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[July Pilot] Contract 034: Adam Bolera - Infiltration, B-Class


ACB Contract Offices
Lower Levels, Arcona Citadel
Estle City, Selen

The Prelate smirked to himself as he sensed a familiar presence approaching his office, though that was mostly from how often they saw each other during the meetings with their Quaestor and Aedile. As soon as the other Battleteam Leader approached, Celevon used a tendril of Force energy to cause the door to swing open on its hinges as the man raised his fist to knock.

“Come in, Adam. Have a seat. I’ve just been reading over the details of your latest assignment,” the Assassin explained, holding up a datapad as his argent gaze rose to meet the green ones of Bolera. “Can I interest you in a mug of caf or would you prefer we get straight to business?”

“I think I could go for a tea, if you have it,” the Apex Leader replied, watching as the Onderonian lit a cigarette.

“Will a sapir suffice or would you prefer something stronger?” Celevon inquired as grabbed the heated water he normally used to filter his caf into a single mug.

“That will do quite nicely, thank you.”

The Onderonian placed the mug with the green liquid along with the sugar before the younger male. A smirk curved his lips as he anticipated the teasing query of the Knight. “It’s not poisoned, I can assure you. What can I interest you in?”

Adam took a sip of the rich brew. “Actually, I was hoping I could get a mission out of the system to stretch my legs. Perhaps something where I can test out my innate curiosity?”

The Assassin frowned for a moment before grabbing a datapad, which he placed before the Corellian. “This recently came across my desk. I do believe you will find it suitable.”

Mission: Infiltration, B-Class
Target: Secure Investments Agency, Tatooine
Specifics: Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to infiltrate the facility located in Anchorhead and obtain a copy of their client list and secure passwords for said clients without being detected. This business is in charge of running diagnostics and checking the overall security of numerous companies spread throughout the galaxy. This location is the least technologically advanced with their records, so it should be fairly easy to hook up a datapad and download said information.
Suspected Resistance: Medium to heavy. As this company is charged with detecting security of high value targets, their own security mainly rests with mercenaries hired as guards for the facility. Should you go about this properly, you could walk right past them with what appears to be the proper clearance card.

“What’s this about a clearance card?” Bolera queried, raising an eyebrow at the Equite.

“If you look in the files our DIA agents have supplied, you will find several images of how those officials dress. Also included is some images of these cards with a fair amount of detail. To save time, I can provide this,” Celevon replied, opening a drawer in his desk before handing over a blue card with odd etches. “Just dress right and this job should be a cakewalk. Inform me when it is complete.”


Somewhere several kilometers out in the desert
Outskirts of Anchorhead, Great Chott Salt Flat Region, Tatooine
1800 hours

The ancient sands of Tatooine were being shifted by something other than the wind on this evening. A lone figure trudged along the crest of a dune for what had seemed to him to have been the thousandth he had walked over in the past several hours. The wind turned toward his body, assaulting his front with sand. He had tried to dress heavily for the climate with what was left for him to wear, but the clothing had been shredded and much of the sand found its way to his flesh. However, the wind grazing his flesh made only glancing cuts, and it healed within moments upon finding a few seconds of respite. Those minor flesh wounds were nothing compared to the aches of the bruises and breaks inflicted on him hours earlier. The Force cared for his broken body, and he had been on the move far longer than most first time wanderers of a desert would have managed, let alone ones who had been tortured. He had stopped caring about the heat long ago, his body temperature trying in vain to adapt itself to accommodate the climate. His concern had shifted in the past hour to what the night would bring; freezing temperatures and much more powerful winds.

A cakewalk, Celevon? Sandstorms will strip me to the bone, or I freeze to death. I won’t last the night out in the open like this. Sure, a cakewalk. Way to go, Adam.

He felt the weight of the canteen he was handed upon being dropped in the desert. Initially, it was half full, a quarter now remaining. He had managed to get by on less hydration, but he had no bearings and no way of knowing whether he was approaching Anchorhead or had gone several kilometers further away.

How far was Mos Eisley from Anchorhead? Eighty k? Seventy? A hundred? Can’t move my legs fast enough to make a difference. It’s been seven hours since they… Six? No, nine…

Adam’s thoughts became slurred as the exhaustion began to set in. He knew what had gone wrong with breaking into the security compound; he had underestimated the craftiness of a security company working with low tech, and they made him pay the price. He wondered what had become of Echo since they were separated. He wondered if the data was still safe, or if it had been successfully transferred to the droid at all. It wouldn’t matter, given the possibility that Echo was dead and scrapped. All that remained was to walk. Walk until his bruised legs and cracked bones gave out. Walk until he found civilization, or it found him. Walk until…

I don’t want to die out here.

