Characters (and what we know about them so far):
Claymore Trelk: Senator of the Poulos system
Hara-Kalor: Kwol Jedi Padawan
Oord Womba: Republic Investigator
Piban Macrosun: Pilot.
R0-B1: Protocol droid (?)
Trian Letstra: Street tech
Ask any sentient being what they think of when you
say the word 'space' and they will give replies of a similar
sentiment. The pictures in each mind's eye all have one thing in
common- placidity. Details aside, the very word 'space' suggests
a still expanse, a speckled canvas with only a twinkle in the
dark and a spray of nebulae to break the eternal reaching
But here, in the far reaches of the dabbadon system, Something was moving. It was as large as a mountain, pitted and pock-marked, and it did not share the cosmic dance of the planets or the random tumbling of the other great stones. It was controlled; projected by engines like those of a battleship, and it swept through the darkness with a single purpose, gaining speed.
Claymore fell silent at last, and his tale of the
skeletal Sith controlling the mong king settled over them all
like a death sentence.
It all fit- the last piece of the puzzle had clicked into place. More than a millennia ago, a droid ship had been dispatched by a visionary Sith Lord to seek and indoctrinate children in the deadly teachings and evil knowledge of his ancient order. It had lain undisturbed for centuries before finding the first scion of the new Sith, and now an unknown number of them were gaining power and absorbing crime factions like an expanding star. Kept from infighting by a joining of their life forces, they had grown powerful in the shadows.
Their secrecy was their greatest asset. So when the doogo stumbled upon the ship, the Sith moved to a base in the asteroid belt and put into practice two clever plans. The neighbouring mong were incited to invade the doogo in an attempt to recover the artefact, and the surrounding hillsides were bombed with orbital rock. That way, when the giant base asteroid came crashing down onto the city, it would appear to be a mere meteor shower, and all evidence of the Splinter Sith's existence would be erased.
That was why, both times, the Sith had chosen to escape and let their enemies live- because in hours it wouldn't matter anyway. Even leaving the ships behind didn't worry them- they didn't have hyperdrives.
The Sith's first plan had failed. The second was bearing down upon them.
As soon as the shuttle and fighter were ready, the group from Coruscant lifted from the landing pad and blasted skyward with the hopes of a people.
"Redline the throttle" Claymore instructed Piban from
behind the pilot's chair. "We need to meet up with this thing as far
out as we can".
Piban glared at him. The throttle was already there.
"How well is your ship performing, apprentice Hara-Kalor?" Queried Beeone from the shuttle's comm station.
"It iss ssuitable" replied the kwol, matching speed in the Z-43 as they accelerated away from the planet. "Not ass ssleek ass a Jedi fighter, but I can fly it".
"This turret is great" put in Oord. The shuttle had a small turret that moved around the hull on an elliptical track, and he had since found that it could even double as a one-sentient escape pod. "I don't think these guns will do much to the asteroid though" he added.
"Nothing we have can scratch it" said Piban with an edge of frustration. "But that data disc said the base was powered by engines. That means they can be controlled".
"A mobile asteroid base" commented Claymore. "How bizarre".
"It's not unheard of" replied Oord. "An agen.. er, bothan I work with once visited one owned by Valannda the Hutt".
"I have it on my ssenssorss" informed Hara-Kalor "but I think I'm getting a ssignal echo. What iss that?"
"On it" said Trian absently, at the shuttle's sensor console. "Oboy, that thing's big. There's also a big chunk being dragged along beside it, and..uh.." he swallowed. "Starfighters. Droid ones, four of them!"
"Disposable guards. They've thought of everything" Oord said tensely.
"I'll try to draw them, to give you a sshot" said Hara-Kalor. He sped ahead of the shuttle as the fighters entered visual range, only to see them split into two flight elements and choose their targets.
