Chapter 6: In Which Two of our Heroes Reveal Their Current Fears
Hangar Deck B-6 of the Subdue, 1607 CT
The helmet comm. crackled to life, a familiar, mildly grating sound which Cap was loathe to admit that he had missed. After all, he was Cap. He didn't have time to be all sentimental and shit just because he had been scared—and he wasn't scared in the first place, anyway. What was there to be scared of? It was actually pretty relaxing, not having to hear other people breathing in your ear and all that poodoo. He'd enjoyed the silence. He didn't have to put up with other people's stupidity. He was completely and utterly at ease the whole time.
Ignore the fact that had he waited any longer his ears would have started bleeding from how hard he was straining to hear something, anything other than the sound of his own empty inhalations echoing ominously in his helmet. Disregard how he had never turned on and tuned a comm. faster in his life. Forget the way his heart soared at the unmistakable voice and exhales of his general, captain, and newest victim. Anyone who noticed that shit needed to have their eyes checked.
"—Leader, hailing all 'misfits', channel four nine, private channel eight. Calling for a sitrep, repeat, calling for a sitrep. Did everyone else meet with success?"
"Haran yeah." He was lying on the floor of a pretty sweet getaway ship, a sleek Punworcca 116-class interstellar sloop. It'd get them out of the system without a trace, and was small enough to avoid detection—it was almost perfect for their mission. There was only one problem, that of ending up away from a star when they dropped out of hyperspace. Because it used a solar sail to power itself, and solar sails worked best with a star in the nearby vincinity, he might have some trouble when they reached Skywalker's fleet, but he wasn't a frakking sergeant for nothing. If he could combine Jessaran, Caarimala and Twileki to form an insult severe enough to piss off foreign dignitaries from all three planets who only understood their own language out of the cultural mesh, he could clean up this inevitable mess.
"Great." The word was laced with the odd brand of sarcasm and disbelieving weariness Zach often reserved for his general and his most annoying pilot. Cap was certainly not glad to hear it for any reason other than that he enjoyed causing his captain pain. "This is Ferret, I'm working on figuring out how to keep those vultures off your tail. I think I found a way to do it, but it might take a couple minutes and I won't be able to start until you take off and someone notices. I'll keep searching for a better solution."
"Birdie here. The Worm has yet to check up on his Package. I'm starting to worry."
"Where are you? Let me get a lock on your transponder…hey, I'm actually just a few halls away. Hang on, I've got an idea."
"Hiat, last time you said those four words we ended up hanging by our usten ankles in a desert, waiting for a tribe of locals to finish the victory speeches and frakking sacrifice us already."
"That was only because you were being as stubborn as you usually are and refused to listen to either my instructions or the Captain's and insisted on shooting at the first thing you saw. And for the record, that was the only time we experienced such unfortunate results, and we did all survive that."
"Oh, so it's my fault now, is it, 'Leader'."
"Please, it always was."
"Butt out, Weaselman. And what are we supposed to do while we wait for you to finish this shit? Work on our shabla knitting?"
"Shut up, Mouth. The faster I get this done, the sooner you get to fly, hear?"
His leg was bothering him again. Oh keepuna, it hurt. He'd been lying when he said he'd just landed on it funny; his foot and some of his back had caught the tail end of the fireball that was the G9. It had scorched the armor, and then in a few places it had weakened the plastoid or worn it away completely, mixing the superheated melting goo right into his bodysuit and probably burning his back. It was still hot enough to do damage, seeming to only get worse over time, and he was in a crapload of pain. But he held it in. If she picked up the frakking pace and the rookie was as good at this as she had previously claimed- and he wasn't about to take any promise of hers at face value—then they'd be done with this soon and he could rest.
"Whatever. Just hurry up, alright?"
