Star Wars: The Knights of Ren
The Sirens of Ahch-To, part 2: The Undercity
Written by IgnusDei
Spellchecked by WarpObscura
"It's called the dark side of the Force because it's secretive. That's all."
Amidst the furious exchange of lightning between the storm clouds, the Millennium Falcon's engines roared as its pilot — Chewbacca — pushed its engines and verniers to the limit, evading ion bolts and blaster fire. from Guavian Death Gang starfighters. The shots barely grazed the Falcon's shields, but it was only a matter of time before the damage would build up to bring them down, and once the ion shots started hitting the hull, the Falcon would crash in the water. The Falcon rose, then leveled out, exposing its ventral side to its pursuers and putting them in the bottom Quad Laser Cannon's firing arc. Bursts of photons streamed out of the weapon, scoring a few hits against the Guavian's Dunelizards, causing them to disperse.
Inside the Falcon, the gunner's chair swiveled around as Rey raked the flight of Dunelizards with photon bolts before focusing on a single target. She managed to get a few good hits on one of them, but it wasn't enough to down it on account of its upgraded shields.
"Finn made it look so easy..." Rey muttered to herself. Then, out loud and into her headset's microphone, "They've got shields!"
Chewbacca, in the pilot's chair, heard Rey over the ship's intercom. He growled as the Falcon rumbled, and something burst into sparks behind him.
"They're too tough!" exclaimed Rey. "I can't kill them fast enough!"
"Just focus on scaring them away," Chewbacca roared back in Shyriiwook. "We're almost there! R2! How much longer?"
In the Falcon's engine room, R2-D2's many tools frantically moved over a piece of machinery as he's smothered by clouds of coolant.
"I'm almost done!" R2-D2 beeped in binary. "Just give me one more minute!"
Outside, clouds parted ahead of the Falcon, revealing the Red Reaver and the Leyak, and Firwirrung some distance in front of them. They hovered in the sky, trading turbolaser fire as their squadrons of fighters dogfight with one another, supported by their capital ship's own point defense blasters. Some of the Kanjiklub fighters, including a custom-painted, heavily modified Kihraxz Starfighter, broke off from the battle and went after the Falcon. There's at least 8 of them.
"Oh, come on, really?" Chewbacca almost yelled. "We've got incoming Kanjiklubbers! Eight of them!"
"That's too many!" Rey protested.
"Relax," said Chewbacca. "I've got just the thing that will even the odds."
Chewbacca opened up a panel on his console, revealing a set of switches and buttons. He pulled one of the switches, activating a secret hull plate between the Falcon's mandibles that slid open, revealing a rack of Assault Concussion Missiles. A holographic HUD appeared in front of the Wookiee, and bright orange crosshairs lined up with one of the fighters in the middle of the formation: a Quadjumper. The targeting computer let out a tone to confirm lock, and Chewbacca wasted no time in pushing the big red button on the console with the word LAUNCH written on it with permanent marker.
"Happy Life Day!" whooped Chewbacca. "Enjoy your present!"
One of the Assault Missiles, packed with shrapnel, flew out of the Falcon's missile rack, trailing orange plasma. The Kanjiklub Quadjumper attempted to evade, but was hit right in the cockpit, obliterating it. The explosion's shockwave, augmented by shards of hot titanium and chunks of shrapnel, caught six other Kanjiklub fighters, destroying three of them and severely damaging the rest, leaving them easy pickings for Rey's Quad Laser as the Falcon streaked past the Kanjiklubbers' broken formation. Only the Custom Kihraxz survived both the explosion and the onslaught of blaster fire.
"One! Two! THREE!" shouted Rey, counting her kills. "I got three of them!"
"Don't get cocky!" warned Chewbacca. "We still have a Kanjiklubber on our tail!"
"I'll get him, too!"
Rey lined up the Custom Kihraxz on her scope, and opened fire... only for it to perform a barrel roll around her shots. Rey can only graze its shields.
"Ooor maybe not," Rey muttered nervously. "This guy's good; who is he?"
Inside the Kihraxz's cockpit, Razoo Qin-Fee snarled as his shield display blinked red and turned blue, registering a hit.
"You're gonna pay for that, Solo..." he growled.
He pitched up to get a better shot at the Falcon's dorsal hull, but Chewbacca rolled to keep him on the customized transport's narrow profile... not that it mattered, as Razoo switched from the Kihraxz's blasters to its Ion Missile launchers. The brigand maintained the Falcon in his holographic sights, almost getting a lock... before the entire cockpit shook. Razoo's shield display blinked red, and was now a constant orange.
"The hell?!" He screamed. He had not kept an eye on his sensor display: the rear quadrant had a lot of red dots on it.
Said dots belonged to the Dunelizards that were also chasing the Falcon, and they had decided to throw some of their firepower Razoo's way, forcing him to disengage from the Falcon to defend himself. Switching from his Ion missiles to his Heavy Lasers Cannons, he made the Guavians pay for their attempt on his life, taking out one of the Dunelizards with a lucky shot to the cockpit.
But the Falcon was not out of trouble - the two warships were keeping pace with it, and Chewbacca could see the Star Galleon opening its tractor beam array...
Inside the Falcon's engine room, a final spark blew out as R2-D2 finished soldering the connection between two parts – one stock, the other almost alien in its complexity.
"SLAM is ready to go!" the droid transmitted.
"About time!" Chewbacca growled over the intercom. "Alright then, hang on!"
