Desperately Needed Repairs
Little time passes, as the Aurora speeds over the treeline searching for a clearing large enough to land safely. After a short search, Snteil sets his ship easily into a forest clearing and proceeds to shut down the ship.
Before powering down the ship, Snteil checks the sensors one last time. Sensors indicate that the city limits for the starport are approximately 45 km west of their current position, but a smaller town is at the edge of the forest about 10 km west.
After informing Kurrelgyrre of the new readings, the Wookiee answers, "Perhaps we can rent a speeder here, then travel on to the spaceport.
"Arsix!" KG cries suddenly. "We need you to put together an inventory of parts we need."
Arsix whistles a response, turns and heads to the back of the ship. After several minutes, the droid returns to the cockpit and gives a response.
Realizing that Zeethree is not there to translate what the little droid is saying, the Sullustan pilot figures out a way to fix it. After borrowing some files from Zeethree's uploaded programming, Snteil sets up a translator program in the Aurora's computer.
Arsix jacks into the computer interface and repeats himself. The display shows, "I checked the engine parts like you asked. It looks like they're all there. It's just that it was taken apart."
Reading the translation, Kurrelgyrre says, "Okay, good. Let's see what we can do about re-assembling everything."
Turning to his friend, he adds, "Snteil, if you would care to assist?"
"Assist!?" Snteil exclaims in a mock insulted tone, "This is my bird, Kurrley. I think you'll be assisting me."
"As you wish," KG replies with a wink.
As the two exchange smiles, they walk to the back of the ship to begin repairing the engines.
Several hours pass, as the two companions work patiently together reassembling the ship’s engines. At one point, Snteil breaks the silence hanging in the air by relaying his encounter with the high-ranking Demaran soldier and the strange, mutilated being that observed them in their cell the night before.
"What do you make of that? I don't know about your interrogation, but mine certainly didn't go well. I never did find out why we were being detained. But after that conversation, I've never been happier to see Zeethree with a blaster."
Snteil’s voice catches after mentioning his fallen droid, and he turns from the conversation for a moment to compose himself.
"I'm not sure what to make out from that pair you saw," Kurrelgyrre answers, unaware of Snteil’s sudden emotional outbreak. "Sounds like you didn't hear much. Never heard of a species like the one you described, but the galaxy is full of sentient species.
"You know, we didn't hit the base that hard. It blew up on its own, and I'm betting our pair of conspirators are behind it. I'm betting they'll be after us as well."
Snteil holds his hand out for a tool, and the Wookiee looks at where his friend is working, retrieves the necessary tool, hands it to him and continues, "We should probably not announce ourselves too much from this point forward."
Trying to reach another section of the engine, Snteil turns on his side.
"Ow!" he exclaims from a little pain and rolls back. Reaching into his pocket, he pulls out the blue translucent dodecahedron he took from the military base the day before.
"Hey, Kurrely! Take a look at this!" Snteil holds up the object for the Wookiee to observe.
KG ponders over it for a moment and says rhetorically, "I've got a bad feeling about this."
With a shrug, Snteil adds, "I don't know. Maybe Arsix knows what it is.
"We’ll ask him later," concludes the Sullustan as he puts it in the tool box for safe keeping and returns to repairing the engines.
A few hours later, Arsix rolls into the engine room and activates the overhead lights. The room that was slowly getting dark suddenly brightens, startling a certain Sullustan pilot.
Squinting the spots from his eyes, Snteil crawls out from under one of the engines and looks around. Hearing his stomach grumble, he looks up at Kurrelgyrre and says, "Let’s get something to eat!"
The two grab a ration bar each and settle down in front of the ship’s holding cell.
Snteil states while munching on a ration bar, "Well, what d’ya think, Kurrelgyrre? Shall we see what we can find out from this mynock thug?"
KG nods and answers, "Sure. We can give him some ration bars to eat. I say we release him when we're ready to leave. Lead the way."
Reaching for another ration bar, Snteil suddenly realizes, "Crud! I just remembered! We don’t speak his language, and Zeethree’s not working."
"Don't worry about it, Snteil," comforts Kurrelgyrre. "We'll just finish repairs, and then dump this sleazeoid. We'll get off-planet, and then find a new chassis for Zeethree. Sound good?"
Snteil shrugs without saying a word and picks up the ration bar. He walks over to the holding cell, opens the door, tosses the bar to the Demaran prisoner and shuts the door, securing it before walking away.
After finishing their meal, they return to repairing the engines.
About an hour later, Snteil notices an extra wire within the works.
"Ah, Kurrelgyrre," calls the Sullustan, "look at this."
Pointing out the wire to KG after he walks to Snteil, he continues, "Where did this come from?"
After a short pause, then it dawns on Snteil, "Aw hell! It has to be that spaz we caught messing with the engines. I wonder what it does."
With a frown, Kurrelgyrre begins following the wire to see where it leads. Following the wire one way leads to the end of the wire, showing it dangling freely. The other end of the wire is connected to a mechanism nestled into the workings of the ion engine. The mechanism does not appear to be active.
Carefully reaching in, Kurrelgyrre gently lifts the device from its resting place and withdraws it from the engine. The object is a metallic cylinder with a flattened cone shape featuring a single button and a light on one end. The item does not appear to active.
"Well, well, well," comments the Wookiee. "Looks like our 'friend' was trying to leave us a present. If this is what I think it is, we may have been blown to bits."
"That slimy little son of a mynock!" Snteil cries. "I'll kill him! I will! You watch."
Taking the device from Kurrelgyrre, Snteil looks it over and opens a side panel. After another moment of examination, he confirms his fears and determines that it is indeed a bomb.
Snteil tries to remain calm as his blood starts to boil. "Well, it's not activated, so it's completely safe for now." He looks back at the holding cell for the Demaran.
"What we need to do," Snteil continues, "after we get the engines fixed, but before we fix the ramp, is fly up to a nice altitude, and then boot this guy out without a life-chute!"
"NGH!!" Snteil grabs the bomb, pulls his blaster out of its holster and heads towards holding cell. KG gets up and follows his companion.
"Blast!" the Jedi thinks to himself. "He has got to learn to control his anger, or he will walk down the path I once walked down! Otherwise, his fledgling talent with the Force will work against him, turning him to the Dark Side!"
"I must convince him that he needs to train, so that he can control his abilities."
"NOBODY messes with my ship!" Snteil says to KG over his shoulder as he opens the door to the brig and steps in.
As the door slides open, the Demaran sitting on the floor looks up at Snteil entering the brig. Pressing the muzzle of his blaster to the native's head, Snteil holds up the bomb and exclaims, "What in the blazes is this!?! Who are you!?! Why did you want to destroy my ship!?! Who do you work for!?! You had better start talking, creep!!!"
Reaching the door, KG steps just inside the cell, looks at Snteil, then at the prisoner, then back to Snteil without saying a word.
The Demaran's mouth drops open as he quickly glances back and forth several times between Snteil's face and the bomb. Finally, words of desperation explode from him in his native tongue. He continues with a long string of unintelligible words, each one sounding more emotional than the one before.
After what seems like several minutes of nonstop pleas, the Demaran finally collapses on the floor in a fit of sobbing.
"Why don't we try repeating that . . . in BASIC!" screams Snteil as he obviously clicks the safety of his blaster into the "OFF" position.
Hearing the click, the Demaran looks up to see Snteil point the blaster at his head again. He merely drops his head again and continues his sobbing.
KG walks up to Snteil, looks back and forth between him and the Demaran, and shakes his head while mumbling something to himself.
"Damn it," Snteil says as he lowers his blaster and stands up. "Okay, so apparently he doesn't speak Basic. How can one not speak Basic?"
"I don't speak Basic," Kurrelgyrre says with a stern look on his face.
Ignoring his friend's remark, Snteil continues, "I don't know what to do with him. We can't let him go. I've got enough food to sustain him for now, but we can't take him with us. Maybe we can just hold on to him until we're done with the repairs and can get Zeethree fixed. I want to find out who this guy is working for."
KG pulls Snteil over to the side and says, "Listen, tell you what. Let's hold him here until we're ready to leave the planet. We'll go to get some supplies before we head out. While we're out, we'll pick up a program that will allow the ship's computer to translate for us. We'll see what answers he can give.
"As you say, we can't take him with us. I'm not going to kill him, either. I'd be inclined to just leave him on the planet. However, we can buy a translation program, and we can see what info we get out of him first.
