Monday, January 15, 2007



Darrus was not sure what that meant in Rodese, but he had a suspicion it was very, very rude. Offering an apologetic look to Maya for interrupting their Sabacc game, he hurried downstairs to see what the crazy green man was cussing about this time. From the soft footsteps behind him, he could tell Maya was not content to just wait for his return.

They both came upon the same scene; Vaaro was beating on an old, white half-plate of face armor with an unlit cutting torch. "Una chooto varash kana!"

That was Huttese, something he did speak. After a fleeting blush at the biological implications of Vaaro's words, he cleared his throat. "What is it? What's wrong?" Though his voice was no louder than it used to be, it was no longer a rasping pain in his throat when he spoke. Grateful for that, and grateful to this place for helping him through so many problems, he waited for Vaaro to hear him... and for Vaaro to stop beating on the defenseless plasteel visor.

Neither happened very quickly. It was Maya shouting, "Var! Get back in orbit!" that snapped him out of his inanimate-object killing spree. As sheepishly as a Rodian could be, he looked up from the pile of shattered debris and set down his tools.

"Sorry for that. Mask is broken. I can no fix it but maybe can salvage optics. Maybe."

Jeht looked at the wreckage. "Was it broken before or after you blaster whipped it?" Behind him, Maya chuckled slightly, then covered her mouth in a vain attempt to not embarrass her long time partner and friend.

From the wan look on Vaaro's face, it was far too late to avoid that. "It was already broken. I just make it worser. Visor had big crack on front and mounting straps all dry rotted. Visor no good before I get here."

Maya nodded, but Jeht did not respond. He was looking past Vaaro at another work bench altogether. The Rodian had moved several small tables into the basement so he could work in privacy, something Darrus had not objected to at the time. This place felt a bit like home now; he no longer felt like an intruder here. A little extra furniture was not a concern.

But what he saw past Vaaro's work-suited should very much was. "What have you done?!" Rushing past the surprised Rodian, he reached the object of his focus, a half-disassembled cylinder with a string of wires exposed on its back end. Reaching to his belt in disbelief, he was stunned to find that in fact, his lightsaber was no longer there.

Maya cut Vaaro a sharp look, one that grew even sharper when the Rodian shrugged and said, "What? He was asleep."

Darrus spun, his eyes darker than usual. "Explain this. Now."

Vaaro raised both hands and took a step back. "Be calm with yourself, Jedi. I not do anything permanent to it." He gestured to a third table, one with something covered by a length of tan fabric. "You ask that I help you hide what you are. I doing that." Then, in a softer, once again sheepish voice, "That and... I always wanted to try something. I think it will work."

Darrus closed his eyes, centering as best he could. It was just a weapon. It wasn't worth hurting a friend over. This could be fixed. Killing Vaaro couldn't be.

"You have five minutes to finish your work on it. Understood?" He was as calm as he could be; Maya could feel the turbulent emotions he was suppressing. She was used to Vaaro's total lack of respect for personal space and privacy. Jeht wasn't, and if her friend didn't do as he was being told, the Jedi's sense of outrage could get wildly out of control.

Crossing the room, she laid a hand on Darrus' shoulder. "Come on. If he's only got five minutes, let's give them to him in peace. We have a game to finish, Tuursh." Tuursh was the Tusken word for a violent, avenging spirit, a wraith. It seemed to fit the brooding man well and besides, he really wasn't the kind one could call Honey or Dear with a straight face. He wasn't the sweet pet name sort, no matter how gentle he could be sometimes.

Nodding, he followed Maya up the stairs, pausing to look back at Vaaro with a withering gaze. It finally seemed to sink into the Rodian's brain that perhaps he had erred. Before they were even fully out of the room, he was feverishly moving around the sundered saber.

Four minutes and forty three seconds into their next round of Sabacc, the door to the basement opened again and Vaaro came out holding a blaster rifle. It was one of the old style combat models used exclusively by Clone Troopers - a DC-15. Aside from some scuffing along the forward vent and around the gas receptacle, it looked brand new. After a split second to determine that Vaaro wasn't holding it with intent to fire, Darrus stood up and glowered.

"That is not my lightsaber."

