The newly christened Cholganna Chariot slid smoothly into the berth exposed under the overhang of debris. There were various crew members scrambling about inside the scrap covered hangar, and one in particular stood out. He was tall for a Rodian, with fairly clean garb (given the grease, dust, and rust covering the landscape) and a surprisingly cheerful smile (for a Rodian). The crew, consisting of Axel Riprock,Mal’r “Mal” Brooken, Sasha, and Crom, secured the ship before moving out to the landing bay. It was cool in the cradle of twisted steel and old, rotted space hulls, but there more than just the odor of space ships and ozone. The place carried the scent of staleness and oil; however, it was bigger, brighter and nicer than the filthy interior of the Chariot. Stepping down the ramp, they were greeted by the Rodian.
“Greetings. Greetings. We have been expecting you for sometime. I am Notra. This my dock. Roem says you coming. And now you are,” he called up as he grabbed and vigorously shook the crew’s hands. The crew, after nearly being eaten by or shot at by nearly every living thing on the entirety of Cholganna, probably came off a bit shell shocked by the friendly Norta (once again showing Rodian snouts don’t always quiver with deceit). Nevertheless, they smiled and moved in.
“Oooo, that is a dead-man-flying. Tie fighters must of really stung him. Let’s close the doors,” said Norta as he pointed out of the bay towards a small, smoking scout ship that staggered, and careened in all directions at once as it was coming in for a landing.
Mal’r shot a glance back, “He’s with us. Might want to clear back a bit when he lands as parts will probably come off.” The small scout was followed by the screeching of metal on metal as a trail of scrap followed into the landing bay.
Norta looked over Sehath’s ship and motioned for his crew to keep the blast door open. Sehath (Prars’ehath’klocerg) brought his ship, or the remainder of it, to as graceful a landing as possible. Howeve, there was nothing gentle or smooth or even clean about the ship or the “landing” aka the metal-rending screech to a stop. The ship resembled the landscape of junk it was parking in. His droid sounded a shrill whistle and proceeded to collapse over from either fear of death or the shock of actually surviving the flight. The only laughable part was the droid actually faired better than the rest of the crew. Sehath, adjusted the remnants of his environment suit, patted the droid, patted a few smoking spots on his suit and trotted down the burnt gangway of the ship. Sasha slipped Mal’r the 10 credits she lost on their bet.
Sehath came over to the crew and Norta, smiling and alive. Sasha slipped Mal’r another 10 credits she lost on the second half of their bet. As the silence began to weigh on Norta just a bit and no one else was talking, he asked the obvious, “So what happened?”
Since nobody crowded to the front to tell him, Mal’r explained the entire episode in laconic detail. “Roem sent us to Cholganna to get whatever we could find of the Sal Nalor. We arrived to find the planet covered by a red and very rocky nebula. After a bit of searching, we found the Sal Nalor or at least most of it. Something, who knows, maybe battle damage, the nebula or just plain navigating too close to the planet, caused the Sal Nalor to slam in and create a gorge a couple of kilometers long. The suprising part though, was that some of the crew survived. And they’ve been living on the green hell for nearly 30 years before we showed up. The Yiyar showed up not too long after we made planetside. They talked mean, but kinda curled under press if ya know what I mean. We meet up with ”/characters/harsol" class=“wiki-content-link”>Captain Rel Harsol , Cratala and about 30 surviving crew. After a bit of discussion, the Empire also showed up to our little party but the Cap’ didn’t like them much either. Needless to say, we left the surviving troopers and Yiyar back on Cholganna and came here in our nice, new and shiney Cholganna Chariot. We brought Cratalla, sent the rest of the survivors with the Gozanti and the trooper’s ship back to The Wheel.. Roem said to go the biggest pile of scrap, junked ships and rust in the universe, so here are."
After nearly 30 seconds of riveting dialogue, Norta smiled even bigger as he looked past the crew and back to the scout ship. Cratala was emerging from the ship, looking burnt, shaken, and ever so happy. With her hair going in every direction but correct, she asked, softly," I don’t suppose you have a place to clean up? It’s been a while since I’ve seen civilization." Norta got his big smile even larger and waved over one of his people to escort her to some place nicer than the hangar bay. There were a couple of sideway glances amongst the crew, and with nary a word, Mal’r took first watch over Cratala.
