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Thread: Showdown at Junction

  1. #1
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    Vs Force Showdown at Junction

    The Action VI class freighter Lothcat
    Thesme Sector - somewhere in deep space


    "We're back in realspace, ma'am."

    The helmsman of the Lothcat quickly handled the transition from hyperspace, letting the motivators cool down while the navicomputer began it's arduous several million computations to the next jump. The mood on the bridge was quiet tension. They weren't that far from home base, and though this sector of the galaxy was lawless badlands, that didn't mean that the two superpowers weren't watching. Far from it.

    "Time to next jump?" Captain Bandar wrung her hands together. The Cathar skipper had a vested interest beyond just her ship and livelihood. The supplies they carried were intended for the resistance - as it was - on Cathar. It was barely a resistance movement at all at this point. More a means of giving a repressed, hand-to-mouth people a pause in their misery. A little breathing room.

    "Fifty seconds."

    It always felt like fifty minutes. Bandar couldn't still her restless legs, and the felinoid rose from her seat, walking around to prop her hands on the back of it. They were well off the Hydian now, and well past Thesme, nearly at the sector frontier. Imperial space was a stone's throw away, and then the converging snarl of hyperlanes that led to the Dathomir sector and home.

    "Forty seconds."

    The route they took conformed to no intersector hyperlanes. It was a hodgepodge of wildcat corridors that were often separated by hours of realspace journeys from what would otherwise be two adjacent dots on the map. It was necessary. The Empire made plain their edict that all inbound traffic from the border would approach the final parsec in realspace. If they didn't, the Imperial Navy had enough Immobilizer cruisers to make sure any runners regretted their decision.

    "Thirty seconds, ma'am."

    Captain Bandar sighed, closing her eyes as her clawed fingers kneaded her headrest. Another eternity passed, and when she didn't hear the countdown checkup, she opened her eyes once again - a part of her fearful to see an Imperial wolfpack suddenly defiling her view of unbroken starfield. She felt silly to feel so relieved at the sight of nothing. She wasn't some wet-behind-the-ears midshipwoman on her first journey. She'd been a merchant marine for years, and even flown for the Rebel Alliance, back when there was such a thing. Now they were the Alliance of Free Planets, a pretty name for a miasma of moral vaguery. She wasn't angry about the treaty. It wasn't that simple. Disillusioned? Disappointed? Maybe.

    "Twenty seconds."

    Bandar let out a breath she'd been holding, tugging at the hem of her jacket. She tapped at her wrist comm, set to ship-wide intercom.

    "All hands prepare for light speed."

    Not that anyone needed reminding. Still, navy habits died hard. She rounded back the way she came, preparing to return to her seat when a sight ahead paralyzed her legs and robbed her of breath once again

    "No!"

    It only took a blink of an eye for space to be violated by several million pounds of durasteel. There was no mistaking the look of an Imperial Star Destroyer.

    "GET OUR SHIELDS U--"

    The Lothcat thrashed violently in the ether from the impact of turbolaser shots against naked hull. Consoles exploded into electrical fire as the air on the bridge began to fill with a closeness more than simple ozone. The fear of all aboard had been released out of thoughts and made manifest.

    The Star Destroyer raked the Action VI as she passed close, precision turbolaser fire boiling away specific sections of hull plating on the aft quarter, virtually guaranteeing a fatal impact to the hyperdrive motivator.

    It ended as quickly as it began. Captain Bandar righted herself from where she pitched to the deck, giving a look around. Her engineer had taken nasty burns to his hands and face, which were getting seen to by a medic. It could have been worse.

    No.

    It was already worse. She just didn't know the extent of it. The Star Destroyer was now just as silent as Lothcat. They both hung in space like mute statues of some ancient civilization. The only sign of motion lay in the plume of shrapnel and venting gas bleeding from the Action VI's aft section.

    "Captain, they're hailing us."

    Bandar turned to her comm officer, barely able to mask the dread in her expression. Who shoots first and says hello later? The Empire, clearly.

