Characters (and what we know about them so far):
Claymore Trelk: Senator of the Poulos system
Hara-Kalor: Kwol Jedi Padawan
Oord Womba: Force-Sensitive Republic Investigator
Piban Macrosun: Pilot.
R0-B1: Senatorial Protocol droid
Trian Letstra: Street tech
From the nightside approach, Coruscant appeared to be a glittering sphere of sparks. Like a marble sprinkled with fairy dust, the hub of the galaxy was a mosaic of light patterns that constantly shifted as millions of vehicles came and went.
"Home sweet home" Piban muttered, feeling strange to be standing idly by while someone else flew the ship. They had been picked up from the Dabbadon system by a passing space barge, and most of them had chosen to immediately return to Coruscant.
There were exceptions. Trian, the tech, had gone to a lot of trouble to get away from Coruscant, and had instead taken passage to who knew where. Claymore Trelk had completed his journey to the Poulos system, and doctor Enn Peicy had stayed with the Doogo. That left Piban with a busted up protocol droid (Beeone's replacement arm still twitched), a reptilian Jedi that had been lightsabered through the leg, a secretive investigator, and the barge's driver. A bearded human barely out of his teens, Stumpy drove the barge like each cargo run was a swashbuckling adventure.
After the events of the last few days, Piban had resolved to keep a wide berth from swashbuckling adventures.
When the twinkling spectacle of Coruscant grew sufficiently large in his cabin's viewport, Oord ensured his door was closed and pulled a small, shiny object from his uniform. As the flat ellipse clicked open a miniature hologram appeared above it, a coloured atomlike logo that was meaningless to the uninitiated.
He paused. Too risky to try full voice communication from this range, there were too many voices that could be listening. He thumbed a secondary button, which paused for a moment and then winked green.
Sending his service ID would be sufficient. Another operative would find him soon.
A final hiss from the repulsor vents and the barge settled to the roof landing of a public plaza. Stumpy farewelled them with a bewhiskered smile, and two of the group also bid goodbyes. Beeone left to be repaired by.. whoever repaired droids of his security level, and Hara-Kalor caught an air taxi in the direction of the Jedi Temple.
"You need a taxi too, don't you sir?" another air taxi pilot pressed as Piban and Oord stood by the rank.
"Maybe later" Oord grunted, eyes scanning the passing crowd. "I'm waiting for someone..." he paused as a feeling reached him.
"Someone like me?" the driver replied, and Oord noticed that in the palm of his hand was a tiny holoprojector with the familiar atomlike logo.
"I have a lot to report" Oord commented, acknowledging him with a nod.
"So I hear" the other Seeker replied. "but I have another agent to attend to first. Meet me here in an hour". The taxi lifted and sped away from them.
"An hour to kill" pondered Oord as the taxi receded into the distance. "Do you have any plans?" he directed to Piban.
"Nope" the pilot commented. "I work on a charter basis. I'm meeting Beeone back here soon to take him to the senator, but for now I was going to shop for some swoop parts- there's a market about eighty floors down if you're interested".
"Lead on" Oord motioned toward the spaceport's exit.
As they walked between the ships, Piban gave Oord a
hesitant look. "Was I supposed to see that? Just who are you,
anyway? Hara-Kalor said he felt you use the Force on that
Oord looked at him, mind turning over. He had revealed his identity to people he worked with before, and their adventures in the Dabbadon system had also told him that Piban could be trusted.
"Let me ask you a hypothetical question" he replied. "As a young child you're recognised to have some talent in the Force. You're brought before the Jedi Council and they reject you- they say you have too much anger. How does that make you feel?"
Piban's eyes showed a trace of wonder. "Angry" he stated the obvious.
Oord nodded. "So in some cases, the ones they reject have the capability to turn to the dark side. In fact, the very act of the Jedi's rejection can motivate it. The Jedi are powerful and benevolent, but in these times they have become proud and even blind. Someone has to step in and put the energies of these children to safer pursuits".
