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Author Topic: Hearts of Stone  (Read 3724 times)
Lord_S_Gray
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« Reply #60 on: April 11, 2019, 04:19:53 PM »

The Darksiders surge forth....then get bounced back....overconfidence is their weakness.  Having said that this is very much the first time facing either side, I don't think Gabriel will be as unprepared next time following his meditations. Yet Alexa nd co. aso now have more an idea of who they are dealing with, the Mak'tor in particular will be more prepared. Liking Shalon more and more with her amulet and 'magic' view of the force...we must introduce her to an Aethan...(though I think she'd run screaming Dark Magic!).
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Lord_S_Gray

Surik: "Kreia, what are you—are you a Jedi, a Sith?"
Kreia: "Does it matter? Of course it does, such titles allow you to break the galaxy into light and dark, categorize it. Perhaps I am neither, and I hold both as what they are, pieces of a whole."

Karmack
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« Reply #61 on: April 12, 2019, 07:33:51 AM »

The sorcerers of Tund are an interesting group.  In the EU timeline they are wiped out around this time by a sort-of Sithish wanna-be.  Sholan is a survivor, one of a very few, as a single Sorcerer was off-planet at the time of the attack and only he and his handful of students survive.   They have a unique philosophy of the force - they don't see it as light and dark, but as a unity.

The Jedi kept tabs on them up until the time of the Clone Wars, just to make sure they were keeping out of trouble, but of course after Order 66 that contact ended.  So Shalon might not be as uncomfortable with an Aethan as you think.  :-)   

Thank you, though, for appreciating the character.  I had hoped for something that felt a little like a cross between "A New Hope" and a D&D RPG character group.  LOL
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Master Singer of the Mak'Tor

TheDutchman
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« Reply #62 on: April 12, 2019, 01:45:12 AM »

I like how the InQuestors are actually concerned over each others' well being; a nice wrinkle given the Inquisitorious-origins of them.  Nice inclusion of canon within the Forumverse (I'd never heard of the InQuestors prior  Wink).  Hope that we get to see MUCH more of them.

Shalon IS a great character and with us knowing so little about her...truly an opportunity to explore her past...AND getting to read about it  Cheesy 

The sorcerers of Tund are an interesting group.  In the EU timeline they are wiped out around this time by a sort-of Sithish wanna-be.  Sholan is a survivor, one of a very few, as a single Sorcerer was off-planet at the time of the attack and only he and his handful of students survive.   They have a unique philosophy of the force - they don't see it as light and dark, but as a unity.

The Jedi kept tabs on them up until the time of the Clone Wars, just to make sure they were keeping out of trouble, but of course after Order 66 that contact ended.  So Shalon might not be as uncomfortable with an Aethan as you think.  :-)   

Thank you, though, for appreciating the character.  I had hoped for something that felt a little like a cross between "A New Hope" and a D&D RPG character group.  LOL
Thanks for this out-of-narrative exposition; I love reading about this kind of backstory.  And, funnily enough, I can see the whole "cross between 'A New Hope' and a D&D RPG character" for Shalon: not just the costume, the amulet but also the "feel" of her, her connection to the Force "wild" and "primal"  I can see LSG's point about the similarity between her and the Aethans  Smiley

And Joanna is a fantastic partner for Alex (our characters really do seem to like the "strong&dangerous" archetype for their better halves  Grin).  Looking forward to the next chapter!
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Maenowan Nexu Master of the Vhal'Dan

My sabers:Zearic's Aldrnari, Archon v3 (modded w/ activation box) w/Obsidian, AS; Zearic's shoto, Initiate v5 w/Obsidian, AS; Graflex SE w/Obsidian, GB; Archon v3 (modded w/ activation box) w/Obsidian, CG; Dark Sentinel v4 w/Obsidian, BR; Sentinel LE v4 w/Obsidian, GB; Apprentice v4 w/Obsidian, AS; Sentinel LE v4 stunt, EG; Aeon LE v4 stunt, FO; Dominix v4 stunt, BR; Aeon v3 stunt, SY

Karmack
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« Reply #63 on: April 12, 2019, 09:51:56 AM »

Something to remember about Joanna: She was a smugger BEFORE she met Alex.    And she was serving as first-mate to her Uncle...   Makes a body wonder what happened to her parents....   Hmm....
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Karmack
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« Reply #64 on: May 20, 2019, 03:39:12 PM »

Chapter 11: Genocide
Hutta Town, the Igloo
Nar Shaddaa
5 ABY

Alex woke up to the smell of freshly made pancakes, hot butter, and dark roast coffee.  He took a moment to inhale the aromas and simply enjoy them, aware of nothing else as he basked in the smells.  As his mind slowly, almost casually, spun up from sleep he became aware of other things: the room, dimly lit.  The warmth of the bed.  His wife, snuggled into his side, snoring ever so quietly, her skin warm and soft under his hand.

It was an amazing moment.  A moment to be savored and enjoyed.  A moment Alex wished would never end...