Vaaro nodded. "Come with me to outside." Without waiting for an answer, the Rodian stepped out of the villa and into the trackless sands beyond. Maya nudged Darrus with her chin and followed.

"Come on. I know he's a bastard sometimes but he always means well. I am sure if he's done something to your poor saber downstairs, you'll be able to fix it."

Unsure about that but with no other course open to him aside from brutal homicide, he walked with her outside, squinting from the harsh glare of the noonday sky. Darrus had trouble with one sun; two was like a kind of torture.

By the time his eyes adjusted to offer him a least a little vision, Maya had already done as Vaaro was instructing. Three old cantina bottles were sitting on metal drums in the distance. They were both standing by the Starwing, Jeht's rebuilt ARC-170, at its back cargo ramp was open. Not that Jeht was willing to admit it, but he hadn't even known the ship had a back cargo compartment until Vaaro mentioned it a few days ago.

The Rodian was standing beside Maya; both of them were armed with DC-15 rifles now. Hers was in perfect condition as far as Jeht could tell. Vaaro was pointing down towards the bottles and telling her something. His senses still screaming from the bright light, Darrus concentrated on them, trying to get himself under control.

" Just shoot the one on the left." A long, emerald finger pointed to the bottle he wanted Maya to take out. As Darrus watched, the lovely ex-field doctor shouldered the unfamilar weapon like a professional soldier and fired after only a moment's aim. The blast was perfect, lancing over the sand in a bright blue bolt before shattering the bottle into a hundred molten shards.

Darrus was impressed. "Nice shot, Maya." His sight was getting better and with it, the rest of his senses were relaxing. He could hear now and he no longer felt the slight vertigo that always came with getting light blinded. He no longer had his special glasses and without them, he was at a serious disadvantage on a bright planet like Tatooine.

The medic blushed. "Thank you," she murmured and set the rifle stock-end down beside her. Vaaro nodded his agreement with the compliment and shouldered his weapon next. Though Maya had been surprisingly adept at using the DC-15, Vaaro was an obvious expert. He had the right stance, the right grip, and his firing form was perfect. Maya had received some very solid training but her partner was a true soldier. At least, he used to be.

"Are you watching, Jedi?"

Darrus nodded, then whispered, "Yes, Vaaro. I am right here, but I want to know what happened to my..."

His words were cut off by the Rodian taking his shot. The end of the rifle flared and fired, a beam of raw, violet energy streaking out and slicing through the bottle's center like a purple scalpel. Vaaro held down the trigger and as he did, the beam continued to pulse. Shifting the weapon from side to side, he cut the bottle in half without damaging anything else around it. All that remained at the target site was an intact bottle on the middle barrel and a neatly severed bottom half of one on the cylinder to the right. The top fell, shattered, and rained down amber glass into the sand.

"What?" Both Darrus and Maya said the same thing at the same time. Vaaro grinned at them both and tapped the front end of the DC-15.

"Lightsaber is in here. I mount it into rifle, add new focus to end of barrel and run bypass from its core to the gun's systems. See what happen now on full power." Before they could respond, he slid a bar on the side of the rifle's housing all the way forward and fired again.

The barrel of the DC-15 looked for a moment like a flamethrower, venting violet in a meter wide tapering cone. The blast coalesced into a wide path past the purple burst, roaring forward to envelope the entire upper end of the middle barrel. When it faded, there was nothing left. A glowing mass of slag and vapor marked where the beam had been.

"By the Core!" Darrus was stunned, as was Maya. Vaaro, on the other hand, just looked inordinately pleased with himself. Reaching up to touch the barrel of the gun, he grimaced as a hissing sound and a stinging pain told him what he'd suspected would happen. The rifle's venting was not capable of handling that much power. The gun's entire front half was nearly white-hot. If it was fired again like this, it would surely be ruined and could potentially explode.

He shrugged. That wasn't really his problem, though, since it wasn't his weapon. He let the rifle cool off while Maya and the Jedi gaped at him. By the time they were ready to talk, he was ready to show them the part that would probably keep Darrus from beating him into Bantha paste. Probably.

