Chapter 06: Organics?
"Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom."
Author's Note: Hey guys. I saw a few reviews the past few chapters that have wondered what I'm doing with Mission. And HK-47. Don't worry about that chaps. I've got plans – one way or another. You'll have to keep reading, right?
Also, I felt so bad about the long wait for updates that I slaved over this one, skipping quite a bit of sleep in the process. Oops. Enjoy.
I exhale, my breath steaming into a thick cloud. As I take a breath in, a good chunk of the snow working its way into my mouth. All I can see is white crystals, snow in amounts I could only wish for as a child, then despise as I grew older. I can even feel some of it coming down on my head right now, melting into water as it hits my body – which is only decreasing in temperature.
For a moment, all I can hear is my own breath, but that changes rapidly. "Irritated Declaration: There you are. It has been extremely difficult to track your party down, Jedi."
I know that noise.
"Quick Clarification: But now that we have found you, we hope that we can facilitate communications."
Psychotic meatbag. Casual murder involving some interesting methods. I know what that voice means. Generally, it's nothing good.
My muscles are incredibly sore, I'd almost like nothing more than to just lay here, even if my bollocks are going to freeze right off or ascend straight into my lungs. But with the 'irritated declarations,' and the 'quick clarifications…' I force myself up, desperately grabbing at my belt and equipment. Surprisingly, I've got everything and it feels intact. Mostly.
One shuttle crash was brutal, stepping on a mine and having Kreia manipulate me like her personal toy… That was bad. We barely made it to the artic plateau where the Hawk is supposed to be. And we got shot down again.
This is definitely the artic, though.
Goodness, this place is strange. Snowy plateau with towering rocks in the corners, and a small bump behind us. Bao-Dur is out cold, right next to the shuttlecraft. Kreia, Atton and Liviana are all on their feet, a status that I duplicate.
Standing across from us are three droids, matte grey with menacing red eyes, each one wielding a different weapon. Heavy blaster rifle, two blaster pistols, and a sniper's rifle. Otherwise, they are all identical. And they're all taking the form of a particular droid's image.
"Unnecessary Addendum: And put an end to.. Hostilities."
Liviana's voice adds an organic element to this conversation. "Is there a reason you shot down my vessel?"
The lead HK unit speaks, its head moving in the exact same manner as the droid I travelled with. "Unnecessary Clarification: We merely wished to cripple your vessel. Once we ascertained your location, we deployed three units to this location."
The second droid pipes in. "One of us destroyed the entirety of Peragus' population; three will be more than enough to end hostilities with the Jedi and her entourage."
"Probing Query: We are curious why you chose to come to this remains of Telos' polar region. There is nothing here that our instruments can detect," the third unit declares.
These droids just speak one after another, now it's the first one speaking again. "Eager Threat: But we are looking forward to extracting your motives for coming here when we place you in torture restraints."
"Anxious Clarification: There is also a rather large sum for exterminating our employer's traitorous organic, an act that we would take great pleasure from."
I look at Atton, grimacing.
"I don't care what you take pleasure from," Liviana spits. "Why are you hunting us exactly?"
"Self-Evident Answer: Wherever you flee, we will be there, armed and ready."
"Unnecessary Threat: And our attack protocols are more than a match for you and your allies."
I un-holster my blaster, Atton does the same. "This isn't going to go well," I mutter.
"I can see this is pointless," Liviana argues. "If you want a fight, then we can oblige."
We can? I don't want to oblige. I mean, I'd really like to pound an HK unit into a pulp, but I have my concerns that this isn't possible. Reality raining on my parade.
I very slowly walk to my right, where the smoked and ruined remains of our shuttle are resting. It looks slightly better than our last one, but it's smoking all over the place, giving a touch of colour to the otherwise sterile white atmosphere in this place. If anything, I can use it as a touch of cover or something.
"Assassination protocols initiated!" One of the HK units declares, almost sounding pleased with itself.
I throw myself behind the shuttle's mangled wing, poking my head out to shoot at one the droids. A few of the blaster shots bounce right off its grey body, but one seems to have done some damage.
A blaster bolt whizzes past my skull, singing my hair just a touch. I lean out to shoot…
I scream in pain, dropping my blaster pistol into the snow. I crumble into a heap, my limbs contorted over one another. My left side falls right onto the ground, which is nothing short of agonising. Biting onto my tongue with enough force to draw blood, I look at the upper bit of my left arm, and I can see the source of my problems right now.
