Ruminations of the Hunted
Comm systems do not, as a general rule, spontaneously generate deafening bursts of data. I can only assume that at least one TIE made it through to deliver its payload. Last I knew, of course, TIEs didn’t come with ejector seats; I wonder whether either of them survived?
He just won’t shut up, will he?
“Hush, Gar,” I chide, “I need to concentrate.”
“But.. mah arms… mah legs…”
“I have splinted your broken limbs; you’re lucky to be alive at all. Try not to move around too much; your bones will heal, but I’m not sure there’s much we’ll be able to do for your mechanical arm if you do more damage to it; I suspect the cybernetics lab is no longer operational.”
Gar seems nonplussed by this. He’s lucky RX thinks we still need him.
“Aww,” he complains, “but it hurts so much! Can’t you at least gimme a stim for the pain?”
Sighing, I remind him, “The answer hasn’t changed; stims are in short supply, and we need to keep them for life-threatening injuries. If you want to have words with Donovan about his impromptu speeder evacuation, you’ll simply have to wait until he returns from the mission. If he returns from the mission. Now hush unless you see a lightsaber blade come through the hatch, which is not an unreasonable concern under the circumstances.”
Finally, he’s quieted to a low snore. Maybe we can work with him after all. Or maybe it’s shock setting in; I’ll have to check on that shortly. First things first: before I can check on my team, I need to make sure I’m not going to be jumped by an angry Jedi (or, more likely, his apprentice masquerading as the Jedi) with a grudge the size of Kuat. I long ago learned that I could tell when people were nearby. For the most part, I attributed this to being perceptive. My ability made a lot more sense when I realized that I was, in fact, tapping into the Force. I still have no idea what it is or how I am able to do what I can do, but that’s fairly immaterial; the fact remains that I can do things others would find impossible. Through its power, I have achieved many victories. The Force breaks the chains of mundanity; the Force frees me.
It is with this exercise of my power that I now concern myself; centering myself and reaching outside of my mind, I feel rather than sense in any conventional manner the presence of one additional life form of consequence. We appear to be alone; if the Jedi is following us, he must be out of range. Now that I know we won’t be interrupted, I can try to see whether my team made it. I find that it’s easier to search for living beings than objects or droids, so I’ll start with Donovan.
Or perhaps I won’t; that speck on the horizon looks to be moving awfully quickly… and now it’s coming this way. Just my luck: a TIE; probably sent to investigate the unauthorized bomber launches. A quick look around shows that there are no buildings tall enough to obscure me from its pilot; I guess I can’t just let it carry out its orders. I could try to obscure myself from the pilot’s senses, but there’s no guarantee I’ll be able to do that before he gets a shot off.
“Activating targeting scanner,” I say to nobody in particular. A sudden flurry of movement behind me catches my attention.
“Brmr… brmr….”, Gar moans, clearly delirious from the pain.
Wait. ‘Brmr’? ‘Bomber?’ He has a point; I should probably avoid shooting down my friends. Target is approaching; soon I’ll be in its weapons range. Closer… closer… it’s too small to be a bomber. Incoming fire! Still out of range, I see. Weapons free.
Not my best shot, but enough to send the fighter into a lazy spiral into the ground. No pilot; it would appear I was correct about the ejection systems. Where there’s one TIE there is likely to be more; better find some cover and wait…
I hate this planet. I hate its governor. I hate its batpig-crazy wildlife. I hate the time-bending ziggurats in the East. I hate the phase-shifted Trisirus who scream into my mind. Even before we threw grenades into the hornet’s nest, this place had a way of turning victories to ash. One would think that a highlight of a bounty hunter’s career would be capturing a Jedi and delivering him to the Empire alive. That’s the stuff that makes a legend. Unless, of course, it turns out that your ship’s science droid betrays you; then you get your accounts frozen and attract the interest of a thoroughly-unreasonable member of the heretofore-secret Imperial Inquisition. All I want is to serve the Empire and bring its enemies to heel (subject, of course, to a hefty finder’s fee). Now I’m stuck hopping from world to world, working for criminals and traitors. I hope this job gets us in well enough with these so-called “rebels” to… oh, my chronometer. The next TIE patrol should be arriving soon; I need to find some place to power down while they pass.
