Concluding the saga of the Wild Gundark crew:
Quickly, the person on the other side of the comm told Nisa to meet them in Landing Bay 239 back at Medeus. “We’ll be waiting there at noon local time tomorrow.”
Then the Fifth House woman cut off the transmission abruptly.
The confused N4 remarked, “Could someone please explain the situation to me? Who is this ‘Duke’ and who was that organic who ceased functioning outside the ship just now?”
Ignoring the newcomer droid, the worried Groo asked, “You think that communiqué was really bad for our health?”
A grinning Similiv replied, “Probably, Greenskin… but we wouldn’t want our lives to be boring now would we?”
Finally after much contemplation, Nisa grimly said, “OK! We have a meet, but get ready for anything this time. We have about 12 hours till the meet, and I want to be alive for it.”
And now the conclusion:
The world was known as Daver Kuat, third planet from its sun, a standard terrestrial life-bearing world. Unlike its sister world Kuat, which was a great big mess of thousands of ships surrounding it, orbital traffic here was light. On the farthest side of the planet from the sun, there was an island. Upon the island was a mountain. At the side of the mountain, there was a cave, spewing fiery smoke from it. Right outside the cave on flat ground was a YZ-900 light freighter. Six beings within this ship were considering their next move, now that the passenger who promised to pay them for passage had disappeared.
And they seemed to be right smack in the middle of the local politics of the Noble Houses of Kuat, which was known to be pretty deadly.
The newest member of their crew, the droid with the big repeating blaster for an arm known as N4-M8, formally introduced himself to the crew at long last. He agreed to work as a hired gun aboard the Wild Gundark, although Similiv had doubts about his effectiveness as a fighter, being somewhat naïve about the galaxy.
Aleic expressed his desire to search for and purchase a vintage clone trooper armour. Nisa thought they had time to kill until the rendezvous, so she authorised Similiv to use the ship’s computer to identify some places to land where the armour might be sold on Daver Kuat. Nisa suggested they go to the Kuat Passenger Port, but Aleic doubted they’d sell such items there. The city of Medeus, where the rendezvous was supposed to happen, would be a good location to search for as any.
Similiv raised ship and set a course back to Medeus.
Kulit was still trying to fix a restraining bolt on N4 causing more mayhem when Groo alerted them that a flight of TIE fighters had dropped down from above and was on an intercept course. Nisa ordered Aleic to deal with them. He informed the flight leader that they were hauling cargo for the Fifth House. Preparing for the worst, they started to activate the cannons. But then, the TIE pilot told them, “Very well, Wild Gundark. Go about your business. Stay out of trouble.” And they were alone again.
But as the ship approached the mainland, the comm panel beeped again. It was the Third House. A voice spoke, “I am Count Yoat Drabb of the Third House. We understand that you are businessmen. I would like to offer you 30,000 credits to deliver the crate to us. You can finish your job, get your pay, and leave peacefully. Are you in agreement?”
Similiv noted, “30,000? Cap’n, we could do a lot of upgrades to the Gundark fer that.” And it would help them in the day to day running cost of the ship as well as refuel and spaceport charges.
Nisa continued, “And if we decide not to accept? I’d like to know my options.”
“One: We alert the Imperial to your being rebel sympathizers, thus making your departure from Kuat a bit difficult. Two: We dump your friend’s body in with the Fifth House, and make it look like you killed him, making your departure from Kuat even more difficult. He is still alive for now.”
That is just getting nastier, Nisa thought. She called for a vote, to which Similiv raised his hand and grinned, saying, “We’ll have to decide fast… or we’ll end up bantha meat… who’s in favor of selling out the 5th Housers for 30,000?” Aleic suggested they upped the ante and asked for more. But then, N4 chimed in, “As a new member of the crew informed that we have an outstanding contract, it is my opinion that we need to conclude this contract successfully.”
