Thursday, January 18, 2007

Second Skin

"We try again." Vaaro went back down into the basement, muttering in Huttese and turning a curved piece of dark metal over in his hands. Unfinished strapping dangled from both sides of it, evidence of several failed fitting attempts.

"I hope I am not offending him," Darrus said quietly once the Rodian was out of earshot. "I just want to be able to see through it properly."

Maya smiled and nodded, her finger guiding a needle and thread through several pieces of black leather. "I wouldn't worry. He just complains. You get used to it after a while." Holding up the partial jacket to examine her handiwork, she added, "If you really want to know when to be worried, start panicking when Vaaro doesn't say anything."

Darrus could appreciate that. His worst moods were also accompanied by total silence. It was a side of him he was trying to grow beyond, to leave in the past where it belonged.

"Oh, Maya. I wanted to thank you for trying to get my glasses repaired. At least the optics still work, even if the lenses are shot."

She nodded again, running a line of ballistic cloth under the top layer of bantha hide. When it was done, this garment would be able to stop a sporting blaster at close range and offer at least passable protection from anything larger. In the Rebellion, she'd put together several gunner vests for commandos; at least now she was making one for herself.

"Do you think Vaaro will be able to get that mask functional? The optic units weren't built to be used like he's proposing."

Holding up her needle, she re-threaded it with a knowing grin. "Vaaro can get anything to work. It might not be what he originally planned or promised, but he's never outright failed. If it takes him a dozen day-cycles, he'll come out of that basement with something."

Darrus gave her a flat expression. "Should I start panicking now?"

Emphatic nod, wide smile. "Oh yeah."


Several hours later, the Rodian woke them both up with the grinding echo of the basement door. Putting on his pants and sliding into a light robe, Darrus met him at the door of the sleeping room. "Yes? Any luck?"

Vaaro's green hand pushed a black and silver mask into his pale ones. "Try it on. It will fit this time. I not do wrong again."

Darrus gave a slight bow at the assurance and turned the metal curve over, placing it against his face and adjusting the back straps. They slipped over his head easily, buckling with one hand into cunningly worked half catches. It was stable, comfortable, and utterly dark.

"I... I can't see." Darrus' voice dropped into a low sigh. "It fits now, but I still can't see." His next sensation was a hard rap over his right cheek. Vaaro had just punched him in the face!

A moment later, the inside of the mask began to glow and the optical systems came online. Through low emission corneal input, Darrus' sight returned. The mask was beaming a full 180 degree field of vision directly into his eyes. The wavelength was slight enough that it caused no pain and the image was brighter than he could normally see without discomfort. Essentially...

"This is better than my old visor, Var." His voice was hushed; Darrus was suitably impressed with the Rodian's work. Again. "Thank you."

"Not any trouble, Darrus Jedi. You had good mask and good parts to work from. I just put them together."

Vaaro was being modest, but he wasn't actually wrong. The mask was a technical marvel, not to mention a total mystery. Found in one of the locked storage containers that came along with the Legacy's parts, the mask was of unknown history and unknown origin. He'd never seen anything like it, though its styling suggested Old Republic era and its material age was estimated at more than three thousand years. Whatever else it was, the mask was old.

"I also paint it for you. Original paint was black and red. Red was flaking off, so I replace. I use dark steel paint, like hematite rock, where red was. Black was easy to replace. Lens in eye slot needed fixing to, so it not red anymore either. I use spare purple crystals you had." Then, almost as an afterthought, the Rodian made an awkward apology. "Hope you not mind."

Darrus was too pleased by the mask to be concerned. The crystals were spares, after all, so if Vaaro had found a use for them, so much the better. "Not at all. You were welcome to any parts you wanted. Thank you for the excellent work."

He followed Vaaro out of the hallway and downstairs to the rest of his new armor. The Rodian seemed excited to see the entire outfit in use and truth be told, so was he.

First came the undersuit, a single piece of black uniweave. According to Maya, the material had been salvaged from Sandtroopers, soldiers of the Empire equipped to deal with the harsh conditions of desert worlds. The bodysuit she'd made from the cloth was light, breathable, and thermally insulating. It fit like another part of his body; she'd done a fine job.

A secondary garment went on over the understocking. This was also black, made of ballistic fabric and covered in connector clasps like the straps of his new mask. A wide gray strip went down both sides of the outer coverall, starting at the underarm and ending in a tapered point just before the foot cuff. A third strip, this one triangular in shape, began at the neck and ended with a similar taper below the belt line.

The plates came next, each piece of armor locking onto corresponding clasps. A reinforced belt brought the suit in at the waist, several pouches and compartments lending a respectable weight to it while providing storage for necessary power cells and other useful items. The whole ensemble took more than five minutes to get into, a lengthy time frame Darrus hoped to reduce with practice.

The last item to put on was a sleeveless long coat that matched the black coverall. The coat honestly served no purpose other than to give him the feeling of still having robes. He'd gotten used to them over his years of Jedi training. Going without them completely just didn't feel right. The hooded coat was a decent compromise.

Hefting his new rifle, Darrus turned to Vaaro and asked, "Well? How do I look?" His voice, modulated and amplified by the mask, sounded louder and deeper than his own. It was completely unrecognizable, a good thing considering how distinctive Jeht's could be.

Vaaro tilted his head, looked him from head to toe, and gave him a serious compliment considering it was coming from a Rodian. "You look... dangerous."

Darrus smiled softly. If he was going to pull off being a bounty hunter and infiltrating the Scarlet Wake, that was exactly how he needed to look. Appearances weren't everything, of course. He would also have to watch his mannerisms, his actions, even his mode of speech. He would have to become someone new. The Jedi known as Darrus Jeht would have to stay here in the Dune Sea for a while. When he left this place, he had to be this other person. This "Wraith", as Maya had dubbed him.

No sooner had he thought of the bartender then her voice echoed out behind him. "Well, boys? How do I look?"

Vaaro and Darrus both turned to look at the woman who'd slipped downstairs while they were otherwise occupied. Standing there before them, Maya was wearing skintight pants, an almost impossibly low-cut silk shirt, a black jacket that matched the long coat Jeht was wearing, and two low slung gun belts with a custom heavy blaster hanging casually off each one. Tall boots with armor plates running all the way up the knees completed the image.

An image who's effect was to leave two males utterly dumbfounded.

Maya grinned wickedly. "That good, huh?"


Tarek said...

A full 360 degree view?
Interesting. That's going to take some getting used to. Those Jedi reflexes will come in handy for not tripping over things. :)

August said...

That would be bizarre, but the post says 180 degrees. Gods, a 360 spatial view would be nightmarish... Cool, but a nightmare! :)

Tarek said...

Oh. Whoops. Misread it again...

Now that I've gotten corrected, I personally have a peripheral arc of vision to about 190-195 degrees. 180 is close enough for government work. :)

And maybe with the next upgrade (come on, you know there's going to be another one), Vaaro can install a "second projector" that has another 180 degree strip covering his back. :)

Erisraven said...

Interesting stuff in this post. There's some curious history behind these ancient things that just started turning up like that. The ship in pieces, this ancient mask that seems perfectly attuned to cover his racial flaws...