"Shavit!" Aminta exclaimed, pounding the surface of Wann's desk with her fists. "Why didn't you give us all the information before we signed up for this?" she demanded, and Carth made a noise of warning.
Roland Wann stared up at the smuggler-turned-Jedi impassively, seemingly unaffected by her outburst. "Would it have altered you decision?"
"Then I fail to see what the problem is," he countered smoothly, and Aminta's eyebrows rose to her hairline.
"You fail to see what the problem is? You sent us off to the Sith base with a promise that you'd give us a ride down to the Ocean floor…" she began, but Roland cut in.
"A promise that I have kept," he interjected, and Aminta gave him the darkest glare that she could muster before continuing.
"…but you conveniently forgot to inform us that every crew you send down there dies! That's two suicide missions so far! And we were only prepared for one of them! Do you send your troops into battle without warning them? What, by the gods, is wrong with you? I can't imagine how you could possibly…"
"Jae," Carth stepped in, his voice authoritative. Aminta's mouth dropped and her eyes narrowed when she realized that he was pulling rank with her. She lapsed into angered silence, throwing Carth a look that informed him that she would most definitely give him a talking to when out of earshot.
Carth smothered the sudden impulse to cringe. "What Padawan Jae is attempting to say, sir, is that had we known the risks, we would have arrived better armed and with a larger company."
Roland gave Carth an oily smile. "Well, that is what comm units are for," he replied easily, and Carth saw Aminta's whole body stiffen with rage.
"Of course, sir," he replied through gritted teeth as he spun on his heel and pulled Aminta away from the desk by her elbow. Once they had reached the exit of the Republic base, Aminta broke free from his grip and stopped in the middle of the hall way. "Why in the seven hells did you defend that son of a Kath?" she demanded angrily, drawing curious looks from passersby.
Carth smiled politely and waved and those who stared with an apologetic shrug of his shoulders. "I wasn't…"
"And what was that about? Ordering me around like you're my commanding officer?" Aminta continued, incensed.
"Technically I'm in charge of this mission!"
"You may outrank me at the enclave, but in a republic base, I most certainly outrank you."
"Why you no good, rancor breath, hairless Wookiee! And here I thought…" Aminta exclaimed, her nostrils flaring with the injustice of it all. Several more people stopped and stared.
"Care to keep your voice down?" Carth hissed, and Aminta followed his gaze to the onlookers. Quickly, she made a rude gesture to the mass, and the appalled crowd dispersed. "Honestly!" Carth exclaimed, staring at the youthful, graceful hand that had previously seemed incapable of such obscenity.
"You agree with that snivguld?"
"Hell, no, but I can see his point," Carth exclaimed, his own temper aroused. Aminta's eyes narrowed and she took a defensive stance. Carth saw and groaned. "Can't you just be rational for one damn second?"
"I'm always rational," she replied, crossing her arms over her chest.
"Like hell, you are!"
"If you have such a problem with me, go back to Telos!"
"Maybe I will!"
The pair stared at each other for a second, chests heaving, nostrils flaring. Then, Aminta broke the tension with a bout of laughter. "We sound like an old married couple," she noted with a slight toss of her head, and Carth's anger disappeared as he grinned in agreement.
"We need to contact the crew; see who can make it here reasonably soon," Carth said, drawing Aminta's attention back to the situation at hand.
"Don't bother asking. Just tell T-3 to high tail it down here. And please, make sure that he doesn't tell anyone why he's needed."
Carth nodded, pulling out his comm. "Just out of curiosity, why T-3?"
"Because you and Canderous will kill each other, Zalbaar's useless when water's around, I don't want to put Mission in any more danger than she's already in, I'm pissed at Bastila, and Juhani…well, she just doesn't feel right." Aminta clarified her voice carefully neutral.
"I see," Carth said, hiding his amusement, and then spoke into the comm. "T-3. We need you down at the Republic base pronto. Bring some extra gear while you're at it." T-3 began to chirp out a response, but Carth cut the feed. "I can't understand a thing that droid says," he informed Aminta sheepishly when she raised a brow.
"For what it's worth, he said that he's on his way. He was trying to ask exactly what kind of gear you wanted when you rudely cut him off."
"It won't get its feelings hurt. It's a droid. It doesn't even have feelings."
