A'Tuin's Wild Ride

The Birth of The A'Tuin

*click*

The last access panel cover slid effortlessly into place. Now, finally, she was done. Oh, sure, she’d been spaceworthy for a while now, and Mek had finished all the hyperdrive tests 2 weeks ago, but this was far more important.

He moved past the galley towards the cockpit, checking his work as he went. Reaching the main computer terminal, he pulled a datacard from his pocket and plugged it in. This was the final test. He momentarily held his breath, and then punched in a few quick commands.

On cue, the pulsing synth rhythms of Red Shift Limit’s new album Limited Warfare echoed throughout the ship. Taking a quick tour of the ship to verify that all the various speakers mounted throughout were working properly, Mek couldn’t help but grin. He’d be taking the A’Tuin on her official maiden voyage soon, and leaving Mon Cala for who knows how long.

At least his new home would sound right.

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Target Practice

The EVA suit was a problem. It’s bulk limited his speed, the magnetic boots altered his stance, and the helmet interfered with his peripheral vision. Still O-In drew smoothly, slowly at first, but faster and faster as he learned to compensate for the impacts of the suit, the effects of zero-gravity, and the odd motion the ship was making as it approached Nerin III. Hitting a switch on his suit, the swarm of micro-droids flattened the targets they had been holding aloft, and scuttled into the airlock ahead of him. Having Fifties make these little guys was a great idea, allowing him to practice in non-standard environments – basically anywhere the A’tuin found itself. He could even practice on the exterior of the ship…as long as he didn’t miss.

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On Death's Bed

Wen Yanbo awoke, upright and already walking. The strange land he found himself in had a familiar feel. Dark. Dusty. And the air … It was then that he noticed he wasn’t wearing his breather, which had become an extension of himself after decades of not removing it.

He was on Dorin.

One realization led way to another: There were dozens of other Kel Dor, of all ages, walking in the same direction as him. He turned to the Kel Dor youngling walking to his right and, in his native Kel Dorian tongue, asked, “Child, to where is everyone walking?”
“To see the Masters, of course.”
“I apologize, it’s been so long since I’ve been home, the Masters?”
“What do you mean? You’ve always been here,” she said puzzled. “Come, the Master’s are expecting you.” She took his hand in hers and guided him forward as wind whipped through the clearing. In the distance he could see a rock formation around which everyone was gathering.

He felt a soft touch on his left shoulder. Walking beside him was male Kel Dor old enough to be his father, but probably much older. “Child,” the frail man said, addressing Wen Yanbo, “the Baran Do have been leaders, mentors, and practitioners on Dorin for thousands of generations. Now it is your turn.”
“But I don’t know how. Besides, I’ve sworn a …”
“You’ve spent long enough foraging in the Outer Rim, separating yourself from the toxicity of society, and finding your own connection to the living force. The Baran Do way is not much different, now learn to separate yourself from your own senses and truly see the world around—and ahead of you.”

With that he stopped. They had reached their destination.

There was a Kel Dor male guiding the congregation in meditation, teaching them to separate themselves from their senses, and open themselves to the world around them. Wen Yanbo joined in the mediation, which seemed to last hours on end. The past, present, and future were beginning to blend. Making the exact amount of time they had been meditating hard to discern.

When he opened his eyes Wen Yanbo noticed that there was a human man standing next to the Kel Dor sage. He immediately recognized the soft face of his Master. “Master! The atmosphere, it’s not safe for you here. You must return to safety.”
His master did not seem worried. “Wen Yanbo, it’s time to go. There is still work to be done.”
“I’m learning so much. The Kel Dor use the force to predict the timing and direction of violent storms. Please, let me stay awhile longer.”
His Master shared a friendly, familiar smile with the Kel Dor sage before saying, “It is not your path, not yet.” He pointed to the cave in the rock formation, from which a bright, orange light was emitting. “Quickly! You’re needed.” Wen Yanbo walked slowly toward the cave, as he turned around he could see the bodies of the Kel Dor that had gathered slowly fading away.

“Oh and Wen Yanbo,” his Master added, “do be safe.”

Wen Yanbo closed his eyes as he walked into the cave, and as he opened them he found himself in his cabin with the bright, orange light of the nebula flooding his room, his body still aching from the day’s unfortunate encounter with the wrong end of a missile tube, and the familiar beep of the ship’s intercom ringing in his ears.

It was Mek, “Hey Wen Yanbo, we could use you up here on the scanners.”

