The Fifth

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Re: The Fifth

The day was warm, and the lab was warmer. Inside, two white coats lay abandoned, draped across a dented metal chair by the door. The coats' owners, men with their shirtsleeves rolled up, stood as close as they could to the weak climate control draft being pumped in to the room. "There," one said, capping a syringe and setting it down gingerly. He handed the other the bottle he had just used to fill the syringe. "Put that back in refrigeration, will you?"

His companion took the bottle, and nodded at the syringe. "Are you sure that will be enough?"

"Enough?" The man sighed, as he pulled off two sets of gloves and disposed of them. "You could bring down a bantha with that, if you could get close enough to one."

The other returned from putting the bottle away and picked up the thin plastic tube, examining it. "Five, you said?"

"Yes." His hand held out a metal tray, and the other man deposited the innocuous looking weapon.

"A damn shame. Did they tell you why?" A shake of the head in response. "No? Me either," he held open the door for the one carrying the tray and snatched up the coats before following him out.

"We don't need to know," the other said in a warning tone as they walked down the mercifully cooler halls.

"I know," the other replied sourly, rolling his sleeves back down. "But all that work!"

"Yes. But there are still four others." The pair stopped in front of a wide metal door, and traded each other, tray for coat. "All you need to do is make sure that it goes to Five. Make absolutely certain. And don't let on that there is anything unusual." He paused to straighten his jacket. "The last thing we need is for the techs to mess this up."


*******

The morning routine was well established. The young man pacing a small cell (part of the routine) couldn't recall a time when things had not been this way. He had a gut feeling that things had, at one time, been different. It was in the mornings when he tried to seize on a memory of something else, somewhere else, anything, when that gut feeling felt the most substantial. In these moments, he felt so close to being able to identify something other than his surroundings as a reality of his past, but could never grasp any details. Only a feeble knowledge, lacking any context, that something was wrong. And this morning he felt it more than ever.

The young man lived with an awareness that those around him didn't seem to share. Lifeforms and objects, to him, seemed to have a second essence, more fluid than how they existed in space and time alone. An essence that spoke more of truth and possibilities than of appearances and now. Today they seemed muted and half-vacant, and sent a chill down his spine.

Handlers with breakfast and his injection interrupted his pacing (again, part of the routine), and he sat to receive his medication before eating. He looked at his arm as the handler positioned the syringe; what he saw filled him with terror. What always before was full of stillness and calm, today was full of violence and isolation.

The syringe held death!

Without any warning, the young man twisted out of the way of the needle, grabbed the syringe from its owner, and hurled it against the wall where it shattered into deadly fragments. He turned to face his would-be killers. One was already calling for help on communicator while the other was running for an emergency call button. Terrified, the young man bolted from the room, running blindly, trying only to get free.

********

Baith felt the first of several deaths through force only moments before the facility's klaxons began blaring. A wave of sheer terror had disturbed him from his meditation maybe a minute before that. One of the young pups, it seemed, had found a way how to feel, and was broadcasting his current emotional state with impressive strength. That's not the only thing he's doing impressively. Baith thought, frowning as he felt the effects of yet another death through the force.

He took a deep breath to help clear his mind, then mentally reached out to the young man. I can help you.

Baith got no direct response in reply, and realized how unfocused in the force the young pups were. He did detect, however, a slight change in the young man's emotional state- still terrified, but there was an element of hope. At this, Baith abandoned his hope of anything resembling rational behavior from the man running scared. He's not even a Padawan, Baith reminded himself.

Gathering power from the force, Baith blasted his cell door from its hinges, and ran to aid the young man.

He was going to need a weapon. And a ship…

I want to live. I want to experience the universe, and I want to eat pie. - Urgo
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Re: The Fifth

Though it was only late morning to the captain and passengers of the Chaos, in Mos Eisely, a stifling afternoon was rapidly transitioning into an uncomfortable evening.

Jerin contacted the cargo recipients planetside and directed them to bay 27. On her way to meet them, she ducked her head into the secondary cargo bay long enough to tell her passengers, "You two stay here- I'll be back soon. We should be able to get underway in few hours."

Derian called something unintelligible after her as she made her way down the ramp. She ignored him. Whatever it was, it could wait a few minutes. Jerin mechanically went through the routine of opening the primary cargo hold for inspection and the exchanging and signing of data pads. Then she returned to the comfort of her ship, leaving the team to their unenviable work.

"So, have you two-" Jerin stopped in her tracks only a few steps into the secondary hold. Xiann looked up at Jerin from the couch. Derian was conspicuously absent. "Where's Derian?" Jerin prayed silently to any gods listening that he'd just stepped out to use the 'fresher, but knew she wasn't that lucky.

"He said he had some things to look into." Xiann said, rising. Jerin groaned. "I tried to stop him, but he-"

"is a stubborn son of a bitch," Jerin finished Xiann's sentence for her. "Or were you going to be polite and call him 'determined'?" She raised her eyebrows.

Xiann suppressed a grin and shook her head.  Jerin nodded once, then slipped around Xiann and hefted one of the smaller boxes off the deck and on to the couch.

"What are you going to do?"

"I'm going to go look for him," she answered matter-of-factly, prising the lid off the box. She reached in, pulled out another example of one of her many throwing blades, and inspected it. "Haven't decided exactly what I'm going to do with him when I find him, yet." The blade disappeared up her sleeve.  

"Try to restrain yourself," Xiann said wryly, observing the blade. "He's already damaged goods."

Jerin grunted noncommittally. "That won't matter if I can't find him."

"He can't have gotten too far. You weren't gone very long."

"Long enough," Jerin commented. Knives continued to appear from the box, only to be subjected to scrutiny before vanishing somewhere on Jerin's person. "Look, the guys unloading the primary hold only have access to that part of the ship. I'll close the ramp behind me, and no one will be able to bother you here." Jerin pounded the box's lid back on.

"I could go with you. Lend a hand," Xiann offered.

Jerin's face clouded briefly. "Nah. I need someone here who can call me over the comm in case he crawls back a mess."

Xiann nodded. "Okay," she said with a hint of hesitation in her voice. Jerin didn't think Xiann bought the reasoning, but it didn't matter as long as she stayed put.

"I'll check in over the comm every two hours. If I don't, use the subspace radio to contact Kursku, and tell him what happened. All the controls are in the cockpit. You know how to use them? It's pretty standard."

"Yeah. Hopefully you won't be gone that long."

"Right." Jerin frowned, trying to think if there was something else she might need. Remembering the heat, Jerin pulled off her jacket, revealing a shoulder holster holding a blaster firmly to her right side. She tossed the jacket on to the couch.

"What do you think Derian's gone after?" Xiann asked, leaning up against the door frame.

"I don't know. Booze? Women? Trouble? You tell me." Jerin knelt to unlock a metal box in the corner.

Xiann tipped her head to the side. "He just said 'things.'"

Jerin pulled a small package from the box, and secured it again. "Important things?"

"He did put it that way, yes." Xiann sounded apologetic.

"Thought they might be," Jerin strode toward the exit. Xiann moved out of her way and accompanied her to the ramp in silence. Jerin was already running through a list of places Derian might have headed for and planning her route. She punched the ramp back down and turned to Xiann.  "Don't starve. You know where stuff is on this ship. I'll check in in a couple hours."

"Thanks," Xiann smiled. "Sahak Chir." Avoid death.

"Right," Jerin nodded.  "Loh yarech,"  No fear, she returned, before disappearing down the ramp.

I want to live. I want to experience the universe, and I want to eat pie. - Urgo
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Re: The Fifth

Loh yarech, Xiann mused. She filed that phrase away with the others she hadn't recognized as best she could. She grinned at the closed door in front of her and let out a thankful sigh. The twi'lek absolutely could not believe that Jerin had left her alone on the ship. It felt good to let her guard down and relax, and she could feel her lekku trembling slightly in relief at no longer being held so tightly in control.

Either the girl doesn't have anything to hide, or she's very confident in her hiding places. Xiann was betting on the latter, since it was becoming rapidly clear that Jerin was more than a simple cargo hauler. If she's tied to Darien, then there's something to learn.

The twi'lek  turned to survey the large cargo area, a small smile on her lips, and decided she was spoiled for choice. She pressed her fingertips together for a moment, assessing her surroundings. There was a lot to look at. And into. Snooping was an ugly word for it. She preferred "getting to know someone via their possessions". The more you knew, the easier it was to find leverage.

Xiann frowned in thought and decided to start in the cockpit. Research was probably the best place to start, before her memory faded.

Xiann wasn't a linguist. She definitely didn't have an eidetic memory. The twi'lek knew basics in a lot of languages, but the phrases Jerin had been throwing around weren't any she was familiar with, and that frustrated her. She'd heard similar phrases before, but couldn't pin down where. It was becoming clear she was going to have to figure out what dialect it was and learn a few choice words. Never a good situation when beings can communicate privately right under your nose. Especially when it's obvious they don't trust you.

Xiann sat down in the only chair in the cockpit, coiling her lekku around her shoulders comfortably, and swiveled toward the only active terminal on the dash. Its light was bright on her violet skin, as night was falling rapidly outside the cockpit. She hoped Jerin didn't have access restricted. A quick key through the system showed her that the Holonet was available, but the ships systems, other than communications, were locked up tight.

That was fine with her.