Snteil sighs and answers, "Okay. But, I’d rather get a new brain and chassis for Zeethree first, and then the translation program."
KG agrees, and the two of them return to work on the ship’s engines.
After almost two days' time with everyone working together, including Arsix, the engines are reassembled and in good working order.
While Snteil and Kurrelgyrre are putting the last of the tools away and Arsix is running the last set of diagnostics on the engines, a loud thump is heard from the top of the ship, as if something landed on it. After a long, quiet moment, three more thumps in rapid succession resound through the ship's hull.
Reaching out through the Force, Kurrelgyrre detects four lifeforms moving slowly across the top of the ship. None of them are Force-sensitive.
Seeing KG looking toward the top of the ship, Snteil asks, "What? What do you sense? Intruders?"
"I'm sensing four beings up top," replies the Wookiee. "I don't believe that they're Force-sensitive."
A momentary pause settles between the two companions, as each contemplates the situation.
Finally, Kurrelgyrre breaks the silence with, "I'm going out to check this out. Cover me."
He briskly walks from the room and heads to the front of the ship. Reaching the boarding ramp, KG hits the switch and waits for the ramp to settle into place.
As soon as the ramp begins to open, Snteil notices that the sounds of movement on top of the ship stop suddenly. After a few seconds, some movement is heard advancing toward the front of the ship.
Taking the Wookiee's advice, Snteil rushes to the ship's gunwell. "Let's see who's out there," mumbles the Sullustan to himself.
Kurrelgyrre descends the ramp to the leaf-littered ground. As he steps outside the ship, he draws and ignites his lightsaber. All seems to be at peace as he looks around the clearing, when the Wookiee suddenly gets the feeling he's being watched.
KG looks around, trying to find the intruders. He sniffs the air to see if his heightened sense of smell can pick up anything.
KG lets out one of those growls that roughly translates into "Don't mess with us."
"Whoever you are," Kurrelgyrre continues in his own language, "show yourselves. We're not playing games anymore. Show yourselves, or get the hell out of here and let us be."
Snteil climbs into the dorsal turret and activates the targeting computer. After a few seconds, the display fully activates and shows one target within the weapon's current fire arc near the front of the ship. Looking out, a smaller Demaran stands near the edge of the ship by the starboard mandible. Out of the corner of his eye, Snteil notices three more natives of similar height sneaking toward where the first one stands.
Kurrelgyrre, looking around the immediate area, catches sight of the native watching him from the top of the ship. The Wookiee turns suddenly and growls at him while holding his ignited lightsaber in front of him. The short native screams and turns to run away from the edge of the ship.
The first Demaran runs right into the group of three, causing all four of them to trip and fall down to the hull plating. As they scramble to regain their footing, one of them notices the quad laser cannon coming to bear at them and screams. The other three look at the cannon and scream in kind.
Flipping on the exterior voice magnifier, Snteil speaks into his headset, "I wouldn't move another inch if I were you! I'm a little sick of people messin' with my baby, and I'm not opposed to using this quad on people."
After Snteil's announcement, one of them holds his hands out in front of him and responds in Basic, "Please don't hurt us!"
"Who are you?" Snteil inquires angrily. "And what are you doing on MY ship?"
One of the natives in the back stands up, while his companions turn to him and quietly plead to him while shaking their heads. Nevertheless, he stands and says slowly, "We didn't mean any harm. We were just curious. My friend saw the ship come down tomorrow, and we came to look at it."
One of the Demarans that is still sitting nudges the standing one's leg and softly says, "Ka vess 'yesterday'."
The standing one acknowledges him, nods and hurriedly continues, "Yesterday! I meant yesterday. We saw the ship come down yesterday.
"Please don't hurt us," he meekly begs.
Sternly, Snteil states, "Get down off my ship. There's a Wookiee waiting for you on the ground. Don't anger him, we haven't had a good past few days."
Upon hearing his friend's statement, Kurrelgyrre shuts down his lightsaber and clips it back on his belt. Then, he puts on his fiercest face, crosses his arms and waits.
With a nod, the kids stand up and walk to the edge of the ship. They stop at the edge and look down silently for a long moment. Finally, one of the kids turns to the one next to him and says something. The other suddenly goes on the defensive and begins talking back to the first native. A pushing match unexpectedly erupts between the pair. The other two try to get between them to stop the sudden argument.
Kurrelgyrre leaps from the ground with assistance from the Force to the top of the starboard mandible of the Aurora next to the youths. The four natives, startled by the unexpected appearance of the Wookiee, stop their fight to stare wide-eyed at the new arrival.
"Hi," Kurrelgyrre says. "I'm a Wookiee. I'm a very tired, very stressed Wookiee, and I have a lightsaber. Mind telling me why you guys are on OUR ship?"
Unfortunately, his words fall upon ears that don't understand him. The children just stare at KG in wide-eyed horror.
Snteil, having climbed out of the turret and exited the ship via the boarding ramp, looks up at the Wookiee and the four kids after hearing KG's comments. He gives KG a confused look and almost laughs before composing himself and putting on a fierce, stern look.
"My friend here," cries Snteil, "just asked what you are doing on my ship. I'd like to know the answer to that as well. Come down here and don't give us any trouble, and we won't give any."
The kids look at Snteil as he speaks and then look at each other for a brief moment when he finishes. With a slight nod, one of them calls down, "How do we get up?"
Another one yells at the first, "Nad! Ka vess 'down'!"
"Oh! Sorry! I mean down!"
"Same way you got up here," KG says sarcastically.
After a brief second of thought, Snteil answers, "Kurrelgyrre, would you mind showing them the way to the top hatch? I'll meet you inside. I've got some of my own questions for these kids as well."
With a nod, the Wookiee glares at the four Demaran youths and gestures for them to walk to the hatch on the top of the ship. They turn without hesitation and hastily make their way to the portal. KG, after following them, opens a small panel next to the hatch concealing a numeric keypad and enters the access code into the keypad.
The hatch opens, and the extendable ladder attached drops into place. Each of the four young natives, followed by Kurrelgyrre, climbs down into the corridor in front of the escape pod.
Snteil, after reboarding his ship, walks around the corner to meet with his guests as the first one reaches the floor. As each one of the Demarans reaches the floor, they begin to look around them with apparent amazement.
Closing the hatch behind him, KG reaches the floor and hits the switch to return the ladder to its storage compartment in the ceiling.
"Do ma vey!" exclaims one of the lads in whispered awe.
"So," Snteil says as he rounds the corner, "as my big friend asked earlier, who are you, and what were you doing sneaking around . . . ON . . . my ship?"
All four kids turn to Snteil and stare dumbfounded for what seems like a short eternity.
Finally, one of them answers with a hint of dread in his voice, "Well, sir. We were playing out in the woods . . . we don't have school today . . . and we found your ship. We'd never seen a ship up close, so we thought it would be kind of fun to get a closer look. Laudon said that . . ."
One of the kids pushes the speaker rather harshly at the mention of what is obviously his name. Before the first one pushes back, a third steps between them and whispers something to them in their native language.
Laudon steps back, and the first one continues, "Anyway, we climbed up a tree and jumped onto the ship from a nearby branch. We started looking around, when the furry guy showed up and the big gun on top turned and pointed at us.
"We didn't mean to hurt anything. Honest!"
KG just slaps his hand against his forehead, shaking his head. He starts laughing.
Looking at KG, Snteil tries unsuccessfully to stifle a chuckle. "Well, it would seem that you boys were just at the wrong place at the wrong time. We are searching for a friend of ours who crashed on this planet a while back. Unfortunately, it seems that his trail has led to a dead end on this planet. And in the process, we had a, uh . . . 'misunderstanding' with the local officials."
Pulling KG aside, Snteil whispers, "Do you think these kids could help us out? We could use them to talk to our prisoner, maybe find out what was really going on back at that base. And what was so special about that crash site that would get us arrested?"
KG finally calms his laugh down. "Give it a try. I'd like to know what is going on as well."
Snteil goes back over to the kids. "So, looks like we've got a bit of a problem. We can't keep you here, but we can't exactly let you go to tell people we're here either. What do you suggest we do?" he says, looking back and forth between KG and the kids.
Another of the natives blurts out, "We won't tell! Pressure!"
The other three yell, "Promise!"
