“If the best attack the Sith can mount is mooning you through a port, you’re doing pretty well.”
“That’s no moon!”
It was time to board the shuttle and head to orbit. However, Lazlo was being uncooperative. He didn’t want to be put into stasis. I offered that he could stay behind, but he wanted to come. This left us in an impasse as he wanted to come and I refused to let him compromise our entrance as he would be detectable on life sign scanners.
Finally Lazlo volunteered that he would go into a trance of some sort and lower his life signs. I doubted he had the skill to pull that off, but decided to play along. Lazlo did succeed in putting himself to sleep, but did not reduce his life signs whatsoever. Khadim took the opportunity to slip a stasis belt on Lazlo and turn it on.
With Lazlo in stasis, the rest of us went into stasis as well. I can only assume Khadim and 10CH got us loaded and docked with the ship in orbit as next thing I knew we were there.
Khadim and 10-CH had, in fact, loaded the shuttle with enough of the static-generating ore to foul up any active sensor probes – and the passive stuff would merely show a trio of droids, some low-energy, fairly unreactive, cargo, and no life signs or weapon signatures worth noting. With that out of the way, the reprogrammed Sith piloting droid, and the set of Sith codes they’d acquired – however limited those were – it had been easy enough to simply get assigned to a spot in the flight que for low-priority traffic and wait. After all, most attackers and saboteurs insisted on at least two of being in a hurry, having heavy weapons or explosives, or being alive. They passed on the information that most of the droid contingent had been destroyed in an ambush that the valuable shuttle (and it’s droid pilot) had barely escaped.
The word on the stasis effect would get around again soon enough, but nobody could keep track of all the ancient tactical variants to be found in the galaxy. For the moment, it would serve.
Outside the droids were unloading a modest stockpile of ore – apparently the same stuff that Khadim had hid everyone under to bring us into town. No wonder no scanners had picked us up… The droids then started busily moving the shuttle to a repair bay to fix the damage we had inflicted upon it in the battle below. I set my robes to black to better fit in as a Sith when we heard engineering droids on the other side of the airlock talking to each other.
Apparently the droids were of the opinion that some impatient Sith had been unhappy with the wait to get aboard and had hacked at the airlock door. Apparently traffic control didn’t normally speak to the repair droids… Alright, I can play this game. I stood in the most menacing pose I could muster and waited for the droids to open the airlock. When asked who I was, I responded with the comment of “very pissed” in a show of humor intended to portray severe frustration to no effect on the droids. Droids proceeded to refer to me as Lord Pissed for the rest of the conversation from there on. I may need to rethink the sarcasm at times I think, at least with droids that probably don’t have extensive language programming.
I then proceeded to spin a wild tale about being sent here secretly to build a superweapon to destroy Alderaan and defeat the Republic. I couldn’t tell if the droids were buying it or if they thought I was overacting. It didn’t seem to matter as they didn’t ask for more details. I did make a show of asking Don Jaboo (Ben) how long it would take for the shuttle to be fixed. Ben and the droids conferred for a bit before informing me it would take four hours.
In true evil manager style, I only gave them two hours – and they got to work.
Ben was wondering… Yes, there was a fair amount of superficial damage – but he wouldn’t have bet on it taking more than an hour or so to manage the repairs when there was a fully-equipped repair bay, plenty of spares, and plenty of droids available. Wait; had the engineers purposefully programmed the droids to over-estimate, so that they’d never have to report to a Sith that something was going to be late? It made sense; no engineering department needed angry Sith taking a lightsaber to the repair staff.
Still, it looked like – as long as they stayed in the droid-operated repair bay – there wasn’t much chance of anyone spotting them and the droids were willing to help them put things together. There wasn’t much in the way of munitions, but there was plenty of other gear.
Gamespeak Interlude: The dice for this session had apparently decided that the player-characters could not lose. The various NPC’s kept getting terrible – or even negative – totals whenever that would be to the players advantage, and rolling well whenever they were trying to confirm information that the players would like them to have. Consequently, the repair droids swallowed the entire spiel – although it mostly wouldn’t have mattered if they didn’t; checking on the identities of Sith Lords who claimed to be on secret missions was NOT a part of their job.
Ben then mentioned that we had full access to the repair bay and that there had to be something useful that this meant. On pure whimsy, I asked if there were enough spare parts to assemble an AT-AT. I was most surprised to learn there were and that it would only take six hours to build. I gave them three hours.
