Thursday, April 12, 2007

Curiosity

"Frang it all! The hanger's been here the whole time!"

Crouching behind a windblown rock, Narr lowered his macrobinoculars and cursed. Two kilometers away, a mountain loomed high overhead, its eroded sides apparently sheer and unwelcoming. Narr knew the truth now; a hologram generator was hiding the entrance to the secret base he'd heard about months ago. Following those three had paid off, though he was still frustrated that he'd not been able to find this place on his own.

"Chalk one up to Gannar. The man can keep a secret."

He pulled his thinsuit gloves tight and hopped astride his speeder bike, thumbing its throttle and swooping out from behind the shelter of his rocky perch. The slave tech and the two bounty hunters had been in there a few minutes now; he could likely approach safely.

At least, he could have if his speeder was working. A loud snap and a grind of smoke from its engine casing brought his flight to an abrupt, violent stop. The front of the bike unceremoniously slammed into the sand, sending him vaulting end over end forward. Using more physical skill than the Force, Narr managed to keep from being injured, but the yielding amber ground had a lot to do with it as well.

Looking up at the Tatooine cloudless sky, he grumbled to himself about new technology and not being able to trust it. His faithful old swoop was being refitted after its run in with Wraith a few days ago. Accordingly, he'd had to borrow a new one from the Wake's vehicle pool. He really should have known better.

New things never worked well for him.

Now he was aching all over and had no ride. This wasn't likely to end well. Taking a draw off the water line in his suit, he stood up and brushed himself off. "Frang it all..." The bike was a complete loss and he didn't have time to fix it any way. After quickly weighing his options, he started moving towards the mountain. Broken speeder plus Tatooine heat plus less than three hours before Planetfall meant he had to get to that mountain and hope there was a way to warn the Ithorians on Shin'da'ruu before it was too late.

No time to be subtle now. If Wraith or his counterpart got in his way, that would go poorly. For them. A battered but utterly familiar metal rod pressed into his left hand as he ran, shedding the hydrospanner shell that concealed it. He'd not wielded his saber in some time but right now, too many lives were at stake.

He was less than a kilometer away when the holo covering the base's ground entrance flickered and a single swoop came out. Diving for cover, he watched as the swoop turned away from his approach and raced off over the dunes. Even without optics, the lack of hair and shape of the body let him know it was the Zabrak tech. She was making a break for it.

He felt for her; he really did. Unfortunately, he knew something she didn't. Her spine had a small dermal charge set in it. At any time, Gannar could use the comm relays on Tatooine to hit her with a signal and she would simply die. Neural shockers were nasty tech, complicated to implant and even harder to disarm.

Fortunately for Slash, Narr hadn't spent the last twenty years pining over the loss of the Jedi Council. He'd moved on with his life, doing what good he could and learning things Almas would never teach. He quickly fetched his worn but functional datapad from his satchel and pointed his transmission port at the quickly fading Zabrak. Running a codebreaker program, he hacked into her spine zapper and deactivated it.

The lovely alien would still have to deal with Gannar's fury once he learned she was still alive but at least she had a chance now. He wished her luck and hoped she was smart enough to catch the first ship off this rock. He folded the pad closed and tucked it away, resuming his run.

He made it to the base of the mountain, subtle use of the Force making his trip as quick as possible. Just as he reached the hidden entrance, there was a rasping sound of huge metal plate high above. He knew what that had to be; the hanger undoubtedly had a roof access. It was opening. He was running out of time.

Hoping his hunch was right and the base's defenses were down, he set out in a full run up the access tube. The going was rough as the path was designed for swoops and not people on foot. Once again, the Force came to his rescue. He felt the fang of fatigue that came along with heavy use of his powers now. He wasn't getting any younger, after all, and he'd hidden for so long. The paths in his body weren't used to so much energy.

The Force did its magic and propelled him up the twisting corridor. He was pleased to see all the blast doors open, all the check points deactivated. The base was defenseless, not that he knew way. He'd long ago learned to trust his feelings; they hadn't steered him wrong.

He came up into the hanger with his blaster in hand and his saber pressed against his forearm, ready to lash it out and ignite its cyan blade at a moment's need.

There wasn't a need. There was no danger.

Or rather, whatever danger was here had apparently passed. There were, however, casualties. Wraith and Echo were lying on the ground, small wounds in the center of their brows. Head shots, and damned precise ones. The rounds used to take them down were still visible, protruding slightly from their skin. Odd.

He made a mental pass through the chamber, double checking that the sniper wasn't still here. He doubted Slash, despite her name, would have done this. She was a skittish woman, kept enthralled to the Wake because of her technical skills. She was no assassin.

His senses detected aggression in the room, but no active hostility. There was something here, several actually. Mental patterns caught in somnolence, like people asleep. Two of them were more aware but he couldn't pinpoint them. That made him nervous. Hidden targets meant another ambush could happen. Taking to the shadows, he made his way slowly around to Wraith and Echo. They might be beyond his help but perhaps he could get a better idea what he was up against by checking their bodies.

He was halfway across the wall where the two were laying when a low sound of shifting metal drew his attention to the command console on the far side of the hanger. What he'd assumed to be towering loading droids were moving around it, accessing its functions through flexible link tendrils. He'd never seen machines like them before - hovering, armored and bearing obvious weapon ports. Battle droids of some kind, clearly, but of what design? And where had the Scarlet Wake gotten them?

One of the pair turned his direction, a swiveling camera port scanning across the hanger. Moving fast, he ducked under a huge silver curtain, seeking to get out of sight before it tracked him. Back to the wall, he waited several breaths before moving again.

Except that, as he paused, it became clear he wasn't up against a wall. Curved steel was pressed against his back, cables under his still touch. Slowly, he risked turning around and taking a closer look. He was standing beside a sphere of folded plating, the thick armor concealing another droid like the two at the controls outside. His active mind could sense its presence as well.

It was a droid, clearly, but it wasn't invisible to the Force. How that was even possible boggled the mind. He knew there were lives at stake, millions of them, but he wouldn't likely last long if he charged out into the hanger recklessly. Better to bid his time until the droids turned back to their task, whatever that was. And while he waited, he could examine this strange machine.

Along its front face, there were dozens of shielded ports and one encased in a thick crystal lens. leaning over the cowling of the sphere, he pulled off his thick, cumbersome cowl and took a closer look...

6 comments:

Tarek said...

Oops.

:)

Zay Berkana Eve said...

Oo, hot damn, I smell a big metal lizard fight ;)

Tarek said...

Actually, I expect that it'll be more like big metal pile of parts twitching on the ground... remember that bit about Narr not getting along with new equipment? :)

Zay Berkana Eve said...

So.. a really short fight? *giggle*

Tarek said...

Well, I dunno... that depends on whether the droid collapses in catatonia, or whether it spazzes out. :)

Tarek said...

Okay, I think I finally figured something out.

These droids... they're built using the same technology that created General Grievous and the Jedi Hunter, right?