Monday, December 11, 2006

Up and About

"So," the Rodian said in his broken but surprisingly clear Basic, "What do you think, hooman?"

This was Darrus' first time venturing outside the Transverse and while he'd expected many things from a walk through Mos Espa, looking at a restored and heavily modified ARC-170 was certainly not among them.

His ship had never looked better... or more kit-bashed. The entire back end was new; there were curves of blast plating that were likely salvage from some other starfighter. The ports and venting suggested the craft still had a hyperdrive but certainly not the one she'd come here with. The came could be said for her sublight engines. He remembered them being thinner and shorter; the ones the fighter had now were still cylindrical but all similarities stopped there.

"Well, I can't... really say." His statement was true on two levels. Visually, his ship looked to be in great shape but Darrus knew quite well a vessel's proof was in the flying. His words also meant that talking was difficult. Since Geonosis he'd only had a partial voice. Now, after nearly baking under Tatooine's twin suns, rasping was sometimes a step up.

Vaaro looked annoyed and pointed to the fighter with one long, sucker-tipped finger. "You can't say? Do you know how many credits and hours go in to make this thing able to fly?!"

Darrus shook his head. He really didn't. Still, that statement prompted a question of its own.

"Can she fly?"

The Rodian cocked his frilled head as if insulted. "Can she fly? Be you serious? Do you think I would bring you all this way, weak as saber-cub, if she no fly?"

Darrus sensed something, a wave of emotion from the Rodian that didn't fit with his indignation. Not sure of its source or its meaning, he went with his instincts. He really just wanted to find a corner and fall down in it, but Vaaro had worked so hard on his fighter, it seemed rude to pass out on him now. "Well, can she?"

There was another pang through the Force, this time strong enough for Darrus to identify it. Embarrassment. "I am not knowing." Vaaro looked down at the floor of the refit bay. "I can not crack security code for starting engines."

Darrus suppressed a chuckle. All Clone fighters, from the Torrent and ARC-170s to the cutting edge V-Wings, had a lock-out code to prevent theft. It had been a necessary precaution because of all the Separatist espionage during the war. Now, long after those pointless battles, that system was keeping his craft grounded just as misguidedly. The irony did not escape him.

"I understand. Here, let me give you the start-up code."

Vaaro seemed relieved that Jeht wasn't going to mock him for bringing him all this way without first testing the craft. He entered the code key into his machanic's datapad and climbed quickly up into the cockpit. Eagerly loading the pad into the security system, he made a ready sign to the tired-looking Jedi. "Is almost go time. Step back!"

Darrus did not need to be told twice, especially since he had a feeling the cobbled-together ship was as likely to explode as she was to take off. He certainly hoped for the latter, but he prepared for the former by seeking cover past the doorway to the repair bunker.

The exhaust cowls of the fighter's twin ion engines glowed softly, revealing that there were actually a trio of much smaller thrusters inside each one. Each one fired in unison, perfectly synchronized. Darrus had to admit, he was impressed so far. Tandem jets could be difficult to line up properly; getting six to burst-start simultaneously was a real feat.

A low hum came from the underside of the ARC-170, a sound akin to the motive drive of a landspeeder. Darrus watched as the craft slowly lifted into the air, a set of ground-effect maneuvering pads lifting it into a vertical take-off. Those were new too.

"All right now!" The Rodian called down to Darrus so excitedly, he forgot to use Basic. Fortunately, the intrigued Jedi knew rodese well enough to understand what the wide-eyed mechanic was saying. "I am going to go for a short circle around the city and come back. I need to test the drives, all right?"

Darrus nodded slowly. "Be careful!" is what he meant to say but it was his turn to have a fractional ability to communicate. What Darrus really croaked at Vaaro, fortunately downed out by the ARC's thrusters, was something rather rude and totally inappropriate for the situation given their similar genders.

Vaaro pushed the throttle forward, aiming the starfighter up at a slight angle. He'd studied the flight manuals for this type of vessel while repairing it. How hard could actually piloting the thing be, anyway?

A deafening roar erupted from the fighter as the engines went into full burn. A streak was all Darrus saw after that, followed by the systematic destruction of several innocent rooftops in a straight line leading away from the hanger. No one seemed to be hurt, but the path of devastated masonry disappeared into the distance. Only a cloud of clay dust marked where the fighter had gone.

Jeht laughed softly to himself and sat down in that dreamed-about corner. The Rodian was clever. Somewhere out there, assuming he hadn't panicked and slammed into a moon or something, he was probably figuring out the controls. It wouldn't be a pretty homecoming, but he'd be back.

He slipped into a light, much-needed sleep. He wasn't worried about the Rodian's safety.

After all, the universe protected fools. Darrus' continued survival was proof of that...

1 comment:

Zay said...

Poor Vaaro..
I can't help but giggle, though. Serves him right for trying to "get away" with piloting a ship ;)