The image of taking a AT-AT through the corridors of the ship was especially funny and I did start giggling. Ben wanted to take it outside the ship and walk along the hull to assault the bridge. I was indifferent to inside versus outside, but we did ask the droids to install magnetic gripper feet.
10-CH got us a basic map of the ship from the computer system. Hmm… small craft bays on the lower side, walker bays on the lowest levels, above that shuttles towards the back, fighters towards the front, repair bays running down the center of the bottom between the vehicle bays, main power in the center of the ship, shield installations on the periphery, primary weapons to the front and sides, the bridge right up front so that the captain could look out – just like every other hyperspace vessel – (Ben abruptly focused on that… Every hyperspace-capable ship he’d EVER seen a design for had a forward-facing window on the bridge… Why?), medical and the brig was between the bridge and the power center, the engines were towards the back of course… Looked like we were in repair bay 17. Crew also was about 12,000 strong with an additional 36,000 droids. Certainly do not want to get into a prolonged fight with the crew in that case. I was not on the Naichron long enough to realize these things are like cities in space. I mean seriously, there were multiple barber shops on this ship alone.
Shipwreck noted that they COULD walk the AT-AT around quite a lot of the ship; the corridors were big enough to transport some pretty big replacement modules around the ship. Things like a good synthesizer for a thousand men were pretty big.
Alright, now that we are onboard and have fooled the droids enough to not trigger any alarms, how do we go about freeing the Arethi and getting away? The AT-AT would only serve as a distraction at best. Fleeing back to the surface only really solves half the problem as we are likely to face a horde of droids wherever we land in short order. The Arethi wouldn’t be much help in their own rescue; apparently expressing disappointment in people was about as deadly as their attacks went.
Ben suggested taking the ship to a Republic base by hijacking the hyperdrive system. Alright that might work, but did we know any nearby Republic bases to send the ship too? The only one we could think of was the massive fleet around Alderaan. The planetary defenses and the fleet should more than be able to handle one errant star destroyer. We could then rescue the Arethi in the chaos and then abandon the ship before the Republic blew it to pieces.
How long would it take for this ship to travel to Alderaan? Two days I am told. No way we would be able to hold off the crew for that long. Two hours maybe, but two days was way too long. I asked Ben if he could rig the hyperdrive so that it couldn’t be shut off until we arrived, only to find out that it still wouldn’t work as the Sith could still cut power. Well drat, that wouldn’t work either.
We shut the droids out and discussed a LOT of plans – until Ben announced that he could rig the ships hyperdrive to work like the hypertunnel superweapon we encountered earlier when Valerie caught up with us. Well that would work, it was certainly fast enough. Plus we showed it was survivable enough, even if it did require medical treatment afterwards. Ben then announced that he would need tools and droids to assist in the process. I immediately ordered droids to assist him with building a superweapon.
How droids can manage to look doubtful is completely beyond me.
Lazlo volunteered to be the first distraction by pretending to volunteer to be a Sith and headed off. The AT-AT would be held in reserve as a second distraction in case things went sour. I gave Lazlo one of the spare lightsabers I took from one of the Sith I’ve killed to help the disguise a bit. Lazlo left on his own and we left Jarik, Shipwreck, 10CH and Khadim behind to run the AT-AT. Telera, Ben, Alys and I made our way to the engineering and drive systems bragging mightily how we would build a superweapon and take it to Alderaan.
It was the truth, we just neglected to mention that we didn’t intend to use it on Alderaan itself.
Lazlo managed to draw a LOT of attention – partially because he was claiming to want to be a Sith, partly because he claimed that he’d defeated their droids, hijacked their shuttle, and come straight up from the plague-stricken planet.
Well, OK, mostly it was because he’d come straight up from the planet, skipped decontamination, and gone wandering the major corridors. The ensuing lockdown, reluctant interception, decontamination, getting Lazlo to the medical section, determining that he did indeed carry the plague, getting that fixed by a couple of the captive Arethi, and his confused interrogation (where the dice so favored him – with a 50 – that he managed to convince the Sith Captain that he and his friends were a bunch of wannabe Sith with some extremely dangerous and useful secrets, including an unknown stock of self-reproducing bioweapons), took up quite a lot of everyone’s attention. After all, the near-truth of their activities sounded worse than most of the Sith in the known galaxy.