"When I left the temple I was contacted by someone from another organisation. My organisation- the Seekers. We're not Jedi and we're not Sith. We don't have some all-encompassing philosophy about the Force that runs our lives, we just use what talent we have to do our jobs".
Piban glanced in the direction the taxi had gone. "And what are those jobs?" he asked.
Oord tapped the chestplate of his armour. "Just what I appear to be. Law enforcement. Infiltration. Whatever the Republic needs. Tracking people down. Assassination, even. The jobs that are too dirty for the Jedi to soil their hands on, and the ones where politics exclude them. Sometimes we even work with them, but it's rare".
Further conversation was suppressed by them reaching a turbolift full of chittering Verpine. They rode it down the eighty floors to a bustling market bazaar. In spite of the shiny view of Coruscant buildings, the giant interior was a patchwork of tents, stalls and sentients of all kinds.
They moved through the milling throng, on their homeworld and in their element. Piban busied himself with browsing and Oord's eyes darted suspiciously from face to face through the crowd. They found a vehicle part dealer, and after sifting through various bits of scrap Piban found a throttle assembly for his Firebird.
They had just moved from the stall when a bulky sentient wriggled their way, an elongated creature with many legs that towered above the two. Piban identified it as a Fellopede.
"Your pardon, gentles" it interjected, mouth parts dilating. "But did I hear you were looking for parts for a Phoenix Firebird? I am an antique dealer of repulsor and hover collectibles. Did you find what you were looking for?"
Piban's spirits rose further. This was his lucky day! Unless
"Not quite" the pilot replied. "I'm looking for red star modifications, and they're hard to find".
"Red star?" The Fellopede rippled its legs on the floor. "Why, my stall has some red star rigs I've been trying to sell for two molting cycles!"
"Lead on" Piban prompted, and they began to follow it through the bazaar.
"Keep your eyes open" he added quietly to Oord. "There's no such thing as a red star modification".
When they passed through the large flap of a tent
the two bounty hunters inside chopped downward with their heavy
bladed weapons, but their prey were ready. Oord expertly caught
the arm of his assailant, twisted the weapon away, and directed
the momentum of the attacker into the permacrete floor, following
with his knee.
Piban's blaster was in the other one's face before he could blink. "Don't" the pilot warned, causing his attacker to pause mid-swing. The burly humanoid seemed to think he could still take his target and swung again, dropping his body as he did so. Piban proved him wrong by dropping him completely with two shots.
He then swung the blaster toward the Fellopede, but it disappeared out the far tent flap as fast as its many legs could scuttle. Piban moved to follow but Oord raised a hand.
"Don't bother" the Seeker said. "This was poorly planned and executed- he's just street trash without his muscle now".
He hauled his prisoner to his feet, and left him with bazaar security.
[GM's note: Would YOU have not bothered to ask questions?]
The immense ziggurat of the Jedi Temple rose above
the surrounding buildings like a shining watchtower, a silent
monument to the strength and benevolence of the ancient order.
When the air taxi deposited Hara-Kalor on one of its many landing
platforms, it had a more personal effect on him. To the Kwol, it
was also home.
The padawan glided through the corridors, feeling the peace and security of the temple wash over him. He had lived much of his life here, training with remotes, studying in the library, consulting with others of the order.
He wished he had returned with better news.
Far ahead, a door slid open. He could not sense his master at this range, but knew he was expected. Distance was no obstacle to Tsai-Roshi.
The squat brown alien had a bulbous body the height of a human's knee, an elongated head that thrust forward on top of it, and long arms with spindly fingers. Of a race with strong affinity to the telekinetic and healing aspects of the force, his heart and finger had been known to even glow during its use.
He turned to face the Kwol. "Home" he observed with a croak.
Hara-Kalor bowed "Masster" he said "We musst sspeak with the council at once. The Ssith have returned".
