Chapter Eight

Soraa changed into her tank top with trousers and boots, while Ja'Ina simply donned her harem pants over her leotard and added her boots.

They were well-prepared to leave with everything they wanted to take already packed. Soraa packed her DL-18 blaster, but strapped her DL-44 on her belt and put her hold-out blaster in her boot. Ja'Ina stared at her scimitar for a moment. She almost felt like throwing it in a deep, dark hole after what she just did with it. She sighed and strapped it to her back.

They both put their overcoats on and grabbed their rucksacks. Ja'Ina also grabbed her quarterstaff. They took one quick look good-bye around the flat before leaving. It was their first and only home since they left the orphanage.

It was very early in the morning, so it was still dark and chilly out. The Empire hadn't yet established a full-on garrison or imposed an official curfew, but that didn't mean that they wouldn't be suspicious of anyone who was out at this time of morning.

Soraa and Ja'Ina took a look up and down the street, which was clear. They left the flat and headed into the back streets. The northwest road was on the other side of town, so they would have to carefully sneak through, out of sight of any Imperial soldiers. That would take the young women some time.

Quietly making their way through dark neighborhood streets, the pair got to a point where they could see one of the main streets. From there, they saw a landspeeder float by, driven by a pair of Imperial troopers.

Soraa whispered, "How many of them do you think there are in town, Ina?"

"I don't know. I saw only two earlier, but I'm sure there's plenty more around."

"I wonder where they're coming from..."

"Me too. I just hope we don't stumble on it, or we're done for." Ja'Ina exchanged worried glances with her friend.

They continued on through the cover of darkness, but the sky showed the faintest light announcing the approach of dawn. Once the sun was up it would be much more difficult for the friends to avoid the Stormtroopers, if not impossible.

They made their way through the town with Ja'Ina leading the way. They were starting to feel confident they were going to make it out of town without problems when Ja'Ina sensed something.

She urgently whispered to Soraa, "stop!"

Soraa stopped without question, and the two stood still where they were. Faintly, they could hear the telltale sounds of Stormtroopers conversing with each other, the timbre of their voices altered by the miniature speakers in their helmets.

Ja'Ina briefly scanned around and found them, about ten meters away at the entrance to an alley. The troopers hadn't noticed the women yet. She gestured to Soraa to follow her across to the other side and down another alley.

The sky was subtly getting brighter and the women didn't have much time. As the daylight approached, they started to see more Stormtroopers patrolling the streets. There was no sign of the regular inhabitants of Sim Katall, likely afraid to interact with any Imperial agents.

Soraa and Ja'Ina continued to follow a snaking route across Sim Katall. After a couple more close calls with troopers, they made it to the northwest edge of town. The first dawn light was breaking over the horizon and the birds were now awake, chattering and flittering about in the trees.

There were even more Stormtroopers to be seen moving up and down the street leading out of town. Some were on foot, some in speeders, and some riding speeder bikes. There were also a number of Imperial officers among the troopers.

Soraa was shocked. "Blast it! There're more of them today! Where are they all coming from?"

Ja'Ina was very concerned as well. "I don't know. But it looks like they're setting up a more permanent presence here now. We just need to keep going and somehow make it past them so we can intercept Raelin and the others before they run into any troopers."

They decided to stay away from the road but kept parallel to it. There were plenty of trees and shrubs for them to conceal themselves behind, as long as they kept low. Soraa had to fight the urge to pull her blaster out and carry it along in hand. Ja'Ina held her quarterstaff low to reduce visibility.

Then Soraa and Ja'Ina heard the loud, rumbling sounds of engines from above the trees. They quickly dropped to the ground and peered through the bushes. Things had just gotten worse.

"Damn," Soraa muttered.

A Lambda-class Imperial shuttle was landing right next to the road, its two lower wings folding up parallel to the large dorsal wing.

Soraa sighed, "I guess that's it. The Empire has taken over Sim Katall."

Ja'Ina was confused. "But why? This town is nothing special."

"I don't think the Empire has any rhyme or reason to their actions. They just want to spread their control over the entire galaxy, even this insignificant hole."

