05 The Prince In Carbonite
After disposing of the twisted IG-series assassin droid that took over the Imperial Biomedical Base on the icy world of Khov and freeing the captured prisoners at Smallberries Skystation on Hypori, the Modesty Blaze returned to the deserted outpost with a contractor to quickly salvage and sell off what they can. The hired gun Tray’Essek the Trandoshan opted to remain at Smallberries Station to ensure the prisoners’ release properly.
The Tinhub Brothers Salvage Corporation employees first helped the droid 41-VEX, Zeltron explorer Darter Kel and Trianii bounty hunter Qilian Ryn modify the Blaze by increasing her manoeuvrability and replacing her dorsal cannon with one of two anti-aircraft quadcannons that was protecting the base.
Occasionally, tremors shook the walls and floor of the bay as they worked.
The crew allowed the Tinhub Brothers team to take apart one Lambda-class shuttle and one All-Terrain Armoured Transport for themselves, from which a net worth of 60,000 credits belonged to the Blaze crew. Stronger tremors rattled the structure sending dust and gravel falling and billowing from the ceiling.
Meanwhile, 41-VEX sauntered off to the droid reconstruction module. It had enough power and parts for one more use. VEX entered the resleeving pod. Automated waldoes took him apart and removed his droid brain. Then, a new body was assembled as requested by VEX. Once completed, the droid brain was plugged in. His eyes lit up. 41-VEX decided on a new name: VAX-11/750.
He returned to the bay just in time to see the Tinhub Brothers’ Gozanti cruiser leave into the blue skies above, leaving the YT-1300 freighter Modesty Blaze all by herself. An even stronger quake cracked the walls and sent rocks and dust fall from the reinforced ceiling, Everyone was gathered beneath her deciding on what to do next. The consensus was, “We’ve got to get out of here now.”
Withdrawal From Khov
The wall speakers crackled to life and a voice boomed throughout the hangar bay, “Khov base, this is the Imperial Star Destroyer Tempestuous on an unscheduled inspection, please reply.” There was no time to improvise. The voice continued, “You know how crucial secrecy is to your base, Khov. Please reply or we have been ordered to enact Base Delta Zero in 15 minutes.”
Yes, it was time to get out of there.
It was then that the hangar deck crumbled beneath them. With the repulsorlifts turned off, the freighter slid into a diagonal tunnel cut down and forward into darkness. They fell into a pile of rubble in a large circular chamber deep underground. There were alcoves built all around the wall of the chamber. Though there was sporadic lighting, strong lights illuminated one of these rectangular chambers.
The chamber was older and was not of Imperial origin. Darter turned on the lifters, raised the ship several metres above the floor and yawed so the cockpit pod was closest to the lighted alcove. It was a carbonite slab. The lights on its outer support frame were still blinking, indicating that the occupant entombed within was still alive.
“Grab him and let’s get out of here!” The group scrambled outside to release the carbonite slab and push it back onto the ship. VAX reminded them, “Droids do not surf.”
Darter jumped into the pilot seat and carefully inched the ship back up the tunnel with the forward floodlights operating, flying through the tunnel carefully to minimise collision damage. It took them several minutes before they rose out of the collapsed tunnel. Then the Blaze roared out of the deserted hangar bay and claimed the sky.
As VAX was calculating the jump to lightspeed, the sensors registered a single Imperator-class Star Destroyer reverting back into realspace, a tiny dot by eye. VAX (rolled a Knowledge: Outer Rim check) figured that they would head to an obscure shadowport in the nearby Tuvaree system. They slipped into hyperspace before the Tempestuous detected their presence.
Waking The Dead
It would take 30 minutes to reach Tuvaree, so they took the opportunity gather at the cargo hold and unfreeze the carbonite slab. After triggering the thawing process, a young teenaged boy in purple-grey overalls fell to his knees on the deck, disoriented and blind from hibernation sickness. Darter held him, reassuring him that he was safe and among friends (succeeding his Charm roll).
The boy introduced himself as Prince Zalo Hai of Ghyel. It was not a system any of the crew heard of, but VAX did a cursory check of the astrogation charts and found that Ghyel – an unremarkable star system – was in the same sector as Khov, not very far away. Prince Zalo gathered himself and explained his situation.
Ghyel was an Old Republic colony that experienced a cataclysm 400 years ago which destroyed their technology and left them in a pre-industrial age. Led by the Hai family in Azurite City, the castaway society eventually developed itself back to the industrial age. A large pirate fleet stumbled across Ghyel and coveted its rich natural resources. They kidnapped him, killed his House Guard and ransomed young Prince Zalo for submission. That was the last thing he remembered.
