A/N: So, funny story(not really though). I decided the muse had struck me a few days ago and began writing this chapter. Sadly I'd forgotten that most of my old work was stored on my One Drive account and not the flash stick I normally use. Long story short, I've written out this chapter twice in two very different ways. Wasted a good two days as a result. Good times. I'm going to pour myself a gin and tonic now and watch some Rick and Morty. You know, for inspiration. Cheers,
Harry was rolling his wand between thumb and index finger, as he often did when deep in thought. The Iron Justice had gone dark, likely taken over and there were a good thirty to forty heavily armed hostiles mixed among a sea of innocent bystanders.
How had the ship been taken over? He'd locked it, for Merlin's sake! And it wasn't as though you could just pop the door with a coat hanger.
This little situation that had suddenly sprung up had the potential to go south in a real hurry, and he wanted to avoid that if at all possible. While he had no doubt that he'd persevere in a straight-up throw down, there would no doubt be significant collateral damage should things come to that.
He mulled over his limited options for a few moments longer, leisurely approaching the very angry, very blood-thirsty Nagai he'd maimed less than two weeks ago. The casual approach bought him a few extra moments in an attempt to bang out a rough and dirty plan of attack.
He could kill Den Siva, but this wasn't some serpent you could simply behead. The others likely wouldn't lay down their arms. Subterfuge, it seemed, would be the name of the game.
Nothing for it, he thought. With a frighteningly proficient twist, Harry ensnared Den Silva's mind using the Imperius curse.
"Your wand," the wiry humanoid held out his real arm, and Harry was happy to hand one of his holdouts over to keep up the charade. With that done, Silva, through Harry, ordered the humans to be taken away, and the other party-goers corralled into one area.
Two Nagai led them away, and Harry quickly repeated the curse on them once out of the Zeltronian throne room.
Leia, Luke, and Lando all adopted identical expressions of surprise when the Nagai escorting them suddenly stopped and tucked their blasters away.
"Right then," Harry rubbed his hands together. "Let's see what sort of mischief we can get into on such short notice, shall we?" The Wizard unshrunk one of his trunks and dove right in, making a tremendous amount of noise as he sifted through its contents in a rough manner.
A short time later he re-emerged holding a coffee tin. Upending the contents, the fine powder within dispersed, causing the others to wisely back away. The substance, though, never made it to the floor as it was transfigured into tablets, before playfully flying back into the tin. Said tin was then given to one of the Nagai, which promptly left.
"Well, that's that." he sighed, moving again. "Come on then, no time like the present," he shouted behind him, where the Skywalker siblings and Lando still stood, flabbergasted.
"Harry, mind cluing us in as to what you've been doing? Or where we're going?" Leia asked, catching up. Luke looked equally interested, but Lando simply grinned, perhaps already aware that the situation was entirely under the Wizard's control, and likely headed into his usual realm of insanity.
"We," he gestured at the trio, then himself, "are going to check on my ship, and possibly retake it by force. Or with the help of the force."
He winked at Luke.
"That Nagai, meanwhile, will dispense some frighteningly large doses of a particularly potent magical laxative to Den Silva and his men. Which reminds me," he motioned to the other Nagai. "Go and bar any and all bathrooms you can find. Why make it easy for them after all."
"You're controlling them, then? Den Silva and those two who were escorting us?" Leia asked, waving a hand in front of the remaining pale-skinned alien's face. He hadn't moved off, blocked by the shorter woman.
"Yesss," he answered cautiously. "That's not a problem, is it?"
Luke looked like he'd sucked on a lemon, but Harry could tell that the Jedi understood his plan of action, especially considering the complexity of the Nagai crashing this particular party.
"Enslaving a person's mind against their will?" Leia seethed. "Of course, it's a problem!"
He sighed, stopping momentarily.
"You're losing track of why I'm doing this, Leia. Why I'm forced to do it this way," Harry argued, now turning to address her and her latest triage. They were close to the palace entrance now, which meant unwelcome company. A few unfortunate Nagai pulling guard duty rounded the corner ahead and were swiftly stunned before any of the others even had a chance to use the weapons Harry had lent them.
"In this case, the means justify the end." the Wizard continued, entirely unphased by the byplay. "This way no one dies, least of all our gracious hosts. And as a bonus, the New Republic gets to house a few more prisoners in their facilities."
"Speaking of, remind me later to question Siva on how exactly he made it all the way to Zeltros, considering he should still be in a holding cell on Endor."
Leia though hadn't said her peace just yet. "Don't you feel any guilt? Any regret when using your abilities for such nefarious purposes? You're literally taking away another sentient being's free will."
Potter shrugged. "Maybe at first. But the future is a lot less safe than I'd have imagined it would be. Back when there was a society of magicals, I'd have been thrown in jail for what I just did. But here? Well, let's just say it's simply another tool in my kit. A particularly well-used tool."
"You enjoy subjecting others to this?" she asked, sounding aghast. He snorted.
"Luv, all dark magic works like that. It's addictive by nature. Though I have to say, sex under the Imperus is the best thing since sliced bread."