Meekly, the first one says, "Oh, seh."
"Maybe you can help us out. Follow me." Snteil leads them back to the holding cell, picking up the bomb on the way. "We found this guy sneaking around my ship, we need to question him, but he doesn't speak Basic," Snteil adds as he hits the switch to open the cell door. "Can you help us out?"
One of the kids quickly adds while pointing at Kurrelgyrre, "As long as the big furry guy protects us!"
KG just smiles and pats his lightsaber, nodding his head.
Snteil tries to hide a smile, then says, "Okay, ask him who he is and why was he trying to plant this," holding up the bomb that was previously held in the prisoner's face, "on my ship?"
Looking into the cell, the children see the mechanic sitting on the floor in the far corner of the cell, slumped over his knees pressed against his chest.
After nodding an agreement, one of the kids turns to the mechanic and speaks to him in their native language. The mechanic, looking at the boy upon hearing words he understands, listens to the question. He glances at the bomb, sighs and calmly gives a long response.
"His name is Barthon," the youth answers. "He says that he didn't plant it. A couple of soldan came aboard the ship with it and put it into the part he was working on. They said they didn't have time to finish putting it in but would come back later that night to get it done."
A look of questioning concern crosses Snteil's face as he ponders the answer for a brief moment. Finally, he asks, "What was he doing working on my ship in the first place? What was he tampering with?"
After relaying the question and hearing the mechanic's response, the young translator says, "He says he was ordered by his superiors to take the engines apart to be studied. A few hours after he began, he was ordered to put them back together. It was while he was doing that that the soldan brought the object in."
Kurrelgyrre interrupts, "Snteil, have the Demaran Boys Choir here ask him who his superior is and what organization he works for."
Snteil does as his friend requests, then adds, "Why did you need to study my engines? And who are the Soldan you keep speaking of?"
"His superior is Sargat Teld Varsa," answers the native boy as he gives the translated response, "and he works for the army.
"He does not know why they wanted to study your engines. He was just told to take them apart and put them back together again.
"The soldan," he continues as he struggles to find the right words, "are the, um . . . fighting members of our planet's army. They are the ones in the green clothes and carry the guns. 'Soldan' is our word for them in our language. I don't know what word it is in Basic yet."
Snteil says, "Okay, there's just one more thing." At this point, Snteil relates the story about the two beings he saw during the night of his imprisonment at the military base.
"Can you tell me anything about them?"
The young translator responds, "The native sounds like one of the high-ranking Mariscans. He has never heard of the other one you speak of."
"Who are the Mariscans?" Snteil sharply blurts out. "And, why would they be interested in us? All we were doing was checking out an empty field. Why all the fuss about us? Why in the blazes would they want to blow us out of the sky with this!"
"Mariscan," replies the child, "is like Sargat. It's a word that I can't translate yet. It means . . . it's . . . it's like an important soldan."
"A very important soldan," adds another of the native children, to which all four nod in agreement.
Looking at KG for any sort of Jedi reaction to this, Snteil says to the kids and KG, "That still doesn't explain why they wanted us dead, especially for doing nothing more than checking out that old crash site."
"Probably because they thought there wasn't anything there anymore," Kurrelgyrre replies, "then they found out not only about us, but our mission. Suddenly, they have an interest."
"You know, as much as I want off this planet, I'm tempted to go back to that field."
"If time permits, then I will meditate upon matters and see if the Force can provide me with any insight."
After relaying Snteil's last statement and listening to the technician's response, the young Demaran answers, "He doesn't know why they would do that. All he knows is that they got your ship somehow and wanted him to take your engines apart and put them back together."
"Well," Snteil sighs, "I guess he's not much help. You should, however, tell him he's lucky I'm in a good mood and I got my ship back in working order. Otherwise, he'd get a blaster bolt between the eyes."
After a second of thought, he continues, "Anyway, we could use some help. See, this guy's friends blasted my friend to pieces . . . and pretty much fried his brain." Motioning to where Zeethree lays on a bench, Snteil adds, "We need to get some parts to repair him, but this guy’s friends may still be looking for us. So, it wouldn't be a good idea for us to go into town and buy the parts we need.
"Do you think a couple of you could go into town for us and get what we need? We've got more than enough credits. And when you get back, we can take you for a quick trip into orbit and back for being so helpful.
After hearing the Sullustan's offer, three of the kids excitedly agree. The fourth, however, appears to be hesitant and easily noticed by his friends. They start talking to him, trying to convince him to join their new activity. The wary one thinks for a few more seconds and finally nods.
As they turn back to Snteil, one of them asks, "When do we get started?"
"Right now would be perfect!" exclaims Snteil cheerfully, and he walks over to a computer console where a datapad sets, picks it up and accesses a parts list assembled for Zeethree’s repairs. He, also, pulls out a credit chip from his pocket as he walks back to the assembly.
"Okay, so you three then will need to take these credits and this." Handing them the datapad and the chip, he continues, "That should be plenty for what we need. I assume you know of a place where you can get this?"
One of the youths nods in response.
Snteil says, "Good. Please be quick. My friend and I are a bit anxious to be gone. We still have to find our missing friend."
Snteil quickly adds, "After we take you guys up for a trip, of course," and flashes them a smile and a wink.
KG motions to his Sullustan companion that the child that was previously unsure should be the one to stay behind.
After accepting the funds and the datapad, the four young ones softly discuss among themselves for a moment. They appear to come to an agreement, turn to the Sullustan, and the previously-hesitant one announces, "I will stay here, while my friends go to town for the parts."
The other three make their way out of the room, only to return a few seconds later. One of them looks at Snteil quizzically and asks, "Uh, how do we get out of here?"
Snteil smiles and answers, "Heh, right. Follow me." He leads them to the ramp and hits the button to open it.
"There ya go! Good luck! We'll see you back here in . . . how long do you suppose it will take?"
"Probably only a few thorras," one of them replies as they run down the boarding ramp and into the woods.
Looking to KG as he and the remaining native kid arrive at the top of the ramp, Snteil asks, "What's a thorra?"
Several hours pass, and the young Demaran has grown extremely bored several times from waiting. Arsix is spending some time trying to teach a game to him, but the droid's attempts seem to be failing. Apparently, the young one is getting frustrated from not being able to fully understand him, even after getting the droid plugged into the computer to be translated.
Night begins to fall, and the group of children has not returned yet. Finally, a knock is heard on the outside of the boarding ramp.
Rushing to the front of the ship, Snteil opens the boarding ramp to find several older Demarans waiting. They are not wearing the green uniforms of the soldiers, but some of them are carrying various rifles.
The Demaran in the front of the group says something in his native language. A faint, higher-pitched voice is heard from behind the boarding ramp, and the older one that spoke quickly squelches the voice with a sharp response. Then, he looks back up the ramp at the Sullustan waiting just inside the ship.
Nonchalantly resting his hand on his blaster, Snteil cries, "Who are you? And what do you want? I can't speak your language. So, if you don't speak Basic, this is going to be complicated."
The Demaran in front sternly asks a question in his native language as he tightens his grip on the rifle in his hands.
Toward the back of the ship, the young one looks at Kurrelgyrre and hastily says, "I think I heard Karn!" He jumps to his feet and begins to run from the room.
Seeing the native’s response, Snteil gives a flourish with his right hand that loosens the blaster in his holster while he continues, "Look, I TOLD you I can't understand your language, so why don't you calm down and get someone up here who speaks BASIC before someone gets hurt."
Noticing the flourish in the growing darkness, the two natives standing behind the one in the front snap their rifles forward to aim at Snteil. But, the front one continues to stare and intensely asks his question again.
The higher-pitched voice, which sounds much like one of the younger ones from earlier, almost pleads now. The adult in front does not change his glare nor does he respond.
Snteil studies the Demaran staring back at him. His composure appears to be made up of a mixture of anger and fear.
The young Demaran runs through the ship, stops at Snteil's side at the top of the boarding ramp and looks down at the assembly below.
Upon seeing the gathering, he says, "Uh-oh," in a low voice.
Through the darkness that is gradually creeping over the area, the adult at the front of the group sternly states something in his native tongue, and the boy answers while shaking his head and inches closer to the pilot next to him. The older native repeats what he said more urgently, but the boy remains at the Sullustan's side.
Another adult from the back of the small mob interjects something, to which the first adult nods some form of agreement.