Joanna stirred next to him, her eyes cracking open.  "g'morning..."

Alex kissed her forehead.  "Morning love."  Alex hugged her tight.  His stomach rumbled, hunger awakening as the smells continued to intensify.  "Well..."

Joanna rolled in his arms and pulled herself up partially onto his chest, grinning.  "I'm guessing you're hungry."

"Yup." Alex looked over at the doorway into the ensuite.  "Dibs on the shower."

"No way!" Joanna laughed.  "I'm hungry too, and I'm closer!"  She sprang out of the bed, making for the door.  Alex, laughing, reached out with the force and gently pulled her back to himself and into his arms.  "Hey!"

"Hey yourself." He kissed her, deeply this time.  "I love you."

"I love you too." She said, then her eyes twinkled mischievously.  "If we shower together, it will take half as long."

"No it won't!" Alex replied, but he didn't resist when she grabbed his hand and headed back into the en-suit.

  <<<<< >>>>>

"Glad you two finally showed up!" Ja'Mason called from the galley when Alex and Joanna walked in some time later.  "I was about to send Zuzu in to get you."

Alex looked down at the droid, which was looking up at him expectantly.  "Good morning Zuzu!" he patted the droid's head, again wondering just where the diminutive 'droid had picked up the habit, and accepted a steaming mug from his wife.  "She wouldn't have come in, the droids are programmed to respect private areas."

"Oh?  Interesting limitation." Donovan said from the table.  There was a throughly demolished stack of some form of bread covered in a sticky syrup on the plate before him, with additional evidence of sausage patties and maybe some unidentified fruit cluttering the left-over mess.  "We raided the pantry.  I hope you don't mind?"

"Not at all, as long as you made enough to go around?" Joanna said as she refilled Donovan's cafe mug before returning the half-empty urn to the cafe maker.  "After the last couple of days we all need a good meal."

Ja'Mason grinned and headed into the kitchen.  "Two tall stacks, dirty with friends coming up!"

Alex sipped his coffee and sat, waving it at the kitchen as the clinking sounds of active cooking picked up.  "Does he do this a lot?"

Donovan laughed.  "Actually, yes.  Ja'Mason's family owns a chain of resturants back on M'Tzigon that specialize in breakfast foods.  Before he began his training in earnest he apparently spent many hours happily slaving away in the family's test kitchen in Sierra."

"I heard that!" Ja'Mason called from the kitchen.  "Joke if you wish, you still love my pancakes!"

"That I do." Donovan called back.  "He really is a good cook."

"Yeah, but where did he get the flour for the batter?" Joanna asked.  "I remember stocking frozen fruit, sugar, even the frozen sausage patties.  But not flour."

"Apparently you did have a goodly supply of hardtack.  I was going to just dunk it in my coffee, but Jay found a food processor and decided to be a bit more creative and ..." Donovan waved his hand over the plate.  "Much better."

"Thank you." Ja'Mason said, sweeping back into the room with two heaped plates.  "And here you go."

"Wow..." Joanna sniffed appreciatively.  "It smells amazing!"

Alex didn't say anything, as his mouth was already full, but he smiled and tossed Ja'Mason a thumb's up.

"Glad you like it." Ja'Mason said as he sat. 

Joanna swallowed and pointed at Donovan with her fork.  "Speaking of good things, its good to see you up and around again.  How's the leg?"

"Good." Donovan replied.  "Its sore and it will take a while to work the kinks out of the regenerated muscles, but its serviceable and the pain is manageable.  I was going to ask you, what was in that bacta patch?  It seems to have been almost as effective as a full-blown singer."

Alex and Joanna shared a look.  "Nothing different that I know about." Joanna responded (Alex' mouth was still full) finally.  She looked back at Alex again.  "It must have been Shalon."

"Shalon." Donovan sat back with a thoughtful look.  "That would explain it..."

"Explain what?" Alex finally found time between bites to speak.  "You think she did ... something?"

"Nothing nefarious." Donovan scratched his chin absentmindedly.  "I just noticed an ... echo, I guess you'd call it.  An echo in the song that was very unusual.  Almost like a minor-key counterpoint to the healing melody Ja'Mason and I use."  He rubbed his thigh unconsciously, massaging the healing wound.  "It was a totally different motif but very skillfully woven into ours.  Highly effective.  I wanted to ask her about it, but she's not awake yet."

"She grabbed a quick bite and crashed about three hours ago." Ja'Mason filled in.  "I didn't realize it until Donovan stepped out a bit ago, but she must have spent the night chanting her incantations over him."

"Interesting." Alex concentrated, reaching out in the force until he sensed the faint pulse of her presence.  "She's nearby ... looks like she's meditating."  He took a sip of his cafe and looked over at Ja'Mason.  "So, other than culinary pursuits, what were you up to while we slept?"

The smile on Ja'Mason's face faded.  "This."  He pushed a reader across the table to Alex.

Alex picked it up, scanning the documentation.  "Orax?  What's Orax?"

