Star Wars: Twilight Seekers, Part II

   Handell had occasionally been on the run before – such as after that absurdly-subversive touring theater group had somehow managed to touch off a planetary rebellion – and knew that the best way to get caught was to get predictable. There wasn’t any way to avoid being SOMEWHAT predictable – they had to have repairs – but they could generate a quick list of everywhere within their current range, yet still reasonably far from Tsh’rell and with enough technical resources to get the most urgent repairs made, and pick randomly. There shouldn’t be any way short of force-sorcery stuff to predict that.

   They wound up headed for Valoth – a relatively sparsely inhabited world of rolling plains and hills. Not a lot in the way of local resources, but a fairly good export trade – and a consequent good set of port facilities – in luxury naturally-grown grains, meats, and similar products. Mostly imported vehicles, medical supplies, and industrial products. Money might be a problem, but they were off-season – harvest wouldn’t be for several months – so a lot of the facilities should be empty and cheap to rent.

   Heh. Random chance seemed to have picked them a good one. Hopefully it hadn’t picked them the best or anything, cause that’d be predictable again, but it wasn’t likely.

   Down in the engine compartments, 10CH – a repair droid with a few illegal modifications – blinked a stream of binary curses as the engines he was trying to retune fired up again in the middle of the fine adjustments. Blasted organics! If he wasn’t assigned to keep this bucket of bolts working, he’d have gone on to another assignment in a single 90-hertz sinewave cycle! No use trying to get anything further fixed at the moment; he’d best head on up and see if it was the Shields, the Weapons, or the Engines that would most urgently be needed in working order next.

   Hey, new owners! GOOD.

   De’arc cursed madly when he woke up. What in HELL had happened? His ship! His weapons! His armor! His Prisoners! Even his damned Droid! He was never going to live this down!

   Wait a minute… He still had the tracking signal code, and they probably wouldn’t find it for quite awhile – and the only way he could think of that they could have gotten out would be Force powers. Strong ones. Those cells had held a lot of people who desperately wanted to get out.

   It wouldn’t make up for his ship, but if the Sith really wanted sensitives, he either had a line on a really strong one. Maybe even partially trained already – and there wouldn’t be that far they could get without some major repairs. He wasn’t beaten yet.

   De’arc headed for the communications center. He’d need to make some connections.

   On Valoth, it took most of the groups liquid cash to pay for a berth. That left them with a list of “had to have” components to negotiate for, and not much to trade. Fortunately, 10CH was really really good at Starship Repair. They headed off to try and blend in a bit and to get the stuff they needed.

   Unfortunately, Keldav had casually answered a few of Dr Orin’s questions about force techniques during the trip – while glossing over the underlying Sith philosophy. After all, surely the basics were pretty generic.

   Orin was an untrained sensitive – and was pretty badly frustrated. He was a well-respected doctor. Comfortably well off. He had a life. With a minor knack for diagnosing difficult cases. He had done NOTHING to deserve a life as a penniless, locally-unlicensed, fugitive from some sort of galactic manhunt! He was hungry, it was too damned hot, his skin was sunburning, his feet hurt, and he had not had a decent bath since leaving home! Worse, somehow he just KNEW that the locals didn’t want to talk to him because he was an offworlder!

   He tried asking them where he could find a clothing store – in hopes of getting a local outfit and fitting in a bit better – and three of them in a !@#$% ROW had brushed him off with barely-comprehensible basic phrases! He couldn’t recall ever being so angry and frustrated! He’d let them know that they’d damned well better cooperate!

   So he hit the street merchant who was selling cold fruit drinks. And it felt GOOD. So very GOOD. He’d NEVER done that before – but somehow he found himself doing it again. With something from the stand he’d found for a club. He was a DOCTOR. He knew JUST where to hit to make it hurt really really badly.

   Two local law enforcement types and some kid – apparently one of the street merchants – tried to stop him.

   So he hit them. After a few hits, they were just meat, like the street merchant, and his kid, and a few other kids and bystanders. And he felt so GOOD. They DESERVED this. They were going to PAY for offending him and for everything else that had gone wrong!

   The others got back around them. Khadim-17, Keldav, Handell, and 10CH got back from their own little errands – basic supplies, a few absolutely-necessary tools, and other such items – just in time to help take down Doctor Orin when he turned on them. It was actually quite a fight; in his berserk state Doctor Orin was nearly a match for everyone except Khadim-17 put together – and Khadim-17 kept stopping to ask what was going on.

   They pretty much denied any connection afterwards, claiming that Orin was just a crazy man who’d paid for a lift. Damn it: now they had an even tighter time limit. Now that an inquiry had been made, they needed to get their parts and get out before the checks spread too far.

   Keldav was brooding too… Was the Dark Side that destructive to the mind? Was it simply that he hadn’t really included any kind of philosophical basis in his hints? Was something like that lying in wait for him? His training had been nowhere’s near complete when he’d run. Was that why no one did? Wait… If stressing an untrained sensitive led to explosions like that, could the Sith be offering a general bounty in an attempt to CAUSE this sort of thing?

   He REALLY needed to talk to a Jedi. On friendly terms.

   One good thing did come out of it. It seemed that there was a bit of a “range war” going on – and between Orin’s obvious combat psychosis, the presence of Khadim-17, 10CH’s various illegal combat-enhancements, Handell’s skill with a gun, and Keldav’s possession and competent use of a lightsaber, they’d been pegged as war deserters or mercenaries – and the local ranchers and farmers were hiring for a little raid on the local underworld boss and his protection racket.

   Well, they needed quite a bit of money, they had little or no time, and whatever-the-hell Khadim-17 was, he seemed to be armored enough to stand up to heavy weapons.

   They went for it, and they took Arace – the mercenary middleman (and the replacement character for Dr Orin, although the player was still in a bloodthirsty mood) along with them.

   Weird. Arace was a low-grade sensitive too. Was the Sith-Jedi war stirring up every potential sensitive in the galaxy?

   Keldav was still speculating when he realized that Arace’s nascent force sensitivity was reacting to his own Sith-trained powers, as weak as they were. Was he going to blow up too?

   As it turned out, the answer was “yes”. Khadim-17 wasn’t too effective on the attack – he didn’t really seem to understand the concept very well (could he have a noncombat droid personality program? In that chasses? Why!?) – but he made one hell of a diversion while Keldav and Handell neutralized guards. Arace got a nasty wound, but responded by riding an explosives-laden speeder into the front gate.

   The boss got off a communique to some sort of criminal syndicate (apparently his employers) before they dragged him out of his underground command chamber – just what they needed, more people with a reason to come after them – but the mop-up wasn’t too much trouble after than.

   Except to Keldav. Two in a row? There wasn’t much of ANYTHING left of this one.

   Wait. The armor-thing was force-sensitive! It couldn’t be a droid – did that mean that it was likely to blow up? If THAT thing went on a rampage, he didn’t know how he’d stop it… At least it didn’t seem emotionally unstable. If anything, it didn’t really seem to have many emotions except for a sort of vague helpfulness.

   Oh well. He’d sort out what it was another time. Right now it was time to get the rest of the parts and supplies to 10CH, get the ship patched up, and get the hell OUT OF HERE. The local law enforcement wasn’t that efficient or clever, but it wouldn’t take long for them to trace this back to them – and it would be wise to be long gone by the time they did.

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