Time is the Hunter
Episode 06: Out of the Red
Continuing the adventure I ran for Ain and Irfan last December…
Bounty hunter Jax Hunt and amnesiac lady who called herself Iris Helena were waiting in the Corellian Engineering Corporation VCX-100 light freighter assigned to them, the Screeching Arrow, by the rebel fleet when the Togorian rebel coordinator Meow Skywalker came to them with a job:
“The mission will require you to travel to the Chandrila system in the Core Worlds to extract Imperial bureaucrat Ton Kelauae, his wife Aklu and his daughter Wencie. Land at Nayli Spaceport. The Kelauaes are holed up in Apartment 7C, Blackback Building. The Empire is looking for them and it will be a matter of time before they are discovered. Get to them before the Empire does and bring them back here.”
Then they went off on their mission…
And Now, a Standoff!
A dozen visible Imperial stormtroopers were waiting on the streets, blasters pointed at the entrance door Blackback Building. Some of the troops were behind cover of an Uulshos Manufacturing Chariot command speeder.
Jax and Iris pulled 10-year-old Wencie Kelauae close. Jax was preparing two grenades to throw when he considered talking his way out of the standoff. He whispered the idea to Iris, who while slouching as usual, called to the stormtrooper, “Mr. Stormtroopers. Why are you pointing your guns at us? We were just walking out of here. I cook well. Can I cook some lunch for you-” (Failed her Con roll.)
“Drop the weapons, rebel scum,” the platoon commander barked at them. “Now! Or we will shoot. Do you want the child to get hurt?”
As Jax quickly mulled over the words, four stormtroopers were moving towards them. Jax was at his wit’s end. Neither Iris or he knew what to do next.
That was when the Chariot speeder exploded in a ball of flames. Half a dozen armoured troops flew into the air among debris and flame like rag dolls. The Imperials were caught in a crossfire from different attack points across the streets. This allowed Jax, Iris and Wencie to turn and retreat back into the building foyer.
One of the stormtroopers who had fallen in at the lift lobby had regained consciousness and about to fire at them. Jax dropped him again with his Relby-k23 blaster pistol. Iris grabbed a discarded E-11 blaster rifle from the floor. An explosion rocked the building, a cloud of dust billowed into the lift lobby from the foyer.
“Into the storage room!” Jax herded them into the room where he had earlier pilfered new weapons from some crates. The loading bay door was closed and locked. To open it, he fired at the door controls, an action that served only to destroy the door controls and nothing more.
Another explosion rocked the building from within. They now heard blaster fire tearing concrete and plastic in the lift lobby just outside their closed door. Eerily, the sound of battle suddenly ceased.
Jax and Iris pointed their blaster at the inner door, pushing Wencie behind them.
The door slid open. A dark-haired man wearing a dark brown overcoat carrying an A280 blaster rifle stepped in from the lift lobby. He looked at Jax and said, “Why are you here, Jax? Once again people will die because of you, just like Mom and Dad.”
Jax said, “Fell?”
It was Jax’s brother Fell Hunt.
The Fury of Fell Hunt
Some of Fell’s companions – there were perhaps over a dozen of them – had thrown smoke grenades out in the front street to cover their escape from Blackback building. Soon, they were in the back of a landspeeder driven by Fell away from the combat zone before Imperial reinforcements arrived.
During the drive Fell asked Iris who she was. She offhandedly claimed that she was just following Jax around because Jax had a blaster, and she knew nothing about anything. “I can cook if you want. I cook good.”
Wencie asked Jax why Fell was so angry with him. Jax explained with pain in his eyes, “A long time ago when Fell was in school and I was home, I made a mistake. Because of me, a bad person killed our Mom and Dad. He still blames me for their death.”
Wencie eyes filled with tears. “I hope I see my Mom and Dad again.”
Fell drove into an empty warehouse at the outskirts of town. Other speeders were converging there too from other routes that they had taken. Fell told Jax to stay put as he gave orders and instructions to his Rebel cell to disperse and disappear with their families. Before five minutes his team had left the warehouse.
Fell confronted Jax again. “Because of you people will die again. My rebel cell. Their families. All because we had to rescue you and your botched operation. Why did you come here?”
Jax was shaken. He answered, “I had orders to rescue the Kelauaes. We went in, but we found Wencie’s parents have been missing for two days.”
Fell studied his datapad for a minute. “Our people discovered that Ton and Aklu Kelauae were arrested two days ago.” He paused. “This is strange. An hour ago, they were transported to the Crystal Canyons. That’s a vast network of canyons and caves for tourists here on Chandrila. Why would they take them there?”
Wencie said, “I know where that is. My parents took me there a few times during school holidays.”
Fell said, “What do you want to do now, Jax?”
Jax looked at Iris, who gave a nonchalant I-just-follow-you gesture, and then at Wencie. “We’re going to go get her parents. But we need to get back to our ship at Landing Bay 19.”