"Snteil," the boy asks. "Can you close your weapon again? They say no harm will come to you if you do."
At this point, Kurrelgyrre walks up to the ship's entrance and stands next to Snteil to look down the ramp. Seeing the Wookiee appear, all of the armed adults quickly aim their rifles at him.
From under the ship behind the boarding ramp, a feminine voice cries out, "Karn!" One of the young Demarans rushes past the ramp, drops to his knees in front of the group and begins desperately pleading to them. An unarmed adult from within the gathering grabs Karn by the arm, pulls him back and begins scolding him.
KG pushes his way past Snteil and begins to calmly descend the ramp.
"Kurrely, what are you doing!?!" Snteil whispers loudly.
The Demaran adults train their weapons on him and watch his every step in a thick, eerie silence. Without warning, one of the rifles fires.
The Wookiee barely dodges the shot as it passes mere centimeters from him and hits the floor of the ramp.
Snteil instantly draws his blaster and jumps behind one of the ramp’s pylons for cover. Fearful that he may hit one of the children, he keeps his blaster pointed upwards for the time being.
"Blast it! Now what?!" he swears under my breath.
Kurrelgyrre stares in the direction of the person who fired upon him, then closes his eyes.
Remembering some lessons he learned at the Jedi Academy, KG whispers, "A Jedi uses his abilities not to attack, but to defend. A Jedi can sometimes take greater action through inaction."
The Wookiee Jedi kneels in front of the natives and bows his head.
As Kurrelgyrre starts to bow, one of the unarmed adults grabs the end of the rifle that was fired, shoves it toward the ground and says something to the rifle's owner in hushed, angry tones. The native that fired the shot replies quietly in what sounds like an apologetic tone.
Snteil watches his companion’s actions in stunned silence.
In a calm voice, he says. "I am Kurrelgyrre, Jedi Knight. My companion and I mean you no harm."
The entire assembly of Demarans is silenced by the Wookiee's course of action. Expecting the hairy creature to begin cutting through the armed adults near the ship, they are stunned by his docile act and watch in suspense, waiting to see their friends' reactions.
The apparent leader of the mob looks at KG in his vulnerable position, then back at each adult directly behind him. After saying something in his tongue, he looks at Snteil while keeping his rifle aimed at the Jedi.
"He says," one of the children speaks, "he does not understand your words, but you have shown peace in this dangerous situation. You have earned his respect and trust. Can he expect the same from your friend?"
Kurrelgyrre nods, knowing the Demaran cannot understand him. He then turns to look at Snteil and quietly says, "Snteil, don't make any hostile moves. I think we can get out of this without a fight." He, then, slowly stands up, being careful to not make any hostile actions.
"Hey, Karn, you tell them absolutely," says Snteil, as he slowly stands up and put his blaster back into its holster. "But do me a favor, and mention to them that for the record, they were the ones who came in here waving their rifles around. Not us."
With a nod, Karn turns to the adult standing over him and translates Snteil's words. The adult calmly responds.
Snteil walks down the ramp, letting his eyes adjust to the growing dark.
As Snteil walks down the ramp toward KG, the child that stayed behind follows him down. The adult in the front sets his rifle on the ground and opens his arms. The kid runs past Snteil and embraces the man. After a brief moment, the man moves back from the hug and asks the lad a question, to which the boy shakes his head.
Stopping next to KG and rest his hand on the Wookiee’s shoulder, the Sullustan continues, "By the way, my friend here said, 'I am Kurrelgyrre, Jedi Knight. My companion and I mean you no harm.'"
The boy right in front of Snteil offers the translation. The leader nods, turns to the group and makes an announcement. The rest of the group lowers their weapons, releasing the thick tension in the air.
The man turns back to Snteil and Kurrelgyrre, steps forward and says something in a questioning tone. The boy, his son, steps up and says, "He wants to know if you sent my friends to the starport to buy something. He also wants to know why I stayed behind with you."
"Snteil," Kurrelgyrre states in a low tone, "I think we should be honest here, although we might want to phrase things . . . from a certain point of view."
Snteil nods his response to KG.
Turning back to the leader and his son, Snteil says, "Well, we sent the boys into town for a couple reason. Mainly, we were concerned with the fact that most Demarans seem to be extremely distrustful of strangers, and we didn't want any trouble. The boys seemed more than willing to help out. They seemed to like the ship, and they seemed trustworthy to both me and my Jedi companion. Also, we figured that they knew the area pretty well, so they'd know where to go to get the parts for my droid friend."
"As for keeping young Vadlo here with us, it was more for protection than anything else. I was afraid that a situation would arise, like this very scenario, where we would be stuck with a large group of scared, untrusting locals, and we would have no way of communicating with them, because my translator has been damaged. He was free to leave at any time, although I think he was looking forward to that ride I was going to give him."
Snteil smiles to Vadlo, almost apologetically. "I apologize that this has become such a mess. But, we really thought we were doing what would cause the least amount of trouble and unrest."
Young Vadlo turns to his father after a second of thought and speaks to him. After a moment, the older native says something in a low, stern voice to him, turns to Snteil and adds a short statement. He, then, extends his hand toward the Sullustan, who reaches out and takes that hand in friendship.
Vadlo's father shows a hint of a smile, as he and Snteil share a grip of friendship. Snteil returns the smile. After they release their grip, he offers his hand in the same manner to Kurrelgyrre. KG carefully responds with a firm handshake. Vadlo's father gives a smile and a firm grip with the Wookiee.
Once Vadlo’s father releases Kurrelgyrre's hand, he turns to the rest of the group and gives an announcement. As he turns back to KG and Snteil, the rest of the crowd begins walking out of the clearing into the woods.
Snteil turns to Vadlo questioningly, not exactly sure what just transpired. Vadlo merely looks at Snteil with a hint of a smile.
"So, Vadlo," Snteil says, "I don't suppose you kids were actually able to pick up the parts we needed for Zeethree, did you?"
"Oh, yeah!" Vadlo replies suddenly.
The boy turns to his father and asks him a quick question. After receiving a nod, Vadlo runs over to where Karn is speaking with his parents. After a few seconds of discussion, Karn runs toward a patch of brush near the back of the ship, where a larger group of natives is arriving. He stops in front of two other children, tells them something and runs into the brush, followed by the other two. Another minute passes, and the three emerge into the clearing once more, pushing a repulsorsled covered with a white tarp. They push the sled to the boarding ramp and present it to Snteil.
One of the lads announces, "Hope you like it!"
Snteil looks at Vadlo with a curious smile, and then pulls back the tarp.
Pulling back the tarp, Snteil sees setting on the sled a new droid brain and a used droid chassis.
But, the chassis looks different. It looks like some sort of protocol droid, but it is sleeker. The arms and legs are more slender and the waist is more cinched. On top of all that, it appears that the droid's chest has what looks to be two metallic breasts. This droid chassis looks to be . . . feminine.
Upon seeing this, KG starts laughing hysterically.
Snteil immediately scowls, turns to his friends and sarcastically says, "Laugh it up, fuzzball."
With a sigh, he continues, "Well, it looks like we're going to have to go into town, anyway."
"I really appreciate this, kids, and you'll still get a ride on the Aurora. But, I guess I forgot to mention that Zeethree is 'male'. I'm not sure he'd appreciate the breasts very much. Is it going to be possible to exchange this?"
One of the other kids answers, "He said, 'All sales final!'" while trying to imitate the shopkeeper in a deeper voice, to which the others giggle.
"And," interrupts Karn, "he said it was the one in the best condition!"
"Don't be so hasty, Snteil," Kurrelgyrre interrupts. "Perhaps Zeethree can learn some humility from this, and be a better behaved droid."
KG puts his hand on Snteil's shoulder, leaning towards him, and continues, "And you, my friend, will never have trouble accessorizing again."
In a mocking tone, the Wookiee adds, "Oh, look! The chassis has a matching purse."
Before his friend can react, Kurrelgyrre moves to begin examining the droid chassis to see its condition.
Snteil swears under his breath in his own language.
After a brief survey of the droid parts, he sees that it is in good working condition, with only a few scratches and dents on the outside.
"Snteil, in all seriousness, this isn't in bad condition. It just has some cosmetic scratches. If anything, think of it as a temporary replacement until we can find a better one."
The Sullustan sighs again and answers, "Alright, but he's not going to be happy. It will have to do for now."