"Wait!" Rey shouted from the gunner's pit. Something was wrong with the guns: on the turret controls, four orange capacitor displays slowly dimmed into nothing. "What's SLAM?!"
Back in the engine room, the machine R2-D2 was working on began to glow yellow as the old droid clamped itself down, securing itself for what was to come.
"Alright, HANG ON!" Chewbacca flipped up another panel, this one hiding a bigger, redder button with the word SLAM printed on it.
"...Guys?" Rey was getting worried. "Seriously, what's SLAM?"
Without reply, Chewbacca slammed the SLAM button, activating the Falcon's SubLight Acceleration Motor. The Falcon's inertial dampeners failed for a second, a second during which he could feel himself being pushed back into his seat as the ship screamed plasma out of its array of thrusters. He checked the speed readouts on the dashboard: A ludicrous 300 Megalights!
Rey shrieked in the background as the Falcon streaked towards the Leyak, loosing several missiles just as the Kanjiklub ship attempted to pull in the modified transport with its tractor beams. There had been no tone lock - the missiles had been dumbfired, and were being pulled by the beams, tripling their acceleration as they were guided straight into the tractor array.
The resulting impact obliterated the tractors, denying the Leyak its prize...
Chewbacca made a hard turn back towards the flying city, grazing the modified Star Galleon with the YT-1300's shields, leaving behind sparks in the air and scorch marks on the enemy warship's hull.
Chewbacca laughed and laughed – he hadn't pushed the old girl like this in almost a decade!
On the Leyak's bridge, Tasu Leech was trembling with rage, trying to maintain a veneer of calm so that his men didn't lose theirs. Seeing Han's ship on the main viewscreen, leaving them to eat its exhaust was making that VERY difficult.
Alarm lights flashed red.
"We've lost our starboard tractor beams!" shouted a crewman. "Damage reported across deck three, four and five! Casualties—"
Tasu slammed his fist over his armrest. "I don't care!" he snarled. "Full speed ahead! GUNNERY! Do you have a lock?!"
"We have lock!" shouted the gunnery officer back.
"THEN FIRE EVERYTHING!" Tasu screamed. Han Solo would not get away – not this time!
Panels on each side of the Leyak opened up to reveal missile racks packed with Homing Missiles. They swarmed out out like a school of fish, trailing smoke as they raced towards the Falcon, trying and failing to keep up with it as it flew towards the Firwirrung. The Falcon almost made it, but suddenly its engines begin to stutter and cough.
Inside the engine room, R2-D2's built-in fire extinguisher sprayed out foam all over the SLAM unit, choking out its flames.
"The SLAM unit's fried!" he beeped loudly.
Back in the cockpit, Chewbacca watched as thirty blips on the sensor display begin to approach. Quickly, he pressed a button, making the Falcon release sixty flares in an attempt to trick the homing missiles' guidance systems. Half of them veered off, chasing bright lights and smoke instead of their intended target. The other fifteen missiles continued the chase, slowly gaining on the Falcon as it reached Firwirrung.
"I still haven't got power back to the guns!" Rey shouted into her headset. "I can't shoot those missiles down!"
"That's alright." Chewbacca popped his neck and readied himself for something, something Han Solo had pulled off a long, long time ago. "Let me show you what I've learned from the Corellian Kid."
Chewbacca grasped the controls firmly, and took the Falcon into the city atop the flying stone star, making the craft weave across Gothic towers and spires of dark green stone. The missiles followed the same course, doggedly... but not perfectly.
One by one they impacted against the walls of Firwirrung's ancient buildings, until none remained save one. That one was inches from the Falcon's thrusters, until Chewbacca pulled off a barrel roll that confused its tracking, and before it can reacquire its target, it smashed itself against a tower's bell. The toll rang out across the city as Chewbacca let out a roar of victory. He was joined by R2-D2's whistles and beeps and Rey's cheers over the intercom.
They were quickly drowned out by the alarm on the sensor screen.
Surging out from behind a tower, engines screaming, Razoo's starfighter turned to face the Falcon.
"You're mine," Razoo growled as he pressed the trigger on his flight stick, unleashing a barrage of blaster fire from his twin linked heavy cannons. Large bolts of energy hammered against the Falcon's shields, bringing them down. Razoo smirked: Han Solo was as good as dead...
Thoughts of imminent victory were quickly ruined by his HUD's heat gauge blinking. The guns fired one last shot, but it would take precious seconds before they could fire again.
In the Falcon's cockpit, the shield's meter on Chewbacca's dashboard blinked red as the Falcon reeled from the blast. In the gunner pit, Rey tracked the Kihraxz with the Quad Laser, but the capacitor gauges were still empty.
"R2!" she yelled, frustrated, constantly mashing the triggers. She didn't have Finn's trigger discipline. "He's coming around for another attack!"
"Working on it!" R2 responded.
"I can give you four shots!" As he said this, the four gauges lit up, and they each only had one glowing red pip on them. "Make them count!"
Rey lined up a shot, and fired.
It went wide.
"Blast!" she cursed.
Another shot, and this time the Kihraxz performed a twist that threw her off, causing her to hit a building instead.
"Come on..." she muttered, grinding her teeth.
The Kihraxz steadied its course, baiting her to take another shot. Rey did so, just as the enemy pilot juked around it. Another miss.
Unwisely, Rey fired again... or she would have, if her finger hadn't just stopped just a millimeter short of pulling the trigger.
"Breathe..." she heard a voice tell her.
"...Luke?" muttered Rey. She did not hear Chewbacca's confused reply.