Annoyingly enough, the Arethi were so pacifistic and medically-oriented that they would treat pretty much everyone – friend or foe. Fortunately, Lazlo managed to figure out that they weren’t above a bit of quiet deception to keep dangerous people pacified. Lazlo kicked up such a fuss, and occupied so much attention, that no one stopped Kira and company until they were nearly at the drive engineering section.
He also got a fair amount of information about his own species, the genetic meddling which had been applied, and got adjusted for a symbiotic relationship with the bacta plague. Apparently the Arethi felt that there were no such thing as diseases, just negotiation failures and species that don’t know how to get along.
OK, that was so pacifistic and life-affirming that it was CREEPY.
Surprisingly, we got stopped at engineering itself. The chief engineer was actually invested with sufficient authority to challenge an obvious Sith. I was impressed, someone had more sense than ego. Sadly this meant our path suddenly got a lot harder. Claiming to be here to build a superweapon didn’t work like I had hoped. Questions on when we got on the ship didn’t go over well either, especially when someone let loose that we had come from the planet. Not that I had a better story that would hold up to any scrutiny though.
With the news of us coming from the plagued planet, chaos broke loose as alarms went off and countermeasures went off flooding the place with poisonous anti-microbial gas (which did take out Jarik’s little “plague”. Ah well). We had our own breath masks fortunately so in the chaos, we simply ducked into the closing blast doors to engineering with the chief engineer following and protesting mightily. Any attempt to start work was prevented when what guards there were started pointing weapons at us and the chief engineer called the bridge to confirm our story.
Sith Captain Lord Vardion came on the viewscreen and demanded to know who we were. I introduced myself as Matthew Gruber, remembering the last name from the Academy. Same bunch Valerie and Master Soung were part of I think even. We then proceeded to tell all about the superweapon design we had and how it could be used to cause massive amounts of devastation. Ben got into a detailed theory discussion with the engineer that I didn’t understand, although I did help to suppress any doubts that were forming in the guy’s head – and that wasn’t easy. He wasn’t dumb, and was sure that something had to be wrong with this. Fortunately, he could be steered towards the thought that it simply wouldn’t do anything, and he could then get the engines back to normal while the Sith handled the would-be Sith.
Vardion did try to probe at our minds, but I did my best to steer his probing to the memories I wanted. Memories like my time at the Academy, being on the run from the Republic, stumbling upon a bioweapons lab, and finding a superweapon of similar design to what we wanted to build. A Jedi would have had a much harder time pulling off such an insane bluff I think.
The commander probed Ben, and found the mind of an obsessive superweapons designer, probed Alys and found a huntress cross about not getting to hunt on Alderaan, and probed several of the others – all yielding information about their destructive insanities. He even got that Telera thought that several of the others were half-crazy and were likely to destroy the galaxy if they were left unwatched. Galactic information sources mostly revealed idiotic rants about cats...
Finally we got permission to build the superweapon on the idea that the changes would easily reversible if it turns out we were wrong or lying. Ben, the droids, and other engineers got to work. As smoothly as things were going, I still felt like time was not on our side in this matter. Observers and guards were sent to watch over us but they did not start a battle.
Alys sighed. The others relied too much on force powers. The commander had been so easy to read… His chief engineer had reported that this “superweapon” just might work – and, if it didn’t, the changes would only require a few hours to reverse. More importantly, he’d reported that the proposed changes were much less damaging to the ship, and easier to repair, than the probable damages if they commander overrode the decontamination protocols and started even a modest firefight in the engine room. Lazlo had apparently collaborated a lot of their story, and the man had decided that letting the group make some minor and easily reversible alteration in the hyperdrive field generators was preferable to massive damage to his drive systems. Moreover, if it actually worked – which he found unlikely – there was an off chance that he might have an actual functioning superweapon and some new Sith recruits.
Oddly enough, it didn’t look like even all of the SITH really believed in superweapons. Worse, the commander’s precognition was clashing with the rest of them, including Ben, which meant that it was pretty useless beyond the immediate results.
Eventually Ben gave the thumbs up and asked me if we were pointed towards Alderaan. Not knowing if we were or not I asked the bridge to point us that way if we weren’t already. As my sense of impending doom increased, Ben plugged in the hyperspace coordinates to take us to Alderaan and pushed the button and we entered hyperspace.
The commander’s precognition – even if it was limited to short range at the moment – warned him an instant too late (once again, the players 5d6 check beat out a 9d6 check – and they managed to activate the modified drive before the Commander could act on his glimpse of the results and cut the power. Unfortunately, he had been relaying everything that had been happening on; it was an obvious precaution.
