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(L,F&E 49) In Two Words... 'Oh <Bleep>'

STAR WARS: The Old Republic > English > Community Content > Fan Fiction
(L,F&E 49) In Two Words... 'Oh <Bleep>'

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kalenath
06.30.2012 , 04:28 AM | #1
<The starship Dia’s Gift, in orbit around the planet Ralltiir>

For a long minute no one moved, or even breathed. It wasn’t as if there were not other black haired green eyed girls on this planet. But when a quick check of Sara’s com had no response, activity started. It was frantic, yet focused. The news report kept playing in the background, listing the time and place of the abduction that had been caught by a lone security camera. Kona stood and watched, silent as the bridge crew of the Dia’s Gift seemed to go into hyperdrive without their ship. She understood, and part of her wanted to run around, but most of her obeyed her training, and watched again as the van pulled up beside the girl walking beside the road. The blue flash, the two large masked forms that grabbed the limp form and then jumped into the van, which sped away. Then she noted the reactions of the bystanders. Only then did she turn away. Roane was calling somebody and she walked over to the com board and shut it down. He stared at her.

“We don’t know how, why or who. But they were professionals." Kona said soberly. "Bam, zoom, they are gone. Anyone we call increases our exposure. Sara would be the first to say that.” Roane stared at her.

“Ma’am, this is Sara.” The former Republic Military Intelligence operative said with a snarl. Kona nodded. “If anything happens to her…” now Kona sighed.

“They didn’t want her dead." Kona said sadly. "This whole source may have been a setup.” Roane nodded. Both of them had argued with Sara that this new source of information was shaky at best. A tip from a former Intelligence operative was to be taken with a grain of salt at the best of times, which these were not. Another voice came.

“I agree.” Kona didn’t jump, although it was hard. She knew Dia Ulahadotter was dead. So every time she heard the young Twilek’s voice, it bothered her. She had almost jumped through the bulkhead the first time Dia had spoken, and she prided herself on being unflappable. Now she took it almost in stride. Almost. But Dia was speaking again. “This has all the hallmarks of a Republic Intel snatch. Look…”

Without anyone touching a control, the video that they had been watching replayed on a secondary screen, this time with highlights. They watched the abduction in slow motion. The airspeeder van was dark brown, a fairly common color. The registration plate was obscured, probably with some kind of sensor baffling device, because the area that should have shown it was fuzzy on the camera. Which made sense, if one was worried about cameras, one needed that, but to drive around with it permanently offline, well… That would raise a few eyebrows, especially on a Core World. The stunner shot, the two large humans… Kona froze. Yes, yes, this was exactly the same type of abduction team that had snatched Dia. And taken her to this ship to face her final moments of life. Well, organic life anyway. Now another worried voice came across the intercom and this time, Kona didn’t bother to hide a shiver. This being gave her and everyone else the creeps. If Michelle was aware of the discomfort she caused, it was unapparent. Her voice was calm, clear and unhurried. But underneath lay worry.

“We shouldn’t assume anything." The artificial intelligence said quietly. "But… If it was an Intel team, what are the odds that they are working alone?” Kona blinked at that. Roane spoke slowly.

“They wouldn’t be." He replied against his will. "They will take her somewhere secure, probably drugged to keep her from killing anyone within reach. They probably don’t know she has been deprogrammed. But, with enough time, they can reprogram her.” His frown was wide now. “Sara defines tough, but…” Kona nodded. Anyone could break, given enough time.

“If they found Sara, I bet your profile as well as the other kids’ profiles are on record somewhere too." Kona said slowly. "This ship too.” Roane stiffened in instant rebellion, but Kona just sighed. “So this ship leaves on schedule.” Now Roane was staring at her as if she had three heads.

“There is no way I am leaving her to those monsters.” The soldier protested. Kona nodded.

“I know." Kona agreed. "But listen. If you don’t go. You become a target too. As well as everyone aboard. If they DID know who they grabbed, then everyone aboard is at risk and you know it.” Roane shook his head slowly.

“But…” Roane broke off, scowling. Kona grinned, but there was no humor in it.

“I said go, I didn’t say stay away." Kona said with a feral smile. "Dia, can you hack into the Bureau of Ship Services and set an arrival time for another Foray class cruiser, maybe with something about engine trouble?” A snort came from the speaker and Kona grinned.

“What do you want me to do after that?” Dia asked. Kona bit her lip.

“I want you, Roane, Kina and Draga to go over this ship's systems with a fine toothed comb." The former Jedi said with a sigh. "Get help from the kids, but make absolutely sure that you don’t miss anything. Because I am willing to bet that whoever snatched Sara is after bigger fish.” Roane nodded, his face worried. But Kona was not finished. “Now, well… I need to get on planet quietly and I think I know how to do it…”

This would not be fun.

<A nondescript warehouse, in a run down area>

She sat and smiled. Everything was working as advertised. She had worried a bit when the snatch had made the news. But it was a physical impossibility to get to every security camera. Not that she had refrained from verbally reaming the team leader when e had reported in. She knew her ultimate quarry was here, somewhere. But Foray class cruisers, even highly modified ones, were common. Ever since the Republic had gone to newer models of small ship, the Forays had been almost a glut on the used spacecraft market. Hence the fact that she had managed to purchase the ship for Naj Orh so easily and cheaply. She shook herself. One thing at a time.

She looked around the area. Once upon a time, this had been a fabrication plant for small electrical components. But the company had gone belly up, as many did, especially when the CEO of said company was far more interested in maintaining his high lifestyle than running his company. Now it was a fully equipped hospital and laboratory. It had its own power and water supplies as well, so no traces that way. Hidden in amongst the myriad of other small, run down buildings that surrounded the planets main city, she was reasonably confident that her operation would go unnoticed until it was too late for anyone to stop her. It wouldn’t take long. Even if the girl’s programming had been tampered with or removed, she and her people had refined the procedures, so it wouldn’t take the years it had taken before. No, this would take at most a week. A bit hard on the girl, but… After all, she was just a tool. She smiled as the airspeeder ambulance touched down. That had been a stroke of genius. Ambulances went everywhere. No one in their right mind hindered one, and they could go places that even the police didn’t venture. Gangers, slavers, cultists, whatever, almost everyone left the ambulances alone. After all, who knew when you might need one?

She walked down from her office and smiled as the gurney was brought in. The girl was still out cold, and hopefully would remain that way. The woman sighed as she followed the gurney towards the surgical suite. She had come so far, risked so much, but now, now it was coming to fruition. Finally, Bella Tiner could see the end of her ambitions in reach. And if it cost this little girl her life or sanity, well, that was just too bad, wasn’t it? The end did justify the means after all. And the end Bella wanted was power, lots and lots of power. And it was within her grasp at last.
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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kalenath
06.30.2012 , 04:38 AM | #2
<An hour later>

It was rather anticlimactic. After all Kona had heard, read and seen about Islanian ships, riding in Michelle was… comfortable. She hadn’t expected that, but it made sense. After all, if someone was trapped in a ship for their entire lives, it only was decent to make the ship as comfortable as possible. Of course, some things were uncomfortable no matter what. She forced herself to relax as the acceleration harness withdrew. It looked and felt like a set of tentacles from some overgrown aquatic invertebrate. It was secure, no question, but… very strange. Michelle was apologetic.

