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

www fanfiction net/s/8647198/1/The-Best-Laid-Plans-Episode-III

(just need to add the missing periods, I apologize for that inconvenience)

Episode IV

After leaving their home world of Galathu, Soraa and Ja'Ina found themselves the unwitting guests of the pirate captain Berini aboard her ship the Queen Valkyrie.

Having strong reservations about joining the pirate ship at Captain Berini's behest, the young friends were taken prisoner with Soraa encased in carbonite.

In the hopes of freeing her friend, Ja'Ina reluctantly joined the pirates and proved a valuable addition to the crew, and the young women decided to join them permanently, looking forward to the exciting life that awaited them…

Chapter One

The Lucky Star descended through the atmosphere a bit too fast, making for a very choppy ride. Fitty let out a stream of blats and buzzes reprimanding the inexperienced pilot as the aged Y-Wing continued to bounce recklessly.

Ja'Ina laughed at the astromech's protests. "Oh, Fitty, we're doing just fine. How do you expect me to get better unless you let me practice?"

The translation screen on the crew consoles displayed Fitty's response so that Soraa and Ja'Ina could understand him. "This is a clear indication that you still need substantial training in operating the ship. Currently all systems are within acceptable tolerances. However, if you continue this angle of descent the situation will quickly deteriorate."

Fitty's warning convinced Ja'Ina to ease up on the hands on throttle-and-stick and try to remember more of what her droid 'flight instructor' had taught her. Fitty wasn't really programmed for pilot training but Ja'Ina still proved an amazingly quick study even with the limited guidance he was able to provide from his databanks. She exhibited reaction times that defied the astromech's logic circuits, and she quickly understood how the controls correlated to the movement of the fighter. Kurloh said it was due to her connection to the Force.

Still, Ja'Ina had let the excitement get the best of her again, which was an unforeseen effect of her exciting new life as a pirate. She refocused herself and steadied the ship into a more controlled flight.

Sitting right behind Ja'Ina in the aft-facing gunner's seat, Soraa was enjoying the ride from her vantage point through the viewport. Though the ionized moisture high in the atmosphere made it difficult to see, she could occasionally see the Queen Valkyrie's shuttle behind them whenever the haze had thinned enough.

"C'mon, Ina," Soraa encouraged. "Let's see how far we can push it!"

"No, Fitty's right. We don't want to risk becoming a skid mark on the planet's surface." Ja'Ina relaxed her grip on the HOTAS. "Besides, we don't want to leave the others behind, do we?"

Though the BTL-S3 Y-Wing was not the fastest fighter in the galaxy, it still could easily outrun the small planetary shuttle, even with one engine out.

Soraa came to her senses. "I guess you're right. The Captain would probably get upset if we didn't stay together."

"Remember, the shuttle has very light armament. We're also flying escort for them."

Soraa patted the turret controls. "At least my gun can do some real damage now!"

The Lucky Star's ion weapon had since been converted into a twin repeating blaster cannon, adding its modest offensive capability to that of the nose cannons. However, the ship's overall weaponry still lacked the serious punch of the torpedo system, having been replaced with a cargo compartment by In-Dee Johlo, the unfortunate previous owner.

A communications hail came in through Soraa and Ja'Ina's headsets. "Valkyrie-One to Lucky Star, come in."

"Go ahead Valkyrie-One," Ja'Ina responded.

"Ja'Ina, we'd appreciate it if you didn't lose us."

Ja'Ina chuckled. "Sorry about that, Marka! Fitty let me have it as well."

Several standard months have passed since Soraa and Ja'Ina officially joined the crew of the Queen Valkyrie. Despite the rough start, the two young women now felt completely at home. Berini kept a stern ex-Imperial Navy leadership of the vessel, but was also a matronly figure for the crew. The young women have since considered her their surrogate mother as well.

The young friends have seen many worlds throughout the Outer Rim Territories and experienced amazing adventures. Their travels have far exceeded the wildest dreams of their youth.

Now these missions have started to become routine to Soraa and Ja'Ina. Despite the fact that the Valkyrie's crew referred to themselves as pirates, they rarely engaged in true piracy. For all intents and purposes they were a band of bounty hunters, and that suited Soraa and Ja'Ina just fine. They felt that as long as the right jobs were taken, what they were doing was definitely more morally sound than being actual pirates. Berini was careful to take jobs that had the lowest possibility of attracting the Empire's attention and she absolutely refused to take jobs from the Empire itself. Soraa and Ja'Ina felt real satisfaction with their work as well. Berini chose jobs going after true scum and villainy, which was perfectly fine with them.

The team had departed the Queen Valkyrie in high orbit and Berini took the ship away to pick up a new crewmember. Depending on how things went with the mission, they would all meet up again within the next couple of days.

The atmosphere had cleared and the young women could now see where they were. They located their destination, the city of Olu-Krav, and Ja'Ina set their course accordingly.

Their current job came from a man named Ekha, who organized some of the largest and most popular swoop races in the sector which were based on this particular planet of Olu-Dra III.

