Temple of Sorrow
While she did not work for money alone, Qyreia did love getting just a little more to pad her accounts. Besides, this little job sounds interesting. A soft chuckle resonated in her throat. Don’t know what this “professionalism” that he’s talking about is though. Smiling, she made her way to the naval affairs office, knowing that she was going to need a ship for this little venture outside of the borrowed craft she usually used. When she presented the contract information, the liaison gave her a list of the available ships to choose from. Hm, no Star Destroyers? I guess that’s not counted in the ‘any Clan assets’ that he mentioned. Her finger scrolled along the datapad, the officer in front of her eyeing the mercenary warily, likely wondering if this ship was going to be coming back in pieces, if at all.
“I’ll take the Nu-class shuttle, and…” She referred back to her contract. “…a breather mask.”
“Do you want fried crispic with that?” the liaison said in annoyed monotone.
“Just get me the kriffing gear,” she barked, tossing the office’s datapad into the liaison’s chest. He made the necessary arrangements and sent her to one of the many landing pads outside the main hangar. “It’s like pulling teeth to get these military types to do their jobs,” she grumbled as she walked briskly toward the hangar area.
Though she knew her ships, Qyreia didn’t expect the Clone Wars era relic that met her gaze upon reaching the landing pad. Well at least it doesn’t take six people to fly like a fracking Lambda, she mused, looking the exterior over for any deficiencies. If there was one thing she had learned in her early days as a trader and smuggler, it’s that one should always check their bird before takeoff. Once satisfied with the outside, she did her interior checks, noting the breather mask set neatly in its carrying case on the copilot seat. The hold, normally used for troop transport, was also fitted with cargo netting and various other accoutrements that might come in handy. In particular, she noted the handle bars that ran the length of the ceiling for instances of standing-room-only drops.
Spinning up the engines revealed a slight error in the engine’s power equalization, an easy enough fix, and soon she was on her way toward Platform Onyx II. She had stopped by the station before, noting its dual military and commerce role like any respectable ragamuffin would, and so was somewhat familiar with the procedures and regulations of the place. Hovering over Sepros as it was, the flight did not have her waiting for long, spending what little time there was in studying the mission parameters, and soon enough she was calling in to traffic control.
“Onyx Two, this is Aurek-Qek-one-four-three-six-nine, requesting permission to dock. Over.”
Roger that three-six-nine, we’ve got you on scanners and tracking approach. Adjust your heading by five-four degrees and proceed along the indicators to docking bay three. Over.
“Docking bay three confirmed, control. See you there. Out.”
Banking right, she brought the shuttle around to a docking zone that she had not seen before. Likely they use it for secure transfers away from public vision. Good. She carefully followed the indicators to the hatch as it opened to accept her vessel, which she fit snugly into the small hangar area. Clearly this was not for large transfers, and she could see through the viewport that they were expecting her: she was still setting down when a procession of armed guards and a small, central figure made their way toward the ship. She pressed the button to send her seat down into the hold, noting from the bumpy ride that the hydraulics in the system needed a bit of care. They can field a fleet to rival the Empire, but Force-forbid that they grease the cogs once in a while. Without further delay, she opened the hatch.
Despite that she knew they were coming, she did not expect the entire welcoming committee to be standing in formation at the foot of where the loading ramp landed. The whole assemblage seemed overtly serious, and the guards perhaps too well-armed for the one Duros, but Qyreia wasn’t there to nitpick at their transfer procedures.
“Are you the agent that the Council sent?” The officer looked her over with military scrutiny; oddly refreshing for one so used to lechery in people’s stares.
“Yeoman Arronen, here for the Duros Zijo Mulk.” She eyed the picture on her datapad and then at the manacled prisoner. “I’m assuming that’s him then.”
“Where would you like us to place the prisoner?” the officer said tersely, seeming almost annoyed at the amount of time this was taking.
“Cuff him to one of the handlebars in the transport hold,” she said, motioning with her thumb. As the procession stepped inside, she made her own look-over of the security officer. “Why’d they take him here and not directly to Gamuslag? Seems kind of silly to go all that extra distance.”