They fired from long range, a volley that the jedi
easily dodged. He loosed bolts from the chin cannons in return,
but fared no better. Piban kept an eye on the range indicator,
estimating closing speed. "Hang on" he snapped, whipping the shuttle
into a fast about-face before the fighters arrived. Claymore and
Beeone lurched about the cockpit.
The pilot's gamble paid off. Rather than the ships flashing past each other, the shuttle was now alongside a droid starfighter, and it was limited to a forward fire arc. Oord pounced, hammering bolts into its armour, but little damage was done before it flipped out of sight.
Hara-Kalor spun the Z-43, one eye on the controls while the other followed the whirling stars. He fired, catching his target above the right wing. This had the further effect of jolting the fighter into a collision with a small asteroid. It turned out of his line of sight, sparking badly, and the jedi noticed for the first time that they had reached the fringes of the asteroid field. As he watched, the other fighter swept past and damaged itself on another chunk of orbiting debris. It spun out of the asteroid belt and into the eternal black, control lines gone.
"Just try and hold them off- I'm making a run for the
advised Piban, gaze darting through the transparisteel and making
mental notes of whirling rocks.
Oord fired and missed. "One coming in".
"Angling the deflectors" Beeone responded. They all felt the jolt of blasts hitting the ship, but the shields held. "That's not how you do it" Claymore shouldered Beeone from the controls. "I'll show you just like I did back when-"
"Haha!" shouted Oord as he hit the other fighter and forced it into a large asteroid. In a brilliant flash the fighter became just another piece of debris.
Hara-Kalor fought the frustration building inside him. The deadly dance inside the field was unlike any space combat he had fought (or seen) before. One had to be constantly moving, being aware of any number of obstacles, and the rare times that the ships could line up on each other they had both missed. Rounding a rock, he felt his sense of urgency drain away as the detached wing of his opponent drifted past him with a trail of sparks.
Flipping the fighter into a rough split-s, the jedi raced to protect his companions.
There was no need. As the last fighter jolted shots into the shuttle, Oord punched energy directly through its cockpit. There was a sharp explosion as the engines detonated and the wings corkscrewed away, petals falling from the blossom of fire.
"We made it!" exulted Beeone.
"They may have won" Claymore injected pessimism. "They only needed to delay us. I hope we're still in time".
The base drew into view- a jagged mountain flanked by a smaller one and lit by a glow from the far side. As Piban rolled the shuttle over its surface they could see the enormous engines afire, blasting it on its cataclysmic path. Between the engines was a small docking bay.
"Great" grunted Piban. "I don't think this thing is meant to be docked with while moving". He concentrated carefully and brought the ship through the turbulent path as the cockpit filled with light. The shuttle jostled heavily, the shields drained power as they fought to repel the radiated energy, then they were through and slid into the hanger.
Hara-Kalor's fighter eased in alongside. "The other rock trailing it iss harmless- already breaking up" he reported.
There was a moment's silence as they realised that their craft were floating above the deck. Gravity had not been enabled. "Atmosphere is still on" interjected Trian at the sensors. "They must have left in a hurry".
"Can't blame them for that" replied Oord as the turret clicked into its docking port. "That's what I want to do too. Let's find these engine controls, and fast!"
He scrambled to the shuttle's ramp, checked the corners with his blaster, then leaped out of the shuttle's gravity field and floated to the hangar's only door. He landed roughly, grasping handles by the wall made for such an eventuality.
Trian was beside him in a moment, checking the door controls and thumbing it open.
Beyond the door was a corridor and the prone form of
a stocky battle droid. It had been expecting them and fired
instantly, but Oord was somehow moving already, twisting in the
air as the bolt blurred past his head. He and Trian fired their
blasters in unison, destroying the droid where it lay.
Noticing the apparent effect of gravity on the droid, Trian dragged himself into the corridor and, sure enough, sank to the floor. Claymore and Beeone joined him, drifting uneasily across from the ships, and Hara-Kalor pushed himself around the hangar searching for the gravity controls.
"No time" urged Piban from the shuttle's ramp. "Go!"