"He definitely does," Aminta countered, and the pair realized belatedly that they had fallen into the he-it argument that they'd had many times before.
"Never mind," Carth replied quickly, unwilling to be drawn into another fight, much less one that dealt with the sex of a droid. "So, what did Bastila do now?" Carth asked, swiftly changing the subject to what he perceived to be safer territory. Instead of the light comment that he'd been anticipating, he saw Aminta's lips tighten into a thin line.
"She just did what Bas does best," she replied thinly, and Carth frowned. However, by the set of her jaw, he knew better than to inquire further.
"So… what do you think is making all of the scientists disappear?" he asked, attempting to ease the tension that swirled thickly through the air.
"Maybe the ocean floor is haunted," Aminta replied dryly, and Carth gave her a bland look.
"I was being serious."
"Sorry." She sighed, and pulled lightly at the end of her vest, fiddling with the zipper. "I have no idea. Wann gave us nothing to go on. I'd like to give that son of a Kath hound a good piece of my mind," she muttered, and Carth chuckled.
"I think you already did."
"He wasn't intimidated."
Carth smiled. "Not everyone is afraid of you."
"What? You're not?" Aminta replied, a delicate eyebrow arched.
"Oh, I'm terrified. You have me positively shaking in my boots."
Aminta hit him playfully, and sighed. "Whatever am I going to do with you?" she murmured under her breath. Carth smiled at the question, and rested his hands lightly on her hips.
"Well…" he began, and Aminta gave him a look hard enough to silence him.
"We tried that once already. Things didn't really work out, remember?" she reminded him, and Carth smothered a self conscious laugh and prayed to the Gods that the stubble on his face hid his flushing cheeks.
"I was joking," Carth replied in his defense, and Aminta's eyes squinted with humor as she suppressed a grin.
"Should I take that as an insult?"
"Of course not," Carth replied indignantly.
"So you really do want to sleep with me?" she replied, baiting him, and delighting in watching him squirm.
"That's not what I…" Carth rolled his eyes heavenward, as though seeking guidance. "You have got to be the most difficult woman that I've ever had to get along with."
"Charmed," Aminta replied dryly.
Carth sighed sharply and raked a hand through his auburn hair. "Where is that trash compactor anyway?" he wondered aloud, and Aminta shrugged.
"Astromech droids aren't designed for speed. Poor little T-3 can only go so fast."
"Poor little T-3. We all love him so much," Carth mumbled under his breath in frustration. Just then, the familiar mechanical sound of Aminta's droid approached them. He let out a series of cheerful beeps, and Aminta grinned broadly.
"He says he missed you too," Aminta replied smugly as she took several grenades from T-3's compartments and added them to her stash. "Aren't you glad that our little friend cares about you?"
Carth grumbled something incoherent under his breath, and watched Aminta install several new upgrades into the droids hardware in a matter of seconds. "I don't know why the Jedi assigned you to soldier duty," Carth observed when she straightened. "You'd make a great Republic tech."
Aminta gave him a slight smile. "I won't have time for that once I'm free….er, once we find all of the star maps. I'm going back to smuggling," She said as they began walking back into the Republic base.
"So you're still stuck on that absurd plan?"
Aminta's eyes narrowed slightly. "It isn't absurd."
"It will lead to your arrest," Carth reminded her, and Aminta lifted her chin and gave him a smug smile.
"Well, aren't I lucky that I have a friend who's a captain? I'm sure you could acquit me." She batted her eyelashes, and gave him her most charming grin.
"I don't use the law to my advantage," Carth replied dryly, and Aminta raised a brow.
Aminta sighed. "What a shame. I thought you were a better man than that." She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye, and watched his eyes roll.
"What would make me a better man than making sure that law and order remain in the galaxy?"
A corner of Aminta's lip lifted slightly. "I can't believe you'd sentence your friend and one time lover to death."
Carth squirmed. "Will you stop bringing that up?"
"What, that you're my friend?" Carth gave her a look and Aminta grinned. "You were the one who brought it up."
"I did no…" Carth huffed out a ragged breath, and looked heavenward. "Look, even if I wanted to help you out, I couldn't. I don't exactly have that kind of power."
Aminta sighed. "Well, there goes Plan A."
Carth stared at her furrowed brow for a moment, and felt his stomach clench. "You're using me, he said flatly. It was a statement, not a question, and upon hearing it, Aminta softened.