The others sans Luke looked aghast, so he explained the euphoric side effects while under that particular curse's influence. No different from Ecstacy in his opinion. Ohh, there was a good way to make some credits. Synthetic ex. He'd bet his left nut the galaxy would go crazy for that stuff, considering how sweet they were for Spice.
They continued on, now outside of the palace proper and halfway across the wide, well-lit plaza. Leia didn't look happy but had thankfully run out of things to say. Whatever. He'd sort things out with her later, Harry thought as they paused to let another Nagai patrol pass them. She was young and idealistic. Harry knew her kind. He used to be like that too, once upon a time. He didn't hold it against her.
The local star that illuminated this pink rock had set a while back, leaving the streets lit with soft, yellow lights at set intervals. It was cooler now, almost pleasant compared to the hot daytime temperatures when they landed.
They approached the ship's ramp, still extended. Harry really should have put up dedicated security wards a long time ago.
The two unsuspecting sentries fell to his precise wand work, and they made their way aboard.
The Nagai had dedicated perhaps two dozen bodies to taking over the Justice. Really, Harry was just annoyed they'd managed to succeed at all. The Justice had a skeleton crew at the moment. It had been his oversight, and he squarely bore the blame for the ship being hijacked.
Thankfully the crew was safe, he noted, finding them bound and gagged in the mess. They'd been roughed up a little but otherwise whole above all, alive. Had one of them died he'd have marched every Nagai on this planet off the proverbial plank.
Back on the bridge, they used the ship's sophisticated sensor suite to locate the Nagai craft in orbit. It wasn't overly large but could still pose a threat, especially with the ship grounded and shields lowered. It needed to be dealt with.
And just like that, the thing detonated in a flash of yellow and white.
"Uhh, let's raise the shields, shall we?"
Lando promptly did so. The engines were halfway through their warmup cycle when the first shots impacted the translucent barrier. Whatever had blasted the Nagai ship had located them, and they didn't seem friendly.
The external bow-mounted cameras swiveled up towards where the shots were emanating from. The images they transmitted to the bridge screens derailed even Harry's thoughts.
"Is that an old-fashioned ship of the line?" he muttered; eyes transfixed on what looked to be an honest to Merlin Terran sailing vessel from the eighteen-hundreds.
Sure, it had some extra bits here and there, but the resemblance was uncanny.
Its side-mounted gun emplacements loosened another salvo that found them some two seconds later. The shield was taking a beating, and this quaint hostage situation had all of a sudden turned into a properly dangerous capital ship engagement. A laser bounced a signal off the thing and the computer spat out an educated guess regarding the size of the ship, plus or minus half a meter. Whatever she was called, it came in at over four hundred meters in length.
Cruiser size, then.
The justice was severely outclassed here, not to mention only just lifting off. The deflectors were holding, if only just. They needed to get mobile and use their superior maneuverability to get above or below this thing.
"Luke, focus on speed over evading until we clear the atmosphere, then close in and run rings around this thing. The armaments look relatively fixed."
"Yeah, good call." the male Skywalker twin responded, fingers blurring over the control surfaces in front of him. Though don't expect me to perform any miracles here. I've never flown something this large."
Harry grinned. "You'll do fine. She handles like one of your X-Wings."
He left Luke to it and focused on his link with Siva, back on the ground. The extra distance made holding onto it a strenuous exercise. Luckily the hostage-takers were otherwise occupied. Silva himself had been spared his comrades' fate. Ordering the man to throw his blaster down, the link finally frayed.
The Zeltronians were on their own for the time being.
The ship, at this point, had reached low orbit, and while still taking fire, the volume had decreased as the gunners had to anticipate where the Justice would be.
Luke made their guesses rather poor ones. Lando, in turn, was having no issues with the slow, lumbering vessel in his sights.
Harry meanwhile, was apparating between the main turrets to replace empty tibanna gas cylinders, effectively performing the duties that a dozen crew would normally do.
He swore he'd find a way of automating these ludicrously antiquated systems. Heck, even the Royal navy had figured out how to autoload the heavy shells on their cruisers by the end of the sixties. This was a joke!
His work kept him occupied for some minutes before finally, the comm opened up from the bridge.
"They're breaking contact and fleeing!" Leia announced, sounding both relieved and slightly exuberant.
"Bloody hell," Harry muttered, wiping his brow. He was bushed.
Apparating back to the bridge he caught the tail end of the enemy ship jumping into hyperspace.
This vacation wasn't exactly panning out for him, was it?
"All right then, my pointy-eared friend," Harry said in a raspy tone as he twisted a chair around and sat down, swiveling the lamp he'd transfigured so it shone directly in his newly recaptured prisoner's face.
He'd forgone the usual maroon robes for a rolled-up dress shirt and trousers held up by suspenders. The finishing touch was a leather shoulder holster that held a snub-nosed 38 special.
"We can do this the easy way, or the hard way. It's your choice, chump!"
The wizard took a drag from his cigarette and blew a cloud of smoke into the Nagai's face, causing him to cough.
On the other side of the interrogation room that looked like it came straight out of an 80's cop show stood the Skywalkers, Lando, as well as the Zeltronian monarchs, the King and Queen. Plif was also present, and for once Harry was grateful the furry little mind reader was here.
For most this scene brought back traumatizing flashbacks to when he'd interrogated the lovely former grand admiral of the Imperial Navy shortly after her capture.