I've been shot! Grazed, really. Just near my shoulder, it looks like the blaster shot didn't impact me – more like it ran across my skin. Burns like absolute hell.
And I don't have any kolto on me.
This is unbelievable.
I'm going to kill these droids. By god…
I reach for my blaster pistol, gripping it hard enough to turn my knuckles white. I feel sick to my stomach; my arms are shaking so hard I don't know if I'm going to be able to aim at all. I try anyway, taking a shot at the grey blob standing against a white background. Everything else is a bit of a blur.
The HK unit's words register in my mind though.
"Systems failing, master!"
I hear it again, and again.
Three times, for three units.
I try my best to put the weapon in my holster… I think I managed. Atton's face shows up in front of me, a surprising turn of events.
"Hey, you alright?"
I shake my head, barely able to stand. I turn to the side, and throw a pool of sick into the snow.
"We've got to get inside," Liviana's voice orders. "Get your act together; you're going to make it. Better than leaving you freezing to death out here."
"What about your Iridonian friend?" Atton asks, walking in front of me as I try to follow him.
"Get Stephen inside first, we'll double back for Bao-Dur."
Hey, I'm special. I close my eyes for a few moments, and when they're open again, it's every bit as white out there as it's supposed to be. Except now there's that little hill, with a door that's been placed subtly.
The door opens in front of us, revealing a small lift. Once we're inside, I feel it descend for a few seconds before another door opens. I force my eyes open all the way – oh, boy. I recognise this place all right. The colours are all wrong, light blues and greens. But it looks awfully like the Jedi Academy back on Dantooine. Before it was burned to a crisp, an image that I'm not sure I'll ever forget.
Central pillar, just like Dantooine. No tree, but the architecture is nearly the same. And this place is empty, except for us and a few ladies dressed in all white. They even have white hair under those hoods. It wouldn't hurt to use some colour.
"Lay down your weapons, and you will not be harmed."
I can't tell which one of these albino chicks is talking, but a few more of them have popped up. Six, it looks like.
"I don't think so," Atton says.
"Either you're going to drop them, or we shall take them from you."
Well, if you're going to be like that. I put a finger near the trigger of my blaster, throwing it to the ground. Goodness, I don't even give a hoot if the safety is off. Anyone who demands that I disarm myself can deal with the gun misfiring.
One of the ladies grabs my shoulders, which doesn't fell practically great.
"One of my people is unconscious, near our shuttle," Liviana says, shrugging off one of the handmaiden's influence. "And that one needs medical attention."
"His injuries are not severe."
"I don't care what you think," Liviana challenges. "Who exactly are you lot?"
"Who we are is not important. Our mistress is. She wants to meet you. Your companions will be kept safe in the meantime."
I sigh, right as two of the handmaidens guide Liviana in the direction of the Council chambers, if you assume that this is setup like Dantooine. Which it sure looks like.
"Come with us," one of Atris' servants commands, pushing me towards the right. I say nothing as they do so, I'm much more worried about not yelping out in pain. They shove us into a room with a number of cargo containers, and several circular cells. Prison cells.
I don't want to go to jail again.
"Why is it that everywhere we go I end up in a cell?" Atton asks, visibly upset as he's the first to be thrown in and have the semi-transparent yellow field surround him. I'm next, and I don't verbally object… Neither does Kreia.
Seriously, I hate prison. I guess at this point I shouldn't be in here for too long, and I don't have to use G0-T0 to get out.
I lay down in my cell, right as Atton keeps babbling on. "I mean, why did they lock us up? What is this place?"
"Do you want to explain, or should I?" I ask Kreia, poking at my shoulder.
The old hag glares at me in response. "It is a training ground. For Jedi. It bears the semblance of an academy. But there are no students."
"You're kidding. What's a Jedi Academy doing on a planet that's been burned to a crisp?" Atton scoffs.
"It is a place hidden from the galaxy, like the academy on Dantooine. But this place…"
"It looks like Dantooine too," I add, looking around the room. "Almost like a twisted form of the Jedi Academy. Talk about weird."
Atton's head snaps in my direction. "How do you know what the Jedi Academy looked like? Either I didn't realise you were another of the crazy Jedi or that blaster shot is getting to your head. Three is enough, but nobody told me Peragus was going to be jumping ground for a nest of Jedi."
"I'm not a Jedi," I laugh. "Not only is that the stupidest thing I've ever heard, you think Goto would have employed me if I was a Jedi?"
"So you're just insane."
"What is it about this place that causes you such fear?" Kreia asks, clearly mulling over the question.
