A silent stare was the only reply Arcia afforded Jasper. The young girl folded her arms across her chest and slumped down into her seat, pouting. Beside Jasper, a brightly painted BB-unit rolled in a circle, chirping angrily at Arcia. The woman directed her icy olive stare to the droid, promptly quieting him.
Arica carried on with a flick across her datapad and a few more choice words delivered to Droveth and Keiji. Meanwhile, Jasper flopped against the purple armored Peacekeeper beside her, pulling a small silver bag of Snack-Its from her cargo shorts. The girl, still soured by Arcia’s stare, noisily opened the bag, crunching loudly on the small orange crackers within.
Tarvitz looked down at the mechanic leaning on him, brow raised quizzically. He began to say something to Jasper, but was instead met with the bag of Snack-Its held up. She shook the bag. The man began to object, raising a hand to dismiss the offer. Instead, he was won over by the single most pitiful look Jasper could muster. Tarvitz chuckled, shrugging as he accepted her offering. It was usually more of a hassle to turn down the girl than it was to just indulge her.
“Arlow, the holes that you recorded in the hull earlier this week. Have you seen that they were taken care of?” If Jasper’s noisy snacking was irritating Arcia, the woman’s tone hardly let on.
The small mechanic patted the Jensaarai’s arm and hopped out of her seat, stretching. “Yep yep. All fixed up an’ not a lick uh purty flowers ta see, as ya requeser’ed… uh… ma’am. Sir? Mir.”
“Have a droid double check. I do not want the ship to decompress as soon as we leave the planet.” Arcia swiped the blade of her finger across her screen and made a note.
“Yessir,” Jasper frowned, unwilling to admit her injured pride. Double check her work? Arcia was clearly in ‘work mode’ and Jasper found it daunting.
As Cortel began to discuss team assignments, Jasper leaned down propped her elbows on Spot’s head. The coppertop studied the hulking Togruta Mercenary and the shiny-headed Jedi. Jasper mentally filed away several questions for Keiji, having only met a handful of his kind in her lifetime. The bald man would need some interrogation as well. She gave Droveth a gap-tooth grin when he caught her staring and waved. He looked as though he was about to laugh, but all the joy evaporated as Arcia snapped her fingers his direction. Jasper nearly snorted, shaking her head and she carefully balanced on her droid. The young girl’s attention suddenly fell on the pile of Droveth’s discarded robes on the floor across the hangar bay.
Copper buns wobbled atop her head as she bounced over to the garment and easily slipped the robes over her own brown denim jacket. Jasper whirled around. Brown Jedi robes billowed behind her as she turned on her heels. She produced a screwdriver from the tool pouch on her hip and assumed a defensive stance she learned from one of the holocartoons she saw on Saturday mornings.
“Eat lightsword, Sithbrains! Snap-hiss!” Jasper waved her screwdriver around like some sort of baton, as she pretended to wield one of the Jedi’s famous lightsabers.
“If you have any concerns now is the time to–” Arcia’s lips pulled taught; a tight, disapproving line as she watched one of the few people she favored pretend to be one of the things she hated most in the entire galaxy.
Wide emerald eyes met Arcia’s olive gaze as Jasper’s screwdriver clattered to the deck. The mechanic sucked in her breath, caught in her game. Sheepishly, she slipped out of the Jedi robes and bounced back to her seat beside Tarvitz. Arcia cleared her throat and tucked her datapad under her arm. Finished with her debriefing or inwardly furious and ready to take a moment alone–Jasper was not entirely sure which– Arcia excused herself to the cockpit. Durasteel doors hissed closed behind the woman just as the three men and Jasper all released a collective sigh of relief.
“If I didn’t know any better, I’d say Cortel is some kind of joy-eating rancor in disguise,” Droveth chuckled, rubbing the back of his bare head.
“She is just… pragmatic?” Tarvitz offered.
Keiji smirked and nodded slightly, “She certainly has a way about her.” The towering Togruta began to adjusted his armor when the tiny mechanic popped up beside him, emerald eyes gleaming up at him. “Uh…”
“Do ya ever git ta stab peoples wit yer horns? Like a nerf? My nana had a grumpy ol nerf on her farm an’ she always said ta be min’ful of tha horns,” she took a breath and continued. “Also’s, can ya wiggle yer thingermabobs like a Twi-lick? Or they jus’ some kinda decer’ation? Have ya ever killed somebody? Wait. No. Dun answer that jus’ yet.”
“Go on, wiggle 'em for us Keiji!” Droveth blurted out before the Togruta could respond, stifling a snicker with his hands.
The Togruta merely stared for a moment at the questioner before smirking and chuckling. “Although I probably could stab with my Montrals,” Keiji answered slowly, keeping an eye on Jasper’s expressions,”it would probably hurt me more than them. These are mainly used for Echolocation, which-”
“Echo-lo-what-chion?” She cocked her head to the side.
“Echolocation. It’s when–”
“An’ what about yer thingies,” she held her hands beside her ears and wiggled them in a poor imitation of lekku. “I want ‘em too!”
Droveth burst into laughter and slapped the Mercenary on the back. “Looks like you’ve got a fan!”
Unamused, Keiji shot a glance at the bald-headed human as he continued his explanation, “These are Lekku. They house part of my brain. It would please me if you didn’t play with them. Any other questions? Otherwise I have one for you,” Keiji said unwavering in tone of voice, staring into Jasper’s eyes.