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Easy Things Come Hard

It’s never easy, killing someone.
At least not emotionally – taking the life of some slob with a disruptor and an ego’s actually pretty straightforward.
But the impacts of it, those never get less. I can still feel that hunters emotions as he realizes he’s going to die. The little flicker of surprise, the wild surge of fear, the tidal wave of pain and then the silence.
Stars, it’s never easy, even when they probably deserved it.

Ever since I got that package, there’ve been so many dead. Friends, enemies, faceless drones hunting me for reasons I don’t understand and allies who’ve sacrificed everything to keep me alive.

It looks like Fifties has a few more secrets than I thought – probably at least as many as I do…unless they were after my gift to him?
Well, wouldn’t be the first time I’ve put someone in harms way, and I guess it won’t be the last.

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When Rok was found in a hard place.
Rok's wild adventure by himself

(Hard Stealth check, with upgrade and a setback. Result: 1 failure, 1 despair, 3 advantage.)

The smell of melted plastisteel quickly filled the small cantina. Moments before Rok had been getting pounded on by the Bith thugs. His ears ringing the crowd began hastily pushing towards the exits away from the man with a disruptor and his two droids at the cantina entrance.
Rok quickly melted into the crowd, surely his friends will forgive him for continuing to follow the Swoop gang. No one treats “Fifties” that way.
Pushing and pulling Rok finally made his way outside. Looking around trying to find one of the Bith. The crowd thinned further away from the cantina. Turning a corner a down a side alley was one of those bald headed Bith. Picking up speed Rok ran down the street. Rok skidded to a stop.
“Well look what we have here, boys. One of those hard headed uglies.” Half a dozen of the thugs stood waiting. Rok was grabbed by two of the thugs and thrown against the wall. The big Bith started pummeling him. Blow after blow landed. Unable to escape, unable to collapse to the ground, Rok’s mind started to swim, he coughed and wheezed and cried out.
A blow landed on his temple sending stars through his vision. Rok was let go and he fell to his knees.
“You boys have fun. Git goin’! Let skinny prune face be.” A huge figure towered over the Bith. He sounded so familiar.
“Yeah, we all just having some fun. We are going now.” The big Bith stuttered. He turned and encouraged his fellows to leave.
Rok looked up questioningly at the new figure. Outlined by a street lamp, he could tell his savior was a Basalisk.
“You mess… “ The huge figure bent low hovering over the Weequay. “ you ever learn count odds, you hard headed prune face, before you rush in trouble?”
The voice was familiar! “Buzzard?!, You know I can’t count that high.” Four huge hands reached out and helped Rok up. “Not you can’t, you don’t.” The Basilisk said folding his arms disapprovingly.
Rok grasped his nose, blood oozing down. Spitting blood onto the pavement, Rok smiled a crooked smile, proudly displaying a new chipped tooth. “Thanks, Buzzard. I did walk into that one. When did you get on station? I didn’t know you were in the area.”
The huge Basilisk kept staring disapprovingly with his arms crossed, “You didn’t or didn’t want to look like you know.” One hand pointed out an index finger poking Rok in the middle of his chest. ”You owe me. Now, you owe more.”
“Hey well, why didn’t you just let them kill me then?” The smile gone from Rok’s face.
“You not pay off debt if you be dead. You pick wrong fight you never pay what you owe. Plus, no fun let others kill too quick. When you pay?”
“Listen Buzzard, You know I’ll pay you. You are like family to me. Give me another couple of days. I should have a good payoff coming in soon. We got a good tip it will payoff well and you’ll have your money.”
A slow smile spread across Buzzards wide face. Many small sharp teeth which caused Rok to shiver slightly. “Rok.. Rok.. couple days? payoff? You sound broken recording. You tell me same story last time. You skip town and I no get paid, again. You tell me about new job. Maybe I believe.”
The comlink chirped, “Rok where have you been?! get to the ship now your late!”
Shrugging Rok started to move past the big Basalisk.”Gotta go big guy, I’ll pay you soon.”
“Not fast, little Rok.” Two massive crushing hands grasped him, “You pay me soon. Or beatin from Bith be like mother’s embrace. Don’t care how good you be. You dead beat, be beat dead.”
“Yeah, Buzzard, I know. You’ll get your credits soon.”

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Repairs and Reflections

‘Well, that could have gone better,’ Mek thought to himself as he settled in for what looked to be about 2 hours of repairs.

Admittedly, it was a bold maneuver he’d pulled off, going belly-to-belly with another Ghtroc leaving the station and then jamming the thrusters hard to confuse any scanners that happened to be sweeping their way. And it seems to have paid off, since the ship’s computer was reporting that it’s transponder code had been scrambled and reset. He’d no idea how that happened, but Mek always was more of a hardware guy than a software guy.