Atton opens his mouth to answer, but the doors opens as well, spitting out two of Atris' handmaiden, holding Bao-Dur's unconscious form, which they just toss onto the ground in front of us.
"You know how Jedi are," Atton continues loudly, making sure that the handmaidens can hear him, I presume.
Neither of them says a word, but one of them places a needle in front of my cell, lowers the field, pushes it inside and raises it once again, a process I recall unusually well. It's normally for food, though, but I'd rather have this.
"Not in the way you do, no," Kreia frowns, raising a hand in Atton's direction.
I ignore the two of them, and pop the needle straight into my neck. The icy liquid feels refreshing in my veins, and I think I can already feel a bit of the pain subsiding. Yep, that's the stuff…
I close my eyes and ignore the sound of Atton struggling against Kreia's invasive mind reading…
My eyelids open once again, and I'm pleasantly surprised that I didn't have a god-awful dream while I was asleep. Maybe it doesn't happen during naps, but I think it's been constant – almost every single night I've had the strangest dreams… Unpleasant to say the least.
My right leg is still riddled with three or four pieces of shrapnel, a ugly black burn as well. It'll match the scars I have all over the lower bit of that limb, I guess. My shoulder looks even worse; I might need some help with that. Maybe a mirror, but a kolto patch is going to need to be on both of those. And those are somewhat cumbersome to stay the least.
I hear snoring and groaning next to me, and look for the source. I find it pretty quickly… It's Atton. Kreia is sitting in the other cell, meditating. And just to top off this lovely group, Bao-Dur is still unconscious.
"So, this is exciting," I muse aloud. "What happened to Atton?"
Kreia's eyes practically pierce into my soul. "He's only sleeping."
"The Exile is…?"
"Still talking to Atris, then?"
"I can go into specifics if you'd like."
Ah, that might have gotten her attention. "Should I remind you of our conversation before our first shuttle crash?"
"Please don't," I roll my eyes.
"Then I would advise you to stay silent and be aware of your place."
"That hardly seems fair, you said that this would be the place to find the Ebon Hawk…"
Kreia stands to her feet, towering over me, looking imposing even though she's probably four times my age. "Silence, fool. I lack the years or patience to deal with your unnatural circumstances. The fact that you are still travelling with the Exile is a small miracle of itself."
"That's unwarranted," I pout.
"Silence," Kreia repeats, placing a much more commanding tone than before.
I start to reply, but another person is added to the mix, one that would definitely cause a problem during this whole little chat with Kreia. Liviana.
"Oh hey!" I mock surprise, waving from behind the energy shield of the containment cell.
Kreia continues her gaze of terror for just a second longer before moving onto Liviana. "Did you find what you came for?"
"What would you say I was supposed to find here?" Liviana replies, walking towards all of us.
"There was something from your past here – something unresolved. I think we did not find this place by chance, we were led here. The woman here, she did something to do you in the past."
"Atris. One of the Council."
"A Jedi, perhaps. In that you are correct. But there are no students, this woman… Surrounds herself with those who are not sensitive to the Force, even if their discipline binds them to the Force."
The Exile deactivates all of our cells. "Did you read their minds?"
"Invade the mind of another? It is not something done carelessly, or when there is nothing to be gained."
I snort, and then try to pass it off as a cough. The result makes Atton groan quite loudly. Liviana shoots the half-awake man a really odd look.
"He fell asleep," I explain quickly.
"And Bao-Dur?" Liviana questions, poking at the Iridonian's form with her foot.
"General," Bao-Dur mutters from his unfortunate position. "I need to apologise, I should have been more alert, shouldn't have fallen unconscious."
"It's okay; we're just going to be leaving here. In the meantime, we don't know who could be listening. Let's get out of here, then. Atton, you can sleep on the ship."
Atton groans. "How'd the meeting with the white-haired ghosts go? And the Jedi?"
"We got them on our side… Sort of," Liviana says. "Speaking of white-haired people, I thought your Echani training would have let you recover from this ordeal more quickly."
"Echani training?" Kreia asks, sounding genuinely interested. Or at least, surprised.
"Oh, that," Atton lightly chuckles. "Don't tell anyone about that, but you'd be surprised what a simple thing like that can do. I mean, it doesn't compare to wearing a lightsaber on your belt, but hey."
Liviana cracks a smile at that. "We've got to get T3 and get out of here."
"I thought you said this went well."
"Yeah, but they still want us gone," Liviana explains, leading the way through the subarctic base. "Making friends wherever we go, right?"