“I am sorry." Michelle apologized. "I know it’s weird. But it works.” Kona snorted.

“No weirder than many of the other things I have done for this crew." Kona said with a grin. "Status?” Michelle’s voice went bit distant, as it did when she focused on more than one thing at a time. When she spoke it was professional.

“No challenges, no sensors nearby with the strength to burn through my stealth." The ship replied. "I think we are clean.” Kona bit her lip lightly. This ship was downright terrifying in its capability. The good news was that there was only one left and it was not reproducible. The bad news? It had a mind of its own. “I can loiter if you wish.” Kona froze, but then she thought hard.

“Hmmm… How long can you stay undetected?” The former Jedi asked and Michelle sniffed loudly and Kona had to grin. Even inorganic intelligences had their share of arrogance it seemed. But then Michelle was replying.

“As long as I stay clear of the military bases and spaceports, I should be able to remain indefinitely." Michelle replied with a snort. "I know you are more than capable, Ma’am. But…” Kona froze as a drawer nearby opened. Inside was what looked like a standard comlink, but probably wasn’t. “Sara is my friend. I want to help.” The emotion that the ship projected was easy to hear and feel. Kona nodded slowly as she picked up the comlink, and then noticed something. It was heavy, very heavy.

“What else is in this comlink?” She asked carefully, and Michelle laughed, a bit less worried.

“Any time our battle commanders left the protection of the ship's hull, they could be in danger, so we tried to be prepared." The ship said quietly. "It has the standard com functions, but it also automatically scrambles the signal, and jumps frequencies. No one but me will be able to even detect that, let alone listen in on it. I can also tell within a meter or so, where that comlink is at all times.” Kona winced.

“If it is continuously transmitting, then everyone will know where I am.” Kona protested. Michelle was quiet when she spoke, but there was a grin in it.

“Everyone who receives Islanian wavelengths, with Islanain tech." Michelle corrected. "Yes, they will be able to find you, quickly.” Kona had to grin. Since the sole known source of Islanian technology was the ship she was sitting in at the moment, she was fairly safe. Michlle continued in a more worried tone. “It also has a thermal charge built into it. If you need to, you can turn it into a plasma grenade with the yield of a class three thermal detonator. ” A monitor lit up showing the comlink and then, showing how to activate it. “If you do use it that way, throw it and run.” Kona winced, reminded once again of just how dangerous her ride actually was. “We are clear for the moment, if you want to disembark.” Kona rose and checked her gear, minimal as it was. The ‘comlink’ went into her belt pouch, right beside her blaster. Her lightsaber was hidden in another pouch, one designed so she could get it open very close to instantly.

“Ok, where are we?” Kona asked.

“Roof of the shopping mall where the meet was to take place. I own the cameras nearby, next physical patrol is in three minutes. One more thing…” Michelle seemed hesitant and Kona waited. “I… may be able to track Sara if I get close enough.” Kona blinked.

“What?” The corporeal female asked slowly. Michelle’s voice was small when she spoke.

“She is a master control unit." Michelle made a sighing noise and continued. "Not mine, but the signals that get sent out from her are very similar.” Kona’s eyes went wide at that. “She didn’t want anyone to know, she said she was looking into it, trying to find a way to stop the signals. That is probably why they grabbed her.”

“So if the kids are close enough, and they control Sara…” Kona said, horror etching her tone now. Michelle’s voice was small when she replied.

“Then they will be able to control the kids, and probably Kina and Draga too.” Michelle had hate buried deep in her voice now, and who could blame her? She had been controlled most of her existence the same way. Kona winced at that. But then her gaze was thoughtful.

“Maybe not..." Kona said, thinking hard. "We have been working to deprogram the kids, with varying degrees of success as you know.” But now Michelle’s voice was weary.

“No matter how hard you try, you won’t get rid of it all.” Michelle's voice held sadness, infinite in its depth and for just a moment, Kona could feel the ship’s desperate loneliness as well. Then, like a wall, Michelle’s defenses slammed back into place as she got back to business. “Okay, guard has just passed, next guard in ten minutes, you ready?”

Instead of answering, Kona moved to the hatch, ready to jump. The hatch slid open and the polluted air of Ralltiir hit her. It actually wasn’t too bad for a Core Worlds, but it wasn’t fun either, after so long on a jungle world and then on ships. Then she was in the air, landing in seconds and moving towards the roof hatch that they had pinpointed on their recon. Time to hunt.

<A few minutes later>

Kona stood, part of the small crowd that had gathered to watch the local police try and find clues about the abduction. She had to admit, these cops were not bad. They had the scene sealed off and a forensic droid prowling. But… If this had been an Intel team, and all evidence suggested that, then there would be nothing to trace. Nothing to track. For the cops anyway. Kona relaxed herself and then tensed. Someone was watching her. She looked at the cops again, and then walked back towards the mall. Through the Force, she felt the eyes on her. So, instead of going into the building, she darted into an alley nearby and then froze solid. The girl sitting there smiled at her.

“Hello, Kona. Fancy meeting you here.” Kona could only stare.

“Helen?” Kona's voice was stunned. Hele Regina, the woman who had been a princess of Naboo, grinned wider at the Jedi’s expression and then waved her hand in a small gesture. Shadows moved from the walls and Kona shook her head as five Trandoshans came into view. “What are you doing here?” Helen grimaced.

“Following a wild goose chase actually." The daughter of WIll Kalenath and the woman who had become the queen of Naboo grimaced. "We had a tip that a Sith ship travelled through here, and we thought its cargo might have been a stasis pod.” At that Kona tensed, but Helen sighed. “Another false trail. No ship, no pod. No sign at all.” She shook her head. “We were on our way out, and then we saw the news. You know what Maria will do when she gets here.” Kona nodded, worried. “Then we better find her fast.” Kona sighed.

“It has to be an Intel team.” Kona said soberly. Helen shook her head.

“Could be all kinds of things." Helen said, shaking her head. "But let’s go with the worst case scenario, that way, if it turns out better, we are pleasantly surprised.” Kona stared at her and Helen grinned.

“Come on, we have an apartment rented nearby." Helen waved for the Jedi to follow as she rose from her seat. "It’s set up as a temporary command post.” Kona nodded but shook her head as she followed the younger woman. The Trandoshans followed, two waiting until after the team had left the alley before following carefully, trying to blend in. As much as Trandoshan bounty hunters could anyway.
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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kalenath
06.30.2012 , 04:45 AM | #3
<The warehouse>

The doctor puttered about with her gear, trying to make sense of her readings. Bella Tiner stood by with barely controlled impatience. Finally the slaver had enough.