Turning back to the kids he asks, "Were there any credits left?"
Nodding, one of the other kids reaches into a compartment in the repulsorsled, pulls out a smoky grey plastic tube and hands it to Snteil. The tube, which looks to be a personal credit bank, has a low-tech gauge on the side that displays the amount of 125 credits within.
Almost reluctantly, Snteil takes the tube from the kid.
Pausing for only a second, he says, "So, how about that ride into space?"
Karn replies, "We want to, but our parents said we have to come home for dinner."
"But," one of the others speaks up, "my dad said I could come back tomorrow morning . . . if you guys are still here."
"I haven't asked my dad yet," Vadlo adds.
Karn looks to the others and anxiously suggests, "Maybe we can ask our parents tonight when we get home!"
"Yeah!" the other kids reply gleefully.
Turning back to Snteil, Karn inquires, "Is there a way we can contact you to let you know?"
Snteil ponders it a moment.
"We still have a few things to get done here, but I'm afraid we cannot wait until morning. We've delayed here longer than we wished. We are, after all, looking for an important friend for the New Republic.
"Here." Snteil says as he gives them a frequency to contact the Aurora. "When you get home tonight, you find out what your parents say and let us know, how about that?"
Laudon pulls out a small datapad and jots down the frequency, while the rest nod in agreement.
As they begin to run out of the clearing toward their respective parents, they wave and call out, "Thanks!"
Arsix whistles loudly, bringing the group's attention back to the new droid body for Zeethree.
"Alright," Snteil interjects, "let's get her up to him . . . uh . . . Damn! This is going to be confusing for a while!"
After bringing the new brain and chassis into the ship, the group begins the task of bringing Zeethree back to life.
Snteil, with Kurrelgyrre's and Arsix's assistance, preps the new droid body for the programming transfer. Once he is confident that it is ready, Snteil connects the droid to the ship's computer and begins the transfer.
A long while passes into the night. As Snteil begins to feel the call of sleep, the computer signals the completion of the transfer. Unplugging the data cable from the back of the droid's head, Snteil reactivates Zeethree.
The lights from within the droid's eyes illuminate and glow a soft blue. It looks up, tests its arm and neck joints and stands from its chair against the wall next to the computer console. Taking a moment to silently survey the room, its gaze falls upon Kurrelgyrre first, followed by Arsix and finally to Snteil.
Pausing to stare at the Sullustan pilot for a moment, the droid watches Snteil for a long, quiet moment before taking a step toward him. Stopping in front of him, the vocabulator sparks to life with the droid's first new words in a soft, sultry feminine voice, "Hello, lover."
While Snteil blinks and stares at his droid with a dumbfounded look on his face, Kurrelgyrre begins laughing hysterically.
As if suddenly shocked, the droid jerks upright and Zeethree's original voice announces, "Was that me?!"
Kurrelgyrre’s loses control and doubles over in laughter.
Snteil stares down KG in mock fury, "Kurrels...you're walkin' a thin line."
"Uh...yeah, Zeethree...sorry about that, it's all we could find," Snteil says sheepishly. "But more importantly...were you referring to me!?! I think we may have to tweak some of the programming.
"Arsix, would you update Zeethree on what has happened since last he . . ."
"What have you done to me?" cries Zeethree as he rushes to the nearest refresher.
Reaching the refresher, he bursts through the door, bolts to the mirror and stares for a quick moment.
"YOU TURNED ME INTO A FEMALE!!!" the droid screams. "I DON'T BELIEVE THIS!"
Storming out of the refresher, Zeethree makes a beeline toward Snteil with a finger pointed right between the Sullustan's eyes.
Zeethree exclaims, "YOU WERE PLANNING THIS, WEREN'T YOU?! YOU MEANT TO DO THIS TO ME! YOU ARE JUST PLAIN SICK! SICK, I TELL YOU! I WOULDN'T BE A BIT SURPRISED IF THERE WAS A . . ."
After a brief second of what appears to be the droid lost in thought, Zeethree rushes back to the refresher and slams the door shut. After a few seconds, Zeethree yells from within the small chamber, "THANK THE MAKER!"
Opening the door, Zeethree walks out and strides right up to Snteil. In a low, tense voice, Zeethree states, "You'd better get this fixed real quick. I'm a fighter, not a lover."
"Looks to me like you're a bit of both," Kurrelgyrre replies with a smirk. "Snteil, are you sure you want him reactivated?"
Ignoring KG’s remark, Snteil answers, "Hey, I'm no happier about this than you are. But, the other choice was to keep you in pieces."
Snteil gestures toward the blasted droid body as he continues, "Tell me, which would you prefer?"
Zeethree looks at his old body and utters an electronic sigh.
"Okay, I guess I'll have to live with it for a while," Zeethree concedes. "But, you promise to get this corrected at soon as possible, right?"
"Of course," answers Snteil with a nod.
"You know, I'm just happy to have you back, buddy. I know I don't every say it, but you're an important member of my crew. Well, you're the only member of my crew, but that just makes you all that more important."
Snteil pauses for a brief moment, appearing to be contemplating something.
"And now," he continues with a grin, "you've got nice curves to boot."
Taken aback for a second, Zeethree recoils from Snteil's comment and remains mute for several seconds.
"You . . . uh . . . I . . . uh . . . the . . . oh, never mind!" stutters Zeethree, and he storms out of the room.
Looking at KG, Snteil says with a wink, "Was that a droid's blush?"
Arsix, seeing Zeethree flee from the room, chirps a comment and pursues the protocol droid into the corridor.
Snteil mutters to himself, "I wonder what that was?"
At that moment, the communicator signals an incoming message.
Snteil walks over to the console and activates the communications array to listen to the incoming message.
"Snteil, are you there?" comes Vadlo's voice through the speaker.
"This is Snteil, go ahead, Vadlo."
"Hi, Snteil," says Vadlo. "I talked with the others. And, they all told me that they could go on the ride tomorrow, but only if their parents can go, too. Same with my dad. Is that okay?"
Muting the conversation, Snteil turns to KG and says, "Well, we did tell them we'd do this for them. And, we have to offload our 'prisoner' to someone."
With a shrug, he continues, "And who knows? Maybe we can find out some information from the locals about the crash site and where to go next. Because aside from that Imperial held planet, we're out of options."
Kurrelgyrre replies after a brief second of thought, "I think I'm going to meditate for a bit, if you don't mind. I need to focus on what to do next. Perhaps the Force can provide some clarity."
Snteil nods, toggles the communicator back on as KG walks out of the cockpit and announces, "Sure thing, Vadlo. Just meet us back here after sunrise, and we'll give you guys that ride."
"Yay!" cheers Vadlo. "I'll tell my dad and the others. Thanks!"
The call abruptly ends, leaving Snteil alone in the cockpit with the radio-induced silence.
The next morning, Snteil groggily opens the door to the cockpit to find the morning sunlight shining directly into the ship through the forward canopy. Quickly shielding his eyes from the sudden burst of light with his arm, Snteil blinks a few times and slowly adjusts to the new conditions. He takes his seat and begins a pre-flight diagnostic routine, as the new Zeethree steps into the cockpit.
"Good morning, sir!" exclaims the droid cheerfully.
The Sullustan routinely answers, "Morning," when he suddenly realizes that his droid companion sounds happy. Snapping fully awake, he turns to find Zeethree standing in the cockpit doorway holding a bouquet of freshly-picked flowers.
"Aren't they lovely?" Zeethree asks as he steps forward and sits in the co-pilot's chair. "It's a sample of some of the local flora. I went out and picked them myself this morning. Would you like to smell them? I can't and would like your reaction." In one smooth motion, Zeethree extends the flowers out toward Snteil's face.
Out of dumb reaction, Snteil leans forward and sniffs the flowers.
"Very nice," he says simply. Then, Snteil pauses, contemplates the situation for a second and continues, "Zeethree, what's going on? Why the chipper mood? And, why . . . FLOWERS?!"
Zeethree stares at Snteil in a short moment of silence. Finally, he answers in a quiet, blubbery voice, "I can't believe you're upset over this. I try to make this dingy, old ship look somewhat presentable and give it a feeling of home, and you get mad at me. I'm crushed! I'm . . . I . . . I don't believe this!"
The droid stands, drops the flowers onto the floor and moves as fast as he can from the cockpit. Seconds after he exits through the door, sounds of crying are heard echoing throughout the ship.
