Yet another story I may or may not finish depending on my time constraints. Seeing as I like the way this is going at the moment, who knows. No main characters from the game will show up just yet, thought they will appear later. The Ishimura's status when compared to what is found in the game is also different, so don't come running to me screaming that I screwed up on this aspect, as it is done with something like a purpose. Comments are welcomed and appreciated.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
The constant, rhythmic sound echoed through the shuttle's hold, louder than the hushed conversations the engineers and marines preoccupied themselves with. The ticking, which had begun exactly when the ship had begun its hyperspace jump, came from a clock placed high above the crew, which Tousa Obinda stared at restlessly with heavy emerald eyes.
Like many others onboard the shuttle she was wearing an engineering suit, with heavy magnetic boots, metal shod fists, and a helmet which she kept off for the time being. The RIG, as her newfound friend Jenessa had called it, was one of the best designed hazard suits her people had ever made. To the designer's credit it was rather comfortable, even with the back displays and sporadic yet specially placed armor plates. To Tousa, it was merely a bulky and overrated space suit with hardly enough padding to hide her naked body beneath it –something which disturbed her to no end, especially with how the men around her tended to let their eyes linger a bit too much on her chest.
They'd lose their hands if they tried anything though. The Lightsaber at her side made that perfectly clear. Though she was not yet a Jedi Knight, Tousa was well trained in the arts of combat and use of the Force. Her master, who was twice her age and experienced enough to know that the galaxy was a dangerous place, had made sure she would be prepared for just about anything.
"Tousa quit staring at the clock already. You won't make it go any faster." Jenessa knocked gently on Tousa's temple, her glove's polished surface reflecting the Jedi's wild purple hair. "Besides, I still have quite a few questions to ask you."
"I suppose you wish to ask me about becoming a Jedi again?" For being only eighteen, Tousa had patience that rivaled that of many Master Jedi. It was a harsh discipline indeed, but she had benefited from it on many occasions. "The answer is still no if you were wondering, just as my master told you earlier."
The bubbly blonde shrugged and sighed, "Oh well. Can't hurt to ask him again once we get to Aegis 7."
"If this communications blackout is anything serious, I doubt you'll get the chance."
"It's never anything serious. Things like this happen, and sometimes they just need an extra set of hands to get things working right." Smirking at the Jedi beside her, Jenessa suddenly let her gaze drift over to the front of the cabin, where one of the marines has just raised his voice a few decibels higher than the other conversations around him. "Mmm? I wonder what they're going on about."
Tousa didn't have to use the Force to learn what the Marine was talking about, as she was close enough to make out some of the conversation if she tried. Regardless, she was slightly offended when she listened in…
"Look, all I'm saying is that I could totally score with her if I tried." One Private Kinsley nearly shouted as he tried to convince the engineer next to him of his superior charms. "I mean, s*** Ethan, you don't even try. You just sit there with your nose in a book while I get all the ladies I want."
Ethan bemoaned his fate internally. What had he done to deserve a seat next to the infamous horn dog of Beta Company? As much as he hated the idea of having to serve with -in his opinion- the crudest man alive, Ethan didn't have a say in such matters. Stealing a glance at his old friend Jenessa, who was staring in his general direction as Kinsley took his volume higher, Ethan waved while a flush of embarrassment crossed his cheeks. From across the shuttle, she stifled a giggle and poked the Jedi next to her, reeling her back into whatever conversation Jenessa wanted to have.
Kinsley hadn't noticed anything, too caught up in his own sexual ambitions to notice the disgusted look Tousa had given him. "Seriously, just a few caresses in the right place and she'd be all over me. It's that easy, I swear. I guess some guys have it and some don't."
Finally unable to take it, Ethan jabbed where it hurt on his annoying neighbor. "Like some guys have the brains to get paid in millions of credits a year," Ethan stated coldly, "while you make what, several hundred thousand if you don't get docked pay for hitting up a general's wife?"
Kinsley suddenly became quiet after that. An angry and dangerous glare from the marine told Ethan he'd stepped over a line that he shouldn't have crossed, but the engineer didn't care for the moment. The silence of his neighbor was quite enjoyable, indeed.
"Yeah, don't mind Kinsley. He's an asshole."
Tousa knew that to be fact already, but nodded in agreement anyway. "Yeah, he is. Who's the guy next to him though? Wasn't he the one you were getting orders from earlier?"
"Oh, Ethan? Yeah, he's my commanding officer. Old friend of mine too, since we went through the academy together." Jenessa smiled happily as she remembered their times together. She frowned after a moment though, as if suddenly recalling a bad memory. "He's too shy for his own good though."