“Well, Doctor?” If the former Intelligence operative’s tone fazed the doctor at all, it was unapparent. The female human perused her readings and then nodded. When she spoke, her voice was cold.

“She is alive." The doctor said coldly. "I assume that is what you wanted?” Bella snarled at the woman.

“Do you think I enjoyed it?” Tiner demanded. "She had to be broken." But the doctor snarled right back.

“I know you enjoyed it. I saw your face as you put those ‘things’ on her.” The doctor shook her head slowly as she brushed an errant hair back from her patient’s face. Bella Tiner’s face contorted, but then she smiled malevolently.

“Careful there doctor. If you make me mad enough, something might happen to that darling boy of yours.” The doctor snarled, but remained silent as Tiner examined the form laid out on the table. The burn dressings that covered much of the girl’s body from the chest down needed no explanation. “Prognosis?” The doctor snarled again, this time in outrage.

“How the hell should I know? First you stun her, then you drug her, now you have burned her. You put second degree burns over a third of her body! The only thing keeping her going right now is that she is tougher than any other girl I have ever seen. If we wake her up, I put the odds at about 70% that she goes into immediate systemic shock and dies.” The sheer outrage in the doctor’s voice actually had the slaver backing up a step, but then Tiner smiled.

“Well, it’s a good thing that we don’t need her awake then isn’t it?" Tiner spoke as if what she was was reasonable, or sane. "Actually, it’s better for all of our sakes if she doesn’t regain consciousness. If she were awake, I would bet any amount of money we would already be dead. You have two days to get her stable for transport doc. Then we are out of here.” The doctor shook her head.

“I don’t know if she will stable if I had two weeks, you bloodthirsty cow.” The doctor snapped. The slaver smiled and hit a button on her wristcom and the doctor collapsed, writhing in pain as energy played across the stun cuffs and neck collar the woman wore. After a few minutes of watching, the slaver deactivated the devices and squatted down beside the whimpering form. She took the woman’s face in her hands and pulled it up to her own.

“Let’s not forget who is in charge here, doctor.” The slaver said silkily. The doctor tried to spit at her, but Bella backhanded the woman and the doctor landed with a thump. Bella stood up, her face impassive. “Now, we have at most three days until 8410-1 arrives. And we had better be long gone by then.” Bella stared at the unconscious girl and there was triumph on her face. “Once we are at my base, we can take as long as we need, until then, we are in danger. So you will keep her unconscious, tend her wounds and prepare her for transport. Clear?” The doctor nodded, manifestly disapproving as she climbed back to her feet. Bella stopped at the door and smiled at the doc. “The good news is that if you perform as expected, you will see you little boy within the week.” The doctor’s face was impassive as the slaver left the room, and then she sat beside the table, buried her head in her hands, and cried.

After a few minutes of crying, the doctor shook herself and stood up. She had work to do, even if she knew it was an impossibility. She had to do it, or her kid would pay, probably worse than this poor girl already had. She shook her head and again, brushed that errant lock out of the girl’s face. She laid a hand on the girl’s taut, fevered forehead and sighed. This was not…

Doctor… She froze. The voice was in her head and it wasn’t hers! She looked around, but no one else was there and the intercom was dark. Again the voice came. Doctor…

And then everything changed.

<Somewhere>

She was standing alone on a plain. Which made no sense at all. She shook her head. But she froze as a form simply appeared in front of her. It was the girl she was treating!

“What the…?” She tried to back up, but her body wouldn’t move. The girl smiled sadly.

“Normal rules don’t apply here. You are treating me.” It wasn’t a question, but the doctor nodded jerkily anyway. “Stop fighting her.” Now the doctor’s eyes went wide.

What? She is torturing you." The doctor snapped. "She is going to program you, like a droid!” The girl nodded and the doctor froze as the girl embraced her.

“She is going to try." The girl corrected the doctor gently. "It won’t work. But if you resist her, she will kill you or your son.” The doctor’s eyes went wide at that.

“You are awake.” Her voice was horrified, and the girl hugged her again as she nodded. “How long have you been awake?” The girl sighed.

“I have been aware, if not able to do anything, since they stunned me.” The girl admitted. At that, the doctor simply collapsed. The sheer horror of what the girl had to be enduring had her weeping. But the girl shook her head. “Doc, this is nowhere near as bad as some of the things they did to me before. Listen to me….” This last was in what military people would have called command voice and the doctor found herself stiffening as the girl hauled her upright. “Delay as much as you can, but do not compromise yourself. I can’t find any communications systems nearby. So I can’t call for help. But if I know my friends, they are looking for me right now. So, you have to play along.” The doctor shook her head, bemused.

“I don’t know if I can.” Irene said sadly. But the girl smiled.

“Yes, you can Irene. Because you have to, or we are all dead. Or worse.”

<Back in the real world>

Irene came back to herself and stared at the chrono. It had seemed like at least ten minutes she had been in that… wherever that had been. But according to the chrono, she had been gone for less than ten seconds. She shook herself and began her treatments, conscious now that her patient was watching, and waiting for the right moment. And for the first time since her son had been kidnapped to get her cooperation, she dared to hope.
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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kalenath
06.30.2012 , 04:52 AM | #4
<Near the capital city>

Kona watched, with only a trickle of misgiving, as Helen and her somewhat savage team laid out the information they had. What little they had. Helen sat back in her chair and looked at the Jedi.

“Do you know why she was here?” Helen asked. Kona nodded.

“She was to meet a former Republic Intel person, someone with information on the slavers who are manufacturing a new form of battle droids.” At that Helen stiffened and Kona nodded. The lead Trandoshan, Cradaask looked at her and Kona shrugged. “We told Sara it was too dangerous, but she told us to fisk off.” Helen snorted and, once it had been translated into Dosh by their in-suit translation systems, all the Trandoshans laughed as well. But then Cradaask said something in Dosh and Helen nodded.

“You want us to see if we can find and ‘talk’ to this contact?” Helen asked, her face a mask. Kona nodded.

“Yeah, I have a couple of possibilities I can try out myself." Kona replied. "But for now, we need to find Sara and fast. When Maria finds out…” Helen winced and after the translation, all of the Trandoshans looked apprehensive as well. Kona noted that three of them looked a bit apprehensive before the translation went through, but hid her amusement. If they wanted hide the fact that they understood fluent Basic, playing the evil savage grunts, more power to them. Kona laid a datapad on the table and Helen picked it up. The former Naboo soldier pursed her lips in thought.

“I think we can find this guy." Helen said after a moment. "What do you want us to do when we do?” Kona looked at her, and Helen shook her head. “I know what I want to do, but it would get noticed on a Core World.” Kona shivered just a bit. Helen had more than a trace of her dad in her at times.