The prisoner was of course none other than Den Siva. Harry had opted against relieving him of his remaining arm, though for this latest interrogation session he'd brought the other one along. It was under a complex combination of stasis and animation charms.
For now, though, he'd charmed it to run around like Thing T. thing from the Adam's family. Upon giving the ultimatum, Siva's hand jumped on Harry's shoulder and pulled the revolver, menacingly pointing and waving it at its former owner.
"All right, all right. Simmer down!" he chided, and the hand lost some of its enthusiasm.
The Nagai commander, who'd seen his fair share of things over the years, just stared slack-jawed at his rogue appendage.
"Let's begin with how you managed to escape from Endor."
Silva snapped out of it, simply glaring at Harry.
"Look, I'll make you a deal. You play ball, and you'll get your arm back, good as new. I'll even re-attach it myself."
Now that did get the man's attention. He mulled it over, evident by his conflicted expression.
"Agreed." he finally muttered, his first words since being re-captured.
"Smashing." Harry grinned, and Silva's hand moved across the table to shake its identical hand twin. "Now, the circumstances of your escape, if you could?"
"The opportunity arose when my brethren attacked Endor en masse."
The mood suddenly shifted and even Harry lost his confident, relaxed demeanor.
"The Nagai attacked Endor?"
The human shifted in his seat, sitting up straight. "Did they now?" was his response. "I must confess that I have not had contact with the New Republic in over a week. What was the outcome?"
Potter sounded almost like someone asking how the local football leagues did over the weekend at a pub in London.
"Poor. We were repulsed."
He nodded. "I see. But you were able to free yourself?"
There was more to it than that, but Harry had this Nagai's cooperation, something no one else in the New Republic had managed thus far, so he moved on.
"Why are you and your kind hostile to the New Republic?"
Silva, who seemed lost in thought, regarded his interrogator with renewed focus. "We refer to your galaxy as the Skyriver. A place that holds tremendous resources."
"So you're conquerors then?" Harry concluded. The Nagai though shook his head. "No. Not originally. The Nagai used to be a peaceful race that valued honor above all else. We were driven to this place, as a means to liberate our homeworld from our arch-nemesis."
"The three-masted sailing ship that destroyed your vessel in Zeltron's orbit?"
Silva looked surprised for a moment but adopted a grim expression. "Yes. The Tof. Our sworn enemy. You encountered them?"
"I'll say. They fired on my ship moments after I recaptured it from your men. We drove them off."
Silva retreated into his mind once more, and Harry did not press him. Clearly, the information had shaken the previously stoic alien.
Finally, though, Harry pressed on. "The Tof? Who are they?" he asked.
"They're savages." the Nagai commander hissed. "Invaders of our homeworld, Nagi. Enslavers of our race. They must have realized our plan and followed us here." he muttered, rubbing his chin.
"Your plan? You mean the one where you pick a fight with the Republic when you can't even defeat your own enemy?" Harry tried to keep the condemnation to a minimum, but quite frankly, their plan blew juicy balls.
"We planned for a swift campaign following the conclusion of your own civil war when your forces were depleted. Building a power base, we would have returned to Nagi in force to finally expulse the Tof once and for all.
"But not anymore," Harry added. "You've laid bare your entire plan. What changed? Why divulge this information to your enemy. It can't be my promise of giving back your arm."
"No. It was your mention of the Tof ship. If they are here, then our plan has already failed."
"These Tof. Just what kind of strength do they wield. I've seen your fleet above Kinnoine. They outnumber you then?"
"Quite." the Nagai said dryly. "They are violent and uncouth, but skilled warriors nonetheless. They live for combat and relish the thrill of a good fight."
"In short, they are a threat to the entire galaxy, no matter the faction.
Silva nodded in agreement.
"The solution then semes pretty simple if you ask me. I propose you cease hostilities against the New Republic and instead ally yourselves with them to repulse these Tof."
While a good majority of the New Republic leadership are knuckle-dragging primates, they have enough common sense to understand that a violent, war-loving race such as the one you just described would need to be dealt with at the root.
They may not have helped you initially, but now that they're here, the new republic's hand has been forced", the wizard brainstormed out loud. "Heck, I'd bet a tenner that the Imps would quit their infighting long enough to rally against them as well if they're really as nasty as you say."
"Truly?" Silva asked, perplexed. "You believe an alliance possible, even after all we've done?"
Harry shrugged, arms folded. "Mothma is a peace-loving fool. If it meant saving lives without losing face, she'd roll over in a heartbeat." he looked up at the reflective glass. "Right, Leia?"
The young woman stood rooted, as she had for the last several minutes listening to Harry converse with their prisoner. The glass vanished, and for the first time, Silva realized he'd been watched. He frowned but did not complain outright.
"If it means peace between our peoples, then yes. I wager the odds are good that we can come to an agreement.
Potter clapped his hands together. "Smashing. I'll send you an invoice for services rendered. Under the subject line, it will say; 'Harry saves the world again. Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?'"
Leia rolled her eyes as he took his leave.
"Captain!" the Nagai shouted, realizing he was taking his leave. He pointed at his missing appendage, still frolicking around in the room.
