Arka’s transportation through Freebird wasn’t necessarily comfortable, but it was good enough. The system made frequent stops at stations and bases for fuel and to exchange old passengers for new ones. This stop at Sel Zonn was just another routine fuel up, and would only take an hour or so – plenty of time for a drink.
The strangely coloured Wookie he reacquainted himself with walked with him to the nearest cantina. Arka still didn’t know his name, but he trusted the Wookie. He was good with a bowcaster, and was silent company. Arka ordered his drink, and sat down in the deepest corner of the cantina. An hour or so, and he would be on his way once again.
An hour passed. Two. Three. Soon Arka lost track of the time, which was what usually happened when his ale kept getting refilled. A few hours later, or a few minutes, the captain of his Free Bird transport was escorted in to the cantina by two Storm Troopers. The man was nervous, and kept wiping his bald head with a handkerchief from his pocket. The captain explained that they were stuck at Sel Zonn station for a while, just a minor technicality. Storm Troopers began to enter the cantina demanding to see identification from all the passengers. A line was beginning to form in front of one of the tables, where Storm Troopers were issuing out tickets for food and lodging. Arka and the Wookie quietly slipped away. As they left the cantina, they saw the captain being taken away in handcuffs. So much for a minor technicality. Apparently they would be staying in Sel Zonn until new transportation could be found.
Just when Arka thought they would actually get away without notice, he looked over his shoulder and saw a woman following them. Slipping into a back hallway, he waited for her to approach. As she rounded the corner, Arka asked bluntly what she wanted. The woman introduced herself as Maya, and proceeded to ask why he was not staying in a hotel like the other passengers.
“I’m not one for closed spaces,” Arka replied.
“I can provide you with a place to stay, off the record.” Arka was obviously not the first person she extended the offer to.
“What’s the catch?”
“You’ll just have to work in my shop, cleaning droid parts.” Arka could have laughed. Cleaning droid parts. So this is what he’s been reduced to. Still, he agreed. Maya looked up at the Wookie curiously. “And what about your friend here?”
“He’s good at cleaning droid parts.”
The areas of Sel Zonn station that Ari frequented were run down and beaten, and inhabited mostly by aliens. She had heard that there were areas of the station that were clean and well taken care of, but she would believe that only when she saw it. Currently, this was her home. She left Coruscant as soon as possible after the attack on the Jedi Temple, which was only a portion of a much larger attack she had learned was called Order 66. In her mind, it didn’t matter. Reqel was gone, the Imperials were in complete power, and there wasn’t a damned thing she could do about it. Reqel was gone.
She shook her head, refusing to let her thoughts slide to that matter. She needed to work. Work kept her thoughts occupied. She made her way back to Mechanical Allies, the droid repair shop she managed, and almost hoped Virus had gotten himself damaged somehow, just so she could work on something challenging. It was only a matter of time before he was caught defacing the Imperial recruitment posters in the darker sections of the station, after all.
Her breath caught as she entered the shop. There was a Wookie near the cleaning station, and his colouration instantly announced who he was. She didn’t know his name, but his assistance back on Ryloth earned him infinite respect and appreciation.
She continued looking through the cleaning station as she strolled towards the Wookie. A wave of relief ran through her when her eyes fell upon a rugged man with a scar across his eye and down his cheek. Arkadian Brade, the very Jedi she had been looking for, was right there in her shop, cleaning droid parts. She had been afraid he didn’t survive. She didn’t need to think twice on where the two came from. One of her workers, Maya, often gathered in refugees trying to lie low. Right then, Ari could have kissed her.
As Ari walked deeper into her shop, she kept her eyes away from Arka. There were still Storm Troopers outside, and being a Twi’lek shop owner earned her plenty of scornful looks. According to the Imperials, aliens always fell below humans. It would be bad news for all of them if the Storm Troopers saw her conversing with a human, even if he was an employee.
She approached the Wookie, and said he and Arka were among friends, and wouldn’t get found out here. The Wookie merely nodded. Not for the first time, Ari wished she knew more alien languages. Running a shop was difficult when you needed a translator in order to communicate with most of your employees.
