Chapter 9

The Z-98 drops out of hyperspace on the night side of Coyn just outside the planet's gravity well.

Immediately, proximity alarms sound as the lone fighter zips toward a bulk freighter in its path. Kurrelgyrre leaps into action, pushing the fighter into a hard dive, barely avoiding a collision into the larger starship's hull.

As they pass underneath the freighter, Snteil looks around and notices that traffic around Skraj'tais has increased dramatically since their last visit, including a large number of military vessels.

A few seconds later, the comm signals an incoming message, "Skraj'Tais Control to incoming ship, identify yourselves."

Snteil responds to the message and receives docking instructions. Within minutes, the Z-98 glides into the station.

Soon after landing, Kurrelgyrre, Snteil and Arsix exit their docking bay to discover the halls of Skraj'Tais filled with people. Most of those wandering the station's corridors are Coynite warriors, dressed for battle, with other beings of various races dressed in New Republic uniforms mixed in with them.

Kurrelgyrre grabs a Mon Calamari officer for the New Republic and asks, "What's going on here? Seems to be a lot of uniforms walking about."

The officer looks bewildered for a second, until a silver protocol droid walks up and offers to translate the Wookiee's statement.

After a frantic nod and the droid's translation, the Mon Calamari calms and replies through the droid, "Haven't you heard? The New Republic has declared war on the Yevethans!"

"Who the frackin' frell are the Yevethans?"

Snteil shrugs, "I don't know, but this is just great. First, the Imperials. Now, this. I can't believe we're declaring war already. Better be a damned good reason."

"The Yevethans," begins the translation for the New Republic officer, "are a race of people that live in the Koornacht Cluster and operate the Duskhan League. Recent hostilities between the Duskhan League and the New Republic have escalated into full-scale war. Personally, I suspect that seeing Han Solo tortured by the Yevethans for twenty minutes is what prompted Chief of State Organa-Solo to finally make the decision to go to war, but she did mention honoring the victims of the Yevethans' Great Purge."

Looking rather sheepish at his early comment, Snteil mumbles, "Okay, I guess that's a good reason."

"All the Coynites around you," the droid continues as the Mon Calamari gestures to the crowd passing by, "are geared to come to the New Republic's aid in fighting against the Duskhan League. As soon as we are ready, we are to rendezvous with the rest of the fleet near the Koornacht Cluster."

Ever the cynical one, Snteil comments, "Yeah, I bet they are."

Ignoring the Sullustan's comment, the New Republic officer adds, "Judging from the way you are dressed, I would assume you are a Jedi Knight. Have you heard from the academy on this situation yet?"

"I have not. I've been away on a mission. I'm going to be checking in with the academy anyway, so I can see what they have to say. I appreciate the info."

KG slaps the New Republic officer on the back and walks on, not waiting for Snteil who rushes to catch up. The Mon Calamari does his best to maintain his posture after the unexpected blow and continues on his way.

Kurrelgyrre mutters, "This war better damn well not get in the way of finding Jan Tolbara. Been through too many wars in my lifetime."

The Wookiee focuses his mind, using a Jedi meditation technique, as he walks.

"Let's go to the Aurora. I'm sure the 'young miss' has redecorated by now."

Finding their way to the Aurora takes longer than normal due to the large crowds, but Kurrelgyrre and Snteil finally reach the docking bay.

The first sight they see is four Coynite guards posted outside the door.

Snteil softly says to KG, "Oh, no. What has he done now?"

As Snteil approaches the door, one of the guards holds out a hand, gesturing for him to stop, and asks in Basic, "Are you the owner of this ship?"

"Yes. Is there a problem, officer?"

The four guards look at each other for a second before the first one turns back and says in a harsh and annoyed tone, "Your droid must have blown a circuit or something! One of our mechanics came in to connect a fuel line, when it walked out with a blaster in hand and shot him in the leg. When the mechanic dropped to the deck, the droid grabbed him, dragged him to the nearest airlock and ejected him into space. Since we caught him doing it on the security camera, we had to take action and had him dismantled, before it could do any more harm."

All four guards are now staring at the Sullustan standing before them.

"You did what!?! I mean . . . he did what!?! I mean . . . well . . . what the hell! How did this happen? Zeethree's a bit paranoid, but he's not a murderer. What'd you do with the pieces?"

The guards continue to stare at Snteil, whose face now shows an expression combining anger, sadness and bewilderment. Seconds later, the Coynites burst into hearty laughter.

The first guard comments while trying to control his laughter, "No! No! Your droid's fine! He's inside your ship."

KG laughs as well, slapping Snteil on the back.

Snteil just stares blankly in shock.

One of the other guards opens the door leading into the docking bay as the first one continues, "We were on routine patrol checking out the bay, when your droid walked out of the ship brandishing a big blaster rifle. When he threatened to blast us if we didn't leave, we couldn't control our amusement. He was thoroughly surprised to find us laughing, but he lowered his weapon when we told him we are station guards. I would swear that your droid is possessed by the spirit of a Coynite warrior!"

"He is certainly 'possessed,'" Snteil says as he starts to ease out of the tension that had been building, only to have it replaced by a new tension.

At that moment, the group emerges in the bay where the Aurora is parked. The ship looks much like it did before. Zeethree stands outside the ship looking at one of the struts that controls the boarding ramp, when he turns and sees the approaching group.

"Snteil!" he screams as he turns and shuffles toward his companion. Once he reaches them, the droid throws his arms around the Sullustan's neck and hugs him for several seconds.

After an awkward length of time, Zeethree pulls back and asks, "So, how was your trip?"

KG leans over to one of the guards. "It's not like that. No, really."

Kurrelgyrre gives a serious look, until he breaks out in laughter again.

Snteil looks from Zeethree to everyone else then back to Zeethree. "Not so well, I'll tell you about it later," he says, still extremely uncomfortable about the emotion his droid was showing (and maybe a little bit of his own heart ache when he thought he'd been dismantled).