Snteil says outloud to nobody in particular with the same dumbfounded look on his face, "I have no idea what just happened. None."
At that point, four Demaran children accompanied by seven adults walk in front of the ship and turn to try to look into the cockpit. The kids begin waving their arms, as if they are trying to get somebody's attention.
Glancing outside, Snteil catches sight of them, toggles the exterior speaker and says, "G'morning! I'll lower the ramp now."
Meanwhile, Kurrelgyrre emerges from his meditative stance to the sounds of crying.
Through the door to his cabin, KG hears Arsix in the corridor say something in Binary.
"Oh, shut up, you rustbucket!" yells Zeethree through his sobbing. "You wouldn't understand." The sound of metal hitting a hollow metal object is heard, and Zeethree's wailing fades as he walks away from the Wookiee's cabin.
Reaching the door, he opens it and looks outside to see Zeethree sobbing loudly as he walks toward the access hatch. Arsix, meanwhile, rolls up to his Wookiee master and exclaims something in his electronic language.
Staring at Zeethree, KG exclaims, "Oh, for crying out loud. Zeethree, pull yourself together! You normally carry around guns, and here you are sobbing like a Zelarin woman!"
At that moment, the intercom announces, "KG, the kids are here. We'll take off soon. I think I'd like to ask these locals some questions, too, about . . . well . . . you know, the crash site. They seem to like you, so maybe you should talk to them."
KG grumbles for a brief second and says, "Great. Some Jedi I am, saving the galaxy from crying droids and playing diplomat to adolescents! And while Jan needs me, we're giving joyrides!"
The Wookiee growls something best left untranslated, storms toward Zeethree and grabs him while saying, "Come on, droid. I need you to translate."
As the access hatch leading to the main deck is thrown open with almost more strength than was intended for its use, Kurrelgyrre continues in an irritated manner, "And pull yourself together, or I'll put your head on a street cleaning droid."
The intercom snaps on again, and Snteil announces, "Zeethree, I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings. You just surprised me, that's all. I wasn't expecting the new bo- . . ."
Snteil stops himself and quickly shifts direction. "Well, anyway, I just wasn't expecting it. Anyway, we've got company, so . . ."
As the Sullustan switches the internal intercom off, he realizes that their guests are still waiting outside. Hitting the ramp switch, he rises from his seat and strides to the top of the ramp.
The group of natives slowly walks toward the ship. As they reach the bottom of the ramp, they look up to see Snteil waiting for them. One of the children waves to him, and they begin to board the ship.
Zeethree, who has stopped his incessant sobbing by this time, ponders outloud, "You know, Kurrelgyrre, you're right. Why am I carrying on like this? It's ridiculous! I'm carrying on like a broken-hearted school girl! I'm a manly droid! I carry blasters!"
"That's right!" KG slaps him on the back, somewhat knocking the droid off balance for a second.
Stopping in the middle of the corridor, Zeethree continues, "I intend to fix this little personality problem right here and now!" He, then, turns and heads toward the back of the ship.
"Oh, what the frell is going on now? At least he doesn't carry around thermal detonators like Qualtis did. Or does he...?"
KG hurriedly follows the droid.
"Come on, Arsix," KG orders, "I may need your help on this one."
Arsix chirps a question as he begins to follow his Wookiee master.
"Well, how the frell would I know what he's doing? Maybe his programming is really screwed up and he's going to wear a . . ."
Rounding the corner, Kurrelgyrre finds Zeethree digging through the ship's armory. After a second, he pulls out his trusty light repeating blaster rifle, glances over it for a second and starts to pick up a power pack.
KG cries, "Frag!" as he lunges for the protocol droid.
Back at the front of the ship, Snteil turns, finds his Demaran guests reaching the top of the ramp and states, "Ah! Welcome aboard! We'll be taking off soon, just finishing up flight plan preparations. If I could get you all to head back to the lounge area and strap in, we'll get out of here. As soon as we're airborne, I've got enough room in the cockpit for about three of you at a time. I'll let you know when it's good to come up."
"Sir," inquires the child recognized as Karn, "will we actually leave the air?"
"I think he means 'atmosphere'," Vadlo interrupts.
Vadlo's father adds something in his native language, which his son translates, "Also, my dad wants to make sure we will avoid any encounters with our planet's forces."
"Yes, Karn," Snteil replies with a smile, "we will be. I figured once around the planet would be good."
Snteil looks at the adult, "And no worries, sir, we want to avoid any local authoratitive entanglements as well."
Near the ship’s armory, Kurrelgyrre lunges at Zeethree, reaching for his activation switch. As if the Force were guiding his actions, the Wookiee flawlessly presses the switch and shuts the droid off. Zeethree slumps forward, dropping the blaster rifle and the power pack he had just picked up.
Picking up the dropped weapon, KG replaces it and the power pack back in the armory. He turns, picks up Zeethree and starts to carry him to the back of the ship, when he hears from Snteil, "KG! We're ready to go. Make sure everyone's strapped in, could ya?"
After yelling his request, Snteil waves to his guests and heads for the cockpit to finish prepping the ship for takeoff.
Kurrelgyrre, meanwhile, rushes the droid back to Engineering, binds Zeethree with some sealing tape and yells for Arsix.
Arsix chirps a response, indicating that he has been behind his master the entire time.
"Watch over him," commands the Jedi. As Arsix acknowledges the order, KG rises and sprints to the lounge.
Stopping just short of the entrance, KG slows to a walk and glides through the doorway. Checking the passengers, he makes sure that everyone is strapped in properly and eager to go.
"Ready!" cries Kurrelgyrre.
"Okay!" Snteil responds from the cockpit.
KG nods and looks down to find Arsix waiting next to him.
"Watch over Zeethree and alert us if he moves," orders Kurrelgyrre, and he begins making his way to his seat next to Snteil.
Seconds later, the preflight check is completed, and the ship is ready to launch.
As soon as KG reaches the cockpit and straps in, Snteil announces over the intercom, "Alright everyone, hang on. Here we go!"
Switching off the comlink, Snteil says to KG, "So, what happened to Zeethree?"
"Seems he took my pep talk a bit too much to heart, and was heading for the, uh...back room. Don't worry, I've shut him off for the time being and have used some Corellian-grade duct tape to keep him strapped in.
"You know," Kurrelgyrre continues as he points towards the front of the cockpit, "we could strap his head right about here and make him into a hood ornament."
Shaking his head with a smile, Snteil eases back on the controls, lifts the Aurora into the air and begins their flight.
Keeping low to the ground, the ship approaches the crash site that was visited days before for a final view. Sensors do not indicate anything attempting to intercept the Aurora on its current vector.
Activating the intercom, Snteil asks, "Could the first group report to the cockpit, please?"
Vadlo and his father come into the cockpit and see that they are still within the atmosphere.
"What's going on?" inquires the young native.
The Aurora speeds over a hill that finally permits a view of the crash site. Passing overhead shows that recent activity has occurred here, more noticeably the removal of the water tank found earlier and tiny patches of broken ground. Nothing else has changed since the original visit.
"See that, Kurrelgyrre?" Snteil mentions. "They've removed what was left out there."
"Anyway, Vadlo, do you or your father know anything about this place?"
Vadlo asks his father, who looks out at the area for a long moment. He gives his answer to his son, and the youth relays, "My dad doesn't know anything about the area. It doesn't look . . . known to him? I'm sorry. I don't quite know the appropriate word.
"I don't know anything about this place, either."
"It was the site of a ship crash a few years ago," adds the pilot, looking to Kurrelgyrre for confirmation.
"Anyway, it's the reason we were 'apprehended' a few days ago, for checking it out. We're looking for his former master," Snteil says as he gestures towards KG.
The adult native talks to his son for a moment. Finally, Vadlo says, "My dad remember hearing about something crashing out this way several years ago, but there weren't many details about it.
"He also wishes you luck in finding this master you're looking for."
Kurrelgyrre nods his thanks for the comment.
"Well, it was worth a try," Snteil says with a shrug.
"Hold on to your ears, Vadlo!" the Sullustan warns as he punches the accelerator. He, then, exclaims, "And awa-e-ay we go!"
Snteil steers the ship upward, and the Aurora ascends into the upper atmosphere. The blue sky thins and eventually transforms into the familar star pattern against the black emptiness of space.