"Opal's home planet, apparently." Ja'Mason replied, his voice flat.  "Keep reading."

Alex flipped through the pages, his frown deepening as he went.  The first several pages were simple shipping tables, dry numbers with little intrinsic value.  As he moved past them, however, he started to realize that the documents showed a sizable mining operation going on.  One that was moving a lot of crystal off-world ... and which required a lot of labor as the crystals required careful manual labor to harvest.

Further documents showed the source of that labor, and Alex felt his anger hardening as he read details of slave shipments, the frequency of replacements making it clear that the work was neither easy nor safe.  There were ancillary mentions of other crystal sources, with emphasis placed on the modified crystals the Mak'Tor had gathered and instructions to make every effort to intercept them.  Alex read through the final pages, noting the shipping tables and again cringing inwardly at the sheer number of slaves being imported.  He resisted the urge to wipe his hands as he handed the padd to his wife and turned back to the Mak'Tor Knights.  "Well, that explains why they're after you ... and us.  But how did they know about Opal?  Why are they so interested in crystals from her..." Alex stopped talking mid-sentence as it suddenly registered.  They aren't just mining crystals!   They're capturing and enslaving Shard!  "Oh Maker..."

"Exactly." Ja'Mason's eyes were hooded as he looked through the steam from his coffee cup.  "The crystals we were moving were recovered from a project being run by the Inquisitorious, who were using Dark Singers to program the crystals for cooperative use in the super-laser of the second Death Star.  It allowed them to get more energy through-put using less Kyber, which was important since the supply of Kyber crystals had been diminished in the FIRST Death Star.  That's bad enough, but enslaving Shard?" 

Ja'Mason paused and Alex caught a hint of his true emotions through the slight crack in his facade.  The burning lava of his anger matched his own exactly. Alex picked up the narrative from him, explaining to Donovan and Joanna. "Shard would be able to cooperate, but wouldn't be locked into any particular programming or configuration. 

It would add the equivelent of a highly adaptable and huistic AI to the already potent 'tuned' crystaling structure."  He turned back to Ja'Mason as comprehension rolled through his wife's mind.  "Does Opal know?"

Ja'Mason nodded.  "She does.  She downloaded the files, then left abruptly.  I was more concerned with monitoring Don's condition and making sure Shalon was okay...  I didn't think to follow her.  Maybe I should have."

"No, you needed to keep an eye on Donovan." Joanna replied.  "So the cooking is a coping mechanism?"

Ja'Mason smiled slighlty.  "Yes.  Everyone in my family cooks.  Some of us show it more than others, but the Maker gave me a job that promotes good health." Ja'Mason rose.  "With your permission, I think I'll go..."

They looked up as the door whisked open and Opal stepped through.   "No need, friend Ja'Mason.  I am here."  The droid stepped to the table and laid her own padd on it.  "Friend Alex, I must ask you for much, much more than I had intended.   I must ask you to give me the tools to free my people."

Alex picked up the padd and his eyes widened.  "Opal, these droids are unstable..."  He stopped, his mind racing.  The droids in question were six HK-50's, pieced together from scrounged and fabricated parts.  Alex had intended to use the HK's for security in the Igloo as well as taking one or two along on the Hope as security.  However, the personality centers had proven impossible to reprogram, the assassin droid personalities capable of hiding and reprogramming themselves back in however he tried to remove or lock them out.  So as Sentinels or bodyguards they were useless, psychopathic killers to smart and arrogant to follow orders or do anything they didn't want to do, and what they wanted to do was kill. 

But Opal wasn't asking for the droids, so much as for their bodies...

He looked at Joanna and saw her own eyes flicker with understanding ... and approval.  "...but you don't need the motivators, just an interface."  He stood and drained his cafe mug.  "C'mon, lets round up some electronics.  We'll have to build appropriate interfaces to replace their personality centers and motivators."

  <<<<<  >>>>>

Shalon knelt in the dark, letting energy flow through her.  She's slept some, allowing her mind to regenerate, but even that she'd augmented with the healing flows her Master had taught her.  Few understood how potent the healing flows of the 'dark' side could be.  Especially light-siders who tended to shy away from anything they considered tainted by the dark...

She felt something brush over her presence in the force and she recoiled, burying herself deeper.  The touch had been light, nearly imperceptible, and for long moments she concentrated on keeping herself silent and still, her own signature hidden while she searched frantically for anything around her.  After several minutes she relaxed, her probes showing nothing in contact.  Secure in her invisibility she went back to the healing flows, funnelling energy into Donovan even as she brought her own body and mind back to peak performance.

  <<<<<  >>>>>

Gabriel felt a smile spread across his face as he 'watched' the Dark Sorceress from the shroud of the White Current.  Jeric had stressed to his disciples the importance of learning as much about the force as possible.  While the concept of The Song still eluded him, Gabriel had become a student of several "gray" and overtly light-side disciplines.  He'd learned much, including the fact that one of the best places for a dark-sider to hide from a light-sider was within the light side of the force.  It was a technique he'd learned from another sorceress.  He's enjoyed that relationship immensely, nearly as much as killing her once he'd learned all he could from her.