The group basically split up from that point on. The underground base had an extensive system of tunnels which turned at odd angles as they climbed their way through hundreds of corpses of broken ships. As he made his way down the irregular and jagged halls, Mal’r wondered how many lifetimes had been spent building what was now not even remembered by anyone still alive in the universe. Sasha, generally bored with the whole secret base hidden in a world of mountainous junk secured by the Empire tale, went off to find food and a quiet place to clean her armor and weapons. Axel, having spotted a nearly perfect capital ship laser grid array on the flight in, borrowed a junk skiff and proceeded to go on a treasure hunt. Alone, Crom just wandered a bit around the secret base hidden in a world of mountainous junk. Thought to be secured by the Empire the labyrinth of scrap was actually a secret base with a premier cybernetics showroom and medical facilities hidden in a world of rust and broken hulls. Norta explained, as they were friends, he could definitely get Crom an employee discount.
Sehath stood alone in the bay and watched as the last of the billowing smoke stopped rising from his vehicle. Then and just then and very unceremoniously, the gangway clanged off his ship to the bay’s floor. “We can fix it nicely for you,” gurgled Norta as he slid up beside Sehath.
“She really does need some work.”
“Yes and you were very brave to fly it… er… her.”
“Well, let me see. First, aft plating burnt. Starboard engine plating gone. Engine coolant non existent. Interior lounge and bar very tattered. Droid dead? No, just resting. That’s free. Port stabilizer laughable…” The laundry list continued for a bit followed by some quick mathmatics until , " Sixteen thousand credits and I’ll throw in quad lasers a bonus. Good deal, no?"
Sehath remained calm and collected outside as inner spirit joined the droid in a cat nap on the floor of the bay. " Sixteen? I don’t have that many credits as this time."
“I am sure.”
There a brief pause before Norta offered another idea, “Anything to trade?”
“All I have I this ship, my droid, my reputation and my friends.”
“Well, we did get a couple of bikes and some armor back on Cholganna. I dont’ suppose anybody would mind if we traded some of those. They’re pretty bulky and take up a lot of room in the ship anyway.”
“Speed bikes? Very nice. I’ll take 10 in trade.” And thus begun the Great Bike and Armor Wheel and Deal of ABY 0.
As the others slept, ate, wandered and traded, Axel sought his treasure, a near mint capital ship laser grid array. He knew it couldn’t be too far. A couple of hours tops. He made sure he did all his prep work like telling others where he was going, getting advice and gear from the locals and he even brought along another crew member as backup. Well, we was going to do all that but he didn’t. After being cooped with the ne’ er-do-wells on the Chariot, he just needed out. Besides it would only take a couple of hours.
First he went north-ish in the exact direction he needed to go. He had to make a slight turn here and there through the debris field, but generally he was on course. After about fifteen minutes of weaving in and out of towering heaps of very lethal and very heavy looking scrap, he found he his way again. Another forty minutes, he knew he was on the right track. Another fifty five minutes after that, he arrived exactly on the spot he was looking for. Except for one thing. The laser grid array was not there. There was only a horribly crushed in cranial piece for a protocol droid. He thought of IT3, smiled, picked it up and started a spiral search.
Back at the base, Mal’r, comfortable that the base was secure and Cratala was safe, went back into the Chariot. Earlier, hidden in a wall compartment behind some very vile and sticky trash, he had found a small satchel of weapons. He decided to give the contents a good review and a very good cleaning. There were some broken pistols, the empty hulls of a couple of grenades and a tidy box about 40 cm wide by 60 cm long. Tinkering with it for just a moment, Ma’lr found that he had a SKZ sporting blaster rifle nicely packed up. Considering the care given to the rest of weapons he’d found, it was in great shape. It was a great weapon for assassins, small, concealable and it packed a pretty lethal punch. It was even better weapon for a Sasha. He bundled the rifle up under his arm and headed back to the showroom. There had to be a scope and an augmented spin barrel here someplace.
Axel finally, after another 2 hours of searching finally found his treasure. He was so happy that he was almost getting light headed, a little woozy if you will. He dug out a fair fauxsimicle of a crow bar and began to lift the array out of the ground. It was bigger than he thought it’d be. It look much smaller on the flight in. It didn’t matter though, he was going to bring this back in. He just a little rest. He knew that being incarcerated in the Cholgonna Coup was going to wear on him. He took a moment to get a drink of some water. Not completely clear he spotted something moving about 100 meters away to the northwest. 100 meters? 10 meters? Not completely sure, he remembered he had a commlink in his belt.
“Hey guys, there something out here”, he comm’d back to the station.
Taking a small break from his negotiations, Sehath piped, “What is it? And does it have a labor droid servo or a conductive energy splicer?”
“Well, I don’t know.”
“Find out and call me back.”