Nisa agreed to that much to Similiv’s disappointment, but decided to play along with Count Drabb. The Kuati told them to meet them at a system on a privately owned planet named Drabb’s World, 30 light years spinward from Kuat. “Drabb’s world?” Similiv balked, “This guy is really vain.”
Quietly Nisa unplugged an audio jack cable from her datapad on the comm console. Unknown to Drabb, Nisa had recorded the conversation and stored the sound file in the datapad… just in case.
Landing at the enclosed bay assigned to them by Medeus traffic control, Aleic, Nisa and N4 left the ship to find a military surplus store that might sell vintage clone trooper armor. Similiv, Kulit and Groo stayed behind to guard the ship. Similiv munched on a SoroSuub InstaSnack to pass the time as his captain’s party disappeared into the darkness of the night.
At first N4, nonchalantly led the way, proudly bringing them instead into a scrap yard for cardboard boxes, much to his own embarrassment of his skills.
Aleic hunted around the Medeus streets for a public terminal and found one along an upmarket neighbourhood in front of a closed “Kuatbucks” overpriced beverage establishment. He accessed the terminal, and easily acquired a map to the only military surplus store in town.
But when he reached it, it was closed, as it should be at this hour of the night. Aleic grumbled as he decided to return in the morning. But then N4 warned them, pointing down a dark street: “I believe someone is approaching from that direction.”
It was a squad of stormtroopers. The lead trooper questioned them for being out so late at night. Nisa told them they were out shopping but realized that it was a bad time too late. Aleic said, “We just shipped in and did not notice the time. We’re heading back to our ship now sir. We’d welcome an escort if you wish to keep an eye on us.”
But the squad leader was insistent on arresting them and bringing them back to the garrison headquarters for investigation. The troopers drew their E-11s and pointed them at the trio. Suddenly, another trooper called for the leader’s attention and whispered something to him. The leader said unhappily, “You’re free to go. Stay out of trouble on your way back to your ship.” And with that the entire squad left them all alone.
Perplexed by the occurrence, they hurried back to the Wild Gundark.
Kulit suddenly sat up in the lounge and started chattering in his native Jawa tongue in panic. Similiv asked Groo what was going on. Groo told him, “He says he hears people walking on the top hull of the ship.”
Similiv swiftly climbed up the top hatch and quietly opened it. He saw three dark clad figures sneaking on the hull of the ship. The closest figure turned toward Similiv who was halfway out of the top hatch. The shadowy figure drew his blaster, yelling, “We’ve been made!”
A blaster bolt raced for Sim, who easily ducked back into the top hatch for cover. Seeing the impact pyrotechnics showering around Sim at the top hatch ladder, Groo said, “Wow! Nice sparks!” and unholstered his DL-44.
Unslinging his rifle, Sim popped up from the top hatch again firing twice on the nearest figure. The figure flew back with a gaping, smoking hole in his chest. Groo climbed up beside Sim and tried to fire as well. Despite hampered by the climb, his bolt struck another figure’s forehead, felling him promptly. He told Sim, “I didn’t have my breakfast yet, or that would have been a better shot, neh?”
Then, the third figure rolled something in their direction, something small, round and metallic. Similiv and Groo both looked at each other, eyes wide with fear, then dropped down into the ship closing the hatch behind them.
Nisa, N4 and Aleic were jogging toward the door of the Gundark’s landing bay when a large explosion came from within the bay and rocked them. N4 ran faster into the bay, and up the ship’s ramp swinging his gun arm left and right searching for threats to dispose of. Similiv reported to Nisa that there were intruders atop the ship. He climbed up, and discovered the person who threw the grenade was a crumpled mess on the hull, caught in the blast of his own grenade. Aleic complained, “I hate this! I don’t want trouble with the Imps here!”
Similiv agreed, “Yeah, I think we should make like a bafforr tree and leave.”