He implored, “Please send me back to Ghyel. If my family still stands there will be a reward for my return.”
They saw no reason to turn down any monetary compensation. So they would load up with new supplies at Tuvaree, then head to Ghyel to return Prince Zalo.
A Restful Stop at Tuvaree
When it was time, VAX reverted the ship back to realspace. The starfield was alight with fire. The small planet of Tuvaree hung close, but closer still were spears of energy lancing back and forth between two Imperator-class Star Destroyer and three Nebulon-B escort frigates. And the Modesty Blaze was caught in between. (By the way, that Knowledge: Outer Rim check VAX made was a failure.)
A flight of TIE fighters zoomed past their cockpit firing incessantly at the three frigates. Flashes in the dark indicated fighters hit by energy bolts and exploding. Darter veered away and headed for the edge of the engagement zone as flak erupted dangerously around them. Qillian said, “We have two fighters on our tail, coming in at attack speed.”
There was no way they would get clear before the Imperial fighters shot at them, so Darter thumbed the comms button and became somewhat whiny. “This is the commercial freighter Modesty Blaze. Don’t shoot! We just want to deliver our cargo, not get in any fights with blasted rebels! SAVE US! OH PLEASE SAVE US, EMPIRE!” (Deception success despite a Setback dice.)
The TIE pilot said, “Copy that. We’ll escort you out of the combat zone. Form on me.” The two TIEs escorted them to safety and immediately returned into battle. VAX made the jump to hyperspace toward Ghyel.
The Lair of the White Worm
Not long after they arrived at Ghyel and landed on a local asteroid while they scanned the space around the nearby blue-white planet. Would it be safe to land in Azurite City? Where were the pirates? VAX read approximately 150 ships in orbit, making landfall and leaving the atmosphere. Most were freighter-sized but a few were corvette-sized and appeared to be armed.
A plan was conceived. They dropped into the atmosphere on the far side of the planet from Azurite City, flew low toward to the capital city, landing in the jungle at the southern edge of the city. They succeeded without being pinged by an active sensor. They disembarked, led by Prince Zalo who said, “There should be a village over the hill there. We should be able to get a vehicle to Azurite City.” They also pushed along the empty carbonite slab on repulsors, just in case there was need for proof of Prince Zalo’s identity.
Darter asked, “What sort of vehicles do you have before the pirates came?”
“He have wheeled vehicles with internal combustion engines. They should serve our purp-”
Suddenly the wet soil exploded near them and a large pale worm with a toothy maw twisted its way out, towering over them poised to attack. (Someone failed a Survival check to sense the presence of the creature. I forgot who.) Prince Zalo muttered, “Oh. I forgot to say: Look out for wandrellas in this area of the jungle.”
“Thanks,” Darter said wryly before the wandrella lunged. They broke away, firing at the beast. Blaster bolts struck it but it kept attacking. Another lunge threw Qillian into a tree trunk, injuring him. VAX held his ground, took aim and loosed a bolt into its mouth and through its eye cluster, igniting a fountain of sparks and flesh. The creature bellowed in pain and collapsed into the ground with an ugly thud.
“You’re lucky,” said Prince Zalo, “that this was a small one.”
The Road To Azurite City
The travellers (and the carbonite slab) reached the top of the hill and gazed at the view below. There was no village.
Instead, there were buildings and homes built closely together set around a large train station. Azurite City looked like any moderately sized city in the Inner Rim worlds. Several freighters and transports were taking off from and landing at ports all around the large city. The train tracks led to other large train stations all over the city. A repulsor train was just leaving the station in the nearby suburb. There were large speeder highways that connected separate sections of the city.
Prince Zalo finally spoke. “I might have been asleep longer than I thought.”
Darter asked, “When were you captured?”
He spoke a date with a chronological convention that no one recognised.
They pressed on. (A successful Survival check!) They kept clear of clearings with pungent wandrella spoor and safely arrived at a hunting storefront. A group of blaster-armed humans – and a Twi’lek – were heading out into the jungle, happily talking about their going on a wandrella hunting expedition.
VAX found a public computer station in a suburban park and pulled up a news page. Prince Zalo looked at the date on the page and told them, “It seems that I had been asleep for two hundred years.”
Darter asked VAX to connect to the city’ public database so they could learn more about the city. The pirates took the system after Prince Zalo was captured. They tried to enslave the populace but an armed rebellion a year later using the pirates own technology against them ousted them from the planet. News of Ghyel’s existence from pirate survivors reached the Outer Rim and soon explorers began visiting. After five years they were integrated into the the galactic community. Everything had been fine until the Galactic Empire came to power.