At that point, Norta pointed to the commlink in Sehath’s hand, “Turn it off. It’s bad, very bad to give our position away.” Sehath clicked it off and began again, “OK, all the bikes plus the armor, but we get breakfast. Right?” The Rodian snout twitched in anticipation for the close.
Meanwhile, over in the weapon technical lab, Mal’r was deeply engrossed with the IsoTech’s best weaponsmith, a male Cathar called Woem and a blue female Troob who went by the name of Purr. They were some of the best weapon smiths outside of the core and the were completely and utterly goofball dewbs (and they loved it). They’d rarely been outside of their labs or schools, but they’d seen all the vids and new all the legends. Mal’r didn’t brag nor did he boast, but that made him even more gunslinger-y to them. Between the three of them, Sasha’s weapon was really something to behold. The test firing on the lower gun range was spot on.
Outside in the mountains of rust, grease and toxic lakes of oily green and brown, Axel was hiding. And he was deep and well. The movement he saw was an Imperial probe-droid. . He didn’t get a great chance to be sure of it’s exact model, but it was obviously heading right at him. He quietly slid of his skiff to the ground, came back and turned it off and then slide back down low between what looked like the cracked inner and outer hull rings of an old freighter. It was dark, rank and sticky. It was also the closest and deepest hole he could find. He could hear the probe droid hover in close. He ever-so-carefully clicked the off switch on his comm and he attempted to slide back even further. The droid stopped for a couple of minutes and began to scan. The droid must of had a very careful search program as it chimed and hummed with a dozen different noises as it hunted for the comm signal it had picked up. Valleys and ebbs of metal, old capacitors and decaying batteries made such searches difficult, but the droid was not programmed to be frustrated with such noise. It was programmed to find, to report and to kill. It was going to be long time before Axel could slip from his warren. Which was ok, thought Axel, “I just need a little rest anyway.”
As the sun rose about 8 hours later, it was noticed that Axel was not back. Well, not Axel actually, but that he had not returned the salvage skiff. Sehath had turned on his commlink out of habit in the morning, when heard a struggling voice crackle across his comm, “Guys, I’m still out here. I don’t feel…”
Jovel Nial leaned over and put one finger to her lips. “Don’t call back. I’ll zero in on his position. Thats what I do. Sasha, get a bike. I’ll direct you.” Sasha, sensing are reason to fly one of the new bikes, bounded out towards the hangar. Sehath grabbed his carbine and trailed after her. Jovel started using her datapads and her recently-acquired-but-probably-not-authorized access the local computer net to triangulate Axel’s position.
Sasha ran up to the first Z-74 and was preparing to jump on when see spotted sold sign. She slowly turned and moved towards the next one in line, only to find yet another penciled-in sold sign. Sighing, she went to the next one and again, sold. Her face was begininng to flush red when she turned to Sehath, who quickly responded, “Only three! I only traded three!”
She responded curtly, moved to the fourth bike, pulled the “Norta’s” sign off and began to push off. Sehath sheepishly pulled himself into the jumpset. Norta watched his sign flutter to the ground and chose the wiser path of not questioning her. Sasha listened to the local comm net for a moment until Jovel gave her the location.
The bike rose up just a bit and roared off with Sasha hunched low over the handlebars and Sehath clinging feverishly , tight to her. She glanced about the piles of ancient trash and newly dropped debris as she expertly snaked her bike amongst the ruin. The googles kept the sand and grit off her eyes, but she could taste the oily air that parched her skin and throat. It only took 30 odd minutes for her to get the location given to her by Jovel.
There was the skiff half loaded with some large board made of wires and lights. She didn’t see Axel. Scanning back to her right, she spotted the droid. It’s search pattern had taken it back out towards the acidic lake. It had a chance to react the charge made by Sasha and Sehath. Sehath, obviously not recognizing his pilot or known flying style, clamped his legs to the bike, moved his grip with both hands from Sasha to his carbine and fired. It was a good shot that caused the droid to start spinning uncontrollably counter clockwise. Sasha brought her bike back up above the droid by climbing a semi-large rubble pile and performing what is known as a nose-stand. The nose-stand is accomplished by using the front replusor brake and, simultaneously, an air brake to cause the nose to drop while bringing the back of the up and around. When done properly, as Sasha did, it looks alot like a cartwheel performed by bike. The bike stopped and Sasha squeezed the trigger of the light repeating blaster on the bike. It is doubtful that the droid was even able to compute what was happening as it exploded into more debris.