“Right now, we need information more than revenge." Kona said carefully. She noted that two of the Trandoshans actually relaxed at her words. Not mindless brutes at all. "If he was involved, he is probably down the deepest hole he can find. If he wasn’t, well… he may still be down the deepest hole he can find.” Helen nodded but her compatriots were grinning. After all, this is what they did. Hunt. Kona squared her shoulders. “I have a few places I can ask questions as well. So… I will. But I have to go alone.” Helen nodded.

“Set a contact time?” Helen asked. Kona thought hard for a long moment, but there was no good answer. It would take time to get where she needed to go safely, oh, wait a sec… She had forgotten her ‘special’ transportation.

“Give me two hours, I will contact you. My com is guaranteed untraceable. We shall see if it actually is.” Kona said quietly. Helen handed the Jedi a card with a com code on it and the Jedi was at the door and gone in an instant. Cradaask looked at Helen and barked a question in Dosh. To which Helen grinned with teeth wide.

“Alive yes, not necessarily in one piece.” Helen replied. All of the Dosh grinned the same way Helen did at that.

<An hour later>

This was a mistake, she knew it was a mistake, but she really had no choice. Kona walked up to the door of the Jedi compound on Ralltiir and hit the entry chime. She made absolutely sure her force senses were pulled as tight as she could. The door opened quickly and a figure in robes was standing there. The female Cerean nodded to her.

“Welcome traveler.” The Jedi said formally. Kona bowed in response.

“Greetings, Jedi." Kona said formally. "I am in need of assistance.”

“I am Ona-Vas, keeper of this sanctuary." The Cerean replied, equally formal. "How may I be of assistance?” The Cerean indicated that Kona should enter and Kona did, with some misgivings. “There is no danger here.” Kona flinched, realizing she had projected her worry, and then sighed.

“There is danger." Kona said with a frown. The Jedi stiffened a little and Kona continued. "There is trouble. But not, I think for you and yours.” The Cerean looked at her and Kona was sure the Jedi was looking with far more than eyes. But with her senses so tightly controlled, there was no way to know.

“Then how may I help?” Ona-Vas asked. Kona relaxed a bit.

“Have you seen the news?" Kona asked. "About the teenaged girl who was just kidapped?” Ona-Vas nodded.

“A horrid thing, a child being abducted. But a matter for police.” Kona nodded to the Cerean's words, but held a finger to her lips. Ona-Vas stared with something akin to shock as Kona pulled out a small jammer and swept the area. Nothing showed and Kona relaxed completely.

“I apologize for the discourtesy." Kona said sadly. "But I can take no chances. That girl’s name is Sara Kalenath.” At that name, Ona-Vas went completely still.

“That is troubling news.” The Cerean stared at Kona and Kona flinched under the regard. But then the Cerean smiled. “There is no need to hide now, Jina Darkstorm.” Kona froze. To be called that... here. Her lightsaber was in hand, but the Cerean just shook her head. “There is no need for that Jina. The Council has...rethought their position on you, with a bit of urging from Masters Shan, Vandar and Melan.” Kona had to snort at that. Urging, yeah, right. That was one way to put it. She relaxed and he lightsaber went back to its hiding place. “You are in no danger from the Order now.”

“You can see that this is a problem.” Kona said with a sad sigh. Ona-Vas nodded.

“Indeed. But…" The Cerean was puzzled. "What could we do that the police could not?” Kona raised an eyebrow and the Cerean laughed. “Very well, we shall seek information from our contacts. Will you remain here?” Kona shook her head.

“I have an appointment in…” She glanced at her chrono. “...An hour and ten minutes. Hopefully with someone with information.” She handed the Cerean Jedi a card. Ona-Vas nodded.

“There are two of us in planet. If you need help, call.” Kona nodded and quietly left the building. Behind her Ona-Vas sat at a terminal and sighed.

“I should have known better than to say my life was getting boring…”
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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kalenath
06.30.2012 , 04:55 AM | #5
<The warehouse of horrors>

Bella Tiner was relaxing to a massage from her favorite slave when the alarm went off. She was out of her chair and out her door before the dazed woman could blink. She dashed into the medical area and froze on seeing the doctor struggling with her gear. For once, the slaver stood back, out of the way, and let the doctor work. After a few minutes, the doctor stood back, panting from her exertions. The doctor staggered to a chair and sat, ignoring the slaver.

“What happened?” Bella asked in a quiet voice. The doctor met her gaze and despite everything the slaver was the one to recoil from the doctor’s gaze.

“She stopped breathing is what happened." The doctor snapped. "Well, done. I think some of what you did may have damaged her lungs. Well done indeed. She is breathing on her own again, but I put her on the ventilator just in case.” Bella stared at the form on the table, now with a ventilator going and a mechanical rise and fall of the chest, and shook her head.

“Good thing you were here doctor." TIner said with a smile. "I am guessing she will be ready on time.” The doctor snarled wearily. But when she spoke, there as only sadness in her words.

“The only way we are leaving on time is if you take out your blaster and shoot her in the head." The doctor actually snarled. "She. Will. Not. Survive. The. Trip.” Bella stared at the doctor and then snarled.

“Then there is no point in keeping you around is there?” Tiner asked sarcastically. The slaver drew her blaster and pointed it at the doc, who shrugged, too tired to fight, or even protest.

“Do it." Irene said with a grain as she sat. "Then you try keeping her alive. I am too flarging tired.” With that, the woman put her head down on the table and to Bella’s dismay was snoring almost instantly. Bella shook her head, but then sighed and holstered her blaster. She did need the doc. For now anyway. And the woman had been working hard, the cameras showed her doing everything she could. For just a moment, the slaver felt the cold pang of fear, but then she straightened up.

If it took longer, then it took longer. It wasn’t like anyone would be able to find them after all. And even if they did, she had contingency plans. She smirked as she walked past the cages and the sounds of misery, human and otherwise, followed her. She nodded to the Weequay who was her second in command and he nodded back. She spoke quietly.

“Is the merchandise ready?” Her tone suggested that if not, someone might find themselves in the cages with the ‘merchandise’. The Weequay nodded. “How about our insurance?” The Weequay smiled evilly and nodded again. Bella smiled back just as evilly and returned to her quarters. As she passed it, she patted the large red painted droid. “Be a good boy now…” A faint, almost inaudible whimper was heard, but Bella ignored it as she walked away. She had a massage to finish.

<Elsewhere>

“I don’t know what you are talking about!” The brave front was totally wasted on the Trandoshan who held the human by the ankle over the edge of the roof of a seventy story building. Helen stood back from where Cradaask was snarling at the man. More because she was sure she would shoot the man than from any fear of heights. And they needed his information. It had been obvious quickly that the informant who Sara had gone to see knew something. His eyes, on seeing Helen, had bulged out so far as to seem almost Bith-like. He had tried to run, which had been an exercise in futility. Five Trandoshan bounty hunters were on his case in seconds.

