Battlelord Ric "Tater" Hunter (Sith) / House Ektrosis of Clan Taldryan [GMRG: IV] [SA: IV] [INQ: IV]
DB Pin 3160
The YT1300 Aluminum Falcon in Orbit around Tatooine
Ric Hunter gazed out of the cockpit at the bright, sandy world of Tatooine. After four days floating in orbit, he was hoping to see the star freighter he was waiting for to finally arrive. Actually, not so much the ship as to who it carried.
Ric didn't have anywhere else to be of course, he had freed up his schedule when he left Scholae Palatinae last year. Now he was doing some freelance work far away from the Brotherhood and its current crisis fighting the Collective. The last skirmish with them had left a mark on him and he had decided to put some distance from it all. Bounty hunting wasn't as steady as having a nice clan support network, but at least he was free to move about the galaxy.
With a slight rush of atmosphere, the hatch between the cockpit and the rest of the ship opened. The figure who appeared took his seat in the copilots station. He glanced over at the sensor screen and grimaced.
“I know,” Ric answered before his friend could ask. Malodin'Blade, former commander in the Scholae ground forces and current bounty hunter, just grunted his reply. He was not known for his eloquence as most of his species was, he was more a man of action.
“Four days and nothing. I am beginning to think we might have been misled,” Mal checked the sensors again and then leaned his head back.
“If we don't see anything in the next twelve hours, we're going back to Nar Shadda and get answers. That I can promise you,” Ric got up to stretch. He had been in the pilot seat for hours and it was time to get some food and rest. “If you see anything, I'll be in the back.”
Mal nodded his head and went back to scanning the sector.
Docking Bay Eighty Nine - Mos Eisley Spaceport
A silence filled the docking bay as the freighters engines finally wound down, replaced only by the ticking of cooling metal. With a hissing, the outer hatch slid up and a ramp lowered, allowing the two men who had arrived to disembark from the ship. They glanced around the bay and were satisfied that there was no one around. Grabbing their gear, they headed towards the main entryway.
“About time you arrived, Sil,” A voice from the dark called. Both men dropped everything and went for their weapons. It wasn't fast enough as the flash of a stun blast flew out, dropping them both.
Ric exited the dark and placed cuffs on both mens wrists. Malodin wheeled a cart in to load the men on and take them to their ship. They had an appointment with their destiny and they couldn't be late.
Ric noticed his comm was blinking, indicating he had received a message. As Mal is loading the unconscious men, Ric opens the message and scans its contents, fully expecting it to be from a member of Scholae. The image that greeted him was someone he had never seen, although he did recognize the symbol that stamped the message. It was something he had not seen for a very long time.
“Greetings Battlelord, I am Savant Justinios Drake, the Quaestor of House Ektrosis. I come before you to ask for your aid in our struggle against the Collective. I ask this of you because of your history with this house and we are in need of your help,” with a beep the message fades out and is replaced by a set of coordinates. Ric closed his eyes and shakes his head. It seemed no matter how far he runs, he will always been drawn back in. As soon as this job is done, he'll at least contact them and see how he could assist his former house.
YT1300 Aluminum Falcon - Wild Space – Two days later
“I still don't like this. We have been out and away, out of this madness, this conflict. I really don't like it,” Mal said for the seventeenth time in the last hour.
“As you have said, several times now,” Ric checked the jump coordinates one last time before he reached for the hyperspace levers. Hopefully this wouldn't take long and they could once more roam the galaxy. “All we need to do is find this black box and take it to Ektrosis and get paid. Once we do that we are free to go.”
“I've heard that before... several times as a matter of fact,” Ric knew that Mal would complain but still follow him, no matter where he lead.
“Its just a simple in and out with a paycheck at the end. Nothing more and nothing less. Trust me,” Ric pulled the levers to the hyperdrive, stretching the stars into streaks.
“That's usually my first mistake...” Mal muttered under his breath.
Suspected location of the ship Psi Termina I
The Aluminum Falcon dropped out of hyperspace near the last reported position of the Psi Termina. It was an unremarkable sector, save the patrol of Collective star fighters. Almost immediately the enemy fighters turned towards them and powered up their weapons. Ric grabbed the flight stick and sent the ship into a quick snap roll as Mal activated the shields. He didn't bother charging the guns, they would be nearly useless on autofire while they were going evasive.
“I guess we're in the right area,” Ric said as he throttled up the ship. “Do you see anywhere I might be able to lose them?”
Mal checked the sensors, looking for anything that might allow them to drop their pursuit. He was coming up with nothing substantial. There were no clouds of gas, no asteroid belts, not even a singularity. He shook his head and began to set jump coordinates into the hyperdrive.
“Nothing here we can use. Best bet is to jump out and try a different approach,” he knew his friend well enough that he wouldn't argue the point. “Coordinates are set, get me a clear vector and we can jump.”