They sat there for a moment, dejected. They both felt their hearts pounding hard. Then Ja'Ina got up to a crouch.

"Let's keep going, Soraa. This is not going to get any better..."

Ja'Ina grabbed Soraa's arm and led her along through the trees. They moved as quietly as they could. At least it appeared the Imperials were staying closer to the road for right now, until the young women saw him...

A lone Stormtrooper was sitting on a boulder in the middle of a small clearing up ahead. He had his helmet off with his back towards the friends. They immediately ducked behind the thick trunks of two trees a few meters apart. Soraa and Ja'Ina traded worried looks.

It didn't seem right that he was the only trooper there. Ja'Ina shed her overcoat and quietly placed it on the ground. She then slowly set her rucksack down and grabbed her quarterstaff. She motioned to Soraa to let her know that she was going up to the trooper. Soraa pulled out her blaster and pointed at her own eyes then to Ja'Ina to indicate that she would cover her.

With quarterstaff in hands, Ja'Ina crept up slowly and silently behind the resting trooper. Soraa nervously kept a bead on him and an eye out for anyone else who might join the situation. Soraa had never killed anyone before, and she hoped she wouldn't have to start now, especially if it was an Imperial soldier. Just to be safe, she set her blaster to maximum stun.

Ja'Ina brought her 'staff back and swung hard into the side of the man's unprotected head. The trooper didn't know what hit him; he fell over onto the ground unconscious. His armor loudly crashed as he hit the dirt, which made both women flinch.

Sure enough, the trooper had a partner nearby and the commotion attracted his attention. Ja'Ina quickly darted behind another tree on the other side of the clearing. The second trooper came running over and called out to his partner. Soraa stayed where she was, her hands shaking as she aimed her blaster towards the newcomer.

The second trooper's amplified voice could be clearly heard. "What's going on there?"

He ran into the clearing with his blaster rifle at the ready. He saw his unconscious partner and ran over to him.

"What the-"

Before the trooper could finish his words, Ja'Ina charged him and swung her quarterstaff into his chest. He fell backwards to the ground, losing his grip on his blaster.

Ja'Ina jumped up and landed a hard stomp right into his chest. It knocked the wind out of him, but nothing more – his armor did its job of absorbing much of the blow. He rolled over and tried to grab his dropped weapon. Ja'Ina anticipated his move and kicked it away from his reach.

The trooper managed to just get to his feet when Ja'Ina swiftly jabbed her 'staff into the small of his back. He hollered and went down again.

The Stormtrooper quickly recovered and managed to trip Ja'Ina with his feet. Soraa loudly gasped, which caught his attention. He looked over at her and scrambled to retrieve his rifle.

Before Soraa could think about it, she fired a shot at him. The blast hit the trooper and knocked him sideways. The stun energy was deflected by his armor, so he quickly recovered and reached for his weapon.

By now, the commotion had grown to the point that it started to attract other Imperial soldiers nearby. In a panicked split-second decision, Soraa set her blaster to full power and fired at the Stormtrooper once more. The blast cut right into his armor and he went down for the last time. Soraa didn't have time to react to what she'd just done. She grabbed Ja'Ina's rucksack and tossed it to her as she ran.

The two darted into the trees just as more troopers entered the clearing. One of them had a large shoulder pauldron, indicating that he was the squad leader.

He pointed into the trees where the women fled and called out, "send out seekers after them and bring them back to the shuttle!"

Moments later, three Prowler 1000 seeker droids quickly whizzed into the trees after Soraa and Ja'Ina. Their powerful sensors scanned for their targets as they began the chase.

Soraa and Ja'Ina just kept running as fast as they could, not knowing how many troopers were behind them. They figured they had an advantage since they were unburdened with armor and were familiar with the surroundings. The ground started to slope downwards so they were careful to not lose control of their quick strides. The trees were thinning out more and gave way to a field with tall grass.

The women's escape route made them veer further away from the road, though it was still visible off in the distance. Suddenly a blaster bolt passed between them and hit the ground right in front of them, throwing them to either side of the blast. Soraa fell flat to the ground while Ja'Ina rolled and sprang right back to her feet. She brought her quarterstaff around and defensively held it up in front of her.