If excitement was explosive, Keiji had unknowingly set off a time bomb inside Jasper. He watched as she nearly started to glow; her joy bubbling over as she twirled around on her toes.
“A questi’n? Fer me? Go go go! Ask!”
“Why did you ask if I’ve killed people?”
“That’s an easy peasy one! Cause the last two Toe-groot-as I ever met tried to kill me dead. So I figured it’d be sumthin’ y’all jus’ like ta do. Plus yer big like a tree an’ I bet ya give a good wallopin’ an’ I like havin’ peoples on my side fer a change.” She gave him a gap-tooth grin and blew a giant bubble with her chewing gum. It popped, covering her entire face in pink sticky goop. Jasper laughed and stumbled around while trying to pull the gum away from her cheeks and nose. Soon, she stumbled into Tarvitz, who had quietly been observing the entire conversation.
The Jensaarai steadied her and helped her gently pull away the last of the gum, “Careful there, Miss Arlow.”
“Oh thankies, Tarvy!” Jasper mushed all of the gum back into her mouth and hopped closer to the dark haired man and grabbed his hand, swinging it back and forth. “Ya promised me a tea party. Can we have it when we git back?” The copper haired girl glanced over at the other two men. The bald Jedi stifled a laugh while Keiji allowed himself a small smirk. She grinned slyly, “An’ I got ta thinkin’. We need ta have Keijers here and Dronut come along. An’ we need cake or it ain’t a party, it’s jus’ a meetin’.”
“First off, I can promise you, young lady, that I won’t attempt to kill you, and yes, I have killed people before. Second you want to what? Throw a tea party?” Keiji asked, raising an eyebrow.
Tarvitz nodded patiently at Jasper, not at all bothered by her zealous antics, “I did promise as much. Though, might I ask what blend you’ll be serv–”
“Tarvitz,” Arcia’s voice echoed through the hangar bay, causing everyone gathered to the side to turn their gazes to the cockpit entryway. “Report to the bridge.”
The cheer seemed to evaporate as Tarvitz sighed quietly ran a hand through his long, dark hair. “So much for fun,” he rolled his shoulder back and patted Jasper’s hand before pulling away and reporting for duty.
“Well, I’m still up for tea,” Droveth smiled at the mechanic, trying to ease the disappointment of her ruined fun.
“Ah! Mister Dronut,” Jasper’s sadness melted away as she clapped her hands together, a smile tugging at the corners of her lips. “Can I call ya that? Imma call ya that. Tea’s great but I got a BIG idear! We kin buff up yer head so it’s nice ‘n’ shiny an’ then I can rig up summa these hal’o lights and we can blind tha bad guys with yer baldness! Yer gonna be a hero. Yuppers.”
“I’ve always wanted to be a hero!” the Jedi replied and rubbed the top of his head, giggling all the while. “It’s a dream come true! You’ll have to play some music and we’ll make a party of it.” He shot a sly wink at the young Mechanic, who squealed with delight.
“This is going to be a long mission,” Keiji chuckled and folded his arms across his chest.
“Oh don’tcha worry Keijers! It’ll be fun!”
“And at least we won’t be stuck up there with the Queen of Grump,” Droveth gestured over his shoulder.
The intercom boomed back to life, almost as if on queue, “All hands report to the bridge.”
The three remaining teammates heaved a collective sigh and, one by one made their way to the front of the ship.
5367 Asteria - Orbit
Palioxis Cloud Asteroid Field
Some time later, the group arrived on the very edge of the Kiast System’s asteroid belt. Tarvitz diligently worked at his controls, maneuvering the ship, with the help of Spot, through the field of space debris.
The loud hum of the vessel’s aging hyperdrive slowly lessened until it was little more than a background hum. As it did, Spot shunted the excess power into the forwards sensors, allowing the spiralling network of rubble and broken metal to blink into life across the forward display. The closest among them were little more than indications of valuable metals, even the odd anomaly, but further off there was no disguising the bright signatures of active power cores from multiple craft. They were in the right place.
They slowed upon approach, carefully taking the ship to the least conspicuous vantage point available while they discussed the updated plan of attack. The facility itself appeared to be modular in construction, clearly meant for multiple reuses and short-lived expeditions. The structure cradled the largest of the nearby asteroids–an unassuming swath of black against the silvery grey of the asteroid’s rockface.
Arica observed the mining facility through the front viewplate, grim determination finding its way across her visage. Tarvitz glanced up from his computer schematics and noted that Cortel looked as though gears were turning in her head. The woman was quickly piecing things together.
“Odd. It appears that this facility has minimal security,” Arcia did not move from her position. She gave a sidelong look to the Peacekeeper beside her, sensing he wanted to speak.
“Perhaps it is a ploy to give the appearance they have nothing to protect?” Tarvitz said, the pale green glow oh his cybernetic eye seemed to gleam brighter for a brief moment.
“I’ve heard that ploy before and used it a few times myself back on Nar Shaddaa. It has its flaws and upsides. Question is, what is it they don’t want found?” Keiji asked allowed staring through the cockpit windows.
“Awful lot of traffic though, more than the shipping records implied.” The Jedi mulled over a few documents on his datapad. “I can only assume they are making an unrecorded stop after they leave here.”
Arcia nodded in agreement. If one thing was for certain, it was that a closer inspection was necessary, regardless of the consequences.