“Then,” said a new voice coming up the ramp. “You should come with me, if you want to finish your deal and get paid.” It was a young Human woman in civilian garb and without any hint of a weapon on her. She introduced herself as Nayru Luce, an assistant exex for the Fifth House. She had a skiff waiting outside the bay and would like to transport the Gundark crew to safety before the Imperials arrive to investigate the explosion here. She told them, “Once you are out of harm’s way, then we can proceed in figuring out how to deal with the Third House.”
She showed them a holo ID that read, Nayru Luce. Marketing Support Division. Kuat Drive Yards. Satisfied, they followed her onto her waiting skiff, Similiv hauling Tell’s cryo crate on his back with him.
They left just as a Sentinel lander appeared and was about to land at the Gundark’s bay. Nisa sighed and thought that a relaxing vacation on Spira immediately after this Kuat job was done would be most welcome.
N4 turned to Nayru and asked her if she had an escort skiff. “No, I don’t. Why?” The droid pointed at another floating vehicle which was keeping pace with them. The hostile looking skiff turned and approached them from portside aft. 5 dark-garbed figures could be seen, brandishing ominous weapons. Nayru exclaimed, “Third House Enforcers!”
Standing in a skirmish line at their skiff, the Gundark crew drew their weapons and the other skiff swung alongside them, ordering them to land. Similiv fired twice at the pilot. The first shot scorched the pilot’s shoulder, and an instant later the second bolt took his head off his shoulders.
N4 was spraying wildly at the hostiles. One bolt struck an enemy’s midsection and the explosion tore him into two. Sim nodded with respect at N4. Aleic’s shot, however, hit the enemy with the largest weapon, but only wounded him at his flank.
Groo however, took an aim at the other skiff’s control vane and fired. The DL-44 bolt not just slagged the starboard vane, but also burned into the skiff’s repulsors. Before Nisa and Kulit could fire, the other skiff plunged to the ground and exploded in a ball of flame that lighted up the early morning sky. Groo asked sheepishly, “Er… did I do that?”
Sim slapped Groo on the back, “Way to go Greenskin… when we get to a bar, you can have a pint of lum on me.”
Ten minutes later, their skiff slowed down among buildings at the outskirts of Medeus. The local sun, although still beneath the horizon, was beginning to paint wild hues of orange and purple on the clouds in the morning sky. Nayru brought the skiff to a stop in front of a single story building that was atop a small rise in the ground. They walked up the inclined driveway and entered the building. Nayru told them, “This is our safehouse. You should be safe here. Now we wait for my Elders to arrive.”
They entered the lounge, and saw three doors: one to their right, another to their left and the third at the wall across from them. Nayru took them through the third door, led them past a corridor and got them to enter a room at the end of the corridor. Similiv and Aleic left the cryo crate outside and they all entered the room.
Within, they see an unconscious Tell Sabarin, bound and tied to the floor. They turned just in time to see the door slide shut with Nayru still outside. The door comm clicked on, and Nayru’s voice said, “Don’t bother firing. The door’s magnetically sealed.”
Trapped in the room, Aleic said, “Wonderful.”
“I am KDY’s Marketing Support Exex,” Nayru said. “But nowhere on my ID did it say I was Fifth House, did it?”
“I’m sure this entails a bonus for you, or a promotion,” said Groo in disgust. But there was no answer. She had left to report to her superiors in the Third House.
Nisa dropped to her knees to checked on Tell who, to her surprise, now looked like he was in his sixties. Similiv hoped that that crate they brought wasn’t any kind of biological weapon. N4 tried using his internal comlink to call out, but he told them that there was some kind jamming in the room.
Kulit tried to use his ion blaster to disable the magnetic seal so they could use their blasters to blow it down. But the seal held fast. No good using thermal detonators, they realized, lest they were vaporized along with the door.
Nisa turned to Tell again and tried to wake him up, to no avail. Groo thought he could try hotwiring the door controls.
“Do you know how to do so?” N4 asked, his electronically synthesised voice dripping with valour. “If you can open the door, perhaps we warriors can then take the opposition outside by surprise!”