There is something to be said for this hatred, however. It does make it easier to reach out with the Force. For the longest time, I saw hatred, fear, anger, and other such “negative” emotions as impediments, distracting me and preventing me from accessing my powers. Of late, though, I have found it much easier to channel these emotions, let them flow through me and empower me. I can see Donovan, running through the crowded markets of the city trying to escape to the Imperial authorities. I see RX, walking away from a crashed bomber. I can see the squad of Stormtroopers I expect I may encounter in the near future. I can see our Rebel contact, hiding in our new safehouse. Using these feelings is still draining, but no longer the scary prospect it once was; through them, I know my team is alive, our hideout is safe, and there are too many “allies” around for the weequay traitor to have an unfortunate accident.
We’re getting close now. I should find someplace to stash this walker so that we can get to it later; I won’t be able to walk too much closer to the city without drawing attention. This area looks familiar. The Stormtroopers I foresaw will be nearby.
“Gar,” I call, “can you shoot?”
I should check him for fever. He has never been eloquent, but that was particularly inarticulate.
“Alright, the walker is powered down, so they shouldn’t detect any power signatures; it’s probable that the communications network has either been restored at some point in the past few hours, or there are ships in low orbit acting as relay stations. It is nighttime now, but still be very quiet and don’t move around too much; we do not want to attract a patrol’s attention. I’m going to sneak around and position myself such that if I am discovered I will draw them away from this thing. Try not to let the Jedi get you while I’m out.”
Outside of the walker, the area takes on a different appearance. It is a bit more cluttered than it seemed; lots of places to hide. There’s a ruined warehouse nearby; it looks like it has the right combination of difficult approach and defensible position for a sniper nest if things go sour. These stairs seem a bit treacherous, but if I’m carefuuuuUUUUUUUUUU…
“Ow; damn it!”
I twisted my ankle. I seem to have nearly full range of motion; a little rest and I should be alright. If the stairs won’t support my weight, then I won’t use the stairs. Banishing as best I can the pain from my mind, I lift myself up the stairs and land gingerly atop them. Limping into position, I begin scanning the surroundings. I see them, just as I did in my vision. Three speeder bikes coming this way. Wait. A probe droid? I didn’t see that before. That’s bad. That thing is probably recording every detail of its patrol; even if it doesn’t detect the walker right away, future analysis might reveal it. Or me. It would appear that stealth is out the window. I haven’t heard anything on any of my comm unit’s standard frequencies, so I presume the general communications grid is still down. I think I need to gamble that the droid is acting as a communications relay to whatever ships they have in orbit.
I ready my rifle, bracing against a fallen piece of wall. Taking careful aim, I lead the droid and squeeze the trigger. The droid stops short just as I fire and the blaster shot passes through the empty air where it would have been. Shit. I dive for cover as the wall vanishes in a fusillade of blaster fire. They’ll likely come to investigate; I can ambush them when they approach.
“Come out and surrender!”, calls one of the soldiers.
I call back, “No, I don’t think I will!”, before I shroud myself from their senses; now I can focus on the probe droid. I hear it approaching as two of the soldiers dismount and begin searching the grounds for me. It’s below my position; now is my chance.
That appears to have gotten its attention. I jump down from my perch, and with my swing remove its blaster arm. I dodge out of the way of its claw, which rakes across my armor; far too close for comfort. Another strike of the lightsaber bisects the droid, and I extinguish the blade; the stormtroopers may not be able to perceive me, but I don’t know whether they would be able to detect the light from the “lockpick”. Finding the droid, they take up a defensive position around it while one of them begins to harvest pieces; I think it’s time for me to go. As I hobble back to the walker, I see the stormtroopers take the droid pieces and place them on their speeder bikes before flying away. Maybe, if I’m very lucky, someone won’t recognize lightsaber damage and the Inquisitor’s minions won’t hear about this. In any event, I need to find someplace else to stash this vehicle; I suspect this area will be crawling with Imperials as soon as they can get back within range of a communicator. Somewhere even closer to the hideout, I think, if for no other reason than to let my ankle heal up a bit. One matter to attend to first.
“Gar, let’s hope you’re not infected; I don’t have the supplies to treat you here, and I really don’t think whatever microbes live on this hell-planet would leave you alive for long…”