Resting her chin on her fist, golden eyes narrowed at the tiny display, Xiann accessed the Holonet. After a few long minutes of trying out words and guessing at spelling and pronunciation, she got a hit on a word. Bothese?

That made sense. She remembered the Bothan protecting her and Jerin- she had obviously known him well- and guessed that wasn't the first Bothan Jerin had befriended. She puzzled out the phrase Jerin had left her with and smiled. Unfortunately, she couldn't remember what Jerin had said to Derian well enough to puzzle out a translation.

A mixture of frustrated and triumphant, she pulled her only datapad out of the pouch wrapped closely around her waist and downloaded the basics of the Bothan language to it. It wasn't much, but at least she'd have some recourse next time Jerin started muttering in something other than Basic. It left the datacard almost full, but for now, the ability to translate was worth the space.

That done, she quickly keyed back into the system and erased the logs that showed what she'd accessed. It wasn't a huge deal, but it paid to avoid confrontation. She didn't want Jerin starting to wonder what she knew or noticed.

For a long moment, the twi'lek was very tempted by thoughts of cred access. She chewed on her lower lip and considered accessing the account she'd left the funds in and transferring them, but she knew it would be stupid to take the risk. If they'd tracked anything, they'd be watching the account for movement, and she'd be better off waiting for a public terminal that wouldn't tell them who was accessing it- and would give her space to make a hasty exit should it become necessary.

Besides, Xiann admitted to herself, no call to bring that on Jerin or Derian. They'd dealt with plenty on her account, and despite what her previous marks might think, she didn't bring down anything that she didn't know they deserved.

It wasn't often she fell in with even remotely nice beings.

Reluctantly, she keyed back to the main screen. Swiveling the chair around, she stood and tucked the datapad away where it fit snugly at the small of her back, nudging it into security with one lekku.

Xiann glanced at the chono on the dash, and noted that she'd been at the terminal for nearly a standard hour. The twi'lek decided she had enough time to risk looking around before Jerin showed up.

The hold was nearly empty. The crates there held nothing she hadn't already seen, and the shipment had been cleared out. Medical supplies. A few crates of random parts and tools. Some rope. She gave it a cursory once over, but she had a feeling that the interesting stuff would be in the only area of the ship Jerin bothered to put a door on- her personal quarters.

Xiann had glanced it over quickly earlier, while getting cleaned up and watching Jerin retrieve her breakfast. There hadn't been much just sitting out- reconfirmed by a quick assessment of the small room.

She pulled a cloth from a pocket, and used it to wrap her fingers. Humans weren't known for their sensory abilities, but it never hurt to be cautious. Before moving anything, Xiann took a long steady look at the desk she stood in front of. She wanted to be sure to get everything back exactly where it had been, so she moved slowly, and studied one item at a time.

There were some datapads on the surface of the desk, and carefully activating them, browsing their contents, and then wiping them clean didn't reveal much. Packing lists. Notes from her employer that were meaningless without context. Plans for what she assumed were some future projects Jerin had in mind for the ship. There was also a lot of half assembled circuitry- some half finished project- but it didn't make any sense to Xiann.

The larger drawers of the desk didn't reveal much.

In the top drawer, a medium sized bottle of Bothan brandy, mostly full. In spite of the woman's substance abuse, the twi'lek didn't see Jerin as much of a drinker. Caf grounds, presumably for the caf maker on the other side of the room. The sophs Xiann had given her. An assortment of patches and pills for basic complaints.

In the lower drawers, she found a few changes of clothing, one absolutely wrecked and covered in various mechanical fluids. Everything was what she would've expected from Jerin- practical. Simple. Well used.

In one of the smaller drawers and cubbies on the desk, Xiann rummaged through a tangled mess of electronic bits and pieces before finally finding something interesting towards the back.

It looked like a portable holo-viewer. Xiann carefully picked it up through the cloth around her hand and fished it out. The twi'lek used a corner of the cloth to push the activation switch. An image of Jerin and two men grew and solidified before her eyes. She recognized one as the man she'd originally seen Jerin with, though his hair was a different color. Now that she saw the trio together, she could pick out a family resemblance between the them. Two brothers.

Xiann chewed on her lip, reflecting on the scene she'd originally observed Jerin in. Seems the human had been bailing out family at great expense to herself. And she's doing the same thing now, with Derian, though she'd never admit to considering him family. The twi'lek nodded. It was something she could respect.

Letting the button go, she placed it very carefully back in the drawer where she'd found it.

Xiann did a last glance at the desk, making sure everything was in order, then turned her eyes towards the rest of the bunk room. There weren't a lot of places to store things, but plenty to hide things. The only other obvious place she noticed was the area under the bunk. The twi'lek lowered herself smoothly to the floor and looked under the bed.

The first thing she saw was an absolutely massive stack of very clean, unused blankets, which she had to admit seemed out of place in the lack of creature comforts that generally dominated the ship. She took a moment to run a hand between them, in case something was hidden there. She sucked in a sharp breath when her searching fingers found a piece of flimsiplast. She pulled it out carefully, taking care not to wrinkle it further.

Flimsiplast wasn't used often by most, not when datapads served the purpose better. It made more sense once she saw the printed and holographic Imperial seal in one corner of the small document. Her lekku twitched in shock as she scanned the paper. A certificate of Imperial Amnesty. Not something they just handed out, especially these days.

It looked authentic.

More than a simple cargo hauler, indeed. The twi'lek's eyes narrowed. She thought back, but realized she had never seen Jerin in any situation involving the Empire.  She could feel herself frowning as she carefully put the sheet back exactly where she'd found it. She placed her hands on her knees and thought about it a moment. Suggests cooperation with the Imperials. Which made little sense, given her history with Derian and his current vendetta. Xiann wondered if Derian was aware Jerin had such a card in her holding field.

Xiann wasn't sure she liked what it implied.

Mind preoccupied, she quickly searched the rest of the cabin, finding nothing more than a mostly empty fridge and appliances. Xiann stood up and studied the room one last time, a nagging feeling in her gut that she was missing something important. One big secret almost always means more.

The twi'lek slumped against the bunk frame in frustration and heard an odd rattle. She paused a moment, frowning down at the noise, before her attention was distracted by the twittering of the com in the bridge. "Frotz," she cursed aloud, lekku curling in surprise. She couldn't believe it'd been two hours already, but didn't have a chrono handy.

Hopefully it's not trouble. Grabbing a breakfast bar off the desk top, she moved to the bridge to answer it.
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Re: The Fifth

A piece of fabric unrolled across a couple of cargo crates. The contents that had been stored within glinted and gleamed,  even in the low light of the cargo bay. Hands moved quickly across the vast array of weaponry. Some pieces were selected and removed from the surface of the roll, others were left in place.

Boots clanged on the ramp and an arm extended, toggling the mechanism to lower the entryway. Derian swept the coat away from his sides and checked the pull on the holsters to ensure that the guns would draw clean. He pulled the coat back around him and smiled slightly as the ramp descended. Derian's smirk turned into a broad grin as he felt the warmth on him from the planet's suns. He took a couple of long strides down the ramp and marched with purpose away from the ship.


Derian gritted his teeth as his fist collided with the other being's face. There was a dull crunch beneath his knuckles as something in the features gave way. The creature turned its head away and Derian slipped in behind and wrapped his arms up around and locked his hands behind its head. "You're going to tell me the answers to my questions," Derian hissed in its ear.

The creature hissed an insult in a language that Derian only half understood. It clawed at his face with his hands. He turned his head away, counted to three and then twisted. There was a muffled snap and the being's lifeless body slid down to the ground. Derian looked around the alleyway and then moved the body behind a dumpster.

He straightened out his jacket and walked briskly out of the alleyway and around the corner and into a bar.
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Re: The Fifth

It wasn't difficult to work out what kind of place Derian would have gone. The problem was that Mos Eisley was pretty much a sprawling mass of that kind of place.  Jerin began making her way methodically through the pubs and cantinas of the old quarter, glad she was conspicuously armed as the sun continued to sink.

The search was slow and uneventful, aside from slapping the wandering hands of a barfly or two. Jerin had hoped that as night came on the heat would relent, but no such luck. She wasn't confident that the smell of sunbaked sand would ever be fully eradicated from her nose, and her mouth felt as dry as this force-forsaken planet. Jerin was traveling without any credits- it seemed safer, and she had none to waste in any case- but was beginning to regret that decision. She'd kill for a drink. Maybe.

Sitting very long in an establishment without buying anything was never a wise move, so after about an hour Jerin leaned up against a wall to take a rest. Part of her- a big part of her- wanted to hightail it back to her ship and get the frell out of here. The remainder informed her that that would be wrong.

When she had first met Derian he had promised to protect her. Jerin thought he was full of shavvit, but who turns down a free ride when they're hoofing it on Coruscant? She continued to think he was full of shavvit until, against all reason, he'd broken her free of Imperial custody a few weeks later.  Frankly, he'd saved her bacon on multiple occasions, and if the universe demands only one thing, it is balance. ”So,” she thought, ”It's payback time.” Jerin shook her head to focus and trudged back to searching.

Deeper into the old quarter, the human population seemed to wane. That was good since would make it easier to spot Derian, but bad because Jerin did not want her presence to be particularly memorable. Jerin attempted to ignore her unease as, with no small effort, she pushed open a solid wood door with “Tath's”  on the front in peeling yellow paint.