A rogue IG-series assassin droid ran amok at the most recent race, killing nearly one-hundred spectators and several racers as well before disappearing. Ekha himself managed to escape with his life by the shave of a nerf's hide, but he also lost a lot of money and his reputation. This droid was still on the loose and local authorities have been unable to locate it. The regional Imperial governor didn't show any interest in the incident, either. In fact, the local Imperial presence was minimal at best.

Ekha was so desperate to have this droid found and destroyed that he hired several bounty hunters to find it, including Berini. The Captain enjoyed challenging her crew, especially when it came to competition on a bounty. She and her crew had the reputation of being some of the best in the outer regions of the galaxy.

The fighter and shuttle landed next to each other on the same open-air landing pad and pirates and droid egressed alike. Ja'Ina slung her scimitar's baldric across her back and sported a new dagger strapped to her thigh. Soraa had her trusty DL-44 heavy blaster on her hip and a new hold-out blaster hidden in her boot. It was early morning, with the sun just appearing over the horizon. It was still cool so Ja'Ina wore a poncho over her scanty breechcloth and bikini top. Soraa carried her DL-44 blaster pistol and sported an armorweave jacket over her skin-tight unitard. This jacket afforded her some protection from blaster fire, unlike her old leather one which still bore the hole where Dun'ii had shot her.

Marka, Kurloh, Juun and Rann had come aboard Valkyrie-One. Everyone except for Ja'Ina carried blaster weapons. She instead carried her archaic yet beautiful scimitar and wielded it masterfully, her skills augmented by her connection with the Force.

The young woman's swordsmanship always impressed Kurloh, the only other Force-sensitive of the Queen Valkyrie's crew. The Togruta told Ja'Ina that her weapon preference was a carry-over from the traditions of the lightsaber-wielding Jedi. In fact, Kurloh wished that Ja'Ina had a lightsaber of her own. She would have loved to see her in action with one of those ancient, elegant weapons. Like the Jedi, it was doubtful that there were any lightsabers still in existence anywhere in the galaxy, the Order having been obliterated by the Empire nearly twenty years ago.

In addition to a pistol, Rann also carried a T-28 repeating sniper blaster rifle partially disassembled in a case she held under her long coat. While she was good with blasters in general, her specialty was long-range sniping, which was likely to be of use in this hunt.

Fitty accompanied the lady pirates as he often did on hunts. On this particular mission, his scanners might be of some use in locating the fugitive assassin droid. Given the available information, the team had reason to believe that their target was still in the vicinity of Olu-Krav.

The city's spaceport was situated in the western outskirts of town with the landing pads situated along an ocean coast. The main street next to the spaceport was lined with small shops contained in one contiguous structure along the roadway. The whole place was somewhat behind in technological levels, but there were still plenty of droids and speeders and such around to keep things from being totally primitive.

The city as a whole was fairly fragmented, with wild forested areas breaking up the order of the structures and streets. The swoop racetrack was located towards the center. The wild areas beyond the city were barer, with scant flora and fauna and plenty of rocky hills and mountains. The city was basically a self-contained oasis, fed by many natural springs, as were all of the major settlements on the planet. The native people were human, but there were plenty of emigrated races represented as well.

The group walked along the road until they found a tavern and walked in. The droid detector at the entrance squawked an alarm as Fitty rolled past it. Marka put a hand in front of the astromech, causing him to stop. "Sorry, bolt bucket. You'll have to wait outside."

Fitty let out a protesting screech, as to let all beings within the establishment know of his displeasure.

The women walked over to a circular booth in the far corner and sat down. The bar was rather cramped with many tables, but only a few patrons were present at this morning hour.

Being the security chief of the Queen Valkyrie, Kurloh was put in charge of the mission. She began the discussion.

"Alright, ladies, here we are. As we all know, this droid went into hiding after the incident, so we have a bit of a job just to find it. Assuming it doesn't have access to transportation, it shouldn't be too far away – either in one of the forested areas within the city proper, or the nearby arid regions."

Juun chimed in. "So it's still on the planet?"

"Information passed on from the locals suggests that it is. Witnesses said that it ran off on foot after the massacre. It was surprisingly fast, and was armed with some kind of medium repeating blaster."

"Now that's something you don't see every day," Rann replied. "Those weapons are so powerful that they're usually mounted on tripods or speeders!"

"Sounds like a walking tank," Soraa added.

Kurloh continued. "You may be right. I wouldn't be surprised if it has heavier armor than a typical IG-series droid to compliment its firepower."

Just then a squat server droid with a tray on top of its flat head rolled up to the table. [Excuse me, would you like any refreshments?]

"Do you have any Nimu ale?" Soraa asked the automaton.

[I am sorry, but we do not have that particular beverage.] Nimu ale was not even present in the droid's databanks. It was virtually unknown outside of Galathu.

"Alright then, just one of your house brews."

[Very well.]

Ja'Ina elbowed her friend. "Soraa! It's still the morning! You really should have some breakfast."