We pass by one of the handmaiden's, standing in front of a control panel that spans from the floor to the ceiling. Amongst the diagrams I can see an outline of the Ebon Hawk. I step forward to examine it, but the woman stands in front of it. Hey, I wasn't going to do anything. Her eyes watch me the entire time as we pass through the room.
The next one we head through has another handmaiden, and I just now realise that not only are each of them wearing identical outfits, holding the exact same pike as a weapon – but they all look as if they were all cloned from a template. Every single detail, the length of their hair, their cheeks, even the colour of their eyes. They're closer than twins!
"I got a question," I speak up. "Why do they all look the same?"
The handmaiden glares at me, but Atton answers the question. "They're Echani, siblings look like nearly the same… You didn't know that?"
"No," I admit, though I think I know what he's talking about. Six of Atris' little puppets, but one has a different parent or something. And the other five think lesser of her because of it, which is pretty scummy if you ask me. Which, nobody ever does. Which is a damn shame, but with Kreia watching…
Once the next door opens, a wave of cold air hits all of us – while it isn't as chilly as the plateau outside, it's quite unpleasant. This room must be quite close to the exit. It's bigger than the rest, and has a window on the far side, overlooking a hangar. Between us and that is a circular containment cell, much larger than the one I was just recently shoved into, which is pretty strange considering the occupant is much smaller.
Much like me, the prisoner is quite battered and beaten. A distorted image of someone I used to know.
Hello, T3. You haven't aged well.
"Well, if it isn't the droid that stole our ship. Not so smug now, are you, you little thief?" Atton comments, voicing his usual irrational hatred towards droids.
I kind of like T3, from what I remember. Now, does it remember me, I wonder? After all, T3 was there when I told everyone the truth after the Leviathan… Shit, this better not bite me in the rump.
"Don't be ridiculous," Kreia says. "Atris stole the ship and the droid."
T3 beeps and whistles, the tone and frequency different than I recall, making the droid sound considerably older and less … new. When we picked him up on Manaan, he looked like a brand new sports car. Now, more like one you'd pick up from a junk sale. At least, outward looks.
"It's alright, T3," Liviana reassures. "But what do you mean, Atris downloaded your entire database? That would have taken…"
T3 retorts, faster than I can understand.
"Wait… You downloaded all of Atris' records?"
Atton chuckles. "That droid isn't entirely worthless after all."
The energy field surrounding T3 vanishes with a low hum, and it rolls out and comes to a stop right in front of me. The circular head on the droid tilts to one side, blue eye flickering whilst it stares right at me.
I stare right back, mimicking the droid's movements. When I finally break the staring contest, I find that everyone else has already moved towards the right corner of the room, which I can now see that there's a downwards ramp to our ship.
"Hello again T3," I whisper, trying my best to keep my voice quiet enough.
The droid just lets out a low humming sound. If I had to guess, I'd say it almost sounds pleased. That could be wishful thinking, but whatever. Droids can show some emotion, right?
Perhaps that's a discussion for another time. I follow one of my older friends to the ship, down the ramp and into the hangar bay, where I'm treated to one of the more beautiful sights I've had the privilege of setting my eyes upon: that of the Ebon Hawk, with the purple containment field of the hangar illuminating the ship. Even with blackened scorch marks, chipping paint…
I missed this ship. And I never realised how badly. I mean, I haven't set foot inside in four years. But it's still home, especially now that I clearly can't live on Coruscant anymore. A load happened aboard this ship… I loved it, to say the least. Everything from the cramped bunks to the limited showers, but the latter might be more due to Darius wanting to conserve hot water. I'll have to try and steal all of it.
I walk past the loading ramp and walk all around the ship. The back right looks slightly off, like a good hunk of it was ripped out and replaced recently, and there's quite a bit of damage around the two engines. And I might be completely mad, but I think this ship might be larger on the inside than on the outside.
Must just be my imagination.
The inside of the ship is even more familiar. Dark, grey, kind of cold… There's still a swoop bike in the garage section, which corresponds with the damage on the outside, there's quite a few wires and electrical nonsense around here. To my right is the starboard crew quarters… Where Mission normally hung out. I step through the garage, past the engine room and into the central hold. The little table is still there, along with the utility closet – which is jammed shut.
The engines start up with a roar, quickly dying down. I grab onto the table as the ship takes off, though once the dampers kick in, I'm able to stand all right. I can still feel the ship move a touch, but it's just the usual feeling of space travel.
Atton steps out from the cockpit, which is a little surprising; I almost expected to see Carth instead. "Now we're off that planet, I say we burn the sky until we see lines."