The establishment was quietly busy, and was as hit-or-miss with its lighting as the street lamps outside. Despite this, Jerin's eyes immediately noticed Derian perched on a barstool. The bald human wearing a duster was hard to miss. Jerin was now also hard to miss, bringing the human count in the bar up to two.

She quietly made her way in, and appeared beside Derian just as he was raising a glass. Jerin gave the glass a meaningful look and held out her hand. With a grin, Derian handed it over. Jerin downed half of it (Blye once gave her a stern lecture about how booze and sophs don't mix) and set the glass on the bar. She was silent a few moments.

“You know I'm pissed, right?” she asked, still staring at the glass.

“Yeah,” Derian gave a half smile and signaled for another drink. “But you'll get over it.”

Jerin shrugged. “Just making sure that it's clear.”

“Of course. But Jerin, this is-”

“Important. Yeah, I heard. Look, Derian. Not that I care, but just so I know what to expect, how deep in shavvit are you?” Jerin finally looked him in the face and was not shocked to see that he'd been in a scrap or two since their arrival.

“As deep as I choose to be.” Again the half smile.

Jerin rolled her eyes. “Right. And how deep have you chosen, say, now?”

Derian indicated near waist level with his hand.

“Hmm," Jerin nodded, and glanced about the room. "What if I told you there are three very angry looking aliens headed straight toward us?”

Derian's face broke out into a full grin and he raised his hand to mid-chest level.

“You're awfully happy about the fact that they'd like to hand our guts to us.” Jerin muttered to him.

“This means, Puck,” Derian explained quietly, “that I've pissed off the right people.”

“And me.” Jerin added.

“And you.”

“Thank you.”

I want to live. I want to experience the universe, and I want to eat pie. - Urgo
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Re: The Fifth

Derian locked eyes with Jerin and touched his index finger to his nose and then made a quick fist, extending his ring and pinkie fingers. She nodded almost imperceptibly. He relaxed his body and wrapped his hand around his glass. Pivoting on the stool he launched the glass up into the air. For a brief moment, the eyes of the three aliens went toward the ceiling and the two of them shot forward. A quick kick from Jerin incapacitated one of the aliens. She slid a blade out of one of her sleeves and placed it at the other's throat. Derian hit the third one in a nerve cluster and then slipped behind it, his hands locking on either side of the jaw. He locked his fingers in place and started to twist…

"Tomare!"

Derian stopped and turned his head to look in the direction of the voice. His eyes flicked quickly over toward Jerin and he saw that she had paused as well. He looked back toward the speaker, the tension never leaving his arms. The speaker was an old woman standing in front of the booth she had been sitting in. Her hair had been pulled back and her hands were waving in the air. "Tomare Derian. Come. Sit."

Derian looked over at Jerin and nodded his head. She removed her blade from the alien's throat and let it slide to the floor. She gave it a swift kick and then stepped over the other moving toward the table. The old woman sat back down at the table, palms down on its surface. Derian sat across from her and patted the seat next to him. Jerin sat down slowly.

Derian reached into his pocket and produced a small black box. He set it on the table and slid it slowly across between her hands. She turned it sideways and opened it slightly. Light shone out from the interior, illuminating her face. A smile creased the wrinkled features and she snapped the lid shut again. She pulled it off the table and it disappeared into her clothing. She turned her hand over and Derian placed his hand in hers. She made a fist with her other hand and placed the back of it against her forehead, closing her eyes.

She opened her fist and an eye peered out from the center of her palm. It looked left and right, the pupil dilating and focusing in on the people across the table. "You hurt," the old woman said with a voice not quite her own.

"Damn straight I do," Derian replied. "Now tell me what I need to know."

The eye turned to focus on Jerin. "He is gone. But it is not over."

Derian slammed one of his fists on the table. "I didn't acquire that for you to read her dammit, now you talk to me!"

The eye turned back again. "The information about the shipyard is correct. Your time is short, however. She is going to betray you. The machine still hunts you. The blood moon will mean his death. The tide of darkness means your own. And you.." The eye blinked for the first time and the fingers begin to tremble. "Doombringer! The end of everything! The stars are going out! Murderer!"

The eye snapped shut, the old woman's eyes opened and she began to scream. A piercing, animal howl that chilled the blood. She snapped her mouth shut and inhaled deeply through her nostrils. She reached into her clothes and produced the box. "You will need this," she said, her voice trembling. "Puck will know what to do with it. But you cannot show it to her yet. She still needs to heal and it is not time yet. Do not let her see it until you are ready to use it."

The old woman gathered herself and stood up. She exited the booth and disappeared into the dimly lit bar. Derian picked up the case and placed it back into an interior pocket of his duster and stood up. "You coming?"
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Re: The Fifth

Jerin slid from the booth and brushed past Derian without a word. Once out in the warm night air she did her best to navigate the shortest path back to the Chaos. Derian quietly fell in step with her brisk pace and they made their way through the clouds of noise emanating from the series of pubs and cantinas they passed.

Derian, being Derian, allowed Jerin to think. She decided quickly that creepy, force-using, prophesying aliens did not make very good company. "Weird shavvit," she finally commented aloud along one of the quieter stretches of road. "I don't like it. You and the other guys were always getting into weird shavvit."

"Sometimes you have to." Derian replied, and picked up the pace.

Jerin cast a glance at Derian as she matched his speed. His tone had been conversational enough, but for him that response was downright terse. "Nnh," she said, non-committally. Derian said nothing. "For what it's worth, I'm not going to betray you," Jerin added, keeping her voice light.

"I know," Derian answered quietly. Jerin frowned.

He's getting too focused, Jerin thought to herself. Derian over-focused could lead to unfortunate, even devastating, collateral damage. Derailing him had taken the united effort of their whole group back when they were all together. Jerin wasn't certain she could do it alone. And reminding him of Lissa will not help.

"Right. Could we, uh, slow down a bit?" Jerin asked. She was now nearly jogging to match Derian's strides. The streets were more populated here and they were having to make their way around pedestrians, swoops, and speeders.

"Kind of in a hurry, Puck."

"How big a hurry?"

"'Bout this big," Derin replied, punching a young man off a parked swoop bike as they came upon him. The woman of negotiable affection to whom he had been speaking gave a shrill laugh and kissed the air at Derian. He ignored her. Definitely too focused. Before the bike owner could rally himself, Derian had seated himself on the bike and Jerin had hopped up behind him. "Hold on tight," Derian advised.

As they got closer to the bay, Jerin realized that Derian probably had no intention of stopping til they got to his ship. At all. She fumbled in her pocket for her communicator. "Xiann, you there?"

After a few moments, Xiann's voice came crackling over the comm. "Yes. Is everything okay?"

"I need you to lower the ramp now, right? And then- get out of the way. Got it?"

"Yeah."

Derian flew the bike at breakneck speed into the bay toward the  rectangle of light the lowered ramp revealed. Jerin did her best not to tense up. "If you hurt my ship with this-"

"Relax, Puck."

"You first." By the time the words were out of her mouth, Jerin was tumbling off the bike onto the deck of her own ship. "Next time, I drive," Jerin said, picking herself up. Xiann appeared and punched the ramp back up.

"Your ship," Derian pointed out, holding out an arm toward the cockpit. "But I'd consider it a kindness if you'd hurry."
 
"Where are we going, and when do we need to be there?" Jerin asked. She ducked under his arm and into the cockpit.

"Thornmech's Slag Yard. In about, oh, five hours."

"Frell! Derian! Get us in the air," Jerin punched the releases on the console and ran to engineering to have a heart to heart with Chaos's hyperdrive.

"I thought you were driving!" he yelled after her, though Jerin could already feel the ship moving.

"Lektani!"




When Xiann let herself into engineering, Jerin was half-buried in ship. Panels sat stacked beside the doorway, leaving wire and circuitry exposed throughout the small room.  Most of the light came from service lamps embedded in the structures around the wiring. In the back and center, the hyperdrive emitted a low thrumming noise. Jerin eventually emerged from the mess beneath the drive, but brought some of it with her. Her sleeves were rolled up and her hands and arms were covered in grease. Jerin raised an eyebrow when she noticed Xiann.

"I came to see what was going on, and if you needed some help." Xiann volunteered.

"And the excitement you missed planetside."

"That, too." Xiann smiled.

"Derian got thirsty," Jerin explained, plopping down on top of the stacked panels. "And was, in general, himself."

"That explains why you were gone so long. Is he always like this?"

Jerin squinted. "Occasionally, he's unconscious." She reached up and flicked the comm switch on the wall with her thumb. "Alright, Derian. Any time now."

"Jumping to hyperspace," Derian returned.

The thrum of the hyperdrive modulated itself into a quiet but high-pitched whirr. Jerin grinned. "That's my ship. None of this strapping in stupidity. I'm telling you, people don't know how to calibrate their acceleration compensators." Jerin glanced up at Xiann, and the grin faded from her face.

"You had us strap in when we left Nar Shaddaa," Xiann pointed out.

"Safety precaution." I wanted to know where you were while I was flying my ship.

"Ah," Xiann nodded knowingly. Jerin turned away, feeling her face burn. Force users.