“Not for me to say, nor for you to question, mercenary.”
She put her hands up in sarcastic surrender. “Sooorry. I’ll just be on my merry frackin’ way then.”
Ignoring the glare he was burning into the back of her head, Qyreia walked into the hold and watched as they finished securing Mulk to the bars. They had at least been kind enough to secure him so that he could sit, though they left little in the way of movement capability. This is gonna be a long ride for him. Considering that other pirates might be out to retrieve him or kill him, she wasn’t looking forward to the distance they had to go. She could make a hyperspace microjump, but that didn’t seem like a very good idea, considering there were so many gravity wells in the area that even a small jump would likely rip the tiny transport apart.
As the guards filed out, they gave her the keycard to the manacles that held him in place so that she could unchain him when they got to Gamuslag. The security chief rendered a final salute, which Qyreia returned with a casual tip-off from her brow, before returning from whence he came. The Zeltron shut the hatch, glanced for a moment at her charge, then took her rickety seat back up to the cockpit. She cleared her departure just as easily as her approach, and set out of the hangar doors, making a quick course for the distant toxic moon.
“Hoo boy… What to do now?” She eyed the course chart. At least half an hour ‘til we get there, and that’s at top speed without interruptions. With half-closed eyes, Qyreia slouched lazily in her seat. “Dammit, I just realized I’m a glorified babysitter.” She nearly resigned herself to napping in her seat when she heard a clang from the hold below. “Oh Sithspit, what’s he up to already?”
She made sure her carbine was secure in her arms and her pistol in its holster before pressing the button to descend. That Macron guy wants my professionalism? Ohhh, I’ll give you professional: professional choobie-whuppin’. The seat passed through the floor of the cockpit, and she discovered the Duros still seated, seemingly unawares as to why she came down.
“What was the noise?”
“I don’t know what noise you’re talking about.”
Qyreia rolled her eyes with an almost disappointed sigh, then casually brought the carbine to her shoulder and fired off a blaster bolt into the wall a meter from the Duros’ head. “I’m sorry, I don’t think I heard you quite right.”
“Y-you can’t do this! I’m a prisoner!”
She fired another round. “You’re also a pirate. I don’t like pirates.”
“You’re supposed to get me to Garmuslag alive!”
A faint grin touched her lips as she shrugged. “Never said anything about getting there in one piece. Now,” she said, leveling the barrel at his knees, “what was that noise?”
Mulk dropped his head in defeat. “I was trying to test the bonds; see if I could break out.”
“Well, he can be honest. Ain’t that lovely, folks?” She lowered the carbine. “Listen snot-for-brains, I want this to be a blue milk run; got it? You don’t wanna die, I don’t wanna die, so just sit tight, don’t do any funny business, and I might even give you the pleasure of my company for the rest of this trip.” His eyes seemed to light up at the last addendum. “Not that kind of company.”
His eyes turned downward. “Oh. Well, cannot blame a sentient for hoping.”
“Holy Hutt-humpers, what is it with every being in this galaxy?!” She pressed the button to go up, perhaps a little harder than she needed to, and let the chair rise. I wish these things would go faster the more you pressed the button.
“For what it is worth,” Mulk said as the floor started to seal, “I am going to be in jail soon.”
Good, she thought as the seat was restored to its usual position. Lacking any sort of entertainment, she resigned herself to staring into space, especially after noting how even the short conversational respite had only killed a paltry few minutes. She spent the next five minutes picking at her fingernails with her boot knife when she heard another loud clang from the hold. Kriff… I don’t want to waste my time with this guy. When there was another clang, she decided that she didn’t have much in the way of options. She lowered the seat yet again, and was met by the Duros’ seemingly-friendly gaze.
“I wished to continue our conversation.”
I could shoot him. I could totally get away with it. Just a maiming wound. If the Duros knew what she was thinking, it was not for lack of a solid pazaak-face of disinterest on Qyreia’s part. Considering her options, she conceded with a heavy sigh. “Fine,” she said, laying the carbine across her lap, “but the first sign of funny business, and I will shoot you.”