This one was younger, but her skill with healing and stealth was impressive.  Only her lack of experience allowed him to avoid counter-detection and maintain his surveillence of her even now.  She was dedicated to her Master, which would make the seduction process harder but also more rewarding.   And once she was his he would learn all of her secrets. She would be capable, a worthy subordinate and replacement for his fallen apprentice. The fact that she was easy on the eyes was simply icing on the cake and would make the physical component of the seduction that much more enjoyable. 

As he watched, solidifying his link to his prey, the grin became a wide smile.  Yes, little one, continue your meditations.  So you will take your place at my side.  You will be a worthy apprentice ... perhaps even a permanent companion?  Hmm...  Gabriel allowed his mind to turn briefly to his own future plans, considering the possibility of the Sorceress at his side as he killed and replaced Jeric as the Grand InQuestor...

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Master Singer of the Mak'Tor

TheDutchman
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« Reply #65 on: May 21, 2019, 09:17:16 AM »

This chapter is a perfect example as to how a seemingly mundane domestic scene can be interesting (exciting even).  Plus, it really gives Alex, Joanna, Donovan, and Ja'Mason some nice characterization outside their respective jobs.  Also: a very tender, real moment between a husband and wife that clearly love one another; such scenes can be very poignant, such as this one.  Nice job, Karm  Smiley

So: we learn more about both Opal as well as Shalon.  But do we really know them?  Certainly, we now have an empathy but...well, I guess time will tell  Wink

And the more I read about Gabriel, the more I like him as a villain: he's certainly got his own agenda regardless of Jeric's instructions.  And now this new-found fascination with Shalon...  Well, she'd best be careful from now on.

Next chapter please!
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Maenowan Nexu Master of the Vhal'Dan

My sabers:Zearic's Aldrnari, Archon v3 (modded w/ activation box) w/Obsidian, AS; Zearic's shoto, Initiate v5 w/Obsidian, AS; Graflex SE w/Obsidian, GB; Archon v3 (modded w/ activation box) w/Obsidian, CG; Dark Sentinel v4 w/Obsidian, BR; Sentinel LE v4 w/Obsidian, GB; Apprentice v4 w/Obsidian, AS; Sentinel LE v4 stunt, EG; Aeon LE v4 stunt, FO; Dominix v4 stunt, BR; Aeon v3 stunt, SY

Karmack
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« Reply #66 on: May 21, 2019, 09:25:10 AM »

Thanks Dutchman!  In the works.   :-)

Next chapter please!

"Its a trap."

"Next step?"

"Spring the trap..."
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Master Singer of the Mak'Tor

Lord_S_Gray
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« Reply #67 on: May 21, 2019, 03:05:34 PM »

So: we learn more about both Opal as well as Shalon.  But do we really know them?  Certainly, we now have an empathy but...well, I guess time will tell  Wink

And the more I read about Gabriel, the more I like him as a villain: he's certainly got his own agenda regardless of Jeric's instructions.  And now this new-found fascination with Shalon...  Well, she'd best be careful from now on.

Next chapter please!

Agreed, there are lots of agenda's here, Shalon, Opal, Gabriel, nominally the pancake obsessed Mak'Tor as well, and Alex and Joanna sort of caught in the midst...when they start to rub against each other....
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Lord_S_Gray

Surik: "Kreia, what are you—are you a Jedi, a Sith?"
Kreia: "Does it matter? Of course it does, such titles allow you to break the galaxy into light and dark, categorize it. Perhaps I am neither, and I hold both as what they are, pieces of a whole."

Karmack
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Master of Ceremonies
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Posts: 4401


Light side points please.


« Reply #68 on: May 22, 2019, 01:08:21 PM »

Agreed, there are lots of agenda's here, Shalon, Opal, Gabriel, nominally the pancake obsessed Mak'Tor as well, and Alex and Joanna sort of caught in the midst...when they start to rub against each other....

LOL

Sorry, the idea of a Jedi from a family that owns a chain of IHOPs just tickled me...   :-)  (International House of Pancakes)
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Master Singer of the Mak'Tor

Lady Revan
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« Reply #69 on: May 22, 2019, 01:43:11 PM »

LOL

Sorry, the idea of a Jedi from a family that owns a chain of IHOPs just tickled me...   :-)  (International House of Pancakes)

In this case, Intergalactic house of pancakes Wink
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Author of: Only Light Can Cast Shadow A pre-KotOR Fem!Revan Fic

Twisted Morality (Part III of "Only Light Can Cast Shadow")

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Taegin Roan
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« Reply #70 on: May 27, 2019, 07:43:40 PM »

I'm so glad you included the pancakes in there. Definitely a necessity. Grin
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Karmack
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Light side points please.


