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  1. #51
    Paladin Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    An explosive device? She had been expecting something along the lines of the "illegal" blasters that had been planted among the boxes - not a weapon of indiscriminate destruction. How many more surprises were there in the hold? Neva didn't have to wave the villagers back as the ones nearest had already backed away, leaving her standing with the Mahrs.

    "If someone is trying to start a war, they may have done more to ensure the success of their mission. Can you use the Force to find other 'problem packages'?"

    Of course, if that would be too much of a strain, they'd simply have to move slower while they opened each case to check the contents. That sounded more time consuming and dangerous than she would like.

    "We may have to move the ship further away, dump the contents, then sort it to minimize the potential impact on the survivors. I really don't like this."
    Winner of the dubious Vaarsuvius Award for Verbousness!

    I support altruism.

  2. #52
    Siralai Mahr



    "I can," Siralai said. "It will take time, but I think it's worth the delay it will cause. Better to discover anything amiss now than to find more unexpected... surprises... later."

    And a bomb would have been an unpleasant surprise indeed. Siralai was hesitant to suggest moving the ship in case there was another bomb somewhere in the hold - who knew what entering the planet's atmosphere had shaken loose? Better to move slowly and avoid disturbing the contents of the containers as much as possible.

    "Rossi, you can help me." Like most Sith Purebloods, Rossi was adept with the Force. Siralai was convinced that with guidance, her newly adopted daughter would wield her power for the light side - and the only way to learn that was practice, so Siralai did not hesitate to encourage the girl to use her skills. "Trystan and Neva, can you keep the crowd at bay in the meantime?"

    Not that it took much to keep the wary settlers at a safe distance. The residents watched cautiously, surprised to see what looked like a Jedi and a Sith working in unison as they scoured the packages with their Force-honed mental senses.

    It was an effort. Beads of sweat stood out on Rossi's brow. Siralai showed the strain less, but she was pale and determined, utterly focused. Time slipped by - how much time, neither of them could have said, intent as they were on their work - and Rossi's hand brushed a small box that made her recoil.

    She passed it to Siralai, who laid an open palm on the surface, then opened the lid. It appeared to be full of hypodermics of ordinary medicines, antibiotics and pain relievers.

    "Tainted," Siralai said with a slight frown. "Deliberately poisoned, if I don't miss my guess. So the bomb goes off. The survivors treated the wounded. And then..."

    It was devious, she thought. Even worse than just killing people with an explosion. Giving people hope, only to rip it away.

    "This was planned carefully. And whoever did it has access to resources. I don't know what to make of it, Neva," the former Jedi admitted.

    The other cargo that the manifest indicated for the Imperial colony was clean from tampering. But the cargo for the Republic colony...

    "It's exactly the same thing," Siralai said. "Another bomb, and more poisoned medicine. Whoever this was... either they aren't on either side and we have an unknown player, or they're willing to attack their own people to achieve their ends. That makes them very dangerous. We need to figure this out quickly, or we may not be able to prevent bloodshed on their next attempt."

    And if they had gone this far, Siralai thought, a next attempt was sure to come.
    "Sleep to dream, and we dream to live..." -Great Big Sea

  3. #53
    Paladin Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    Neva didn't have much trouble keeping the townsfolk in place, but she found she was drawn to the scene. The Force. If she was truly honest with herself, she was curious - no matter how she protested disinterest in the primary users of the Force. Neva found herself practically beside Rossi and Siralai when the tainted medicines were revealed. It was too awful - and too convoluted. Two sets of bombs. Two sets of poison. It made no sense...unless whoever did it didn't have a side.

    As a neutral party herself, Neva didn't generally consider 'not having a side' to be particularly dangerous...until now. While she avoided participating, this party was playing both sides. Not good.

    "At least we know which supplies are safe now. We can finish passing these out and get over to the Republic colony with the rest. If we can finish before whoever it is finds out that we've thwarted their plans, we should at least have some time to prepare for whatever might come next." She paused, and glanced over at Siralai. "That is, whoever it is seems invested...I assume this isn't a one-shot deal. Who would start something like this without having some sort of endgame in mind?"

    She motioned to the settlers to come forward once more, and again the line was formed to move goods toward the safe zone. These poor people had suffered enough at the hands of nature...who gave anyone the right to make their lives any worse?

  4. #54
    Siralai Mahr



    "I think I might have an inkling," Siralai said cautiously in a low voice. "But I'd rather speak about it privately. I don't wish to alarm anyone."

    Night was starting to fall planetside, and it would be too risky to try to visit the other colony not knowing what lay in the dark on an unknown world. They would be better off camping here till morning. That meant they had some time to talk, and when they had a spare moment, Siralai resumed her conversation with Neva away from unnecessary listeners. It wasn't that Siralai feared hostility from the Imperial colonists, not after their donation of supplies - but the colonists might be very worried by what she had to say.