"Ah, right. Almost forgot."
Everyone knew he had, in fact, completely forgotten.
"All right, this might feel weird. Summoning the arm, Harry first vanished the skin graft over the still new wound, then lined up the arm even as Siva started to bleed all over the floor.
The Nagai was beginning to panic but Harry nailed him was a body bind. It was going to be hard enough tying together the many layers of tissue, sinew, and bone. Working from the inside out, the humerus, or whatever the Nagai equivalent to the bone was, fused together. Muscles reattached themselves with generous helpings of potions both crammed down Siva's throat and applied directly onto the injury.
Within ten terror-filled minutes, the deed was done. The others had fought to keep their lunch down, and even the Zeltronians had lost their permanent smile for the time being.
"There. Good as new. The tingling should go away in a few days. For now, I've hit it with a numbing charm. It should wear off in six to eight hours. After that, you'll have to suffer the old-fashioned way. Cheers,"
With that, Harry left the room, whistling merrily.
Akiva was a hot and miserable place, even with the cooling charms layered thicker than the old Charmin ass wipe commercials on the telly. Following his arrival in the capital city, Myrra, Harry had found some reasonably priced accommodations for him and Black Ball. He'd avoided the posh part of town lest he draw the eye of some opportunistic criminal. The last thing he needed was to be forced to defend himself and blow his latest cover.
The Iron Justice would rendezvous with him in three days' time. That's how long he had to wrap things up here. The first half of the day was spent asking questions. Never a good thing as most of the locals were not friendly, and he'd blown through close to ten thousand credits just to loosen tongues before finally striking gold in the form of a solid lead on where to start scratching around for the old Separatist droid manufacturing facility. It was rumored to be located under the city itself, but there were many ways inside, one of them to the southwest, just beyond the city proper.
Following this intel, Harry found a nice, secluded alley and unshrunk his broom, before sticking his droid to the underside of the shaft. With a few concealment charms in place, he lifted off.
The jungle the surrounded Myrra was dense, to say the least. It made Endor's forest look like a well-manicured nature park. After a few passes over the dense canopy, Harry threw in the towel and landed.
The ground was damp with moisture and the abundant light and water made the plants here grow to a ridiculous effect.
"Right then. Let's see where the trusty ol point me spell will lead us to this time," he addressed his droid. Checking the control interface only silence greeted him. It seemed BB was not in the mood to talk.
Potter shrugged, then muttered; "Point me droid factory auxiliary entrance."
He'd needed the specifics, such as the name and rough location of this underground portal location, or else the spell wouldn't have worked. The Catacombs under the city would have had hundreds, if not thousands of entry points. The amount would have simply caused the wand to spin in circles endlessly.
Harry made his way through the thick foliage, using his wand to animate the large ferns, vines, and thick branches. They parted for him well enough, though the rough, very uneven ground made for some tricky navigating for his droid. It whistled in clear annoyance when he simply jumped over an obstacle, and finally chirped after becoming half-submerged in a mud hole.
Harry, who'd checked their direction again, rolled his eyes.
"Listen here, you oversensitive ball of wires," he chided. "If you don't like getting dirty, then pick your path a bit more carefully next time."
More whistles and chirps followed, along with the distinct crackling sound of a stun device. Harry wisely jumped over a half-meter high root, saving himself from retaliation, if only just.
Of course, beyond said root, a thirty-meter drop lay, and with a girlish shriek, he fell down the overgrown underground shaft.
If there was ever a sound that could be considered laughter, Black Ball was doing its level best to imitate it.
"Well, we found a way in," Potter said after his droid took the more sensible ramp down. Ironic considering his last words, but karma was like that.
The old droid factory, or what was left of it, didn't look promising. Perhaps it was because this part of the complex was exposed to Akiva's hot and humid climate, and the pool of open water certainly didn't help.
With a bit of magic, the nearest doors squealed open in protest and a wave of stale, moist air hit him. That, and the metallic boot of a beefed-up protocol droid with legs the diameter of tree trunks.
Potter flew back into the overgrown artificial cenote and into the clear water below. Again.
"Bloody hell!" he managed to wheeze after breaking the surface, very glad to have worn his spelled robes for this outing. Despite this, his chest ached enough for him to believe that there may be a fractured rib or two.
Apparating instead of swimming to the edge, he managed to appear right behind his assailant, banishing the thing out the door and returning the favor, satisfied when he heard a mighty splash.
"Oww," he managed, lowering the wand after confirming that nothing else was going to punt him around.
Eight Ball rolled in leisurely, if a spherical droid could be considered capable of such an action, and whistled a few times.
Harry ignored him in favor of mending his ribs and downing a pain-relieving potion.
The bruising that was blossoming around his breastbone was spectacular in its scale and severity, to the point where he was forced to find the seldom-used bruise removing salve. Applying a healthy scoop, he sighed in relief just as a petite little brunette number rounded the corner.
"So, how are you liking those new augmentations, Triple ze-" the voice's owner stopped when she saw Harry rubbing the salve all over his chest. She pulled a blaster in the blink of an eye, but Harry summoned it before she could fire.
Beside her, an angry little astromech droid produced a massive cannon, flame thrower tip, and a set of miniature red-tipped missiles that put Wiley Coyote to shame.
