Here we go. The heavily revised chapter two. It went much better the second time around. (This chapter has been deleted entirely, then reposted. See notes at the start of the first chapter.)
I apologize in advance for Krii's horrid speech patterns. I tried to make her as comprehensible as I could without selling out on her... "dialect".
Krii caught up with the offworlders at the Republic embassy, and was rather pleased to find that was where they'd gone. It had been a good guess, and to make matters better she had all the right in the world to be there so long as she didn't stir up trouble or get in the way. Taking sides had little perks like that.
Krii arrived in time to overhear the plot to enter the Sith base. Roland Wann didn't seem to try very hard to keep it a secret, or at least nobody seemed to mind Krii hanging around eavesdropping while she leaned against one wall and pretended to be busy examining her blaster. Safety on, barrel down, as code demanded. She didn't even have to think about it by this point.
So. Sith embassy. People were going to crack the Sith embassy. Things clicked easily into place for Krii once she got the gist of it. There wasn't much in the way of logic crammed into Krii's modestly sized mind, but what she did have went to work immediately. The Sith were the Sith. They were patently not nice, this she knew from experience. So, if your average 'Pubby or anybody that worked for 'em happened to find a way into the Sith base, there was going to be fighting. Krii was adamantly sure of that.
That was about when she decided she'd ask if she could come along, because fighting and Krii were like blood and firaxa sharks. It wouldn't do to ask Wann, Wann would never agree because he thought there was some hope this could be solved without a small war breaking out in the Sith embassy. No, Krii would ask the strangers themselves, because Krii knew better. Sith were Sith. They seemed to like fighting almost as much as she did.
She waited until the three strangers seemed to be getting ready to leave, and approached them on their way to the door.
"Oi, offworlders. I hears ya's gonna be breakin' the Sith base, aye?"
Well, maybe it wasn't the best way to start a conversation. Krii wasn't good at that. The talking had been Lekkar's job since... well, since the day they'd decided to quit trying to kill eachother and be friends instead. Even now that he was gone, Krii couldn't be bothered to learn.
The three strangers turned, uneasy but calm. The armored woman spoke first, and Krii concluded she was the leader. Or at least the one that did most of the talking. It usually amounted to about the same thing, in her experience.
"You with the Republic?" the other asked warily.
Krii shrugged one hulk of a shoulder and half-smiled. "Oh, aye ma'am. Course. Dun' know what I'd be doin' 'ere other'ise," she replied. "Name's Krii, by th' way." Names were polite, and Krii's didn't mean anything to anybody so it did no harm to give it. She offered one big, callused hand to shake.
The stranger looked at Krii steadily for a moment and the merc again got the sensation she was being read. Whatever the stranger saw must have reassured her or something, because her expression shifted from pointed wariness more toward curiosity. She took the proffered hand and shook, accepting the greeting. "Why do you want to know what we're doing?" she said slowly, cautiously.
"Well," said Krii, pausing for a second to collect her reasoning into something she could communicate, "If yeh're goin' in there, an' I knows y'are, I'd like to ask yeh if I can tag along wi' yeh. I dun care what ya tells me, there en' no way yeh's gonna get anythin' outta yarr wi'out gettin' in some kinda scrape wi' some'ody." Somebody was going to ask why now. Somebody always asked why.
"So you want to go?" asked the soldier skeptically, raising an eyebrow. Krii just grinned, wrinkling the scar that traced up her right cheek from the jaw.
"Like 'ell I does. 'Public says it's stretched for manpower, aye? So it hires a bunch a' us merc guys, righ'?" Krii looked around a little, dropping her voice to a buzz rather than a blare and leaning forward in a conspiratorial fashion. "'Sall really jus' precaution, cause the Siths're doin' the same thing an' ever'body knows that means they's gonna make trouble. Norm'ly they makes this quiet, sneaky sorta trouble, but this is differ'nt. So, 'til they does that we's waitin' an' we dun do nothin'. An' I mean nothin', 'nless yeh counts pickin' fights with the Sith fellas 'ccasion'ly. But then yeh gets yelled at an' fined fer violatin' the peace and suchlike so it en' much worth it," she explained. She straightened and spoke more loudly again. "T'be frank wi' yeh, I's bored out a' my senses an' if I can do anythin' useful I'd be more'n happy."
"Somehow, it seems as if we would be blowing our cover too early by bringing a Republic mercenary with us," said the second woman, addressing the first. She wore a plain brown robe that seemed to ring a dim bell somewhere in Krii's consciousness. It should have been significant, and it bugged Krii that she couldn't remember. Damn dishwater ale. And damn the Selkath that made the dishwater ale. Hell with it, the cantina too. And while she was at it, damn Ahto. And Manaan. And this system. Krii was good at damning things and could have gone on for a while if the armored woman hadn't replied and drawn her rapidly wandering thoughts back on track.
"Well, you've gotta admit we're not much good at keeping our cover to begin with. Lightsabers kind of do that. And you insist on wearing robes." From the tone of her voice, this was a long-standing point of contention between these two. The robed woman crossed her arms and scowled.