Ric pointed the ship away from all the planetary bodies and gravity wells in the system, increasing his speed. He had to stay out of the firing solution of those ships that were fast approaching. Once the computer chimed, he pulled the levers and they made a short jump away from there.
After a few minutes, the Aluminum Falcon dropped out of light speed and Mal once more checked the sensors. Seeing nothing, he turned to face Ric in the pilots chair.
“So, whats your plan now? Jumping in straight out didn't work too well it seems,” Mal said.
“No it didn't. Did you get a good read on the system before we jumped out?” Ric replied.
Mal made no reply and just looked at him.
“Of course you did. Sorry, stupid question,” Ric had to smile at his partner. They had worked together for a very long time and each knew the other so well. The deadpan look on Mals face faded and was replaced by a smile of his own.
“I think I might have found a spot we can jump to and get to the ship undetected,” Mal got out of his seat and headed towards the main cabin. Ric set the sensors to alert them in case they were followed and also headed aft.
Mal activated the main display and it showed the tactical readout of the last system. There were two moons in orbit of the planet they had just left and the distance between them cast a sensor shadow. In this shadow, the ship could jump in undetected. However, the main problem was that the computer wouldn't allow them to do it. It was going to be a manual jump, something that was considered impossible. Impossible for someone who didn't have control of the Force that is. Even though Rics skills in astrogation were mediocre, this should be a easy jump to make.
“And the good news is that the ship hadn't crashed on the surface of the planet yet. It was adrift between the two moons. If we can get close one of us can go across, get what we need and get away before anyone notices us, provided the central data core is still there and intact,”
Six Hours Later, in the shadow of the double moons –
As soon as the ship had dropped from hyperspace between the moons, Ric had powered down the ship as low as he dared. The ballistic trajectory of the freighter would carry them close to the derelict ship as possible, but they would only be in close enough range for about thirty minutes. Malodin'Blade had volunteered to go across and access the ships systems while Ric stayed behind to fly the ship.
Mal stepped into the airlock and prepared to jet across the void to the Psi Termina. This was going to be the most difficult part of the mission as he would only get one shot at it. If he missed the ship, he couldn't turn and try again, the extra use of the thrusters might alert the patrolling ships. He lined up with the ship as the ramp lowered and got ready to launch himself into space.
“Alright Mal, this is the straightest I can get us. Good luck,” Ric called over the comm.
Mal didn't reply but sent two clicks to acknowledge. He crouched down and grasp the thruster controls in his right hand. Mentally counting down from five, he launched himself towards the wreck. As soon as he was clear of the ship, he activated the thruster and accelerated towards the Termina.
Mal readied the magnetic grapple that was attached to his suit. He would need to get within one hundred meters to catch the ship. As the distance rapidly decreased, he lined up his shot and let the grapple fly. After what seemed like and eternity to him, the magnetic anchor latched onto the hull and he activated the reel to pull him to the ship.
Mal could see some lights on in the ship and there was a small shuttle docked with the main airlock. He activated the heads up display in his helmet and scanned the ship for heat signatures. Sure enough, he counted three near the area that he needed to go. He made his way towards the very large hole that had been blasted away by the suicide bomber. It was going to be his way inside.
As he entered the cavity, he could see exactly how much damage had been done. This part of the ship used to house the actual listening post. He saw a few technicians still strapped into their stations, but it seemed the rest had been blown out of the ship in the decompression. Mal worked his way towards the center of the room and found the main sensor suite. It was here that he would fond the highly upgraded black box that he was looking for.
He didn't know what made it so important but to be honest he really didn't care either. It was a paycheck to him. It seemed that there was some damage to the mechanism that locked the module in and it was going to take a bit of time to get it free. He started working on it.
Ballistic Trajectory near the Psi Termina I -
Ric closed his eyes and tried to listen to this system of space. It had been a while since he had let himself drift into the force. He had been on the go pretty much since leaving Scholae and didn't have time to listen. Something had changed in him in the last year, of that he was certain. Now he had to figure out what.
In the back of Rics mind, he began to sense an urgency. It wasn't directed at him specifically but in his general direction. He glanced at the sensors and watched the ships flying around him. None of them had changed course and none of them were heading in his general direction. Yet in his mind a warning was forming, something he couldn't ignore.
Mal surely would almost be finished by now, and should be heading to egress the ship. Ric had received no pick up signals yet but time was rapidly running out. It had been almost twenty minutes since Mal had left the ship and he was almost past the blown out hulk of it. If Mal didn’t get out soon, he was going to have to power up and come back around, and that was sure to draw attention. He knew he couldn't do the ballistic floating trick again either, space was large but there were only so many floating rocks.