Even though he knew the jetii was most likely trying to speed it up, probably for his sake because she was being stupid and worrying about him, and even though he was grateful for it in some neglected part of the organ that acted as a surrogate for his currently absent heart, (he'd given the real thing, small as it was, to his girlfriend already), his words weren't terribly appreciative. But that was probably just a side-effect of trying to fake nonchalance through his teeth.
Ventilation Shafts of the Subdue, 1613
Bluebird had long ago passed the point at which a person is considered "tense" and had since entered into increasingly less-travelled, storm-tossed waters, until she reached where she was now- that is to say, completely and hopelessly lost.
Cap was alright, but he hadn't gotten off scotch-free and could still be discovered at any second. Captain Zach was probably fine but didn't have a very good idea as to how he could keep the pilot and Mahla safe when they finally took off, if that ever happened. Bluebird herself was going slightly stir-crazy and was far behind schedule. And now, General Swiftwater was going to put in motion another hare-brained scheme to try to get Chlors to somehow reveal the location of his captive, which most likely had a very low chance of success.
What if she died trying to get Chlors to visit the Representative? Bluebird had already put Cap's life in danger four times while he was trying to keep her alive, and those near-misses weighed impossibly heavy on her heart. She couldn't stand the thought of having another on her conscience, much less an actual death. And who would be able to lead them if things did go wrong? No doubt, Captain Zach was an excellent leader, (otherwise he'd never have been assigned under someone so…interesting), but she doubted the two of them alone could complete the mission Swiftwater had outlined once Cap left. If he left.
On the map pulled up in one corner, the dot that was Chlors stayed put while he chatted with some droids and his tail did her best to refrain from having a panic attack. The tracker was not a bug as well, so she couldn't even try to eavesdrop. (Though since she still didn't know where—or even how—the general had managed to plant it, she wasn't sure she'd be able to hear anything even if the device could also pick up sound.) Devoid of any distraction whatsoever, she found herself imagining all sorts of bad situations in her mind, and counting the seconds as she waited anxiously for something to happen.
"Birdie, Leader has muted my comm. in her circuit. Tell her I said she better not be trying anything crazy, or I'll give her hell later." That was the captain, who sounded like he was also imagining all sorts of worst-case scenarios, only with a lot more annoyance and less outright fear than his subordinate.
The general's only response to this message was, "Crazy? Ach Gott, it's like the man doesn't know me at all."
She wasn't sure whether that was a good sign or bad.
While responding, Swiftwater had switched to an open mike or something of the sort. The trooper could tell since she heard her footsteps now. They weren't pounding over the floor like a charging rancor; it was more of a tapping sound, like the sound of a rare light rain on a landing platform on Kamino. A peculiar pace, since Bluebird had assumed the general was further away and thus needed to run to arrive with any level of haste, but apparently she was mistaken.
The open mike also allowed her to hear what happened over the course of the next few minutes as she sat apprehensively above.
What happened was, General Swiftwater stopped short and shouted so loudly she heard it twice, once in the comm. and again as it echoed strangely through the vent itself, "Hey, Chlors, looking for me?"
Through the mike she heard his gasp of fear just before he gave the (terribly cliché) order "Seize her!", again distorted through the metal. She could then hear the (also reverberating) sizzle of burning electronics, the hiss of wrecked hydraulics, and the faint hum of the lightsaber doing the work—she never would have thought so elegant a weapon would come with such a symphony.
Unexpectedly the dot representing the current dictator of the system took off running in the opposite direction at the general's charge, and then just as suddenly stopped and let out a squeak of fear. Yes, he had squeaked. It would've been one thing if it was a semi-dignified squeak, but it was not, and so she lost any fear she had of the Chairman himself with that sound. (His fleet was another matter entirely.)
"Give up, Chlors," the Jedi intoned calmly. "I have you at my mercy, and I can be quite lenient when I am faced with cooperative people. We have Representative Mahla in a secure location, where you cannot hope to touch her. And my men have already placed detonators in the reactors and said their prayers. We hold all the cards and are more than ready to die. Are you ready to do the same?"