    "I think that this may be tied to the Senate in some way. Truth be told, I've been wondering that ever since we were stopped by that blockade. For the blockade to be there in the first place was odd, as we discussed at the time - there was no reason to seal off a natural disaster site on a relatively unimportant planet. It worried me that the Senate had ordered it. And now, using the Force, what I sensed led credence to my concern."

    If she had been a Jedi Master, Siralai might have been able to offer more to go on... but she had only recently become a Knight when she left the Order to marry Trystan. She had not had time to hone all the skills that would be needed to make such a deduction by use of the Force alone. Still, she could sense a connection.

    "If so, the why of it follows naturally. Someone is not content with this fragile truce. Someone wants to return us to open war. And that person is willing to damage the Republic as well as the Empire to achieve it."

  5. #55
    Paladin Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    There it was - that distinct knot in her stomach that appeared whenever politics threatened to drag her out of her perch above them. It wasn't that Neva was terribly surprised that someone in the Senate might have such spurious aims, but she was...disappointed.

    "War is a lucrative business. Not everyone can see what they throw away in pursuit of credits." At least, she assumed that the perpetrator's motivation was money. Money was an incredible motivator.

    Neva found herself wondering what to do, which disturbed her. Generally, she left politics and other people out of her choices and plans for her future, but this aid mission seemed to be bleeding into a much larger version of the job she signed up for. She could simply drop off the goods at the next colony and then take the Mahrs back to Coruscant as their contract stated. That was pretty much what she planned on doing. However, Neva also could feel a pull from Siralai. Maybe more of a push - to consider the idea that no one lives beyond the reach of politics and those who would use that tool to further their own plans. Her position felt more precarious here and now than it ever had. She didn't like it.

    The look of intense concentration lifted for a moment. She still had a job to do, and so did the Mahrs.

    "We should rest. If you are right - and I believe you are - reports of today's delivery going smoothly may have already reached unfriendly ears. Tomorrow we may not get away with just dropping off the clean supplies at the next colony. The ship has security, so we should be safe enough to sleep inside without a watch."

    Not that she'd be sleeping. Neva had a lot to think about.

  6. #56
    Siralai Mahr



    "In a way, I would welcome that," Siralai said honestly. "I certainly don't crave a fight, but an enemy in the light is preferable to one lurking in the shadows. At least if they attack, we'll know what we're up against."

    Right now, Siralai had no idea, and it made her nervous. Once they retired to the ship for the evening, she sat up and meditated, trying to feel the Force as it encircled and animated everything around them. She could feel disturbances, but they were just ripples - the faint impressions of things yet to come. But they were coming. She could feel that much. The order of things was about to be disrupted. If only she were wiser, stronger in the Force... but that would have required sacrifices she was not prepared to make. The sacrifice of love, of family. No. She would just have to make do with the Force sensitivity she had, mix in some deduction, and hope for the best.

    She went to bed, finally, knowing she had found all she would find in her meditations for the time being. Without sleep, she would not be functioning efficiently tomorrow. Sleep didn't come easily, though. Siralai lay beside her husband in the dark, looking at him just barely illuminated by light leaking in from the corridor.

    This was the cost of war, she thought. Not Trystan himself - he had successfully defected, and was a citizen of the Republic now. They were on the same side. But so many others like him. Born on Imperial planets, with good hearts and very few options. People who were trapped, whether literally enslaved to the Empire's military machine or simply never offered the choice, never told there was another way. They didn't deserve to die. And if the fighting started again, the Republic would try its best to wipe all of them off the map. It wasn't right.

    No, it wasn't going to happen. Siralai kissed Trystan's sleeping cheek, keeping her touch too light to wake him, and nestled into his back, wrapping her arms around his waist.

    "I'll save them for you," she promised in a whisper. "As many of them as I can."

  7. #57
    Paladin Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    Neva Xolte

    Knowing that sleep would not find her easily, Neva retired not to her room, but to the cockpit as though sitting in the captain's chair would instantly make all things clear. Funny thing was that it usually did. It had been a long, long time since she'd last felt the sickening feeling of not knowing what to do. She mightaswell be without gravity - not knowing which was was up - and unable to go down even if she knew where down was. Neva briefly allowed herself a moment of self pity before sitting up straight and turning to her maps. She wasn't about to sit around without direction when she had plenty of ability to supply some for herself.