“Okay, let me make this clear then." Helen said quietly. "You set her up. I know you set her up. What I don’t know is why. You know who I am.” It wasn’t a question, but the man nodded frantically anyway. Her voice was calm and matter of fact. “The only reason you still breathe is because you might, might, have information I need. But you have to be stubborn. Oh well…” She nodded to Cradaask who smirked and threw the man, but not down, to the side. Another Trandoshan caught him roughly and threw him to another. It didn’t help the man that they were throwing him across open space with literally nothing between him and the ground a long ways down. They played with him for a time, and then Cradaask caught him and threw him almost negligently at Helen’s feet. Before the man could recover, a very large clawed foot was holding him to the roof and the muzzle of a blaster rifle was pressed to the back of his head. Helen sighed.

“We can keep this up all day, but all it would do is make a very big mess. Come on pal, how much did you get paid? I can double it.” The man snarled at her and she recoiled a bit as he spat at her, and then sighed as Cradaask took offense. But then her perimeter sentry commed a warning. Incoming airspeeder. Cradaask grabbed the contact by the neck and they ran for cover. They made it it shelter quickly and readied their weapons. Helen shook her head. No one was supposed to use this rooftop, which was why they had picked it for some ‘quality time’ with their freshly caught snitch. But when the airspeeder stopped, Kona exited it, followed by two other forms. A Cerean and a human, both in Jedi attire.

“Helen.” Kona called quietly. Helen stepped out into view and holstered her weapon. Helen nodded to the two Jedi and focused on Kona. “We have a problem. A big problem…”
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kalenath
06.30.2012 , 05:04 AM | #6
<The warehouse>

Irene woke suddenly, sure something was wrong. It had been a long two days, but she had managed to keep her patient alive, despite the growing agitation of the slaver who held her reins. She was sure something was wrong. She had fallen asleep at her console again, and now, she couldn’t feel it beneath her. She was lying on a bed now, more comfortable than she had been in a long, long time. Had someone moved her? Why hadn’t she woken? Usually, she was a very light sleeper, especially when she had critical patients to handle. She listened with all her might, trying to figure out what had happened. But the only sounds that came to her ears were the beeping of medical gear and the hum of a droid.

Nothing hurt. Wait a second… A droid? They didn’t have any medical droids. Her eyes opened and she screamed. Well, she tried to. No sound came out of her mouth. Bella was standing beside the bed and the surgical droid was retracting. Bella smirked at her.

“All done doc. I promised you that you would join your son when the job was done, and I keep my word.” Behind the slaver, Irene could see something. Something that made her blood freeze. A humanoid shaped red droid lying on a table. Open, ready to receive its pilot. Her. She tried to scream, tried to fight, but nothing worked. She catalogued what she felt clinically. A tingling on her scalp said painkillers there, so they must have implanted her. If that were the case… Bella leaned down over her and smiled again.

“My compatriots have streamlined the implantation process. Much less damage to brain tissue. Your patient goes under in a few minutes. Thank you doctor. But now it’s time for you to go into your new home.” Irene tried her hardest to scream, but no sound came out. She felt cold metal hands lifting her, moving her, almost gently. Then she was falling. She prayed for the darkness to take her, but her prayers were not answered.

Bella watched with a satisfied grin as the infuriating doctor was strapped into the droid. She leaned over and made the final connections herself, just to be sure. She could see the rage, the hate in the woman’s eyes and she smirked again as she lowered the helmet cover into place. Then the droid closed and she stepped back. The table ratcheted up and the droid was released. She keyed her Owner and the droid walked to where others like it were already waiting. She grinned again, and then turned to the droid.

“Now for 8410-12. Protocol three, maximum care.” The droid started off towards the area where the girl lay and Bella grinned as she looked at the array of large and small red droids. This was a good day, a renewed day. A day she had long awaited.

<At a makeshift command post in an apartment>

Helen felt her face drain of blood as she digested Kona’s news. “HOW many of them?”

The Jedi Ona-Vas shook her head. “We don’t know. A lot. The shipments attracted the attention of Raaltiirian customs, but there wasn’t anything illegal in importing large numbers of dysfunctional droids.” Helen stared at the Cerean, and then shook her head again.

“If there are more than two or three of those things, there is nothing on planets that will even slow them down. Unless… Maybe you three could do something?” Kona pursed her lips and then shook her head.

“Doubtful. These things were built to fight Sith, so… They are likely protected from anything we could do from a distance. We know they have cortosis laced armor to shield themselves from lightsabers, We MAY be able to knock them out one at a time, but… if we hit those things with some kind of droid disabling pulses, what happens to the occupants?” Helen grimaced. Ouch didn’t begin to cover that from what Will had said in the past. It was likely to kill anyone not prepared for it. And if the occupant was a child… Ona-Vas nodded.

“We find ourselves in a dilemma. These things must be stopped.” Helen nodded, but something in the Jedi’s tone had the soldier starting at her.

“Then… What?” Helen asked. Ona-Vas sighed with regret.

“The government is deploying a class six EMP bomb. It will knock out all power systems for a twelve block radius. As soon as we have a location, they are going to fire it.” Helen stared at the Cerean woman in shock. An EMP bomb would indeed disable the droids, but…

“You will kill them all.” Her voice was flat. The Jedi nodded, her face sad.

“It is regrettable, but necessary." The Jedi said quietly. "We cannot allow those things to leave this planet. We cannot allow Republic Intelligence Special Branch to get away with this. ” Helen shook her head.

“I won’t let you kill my sister.” Helen's matter of fact tone belied the hand that lay on her blaster and the Trandoshans behind her who also had hands on their weapons. Kona raised her hands in a placating gesture.

“Wait, wait! Before anyone goes off half fraked… I have some other information." Kona shook her head and all eyes turned to her. "A friend commed me with some additional information that is. Sergeant? The code word is 'Tetrarch'.” All eyes turned to the contact who was tied to a chair nearby, his face shifted in an instant from beady fear, to cold hard determination. When he spoke, it was calm, cool and collected. Helen stared at him, then at Kona.

“Acknowledged. Orders, Ma’am?” He asked quietly. Helen’s mouth was hanging open as she shook her head.

“Sergeant?” Helen’s voice held disbelief and Kona smiled mirthlessly as the ropes that held the man fell away from him. He had cut them while no one had been watching! He rose slowly. Mainly because the muzzles of five blaster rifles rose with him. Kona spoke just as quietly as he had spoken.

“Helen Regina, Jedi Ona-Vas, Jedi Kir, Daask clan hunters…" Kona said formally. "Allow me to present Sergeant Yun Galac, Republic Intelligence, Counter Intelligence Branch.” The sergeant bowed his head and everyone else in the room stared at Kona as if she had grown two heads. Helen was the first to find her tongue.

“What the hell…?” Helen asked, shocked. Sergeant Galac nodded to her.