    Squaring herself, Bandar gave her comm officer the nod to open the line.

  2. #2
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    The hologram that materialized before Bandar dwarfed her, forcing her to look up into the dark eyes of her attacker.

    "Greetings, Captain Bandar."

    Vissica spoke calm as a cup of water, her hands clasped behind her back.

    "I want to talk to you. There is a shuttle on it's way to dock with your ship. It would be wise for you to board it."

  3. #3
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    The Cathar could barely mask her incredulous expression. She'd expected the standard boilerplate of a demand for unconditional surrender. Her ship was unarmed, it couldn't flee, and she was in no position to do anything other than offer such a surrender. But this...Selonian was mocking her, in some form of predatory sadism.

    "You've attacked an unarmed and neutral freighter operating legally in free space. What gives you the right? What assurance do I have of my safety if I did something so foolish?"

  4. #4
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    Vissica's hologram began to pace around Captain Bandar, her tail momentarily clipping through the corporeal obstacle of stationary Cathar.

    "What assurance?"

    Completing the circuit, the Selonian Knight paused, her face whiskers going momentarily taut.

    "None, normally. I've won. You've lost. I could kill you and every last member of your crew if I wished it."

    Vissica unclasped her hands, letting them fall to her sides.

    "You're a Cathar. Your people are honorable."

    Knight Vissica considered the word with a bit of gravity, nodding to punctuate it.

    "What do you know of my people, Captain?"

  5. #5
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    Captain Bandar's expression remained grim in reply.

    "They say few other races are as honest and truthful. That you'd rather die than tell a lie."

  6. #6
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    Vissica gave the faintest of nods in confirmation of Captain Bandar's correct observations.

    "Then my assurance is this. If you come to my destroyer, we will talk, and you will be returned to your ship unharmed."

    The Selonian then stiffened a bit, raising a finger in the air as an unsaid but, as her eyes narrowed.

    "Don't delay any longer. If I come to your ship instead, I will be far less magnanimous."

    Vissica turned her back on the Cathar, and her hologram dissolved into mist.

  7. #7
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    It was no choice to make at all. Captain Bandar's already-light complexion grew more pale at the dilemma before her.

    "Pelanii, you have command."

    She turned to face her human executive officer. They'd spent a number of years in service together, going as far back as the rebellion. He gave a shake of his head.

    "Captain, there's nothing to our benefit if you go over there. If you're tortured, you'll give up the base's location."

    The Cathar was already on the move, heading toward the docking hatch. It forced Pelanii to play catch-up through the Action VI's tight corridors.

    "Then the best I can do is to have a long talk with the Selonian." Bandar bit her lip, looking for her resolve. "Buy you time to repair the hyperdrive. Buy the base time to evacuate."

    She paused, just before the airlock, looking back once more at her companion.

    "I won't sacrifice you or my crew in some cavalier, futile act of martyrdom."

    Bandar paused, allowing a moment of fear to mark her face unguarded. He knew her long enough to not have to pretend.

    "Tend to your repairs quickly, Niell."

    The airlock thudded, causing both heads to turn back to the hatchway. A few heavy clanks and a hiss of equalizing air in the link signaled the docking had completed. The heavy space door peeled back in a labored whine of motors, revealing a pair of stormtroopers who stood at each flank of the entrace to the shuttle. Captain Bandar gave one last look back to Pelanii before turning to her white-armored escorts. The three disappeared back through the hatch, which promptly sealed, then began the process of decoupling. Niell Pelanii was alone, and now in a command position that left him few options.



    * * *



    The trip aboard the Star Destroyer Decimator took scarcely a minute from severing dock to landing in the hangar bay. Captain Bandar was escorted by four troopers and an Imperial Army captain through the labyrinthine belly of the destroyer. Their journey took them down the main tramway Bandar knew ran the length of the ship. They paused to change for a lift, one that the Cathar captain suspected would take them up into the conning tower, and likely to the office of her Selonian host. True to her suspicions, the lift opened, and the group turned a few more corners before arriving at a double-edged heavy door, just to the right of the corridor that would lead them to the bridge.

