Darkness falling

Chapter i


            Jared stood up from his seat in the cockpit, after reading through the damage assessment.  This would take a lot of work.  Everyone else had wound down, after their escape from the Imperial capital world of Coruscant, after which his ship, the Nemesis, had taken a beating.  Had it not been for the shields, they could have kissed their butts goodbye.

            “Cid,” Jared called into the nearby corridor, “Grab the toolkit and give me a hand with these repairs.”

            Cid Jaden was an engineer by trade, on a ship he was a master technician.  He had developed many of the technological advantages which the mercenary group known as the Angosian Order possessed, as well as always pushing Jared’s ship, the YT-2400 Nemesis, to its limit, and often past it.  The problem with this is that a lot of the systems didn’t interface well, and would blow out, like the ion drives almost did.

            Cid grabbed the toolkit, as he was told, but he knew better than to assume Jared would want any help on the repairs.

            Jared and Cid walked past the small recreation area, where Darus and Gannon were hunched over the sabacc table, obviously gambling whatever profit they got on Rodia and Coruscant.  Cid just hoped they didn’t want him to gamble the nice armor he happened to ‘borrow’ from a Coruscant guard.  Hey, Cid thought, the guard didn’t say I couldn’t have it, or that he wanted it back.  Then again, the guard was unconscious.

            Darus found himself outdone by Gannon, as neither of them had gotten a pure sabacc run since they started. That sabacc pot was looking mighty tempting.  And if he pushed the pot to a higher level, he may get Gannon to risk that nice blaster of his.

            Gannon, however, was more than keen on the game, having played in many backwater worlds, and against famous gamblers.  He did lose a lot to the famed Lando Calrissian once, but after Lando was made a hero of the Rebellion, he didn’t really mind losing to a great man. But this Darus was far from a great man; Heck, he wasn’t even human.

            Gannon checked his cards again, as their values changed.  Great, Gannon thought, exactly what I need.  He tossed his cards into the interference field, locking them in.  Darus seemed a little shocked, but coolly watched his hand change again, and then locked them in.

            “So how’s Lady Luck treatin’ you?” Gannon asked slyly.

            “She must be smiling on me, as I have a 21,” Darus replied, “Just about as close as you can get to a pure sabacc.”

            “Really?”  Gannon said. “You’re right, that is close to what I have.  If she smiles at you, she must have winked at me.”  Gannon revealed his hand-23-a pure sabacc run.

            Darus cursed under his breath as he watched Gannon revel in glee, as he took the entire sabacc pot.  It had swelled with many stalemate hands.

            Gannon knew he had done well.  Play conservatively so that the pot swells up and keep your opponent strung along to throw more in, then throw down your pure sabacc and reap the rewards. And so he reaped.  He figured he could get used to this job, as he was picked up by Jared on their last mission, where he helped the Angosian Order smuggle explosives into Coruscant.

            He knew then something big was going down, and that this may be the last time he would use his black-market contacts and his streetwise knowledge.  When they were interrupted by the top Imperial forces, he knew the deck was stacked, and that he was doomed.  But he gladly accepted Jared’s invitation to join the Angosian Order, and their SpecForce unit, Star Lance.

            He’d always wondered what it would be like to be a wanted man.  Now he knew, and he kinda liked it.  He was strapped into one of the best freighters in the galaxy, and had enough credits to pay off any bounty on his head.  Yeah, it was a real gambit, but he’d get used to this job quicker than he’d get used to Darus’ smell.  Not everyone could be the most attractive species in the galaxy.  Darus was a Duros, a species which was far from the most attractive.

            He didn’t really like Darus’ arrogance, especially when it came to his gunnery.  He was good, yeah, but in his experience, such boasting would get one’s tongue blow off, along with the rest of their head.  But he’d enjoy cleaning up after the mess.  He watched as Darus finished packing his stuff and stomp off in a huff.

            Jared could hear disgruntled footsteps from the deck above him, and he thought of how hot it was down here in the access duct, as Jared laid on his back in a cramped space, repairing the fried circuitry on his ship.  He wiped the sweat off his brow, which was dampening his white hair.  Jared wasn’t old, no, but his hair was at white as starlight, and added to his character.  He had just left Coruscant, the Imperial capital world, and his ship had taken a beating in getting off-world.  The ion drives were not quite stable, as they did not perform well in their haste to evade capture. A dozen TIEs will do that to you, I guess.

            “Hey Cid, get me the ‘spanner!” Jared called to the above deck.

            Cid grabbed the hydrospanner and handed it down to Jared.  Jared was very arrogant in always wanting to be in charge of the repairs on his ship, even though he definitely was not the best mechanic.  Jared never trusted anyone, having been a former Imperial Royal Guard, he was trained not to. After a few trips together, he seemed to be trusting people more, though that didn’t say much.  Cid could understand why one wouldn’t trust others.  Not so many people out there can be trusted.

            “Cid, I’m going to check the relay to the turbolaser turret,” called Jared. “Have Darus fire up the lasers and check the power feed.”

            The turbolaser they had mounted on the Nemesis was both illegal and didn’t interface well, which made it risky to tinker with.

            “You sure you wanna try that while you’re in that mess of wires?” asked Cid.  If the relay blew out, Jared would have a heck of a lot of energy running through him.  Being 70 percent water, humans made uncomfortably good conductors.

            “I’ll be fine,” stated Jared.  His new arm, replaced by the Angosians, was a technical feat in itself. It would surely protect him while it was lying amongst the pile of wires.

            The guns powered up, and Jared felt the small buzz caused by the faulty wiring along his metallic arm.

            “It’s lacking power up here,” came Darus’ voice over the intercom.

            “I know,” Jared said, as he adjusted the wiring. “Try it now.”

            “Great, it checks out fine here,” Darus replied.

            Jared was more than eager to crawl out of the cramped crawl space, and once he was back on his feet in the corridor, he was met by his heavily modified ASP-7 Droid, Max, who was clanking down the corridor.

            All the modifications he had undergone made him a bulky and strong droid.  He was also intelligent, though Jared wouldn’t admit it.  Jared found him during one of his adventures, among wreckage from a battle.  He was the only object that survived.

            “Sir, we’re dropping out of hyperspace near the fleet,” Max stated.  “You have a priority message from the Admiral.”

            Being commander of the Angosian SpecForce unit, Star Lance, he received a lot of these ‘priority messages’.  Jared went over to the console to read the message.  After only a moment of reading the core of the message, he made the general alert, klaxons blaring, as Jared ordered everyone to their stations.

            “Power up all weapons, charge the shields, fire up the drives, and hang on.  The fleet is under attack,” Jared said.

            Jared strapped himself into the cockpit, Darus took the turbolaser turret, Gannon took the bottom turret, and Cid managed all the systems.  Max just clambered out of everyone’s way, and took up space. Being a droid, he was the only one who remained calm.

            “Standby ion drives,” Jared said, as he pulled the hyperspace lever back. “Engage.”

            Hyperspace faded to starlines, and the stars snapped into place.  And before them, a battle raging, and they headed into the thick of it.  At best it would be a long day.