The Empire would like Ghyel to give up more of their resources for less, but the majority of the Ghyel Planetary Council was very much against it. So, it was predicted that the Empire might turn to underhanded tactics to make the Council relent to the Empire’s wishes.
Prince Zalo asked VAX to look for his family. VAX dredged up some information on the Hai Family who now led the culture and history councils. It was the Hais who drummed up support of Ghyel citizens – placing importance on legacy and heritage – to prevent a complete Imperial prefectship on the planet.
In fact, the Director of Azurite Museum Lord Arani Hai and his staff would be on a train passing through the local station after his tour of historical sites on the outskirts of the city.
Soon they came to the train station. Darter was contemplating pilfering some local cash to pay for their train trip when it was apparent that the station accepted Republic credits.
A Couple of Hais and Some Lows
The train was a series of five cars which levitated on repulsors. The track was made of a path of brackets that generated a forcefield around a passing train, guiding it along its course to the next station.
Stowing the carbonite slab in the luggage car and taking their seats in the fifth car – a passenger car – Darter contacted the museum director’s office with his comlink and talked to Lord Arani himself as the train started moving. He told them that he possessed something important to Ghyel’s heritage and the museum and he needed to meet to show Lord Arani this. Since they were on the same train, an audience was granted.
The plan was to slowly reveal that they found the prince by first revealing the carbonite slab. The prince would have to wear a hooded jacket to hide his visage at first lest Lord Arani would think they were running some sort of scam.
They got up and moved forward into the fourth car. In the fourth car, VAX noticed that a row of seats that were filled by Verpines looking at them, panning their heads as they passed by. Were these the same Verpines that were watching them at Smallberries Station? In the third car, they retrieved their carbonite slab and pushed it toward the second car. The door was locked.
Darter persuaded the guard on the other side to open the door via the door comm panel. The Modesty Blaze crew and the hooded Prince Zalo slipped inside.
The second car was a finely decorated car that served as a mobile office for the museum director. There were wall computer terminals set in lush wood panelling, a small chandelier hanging from the ceiling and a raised dais at the forward end of the chamber. Lord Arani was seated, flanked by a pair of guards wearing dress uniforms and wielding blaster pistols. As they pushed the hovering carbonite slab to the middle of the audience chamber, three more guards took positions behind them as the door closed.
“I hear you have with you an important Ghyel heritage? Something so important it would shock our society to its very core?”
Darter began his pitch, showing off the carbonite slab and talking about its age… but the others realised that the guards had unholsetered their blasters.
“Another Hai?” barked the guard leader. “This is astounding. This will change everything. We shall have to sanitise this situation.”
“But wait do you not want a return of your own lost prince?” Darter asked, seeing blasters being raised.
Lord Arani, who they noticed had both hands up in a gesture of surrender, said, “If Prince Zalo returns, then the people will rally around him and not the Imperial sympathisers, you see? They need to dispose of those with strong ties to Ghyel’s history so Congress would vote for a full Imperial prefectship of the system.”
“Wait what?” the injured Qillian was confused.
“They need to dispose of people like me,” Lord Arani explained nonchalantly much to the annoyance of the visibly aggravated guards.
“You see, Qillian,” Darter said. “We seemed to have stumbled across an assassination attempt right this very minute.” Then he pushed Prince Zalo under the carbonite slab and blasters were drawn. Shooting began. Guards began to fall. Qillian leapt up to the dais and attempted to throw one guard into the other. He failed and a blaster bolt hit the side, sizzling his fur and flesh. VAX killed another guard, but a shot hit Darter who fell unconscious. Prince Zalo pulled Darter under the carbonite slab for cover and applied a stimpack from Darter’s own belt pouch to rouse him.
All the guards on the floor dealt with, VAX took out the one on the dais about to shoot Lord Arani. The wounded Darter punched the last one into oblivion.
“My thanks, good sirs.” Then he caught sight of the unhooded Prince and fell to his knees. “Prince Zalo. I never would have believed that you would return and honour me with your presence. What- ? How is this possible?”
The Prince related his story to Lord Arani who finally embraced his living ancestor. “With your return, the people of Ghyel will rally to us and reject the Empire. But although the Empire will deny it, they will send assassins after us like me today. We will need security personnel who we can trust and know the galaxy at large and familiar with the Empire.”
Prince Zalo Hai turned to the crew of the Modesty Blaze and asked, “Are you available for hire as House Guard of the Hai Family?”
Nursing his wound, Darter looked at the others and grinned, “Only if we’re able to move our ship into a secure landing bay from the jungle and we get some medical help.”