Anchorhead Streets, Tatooine
Roughly one day earlier

“Seems like no matter where we go,” Adam mused as he and Echo wandered the busy streets of Anchorhead, “it reeks like a Coruscant sewer.”

“What you are smelling,” Echo replied mechanically, “is womp rat excrement. It is a scent with which many locals are familiar and do not notice, as is the case with myself.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Adam asked. Echo had never mentioned being in a familiar place before. It occurred to him that the droid might remember snippets of its service during the Clone Wars. It was a more intriguing concept than anything else that had come up so far; after touching down in Mos Eisley and an hour’s ride in a landspeeder to Anchorhead, Adam was confident that he had seen most of the interesting sights Tatooine had to offer. It was exactly as most of the galaxy had described it; a rock you only live on if you have to.

“I recall little, but I remember this area. The desert was the site of some of my function refinement. I learned to withstand the climate here by observing some of the tribals.” Echo answered.

“That where you get your fashion from, the Tuskens?”

“Somewhat. Concealing most of my body is intimidating. It protects against the elements. I also like the patterning, for some inexplicable aesthetic reason.”

“It serves its purpose, I’ll give it that.” Adam squinted in the intense sunlight, looking for a place to gather information for their mission. “Happen to remember the nearest gathering place in this town, or where we might find some security guards?”

“A cantina. ‘The Weary Traveler’. Likely the major attraction of the area. My understanding of empathy is poor, but were I a bored security guard…” Echo reasoned, and Adam finished the thought.

“You’d spend every moment you could in there, get drunk before and after shifts. It’s not like there’s much else to do here.”

Moments later, they slipped quietly into the noise of “The Weary Traveler”, passing through the door relatively unnoticed. They found an empty booth in a darkened corner, though it was likely that their behavior was so inconspicuous that none would notice them even if they sat on the bar. Adam left Echo in the booth to survey the room and glided to the bar, quietly making an order for whatever tea could be brewed in the area. What he ended up with was essentially heavily sugared water, sweetened to the point that he could still feel undissolved grains on his tongue as he sipped from the cup at the table.

“It seems Miss Alber left an impression.” Echo remarked, with Adam smirking back.

“It’s a habit thanks to her, but something tells me tea isn’t their specialty here. Seen a mark for us yet?”

“Middle of the room, shoulder patch bears the Secure Investments insignia.” Adam looked for a center table, sure enough seeing a human wearing a light grey and brown tunic, a perfect match to the images in the mission dossier. The patch on the shoulder bore a mark, one of a padlock with a lightning bolt in place of a keyhole. The material of the outfit was heavy in order to counteract the ravages of the sands, with the cloth bunching up around the neck to serve as a head wrap. The heat of the outfit was of no concern; on Tatooine one would be extremely hot no matter what one wore. It was more important to be able to survive light sandstorms and freezing night time temperatures. The guard looked to be somewhere in his mid twenties, and his face had the look of a local. His brown eyes swam with drunkenness, and his face wore an increasingly dumb expression as he picked up another mug of alcohol. His hair and facial structure was similar enough to that of Adam’s that they might be confused for one another at a distance. There wasn’t any telling how long he’d been in the cantina, but Adam had watched the guard imbibe three mugs in the fifteen minutes he’d spent casing the room.

“Behold; our key to the kingdom. We relieve him of his outfit when he goes to relieve himself.” Adam spoke up, revealing his plot.

“Very humorous. An efficient strategy, however inelegant, leaving him unconscious in his own waste as you borrow his job. Are you confident that Celevon’s forged clearance card will work?” Echo inquired as Adam produced the card and examined it.

“I wouldn’t bet the farm on it, but it’s what we have,” Adam sighed, turning the card from side to side. “With an advanced security system, people get lazy. With low tech, somebody gets crafty. I’m just hoping we’re fast enough to get what we need.”

“Focus on being fast enough to catch an inebriated man in a lavatory for the moment,” Echo said as it straightened up to watch the guard stagger to his feet, “as it appears that the louse has left the table.”

“You’ve gotta work on your cloak-and-dagger code phrasing, Echo.” Adam laughed as he slipped away from the table, and began to follow the guard into the restroom.