It struck her as odd, how calmly she spoke, as if was not an ultimatum at all but instead a rather fascinating, if obscure, piece of history to be explained and debated over and, above all, relished for the gem of knowledge it was. There was not a trace of venom or ill will towards anyone, not even a cautionary tone.
"You're bluffing," he retorted, sounding more like he was trying to reassure himself than anything else.
And then her voice hardened, to the point where even the trooper, separated from her by a ceiling, aware of the fact that she was lying through her teeth, and not even the target of this remark, was a bit scared.
"I don't bluff."
Before Chlors could answer again, there was another doubly-resounding commotion below, from which she could make out the sound of firing blasters, the clammering and clanking she'd come to associate with droids, and that same tapping sound from before meshing with the song of an operating lightsaber, all nearly covering the dull thwack of an organic body falling to a metallic floor.
At this point in time she was very much pumped on adrenaline, and adrenaline with nowhere to go is a terrible thing, sometimes resulting in rather nonsensical thoughts. And the first thought she had when she heard that thwack was, Oh, shit, that was the general, and now she's dead and we still don't know where Mahla is.
Her second thought was similarly ridiculous, stemming from the unmoving status of her target and being, Oh, frak no, with our luck that was Chlors, and we won't ever know where she is now.
In fact, the reason Chlors had quit moving in the first place was that General Swiftwater had decided to lift him off the ground via the Force, and the sound was only him falling back to the floor. If she had any doubts about the validity of her ridiculous assumptions, said doubts were confirmed a moment later, when the general spoke up.
"I sense Chlors is now paranoid. The first thing he'll do is check on Mahla, then have the reactors inspected, then the spacecraft. We have a very small window of opportunity here—we'll have to be quick but precise if this is going to work."
"Sure you want the frakking shiny to do this, then?"
"Mouth, if you don't stop bitching I am going to get over there and strangle you with a fuel line."
"Love you too, buir'ika."
"Now wait a—"
"Ruhe, both of you, I'm trying to concentrate."
"Concentrate, my ass."
"In case you haven't noticed, I now have the whole ship chasing after me. I'd appreciate it if you'd all just shut up and get the job done while they're distracted and I'm not."
"This is Birdie. The Worm's slithering away. I'm keeping on his tail as best I can."
"Ferret here, waiting for the party to start. I think I solved the whole problem, too."
"I am bored out of my mind. Do me a favor, shiny, and hurry up."
"Great, everyone. Bitte, don't say anything unless it's important."
Bluebird did as asked without complaint, unlike a certain pilot. Not that she wanted to talk much in the first place, seeing as she was trying to drag herself through the vents as quickly as possible without making too much noise. She much preferred the reassuring sound of her companions' breathing to that of either pointless and distracting chatter or dead silence.
The thing that made her task so challenging, first of all, was that the vents did not sync up with the halls exactly—some of the rooms even had separate ventilation systems—and there were fans she needed to get around, and walking was a lot faster than this shuffle-crawl thing she was doing, and on top of that she wasn't sure where they were going, so no matter what way you looked at it, it was bound to be at least mildly unpleasant. It was actually very harrowing in the long run. She was also still pumped up with the irrational, needless, suffocating adrenaline, which still had no place to go, and it was now giving her the jitters, making everything worse, if that was at all possible.
She really missed Slips right now. Slips would know how to sneak through this minefield without a problem. She didn't care if she had to deal with her sister's infuriating habit of managing to get on her nerves without even thinking about it, she just wanted someone to keep her company and make her feel less alone. Vhon'buir had said before that covert ops were the worst because of how isolated you were, but she'd never been able to appreciate it before. Oh Force, she wanted to see her family again!
Bluebird shook the thought away. Adrenaline was really doing funky things to her right now. Frak, why couldn't Chlors just arrive already so she could get out of here and maybe scrap something? She was getting claustrophobic.
She double-timed it, and prayed everything would be okay.