"No, I'm not," she replied, and then gently touched his arm. "You're probably one of the best friends I've ever made. Hell, you're practically family to me." She smiled, and then said emphatically, "I'd never use you. Promise."
Carth gave the woman a small smile. "I'm going to have to hold you to that."
"I expected you would," Aminta replied with a broad grin. "So, this is the way to the sub, right?" She asked, pausing before a durasteel door. At Carth's nod, she typed in the code that Wann had given her earlier, and the door slid open with a mechanical hiss. The pair entered the hallway, T-3 rolling behind. The halls echoed eerily, and Aminta felt a shiver of foreboding go down her spine.
The threesome was silent as they continued onwards, and after turning several bends they arrived in a large chamber. Several submarines floated on the surface of ink black water in the cavernous man-made space. Carth whistled lowly. "Something tells me that the Selkath would not be too happy if they found out about this place.
"No kidding," Aminta replied, and T-3 whistled in agreement. She shook her head and then sighed. "Let's hurry. The faster we find the star map, the faster we get to leave this planet."
"Is it that horrible to have to follow the rules?"
Aminta gave Carth a look that made him chuckle. "Yes," she retorted before making her way towards one of the subs. Upon reaching the landing platform, a republic soldier looked her over wearily.
"Are you the ones that Wann sent?" he asked slowly, glancing the trio over before looking down at the screen of his data-board. Aminta nodded in response, and the soldier typed a note into it quickly. "I hope you'll make it back," he said after the notation was finished. "Alive," he grumbled under his breath, and Aminta frowned.
"You have any idea what's down there?" she prompted, and the man shook his head.
"Lady, if we knew what in the seven hells is going on, don't you think we'd have done something by now?"
Carth gave a brief nod. "Point taken."
"No use wasting time then," Aminta said, climbing onto the sub's sleek surface and then dropping down through the hole at the top. "Come on, Carth," she called. "And help T-3 get down here," she added as she descended the ladder.
Carth gave the soldier a half hearted wave before he followed the woman, T-3 close on his heels. By the time he'd managed to get the blasted astromech droid into the belly of the sub, Aminta had gotten it ready to go, and her hand hovered near the controls. She glanced up at him as he entered the control room, and pushed the button to descend. "Took you long enough."
"You try carrying that droid."
Aminta sighed slightly as she gripped the levers, tightening and releasing her grip experimentally. "Do you know how to work this thing?" Carth asked after a moment, and Aminta scowled.
"What, you think that I can't?"
"You're the Jedi. I'm the pilot," Carth reminded her, and Aminta's frown deepened.
"Sit down, flyboy," she grumbled, and surveyed the controls once more. "It's just like driving a speeder."
"Not really," Carth replied dryly as he took his place in the co-pilot's chair. He looked out the thick plastiglass window, and felt his stomach jump with nerves when he realized just how deep they were getting.
"Have you ever driven a sub?"
"Then can it." Aminta checked the levels, and then grinned slightly. "Let's go faster."
Carth frowned deeply. "Ami, I don't think that's a good…" his flow of words stopped as the sub dove down at record speed. Aminta dodged the obstacles of the ocean floor with the same ease that she had driven the swoop bikes several days prior. By the time that they had surfaced in the secret Republic Base, Carth's knuckles had turned white by the force of his grip on the edge of his seat.
Aminta grinned, and glanced over her shoulder at T-3. "You all right back there?" she asked, and the droid let out a series of cheerful beeps and whirs.
"You've spent too much time around Mission," Carth grumbled under his breath. "You're acting more and more like a teenager with every day that passes." He un-strapped himself and stood with the ease of a seasoned spacer.
"Well, we all need to lighten up every now and again," Aminta replied with a slight shrug as she too extracted herself from her seat. Then, she took a deep breath and let it out harshly. "Time to find out what in the seven hells in going on down here," she said after a few moments, and Carth nodded briefly in agreement as he rested his hand over his blaster.
The pair climbed up the ladder and out of the sub, pulling T-3 between them. The hatch opened with a hiss as Aminta exited, and she stopped to survey her surroundings while still in the safety of the sub. "It's quiet," she noted softly to Carth, and T-3 let out a series of warning beeps. "We'll be fine, T-3. Besides, I brought you plenty of repair kits," Aminta replied absently as she continued to scan the docking bay through inky blackness.