The guard, who went by the name of Durk, stumbled into the nearest stall he could. There was no point in nitpicking at which would be cleanest given his current state, and he couldn’t form the thought in the first place. He let out a relaxed sigh as he let loose into the dry bowl; most Tatooine settlements’ water supplies from moisture farms was too precious for drinking to waste on plumbing, so the toilets were air pumped to the point of relative cleanliness and patrons would sanitize their hands with wipes. Durk grinned an idiot’s smile as he considered that he still had an evening to himself, recalling that he only worked the morning shift that day. Only one thing to do…

That drunken thought was interrupted as Durk’s head was slammed through the cheap ceramic bowl and broke off the toilet’s front half, concussing the guard and leaving him very disabled for an hour or two. Adam quickly pulled his hand back from Durk, hoping not to touch too many things in the filthy bathroom. At least Durk had forgotten to refasten most of his clothing, making it a little easier for Adam to remove and borrow it for a while. As he slipped the uniform on and scrubbed at various parts of it with the sanitary wipes, Adam was surprised to feel the weight of the cloth, marveling at the idea that security guards were expected to be effective fighters in clothing like this. While the conditions were appallingly unsanitary in terms of long term living, Adam was developing a certain respect for the struggle of those who managed to get by in the Tatooinian way. To think that this region had produced the Skywalker bloodline amazed and baffled Adam all at the same time as he hurried back out the door.

“So, now I know how it feels to cook alive.” Adam groaned as he fussed with the fabric in the heat, he and Echo approaching the Secure Investments outpost alongside a number of similarly dressed men.

“Complaining does not suit you, Master. I do not conceive of a way that you could explain my following you inside; I will be forced to infiltrate.” Echo replied, as it tried to fill a hole or two in Adam’s plan. The droid was right; Secure Investments was not known to make use of droids in any form, at least not on Tatooine. Too many expenses.

“What about your stealth module? It’s gotten a few tweaks lately, right?” Adam asked, stopping in the street.

“It’s a stretch at best, though weather reports for today predict a light sandstorm in the next hour. I would estimate that it could be used at least once long enough to clear the outer fence, if I approach from the outside in the storm. That’s only thanks to the low visibility, the cloak makes me appear as a sparking blur otherwise. Do you know what you need to do with the datapad to get the information we need?” Echo asked, ensuring that all facets of the plan were in place. It only did that when it was not confident that things would go well.

“Sure, sure, plug it in, point the malware in the right direction. Only ingredient we need is time. Get moving, I’ll meet you at the mainframe.” Adam said, slapping the droid on the shoulder. Echo hesitated for a moment, then hurried off down the street. Adam released a nervous sigh. “Just as soon as I find the mainframe.”

“Keep the line moving!” a guard at the entrance barked at the column of men waiting to flash their clearance card at the scanner. Adam rubbed his thumb over the etches of the card nervously; he’d left his weapons on Echo’s person to throw off suspicion if they frisked entering guards. He was hardly defenseless, but he didn’t have much confidence that he would succeed in fighting a whole compound armed with only his bare hands. While trying to act and look natural, Adam tried to strain his viewpoint to see if the other guards had their cards visible, anything to assure him that the gamble would work and Celevon’s little blue card would indeed make this job a cakewalk. He heard a computerized voice from the scanner at the front end of the line, though he could not make out the words as the wind picked up. At least Echo had gauged the timing of the weather correctly, and was likely already moving inside. Adam had to restrain himself from making any sound out of frustration; none of the guards were showing their hands or their cards, most of their bodies lost in the wraps of the uniforms. Adam kept closing on the scanner as the line shuffled on into the compound.

“Please slide… you will be subjected to… check and patdown search…” Adam heard the female voice of the scanner speaking up in the wind, as roughly ten men stood between him and the checkpoint. None of the guards appeared to be carrying any blasters or other weapons. Adam guessed they were kept inside the compound; a smart move, given the off duty hobbies of the employees. He sucked in a deep breath with each shift of his position forward, putting a feigned smile on his face and hoping for the best.

“Please slide your clearance card, during which you will also be subjected to a color check and patdown search for weapons. Thank you for your cooperation.” the scanner’s voice finally spoke up over the wind as only three men stood in front of Adam.