The corridor reached an intersection. Trian, Oord and Piban took the left passage. Claymore, Beeone and Hara-Kalor ran to the right.
The left tunnel led to a smooth right turn that Oord
approached cautiously. He whipped his head around the corner and
back again, and it was followed by four thick bolts of energy
that smacked into the opposite wall. Throwing their heads and
arms around the corner, he and Trian returned fire, dropping one
of the four battle droids where it stood.
"Suppressive fire" a tinny voice sounded. "Reinforcement protocol engaged".
Claymore set a brisk pace. His robes whispered on
the marbled flooring and Beeone's servomotors hummed behind him
as the corridor led into the asteroid. The jedi made little sound
as he brought up the rear.
Presently they reached a room-sized alcove in the left wall, filled with banks of busy computers. "Engine controls?" the senator suggested hopefully.
"Ssenssorss" replied Hara-kalor, studying the panels. It showed the planet of Dabbadon IV drawing ever nearer, and the numbers on the range indicator were a blur. He moved on, the others following.
A left turn led them into a long, slightly narrower corridor. They had continued to the far end when a creaking sound was heard above them.
"Oh dear" gasped Beeone.
Lining the high ceiling were rack upon rack of battle droids, over a hundred, and they were coming down. The corridor, now revealed to be the storage place for the disposable army, was soon blocked behind them and rapidly began to fill up with the metal soldiers. As they touched the floor their red photoreceptors lit up, and they began to stir.
"Get that door open!" rasped Hara-Kalor. It slid upward with a jab of Claymore's finger, and they scrambled through. The door had barely come down again before it resounded with the crackling spatter of blaster fire.
Trian fired again, but the shot pzzed off the shoulder armour of one of the droids. Oord, crouched below him, fared better, shooting one in the leg and another in the torso. The damaged droids returned fire as the humans dodged back around the corner.
"Tough" commented Piban.
"There's a door behind them, a little way back" informed Trian as he checked the power pack of his blaster.
"We don't have time for this" Oord moved into firing position again, closely followed by the other two. They blazed away together, hitting the droids, walls and the far door with a flurry of shots, but the armour of their mechanical enemies held. They returned fire and hit Piban, a glancing shot in the arm that spun him backward into the wall. Oord and Trian had no time to risk helping him, instead concentrating on their marksmanship. It paid off, and two of the droids clanged to the floor amid showers of sparks.
The last droid, incapable of fear, raised its blaster again to keep fighting. Piban shot it down from where he lay on the floor.
"Now what?" snapped Claymore, looking for escape. The
corridor continued to a corner ahead of them, but he didn't want
to run and blunder into any more traps.
"Move, sir" urged Beeone as the door behind them started to glow red. "We must get you to safety".
Hara-Kalor strode ahead, his throat-patch a calm white, and the others followed at a fast walk.
Behind them, the door shattered into shards of blasted metal.
Oord and Trian burst through the door, blasters
tracking to the corners of the small room, but no threats were
apparent. There was another door on the far side, and the left
wall consisted of a cluster of elliptical screens and controls
that Trian approached curiously.
"What does it do?" prompted Oord as the tech slid up a chair.
"Gimme a break" grunted Trian. "This isn't even in my language".
By now, a rising sense of alarm had quickened the
pace of the three to a run. The jedi, senator and droid scrambled
around the corner to confront a heavy security door.
Hara-kalor stabbed a clawed finger at the opening pad. "Locked" his disappointed hiss accompanied its buzz of denial.
Behind them, the crash of metallic marching feet grew louder.
"What IS this?" Piban repeated Oord's question as he limped
through the doorway.
"Sh" Trian cut him off, eyes darting over the scrolling displays. He began to work the controls, fingers flying over the keys. "This might help us".
"Let me try" Claymore shouldered the jedi aside and pushed
the door buttons. He failed, both in opening the door and looking
like he knew what he was doing.