“I think maybe you should, Greenskin,” Similiv told Groo. “I’m all out of magic door holopaint right now.”
“Allow me, Cutecheeks,” said Groo as he cracked his knuckles, pried open the panel and started to tinker with the wires beneath. The door security was formidable. Groo knew it did not just belonged to Kuat Drive Yards, but to Count Yoat Drabb, who, if he could afford to buy a planet, could most certainly afford to install the best and the most secure door lock in the Core Worlds! This was probably a futile exercise.
There was a spark and the door slid open. Groo, who was himself surprised and motionless for a second, said, “Did I do that?”
Before everyone’s wits were regained, N4 ran out the door, waving his blaster arm from side to side like a holovid hero. And there were two Third House goons there, also caught by surprise by this sudden turn of events. N4’s initial spray felled one goon instantly. Similiv appeared and wounds the other. Aleic tried to bring him down but only managed to singe his thigh. Then N4 fired again, spraying the corridor like mad. The goon tried to evade the bolts, but one hit. He flew back, impacting against the back wall violently, and never got back up again.
Nisa came out of their cell carrying the unconscious Tell. Sarcastically she said, “Thanks for the help, gentlemen.” Similiv begrudgingly went to help Nisa, who told him with a smile, “Thanks, Cutecheeks.”
“Cut that out right now!” Similiv retorted.
N4 had opened the door to their left and discovered an empty medical bay, with a bacta tank and medpacs on the floor. N4 however had run across the lounge and opened the other door… and is confronted by three more Third House Enforcers, a medical palette with a young teenaged boy strapped into it, Nayru Luce (with a shocked look on her face) to the left of the palette, and a 2-1B surgeon droid to his right.
N4 fired a burst that caused one goon to scream like a girl and hit the floor behind him with a smoking chest. As Sim dropped Tell, rolled into the room with his blaster at ready, N4’s electronically augmented voice boomed out, “I advise you ALL to surrender!” The sudden booming voice affected the remaining goons who shook in fear as they tried to fire their weapons.
Similiv’s stun bolt dropped Nayru. Meanwhile, outside Groo called to Kulit, “There’s a droid in there.” Kulit perked up, “Droid, you say?”
Aleic in the meantime had put an incapacitating stun bolt into another fear-frozen goon. N4’s final barrage brought about the being to bite the blaster bolt in a big way. The 2-1B peacefully surrendered and followed their orders to removed the teenaged boy from the palette, securing Nayru there in his stead.
The 2-1B explained to them that the boy was frozen in the cryo crate, to prevent a genetic disease from killing him. Now he was removed from the crate, he had 40 hours to live, unless he had donor, who will sacrifice all his blood for the kid. The droid referred to the boy as Tell, which confused the Gundark crew.
They brought in Tell Sabarin. The droid analysed his blood sample and discovered that Tell Sabarin was an accelerated clone of the boy, and he was probably created quite recently to provide the replacement blood for the boy. And because of his accelerated ageing, he had an hour to live. He was physiologically well past what should be a 70-year-old human’s body.
As Nisa searched for the source of the comm jamming, Tell regained consciousness. He told them that he was created to die for the young Duke Tell Lenoan of the Fifth House. He should have not been given sentience, but because of a Third House attack on their medical facility in the Tion Hegemony, the dying doctors there gave him sentience so he could survive and bring the young Duke back to Kuat where the procedure could continue.
Nisa found the jammer hidden under a chair and disabled it. Suddenly, N4 informed them, “Excuse me, I’ve been monitoring the communications. I believe that troops are preparing to storm this location. I believe we must prepare to defend ourselves.”
Thirty Third House enforcers with formidable blaster rifles had now surrounded the safehouse, and N4 could hear them reporting to Count Drabb. They said their farewell to Tell Sabarin and nodded to the 2-1B, who tranquillized the clone and prepared to perform the blood transfer procedure. Aleic asked Kulit if he still had his thermal detonator. All drew their blasters, determined to make a last stand at the safehouse.
