Chapter 4
Demara


Snteil walks into the lounge to find Kurrelgyrre sitting cross-legged on the floor meditating peacefully and Zeethree engaged in a game of Dejarik holochess against Arsix.

"Did you get that maintenance check done on the shield generator like I asked," Snteil inquires.

"Yes," Zeethree replies. "I got it done about fifteen minutes ago. Everything looks good."

Turning back to the gameboard, the droid suddenly cries out, "You can't do that! I swear you're cheating!"

Arsix sharply answers the accusation in his machine language, to which Zeethree returns, "Don't cheat, my motivators! I saw you move that piece out of the corner of my eye!"

"Zeethree," Snteil interjects. "You think everyone is cheating. Has it ever occurred to you that you just may not be that good of a Dejarik player?" He turns to KG and winks, realizing that the Wookiee is still meditating.

Arsix replies once again, and Zeethree states, "Of course, I don't have corners in my eyes. It's a figure of speech, you bucket of fried circuits!"

At that moment, an unalarming signal sounds in the lounge. Turning to face a panel, Snteil announces, "We're here."

Kurrelgyrre opens his eyes with the announcement, stands and follows Snteil to the cockpit.

Pointing a finger at Arsix's dome, Zeethree says as he rises from his seat, "We'll settle this later." Arsix sarcastically chirps a reply and follows Zeethree out of the lounge.

Snteil sits in the pilot's chair and watches the panel as Kurrelgyrre takes a seat behind the Sullustan. At the appropriate time, Snteil disengages the hyperdrive. As the streaks return to stars, a small, green planet looms directly ahead of the transport.

A few seconds later, the comm signals an incoming message.

Opening the comm channel, Snteil responds, "Snteil Seit, captain of the Aurora speaking."

Answering the response is an eloquent, melodic deep-feminine voice stating, "Welcome to the planet Demara. Please state the nature of your visit."

"I guess you could consider us a search party. We're looking for a few lost friends. Can you tell us anything about a ship that may have come through here for supplies a while back called the Smiling Sarlacc?"

The soothing voice answers, "I am only a traffic controller. I do not have that information. However, we may have facilities that would help you. One moment, please . . ."

A momentary pause over the comm fills the cockpit, until the voice returns and says, "Permission granted to land, Aurora. Please land at these coordinates. Welcome to Demara. We hope you enjoy your stay." A computer monitor on the co-pilot's console displays navigation coordinates.

After receiving the confirmation, Snteil programs in the coordinates and begins the flight into the atmosphere.

The view during the flight is much like any other planet. Vast continents stretching to the horizon with various landscapes. Blue oceans of life-giving water add color to the surface. Clouds scattered throughout the atmosphere waft their way along the prevailing winds that wrap around the world.

The descent through the clouds is smooth, until the Aurora drops below the cloud cover. Emerging from the clouds finds the transport in the midst of a rainstorm. Wind speed picks up and begins to toss the ship as the rain batters against the canopy of the Aurora's cockpit. Arsix emits an electronic cry of concern as he suddenly loses his footing and begins to slide across the floor toward the seated Zeethree. A flash of lightning followed almost instantaneously by a deafening clap of thunder threatens the rest of the flight to the surface.

"No worries, Arsix," mentions Snteil. "We'll be okay. It's just a little rain. Either way, could someone strap him in? I don't want him scuffing up my interior. Heh heh."

As Kurrelgyrre gets up and begins to secure his droid in place, Snteil continues, "Anyway, hang on guys. This is gonna be a rough ride."

Kurrelgyrre finishes strapping Arsix down and returns to his seat, when a sudden burst of turbulence hits the ship. KG manages to steady himself and pull himself into the copilot's seat.

Snteil, with a look of determination, dives the ship further downward toward the planet's surface through the fierce thunderstorm. Several minutes pass as the Aurora continues its descent through the sheets of rain, buffeting winds and bolts of lightning dancing across the sky.

Finally, sensors show the surface approaching rapidly. Leveling out, Snteil brings the ship about and begins landing procedures.

As the Aurora completes its first pass over the starport, a text message silently appears on a monitor next to Snteil giving specific docking bay information and its specific beacon frequency.

Once the docking bay is located, Snteil easily lands the transport inside. After the ship touches down, a retractable roof begins closing over the docking bay. A full minute passes, and the rain slowly diminishes as the roof seals the opening leading outside. Lights inside the docking bay turn on as the roof closes, illuminating the new-looking facilities that now house the Aurora.

"Good landing," Zeethree states as he unfastens his safety belt. Arsix whistles an acknowledgment.

"Arsix," Kurrelgyrre interrupts. "Let's see if we can find a jack around here so that you can plug in. Let's see if the information net around here has any leads first.

"Zeethree, we're gonna need you to translate."

As Arsix chirps a response, Zeethree adds, "Very well, sir. Shall I arm myself, just in case?"

As he rises from his seat, KG mutters to himself, "I'm coming, Jan. I'm coming."

Snteil slowly turns his head to give a blank stare at the protocol droid for a few seconds, when he suddenly bursts, "WHAT!?! N . . . n . . . no! Of course not! You'd probably blast the first peace officer we see, because he is 'armed with a menacing look.' No, Zeethree. If we get into it somewhere, MAYBE I'll hand you a pistol. But, I'm certainly not letting you be responsible for a weapon."

Kurrelgyrre does his best to keep from snickering during Snteil's tirade.

Snteil then walks into the back of the ship to get his gear ready while mumbling to himself, completely horrified.

After Snteil returns with his gear a few minutes later, Zeethree begrudgingly opens the hatch while mumbling, "I still think I should carry a blaster here."

Looking at Snteil as he raises his voice, the droid continues, "I had this feeling back on Coyn, and look what happened with you guys. You ended up in a fight with a bunch of mercenaries, and you guys almost got yourselves killed.

"I could have helped you guys if I had a blaster. But, no! I wasn't allowed to carry one.

"Mark my words! Something's going to happen here, too. If you guys get in a fight and get hurt, don't blame me."

As the boarding ramp touches the floor of the docking bay, Arsix whistles something and rolls down the ramp, cutting in front of Zeethree.

"What the . . ." Zeethree exclaims after the astromech droid. "Impudent twerp."

After the group exits the ship, Arsix glides up to a computer terminal nestled inside an alcove in the docking bay wall near the cargo doors and jacks in, waiting for search parameters.

Kurrelgyrre thinks for a few seconds and says, "Search for anything on Jan Tolbara or the Smiling Sarlacc."

Arsix chirps a response and begins accessing the computer system. After several minutes, he emits a low whistle, as the display screen indicates that no information about Jan Tolbara, the Smiling Sarlacc or any of its crewmembers is on file.

"How about the Xyber Corps?" adds the Jedi.

Continuing the search, Arsix finds a news article about an incident on Coyn involving the Xyber Corps is on file, but nothing about them on Demara.

A summary of the article from a couple of years ago reads:

"Pirate activity slowed drastically after a local mercenary group calling themselves the Xyber Corps confronted a pirate vessel plaguing the space lanes just outside of Coyn. The band of pirates known as Jasta's Dread Marines is known to have stopped and looted at least ten ships over the past several months. They managed to avoid Coynite authorities by quickly hijacking the ship and flying it to an unknown location. Days later, the ship would appear just outside of planetary sensor range adrift without crew, cargo and major ship systems. The Xyber Corps, in their ship called Xyber 1, hitched a ride aboard a bulk freighter and attacked the unwitting pirates when they made their move. Jasta, the pirate leader, was captured along with several of her lieutenants and turned over to Coynite authorities on Skraj'Tais later that day."