Virus, her indebted droid, scurried up to her. “Welcome back, Mistress Ari.” He wasn’t damaged in any way. She would have to find other work to occupy her. Searching for Maya, she left the cleaners to their jobs. She would have to talk to them later. Virus proceeded to stalk up and down the station, inspecting the work of the new employees. He was obviously disappointed.
Later that evening, Ari closed up shop and wandered over to Gundark’s cantina. Normally, she avoided the place, but once Arka was done his duties he left heading in this direction. Hopefully they wouldn’t stand out in the busy cantina. Virus followed her, grumbling about the poor work the new employee’s did. Ari ignored him.
She saw Arka sitting at a table away from the bar, with his back against the wall. She slid into the seat next to him and got right to the point. “Reqel is dead.”
Arka took a good, long swig of his ale. “I know.” He paused. “Ari, do you know what an investigator is?” She shook her head. “I recruited children to come to the Jedi Temple. How many do you think there were?”
Ari was silent for a moment, running Reqel’s last words to her over her tongue. “She said she could feel them dying.” Her suspicions about Arka being the same way were confirmed.
“So could I. I felt every one of those children die. I felt Reqel die.” He took another drink.
“I’m sorry” Ari replied. She came here for company in sorrow, not to make him angry.
“Me too.” Arka looked at the droid standing on the floor next to Ari. “Who’s the droid? He looks familiar.”
For some reason, Virus seemed to crouch, as if trying to make himself smaller. He was a strange one, sometimes. “He showed up on Coruscant not long after I arrived there. He was really beat up, so I fixed him. Name’s Virus. He owes me for the repairs, still.”
Arka looked her in the eye. “And what do I owe you?”
Ari was a little taken aback by the question. “Nothing. You don’t owe me anything. I don’t blame you for Reqel’s death.”
“Well, that makes one of us.” He paused. “Would you leave now?”
Ari shook her head, and leaned back in the chair. She needed company in sorrow, for a while. Her thoughts wandered as she sat watching the bustle in the cantina. An Ithorian dropped his glass, and some red drink splashed on the floor. She squeezed her eyes shut. She would not think of Reqel.
Arka made his way back to the storage room where he and the Wookie slept. He was in a bad mood. Did the Twi’lek think she was doing him any favours? He drank to forget, but her presence made him remember. Foolish…stubborn girl!
Before he made it halfway to the storage room, Maya stepped in front of him. Without stopping she whispered, “follow me.” She walked down a side hall without another word. Sighing heavily, Arka followed.
Maya led the two to a pair of blast doors at the end of the hall. She began to talk as they got closer. “A pair of inspectors found your bedding in the storage room. I managed to give an explanation, but I’m certain they’ll be watching it tonight. I’ve a friend in these apartments who I’m sure wouldn’t mind a little company.” Arka began formulating a story in his head. Identities must be kept secret.
Inside the main apartment building, Maya hit a button beside a pair of doors to the left. They opened to reveal a simple room with a clean, well dressed man inside. “Company?” He extended his hand. “Pleased to meet you. Name’s AJ.”
Arka shook the man’s hand. “Davik.”
Turning to the Wookie, AJ surprisingly began to speak Shyriiwook. The Wookie certainly seemed pleased. AJ nodded. “Pleased to meet you, Nanakkyy.” So that was the Wookie’s name. Nanakkyy continued speaking. “Free Bird? Sounds like you’ll be stuck here for a while. No problem, I could use the company.”
Maya apologized for the inconvenience as she left, and requested that they meet at Gundark’s at 7 that night. They all agreed.
It was past 7 and Maya was nowhere to be seen. Nanakkyy, Arka, and AJ were all in line at Gundark’s. Nanakkyy scanned the crowd for Maya, and saw Ari and Virus ahead of them in the line. Apparently they were requested to meet there as well. There was something funny about that droid…
He felt someone tap him, and looked over his shoulder to find a man glaring up at him. “My friend says he doesn’t like you. I don’t like you, either” the man intoned. Clenching his fists, Nanakkyy prepared himself for a fight. Before anyone could make a move, however, blaster shots were heard up ahead. Everything seemed to happen at once. He heard someone shout “Help!” and AJ ran to a woman lying on the floor. The crowd ran in all directions.