« Reply #71 on: May 29, 2019, 02:56:14 PM »

Chapter 12: One Small Step for Shard... (part 1)
Hutta Town, Spaceport
Nar Shaddaa
5 ABY

In the end only five of the droid bodies were judged to be usable for the Shard.  The HK-51s were ancient, and the electronics had degraded to the point where the interface of the sixth droid simply could not be modified.  It was disassembled and the parts were distributed through the other five crates and taken as spares.  Moving them was an initial obstacle as there were no anti-grav skids in the Igloo but the Alex, Donovan and Ja'Mason quickly confirmed that they could lift and move the five crates between them without great difficulty.  This left Shalon free to cast a stealth spell over them and keep them hidden from casual observation as they moved from the Igloo to the spaceport.  

The first part of the journey was simple - getting out of the Igloo and to the spaceport.  Since they were in the middle of a distribution warehouse, Alex sliced into the distribution system, selected a cold food delivery being made by an auto-lorry to the spaceport food service hub and added their party to the manifest.  The computers never questioned why five people, five crates and a droid were loading themselves into a frozen food cargo hold ... though seven hours later when the delivery truck arrived those people were questioning it!

Alex blew on his hands as he hopped down from the truck, quickly shedding the heavy parka he'd donned for the ride in the heat of the loading dock area.  "Move around some, make sure everything is thawed out and working..."

"You ... bet ..." Shalon chattered, keeping her own heavy robes wrapped tightly around her slim body.  "Shouldn't ... take ... long ..."

"Not in this heat." Joanna said, dropping her own heavy cloak.  Alex kept the frown off of his face, even as he enjoyed the sight.  With Alex, Shalon and the Knights busy moving and obscuring the crates from casual view only Joanna and Opal were available for the main obstacle they still faced: The Port Authority Customs Inspector's office.  Everything had to go through the Port Authority's inspection points, even frozen food destined for the ship provisioning center.  Anything that left Nar Shaddaa on a ship was inspected.  Not that the PA cared about smuggling.  They didn't care what was shipped - as long as the Hutts got their cut.  Even on foodstuff.

There was no way around it.  Shalon could keep casual observers from noticing anything, but she couldn't keep them off sensors nor could she fully hide them from an alert customs official.  So they had to use ... other measures.

First, Opal would plug into the port systems as they approached the inspection gate.  Her job was to override the security cameras, first recording several seconds of nondescript sensor input, then looping it back into the system to create a sensor blind-spot for them.  Slicing the system wouldn't be easy, but Alex had long ago broken their keys and he'd given Opal access to his entire arsenal for this attack.  

Once Opal was in and gave them the all-clear, Joanna would be on-deck.  Her job was to get in close to the inspectors and take them out.  The inspectors stayed in an armored ready-room, never emerging as a group and there were always at least two inspectors on-site.  There was, however, one scenario that would get her full access, and she was dressed for the part: high-end escort, stiffed by her employer and willing to trade services for fees to get through the port inspection.

Alex pulled Joanna into a tight hug.  "You know, when I bought this dress for you I never intended for anyone else to ever actually see it."

Joanna returned the hug before resting her forehead against her husbands.  "I know.  I'm sorry.  I know you like this one.  We'll just have to find something even better to replace it with."

Alex stepped back and took in the backless, plunging neckline and hip-high slit skirt before shaking his head.  "That may not be possible."

"Be careful, friend Joanna.  I will not be close enough to affect immediate extraction should something go awry." Opal added as she stepped up behind Joanna.  "I have located an appropriate data port.  I will be plugged in within four minutes.  Please proceed to the first way point."

"You bet." Alex clapped the Shard on the shoulder.  "May the force be with you, Opal."

"Thank you, friend Alex." Opal replied.  "And with you."

The droid moved through the doorway from the cold storage dock and into the main flow of traffic.  It was well before local dawn but there was always some kind of foot traffic in the port, and the glimps Alex got confirmed his memories of this time of day: droids, drunk crewmen and a few embarrassed folks making their own 'walk of shame' back to their transports.  "Anytime, Joanna.  Just remember the distress code."

"Will do."  She paused and laid her hand on Alex' cheek, turning his eyes down to hers.  "Don't worry, love.  They'll never know what hit them."

Their lips brushed and Joanna was gone, following Opal into the light flow of traffic.  "Maker, walk with her..."

"He does, my friend.  The song is calm, we're in good shape." Donovan said.  "I do have a question, though: Where does she carry her weapon in that outfit?  Its not exactly designed to conceal."

Alex couldn't help but grin.  "I'll never tell." he said with a wink.  "C'mon, lets get these crates moving.  Shalon!  Time for that spell!"

Behind him Donovan's cheeks flamed red and he shook his head violently.  "Oh, Maker..."

  >>>>>  <<<<<

Joanna felt the warm air of the docks on her skin and despite her banter with Alex and the Knights she was far from comfortable in the skimpy outfit.  Mentally she carressed the thin stilletto and small chemical dispenser nestled side-by-side against her inner thigh, her only weapons as the dress denied her anything bigger.  A soft click in her ear told her that Opal had successfully sliced the computer and would begin her work.  Joanna slowed a bit, noticing another young woman dressed nearly as she was who was also moving surrepitously toward the customs gate.  