"You know, we seriously need to get you your old body back."

"Uh, Snteil? Why are there curtains on the cockpit?"

Zeethree turns to Kurrelgyrre and answers, "Curtains? Oh, those. That cockpit has always looked so dark and dreary, so I figured that the curtains would brighten the room. You've got to see it from the inside.

"And, Snteil, wait until you see your cabin. It looks MUCH better now."

One of the Coynite guards turns to the first and comments sarcastically, "Spirit of a Coynite warrior, huh?" The first guard responds only with a shrug.

KG falls in step behind Snteil and the droid, not saying anything. His initial bout of humor is suddenly changing to a look of concern.

Seeing the look of concern on his friend's face, Snteil announces, "Alright, that's it! Next item of priority is to get Zeethree back his appropriate body." With that, he heads up into the Aurora with a look of dread.

* * * * *

Several hours later, Snteil pulls the last of the frilly curtains down from the cockpit, carries them out of the ship and throws them into the garbage bin located in a recess of the landing bay's wall. Glad to have the ship back to normal, he turns to walk back to the ship, when he sees the fully-restored Zeethree, now sporting a silver body under his old head, carrying the old feminine chassis off the ship.

The droid carries it over to carefully stand it in front of a heavy blast door that leads to a station cargo hold.

As Zeethree walks back toward the ship, Snteil asks, "Zeethree, what are you doing?"

The droid's response, as he walks by without missing a beat, replies, "You'll thank me for this."

Curious as to what paranoia the droid is succumbing to now, the Sullustan waits outside the ship for barely a minute before Zeethree returns.

Zeethree, now carrying a light repeating blaster rifle, walks down the ramp and past Snteil, who starts to protest but quickly puts the pieces together.

The droid stops about six meters away from the blast door, switches the blaster rifle to full auto and raises the weapon. After a second, Zeethree rapidly fires dozens of blaster bolts into the inactive female form, piercing the metal shell many times before the tell-tale clicking indicates the empty power pack.

Turning to Snteil, Zeethree offers the rifle and says, "Would you like to try it? It's very therapeutic."

At that point, Kurrelgyrre returns to the landing bay after communicating with the Jedi Academy.

"You know," comments the Wookiee. "We could have sold that somewhere else. Too bad that used droid parts dealer wouldn't let you trade it in. I take it Chuckles there is feeling better?"

"Yes, I think so," Snteil says with a smirk as he takes the blaster from Zeethree, loads a fresh clip into it and opens fire on the female droid chasis.

"You're right, it is very theraputic. Wanna have a go at it?" he asks KG.

KG pulls out his lightsaber, igniting it. Taking a swig of alcohol, he breathes across the lightsaber, producing a flame effect that engulfs the female chasis.

"So, what did you find out?" asks the Sullustan.

KG states that the New Republic had indeed declared war against the Yevethans after hostilities between the two governments had escalated beyond control. Many believe that the straw that broke the bantha's back was Chief of State Organa seeing her husband, Han Solo, being tortured for twenty minutes straight in a holovid that was broadcast before the Senate. The Jedi have not been summoned to action yet and are waiting for word from the New Republic on this issue. Luke Skywalker informed KG to continue on his quest to find Jan. If the Jedi are brought into this war, Jan's help may be needed.

"I'll tell you what, I've half a mind to join up and get those bastards myself. Han deserves better than that," Snteil says with smoldering rage.

"I agree," replies Kurrelgyrre. "But, the Jedi Academy wants us to continue with our mission."

"So, now what?"

"Now, we find Jan Tolbara.

"Remember," KG reminds as the duo walk toward the Aurora, "that the final destination of the Sarlacc was to rendezvous with the Valiant. It may be what we're looking for."

"Something has stunk about this from the beginning. I'm going to see what I can find out about the Valiant and its crew. I've still got some old contacts that will talk to me . . . well, I think they will, anyway," Snteil says with concern. "I'm not so keen on putting a beacon out to the guild that says 'here I am,' but I've got to try something."

After a few hours of research, including calling in a favor or two, Snteil confirms that the Valiant is the name of the New Republic star destroyer that had been operating in this area of the galaxy several years ago. Snteil also remembers that Rashacco, the Wookiee senator he met in the beginning of this mission, had found out that the Valiant was ordered by the New Republic military to rendezvous with the Smiling Sarlacc at the coordinates listed for the rendezvous point in the Aurora's navcomputer. The Valiant's report indicates that the Sarlacc never arrived to pick up the supplies requisitioned for them.

"So," Kurrelgyrre inquires, "what'd you find out?"

"Nothing new or helpful. Looks like we just need to head to the rendezvous point and see what's out there. If still nothing, we should try to find the Valiant."

KG adds, "I'm going to contact the Jedi Academy again and find out if they know who the commander is (or was) of the Valiant. We can then go to the rendezvous point then hunt down the Valiant if need be. I also want to find out if the Valiant is still stationed in this area of space."

Contacting the Jedi Academy results in nothing really new. They state that the information Kurrelgyrre seeks is not available to them, and contacting Coruscant would probably be a better idea under normal circumstances. Due to the war, military information is restricted. They do say that the Valiant is more than likely not in the Outer Rim currently and is assisting in the war.

With all their research done, Kurrelgyrre and Snteil board the Aurora with their droids and depart for the rendezvous point.

During their flight through the Coyn system, they witness the arrival of an MC80 Mon Calamari cruiser along with a few support ships at Skraj'tais. Apparently, they are here to pick up the Coynite troops for the war.

Within minutes, Snteil lays in the course to the coordinates and engages the hyperdrive, speeding the transport out of the Elrood sector.

Some time later after a large part of the trip is completed, Kurrelgyrre is in the ship's lounge tending to a problematic servo on Arsix, when an image of Jan Tolbara flashes through his mind strong enough to knock the Wookiee off-balance.