Color check? Did we miss something? No helping it now…

Taking another breath and holding it, Adam stepped before the scanner, beaming at the guard operating the machine. The gatekeeper rolled his eyes, paying little attention to the newcomer’s face and merely assuming him to be Durk. Adam flashed out the blue card and swiped it through the slot as fast as he could, then slipped it back into his cloak.

“Access granted.” the voice chirped as the screen lit up green. Adam still held his breath in disbelief, but shuffled forward into the compound.

How did that… what about the color check?

Adam did his best to shrug off his surprise as the guard behind him gave a shove into the patdown line. He endured the invasion of his personal space and exhaled to calm down. Perhaps the security had gotten sloppy just once on his account, and missed a step? Adam understood he’d need all the luck in the galaxy to make that work. He gave another look behind him to the scanner, to see another guard making his entrance. Adam squinted at the man’s hand to try to see through the gaps of his fingers. Just a sliver of blue would assure him he was safe…

“Keep it moving, Durk! What are you doing here anyway? Overtime’s not your style.” another checkpoint guard barked, and Adam stumbled out of the line. Heart in his throat, he’d seen what he didn’t want to see, and realized this wouldn’t be as simple as he’d hoped.

That card was green…

Adam walked fast as he made his way to the center of the compound, hoping to outpace the doubts that were chasing behind him. That was the color check; the cards must have been regularly cycled out, perhaps monthly or even weekly.

Who checks the colors, though? The guard or the scanner?

He whipped past tent after tent as he looked at the names in front of the opening flap. Armory, Communications, Barracks… none were what he was looking for yet. Adam had to treat the situation as though the entire camp was already on his tail. He hadn’t seen any sign of Echo’s presence, which was either very good or very bad. His fingers rubbed against the screen of the datapad, its metal casing warm in the blistering heat. He tugged nervously at the retractable wire of the manual connection, ready to jam it into whatever port would work as soon as he saw it. Finally, he found the mainframe tent, hearing the buzz of fans used to keep the equipment cool. Giving one last look behind him, he noticed no one following him. He ducked through the tent flap breathlessly, to find a blaster pistol leveled at him.

“Master!” Echo exclaimed, quickly pulling the weapon back upon recognizing Adam. It was down to its bare skeleton, having abandoned its cloak. Its body still sparked occasionally from the use of the stealth field.

“Nice to see you too. Ditched the outfit, huh?” Adam asked, finally believing he could breathe safely. He had never been happier to see a droid in his life.

“Safe in town somewhere, we’ll retrieve it on the way home.”

“Fun. On with the data larceny?”

“Wait. Hook me into the manual connection of the datapad.”

“What, you want an extra copy? We don’t have time for redundancy, Echo.”

“I do not trust datapads. I also believe your hunch was correct.” Echo answered as it scanned over the mainframe again.

“How’s that?”

“That the guards improvised to defend their low tech. Even the simplest security mainframes can hold defensive malware for unauthorized entry, and I suspect it will render whatever device that tries to access it inoperable by forcing junk data into attempted downloads.”

“So our only tool is useless if we try,” Adam sighed, rubbing the back of his neck as he tried to think and relax, before realizing what the droid was getting at. “Wait, wait, wait, I know what you’re thinking; you want to try to use the datapad as a proxy, don’t you?”

“Precisely. I don’t believe this mainframe even has a wired connection to begin with anyway. I can strain out the information we need from the datapad, while it takes all the junk data.” Echo crossed its arms as Adam nervously tapped the screen of the datapad. Either no one knew what they were doing, or the whole compound was converging on the tent as they spoke. It didn’t matter, Arcona still wanted the data.

“Nothing ventured, nothing gained, I guess.” Adam sighed again, plugging the wired jack into a port at the back of Echo’s neck, then connected the datapad to the mainframe. He launched the slicing programs, which quickly pinpointed the accounting files. Adam was amazed at the intricacy of the provided software; he couldn’t imagine someone slicing higher quality systems with only their own skills to rely on.

“I see the files.” Echo said, its yellow eyes flickering as it pulled data in. Adam watched the datapad’s screen glitch occasionally, and the download bar slow to a crawl. “It’s tracking all the data coming in. Mountains of spam make it seem slow, but I’m making progress. Already have a quarter of what we need, I think.” it said as it watched its master’s face scrunch with anxiety.

“That’s reassuring! Pick up the pace!” Adam snapped. He listened close to the outside. Over the light howl of the wind, he swore he could hear many footsteps.