"Get behind me!" barked Beeone as the battle droids came into view. Stepping in front of Claymore, the senator's droid locked his arms and legs into a spread-eagled position. The shield bubble hummed into existence as they opened fire.
Claymore winced reflexively as bolts flew at him and were deflected. He knew the droid's shield would only last seconds under this magnitude of fire. Behind him,he heard the hiss of Hara-Kalor's force lash ignite as the jedi started cutting through the door.
"No time!" he shouted to nobody in particular. Seeing no other course of action, he reached into the sleeve of his robe and drew his tiny palm blaster.
The corridor was now filled with droids, either firing or waiting for their comrades in front to die so they could fire. Claymore's blaster held five shots.
He leaned around Beeone. "Take this!" he fired defiantly.
"There!" exclaimed Trian, throwing a switch with an air of finality.
Claymore's shot hit one of the droids in its head.
The battle droid rocked back with the force of the blast, then it
and all its companions collapsed like stringless puppets. The sea
of clattering echoed back the way they had come, around the
corner and up the passage beyond in a cacophany of jingling
Silence settled with a clink.
"How'd you do that?" stammered Hara-Kalor.
The senator looked at his blaster in astonishment, then pocketed it casually. "When you have as many years of field experience as I do, my boy, you'll understand. Until then, let's get this door open".
"Droid control mechanism" explained Trian as he, Oord and
Piban left the room. "We shouldn't have any more battle droid trouble".
The corridor beyond was long and straight, stretching through the rock before them. It was only dimly lit, and no doors or branches led from it. They ran.
The corridor just kept going, stretching to vanishing point ahead of them. Though it didn't turn even slightly, the gravity seemed to shift slightly in its orientation. Piban reasoned that it led to a specific part of the asteroid (such as an ore deposit), or there was something of interest on the other side of the giant rock.
The comlink buzzed. "Trian?" Beeone's voice crackled. "We've found the engine control room. I can translate it from Rodian, but we don't have the expertise to do anything to the engines".
"On my way" the tech responded, leaving Oord and Piban and jogging back the way they had come.
"Hurry" the droid's voice urged as he receded into the distance.
Oord and Piban continued, travelling deep through the rock and finally reaching a round and expensive-looking door from which an irregular thumping sound echoed. "Looks important" commented Oord as they stumbled up to it.
The thumping grew faster. It sounded like somebody was playing the bongos with a wet fish. Piban's finger hesitated in front of the door controls. "Do we really wanna go in there?" he said doubtfully.
"Let me check" Oord motioned him back, then the enforcer pressed his hand gently to the door.
The humming blade flashed into existence at the
first distant crash of metal. Hara-Kalor edged back around the
corner, but it was only Trian making his way roughly through the
piles of scattered battle droids. The jedi deactivated his
weapon, then stepped back into the engine control room. Beeone
was still studying the readouts and muttering in Rodian, while
Claymore had found a passage leading to crew quarters and the
The jedi suddenly paused as a ripple of awareness reached him. The Kwol flicked his forked tongue in surprise. "Oord?" he muttered.
Oord opened his eyes again. "There's only one sentient in there, and it's in absolute terror" he stated grimly. He drew his blaster, nodding to Piban. The pilot's finger stabbed at the door lock.
The visual impact of what lay beyond struck them
like a physical blow. On the other side of the door, pounding on
it in futile hope of escape, was a small Hutt! In making his
earlier comment about asteroid bases, Oord had not considered
that this base actually WAS the base of Valannda the Hutt,
captured and moved here at the Sith's whim.
It was a viewing room, dominated by a giant oval window on the far wall- they had walked through the asteroid to the far side. Filling the great window was the planet Dabbadon, the asteroid's target. It was so close now that details of continents could be seen.
Their first instinct was to flee. The Hutt did so, shouldering them roughly aside and wriggling back down the corridor. As they moved to follow, Oord noticed one last detail.