Snteil walks into the room reading his datapad, when he notices KG sitting on the floor looking bewildered while holding a tool in his hand. Arsix turns around and chirps something in Binary with a confused tone.

KG struggles to right himself, clutching his head in pain as the image hits him.

"Jan . . ."

With that, KG lets out a Wookiee howl filled with sorrow and frustration over not finding his friend.

With a puzzled look on his face, Snteil responds, "What's wrong? I know servo power surges can hurt, but it couldn't have been THAT bad."

"It . . . it was Jan! I had a vision of him."

KG stands up, a vacant look on his face. KG clears his mind, closing his eyes and concentrating on his life-friend.

Quickly after closing his eyes, Kurrelgyrre sees the image of Jan through the Force, but it is fading rapidly. It appears as if he is urgently saying a single word: Hurry!

KG collects himself, then turns towards Snteil.

"I've felt a disturbance in the Force. Jan's in trouble. He needs us - fast!

"Snteil," KG adds. "Let's stop here real quick. I suspect the Smiling Sarlacc might have broken down."

Snteil rushes to the cockpit and checks the navcomputer to find that they are still several hours from the rendezvous point.

"Okay, bud. I cut in the sublight engines. So, uh, you want to explain to me why I just did that?"

"I wish I could," KG says in a distant voice, a slight pause following.

KG focuses on the task ahead. "Let's run a full sensors scan and see what's out here."

Snteil and Kurrelgyrre look back to the sensors panel to find nothing within range. Several seconds later as they are about to give up their search, a blip suddenly appears at extreme range in the direction from which they came.

"That's too far to obtain a sensor lock," Zeethree suddenly says, causing Snteil to flinch in surprise.

Wheeling about on his heel, Snteil glares at the droid standing right behind him and exclaims, "Don't do that!"


"Sneak up on . . ."

Snteil stops, appearing lost in thought for a brief moment.

Without warning, he demands, "Move your arms up and down, Zeethree."

The droid wordlessly complies with the Sullustan's order and moves his arms up and down.

Snteil mutters to himself, "Not even the whirring of servos . . ."

Turning back to Kurrelgyrre, Snteil continues without letting the Wookiee respond, "Don't tell me. I know," and he sits at the pilot station.

Bringing the Aurora about, Snteil punches the accelerator and flies toward the unknown object.

Several minutes pass, until the object appears within visual range. Snteil slows the ship and peers into the darkness along with Kurrelgyrre and Zeethree.

After a short moment, Snteil points through the cockpit window to something in the distance. Following his finger, Kurrelgyrre and Zeethree locate the object.

Slowly tumbling through space toward the Aurora is what appears to be two starships in close proximity. Closer examination reveals to Snteil that the larger of the two ships is of Corellian design, a YT-1300.

As the ships draw closer, Kurrelgyrre waits for the dorsal side of the YT-1300 to come into view. Several seconds that seem like an eternity pass, until KG gets a clear view of the top of the ship's hull. Clearly showing on the top is a painted design of a creature burrowed into a sand dune with an odd-looking smile on its face. Kurrelgyrre immediately identifies the ship as the Smiling Sarlacc.

The smile that starts to form on his face quickly disappears, when he sees a large breach in the hull above where the hyperdrive is installed. The breach appears to have been caused by an explosion from inside the transport.

The other ship that KG identifies as an Incom I-7 Howlrunner, floating near the port side of and spinning with the Sarlacc, is tethered to the hull near the upper hatch. The cockpit canopy is open, and nobody appears to be inside the lone fighter.

"That's it," Kurrelgyrre reflects to himself. "The Smiling Sarlacc, after all these years."

After a moment, the Wookiee asks, "Snteil, do you think you can dock the Aurora to the Sarlacc? I want to go over there and see what happened. Arsix, I want you to come over with us. Let's see if we can access the ship's logs. Zeethree, I want you to run continual sensor sweeps of the area. I don't want any surprises."

KG turns to Snteil, "What do you make of that Howlrunner? Any way we can tether it in?"

"I can't dock with her, bud," replies the Sullustan. "I have a docking port, but not one that will hardmate with another transport. Even if I could, I wouldn't. Look at that hull breach, if I docked, that'd just suck all our atmo out, too. I can probably tether us to it. But, I only have one space suit, and I can tell ya," looking his pal up and down, "it ain't gonna fit you."

"Actually," interrupts Zeethree, "I took the liberty of picking up a few spare flight suits, including one big enough for a Wookiee, and a couple of breath masks while you guys were gone."

KG blinks, surprised by the droid's comment.

Glancing at Kurrelgyrre, he adds, "Charged them to the Jedi Academy, of course."

KG gives Zeethree a squishing hug, then pats him on the back with some grunts of approval.

"Let's tether onto the Sarlacc, then. Can we get Arsix over there?"

"If I may say so, sir," Zeethree replies. "It may be best to leave Arsix aboard the Aurora. Deep space seems hardly the place to assess the ship's damage, especially with that other ship here. Who knows what's going to happen?"

Turning to Snteil, the droid continues, "If you prefer, I can man the turret and destroy the other ship before you venture to the Sarlacc."

"No, that won't be necessary," Snteil says a little uneasily as he begins working furiously over the computer console. "I'm going to scan the two ships. I don't like this."

Snteil gazes at the sensor display to find a low-level power source and seven life forms near the front of the Sarlacc, six of the life signs appear to be weak. The Howlrunner is unoccupied and appears to be on standby.

KG ponders, "I wonder if they used the Howlrunner to somehow keep enough power to survive. We've got to get over there."

After a few minutes, the pair, now wearing their makeshift space suits, depart from the Aurora and float toward the Smiling Sarlacc, guided by the newly-placed tether line.

Entering through the dorsal hatch, Kurrelgyrre and Snteil climb down the access ladder and step onto the deck of the Smiling Sarlacc. Dressed in a bright orange flight suit with a breath mask over his face, KG quickly surveys the corridor to find that the way to the forward cargo hold is cut off from the same damage that caused the hull breach.