"Bad night?" Joanna asked the woman asked, coming over.

"Well, it started out great." The girl replied, an edge of desperation creeping into her voice.  "I met a guy, we danced, shared a drink.  I was having fun, but later... He took everything!  Threatened to strip me completely and sell me to the hutts as a pleasure slave if I called the Watch, then just vanished.  He didn't hurt me, but he didn't leave me anything at all and now I can't even call ship and have someone pick me up.  I have no idea how I'll be able to pay the customs fee and get back to my ship."

"Yeah, I know what you mean." Joanna bit her lip, feigning worry.  "The bastard who picked me up stole my purse and got everything except my clothing.  I'm just hoping I can talk the Inspector into accepting ... alternative payment."

The girl's eyes widened.  "Is ... is that really necessary?"

Joanna stopped, gripping the girl's arm to halt her as well.  "It usually is." Joanna looked up and down the corridor.  No one but some delivery droids...  "How old are you, honey?"

"I'm an adult." the girl replied, but her voice was wavering now.  

"Barely." Joanna replied.  "Listen.  Hang back and wait for me to talk my way into the office.  Once I'm in, count to thirty, and then walk through.  No one will stop you."

"Why?  What are you going to do?"

"You really don't want to know." Joanna replied.  "Now, hang back and get ready to crash the gate."

  >>>>>  <<<<<

Alex, shrouded in the force screen Shalon was throwing up, swallowed as Joanna approached the Inspector's cubicle.  "Be careful my love..." he whispered, then turned his concentration back to coordinating the movement of the crates.

  >>>>>  <<<<<

"Late night, eh?" The Inspector at the window was a human, which was a stroke of luck for Joanna.  He was already well distracted, and she hadn't even made her pitch.

Joanna played it for all it was worth, leaning forward suggestively.  "Unfortunately.  I was robbed in the casino, and now I don't have anything to pay the duty fee with.  I don't suppose you could cut me some slack?"

"Well now, you know the rules.  I mean, I'd love to help you, but..." his eyes never left her chest.

"I see." Joanna leaned a little further forward, letting the top droop just a bit.  "I don't suppose I could persuade you?  Maybe offer you something in trade?"

The inspector literally licked his lips.  "Well, now, there might be something you'd have that I might want."

Joanna suppressed a shudder as his tone and roving eyes made her skin crawl.  Maker, give me strength!  She maintained her suggestive pose, pretending she was playing a game with Alex.  It wasn't really possible ... but it helped her stay in character.  "And what might that be?"

The Inspector's grin was downright predatory now.  "Well, why don't you come on in and I'll show you?"

Got him! Joanna wiggled her hips suggestively as she straigtened, arching her back slightly to comlete the pose.  "Sure.  Just buzz me in?"

  >>>>>  <<<<<

Alex watched Joanna flirt with the Inspector, and then move quickly to a side door which opened for her.  The Inspector, with only one thing on his mind now, toggled the window to "closed" and pulled down the station shade.  "Now we wait..."

"How long?" Donovan asked as they continued to move the crates forward, avoiding the sparse traffic.

"Hopefully not long." Alex replied.  "If she gets the chemical delivered effectively, she'll pop back out in a minute or so.  Otherwise..."  Alex stopped.  He didn't want to think about the alternatives.

Donovan just nodded.  Together they moved ahead.

<Successful slice.  Beginning custom's look in 30 seconds.>

  >>>>>  <<<<<

"So, where are your friends?" Joanna asked as the Inspector steered her into a semi-private room behind the main booth.  "Aren't there usually at least two of you around?"

"Well, that slimo Dunast called in sick, and NeYougn is a Dactaryian.  He has no interest in our kind, and he's on a cargo inspection tour anyway.  So its just you and me, baby."

"You don't say..." Joanna leaned back into him as his hands roamed.  Before he could untie the laces at her neck she turned, smiling at him as she dropped to her knees.  "So, let's not waste time, eh?"  She smiled as her left hand ran up his thigh.

The lecherous smile on his face was still growing when the chem spray hit him square in the nose.  With a gasp he threw himself backward, trying to reach the panic button, but the chemical was to potent. His eyes rolled back in his head and he hit the ground with a hard thump, unconscious.

Joanna, holding her breath, rolled him over on his stomach.  She didn't want him to suffocate or asperate anything from his stomach as the chemicals wore off.  She moved quickly, setting the board to auto-pass the next two-hundred folks seeking passage before locking odwn the customs gate again.  With the sparse traffic, that would allow most folks to pass with only a short lock-down (hopefully) before the Inspector woke back up.

her work completed, Joanna re-opened the portal and left the Inspector, now snoring, to dream about the encounter he would never actually have.