"I know" Tsai returned gravely. "One has been killed at Naboo. Even now the council are there, seeking clues to the mystery".
"I have faced one myself, masster" Hara-Kalor indicated the closed wound on his leg. "And my companions witnessed another".
Tsai's eyes widened with surprise. "Three of them?" he rasped. "It has not been so since " his voice trailed off and he motioned with his hand, inviting his apprentice to tell the full story.
The turbolift opened again, and Piban and Oord were
back up in the spaceport. Beeone, arm shiny and new, was waiting
for them, as was the seeker in the air taxi. Piban needed to
visit his home, and took the opportunity to take the transport.
As the vehicle climbed upward and joined the 779th equatorial traffic stream, Oord moved up to sit next to the other seeker. "What's happened back at the spike?" he asked in a businesslike tone, using the slang name of their headquarters.
"Plenty" the other man responded. "Too much. There's a new chancellor in the Senate now. Valorum was replaced by Palpatine of Naboo, and the whole Senate is in turmoil. Everyone has had their spheres of influence disrupted, and a lot of our operatives are hard at work keeping everyone from each other's throats until the power stabilises to a new equilibrium".
He gave Oord a hard glance as they overtook a large freight speeder. "As if that wasn't bad enough, the Jedi are all in a buzz about some secret order that's come back. Their whole council is offplanet right now".
Oord returned a puzzled look. "The Sith?" he queried. Perhaps others had run afoul of the crystal circle too?
The other seeker didn't get a chance to reply. A deep blue blaster bolt punched through his back and out his chest, and he collapsed over the controls. The taxi tilted forward, dropping from the traffic stream.
"Piban!" Oord barked, drawing his blaster and moving aft, but the pilot was already scrambling over the seats. The seeker's body was heavier than it looked, and he struggled to reach the control column.
Oord stood at the back with Beeone and they scanned the traffic, but their attacker was not hard to spot. A bright yellow sports speeder had edged below the stream for a better shot, and another bolt streaked close to them. Details were hard to see, but there appeared to be several humanoids on board.
Beside him, Beeone pressed his hand to his stomach. The hand seemed to split apart and rotate, something clicked into place, and it drew out of his torso a squat blaster barrel. First a shield generator, now a blaster, Oord thought.. This senatorial droid was clearly more than he seemed.
Oord pushed questions out of his mind as they readied their weapons. Today really did not seem to be his day.
Easing the corpse to the taxi's wall, Piban levelled the craft off and spent seconds trying to familiarise himself with the controls. Navigation. Comm. Repulsor field fluctuators. Energy levels. Something black and smoking with sparking wires hanging out of it. He grasped the control column with determination and did what their attackers least expected.
Oord and Beeone fired carefully, not wishing to hit innocents. They braced for movement back up into the traffic stream when the taxi suddenly swerved down, causing the blue bolts to pass harmlessly above them and the yellow speeder to lose seconds of uncertainty.
Oord gripped a chair as Beeone flailed his arms. "What are you doing?" he shouted over the whipping wind.
"Getting into traffic" the pilot shot back. "the next stream down".
Oord peered over the edge to see another lane hundreds of meters below them. This pilot was crazy. The taxi accelerated, giving them a dizzying sense of vertigo.
He returned to his work, joining the droid in pumping shots at the diving speeder above. Sparks skittered from its paintwork, but its sleek form was a difficult target. The taxi enjoyed no such advantage, and two shots whined off its sides before a third punched through the luggage compartment and burst into a chair next to Beeone. The vehicle shuddered, and a soft whistle accompanied the speed of their descent.
Seeker and droid fired again, and could tell they hit something. One of the silhouettes visible in the open canopy disappeared, and the sports speeder began to give off smoke as a piece of metal spun from its body.
The gravity suddenly seemed to increase, and Beeone glanced behind him. Piban wrestled with the control column like it was a python trying to bite him, and the droid realised that he was trying to pull them out of the dive. The sports speeder was gaining.