KG comments to himself, "I've got a bad feeling about this."

"I'll bet their hyperdrive blew," adds the Wookiee, assessing the damage, "then they diverted power to cryo units to sustain them until they could be rescued, possibly using the Howlrunner as another power source. What they were doing with cryo units to begin with is beyond me. Somehow, I suspect Qualtis had something to do with all of this."

Toggling his comlink, Kurrelgyrre continues, "Arsix, do you read?"

The familiar response from Arsix chirps over the comlink.

"Do me a favor and send a coded message to the Jedi Academy letting them know our location and that we're trying to rescue Jan. Have them stand by to lend emergency assistance. We're going to assess things over here first, but I want them on the ready if we need them. Kurrelgyrre out."

Arsix acknowledges the command and ends the transmission.

Kurrelgyrre, remembering that the corridor circles around the central core of the ship, offers, "Let's try this other route."

Snteil nods, maybe a little too forcefully.

KG easily senses great unease in Snteil. Something about a dead ship, quite literally in the middle of nowhere with generally no hope of rescue, has put the Sullustan on edge.

Pushing off from the deckplate, Kurrelgyrre and Snteil float down the dark curved corridor, using Snteil's glowrod to light their way. A minute later, they reach the door leading to the engine room. Using the manual release hatch, Snteil opens the door and passes through.

The darkness, pressing in from all sides and broken only by the light from the glowrod, seems to be playing tricks on Snteil's eyes. He would almost swear that something is moving in the darkness. Despite the uneasiness, he concentrates on what he can see and presses on.

As the pair glides through the engine room, Snteil pauses for a moment to look at the condition of the sublight engines, while Kurrelgyrre passes him on his way to the door on the other side. Despite the fact that the ship suffered from an internal explosion, the engines appear not to be damaged. In fact, no damage of any kind is evident within the room.

"Snteil," Kurrelgyrre's voice says over the comm, "we need to move on."

With a nod, Snteil turns away from the drive and pushes onward.

Kurrelgyrre pulls the manual release on the opposite door as Snteil reaches him, and they pass through with ease.

A short moment later, the two reach the intersection leading to the cockpit, forward cargo hold and the turrets.

Snteil, not realizing his friend pushed on without him, floats staring towards the cockpit. He's frozen. Fear has gripped him almost to the breaking point.

The whole ship is deathly silent, but the walls keep feeling like they're closing in on him. The walls of this ship . . . this . . . tomb.

"I can't breathe," he gasps silently. He begins to shake, and the glow rod in his hand vibrating causes the shadows down the hallway to dance, which is all the Sullustan needs to snap. He raises his pistol and blasts hitting nothing but the wall. The flash of the blaster bolt is enough to light the hallway and show Snteil that nothing is there. He instantly feels foolish.

"Blast it! Get a grip, Seit! Why is this ship getting to me so?"

KG, hearing the commotion through the comm, turns back around to check on Snteil. Seeing his friend not with him, he maneuvers back around to find him near the ship's cockpit.

"Snteil, calm yourself. You're focusing on your fear and anxieties. This is the path to the Dark Side. I know you don't want to hear that, but you are a Force-user. You must gain control."

Snteil, on reflex, stiffens at this with anger, but it subsides quickly as Kurrelgyrre continues.

"We have come so far together, you and I. You are my life-friend, and I yours. Not since Jan have I ever had such a good friend, one who would stand by me on a quest that others have given up on. You stood by me, and I stand by you. Put the blaster back in your holster, Snteil. Whatever it is we face, we will face it together."

Snteil relaxes a bit and holsters his gun. He takes a deep breath, meditatively as the young Jedi Davin had taught him.

"Your words are soothing, pal," he says to KG. He opens his eyes and looks at his friend. "You're right, we have come far. I've come a lot further than I could have without you. I'm not sure what would have happened to me after Kyykash's death, if you hadn't been there to give me purpose . . . and friendship again. For that, I will always be grateful to you and for you, Kurrelgyrre . . . my life-friend. Thank you," he smiles up at his big furry friend.

After a few more seconds of silence, he states, "I'm ready," and nods towards the direction Kurrelgyrre just came from.

"Let's check out the cargo hold," KG says. "That's probably the likeliest of places for cryo chambers."

Snteil nods and begins to follow but snickers after a moment.

When KG turns back around, it's all Snteil can do to keep from laughing.

"Seriously, Kurrely," Snteil comments between laughs. "How . . . can you see . . . through your visor . . . with all that hair!?! I wish . . . I had . . a mirror . . . to show you."

Kurrelgyrre merely stares with a blank face, his hair floating all around him, moving a smidge of hair out of his eyes. He turns and moves on without a word.

Kurrelgyrre and Snteil, finally calmed down after a moment of humor, turn the corner and make their way toward the forward cargo hold, gliding noiselessly through the empty corridor.

Reaching the entrance, the Wookiee peers into the near darkness, straining to see any sign of what he seeks. Snteil grabs the edge of a panel and stops a couple of meters behind KG, doing his best to provide ample light for his friend.

Although he's not sure at this point, Kurrelgyrre believes he can make out the edge of a cryogenic capsule resting on the deck floor and starts to move closer.

Glancing at the panel next to him, Snteil tries to make out one of the switch descriptors but cannot read it through the glare of the reflected light.

"Wait a minute," thinks Snteil to himself. "There's no light behind me."

The Sullustan turns to look behind him . . .

. . . to find somebody bearing down on him! A scantily-clad golden-skinned female with horns protruding from her forehead and mandible slashes down at Snteil with what looks like a small, white lightsaber-like blade extended from a gauntlet worn on each arm.

Reflexively, Snteil rolls and brings his blaster rifle to bear. Before he has a chance to fire at his assailant, one of the woman's blades slices cleanly through the rifle, splitting it in two.