"Come on. The longer we stay here, the longer it will be until we can leave," Carth prompted, lightly pushing Aminta upwards and out of the sub.
"Or until we die," she replied with a slight smile, and Carth narrowed his eyes.
"Not funny, Jae." T-3 beeped in angrily in agreement, and Aminta held up her hands in surrender as she swung her legs out and landed on the durasteel platform.
"Yeah, you're right. Not the time or place," she agreed, and then sighed as she helped Carth get T-3 onto the dock. Once settled, T-3 let out a happy whir, and began to roll forward.
"Tell that tin can to get armed, will you? You never know what could be lurking around the corner."
Aminta smiled. "Paranoid, much?" She then turned to the droid. "Get your flame thrower out, T-3." she commanded, and the droid quickly obeyed her command.
"Not paranoid, careful." Carth replied dryly as he drew his blasters and began to follow the droid. Aminta snorted in response.
The clanging of their footsteps on the metal dock made eerie, echoing noises that set all three on edge in the emptiness of the cavernous space.
"Sounds like something out of a ghost story, doesn't it?" Aminta asked after a moment, twirling her lightsaber in her hand, noting the way the twin blades of light pierced through the darkness.
Aminta grinned. "Oh, you know. One team after another dies of a mysterious cause in a creepy underground lair, and a group of heroes go down to discover what's behind the deaths."
Carth spared a smile. "It does sound like something the gang would go after," he conceded, and Aminta frowned.
Carth stared at her. "The gang. You know. Dooby Scoo?"
Carth's eyes widened. "Dooby Scoo! It's a holovision show. There's Dooby Scoo, the Kath hound, Snaggy, the doped Twi-lek, Neddy, the macho man…"
"Never heard of it."
"That's all I watched when I was a kid!"
Aminta's smile grew. "Oh, that's why. So this was like, when paperback novels were still in existence? "
"Funny, Ami," Carth muttered.
"Whoo beep boo boop!" T-3 chirped, and Aminta grinned.
"What'd it say?" Carth demanded.
"He said that paperback novels came out after you developed a severe case of paranoia."
"It did not say that! It isn't smart enough. That comment was all you, sister."
T-3 beeped in protest at being slighted, and Aminta clucked her tongue in sympathy. "He's just jealous that he isn't as smart as you are, T-3." Aminta reassured the droid, and grinned cheekily when Carth glared at her.
"Cute, Ami," he replied dryly, and walked ahead. "About as cute as a Gammorean's mother."
"So now you're stealing my lines?" she replied with a smile, remembering when they had traversed the sewers in Taris months before. Things had certainly changed since then. She was a Jedi. Her nose scrunched up in distaste at the thought, and Carth caught the expression.
"Just thinking of my occupation," Aminta replied with a slight frown, and Carth grinned at her.
"Is it really so bad? I mean, you get pretty much unrestricted access to the republic base, you get to travel,"
"…And I have no freedom," she finished, and Carth shrugged slightly.
"You will in a few more months."
"Longer than that. Look how long it has taken already! Almost five months, not including Taris." She sighed softly. "Almost a year's gone by since the Spire."
"Seven months," Carth corrected automatically, and Aminta shrugged.
"It's been a long time."
"No kidding," Carth replied with a bland smile. "You have nothing to worry about though. I'll bet you that by the one year anniversary of the Spire's crash, everything will have blown over. You can go back to being just a smuggler again and forget that any of this Jedi business ever happened."
A corner of Aminta's lips tilted upwards. "Somehow I doubt that will be an option for me."
"Of course it is! They themselves said…"
Aminta shook her head. "Carth." When he stopped speaking and met her eyes, she continued. "As much as I hate it, I'm a Jedi now, and I have all of the powers of a Jedi knight. I have premonition, Carth."
"So…" Carth fumbled for words, his brow creased deeply. "You can see into the future?"
"I'm a Jedi, not a medium." She paused, and drew her lip between her teeth. "I see glimpses of things, I feel strong emotions that I can understand but can't define." She drew a breath and paused again. "It scares me sometimes," she admitted softly, facing forward as she twirled her lightsaber.