Then a torrent of vehicles seemed to rise around them, and they were in the traffic. Oord peered back to see how much ground they had gained on their pursuer, and his hopes soared as the yellow speeder dropped right through the traffic, flames spreading among its passengers, and fell toward the distant ground.
"Who in the worlds were they?" Piban shouted irritably.
Oord could only shrug "Everyone seems to be out to get us today" he commented.
Barely had the words left his mouth when he realised how prophetic they were. A large, black speeder had drawn alongside them. The deep thrumming sound indicated a heavy power source, and it was armoured with thick plating and spiked in several places. Through its windows he briefly glimpsed the thick-set form of an ohrine, or perhaps a gammorean, before a switch was pressed and the windows opaqued.
"Oh.. I think he's going to I recommend " stuttered Beeone when the heavy speeder swung into them with a lurching crunch. Beeone and Oord were thrown to the floor and they felt something inside the taxi give.
"Hang on!" roared Piban, noticing that the body of Oord's fellow seeker had fallen over the side. He gunned the taxi's engines. The heavy speeder seemed designed for ramming, not speed. Perhaps they could outrun it.
The smaller vehicles scattered around them like frightened fish as they fled straight through a crowded intersection. Piban overtook another taxi, dipped beneath an airbus, then looped them over the top of a large industrial hauler. The heavy speeder matched them and, reading the move, swept around the other side and came at them. Oord and Beeone fired bolts at it point blank, but the armour was too strong for blasters. There was a sound of tearing metal, and the taxi began to lose altitude, smoking.
Beeone's circuitry sensed the danger and attempted to compute how long the crippled taxi could stay in the air, but there were just too many variables. The stream of traffic seemed to suddenly soar above them, and the taxi left a wide corkscrew of smoke to mark their descent. The ramming speeder dove to follow them down, leaving no chance for a trick. The droid and seeker resumed fire, trying at least to spoil the rammer's aim.
Their attacker had closed to within a hundred meters when heavy bolts of energy struck it repeatedly from their left. Speeding above the buildings was the hexagonal shape of a rusty YT-650 transport, firing its dorsal guns. The heavier weaponry posed a greater danger to their armoured attacker, and further fire drove it off. The rammer slid upward into the traffic and in moments was gone.
This was of little help to them. The taxi was now falling between metro towers, its engine spluttering almost as much as the pilot. Piban's mind raced as he fought for a clear mind and clearer course of action. Behind him the voice of Oord yelled "BRACE!", then the taxi jolted again. The thought flashed through his mind that the rammer was back, or had accomplices, but then the taxi shuddered with the impact of the YT-650 matching their descent.
Piban cut the repulsors as the freighter grated beneath them. "Helluva pilot to- " he began, but further comment was prevented by the taxi's large bottom fin tipping them to one side. It landed heavily on the hull, and Oord dropped onto the speeding ship on his back.
Piban hastened to untangle himself from the rocking taxi. A hatch in the transport irised open and a greying human in a tattered flight suit appeared, snapping a tethering line to a ring in the hull. "Come on!" he waved a hand, and with some pained struggling they descended into the YT-650.
"This neighborhood is getting worse" grumbled their rescuer. "You can't even catch a taxi these days without some scum after a thrillkill. Kek Rendar's the name" he offered a hand.
"Piban, Oord, R0B1" Piban gestured with his other hand as he shook Kek's. "Thanks".
"It's nothing" the older pilot said. "A minute or two out of my time won't matter to my next charter. Have a seat, everyone. You look terrible".
Nobody argued, and they slumped into some acceleration couches lining a relatively new holochess table. After the high-speed ordeal of the last minutes, the inside of the transport seemed still and deafeningly silent. Exhaustion ensured the mood was unbroken for some time.
"I sure signed myself up for a lot of trouble when I took you guys on board the Emissary" Piban reflected at last. Since he had left Coruscant with them weeks ago, it seemed like every second held an attempt on his life.