I look around the central hold, T3 sliding up to stand between Atton and I, with Bao-Dur straight across. Kreia and Liviana just complete the little circle we've got going on.
"Where are we headed, General?" Bao-Dur asks, leaning over the table.
The droid beside me screeches a number of times, whistling just to top its sentence off.
"Quiet, machine, we're not speaking to you," Kreia dismisses, not even looking at the waist-high droid.
Liviana looks interested, though. "He said there was a holo-record of my trial in Atris' records. The day I was exiled. T3, if you have it. Play it."
"We seem to have found it," Kreia dryly comments, right as T3 extends his little claw, interfacing with the table.
A second later, the display kicks in, forming blue-tinted, three dimensional objects. Looks like a room, with numerous chairs all around a central pillar. The holograms even include the backdrop in the windows, the skyline of Coruscant – towers consuming the horizon. It's a lovely view, though somewhat bright at night.
The hologram apparently picked up sound, as well. It's not of the highest quality and filtered, but I can tell it belongs to the balding man in the chair. Vrook. "Do you know why we have called you here?"
I'm having a bit of trouble figuring out who exactly is seating in the seats, but they're obviously the Council. And there's Liviana, wearing the traditional robes of the Jedi, holding a lightsaber.
The real Liviana winces, an action I can see next me, as if listening to her own words from years prior. "I came on my own volition, but you asked me here as a result of Malachor V."
One of the other Jedi Masters, a man with short blonde-brown hair speaks next, his name is... Kavar, I think? "Just as Revan summoned you into the Mandalorian wars, you have come full circle to return to the Jedi."
The other male Master looks bald, but with a strange beard and moustache, and his voice is eerily similar to the US Navy adverts. "Why did you defy us? The Jedi are guardians of peace and have been for centuries. The call to war undermines all that we have worked for."
"Is Revan your master now?" one of the two women asks, in a colour scheme much like the handmaidens'. So that's Atris, the bitch. "Or is it that the horrors you wrought at Malachor that have caused you to see the truth at last?"
Yeah, I imagine Liviana had a fun time meeting her again.
"The Mandalorians had to be stopped," the hologram Liviana argues. "Without Revan, countless more would have died."
My attention is no longer focused on the holograms; I'm keeping an eye on our exiled Jedi friend. She's a touch taller than I am, but I think she's basically looking right down at her feet.
"You are exiled, and you are Jedi no longer," the final member of the Council declares.
The bastard Vrook gives the final insult. "There is one last thing, your lightsaber. Give it to us."
A sound from my own memories is played back, the snap-hiss of a lightsaber being activated, as Liviana shoves her lightsaber into the central stone, leaving the metal hilt deep inside the pillar, storming out of the room.
"Oh, so that's what happened to your lightsaber," Atton snorts.
Liviana looks back up, moving to cut off T3. Oh, lady, there's more.
"Much defiance in that one," Vrook observes, on his little high horse he's perpetually sitting upon.
"You were correct, Kavar," one of the Masters says, the one who's name escapes me , the bald one. "When she was here, I felt it. It was as if he was more of an echo."
"The war has touched the youngest of the Order. Many of them have lost themselves in battle."
Atris sounds livid. "We have not lost a Jedi this day. You all felt it. She is no Jedi, she walked Revan's path."
"I fear it is our teachings that may have led Revan to choose the path she did," Kavar's hologram comments. "We take responsibility, Atris, not cast blame. Revan's teacher intended no harm, and Revan had many teachers since."
Ah, they're pinning the blame on Kreia… Revan's old master. Not that Darius would have remembered.
"Yet they all stem from the same source," Vrook snorts. "Her teachings violated the Jedi Code and lead all who listen to the dark side, like the Exile."
"Malachor V should have been her grave," Atris rises from her seat, pulling the lightsaber out of the stone. "You saw it. It was as if the woman who came back from Malachor V was a very different one that left to join Revan."
"No, we should have told her the truth," Kavar argues. "She deserves to know."
Vrook joins the debate. "No good would have come from it, even if what you believed was true. But of course her master would be more inclined to show leniency."
"But she may never discover the truth," the other woman on the Council frowns, Lorna Vash. "She'll roam the galaxy, thinking that we cast her out for joining Revan."
"Then that is the truth we must accept," Vrook's last words fade into nothingness, along with the holograms. There's collective silence, even as T3 uncouples himself from the display table.
"That exchange after I left…" Liviana's voice trails off. "I had no idea."
