Star Wars is a licensed trademark of Lucasfilm. I do not claim any ownership of this, and this story is intended only to pay homage to George Lucas and the galaxy he created.

Captain Omar and Lieutenant Dreego created by Russell Foubert

Dr Myra Artemis created by Tanya Foubert

Styxar Amoranem created by Joe Bentley

Mishri created by Coral Bentley


'...5 days out of Merridon Central...' hissed the badly damaged audio recording. '... repeat, this is Ranger 4... call... repeating general distress call...systems failing...navi-beacon lost... cannot..."

Denari Omar jumped slightly as the audio transmission broke for the last time. She always did that, even though she listened to the last message of the Ranger 4 several times a day over the past 6 weeks. Given her many years in space, she new the sounds of a bulkhead popping all too well. Her attention to the recording waned as the door chimed.

"Enter." Omar called out calmly. She tapped the holoscreen of her computer terminal off, and adjusted herself into a more 'officious' looking position in the chair behind her large desk. A young Rodian entered the room, brandishing a data padd. His uniform, like Omar's, was of the Merridon Search and Rescue Corps, or SARC as it was more commonly known, however it was much less kempt.

"Have you seen this?" accused the Rodian. "A criminal!"

"He's hardly a criminal, Dreego." Denari replied calmly. At least she could always count on the over-reactions of her Rodian aide to brush aside the tension and regret she secretly carried. "Besides, I authorized the arrangement with the Magistrate's Office, so I ought to know."

"Do we not have enough troubles without obviously recruiting thugs into SARC? You know what the media is saying about the lack of virtue in our customs division." Dreego crossed his arms as he vented on his boss. For one thing, Captain Omar never seemed to get upset at what others would view as obvious insubordination. For another, she seemed to quietly enjoy watching Dreego seethe. Every now and again he needed a reminder that she was in charge of SARC, not him.

"The media shouldn't bother us, Dreego. We have jobs to do, and we do them well... except for your recruitment efforts, I might point out. I felt I needed to take some initiative on your behalf. We need to launch Ranger 5 ASAP, and you aren't making much progress."

"Don't presume to rebuke me, Captain." Dreego tossed his datapadd onto the desk. "I know my job, and you should know how well I research each candidate."

"Well, that still doesn't explain to me why you can't seem to staff one simple starship!" growled Omar. "How hard can it be to recruit a pilot, recon-ops, tech and one doctor?"

"After Ranger 4? Damned difficult I would say. You know I've had no luck from the local sources."

Both Dreego and Omar seemed to back off. Both did not take mention of the Ranger 4 lightly, and the Rodian's invocation of that crew's memory took the bite out of their argument.

"Fine... You have a pilot now, criminal record or not. Get me the others in days or less. Our coverage of the space lanes is approaching the critical level." ordered Omar.

"Right." Dreego nodded. "I'll get back on it at once."

Denari waited until her assistant had left her office before pulling the flask out of her desk drawer. If the media found out that a full 30 of the spaces lanes in and around Merridon were not being actively patrolled, there would be several types of hell to be paid.

-o-

Dreego stalked down the corridor, passing a humanoid youth with blue skin and unkempt indigo hair. He glared at the youth as he passed, and the young man gave him a startled look back as the rodian continued past towards his desk.

The young man continued on his way, a look of slight annoyance on his face, and a few nasty thoughts going through his head. He reaches the office he'd been directed to report to, and he hits the door chime.

"Enter." barked Captain Omar. The door shwished open quickly, revealing what could only be the new pilot for Ranger 5. It wasn't too often that a blue-skinned humanoid walked into your office, after all.

"Ahh. Mr. Torosken. I've been expecting you. Come in and take a seat." Omar said quickly. "I am expecting your crewmates shortly, but before they get here, perhaps we could go over the details of your assignment to SARC. First of all, are you clear on why you will be joining us for a 2 year term?"

"Yeah, the judge was pretty clear on that point... So when do I get to fly?"

He walks over to the Captain's desk, dropping his duffle in one chair and his ass in the other, landing sideways in the chair so that his legs are draped over the arm and he is seated in a comfortable slouching position.

"We do have limited seating, and there's another 3 beings showing up, so would you mind?" Omar hinted as she nodded at Laarde's duffel bag. "As for flying, I'll discuss that once the others get here. For now though, I need you to sign this, please." Omar passed a datapad across the desk. She noticed the questioning look from Laarde, and decided to elaborate, "This is your acknowledgement of the Court Order, and that if you stray in the slightest, the charges levied against you will be escalated from Merridonian jurisdiction to Imperial jurisdiction, with a sentence of 5-10 years in Kessel."

