[Crysenia, Shanree] Into the Wild Black Yonder

Seraine thudded to the carpeted floor. The air wasn’t quite knocked out of her lungs but it wasn’t far from it. She stared up at the eyeless face of the man responsible. There was a gentle smile on his face, friendly and not all that smug, and it infuriated her. The Consul knocked away the proffered hand and jumped to her feet.

“Do that again and I’ll have the guards take you somewhere no one will ever find you”, she spat venomously.

Shanree Argentine bobbed back and forth on the balls of his feet, shadow boxing the air playful for a moment, “The could try. Besides, if you actually tried I wouldn’t be able to keep doing that to you.”

Erinyes growled something uncouth under her breath. The sparing room was plain, square in layout with a floor covered in a thin but necessary protective layer of foam. Weapons racks and benches lined the four walls. The two combatants stood across from one another a little outside the printed circle that lined the center of the room.

“Well, come on then, try it again and see what happens”, Seraine fell into an Echani stance with a flurry of arm movements.

Shanree showed the proper respect by dropping into his own, Teras Kasi, stance with matching flair. Sure enough, the Zeltron woman insisted he make the first move by doing nothing and so he moved toward her. His feet advanced fluidly and he tested her defences with a few swift blows of his fist. She deflected his punches expertly and juked her torso out of the way of the last one which had nearly caught her by surprise. Her leg swept around as she did so looking to hook his leading foot by the ankle. Shanree lifted his foot over the sweep and used it in a front kick that connected just hard enough to push the woman back.

Seraine grinned, dipping her shoulders under the next kick and landed a soft blow on his upper arm in return with her own foot. It had been a trap though and she found her foot trapped by his bicep and forearm and suddenly she was again on the ground with a dull thud. She stared up at the unremarkable ceiling with frustration and a headache that threatened to grow into a migraine.
Shanree didn’t offer her his hand this time and instead reached out into the air and lifted her up to her feet with the Force.

“Should I tell you how I keep doing it?”

Erin fought back the impulse to curse at him but instead bit her pride and nodded, “Sure. Tell me how the blind man keeps knocking me to the ground.”

Shanree gave her a friendly smile as he walked to the bench with his stuff on it, grabbed a towel and tossed it to her, “You have great focus, it’s one of your many strengths. You can over-focus however-- you get caught up reading my body-movements and you think ‘Ah-hah! I got him’ and you don’t see that it’s all a ruse.”
Erin wiped the sweat from her face with the towel, “Surely there’s more to it than that, some do-gooder Light Side magic to it.”

“Nope”, the Miraluka wiped his own face off with another towel and took a swig from his canteen of water, “and one other thing… I’m not blind, I just don’t have eyes.”

“Same difference”, Erin sat on the bench with her own stuff and began rummaging around through it, “Oh, great.”

Shanree looked over at his sparring partner. They’d known each other for a number of years now but only recently had Seraine drawn him into her Brotherhood. Sparring had been the primary form their acquaintanceship had taken through the years and it felt good to do it on a more regular basis. He appreciated the work out and she appreciated that it kept her skills sharp.

“It’s good that you’re here. You’re about to meet my other headache”, Shanree barely had time to raise an eyebrow at the Consul’s comment when the door to the training room slid open and revealed the silhouette of a thin waisted, pretty woman in a Taldryan uniform.

“Captain Orainn, please come in. Have you met Shanree Argentin? My, uhh, personal trainer?”, Seraine smiled pleasantly at the new woman.

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Crysenia returned the smile briefly before turning to Shanree. “I can’t say I have. Pleasure.”
Shanree managed to keep his face pleasantly neutral at the clipped imperial accent. Crysenia looked back at Seraine. “You sent for me?”

“Yes. How’s your new command?” Seraine had recently allowed Crysenia to take command of the Penumbra, a Raider II-class corvette in Taldryan’s Summit Guard. Crysenia nodded, still holding herself almost ramrod straight. “She’s great. Looks like we’ve settled in well. We’re ready for whatever mission you can give us.”

There was no mistaking the slight edge of challenge in those words. Seraine certainly didn’t miss it, hence the sigh that barely escaped her lips. “Well, you’ll get your chance.”

Seraine handed Crysenia a datapad, and Crysenia spared a brief glance at it before returning her attention to Seraine. “Intel has word of a Collective corvette skulking around the Mari system. Make it go away.”