Carth said nothing, knowing that silence was best. It wasn't often that Aminta opened up to him like this… in fact, he couldn't remember a time when she had ever let on that she was afraid.
"And I know that something big is going to happen at the end of all this. I don't know what, but it is going to be something life shattering…" she trailed off, and then shook her head slightly. "Do you know what scares me even more? The second I met Bastila, I had this feeling. It was like I knew my whole life would change because of her. And that was before I was trained to be a Jedi."
Aminta paused and then forced a smile. "Good thing you're not a doctor. You'd probably have me committed by now," she joked lightly, and Carth blinked several times.
"How life shattering?" he asked after a moment, and Aminta stared straight ahead.
"It will tear everything apart at the seams." She then turned, and looked straight into his eyes. "Everything."
Carth felt a shudder run down the length of his spine, and he could tell that Aminta realized his unease by her sudden shift in posture and expression. "But that's a hundred tomorrows away." she concluded after a moment, purposefully brightening her tone and kicking herself for saying anything at all.
"Yeah," Carth agreed eager to leave the touchy subject behind them. The pair fell into a subdued silence for a time, the darkness of the halls lit only by the light of Aminta's twin violet blades.
"Where is everyone?" Aminta murmured under her breath as she scanned the area. There were no corpses, no real evidence of a struggle besides several blaster-scorched areas on the walls. In short, there was no way to be sure that the crews had even arrived in the right place.
"Maybe there's something behind one of these doors," Carth noted, indicating the sealed durasteel doorways that lined the halls.
"Worth a look," Aminta agreed, deactivating her lightsaber and pulling a hairpin out of the complicated knot at the back of her head in order to pick the lock.
A horrible, ear piercing screech greeted her, and both Aminta and Carth clapped their hands over their ears to dull the sharp edge of the sound. "What the hell!" Carth screamed over the noise, and Aminta let out a string of curses in Deralian that could set even a Rodian on edge.
A form lurched out of the blackness, and Aminta barely re-activated her lightsaber in time to ward off a blow. "Get out in the hall, Carth!" Aminta commanded. "I'm going to need you to help me from a distance," she shouted over the constant screams as she twirled her lightsaber around in a quick, tight circle. Carth quickly complied, and was relieved that his blasters were equipped with infrared sensors. If they hadn't been, he wouldn't have known where in the galaxy to shoot.
"T-3! Where is that flame thrower?" Aminta demanded, thrusting her lightsaber forwards and making contact with flesh. The sickly sweet scent of a cauterized room quickly filled the air, and a lesser woman would have gagged. T-3, meanwhile, shot a burst of flames through the air, scorching several more of the attacking creatures.
Aminta reached out through the force, and felt the positions of the remaining attackers. Four remained, and all were advancing on her. "T-3! Aim to your right. Carth, nab the one to the far left!" Aminta ordered, swinging her lightsaber in a wide arc as one of the creatures launched itself at her. As the next one approached, she lifted her hand to perform a stasis. However, she felt the attacker slough it off as though it were nothing.
"Shavit, shavit, shavit!" Aminta shouted, the curse getting progressively louder. She felt a rush of air over her shoulder from Carth's blaster, and the nearest form fell.
"What's wrong?" Carth demanded, and Aminta whirled to face him.
"They're force sensitive!" she called back as she continued to twirl her lightsaber from first her left hand, and then her right, and then back again. The quick movement caused a beam of light to move around her, giving her temporary vision in the inky blackness of the undersea republic base.
T-3 let out another stream of fire at the same time that Aminta thrust her blade out and to the side. The screaming stopped abruptly, and both Aminta and Carth sighed with relief. "What the hell were those things?" Carth muttered, grabbing Aminta's bag from the floor where she dropped it and pulling out a pair of night vision goggles.
Aminta eyed them with frustration. "Now why didn't we think of that before?" she demanded, grabbing the one he offered to her and quickly strapping it around her head.
Carth shrugged in response. "Well whatever they were, they sure had one insane scream. I've never heard anything so…"
"Carth," Aminta interrupted, and Carth frowned as he finished strapping the night vision goggles on. "You're not going to believe this," Aminta said, indicating the corpse that she was kneeling besides.
"What?" he asked crossing over to where she knelt and joining her. When he saw the corpse, he involuntarily backed away. "What the…"
"Selkath. Looks like this planet just got a whole lot more interesting"