"Like Derian said- we're headed to Thornmech's. We'll be cutting it close," Jerin got to her feet and waved at Xiann to follow her from engineering. "I'll be working on the ship the next few hours so that we have at least a chance of pulling his ship free from orbit." Jerin turned into the tertiary cargo hold and pulled a wall panel free. With a sigh, she reached into the cavity with both hands and began hauling out a thick cable surrounded in black insulating material. "I think that answers your questions." she said, continuing to pull.

"Anything I can do to help?" Xiann reminded her.

Jerin glanced at Xiann and noticed Derian enter the hold. "Nice of you to show up," Jerin grunted, pulling the last of the cable from the wall.

A half-smile flickered across Derian's face as he gave a bow to Jerin and Xiann.

Jerin looked from the pile of cable, to Derian, then finally to Xiann.

"I could use a really big pot of caf," she said.

I want to live. I want to experience the universe, and I want to eat pie. - Urgo
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Re: The Fifth

Xiann mentally blanched as she saw the brief flicker of annoyance that probably covered a much deeper anger in Jerin's eyes as she glanced at both of them. Ever since they'd returned to the ship, the girl had been simmering.

Evidently Derian noticed it as well, because he smoothly turned back towards the door with "Caf- got it."

Xiann stepped in front of him and placed a hand on his chest to stop him. "Let me," she said wryly, looking up at him through her lashes. "You look someone who probably burns water- and I think your record's already long enough for one day," she finished firmly. She glanced past him to Jerin. "Straight or sweet?"

"Strong and sweet," Jerin muttered, pushing herself back under the engine, gripping one end of the mess of cable.

Xiann didn't waste any time making her exit. She heard Derian's voice making a few low inquiries, and Jerin's muffled and short replies as she moved away from the engine room.

As she moved back to the tiny bunk area, the twi'lek was analyzing her situation. She was entering a dangerous situation with people who didn't trust her, didn't like her, and were very emotionally involved in said situation. She had no idea what the plan was. In fact, she was far from sure there WAS a plan. Right now, the plan seemed to consist of entering this system, grabbing the ship, and making a hasty exit. That couldn't possibly be the entire plan.

Bothered didn't even begin to cover Xiann's feelings. The whole thing lacked finesse.

Xiann's lekku tips lashed back and forth unhappily as she got out everything needed to brew the caf. She was itching to fix this situation, and didn't see a way to do it that wouldn't cause inconvenient questions. Is it really a huge problem if these two know the truth about you? She stilled a moment as she thought it through.

Her gut twinged. This- THIS exact thing, was exactly what had gotten her into trouble last time. She'd gotten friendly with Marak, and it had gone badly for her in the end. She thought about it from all the angles, but couldn't see any way these two could hurt her. No, not really. It wasn't ideal- it cut out options. But these two had no reason to turn her in or rat her out, didn't know any details, and if she could win the two of them over by helping them with this- this simple thing… and help myself at the same time…

The twi'lek definitely needed more goodwill from Jerin if she was going to accomplish anything here. And she got the feeling that Derian was the sort she'd be better off working with rather than against. Xiann flicked the switch on the caf maker, and leaned against the counter, waiting for it to come to temp.

Not exactly con-orthodox, but if it works. She frowned. But only if it comes to hard questions, she finally decided.

First step was to find out exactly what the plan entailed. Xiann looked up, startled, as she heard the thump of boots on the deck plates. She saw Derian come around the corner, and gave him a small smile.

He raised an eyebrow. "Thanks for tossing me off the speeder back there."

Xiann laughed lightly. "Hey, at least you have previous experience dealing with her."

Derian crossed his arms over his chest, and nodded reluctantly, a smile on his face. "Not the first time or the last."

Xiann studied him a moment, wondering why he'd come to talk to her. "So, what IS the plan exactly?"

Derian's eyebrows lowered and his face got more serious. "Well, the plan is basically to drop in, grab the ship using the electromag cargo hook Jerin's modifying now, and then get out as fast as possible. She's modifying the engines so we can handle the extra mass at something resembling speed, and the shields so we can take a few hits."

Xiann's eyes got wider as the explanation went on. She waited for a minute, but he appeared to be done. "That's it?"

Derian gave her a steady look. "Yeah, what's wrong with it?"

Xiann shook her head. "That's stupid," she said bluntly.

Derian's face took on a darker cast. "Hey, you knew what you were signing on for, and I've got confidence that Jerin will get it done."

She hadn't really, but she let that one slide. Xiann pushed herself away from the counter. "No. I mean, this is a plan B. Last resort. Why in the universe wouldn't you consider talking to them first?" She grimaced inwardly, hearing her Ryl accent becoming more pronounced as emotion bled into her words. Unfortunately, she was actually worried that this was the extent of their plan and that she wouldn't be able to talk them out of it.

Derian actually laughed. "Maybe because they're under Imperial edict to destroy my ship, and I've got nothing to offer them that's worth risking the Empire coming down on their heads? We'll be in their space. They're still the law." He uncrossed his arms and straightened up, eying her up and down. "Do you have a better idea?" he asked in a challenging tone.

Xiann stared at him, struggling with the number of thoughts running through her head for a moment. The caf maker beeped into the silence.

She turned, grabbed a mug and the pot of caf in one hand, and every packet of sweetener she could find in the other, and headed for the door. "Come on," she tossed over her shoulder, heading back towards Jerin.  

The twi'lek scanned ideas as she walked. Posing as imperials. Would require a shuttle, at a minimum. Bribing them, then threatening blackmail to get the money back. Unnecessarily complex. There was another option, though. What the ideas all really boiled down to was: Xiann HAD the creds to bribe them. And if she could get THEM to transfer it, Kalesh wouldn't be looking in her direction any longer.

Definitely worth the risk. And if it didn't work out, all she'd really be out was a lot of credits she couldn't touch right now anyway. She'd have to call in a favor for the second half, but it'd be worth it.

Xiann closed her eyes and very, very quickly mentally reviewed what she'd told the two of them. Then she reviewed what had actually happened: she'd sold some cargo out from under Kalesh and kept the proceeds from the sale in a private account. Xiann had made it look like the cargo had been stolen, that she'd done all she could to prevent it. Except Malek had sold her out. Malek, luckily, hadn't known her account codes. She knew Kalesh would've had his slicers keep tabs on any transfers fitting the bill for the timeframe, so it was likely he had a short list of account codes. It was simply a matter of covering up moving the funds so that things weren't obvious.

Xiann gracefully deposited everything on the top of a flat power transformer in the engine room. She poured Jerin a cup, added what she felt was an excessive amount of sweetener, and plunked it down on the deck next to Jerin's hip. Jerin's hand flicked out and grabbed the mug. She propped herself up on an elbow and took a few deep gulps.

"Well?" Derian queried from behind her.

"Yes, as a matter of fact," Xiann muttered, looking over at him.

"Yes what?" Jerin asked, scooting out from under the engine to grab some tools and move over to another panel.

Xiann swallowed and looked at Jerin. "I think we need to try talking to them first." This was greeted with silence. "I know you don't think there's any point, because you don't have any credits or leverage." Still silence.

"And?" This from a disgruntled Derian.

Finally Xiann just decided to say it. "Just give me two things when we enter system. Let me answer their com hail, and give me access to the 'net."

Jerin finally looked… something. Interested at the very least. "And why should I do that?"

"Because I can get them the credits."

This was greeted with a more thoughtful and somewhat surprised silence.

"That's the information you stole," Derian finally ventured, giving her an appraising look.

Xiann nodded. "If I give them the account codes, and let them do the transfer… It's got to be worth a try."
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Re: The Fifth

Jerin's mug stopped half-way to her mouth as she heard this. "Wait, wait. Let me get this straight. You've got the creds to buy a damn ship, but couldn't pay for a way off Nar Shaddaa?"

Xiann bit her lip a bit nervously. "The account might be watched." She looked at Jerin, assessing if she understood the implications. " I didn't want them looking in your direction. That's why we give the scrap yard guys the account code, and let them make the transfer."

"And bring whoever's following you down on their heads." Derian commented. "I like it." He looked at Xiann, clearly impressed.

Jerin took another gulp of caf, conceding the point. "I still think it's a bad idea. If they don't go for it, the Chaos might as well have 'Blast Me' painted on the hull when we go in to take Derian's ship. Without a grand announcement of our arrival," Jerin's eyes flicked in Xiann's direction, "I'd at least have a chance of getting in unnoticed."

"We'll show up on scanners when we get in system, right? They keep an eye out for customers. They'll hail us. Not responding will get us targeted just as quick." Xiann said.

"Actually, no." Jerin replied carefully. Xiann gave her an inquisitive look. Jerin sighed. "If I don't want them to pick us up on scanners, they won't. Opening up a com line, though-" Jerin didn't finish the thought.

"Shouldn't be a problem anyway, if it comes to a hasty exit, Jerin. You've flown around stronger firepower before," Derian said calmly.

"Yeah, when I had a copilot and weapons. Look, I've only got shields and speed, not guns."

Derian gave Jerin a look of incredulity. "None?"

"Nope."

"Your ship really is luh-suh."

"At least mine flies."

Xiann broke in. "I really don't think we'd need a fast get away, Jerin."

"If we do, it won't be pretty." Jerin pointed out, annoyed.

"Is that you, Puck?" Derian squinted at Jerin, as if unsure of who he was seeing. "Afraid of flying against a few laser turrets in a scrap yard?"