Seraine turned away to grab the rest of her gear off the bench, then looked over her shoulder. “Oh, and take Shanree with you. Maybe I’ll have a few minutes’ peace with the two of you away.”

Crysenia chuckled, “Your wish is my command, O Consul.” She turned to Shanree, and tried to look him in the eyes. She failed, of course, to her discomfort. “The Penumbra is on Pad 13. Would an hour be enough time to pack?”

Shanree shook his head. “Not necessary, captain. I have my own shuttle. I’ll meet you in orbit.”

Crysenia sighed. “I’m sure you do, Jedi, but this is a strike mission. There’s no reason to bring an unarmed shuttle along, and the Penumbra doesn’t have the cargo space for a shuttle without sacrificing my fighters.”

Shanree managed to keep his passive face again, but it was far more difficult this time. The woman was an Imperial, it was obvious in her bearing as well as her voice, and he had no desire to spend any more time than necessary on an Imperial warship. “Very well, captain. I’ll have the shuttle skulk around the edge of the system so it won’t be in the way.”

Crysenia nodded. Unless her intuition failed her, it’d be unwise to press him further. “Of course. I’ll meet you at the pad then.”

Shanree shook his head. “No need, I’ll accompany you.” Cryenia nodded and walked out without further ado. Shanree kept pace with the smaller woman. Once he was sure he was prepared to hear the answer, he asked quietly, “I take it you served in the Imperial Navy?”

“I did. I trained at Carida, served my year as a TIE pilot, and then moved over to Fleet.” Crysenia paused for a second, her voice getting softer. “The Penumbra is my first command.”

She may have been the enemy, but Shanree understood the mixture of pride and apprehension in her voice. His silent deliberation of her mental state lasted long enough for them to reach the landing pad. Upon the pad was the massive and sleek Raider II-class corvette. The Penumbra looked like she could have still been part of the Imperial fleet, save for the clan emblem emblazoned on each side of the ship. The ramp into the hangar bay had been extended, and Crysenia motioned for Shanree to join her. “I’d be happy to give you a tour of my ship while we prepare for launch, or I can show you to your quarters. We’re a bit light on our ground contingent at the moment so we have a few rooms to spare.”

Shanree looked around, seeing not the spotless Imperial gray bulkheads and passageways, but the eagerness of a warship with a mission. “Thank you, captain. I’d appreciate the opportunity to shower and change first, if you don’t mind.”

Crysenia nodded, showing no surprise at his statement. “Of course. This way, please.” She guided him to a turbolift at the rear of the hangar. She pressed a button on the lift and it smoothly lifted them up to the third deck.

Crysenia waited for the doors to open, and then indicated the third hatch on the left. “These quarters will hopefully suffice. Please let me know if there’s anything else you need. And when you are ready, please come to the bridge.”

Shanree nodded, “Of course, thank you for your hospitality.” He ducked into the room before Crysenia could reply. She returned to the turbolift and punched the button for the bridge. Once the door opened she walked in to find her crew running their pre-space checklists.

Shanree had done alright for himself and owned what many considered a sizable space yacht. At 40m long it had more than enough room for its lone occupant and his overbearing nanny droid. The tried and true Raider-class ships though were on a different scale. They were warships and at 150m long it dwarfed Shanree’s Petarcc. His cabin’s ensuite fresher, for one, was much larger than the one aboard his ship.

He emerged from the fresher into his room and dressed unhurriedly. By the time he was finished the 1MC had announced the ship was ready to take off and depart. Shanree only felt some vibrations and the slightest of accelerations. It seemed this vessel’s interior compensators were better too. He left the cabin behind and made his way to the Bridge. He entered unobtrusively and spotted the Captain standing right where any good Imp officer should be: the forward transparisteel view windows.

He walked up behind her and then took up a space beside her, facing out of the view plates. His sweaty training gi was replaced by plain, but comfortably tailored clothes. The pants and the jacket were of a matching rough-spun cloth, faded black in color, with a white undershirt underneath of a finer linen. The sky before them was rapidly darkening to the expanse of space before them but all he could see were the impressions of the craft and people vaguely perceivable through the force all around them in orbit.

“I’ve always longed for eyesight, if only to see space just once”, his voice was conversational but his posture was anything but.

Cyrsennia turned and looked him up and down, noting his tense discomfort, “There’s a lot of black, briefly interrupted by dots of light. Sometimes you see a planet before you crash into it.”