It wasn’t long before Nanakkyy realized the woman was Maya. Through the scattering crowd he could see two Imperial Navy Troopers marching towards her. “Stand back! This woman is under arrest!” Growling, Nanakkyy moved himself between Maya and the Navy Troopers. Pulling out his bowcaster, he fired, and was shocked to see the shot bounce off the Trooper’s armour.
Suddenly one of the Troopers began running toward the door, shouting seemingly at nothing. Nanakkyy glanced at Arka, who was looking very pleased with himself. The other stared after him for a moment, looking very confused, before auto firing into the crowd. He hit both Nanakkyy and AJ, who was trying desperately to treat Maya. Once more the Trooper shouted, “Step away!”
The running Navy Trooper stopped just short of the door. He looked behind him towards Maya, then back the way he was running. Shaking his head, he started back toward Maya. He only seemed mildly startled by Ari’s blaster shot, which bounced off his armour.
AJ began dragging Maya behind deeper cover, and shielded her as blaster shots began flying around him. That strange droid scuttled behind a nearby sign, and pulled out his blaster. Something about that blaster seemed offsetting to Nanakkyy, but he didn’t have time to think on it as two new blaster shots rang across the room. Hiding behind cover were two similarly dressed men. They looked like travellers, and had blended into the crowd easily. With the crowd dispersed, they stood out as enemies.
Finally, one of the Troopers fell to Arka’s blaster, and Nanakkyy managed to connect with his bowcaster to the remaining Trooper. The man grunted and staggered, but didn’t fall. Instead, he auto fired towards Nanakkyy. He managed to duck in time, but heard AJ cry out as the shots hit him.
Looking over his shoulder, Nanakkyy saw AJ with his hands on Maya’s head. His teeth were clenched, and he looked to be in extreme pain. Arka was staring at AJ with an unreadable expression on his face.
Spinning back towards the battle at hand, Nanakkyy saw Virus climb up onto the top of the sign and fire towards one of the men dressed as travellers. Surprisingly, the man fell. Ari finished off the remaining traveller, and Nanakkyy’s blaster shot took down the last Trooper.
Ari ran towards Maya, followed closely by Virus. The woman was alive, but Nanakkyy could see she was in terrible shape. Maya managed to get a few words out before AJ quieted her; “Safe house…bacta.” AJ shook his head, “wait a minute, we shouldn’t move her.” He began applying bandages to her wounds.
Arka and Virus began searching the bodies. Virus found a comlink and Arka found some identification. The comlink sounded out Troopers giving reports before going silent. “I apologise, Mistress Ari, I couldn’t track the source in time. Perhaps I can still gather information from it.” Ari didn’t seem to hear. Red lights began flashing down the hall. “I suggest we leave, Mistress. It seems more will be coming soon.”
Nanakkyy bent down beside AJ, and placed a hand on his shoulder. “I’ll carry her,” he said in Shyriiwook. “We should leave.” AJ nodded.
Ari was angry. Once again someone she cared deeply about was hurt and there wasn’t a damned thing she could do about it. The Wookie was carrying the injured Maya as they made their way down to the safe house. She thought she heard someone call him Nanakkyy. It was nice to know his name after all this time.
The safe house was quite large, and covered with food and supplies along the walls. In the back corner sat a large cylindrical tank full of bacta. Full immersion would be best for Maya, but she needed to become stabilized first. Once they arrived AJ started clearing a table. He demanded light, and any medical supplies they could find. Ari managed to find tools and blankets near the bacta tank, and when she returned Maya was already laying down on the table, under a large lamp gathered from elsewhere in the safe house. Ari placed the tools on a tray beside AJ.
“I need anaesthetic,” AJ told her.
“No, no.” Maya shook her head. “There are things I need to tell you. They can’t wait.” AJ paused, examining Maya’s wounds. Finally he nodded and motioned to Arka to pass him a tool. Ari placed herself at Maya’s head, smoothing her hair. She smiled down at her, “you’ll be ok.”
Maya’s return smile was lost in her hiss as AJ began his work. “Try not to move,” AJ murmured. She squeezed her eyes shut and began talking.
“It’s too dangerous for you all to stay here anymore. The cargo has arrived. I need you to get down to hold V-14. You’ll find my contact there, a droid named Switch. He’ll be able to get you the cargo, which needs to be delivered to Alderaan. Directly to Bail Organa.”