As bits of droid rained down, Sasha spotted another one moving around a tilting pillar of decayed piping up and to her right. She slammed the the bike back into gear (good thing it was military grade construction) and swooped wide and left to get a better for angle attack. Sehath grimaced and tucked himself in behind her. Swinging up and over fallen control tower, she brought the bikes to bear again. The droid was solidly hit, but it stayed aloft as it turned to return fire. It never got the chance to shoot though as it too exploded. Sasha spied Crom and Mal’r just after Crom reduced the droid to cinders. She gave a quick salute, pointed back to the direction skiff and moved off.
Over the commlink Crom heard, “It’s Sehath. See if there are droid labor servos. I need them. Er… Uh, we need them.”
While Axel and Mal’r searched the smoking husk. Sasha circled around the skiff. It was Axel’s alright. There was his water bottle and his new datapad on improvising explosives, but he wasn’t there. Then out of a dark little hole only about 2 meters deep crawled Axel. He smelled bad, his clothes were covered in stains of unknown origin and he looked worse. “Grettings. I glad made me to here. Is it still butterflies?” he asked as he climbed onto the skiff and started driving.
“Yessir. Let’s roll grid and along move.”
The ever so slightly green pallor of his skin gave him the appearance of being affected by a Sacorria virus. The slurring words made him appear drunk and hi movements resembled a Korriban zombie in the last stages of decay. Axel, however, may not have even noticed his condition. If he did, he made no reference except to say “Hole dark bad feel.” Environmental poisoning combined with exposure was killing Axel right before their eyes. Sasha drifted over the skiff and Sehath jumped down to the platform. The skiff bucked and swayed a little, but finally Sehath laid Axel back and started heading back to the hidden bays. For his part, Axel cheered him on with a “You’re my hero. Strings make yellow songs. And you are hero!” At which time, he finally succumbed to passing out.
As Crom and Mal’r finally caught up complete with Sehath’s requested parts in hand, they made their way back to the base. Norta must have been watching them from a distance as he had a medical team waiting to quickly rush Axel off into the bowels of the labs. It was only about 30 minutes later when a near-human female med tech came out and said Axel was going to be fine. They’d experienced this before and he was responding well to the standard treatment. “We can have him up and going in about an hour or so if you want to pay for the medicine. 500 creds and he’ll as chipper as a ever. Maybe even more so.”
Mal’r moved the pillar he was leaning against and asked, “500 credits for what? Is he going to be OK?”
“The medicine, silly. He needs to feel better, right?”
“I am not sure about 500 credits of feel-better.”
The tech pursed her lips and glared back, “Better is better for your crew, right?”
“Right. 500 credits. Better is better.” he answered pulling the appropriate chips from his pockets.
True to her word, Axel was back in farm boy fashion in less than two hours. He looked good, moved well, but he was talking a bit faster than normal. Mal’r looked over to the tech who simply responded with “Side effect.”
Norta came up just then and slapped Axel on the back,“You look much healthier. Good deal.”
Sehath grimaced just slightly at the words “good” and “deal”.
“There are skiffs coming in with Jawa traders. They find; we barter. Some times they bring treasures, sometimes bantha poodoo. See if they have the splicer”, called Norta to the ad-hoc crew.
Mal’r stopped and sent Crom and Jovel to check on Caratala, while the rest of the crew ambled up towards the three incoming skiffs. Each skiff carried salvaged gears, oversized boxes and about 4 Jawas. The first one had what appeared to be mostly ship parts, the second one was cover plating and the trailing one had an abundance of droid parts. The skiffs slowly rolled into the last bay on the right amongst the technicians’ toolsets and lifts.
As they approached, Sehath slowed up and stopped whispering out, “They’re kind of stocky of Jawas. Are Raxus Jawas that much bigger?”
Mal’r, who in a previous life, spent a little more than a year on Tatooine looked up the Jawa driving the first skiff.
Too bulky. Too big. It was not a Jawa.
Before he could contemplate why someone would be disguising themselve as a Jawa on Raxus Prime, he saw the blaster come up from the folds of the robes. He saw a Rodian with a Yiyar clan symbol on his back pull a pistol on Norta, who batted it away and started punching back. At this point everything started happening hyper fast. Between the incoming Jawas, the techs and the crew, nobody was more that two meters from the upcoming firefight.
A firefight was described by J’Walez as a hostile encounter in which antagonists with blasters shoot at each other. That is a pretty apt description, but until some blaster fire singes the air next to you, time stops and blaster fire never ceases, you can’t know. Mal’r, however, had been in up close and personnal fights like this before. The “Jawa” in front of was bringing his gun to bear, but he was far to0 late. Mal’r growled, “Bantha spit!” and pulled both of his heavily-modified heavy blasters. Before the “Jawa” could blink, Mal’r pulled the hair triggers on his pistols and placed two well spaced holes into the two closest to him.