As the captain speaks, Laarde shrugs and sweeps his duffel off the chair onto the floor beside him... and chokes back a retort when he hears her final statement.

He snatches the datapad from her: "What? That wasn't part of the deal! Noone said anything about Kessel!"

Omar merely shrugged at Laarde's reaction, then offered "Magistrate Vreena got a call after he rendered the decision to commute your sentence pending 2 years service in SARC. Seems there are a few people playing politics far above our poor little heads. My advice is that you sign the order before the 'New Order' changes the details of your bargain any further."

The look on Laarde's face shows plainly what he thinks of politicians and that he does not trust the Captain as far as he can hyperjump without a ship, but resigning himself to the situation, he takes the stylus and signs the document, imprinting his thumbprint on the padd to verify the signature. He hands the padd back to her. "Fine... so, do I get sent to my room now, or are the others showing up soon?" he asked, sarcastically.

-o-

The young human silently skulked up to the rodian's desk, absently hanging onto a small bag over his shoulder. Inquisitive eyes glanced all around the office, taking in all the details before tapping lightly on the desk to gain attention.

He smiles to see the officer's surprise, and then speaks. "Uh, I think I remember hearing you guys had a job open?"

Dreego's eyes nearly popped from his green, leathery skull in surprise.

"By the Great Hunter!" he gasped. He silently admonished himself to be more aware of people sneaking up on him in the future. One never knew when they would become prey, after all.

"Yes...yes. The opening." The rodian quickly checked his datapadd, and his demeanor softened some. "Excellent. Please head down to office 404 just down this corridor. Captain Omar is preparing a briefing for you and your fellow ship-mates."

"Wait!" Long brown braid bouncing on her back, a felinoid being, a Farghul, dashed to the retreating pair. The trendy backpack was already laden with gear, and a sturdy toolkit was carried with some difficulty.

At the first sound of the approaching person, Styxar Anoramen ducked back against the wall, hand groping desperately at the empty blaster holster on his thigh. He glances at the... woman with ill-concealed surprise and slowly relaxes his nervous stance. Eyeing her warily, he falls back into step with Dreego clutching his bag a little tighter.

"You're putting together a crew?" the Farghul asked "You want me there. Let's go, where do I sign up, can we get going?"

Stepping into place beside the young human, the woman composed herself, until only her slight panting and the twitching tail suggested anything other than a quiet, peaceful stroll with long-time companions.

As the three walked towards Omar's office, a young, blonde human female comes up the hallway from the opposite direction, juggling a clipboard, a data-pad and a large mug of something that smells caffeinated. She is wearing a rumpled SARC jumpsuit with an orange badge on one shoulder and as she opens the door you're approaching, a yawn nearly splits her head in two.

Pausing to blink herself into a semblance of wakefulness, she enters the office just ahead of the trio and nods to the woman beside the desk before sliding into a chair next to the blue guy.

Laarde turns as the door opens, and his gaze follows the very attractive (if sleepy) human woman until she sits down... he acknowledges the others, and is a bit startled at the felinoid... hopeful that this creature does not set off his allergy to cats.

Peering cautiously at the inhabitants of the room, Styxar reverses the chair closest to the door and sits down. His gaze lingers briefly upon the only humans in the room, as if trying to measure something. Finally turning full attention to Omar, he slides the small shoulderbag from his shoulder into is lap and waits.

Glancing around the room, rubbing he base of his nose with his fingers, he settles his attention on the Captain again.

"Good. It seems you are all here now, so I will start the briefing." said Captain Omar. She tapped a few controls on her desktop, causing a holoscreen on the wall to flicker to life.

Narrator: Ever since the beginning of commercial space flight in the days of Voice Over: the corrupt and misguided Old Republic, space-faring beings have been getting into trouble. Simple plasma leaks, power failures or even hull breeches have generated an infinite number of distress calls. Graphics of ships with engines blowing or hatches falling off

Impressionable Young Lad: Really? How many?

Narr: Current BoSS estimates tell us that every second 2300 to 2400 distress signals are received somewhere in the galaxy, Jimmi.

Lad: Wow! How can all these ships possibly be helped?

Narr: Its not easy, but the ancient Correlians showed us the way when they launched the first independant Search and Rescue fleet. Funded through local docking fees and ancillary taxes Voice Over: As well as generous budgets from the Imperial Senate, these first brave souls sought to protect the space lanes from all manner of threat, not just ship-board emergencies.