"Nothing about us," states Zeethree. "And, that's the most recent article mentioning them."

"Hmm . . ." Snteil looks skeptically at KG and mentions, "That doesn't seem like 'Dark Jedi' activity to me. Maybe we picked a fight with the wrong group of people."

"No," Kurrelgyrre answers. "I feel confident that we did the right thing. They were Dark Jedi. I could feel it."

Snteil replies, "Hey, if you're good, then I'm good. You're the one that has to walk the thin 'moral line.' To me, they were attacking a friend. Whether they were good or evil, I guess that really ended the debate for me. Sorry, I was just having a bout of moral dilemma. It won't happen again."

KG puts his hand on Snteil's shoulder and says, "It's okay. We must all walk a moral line. Perhaps we could have approached the situation better, but we acted out of love and compassion for a friend."

Snteil merely stares back at his friend in awed silence.

Turning back to Arsix, the Wookiee inquires, "Anything more on Jasta's Dread Marines?"

Search results reveal one other article stating Jasta's trial. She was found guilty of piracy, black marketeering and murder on over 100 counts. She was declared af'harl and is now enslaved to a city official in En'Tra'Tal.

Snteil gets an idea and adds, "Is there anything in there about Jedi?"

After a brief search, the screen shows that no Jedi activity is listed in the computer.

Suddenly, Arsix chirps up excitedly.

"It appears he has found something," Zeethree translates.

Arsix displays a news report about strange meteors over the night sky was reported about the time the Sarlacc disappeared, stating that several people witnessed a large, fiery object streaking across the sky and crashing deep in the wilderness. Local military forces quarantined the area, stating that radiation may be coming from the object that would cause health problems to anyone that got too close.

"That better not be the Sarlacc," Kurrelgyrre states. "I have friends on that ship. Qualtis, too.

"Arsix, see if there is any footage of the fiery object. If so, enhance the footage to see what it is."

"If that fireball WAS the Smiling Sarlacc," Snteil interjects. "I'm sorry, my friend, but I do not think your friends survived. These ships can not withstand reentry into the atmosphere without shielding."

The little droid confirms that no video footage of the object is available, but several witnesses stated that the object looked as if it were a large metal disk spouting fire behind it as it dropped rapidly into the atmosphere.

After reading this, KG lets out a Wookiee roar of mourning. While his Wookiee friend does this, Snteil stands in reverent silence.

Arsix displays a report about the crash site, indicating that the area that was quarantined, approximately 50km southwest of the starport, is a wilderness area with plains and forests. The quarantine was lifted less than four years ago.

Kurrelgyrre turns to the droid and orders, "Arsix, get a fix on this location."

As if the request was anticipated, Arsix pulls up another window with a map showing the location. No signs of civilization exist around the site for several kilometers.

"If you want," Snteil says. "We can fly by the impact site to check it out. But, this was four years ago. I doubt anything would remain by now. It seems Demara is a dead end also."

Deciding to search with the Force, KG begins to meditate on Jan's presence on Demara.

As Kurrelgyrre closes his eyes and stretches out with the Force, he gains a vision of Jan. He is standing on top of a Corellian ship that appears to be grounded at the bottom of a hill near a large grove of trees. His purple lightsaber is ignited, and he is rapidly deflecting a swarm of blaster bolts flying at him from some distance behind the ship. He takes a step back every few seconds, until he intentionally drops through a hatch into the ship.

After a slight pause, KG continues, "I would like to fly over the site and investigate it on the ground, if at all possible."

Snteil answers, "We can do that, my friend. Although, I don't know what could POSSIBLY be left after all these years."

"Let the Force be our guide," the Wookiee states reverently.

"All right, then. I'm ready when you are. Did Arsix get the coordinates?"

"Yes he did," replies Kurrelgyrre. "Let's go, guys. Arsix, when we get back to the ship, upload the coordinates into the Aurora. Let's go see that crash site."

Returning to the Aurora, Snteil begins another prelaunch sequence and calls in to starport control for permission to disembark.

After a brief moment, the same eloquent, melodic deep-feminine voice from before answers the call, "Starport control."

Snteil responds, "This is the Aurora, requesting permission to take off."

"Will you be departing from Demara or relocating?" the feminine voice inquires.

"We will be departing soon. But first, we're going to be doing a little sightseeing. So, we are requesting a flight plan, which I am sending to you now."

After a momentary pause, the feminine voice returns, "Permission granted, Aurora. Your flight plan has been approved. Enjoy your flight." The comm channel closes.

After switching off the comm, Snteil waits as the doors leading outside open overhead and hears the rain begin pelting down upon the top of the ship once more. After a minute of waiting, the doors have opened completely, and the Sullustan eases back on the controls to allow the Aurora to rise off the ground and take flight.

Following the predetermined flight plan for a while, all aboard are comforted as the rain begins to calm and pass. Rays of white light from Demara's sun begin penetrating the cloud cover, causing the dark clouds to retreat and move away from the sprawling city that hosts the starport.

After several minutes of "sightseeing", the Aurora reaches the zone where it can break away from its flight plan and toward the quarantined zone.

Snteil steers the ship away from the starport toward their intended destination, the formerly quarantined zone. The flight, taking several minutes at a safe cruising speed, is uneventful as the skies over the area begin clearing even more.

As the coordinates are reached, evidence of a crash is seen in the form of a ray dug out of the ground from the top of a grassy hill down to a point about thirty meters from a large grove of trees. It appears that nature is returning to normal in the area, since grass now grows where the ship had formerly slid across the turf. Plenty of space around the end of the crash site is available to safely land the Aurora.

The boarding ramp touches down onto the wet ground, and the group disembarks onto the grassy field. As Arsix begins scanning the immediate area, Kurrelgyrre closes his eyes for a couple of seconds and begins looking around the field.

As Snteil begins searching the area, Zeethree asks, "What should we be looking for?"

The Sullustan looks up for a second and replies, "Anything that shouldn't be here."

"Like us?" the droid answers sarcastically. Earning a dirty look from his companion, Zeethree falls silent and begins looking around.

After a few seconds, a metallic gleam catches Snteil's eye from across the field. Rushing across the plain to that spot, he sees a rather large object resting on the ground near the end of the crash location underneath some sort of camouflage netting that couldn't be easily seen from the air. Removing the net reveals a large water tank resting on the ground. It looks extremely familiar, as he sees that it is a water tank from the inside of a Corellian light freighter. It appears to have been unbolted from the ship and dropped to the ground.

Kurrelgyrre continues his search near the bottom of the hill, close to where the ship came to a stop. Looking through the tall grass with his enhanced vision, he comes across a cylindrical piece of a dark metal. Picking up the item, close examination shows it to be the muzzle of some type of blaster weapon. According to the slanted edge on one end and the smoothness of the cut, it appears the muzzle was cut from the rest of the weapon by a lightsaber.

"This was Jan's work," KG mutters to himself. "He was here." He then lets out a Wookiee growl of triumph.

At that moment, Snteil and Zeethree hear a noise in the sky, faint as if it is in the distance but gradually getting louder as the source of the sound approaches. Several seconds pass, and Kurrelgyrre notices the sound and looks up to see two airspeeders approach and rapidly pass over the crash site after a few more seconds.

Seeing the approaching airspeeders, KG quickly stashes the muzzle into a pouch and utters as they fly past, "Well, we've got company."

Watching them closely, the Wookiee manages to pick out some unfamiliar black letters and a green emblem on the side of one of the speeders, the same emblem seen next to a wall-mounted comlink unit inside the docking bay near the computer terminal used earlier. The occupants of the airspeeders are in enclosed cockpits and cannot be seen from the ground.