  8. #8
    Captain Orgern gave a glance back to their Cathar guest with a taut-lipped face. He had a fairly good idea of what was in store for her. Turning to the door, he tapped the comm to communicate to the occupant within.

    "Lady Vissica, she's here."

    A moment passed, and then the door opened with a heavy pneumatic moan. Reikel squared himself alongside their guest, and they entered together.

  9. #9
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    Vissica watched Captain Orgern escort Captain Bandar into her meditation chamber with an inscrutable expression. Her long figure stood on all fours in the midst of pacing, and then with a single fluid motion, the Selonian bunched up, rolling her spine until she stood on two legs, towering over the human and cathar alike.

    "Welcome, Captain Bandar."

    Her eyes remained on her guest but for a moment, then turned to Orgern.

    "Leave us."

    "As you wish, my lady."

    Captain Orgern swallowed heavily with a bow, taking two precise steps backwards to clear the threshold as the heavy door glided shut once again. Vissica approached Bandar with a slow and deliberate gait, her bare footpaws thud-clacking with the impact of fleshy pads and claw tips. She placed a paw on Bandar's shoulders. To the Cathar's credit, she didn't shrink from the contact, and accorded herself well.

    "Now, Captain Bandar, we will discuss the location of your hidden base."

    Vissica observed Bandar's tightening jawline, the fire in her defiant eyes. She was making her stand. The Selonian's chest rumbled in approval. The webbed paw at Bandar's shoulder began to move up towards her neck, then up to her jawline. Now the Cathar attempted to withdraw, only to pull her head towards Vissica's other paw, which cradled the woman's cheek. The Selonian's broad hands easily held Bandar's head like it was an abalone. It was a gentle touch, but Vissica's hold over her was absolute now. The Selonian Knight watched her feeble attempts to pull away ebb once more. Only then did she speak. Careful words spoken low and in an oily, sepulchral, unnatural voice.

    "Where are your friends hiding?"

    Bandar's face immediately seized in the throes of anguished resistance as she redoubled her attempts to pull free from Vissica's grasp. Wide eyes welled with tears as her expression contorted into a grimace. The Selonian's paws traversed to the Cathar's temples, spreading her coercive grasp fully over her skull as Bandar quaked under her power.

    "Tell me."

    A tear fell down Bandar's cheek as she lost control over her truth. Before it spilled from her lips, the meditation chamber filled with a single agonized wail.
    Last edited by Matatek Sel Vissica; Oct 24th, 2015 at 08:59:55 PM.

  10. #10
    She'd been undone so quickly. The truth pulled out of her in mere moments. Vissica's grip over her released, and she fell to her knees in despair. Bandar hadn't counted on resisting forever. She knew the Empire would eventually find out. She'd only hoped that she would be able to hold out. A hope that was crushed before her eyes.

    "What happens now?" she spoke in a low, hoarse voice, unable to look back into those terrible eyes.

    The doors behind peeled open once more, and Bandar didn't turn to see. She only heard the clack of knee boots against the deck.

  11. #11
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    Vissica turned her back to the Cathar, clasping her paws behind her back as Captain Orgern returned to collect her guest.

    "Return Captain Bandar safely to her ship."

    Orgern muttered an affirmative, and moved to collect the Cathar woman from the deck. Before they cleared the threshold, Vissica gave a quarter turn, now catching Bandar in her sight once more.

    "Thank you for your cooperation, Captain."

  12. #12
    Captain Bandar was barely aware of being led away from the Selonian Knight. Barely aware of being escorted back the way she came. Captain Orgern pointedly avoided eye contact the whole way, and at any moment, the Cathar fully expected to hear the priming of a blaster behind her back.