"Calm yourself. Close your eyes. Focus."
Against all sense, Rey did what the voice in her head told her to do, taking the extra step of shutting down the targeting screen on the Turret control. She breathed deeply, slowly, closed her eyes, and...
...And she was at once outside the Falcon, and within it, and aware of all things outside of it. She focused on the Kihraxz – and its pilot. He was like a coiled snake, ready to strike at the slightest provocation... or slither out of reach.
No, that wasn't right. He was... Rey couldn't find the word for what he was, but there was a rhythm to what he did. It was brutal and fast, but there was a pattern to his flying, and once Rey got a sense for it...
Rey took another deep breath – she was focused, and calm.
Razoo's eyes were narrowed in cold anger, focused on his crosshairs as he lined up the kill shot...
The photon bolt was unleashed from the gun. The shot, aimed at where the craft should be, flew out to meet the craft, and sunk itself deep into one of its engines.
Rey breathed a sigh of relief. "Four!"
Screaming in rage over the alarms, Razoo wrestled with the controls to tame his out of control fighter... he succeeded, just long enough to aim its nose at the Falcon again, to take one spiteful shot at it.
"DIE, HAN!" he yelled.
The heavy blaster bolt hit the Falcon right in the thruster array.
Razoo smiled – he had done it, and it was time to bail. He pulled the ejection lever.
The Kihraxz's cockpit erupted as its pilot ejected, his seat soaring high before a chute deployed and he was caught by the winds. The fighter flattened itself against a building before erupting into a pillar of flame.
Razoo did not mind this one bit, not while he could see the Falcon struggling to maintain its altitude while engines sputtered, smoke and fire streaming from the blaster hole.
"Come on, old girl!" said Chewbacca to his beloved ship. She protested through the HUD, relaying that the shot that got into the engine had managed to penetrate deep into a liquid pump, the one that fed the repulsorlifts their coolant. They were starting to overheat, and when they would inevitably shut down, the Falcon would be little more than a brick with thrusters. "Hold it together," he begged the Falcon, "I know you can do it..."
Almost as soon as Chewbacca thought to flip the craft to expose the hot repulsorlifts to the cooling rain, the Falcon's engines decided it was time to die. Outside, all that could be heard was the wind flowing past the ship as it glided through the air, before its nose began to tip downwards. In the cockpit, Chewbacca pulled a red lever, activating the emergency thrusters. Jets of high-pressure cold gas vented below the ship, but the Falcon was still on its way down.
"Brace yourselves!" yelled Chewbacca.
The Falcon glided on, moving past the flying city's spires. It grazed the lightning rod of a clock tower, the walls of a library, narrowly missed the roof of a temple, then finally hit the cobblestones of a main street, sliding and spinning on and on until it was meters away from the edge of one of Firwirrung's six arms.
Above the Falcon, on the opposite end of the city, the Leyak and the Red Reaver loomed overhead, still trading fire as transports and dropships made their way towards the crashed transport.
But the sorceresses had other plans, and the criminals did not figure into them. One of Firwirrung's long dormant lightning cannons came to life, and fired a stream of electricity at one of the dropships. The bolts chained to the others in the formation, not quite destroying them, but ensuring they would also crash into the city. Larger weapons woke up, aimed at the Leyak and the Red Reaver, and these cannons loosed tear-shaped projectiles of electricity that blow through the large vessel's hulls.
The Red Reaver, being the more sleek vessel, was the most damaged, but it launched several escape pods before its reactor core overloaded and obliterated the ship in a conflagration of plasma. The Leyak, meanwhile, did not explode, nor did it launch escape pods; instead, it managed to crash in the middle of the Temple District, kilometers away from the Falcon.
Thunder and blaster raged for a minute longer, and then quieted, leaving nothing but the rain.
Within the depths of Firwirrung, far below the streets and well past the sewers, there were vast interconnected ossuary chambers, the ceilings supported by High Dagonian pillars and arches. Inside each of these chambers were intricately decorated stone pods, arrayed against the walls, caked in centuries of sediment and sea flora.
A song echoed across the stone of the walls, the bones of the city: a lullaby in an old tongue, sung by a mournful Elder Crone.
One of the pods hissed, as copper bolts slid out. It opened, ever so slightly.
Clawed fingers slid out of the gap.
"It is time to feed..." muttered Aisa, the eldest of the Sorceresses of Ssi-Ruuk.
Suspended above the ground by the straps of the gunner's chair, Rey opened her eyes with a start as sparks pop around her. She winced in pain: there was a cut on her forehead, and she could feel a welt on her skull.
"Oh, my head..."
She looked ahead – she was facing the transpariteel canopy, cracked and scrapped, and saw nothing but stone floor beyond that. The Falcon's bottom gun, what little she could see of it, was ruined, no doubt crushed and torn into a hundred parts behind the ship.
At the top of the conduit that led to the rest of the ship, Chewbacca's growls and roars could be heard.
"Rey?" he whined. "Are you still in one piece?" he growled.
"Yeah, I'm okay!" replied Rey. "Just a little dizzy, that's all!"
"Then hurry to the main hold!" His voice grew fainter, along his footfalls. "We haven't got much time!"
"Alright, alright, just let me..."
Rey undid her seatbelt, and fell.
The wall panel popped off after a couple of knocks in the right spots, and Chewbacca moved it away, revealing his private arsenal of firearms, vibroweapons, and other equipment. Her staff in hand, Rey stepped into the cargo hold, and walked up behind the Wookiee, surprised.
"Stars! What's all this?"
