Best Laid Plans - A Star Wars Serial Adventure
Author's Note: While I have created the characters and the situations, it all resides in the Star Wars Universe owned by George Lucas.
This story was conceived in an episodic, serial form. To read the previous episodes of this story, please go to:
www fanfiction net/s/8366512/1/The-Best-Laid-Plans-Episode-I
www fanfiction net/s/8479640/1/The-Best-Laid-Plans-Episode-II
(just need to add the missing periods, I apologize for that inconvenience)
Having finally arrived at the spaceport Jum Katar, Soraa and Ja'Ina prepared to leave their homeworld Galathu, ready to start their life of adventure.
In their efforts to leave, the young friends barely avoided becoming the property of the vile slaver Mehar Fuhar.
After getting caught up in a bounty hunt, the young women managed to escape Galathu only to be captured by the all-female pirate ship Queen Valkyrie…
The escorts turned and left, leaving Soraa and Ja'Ina alone with Berini and her Twi'lek first mate Myrrna. The Captain looked over the prisoners, taking in every detail of their somewhat-disheveled appearance.
"So, are you both from Galathu?" Berini asked.
Soraa answered, "y-yes we are, Ma'am."
"You will refer to me as Captain, or even better, Queen Berini."
Ja'Ina was afraid that Soraa had deeply offended Berini. "We are very sorry, Queen Berini. We meant no offense in our ignorance." She bowed low in hopes that her tone and manners would appease the imposing woman whose mercy they were under.
Berini was visibly pleased. "Very well, apology accepted. What are your names, girls?"
"My name is Ja'Ina Anour."
"I-I'm Soraa Matii."
"So what brings the two of you out here, away from your home, flying in In-Dee Johlo's ship?"
Soraa blurted out, "We're not with him, if that's what you're thinking!"
Berini pointed her finger at Soraa. "You didn't answer my question."
Soraa stood there red-faced and nervously shaking. She really wanted a drink right then.
"I know you weren't with that nerf-herder. Johlo and the old man both attested to that."
Soraa had a hard time holding her agitation in check. "Well, you need to tell your Twi'lek first mate that!"
Myrrna growled in response to Soraa's comment.
Berini grabbed Soraa's arm with a painfully strong grip and pulled the young woman to herself. The Captain stood about the same height as Soraa, which further unnerved the young woman. She hadn't met many women as tall as she was, and Berini was also much heftier than her. As such, Soraa found the pirate captain quite intimidating.
"You must learn some manners while on my ship, my dear girl. Otherwise, you will face some rather…unpleasant consequences."
Soraa swallowed hard and trembled in fear of Berini's cryptically ominous statement.
Ja'Ina tried to ease the situation. "Soraa, just take it easy. Losing our wits won't get us anywhere."
"You need to listen to your friend, Soraa. She has some wisdom in her words!" Berini released her hold on Soraa.
While Ja'Ina managed to remain calm and collected, it actually took all she had to stay focused on the present situation. Somehow, she didn't feel any truly malicious energy from Berini. But she wasn't sure what she felt.
Berini turned to Ja'Ina. "How about you tell me your story?"
"Well, Queen Berini, we were hired by Lernel to apprehend In-Dee Johlo for destroying his asteroid mine while retrieving some kind of object. That kinda fell apart just before your crew showed up."
"And after that you managed to escape in Johlo's ship."
"So you know how to fly a fighter like that, then?"
Ja'Ina hesitated. She wanted to keep as much of a confident air as possible, but at the same time did not want to lie to the Captain for fear of further reprisal. "Not exactly. Fitty helped us with piloting the ship."
"Our droid. He came with our ship."
Berini put her hands on her hips and laughed. "Ahhhh, so you've taken ownership of In-Dee's craft! That's rather pirate-like of you!"
Ja'Ina broke into a cold sweat. It sounded like they had quickly became serious criminals, and now were in deep trouble. "We're very sorry! We were caught up in the situation and didn't know what else to do. We'll gladly return it to him."
Berini was surprised by the young woman's comment. She raised an eyebrow. "Really? Where's your bravado? I must say I'm a bit disappointed."
Soraa and Ja'Ina looked at each other, confused by Berini's comments.
Berini chuckled. "You should be proud of yourselves! Look, I don't care what happened between you, In-Dee Johlo and the old man. As far as I'm concerned, that fighter and droid in my hangar bay is yours. However, there's something inside your ship that belongs to me."