Now it's my turn to find boots incredibly interesting.
Thankfully, T3 speaks up. Whistles up, whatever.
"A list of the surviving Jedi? You really raided Atris' archives… Display it, then."
I already know the list, of course, but I watch T3 display it anyway. Vrook, the colossal dick from Dantooine seems to still be on that planet. Kavar, Onderon. Vash, Korriban. Atris, Telos. And Zez-Kai Ell, Nar Shaddaa. So these are the surviving Jedi and the planets we'll be visiting?
"Those were all the Masters responsible for stripping me of the Force," Liviana clenches her jaw. "That's…"
"One hell of a coincidence," Bao-Dur finishes.
Kreia steps in to manipulate the situation. "It is no coincidence, there is some larger plan at work here. And we are walking into it. This is too convenient to be anything but a trap."
"Larger plan?" I question. I start to elaborate on that, but I definitely hear some footsteps… I whirl around, grabbing at my blaster.
One of the handmaidens. Hey, what the shit are you doing here?
Atris' servant isn't bothered by having an injured twenty four year old pointing a weapon at her. "Those are Atris' records you have stolen."
Atton reacts in almost the exact same way that I do, pulling a pistol out and aiming it right at the albino's skull. "What the hell are you doing on our ship?"
"There is no need to draw your weapons, I have come to join you. Atris believes that you will need help."
"And how many of your fellow servants have joined you in abandoning your mistress?" Kreia mocks.
The handmaiden, bless her, doesn't seem to show any fear talking to a party containing Kreia and two blokes asking questions at blasterpoint. I'll at least give her credit for that, but at least I didn't have to sneak aboard. "It's only me. The last of Atris' handmaidens."
"Atris couldn't send the first?" I joke, feeling fairly pleased with myself. I can tell this is going to go over alright, so I toss my weapon onto the table.
"I guess we're stuck with you," my new boss throws her hands up in defeat. "I'll take whatever help I can get. I guess."
Kreia stomps off to the port dormitory, which is of course where I used to sleep. "Of course, what does one more matter to our journey? We've already accumulated a fool, criminal, an alien, and now a servant of Atris. I have had enough of this, I will be in my chambers."
My chambers! They're mine!
"Yeah, me, too. I'll be in my chambers," Atton sneers, watching Kreia leave the hold. "Oh, wait. I don't have any. I guess I better just go to the cockpit like I did last time. If this one's coming with us, she gets the cargo hold. Might remind her of how fun it is to get locked up."
Bao-Dur rolls his eyes, walking past Atton and I. "General, if you need me, I'll be looking at this ship of yours. Looks like it hasn't seen a proper mechanic in a decade."
"The cargo hold is enough, I assure you. There is little that I need. I can attend to myself, unlike some of your crew."
"Watch yourself," Liviana warns, patting Bao-Dur on the back as he passes by. "I know you're here to spy for Atris. But don't let them bother you. We've just been through a lot."
"I see that," the handmaiden mutters, eying my arm. "I am trained in basic medical aid if you require attention."
"I'll be fine," I growl, realising that my painkillers are going to be wearing off in about twenty minutes or so. I turn to Liviana, "I've got to rip metal out of my leg if you need me."
I bump the handmaiden as I pass her. I don't really know who she is, except the different looking handmaiden. Different parent, something like that. I think I remember reading she could join the party, but she never did when I played. Instead, I got some stupid little blonde Jedi fanboy.
Really, I do know my way around this ship. I head straight for the engine bay, turning towards the port side, and right into the room that Jolee used to inhabit. There's a single bed in here, small shower and medical equipment. I pull open a drawer, and find the standard issue medpac.
"You shouldn't need another one of those."
I lean back, grab the painkiller and inject it right away, purely out of spite. I look back down, and find the handmaiden standing in the doorway. In that moment, I wonder if I can shut the door whilst she's still standing there.
"I thought I said I didn't want any help," I bite my lip, reaching for one of the medical tools I need. I don't recall what it's called, but it should work for my purposes. "Or is that just you hear no and assume that yes is the actual answer?"
"One of my sisters examined you while you were asleep," she answers, grabbing something else from the medical supplies. "You must have stepped on one of the mercenaries' mines in the restoration zone."
"If I knew you were all going to inspect me, I wouldn't have taken a nap," I spit, hopping onto the bed, throwing my injured leg in front of me.
I grab one of my tools, pulling up my jumpsuit legging. Oh… I don't know if I can rip this out…
"Hold still," the Echani woman orders, gloved hand clamping onto my shin. Her other one snatches the tool straight out of my hand.