Lad: What else did they do?

Narr: They would mount rescue missions for ships and their crews that had crash-landed on remote worlds, perform customs inspections, and perform maintenance on Hyperspace beacons.

Lad: Beacon Maintenance? That doesn't sound like a lot of fun.

Narr: Well, how does fighting space pirates sound?

Lad: Shooting stars! Space pirates?

Flashy graphics of mighty SARC ships blowing up atypical looking 'space pirate ships'

Narr: That's right Jimmi, the SARC has local law enforcement privileges and assists Voice Over: on rare occasions the Voice Over: Imperial Navy to protect the ones you love.

Jimmi: What could be better than that?

Narr: There's only one way to find out! Jimmi's pedestrian style civilian clothing suddenly morphs into an older style SARC uniform

Lad: Wow! SARC, here I come! As if by rockets in his boots, Jimmi propels himself off into space

Narr: That's right... Jimmi is making a difference, and so can you! Call your planet's local Search and Rescue Corps Recruitment office today!

Music: Flourish

Black Screen, bold, white text: Approved for distribution, ISB:#3394943939.32 V1

Omar deactivated the holoscreen, with a slight sigh. She hated procedure, but the reg's demanded that every new recruit watch the video. Too bad it hadn't been updated in 15 years.

The silence of the room was suddenly broken by laughter, as Laarde couldn't contain himself any longer. "Ha Ha Ha Ha hahahahahahahahahahaha HAaaaaaaa-CHooooooooo!" he sneezes violently, cutting off the laughter.

"Ow." he says, grabbing his nose, with a rather pained look on his face. He reaches into an outer pocket of his duffel and pulls out some tissues, wiping his nose, and anything that got hit in the spray.

"Nobody told me jetpacks came with the job," Styxar comments wryly, smirking a little. "So you're starting a new Rescue corps?" he asks Omar, still smiling.

"No, we are not starting a new rescue corps. We need to crew a newly commissioned ship" Omar replied.

The middle-aged woman stood up from behind her desk and then moved around to its side. Her SARC Uniform seemed to be well worn, and decorated several times over with the commendations of various agencies.

"For those who do not know me, I am Captain Denari Omar. I am the head of Search and Rescue operations here on Merridon, and I've been in this business for a good number of years. I see some of you have met Lieutenant Dreego, my assistant."

The Rodian nodded in the back of the room, although no one seemed to turn to acknowledge him. Omar continued.

"You are here because you have been selected to crew the newest addition to the SARC fleet, Ranger 5. She's a newly commissioned YZ-775 Correllian transport, modified for our purposes, and due to launch in 3 days. But we can get into specifics about the ship later."

Omar clicked a button on her desk and the holo-wall sprang to life once more. Now it depicted a real-time view of the space-lane traffic surrounding Merridon, and its neighbouring star systems. Thousands of ships seemed to be moving back and forth, and in and out of range at one time.

"Merridon is blessed with two things, in my view. First, an abundance of industry for a system in the suburbs of the galaxy, and second, it being somewhat more remote. We aren't exactly in the Outter Rim territories, but we don't have anywhere near the problems the core worlds do."

"Nevertheless, we get an increasing amount of traffic each year, and we come under constant scrutiny from the Imperial Navy every time the Media uncovers some kind of illegal shipment that made it to the streets of Merridon. Fortunately, " Omar paused briefly to look at Laarde, "Most such shipments are intercepted by SARC."

"Before I go on, for the benefit of everyone here, I'd like each of you to introduce yourself to your new teammates. Dr. Artemis here can start."

The blonde, who has nearly dozed off during the video presentation, snaps fully awake when Larrde sneezes on her, nearly spilling her coffee into her lap. Guiltily, she places it cautiously on the desk, then stands up to face everyone, letting out a wide yawn.

"Sorry, I've been up all night stocking and setting up the new med-bay. "

"My name is Dr. Myra Artemis, although Dr. Art will suffice when I'm on duty. If I'm not, Art's fine. My background is largely in pharmaceutical, pathology and xenobiology, and this is my first assignment on a space vessel. I've largely been a 'ground hugger' up until now, although I did complete two years of training on Avan V, a station just out of Coruscant."