"How do you know those guys were after me?" Oord replied. "You were the one approached by that Fellopede back in the bazaar".
"That was a coincidence" Piban retorted flatly.
"I should point out" Beeone interjected "that due to Coruscant's population and crime rates, the possibility of attempted murder by three separate parties on any given day is approximately-"
"-Time for some holochess" Piban cut in. "Care for a game, Beeone?"
The droid blinked. "Well sir, the game is in frequent use in the senate, and I have had more exposure than many". He depressed a switch, and the board flickered to life.
Oord raised himself wearily from the chair. "I'll see how Kek's getting on in the cockpit" he said. He had just entered the small passage leading to it when the whole ship shook with a deep thumping sound.
Piban's head snapped up from the game. "That was an escape pod!" he blurted.
Oord burst into the cockpit, the others on his heels, and noticed two things. One, there was nobody flying the freighter.
Two, they were out in space.
Piban shouldered past Oord and reached the controls. He flicked a few switches and worked the column, then turned to them. "Controls are dead, but it's being flown. It's slaved to something. I don't understand".
"We seem to be on a course for that" Beeone gestured out the viewport. Less than a kilometre away drifted the elongated shape of a modular conveyor. A bare-bones cargo hauler, the ship consisted of a cockpit at one end and engines at the other, separated by three hundred meters of girders to which space containers could be clamped. At least two containers could be seen secured in place as they approached.
Piban fiddled with some of the console circuitry, to no avail. "I wish that Trian was here" he lamented.
The communications console beeped. They all hesitated for a moment, then Beeone reached over and flicked it on.
"By now you realise I'm not who I said I was" intoned the voice of 'Kek'. "And no, I'm not in league with the fools that tried to kill you. It's a wonder you weren't killed by the time I found you, though. Ever since communications were restored with that planet you crashed on, every bounty hunter in Coruscant has been watching for you. It was only logical that if they are looking for you, the ones we seek are hunting you as well".
The three trapped in the transport shifted their gaze from the comlink to each other.
"Did you really think you could discover the news we had been awaiting for a thousand years, and just drift back into your old lives? You could not possibly know what this means to us. For centuries we have kept the faith, passing down our secrets and the ways of our masters from father to son. Now the day foretold has come".
"They are out there, and they search for you. Now that we have you they will search for us, and the Servants of the Sith shall serve their masters again".
A deep clang reverberated through the ship as the docking clamp locked it into place on the modular conveyor.
Oord paced through the YT-650. "C'mon" he said. "We can just sit here and wait for whatever this crazy cult has in mind. Let's see what resources we have". In moments he found the ladder leading to the gunwell and climbed up to the turret's chair, but although he could turn the turret the power had been disabled.
He looked out the viewport. Their little freighter was the last of three spacegoing objects attached to the conveyor. Some distance away he could see a space container, and on its far side was a chunky escape pod. His vision swam as the stars seemed to elongate, and with a flash the conveyor (and them with it) were in hyperspace.
Oord had barely climbed out of the gunnery chair when they reverted to realspace again. He climbed back down to the main hold to inform Piban, but could tell that the pilot had felt the ships' movement. "They don't have a destination in mind" Piban informed. "That jump must have been to clear Coruscant traffic space".
The grubby flight suit was shed along with the
identity of Kek, and soon Fallish Tor, Servant of the Sith, had
donned the dark gray robes of his order. They were very old, and
in the last few hundred years had only been worn in secret and on
ceremonial occasions, but that would soon change. The Sith had
returned, and their servants would be found ready.
Entering the bridge, he found that the modular conveyor had reverted to realspace. Several of the other Servants were there and one, piloting the ship, thrust a fist out in front of him in salute. "In position now, Highservant" he said.
"Very good" Fallish nodded. "Begin transmitting broadband in the sixth ancient code of Korriban. Tell them we have their witnesses, and await their service".