Kurrelgyrre prepares himself for the impending encounter, turns to Snteil and says, "Let them make the first move. We shall not instigate hostilities. Try not to look so suspicious."

As the rest of the group stands ready, they watch the speeders begin to circle the area. It does not appear they intend to land.

Arsix begins an announcement of beeps, chirps and whistles. When he is done, Zeethree looks toward Snteil and says, "Arsix managed to tap into their communications, and it appears they are speaking with somebody else. But, he can't understand what they are saying."

While watching them, the Wookiee Jedi inquires, "Arsix, can you identify who they are with?" Arsix whistles a negative response.

KG continues to watch them and states, "I've got a bad feeling about this."

Zeethree begins slowly shaking his head back and forth while muttering, "I knew this would happen. I knew this would happen."

Turning back to Snteil, Kurrelgyrre adds, "You know, it's times like this that I wish the Jedi mind trick worked on droids."

The airspeeders continue to circle the area for several minutes with no apparent intent to land or communicate with the group below.

Finally, Kurrelgyrre, Snteil and Zeethree notice movement at the top of the hill and turn to see its source.

About twenty humanoids, dressed in green uniforms with mirror-faced helmets and wielding rifles, are rushing over the hill, half toward the group and the rest toward the Aurora.

As a number of the uniformed ones charge down the hill, Snteil unfastens his holster as Kurrelgyrre draws his lightsaber and ignites the blade.

Zeethree turns to his Sullustan companion and mentions in a low volume and almost sarcastic tone, "You know, now would be a good time to hand me a weapon."

In a low tone, Snteil answers, "Not yet, Zeethree. IF a fire fight starts, then yes. You can have a weapon, but not until then."

The other group reaches the Aurora. Four stay at the bottom of the ramp, while the other six run up the boarding ramp with weapons at the ready.

Arsix tries to maneuver himself behind Kurrelgyrre but has difficulty due to the natural terrain.

Looking to his Wookiee companion, Snteil mentions, "Any thoughts, Kurrelgyrre? I assume you sense hostilities. Man, we are sitting ducks out here."

Trying to look as imposing as possible, Kurrelgyrre begins to walk cautiously toward the group of soldiers charging toward him.

The soldiers, upon seeing the large, furry Wookiee approaching, cease their charge after hearing an exclamation from the center of their group, raise their rifles and point them at KG. A loud masculine voice booms out, "Stay where you are. Drop your weapon, or we will open fire."

KG motions toward the soldiers and cries, "I am Kurrelgyrre, Jedi Knight and representative of the New Republic. What is the meaning of this?"

The same voice answers, "You are trespassing in unauthorized territory. Drop your weapons and lay on the ground."

The Wookiee shuts down his saber and clips it back on his belt before continuing, "We apologize. Our understanding was that this territory was open. We would be happy to leave this area and go to a more appropriate area immediately."

While the rifles continue to point at Kurrelgyrre, Snteil notices out of the corner of his eye that Zeethree is moving behind him.

"Zeethree," Snteil whispers over his shoulder. "I told you I will give it to you if I deem it necessary that you have it." The Sullustan then takes a few cautious steps away from the droid.

The same voice from the group of soldiers replies, "Any violators must be taken into custody. Lay on the ground, NOW!"

"I'm afraid we can't do that!" KG responds. "We were told by what we KNOW to be the authority on this planet that this was open territory. We have no idea who you are, and you have shown us no proof of who you are. We don't just surrender to people who CLAIM to the authority in some area!

One of the uniformed beings in the middle of the group shakes his head and answers, "We are with the Demaran Army, 51st Infantry Division, and we have the authority to take you into custody for trespassing in unauthorized territory."

"If you wish," Kurrelgyrre adds. "I could contact Master Skywalker at the Jedi Academy and see if he would function as arbitrator. We're old friends, and I'm sure he wouldn't mind."

After a slight pause, the voice replies, "Maybe after you're taken into custody, you can make that call.

"You have five seconds to lay on the ground, or we will open fire."

KG mutters to himself, "I don't think so."

Calling upon the Force, Kurrelgyrre charges with blurring speed toward the group of soldiers while crying, "I will not be a prisoner! Never again!"

Reaching them within a second, the Wookiee rushes into the group while pushing against the first two in his way. The two hit by the rush attack fly backward into the soldiers behind them, knocking eight of them to the ground.

"What in the blazes . . . !?!" mutters Snteil to himself. "Damn it! Zeethree, keep your head down. They're not going to shoot a droid."

Snteil begins sprinting toward the Aurora. After a few meters, he yells over his shoulder, "Arsix, look after Zeethree!"

"Great!" exclaims Zeethree sarcastically. "I get to use Mr. Wisedroid as a shield!"

He looks at Arsix for a brief second and wonders out loud as he begins to walk toward the astromech droid, "I wonder if I could really hide behind him."

Seeing the action taking place down the hill and the Sullustan running towards them, the troops at the bottom of the boarding ramp to the Aurora aim their rifles and open fire. The first shot comes dangerously close, but Snteil manages to avoid the shot and the rest that come toward him as he continues to run to his ship.

After making a slight adjustment on their rifles, the two standing soldiers open fire on Kurrelgyrre. The first stun bolt hits the Wookiee, but he fights against it. The second bolt hits home, and KG crumples to the ground as its debilitating effects overwhelm him.

Snteil stops about halfway to the ship, draws his blaster and fires on the soldiers standing guard outside the ship. The shots fly past the ship, missing their intended target. But, the soldiers react to the assault. One dives behind the boarding ramp, while the other three drop to the ground.

Two of the prone guards look up enough to return fire. The first shot forces Snteil to dive to the ground, and the other three shots fly harmlessly overhead.

Aiming his blaster up the hill, Snteil fires at the prone soldiers in front of his ship. The first shot hits dangerously close to one of the troops and sprays dirt in his direction, the second shot passes over the soldiers lying on the ground, and the third impacts against one of the support struts for the ship's boarding ramp.

Kurrelgyrre, still stunned from the attack, remains on the ground. The other troops surround him, taking up defensive positions with rifles aimed at the Wookiee.

At that moment, Zeethree pops up from behind Arsix and yells, "Hey! You forgot me!" As he turns and starts to shuffle hurriedly toward the tree line, he cries out, "Can't catch me!" Arsix yelps an electronic response at the protocol droid now fleeing away from him, turns and starts chasing him.

One of the soldiers aims his rifle at Zeethree, but another pushes the rifle down and says, "No, go get them. They're only droids. No real threat." The first soldier nods and takes three others with him as they jog down the hill toward the two droids.

The troops in front of the Aurora take aim and return with a barrage of blaster fire. Snteil rolls to the side to avoid being hit by the first shot and also manages to avoid the other three fired at him as they singe the tall blades of grass near him.

After a short moment, Kurrelgyrre awakens and suddenly feels a sharp pain in his arms, as binders too small for his wrists are squeezed shut.

Snteil, after assessing the situation, drops his blaster to the ground, stands to his feet, puts his hands above his head and cries, "Hold your fire! Hold your fire! We surrender!"

In response to the call for surrender, the four soldiers standing guard rapidly move down the hill toward Snteil with rifles at the ready. Two soldiers emerge from inside the Aurora as the four guards move away from the ship.

Zeethree, hearing his compatriot yell for surrender, stops his flight to the woods and turns in time to see his two of his pursuers catch up and seize Arsix. The other two soldiers in the chase continue to run and capture Zeethree.