This brought a silent chuckle to the man and she saw his shoulder move out of the corner of her eye, “You served the Rebellion?”

He was silent a moment before answering her, “I fought for it, we didn’t serve. I was Ground Forces, 1st Lieutenant in the 253rd Mobile Infantry.”

She nodded to herself and got the odd impression he’d seen that, “Well, that war is long over and I follow different orders now.”

Shanree turned to ward her and wore a pleasant smile, “Couldn’t have said it better myself. So, where are we off to?”

The woman motioned with her head for him to follow then caught herself, “Follow me to the holotable. Do you have–”

“Yes, my communicator can interface and read it to me”, understanding Crysennia turned and led the way, Shanree following.

Crysenia walked to the back of the bridge, facing the two hatches leading out of the bridge. She took the right hatch, into the small briefing room. She approached the holotable from a gap between the circle of chairs around the room. A quick tap of the control interface and the table came to life. “My officers will be assembling shortly, if you’d care to interface your communicator and take a seat, we’ll begin shortly.”

As Shanree sat, five officers in Taldryan Navy uniforms filed in and took seats around the holotable. Crysenia barely waited for the door to whisper closed before starting. “Ladies and Gentleman, this is Shanree Argentin, a Jedi. He’ll be joining us for this mission.”

She turned to the holotable and pressed a button. The air above the table shimmered into a projection of a world. The world looked picturesque, with swirling white clouds over deep blue oceans and green continents. In orbit above the planet was a model of a CR90 corvette. “This corvette is our target. She’s collective, and she doesn’t know we’re coming.”

The projector shifted to an overhead view of the solar system, with the markings of a navigational chart. She turned to one of the seated officers. “I want to be firing before they know we’re there, Mister Shif. Thoughts?”

The navigator leaned forward, examining the system. “Should be doable, but let me run the numbers and double-check, ma’am.”

Crysenia nodded, then looked around the room. “Should be an easy day, especially if we catch them with their shields down. Once the corvette is disabled, or if they surrender, we’ll board them. Questions?”

A soft “no ma’am” sounded in uniform, so Crysenia looked at Shanree. “Questions, comments, Mister Argentin?”

Shanree stood and shook his head. “If your Marines are as competent as the rest of your crew, we’ll have an easy time boarding them.”

Crysenia smiled at the compliment, “Very well then, dismissed. Mister Shif, as soon as you have the solution get us into hyperspace. Once we’re in hyper we should be there shortly.”

The officer all stood as Crysenia shut off the holotable, and they exited the room. She looked over at Shanree as she began to walk to the bridge. “I wonder if Seraine will be more annoyed or impressed when we tell her we stole the corvette instead of blowing it up.”

Shanree chuckled. “I’m sure she’ll content herself with beating medals into us.” He looked thoughtful for a minute. Crysenia gave him a soft laugh before her commanding officer’s face came back on and she returned to the bridge.

Shanree was uncertain how to feel aboard this ship. The formalities and professional atmosphere of a military organization were no stranger to him, even if his experience was with a force of somewhat-less of a focus on absolute discipline. His military bearing returned to him easily enough but it still did nothing to lessen the queer feeling of being included in a breifing as a member of the staff even though he had no formal rank, nor position.

His background in the Rebellion had not been Naval and he knew he had no place on a warship’s bridge. If there was a place that Shanree knew he would be of more use, than in the way, it would be with the men and women who would be kicking the airlock in and boarding the enemy corvette. It was not difficult to find the ranking Marine onboard the small vessel, nor to convince her that a Lightsaber wielding addition to his team would be useful.

“I cleared you with the Captian”, the Corellian woman said to him, “she mentioned you probably know how to carry yourself in combat.”

“I was never stationed aboard a ship, but I was on Naator, Obumubo, and Hoth”, he replied easily.

The Lieutenant nodded thoughtfully, “I knew guys who were at Hoth. I’d say the fight there sounded hot but-”

“It was anything but hot on Hoth”, he finished for her with a smile, “I didn’t see much of the scenery but I’m told I didn’t miss much.”

“No, I suspect not. Speaking of which… Will you be able to…” she trailed off as she was uncertain how to broach the subject of his eyesight, or lack thereof.

Shanree shrugged, “-see? In my own way. You won’t have to babysit me, Ma’am.”