We dropped out of hyperspace as quickly as we had entered. Alarms were going off all around us and that familiar sick feeling returned as I could taste sand in my mouth. Luckily we were prepared for it whereas the crew wasn’t. Ben quickly tried to call in the Republic fleet to our location while I pried open an access hatch and took us on a hide and seek game through the maintenance tunnels.
Out in the rest of the ship, the results of dropping random bits of matter into high-energy systems, the massive energies stored in weapons, and living bodies, was pretty messy. Massive systems failures, quite a number of modest explosions, and damage everywhere. Fortunately for Lazlo, the Arethi were quite capable of handling the problem – and promptly patched themselves and him up, before accompanying him on an escape back towards the shuttle – and the AT-AT. What with the fact that the crippled ship was currently under attack by the Republic forces in the Alderaan system, and the massive damage to the various ships systems that should have kept him and the doctors locked up, the escape didn’t draw too much attention.
Ben provided precognitive advice on which way to turn in the tunnels as he also started unplugging things, opening closed valves and such. The soldiers chasing us weren’t using any heavy weapons thus far, probably trying to avoid damaging the equipment further.
During one of the few moments where no one was shooting stun blasts at us, I took the opportunity to try and get telepathic contact with someone with the Jedi or the Republic. I ended up getting in touch with Flight Lt Qfal. I tried to tell him the circumstances and to send help but was brushed off as a fever dream. I tried to argue to no avail but lucked out when the guy’s commanding officer took Qfal’s talk of me seriously. Some confirming questions and answers back and forth and the Republic sent a fleet our direction.
With that done, I brought my full attention to the situation at hand again. Looked like we were losing air quickly. Either the ship had sustained more damage during transit than we realized or the fleet was already here and shooting. We needed to get to another section of the ship fast and seal off the corridor behind us unless we wanted to try and breath vacuum.
Luckily we thought we knew where we were and which direction we needed to go. Running in that direction brought us to an airlock with a bunch of soldiers cycling through it while shooting at us. Matters only got worse as the ship began to break apart leading to a giant chasm between the airlock and us. Ben’s proclamation that we now had a proper chasm for this venture I found to be really inappropriate considering our deaths were quite nearly at hand at the moment. Focus people, the ship we are on is breaking apart.
Wait, this is the third capital ship I’ve been on that’s sunk while I was on it. Not sure I like the implications of that.
Well first priority was to clear out the soldiers in our way. Seeing the power conduits above the airlock sparking and hissing, I took the opportunity to throw my lightsaber and cut the conduits onto the soldiers. As I telekinetically retrieved my lightsaber, the blasts of energy from the conduits washed over us all. Alys and I were hit lightly, Telera took a harder hit, and Ben was knocked unconscious. At least that did clear the soldiers out of our way.
I telekinetically pushed the remains of the conduit to the sides and leapt across the chasm. Grabbing ahold of the airlock door, I threw a rope back to Telera and the others. Telera grabbed it and wrapped it around Ben and herself, while she and Alys went to climb it. We closed the outer airlock door and pressurized it. Not wanting to fight the soldiers inevitably on the other side of the inner door, we pretended to be dead and awaited pickup by either the Republic or the Sith.
The Republic got to us eventually and we were all put into medical to be desilted again. As costly and time consuming as this process was, I was glad the Republic was paying for it.
Debriefing didn’t go especially well, although the Republic didn’t want to hear that we knew how to build a superweapon. Not that I wanted to advertise that we knew how to build one either. In about two weeks we should be ready to be released from medical. Not sure how I plan to get my ship back from Jerondal though.
I did feel the nearly irresistible urge to gloat about the stunt I just pulled. As satisfying as that would feel, I’ve learned it best not to tempt fate too much. Fortune really favored me this time around and pushing my luck is asking for a major upset.
Meanwhile in a hotel on a Republic world:
Valerie couldn’t help but laugh out loud when she read the classified report. It certainly wasn’t as clean as what she would have tried, but she had to give credit for the sheer audacity of the plan.
Too bad for Kira, being audacious leads to leaving a trail behind. Trails can be followed, and headed off.
While the rest were being treated, Lazlo managed to get the Republic to pay the group a partial reward for one Sith Star Destroyer – enough to buy a very large hyperdrive and a small fighter to fix up for a stealth run and to try to get back to Handell in… He’d consulted one of the darkest factions in the galaxy; a lawyer.