With Kaydee powered down in the supply closet, Cordira quickly swept across the upper deck, reaching the staircase just before Kreg and Xallar had begun to climb it. She hid with Tops behind a cargo crate off to the side, somehow using the Force to wrap the shadows around them and keep them concealed. The two pirates sprinted up to the top, their blasters drawn and ready to fire as they stopped momentarily and scanned the deck. Cordira focused all her thoughts on forcing their attention forward, and surprising herself, it seemed to be working; after a few tense moments, both Kreg and Xallar began stepping further onto the deck, extremely cautious and alert.
"I'm not crazy," Xallar asserted preemptively with a defensive tone.
"That is up for debate," Kreg returned with a grumble, unimpressed at finding the level vacant. "Like I said before, that sedative could knock down a full sized zillo beast. Anyone who ate any of that food and then stepped foot on this ship will be out for a minimum of three days, the kids for even longer."
"Fine, but...where are they? If we don't find the kids before we get back to base, Boss is not going to be happy..."
As the two continued on toward the rear of the deck, Cordira held her breath as she left the cover of the cargo crate and made a delicate but concerted effort to lower Tops down the staircase. The astromech was a solid, heavy hunk of metal plating, servos, and tools, she knew, but she still struggled to even levitate him a millimeter off the floor. At the age of one and a half, telekinesis had emerged as the first and so far her strongest Force skill, but her resolve hadn't yet been tested under such desperate and dangerous circumstances. She closed her eyes to concentrate harder, trusting the droid to alert her if she was spotted while she worked. Hopefully the Iktotchi and Balosar behind her wouldn't hear her breathing that had quickened from the sudden exertion...
One minor lapse in focus allowed the droid to slip a few centimeters in her grip suddenly, but she managed to quickly regain her composure, calling on the force to strengthen her hold. With what control she had left, she allowed Tops to drift down the staircase to the deck as slowly as she could. It took the remaining strength she could muster to give the droid a light landing below, but she still heard the heavy thud echo up the stairwell toward her. She froze in place instantly, waiting for Kreg and Xallar to turn around to her...but they had just discovered the supply closet.
"'See' what? It's a protocol droid, and it's powered down. You said you saw a red-haired girl."
"Whatever. Turn it back on."
"Right, because it came all the way back up here and turned itself off..."
Taking the opportunity while they were distracted with Kaydee, Cordira sprinted down the stairs at met Tops at the bottom as he whined worriedly for his friend.
"I know," Cordira soothed him briefly before ushering him toward the bridge. "Come on, hurry."
Tops followed obediently and plugged himself into the nearest controls he could find, whistling back a request for an order from her as she sat at the comm station on the bridge. Though she wasn't completely sure she had opened the right channel, she could finally hear the chatter from up above again. They were interrogating Kaydee, as she had hoped, and what she heard from the droid was little more than garble and broken Basic; it was providing exactly the distraction she wanted.
"Tops, stop the ship, but very, very slowly. I don't want them to notice until it's too late."
Already turning his scomp link before she had finished her command, Tops worked quickly, taking over for the autonav as the engines made no appreciable difference in sound output. She breathed a sigh of relief and thanked the Force as the dialogue in the supply closet remained the same for a few minutes, too, until -
Cordira felt her heart stop with dread as she heard their footsteps returning to the main hold. The Balosar had felt the deceleration, though she had hoped Tops had been careful enough about it to avoid his detection. Now they knew they had a saboteur aboard, and she couldn't hide any longer. She had to meet them head on and somehow defend the ship that had been her home away from home for years.
"Tops, wherever we are, stop, but don't land. Keep the engines going, and be ready to go in a hurry."
Kreg and Xallar were faster than she expected, reaching the base of the staircase before she had even gotten off the bridge. She held her father's lightsaber in her hand behind her but she hadn't yet ignited it, instead gauging the reactions of the other two first. She had to maintain at least one element of surprise...
"How...how did you wake up?" Xallar asked with alarm, blaster raised and stepping toward her slowly. Kreg was already on the offensive, though, moving backward to the four adults still crumpled in a pile on the floor just beside the rear loading ramp. Determined to not show them any fear, Cordira matched Xallar's pace, hoping to keep his attention on her, and not on Tops behind her who still had navigational control of the ship.