"Souvenirs from the Clone Wars," replied Chewbacca, proudly. "And the Thrawn campaign," he added. That one, he wasn't as proud of.
"There's a fortune of hardware here!" Rey exclaims. "If Unkar had known..."
Chewbacca began to equip himself with weapons and equipment from the hidden racks and compartments: A ceramite vest with a personal shield, a large repeater blaster, a sawed-off concussion rifle, a pack of laser trip mines, and a Wookie Vibrosword.
To Rey, he handed a small comm-link, and an utility belt, upgraded with a fully charged personal shield, a small medkit, and a clip-on flashlight. Chewbacca pointed at the shield's emitter.
"Personal shield, great against blasters, not so great against slugthrowers and vibroblades. Got it?"
Rey nodded. "Got it. I could use a blaster though..."
Chewbacca's hand hovered over several impressive assault rifles and carbines, each one bigger than the last... before subverting Rey's expectations and going for a much smaller K16 Bryar Pistol instead.
"That's it?" Rey couldn't hide her disappointment at the weapon. It didn't look like much.
Chewbacca handed it to her, holding it by the leather holster. "The rifles are all too heavy for you," he stated, gesturing at her thin frame.
Chewbacca grumbled. "Hey, the Bryar's a good gun: Press and hold the trigger, wait, release it, and the charged shot will punch through several centimeters of armour. This thing has downed AT-STs!"
"If you say so..."
Rey grabbed the pistol by the grip, and suddenly, just like the first time she grasped Anakin's lightsaber, the Bryar's history came to her in a vision. Her surroundings twisted into the blackness of her iris, until...
...Until she saw through the eyes of an Elite Rebel Mercenary as he kills his way through the fiery ruins of Tak, a Rebel base taken over by Palpatine's Imperial Stormtroopers.
"Emperor protect us," screamed one of them. "It's HIM! It's —"
The stormtrooper barely had time to aim his blaster rifle before the Merc perforates his brain with a shot from his Bryar Pistol, the very same gun Rey is grasping in her hand in the present.
Moving snapshots flashed across her vision, one for every stormtrooper killed by the weapon, each death causing more and more terror in their living comrades, who would soon join them.
"It's just one man!" shouted an officer over the base's loudspeaker system. "You outnumber and outgun him! Shoot him!"
"We ARE shooting him!" screamed a trooper into his helmet's mic. "He just won't DIE!"
Trooper corpses littered the halls of Tak base, amidst the smoking corpses of the Rebels and refugees they had murdered. The Merc had been creative with his kills, favouring close quarters. When the troopers got very close, the insane, murderous rebel used his vibroknife on them, and he always stabbed somewhere painful before finishing the Imps off.
"No, NO!" The Stormtrooper cried. It did him no good, and he gurgled as the vibroknife was buried into his neck, below the ear, as the Merc shot another trooper in the face. The moving snapshots continued, each one a more brutal stormtrooper's death than the last, until things finally settled down. The slaughter was almost over...
Rey saw through the Mercenary's eyes as he wiped blood on his knife off on a dead Imperial Officer's jacket. He heard someone whimper, and the Merc turned to see a quaking, kneeling, surrendering stormtrooper, his weapon at his feet in the middle of a growing puddle of urine.
"I surrender! I surrender!" he cried out.
The Merc approached him... slowly.
"Have mercy, please!" he cried.
The Merc stopped, and turned his gaze to the left towards the charred corpses of a family. Mother, father, and son. To the right, Rebel soldiers. Survivors. Shot in the back of the head.
No Mercy given, no mercy granted.
Suddenly, the Merc grabbed the last stormtrooper by the neck, and pressed the barrel of the Bryar under the stormtrooper's chin, before holding the trigger. The stormtrooper cried frantically until...
...Until the vision bled away, and Rey was back aboard the Falcon, in the present. She stumbled backwards, and put her hand over her mouth, trying to suppress the urge to puke.
The Bryar was still in her hand.
"Looks like you've got a concussion," concluded Chewbacca, after a moment's confusion. He quickly fished out a disposable hypospray from his medkit.
"No, I'm okay!" the girl shook her head. "It's just..." she stared at the gun. "This weapon... Where did you find it? It's got... it's got a history."
"A history for another time," said Chewbacca, pushing the hypo against her bare arm. "Hold still..."
There was a beep as Chewbacca injected Rey with a light stim.
The Falcon's main loading ramp's door opened with the groan of rusty metal, revealing Rey, Chewbacca and R2-D2. The two bipeds jumped down from the ramp onto the rain-slick cobblestone ground of Firwirrung, while the droid fired his thrusters. As he landed, Rey looked up in the darkened sky, watching for the fleet that had pursued them.
Only a Dunelizard fighter remained, and it would have strafed the Falcon had it not been promptly shot down by a lightning gun. As it crashed into a nearby district, Rey's gaze panned across the city, and she saw pillars of smoke emerging from crash sites, and roaring fuel fires defying the rain. The worst one was straight ahead, where the Leyak had crashed.
"Oh, my stars..." Rey muttered, before turning to the Wookiee. "Chewie, what's the plan now? If we try to escape..." We'll get fried, she left unsaid.
"Nothing's changed," said Chewbacca. "Head for that big tower, save Luke..." He looked at the Falcon... it did not look like it would fly again for a very long time, judging by the damage. "...find a ship with a hyperdrive, and then we get the hell out of here."
R2-D2 chirped and beeped. "And, you know, disabling those lightning guns would be a big plus."