Groo yelled, “They’re comin’ in!!” pointing at six enforcers running up the driveway. N4 started to transmit the intercepted transmissions of Drabb’s men in a known Imperial frequency. Aleic shot the lead enforcer from the doorway, who fell clutching at his fatal wound. Surprised, his men slowed their approach and began to take cover.
Kulit kissed a thermal detonator that suddenly appeared in his hands, petting it with sadness, “Farewell, dear detonator! I hardly knew you.” It was the one he appropriated from the dead droideka en route to Kuat. He rolled the detonator down the driveway. N4, still waiting for an Imperial reply, was still looking up to the sky from the partially close doorway, not taking cover. The detonator went off, vaporizing all six goons. A fireball erupted and the shockwave blew the door in, inflicting fiery damage on N4. He fell back with charred platings, lightly injured by the blast. The droid said, “OK, that wasn’t a standard grenade. Someone should have told me.”
Just as they had resigned to their fate and to go out fighting, they see more reinforcements charging up with blaster about to raze the safehouse. Then another explosion rocked the Gundark crew off their feet. And when the smoke cleared there was a crater where the enforcers had been running. Still injured, N4 announced with glee, “I believe the cavalry has arrived.”
It was the Imperial Customs Frigate Darkest Matter. It hovered above the safehouse ominously. Stormtroopers and Naval Troopers disembark from a Lambda Shuttle that was landing. Count Drabb was taken into custody for the attempted murder of Duke Tell Lenoan. All the surviving Third House Enforcers are rounded up and arrested by the Imperial troops.
Then, the Imperial Captain who was escorting a regal looking woman in her fifties or sixties (it was difficult to determine), walked up the demolished driveway and confronted the Gundark crew. She was Risi Lenoan, a Matriarch of the Fifth House, who demanded that they turn her son, Tell, back to her.
Nisa, already weary with all the threats and treachery, raised her blaster and retorted that to finish this deal, Risi must produce identification, which the lady refused to do, for such gestures were beneath her noble status. The Imperials drew their blasters and prepared to fire on the crew.
“Mother?” a weak voice said from the damaged doorway of the safehouse.
The young Duke Tell Lenoan appeared from the doorway, walking out into the open supported by the 2-1B. Risi ordered the troops to hold their fire. The boy staggered past the crew and passed a datapad to Risi, gasping, “From Uncle Sabarin.” Risi read the pad, looked at the crew, and called into her comlink.
Aleic expected a double cross. But an aide arrived shortly with a briefcase. Risi said, “Your 20,000 as promised. And your ship back in the landing bay… you’ll find an R2 unit waiting there.”
Nisa lowered her blaster and said, “Thank you.” N4 chirped happily, “Wow… my first completed contract as an independent mercenary! I shall look forward to more exciting adventures!”
Risi said, “You have saved my son’s life on your own accord, even if the odds were stacked against you. And you have no real reason to do so. You could have just left safely.”
“And not complete a contract?” Aleic asked.
“Not us, Ma’am,” Nisa shook her head wearily.
“Bad for business,” Aleic said. “Word of that gets out you know. Me and Nisa built the Wild Gundark on a reputation of integrity.”
Similiv bit his Iotran tongue and just smiled at the Matriarch.
The Imperials began to depart, and Risi told them that they have to leave Kuat quickly and quietly to prevent this from becoming known to the other Kuat Noble Houses. Although they have to leave like thieves, she assured them that the Fifth House would be an ally whenever they need their services. She entered the shuttle and the crew of the Wild Gundark is left alone to their own devices once more.
After a long pause, Aleic pointed his thumb over his shoulder back at half-demolished safehouse and asked the others, “Say! What should we do with Nayru?”
“Let’s just leave her in there and get the hell out of here,” Nisa said, finally returning her blaster to its holster.
“Sounds good to me,” said Similiv, his smile turning into a toothy grin. They started their journey on foot back to the Wild Gundark.