ll just have to trust things will work out, Kay.”

    “Is this what it’s like to be organic?”

    “Flying blind with no idea what the future holds, clinging only to a desperate hope that you won’t be dead in the next five minutes? Most of the time, yeah.”

    Kaytoo digested this new feeling for a few moments. He tilted his head down at his friend. “You are very lucky to have me.”

    The U-wing shook violently, slamming the thin Xexto diplomat deeper into her seat. She retched from pain as her arm tweaked badly.

    “That the cruiser?” Cassian asked.

    Kaytoo could only respond with a noncommittal shrug. “I haven’t the slightest clue.” He approached the closest windows and focused his photoreceptors outside. It wasn’t the cruiser, it was something smaller. A Hutt craft, likely, and it was fast. Too fast. It fired another salvo as it passed by, and the lights in the U-wing’s passenger hold flickered for a moment with a disturbing electronic crackle.

    “Uh, Cassian?” the pilot yelled down from the cockpit, “You’re gonna need to get that droid of yours up here.” Cassian gave Kaytoo a nod, and followed him into the cockpit. “That last hit did a real number on our navigation system, we had coordinates input for a return to Yavin but- well, they’re not showing up anymore.”

    “Kaytoo, can you calculate a route back?” The droid had already plugged into the system. His eyes flashed as the ship exited the upper atmosphere and the blue turned to star-speckled black.

    “The ion blast, it must have affected me more than I thought. My astrogation subroutines aren’t engaging fully.”

    “What does that mean for us, Kay?”

    “I can’t fully calculate. It would be extremely unsafe.” Blasterfire boomed against the hull of the U-wing, causing everyone inside to grasp wildly at the nearest solid structure. Smoke billowed from a panel in the cockpit and countless warning sensors on the dash went off at once in an excruciating combination of beeping and blinking.

    The pilot, straining against the yoke to keep the ship moving straight, grunted loudly. “Either way this trip’s over soon.” Cassian placed a hand firmly on the droid’s shoulder, and met his photoreceptors. He nodded reassuringly. Kaytoo turned to look out the viewport, and his eyes flickered dully.

    He shrugged. “Eh. Looks about right.” With a yank on the levers, the stars stretched to infinity and the U-wing jumped into the mottled blue-black.

    ******
    Hey would ya look at that, I finished it! I haven't done an editing run through or anything so there's probably a bunch of mistakes, but I just wanted to get it out there.
     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2018
  13. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Superb action and it does seem like Visant was unaware of the Empire's schemes.
     
    Ewoklord likes this.