"Woah, woah, easy does it!" Harry held up his hands, blaster held awkwardly in his left, while the other held his wand, ready to snap a shield into place at a moment's notice.
Thankfully, the woman talked down the jumpy little robot, and he lowered the wand, though they were not quite at the point of him giving back her weapon just yet.
"Who the hell are you? And what did you do with my other droid?" she asked.
Other droid? Harry realized who she meant. "What, the translation droid with the freaky red ocular sensors?"
"Yes," she stated slowly, suddenly wary of the irritation in the stranger's tone. "He was stretching his new legs."
"Ya, I noticed." Harry snapped, shifting his robes to show her the metallic imprint of her droid's new hardware had left on his chest.
"Oh, crap." was all she managed to say.
"Oh crap is right," Potter agreed.
Harry led the human woman to the water-filled open pit where her droid had met its wet demise and summoned the thing from the murky depths for her. Surprisingly it was still operational and furious at being bested by an 'inferior organic lifeform' such as him. Its words, not his.
Harry rubbed salt into the woun- err, circuits by asking that if it was so superior, then why couldn't it swim. The two began a verbal pissing match that only stopped when its owner told it to ease off.
"Sorry about triple zero," she said later, having guided Harry to her makeshift camp within the old droid factory. "He's usually not prone to physical violence on account of his delicate body."
The Wizard snorted. "Delicate my arse. I haven't been kicked this hard since that dare in the forbidden forest involving a Therestal and a tub of mayonnaise."
The woman gave him an unsettled look, which was matched by him a few moments later when the other droid came into the room.
The closest Harry could come to describing it was a maintenance droid crossed with a Dalek, and a little bit of tank sprinkled in.
The woman was quick to take note of his apparent unease and told the unit, whose designation was BT-1, to stand down.
"You have some interesting droids," he managed, stowing his wand but not ready to just turn his back on the little killing machine. It approached Black ball, and the two began conversing in a series of beeps and hoots.
"Looks like the kids are getting along," she smirked, finishing up with the bandaging job. "The name's Aphra, by the way. Dr. Aphra."
"Harry," he responded, holding out a hand, which she shook. "A pleasure, despite the circumstances."
"So, Harry," she began, trying not to sound obvious. "Are you a Jedi? The way to disarmed me of my blaster is pretty unique."
"Huh? Oh, no. Nothing like that." He handed her back the weapon, grip first, then pulled his wand, and a piece of paper.
It was a pamphlet he'd made. One that explained in simple terms that he was a Wizard. It became tedious explaining it all the time, though the other option would have been to simply lie and say he was a Jedi. Most of the time that backfired though, hence the pamphlet.
With practiced ease, Harry conjured a Golden Lab puppy.
Aphra squealed in surprise, then joy as she picked up the adorably cute K-9. Minutes passed as she showered the creature with love and affection. Black ball rejoined his master, all too happy to distance himself from its terminatoresque brethren.
'She's a looker, Master!'
That was the message the droid sent him through the wrist-mounted screen. Harry pulled up the holo keyboard while the good Doctor read the pamphlet he'd handed her, finally relinquishing the dog.
'What are you, my bulbous wingman?' he typed back. 'Though you're right. She is a looker. But we're not here for that. And besides, do you really want to hang out with those demented droids she keeps for company?'
'Point.' was the nearly instantaneous response.
A few minutes of awkward silence followed, with the inherently evil protocol droid's crimson gaze never leaving him.
"So you're a...wizard?" her mouth hung open slightly, still unsure if he was pulling her leg. Though the acts he'd performed could be the result of being force sensitive, the creature he'd made, and identical to the one in the paper she held, told her otherwise.
"Bingo," he confirmed, moving on to poke at the pile of droid parts in the corner. "Say, are you any good at droid repair?" he asked. "Because that's why I'm here. I need a few for a project."
"How many is a few?" Aphra asked, putting the pamphlet aside in favor of showering the 'conjured' golden lab puppy with more love. Neither Triple zero nor BT-1 appreciated physical affection. And besides. It was just so darn cute!
"About half a million."
She blinked, pausing mid-scratch. "You call that a few? What's your project, subverting a planet with overwhelming numbers?"
Harry chuckled, moving on. "Nothing quite that sinister. I just need a crew of non-organics to man a ship."
"And that ship takes half a million to crew?" she asked skeptically. "Heck, unless you have a superstar destroyer, I think your math is a bit wonk-"
Realization hit. "Sweet Muja berries, you're Harry Potter. Undesirable number one of the Galactic Remnant. Hero of the alliance."
Harry's beaming smile faded at being labeled a hero.
"The one and only," he confirmed with a sour look.
"You actually have an Imperial SSD class ship, don't you?" she whispered in awe. "The Ravager."
He nodded, an amused smirk showing. "And this is an old droid factory. Now, you know why I'm here. But what I'd like to know is what you're doing in this hole?"
"What, can't a girl explore decrepit old factories in piece anymore?" she defended, though not seriously. Harry snorted.
Aphra shrugged. "Apart from upgrading my loyal servants here, I salvage droids, tinker with them, and sell them to the highest bidder."