Piban hailed Oord from down the gunwell. "We can get lots of cabling
from the disabled systems" he said, waving a coil in his
hands. "But we haven't found a space suit, so I don't know
what good it-"
he suddenly smiled.
Beeone gingerly clambered over the outside of the modular cargo hauler, trailing cable as the universe spun placidly around him. He had not been designed for this sort of thing, he lamented, but in space, as they say, no-one can hear you grumble.
Moving slowly and carefully, he worked his way past the container and along to the escape pod. It was one of the large luxury liner jobs, capable of carrying at least thirty people.
When Beeone reached the airlock and went inside, however, he found with a shock that it only carried two. And he knew them.
"You!" Trian Letstra exclaimed as the inner seal cycled open.
"Well well! It is good to see you again, Beeone old chap!" said Senator Claymore Trelk. "Got a new arm, I see. Good thing you came along, we can't even call for help from here". He slid a datapad from his belt and inscribed Note to self: when in demand by criminal classes, carry emergency beacon comlink.
"Now that we have someone with a secured line, we can use the EV suit!" said Trian excitedly as he moved aft toward a locker. "It's only a starfighter pilot's emergency one, and I had to modify its battery to accept power from my glowrod, but it works" he produced a puffy flight suit with four arms.
Soon the two were back in the small freighter with the others. While taking the suit back for Trian, Beeone had a further surprise when he investigated the cargo container (a live cargo module), and found Hara-Kalor inside! He had been captured after leaving the Jedi temple and deposited in the container with one of the Doogo soldiers who had accompanied Claymore on their diplomatic mission on Dabbadon. The rodent introduced himself as Kraych.
The Servant flicked his gaze to Fallish Tor. "Transmission coming in, highservant". A grin of triumph followed. "Coordinates".
Hara-Kalor looked out the viewport of the small
freighter. They weren't even trying to hide their presence from
him. He could feel them from here, a cluster of dark power up
there in the modular conveyor's cabin. Not the same as when he
had confronted the Sith, not very strong, but it was there. He
could feel their hate.
And feel their triumph.
There was a flicker of pseudomotion, and they were in hyperspace.
"We appear to have been thrown together again" observed the Senator calmly.
"Not by choice" Trian glowered.
"No" Claymore replied. "By someone else's choice. But who? And why? These Sith again?"
Piban shook his head. "Close" he said. "A cult that worships them, by the look of it. They want to hook back up with them".
"And we're the bait!" Hara-Kalor fought frustration.
Kraych's claws absently scratched the holochess board. As a hired gun (and claw), he had visited parts of the galaxy before, but had always wanted to see Coruscant. He'd just found out that he had, but had been locked in a space container the whole time. He'd been captured on Poulos with Claymore.
[We need a plan] he chittered.
The whirling outside shrank to starlines, than star,
revealing a distasteful looking planet in the distance. Red
cracks glowed from its surface beneath dark swirls of cloud.
"That wasn't on the holiday brochure" gaped Trian. The world radiated fiery violence and dark shadows.
"A bit longer than a standard day" said Oord, glancing at his chrono and trying to estimate hyperspace distances in his head. "What system would that make this? Where could we be?" he directed to Piban.
"Depends" the pilot replied. "We don't know how fast this tug is, and there are an awful lot of directions in space. It's a big galaxy".
"We need to get the droid, and get someone in that suit, and attack the cockpit of this hauler" fumed Trian. "It's our only hope".
"I really don't like the odds of that" Claymore's eyes shot a don't-you-start look to Beeone "but we may not have much choice".
"We have no choice, not even to do that" Piban corrected him. "In a couple of minutes we'll hit the atmosphere of that planet. Anything on the outside would get incinerated".
A few seconds of tense waiting proved him correct. The cargo hauler jostled its way through the smoky layers, heating up as its speed caught the air.