Chewbacca growled at R2-D2 – he hated the old droid's sass. He switched his Repeater blaster cannon on. "Right," said Chewie. "Let's go save ourselves a Jedi."
The trio began their trek towards the center of the city, striding forward, unaware that, as always, the Porgs were watching...
...And atop the tower at the center of Firwirrung, so did the two Crones, for framed by the translucent curved edges of an orb was the Falcon's trio, as seen through the cursed eyes of the Porgs. The globe was held aloft in the pale, wrinkled, elongated hand of Verthandi the Matron Crone. From the shadows, her elder sister, Aisa the Eldest, spoke, her voice a rasping, wet cough.
"Poor, poor Nona," mourned Aisa, lamenting the death of their younger sister. Ssi-Ruuk's blessings had been upon them, and they had lived a very long time together, far more than other Dagonians normally did, and thanks to the traveller's gift they had endured even longer... only for the youngest among them to perish at the hands of some girl, a beast, and a machine. "Poor, poor Nona..." she repeated.
Verthandi, if she mourned Aisa's loss, did not show it. "Ah, but her death has stoked embers in the girl's blood," she said, her eyes fixed on the globe. "Aisa, do you feel it? The power in her, awakening..."
"Stoked by death," Aisa chided Verthandi. "Aisa's death."
"And pain, and blood!" Verthandi smiled. "Go, Aisa! Take your thralls and stoke the flames in her."
Aisa probed Verthandi's corrupted face for any ounce of regret, but found none. "As you wish, sister," she said, as she retreated in the dark, away from the light. Her footfalls were heavy, the sound laced with bass. A splash of water echoed in the dark...
...And she was gone, leaving Verthandi alone with Luke Skywalker, floating over the entechment prism that was slowly draining him of strength. Motes of light danced out of its core, as its harvest was wirelessly transfered to the rest of the Firwirrung's ancient machines.
Luke was beginning to wear thin, and he would not last the night.
"You don't have to do this," said Luke, pained.
Verthandi moved like a shadow, circling around him like a predator toying with a wounded prey.
"I can help you..." he continued, pleading.
"But you ARE helping, Je'daii..." Verthandi's voice seemed reassuring, but it was falsely so. "Our city lives again, all thanks to you."
"There's a better way..." said Luke. "I can show you..."
"There is NO other way," Verthandi denied. "Firwirrung's hunger is deep, and it would have taken the ritual sacrifice of millions for it to fly once more. But the power in your blood is worth that number, and the girl... the girl as twice as much, slumbering in her veins. What other power is there?"
"The Force," replied Luke.
The word angered Verthandi.
"...it's all around us, you just—AAAARGH!"
The entechment prism glowed red, and drained Luke's lifeforce more quickly, causing him great agony.
"The Force?" Verthandi seethed. "The Je'daii spoke of the Force, when they unseated us from our thrones! They sang of the Force, as they destroyed our armies! They chanted of the Force, as it drove them to hunt my people down to the last child! Do you think you can convert me? I, who had to suffer through the Blood War your masters declared on my kin and kind? No... No... it is YOU who will be converted, converted into the FUEL for the resurrection of the Ssi-Ruuk!"
By Verthandi's will, the draining relented, and Luke gasped, sighing in relief.
"Fear not..." reassured Verthandi, her tone filled with malice. "I will not kill you just yet. The girl, after all, seems to care about you a great deal..."
Verthandi approached Luke. Nona had been the curious one, but it was a trait Verthandi had shared with her. "Your daughter?" she probed.
"...No," Luke replied.
"A bride, then?" Verthandi taunted, curiosity making way for cruelty. "A girl groomed, just for you? What would poor, poor Mara say?"
Luke turned away, disgusted and hurt, and then gathered enough defiance to look Verthandi straight in the eye.
"Continue with this madness," he warned, "and she will be your slayer. She has too much of her father in her to give you any mercy."
Verthandi laughed, and had the prism make him scream some more.
The main street Rey and company had been striding on for ten minutes on curved around into a circle, forming a plaza, and at the center of that circular park stood the Temple of Sii-Ruuk, the central structure of the Temple District of Firwirrung.
Like all the buildings of in this flying city, the Temple of Sii-Ruuk was an architect's serenade to the High Dagonian Revival period, the walls decorated with bas-reliefs patterned after sea flora and fauna, set off by bronze inlays.
Despite resembling the Temple greatly, the homes and shops that surrounded it seemed more modern, with some brass machinery stuck on them to aid in the residents' comfort. The dark stone walls were two meters thick at least, marred with green algae, barnacles and coral branches, and they had withstood the test of time for centuries, maybe even millennia.
Unfortunately, the Temple of Sii-Ruuk had not weathered a Star Galleon crashing into it all that well. The Leyak and the Temple of Sii-Ruuk were now merged together, a mess of broken stone and bent durasteel, lit up by the blazing husks of fuel tanks. R2-D2 thought it was comical, the way the Star Galleon's rear end stuck out of the building's roof.
Hidden behind some cover, Rey was admiring the sight, while Chewbacca scanned the area with a pair of EV2 Macrobinoculars.
"What are we waiting for?" whispered Rey. "Luke's in pain... I can feel it."
"Deciding if we should go around or power through..." replied Chewbacca, cautious. "There's no telling what we'll face either way."
R2-D2's periscope turned to the Wookiee. "Relaaax, I'm pretty sure there isn't a dianoga around..."