After Vadlo and his father are through with their observation time, the next group is called to the cockpit. Each family makes their way to the cockpit and watches in awe and excitement as their home planet spins kilometers beneath their feet.
As the last group leaves the cockpit, Snteil's eyes glance at the sensors panel, where he sees four signals on the display that appear to be on an intercept course.
"Uh oh," Snteil mutters to himself, and he pauses to further study the display.
After a moment, he turns to Kurrelgyrre and continues, "We've got company. I'm gonna angle the deflector shields and charge up the main guns. KG, can you go back there and activate Zeethree? We're gonna need him to pilot the Aurora while we man the guns if we get in a fight here."
KG walks out of the cockpit after unfastening his safety belt and makes his way back to where Zeethree is currently stored.
After Kurrelgyrre leaves the cockpit to get Zeethree, Snteil switches on the comm to the passenger room and announces, "Hey, this is the Captain. It looks like we've got company. I don't know what they want yet, but I'm going to guess it's not to check out my paint job.
"Anyway, just sit tight. Everyone strap in. It could get a little bumpy here."
Seeing that the droid is not armed, KG sets him loose and reactivates him. Once Zeethree is fully active again, Kurrelgyrre says, "Wake up, boobalicious. We've got trouble. Four bogeys are on our scopes. Snteil needs you up front."
Zeethree wakes up, looks at his hand for a quick second, looks back at Kurrelgyrre and responds, "Okay." The droid moves toward the cockpit.
KG turns to the intercom, calls the cockpit and states, "Snteil, I'm going to the lower gunwell. Sue-Zeethree is headed your way. Let's get the frag out of here!"
After turning off the intercom, Kurrelgyrre whispers to himself as he heads for the gunwell, "I HATE this planet! Damn!"
Seconds after KG's message through the intercom, an incoming signal is indicated on the communications panel.
Snteil opens the channel and softly says, "Let's hear what they have to say."
"Alien vessel," the message begins in translated Basic, "you are outside of starport flying lanes and are in violation of Demaran starport regulations. You are hereby ordered to stop your engines and be escorted to the surface. If you do not comply within 10 seconds, we will respond with lethal force." The comm channel is closed from the other end.
"Oh, no!" Snteil cries. "You are not taking my ship from me again!
"Damn, these guys are corrupt! Hmm, I think the New Republic is going to get an anonymous tip about this place once we're done here."
At that moment, Zeethree enters the cockpit.
"Ready when you are to kick some butt!" exclaims the droid.
"When aren't you?" Snteil says as he climbs out of the pilot's seat. "Kurrelgyrre and I will be in the turrets. Fly like I know you can. And if you get an opening, you have my authorization to launch missiles. Deflector shields are at maximum. Guns are charged. It's time to take some revenge on these nerfherders! I want you to act like you're complying with their demands which will hopefully give KG and I time to get to the turrets. As soon as you hear us open fire, or if they fire first, punch it!"
With that, Snteil rushes to the turret. As Snteil walks into the lounge, he feels the ship's engines begin to slow the ship down. Looking at their passengers, he sees that all of them are seated and talking among themselves.
"Make sure you are strapped in," Snteil says. "It may be a bumpy ride for a little while."
While the children translate the warning, Snteil climbs into the gunwell and into the dorsal turret. Meanwhile, KG has already brought the ventral turret online and is prepared.
Snteil comments to Kurrelgyrre down the gunwell, "KG, they mean business. They're going to bring us down, something about 'outside of their space lanes.' Sounds familiar, doesn't it? Zeethree is going to slow down and stop. Hopefully, these guys will be lulled into complacency, and we can open fire on them before they know what hit them."
"Well, frell," the Wookiee responds as he puts his headset on. "Personally, I think we'd be better off getting the hell out of here, dumping these kids off, and then getting away from this forsaken planet. I hate bringing them into battle like this. They're innocents."
At that moment, the ship is rocked from the impact of incoming fire. Suddenly, the Aurora's engines roar to life and accelerate the ship away from the attacking fighters.
As Snteil's turret comes to life, he answers, "I know, but I don't think there's anyway I can outrun those fighters. We'd never get down and offload the passengers safely. They'd be taken into custody, too. Remember, they're just as frightened of the local government as we are.
"Damn, that reminds me . . ."
Snteil puts his headset on and calls to the cockpit, "Zeethree, as soon as they're within range, jam their transmissions. Let's hope they won't call for reinforcements."
"Understood," replies the droid.
Kurrelgyrre begins to take aim and says, "Did you tell the kids to get strapped in? Do they know what's going on?"
"Yeah," Snteil responds. "I informed them. Funny thing is that I bet they're gaping out the viewports right now. I'm not sure those kids are scared of anything."
"Alright you Demaran rodents," Snteil mutters under his breath as he zeroes in on his first target, "you're about to be molten slag."
Snteil opens fire, releasing two bursts at one of the pursuing fighters. The first shot shatters the fighter's shields and continues to hit the fuselage. The following shot pierces through the ship's hull into the engines, causing the fighter to explode in a brief fiery blaze.
One of the Demaran fighters quickly returns fire. Blaster bolts shoot from cannons on the wings' tips, but the ship manages to dodge the incoming fire.
Kurrelgyrre takes aim at one of the approaching fighters and fires. His first shot dissipates the fighter's shields and follows through against its port wing. The next barrage hits dangerously close to one of the ship's engines, causing part of the wing to begin to buckle from the attack.
Another fighter swoops in and attacks. The shot drops the Aurora's shields and impacts against the ship's hull.
As the ship shakes from the attack, screams and cries are heard from the lounge. One of the adult males exclaims something, but no translation follows.
Over the intercom, Zeethree announces, "I have jammed their communications."
Meanwhile, the last Demaran fighter moves in and fires, but the shot is easily avoided.
Snteil locks onto the fighter that hit his ship and fires. His first shot breaks through the shields and blows off its starboard wing, while the second shot blasts through the engine assembly causing it to explode.
The lead Demaran starfighter closes in and attacks. The deadly volley of blaster fire flies harmlessly past the Aurora.
Kurrelgyrre, seeing the last attack, takes quick aim and fires at the fighter. The first attack slams through the enemy's shields and strafes the top of the port engine. The fighter avoids the second shot.
Seeing that both fighters within Snteil's firing arc have been destroyed, Zeethree spins the ship to give the Sullustan a better shot.
The other remaining Demaran fighter, following the Aurora's maneuver, adjusts and fires. The shot rakes through the transport's hull dangerously close to the dorsal cockpit where Snteil sits, throwing debris against the turret's window.
With fury burning in his eyes from the last attack, Snteil fires at the nearby fighter. The first attack rips through the fighter's shields and crashes through the cockpit canopy, exposing the pilot inside to hard vacuum. Before the ship can react to losing its pilot, Snteil's second shot fires directly through the cockpit into the bowels of the ship, causing the ship to erupt into a bright explosion.
Witnessing the destruction of its partner, the last remaining Demaran begins to steer his ship away from the Aurora and break off pursuit.
But, Kurrelgyrre fires at the fighter after only a fraction of a second. His first shot slams into the fuselage just behind the cockpit, while the second bursts through the starboard engine. The resulting explosion temporarily blinds the Wookiee, causing him to reflexively cover his eyes with his arm and blink the brightness away.
"Damn," says KG to himself. "I think he was starting to turn to flee, but I was already firing. I couldn't stop in time.
"Jan would have never made that mistake."
Kurrelgyrre remembers another time, aboard the Smiling Sarlacc . . .
Kurrelgyrre put on the awkward helmet, igniting his saber as the remote circled him.
"Try to relax, KG," Jan said. "You're too tense. Try to focus."
The Wookiee followed the movements of the drone, tuning his senses to compensate for his lack of vision. Blast after blast it fired, but the Wookiee blocked them all with his shimmering flame-colored saber.
"Not bad. You seem to have mastered one opponent. Now try three."
Jan Tolbara activated two more drones which circled the Wookiee. Bolt after bolt fired. The Wookiee was a flurry of motion, moving faster than anyone of his size should be able to. One, two, three . . . he blocked the bolts one right after another.
Right then, a bolt hit Kurrelgyrre in the rear.
The Wookiee jumped and let out a yelp. His fur on his posterior smoked.
"Oh, come on, KG. You have to admit that it's a little funny."
"But I failed. I wasn't fast enough. I'm supposed to be a Jedi . . ."