As the two useless parts fly from his hands, Snteil cries out through the comlink, "Kurrelgyrre!"

KG, mere steps away from what appears to be some sort of cryogenic capsule, wheels about to find his friend being attacked by . . . a woman? No, this isn't a woman. As the being's second blade passes dangerously close to Snteil's airtube, Kurrelgyrre recognizes this being as one of a race that declared any Jedi, Sith or anyone else wielding a lightsaber to be a sworn enemy. He remembered seeing holos of these creatures from lessons at the Jedi Academy and further discussion with Master Skywalker. This is no woman. This is a Devon! A feeling of dread passes through the Jedi, as he remembers another fact about the Devon; they cannot be sensed through the Force!

Reacting from the sudden loss of his favorite blaster rifle, Snteil quickly draws his blaster pistol and fires at the Devon.

His first shot, fired prematurely, impacts against the deck plate just below his floating assailant. The second shot, better controlled, is more on target but just misses.

Kurrelgyrre rushes forward with lightsaber ignited and thrusts at his new opponent, but the attack is parried by one of the Devon's energy blades.

She'a turns her gaze upon the Wookiee, sneers through her breath mask and attacks. The first blow hits hard against KG's lightsaber, pushing the fiery blade away from him and forcing the Jedi to step back from the blow. The two following attacks, however, fall short.

Snteil compensates for the Devon’s movements and fires two more shots at he’ir. The two blaster bolts appear to be on target but, to the Sullustan’s surprise, are deflected by one of the gauntlet’s blades with blurring speed.

Recovering from the forceful assault, Kurrelgyrre lunges forward and attacks, but both strikes at the Devon are parried away.

The Devon ripostes with two attacks of he’ir own. The first slash again bats the Jedi’s lightsaber aside and thrusts forward with the other gauntlet. The second attack comes dangerously close to the Wookiee, forcing him to dodge the attack.

Snteil aims again and fires at the enemy before him. The Devon deflects both rapid shots with some effort.

Kurrelgyrre recomposes his battle stance and attacks again, this time with a more determined focus. His first swing forces the Devon to duck below the passing blade, but the Wookiee recovers and swings down at he’ir. The Devon swiftly crosses he’ir blades and blocks the overhead attack between the gauntlet’s blades.

The Devon pushes KG’s blade away and shoves he’ir hand out at the Wookiee while tapping the Force. Taken by surprise at the sudden move, Kurrelgyrre is pushed back and, without gravity to slow him down, flies through the cargo hold and slams into the metal wall. The Devon turns to face Snteil with an expression that turns the former bounty hunter’s blood cold and brings he’ir energy blades to bear.

Snteil balks for a brief second at seeing the expression on the Devon’s face but fires two more shots at he’ir that just miss their target and impact against the metal wall beyond.

Kurrelgyrre spins head over feet to reposition himself and kicks off against the bulkhead on the forward wall of the cargo hold to propel himself at the Devon. The Jedi stops himself just within melee range of his opponent and lunges his blade forward. The Devon swiftly parries the attack with an upswing of he’ir gauntlet blade.

Keeping the Wookiee’s lightsaber at bay, the Devon lifts he’ir legs to he’ir chest, curls up in a ball in midair and suddenly speeds down the corridor aftward away from the cargo hold.

"Stop, or I'll shoot!" Snteil calls out before remembering that it'll do him no good. "KG, we've got to go after her . . . it . . . whatever. We can't let her get away!" With that, Snteil pushes off the wall in pursuit.

"Frak!" curses the Wookiee. "Snteil, don't! We've found Jan. We have to get the survivors aboard the Aurora!"

Kurrelgyrre continues under his breath, "Damn! He reminds me of myself when I was younger."

"But, I can stop her! Don't we want to know what's going on here?"

"Yes, but we came here to save my friends. She may be going to set off some explosive, in which case this is all for nothing!"

"I am a Jedi Knight," KG says, pointing to the cryo unit with Jan in it, "as was Jan Tolbara before me. He stood by me when no one else would. I can do no less for him here.

"This ship is going nowhere, and neither is the girl. Let's get my friends to safety, and then we come back for her. And when we do, we'll have backup."

Snteil sees the Devon squeezing through the partially open door leading to the engine room. Without a second thought, he fires a stun bolt at the escaping target. The azure rings flash around the Devon warrior, and she'a slumps over, ceasing he'ir movements.

With a sigh, Kurrelgyrre says after seeing the stunned Devon, "Let's tie her up and get these cryo units to the Aurora. I want to make sure everyone is accounted for."

"Right!" Snteil says as he floats over to the Devon, takes he'ir weapons away and puts them in his pack. Once done, he looks for some way to bind he'ir up.

"Damnit! Remind me next time we make port to purchase some binders," he says in dismay as he looks at his liquid cable dispenser. "This might work.

"Hey, Kurrelgyrre! Does this ship have a brig or something I might be able to lock this thing up in?"

"Maybe we should take her to the Aurora, where there's an air supply. Don't want the thing to suffocate before we can interrogate it."

"Hmm," Snteil muses as he uses the liquid cable to hogtie the Devon.

"That should do," he says as he finishes up and heads towards KG.

Toggling the comlink, Snteil says as he pushes off the wall and floats toward the cargo hold, "Zeethree, scan the Smiling Sarlacc and the ship tethered to it. Tell me how many life forms you pick up. Oh, and charge up the ion cannon, if you could please."

"Yeah, I've got my holding cell over there, we'll put it in that," Snteil replies as he reaches KG. "Okay, so what do we have here?" he says looking down at the cryo chambers.

"Old friends."

"This is them, huh?" Snteil says while examining the chambers. "I guess we need to get them over to the Aurora somehow. One at a time, I guess. I'd hate to lose one. When we take the first one over, I'll grab the Devon on the way out and put it in the brig in the Aurora."