"Oh, no, no!" I squirm, trying to break out of this new imprisonment. My efforts are fruitless, and I feel a ripping sensation in my leg, even with the painkillers.
The handmaiden makes a face, holding a tiny piece of metal no more than a few centimetres wide. I grind my teeth together as she does the same to the other piece of metal protruding from my shin. She drops both pieces in a bin, releasing me – though she's left red handprints on my leg.
"I could have done that," I dismiss. "Pass me a Kolto patch, would you?"
"What about the blaster shot?" She inquiries.
"That's what this is for," I sigh, slapping the patch onto my shoulder. It's like an icy patch, but only ten thousand times better. I'm certain I'll be sporting a scar, but I'll just have to deal with this patch in the meantime. It'll teach me not to get shot by HKs in the future. Bah, I'll be injured again later. It's my lot in life.
"It would be better if you tended to the wound first," the handmaiden points out.
"It's fine, I know what I'm doing. I've been trained… A while ago," I wave my hand.
"With all due respect, Atris had some interest in the Telosian Restoration Project. Based on TSF reports, your skills are somewhat questionable."
My mouth drops open. "You believe the TSF? While you sit in an icy hellhole?"
"I would only point out your current injuries. I never meant offence"
"Alright, if we're going to play the whole 'no offence' game," I place plenty of emphasis on two particular words with finger quotes. "Why do you look different than the rest of the handmaidens?"
"We share the same mother, but a different father," she admits, walking out of the medbay. "It isn't something I'd like to discuss."
"Alright, alright," I follow her, walking to the cargo hold. "I don't think Atton was serious when he said you should bunk in here."
She shrugs, throwing up her hood. "This is ideal. The space allotted will allow me to train while we are en route."
"Train?" I snicker. "Trust me, as many of us are travelling on this ship, we could organise a Pazaak game or something."
Now it's the handmaiden's turn to laugh. "No, thank you."
"Yeah, I guess it's hard to play with someone whose name eludes you," I point out, offering my hand. "I'm uh… Stephen, by the way."
The woman doesn't shake my hand. "I gave my name when I entered Atris' service. Handmaiden will suffice."
"All … right," I widen my eyes, stepping backwards. "I'll let you … train then."
Well, that was interesting. I rub my eyes, stumbling over my own feet. I stroll through the ship, running my fingers across the hull, taking in the engine's high pitched noises as the ship leaps into hyperspace. Taking my time with every step, I end up in the garage, where Bao-Dur is tinkering with one of the bulkheads.
"Hey," I greet with a wave. Hopefully Bao-Dur is a little more talkative, but I guess we'll just see about that. "Already at work?"
"It's not so much work. After dealing with those mercs in the restoration zone, it's almost refreshing to work on something as messy as this."
"Messy?" I retort. "This ship's a beauty, to say the least."
"Whoever did this doesn't think like most people do," Bao-Dur says, not turning away from his work. "At least with this… there's no Czerka hindering me at every turn. Or the Exchange"
I lean against the speeder, rubbing the back of my neck. "Oh. You know about that, I take it."
"I think everyone, even the TSF knew what the Exchange was up to."
"I'm not terribly proud of that," I admit, blood rushing to my cheeks.
"Must not have been if the assassin droids claim there's a bounty posted for you."
No kidding, G0-T0 must be pretty displeased. Stupid droid. "They don't like it when you quit."
"And if you were a touch less lucky, you would have had your entire arm blown off."
"At least I was awake," I point out, trying to sound good natured about it.
Sparks fly from the wires Bao-Dur is messing with. "Are you done? I've got to rewire the lighting in this entire section."
"I'll let you work," I say, walking towards the ship's ramp.
Obviously, that's not going to lead anywhere. I glance towards my right, and seriously consider poking my head in the starboard dormitory. I take one step in, turn around and walk back out.
Nah, I'm not staying in there.
I chuckle aloud. Pazaak.
Nar Shaddaa rules.
I go ahead and walk to one of my usual spots from the last time, the cockpit. Which is apparently now Atton's "chambers." He's sitting in the exact same spot that Carth used to occupy, the pilot's seat. The windows in front of us are filled with the blue vortex of hyperspace, nothing out of the ordinary. I go ahead and take a seat in the co-pilot's spot.
"Just flying the ship," Atton turns his chair towards the co-pilot's side. "I didn't realise I needed Exchange supervision for that."
"Would you rather have a droid watching you?" I mock, "Maybe we could turn around and get B4 and his nutjob astromech friend."