“It’s a bit of a long story and we don’t have a lot of time." The undercover soldier said with a sigh. "My branch has been hunting the Special Branch traitors for a while. We want them almost as bad as your family does.” Helen stared at him and then nodded, slowly. “I was posted here to see if I could get information through some less than reputable contacts of mine.” All eyes in the room were on him now. He nodded. “There is a lot more going on here than you know. Today, right before you and you team collected me.” He grinned at Helen who shook her head again. “I got a call from a contact at the spaceport saying that four groups had come through, all armed. They were in disguise of course, but the leaders were two human males, a Mon Cal male and a Bothan female.” Helen felt faint. That matched the descriptions of the remaining leaders of the Special Branch who had been on the run.

“Why would they come here? Oh…” Helen went white as pieces started falling together. Sergeant Galac nodded. “We have to get her out of there…” She stared for the door, but Galac held up a hand.

“There is something else you need to know." The soldier said soberly. "This isn’t my plan.” They all stared at him. “It’s Sara’s.”
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kalenath
06.30.2012 , 05:08 AM | #7
<Somewhere outside of time and space>

Irene was first aware of crying. A sound that had her heart tearing in two as she recognized it. But then she heard another voice. Another she recognized.

“It’s okay. It’s okay; I won’t let anything happen to you.” The girl she had been tending was comforting the crying boy. Irene opened her eyes and froze. She was surrounded by forms of people, most of them lying on the surface of wherever they were, some crying, some praying, some just staring off into space. But her eyes were drawn to two forms very close to her. The girl she had been tending was comforting someone and…

“Jon?” Her son’s face came up and she staggered back from the sheer desolation on it. But then it became radiant.

“Mom!” He pulled free of the girl’s grasp and ran to Irene, who bent down to pick him up. It was a long time before she was aware of anything after that, lost in the haze of pain, frustration, fear and now, love. She heard soft speaking around her and when she finally did pull her face out of her son’s hair, he was still crying into her chest, she stared in amazement around her at the serried rows of people who now stood. The girl in front of her grinned. Irene shook her head.

“How?” Irene asked, amazed. The girl sighed.

“At this very moment, they are putting me under for implantation." The girl said quietly. "Which means in the real world, I will be under their control. Or so they think.” Irene stared at her.

“If they put those things in you, you will obey, if it doesn’t kill you." Irene said, horrified. "Your body was awfully weak.” The girl nodded, her face sad.

“Part of me almost wishes they would. I am so sick of this… this travesty of life.” The sheer exhaustion, fear and pain in the girl’s words had Irene reaching out for her. After a moment, the girl allowed herself to be drawn into an embrace. After a long moment, Irene spoke.

“I don’t know your name." Irene said sadly. "She never told me your name.” The girl looked at her and Irene shrugged. The girl smiled, tentative.

“My name is Sara.” Irene nodded. When she spoke, it was comforting. She stroked the girl’s head.

“Sara, how can I help?” Irene asked. Sara nodded, but then her form seemed to shake, and she almost fell. Irene tightened her grip. “What…?”

Sara spoke with difficulty. “They are putting the implants in.” She jerked a bit, but Irene didn’t let her go. “I…” She grunted as if in pain. “As long as I can maintain my presence here, they can’t control me. And if they can’t control me, they can’t control you.” Now the girl was panting and Jon took her hands in his small ones.

“Don’t give up, ma’am, Sara…” Sara smiled at him, but her face was taut with effort. She managed to grate words out.

“This is very important, for all of you…” The soft murmuring that had stared stopped as if cut off with a lightsaber. “If I give a command, obey it. Even if you are not compelled. Even if it makes no sense. Even…” She screamed now and Irene held her as Sara convulsed. Then the girl went limp.

“Sara. Sara!” But the girl didn't respond, and Irene felt her heart clinch.

<The real world>

“Ah, there we go.” Bella smiled as the readings stabilized. With the implants in, she undid the restraints. “Sit up 8410-12.” The form of the girl did and Bella smiled again. The sight brought back so many fine memories. Memories of her compatriot Naj Orh and their pursuits. She nodded to her colleague who started pulling the white ship suit over the girl’s unresisting form. Then she turned to her guests.

“Final checks should be done in twenty minutes. Where too, commander?” She asked. The human smiled and Bella felt a twinge as he nodded to her. She had known of course that she wouldn’t be in charge. After all, it had been his money that had laid the groundwork for this whole thing.

“We have had a stroke of luck. It would seem that the ship is in system.” He said slowly. Belle felt her face go slack with surprise. Naj Orh’s ship was a prize beyond compare, especially with its cargo… “What is the range of her control?” Bella shrugged.

“I have no idea." She admitted. "We have never tested it.” A former commander in Republic Intelligence smiled. He looked to the others who stood nearby and they all smiled and nodded. When he spoke it was satisfied.

“Time for a field test then. Have your people finish the connections and we can get under way.” Bella nodded as she turned back to the girl who was fitted out properly now. She watched as the plumbing connections were attached, then smiled as the helmet was locked into place. Not trusting any other with this, Bella picked up the small form and carried her to the chair they had built for her. She laid the girl in it gently, after all, this was probably the single most powerful weapon anywhere in known space at the moment. It wouldn’t do to damage it by rough handling. As she connected the girl to the life support chair, she looked under the visor and blinked. Was the girl smiling? She shook her head. Madness would not save the girl, nothing would now.
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kalenath
06.30.2012 , 05:15 AM | #8
<At a more robust command post, hastily set up near the warehouse district>

“What do you mean, 'they are firing it'?” Helen’s voice horrified. “We told you…” The captain of the Raaltiirian military shook his head.

“We have no proof of what you say." The con site commander had been less than enthused at having all these odd people descending on him. Now he was even less enthused. "We can’t let those things leave the area. If we do, we may never stop them.” Now Sergeant Galac snarled at him.

“What more do you need?" The sergeant demanded. "I gave you my ID and it checks out. We have told you the plan. More than we should have, actually.” The captain gulped as a different tone entered the sergeant’s voice. A ‘you might be a liability now’ kind of tone. But then the captain shook his head.

“My orders come directly from my Chief of State." The soldier said sadly. "We cannot let those things leave this planet.” Helen’s hand was on her blaster, but she froze as several Raaltiirian soldiers pointed their weapons at her. The captain sighed. “I apologize. But for now, you will remain here, in custody until this is done.” A whistling in the distance had Helen’s face go white, and then her face went cold. Very cold. So cold in fact that the captain took a step back.

“If your bungling today costs the life of my sister, I will hold you and your head of state personally responsible, captain.” Helen snapped. But a small sigh came for the rear of the tent and all eyes turned to Kona. She was the only Jedi there, the other two what left to stand with the soldiers who were waiting the order to go in and clean up whatever was left after the bomb went off. Kona had flatly refused to abide by the orders that the other two Jedi had been given, so they had left her behind. Now Kona had a small, sad smile on her face.

“It won’t.” Helen stared at her and Kona looked at the captain. Then she started counting backwards. “Five… Four… Three… Two… One… Zero.” At ‘Zero’ an explosion as heard in the distance. Helen tensed, but then realized something. It hadn’t sounded like an EMP weapon, they made a distinct noise. Kona grinned at her and Helen shook her head.