"See, Jedi. Here is best part for you." Vaaro opened a pair of catches on the underside of the still uncomfortable warm front barrel and slid open its underside. Within, the firing chamber had been replaced with Darrus' lightsaber. There was a small ring of additional metal on the back end of it where the saber touched the rest of the rifle's plasma coils but it was otherwise intact. "It comes out with just one twist. See?"

Vaaro reached inside, pleasantly surprised to feel the lightsaber's cool surface. The gun was broiling but the saber was fine. He'd been counting on that. Turning it left to unlock it from the barrel, the Rodian pulled out the lightsaber and handed it to Darrus. "All safe and sound and deadly as new, like angry Rancor baby."

Darrus took it, still staring with growing amazement at the rifle. He lifted his lightsaber up and touched the activation plate. In truth, he didn't need to do that; he'd installed a mind circuit in the weapon that allowed him to fire it up with just a thought and the Force. Regardless, his manual switch didn't do anything. The saber wouldn't turn on.

He tried the mind circuit. Nothing.

All admiration for the rifle disappeared as the glower came back. "Vaaro!"

The Rodian held up his hands again. "Be one with calm, Jedi. Is just a dead power cell. Using full blast on rifle drains cell in both gun and saber. I was expecting this." He held up a new cell for the lightsaber and Darrus took it swiftly. It was in the saber.

Now it lit up beautifully. The violet blade hissed to life, thrumming with power. Jeht felt instantly better, gazing into its depths as he let his hostility go. It had been unfounded. Vaaro hadn't meant any harm. He couldn't afford to let his emotions get like this anymore. If it was this easy to get furious at a friend, how could he ever hope to avoid the Dark Side when he confronted the Scarlet Wake?

Darrus breathed easier and as his mind calmed, Maya felt comfortable enough to put her hand on his shoulder and kiss his cheek. Turning her head to Vaaro, she smiled. "It's wonderful, Var. Really amazing."

The Rodian nodded, picking up the rifle Maya had been using and handing it back to her. "Of course it is. The VPG-1 will serve Darrus Jedi well, yes?"

Jeht nodded. The least the Rodian deserved was a little gratitude. "It will. Thank you." He bowed slightly, a gesture of respect the Rodian seemed to appreciate. "But the name? I assume V stands for Vaaro, yes?"


"But what do P and G stand for?"

Vaaro's snout widened in an adorably arrogant grin. "Pure Genius."


Tarek said...

That... that's just wrong.

In a demented Rodian sort of way. :)

A Deecee with "cutting blaster" and "cone blaster" modes?

Pure demented Rodian genius.

August said...

That's him. Vaaro's a twisted bastard, no lie there. :)

(Oh, and in case anyone was concerned about the deleted comment, it was just a spammer. Home Refinance spam to be specific. :( )

Tarek said...

Offering "1.x%" loans? Heh. Only when you actually get the contract back and read the terms do you find out that the "1.x%" is for the first month, and that afterwards it rises up to 7% APR or thereabouts...

That gives me an idea for an adventure hook, though. Hutt-backed "low-interest" loans to purchase starships.

"The Almighty Jabba says that the initial interest rate of 1% was applied as per the contract to the first day of the loan and the subsequent compounded interest rate of 10% per month is perfectly proper." :)

At least land values on Tatooine are cheap. Building on that dustball must be a pain, though, since the buildings need water for the concrete and stucco...

Zay said...

Pure Genius huh?

..Right. Remind me never to push a button on anything Vaaro builds.

Robert said...

Sorry, I've been out of it for a few, granted I jumped on last night but things were chaotic plus a little headache.

I must say that I am hooked by the storyline, and our little Rodian has a wonderfully twisted mind.

I trust the wreck and I-65 closure didn't crush your plans yesterday. Best of luck and good hunting.

August said...

Hola! Robbie, 'zat you?

Robert said...

To my knowledge we have yet to ever cross paths, if not by some odd chance of fate while I've been tracking around Louisville. Which in all honesty I do roam from time to time.

August said...

Ah, well then! It is a pleasure to have you aboard for the story, sir. I hope you enjoy the installments to come!


Erisraven said...

Wooooow. Vaaro cool. Jeht's temper problem is a little worse. Of course he didn't exactly invite a Rodian to play with his saber, did he?

That sounds entirely worse than I'd meant it. I should not be writing comments at 4:30 AM. :)