Jerin was annoyed. Of course Derian would know the right button to push; Jerin would never back down from a difficult flight. "Fine," she said flatly, burying herself once again in the wires behind the panelling. "Whatever you decide. But it's not my fault if the 'Wind gets shot to hell." Or if you get shot to hell, for thinking there isn't a catch, she added mentally.

I want to live. I want to experience the universe, and I want to eat pie. - Urgo
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#242953

Re: The Fifth

Horran's sitting room did not change much over the years. In fact, the night he died it still looked nearly identical to a much less fatal evening seven years previous.

Merrick and Horran sat in opposing chairs before a slowly dying fire in the hearth.

"You're a hopeless romantic, Horran," Merrick commented, staring at the glowing embers. "Burning actual wood."

"If one is to do something, it ought to be done correctly. You would not have brought grape juice," Horran gestured to the bottle of wine cooling beside his colleague's chair.

"But that's not the same at all," Merrick grinned.

Horran tilted his head in an apathetic way. "Just as you say, Merrick."

There was a silence, broken only by a few cracks from the fireplace.

"From what you've told me, it sounds as if Sol is becoming rather desperate," Horran commented delicately. "Very desperate indeed."

"It's hilarious," Merrick chuckled. "It's difficult not to laugh when I see him."

A fleeting grimace flickered across Horran's face. It was one thing for Merrick to enjoy the pain of the prisoners. His enjoyment of the suffering of a fellow officer was a character flaw, Horran thought, but one that could be overlooked. Merrick, after all, didn't try to stab anyone in the back- at least, not any more than any other imperial did.

"I also understand that Rula is prepared to go to great lengths to… delay the inevitable. Physicians, research, and so forth,"

"Anything for Gerhart's lapdog."

"Indeed," Horran rose from his chair to retrieve two wine glasses from a nearby cupboard.  "Do you recall what I was telling you last week about the holocron one of mine has?"

Merrick carefully uncorked the bottle he'd brought. "Yes. How could I forget? You're usually very reasonable, and last week nearly every sentence from your mouth was fantastical." Horran returned with the glasses.

"I've done some more research, now," Horran spoke as Merrick poured, then traded him a datapad from his pocket for a glass before returning to his chair. "It is confirmed. Reconfigurations, transfers, any number of seemingly crazy things that can be done with the mind. With the right power and the right substances, of course," he said, crossing his legs before him.

"Just as you were speaking of last week?"

"Yes."

"And the Sith did all this research? It sounds like them." Merrick asked, still scrolling through the information before him.

"What they did not do themselves, they were, ah, responsible for it being done. And it is all on the holocron. Among other things, of course."

"Of course."

Merrick let the hand holding the datapad rest on the arm of the chair and turned his attention to his wine. The two men sipped and watched the fire in silence. A log gave out and fell into the ashes, reducing the flames further still and sending sparks into the air.

"Sol will be easy, but do you think we can fool Rula?" Merrick broke the silence.

Horran kept the glee from his voice, but was pleased that he'd succeeded in winning over Merrick. Last week, when Horran had outlined the plan, Merrick had been both hesitant and skeptical. "I don't believe fooling Rula will be very difficult, either. The plan will likely proceed just as they wish until near the very end. And fortunately, Sol has considerable time before his condition demands drastic action."

"We will just have to be careful that Rula doesn't fool us in return, then." Merrick smiled at the intrigue of the idea. "And Worthington will be no matter. He'll do whatever you tell him, the idiot."

Horran raised his eyebrows.

"He has no creativity," Merrick defended his insult. "Not an ounce of original thought. If it didn't improve our final result, I never would have suggested it."

"He does have his uses," Horran said, cryptically.

"How long before you have the holocron?" Merrick asked.

"Oh, not until it is needed, I think," Horran replied, "I imagine having it in the meantime could be quite a liability," the corners of Horran's mouth twitched up for a just a moment. He was not foolish. Owning something that valuable to his colleagues for a long time would be suicidal. "I'll get it from her a few years down the line."

Merrick sat up in his chair. "It could be anywhere by then!"

"Merrick, do you honestly think a teenaged piece of fringe scum who is able to resist telling me where the holocron is, is just going to lose it or give it away?"

"She might, I don't know, sell it. Or have it stolen from her. Anything could happen. Then this would all be a waste of time," Merrick sneered.

"It won't be stolen. Even our best crews can't find the damn thing on her ship, though I know it's there. And she won't sell it. She won't let it go anywhere," Horran shook his head.

"Oh. And how do you know that?" Merrick asked, settling back once more.

"Because, Merrick, she possesses an inane quality that neither of us does," Horran explained.

"And what is that?"

"Loyalty."

Merrick's face went blank. "You're a hopeless romantic, Horran."

I want to live. I want to experience the universe, and I want to eat pie. - Urgo
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#246031

Re: The Fifth

"We'll try Xiann's plan first, then," Derian said, crossing his arms.

Jerin was thankful to be half-buried beneath the wires. She would have preferred to have Derian slap her in the face rather than be upstaged by Xiann when it came to rescuing his ship. She wrenched a bundle of cables free from their connections and began searching for where to reconnect them.

She was vaguely aware of Derian and Xiann conversing, but distraction, combined with a determination not to hear, kept their words from being processed. She grinned fleetingly in the moment of finding the final new connection site, then frowned. You're having fun doing this. Jerin accused herself. She began unscrewing the protective box around some critical circuits. You like modding your ship under the gun. Hell, you wanted the chance to steal back his ship from under their noses. She pulled one screw free and attacked another. So stop it. There's no way getting sucked in to flying wild across the galaxy again ends well.

Jerin's mind wandered as she began manually entering new commands on the interface attached to the circuit. Derian's abrupt reappearance had brought back a flood of memories, and Jerin could not deny that many of them were good ones.  And Derian assuming command, she reminded herself. That's part of how it used to be. She finished entering the commands and fished around on the deck for her mug. Probably part of the reason you all got in such deep shavvit. Gotta' keep control of your own ship, Puck. Her hand found the mug and pulled it back. Empty. She slid it back across the deck toward their voices.

"Force! What's a pilot-mechanic gotta' do to get some caf around here?"

I want to live. I want to experience the universe, and I want to eat pie. - Urgo
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#256321

Re: The Fifth

“And that,” Xiann said, switching of the comm, “is how it's done.”

“You've got to be kidding me,” Jerin muttered in annoyance. Xiann had just wrapped up disgustingly tidy negotiations for Derian's ship (on behalf of her wealthy but slightly unstable unnamed employer), for a outlandishly high sum. Apparently an Imperial edict for destruction was a simple annoyance, not a serious obstacle. It made the ship more expensive, but who cared? The credits weren't Jerin's in any case. Thornmech's representative was an obnoxious salesbeing by the name of Beso. He had, however, just transmitted Jerin the coordinates of the Astral Wind, so Jerin couldn't really complain.

Jerin suppressed a yawn- her modification efforts had taken until the time of arrival back in real space- and brought her ship about. Derian and Xiann monitored the progress of Chaos on screen as her dot moved closer to the coordinates Beso transmitted. As they approached the ship in question, Jerin squinted out the viewscreen and frowned. She didn't slow down. In fact, she kept flying.

"Why are you going past it?" Xiann asked.

"It's-" Jerin began, but Derian cut her off.

"That's not my ship!" he said, outraged.

"Yeah. What he said. Don't worry, Der, we'll find it, whether they want us to or not."

“If they so much as pull a bolt from the hull-” Derian stopped his threat short as Xiann flicked the comm back on, frowning.

"It appears we may have a misunderstanding, Mr. Beso. That is not the ship my employer is interested in. "

"Really? Are you certain?" The voice returned, all surprise.

"Quite," Xiann said, suppressing a smile. "Though I understand how it could be confusing, with all those ships to keep track of. Still, my employer would be very displeased if we were to waste his credits on the wrong ship."

Xiann did not elaborate on what form that displeasure might take, but Jerin nearly shuddered at the tone in Xiann's voice. Force, she thought.

 “We won't let him con us,” Xiann muttered reassuringly to her companions.

"Hmm. Let me check my records, again." There was a pause for the alleged record checking to take place. Derian tapped Jerin on the shoulder, and pointed out the viewscreen. Jerin nodded once, confirming. She was already on her way to the disassembly site he'd just pointed out. Given that the Wind was scheduled for imminent destruction, the two of them had arrived at the same logical plan of action.

Thornmech's legendary scrapyard- (actually scrap rings of a small uninhabitable moon) had multiple staging platforms in orbit, aligned with the junk rings. While a job was underway, the platform would move at the same speed as the ring it was in. Once the job was completed, it would slow temporarily, allowing the next doomed ship, or whatever, to slip into the bay. The platforms themselves were enormous, sleeping multiple crews who worked in shifts. Time was never wasted at Thornmech's. Except, right now, the cutsomer's.

The comm eventually crackled to life again. "My apologies. It appears I pulled up the incorrect record by mistake. I'm sending you the correct coordinates now, but-" Xiann saw Jerin and Derian nod to each other out of the corner of her eye, "it appears your ship is nearly already there," Beso finished.

"How fortunate!" Xiann commented, brightly.