"What do you mean?" Not really interested, Tousa merely asked so Jenessa wouldn't pelt her with another question.
"Well… to the best of my knowledge, he never once dated a girl in the academy, nor did he make any one-nighters with the local girls. Definitely not interested in guys though." She chuckled at the though. "He's really protective and sweet though. Took a few fists for me when guys were getting a bit rough, you know?"
Tousa could only imagine, and unfortunately her imagination knew of a few too dark places. Fear swelled up in her, but she battered it down with a practiced ease. She would never give into fear, nor let it make her angry. "I see. So why aren't you going out with him if he's so nice?"
"Well, in our culture, it's rude for a lady to ask a guy out." She sighed unhappily at that. "It's pretty much stepping on the guy's balls."
That got a chuckle out of Tousa, who covered her mouth with a gloved hand to muffle the noise. "I see… so basically until he gets a spine, he'll stay single?"
Jenessa giggled in turn. "That's the gist of it. Probably has a huge collection of…" A wave of grunts passed through the cabin suddenly as the shuttle exited Hyperspace, several tones sounding throughout the compartment. "Uh… guess we're here?"
Ethan unbuckled himself, standing and heading up a short staircase to the cockpit of the shuttle. The four seated control bridge was hardly roomy, but it served its purpose well. He knocked upon entering, alerting the pilot to his arrival. "Nother, how far out are we from the Ishimura?"
Beyond the clear panes that sealed off the compartment from space, Ethan could see a dreary brown world just experiencing the break of dawn. Upon that world was a crater large enough to have been a huge island. The mass of that crater was now high in orbit, hovering just below a dark shape which could only have been the Ishimura. Nother Sotem waved off Ethan as he took the jump seat behind him. "Just a few klicks. It'll be in eye range within five minutes. Nothing much on the scanners though… The debris field is what you'd expect from this kind of operation, but it looks like they've just popped the cork. I'd expect them to have more of the planet broken up by now, but I guess something big happened. Core shutdown, maybe?"
"I doubt it," Ethan said after a moment of thought. "The core of the Ishimura is supposed to function at full capacity for forty years. The only thing that could knock it out is an Ion Cannon or having two thirds of its control units killed, of which there are a hundred and twenty across the ship. Not likely. Is shuttle one with us?"
"Yeah, just off the bow." Nother gestured out the view screen toward a boxy vessel which Ethan immediately recognized. Both heavy shuttles were of the same make, and each wore an enormous CEC emblem on its side. The shuttle beside them had obviously been recently overhauled, as its rear compartments were brand new while the forward hull had the traditional wear and tear of trans-atmosphere flight. "Altman be praised for the new technology the Republic's given us. With the old junk, we probably would have ended up at opposite ends of the system."
"True, but remember, it was the Republic and not Altman who gave us the goods when we needed it." Ethan said sternly before pulling up a communication program. He had almost punched the open signal button when a secure line suddenly popped up, grabbing for his attention. He opened, guessing that the older diplomat on the other shuttle was wishing to speak with his apprentice. He had guessed right, as in front of his face appeared the visage of an older man, who's long brown hair reminded Ethan of a musician he once knew. The cold eyes the Jedi possessed were completely dissimilar however, running any comfort he could have took in speaking with the diplomat. "Master Fan-Kathen." Ethan nodded with respect.
Fan-Kathen ignored the greeting and got straight to business. "I need to speak with my Padawan about her duties before we arrive."
"Of course sir. I'll have her brought up." Out of Fan-Kathen's sight, Ethan poked at Nother. The pilot nodded and set the ship to auto-pilot as he moved to retrieve the diplomat. "While she's coming, might I ask you why you're both here? Nobody ever briefed us thoroughly about being accompanied by you two."
The older man nodded in understanding. Their introductions had been rushed, to say the least, as had been the news that the Jedi and a few CEC representatives would be accompanying them. "The Jedi council has its concerns about the effects of Planet Cracking, as does the Republic itself. We're here on both their behalves, to see if the destabilizing effect is really as bad as the Republic believes it to be."
Fan-Kathen kept his tone neutral, but from what Ethan had heard the Jedi was heavily anti-cracking. Ethan agreed with sentiments like Fan-Kathen's, but the money was too good to pass up simply because of principles. "I understand. We'll stay out of your way as much as we can, sir."
"I'm glad to hear it." Fan-Kathen nodded. "Ah, it seems Tousa has arrived."
"Ah." Ethan nodded and looked back just as Tousa and Nother walked in. He froze, a bit uncomfortable as the lady looked at him with a rather cold gaze. He didn't exactly know how, but he knew she wasn't angry at him for any reason, and yet there was still something in her eyes which made him wary. Nother didn't seem to notice and took his place at the pilot seat as Ethan gathered his wits. "The comm's all yours, Lady Tousa."