After realigning the harmonic dampeners in the maneuvering thruster cooling system, Mek wandered back up to the bridge. Someone had been flying all this time, probably O-In, and they’d need a break by now. As long as it wasn’t Fifties. Mek was sure the Bothan meant well, but he was just so… confused. And scared, and paranoid. He could almost hear some old Jedi from one of his childhood stories lecturing on the path to the Dark Side. Someone like Wen Yanbo.

Poor Wen Yanbo. How he had survived the rocket attack, Mek would never know, but he was grateful. He wouldn’t ever admit it out loud, or even to himself, but the old Kel Dor had started to become quite the father-figure. He seemed to embody everything the Jedi were supposed to be.

Taking over the ship’s controls, he sighed. Supposed to be, but weren’t, of course. Officially, the Jedi were traitors, and extinct, and besides, he’d never met a Jedi. Sure, everyone else here seemed to be force-sensitive, but that wasn’t the same thing at all. That was just the pile of parts out of which a ship was built.

There is no emotion; There is peace

Mek slowly recited the old Jedi code he’d read in an old book somewhere, trying to glean some hidden meaning from them. It helped cool his brain down when he got too excited. He cruised an oscillating search pattern in the direction of the coordinates they’d learned from Theapu, but he didn’t really know what he was looking for.

After a few hours of scanning out the cockpit, enjoying the sights as much as being on the lookout, a small pinging alarm on the console went off. They were nearing their destination. Looking around, everyone seemed to be occupied with useful activities, which meant only one thing. He hated to disturb Wen Yanbo, but now seemed to be the time. He punched the comms.

“Hey Wen Yanbo, we could use you up here on the scanners.”

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Intercepted transmission
from Fifties Imperial data hooks

Woman 1: these bounty hunters weren’t the best but they shouldn’t have been taken out so quick?

Woman 2: The droids insist that it was one man

Woman 1: and then this story of a force user. When was the last time that was reported? With Dorco and those iktotchi?

background noise of a holo display being turned on

Woman 2: no, clearly there was something done, I can see how the threat matrix went to that scale of force.

Man 1: with two force users like that it’s no wonder they went into survival mode.

Woman 2: exactly, the devices used, or the possibility of the force must be investigated.

Woman 1: I guess Agent Couplaw and I

Man 1: right you are Agent Brandall, I guess we’re on our way to Kartha Station

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Intercepted transmission 2
Fifties data hooks strike again

Appearing on Fifties data taps, cypher not used since the mid rim trade dispute. Voices are unidentifiable

A- What are you doing?
B- We have to land here, that ship is the only one that we can reach before the engine fully quits.
A- We have a hole in the hull not an engine breach, those Naboo fighters hit us hard. The Naboo are a fairly peaceful people. What do you mean we have to land there?
B- The hull breach is in the engine compartment, if it gets worse in this nebula we’re toast, our sensors didn’t pick up anything inside here, this cloud wall is scaring me. If what’s at the centre is what I think it is we’re in huge trouble if it pulls us too close.
A- I don’t want to think about that.
B- Anyway if they hadn’t given us that beacon to home in on we’d have been in that annoying vortex in the middle of this.
A- They sounded like a cult, both of their voices sounded off. I don’t think this is going to end well for us.

Message breaks up at this point.

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Romantic Diversions

As the tour drags on, a nagging something stirs at the corners of O-In’s mind. The commander’s justifications rang hollow, and shadows of falsehood lurked behind his words. Hoping to get the truth, O-In slows his pace, pulling Fifties back with him. Then, with the others as a distraction, the two slip off into the shadows of the manufactory.

Away from the Commander, O-In & Fifties explore the facilities, looking for evidence of deception, evidence of weakness. As they reach one of the back walls, a despairing voice cries out for help. O-In reacts with a start, but Fifties seems unusually calm – almost as if he had not heard it. “Did you hear that scream?,” and Fifties curious expression shows he hadn’t.
“There’s someone in trouble, just the other side of that wall – can you get us in there?”
Fifties humors his friend with a casual smile, “See, you are starting to understand how I feel!” before igniting his universal passage generator. It sparks and hisses as it slices through the steel walls, and as it cuts, more screams break out, screams both heroes can here.

Once the passage is large enough, the two step into a room occupied by cowering women and children. Standing in from of them, holding a chair up as a crude defensive weapon, is a bold Bothan woman, her lithe figure clad in the remains of designer exploration gear and her fur shimmering with doubt, rage and fear. Seeing Fifties, she exclaims, “You aren’t part of the crew – who are you?,” naively unaware of the existential crisis she invokes with that simple question.