“Call me Fox”, she said pleasantly to the older man before her, “Ma’am is what the Boots call me.”

Over the ship’s intercom a alien voice announced they were due to decant from hyperspace in an hour, “I’ll leave you to finish preping your team then. I’ll be at the designated airlock at 1730hrs.”

The two parted leaving Shanree alone again. His heart rate was elevated and he took a moment to catch his breath and steady his hands. He’d hoped this wouldn’t have manifested so quickly. No one, Erinyes included, knew his secret. He’d worked for years to overcome his mental scars and to heal its wounds but the tremors and the anxiety would return occasionally-- particularly when triggered in the right way. He managed it most of the time and hid from it the rest of the time. Now was the time for management and he sought out a place to meditate and center his mind.

The solid tunnel of light shattered into a multitude of long streaks. Those streaks snapped into the stillness of a glittering starscape. Dominating the front viewport was a world, green and blue under swirling clouds and a pristine blue atmosphere. Floating in space, perfectly centered in the viewport was their target, a CR90-class corvette. It was not alone.

The bridge exploded in noise as one man shouted. “Ma’am, two targets! One CR90 and one Pelta! They are launching fighters!”

Crysenia tore her gaze from the frigate that shouldn’t have been there to look at the various panels around her. “Shields up! Guns: focus on the CR90! Helm: full ahead emergency!” she briefly consulted one of the many displays lighting up around the bridge. “Make your course 2 degrees starboard by positive 9!”

The Penumbra shot forward and slightly up with a speed that belied her 150 meters, angling to cut between the two hostile capital ships, a maneuver the Rebels had coined the ‘Ackbar Slash.’ “Guns: Jammer up. Turbolasers and ions on the big ships, missiles on the fighters. Helm: Roll to present our starboard to the Pelta.”

With the flurry of commands done, Crysenia folded her hands behind her and stood looking out the front viewport. Only a Jedi could’ve guessed she was anything but supremely confident in the odds. Crysenia punched a button on one of the comm panels. “All personnel, the CR90 is not alone. Stand by for naval action. Boarding party to damage control stations.”

Crysenia returned to the front window and kept her emerald eyes focused on the Pelta in front of them, growing larger in the window as they accelerated towards her. Her face briefly turned the same color as her eyes. They had drawn into range. A brief second later it flashed red as both the Pelta and the CR90 opened fire as well. Neither sides’ guns had much effect, but that would change as they closed. Ahead of them, an azure flash marked the death of an A-wing.

The bridge rocked as the enemy struck at them. Crysenia’s eyes flicked back, and the crewman she looked at looked up from her console. “Shields holding, front at 68%, all others above 90.”

“Once the front shields hit 50%, focus shields forward. Adjust to keep shields up between us and the capital ships as best you can as we move by them.”

“Ma’am, tracking. Both targets are turning towards us. Looks like they expect us to run.” Crysenia nodded, thinking for a minute. That had been the reaction she anticipated, and it reinforced her resolve that she’d made the right call. “Helm: Keep increasing our velocity as much as you can. Cut between them, as close to the CR90 as you can, and then shape your course to take advantage of the planet’s gravity to sling us out-system and away from them.”

The Penumbra rocked again. A ruby lance ripped at hull plating near the bow. Air vented from the ragged hull before pressure doors slammed down, isolating the wounded area. Yet another crewman called to Crysenia. “Ma’am, Lieutenant Baze requests permission to launch.”

Crysenia turned around to face the crewman. “Denied. Two TIEs won’t help against what we’re facing.”

A cry of triumph went up from the weapons section. The young lieutenant in charge of the ship’s weapon systems turned to face Crysenia. “Good hit on the CR90! She’s lost her forward shields and is venting atmosphere. Her guns remain active.”

Crysenia nodded, then turned back to face the viewscreen, and the Pelta growing steadily larger. Once the Pelta and the CR90 were nearly abreast of her, she called in a too-calm voice. “Sound collision.”

The helmsman would be passing so close to the CR90 that the ships’ shields would overlap. A collision was a very real possibility.

The Penumbra rocked yet again as she flew past the Collective warships. The CR90 ripped past her viewport like she was a 10-meter long fighter, not a 150-meter warship. Crysenia waited for another heartbeat before calling to her crew. “Shields: Focus aft. Helm: Get us around the far side of the planet. Tracking: Let me know when they turn to pursue.”