    But it never happened. A blink later, she was on the shuttle once more. Less than a minute later, the airlocks began to sync. Heavy doors once more hissed open, and Niell was there once more. Prodded through the threshold, she fell into his embrace, tears rolling down her face. She didn't have to tell him the bad news. The Empire knew everything.

  13. #13
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    Now standing on the command deck of the destroyer Decimator, Lady Vissica watched as the Sentinel shuttle pulled free from the crippled Action VI freighter.

    "Captain Wygraant."

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    Following in the Knight's shadow, the Captain of the Decimator stepped to the Selonian's side.

    "Orders, my Lady?

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    A soft growl rose in Vissica's throat, her expression unreadable.

    "Instruct your gunners to target the freighter."

    Her musteloid head only now turned to acknowledge Wygraant's presence.

    "Wipe it from existence."

  16. #16
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    An entirely prudent suggestion, to be sure. Nevertheless, Wygrant shifted on his feet uneasily.

    "Begging your pardon my lady, but didn't you guarantee the Captain's safety?"

    Deception was certainly a prudent tool to be used, but his Selonian overlady made it a point to hamstring herself to her honesty. This was merely a curiosity to him. Was she intending to violate her word?

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    Squaring herself to her Captain and his impudent questioning, Vissica let out a huffed breath of annoyance, then raked her tongue over her muzzle.

    "I gave my word that Captain Bandar would be unharmed in my company and safely returned to her ship."

    The Selonian crossed her arms high over her chest, giving Wygraant a moment to understand that her promises ended after that deed was done.

    "My promise to her has been fulfilled. Now, Captain."

    Her patience with the questioning charade now exhausted, Vissica leveled a pointed finger at Wygraant.

    "Don't question my orders again."

  18. #18
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    Wygraant stiffened his stance a bit in the presence of her foreboding digit, imagining the neckline of his jacket tightening as he swallowed. He'd spent enough years within Death Squadron to know when curiosity could kill.

    "Gunnery..."

    Eyes not leaving his Lady, Wygraant gave the order.

    "Target the freighter, maximum broadside bombardment."

    The heavy banks of quad turbolaser batteries on Decimator's port side all began to traverse in unison, aligning on the Lothcat. Without any further warning, they fired as one, followed in turn by every other turbolaser hardpoint on that side of the Destroyer. Now targeting the whole of the Action VI freighter, entire sections of hull ripped apart in the fusilade, ending the lives of every hand on deck in a conflagration of explosion and punctuated terror. The dark of deep space lit up as the reactor took a direct hit, releasing it's energy in a critical gout to finish the short work of Lothcat's death.
    Last edited by Rolth Wygraant; Oct 24th, 2015 at 09:06:29 PM.

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    Lady Vissica watched the Lothcat surrender herself to fire, her dark eyes taking in the brilliance of the explosion from the observation deck. She could feel the fifty souls aboard succumb to their sudden violent demise at once. It had been a brief sentence carried out. A final one. Enemies of the Empress had one destiny, to die.

    As the blossoming fire exhausted itself into a swarm of embers, surrendering to the darkness of deep space again, Vissica turned her back, walking along the command deck to exit the bridge, but not before giving one further order.

    "Captain, set your course for Feriae Junction."

  20. #20
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    “Thirty.”

    An absurd proposition. That was how it always began. Loki braced himself as the weariness set in, heavier than the afternoon heat upon his back. High overhead, the sun loomed large, eating up the sky, scorching it white. On Junction, visitors learned to keep their heads down. Presently, it was not the glare of the sun Loki was avoiding, but the light of amusement in Chango’s eyes. To think, he actually enjoyed this sort of thing.

    “One hundred,” said Loki, joining the dance.

    “You mistake me for charity, my friend. Forty.”

    By Twi’leki standards, Chango was a big man. Almost as wide as he was tall, he rose out of his silken trousers like a mountain - a mountain the colour of pea soup that had been left in the pan too long. Around his neck, lekku the size of Endorian swamp snakes threatened to strangle the life out of him, and, because Chango the Cheerful was not a subtle man, they were decorated with leather wraps and silvery coins that tinkled when he laughed.