In the corner was a holoprojector, and looming over it was the flickering blue image of Darth Rayj, the Sith that had fought Hara-Kalor. It stood calmy, arms folded, and Oord realised with a shock that it had been watching, and enjoying, the Hutt's last moments.
"Shutting the engines off isn't hard" mused Trian, finger
tracing a schematic "but it also won't slow us down. I could try to
reorient the station's engines the other way and do a reverse
burn, but that's much more difficult, and might take more time
than we have".
He pulled out some snap-lock connectors and began to rearrange
"So what CAN you do?" Claymore pressed impatiently.
"What I AM doing" the tech riposted as he lay down on his back and slid under the control desk. "Feeding the power back into the fuel cells. You may as well get back to the ship now".
King Reepich stood on the palace balcony and
surveyed the sky above. The lavender of late afternoon had
darkened to an evening violet, and the first stars broke through
the coloured veneer with a friendly wink.
He had thought that their doom would appear to be the same- a dot of light that brightened until it consumed them. The view from the astronomy building had been unexpected- a black sphere backlit by engine glow, an eye that glared its hatred as it rushed toward the city.
His gaze fell to the streets, where civilization had fallen apart. The city had been largely self-contained. There were no starships and few transports of any kind. They could transmit now that the jamming beam had been shut off (and had), but any help would come far too late. Panic ensued below, with doogo and their belongings caught in a crush as thousands tried to hopelessly flee.
"Your majesty?" A calm voice sounded behind the king. He turned to see Flittch and the human doctor, Enn Piecy, step onto the balcony. "We have one of the speeder sleds ready".
"I will not scuttle away as an insect" the king's voice rang with what some would call honour, and others foolish pride. "I will make my end here. Your friends, doctor, appear to have failed, however valiantly".
"Friends?" the doctor paused as if trying the word for the first time. "I hardly knew them, your majesty. Since I met them I have spent more time here, among your people".
They looked up at the darkening sky. "And if I may say so, your majesty, it's been a privilege".
The black eye blazed in red fury as it hit atmosphere, then suddenly blossomed into a godlike flower of fire. The explosion lit up the sky in silence for several moments, then a deafening cracking sound tore the air. Windows shattered and exploded all over the city, and the doogo screamed as one. Flittch threw himself over the king, and the three of them scrambled back inside the palace.
The cascading of glass and other debris settled into relative silence, and there was just enough time to think it was over before great chunks of rock and machinery hurtled from the sky. Across the city they saw the agricultural building torn in half, several stories toppling to the street. A fuel depot erupted in flames, and the palace dome above them was suddenly speckled with holes as debris speared downward.
In spite of the citywide disaster, the doogo survivors realised that most of them had been spared a fiery death and worked to restore order. Emergency services were bolstered by thousands of willing volunteers as a panicked helplessness was repalced by hard action. The doogo were a hardy people, and they strove with the effort that had led them to survive the death of their original homeworld.
Few, if any, noticed the smoking ships that limped and spluttered down to the city's landing pads. The shuttle's shields and several maneuvering thrusters had been burned off the charred hull, and the little fighter landed roughly without landing gear.
"I'm telling you, this stowaway is a criminal!" insisted Claymore, manually cranking down the ramp. "We were barely out of that thing when it went up. He almost killed the lot of us, or did that escape your notice?"
"I fed power via two whole banks of capacitors to give us some time" fumed Trian. "Any more and the whole city would be gone. This stuff isn't in the manual, you know".
Piban said nothing. Once again he'd dragged the lot of them from a raging disaster and saved them all through his piloting, and nobody noticed this time either. He looked at the smoking city. "I guess we'd better help these guys clean up".
"I need to get back to Coruscant and report" Oord reminded them. "We set out to find what the trouble was in this region, and we sure found it. Those Sith guys may have been bad enough to take over this Hutt, but the Republic knows they're there now".
"Sure, now everyone will know they're there" Trian agreed. "But what I want to know is- do they know that we're here?"