Arsix opens a panel in his side, allowing his saw blade to emerge, and turns to swipe at one of his captors, barely missing his leg. The soldier cries out in alarm and hits the droid with the butt of his rifle. The impact severely dents Arsix's domed head, causing a spark to fly out and a painful computerized cry from the little droid.

After confirming that the binders are securely in place, the soldier steps away from the Wookiee and orders, "Take him to the drop point."

The soldiers escort Kurrelgyrre, Snteil and the droids north for about a kilometer to an open field. A moment after placing binders on Snteil and taking his and KG's weapons, a large repulsorcraft appears from over a nearby hill and flies toward them. Stopping overhead, the vehicle slowly descends until it floats just off the ground. After the prisoners are shoved through the large side hatch, the soldiers board the craft, and the vehicle ascends into the midday sky.

* A short time later after the craft has landed, Kurrelgyrre and Snteil are escorted to a short, drab building and taken inside. The two are taken down a hall and separated into two different rooms. The binders are removed, and they are each left alone in their rooms.

Entering into a meditative trance, Kurrelgyrre reaches out with the Force to survey his new surroundings. After a few seconds, he finds Snteil a short distance from him in a similar room. Continuing the search locates his lightsaber and his friend's weapons in another room not too far away.

Meanwhile, Snteil begins looking around the room for audio bugs and hidden cameras. His first search reveals nothing, but searching again finds a hidden audio bug under the table in the middle of the room.

Carefully removing the bug from the bottom of the table, Snteil quietly places it on the floor, lifts a corner of the table and smashes the bug by slamming the table leg down onto it.

After a minute, the door opens.

Snteil mutters under his breath, "Blast it, now what?"

Three uniformed figures step into the room. All three are wearing the same green uniforms, but two of them have the mirror-face helmets. The third one, appearing to have a higher rank from the additional decorations on his shirt, steps in front of the other two and sits at the table in a chair opposite Snteil.

Finally able to see how they truly appear, Snteil can see the thick, yellow exoskeleton that covers his thin head. Deep-set eyes peer coldly at the Sullustan, while Snteil continues to notice the being's flanged ear holes and toothless mouth with deeply serrated lips.

Casually looking down at the floor where the bug was smashed, the ranking official looks back at Snteil and begins to speak. His speech is unrecognizable at first, but a translator device pinned on his collar activates and states, "It appears that you've found our listening device."

"I don't appreciate being eavesdropped on," replies Snteil bitterly. Quickly changing his attitude, he slyly adds, "Besides, if you don't want it found, you should conceal it better in the future."

The officer glares at Snteil for a brief moment before continuing, "Tell me, why were you out in that field? There appears to be nothing out there."

"That's what we were there to find out. A previous master of my hairy friend you've got locked up somewhere has been missing. We are merely searching for him. We know he came here, so we thought we'd stop by and see if we could find any trace of him. While we found no info on our missing Jedi, I did come across this interesting story about a ship that re-entered and crashed. I was just interested in sightseeing before we moved on to the next planet. I didn't realize sightseeing was a crime."

"Sightseeing is not a crime," the officer interjects in a serious tone. "But, trespassing in a restricted area is. Did you even bother to check the local maps before flying out there, or did you deliberately disregard the warnings?"

"Now," interrupts Snteil. "Why don't you answer me a few questions. Why are we being detained? What did you do with my ship? Where is my friend? I should tell you, Wookiees do NOT like being kept locked up. I feel sorry for the first person who goes in there."

Slamming his hand on the tabletop, the officer harshly responds, "We are the ones asking the questions here! It would do you well to cooperate with us if you want to be released!"

He quickly rises from his chair, paces for a second and continues in a calmer demeanor, "Perhaps you should think about your current situation a little more, before we continue our little discussion." He, then, turns on his heel and walks out the door. The two guards watch Snteil as they move to the door and leave the room, closing and securing the door behind them.

A few moments pass, and the door to Kurrelgyrre's room opens.

Entering the room are the same three people as from Snteil's room. The one without the helmet sits at the table across from Kurrelgyrre. The two guards stand by the door with rifles ready.

The officer looks arrogantly at the Wookiee and says through his translator, "Before I begin asking questions, let me just inform you that full cooperation will be appreciated. And, we are willing to cooperate with you, if you do.

"Now, I understand you were out searching in a restricted area. What were you hoping to find there?"

"We were told by officials that the restriction was an old one and had since been lifted," replies Kurrelgyrre.

"Also, there were no signs at the area pointing out that it was a restricted area. The area wasn't even fenced off . . ."

The officer's eyes narrow slightly when he interrupts, "Did you consult any recent maps showing the area? Did you even bother to consult with starport control before heading over there?"

"I believe we filed a flight plan," Kurrelgyrre answers.

"According to our records," interjects the officer with a raised voice, "you strayed from that flight plan at approximately 1400 hours 36 minutes. That tells me that you intended to go there without asking first, which is a clear violation of Demaran airspace regulations!"

"Our intent was merely to look for my honor-friend. He is a Jedi Knight, and my teacher. His name is Jan Tolbara. Have you heard of him?"

Noticing the hostile glare from the interrogator, KG glares back at him. Their gazes lock for a moment. Finally, the officer looks away from Kurrelgyrre in silence for a few seconds before returning to the conversation.

"Look," he continues with a more relaxed tone. "Your intentions are fine, but you did not make them known to us. Had you reported your intent before flying into the restricted area without permission, this whole mess could have been avoided."

KG relaxes a bit. "I apologize for any miscommunication or any misunderstanding."

Rising to his feet, he adds, "I will speak to my superiors and ask for your release." He, then, turns and quickly leaves the room, followed by the two guards who shut and lock the door.

Satisfied with the conversation, Kurrelgyrre returns to his meditative trance.

A couple of hours pass, and the door opens to each room. Two helmeted guards armed with rifles enter, one quietly motioning toward the door while the other guards the doorway.

Kurrelgyrre and Snteil are escorted into the corridor, where they meet up with four more guards armed with rifles. The two guards leaving each room nudge the Wookiee and Sullustan to a set of double doors across the hall.

Walking through the double doors reveals a larger room with a desk just left of the doors and two areas partitioned by walls made of metal bars. Another guard sitting behind the desk rises to his feet and pulls out a large ring of metal keys as the group enters the room.

The guard with the keys walks past the group to the walls of metal bars. He inserts one of the keys into a lock and opens a door. Once the door is open, he turns back to the group and says something in his native tongue. The guards behind Kurrelgyrre begin pushing him toward the door.

KG turns his head towards them, giving them a look that says they really should not be pushing a Wookiee, and utters a small Wookiee growl.

Meeting Kurrelgyrre's glare, the guard that pushed him barks a sentence in his native tongue and points to the open door. Two of the guards behind him heft their rifles slightly in response.

With a grimace on his face, Kurrelgyrre walks forward and into the cell. The two guards behind Snteil nudge him forward. As the pilot begins walking toward the cell, one of the guards by the door sternly says something. The soldier by the open cell closes and locks the door. He, then, walks to the other cell, unlocks the door and opens it. Snteil is escorted to the other cell. After locking the second cell, all but one of the guards leaves the room.

Hours pass, and after several games of sabacc through the cell wall, sleep overcomes the two prisoners.

During the night, Snteil is awakened from his slumber by voices outside his cell. Not understanding their words but recognizing one of the voices as the elegant female voice heard earlier, he feigns sleep and eavesdrops on the conversation.

The two speak to each other for a moment while they approach the cell. The other one speaks with a deep, gruff voice.

The footsteps stop in front of Snteil's cell as the conversation continues for another moment. Finally, they begin to walk away from the cells.