As Ric watched the floating wreck, he saw flashes through several of the windows. That was never a good sign. Mal seemed to be engaged in a fire fight with someone on the ship. Ric let a fleeting thought flash through his head, maybe he should have gone over. As sudden as the flashes had started, they ended just as fast. Ric knew that his time was up.
Ric slowed the ship, knowing that he had just blown his cover. As soon as the thrusters fired, the sensors pinged, letting him know that several fighters had broken their patterns and were now heading to intercept. He only had about eight minutes before they were within firing range.
Ric locked on to the port side airlock since there was a ship on starboard. He grabbed his lightsabers and his blaster, preparing to board the ship and do what he needed to. As he approached the airlock, it slid open and there stood Malodin'Blade, computer module in his hand and a few new burns on his armor.
“Time to go,” he said as he headed towards the ventral guns. As he passed Ric, he handed him the module and started to climb the ladder to the gun pod.
Ric headed towards the cockpit and charged the main guns and raised the shields. He put power to the engines and headed towards the edge of the gravity field. The fighters were now almost within firing range, they must have put everything into their engines, which would be a good thing. If they did that then their cannons would be depleted as well as their shields.
Mal started firing at the incoming ships as they came into range. The lead ship exploded in a ball of fire, proving Rics thoughts true. The other fighters broke off and began to fly evasive. The underpowered lasers were no match for the fully charged shields of the old freighter, but that wasn't their only weapon at their disposal.
A fighter made a quick turn and headed straight for the cockpit. Ric turned the ship as it approached and Mal blasted it with the upper cannon. The Collective pilots were doing anything they could to stop them, including suicide runs. Ric thought it was a waste, it reminded him of the way that the Empire had wasted pilots and troops.
“Unidentified ship, you are trespassing in this system. Stand to and prepare to be boarded,” a voice called over the com system.
“Look, we were just passing thru on the way to the Coleous system when you attacked us. We are just simple traders, trying to make our way in the galaxy,” Ric replied.
“Coleous system? Never heard of it. Stand to and prepare to be boarded,” the voice replied.
“I'm sorry, but I don't speak basic,” Ric replied as he pushed the engine throttles all the way forward. The old YT shot forward like a barve with its back legs on fire. The enemy ships fell behind and opened fire. They never had a chance to aim but they figured if they put enough blasts in the air they might get lucky. Ric never let them get lucky and evaded them with ease.
As they reached the jump point, Ric activated the hyperdrive and they jumped away.
In Orbit Near Taruma -
Ric watched the planet of Taruma from orbit. He had not been in this system for many years and when last he saw it, it had been his home. Now it was a barren waste land, destroyed from orbit by the fleet of the Iron Throne, from what he heard anyways. He had technically been reborn on this world, cloned in a lab. Not the first time it had happened but it was the first time in the aftermath of the Exodus.
The sensors emitted a beep letting him know of a new ship arriving in orbit. He glanced at the readout and saw that the IFF was reading the ship as Taldryan. Finally, he'd get his credits and be gone from this place and all of its memories.
“Aluminum Falcon, this is the Shuttle KEP four one, please respond,” Ric hit the acknowledge button and leaned back in his seat. Not long now.
“Copy Shuttle. Standing by,” Ric left his seat and went towards the airlock. He could hear the other ship locking on and the air pressure rising in the tunnel. When the board read green, he activated the hatch and it opened with a slight rush of air. Ric waited until the other ships hatch had fully opened and waved the man through to his side.
The cloaked figure climbed down the ramp and faced Ric. He reached up and pulled his hood from his head and revealed the face of Justinios Drake, the Quaestor of Ektrosis himself. Ric looked down at the diminutive Aleena and had to stifle a giggle. He had served under many different people in his time in the brotherhood. Figures ranging from Alanna and Bubbles, his first masters, to figures such as Dante and Braecen.
“I have what you asked for. Do you have what I wanted?” Ric asked, holding the module.
“I do. I also have a request,” the Aleena pulled a chip from his robes and handed it over. Ric handed him the module, waiting for the details of his request. “I wish you to return to Ektrosis. With the perils of these current times, I am in need of your power. You will be well paid if that is your worry.”
Ric was silent for a moment as he thought the offer over. Something in his mind was telling him to accept this offer. Maybe he would be able to get a look at their cloning stuff and see if there were improvements since he had left. That might make it worth it.
“Let me think about it. I'll get back to you on that,” Ric replied. He didn't want to sound eager but he did want to keep that door open.
“Reply on this network and I'll see to it you are directed in,” Justinios indicated on the datapad he carried. Ric nodded and turned towards Mal who was standing behind him. Mal could see that Ric had made up his mind already and they would be joining in the war again. He nodded his agreement. Ric turned back towards Justinios, decision made.
“We're in,” Ric said.