“You really don’t like pirates, do you?”
“Not many people that do like ‘em.”
“You seem to have a special distaste for us,” he said. “Why is that?”
“I used to be a freight trader; smuggler even. Pirates don’t shoot the people that deserve it: they attack the weakest and usually the ones that have the most to lose. Aside from the usual lack of moral compass, the whole ‘take what you can, give nothing back’ attitude has cost me quite a few good friends.”
“Because all pirates are like that,” he said sarcastically.
“Let me guess: you only rob from the rich and give to the poor?” I can out-sass you any day of the week, bub, she thought amusedly.
“No, but…” As he was speaking, a warning klaxon started sounding overhead. “It would appear we have company.”
“You think?!” She shunted the seat into motion, standing on the baseplate so she could more readily see the controls upon ascent. Hurry the kriff up! When she saw her proximity scanners lit up, she groaned. “Aw nuts, it’s a damn aurora borealis skyfire up here.” In the distance she could see the growing outlines of the hodge-podge Ugly starfighters that the report had mentioned. “Alert all commands,” she said nonchalantly to an invisible audience as she powered up her energy shields and weaponry, “we’ve got some ugly buggers on our twelve, and I don’t much like them. Prepare to killify.”
She was rather surprised to hear her comms system ring. “Y’ello?”
”We are here for Zijo Mulk. Release him from your hold and we will let you go, free and unharmed.”
The Zeltron pondered this for a moment, though much of that time was spent trying to come up with some sarcastic quip. “Sithspit, I can’t think of anything! …Oh well.” She shrugged, instead responding by sending a volley of fire from her ship’s laser cannons. All having been trained on one target, the enemy ship was nearly destroyed outright in the fusillade, though his five friends took the hint and began their attack.
“You will pay for that with your life!”
“Aww, the wittle piwate fell down. Ha!” The final note, screamed into the microphone for extra effect, only seemed to enrage her attackers more, and the shuttle was quickly subjected to a flurry of fire from all sides. “Alright… maaaybe provoking them wasn’t the best idea.”
The Ugly fighters were zipping to and fro, trying to keep the old shuttle’s guns from getting a solid tracking lock on any of them and, without a gunner with her, it was working. Her targeting computer could do only so much with the side-turrets, but they ended up being little more than warning shots. She heard some noise from down below and knew it was the Duros, though she wasn’t sure if he was trying to escape to his friends, or escape from them killing him. In either case, she didn’t trust him enough to keep the sound barrier closed, and so sent the gunner’s chair down, opening up a hole for them to yell through.
“Let me out of these bonds! I can help you!”
“Like snot you can,” she screamed, throwing the ship around to follow one of the fighters. She knocked off a few good shots, but not enough to completely destroy or cripple it. “Sithspit! Quit running you cowards! Hold still so I can shoot you!”
“You can’t do it alone!” Mulk shouted up. “I can be your gunner!”
The mercenary grumbled incoherently through grit teeth as she tried to match the hard turns of the smaller fighters, but to not avail. “Sithspit,” she muttered. “Fine!” She drove the ship’s course back toward Gamuslag before moving over to the gap in the floor that opened up over the descended gunner’s chair and jumping down. Mulk was still where he was supposed to be, which meant the manacles were doing their job. At least that much is going right. She dashed over as the ship was rocked by cannon fire, slinging her carbine and kneeling down to undo the restraints.
“Any smart comments, and I’ll shoot you myself, got it?”
“Yes ma’am,” he said, seeming as amused as he was fearful. Her eyes watched him carefully as she freed the pirate, feeling another rock as the ship took another hit. “None of their ships had boarding harpoons, did they?”
“Didn’t get close enough to see.”