The two pirates who searched the Lucky Star entered the room and presented a small satchel to Berini. They also placed Soraa's blaster and Ja'Ina's scimitar on the table.
"My Queen, here's the idol. We found it in a hidden cargo space beneath the cockpit."
Berini accepted it with a beaming smile. "Thank you, my dear."
She turned back to Soraa and Ja'Ina, removing the object from the satchel. "This is what's mine!"
Soraa blurted out, "that must be the artifact Lernel was talking about!"
"Yes… Yes, it is! You clearly had no idea what you were taking when you flew out of the spaceport. Ohhh, the naïveté of youth!" Berini carefully studied the idol. "I was quite a bit like you at your age. I didn't really know what was going on around me for quite some time. But then I realized I needed to gain control over my life or I'd never get to where I wanted to be…" She returned the idol into the satchel and looked back up at the young women. "Oh but now I'm lecturing!"
Soraa and Ja'Ina stood there silently, but felt slightly more at ease with Berini's change of tone.
Berini picked up Ja'Ina's scimitar and Soraa's blaster. "You two are really full of surprises! Do you even know how to use these things?"
Again, Soraa blurted out without thinking. "Of course! I'm the best shot-"
"Quiet! Yes or no was all I wanted!" The pirate queen's booming voice was enough to stop Soraa's gloating in her tracks.
She looked at Ja'Ina and unsheathed the sword. "So this is yours?"
Ja'Ina continued with the formalities in order to keep the situation calm. "Yes, Queen Berini."
Berini looked at the beautifully-detailed hilt and studied the curvature of the blade. "It's quite a good-looking sword. Where did you get it from?"
"From my parents, I suppose. I don't know though as I was left at the orphanage as an infant and I've always had it."
"Excellent! I like a good mystery!" Berini turned to Soraa. "So what about you?"
This time, Soraa stared at her feet and spoke more softly, afraid to anger Berini again. "I too am an orphan. My parents were killed in a bronzium mine accident when I was four."
"So you learned to take care of yourselves at a very young age, eh?"
The young women both nodded wordlessly in response.
"Believe it or not, I've heard many stories similar to yours. You can take comfort in knowing that there are others here who have an idea of what you've gone through."
Ja'Ina noticed that as Berini learned more about her and Soraa, the pirate captain gradually relaxed her demeanor – to the point of seeming almost matronly, especially since she was at least twice their age.
Berini motioned to the Twi'lek. "Myrrna, remove these binders from our guests. As long as they promise to behave, that is."
Ja'Ina reassured her. "We will behave, Queen Berini." After she spoke, she realized she sounded more like a child and was a little embarrassed by it.
Myrrna grabbed some keys and walked over to the prisoners-turned-guests. She still held her scowling expression and spoke in a terse manner. "There." She unlocked the binders and took them.
Berini motioned for Soraa and Ja'Ina to sit down with her. Myrrna also sat down.
The Captain locked her eyes on the young women. "Nearly twenty years ago, right after the birth of the Empire, I was a junior Imperial Navy officer from Corellia. After a couple of years of being held back by misogynistic mentalities, I left. I decided to take the bantha by the horns and create my own destiny not dependent on short-sighted morons."
The thought of this pirate captain formerly being an Imperial officer seemed so inconceivable to Soraa and Ja'Ina. They listened with great interest.
Berini continued. "Gradually, I got my ship and put together my crew of pirates to travel the galaxy and take on various jobs. I choose only females for my crew, and they all came from some kind of broken background – former slaves, fugitives from the Empire, crime syndicates and such. My crew is my family and I keep them as a tight-knit sisterhood."
Soraa sheepishly spoke up. "S-so what about us?"
"So what about you, indeed!" The hefty pirate captain leaned back in her chair and rubbed her chin. She stared at Soraa and Ja'Ina as they sat silently.
"What do you think, Myrrna?" Berini asked as she turned to her first officer. "Think they'd be good?"
The purple-skinned Twi'lek looked at the young women with piercing eyes. Her permanent scowl continued to make them nervous. "Maybe they'd work. But what can they do?"
Berini stood up. "Come on, let's take a walk."
Soraa and Ja'Ina complied and left with Berini and Myrrna, still unsure of what was going on. The four women walked down the corridor, passing several more crewmembers of various races. They too wore varied, skimpy attire.