"I never fell asleep."
Still Kreg moved closer to the adults, already wary of Cordira, though Xallar didn't seem to think much of her. She kept her muscles tense and ready to move quickly enough to protect her parents if Kreg decided to hurt them...
"You were with that group, I know you were. You ate the same food they did, but...how?"
"Does it really matter? Whoever you work for has made a huge mistake. This ship belongs to a very powerful family, and they're not just financially or politically powerful..."
"They're Jedi," Kreg answered darkly. "We know. But they can't protect you now. I'll even make sure you can't wake them up, too..."
Shards of ice tore through her veins as Kreg lowered the ramp behind him and placed his foot atop Rech's chest, prepared to shove him out the back of the ship. She couldn't breathe for several long, tense moments before she finally spoke.
"What do you want?"
"Hand over that lightsaber I know you took."
Xallar looked just as surprised as Cordira felt, but at least she had been able to distract and deceive the Balosar that much. She couldn't move, though. How was she to give up her father's weapon when it was the last thing she had that could protect them? Had all her attempts to avoid detection and defeat her captors been foiled in this one instant, and now all their fates were sealed?
Tired of waiting for her response, Kreg turned and kicked Rech, rolling him over onto his stomach and landing him perilously closed to the edge of the ramp. Reflexively, Cordira gasped and reached out for him with both hands, revealing the lightsaber she had been hiding. Closest to her, Xallar quickly swiped it from her as he struck her across the face with his blaster, knocking her to the floor. She recovered in time to watch in horror as Kreg pulled Elena's lightsaber off her belt...and sent Elena and Rech both tumbling off the rear ramp of the ship.
A splitting headache was nothing new to Yhren Natiyr, but she was getting tired of fighting. She wasn't losing hope, but she definitely needed a new strategy.
The horrible, filthy cell she was being held in was even a more tolerable condition compared to the obnoxious clothing, or lack thereof, that she was being forced to wear as a slave dancer. The more vocal she was to her slaver handlers about it, though, the more of it they removed from her, just to humiliate her. Though she wanted to continue to protest to prove that they hadn't broken her, she had to stop before the active stun collar around her neck was the only thing she was left wearing...
Leave it to her to ruin her brother's family's vacation, she thought to herself. She had always given him a hard time for trouble following him and his wife Mand everywhere, and it was she who had gotten caught in a slaver's net before they had even gotten to their main destination. She worried for Saross, as well, but she was certain they had left him behind. He was injured, but alive, and she knew he would be looking for her, so she just had to figure out how to get the attention of the outside world from inside a slaver's cell.
A number of slaves had come and gone in just a few short hours in the dark, dusty holding area, but no one spoke more than a few words that weren't answers to questions from the Zabrak and Zygerrian slavers. Yhren had been the most outspoken of them all for sure, but she had also been the only human she had seen so far. The others looked...accustomed to such treatment, as if it had been all they'd known their entire lives. She, however, had been targeted for some reason, and it perplexed her.
While planning her next course of action, a turquoise-skinned twi'lek approached her timidly from the other hold, keeping her thickly accented voice very light and hushed.
"You... Are you Yhren Natiyr?"
Surprised that she was being personally addressed by a stranger in such a place, she brought her guard up, suddenly more keenly aware of her surroundings. "Who are you?"
The twi'lek looked on her with concern and pity, studying the stun collar and the skin that was likely singed around her neck. "I can see zhat you do not belong 'ere. You are a fighter. But, you must not fight so much. I come 'ere to say, you will 'ave 'elp soon. My friend is going to buy you, and me, and we will be free, but only if you act like you fight a little, zhen cooperate just for 'im. Do you zhink zhat you can do zhis?"
Though Yhren had few options, she was still wary. "Who is this 'friend' of yours? Why does he have to buy us?"
Before the twi'lek could answer, a door around the corner swept open, usually signalling the arrival of slavers. The twi'lek disappeared just as quickly as she had come, only leaving Yhren with an even greater feeling of unease than she'd had previously.