It seemed that fate had it in for Qyreia, for no sooner had she spoken than the superheated tip of a flexiglass tube tore through the wall at the rear of the transport hold before gushing out with some sort of gas, notable only from the audible hiss it was making. I’ll be Kesseled! Just had to go an open your big fat mouth, didn’t ya?! She dropped what she was doing and fumbled for the carrying sack for the breather mask that she had clipped to her belt. The flight had been boring enough that she had played with it, but she didn’t expect to need it in a hurry like this. Still, she held her breath and donned the mask before the gas could reach her. Mulk was not so lucky, though he managed to choke out that it was coma gas before going unconscious.
Well bork me sideways and call me a Twi’lek. Just gets better and better, doesn’t it?
For half a moment she considered running to the chair and sealing off the cockpit, but thought better when she heard the familiar sound of a docking coupling connecting with the harpoon. With little other place to hide, she ducked under the bench on which Mulk was soundly sleeping, using his legs as a sort of camouflage. She was not there long when she heard the airlock gate of the harpoon open and a pair of humanoids came clanking into the room. The first one to drop in saw the chair and instantly opened up on it, making Qyreia flinch a little, but not enough to tip off the boarder.
Breathe ol’ girl. Aim… squeeze…
Her cheek rested firmly on the stock as she sighted along her carbine, her finger putting careful pressure on the trigger as the second pirate jumped down behind the first. The initial boarder had begun walking toward the Duros when her first shot went off. Center of mass: a direct hit from the weapon went into the being’s chest and sent the other one into a panic. Prone as she was, she had only to shift her position slightly to change her sight picture and send a flurry of shots into the other scoundrel. He was only wounded, but lost his weapon as he fell, and so was easily dispatched as she put one final shot into his prostrate body.
Qyreia shifted her weight and the weapon to her left, not sure how big of a party she should expect, and used her now-free right hand to pull the Duros off his seat and onto the floor behind her with a meaty thunk. “Sorry jerk-ass,” she muttered, “but you’ll thank me when you’ve only got a bump on the head to deal with.”
Her caution turned out to be a good plan, as a flurry of blaster bolts began emanating from the tube just as she was shoving Mulk behind her. The mask was getting stuffy, and the rubber-like face seal was uncomfortable, which did not make calm and collected shots very easy. The pirates were nervous though, and Qyreia had the advantage of a stationary position, so when they started streaming into the bay, they fell quickly. After the first two of this new group were shot cold, the others had figured out where she was and began blind-firing in her general direction.
Several bolts whizzed and thudded into the ground around her and wall above her, but neither she nor the Duros were hit outright. When the first pirate leaned out to take a shot, Qyreia managed to hit the being’s own breather mask, along with a singe of hair and flesh, flooding its lungs with the coma gas. And another one bites the dust. When she saw the fallen pirate – a woman by the look of her figure – being tugged back into the ship, the mercenary figured she had a chance at turning the tables. She rolled out from her position, saw the last pirate standing trying to haul his partner back into the Ugly, and took careful aim as he realized the precarious position he was in. He fired off a few wild rounds, but Qyreia found her mark first.
With no time or patience to play with anymore prisoners, she dragged the female pirate to the opposite bench as Mulk, fastened her into place with his restraints, and dragged Mulk back into his seat, tying him down with some straps cut from the cargo netting. And they said knot tying wasn’t a valuable skill anymore. Ha! With her two pirates under wraps, she considered her options.
For the moment at least, the firing on the shuttle had stopped, though she figured that wouldn’t last long. Ah frack, what do I do? What do I do? The nervous feeling nearly had her bouncing with anxiety, until she had an idea. It was a long shot, but then again, so was everything at this point.
With sweat beading on her forehead, making her nervous about the state of the mask, she dove into the boarding tube and opened the door into the attached Ugly ship. Though her carbine was ready to flay anything that came at her, she was met with silence, as apparently the whole crew of the ship had tried to overwhelm her. Not wasting any time, she slid through the cramped confines of the mismatched ship parts. How six people fit in here comfortably, I will never know. With the grace of a practiced spacer, she managed to find her way to the cockpit.
“Let’s hope this works,” she muttered from under her mask.