[We need to wait until we dock] Kraych observed, whiskers twitching. [Then we can attack!]
Time lurched by. The modular conveyor's altitude dropped steadily. Everyone still had their weapons, and they checked them purposefully as the cloud layer parted. The world was a volcanic wasteland, with rivers of lava splitting ashen plains, and mountains spewing fire.
"If this is the neighbourhood they choose to live in, they must have quite a place" commented Beeone.
"We're not going to their place" Claymore said tensely, pointing out the viewport, "Look!"
Only a kilometre away, hovering a hundred meters above the volcanic landscape, was a ship that seemed cut from a giant dark gem.
"The Rough Cut" Hara-Kalor breathed, claw drifting involuntarily to his leg.
Fallish Tor's pulse raced as the cargo hauler
coasted alongside the Rough Cut and settled into place.
It had fallen to him, to his generation. A day his father doubted
would ever really arrive. The Sith order had again arisen, and
Tor's ancient caste was found ready.
He reached his hand toward the airlock and concentrated.
Drawing upon the frustration, he tried again, straining with the effort.
The lever clunked down and the airlock cycled open. On the other side stood a tall figure whose dark skin rippled with fluorescent purple veins, gem gleaming from his forehead. Power radiated from his black robes.
The Servants did not hesitate, dropping to one knee and drawing their blasters. Holding them reversed with the barrel pressed to their chests, they knelt with head bowed. It would take only the slightest displeasure, the slightest effort of their new master, to cause their deaths.
Trian thumped the circuit board in frustration.
power it up. Not even the weapons. Not without better tools or an
Piban got up from the chair. "Let's get everyone together. We need another plan and we need it quick".
As his fellow servants filed into the Rough Cut, Fallish Tor paused at the lock and let fulfilment wash over him. His life had been given new direction, new meaning, new opportunities.
The galaxy was theirs, and now there was only one loose end to tie up.
"Forcing an outer hatch on either craft could leave
us without a spaceworthy ship" said Claymore sternly. "Unless you want to cut into
one, fight your way through it and then storm the other, and
[The docking tube] said the Doogo soldier. [The Jedi can cut it open, we take the cargo hauler and close its lock].
Oord nodded his agreement. "Okay, now we-" The floor lurched under his feet. For a moment he thought they had been hit, then he registered the whining sound that had been a soft hum moments before.
"The've cut the repulsors!" Piban shouted. Everyone tried to grab something, but there was no time. A sickening feeling rose in every stomach as they plummeted, panic rising as they waited for the crunch that would kill them.
It never came, replaced by a heavy sloshing feeling that threw them all to the floor. Relief flickered over Trian until the room was lit by a red glow- then the panic rushed back as he realised the ship- the entire modular conveyor with the freighter attached, had been dropped into lava!
Piban scrabbled for the top hatch from which they
had first entered the ship. Hara-Kalor was at his heels, hissing
incoherently for his companions to follow.
Out on the hull the heat was terrific. The small freighter was already a third submerged and sinking fast. A strange vision of hope lay almost three hundred meters away, where the cockpit of the modular conveyor lay on the bank of the lava river.
"MOVE!" bellowed Oord. "We don't have much time!"
They moved with a speed born of imminent death, climbing fast over the thick girders in the scorching heat. Beeone and Claymore slipped and were grabbed by their companions, and they scrabbled over the metal to the safety of the bank as the ship melted under them.
They fell onto the ash-encrusted rock in exhaustion. Above them the Rough Cut's engines roared like a giant beast, and it sped away over the horizon.
"Just for once" groaned Piban. "Can I just LAND a ship?"
Trian rubbed his shoulder, where his little droid had grasped him too hard in its panic. The girders sank beneath the molten rock, leaving the smoking cabin section lying beside them. As far as the eye could see was black barren rock, drifting clouds of smoke, and foreboding volcanoes in the distance.
"Okay" he said to nobody in particular. "Now what do we do?"