“What?” Helen asked, unsure. But a sensor tech at a console stiffened and turned to her captain.

“Captain! We have lost telemetry from the bomb. Sensors picked up a massive energy spike in that area… This is weird. It says ‘plasma discharge’? We don’t have any plasma weapons that big…” The captain froze and turned to Kona.

“What have you done?” He demanded. Kona just smiled.

“I didn’t do anything. I have been sitting right here." Kona said with a small smile. "But whoever did that just saved your life and the lives of a bunch of your government people. You had better pray Maria never finds out you just tried to kill her daughter.” At that, the captain looked blank, but Helen smiled viciously. Horrific didn’t begin to cover what would happen if Maria found that out. But then the captain sighed.

“Whatever happened only delayed us, we have others.” The captain snapped. But a com tech spoke up.

“Sir…” The captain nodded to the tech who swallowed before continuing. “Base Nine… um… They report an EMP detonation on base. In the ordnance wing. It will be several hours before they can get any munitions out of the bunker...” The captain stared at the tech and then turned a fulminating glare on Kona. But his voice was resigned when he spoke.

“And you wouldn’t know anything about that either, would you?” She shook her head and the captain sighed. “We can fight, but those things will slaughter us.” Now the senor tech piped up again, her voice faint with shock now.

“Sir…?” Her voice was fearful now. The captain stared at her.

“What, ensign?” The tech licked her lips before responding.

“A Foray class cruiser just deorbitted." The tech gulped as every eye in the room landed on her. "Its landing trajectory puts in landing in a cleared area near the warehouse.” The captain froze.

“That was their plan all along, wasn’t it?" The captain shook his head, horrified. "What… What can we do? I mean, nothing we have in range will bring a cruiser down.” Kona shook her head and spoke quietly.

“Trust us, Captain. We know what we are doing.” He shook his head slowly.

“I don’t have a choice now, do I?” He asked with a snort. Kona shook her head.

<Thirty minutes later, aboard the Dia’s Gift>

“What a mess…” Bella kicked a piece of debris away from her path as she picked her way across the hangar bay. Obviously the ship had seen some hard fighting. Blast marks, a few bodies here and there. But none in white jumpsuits, so, it had worked. She hadn’t really expected it to. Something about the way that the figure in the chair she was pacing was still smiling bothered her. But everything was going according to plan. Most of the red droids moved to the walls near their counterparts and powered down, out of the way. Two of the smaller droids, per her orders, paced their party. She wasn’t going to take any chances. Not now. But they had done it. They had managed to get their project back. And now, she was destined for greatness. She listened with half of her awareness as Ton spoke quietly.

“..and we can get thirty more in here I think. With that kind of force, nothing in the galaxy will be able to stand against us.” Bella nodded. Something was bothering her though. Something… odd. Something was out of place. She stopped as she realized what it was. One of the droids against the wall was broken. She held up a hand and the party froze, weapons came up, but nothing presented itself. “Bella?” The commander asked quietly. She replied equally quietly.

"I don't know." Bella admitted. “Why would a broken droid be on the hangar deck? Maintenance is two decks down.” Ton looked at her and then shrugged.

“Maybe they didn’t have space? We can check it if you wish, we are clear of gravity now, and nothing on planet can catch us.” Bella nodded as she approached the droid. The rest of the party headed for the hatch to get to the bridge and secure it. The other leaders stood with the two red droids and the small form in the life support chair as Bella examined the droid. Nothing seemed wrong, except the droid lacked motivators on its appendages and its weapons had been removed. She shook her head as she accessed its comm. system. She staggered back as a voice came from it. Naj Orh was screaming.

It's a trap!

And then laughter came from nearby and all of the beings on the deck froze as Maria Kalenath stepped out of a hidden hatch. Her medium repeater dropped into firing position and without a word, she opened fire still laughing maniacally.
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kalenath
06.30.2012 , 05:16 AM | #9
<Dia’s Gift, Hangar>

Bella Tiner dropped into cover as Maria’s fire wiped three of her companions out. But then the remaining Intel people were all in cover and Maria disappeared. The commander’s voice came from somewhere.

“When did she get here?” Belle could only shake her head, trying to figure out what was happening. Naj was speaking loudly, but Bella didn’t listen, she was too busy looking around, then she smiled. She dodged back to where the life support chair was and spoke quietly.

“Override command alpha one. Activate three droids, orders, search and destroy, subject 8410-1.” Three red forms activated along the walls and stomped towards the hatch. Bella turned to her companions. “Problem solved.”

The hatch opened, but instead of going through… Bella froze as the droids opened fire. On her people who were retreating under fire from further along the corridor. In seconds all of the Intel personnel who had been outside the hangar bay lay as smoking piles of meat. The droids turned and she felt her stomach clinch as she realized that none of the droids were ones she had brought from the planet. She ducked behind the life support chair as they opened fire again, and this time, fire came in from all sides, from every droid. But this time, she was amazed to see blue beams instead of red. Stunners. She stared at the chair and was amazed to see the girl awake and looking at her with a grin on her face. The girl couldn’t talk, but the word she mouthed was obvious.

“Gotcha.” Then a flash of blue, something struck her and she knew no more.

<Much later>

When Irene woke again, things had changed. Instead of the harsh metallic smell of the inside of the droid she had been stuck in, now she was surrounded by the familiar sounds and smells of medical gear and the feeling of a warm body pressing against her. She cracked her eyes and found they were covered by a visor of some kind, but it didn’t block her view of the tousled head that lay on her chest. Tears filled her eyes as she recognized her son. She felt… strange, but that was to be expected. There were minor aches all over her body. She moved a slow hand to touch her son’s head, to make sure he was real, and he shifted a bit in his sleep, but didn’t wake. A soft voice came to her ears.

“Good morning.” She looked up into the eyes of a Twilek in medical attire. She opened her mouth but nothing came out. The Twilek held a straw to the woman’s lips and she drank gratefully. The Twilek smiled at the boy who nestled a bit closer to her in his sleep. Her voice was still quite. “He wouldn’t leave you. Can’t say I blame him after what the poor boy went through. No, drink it all…” The Twilek said when Irene would have spoken. The doctor did as ordered. The Twilek sat beside Irene’s bed and spoke again, still soft so as not to disturb the slumbering child.

“We know who you are and what happened to you. We know you tried to help her. You are in no danger here.” Irene felt a great weight fall from her shoulders, but then she tensed. When she spoke her voice cracked a bit and Jon murmured in his sleep.

“S…Sara…?” Irene asked, scared. The Twilek bowed her head.

“We don’t know." The medic said sadly. "She fought it so hard. I… I don’t know. We could use your help Doctor. We suddenly have a lot of business in this clinic. We are on our way to better facilities. The Raaltiirians wanted us to stay until they could send people up to secure us, but we gave them the slip.” Irene nodded carefully. Her voice was stronger but still soft when she spoke again.