“Would you feel better if you had your weapons? I have them in my storage compartments. Forty percent.” Echo said, trying to accommodate his master and update him at the same time.

“No, keep it going.” Adam answered, lowering his voice as he tried breathing exercises to calm his fraying nerves. With his lightsaber, maybe he and Echo would stand enough of a chance to take out half the camp (if they were all terrible shots) before they died, but it would certainly compromise Arcona. Now he was certain that there was movement outside the tent; how much and how close was still unclear.

“Sixty percent.” The seconds dragged by like years. The screen was impossibly garbled now, and Adam had already given up looking at the datapad at all.

“Eighty! We’re close!” Echo’s voice mimicked enthusiasm. The footsteps were close, and Adam swore he could hear other voices now. He hovered his fingers over the jack in Echo’s neck, ready to rip it out and flee as fast as he could.

“Ninety…” Echo said, focusing to try to squeeze out the last of the data. Adam’s heart caught in his throat as he saw the tent flap move, praying it was the wind. All the air froze in his lungs as he saw fingers wrap around the canvas. Wincing, Adam ripped the jack from Echo’s neck, who jerked in surprise.

“Is it done?” Adam asked in a whisper, praying for the solace of completing the mission.

“I don’t know. I can’t read the information. We’d have to upload it back home to be sure.” Echo answered sheepishly. Adam was ready to grind his teeth to dust, but he tried to keep his bearings as he turned to the opening tent flap, hands raised. A very clean man stepped inside, brandishing a DH-17 and wearing a similar uniform to the other guards, but adorned with exotic patterns. An officer perhaps?

“Good evening, gentlemen. It appears that you’re lost.” he said, his speech practiced and clear. The accent was akin to that of many Imperial officers, and he looked to be past his middle age. Definitely a commanding officer for the guards here. More troops followed him inside, leveling a menagerie of blasters at Adam and Echo.

“We were looking for the cafeteria, actually, thought we’d use the tourist kiosk.” Adam joked. How he stumbled across such wells of sarcasm when facing death baffled even himself. The officer smirked.

“Very funny. You actually did quite the fine job of slipping into our little… well, hovel. It seems you’ve overlooked a couple of things, though.”

“Really? Do tell.” Adam asked. If they didn’t know the data was gone, the job might be salvaged.

“Patience, boy. We’ll have plenty of time to talk elsewhere. Men!” The guards circled around Adam and Echo, never pointing their weapons away from their targets.

“You going to knock me out now, or-” Adam was interrupted by a dull crack of a rifle butt over the back of his head. As his mind swam and succumbed to unconsciousness, he heard the officer’s voice again.

“Disable the droid, the Jawas will pay well for a model like this…”

When Adam could finally think clearly again, he was uncertain of how much time had passed. He was seated, but that’s all that he could tell in the darkness of the room. As feeling came back to his limbs, he found that he couldn’t move them, noting that they were strapped down to the chair. He heard footsteps behind him, and wondered if they were imagined. His head rolled forward as he nodded off, before a sharp snapping noise pulled his mind back. He looked up to see a hand hovering over his face, the body it was attached to standing behind him. It snapped its fingers again.

“Why were you in the compound?” a slightly familiar voice asked, icy and unfeeling. Adam’s dazed mind struggled to form words.

“Where am I?” Adam asked. The hand disappeared, and he felt it rest on his shoulder.

“I am asking the questions here. You are still planetside, and mobile. That is all you need to know. I do not like to repeat myself; why were you in the compound?” the voice came again. Maybe the officer, maybe not. The fingers sent another violent crack through the still air of the room.

“I told you, I was looking for the cafeteria.” Adam told the joke again, grinning towards the darkness. He writhed and screamed in pain as something smashed into the back of his left hand, leaving the fingers trembling. The left hand brandished a hammer in front of his face.

“I do not appreciate comedians. I take my work very seriously. You should too.” The interrogator was a sociopath with icewater in his veins, and Adam knew it for sure now. He didn’t sense a trace of feeling in the man for the pain he just inflicted. Adam struggled to formulate a decent enough lie; at least the interrogator’s psychologically superior position did not give him the benefit of watching his captive’s facial expressions.

“The reason I was in your mainframe…” Adam tried to buy time by repeating the question. Another hammer blow, this one across his right knee.

“Do not stall! Why?”