"Ah, a fledgling arms dealer. It warms my heart to see people still engaged in such a noble career."
She mimicked Harry's earlier outburst, before picking up her new puppy. "Well, I don't think you'll find half a million spare droids down here. But there might still be some mothballed stuff on Geonosis. Of course, the locals aren't too fond of outsiders, especially after the last time someone came looking for droids there."
Harry followed her for a sort of unspoken nickel tour. The facility was in quite a rundown state. Water had infiltrated the lower levels, creating a massive underground cistern. Any machinery under the surface was likely nothing more than a seized pile or rust.
"Sounds like there's a story behind that," he muttered, simply content with looking around, and at her pert behind on occasion. The droid entourage followed behind, though only triple zero felt the need to elaborate.
"Oh, it was glorious!" the twisted droid piped in. "BT here needed three refills for his flame thrower, and my voice module had to be replaced from all of the laughter."
Harry looked over his shoulder in mild concern, something very few people, and now robots had been able to do in the last four years.
Instead of reassuring him, Aphra simply said; "You'll get used to him." Harry subtly applied a flame freezing charm over himself, just in case. After all, those two had started out on the wrong foot. He winced at the bad pun, and subconsciously rubbed his chest.
They stopped by a bulky-looking machine made from the same rust colored material as the droids themselves.
"What does this thing do?" he asked, wondering if his magic could fix, or perhaps the better term would be 'refurbish', it.
"That actually makes the frames for the standard-issue E-5 blasters on the B1 series."
In Harry's head, he imagined the whole blaster being spat out by one mysterious machine. This made more sense in a way, otherwise, these facilities could be made much smaller than they we-
Hmm... now there was an idea. The machinery would have no issues with being shrunk. He could simply collect it all and set it up somewhere else. Or even better, run it in miniature form and crank out tiny droids that could be un-shrunk as needed.
Pulling the Elder Wand, he first cast a repair charm, then a cleaning spell. The monolithic machine didn't look that different from the outside.
"What did you do?" she asked, curious. Harry was busy looking for some sort of power hookup but figured it was hardwired into the floor. Perhaps there was an override panel somewhere?
"Ahh, I fixed and cleaned it. Now I'm trying to figure out how to turn it on."
She laughed. "This place has no power. Unless you brought a portable gen set, nothing in here will work. And even then, you'll need to hook it up to the machine and send the commands manually. The control center doesn't exist anymore.
Harry frowned. In a way, he was fortunate this woman was here, explaining how this stuff worked to him, her kick happy droid aside. He'd have taken ten times as long to deduce this, if at all.
Seemingly decided, he spoke again. "Hey, this might sound a bit out of the blue, but do you want a job?"
"Huh?" was her not-so-elegant response.
"Son of a bitch, I can't believe you got this thing working again," she muttered, inspecting the raw metal frames of the blasters as they were spat out and onto the floor with a cacophony of noise. Normally a bin would have caught them, but those were of course long gone.
There had been enough raw materials in the hopper for perhaps twenty of them, and it had quickly consumed the durasteel pellets and then shut down again.
"So, if we can do the same to most of the stuff in here, can you help me make some droids?" he offered. She looked up in excitement, shaking her head.
"Heck, I can you one better. Tell me, have you ever heard of the BX series droid before?"
Aphra had a long shopping list of things she needed. Some of it he could offload on his procurement specialist, a position he'd concocted on the spot because Harry had neither the time nor patience to deal with such trivial drivel himself. Jeddack was not pleased but began at once, sourcing everything from prefabricated warehouse envelopes that would house the machinery to specialty computer chips.
Harry, meanwhile, was put to work sourcing some of the larger, more difficult items. The ones that had been removed from the factory on Akiva. Aphra at least knew where to direct him in this regard, and within two months most of the groundwork had been laid for her new and improved BX series production run.
Aphra had repeatedly stated that these droids were the pinnacle of the B series design, but that such performance would come at a price.
Harry had simply smiled and told her not to worry about it. Despite being technologically inept, Harry learned a lot in the months after meeting the brilliant young woman. She worked well with the mining crew team leaders and quickly befriended the settlers on Dathomir's first permanent settlement.
Its location had been chosen with the utmost care as to not provoke any hostilities with the Dathomiran Witches. In fact, the nearest local settlement was practically on the other side of the planet. It added a few minutes to the shuttle runs ferrying workers to the moon, but for the most part, they were a happy bunch. Mostly because it was an island and Rancors couldn't swim.
Well-paying jobs and close proximity to family were key to that contentment, too. But mostly the lack of Rancors.
The Alderaanians were sending a specially formed committee to Dathomir next week. Pending their findings, official talks could commence soon thereafter to allow them to settle on the planet. Harry hoped they would agree.
He was increasingly being forced to make decisions regarding the settlement's day-to-day affairs. Offloading that work on an already established government would go a long way in getting him back out on his ship.
For now, Tonha had unofficially taken over as DeFacto captain. While there was no active bounty on Harry's head at the moment, that would change rather quickly should he re-emerge into the galactic spotlight.
Looking a little further outside of their bustling little system, Mara too had been busy. Zsinj had officially been overthrown some two days prior. The news was reverberating through the galaxy like wildfire, and fierce skirmishes between the now disposed of former Warlord's forces and his direct rivals raged as they sought to exploit a perceived weakness.