"It's going to take some time to fuel and finish stocking Ranger 5, so I'd like to conduct a complete physical for everyone before we leave, just to eliminate the possibility that anyone's carrying anything communicable, or anything that might cause long-term problems. I think at least one of you may require anti-histamine treatments." she says, looking at Laarde. With that, she picks up her coffee mug, and takes her seat again.

As Dr. Art takes her seat, Styxar clears his throat and half-rises out of the chair. He blinks his eyes a few times, before speaking up.

"Uh, my name is Styxar Anoramen. I didn't, uh really know what kind of job was being offered. I guess I still don't. But I guess I um, sort of, well... find ways to get places. I can scout out the best ways to get somewhere, and uh, can fly us there in a pinch if the uh... ship isn't too umm, big. But I guess this Ranger 5 is... well bigger than a Headhunter."

"I think I had a physical a little while ago, but umm, can't really remember when exactly it was. But if it's part of getting moving and well, doing things again then I don't mind. I like to be busy a lot. So uh, the sooner the better I guess. Umm, thanks."

Scratching absently at several days worth of beard stubble, he cautiously returns to his seat and nervously drums his fingers on the back of the chair.

Laarde remains seated "Sorry aboud the sneeze. I seem do be reagding do someping in the room." he says, glancing at the felinoid. He then blows his nose into the tissues and disposes of them in a different duffel pocket.

"Well, before my sinuses fill up again, my name is Laarde Torosken. I'm a good pilot and I know my way around space transports." He says, rubbing his eye. "I'm really only here because I have to be" he continues glaring at the Captain from under his eye-rubbing hand, "but I'm willing to do the work since it will help me to get on with my life."

"As for the physical..." he says, turning to the doctor "I don't think I have any problem with that." He gives her a sly grin, but has to cut it short as he grabs another tissue. "Aaaaa-chooo!"

"Oh!" Quickly, the Farghul climbed to her feet, and bowed gracefully. Only the self-conscious and close-lipped smile and the sinuous dance of her tail kept it from being courtly.

"I am Mishri, and I'm good with my hands. I like to rebuild engines, hyperdrives, some droid-work, that sort of thing. It's fun, really!" she squeaked, with a slight bounce. Looking at everyone in the room, long enough to let them clearly see her golden eyes and to clearly see theirs in turn, she smiled again.

"It looks like you need me, and I'd really like to be a part of your team."

Like silk pouring into the chair she regained her seat, and sat still except for the flickering ears, which seemed to scan the room.

"Thank you." Omar smiled. She felt an inner sense of relief that the introductions had done something to distract the group from the recruitment video. "The positions that need to be filled on Ranger 5, are the following - Pilot, which Mr. Torosken be filling. Navigator and Co-Pilot will be Mr. Anoramen, Chief Engineer will be Mishri, and unless you've not surmised, Dr. Artemis will bill the Chief Medical Officer."

The Captain flicked another display into life on the Holo-Wall.

"This is our pay and benefit structure. If you are in the Operations Stream, such as pilot or security, you earn 500 credits per week, base salary. You also wear blue patches on you Uniform. If you are in Technical Services, you earn 800 per week, base and wear yellow patches. Medical earns 1000 per week, and wears orange, as you can tell from Dr. Artemis." Omar recited.

"We offer several chances to upgrade one's payment level. Firstly, after a period of meritous service, you can expect a raise, to be set by myself and Lt. Dreego. Secondly you may also write a command, medical or technical qualification exam, and have your base pay increased by 300 credits per week for each successful exam you write."

"As for benefits - simply put, you will not pay for any manner of medical care while working for SARC. We cover all non-augmentative procedures and equipment, for you and your immediate family. Of course, we abide by Imperial statues for definitions of immediate family, and non-augmentative procedures."

"Are there any further questions at this time? If not, I'll ask Lt. Dreego to show you to your quarters. Tomorrow morning you will begin a 2-day crash course on SARC procedures."

"Actually, Captain, I do have a few questions." Laarde says "We don't pay for medical treatments, but what do we have to pay for around here? Is room and board part of the deal, or do we have to pay for that ourselves? What about equipment and weapons, since I'm assuming we'll need them for the law enforcement part of the job?"

"Also, since 500cr/week is a bit lean, is there a minimum requirement before we are able to write these tests, or could I take them all now?" he finishes with a cocky grin.

Mishri looked at the blue pilot thoughtfully, attempting to appear merely interested in the fact he was making sounds. '500 a week too slim?' she mused to herself. 'Maybe I'll be writing to Visalan soon, if he's being blackmailed we might be able to muscle in on the action...' After all, no one was allowed to blackmail her team-mates except her kin. Her musings are cut short as Captain Omar speaks again.