    “Unbelieveable,” Loki scoffed, he would have silence from those damn coins today, “Ninety!”

    “Forty-five.” Chango’s hands were on his hips, as if he meant business, parting the paltry waistcoat on a belly that was truly no moon. Loki was having none of it.

    “Eighty-nine,” he said, an eyebrow leaping into the heavens.

    Chango’s frown dug trenches into his face, “What you are offering, it is faulty. Fifty.”

    “It’s pristine!” Loki was incensed, incredulous, “Seventy.”

    And then:

    “Sixty,” they said in unison, but Abarai Loki, purveyor of pristine parts, was not yet done, “...five.”

    Unspoken lectures took flight, born on the wings of Chango’s shock, they filled the expanse between them, and reeked of something like Rule 42 of the Merchant’s Code of Galactic Etiquette: ‘A fair tradesman must always be forthcoming in negotiating the terms of purchase.’ A line had been crossed, he knew, but it was worth it if only to vanquish the pervasive smugness from the Twi’lek’s face. Too bad his victory was short-lived.

    “That was a trick unworthy of a noble merchant, my friend. But you have yourself a deal.” Chango was chuckling, and his coins were in full song. He handed over the credits and took the astromech motivator. His hands worked at it like an attentive lover.

    “I am not a noble merchant, Chango. I’m just late for my ride.”

    Six days late, to be exact. Six days since he’d been abandoned on a world of tight-fisted traders and sticky-fingered thieves. Half a day, he was given, to take in the sights and absorb the culture of Junction City while Captain Kolonium unloaded his cargo. The plan was to return, once the freighter was restocked, and resume the journey to Cathar. After an hour, however, Loki had absorbed all the culture he could stomach.

    It happened not far from the Grand Terminal, where the flow of tourists was thickest: a couple of Duros accosted him with handfuls of wet scented tissues, eager to remove, from his shoulder, the shameful blemish of a condor dropping. Of course, there had been no dropping, but Loki was too flustered and flummoxed by the pantomime to notice his pockets had just been emptied. Luckily, the bulk of his credits were secured in a locker inside the spaceport - he had not trusted the the captain to safeguard his belongings in his absence - but the thieves absconded with something far more valuable than credits: his boarding pass.

    In the Grand Terminal, there was an unfortunate and age-old tradition that prevented anyone without a boarding pass from ascending the Great Stair. Loki had no idea how long Captain Kolonium had waited, but he was certain there was no danger of finding him still standing outside his freighter, staring at his chrono - whether he had been eager to visit Cathar or just anxious to leave Junction, there had been an unmistakable sense of urgency about him.

    Similarly, Loki found himself in a rush, to be on his way to wherever the solar winds took him next. Over the last six days, he cultivated an unlikely business relationship with Chango the Cheerful, who was preceded by his reputation, even amongst tourists. Chango’s Salvage Yard, formerly Skinker’s, had become an unofficial attraction for anyone with an interest in the strange and wonderful detritus of the galaxy. There were few things Chango wouldn’t buy, provided it was for a price he deemed within the bounds of fairness - fairness to himself, of course. Which was why he managed to buy a pristine astromech motivator for only 65 credits; all Loki had to do was repair the shorted circuitry, and he could’ve earned himself three times as much. Unfortunately, his tool box was safe with his credits inside the spaceport, too. In all, his time on Junction had been a vicious cycle of misfortune he was glad to put far behind him.

    “This is it then, my friend?” Chango’s great shoulders slumped. “You have your credits?”

    “I have enough to get me to Cathar. Thank you, Chango, for the work, and for the roof over my head.”

    “You are the most resourceful scavenger I have ever met. It was… good for business.”

    This time, Loki did not allow the smile to go unreturned, “Farewell, Chango.”

    “Goodbye, Abarai Loki.”

    With their business done, they shook hands.

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