Fell slipped another datapad out of his back pocket and inserted a datacard in its slot. He thumbed on the power and selected a file to display. It was a map of Nayli Spaceport and the catacomb of sewers beneath it. He told him, “This will get you there. Be careful of Imperial patrols. Don’t get your friends killed.”
Fell was silent for several heartbeats. His face softened and he slowly extended his hand. “It was good to see you again, little brother. Take care.” Jax took his hand and shook it. A second later, Fell was gone.
I Dream a Little Dream of Red
Meanwhile, Iris suddenly felt a wave of cold dread passing through her. She tried dismissing it, but then her vision turned overwhelmingly red. Everything else disappeared from her view. Out of the deep red surrounding her a single blade of made of glowing beam of energy was ignited. It rushed at her, a dark silhouette beyond the energy blade. She screamed and found herself in the warehouse flanked by Jax and Wencie.
Jax asked, “What is it? What’s wrong?”
Iris shrugged the feeling of dread, nonchalantly described her vision and said, “Probably nothing. I fell asleep.”
The Smell is the Least Problematic Thing About This
It took them a minute to locate a manhole in the warehouse that led to the sewer catacombs. Jax, reading the datapad, took point. Iris complained about the smell of the flowing sewage along the drainage ditch along the centre of the sewer pipe they were walking in. So, Jax gave her his helmet to keep the smell out to stop her complaining.
Jax was hoping the ship have been flipped the right side up by spaceport authority personnel after its spectacular failure of a landing earlier. Jax reminded Iris that she was holding the controls when they landed upside down.
They were almost underneath Landing Bay 19 when they came face to face with a pair of stormtroopers on subterranean patrol duty at an intersection. The Imperial troops pointed their weapons at them and asked them what they were doing walking around in the sewers. Iris stepped up and gave a fast talk like Jax has never seen before, suppressing their suspicious of them immediately. (An amazing Con roll.)
One stormtrooper lowered his blaster, telling the other, “Wait! This cannot be them. We’re looking for a man in a helmet, a woman and a little girl. These are a man, a woman in a helmet and a little girl. Move along.”
The rebels and the troops went their separate ways. Fifty metres after the intersection, there was an anteroom that led to Landing Bay 19.
Climbing The Right Side Up
They ascended the ladder, through a floor grate and found themselves behind a pile of boxes right before the Screeching Arrow. It had been turned the right side up, thankfully.
However a pair of stormtroopers were guarding the forward entrance ramp of their impounded VCX-100 light freighter. Luckily the Arrow was not physically locked down. The ceiling was open and they could see the late afternoon sky awash with dark blues, greys, angry browns and bright oranges. All they needed to do was to get aboard and take off.
With Wencie safe behind the boxes, Jax through he would try to con the guards into leaving the landing bay, but they had standing orders to fire on any unidentified parties who approach the ship. A red bolt struck Jax’s right shoulder. He grunted in pain.
Iris jumped out from behind cover, firing and hitting the first trooper, injuring him. The second trooper loosed a deadly bolt at Iris’ centre of mass. Jax witnessed his partner perform a perfect somersault to dodge the fire. Then as quick as a cobra, Iris snap-fired two shots. Each struck an Imperial troop. Both fell onto the ground.
Jax was amazed by Iris’ physical feat of dexterity. He asked in a daze, “Are you… a Jedi?”
Iris looked at him with nonchalant eyes and replied, “What is Jedi?”
That was when Iris suddenly swooned and nearly fell. Jax asked what was wrong. Iris strained to answer, “I feel cold. Feel bad. Something coming.”
The main doors of Landing Bay 19 slid apart. A dark silhouette stepped nimbly through the threshold. It wore black robes that fluttered with the breeze from outside.
Iris’ irises irised open considerably. She remarked, “Run.”
The figure ignited a red lightsabre from its hands!
“Get aboard! Quickly!” Jax yelled firing at the figure but missed. The figure strode forward as the ramp closed. Jax ran to the cockpit, fired up the power converters and immediately tore out of the landing bay, leaving behind a billowing cloud of dust.
“Hey!” a voice yelled from the heretofore silent landing bay office. Officer Galveyaa ran out shouting at the disappearing freighter! “You can’t leave yet! You owe me dinner!” Galveyaa stopped, looked at the dark figure in the bay and explained, “She said she’d cook dinner for me.”
The dark figure subtly gestured and Galveyaa flew into the bay wall.
The Sunset Skies of Chandrila
The Arrow did not fly in a straight line. She bobbed and juked as she soared through the clouds, because Iris was applying medication and bandages from a medpac on Jax’s injury as he was holding on to the controls.
“We need to get to the Crystal Canyons, Wencie,” said the bounty hunter. “Can you lead us there?”
“Yes,” said Wencie. She was about to direct him when the proximity alert chimed with urgency. Jax studied the scope and grimly announced, “We have two TIE fighters heading our way. Iris, take the top turret. I’ll control the forward cannons.”