It happened so fast and was not in line with the carefully planned subterfuge, the attackers were caught off guard. Before anybody had even started firing, Mal’r jumped into the next two standing in the second skiff bed, killed them both at point blank range and lowered himself for cover behind the boxes on gate.
The rest of the crew, seeing Mal’r shooting, didn’t take time to question his motives and firing started in earnest. The last bay had become a storm of blaster fire, grenade explosions and bodies. The Jawas now showed themselves to be Sullustan mercenaries. Axel, with a little more step in his giddy up, dropped a grenade amongst the group closest to him. Two more fell. Sehath pulled his only grenade and rolled it under the middle skiff. It lifted a couple of meters in the air before it crashed down crushing a mercenary beneath it, while the other three where obviously the worse for wear.
As they didn’t see where the grenade had come from, the remaining three from the middle turned towards Mal’r. He ducked low and backed up causing them to miss, but they put out enough fire to destroy the boxes he was using as cover. He was trying to make his was to the front to use the cab seat as some cover when the second skiff ended it’s movement by slamming into the back of the vehicle he was on. As Mal’r’s right foot slipped off the platform, he turned and fire both blasters again. The first merc died out right, but the second betrayed a moment of surprise as he looked to where his hands should have been before slumping onto another Sullustan on the ground.
At the back of the train, Axel was taking a lot of fire but he had seen this training. He rallied, stood up, pulled the pin and lobbed another grenade. Between the two blasts being slow close, he was fairly deaf; however, he was alive. Two more down. Just as Sehath was about to raise his carbine, a shot went just past his right shoulder and into the Sullustan who drawing down on him. Sehath turned to see Sasha and her new shiny carbine turn to race off into the base. This was not the only battle going on. The Yiyar had come for revenge and blood.
Crom was moving down the hall when he heard the blaster fire and explosions pierce. The air behind him. Looked over to Jovel as he pulled his heavy blaster pistol and continued into the semi-lit passages in front of them. They had moved sixty meters towards the first main junction of halls when they heard movement coming towards them speak a language they didn’t even recognize. They turned the cornering and saw, to their great surprise, Trandoshans, well armed, large reptile mercs. The mercs we’re making a lot more noise than Crom and Jovel, which gave them a very slight edge. Jovel started falling back as Crom raised his pistol firing point blank into the chest of the leading Trandoshan.
He hit cleanly, but the heavy armor stopped a lot of the blast. The merc dropped down to the ground on one knee, which gave the one behind him a chance to shoot. Crom dodged out of the way, but in doing so Jovel as hit. With no armor at all, she went down with a straggled scream. There was really only two choices now, flight or flee. Crom chose to make a run for it, but not without Jovel. He pulled back in adjoining room and tried to take cover behind some dilapidated crates. They were in cover, but the mercs pushed into the room and started blasting everywhere at once. One lucky shot hit the hardwired control panel behind Crom, which bang to shower the room in orange and white sparks. With the waterfall of sparks illuminating his position, he hoisted Jovel over his shoulder and made his way to the next. He snapped off a couple of shots, but in all the confusion and noise he didn’t hit anything.
The next room, unfortunately, turned out to be more of a large closet that path to safey. Jovel started coming round as they began to barricade the door. There was no escape now.
With the battle at the skiffs over, Mal’r and Sehath started off into the interior of the base. Sehath had the lead and was trying to move to the sounds of blasters. They came across a couple of dead and dying IsoTech personnel, but no mercs. After a couple of eternity moments, they filled made their way to down the flickering halls to a old closed freighter door.
Sehath pulled at the down, but it was jammed shut and the fire fight behind was growing more intense. Sehath freed a rusty iron bar from the hallway’s wall and flung himself into opening the door. He slipped on the damp, uneven floor, jamming his back and shoulder, but he forced the door open. In the room, four surprised Trandoshans turned to the screeching noise.
Mal’r went in before they, or anybody else, had a chance to react. Stepped into the first one, jammed his pistol into his gut and fired. That shot killed Mal’r’s shield and a merc directly behind. Mal’r showed the body and the third one in the room, spun low and shot him twice in the chest and once in the head. The remaining, or last if you prefer, didn’t even see what was happening clearly. The shower sparks had partially blinded him and din of the blasters in a confined area had effectively made him lose control. He glanced to his weapon and switched his repeating blaster to full auto and was preparing to spray down the room, when felt the warm muzzle of a blaster touch his right temple. His end was quick, but at least painless.
To be continued…