Mara Jade though had planned for this eventuality and was prepared, even gaining territory, notably from the Greater Maldrood.
As of yet the New Republic had not interfered, likely adopting a wait and see approach.
With all of these chaotic events unfolding, Harry found himself in his favorite goblin chair overlooking the newly constructed droid factory. The good Doctor had joined him as per his request, scrutinizing the document laid out across the desk.
"So you want me to sign my name on a piece of ancient flimsy that promises I won't stab you in the back at some point in the future?" she asked, making sure she'd heard him correctly the first time.
"Pretty much," Harry said. With Aphra so heavily involved in the programming of his new droid security forces, he simply couldn't afford to ignore the glaringly obvious hole in his defense strategy.
"And magic will punish me if do plot against you?"
He nodded. "In essence, yes."
She read over the specifics he'd outlined again.
"But what if you turn evil and we no longer see eye to eye? For all I know you could be thinking of slaughtering nerf calves with these droids to build your evil sofa manufacturing empire?"
Hmm, he hadn't considered that. "All right, that's a valid point. How bout we agree that you can't betray me using our shared work then? That way, if you found out about my nerf sofa empire ambitions, you could still rally the support of all the good and wholesome folks in the galaxy and challenge me directly. The contract won't harm you."
Aphra cracked a smile, watching as the clause added itself in Aurebesh. "You have an overactive imagination, do you know that?"
"Hey, I'm not the one who mentioned slaughtering day-old animals for their hides," he argued back.
She chuckled, then signed on the dotted line. With that done, the two exited the corporate office area of the Dathomir moon mining facility and headed into the massive warehouse that had been built to facilitate the organization and transport of the new droid factory.
It had been four months since Harry's fateful encounter with Doctor Aphra underneath Akiva's capital city and quite honestly, he couldn't believe his luck at having met the spunky younger woman. Not only did she set up the new facility in record time, but her improved droids really were a cut above the Regular B-1's he'd read about. Heck, the things were practically sentient, a sort of artificial intelligence if you will.
He'd conversed with one, and found them intelligent, able to learn, and capable of adapting on the fly. As far as droids went, he couldn't ask for more!
The loyalty command script ensured none of them went rogue, or worse, turn against Harry or his interests. Apparently triple zero had had a rebellious phase that honestly scared Harry more than anything he'd seen in this galaxy up to that point, and that's saying something when you thought of Rancors and Snarlac pits.
Supplying the resources to feed the droid manufacturing facility had actually been rather straightforward, with the Koratas mine site providing much of the raw material directly.
He did purchase a smelter to refine the ore, a small thing that would, in time, be replaced by a more streamlined facility adjacent to the mine itself. Right now, it worked well enough to suit his needs thanks to the runes he'd imbued into the machinery.
The moon was turning into a bustling place, and he'd soon need to install proper defenses or hijack more ships to protect his assets.
Mara had guaranteed his neutrality within her newfangled empire, but already there have been a few ships, scout vessels most likely, sniffing around.
For now, he could produce fifty thousand units a week. While that seemed low, for the more advanced BX design it was actually a very healthy number. Some of the internals required expensive rare elements, purchased in hard currency from whoever had stock.
That in itself drew attention, so he was forced to set up shell accounts with Winter's help to keep any overly observant parties from realizing what he was up to. Mass droid production hadn't occurred since the end of the clone wars, and much of the infrastructure the Trade federation had come to rely upon had simply ceased to exist in the twenty-five years since its defeat.
In time, the plan was to acquire a majority shareholder stake in the companies that mined and refined those rare elements directly, but right now Harry had enough materials on hand to fully man a single SSD in another three months and have enough left over to form a garrison for the planet and moon.
The units destined for eventual ship use were of course modified with runes, making them quite tough, but only so long as they stayed on board, where they could be powered.
Chelli didn't quite understand all of the extra features Harry had built into her droids, but his continual obsession with making them from high-quality alloys was something she'd brought up before. Like now.
"Harry for the last time, they don't need to be built to this level. In the long run, you're only going to make the situation worse." the Doctor argued. "People will simply try and steal them to melt down. No one makes droids with Phrik. And never mind the questions that will no doubt be asked when word gets out. This stuff is so coveted, there would be a hundred-star destroyer knocking down your door. Please, either leave it in the ground or hide it using your weird magic voodoo."
Potter grumbled about what the whole point of having it was if he couldn't use it but relented.
"Fine, I'll assign this specialty batch to the Iron justice." he waved his arm over the rows upon rows of droids down below.
Chelli looked concerned, so Harry elaborated with a roll of his eyes. "Oh, relax. The ship is already warded to high heaven. The odds of her being successfully boarded are astronomically low."
He deliberately avoided mentioning the two dozen Nagai that had managed this exact feat only a few months prior.
She dropped the subject, considering the outcome a win simply because she'd managed to talk some sense into her employer for once. She quickly found that he could be quite stubborn, though occasionally listened to reason.
"All right, moving on. Have you considered replacing the organic workers with Droids? Your productivity would increase significantly, and overhead costs would be slashed."