He pauses for a moment and clicks on his comlink again, "Zeethree, are you there?"

"Yes, sir?" responds the droid through the comlink.

"What did you find on the scan?"

"Sensors indicate a total of nine lifeforms aboard the Sarlacc, including you and Kurrelgyrre."

"Good, that means no more surprises, unless there are folks on the other ship of course," Snteil says.

Turning to the Wookiee, he finishes, "Looks like it's just us, Kurrels."

With that, Snteil and KG begin moving the cryo units and their prisoner.

After several trips back and forth between the Aurora and the Smiling Sarlacc, all six cryo units and the Devon prisoner are moved without difficulty.

By the time the last unit is moved into place, the ice on the outside of the first ones has started to melt, allowing a view inside. Brushing aside some of the remaining slush, Kurrelgyrre and Snteil each look into one to see who is inside.

Kurrelgyrre does not take long to see that the overweight, scruffy-looking Human male inside his first pod is none other than Dak Gribson, the linguist with a bit of a gambling problem.

Snteil finds lying inside the one he chose a red-haired Human female wearing body armor armed with a heavy blaster, a couple of thermal detonators and a lightsaber.

Cocking an eyebrow, Snteil looks up and asks, "Hey, Kurrels, who is this?"

Glancing over his shoulder, Kurrelgyrre frowns and replies, "That is Qualtis Majint."

KG adds as an afterthought, "I suppose we have to revive her too, huh?"

Snteil shrugs and adds, "Shall we open them up?"

"Sure, though we should check to make sure we do it right. Wouldn't want any of them going into cryo shock."

At this point, Zeethree walks into the cargo bay and interrupts, "Excuse me, Snteil, but your prisoner is starting to wake up."

"You go on ahead, if you want," KG suggests. "I'll stay back here. Yell if you need me."

"Will do. I'm going to go back and have a chat with our Devon friend, find out what's up with he'ir being there," Snteil says. "Besides, I've got to find out who to charge for my new blaster."

Snteil makes his way to the brig, followed closely by Zeethree. They reach the door, and the pilot looks inside to see their Devon prisoner standing across the small room, rapidly tapping he'ir foot on the metal deckplate.

The Devon glances at the door and spies Snteil peering in at he'ir. She'a briskly walks to the door, slams both he'ir hands against it and spouts off something in he'ir native tongue. He'ir statement must have been loud, since it was heard through the door.

Without waiting for the request, Zeethree translates, "She says that we have no right to hold her here and demands that we return her pulsairs and release her or face the consequences."

"Zeethree, tell he'ir she'a attacked us without provocation. She'a's lucky we didn't kill he'ir. Then, ask he'ir what she'a was doing on board that ship."

Zeethree toggles the intercom and gives the translation. While the droid speaks, the Devon flinches for a brief second, then looks at the intercom on he'ir side of the wall.

She'a pushes the button on he'ir end after Zeethree speaks and replies angrily.

"She says that you have no business knowing what she was up to and still demands to be released."

Meanwhile, Kurrelgyrre scrapes the ice from the canopy of each cryogenic capsule, discovering his former companions until he comes to Jan. The Jedi Knight appears to be resting peacefully, dressed in his black and gray Jedi robes.

"It's been a long time, old friend. I kept my promise."

After bowing his head in silent meditation for a second, Kurrelgyrre examines the small control panel on the side of the pod and, after close scrutiny, pushes a few buttons, steps back and waits.

A few seconds later, power signatures activate on the pod, and the air inside the chamber clears where a nearly-invisible mist filled it before. The canopy releases, letting the air from within hiss through, and slides open and into the pod to allow its occupant to rise without obstruction.

Several seconds pass while Jan lays still, the silence pounding in KG's ears as he waits on the verge of impatience.

Suddenly, Jan's eyes open, his vision darting around in every direction until it lands on the Wookiee standing nearby and focuses for several quiet seconds.


Kurrelgyrre lets out a Wookiee howl of joy and triumph when he sees his old friend. KG embraces Jan, hugging him tightly.

Jan groans as Kurrelgyrre hugs his friend tightly.

"Easy there, KG," replies Jan, his voice a little raspy. "I'm glad to see . . ."

He continues after clearing his throat, "I'm glad to see you, too.

"Let's get these other pods open. I want to make sure everyone's alright."

KG lets go for a split second, then hugs him again. Finally, he lets go, looking Jan up and down.

"You're not too worse for the wear. The beard looks good on you, though it's a bit scruffy looking."

KG goes over to Eriyani's tube, preparing to open it the same way.

"I've got Eriyani. You get Arsan."

KG begins pressing the buttons on the cryo capsule's panel as he continues, "Do you know what we've been through trying to find you? "We've been clear through this sector, been imprisoned by stormtroopers, traveled through space portals, fought dark Jedi, and now we find that you wrecked the Sarlacc! Eriyani is going to be real pissed."

As the sound of rushing air comes from the capsule, KG looks over at Jan in a half-serious, half-joking tone.

"Just like old times."

The pod before Jan opens after he keys in the proper sequence, revealing the Gungan mercenary within. Arsan's eyes open after a few seconds and immediately scan the area. When his gaze reaches Jan, he immediately asks in a dry, baritone voice, "Isa everyone okeeday?"

With a smile, Jan answers, "Yes, everyone's okeeday."

"Good. Mesa glad to hear dat."

Arsan slowly sits up and looks around the room just as Eriyani's tube opens. With a puzzled look on his face, he inquires, "Disa not the Sarlacc. Where wesa at?"

"We're on board the . . ."

As Jan's voice trails off, he turns to Kurrelgyrre and asks, "Which ship are we on?"

The Wookiee helps Eriyani sit up, looks over to Jan and replies, "The Aurora."

Jan turns back and translates, "The Aurora . . . " turns back to KG after pondering the information for a second and asks further, "Whose ship is this?"