The Wind was waiting patiently to be demolished, just outside the staging platform. Xiann and Beso exchanged some concluding business-y pleasantries, as Jerin maneuvered Chaos beside the Astral Wind. At last, the comm was off once more.

"Derian?" Jerin asked levelly, as she used the magnetic clamp to secure the other ship to hers.

"Yeah?"

"I have this very… distinct memory of you calling my ship luh-suh." After several moments, there was still no response, so she tried a different approach. "Derian, I'm not sure we can accurately refer to the Wind as a ship right now."

"Careful. That's my ship you're not calling a ship."

"Enh." Jerin resonded, now occupied with piloting twice the bulk she was accustomed to out of a crowded scrap yard in a gravitational field.  “We'll see for sure once we get to the Fringe.”

Lunatic Fringe? The Admiral's place? Not exactly the first place I'd pick to get the Wind fixed up,” Derian said.

“It'll have to do for a start,” Jerin began to feel more comfortable hauling the extra ship as the gravity weakened. “The clamp I've rigged won't hold to go anywhere planetside. The Wind  would break off from my ship, burn in the atmosphere, and break into tiny pieces.”

“How… poetic,” Derian quipped. “But there are other orbital yards.”

“Yeh, but we're both actually welcome there, and I can afford to dock at the Fringe," Jerin reasoned. “Besides, Sleuph's was shut down, I run competition for Chevant, and as you might remember, Neelix has a slight case of being dead.” Derian was silent. Maybe bringing up Neelix was a low blow- a death Derian probably blamed himself for.  “And I'll be around to help, this way. You know I'm dangerous with a spanner,” Jerin supplied, feeling the uncomfortable silence introduced by her last remark.

“How long will it take to get there?” Xiann piped up, either not noticing the awkwardness or trying to get rid of it.

“Several hours, still,” Jerin said, glad for Xiann's interjection. She smoothly transitioned the ships into hyperspace, then spun in her chair to face her companions. “So, time to rest?” she said, hopefully.

“I don't know how you plan on sleeping. I think just the smell of all that caf Xiann brewed for you will keep me awake for weeks, Puck.” Derian had recovered.

“You,” Jerin pointed a finger at Derian, “are still a mess from this morning. Better get some sleep while you can.”

In the end, Jerin made sure everyone had somewhere to sleep, whether they chose to sleep or not was up to them. She gave Xiann the small, spare cabin, and Derian her own. Jerin made sure to take the two bottom blankets for her own use in the empty cargo bay, and locked the damnable amnesty certificate in the bottom of a storage chest.

After the last couple of days, Jerin felt about like she'd been hit by a speeder and then rolled for all her credits. A hot shower and clean clothes helped, but a decent nights' sleep would have helped more. Unfortunately, with passengers on board, she didn't feel comfortable indulging in her new supply of sophs. She'd be lucky to sleep at all. After getting cleaned up, she wandered back to the cargo bay to grab a blanket to take with her to the cockpit, hoping that maybe the swirling of hyperspace would lull her to sleep. But when she got to the cargo bay, Derian was sitting on the couch, apparently waiting for her. “Um,” was all Jerin could think of to say.

Derian stood, and then Jerin noticed his hands: one held the bottle of Bothan Brandy that Kursku had given her, and the other held two glasses. “Before you say anything, I'm just going to remind you that you were crazy to put me in a room with such a fine beverage, and expect me not to smell it. Lucky for you, I'm a thoughtful guest,” here he bowed slightly, “and I waited for you, because I thought you might need a drink.” Jerin gave him a withering look. “Or three.” Jerin still said nothing. Derian's voice lost it's humorous edge. "For old times. To old friends."

Jerin nodded slowly, then sat down on the deckplates. Derian joined her, put a little brandy in each glass. "There are," Jerin pointed out, "quite a few of them that need their memory drunk to."

Derian held the bottle out at arm's length and examined it critically. "We might have enough," he concluded.

I want to live. I want to experience the universe, and I want to eat pie. - Urgo
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#265949

Re: The Fifth

Baith's hands unclenched from the ship's controls. In hyperspace they would be safe, at least for a while. Undoubtably a number of jumps would be needed to shake any pursuers, and even then there was no gaurantee that alone would work. Certainly a new mode of transportation would also be needed. Baith had not exactly made a friend of the cargo pilot, who would likely be more than happy to cooperate with- well, with whoever was after them.

The knowledge that Jedi (probably) weren't supposed to steal ships and leave their pilots stranded on strange planets haunted Baith a bit, but the primary ship selection criterion had been proximity to the facility, and this one had the distinct advantage of being there. Getting away in the ship had been fun, in the way that things that ought not to be fun often are. The events that preceeded that, less so. Baith frowned in the reflection of the number of lives their escape had cost, and at the horror of the facility itself. Now free of it, he needed to figure out what to do about the place and about his traveling buddy.

Baith flexed his hands, turned them, stared vacantly at the callouses on his palms. He felt the quiet, deep sleep of the still nameless young man through the force. He would be out for a while, Baith was certain because he had helped that along. He (probably) wasn't supposed to have done that either, and doubted the long gone Jedi Order would approve. Not one to hold a grudge, Baith nevertheless approved of idealism. It was a wonderful thing.

He believed it to be especially good for beings who sat in towers and never really operated in the real galaxy.

I want to live. I want to experience the universe, and I want to eat pie. - Urgo
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#266628

Re: The Fifth

The thing about selective neurotoxins is-

After an initial adrenaline surge upon waking, the young man realized he was in no immediate danger and fell back against his pillow, breathing quickly. His eyes squeezed shut, but instantly opened again to banish the visions of that place - those people charging at him with blasters and then… A shake of the head. He took a deep breath, for the first time noticing the musty smell of the blankets and a faint smell of citrus.

Blankets. A pillow. A glance took in somewhat messy quarters and an open door to a ship's corridor. Yes, there had been a ship. And a Jedi! The young man tried to relax and reached out through the force. The Jedi was still near.

And that was it.

The young man rose to his feet. Mere physiology demanded that he find a 'fresher, and suggested with moderate forcefulness that food would be nice, too. He did his best to supress the urgency of the thoughts clamoring for his attention, pointing out, somewhat unhelpfully, that he was pretty damn sure he had no idea who he was.

By the time he reached the galley where the Jedi sat perched on a countertop he had reached a firm conclusion.

"I think that I should probably be very upset right now," he announced.

The Jedi appeared to take this in, nodded once, and tossed the young man an orange.

"Glad to see you're awake, lad."

I want to live. I want to experience the universe, and I want to eat pie. - Urgo
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Rating:
#266923

Re: The Fifth

Derian set the bottle down on the deck a little too hard, causing a resounding thunk to echo through the cargo hold. He jerked his hand away from the unexpected sound, causing the bottle to wobble in place. It lolled slightly on its edge, before settling in place on the floor. Derian stared at it for a moment, as if skeptical that it wouldn’t start spinning again. Once satisfied that the bottle would remain where it was, he raised his glass in what he felt sure was at least the general direction of Jerin. His breath hitched slightly in his chest as he started to speak. He gathered himself to start again, his eyes attempting to focus on things that didn’t seem to want to remain where they were; similar to that traitorous bottle. “Who else,” he began, then stopped. Something in his stomach was alive, and it chose that moment to roll over.

“Who else is left?”

“I think we’re up to Shardlucin,” Jerin replied.

Derian turned and swallowed hard. The effort cleared his watery vision and he could focus on Jerin. He had been facing the wrong direction. “Shard,” he said, his voice growing far away as he spoke the word. The emotion in his voice emanated from the recollection of the past, rather than the effect of excessive alcohol consumption.

“That story is interesting in an ironic sort of way.  It started off like the plot to one of those ridiculous holovids that he was always watching. You know the kind. Heroes forced into a situation outside their control by powers beyond their ability to combat. All that frelling garbage. We were forced into doing a job for the Empire. Told we were performing a covert op in support of a larger imperial initiative. But it wasn’t any of those things. It was a suicide mission. That’s where the ‘Wind got shot down. That’s where Shard died. And that’s where they…”

Derian trailed off without completing the sentence. His hand went reflexively over his shoulder and began rubbing between his shoulders, not quite able to reach the vast network of scars that lived there now. The thought of the needles now permeated his conscious mind. The needles and the tables and the scalpels and the sutures and the endless parade of men and women in coats with their harsh, high voices. The lapses into and out of conscious over the days, months, years? How the hell long had it been anyway? He realized, for perhaps the first time since escaping the facility, that he had no idea how much time had elapsed since he had last seen Jerin.

He narrowed his eyes slightly as the thing that had apparently taken up residence in his stomach shifted again. “Jerin,” he said after a few moments. “How long? How long since…”

Lissa

He couldn’t bear to say her name. He noticed now that as they had been discussing things they had both completely avoided bringing things around to the subject. His muddled mind was vaguely curious if it was some kind of subconscious mental block. “How long since the ship? The ‘old gang’? The…”

He couldn’t continue into what he was thinking. But he looked at her, eyes pleading. Hopeful that she would understand what he wasn’t able to articulate.
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#266969

Re: The Fifth

Jerin held Derian's eyes with hers a few moments, then faced ahead, staring at nothing. "Seven years," she answered flatly.

"Seven years?" Derian's voice was incredulous.