"Okay, okay." Soraa turned to the server droid. She picked common food that would likely be served here. "I'll have some fried gorf eggs and bantha ham with my ale."

[Very well,] the droid replied. That was its lone programmed affirmative response, which sounded exactly the same in tone and inflection every time.

Ja'Ina shot a hand in front of the automaton. "No ale," she grumbled, shooting her friend a glare that could burn a hole through durasteel.

"Fine, a cup of stimcaf then," Soraa said with a sigh.

The rest of the women ordered their breakfasts and went back to their discussion.

"Okay, we're going to split up into pairs," Kurloh said. "One pair will take the city's forests, another will take the arid region to the north, and the third will take the south."

"What do we do when we make contact with our target?" Soraa asked.

"Let the other teams know, and then tail it. Wait until we're all together before trying to take it down. We'll need as much firepower as possible, and give it more than one adversary to deal with."

Rann reached down and slapped the case next to her feet. "We have all the firepower we need right here!"

The Togruta raised an eyebrow at Rann. "Maybe so, but we need to act as a team. This thing is extremely dangerous, and we don't want any of us to get caught alone with it. We have no idea what kind of programming is driving its actions, if there's any programming running in its processors at all."

The server droid returned with its tray overloaded with food and drinks, interrupting the conversation. Multiple mechanical arms extended from the droid's body and reached up to grab the items. It quickly and carefully placed everything in front of the correct patrons and then zipped away.

Ja'Ina took a bite then resumed the discussion. "What about our competition? Surely there're plenty of other hunters around."

Marka quickly scanned the tavern. There weren't very many patrons around, but there was one who sat alone at a table near the entrance. He had come in a short time after the pirates did and sat hunched over under a cloak with some kind of drink in front of him. He was staring at the wall and couldn't look more suspicious if he tried.

"There's a potential competitor over there," the Theelin informed her crewmates, chinning in his direction.

Ja'Ina said, without even looking at him, "Yeah, I'm sure he's another hunter. We'd better be careful." What she didn't share with the others was the strong uneasy feeling she got from the stranger.

Rann added with a scowl, "That's all we need, to have some eopie-brain stumble in when we're trying to get this thing and ruin the operation!" Her cybernetic leg ached with the memory of her betrayal by the Empire.

"It could be used to our advantage, however," Ja'Ina countered. "We may be able to use distractions caused by other hunters to move in and take our prize."

That did not calm Rann's bitterness of her past experience. "Or we could be overrun by the competition and the whole thing turns into a big mess!"

"Then we'll just have to keep our eyes open," Juun reassured her. "We're the best out here! Remember that."

Everyone raised their glasses in a toast to themselves. Ja'Ina glanced over at the loner by the door. He looked straight at her, his face completely hidden within the shadow underneath his large hood. He lifted his glass slightly off of the table and gave her a subtle nod.

The pirates finished their meal and left the tavern without even acknowledging the stranger as they walked by. Fitty was still standing right outside the entrance whistling quietly to himself.

Soraa patted the astromech on his domed head. "C'mon, Fitty. Let's go."

The droid extended his third leg and rolled alongside the women.

The group returned to the landing platform where their ships were parked. They unloaded the two speeder bikes from the shuttle's cramped cargo area. Kurloh continued to lay out the plan to the others.

"Okay everyone, we'll split up here. Marka, Juun, you'll take the northern arid region."

"But I hate deserts!" Juun protested.

"It's a perfect opportunity to work on your tan, Juun!" Marka jokingly quipped. The Theelin tugged at the shoulder strap of Juun's outfit, showing her pale complexion.

Kurloh ignored Juun's griping, "Rann and Soraa will take the southern arid region, and Ja'Ina and I will take the city's forest areas."

Soraa briefly glanced at Ja'Ina. She was not happy about being separated from Ja'Ina again, but kept her feelings to herself. It seemed like Ja'Ina and Kurloh had been spending more time together as of late. Ja'Ina wouldn't even tell her what they were doing together, which fueled jealousy within Soraa. She was afraid that Ja'Ina was drifting away from her and developing a stronger bond with the Togruta.

Soraa had not yet built up the courage to confront Ja'Ina about the situation, but for now she let it go and focused on the mission. At least she was going to be with Rann, with whom she had developed a good friendship through their shared interest in blasters.

Without warning, Fitty let out a few blats and squeaks.

Ja'Ina laughed. "Fitty, do you think we're going to leave you behind?"

The astromech responded with a long, descending squeal that sounded like a woeful electronic sigh.

"Don't worry; you're coming with Kurloh and me," Ja'Ina reassured the distressed droid.

Fitty tooted a happy affirmative and rolled over to the pair.

"Everyone, tune your comlinks to our usual encrypted frequency and stay in touch," Kurloh directed. "Let's go find that rust bucket, and keep an eye out for any competition."

Marka and Juun mounted their speeder bike and took off for the north of the city. Soraa and Rann rode theirs off to the south. Kurloh, Ja'Ina and Fitty headed into the city for the forested area.