"The Aurora belongs to Snteil Seit, a Sullustan friend of mine. A Life Friend."

KG adds the last to stress the importance of their friendship.

"He's really stuck with me through all of this. He was working as a bounty hunter, but he's changed for the better. Who would think that I'd ever be friends with a bounty hunter?"

KG shakes his head, still in disbelief that he found his friend.

"So what happened to the Sarlacc?

As Jan turns to open Kianna's pod, Eriyani interjects, "I don't really know. We were flying to the rendezvous point from that one planet we discovered. Does anyone remember what that planet was called?"

"Demara," adds Arsan.

"Right," continues Eriyani, raising her finger to emphasize her statement. "Well, we were well on our way, when I heard an explosion from the back of the ship. Before I had a chance to rush back to find out what happened, I felt the air rushing in that direction . . . fast. My first instinct was to find a space suit to put on, but I heard Kianna yelling for everyone to get into one of the cryo pods in the hold as I reached the storage locker in the cockpit corridor. The air was getting pretty thin at that point. I figured that I would not be breathing by the time I got the suit on, so I ran back to the cockpit, turned on the emergency transponder and ran back to the hold to hop into the nearest empty pod. The next thing I know, I wake up to see your hairy face.

"Thinking about what happened at the time of the explosion, I did see up drop out of hyperspace at that same time. Whatever happened must have damaged the hyperdrive and caused a hull breach.

"How long did it take you to find us?"

"Considering that he and his friend had to search throughout the sector," Jan interrupts, "it must have been a while."

Eriyani thinks for a brief second before saying, "The transponder has a battery life of six standard months . . . how long HAS it been?"

Meanwhile, at the brig . . .

"Look, that was my friend's ship and I want to know what you were doing aboard it.

"There's two ways this can go down. First, you can tell me what I want to know, or I just take you to the nearest star system and hand you over to the Republic on charges of illegal salvage operations . . . and pick up any bounty they might be offering for you," Snteil states before he switches off the intercom and turns to Zeethree.

"Speaking of which, when you're done here, remind me to run a check through the system find out who this creature is and if there's a bounty out for it."

Snteil looks back at he'ir and clicks on the intercom again, "Well, what's your answer?"

The Devon's eyes narrow as she'a stares at Snteil and says using Basic in a low tone, "You will bring me my pulsairs."

Snteil turns to walk to the armory and fulfill he'ir request, when he stops suddenly and contemplates the request for a brief second, wondering why he was compelled to perform such a task.

Turning back slowly, Snteil replies, "You know what? I don't think so."

"You WILL bring my pulsairs to me!" cries the Devon, rage evident in he’ir voice and face.

The Sullustan switches off the intercom, turns on his heel and walks past Zeethree, whistling as he walks. Zeethree glances at the droid, waves and follows Snteil.

"I WILL GET OUT OF HERE!" the Devon screams, he'ir threats heard through the thick door. "MARK MY WORDS! I WILL KILL YOU AND YOUR JEDI FRIEND! YOUR DEAD BODIES WILL FLOAT IN . . ."

He'ir voice fades off as Snteil and Zeethree walk around the corner to the gunwell.

Snteil enters the gunwell and reaches for the first rung, when he hears voices from above speaking Basic. A brief smile crosses his face as he climbs to the main deck.

Emerging from the gunwell, his jaw drops as he sees four of the cryo pods opened, and their former occupants mulling about the lounge, checking on each other and talking about the status of the Smiling Sarlacc.

At that moment, the Human wearing black and gray Jedi robes, the one Snteil guesses to be Jan Tolbara, opens another cryo pod, revealing an attractive blonde Human within. A few seconds later, she sits up and embraces the Jedi for a long moment.

"I suggest," says Kurrelgyrre, shattering the moment for Snteil, "that we get you guys to the nearest Republic medical facility and send back another ship to salvage the Sarlacc. I don't think we're in the best condition to tackle anything if trouble arrives. Besides, I insist that we check all of you out."

Nodding, Eriyani replies, "I don't have a problem with it. If I remember the star charts correctly, the nearest facility is back on Coyn, unless the Empire has taken the sector over again within the last five years."

"It's a good thing you're not claustrophobic."

Looking over his shoulder, Snteil sees Zeethree standing between him and the gunwell and watching everyone in the lounge.

More to himself than to Zeethree, Snteil states, "I lived underground for most of my life. I'm sure I'll be fine." He turns back to the crowd and nods sheepishly to the crowd staring at him.

"Well," states Dak, his normally-raspy voice tempting the Sullustan to clear his own throat, "one pod left. I'm sure Qualtis will want to join us. Who wants the honors?"

Kurrelgyrre jabs, "I don't see why we can't just leave her as-is."

Reacting to the sudden silence and the mob of stares, KG feigns innocence and continues, "What? Why is everyone looking at me like that?"

Jan sighs, "I'll do it. Come on, Kurrelgyrre. She's not THAT bad."

"She names her thermal detonators. Remember Raoul?"

The Jedi steps over to Qualtis's cryo pod, keys the combination code and watches the canopy slide open, revealing the woman inside wearing light blue Jedi robes.

"I see she's no longer wearing white," KG jabs sarcastically. "Being a little more honest about ourselves, I see."

"No," Jan replies. "She says it's more fashionable."

Snteil guffaws at this. "Ha! A Jedi with a sense for fashion!? That's . . ." he pauses and suddenly feels very uncomfortable at his outburst now that everyone is staring at him, ". . . um . . . different," he concludes and clears his throat.

"A true Jedi cares not for these things," KG says flatly.

After a few seconds of greetings, Jan leans over the prone woman and softly says, "Qualtis? You awake?"

Snteil glances questioningly at KG and makes a quick motion with his hand miming arming and tossing a thermal detonator as if to ask, "Is this the one I've heard about?"