  >>>>>  <<<<<

Alex couldn't help heaving a sigh of relief as the gate went green, followed almost immediately by Joanna emerging from the booth.  As she moved forward another young woman appeared, gave her a quick hug, then practically sprinted through the gate.

"I wonder what that was all about?" Ja'Mason said, voicing the question they were all thinking.

"I'm sure we'll find out in a few minutes." Alex replied.  "C'mon.  The gate is open.  Let's get these crates to the Hope and get out of here.

"Roger Roger." Ja'mason quipped back.  "Full speed ahead."

They moved through the gate, sliding between other travellers moving quickly to take advantage of the rare largess of the Port Inspector, still avoiding actual contact with anyone while Shalon's force spell kept them hidden and blurred the memory of their passage from the minds of anyone who may have taken any notice.  Alex touched his ear, activating his earbud transmitter for the first time since they left the Igloo.  "Opal, we are golden.  Bugout."

<Affirmative.  Seven minutes of loop remaining.>

"Perfect.  See you at the Hope.

  >>>>>  <<<<<

Logged

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Karmack
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« Reply #72 on: May 29, 2019, 02:57:00 PM »

Chapter 12: One Small Step for Shard...  (part 2)
Hutta Town, Spaceport
Nar Shaddaa
5 ABY



Joanna had never been so happy to see the Hope.  She practically sprinted up the ramp.  "Gambler!  Begin the engine start checklist. Blip, make sure we're topped off for fuel and consumables, and lower the cargo ramp."

A series of clicks and whistles answered her as both astromech droids exploded into motion.  Gambler's interrogative whistle drew a snort.  "Yes, I plan to help!  But first I need to change out of this dress!"

  >>>>>  <<<<<

Alex was helping Opal and Blip tie down the crates in the cargo hold when she emerged a few minutes later.  "Hey gorgeous!  Ready to blow this mud-ball?"

"You know it!" Joanna walked over and kissed Alex passionately.  "Sorry it took me so long.  I had to incernate that dress, and I needed a shower."

"Understood." Alex hugged her tight.  "Tell me about it later.  For now, Donovan is running the start-up checklist in the cockpit, Gambler is calculating our jumps and Ja'Mason is arguing with the portmaster.  He wants confirm our customs seal with the local Inspector before we depart and he won't give us clearance."

"Where's Ja'Mason?"  Alex waved toward the communications board forward.  Joanna sauntered over and leaned into the pickup.

"...we're looking at stiff penalties if we don't get going now!  Isn't there anything you can do for us?" Ja'Mason asked, his voice dangerously close to a whine.

Joanna gently moved the Knight out of the way.  "Holden!  Good to see you!  How's your brood-kin?  Your nest-mates and cretchlings?"

The being on the screen, clearly not human but mainly humanoid and covered with multi-colored scales that irridesced as he (it?) moved appeared to frown.  "Jo-annn-ah!  It is goood to see you!  This ooother one ... he has noooo huuuumor..."

"He's a new hand, we haven't really had a chance to break him in yet." Joanna smiled back.  "Now, my friend, we need to skeedattle, and right quick.  Can you give us a priority clearance and a direct vector out toward the main space lane?"

"Jo-annnn-ah, I woooould love to dooo for youoo, but you know I must connnfirmmm with the Innn-spect-ooor before any cleeearance is isssuuued."

Joanna leaned back and sighed dramatically.  "Holden, Holden, Holden..."  Without warning she turned her head.  "Don, how long to engine start-up?"

"Sub-space engines will be online in four minutes.  Hyperdrive will be hot and ready to rock by the time we hit the limit."

"Very good."  Joanna turned back to the pick-up.  "Holden, we're lifting in five minutes.  If we do that without clearance, well, the Port Master will send some of those annoying little pop-gun armed customs skimmers after us.  And then we'll have to shoot them down, which will force the Port Master to scramble one or two of his revenue cutters.  And we'll have to shoot THEM down, too.  But in the mean time, we'll have to burn a ton of fuel and fire off ordinance, maybe even take some damage...  Do you know how expensive concussion missiles and proton torpedoes are, Holden?  They're expensive.

Joanna leaned forward now, her tone shifting from irritated to menacing.  "That kind of expense will cut way into my profit margin for this trip, Holden.  I'd really hate for that to happen.  In fact, if that were to happen, before we were done shooting down Hutt customs agents and blowing up Hutt revenue cutters I'd have to send a small note to my friend in Hutta Town.  That would cause my friend to go retrieve a certain package ... and deliver it to another, less friendly person in Hutta Town.  A person who might be very upset indeed to see the contents of that package."

The irridescent creature on the screen wilted.  "No need, Jo-annn-ah.  No neeeeed.  Priority clearance is graaaant-edddd.  Please take exit vector oohhh-twooo-four and maintain standard intervals on your ascent."

"Thank you Holden.  I greatly appreciate your help.  Joanna out."  She killed the connection and turned to find Ja'Mason standing wide-eyed behind her.  "What?"

"What do you have on him?"