"Shut it, droid!" Chewbacca snarled back, annoyed. Apparently someone had told the droid about one of Chewbacca's personal phobias, and the damned trashcan taunted him with that fact every chance it got. "There are worst things than squids."
Rey looked to her left, at one of the dark, foreboding alleys of the district, and gulped. "I vote through; no telling what's waiting in the dark." She looked at the Leyak's wreck, and shivered. "At least the fires will be warm."
Chewbacca turned to R2-D2. "Anything on sensors, droid?"
R2-D2's periscope spun, scanning the area thoroughly.
"I've got a few erratic life-signs..." he beeped, lowering his periscope. "Nothing we can't handle."
The blood-curdling scream made Rey shiver with fright. Blaster fire echoed through the temple, joining a faint chorus of weapons across the city... and then the echo died.
"On second thought!" Rey said quickly, "maybe the dark alleys won't be so bad?"
Chewbacca sighed. "No. We're going through, as the crow flies. I'll take point. You stay behind me and keep your eyes peeled for... whatever made that man scream."
Grasping her staff out of habit instead of the Bryar sheathed at her hip or the Lightsaber clipped on her belt, Rey followed closely behind Chewbacca as he stepped towards the Temple of Sii-Ruuk, with R2-D2 not far behind them.
A circular lock turned, unlocking the double doors of finely-carved metal, allowing them to be pushed apart by Chewbacca and Rey. The doors were huge, easily thrice the size of Chewbacca, and were incredibly heavy. It wasn't much trouble for a Wookiee, but Chewbacca was a bit shocked to see it wasn't impossible for a skinny human woman... even if she was grinding her teeth and her face was tomato-red from the struggle.
The inside of the Temple was a vast chamber that dominated the entirety of the building, illuminated by the Leyak's fires. It was surrounded by balconies, and topped by a fresco dome on which the rise of a god-fearing civilization — led by a trinity of beautiful, almost divine women — was elaborately painted on. Much of that story, sadly, laid on the floor in pieces of broken stone, thanks to the damage caused by the Leyak. Amazingly, despite the lack of visible pillars and the considerable damage, the ceiling had not completely fallen.
The floor was no less harmed: a portion of the Leyak's nose was buried under the floor of polished jade chips, close to the central altar. Said altar was surrounded by three statues of the same alien women on the fresco. One was young, another was old, and another was middle-aged.
The group moved through hundreds of the radially configured biers, on their way towards the door on the opposite end of the Temple. They passed the central Altar, and Rey caught a glimpse of a Kali Ma Dagger made of obsidian, inlaid with gold. Her scavenger's instincts made her reach out for it, eager for a prize, but reality began to distort, much like when she touched Anakin Skywalker's Lightsaber for the first time, or the Mercenary's Bryar pistol.
Rey looked up, and saw the statue of the middle-aged woman, wielding that same knife in one hand... and what looked like a heart, in the other. She could easily imagine the person the heart belonged to, screaming in agony...
Or maybe she wasn't imagining. Maybe she was recalling.
Wisely, Rey backed away from the altar, and hurried back to Chewbacca.
They arrived at the double doors, and Chewbacca attempted to turn its lock... but failed to even make it budge. On the other side of the door was the accumulation of close to a thousand years of sediment, on which coral and barnacles have thrived. The lock was held fast by it, and even Chewbacca's strength was not enough to make it move.
"Locked!" Chewbacca roared. "Blast it!"
"Nope, stuck. Sensors show a major buildup of ceramic and rock behind that thing."
"Let me try something," said Rey.
Quickly and with almost practiced ease, Rey twisted one of the ends of her staff, revealing a mount for various pieces of equipment. She twisted another ring, and the mount became wide enough for the lightsaber to be slotted in. After some tightening of a couple of bolts, Rey activated the blade. She had made herself a makeshift Lightsaber pike.
She produced a pair of welding googles from her sack, and put them on. "Look away!" she warned, before she planted the lightsaber into the lock, hoping to slice past both the door and the build-up. After a few seconds, she stopped to check her progress. Pulling down her goggles, she watched in surprise as the white hot glowing scar she had inflicted on the metal quickly faded. In seconds, the metal was cold once more.
"Blast!" Rey swore. "I forgot, this is a starship. The whole place is probably built for space travel..."
"Try the window," suggested Chewbacca, nodding at the one right next to the door.
As Chewbacca watched for anything lurking in the dark, Rey attempted to cut a hole big enough for a Wookiee to pass through. The lightsaber's blade eventually pierced through the incredibly thick glass, but...
"Hate to sound like Threepio," R2-D2 whistled. "But... at this rate? I calculate you'll cut that hole in exactly one hundred eighty-seven minutes and 45 seconds. We might as well go back around."
Chewbacca shook his head. "Outside is perfect ambush country, not an option. We stay on the main path."
"Well, that leaves the big hole that frigate made..." R2-D2 shone a light on the Leyak. Rey followed the the light's beam with her eyes, until it shone on the huge hole in the temple walls, some four stories above. The gap was soaked in burning fuel. He then shone his light on a spiral staircase.
"I see some stairs up... don't think you can walk through the flames, though... which leaves..."
Rey tracked R2-D2's light as it moved to the Leyak's bridge. The windows around its main bridge were shattered, their frame utterly twisted. Someone was slumped over the window, a shard of transparisteel in his gut.
Rey winced. That had to have been a terrible way to go.
She shook her head, and saw the Emergency rope ladders that led up to Bridge, no doubt deployed by the surviving crew.
Why aren't they here? wondered Rey, and recalled the horrible scream from earlier.