The Penumbra rocked, this time very slightly. The Collective had relatively few guns that could engage them, but the Penumbra didn’t have any. “Helm: watch your angle around the atmosphere, we don’t want to bounce off. We have no shields and hull breaches.”

“Ma’am, the CR90’s velocity is at zero. I think we got her control runs. The Pelta is decelerating to rendezvous with the CR90.”

“Their fighters?”

“Remaining close to their capital ships.”

The crew’s relief was evident. “Shields: even out. Helm: as soon as you can, bring us into hyper.”

Crysenia’s thoughts turned dark as she looked at the battered hull of her ship. She hit the intercom. “This is the captain. Secure from battle stations. Department heads report to the briefing room once we enter hyperspace with preliminary damage reports.”

Crysenia kept staring out the window, deep in thought until the hyperdrive began to whine deep within her ship. The stars in front of her elongated until they became a tunnel of light. Only then did Crysenia turn and look at her bridge crew. “Well done. Not many Raider crews could’ve survived what we just did.”

Crysenia walked from the bridge to the briefing room to await her department heads. Only two of them arrived before the ship gave an odd hesitating shudder and then tumbled back into realspace. The intercom crackled to life. “Captain, this is the helm. Hyperdrive just died. We’ve reverted on the edge of the closest inhabited system I could get us to.”

Ord Sabaok was classified as a Core World by most navigational databases but it certainly didn’t look or feel like one. Settled 12,000 years before the Battle of Yavin, it was one of the thousands of Ordnance/Regional Depot planets colonized and utilized by the Old Republic during its Expansion Era. The Mid-Rim was not far off, nor was a corner of the Expansion Region of the Galaxy, but having been founded relatively early on it was afforded the courtesy of inclusion with more prestigious worlds such as Alsakan, Corellia and, of course, Coruscant in the Core.

Despite 12,000 years of settlement and development one could be forgiven for mistaking the muddy-green world for something far more removed, belonging to the backwaters of explored space. There were a number of ships coming and going in the system but not so much that the Imperial-style Raider Corvette would go unnoticed. This was not yet New Republic territory but it would be unlikely they didn’t have a consular outpost here or, at the very least, useful eyes and ears kept on a meager payroll.

Captain Orainn’s crew managed the local Flight Controllers and skillfully maneuvered the ship to its assigned berth in orbit. There were ground side ship facilities but what the Penumbra needed could be dealt with just as easily in vacuum and would offer them greater opportunity to defend themselves should they find more trouble than they were expecting. Shanree nursed a bruised elbow, a small goose-egg had grown there where he’d caught himself on a structural girder during the failed attack several hours ago.

He could feel the frustration in Crysenia but there was something else, “What’s going on?”

She looked over at him as he entered the room, from her seat at the conference table, before her eyes darted back to the tablet with the damage readouts in her hand, “As if I didn’t have enough on my plate, local Security Forces are concerned about the presence of a warship in-system.”

“Didn’t the IFF transponder give them some malarky about belonging to a legitimate Imperial hold-out?” He pulled out a chair across from her and sat, “Seraine mentioned that Taldryan vessels can spoof their identity.”

“They can, but we’re close enough to the New Republic here that our presence has them on-edge”, she put the tablet down and pinched the bridge of her nose.

“I’d like to try something, with your permission of course”, Shanree waited for her quizzical permission, “sit back in your chair, close your eyes, hands wherever they are comfortable and relaxed, and take slow, deep breaths.”

She eyed him dubiously for a moment but acquiesced and did as he suggested. He remained quiet for a few minutes as she sat there peacefully and then gave her a new instruction, “Your mind is calm. Your body is relaxed. Allow yourself to be in this moment-- tell me what the plan is.”

Eyes closed and head resting on the seat’s cushion Crysenia spoke, “We need a new hyperdrive but we have no funds. Fleet Command says we’re on our own; the Collective might follow a credit transfer or rescue party to us. We need to find a way to barter, beg, or steal what we need from the Sabaokeans.”

Crysenia opened her eyes and sat upright, suddenly a little embarrassed but much improved and less wounded up. Shanree sat just as he had upon entering but had a small smile on his face, “A little trick I learned from an old Commander. Sometimes we dive too deeply into our own troubles when what we need is to surface for some air.”

“That sounds more like Jedi magic than battlefield wisdom”, the Captain pushed the tablet a little further away idly, ignoring the still scrolling list of damaged parts and necessary repairs.