    Something had been bothering her about that ship that had stopped them on their way down to the planet. She brought up its information from their previous handshake during their first hail. The ship's name, captain, home port...with a bit of work, she might be able to tell where that ship last stopped. Maybe if she knew where they had come from, she might be able to figure out more about their unseen play-maker. She set the computer to the task of chasing down digital information on the ship in question, calling in a few favours with previous clients, then turned back to the star map.

    All the stars and planets were exactly where she'd expected them to be when she called up the local maps, but it was comforting to have them in front of her. She sat back in her chair and pulled her multi-tool out of its holster, absently twisting it in her hands. The best route was usually the direct one, but in this case, that route was over the least stable zone at the earthquake's epicentre. There was no way to know for sure if the planet's plates were going to shift again, perhaps causing more damage by releasing its molten core. It was silly to worry about that, being in a ship that could move away from the surface in mere seconds, but Neva still felt distinctly uncomfortable when she followed the route with her eyes.

    Silly or not, the zabrak had learned to trust her gut. She quickly plotted a more divergent route, then shut down the screen. Neva would show Siralai and Trystan her proposed flight plan in the morning and hopefully by then she'd have some information about the patrol ship. Until tomorrow came, there wasn't much else she could do, so she reluctantly retired to her bunk. Sleep did not come easy for Neva and she found herself caught in the throes of dreams to wake up drenched in sweat and completely unable to remember what the dream had been about.

    Despite the rough night, her passengers would find her clean and professional as usual when the came to join her in the kitchen nook. Breakfast rations were out on the counter along with the canned drinks from the day before. Neva herself was seated at a workstation, drinking a mixture of the two.

    "Good morning. I trust you slept well? Whenever you're ready, I'd like to discuss our plan for today - as best we can."
    Last edited by Quaxo9; 04-10-2019 at 07:18 PM.

  8. #58
    Siralai Mahr



    Siralai smiled and nodded slightly when Neva asked if they had slept well. In truth, none of them had - but it wasn't Neva's fault and had nothing to do with the accommodations on her ship. There was just too much at stake, too many variables. She wished she could have known this would happen before they decided to bring their daughter... but no, she shook off that thought. They could not possibly have known. This was meant to be a simple supply run.

    "I'm confident we're walking into a trap," Siralai said bluntly when Neva brought up the need to formulate a plan. "But I think we should do so anyway. The advantage is that we know it's a trap. Better to face it head-on prepared for danger, than to be ambushed later from an unknown direction."

    In a softer tone, the former Jedi added, "I'm sorry you've ended up in the middle of this, Neva. I didn't expect things to go this way."

  9. #59
    Paladin Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    Neva Xolte

    It was nice being on the same page. Whoever was against them had already gone to great lengths to keep them from succeeding - they surely would not have given up just because their quarry got smart. A trap indeed. She shook her head as Siralai apologized.

    "No. No apology needed. I agreed to be your pilot, and with that agreement, I have signed on to this job come what may. If I thought you had been malicious in your involvement of me in this project, I would not have taken the job to begin with. No, I have a strange assurance that this partnership was meant to be."

    Here, she stood and brought up the planet's map on a nearby screen.

    "I too had considered the idea that we would face more opposition on this mission. Here - I have plotted a new route over to the next camp. The original route had us flying over the quake zone and heavy forest. I have opted for a more roundabout route that would allow us to maintain the high ground over more sparsely vegetated land. We have enough fuel to do this, but not to also make the complete jump back to Coruscant. We will have to stop to refuel at a half-way point. I hope that is satisfactory. Also, I have made some inquiries about the origin of the ship that stopped us in hopes that we might know more about who sent them. I hope I did not overstep."

  10. #60
    Siralai and Trystan Mahr



    "Thank you," Siralai said, pleased that Neva didn't blame them for the unexpected turn the mission had taken. "I wouldn't have wished this on you, but since we're all stuck in it together, I'm grateful you're on our team, Neva."

    She looked at the course Neva had plotted and nodded, but indicated to Trystan that he should give final approval. Although Siralai was heading up the mission, her piloting skills were merely competent - while Trystan, having served as an Imperial pilot, was much more knowledgeable. Trystan scanned the route carefully, then took a step back and also nodded.

    "Good," he said. "Your route looks like our best option. You're right that refueling is the more acceptable risk under the circumstances."

    "You haven't overstepped at all, Neva," Siralai assured her. "You're as much part of this as we are, and I'm grateful that you're willing to use your connections to help. I hope it turns up something that will give us some direction."

    She had barely gotten the sentence out when she heard the distant sound of multiple small explosions. It was coming from above - an aerial bombardment. There was no time to determine the source. "We have to find some way to keep the colonists safe!" Siralai said urgently.

    There was no way of telling what was happening on the Republic side of the planet - if they were facing this barrage too - but for now the Imperial colonists were the ones right in front of them needing their help.

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