Hearing them move away, Snteil peeks to see the visitors. The one with the female voice appears to be a highly decorated native soldier. The other, standing a head taller than the Demaran, wears what appears to be a black, leather outfit. His face, having pale skin that appears to be stretched back from his face, is covered with various tattoos and looks to have been subjected to various mutilations.

The pair moves through the double doors as they continue to talk, leaving the room empty.

Some time later, Snteil and Kurrelgyrre are awakened by nearby blaster fire. As the two are startled awake, they look up to see the one guard slumped backward in his chair behind the desk by the double doors with wisps of smoke rising from his chest. Zeethree lowers a blaster pistol, walks around the desk and begins searching the body.

Looking around the room, Kurrelgyrre sees no sign of his lightsaber. Closing his eyes and reaching out with the Force, he finds his lightsaber setting on a shelf inside a small storage room with other weapons, including Snteil's blasters.

"Snteil," KG whispers. "What's that droid of yours up to?"

Snteil answers with a smile, "He's getting us out of here!"

After searching the guard's body for a few seconds, Zeethree pulls out the ring of keys and walks over to Snteil's cell. While unlocking the door, Zeethree flatly states, "Didn't I tell you this was going to happen?"

"Yeah, true," Snteil responds. "I knew someday your ability to fire a blaster would come in handy."

Under his breath, Snteil adds, "I just hope we don't live to regret it."

Hearing Snteil's whisper, Kurrelgyrre whispers, "I'm sure we won't."

"I don't know about you, Kurrelgyrre," continues the Sullustan. "But, my conversation wasn't too pleasant with the guards. I heard a couple of them last night. I don't know what they were saying, but I wasn't too happy with the way it was being said. I think the sooner we get out of here, the better.

"Zeethree, I don't suppose you know where Arsix, our equipment, and the Aurora is, do you?"

At this point, KG interrupts, "The weapons are in a nearby storage room.

"We'll discuss last night when we get back to the ship. I have a feeling that all is not as it seems."

With a nod, Zeethree walks over to KG's cell and unlocks it.

"Arsix is in the machine shop jacked into the computer system," Zeethree answers. "He's keeping the security cameras offline, while we move about.

"As for your equipment, it should be right through that door," continues the droid, pointing to a door opposite the cell doors.

"Alright," Snteil answers. "I'll go get our stuff."

Hurriedly walking to the door, Snteil is stopped short by the sight of a maglock on the door. A numeric keypad with a card slot is attached to the wall next to the door.

"Hey, guys!" cries Snteil softly. "Check those guards for a key card, would you? This door is locked with a keypad and card slot."

Zeethree, after unlocking Kurrelgyrre's cell, walks over to the dead guard and searches him again. After several seconds, Zeethree pulls a card out of one of the shirt pockets and walks it over to Snteil.

After taking the card from the droid, Snteil swipes it through the slot next to the keypad. A little red light on the keypad turns green, and the door opens.

Looking into the room shows a smaller room. The opposite wall stretches diagonally away from the door to the opposite corner and holds four doors. The three closest doors have a card slot and keypad next to them. On the right wall, two doors, one of which is a set of double doors, lead out of the room. A desk with an empty chair sets in the corner facing the diagonal wall.

Pointing to the correct door from the doorway, KG states, "Snteil, our equipment is in that door there."

"Copy that!" Snteil answers. Swiping the keycard at the third door, Snteil watches as the light remains red for a full second and then finally turns green. Snteil opens the door and finds his blasters, the other equipment he was carrying, Kurrelgyrre's lightsaber and bowcaster and several other firearms and equipment.

Snteil also spots a blue translucent dodecahedron setting next to Snteil's blaster rifle. It looks to have some sort of inscriptions or hieroglyphs all over it.

"What do we do when we get our stuff?" inquires Kurrelgyrre. "Investigate further, or get the frell out of here?"

"I'm all for finding Arsix and the Aurora and getting out of here," Snteil answers immediately while gathering their stuff. "It doesn't seem like there's more going on here then just a BIG misunderstanding. Of course, I'm not sure why that area was so off limits."

"No," KG responds. "This was a setup. Too much coincidence after our last stop for my tastes. Still, I think we should 'regroup' and figure out what our next step is. No more barging into things for me."

After retrieving their items and grabbing the strange object, Snteil brings them back into the main room. He, then, gives KG his lightsaber and bowcaster, and re-holsters his weapons and puts on his backpack.

"Well, my tall hairy friend," Snteil interjects. "I think it's time for us to find you're little tin can friend and get out of here, whaddya think?"

"Agreed. Zeethree, where is Arsix?"

Turning to the Wookiee, Zeethree replies, "I left Arsix jacked into the computer system in the machine shop. It's two buildings over."

"Okay," Kurrelgyrre states. "Show us the way, Zeethree. Everyone, keep quiet and keep your eyes and ears open. Uh, no offense, Snteil."

With no response, Zeethree walks to the double doors through which he originally entered. Peeking through the doors, he waves to Kurrelgyrre and Snteil, indicating that the coast is clear. He silently opens the door and sneaks through, blaster pistol at the ready.

To the right several meters and down a few steps is the set of double doors that the group originally entered the building through. Only Zeethree is in the hall, and he is moving quietly toward the doors while occasionally glancing behind him.

As the trio make their way to the doors leading outside, Kurrelgyrre's footfalls echo down the hall as the claws from his feet tap against the tiled floor.

Halfway to the doors, a door is heard opening and closing somewhere behind them. Quickly glancing back, nobody is seen down the hall, but footsteps is heard a short distance away. Stopping in their tracks, the group continue to listen, ready to react. After a few seconds, they determine that the footsteps are leading away from them, and they breathe a sigh of relief.

"That was close. A bit too close," KG whispers.

Reaching the doors, Zeethree opens one of the doors slightly and peers outward. After a few seconds, the droid waves them onward, and they covertly move through the doors.

Night has fallen, and the compound is lit by lamps attached to the various buildings scattered about the grounds. Activity is slow in the compound. The thick silence is broken only by a speeder heard in the distance.

Quietly, Zeethree points to a large building a short distance away.

"There's the machine shop," he whispers. "Arsix is in there."

"Wait, Zeethree," Snteil quietly states. "Did you and Arsix find out where they're keeping the Aurora? If it's not around here and we're going to have to make a break for it, I should go find us some transportation."

"One second, please," answers Zeethree. "He's been busy watching after us, but he's checking now."

After a slight pause, the droid continues, "It's currently parked in a hangar on the other side of the compound. It appears that they have been attempting to perform their own maintenance on it. He is also detecting two guards just outside the ship but doesn't know if anyone is inside. He has disabled the alarm inside the hangar, just in case."

Kurrelgyrre responds, "Alright, have him meet up with us, and we'll quietly go to the hangar. I just wonder what sort of 'maintenance' they did on it. Once we get to the ship, we'll have Arsix check the ship for tracking devices and bugs.

"If Radu were here, he'd just have the place blown up," the Wookiee thinks aloud softly.

Snteil nods and adds, "That makes sense. No one is going to question an astromech droid around. The three of us should sneak over to the hanger and take out the guards, while Arsix still has the security system down. Then, we can go over the ship and see what they did while we wait for Arsix to get over here. Then, we can get out of here.

"Does that sound like a plan?"

"I just hate having to go back for Arsix," KG replies. "If he has the security net down now, the chances of someone reactivating it before we escape is pretty slim. Your call."

"Okay, go get him. Zeethree and I will watch your back and cover you from out here."

"Zeethree has a comm," indicates Kurrelgyrre. "Zeethree, have Arsix meet us here pronto."