“To upload dirty holos of your sister, that’s why!” His left knee exploded as well, causing Adam to bite his tongue, and blood filled his mouth. That measly crack wasn’t worth it, but he didn’t have his lie yet. The prospect of walking was not one he looked forward to, if he survived this.

“You are not funny. I can do this all night; can you?” The hammer rained down blows. Right shin, left wrist. A blow to the chest, likely cracking ribs. Several hits to the thighs, heavy bruising them up and down. One shot to the side of the head, leaving Adam seeing stars.

“Enough!” he mumbled. He would die if this kept up, he had to try something.

“Then tell me what I need to know!”

“I was sent by a competitor to get information on your shipping lanes! Cut them off, starve you out, then move in on your operation.” There went the best lie Adam could think of.

“Good boy. As I suspected. Too bad you got sloppy.” the frigid voice answered after a few moments, sounding pleased. Had he really bought it?

“How’s that?”

“This was green week for clearance cards, you were flagged on the way in. Don’t feel bad, it’s a very closely guarded secret. You also made a mistake trying to slice the mainframe. You didn’t work around our spam traps, and your datapad’s ruined. I’m surprised they sent such an amateur; I expected more.” Adam tried not to sigh in relief, which was easy given how much heavy breathing hurt. They didn’t know anything was taken.

“What are you going to do with me?” he asked. Now all that was left was to survive, and somehow find Echo, if it still lived. Another “cakewalk”.

“You must find your own way in the desert. We will drop you off tomorrow afternoon. However, we are not animals. You will be given one painkiller dosage to make up for my… enthusiasm, and a reasonable amount of water. The rest is up to you, I’m afraid.” the interrogator answered, with utter nonchalance in his tone.

“How charitable of you.”

“I like to think so.” Once more, the hammer smashed into Adam’s skull, sending him back into unconsciousness.

Somewhere in the desert

Adam took another painful breath of dry air as he pulled away from his memories. Reliving the regrets of the past day hadn’t lifted his spirits. The half dose of the painkiller had worn off hours ago, and the shooting aches of his legs crippled his walking speed. The Force could replace the pain for a few minutes at a time, but even it couldn’t save him out here. His breaths were shallow, and he could barely hold up an arm to shield his eyes from the wind. He grit his teeth as he climbed up another dune, then strained his vision to see if there was anything remotely resembling respite in the distance. Only those two damned orange spheres, and no other light could be seen. They were getting lower and lower in the sky. Everything in front of him was the same off white color, much like snow, if snow could feel like it was on fire.

He stopped scanning as he saw one slightly darker spot in the wind. He tried to walk down the slope of the dune, before the pain in his joints caused his legs to buckle and sent him rolling down. Left prone at the bottom, he saw the most beautiful thing he’d seen all day; a rock. He slowly dragged himself through the sand like a dying snake, slowly but relentlessly. The heat of the sand was intense on his fingers, but he didn’t care anymore. Finally, his hand touched what felt like ice in comparison to the outside. He rolled inside the shade of the overhanging rock, and started laughing. His guffaw was cut short by the pain shooting through his chest, but it was the happiest he’d ever been. He greedily reached for the canteen, tearing the cap off and gulping down the rest. He didn’t care anymore, he would happily die here for what comfort it had. For just a few moments, the pain seemed to be gone, and he was satisfied enough with that to pass out, and leave the rest to chance.

I’ll just take a little nap…

Adam’s consciousness returned to him for moments at a time in the following hours. He understood that he was no longer beneath the rock. He could think only a little, but he did feel that he was moving as he flitted between awake and asleep. His face pointed to the sky, he didn’t think to move his head, but did hear some kind of noise. He would have placed it as voices, but it sounded far too guttural to be any language he knew of. He had lost track of how many times he had woken up and fallen asleep, but he knew he hadn’t stopped moving. The air he tasted was colder than it was before, but his body was comfortably warm under what felt like heavy wraps.

After a little more time had passed, Adam heard more of the strange voices, colored with equal amounts of excitement and fear. To his left, he could see the orange glow of fire. He yelped in pain as something prodded his side, after which he heard angry grunting. His mind sharp enough to reach out with the Force now, he sensed feelings of protectiveness coming from those nearest to him.

This is a bit… austere to be the afterlife…

He felt himself being lowered, and they stopped moving. Adam felt the warmth of the flame in the cold night air, and decided this was preferable to the rock. He felt the edge of a cup pressed to his lips, and he struggled to gulp down its contents as it was tilted. The liquid tasted oddly sweet, not unlike the “tea” he had been served the day before, but was mostly water. After a few moments, he felt the pain begin to ebb away. His eyes felt heavy again, but this time he was really falling asleep, as opposed to losing consciousness.