“The ways of the Force wouldn’t sound all that strange if I started listing them off to you”, Saree rose from his seat and reached for the tablet, “Force surrounds us and binds us-- all living things. Those things that bring us peace, comfort, and serenity are often those things that the Force desires from us.”

“Doubtlessly. I’m no Jedi however and I place my fate, and that of my crew, in hard work and training”, “she watched him plug in his communicator to the tablet and download its contents so he could review them.

Shanree nodded appreciatively, “the Force guides us all how it will. You don’t need to hear or feel it to be led along. Oh, and one more thing before I head off to my bunk to read over this.”

“What’s that?”she asked, reaching for another tablet with a different problem to solve.

“I’m not a Jedi”, with that Shanree bowed his head respectfully and left.

“Could have fooled me”, she mused quietly to herself and set back to work with renewed vigor.

As the door whispered closed, Crysenia finished looking over the damage and casualty reports. Two of Penumbra’s six ion cannon were wreckage, as was one of her dual turbolaser mounts. One of her four heavy laser cannon mounts was open to space. Another could traverse from about 10 degrees to 12 degrees before emitting a horrible grinding sound. Two of her four concussion missile tubes were shattered wreckage, and one of her magazines was open to space. Auxiliary Control was a twisted pile of scrap. A quarter of her shield generators and projectors were out of action. Of 178 officers and men, 10 had died or been ejected into space when the hull was breached, and another 33 were injured, although only 8 required more than simple first aid. Unfortunately for her, her executive officer was among the dead. He’d been at his action station in Auxiliary Control when a turbolaser blast reduced the room to scrap.

Crysenia shook her head. All of that was easily fixable at any half-decent naval yard, but she couldn’t get to any naval yard without a hyperdrive. Unfortunately for her, even the smaller backup drive was out, damaged by the same hit that destroyed the primary. Best case, the depot world she was above would have a class-2 hyperdrive she could acquire. Worst case, she’d settle for finding the parts she needed to bring her class-8 spare online. She grimaced. True worst case is she’d not be able to do either.

Crysenia shut off the tablet before she worked herself back up to where she was before the Jedi came in. Or, whatever he is, if he’s not a Jedi. She tapped the intercom to the bridge. “Officer of the watch, have the XO report to the briefing room.”

Crysenia felt the knot of tension that replaced her shoulders ease somewhat. She had a plan, she had resources, and a depot world was probably one of the better places to be broken down with no support. The hatch whispered open with the customary speed of the Empire. Lieutenant Brimen walked in. “You wanted to see me, ma’am?”

Crysenia indicated a chair near her. “Yes, have a seat.” She waited until he had seated himself. “I’ve got a plan. Or at least the beginning of one.”

Crysenia threw up the list of damages onto the holotable. “You’ll begin doing what repairs you can out of onboard resources. Do your best to make sure the locals don’t know we’re doing repairs. While you’re doing that, I want detailed scans and an evaluation of local defenses as soon as you can. Hopefully, we can trade or buy what we need. If we can’t, we’ll take it. We’re in no shape to fight, which means we’ll need to sucker punch the locals if push comes to shove.”

Lieutenant Brimen frowned, as much at the list as the thought. “Easy enough, ma’am. Anything else?”

“Break out the Imperial uniforms, and contract a shuttle from groundside. I’ll take a fireteam of Marines with me, as well as Mister Argentin. Have Fox have her people join us at Airlock One at 1300 local. Oh, and make absolutely sure the locals don’t figure out that we’re looking at them. We don’t need them getting any more nervous about us.”

Lieutenant Brimen nodded and stood when Crysenia did. “Will do, ma’am. I’ll have preliminary reports to you as soon as they’re complete.”

Crysenia left with a nod, headed for the ship’s stores. She grabbed an Imperial Army lieutenant’s uniform that looked about the right size and walked to Shanree’s cabin. She hit the button and the door chime sounded from inside the cabin. She only had to wait a second before the door opened. Shanree calmly looked at her, or at least would have been looking, if he had eyes. She extended the uniform to him. “We’re headed planetside in an hour. I’m a little out of my depth trying to beg, borrow, or steal a hyperdrive, so I’d appreciate your company. I hope the uniform fits.”