"I think we've already got a nutjob astromech. Watch out for it, I think it cheats."
I have to hold back laughter, picturing T3 cleaning Atton out, and I've got to switch the subject. "Any idea where we're going first?"
Atton spins about, peeking at the galaxy map console. "I'm hoping for Nar Shaddaa. Between Jedi and Sith, we could just hide there for a while. Loads of refugees."
"And the Exchange," I remind him. "I think I'd rather not go there."
Atton turns back to his console. "Maybe you should have eased up on your resignation, then."
"Yeah, thanks," I mutter, getting back up. "Let me go find something a touch more exciting."
I stare at the galaxy map, already programmed with the possible destinations. Nar Shaddaa, Dantooine, Korriban and Onderon. Like I just told Atton, I really don't want to go to Nar Shaddaa. Between the Exchange and the vile ass pit that the planet is… And I think that's where the Exile can get HK back, but I'm not entirely positive.
I wonder if there's a way to put that off.
"So, why did you do it in the first place?"
I turn back around, Atton looking at me accusingly.
"What?" I ask, looking back at the map. Maybe Onderon would be okay…
Atton grimaces. "How did you end up with the Exchange? You don't seem like the type. Not to mention getting shot and screaming your way through medical treatments… And I saw your co-workers."
I slide up next to the map, figuring out the best jab to send in Atton's direction. "And it's never occurred to you that not being the type was why I was good at it? Or given different jobs than Luxa and Slusk?"
"Oh, yeah? Big man, right?"
"Goto used me to keep an eye on everyone, a lot less glamorous than you would think," I think back to the two and a half years I sent making sure Benok and Luxa didn't fuck everything up. "The other part of my job included drinking lethal beverages and sleeping underneath my desk. The latter was quite fulfilling."
Atton looks … unconvinced. "That still doesn't answer my question."
I gaze out the cockpit, into the endless blue tunnel. "Goto got me out of a tough spot, an offer I couldn't really refuse. I didn't realise there would be quite so many strings attached."
"So your contract was just open to the highest bidder?"
"It's better than being reprogrammed," I deflect, moving away from the map.
The pilot tinkers with his console for nearly ten seconds before continuing. "It still makes Goto your puppet master. Don't worry, this journey is full of them. Your new one is the old witch herself."
"Yeah, she's a piece of work," I agree, right as a thought clicks in my head.. "I'm going to go find T3. See you later, might have to bust out a Pazaak deck."
"I'm out of credits," Atton shouts as I exit. "And no Nar Shaddaa rules, our clothes are staying on!"
The small smile on my face quickly transforms into a frown. Nar Shaddaa rules…
I push those thoughts out of my mind, stepping into the communications hub that's just behind the cockpit, holding back memories of a different sort. I remember this place, between missions, I'd find Darius in here.
There's plenty of seats, a few computers… Yeah, this'll do nicely for my 'chambers.' I unhook my belt and stealth gear, tossing it on one of the seats – followed by my datapad. Wallet, I probably should hold onto that given the contents… The only other thing in my pockets is the photo, which I take out and place in front of the seat.
There, this room now has more in the way of personal possessions than my flat on Citadel Station.
I wander back into the main hold, eventually finding just the thing I'm looking for, along with one of the things I hate with just about every fibre in my body. The little utility closet is now opened, complete with the deactivated frame of HK-47 – with T3 against the wall.
"Please don't tell me you're trying to fix this thing," I plea, lightly touching HK's head. Not so tough now, are you? "You remember all the grief it gave us, right? I want to kill this, I want to kill you!"
T3 sounds … eh, offended? Irritated? Definitely heard something about firepower.
"I know you're not a combat model!" I shout, before toning my voice down. "But there's plenty of us that can fight. Nothing is worth dealing with HK."
Okay… Something about assassination and my lack of skill. Dick droid. And then …
"I don't know," I reply. "I mean, maybe there's some unwarranted hatred. But between the two of us, I know the future, right? But between us – keep it quiet."
T3 makes a long dwoo sound at that.
"Because," I say, taking a stab at what T3 is asking. "Kreia's blackmailing me. So, we've got to keep this to ourselves. And this stupid piece of shit."
The astromech droid wheels over to the door, shutting it with a simple motion of its robotic arm. It beeps a few times afterwards. At least, that's what I heard; my droid is a bit rusty.
"Yeah, secret closet," I grin like an oaf. "I didn't give you enough credit five years ago, T3. Just don't hit me, okay?"