He woke to what he thought were droids looking over him, listening to them chatter. He looked closer, realizing that their faces were concealed in masks and cloth wraps that seemed to have been scrounged from various detritus.

Eaten by Sand People. What a way to go.

Adam cursed himself for the callous thought when he considered for a moment that they were the only thing that let him last the night. His caretakers stepped back as they realized he had woken up, and Adam sat up to see the twin suns rising. It hurt to move, but slightly less so after a little time and treatment. He knew he was strange to them; he sensed thoughts of fear and even disgust for his form, and that didn’t surprise him. After all, Adam was bare from the waist up to allow easier breathing, and Echo had mentioned the Sand People’s taboo of exposed skin. Another jug of water was held in front of him, and he nodded gently and respectfully before sipping it slowly. For the sake of his company, he wrapped himself in the provided blankets after standing up, and concealed himself. One of the Tuskens noticed his limp, and quickly offered its gaderffi stick as a crutch. This kindness seemed rather forced, almost as if they were afraid of what would happen if they didn’t treat Adam well. He struggled outside into the morning heat, and found a very welcome surprise.

“I see you’re awake, Master.” a synthetic voice called from the fire pit. Adam blinked and looked around at the many cloaked bodies in the camp, not believing what he heard until he found two points of yellow light glowing back from one of them. The droid had claimed a new cloak, stitched together haphazardly, but it served its purpose.

“Echo? You made it?” Adam asked, incredulous.

“Indeed I did. Our captors did send me to the Jawas, but they were not expecting nor equipped for a droid with combat ability. I very much enjoyed punting their little bodies into their smelting chambers, among other various methods of dispatching roughly thirty-two of them, give or take half of one I bisected. These Sand People were nearby, and watched the display. I think they believe me to be some sort of demon, as they were too afraid to stop me from following them here.” Echo explained in a calm, matter-of-fact manner. At least the droid got to kill something to make it happy.

“How did you know I was brought here?”

“I didn’t, really. I watched the camp for several hours, and saw the group that brought you in. It was only those that rescued you who did as an act of kindness; the others were less welcoming. I decided to make an appearance, and indicate that we were connected in order to force them to care for you.”

“Lucky me.”

“True, the odds against you were very long statistically. I also let them know you were Jedi, by returning your lightsaber to you. Certain legends indicate that Jedi frighten them a great deal. Igniting it terrified the entire camp to the point of waiting on you hand and foot.” Adam hadn’t even noticed the hilt’s weight on his hip yet, but welcomed the feeling.

“Is the data safe?”

“I checked with a crude Jawa terminal. I think so, but going home will help us make sure. We are fifteen kilos from Anchorhead.” Echo reassured.

“Hell of a walk with only half of my legs really working.” Adam groaned.

“I will carry you. I will also call ahead to prepare a full bacta treatment.” Echo made the offer sound like it was a mere errand, but it meant the galaxy to Adam.

“Gonna sleep in that tank for a week. Can’t wait.”


Grade: Excellent - 3 Points

All said, not a bad bit of fiction at all. I particularly liked how you made the story flow with the actual mission being a… I suppose you could call it a flashback? I could almost picture Adam walking up and down countless dunes, the harsh sand digging at his exposed skin. Brilliantly done.

There was only one error that really stood out to me.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Adam asked. Echo had never mentioned being in a familiar place before. It occurred to him that the droid might remember snippets of its service during the Clone Wars. It was a more intriguing concept than anything else that had come up so far; after touching down in Mos Eisley and an hour’s ride in a landspeeder to Anchorhead, Adam was confident that he had seen most of the interesting sights Tatooine had to offer. It was exactly as most of the galaxy had described it; a rock you only live on if you have to.

*an hour’s ride

Apostrophes are always irritants when writing, as you want to put them in places where they would seem to fit. In this case, I would suggest trying to read it without the apostrophe when going over your writing.

“- after touching down in Mos Eisley and an hour is/was ride-”

Very, very well done. It was quite different from others you’ve written but, overall, I quite liked it. Considering it provoked a vivid picture that had me almost wanting to reach for a drink to alleviate the dryness of surviving a desert environment. Improve much more and you may be the first to score a Superior.