"How many do you have in your crew, Captain?" asked Ja'Ina.
"There're twenty-five of us total on board the Queen Valkyrie," Berini replied. "The crew represents a number of races – human, Zeltron, Chalactan, Mirialan, Lorrdian, Togruta, Twi'lek, Zabrak and Theelin. I find the Empire's human-superiority doctrines absolutely ridiculous! But I forbid the formation of race-based cliques. Everyone usually gets along just fine, but everyone's an individual and the occasional scuffle will happen."
"Uhh, Queen Berini, if you say that In-Dee's ship is now ours, what happened to him?" Soraa inquired with more confidence than before. "Is he dead?"
Berini replied with a smile. "Ohhh, he's not dead, at least not yet. But I think his ship is the last thing on his mind right now. We were on a bounty hunt after him, and now we're going to deliver him to our client. Actually, I appreciate that you distracting him until we got there. I had my girls arrive early to catch him off-guard."
Ja'Ina asked, "so what did In-Dee want with the artifact in Lernel's mine?"
"Our client originally hired him to find and retrieve the idol for them. When he didn't return with it or contact them at the agreed time, they figured he decided to go for a more lucrative offer. So we took a contract to track him down. When he was open to selling it to us, we knew he was indeed reneging on his agreement and informed our client that we would apprehend him for them. On top of delivering Johlo, we'll get some extra for retrieving the idol. Very generous of them, I must say. Ahh, here we are – the brig."
Berini, Myrrna, Soraa and Ja'Ina entered the brig and the young friends were astonished by what they saw. There were three large rectangular slabs standing up along the wall. Each one contained a person encased in carbonite. Their forms protruded from the surface of the slabs like relief sculptures. The young women looked at the first slab – the unmistakable form of In-Dee Johlo could clearly be made out in the block of alloy. The expression frozen on his face was a mixture of agony and surprise. The sight was beyond anything Soraa and Ja'Ina could conceive or comprehend.
The other two slabs exhibited the forms of young women, one a human and the other a Zabrak. In the far corner was some kind of control pedestal next to a cylindrical booth about two meters in diameter that reached from the floor to the ceiling. Its door was open, but little could be made out inside the dark interior. Berini and Myrrna were visibly pleased with the shock the sight gave their guests.
"Don't worry, they're all alive," Berini reassured the young women. "The first person you have already met. This is how we'll deliver him to our client. It's actually our hallmark to deliver our quarries in this manner. We've found that the drama of such a presentation is desirable to many of those who put a price on someone's head, and our clients will pay a premium for it. It's the signature I put on my work."
Ja'Ina's jaw dropped. "That's horrible! How could you do that to someone?!"
"Look, my dear, we're already in a bit of an unsavory business as it is. Besides, we don't accept just any bounty. Believe it or not, I do have some principles and select our jobs carefully. We only go after real scum and villainy.
"But from whose point of view?"
"From mine, and that's all." Berini towered over Ja'Ina, glaring down at her. "I don't have to explain it to you!"
Soraa looked at the frozen women. The human's expression was one of pain, the Zabrak's of anger. "What about them?" she asked.
The Captain sighed. "That is more unfortunate. They're actually two of my girls. They were fighting with each other for some stupid reason. I do not tolerate any kind of disharmony in my crew, so they're being punished. I don't like doing it as the carbon freezing process does run a minute risk of killing the subject. But overall it's a good deterrent from disobeying my rules and orders. Thankfully, I rarely have to mete out this punishment on my crew. These two are actually about due for release."
Ja'Ina was puzzled. "Don't you have a regular detention cell for this?"
"I don't have the room for such a facility on my ship, and this takes up a lot less space than a traditional brig. Besides, I'd rather not waste any of my provisions on my quarries. When frozen, they're in perfect hibernation so they don't require any food or water."
Soraa's stomach audibly growled, which embarrassed her.
Berini was amused. "It seems you haven't had anything to eat for a while now. Perfect timing! I was about to invite you to dine with me in my personal mess. I know the trip between Galathu and Krrad can take some time by sublight and you didn't keep much in the way of provisions in your ship."
Ja'Ina and Soraa followed Berini and Myrrna out of the brig. Soraa briefly looked back over her shoulder at the frozen prisoners as the door closed behind her.