Shanree took the clothing. He could tell immediately what it was. Crysenia kept talking. “It’d be strange for an Imperial ship to have a Jedi, or a not-Jedi, as it were, in the ship’s company.” There was a trace of defensiveness in her voice as if she expected him to object.

Shanree held the uniform in his hand. It felt like any other garment but his fingers found the Imperial Cog and stopped, “This is the best way?”

The Captain was sheepish, in her own way, “Unless you can cloak yourself in magic to look less like… well, yourself…”

“Alright, but I’m putting this one on your ledger—you owe me”, he shot her a friendly smirk and then hesitated, “If you wouldn’t mind?”

As though remembering herself the Captain murmured an apology and left the small cabin so the man could dress himself. She waited in the corridor and soon enough a tall Imperial Lt. Colonel emerged. Shanree tugged at the hem of his blouse and adjusted the sleeve cuffs to get the uniform to sit properly, then checked that his hair had been neatly folded up and into the duty cap. The Empire, or whatever remained of it, probably hadn’t degraded so far as to relax their grooming standards and his shoulder length hair would have marked him out as an imposter. It remained to be seen if his alienness would do anyhow.

“Alright Captain, lead on”.


Ord Sabaok was a dingy world. Kiran Zarec could taste the industrial smog in his mouth. He sneered in distaste at the plebian nature of the people around him and their dated affectations. He’d fought on worlds far meaner than this one, and many of those places would have looked at Saboak like it were a first-rate planet, but to his tastes this place was akin to a cesspit.

His business had brought him here and the sooner it was concluded the sooner he could be off this poor world and on his way back to the sanctuary he’d established for himself on Taris. The ancient ecumenopolis had spent thousands of years rising from the ruins of the Sith Bombardment that had leveled it nearly 3000 years earlier and was again a destination and a desirable place to live.

That business was being delayed by a Ryn. He’d hired the alien to be his local contact but he was seriously regretting doing so. The man, who went by the name Corfu, had massively oversold his usefulness and was now in the process of testing Zarec’s limited patience. Kiran had experienced his fair share of xenophobia under the Humanocentric Galactic Empire and didn’t necessarily hate any alien merely for who they were or where they were from, but he made no such qualms about the Ryn. They were spacer trash, homeless vagabonds, galactic peddlers of stolen goods, and swindlers extraordinaire.

He sat, waiting with growing agitation, at a table in what passed for a café on this backwater planet. He brought his cup of caf to his mouth and sipped it with barely disguised disdain. He was preparing to begin picking apart the reasons he loathed the local variety of stimulant when he froze. The world around him disappeared from his notice, replaced by a feeling of familiarity communicated to him through the Force.

Shanree was here? Of all the millions of worlds in the galaxy that Gundark bastard had to show up here? The two of them had a long history, and much of it was unpleasant. They’d run together in their Rebellion days. There hadn’t been much love lost then, but then they’d begun their training under Master Kaelin together. That’s where the bad blood between them had poisoned irreparably. It had been a cool seven years since their last encounter and Kiran gently brushed the short, straight scar across his cheekbone in remembrance. Perhaps his journey to Ord Sabaok would have a delightful outcome after-all.

Their hired shuttle touched down softly on an otherwise unremarkable landing pad. Crysenia stood and twitched her grey-green uniform tunic straight. Her hands moved with the easy familiarity of long practice as she ensured her rank cylinders and the silver plaque bearing three blue and two red pips of an Imperial Navy captain were straight and even. She settled her cap so the band rested carefully on the hair tie that held her ruthlessly tight bun in place.

Once that was complete, she looked over the rest of her away party. The four troopers had their helmets on, their stark white armor spotless, but their carbines were holstered at her order. This being a neutral world, she couldn’t come in like the Empire of old, but neither was she willing to go unarmed, whatever the locals would prefer. Her gaze then rested on the Lieutenant Colonel next to her. She made a few microscopic adjustments to his uniform as the pilot finished his post-flight checks. “We’ll be back shortly. You have my frequency, should you need to contact me or my ship.”

She didn’t wait for a reply before stepping down the ramp. She was in an Imperial uniform, after all. Better for her to be thought of as a stereotypical Imperial. The first hurdle presented itself in the form of a balding human in a customs uniform. He gave them a brittle smile before speaking to Crysenia. “Good morning, captain. I’m afraid blasters are not allowed in the city proper, so please either store them on your shuttle or surrender them to me. You’ll be allowed to retrieve them when you depart, of course. And I shall need to see identification for your party.”