“Too powerful.” Irene said with conviction. The Twilek met her gaze and nodded again, slowly.

“We all agree.” The doctor stared at the Twilek, suddenly realizing that the head pieces she had taken for ornamentation were in fact implants. She shivered a bit, sparking a distressed murmur from Jon. She relaxed.

“How can I help?” Irene asked quietly. The Twilek nodded.

“My name is Kina, and while I am medic trained and schooled in surgery, I am way out of my depth here. I need your help and your hands.” Irene nodded, then slowly and carefully arranged Jon on the bed so she could get up. He protested, still asleep, but she eased him with a few murmured words and some gentle touches. She sat up and Kina aided her in standing. It took a few moments before her body could adjust and she realized something. She was still wearing the garment she had been in, and… Her hand shot to her head and she blanched as she felt the ridges of the implants in her skull under the fuzzy stubble of her regrowing hair. Kina sighed. “I don’t have the skill to take them out. We are meeting some others who do, but I really need help with some of the patients in the meantime.” Irene nodded.

“What do you need? I will help as I can.” Kina relaxed a bit, then led the doctor to another room, one with a table and chairs. Caf and food were laid out on the table.

“Well, none of them are in danger at the moment, and all of them are talking. So none are going to go any crazier than they are. I hope anyway. I really need some… I…” The Twilek broke off, and sat heavily. Irene could see the other medical professional’s exhaustion. Irene sat beside her and looked at her.

“How long since you slept?” Irene's voice was gentle. Kina sighed.

“Too long, but… Sara is still critical, and I have to get them out of the droids, and…” Irene silenced the younger medic with gentle hand. She gave the Twilek’s shoulder a gentle squeeze.

“Rest, Medic Kina, I will help as I can.” Kina’s eyes glowed with gratitude, and then she lowered her head to the table and was quickly asleep. Irene stared at her for a long moment before making sure the medic was a s comfortable as possible and moving to the door. Lots to do, lots to find out about. Not the least of which was what had happened to a certain slaver witch…

<Somewhere very private on the Dia’s Gift>

Bella Tiner woke when someone jammed a noxious smell under her nose. She tried to flinch back, but couldn’t. She opened her eyes and froze. Maria stood there, the hand holding the aspirant solution slowly retracting. The other hand was fondling the handle of a knife. Bella’s eyes went very round as she saw the blade as sitting on a hot plate and glowing. Maria spoke softly, almost kindly, but a shiver ran down the slaver’s back.

“It would seem that you are the only one I get. The commander and the others have been claimed by Republic Intelligence. And I guess I do want them interrogated. To find out everything they have done and planned. To see this horror finally stopped. But you…” Maria’s finger traced the slaver’s cheek and again the bound woman shivered. “We have all the information we need about you. It seems all of your personal slaves have photographic memories. Great for them. And for me…” Bella tried to writhe away from the woman’s touch but her bonds were too tight. And now Maria’s smile was evil.

“Not so great for you. How does it feel, slaver? To be the one bound and helpless under someone else’s knife?” Bella was begging now, but her cries were muffled by whatever was gagging her. “Oh. Don’t worry. I won’t kill you. I am not in any hurry at all either.” Maria picked up the knife and Belle was struggling, pleading, begging, but Maria’s face was a stone mask as she approached. The blade made a sizzling sound as it neared the woman’s left eye. Now the older woman’s voice was feral.

"Don’t worry, I know what I am doing. It’s for the Republic…”
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kalenath
06.30.2012 , 05:21 AM | #10
<Somewhere>

She floated. It was so restful, not to be in pain. Not to have fear. It had been so long since she hadn’t had to deal with either of those. The pain that the implants had given her had been excruciating. Even the support of all the other minds that had been close to hers hadn’t helped but just a little bit. But then, it had all stopped. She assumed that the fact that the pain hadn’t resumed meant that her plan had worked, that the last few scum who had served Republic Intelligence Special Branch had finally been caught. That she was finally free of their poking and prodding. Then something poked her. She ignored it, but the soft poking continued.

“Stop that.” She hissed, but the poking continued. Finally she sighed and opened her eyes. When she did, she froze. She wasn’t where she had expected to be. Instead of on a medical bed, or even on the featureless plain that she was becoming all too familiar with, she was someplace else. She was lying on a sofa, in front of a roaring wood fire, and her head was in someone’s lap. She looked up and the man smiled at her. She should have been angry or frightened, but she wasn’t. She felt… good. She sighed. “Who are you?”

The man looked sad. “You don’t remember me. I guess I am not surprised. We didn’t see a lot of each other.” She felt so warm, so comfortable. She hadn’t felt so warm and comfortable in a long, long time. After a time, it might have been minutes or centuries, she spoke again.

“Am I dead?” The man shook his head, but his touch was gentle as he rubbed her arms. It felt good, it felt… familiar. She relaxed, she knew that this was wrong, that something was very wrong, but it didn’t seem to matter anymore.

“Not yet, Sara. But you are very close. You are right at the edge. If anyone has earned a long rest, you have. Oh my girl…” Tears fell from the man’s eyes now and Sara felt sorrow.

“I don’t want to go back." Sara said sadly. "It will hurt again. I am so sick of it hurting. But Mama needs me.” The man nodded.

“Yes she does. Ah, you are a brave girl, Sara. The bravest I have ever seen. “ She stared at him, was he fading or was she? “Tell Maria, I will wait for her. And then we will wait for you and your brother.” Sara tried to stop whatever she was doing but forces beyond her ability pulled her away. Fog surrounded her now.

“Dad…? Dad!” She cried, trying to fight, to stay. His voice came to her as if from a great distance.

“I am so proud of you. You will always be my little girl Sara. Give your mother my love...” But she was gone.

<The real world>

Sara came awake to the sound of muffled crying nearby and the feeling of wetness on her cheeks. She tried to move, but her body wouldn’t obey her. She cursed, and then realized that something was in her mouth, probably a ventilator tube by the noises she heard. Then a face she remembered came into her field of vision. Irene’s face was a study, fear, rage, and sadness that changed in an instant to incandescent joy.

“By the Maker, Sara. We lost you. Maker’s mercy…” The doctor pulled her into an embrace and Sara could only stare at the reserved woman crying whole heartedly into the girl’s shoulder. Finally, Irene laid her back down gently and started unhooking her.

“You went flatline. I couldn’t get you back. I tried everything I knew.” The doctor was babbling, but Sara barely heard her. She knew where she was. The medical bay on the Dia’s Gift. But she couldn’t hear anything. Oh her ears worked fine, but always before there had been the background noise in her head from the machines, even when she wasn’t merged with them. Now there was only silence. The doctor was working on her and Sara just lay there and let the older woman do what she had to. But her eyes were brimming.

Thank you Dad. I will tell her.

She nodded off before Irene could finish, but for the first time in a very long time, her sleep held no terrors, only the memory of warm arms.
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