Jerin took a deep, shuddering breath and rested her head against the wall behind her. "Seven years. Seven years, five months, 18 days since- since they caught you guys." Jerin cleared her throat. "And seven years, four months, and three days since the Empire murdered the rest of them." They'd lost Lissa before that, but Derian knew that better than anyone. It was enough of an answer.

"Seven years." It was almost a whisper.

"Yeah." Jerin raised her glass and took another drink. She heard Blye in her head lecturing about alcohol and sophs and livers, and gave the first drink some company to prove to Blye that she didn't care.

A few, quiet minutes passed. Then Derian cleared his throat and jolted Jerin from her reverie. "What happened?" he asked. "With the rest of you, I mean. After… Jerin, what went wrong?" Jerin couldn't stand the look on his face, and turned away again.

"I don't know, Derian. Hell, I was just a kid!" She hugged her legs to her chest and rested her chin on her knees. "They caught the rest of us, a few weeks after they caught you. Told us you'd all been executed, and offered us a deal. Not a deal. A choice of deaths." She paused here, seeing again the Imperial standing before her, damning them all. "Drev and the others, they wouldn't let me come on board the ISD to help them. When the two ISD's collided, I was on the 'Smiles, watching. There was nothing I could do."

She heard the rest of the bottle emptying into the glasses, with only a minimal of spilling. Derian clumsily pressed one glass into Jerin's hand without a word, and went to work on the other himself.





Jerin woke with a pounding headache, just in time to come out of hyperspace. She felt uneasy as she piloted the linked ships carefully into a hangar bay on the Lunatic Fringe. She tried to shake it off, attributing it to the insanity of the last few days, a severe sleep defecit, and the fact that she had not been there in quite some time. "Well," Jerin spun around in her chair to face Xiann and Derian, "we're here." she finished with a shrug.

Xiann looked nonplussed as they left the cockpit for the corriodor. "We'll be able to fix your ship here?" She asked Derian skeptically.

"If she's fixable," Jerin muttered.

Derian shot her a look as she punched the button to extend the ramp. "Yes," he said forcefully as they exited. "Yes, we will. You know why?"

"Oooh, no. Here it comes…"

Another look. "Because-" but why it was, they never found out. A concussion blast threw the trio across the bay.



Jerin blinked several times, trying to clear the bleariness from her eyes. She heared a high pitched ringing, and realized it was her ears. Force, my head. A glimmer of white pulled everything into sharp focus. Storm troopers. Glancing around, Jerin saw Derian, bound, on the deckplates before her. Of Xiann there was no sign. Heart pounding, Jerin tried to gain her feet, only to realize she was bound herself.

"The stim appears to have worked, sir," said a muffled voice.

"So it has." A deeper voice said, even more faintly. A uniformed Imperial materialized before her. "Wake him, now," he ordered, with a nod of his head.

"Let us go! You can't do this. I have amnesty!" The words tumbled out of Jerin, fast and panicked.

"Ah, but you have no such immunity. There is the matter of the edict to destroy the wreck attached to your own ship. The terms of your amnesty have been violated. You," he grinned, "are ours." At this, Jerin stayed silent. Between the blood pounding and ringing in her ears and the gloating Imperial, it was loud enough. A few moments passed, and Derian began to stir. "Now," the Imperial addressed Jerin again. "You know why I'm here. You know who sent me." He paused. At a gesture from his hand, Derian was pulled up onto his knees. A storm trooper leveled a blaster rifle at the bound man's head. "Hand it over, or he dies."

"You can have it! Just let him go, right?"

"After we have the device."

"Before," the word barely made it out of Jerin's dry mouth.

The Imperial shook his head, as if disappointed, and Jerin made out the whirr of the blaster rifle loading charge in its pre-fire sequence.

"Alright, alright! Just let me go get it," Jerin stood shakily, and held her arms out for them to release her binders. The Imperial ignored this. "No need to trouble yourself," he said sarcastically. "Just tell me where it is, and I'll send my associates to retrieve it."

Jerin looked at Derian. He seemed to be having a harder time coming back from the concussion blast. Maybe the blast had hit him harder, or the effects of the earlier beating had left him more vulnerable to it. Either way, she didn't see him pulling any miraculous escapes any time soon. His eyes met hers. "Jerin. Don't." he said hoarsely. The Imperial raised his eyebrows in impatient irritation.

"There's a protected panel under my bunk. Keypad is under the mattress. 905110," she said, eyes not leaving Derian. Two storm troopers detached themselves from the group and returned a short while later, depositing the holocron into the chief Imperial's waiting hands.

"Very good," he murmmured, examining the holocron closely.

"You've got your toy. Now let us go."

"Mmm," their captor didn't raise his eyes from the holocron as he answered, voice light. "That is not consistent with my orders. Kill him."

Jerin scrambled to reach Derian as the blaster rifle bolt tore into the base of his skull and he crumpled unceremoniously to the deckplates with a dull thud.

"Der-!" Jerin found herself standing, disoriented, in her cargo bay. The Imperials were gone, as were Derian and the mess from his execution. Heart still pounding Jerin turned around to see Derian sleeping, propped up in the corner,  the bottle and glasses still arranged before him.

Xiann appeared in the doorway. "Good morning, Jerin," the twi greeted her.

"Bantha shavvit," Jerin answered.

I want to live. I want to experience the universe, and I want to eat pie. - Urgo
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Rating:
#267339

Re: The Fifth

Merrick scanned the records displayed before him. Being the first one that Horran had told about his plans for the holocron, he had more information to go on than the others - and no intention of sharing it. Once Merrick had the holocron, he'd control the direction of the project and his colleagues.

Fortunately, he knew just where to begin looking. Seven years ago, in the winter. A teenager, female. Fringe scum, if he recalled correctly. One who resisted telling Horran something he wanted to know. How? Horran had said something ridiculous abou loyalty. So, one who had something or someone to be loyal to.

Narrowing Horran's prisoner records down with all those details left a relatively short list. Merrick scanned through the vitals and summaries of several of them to see if anything rang a bell, before turning in for the night.

******


Henriltoz's hopes of finding his cousin quietly were quickly dashed. "Hey, look who's slumming it! Our man Henri is back!" rang out in the pub even as he ducked his head in the door.

"Oi, Henriltoz! Did the Empire kick you out already?"

"What, Henri, did ya' come back to get us to shine your boots?"

"Ah, lay off, the lot of you. You all know you're just jealous you a'net working up where you can see the sun shining like Lucky Henri. What'll it be, man?"

"Just my usual, Clif," Henriltoz murmurred, sliding onto a vacant barstool. Clif nodded.

"I reckon we wouldn't give you such a hard time, Henriltoz, if you was to buy us a round?" A voice piped up again.

"Put a lid on it, man. You know he sends most of his credits back home," said a woman's voice with authority. Henriltoz gave his cousin a grateful look as she slid onto the barstool beside him. "Hey, coz!" she added, punching him lightly on the arm. "Haven't seen you down here in a while. Anything special bring you down?" She raised her eyebrows and scanned the pub for potential something specials.

"Kind of. Actually, I was looking for you. Need a favor, Sel. Is there somewhere we could talk?"

Sel frowned as she traded Clif a few credits for an opened bottle. "Yeah. Sure. Walk with me."

Henriltoz exited the bar with slightly less attention than he arrived with, but got an earful of snark all the same.

"You a'net letting them get to you, are you?" Sel asked anxiously, once they were out on the catwalks. "Like Clif says, they're just jealous."

"It's fine. Really." Henriltoz assured her.

Sel nodded, and the two wandered from one pool of yellowish light to another, toward the hive of warehouses and factory assembly lines that employeed most of the corridor. Occasionally they'd pass one of the harsher lights, installed to keep the human population from being overcome with ricketts from lack of UV exposure. Henriltoz had never liked those lamps and what they implied. That the implication was truth didn't help matters. Those born in the corridor nealy universally died in the corridor. The intervening years - how ever many of them one managed to get - were spent primarily in the complex of buildings ahead, save for the lucky few, who got out like Henriltoz, or the foolish, who chose to work for one of the regional sydicates. None of the folks around the corridor expected particularly happy endings to their existence, but the endings for those working for the bosses tended towards gruesome, so these day it was a much less popular option for employement.

Except for his cousin, who was too invaluable to all of the syndicates for any of them to put her out of commission. She had, on occasion, worked for each of them.

Sel and Henriltoz wound up outside Sel's warehouse, perched on a stack of palletes of junk to be sold on the cheap to upper levelers. Sel considered the warehouse hers, anyway, and not without good reason. One, it was a very convincing cover story for what she did with her life. Two, her computer skills kept their inventory organized and in-stock, and three, she occasionally wreaked merry hells with the systems of their competitors, most commonly out of boredom. Sel had grown up with the same "too smart for the corridor" coments as Henriltoz had, but here she was still, all the same. Henriltoz felt the injustice of their relative situations keenly, and appreciated that she alone of everyone treated him the same as always. Good ol' Sel.

"I need you to do some slicing, Sel," he finally explained. "It's important. Or, I think it is, anyway. It could be."

"Some slicing that could be important, huh?"

"Yes. Well, see, there's this woman-"

"Ah HA! So there is something special," Sel grinned triumphantly.

"No, it's not like that. Let me finish."

Sel rolled her eyes. "Mmhmm."