Wencie said, “What about me? I’ve played computer games before!” Jax told her to take the tailguns, which was installed at the top aft shuttle interface airlock.
The impromptu idea to talk to the TIE fighters came to an end when Imperials pre-emptively fired their cannons upon the Arrow. Green bolts tore off chunks of the hull plating in flashes of flame and debris. Jax raised the ship’s shields.
Wencie, at the rear gunwale, yelled in excitement as she sprayed the incoming fighters with cannonfire. No bolt touched its intended target. Jax yelled, “You didn’t even hit once?”
The girl screamed back via the intercom, “What do you want! I’m only 10 years old!”
Iris spun her turret to face backwards, and fired. The bolts hit one of the TIEs, causing it to belch a long trail of smoke. The fighter rolled away out of control and disappeared into a cloud bank.
The second TIE closed the gap quickly and threw more green bolts at the Arrow. Jax pulled back on the control stick and performed a loop to get behind the TIE. During the loop, Iris spun her turret forward once again. With the Arrow behind the TIE, Jax and Iris fired their weapons. Jax’s forward cannons missed, but again, Iris’s highly effective barrage badly damaged the second TIE. The pilot careened away from them, also trailing smoke.
Jax rolled the ship away from the fray and called to Wencie over the intercom. “Wencie get up here and show us the way to the Crystal Canyons! Now!”
Iris and Wencie entered the cockpit. Wencie gave directions for Jax to head for a distant range of mountains in the darkening sky. Iris was massaging her forehead, which was wrinkled with distress. Jax asked, “What’s wrong, Iris?”
“Same feeling. Red. Evil. Dark. Where we’re going.”
Jax activated the long-range encrypted comlink to contact Meow Skywalker at the rebel fleet. When Meow answered, Jax provided them a full update and informed his coordinator that his team was going to rescue the Kelauaes with Wencie in tow. Before signing off he asked if the rebels have discovered anything new about Iris Helena’s identity. “I believe she’s a Jedi.”
Meow’s advice was, “Stick with her. Keep her safe. Don’t let her out of your sight.”
Bright Colours in the Dark
The Screeching Arrow landed in the dim shadows of the canyons far from tourist eyes. The sky was not quite dark yet and very few stars were out. There were outcropping of multicoloured crystals on the canyon walls. Some formed bridges between them.
Both Jax and Iris knew nothing of the canyons other than its tourist-attracting spectacle (when they both failed Planetary Systems roll) but Wencie told them, “I heard there used to be Jedi here.”
Iris pointed to a dark cave and said, “Through there.”
Jax told Wencie to stay in the ship and shut the forward ramp tight. He then pointed his Relby-k23 forward and led Iris through the portal. Switching on his helmet lights, the crystals with the cave glittered with awesome beauty, refracting a thousand beams of greens, blues, reds and yellows through the sombre darkness. “Stay close.”
Soon, they found an underground river which fed into a natural tunnel of what seemed to be emerald. They walked into the tunnel. The tunnel angled downwards a bit. Then it angled more and more.
Suddenly Iris slipped and fell. The waters carried her further and further down the tunnel and into darkness.
After what seemed forever, Iris found herself falling in open air then splashed into dark waters. She managed to swim back to the surface without any injuries. She was in a vast cavern, lit by glowing crystals in the stalactites above. They lit a black column which might have been fully formed by obsidian which extended from the ceiling to a small island in the centre of the lake.
She swam towards it.
Meanwhile, Jax had been calling out for Iris from the emerald tunnel above. With no reply, he decided to sit and enjoy the waterslide. Jax also survived the plunge into the lake, but when he resurfaced he saw Iris stagger up the beach at the central island. He tried calling out to her but she was too far.
When Jax was at knee-high waters, a booming “Halt!” came from above. It was an Ubrikkian Bantha-II cargo skiff bearing a squad of six stormtroopers. Where did they come from? The lead trooper threatened, “Lower your weapons and kneel.” Jax squeezed off a shot which struck the lead stormtrooper who fell off the skiff thirty metres into the dark waters. His squad mates drew their blasters on Jax.
Ignoring the fracas, Iris greatly sensed that the column of black crystal was calling out to her, an attracting force upon her being. She touched its surface with an open palm.
A bright red light flared out of the crystal column, blinding everyone.
The light subsided into nothing. Jax squinted his eyes and discovered that the black crystal column had transformed into a crystal column of fiery red. Iris was still there, her hand on the rock. But there was something different about her. She stood more erect, with less slouching.
She turned to reveal a determined expression on her face. There was a metal device in her hand. She held it aloft with both hands. Then, a red blade of energy ignited out of the tube.
A red lightsabre.
At a loss for words for a second time that day, Jax muttered to Iris Helena, “Are you… a Sith?”
- Starring Irfan as Jax Hunt and Ain as Iris Helena – she probably has another name.
- They both get 15 character points.
- So why did the Imperials bring the Kelauaes to the Crystal Canyon anyway?