After a momentary pause, Zeethree answers, "Arsix says he should stay there. Evidently, the security system is trying to bring itself back online, and he's doing everything he can to keep it off."

"Okay," the Wookiee says after a brief second of thought. "We'll go on without him, then pick him up in a bit. Keep the comm channel open, Zeethree. Let's go get the Aurora."

"Zeethree, how far is it to the ship?" Snteil inquires.

Pointing across the compound, the droid replies, "About 120 meters that way."

"It's only 120 meters," states the Sullustan. "We don't need a speeder. Come on."

With a determined look and a nod, Snteil takes the lead. Watching the road as he approaches, he spots two guards inside a guard tower about 200 meters down the road. Snteil carefully times his movements and begins to make his way toward the road, staying within the shadows.

Not wishing to stay far behind, Kurrelgyrre and Zeethree hurry to keep up with the Sullustan. While looking around for any nearby guards, KG accidentally stubs his toe against a dark metallic object laying on the ground. The Wookiee winces from the unexpected pain, as the object tumbles noisily across the ground for a few meters before coming to rest in the dirt.

Stopping in his tracks at the sudden sound, Zeethree quickly looks around while keeping his blaster ready.

Snteil studies the guard tower for any reactions from the guards. No reaction is seen coming from the tower. Breathing a silent sigh of relief, Snteil waves his compatriots along.

Finally reaching the road, KG and Zeethree kneel next to Snteil to assess the situation. Pointing to the guard tower, Snteil also notices the main gate into the compound several meters further down the eight-meter-wide road.

Zeethree suddenly taps both Kurrelgyrre and Snteil on the shoulder and points in the opposite direction. Looking that way reveals a landing field, where several airspeeders matching the configuration seen earlier rest quietly next to fueling stations near a dim lamp post.

The droid looks back around and stares the hangar setting across the road from them for a long moment.

"If I wasn't in constant communication with Arsix," Zeethree whispers, "I would swear that an ambush was waiting for us inside that hangar."

At that moment, a speeder pulls up inside the main gate, and a soldier steps out from the front passenger seat. He walks up to the guard tower and begins ascending the stairs that run up the side of the structure.

Snteil quietly exclaims, "Now!" and begins rushing across the road toward the hangar door. Reacting within a split second, Kurrelgyrre and Zeethree follow closely behind him.

Without warning, Zeethree is narrowly missed by a crimson blaster bolt that lights up the area for a fraction of a second. Not waiting for a second, the droid begins moving as fast as he can toward the hangar.

"Damn!" swears Snteil.

Reaching the door, Snteil grasps the knob and turns to find that the door is locked. "Damn, again!"

After a hurried glance at the guard tower, they notice that one of the guards is pointing down the road toward the hangar as the other begins looking that direction. The guard pointing towards them is also holding a blaster rifle. The other guard appears to be reaching for something below him out of view.

Snteil instinctively pulls a tool from his belt and begins working on the door. As he starts to work on the lock, a small red light suddenly turns green next to the door, and an audible click is heard coming from the lock.

"Nice work, Snteil," KG says.

As Snteil turns answer, he finds Zeethree starting to take aim at the guard tower.

With lightning reflexes, Snteil grabs the gun and holds it down. He says in a forced whisper, "Do NOT fire, Zeethree. They may not be able to see us. Now, let's go. Get on board the Aurora and get her ready for take off. And, tell Arsix to get over here."

"Let's not forget Arsix," Kurrlegyrre exclaims. "Zeethree, tell Arsix to disable any tractor beams or clamps on the Aurora. Arrange to meet up with him, pronto. I'm not leaving that little droid behind. Also, before he leaves, have Arsix set up some sort of distraction for us, like a fake sensor reading or something."

"Good idea, Kurrlegyrre," says Snteil. "Now, how do you think we should defend our position?"

"I don't want to be caught outside the ship like last time," states KG.

"We'll defend from the Aurora. You prep her for take-off, and I'll work the belly cannon."

Snteil nods and replies, "Alright, sounds good. Go ahead and get strapped into the belly quad. The turret grav fields should still be on. Zeethree and I will get her ready for take off, and I can use the blaster cannon from the cockpit as well."

"You got it. Hopefully, the canon won't jam on me when I served on the Death From Above," KG says as he gives Snteil a wink and a toothy Wookiee smile.

Snteil gives a mock panicked look on his face, then a broad smile over his shoulder.

"When we're done with this, the brandy is on me."

Snteil answers, "I will hold you to that!"

Seeing the green light, Snteil pulls the door open and rushes through just in front of KG and Zeethree.

The three look around the dark hangar as the door behind them slowly swings shut. Windows lining the walls near the arched ceiling filter dim light from outside into the hangar, creating a foreboding atmosphere. An almost eerie silence fills the air.

The Aurora fills most of the space within the building, but a few areas where tools, components and work areas set are present.

After the door shuts, the faint sound of metal hitting metal is heard from inside the ship. The noise sounds as if something were dropped by accident.

KG whispers over to Snteil, "We've got company. We need to make sure that there aren't any surprises. Don't want to be blown up or tracked. Is it just me, or is this a bit too easy?"

Reaching out through the Force, Kurrelgyrre senses a single being inside the ship. This being does not appear to be a Force-user.

"What's going on up there, KG? Do you sense anything?" questions the Sullustan pilot.

"I'm sensing a single individual inside," Kurrelgyrre answers. "Whoever it is isn't a Force-user, which is to our advantage."

"There's one person inside, and three of us. Let's move in cautiously, and I think we can overtake them."

KG draws his saber, ready to ignite at a moment's notice.

Snteil nods and follows his Wookiee companion toward the Aurora while he says, "Zeethree, watch our six, okay?"

Zeethree raises his blaster pistol and takes his position in the back of the group.

Cautiously approaching the ship, Kurrelgyrre and Snteil watch the boarding ramp with intensity, while Zeethree keeps an eye on the doors leading out of the hangar. The silence that fills the building is disturbed only by the distant sounds of soldiers mustering.

Reaching the bottom of the ramp, KG looks into the darkness within the ship to see nothing unusual.

The Wookiee Jedi leans toward Snteil and whispers, "Snteil, let's check out the engines and the bridge real quick to make certain everything is okay. Let's get prepped for take-off, and get the frell out of here."

Moving up the boarding ramp, Snteil quickly moves aftward toward the ship's engines, followed by Zeethree. Kurrelgyrre, meanwhile, turns and rushes to the bridge. Seeing that everything is clear and looks good, he turns and dashes back to the engine room.

Reaching the engines, Snteil comes to a sudden stop as he stares with mouth agape at some of the engine mechanisms dismantled on the floor of the cargo hold. Zeethree barely manages to keep from running into the back of his friend, when he bolts into the room right behind the Sullustan. Without saying a word, Zeethree looks at the parts scattered about the room.

The sound of a part tumbling across the deck prompts Snteil and Zeethree to snap their attention to a Demaran wearing blue coveralls and holding a large tool trying to sneak out of the room. The protocol droid immediately brings his blaster to bear.

Snteil draws his blaster, aims it at the Demaran and yells, "Freeze, scumbag, or I'll shoot!"

As an aside to Zeethree, he continues, "Don't shoot him yet, Zeethree. Let me handle this."

At that point, light suddenly shines into the room from the doorway, as Kurrelgyrre's lightsaber is ignited and its wielder steps into the room. The Wookiee growls, "Whoever you are, you're on our ship. Surrender now, and nobody gets hurt."

The Demaran, looking frantically between the three new arrivals, drops the tool and raises his hands into the air while anxiously saying something in his native language.