KG lets out a friendly howl, turns to Jan and says, "Jan Tolbara, I'd like you to meet my Life Friend, Snteil Seit, best bounty hunter in the galaxy."

Jan looks up from Qualtis for a second, nods and says, "Hello.

"Kurrelgyrre," he continues after he looks back down, "could you introduce everyone else, please?"

"What?" Qualtis softly says then suddenly exclaims, "What! I have gone blind!"

She opens her eyes, looks around and continues, "Nope, just need to open my eyes."

"Hey! Why are you all staring at me?!"

"Snteil Seit," interrupts Kurrelgyrre. "Meet Jan Tolbara, Dak, Qualtis, Kianna, Eriyani, and Arsan."

"I hate to cut this reunion short," interjects Kurrelgyrre. "But, we should get back to spacelanes more friendly to the New Republic. I want to pick up the Phantom, drop off our prisoner, and have a medic check all of you guys out. Snteil, let's prepare to make the jump to lightspeed."

"Before we do," Snteil interrupts, "I need to check on something."

With that, he quickly moves through the crowd to the computer terminal in the corner of the lounge and initiates a search.

Unfortunately, he is not able to connect to the HoloNet, as no active node is within range of the ship.

The Sullustan sighs and mutters to himself, "I guess I'll have to wait until we reach port."

He shuts down the terminal and walks to the cockpit, followed closely by Zeethree.

Jan turns to the rest of the group and says, "Let's find our seats."

Qualtis suddenly asks, "Where am I? And, who are all you? I know the walking rug. But, the rest of you I'm drawing a blank."

Jan stops in his tracks and looks at Qualtis with a puzzled expression on his face. Eriyani, on the other hand, looks annoyed and blurts out, "Just sit down, Qualtis! We don't have time for this!"

Waving her hand to belay the comment, Kianna interjects, "No, this might be for real. Temporary memory loss is a possible side effect of prolonged cryo sleep.

"Qualtis," she continues, turning to the blue-clad woman. "Do you not remember us?"

A thoughtful expression crosses Qualtis's face, as she looks at each member of the group in the lounge. After a brief moment, she answers, "Sadly, it's all come back to me now." Following her statement with a cheesy smile, she quickly finds her seat as several people groan in response to the badly-timed prank.

"One thing's for sure," Eriyani jabs, "her sense of humor hasn't changed at all."

Dak adds as he buckles in, "Is that a good thing?"

"You stop!" warns Qualtis, pointing a finger at the scruffy-looking Dak, "I know where you live."

Jan and Kianna smile at each other for a few seconds, until they finally lose control over their laughter. Receiving dark looks from the rest of the Sarlacc crew, the laughter quickly subsides.

Snteil clears his throat, somewhat uncomfortably, to get everyone's attention. "We'll be heading back to civilization shortly. So, if you all wouldn't mind strapping in," he'll gesture towards the lounge, "while we make the jump. After the jump, everyone can move about the lounge area freely. The head's back there," he points, "and the galley is here, as I'm sure you all might be hungry or thirsty.

"I do suggest that no one head back there," he gestures down towards the holding cell, "there's one nasty . . . thing . . . back there that has a way of making you feel like doing all kinds of stupid things. That's what was on your ship when we found it. We'll be turning he'ir in back at Coyn.

"So, if you will excuse me."

"Snteil," calls Jan as the Sullustan turns away, who pauses and turns back. "Thank you for rescuing us."

"All in a day's work," he bows. "But, hey, don't thank me, if it weren't for your furry friend here, I wouldn't even know you existed," he smiles and winks as he turns and heads back towards the cockpit.

After a couple of minutes, A light begins blinking on the console. "Well, coordinates are set," he says before he switches on the intercomm. "Hope everyone is strapped in, we're ready to make our jump to hyperspace. Don't worry Master Tolbara, I've marked the coordinates of this spot, your ship should be safe for the short period of time it will be before we can report it to the Republic and get it towed in."

"What?!" exclaims Eriyani unexpectedly, her voice carrying throughout the ship. "Wait a minute! That's MY ship, you . . . "

The jump to hyperspace drowns out the rest of her comment.

KG looks distantly into the distance, with a gruff emotionless look on his face. Without saying a word, he heads to the bridge to sit by Snteil in the copilot's seat. He doesn't say a word.

After a brief moment of silence, Snteil turns to the Wookiee and says, "You alright, pal?"

"You know, I have literally spent a lifetime trying to become a Jedi Knight. When Master Xai-Dun Kimm died while rescuing me from captivity, it became my life's goal to repay my life debt to him by becoming a Jedi.

"I saw the last of the Jedi fall to Vader. I pursued my studies during the dark times, though I had no teacher, looking for anything that might teach me of the Force. Then I found Jan, trained under him, and finally finished my training at Luke's Jedi Academy. I thought I had become whole.

"It's so good to see Jan again. Then, there's Qualtis. She makes a mockery of Jedi training and tradition. She makes light of everything I have spent a lifetime to achieve."

KG bows his head in silence and in shame.

"Now, hold on just a minute!" exclaims Snteil.

"You have no reason to be shamed! Just look at what you've accomplished. You're a Wookiee, and you have to tell me to calm down!" he says with a wink in his voice. "Seriously though, pal, you've had to come a long way to get where you are now. Believe me, none of that is undone by the actions of one person. Granted, I don't know this person, but what she does does not reflect upon you, especially not to those who know you.

"You hold your head high, Kurrelgyrre. You are a Jedi. And, try as they might, not everyone is cut out to be that."

Snteil pauses for a moment, lost in thought.

KG looks at Snteil with a look of understanding that though Snteil is Force-sensitive, the Jedi ways are not for him.

"As for this woman," Snteil continues. "Like I said, I know nothing about her, and you may be disappointed with her views towards the Jedi ways, or even disapproving, but you should never, ever feel shamed by it. You're too good a being for that."

KG grins, placing a furry paw on his friend's shoulder, giving a grunt of approval.