"Kurrelgyrre, the Force is all around us, and it is our tie to it that gives us the abilities of a Jedi. Through training, we gain abilities that the average person does not have. We are quick, we can move things by the Force, we can sense things before they happen.
"We are NOT all-powerful. Nor are we perfect. And sometimes, it's possible that one can make no mistakes, and still not win."
KG lets out a howl of anguish and cries, "I will find you, Jan Tolbara! I promise!"
At the entrance to the gunwell, Laudon and Karn stare down toward the ventral turret where Kurrelgyrre sits.
"What's HIS problem?" Karn asks as he turns to his friend.
"Beats the heck outta me," replies Laudon with a shrug. "Maybe it's that hot roku spice you put in his chocolate. I knew you put too much in."
Snteil, after powering down the dorsal turret, climbs down to the lounge landing. "I'm guessing he's just feeling the frustration of us not being any closer to finding his former Master than we were when we started this quest.
"Anyway, is everyone alright up here? I think it's time we get you all back on the ground. This was a little bit too much excitement. Hopefully, our shields are already starting to recharge."
One of the parents says something, to which Laudon translates with a hint of disappointment in his voice, "Yes, it's time."
Snteil nods his approval and walks to the cockpit, where he finds Zeethree staring at the sensors panel.
"There's got to be more out there. That was just too easy!" cries the droid after he notices Snteil walk in.
Shaking his head in disbelief, Snteil steps forward and says, "Okay, get up. We're taking the ship down again."
"You can't do that!" screams Zeethree. "That's certain death! They'll slaughter us! Four fighters is just the beginning, but that planet is where they come from! They'll send hundreds of fighters after us! We'll be annihilated! We'll . . ."
Snteil withdraws his hand from the power switch as Zeethree slumps forward in the pilot's seat. Toggling the intercom, Snteil says, "Kurrelgyrre, I need you in the cockpit."
In the ventral turret, the Wookiee Jedi looks up and listens to the broadcast. With a sigh, he rises from his seat and climbs up the ladder to the lounge.
After a moment, KG walks in to find Snteil pulling Zeethree out of the chair.
Looking at Kurrelgyrre for a brief second, Snteil frustratingly asks, "Can you take this walking rust bucket into the back and straighten him out?"
Kurrelgyrre frowns at the sight, walks to the droid, picks him up effortlessly and carries him to the engine room over his shoulder.
Snteil watches KG walk out, shakes his head and sits at the forward pilot position. Within a moment, he steers the Aurora downward toward Demara once again.
Back in the engine room, Kurrelgyrre carries Zeethree in and sets him down on the metal floor. After a deep breath, the Wookiee crouches in front of the droid and reactivates him.
"We're all going to die!" screams Zeethree. KG quickly slaps his hand over the droid's mouth, silencing him.
In a low voice, the Jedi says, "I'm going to remove my hand, and you are going to be silent. If you're not, I will keep you deactivated for the rest of the trip. Understand?"
Zeethree nods subtlely, and Kurrelgyrre removes his hand.
The Wookiee takes a breath and states, "We have guests aboard this ship right now."
A long pause rests in the air for a brief moment, until Zeethree responds, "So?"
"So," KG sternly replies, "we are to maintain a friendly and non-hostile atmosphere for them."
"A little late for that, isn't it?" answers the droid sarcastically. "Maybe we should call the Demaran military and let them know about that, too. Maybe, just maybe, they will cooperate."
"You're pushing it," Kurrelgyrre flatly says.
"While they are here," continues KG, "you will be silent and do as you're told. You WILL not touch anything in the armory. You WILL not approach them. You WILL not do anything with them."
A shorter pause elapses before Zeethree asks, "What if they approach me?"
"They won't approach you," Kurrelgyrre quickly adds, "because you will be back here running a diagnostic check on the life support systems."
"That could take hours!" whines Zeethree. Without a word, KG stands and walks toward the lounge.
Several minutes pass, and the Aurora steadily lands in the same clearing it rested in earlier that day.
After the boarding ramp touches down into the thick grass, the native families descend out of the ship while talking about their trip with Snteil and Kurrelgyrre, some with glee and others with concern. The Demarans step onto the ground and away from the ship a fair distance. They turn to look at the ship for one last time and wave to the ship's crew.
Kurrelgyrre and Snteil wave back and walk up the ramp into the ship. Another moment passes, and the transport rises into the air and begins its ascent toward space.
Moments after the Aurora has left the atmosphere, the communications panel signals an incoming message.
"Ah, what in the blazes is it now?" Snteil says before he opens the comm link. "Go ahead."
The message begins in a formal tone, "This is the Incom Corporation repair facility located on Coyn. Is this the Aurora under the command of Snteil Seit?"
The Sullustan answers, "That's affirmative. Hope you boys have some good news for me."
"Yes, we do," replies the Incom representative. "The repairs on the Z-98 have been completed. You are free to pick it up at any time."
"Thank you. Seit, out," he switches off the comlink.
"Did you hear that, KG? The Phantom's repaired. I think we should go pick it up and re-gather our thoughts before heading out again."
"Agreed!" Kurrelgyrre cries cheerfully. "I can't believe that she's fixed, after all this time. It'll be good to fly her again. She's a good bird."
KG's spirits seem to brighten up after this.
As Snteil begins calculating the course for the jump to Coyn, Kurrelgyrre sits down in the other seat in the cockpit with a smile on his face.
While the calculations are being completed, KG notices more signals appear on the sensors display. Moving over to the panel to not disturb Snteil, the Wookiee focuses a scan and discovers twelve more Demaran fighters rapidly approaching.
"Snteil," Kurrelgyrre states as his smile melts away, "we've got company again, and they brought friends this time."
The pilot looks at the display for a brief second before muttering, "Damn!" He looks out into space, back to the sensors and without another word, reaches over, raises shields and pushes the throttle forward full speed.
As Kurrelgyrre struggles to maintain his balance from the unexpected speed change, Snteil turns back to the nav computer and says, "Get back to the turret. We may need some cover fire while I finish these calculations."
KG regains his balance, nods and sprints out of the cockpit past Zeethree walking toward the cockpit.
Zeethree says with an annoyed tone, "You know, this task you have . . .
"Where are you going?!" the droid cries as the Wookiee rushes past him, ignoring Zeethree's comments.
Quickly climbing up the gunwell ladder after running through the lounge, KG jumps into the seat and primes the quad laser once more. While he waits and puts the headset on, he looks out the window. Some distance behind the ship, he sees the twelve fighters pursuing them.
Zeethree walks into the cockpit while grumbling to himself.
"You know, Snteil . . ." he begins gruffly.
"NOT NOW, ZEETHREE!" yells Snteil, cutting the droid off without looking up from the nav computer.
"Well, fine!" Zeethree huffs as he turns on his heel and storms back out of the cockpit. "I can see just how much you care!"
A few seconds later, loud sobbing can be heard from outside the cockpit.
Looking up from the console in exasperation, Snteil angrily curses under his breath and slams on the switch to close the cockpit door. Silence fills the room once more, and Snteil returns to his work.
Just as the quad laser cannon signals ready, multiple laser blasts are seen flying by the ship. One shot is visibly seen absorbed by the shields, but a second shot directly hits the ship. The Aurora shakes from the sudden impact, and an explosion is heard from the aft of the ship.
Snteil's finger slips due to the impact and enters a wrong figure. Seeing the mistake, he curses outloud and fixes it.
Kurrelgyrre, attempting to grab the controls, misses the handle and grabs empty air. Once again, he reaches and grasps the cannon controls. With renewed determination, he aims and fires. The deadly shots speed through the vacuum at the rapidly closing fighters, but their intended targets manage to dodge them.
As the fighters fire once more, Snteil yells through the intercom, "Got it!" He quickly reaches over and shoves the hyperdrive lever forward.
The crimson laser beams quickly converge on the transport, when the ship suddenly leaps forward and disappears from sight, narrowly avoiding being hit.
"Whoa!" Snteil quietly exclaims to himself. "That was too close."
As soon as KG comes back into the cockpit, Snteil says the following: "Well, that was blasting the mynock just a bit close to the hull, don't you think? They got her ion engines, so we may have some trouble once we come out of hyperspace. But, we're good for now. I think I need to go pass out."
"I have something that may help to pass the time better," KG answers as he hands Snteil a bottle of brandy.