"Like we believe that," Zeethree responds as he walks over to the native, grabs him by the collar and shoves him to the deck. As the Demaran begins to get up, the droid presses the muzzle of his blaster into the back of his head and says something in a menacing tone to him in his native language.

"ZEETHREE!!" Snteil screams at the droid. "WHAT did I tell you? Get that gun out of the back of his head and put it down, and do your job for once as translator, please. After all, I am the boss on this ship."

Looking at Snteil for a brief moment, Zeethree withdraws the blaster from the Demaran's head and replies, "Sorry, sir. I just wanted to make sure that he didn't do anything to us."

Zeethree walks to a monitoring panel and lays the blaster down. After he walks away, the native slowly stands and raises his hands nervously into the air.

Snteil then asks, "Now, what did he just say, and what did you just say back to him?"

"He was saying," answers the droid, "that he didn't want to die and that he was innocent."

After a brief moment of examination, Kurrelgyrre does not see any kind of restraining bolt, or anything else for that matter, added to Zeethree.

Finding a roll of some sort of adhesive tape in the technician's tool belt, Kurrelgyrre binds the Demaran's hands together and sits him down in a corner of the room.

"Zeethree, translate for me."

"If I may, sir," the droid interrupts. "This may not be a good time. Those soldiers outside may be here any minute. Interrogating the prisoner now may get us caught again."

Snteil interjects, "Zeethree, plug yourself into the Aurora and do a quick diagonstics test. Talk to her, find out what's been tampered with. Also, is Arsix on his way yet?"

"Snteil," Kurrelgyrre adds, "I'm going to check the engines real quick. We're going to need you in the cockpit. We need to get out of here, and pronto."

The Wookiee turns to the engine room and continues, "Okay, baby, talk to me. What did the bad man do to you?"

"Where the hell is Arsix anyway?" KG cries after a short moment of silence, as he begins looking over the engines.

Zeethree glares at their prisoner for a brief moment before walking over to an active console and jacks into it. Within seconds, Snteil restores power to the ship.

After a moment, Kurrelgyrre realizes that one of the ion drive units is still intact and operational right before Zeethree states to the Wookiee, "Repulsorlifts are still online."

Snteil smiles as the panels begin lighting up around him, when he glances up. The front door bursts open, and several soldiers begin flooding into the hangar and heading toward the ship.

"Kurrlie," cries Snteil. "We've got company! And where is that blasted droid of yours?"

"Snteil," Kurrelgyrre yells toward the cockpit. "We can't leave the planet, but we can get out of here. You start taking off, I'm going to the quad."

The pilot answers, "Copy!"

Turning back to the droid, he continues, "Zeethree, watch over our prisoner. Contact Arsix. We're not leaving here without him."

With that, KG hurriedly leaves the engine room and heads to the lower quad cannon.

"Uh . . . actually, Zeethree," Snteil replies from the cockpit, "lock that guy in the holding cell and come up here. I need your help."

As Kurrelgyrre runs out of Engineering toward the gun well, Zeethree grabs his blaster from the console, followed by the Demaran by his collar. He then directs him toward the holding cell at gunpoint.

Snteil, seeing that the ship is still not ready to launch, activates the blaster cannon.

A small hatch on the underside of the starboard mandible opens, allowing a blaster cannon to drop into place. With the touch of a trigger inside the cockpit, the cannon opens fire.

The Aurora's weapon fires a salvo of blaster bolts in rapid succession at the approaching soldiers. As four shots strike down their intended targets, the rest begin diving for whatever cover they can find within the dark hangar.

The soldiers have not responded to the sudden attack thus far, but they appear to be concentrating on finding sufficient cover.

As Snteil fires upon the encroaching soldiers, Zeethree calls to the cockpit via comlink, "Diagnostics complete. Systems are online, and Kurrelgyrre says that one engine is in running order. We should be able to launch soon."

"Copy that Zeethree," Snteil cries back. "Where is that damn astromech anyway?"

The Aurora's mounted blaster continues to fire repeatedly at the soldiers, shattering windows and smashing through the walls and repair workstations around the hangar.

As Kurrelgyrre slides into the lower gunner's seat and begins to prep the quad laser cannon, he looks outside and notices that some of the soldiers have begun to fire at the mounted blaster firing at them.

A few soldiers near the starboard side of the ship aim their rifles through small openings in their cover and open fire at the blaster. Several shots hit their mark, damaging the mounted blaster and stopping the assault against the native troops.

The quad laser cannons are ready within seconds, and Kurrelgyrre grasps the controls and fires at the cover in front of the soldiers that took out the mounted blaster. The lethal bolts of energy blast into the metallic crates, shredding them from the mere force of the shots and sending shrapnel across the hangar. The soldiers, attempting to get away from the sudden attack, avoid the blasts but are caught in the resulting explosion of metal and kinetic force and knocked to the floor.

Soldiers near the front of the ship, taking advantage of the distraction, run for the Aurora's forward boarding ramp.

Seeing the soldiers rush the ship, Snteil slams the switch to close the boarding ramp.

As the ramp begins to rise, the two soldiers in the lead dive toward the ramp to ride it inside. The two soldiers easily land on the platform as it continues to lift toward the Aurora. Two others, seeing that cannot make it in time, begin to fire at the ramp's supports. Their shots hit the supports, damaging them while they lift the ramp into place, but the damage is not enough to stop the ramp.

The two soldiers on the ramp scramble to their feet and begin moving up the ramp with rifles ready.

Kurrelgyrre brings the turret about and fires on the soldiers near the front of the ship. Two bursts from the quad laser cannons drop two of the soldiers, causing the rest to dive for cover once more.

Toggling on the comm, Kurrelgyrre anxiously announces, "Zeethree, check out the boarding ramp. We've got company!"

As Zeethree runs past the gun well, the droid responds, "Already on it!"

"And Snteil," KG continues through the comm, "you have a go to shoot to kill!"

An instant later, Zeethree cries, "Snteil, shut the cockpit door!"

"Copy!" Snteil slams the switch to shut the door.

As Snteil shuts the door to the cockpit, Zeethree lowers the BlasTech T-21 repeating blaster he carried from the armory and fires in full auto mode on the soldiers at the top of the ramp. As the droid sweeps the weapon across the corridor, two shots hit the walls near the boarding ramp. But, the third shot solidly hits one of the soldiers, causing burned chitin to burst from the soldier's chest and knock the lifeless body to the deck.

The remaining soldier jumps to the side of the hall and returns fire at Zeethree. The crimson droid manages to avoid the first shot, but the soldier's second shot slams into Zeethree's chest. Sparks shower out from his chest, and he drops the rifle as he is knocked back from the impact. As the droid lands hard against the deck, his power systems cease.

Kurrelgyrre climbs out of the gunwell and opens the door leading to the front of the ship. As soon as the door is open, he spots a single armed soldier cautiously sneaking down the main corridor toward him, as well as a dead soldier near the boarding ramp and Zeethree flat against the deck with a blaster wound in his chestplate. The droid is not moving.

Upon opening the door, the soldier catches sight of the Wookiee and aims his rifle.

Activating his lightsaber, Kurrelgyrre surges forward and swings his lightsaber. The lethal energy blade slices through the soldier's weapon, splitting it in two.

The soldier, dropping the useless pieces to the deck, dives at the Wookiee.

KG quickly thrusts his lightsaber at the incoming soldier and drives the blade through the Demaran's torso. Unable to stop the dive, the soldier knocks the Wookiee to the deck and lays on top of him as he dies.

Snteil raises the shields around the Aurora and powers up the engines.