"Just listen a second," Henriltoz looked around to make sure they were alone. "I'll explain…"

******


Merrick reviewed the list in the morning with fresh eyes, and laughed. Unless a Jerin Puck had died over night, someone else was looking at the records. And editing them. Somoene else thought they knew. And so the race was on.

I want to live. I want to experience the universe, and I want to eat pie. - Urgo
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Posted
Rating:
#267340

Re: The Fifth

Merrick scanned the records displayed before him. Being the first one that Horran had told about his plans for the holocron, he had more information to go on than the others - and no intention of sharing it. Once Merrick had the holocron, he'd control the direction of the project and his colleagues.

Fortunately, he knew just where to begin looking. Seven years ago, in the winter. A teenager, female. Fringe scum, if he recalled correctly. One who resisted telling Horran something he wanted to know. How? Horran had said something ridiculous abou loyalty. So, one who had something or someone to be loyal to.

Narrowing Horran's prisoner records down with all those details left a relatively short list. Merrick scanned through the vitals and summaries of several of them to see if anything rang a bell, before turning in for the night.

******


Henriltoz's hopes of finding his cousin quietly were quickly dashed. "Hey, look who's slumming it! Our man Henri is back!" rang out in the pub even as he ducked his head in the door.

"Oi, Henriltoz! Did the Empire kick you out already?"

"What, Henri, did ya' come back to get us to shine your boots?"

"Ah, lay off, the lot of you. You all know you're just jealous you a'net working up where you can see the sun shining like Lucky Henri. What'll it be, man?"

"Just my usual, Clif," Henriltoz murmurred, sliding onto a vacant barstool. Clif nodded.

"I reckon we wouldn't give you such a hard time, Henriltoz, if you was to buy us a round?" A voice piped up again.

"Put a lid on it, man. You know he sends most of his credits back home," said a woman's voice with authority. Henriltoz gave his cousin a grateful look as she slid onto the barstool beside him. "Hey, coz!" she added, punching him lightly on the arm. "Haven't seen you down here in a while. Anything special bring you down?" She raised her eyebrows and scanned the pub for potential something specials.

"Kind of. Actually, I was looking for you. Need a favor, Sel. Is there somewhere we could talk?"

Sel frowned as she traded Clif a few credits for an opened bottle. "Yeah. Sure. Walk with me."

Henriltoz exited the bar with slightly less attention than he arrived with, but got an earful of snark all the same.

"You a'net letting them get to you, are you?" Sel asked anxiously, once they were out on the catwalks. "Like Clif says, they're just jealous."

"It's fine. Really." Henriltoz assured her.

Sel nodded, and the two wandered from one pool of yellowish light to another, toward the hive of warehouses and factory assembly lines that employeed most of the corridor. Occasionally they'd pass one of the harsher lights, installed to keep the human population from being overcome with ricketts from lack of UV exposure. Henriltoz had never liked those lamps and what they implied. That the implication was truth didn't help matters. Those born in the corridor nealy universally died in the corridor. The intervening years - how ever many of them one managed to get - were spent primarily in the complex of buildings ahead, save for the lucky few, who got out like Henriltoz, or the foolish, who chose to work for one of the regional sydicates. None of the folks around the corridor expected particularly happy endings to their existence, but the endings for those working for the bosses tended towards gruesome, so these day it was a much less popular option for employement.

Except for his cousin, who was too invaluable to all of the syndicates for any of them to put her out of commission. She had, on occasion, worked for each of them.

Sel and Henriltoz wound up outside Sel's warehouse, perched on a stack of palletes of junk to be sold on the cheap to upper levelers. Sel considered the warehouse hers, anyway, and not without good reason. One, it was a very convincing cover story for what she did with her life. Two, her computer skills kept their inventory organized and in-stock, and three, she occasionally wreaked merry hells with the systems of their competitors, most commonly out of boredom. Sel had grown up with the same "too smart for the corridor" coments as Henriltoz had, but here she was still, all the same. Henriltoz felt the injustice of their relative situations keenly, and appreciated that she alone of everyone treated him the same as always. Good ol' Sel.

"I need you to do some slicing, Sel," he finally explained. "It's important. Or, I think it is, anyway. It could be."

"Some slicing that could be important, huh?"

"Yes. Well, see, there's this woman-"

"Ah HA! So there is something special," Sel grinned triumphantly.

"No, it's not like that. Let me finish."

Sel rolled her eyes. "Mmhmm."

"Just listen a second," Henriltoz looked around to make sure they were alone. "I'll explain…"

******


Merrick reviewed the list in the morning with fresh eyes, and laughed. Unless a Jerin Puck had died over night, someone else was looking at the records. And editing them. Somoene else thought they knew. And so the race was on.

I want to live. I want to experience the universe, and I want to eat pie. - Urgo
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Rating:
#268040

Re: The Fifth

The door chimed.

"Go away!" Naiya groaned into her pillow as her hand fished on the floor for her alarm. Finding it, she held it before her bleary eyes and made a noise of exasperation. Naiya dropped the chronometer back on the floor and closed her eyes.

The door chimed again.

"Ugh!" The woman untangled her pajamaed self from the sheets and snatched a blaster off the chest of drawers. "This damn well better be important!" she yelled, as she padded out of the bedroom and into the living area.

The person outside had turned his face away from the camera, but Naiya could see on the viewscreen beside the door that he was alone. Shrugging to herself, Naiya readied her blaster and released the door.

Merrick turned at the sound of the door retracting. He looked down at the blaster. "I doubt you really want to do that," he grinned.

Naiya's face contorted in rage. "Then you're very stupid, Merrick."

The grin didn't fade. "I think you'll want to hear what I have to say, first. I've come to offer you a deal."

"Really? Looks more like you came to wake me up at some force-forsaken hour and gloat."

"Oh, no. I'm quite serious. But if you're not interested, I'll go elsewhere. Good day." Merrick walked away from the apartment, counting under his breath. "Three…. two…. one."

"Wait!"

Merrick turned, a look of polite inquiry on his face.

"Fine," Naiya spat out. "I'll hear what you have to say. There's a diner across the street. I'll meet you there in half an hour."

Merrick bowed in a gentlemanly manner. "Half an hour."

I want to live. I want to experience the universe, and I want to eat pie. - Urgo
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Rating:
#268318

Re: The Fifth

The trio watched from the cockpit as the tell-tale arrowhead shape of an Imperial Star Destroyer materialized before them upon the Chaos's return to realspace.

"There she is. The Lunatic Fringe." Derian stated plainly.

"Yeah, guess which genius didn't warn me it was an abandoned Imperial craft the first time we came," Jerin commented for Xiann's benefit, rolling her eyes.

"Hey, now. As I recall, I had just saved someone's sorry hide from being captured by a psychotic bounty hunter on Coruscant. Can't recall exactly who that was. You remember, Jerin?"

"No idea."

"Any theories, Xiann?"

Xiann supressed a smile. "I think I'll stay out of this one."

"See? She's smarter'n you, Der."

The com crackled to life before he could reply. "Unknown craft, state your destination and business."

"Shavvit," muttered Jerin. She reached below the console, pulled a jumper free and tossed it the deckplates. "Hey. Want to try that again?" She responded.

"We see you now, Chaos. Looks like you've got a junker with you."

Jerin heard Derian cursing the speaker under his breath. "Something like that. It's the Astral Wind… sort of. Her captain is here with me. Tell the Admiral I've brought him a ghost."



Jerin tried to shake off deja-vu as she piloted the linked ships carefully into a hangar bay on the Lunatic Fringe. Doing her best to push the dream from her mind, Jerin landed the ships gently and powered down the engines and the electromagnetics of the clamp holding the Astral Wind. "Welcome to the Fringe," she said, rising to her feet.

"Best drinks on any ISD floating," Derian added. They made their way toward the ship's ramp.

"Sounds promising," Xiann said, tentatively. "And you'll be able to fix your ship here?" The twi'lek saw Jerin look up sharply at this remark, but the human said nothing.

"Of course," Derian answered. "We'll be able to make a good start of it at the very least, though I'll need to go to a real shipyard for some details once the Wind is spaceworthy again."

They had arrived at the ramp, but Jerin was blocking the release. Derian turned and looked at her expectantly, and Xiann saw Jerin's left hand make two sharp gestures in rapid sucession. A practiced con artist, Xiann kept her face impassive as Derian raised his eyebrows in a skeptical manner, then, when nothing further came from Jerin, he shrugged indifferently. "So, Xiann," Derian began, politely blocking the path to the ramp.
Jerin released the ramp and made a quiet exit.

"What is this all about?" Xiann asked levelly, once Jerin was out of earshot. She gestured with a leku in a mostly-indifferent fashion.

"Search me," Derian replied, then smiled a little. "You might could say Jerin is being excessively cautious."

"Yes, I 'might could.' She's been twitchy all morning."

"Twitchy? I hadn't noticed."

Xiann wondered how he possibly could have missed it, but kept her thoughts to herself.

"'Ey! Tai'pek! It's clear!" Jerin called from the hangar.

It was if someone had lit a fire under Derian. He bolted out of the Chaos and to his ship. Jerin's eyes took in the wrecked hull up close for the first time as she helped Derian pry the ramp open. It fell between them with an ominous thud.

Jerin looked at the ramp, then Derian. "You want company?"

I want to live. I want to experience the universe, and I want to eat pie. - Urgo
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