Crysenia nodded crisply, handing the customs agent a splendidly official datapad with the splendidly official Imperial identifications for the six of them, as well as their splendidly official orders. The Penumbra was an ex-Imperial ship, which meant she possessed ex-Imperial computers and printers, allowing her to issue IDs and orders which would stand up to just about any scrutiny in the Galaxy, at least outside what remained of the Empire.

While the customs agent scrutinized her orders – routine anti-piracy patrols – and their IDs, she shot a significant glance over to Shanree. Shanree had no way to see her glance, of course, but he still understood her intent. He gathered himself and reached for the Force. After a moment he spoke quietly to the customs man. “Our weapons can stay with us. It’s been pre-cleared by your government.”

The man’s eyes unfocused a bit, and it was clear he had no chance of resisting the subtle magic. “Of course, sir, ma’am. My apologies, my superiors doubtless forgot to mention it to me. Please, have a pleasant stay on Ord Saboak.” His light tone had a bitter undercurrent. It wasn’t the first time his superiors had dropped the ball like that, then.

Crysenia pocketed the datapad as it was handed back. First hurdle cleared, time for number two. “Our hyperdrive is having issues. Can you point us in the direction of someplace we can find parts?”

The customs agent typed something into his datapad. After a moment’s searching, he looked back up at her. “Lucky you’re on an ordinance world, then, I suppose. Most of the shops that work with salvage or ship equipment like that would be in the western industrial zone, near the outskirts.”

Crysenia gave him a small smile of thanks and looked at the corporal Fox had picked for her. “Let’s go.”
Hiring a speeder was simple, as was getting to the industrial zone. The dusty choked atmosphere didn’t improve as they traveled from the spaceport. The speeder dropped them off near a busy open-air marketplace. Crysenia looked around, ignoring the scattered stares. Imperial uniforms no doubt made them stick out, and Crysenia felt a stab of worry. Going in street clothes might have been better, but it was far too late for that.

Her commlink chirped with an incoming data message. She checked it on her datapad. It was from Lieutenant Brimen. It was cryptic, despite the scramblers. Her opinion of her new XO raised another notch. “That last task is complete, ma’am. Looks like we’re able to pull it off. Lt Baze is standing by for you when you return.”

Bremen had managed to get enough data of the planet’s defense that he felt confident the Penumbra could take them, at least long enough. That opened up options. His second sentence meant that Penumbra’s pair of TIE fighters were prepped to launch in case she needed backup. Hopefully unnecessary, but good to know.

Crysenia shook herself mentally. She then looked at Shanree. “Okay, options: Since I doubt we have the credits, I see two options. We can try to bluff past one of the major interstellars. There’s a TransGalMeg factor here, and they’ll be bound to have what we need. We can try to barter or bluff them into billing the Imperial Remnants. Hell, for all we know they can use the services of a corvette for a bit. Or, we can try the smaller dealers. I doubt they’ll let us pay in promises, so we’d have to take from them by force.”

“The smaller dealers probably aren’t going to be dealing in surplus military goods of Clone Wars vintage” Shanree reminded the Imperial Captain, “People around here weren’t exactly on good terms with the Empire”.

He gestured around subtly, indicating the various pairs of eyes locked on them. They belonged to tramps and ruffians, spacers and technicians, and aliens of every stripe and shape. Crysenia noted them with a mask if disdain, maintaining her outward composure even if inwardly the revelation, obvious as it was, needled at her confidence.

“I’m aware the Empire didn’t have many friends, but so long as they respect its might we should be fine”, she tugged at a sleeve cuff to smooth out a wrinkle, “We’ll start with the factor then.”

A guide droid was paid to lead them to a warehouse office a kilometer away. The small droid rolled atop a metal sphere and zigged and zagged excitedly, constantly looking backward to ensure its customers were keeping up. The crowd of Imperials made their way, studiously ignoring the stares and sometimes jeers directed at them until they made it to a non-descript office-front that declared in faded letters TransGalMeg. The shop front abutted the warehouse in back and neither looked to be in excellent repair.

“You want to business with whoever is in there”, Shanree asked the Captain.

“Unless you have a better idea?”

The Miraluka nudged her with his elbow, “We could enter a local Swoop race. If you put a good bet on me, I promise you won’t lose all your creds”

Ignoring his suggestion the Captain led the way into the shop front.