While Fifties recounts his latest self-conception tale, something involving clones, nanodroids, and purple lightning, O-In moves among the others, working to calm them down and find out their situation. It only takes a few minutes to realize that these people, despite their fear and confusion, do not share the rigid similarities of much of the crew. They share stories of deprivation, manipulation, and abuse that are both disgusting and distressingly comprehensive.

As Fifties winds down his origin story, O-In is stunned to notice the Bothan woman appears quite taken with his friend – in fact, she radiates an intense fascination. “O-In, this is Deb Pastor – she is a prisoner here, along with these others. Apparently, the ship is home to an evil hive mind that has taken control of the combat capable folks!”

For once, O-In isn’t shocked by Fifties amazing statements, and instead offers a curt concurrence, “Agreed, and these folks need our help to escape – let’s see if we can get them to the A’Tuin without anyone noticing.”
Unfortunately, herding 8 women, 4 men and 19 children through unfamiliar corridors is not conducive to stealth. Which is how the two of them wound up in a two-way running battle against dozens of near-mindless cyborgs, with O-In picking off pursuers while Fifties cuts a path through the defenders, while carrying on a conversation with Deb, one that is never interrupted, even as she is struck by a shot aimed at him, and he slings her into the crook of his arm, carrying her to safety behind the blazing shield of his flashing lightsaber. Thus, they burst into the main park, shepherding their rescued charges, only to be nearly stopped by the sight of their crewmates arrayed for summary judgement…

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Aftermath and a Dream

Klaxons scream. O-in yells out, “Get on board. We’re leaving now!” Dozens of security personnel flood the hanger bay. The loading ramp slowly starts to raise. Wen Yenbo stands resolute out, “Go if you must, I’m staying.” Mac-tu Rok grabs hold of the Kel Dor’s arm pulling him back toward the loading ramp, “Master! Please!!!” pain and fear in his voice. The Kel Dor brushes him off looks at him with disappointment and strolls toward the hoard.
Rok turns jumps up the ramp and turns as it shuts behind him looking out. Slamming his fist into the hull next to the plastisteel. Watching as Wen Yenbo is swarmed and overtaken by a swarm. “No! Master Why!!” The hoard parts and three figures stand where Wen Yenbo was. Two ISB agents and a chrome clad figure, circled with lightening. It’s eyes open and dark lightening crackles out after the ship. Striking through the hull and directly into Rok. Rok rolls on the hull dark energy crackling over him and a metallic voice calls, “Join us or die…”
Rok’s eyes jolt open his sweat soaked berth on the ship echoing with the sound of the whisper. When he came in here hours ago it was filled with refugees. Now it’s empty.
He peels off his shirt, blood stain soaking the sleeve. It was a dream, just a bad dream. Pulling on a clean shirt he palms open the door and a refugee kid tumbles into the room. Sighing he steps over the child, It’s cold here on the ship even with all these people. Refugees speak in a whisper and point at him as he carefully winds his way to Wen Yenbo’s quarters.
“Master?” Rok opens the door steeping in. Wen Yenbo sits kneeling in his room in meditation. Steeping closer. “Master? Are you upset with me?”
“No. It’s not wise to be quick to anger…. Or impulsive for that matter. Come, sit with me.” Intones Wen Yenbo motioning to a spot beside him. “Calm your emotions, reach out, and let the force guide your thoughts.”
Rok kneels beside Wen Yenbo and tries to do as instructed. Breathing in and out slowly trying to reach out to the force. But meditation never comes easy.
“Tell me, what do you feel?” Wen Yenbo asks quietly.
“I feel cold… Should we have stayed? Was it cowardice on my part? I feel I almost lost you, Master.” The questions tumble out of Rok. Wen Yenbo indicates to slow down. Sighing, Rok continues slowly,” I’m torn. Why did we go there? We didn’t settle anything. But it felt like the place we were supposed to go?”
Calmly Wen Yenbo begins, “The facility is shrouded in darkness. The force led us there for a reason, I am sure we have not seen the last of it. I was wrong to have wanted to stay. And I shouldn’t have put you in the position to choose between following me, and following the crew. You shouldn’t worry about me. I’ll be fine. We did what little we could by getting these few off the ship. I am sure, when it is appropriate to speak with them we will learn a great deal more about that facility. We might even learn a weakness that we can exploit. Don’t let your feeling betray you. You are right to feel conflicted, we must do what is right. But that is not always so clear.”
“Thank you Master. I’ll keep that in mind.” Rok stands and opens the door. The smell of fear and sweat fill his nostrils as he steps back into the hall.
So many refugees. What are we going to do. Why is it so cold?

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