"Thanks." She took the seat next to him as Ethan slid the holographic console between them. She smiled as her teacher turned toward her. "Master."
"Tousa. I want you to stick by mister Niveous for the duration of our stay." He raised his hand as Tousa began to question, halting her. "I know you'd prefer to be by my side, but if we are to get the whole story on this matter, having us both sit by a bunch of politicians isn't going to tell us anything. Stay with the repair crew, and we'll meet together again once this mess is over, understood?"
The young Padawan hesitated for a moment, her eyes dropping sadly. "Yes, Master."
"Thank-you, Tousa. I trust mister Niveous that this will not be a problem?"
Smiling, Ethan gave the old Jedi a thumbs-up. "We'll give her the full tour, given enough time."
"With any luck this won't take that long, but one can only hope. Honestly, I do hope that the Republic welcomes your people regardless of the present issue," Fan-Kathen gave a rather cynical smile before continuing, "but that's what negotiations are for." At that moment, they both looked up as a dark shape caught their attention. Ethan had seen it before, the city-sized space ship that had been built for the sole purpose of cracking apart entire planets for their resources. Tousa gazed at the Ishimura with a slight sense of awe. No matter how many large ships she saw, it was always an inspiring sight. Fan-Kathen too had noticed, but was quick to reign in the conversation. "And Tousa? Be extremely careful. In my meditations I received some… dark visions. My perception of the Force is about as bad as yours is, so who knows what it means, but keep your guard up anyway."
"I understand, Master."
In fact, Tousa knew all too well. She could hardly sense a fellow Jedi, let alone the Sith with their dark abilities, so both had been hard pressed on several occasions to find their objectives. On the other hand Tousa was highly advanced in the manipulation of objects, while her Master excelled as enhancing his own physical abilities using the Force. The two in connection had always worked well together, but usually they left a lot to be desired when dealing with adversaries who also used the Force. Seeing that everything appeared to be in order, Fan-Kathen ended the conversation with a quick, "We'll keep in touch."
As the communications line dropped between the two ships, Ethan let out a pleased sigh. Everything seemed to be going well, until he noticed the Ishimura in detail. "Hey, Nother… You see any running lights on this thing?"
Nother gave it a hard eye. Against the dawn of Aegis 7 it was hard to see much of anything, but even so there were far too many shadows draping across the ship. "Nope. I'm going to get us in closer, see if we can't hail them."
"Right. Be sure to increase the signal, since they're power is obviously low for whatever reason…"
The humming of the shuttle's engines increased as Ethan spoke, Nother pushing them ahead toward the Ishimura. As they came closer, strange signals began to play over the radio, the sounds akin to a deranged animal's mumbling. Tousa shuddered as the noise filled the cockpit. "What is that…?"
"Man, must be a busted array. Sounds bad." Ethan nodded to himself. "Should be able to fix something like that pretty easy, under forty-eight hours I'd say."
Nother tapped out a few lines on the control console, killing the radio feed and letting the shuttles AI go to work for him. "Good to hear, Ethan. Looks like shuttle one wants dibs on docking first. We'll let them go for it and follow in right behind them. Gravity Tethers are engaged, auto-dock procedures are go. Sit tight, folks, it'll be a smooth ride from here on in."
Tousa relaxed into her seat, staring out the window as shuttle one pulled ahead of them. If she hadn't, she might have seen the chunk of free-floating asteroid which hit it sooner, might have been able to divert it with the Force, but she didn't. Instead, the huge chunk of rock smashed into the side of shuttle one with enough force to knock it off course. Upon seeing this, both she and Ethan jumped out of their seats. "Master!"
"Oh s***, that's not good… Nother, what the hell?!"
"I don't know, I don't know!" Nother just shook his head, double checking his own telemetry rapidly as panic filled his voice. "The Ishimura's guidance tether must be offline for something like that to happen! I'm taking us in manually, no sense in getting slammed into the hull!"
Tousa hardly noticed the two men in the cockpit. She watched shuttle one spiraled away from the Ishimura, its guidance thrusters firing wildly as it flailed in space…
"Inside the field? Are you nuts?!" Ethan shouted as several warning alarms began wailing.
Nother shouted back over the increasing noise, "Better than their suicide system!" At reckless speeds, the shuttle careened through the Ishimura's outer structure, slipping through supports and on more than one occasion almost slamming into the huge pylons that made up its outer shell. By some miracle, it managed to make it intact into the docking bay, crashing hard against the Ishimura's inner chambers…