Arka and AJ began shaking their heads. AJ certainly did not look happy. Anger flared up in Ari. “You do nothing here, Jedi. You drink, and do nothing. Why? Even delivering something to Organa is better than sitting, watching the Imperials take control of everything.”
Arka didn’t look at her. “You talk too much, Ari.”
“Jedi, huh?” AJ didn’t look up from his work.
Ari wasn’t done yet. “Damnit, Arka, enough with the drinking. That gets us nowhere. There aren’t very many Jedi left since Order 66, but I refuse to believe they’re sitting on their butts watching.”
AJ did glance up from his work then. “Order 66? And I thought you said your name was Davik.”
“You’re a bad hand of sabacc, girl.” She rolled her eyes and looked back down to Maya. She was sweating and breathing heavily. Ari continued to smooth her hair. The man was exasperating!
AJ was silent in his work while Arka looked at him. After a few moments he finally said, “Do you know what it was you did back outside the cantina?”
“I did what I had to do. I wasn’t going to let her die.”
“You healed her just by touching her. Do you know what that means?”
AJ glanced up at Arka for a moment before returning to his work. “I have an idea. What are you trying to say?”
“That it’s dangerous for me to be around someone untrained.”
Ari remained silent. She continued to stroke Maya’s hair. She seemed to be sleeping. AJ put down his tools and removed his gloves. “It’s done. She’ll be fine after a few hours in the bacta tank.”
Maya’s eyes fluttered open as Nanakkyy carried her to the cylindrical tank full of clear liquid. “The Imperials know there’s something on the station of importance. Please be careful. I will provide you with a ship when you retrieve the cargo.” Gently she was lowered into the tank. As the clear liquid began to surround her, her eyes slid closed once again and a faint smile appeared on her lips. Yes, she would be fine.
She looked around to the others in the room. “So, how do we get to hold V-14?”
“Allow me, Mistress Ari.” Virus waited for her nod before he turned and scurried out of the safe house. He knew the location of every computer terminal on the station, and the nearest one was in a back alley not far from there.
Getting in to the system was easy. Soon he had a complete map of the station, and was able to locate hold V-14. It was on the main exhaust conduit, in of the most run down, deserted portions of the station. Surprisingly, it was quarantined and open only to Imperials. Confusing, but not a problem. He was able to remove the ban on non Imperials easily.
He returned to the safe house without being seen, and reported his findings and actions to Mistress Ari. Hopefully his skill reduced his obscene debt.
“We should find more information on this Switch character. No use jumping in and getting our hides blasted.” No mention of how much he had reduced his debt. Still, Ari seemed eager to be on the move, and so was Virus. They were the first to leave the safe house, but the others followed and separated not long after.
The droids Virus passed were less than helpful. Cleaning droids didn’t know much about crime lords. One security droid told him in a flash that hold V-14 was quarantined only because Switch bribed the station to keep it that way. Interesting, the droid obviously had a position of power within the station. Why hadn’t he heard of him before?
Mistress Ari, finally cooled down after a walk around her area of the station, turned quickly around and headed back for the safe house. Virus followed. Hopefully the others had better luck gathering information than they did.
“The entrance is guarded by Gamorreans. We should be able to get in without fighting if we tell them we have something to sell Switch.” Arka looked at Mistress Ari. “They’re not fond of humans down there. It would be best if you did the talking.” She nodded.
Not long later they were making their way down to hold V-14. Mistress Ari crinkled her nose and waved a hand in front of her face. Organics were strange. She motioned to him to stop. The Wookie peeked around the corner, and then turned back to the group. Apparently the Gamorreans were right around the corner.
Mistress Ari took a deep breath, then strode around the corner. Virus followed alongside the Wookie, and Ark and AJ remained a few steps behind. The great pig-like creatures grunted and placed their weapons before the door.
“I wish to speak with your employer. I have something he would find great interest in.” The two Gamorreans looked at each other and spoke in some hideous language. Looking back at Mistress Ari, they removed their weapons and motioned her to go in. They weren’t very bright creatures.
Still, they were in. Things were about to get interesting.