"While you are on duty, you may bunk here at Headquarters, and enjoy our hospitality at no charge, likewise you will also have room and board covered while on ship. I can't promise the best rations, but no one has yet been malnourished while serving SARC." Omar responded. "Weapons and equipment will also be supplied while on duty, however, you need to return your equipment when going off duty."

"I should add that you will typically spend 5 standard weeks at a time on duty, and then have 2 full weeks off to yourselves. You can opt to remain on duty however, during those 2 weeks, and bank your time off pending Lt. Dreego's permission."

"As for taking tests, you'll need to pass a 3 month probationary period, before being eligible, andI think you may find them to be somewhat more challenging than you think, Mr. Torosken."

"Anything else?" Denari surveyed the room.

Laarde smirks when the Captain says how "challenging" the tests will be, but doesn't comment.

Dr Artemis speaks up "I have a small request... if once we've all dropped off our things, I could see each of you in med-lab for a few minutes, I can at least get the bloodwork portion of the physical out of the way. It'll take a little time to process."

Turning from Laarde, the Farghul faced Dr. Artemis and smiled. With a perky chirp, she said, "Sure! Maybe you can show me where my quarters will be, and where med-lab is, and where the cafeteria will be, just let me gather my things?' Then she crouched beside her tool kit, opened it, and took some time to ensure that everything was where it was meant to be.

"Ahem," Styxar gets the Captain's attention "Uh, Ranger 5 indicates some other Ranger ships. Are we going to be working with them too?" He pulls out a small datapad and has been taking notes ever since the introductions.

"Well actually," Omar shifted her arms to cross them in front of her chest. "SARC does have a fleet of 14 vessels, of different configurations. Ranger 5 is our newest, and our first YZ-775. The 'number 5' indicates that it is of course the fifth vessel to bear the name in SARC, but consider that Merridon has been colonized for 600 years now, and has had its own SARC for 556 of them."

Laarde's eyes dart back and forth between Captain Omar and Dreego, and he makes a promise to himself to investigate this further... The Captain's answer was just a bit too evasive for his liking, and the pale shade of green that Dreego has turned points to something more ominous.

Dr. Art stifles an enormous yawn. "So how many SARC vessels are on patrol at any given time? How much to their patrol areas overlap? Who can we call to if we find ourselves unable to adequately handle a situation... like say we have to evacuate 400 people off a vessel and only have room for 200? What legal powers do we have to handle situations such as pirates and raiders? Do we tattle on them, can we fight, can we take prisoners for handing over to the proper authorities?"

Sliding back into her seat, Mishri holds the tip of her tail firmly between both hands. 'This is great!' she muses. 'Everything Visalan and Riedya have been trying to assemble since they took over from Marsak, and it's here for the listening! I could get promoted so easily...'

Folding her ears back and scowling a moment, the woman reconsidered. 'But they're the ones who cut me loose, they're why I have to be here anyway. I think I'm going to make them pay for every piece of information I can get.

"Woah there, Dr." Omar smiled. "Most of what your asking are operational questions that your advisor droid or captain can answer for you. As I mentioned Lt. Dreego will be training you for two days before you take flight in Ranger 5, and afterwards will be serving as your Captain."

"Yes... I am sure we will function, reasonably well together." Dreego chimed in. "If everyone is ready, I would like to offer you a tour of our facilities here at Headquarters."

Dreego straightened himself up to look more imposing and posed near the door from Omar's office.

Laarde climbs out of the chair, and grabbing his duffel, goes over to stand near Dreego... he still seems to be suffering from some reaction... he's rubbing his eyes and sniffling...

"Let's go, boss!"

When the Doctor comes up to them, he'll say: "Can I take you up on those anti-histamine treatments? I'm dyin' here..." stiffles a sneeze

Art smirks and turns to Dreego. "May I take Mister Laarde up to the medical bay and get him something before he dehydrates?"

"Oh hey, how about we all go, so Dr. Art can collect our blood-work?" chirped Mishri, as she joined the group. "Then we can have the tour and finish up at the cafeteria with a coffee - by then you should be feeling better, right?" Briefly she patted Laarde's arm, then turned to Styxar.

Dreego performs the rodian equivalent of rolling his eyes, before sighing "Very well... let us go to Ranger 5. From there you can have your blood work done, and you can store your gear."

The group files out into the hallway, following Dreego towards the docking bay.