As the engines roar to life, the soldiers begin firing at the ship once more from behind their makeshift barricades. The shots are deflected by the shields, causing no damage to the ship.

Through one of the hangar's side doors, Arsix rolls in.

The Wookiee softly says to himself as he pushes the dead body off, "There was no reason for his death, had he done the honorable thing."

Standing to his feet, KG yells down toward the cockpit, "Snteil, I've got the last of the intruders. I'll see what I can do about Zeethree.

"Damn, where the hell is Arsix? I'm not leaving without him."

Kurrelgyrre rushes to Zeethree to begin inspecting the fallen droid's body.

Engaging the repulsorlifts, Snteil lifts the ship off the ground and rotates it 90 degrees to port, positioning the boarding ramp close to the approaching astromech droid. The soldiers continue to fire at the ship from behind some cover they found, with their shots bouncing harmlessly off the shields.

At this point, Snteil opens the cockpit door and finds his droid companion sprawled on the corridor floor.

"Aw! Damn, Zeethree! Not again!"

Kurrelgyrre looks up and says, "Snteil, it doesn't look good. He's shot up pretty bad. In order to fix him, we're going to have to take Zeethree's programming from the Aurora's computer, and get a new droid body. I'm sorry."

With a sigh, the Sullustan states, "We'll have to repair him later.

"Kurrlegyrre, Arsix is on his way. I'm going to need you to open the ramp. We've still got shields, but they could run through them. So, you're going to have to make a stand here and make sure no one gets on board while we wait for Arsix. I'm going to the belly turret. I'll try and keep those damn soldiers off your droid! As soon as I'm in, open the ramp."

"You got it," KG answers.

Snteil quickly rises from his seat and sprints down the corridor, while Kurrelgyrre carefully rushes to the top of the boarding ramp.

As Snteil settles into the ventral turret, he mutters to himself, "Come on, Arsix. Hurry up!"

Reaching the boarding ramp, Kurrelgyrre activates his lightsaber and hits the switch to open the ramp. The ramp begins to open, but one of the supports gives way from damage done by one of the soldier's shots, causing the ramp to stop after opening only one meter. Hitting the switch to close the ramp proves that the ramp is stuck in place and will not budge.

Kurrelgyrre mutters something unintelligible under his breath and cries, "Snteil, we've got trouble with the ramp! I can't get it to budge. I'm going to have to be creative. Keep that cover fire up. We need to get out of here before reinforcements show up. You got another way out of this bucket of bolts?"

With the quad laser cannon already powered up, Snteil does not hesitate to take the controls and begin firing at the soldiers. His first shot blows apart most of the cover for a number of soldiers, with one of them being killed from the concussion of the shot. The second shot takes out a soldier attempting to find cover elsewhere.

As Arsix approaches the front of the ship, one of the soldiers notices the droid and turns to shoot it. Arsix stops and turns as a front panel opens up and a long, black cylinder emerges from the panel. The soldier fires, but his shot skips off the edge of the Aurora's shields. Arsix compensates for the shield and fires a blaster bolt from the cylinder. The droid's shot smashes through the trooper's abdomen, causing him to wince in pain and drop dead to the floor.

Snteil continues his attack from the ship's turret, as he takes aim at the two remaining soldiers inside the hangar. The first soldier is killed, when he rises from his cover to fire at the ship. Seeing an opportunity, the last soldier attempts to run for the door leading out of the hangar.

After shooting the soldier, Arsix turns and continues toward the boarding ramp. At the back of the transport, Kurrelgyrre descends on the cargo elevator platform with lightsaber activated. Seeing his droid for the first time in several hours, a look of elation crosses his face, and he beckons his droid to come to him. Arsix picks up his pace and charges toward his Wookiee master.

Taking a quick glance down, Snteil notices that Arsix has passed through the ray shielding and has reached the cargo elevator. As the platform rises into the ship, Snteil climbs out of the gunwell, letting the last remaining soldier flee out of the hangar door.

Within seconds, Snteil has reached the cockpit and strapped in. Hearing a yell from the back of the ship telling him that his friends are safely aboard, the pilot raises the particle shields, hits a switch and fires a concussion missile point blank at the hangar bay doors.

Shards of metal and debris fly out from the explosion, showering the Aurora with the remains of the doors. As the raining debris subsides, Snteil punches the throttle and flies the ship through the opening to freedom.

One hundred meters down the main road, two Demaran tanks stop after seeing the explosion from the hangar. As the Aurora shoots toward the sky, the tanks open fire. Snteil maneuvers his ship to easily avoid the attack and continues its flight into the night sky.

"Arsix, you okay?" Kurrelgyrre exclaims. "You had us worried there, especially after what happened to Zeethree."

After Arsix gives his response in Binary, KG points out Zeethree to Arsix, rises and moves the motionless protocol droid to the lounge to allow his droid to examine him.

Kurrelgyrre walks to the cockpit after seeing Arsix begin his work and sits in the co-pilot's seat.

Taking a deep breath, the Wookiee starts, "I don't know about you, but I'm tired of these 'warm welcomes'. We need a place to stay low and get the Aurora fixed. I'm not sure we can trust the authorities here. Do we have a spaceport we could land at, or do you have another idea?"

"Yeah. Me, too. You'd think some of the places would be a little more welcoming to one of the New Republic's new Jedi?" Snteil answers with a smile.

"I don't know," the Sullustan continues as he pulls up a log to look for information about this planet, trying to find a port town that would suit their needs. "I agree. We can't trust the authorities here, though. Because of that, I think I'd rather hide the Aurora on the outskirts of some low level town and do the repairs there. And maybe one of us, or both, could head into town if we needed supplies of any sort. I'm sure I have what I need to repair the ramp, but you never know. Plus, if Arsix can't do anything with Zeethree, I will need to get him a new torso at sometime. But, like I said, I'm not sure we can trust any port authorities, if they see the ship. I think we should find a place to hide it."

Sifting through information about Demara, Snteil is reminded that the planet has only one starport, which has facilities for ship repair, a marketplace with literally hundreds of local vendors selling things from native cuisine to state-of-the-art computer and electronic equipment, speeder rentals and a booming tourism industry.

Looking over his friend's shoulder, Kurrelgyrre interjects, "It doesn't look like we have many options at this rate. We will need the resources of the starport to repair the ship, and to get Zeethree fixed up. I hate to say it, but that seems to be our only option."

A scowl crosses Snteilís face, and he turns to the sensors display to begin to plot a course to the starport. He stops and studies the sensors for a moment. The readings of the area show that a small town is near the military base. The beacon for the starport indicates that it is located several hundred miles east of the Auroraís current location. A large city surrounds the starport proper, and topographical readouts show several potential hiding places for the ship, including a large forest and a mountain range within 50 km of the city. Sensors also show a large disturbance back at the military base, namely several explosions on the airfield.

"Okay," says Snteil. "I think I'm gonna put 'er down in the forest outside the starport town. There is a small town down below us, but I don't think I want to risk landing again so close to the base. What do you think?"

"Sounds good to me," Kurrelgyrre replies. "That will give us some cover, but also some access to what we need. We should also send a message to the Jedi Academy on our whereabouts."

As Snteil turns the craft toward the forest, KG sits back in the co-pilot's seat and begins to silently meditate.

Before Kurrelgyrre begins to clear his mind, he thinks to himself, "Xai-Dun Kimm once saved my life, but at the cost of his own. The only way to repay that life debt was to become a Jedi myself. Yet, I would never have been able to without the training of Jan Tolbara.

"We will find you, my honor-friend. We will never give up."