Ja'Ina saw that it was actually a small droid flying through the air that was chasing them. "Droid!" she blurted to Soraa.

Soraa rolled over to see a second droid closing fast from another direction. "Droids!" she corrected.

The first seeker fired at Ja'Ina as it quickly came at her. All she could do was dodge the blasts. As it flew upon her she spun her quarterstaff at it. Her strike connected, deflecting the droid's trajectory only slightly. But instead of causing any serious damage to the droid, it knocked her off her feet and sent the 'staff flying from her hands. She hit the ground hard, stunned.

The second seeker bore down upon Soraa. She drew up an easy bead on it and fired her blaster. She hit the droid squarely in the center of its primary photoreceptor and it exploded.

The first seeker droid turned away from Ja'Ina and flew towards Soraa, whom it perceived as the greater threat. It fired a barrage of blasts at her and she dived out of the way as it zipped past. She fired at it as it sped away, but missed.

Ja'Ina sat up coughing and regained her bearings. She saw Soraa tangling with the other droid and got up to help, grabbing her 'staff along the way.

The seeker flew back in between the nearest trees as it circled around for another pass. Soraa led her aim on the target and fired again. This time, her shot just caught the trailing side of the droid, which sent it spinning out of control and it smashed into a tree.

Ja'Ina called out, "hey, good shot!"

At that moment, the third seeker droid flew out from the trees behind Ja'Ina. Soraa cried out.

"Behind you!"

Ja'Ina stepped just a bit to the side. Without looking behind her, she thrust her quarterstaff upward and jabbed it into the underside of the droid in between its grappling arms. She jumped up with the momentum of the droid. She shifted her weight into the weapon, causing it to swing downwards with the droid stuck on the tip. The force of the swing flung the droid off the 'staff and drove it into the ground. Ja'Ina landed on one knee and looked up towards the downed seeker.

Soraa jogged up to the badly damaged droid. Sparks flew and servos whined as it struggled to get off the ground. She pointed her blaster at it and fired. The seeker blew into a shower of sparks and debris.

Ja'Ina doubled over, catching her breath. "What... were those things?"

"Some kind of hunter droid, I guess. The Imperials were too lazy to run after us themselves."

"Looks like your target practice paid off."

"Yeah, except these guys were bigger, faster and meaner than my remotes!"

"I'd say you passed the test with flying colors." Ja'Ina patted her friend's shoulder. "Let's get going before the Stormtroopers realize their droids aren't coming back with us!"

Soraa and Ja'Ina grabbed their things and made a break for the road through the field of tall grass. There was no traffic, which they hoped meant that all of the Imperials were behind them.

As if by divine timing, Ja'Ina spotted Raelin's repulsor van traveling down the road toward Sim Katall and the agents of the Empire. Soraa and Ja'Ina started to yell out and wave their arms wildly as they ran to intercept the van. The young women got close enough to the road that someone in the van caught sight of them and it stopped.

Doren, the Zabrak Lorand-bass player jumped out, puzzled. "Ja'Ina, Soraa, what's going on here?"

The women ran right toward him, breathless. They were dirty and disheveled from their run-in with the Imperials.

Ja'Ina yelled, "Doren! We gotta go, now!"

The Zabrak cocked his head at the young woman. "Why do you look like you wrestled a gundark and lost?"

Soraa stepped up from behind Ja'Ina, "there's no time! We need to leave, now!"

Doren noticed Soraa's blaster on her hip. He pointed at it. "Oh, no, no! We can't have you bring that thing with you!"

Soraa called into the van. "Raelin! Let us in, please!"

From inside, Raelin yelled at Doren. "Let them in! We'll deal with the details later."

Doren paused for a moment, frowning. "...Alright, come on!" he growled.

Soraa and Ja'Ina piled into the van, exhausted. They turned around and drove away towards Jum Katar, perhaps to never return to Sim Katall ever again.

Author's Note: This is the end of Episode I, but the story is only just beginning.

You can find Episode II at: www fanfiction net/s/8479640/1/The-Best-Laid-Plans-Episode-II (just add the missing periods)