This time Harry was the one who sighed. "Listen, I know we've hashed this out before, but the whole reason I started this operation was to keep these folks employed. What kind of benevolent overlord would I be if they all just received their walking papers next week?"
One of the men working in the warehouse overheard on the way passed and Harry could see the panic on his face.
"Relax, it's not going to happen!" he shouted after him, before turning to face her. "Your droids can run the upgraded smelter once it's up and running. It's nasty, hot work anyway. But leave the mine alone. I don't want to create a droid-only society here."
"Fine," she repeated, conceding the point.
"Fine," he repeated with a sagely nod before a smile formed. "Now, what's this I hear about hooking up with one of the Witches planet-side? Got yourself a bit of a booty call, didn't you?"
Doctor Aphra whistled appreciatively, holding out her hands to emphasize a much bigger rack than she actually had.
Harry threw back his head and laughed, the tense discussion from before forgotten.
"You know, the locals are all right. I don't see why you avoid them like the plague."
Harry grumbled something about sore arse cheeks but didn't elaborate. They were headed for the shuttle pad that would take them to New Aldera. Dathormir was receiving three to four transports a day with new migrants. The decision had been made to abandon New Alderaan in favor of Dathomir.
With the Ravager not yet fully operational, Harry had chosen to hijack a pair of Imperial Star Destroyers from the Imperial remnant. They were staffed by a skeleton crew of Alderaanian volunteers and some of the BX droids.
It was by no means an overwhelming force, but more than capable of beating back any pirates of marauders that usually preyed on colony planets such as this.
The move had earned him a new bounty, however. His exploits of the capture of the Ravager were linked to these new acquisitions. Harry admitted that there weren't a great many options when stealing massive stars ships, and clearly someone had taken note of how these two were taken.
The bounty at this point did not concern him overly. No one would dare seek him out here, and if the issue became troublesome, he'd seek out and neuter the bounty guild directly if need be.
They boarded the nearly empty shuttle and settled into the seats. A pair of them were providing hourly service to New Aldera. Black Ball brought up the rear and began conversing with the BX droid overseeing the ramp controls.
It had been programmed with etiquette over combat protocols, though in a pinch it could pick up a blaster and go to work.
Harry glanced at his datapad and sighed.
"More calls for summoning from the New Republic?" she asked, all too aware of Harry's plight with Mothma and Leia Organna.
Neither was pleased that the Alderannians had chosen to forsake them, and wanted to speak with the Wizard in person about the matter. Oh, and likely the continually worsening relations between Mara Jade's faction and the New Republic.
They seemed to be under the impression that the Wizard had the newly minted Warlord under his thumb. Harry snorted at the thought. Mara and he hadn't seen each other face to face since the day after the New Republics' inception on Chandrilla. They'd conversed via holo call a few times but both were far too busy for anything more than status updates.
Mara left him be, and he did the same in turn.
"Pretty much." He erased the latest missive from the Chancellor and leaned into the seat. He'd be meeting the Alderanian council in less than thirty minutes to discuss his role in the newly minted defensive armed forces. His droids were loyal to Harry first and foremost, a fact that didn't sit well with some of the council members.
Right now, he provided the bulk of the equipment that formed the backbone of this endeavor. While he didn't wish to rule this system with an iron fist, retaining control remained paramount in his goal of establishing a school. What good was having such an institution if the government was willing to sacrifice it the moment things turned sour?
The shuttle landed and the duo plus one droid disembarked, headed for the temporary seat of government. A proper parliamentary building was in the plans but still far off in the future.
They cleared the makeshift security checkpoint without being accosted and soon found themselves in the partially occupied room. The other half of the Alderaanian government body was still on their old colony world, ensuring a smooth transition to their new home.
"Captain Potter." a morbidly obese man in his fifties greeted him. His name was Threkin Horm, who served as the president of the Alderaanian council. He'd led the charge in tabling a motion to relocate and was one of Harry's most staunch allies.
Despite their current alignment on political matters, Harry couldn't stand the man. There was something about him.
"Apologies for my tardiness," he announced to the room. The session had begun perhaps ten minutes prior, but he'd only remain until matters concerning him were tabled. Which, it seemed, would be now.
"Honoured council members," he greeted, then nodded at Horm. "President. I understand your concerns regarding Dathomir's newly minted self-defense forces and my role therein specifically."
"That being said, it was made very clear to you prior to your decision to relocate here that control of the planetary defenses, as well as any fleet assets procured by myself, shall remain solely with me. You are of course more than welcome to acquire your own ships, which would fall under your own chain of command."
There was some grumbling from the seated mass of humans, but no one spoke up.
"I should remind you that the entire system is firmly within Warlord Jade's control. Ultimately, she is the one you answer to. The only reason you are not licking her boots right now is standing right in front of you."
Considering the matter settled, Harry apparated back to his quarters within the settlement and plopped onto the bed face first. He just wanted to be back on his ship.
A few more months and he could roll out his plan. Until then, he'd play world builder.
A/N: I'm pretty happy with where this story is headed now. We've elegantly moved on from the Tof-Nagai arc without ever seeing one of those green swashbuckling space pirates. In a way it feels like an opportunity missed, but this fic doesn't need interstellar privateers in it. That may just break the story altogether.