The Leyak's bridge had been reinforced against impacts, but even that didn't save it against the crash. Broken cables hung from the ceiling from twisted, rusty girders and broken panels. Lights from consoles flickered with flashes of blue, which contrast with the orange of a few console fires and the blood red of the emergency lights.
R2-D2 flew through one of the windows, and scanned the area with his periscope scanner. The only organics he could detect were the mangled corpses at their stations.
The captain's chair was empty.
"All clear," he beeped loudly. "Come on up!"
Rey and Chewbacca climbed their way up. As they did so, R2-D2, plugged into one of the bridge's data ports, bypassed some badly-maintained hardware and activated the ship's interior fire suppression system. Jets of foam hissed out, automatically aimed at sources of heat stronger than one thousand degrees.
"That should clear us a path," R2-D2 beeped, proudly.
"Got a better reading on those lifesigns?" Chewbacca growled.
"Sorry, still spotty," the droid swivelled his head left to right. "Those internal sensors haven't had proper maintenance in decades...Uh oh."
"Uh oh?" asked Rey. "What do you mean, uh oh?! Please tell me the reactor isn't going to blow?"
"No, the reactor's cold. It's just that the nearest hatch was on deck four, right by the tractor beam bank. According to diagnostics, it's been fused shut by an explosion. We're going to have to go further back, on deck one."
"Ship's tilted," said Rey. "That's gonna be a quite a climb...
"How far back?" asked Chewbacca.
"WAY back, to the engine room," replied R2-D2.
"Aren't we going to be too high up, though?" wondered the Wookiee.
"Don't worry," said the Droid. "I got that covered."
Guns in hand, Rey and company moved the through the corridors of the Leyak, scoured by recently extinguished fires. Backup power was failing. The emergency lights flickered, and soon the only illumination came from their flashlights. Noises from elsewhere echoed through the air vents: Blaster shots, snarls, and the occasional scream.
Things moved in the shadows, avoiding the flashlight's beams like a plague.
"Well, this is bringing back ugly memories of the Purge," said Chewbacca. "Speaking of which, if you see a zombie, shoot it in the legs and run."
"...What's a zombie?" asked Rey, confused.
"A dead man that yet lives, and his only desire is to devour the contents of your skull."
Rey glared at Chewbacca. "Oh, that's just great! I mean I really need something like that on my mind right now."
The ship's galley, much like the rest of the ship, was covered in soot, and metal twisted by heat. The tables were bolted down, but trays, utensils, and blocks of food lay amidst puddles of charcoal-burnt food processor slop.
Rey entered first, taking point, Bryar in one hand, supported by the other forearm. The other hand held the flashlight in a reverse grip. Rey kept the gun close to her body, an ideal close range stance.
An ideal military stance.
Chewbacca looked at her curiously. "Where did you train?" he asked.
"I'm sorry?" Rey did not look at him.
"The way you hold your gun..."
"Oh, am I doing it wrong?"
"No, it's fine. Almost perfect, even."
"Then what's wrong?"
"...Nevermind; it's not that important."
Suddenly, there was a noise in the dark, followed by a beeping sound from R2-D2.
"Lifesign!" warned R2-D2. "It's close!"
They could hear something moving behind the walls, making the metal creak, the sound echoing through the metal, prompting Rey and Chewbacca to point their weapons and flashlights all over the galley walls, looking for something hostile.
"I don't see anything..." said Rey.
Chewbacca growled menacingly, hoping to scare any stalker away.
R2-D2 cast his light over a door. "There! Reading's constant!"
Carefully, Rey and Chewbacca approached the door. "Stack up," Chewbacca ordered, pointing at the door.
"What?" Rey replied in confusion, dispelling any notion in Chewbacca that she had received military training.
Then, Rey pressed a button besides it, and the door slid up to reveal another hall... as well as the Kanliklubber in front of them. Even with guns pointed at him, the man is obviously relieved.
"Oh thank the gods," he breathed out, relieved. "I thought you were one of those things—"
Suddenly, the air vent burst open and a clawed hand grabbed the Kanjiklubber by the shoulder. The man screamed frantically as the hand tried to drag him into the vent. Rey wasted no time shooting up at the opening while Chewbacca tried to save the Kanjklubber, but he wasn't quite fast enough: the boot he grabbed slid off the man's foot.
"NO NO NO HELP ME! HELP MEEE!" The man's screams echoed through all the airvents, before fading away completely.
"What in the hell was that?!" yelled Rey.
"Whatever it was," said R2-D2, alarmed, "it's got friends! Clear life signs, coming up right behind us!"
As if to confirm this, snarls could be heard down the hall the trio had come through.
"RUN!" roared Chewbacca.
The group hurried down the stairwell to the lower levels of the ship, a task made difficult by the awkward angle of the ship, but not as difficult as the locked bulkhead door waiting for them at the bottom. The lock was analogue, and warped stuck. Without prompting, Rey took her makeshift lightsaber pike to it.
"Hurry up!" warned Chewbacca.
"Going as fast as I can," Rey yelled back.
Snarling and hissing came from above, and Chewbacca fired an extended burst with his Repeater Cannon. This kept the shadowy pursuers at bay, but no matter how much fire he loosed upstairs, Chewie couldn't confirm a single kill.
They were getting closer.
"I've only got so much coolant!" warned Chewbacca, holding his gun with one hand while the other tossed a trip mine. It stuck onto a panel far above them.
"I've almost got it!" said Rey.
They were getting closer, and the Repeater's heat gauge was starting to blink.