Joanna grinned a wicked grin.  "Nothing at all."  She stood up and bounced toward the cockpit.  "But he doesn't know that!"

  >>>>>  <<<<<


Twenty minutes later they were clear of the atmosphere and headed out-system at full speed.  No other ships were pursuing them, not even a shadow by the constant TIE-fighter patrols being mounted by the Pentastar Alliance Star Destroyer still hovering in orbit around the moon.  As they headed away Alex half-expected to be hailed by the massive Star Destroyer, or be intercepted by a cloud of TIEs.  Neither happened, and as they reached the outer system the hyperdrive kicked in and they leaped into hyperspace for their first jump toward the M'Haeli system.  Meanwhile...

Alex found Opal already in the cargo hold, standing over the first of the five HK-51 crates.  "Friend Alex..."

"Opal." Alex turned to Donovan and Ja'Mason.  "Be mindful.  The original programming was unstable, and it should be gone, but just in case..."

"Understood."

Alex stood back himself and opened himself up to the force.  He could just sense the intelligence waiting inside the interface module Opal held, ready to emerge.  "Go ahead Opal."

The Shard nodded and carefully opened the access panels on the assassin droid.  Thanks to the prep work they'd already done the installation process took less than five minutes.  Opal mounted the interface module and connected the power leads and data trunks before closing the droid shell up.  "Power-up will commence in fourteen seconds..."

Alex felt the tension crackling between the Knights.  Donovan gripped his saber tightly while Jamason stroked his, but both were coiled tight and ready to spring.  Alex tried to keep himself calm but the energy flowing in the force had him on edge as well, and his fingers were brushing his own hilt as the power systems in the KH-51 chassis completed their start-up cycles and the droid body came online. 

The eyes glowed amber, matching the power indicator on the chest, and Alex felt the Shard awaken as its new body's sensors reported in.   For long seconds the Shard, Cobolt, laid still, unmoving and unthreatening, but the tension ramped up inexplicably...

The hammer blow that slammed into Alex' chest knocked the wind out of him and drove him backward, into the bulkhead.  By instinct he managed to keep his head from taking the brunt of the impact but he lost his grip on his saber as he fell.  Alex was peripherally aware of his saber being drawn away, and he made a feeble grab for it in the force, only to be rebuffed ... and tossed sideways into another bulkhead.

Ears ringing, Alex moaned and dragged himself to his feet, forcing congnition and clarity through the pain of what would likely prove to be badly bruised ribs.  He could hear Joanna calling his name through the ringing, but it was far away ... and his eyes were fixed on his own purple blade as it swung through a flourish.  Donovan and Ja'Mason's blades were also active and the Knights stepped forward to face Cobolt, sabers humming...

"STOP!"

The voice was different than her normal voice, but the origin was Opal.  She stepped between the Knights, directly in front of Cobolt.  "Stand down!"

Cobolt stood at the ready, saber in high-guard, for long moments.  Finally he bowed his head and lowered the weapon, de-activating the blade.  "Mistress ... you are not in distress then?"

Opal didn't move but Alex could feel something pass between them, almost like a carrier wave in the force.  Cobolt, still in stance, visibly relaxed.  He bowed to Opal, "Yes, Mistress, I understand now.  Forgive my imputence."  He straightened and looked at Alex.  "My apologies, Friend.  Please, take back your own."

Alex limped forward and retrieved his light saber from Cobolt's open hand.  "Thank you.  That's quite a whallop you've got there."

"It has served me well over the years, guarding my Mistress."  He turned and looked at Opal.  "Her visage has changed.  Obviously much more time than I cognized has passed, but by the Maker's grace I am once again able to do my duty to Mistress Opal."

"Um, 'Mistress' Opal?  Is she the Ambassador then?" Donovan asked.

Cobolt hesitated, turned and looked at Opal, who nodded slighlty.  "No.  She is not the Ambassador.  She is Lady Opal, Mistress of Light, the leader of the Iron Knights."

"My commander and sworn liege lady."
Logged

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« Reply #73 on: May 30, 2019, 08:26:50 AM »

I've got to say: I have always loved the "smuggle your way past the guard(s)" scene, and you do it better than most, Karm.  Glad to see that our friends are making headway in Nar Shadda but...I don't know, something is amiss, and I'm not talking (or just) about Gabriel and the InQuestors (I'd love to learn more about them Karm, another scene from their perspective  Smiley).  Maybe a bit of "keep your friends close" paranoia   Wink

Those HK-51 chassis are damned MEAN (poor Alex).  And the fact that they can incorporate Force powers makes them that much more dangerous...

And I LOVE the back-and-forth between Joanna and Holden!  GREAT bluff on Jo's part...reminds me of my own wife's wit.  Speaking of...sounds like I need to get her a dress like Joanna's  Grin

Well, learning that Opal is royalty certainly adds flavor... Keep it coming Karm!
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« Reply #74 on: May 30, 2019, 02:53:47 PM »

Another good chapter. Always fun to read about people sneaking around doing things that are not completely to code. Grin
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