From the cockpit, she shut the airlock doors and disconnected the Ugly from her transport, still on its course to Gamuslag; for the moment at least. She let the throttle back, getting some distance, before taking her pistol and fired at anything below that looked important to flying, but nothing system-critical: something that would make a lot of smoke outside. When she found her cable – a connector to the starboard stabilizer – the other pirate ships pulled alongside and tried to raise her on the comms. When she didn’t answer, they began flashing their lights.
It was an old way of communicating, but Qyreia had seen it done in her days as a smuggler, and knew some very basic signals, and so blinked her own wing lights to tell the pirates that her communication was shot. The pirates blinked confirmation and moved forward to finish the shuttle off. “Now or never, and bork me if I mess this up,” she muttered as she fell back and flipped on the weapons systems. All four were lined up in front of her in a neat row. It was almost too easy when the cannons of her captured ship opened up on the all-too-unawares pirates.
It was over before they knew what had hit them. As soon as she had cleared the larger debris, she brought the ship back into alignment with the harpoon and docked. She considered dumping the Ugly, but thought that her employers might be able to get some information off of it – maybe even earning her a bonus – and so kept it attached, linking the navigation systems together through the cockpit.
Sitting in her pilot’s seat, she breathed a heavy sigh as she sealed off the bay down below, venting the coma gas out and replacing it with clean atmosphere again. As she finally took the breather mask off, the motion of her shoulder sent a shock of pain that seemed to send fire all the way down to her fingertips. Closer inspection revealed a hole in her shirt and jacket, and a solid grazing shot that had done some scathing damage to her upper shoulder and shoulder blade.
“That’ll be fun to explain to the prison guards,” she said, wincing as she searched for the first aid kit. Some antiseptic spray and a bandage was the best she could muster for the moment. The rest was a matter of waiting. “Ohhh kriff, this isn’t going to be a fun ride back.”
Cenota prison facility
After the distraction by the pirates, and dragging an attached Ugly along with the Nu transport, the trip took an additional hour, but oh what a sweet feeling it was to land. Qyreia had expected to be walking around in the toxic air of the planet, but the prison thankfully had an air-locked hangar for her to land in; particularly useful considering her wound. When the guards saw the state of her ship, they were surprised when they were met by only the one mercenary, bedraggled as she was. The sergeant that met her at the foot of her boarding ramp managed to keep his composure, but she could see the muted expression of disbelief in his eyes.
“Yeoman Arronen, I presume?”
“You presume correct.” She passed off the datapad with the transfer orders, letting him read it carefully. She knew about protocols. “One Zijo Mulk for prisoner transfer, plus one female pirate and Ugly starship as I mentioned on approach.”
The sergeant looked over her shoulder toward the still-unconscious prisoners and the outline of the Ugly at the rear of the shuttle. “I see that.” He sighed gruffly, still trying to process the situation. “Well… I will file this report and have the medic see to you.”
“I will also see about getting an engineering team to separate the ships; maybe get you transport back to Sepros in the meantime.”
“I would appreciate that, sergeant. I’d buy you a drink for being so nice to me, but I’m already spinning from the shoulder.”
“I understand. Some other time,” he said amiably.
The Zeltron was sent to the medic and received some of the best medical care she had ever seen outside of the Brotherhood’s more standard facilities. The pain medication was a nice bonus to the quick bacta treatment they gave her, and she was shown, groggily, to the waiting area for her shuttle to arrive. She did not have long to wait, a non-descript shuttle arriving with several of the Onyx II guards that she had seen before onboard. She only managed to recognize them, since everything else was somewhat blurry from the pain medication.
“Hehe,” she chuckled as they helped her into a seat, “there’s so many pretty colors everywhere…”
The guards looked at her oddly for a moment then went about their business preparing for takeoff. She could feel them leaving ground, and could almost taste the change in the air’s movement when they reached space. Or was that just the drugs? Qyreia couldn’t tell the difference. They took her directly to Sepros, pausing in their ignorance of her presence only to collect an after-action report verification with a biometrics imprint on a datapad. Something about making sure she was paid, they said; or at least, that’s what she made of it.
The last thing she knew before totally losing consciousness was being in her own bed. Mmm… fluffy…