"Wai' a minute, yeh're Jedi?" Krii felt stupid. She knew her eyes were bugging out of her head, and that just made her feel worse. Lightsabers. These people carried lightsabers. Well, the women did anyway. And robes. That had been the thing about robes! Jedi wore those, didn't they? Thought it was inconspicuous or something like that. Krii didn't see the point. Armor was tougher to begin with, and it really wasn't so out of place anymore in these rough times. You ran across plenty of ordinary people with at least a light set of plating on nowadays. Krii herself was quite glad of the heavier set she wore under the old weatherbeaten jacket, it had saved her life more times than she could count.
"Force," she swore at herself, more quietly now. There were two Jedi in front of her, and she hadn't noticed!
The robed woman shot a quick dagger glare at the first, who raised her arms in an "oh well, so sue me" gesture. "Well, it's obvious to most people," she said.
"Awright, c'mon, I knows I en' too sharp. Yeh dun' gotta make it a big deal, aye?" Krii grumbled, now a little offended on top of her embarassment. The realm of the smart had always been this faintly mythical thing that she felt was somewhere just beyond her reach, no matter how hard she might stretch. Krii knew she'd never had it and never would, but somehow that was just okay. It was life, and sometimes it sucked, and you got used to it. But it somehow stopped being okay when other people brought it up.
"I'm sorry," the armored Jedi said, and she really meant it.
Krii sighed and shook her head. "En't nothin'. 'Sokay. Forget about it."
"How do we know you aren't working for the Sith?" The man asked, warily. He seemed to have been trying to find a space to talk for a while.
Krii shrugged. "Well, I dun' think there's anythin' I can say t'make yeh b'lieve me." Krii's word, being that she was a complete stranger and a mercenary, was mud. "Alls I can tell ya is tha' I know the Siths round here an' they en' the mos' peaceful bunch. And aye, I dun' like 'em. Y'alls can try an' solve yer stuff wi'out resortin' to fightin'. I r'spect tha'. But still, I doesn' think it can be done by an'body, even Jedi." She glanced a little apologetically at the two members of that order standing before her.
"That bein' the case, I jus' wanna come 'long an' help when stuff gets less-than-nice. I en' good at much, 'm afraid, but I knows how to fight." Krii folded her arms and nodded conclusively. "I wanna help yehs get in, do what yeh gotta, an' get out. Tha's m'offer."
"But you're going to want something in return, aren't you?" The man persisted, not convinced. This time, Krii caught something strangely familiar about his tone. It struck a chord in her memory, thrumming down deep into her mind to one clear image. A conversation with a trader over the price of a power cell, years ago. A young man that was barely more than a boy standing with shoulders squared and eyes narrowed in suspicion at the scam he suspected.
Krii hadn't been reminded so vividly of Lekkar in years, and the alcohol was partly to thank for that. No, the stranger really looked nothing like him at all. He didn't act like Lek, either. It was just for that split second, that particular edge of knowing mistrust came through that she'd first come to recognize in her old friend. It made Krii pause for a moment before going on, like after missing the bottom step on a staircase. Stupid Lek. Too smart for his own good. Had to go pull some stunt and get hisself killed. Wasn't fair. Now she was stuck remembering him like this when she was supposed to be thinking.
"Yeh're purdy sharp," Krii said, dragging herself back to the things that were important. She could mentally cuss Lekkar for being dead later. "I doesn' ask much, cause t' tell yeh the truth I considers it a favor if yeh decides t'let me 'elp. Goin' crazy wi' nothin' t'do, aye?" She twisted her face a little to emphasize that, then went on. "Anycase, I reck' yeh gots yerselves a ship, righ'?"
"Maybe," the armored Jedi replied coolly.
"Well, I'd 'ppreciate it if yeh'd lemme bum a ride off ya somewheres. I ain' particular, if they's anyplace yeh needs t'go I'd jus' like to go wi' yeh an' be dropped off 'r somesuch. Anyplace at all, s'long as it en' Manaan." Krii's shoulders sagged a little at the thought of another wasted month here, drinking without fighting and listening to all the usual sludge about neutrality. "I can' tell yeh in words how much I hates it here."
The leader deliberated for a moment. "Okay, so let me get this straight. You want to help us go raid the Sith enclave because you're bored and want a ride off Manaan?"
Krii tilted her head forward and grinned again in a slightly mischeivous way. "Well, they's also I jus' plain like fightin'. But aye, tha's 'bout the size of 'er."
"Well..." said the other. The man and the second Jedi exchanged a tired sort of glance behind her back.
"Alright, hell with it. You can come along, just don't screw anything up or attack anybody unless they shoot first." The first Jedi nodded finally, making a decision.
"Aye ma'am!" Krii saluted brightly, though she got the feeling the other two would have liked to disagree and wondered why they said nothing. "Thankya, ma'am. Really 'ppreciates it, I does. You jus' tell me what ta do, aye?" A fight and a ride out, all negotiated in less than five minutes. Maybe Krii's luck was finally in for a change.
And I'll leave it at that. I do enjoy writing Krii and I'm tempted to do more with her. Do tell me what you think! But as for this, I find the idea of rewriting Manaan to be frightening and something I'd weasel my way out of eventually. Much better if I just let this be now. Thankyou for reading!