The door fell open, its edges glowing red hot. "Got it! Go!"
After following Rey and R2 in, Chewbacca laid another Laser trip mine right by the door. As they ran, something tripped the first mine. Its explosion resonated through the ship, and Rey looked back, hearing more inhuman wails and snarls.
"Stars!" she exclaimed. "I hope that slowed them down!"
The second mine went off.
"Only just a bit!" growled Chewbacca. "Keep running!"
The heavy metal double door slid open as Chewbacca stepped through, scanning the area down the sight of his REPEATER. Then, satisfied that the room was clear, he urged the other two to get in. Once Rey and R2 run in, Chewbacca closed the door, and shot the electronic panel, hoping to delay their pursuers. R2-D2 activated his rockets, and flew up to the main engineering console on a raised metal platform, right under the main reactor.
"Cover me!" the droid ordered. "This won't take long!"
There was a scratching on the door, as the pursuers tried to pry their way in. The doors groaned open, and claws peer through the gap. Chewbacca shot at them once the gap was wide enough to see the glint of the creatures' eyes, while Rey stabbed at them with her pike.
"R2, what are you doing?!" Rey yelled, as she managed to slice off a creature's finger. The scaly, clawed digit fell on the floor, and erupted into flame. "The reactor's cold! We don't have time for it to boot!"
"I know!" R2-D2 whistled back, "But the emergency super-capacitors still have a charge, I just need to... there!"
The supercapacitors fed power to the bridge, where the helm control consoles came to life, the words REPULSORLIFT ACTIVE and ENGAGING VERNIERS blinking red in Aurebesh on the screens, as their accompanying icons become animated.
Outside, the thrusters under the Leyak's nose fired. Pivoting on the wall, the ship's rear end quickly fell down...
"HOLD ON!" warned R2-D2.
Rey and Chewbacca lost their balance as the ship shifted angles. The rear engines smashed against the ground, causing it to crack, and Rey and Chewbacca fell upon the impact. The normal lights brightened, and the creatures hounding the trio screeched in pain, and their echoes faded into silence. Apparently, they were not fond of bright lights.
"You stupid droid!" roared Chewbacca. "You could have killed us!"
R2-D2 flew up to a door right above a ladder, leading starboard. "Snarl later! The power won't last!"
The airlock close to the rear of the ship opened a story above the ground, allowing Chewbacca and Rey to leap down below. As the Wookiee's feet hit the cobblestones, there was a slight rumbling that caused Rey to instinctively crouch and widen her stance. She looked down... and saw the cracks forming along the mortar and stone. R2-D2, his thrusters firing, was about to land.
"Careful!" warned Rey. "The ground looks like it's about to give!"
"It'll be fine," beeped R2-D2. "It would take a lot more weight, or a big explosion for it to crumble."
"Really?" Chewbacca's growled, amused. "So why are you coming down so slow?"
"...No sense in being careless," R2-D2 whistled in a low tone, as he landed gently and carefully.
They began to run towards the city's central tower when two M22-T Gunships belonging to the Guavian Death Gang fly in low, beneath the city's Lightning Cannon's coverage. They hovered above the trio, casting their spotlights on them.
"CHEWBACCA!" a voice screamed out of one of the gunship's loudspeakers. "STAY WHERE YOU ARE!" it barked.
"Oh, you've got to be kidding me..." whined Chewbacca. He recognized that voice.
Inside the gunship's gunnery seat sat Bala-Tik. A masked Guavian Pilot sat in front of him, controlling the craft.
"We've got unfinished business!" yelled Bala-Tik into a microphone.
The group, not caring one bit about Bala-Tik's business, began to run, but the Guavian negotiator aimed his Gunship's nose turret at the ground in front of them and barred their way with a wall of autoblaster fire.
"I SAID: DON'T. MOVE."
Rey looked up at Bala-Tik's gunship - it's been damaged, and a component at the front, right by the large transparent canopy, was shorting out.
"It's got no shields," Rey whispered.
Rey kept the Bryar at her side, and held the trigger down. There was a hum as the weapon built up a charge...
"WEAPONS ON THE GROUND, GET ON YOUR KNEES, AND HANDS ON THE BACK OF YOUR HEADS!"
"Chewie?" Rey whispered to Chewbacca. "Were you exaggerating about this gun? About AT-STs?
"Just as long as you don't miss..." Chewbacca whispered back.
The hum became a drone, and Rey closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and focused, just as she did earlier in the Falcon's turret.
Rey raised her gun, aimed it right at Bala-Tik'S GUNSHIP's cockpit, and released the trigger. There was a flashing beam of light, then a loud boom as the recoil knocked her back a step.
The cockpit canopy melted, letting the stream of heavy photons pass into the Pilot's eye, which continued on and grazed the side of Bala-Tik's face. The dead pilot slumped over his controls, causing the craft to spin.
Chewbacca seized this chance to draw his sawed off concussion rifle, aiming it at the other gunship. An ovoid made of blue energy surged out of the barrel, and hit the second gunship square on the nose. Its shields held, but the kinetic energy caused its nose to shoot up.
The second gunship's pilot frantically tried to regain control of the misaliged repulsorlifts, while the gunner behind him attempted to line up a shot at the group below, who have already begun to make a run for it, once again.
"Go after them!" shouted the gunner.
The cockpit was bathed in another flash of blue, as another concussion shot shakes the gunship, sending it spinning.
"I'm trying!" barked the pilot.
Meanwhile, atop the wreck of the Leyak, out came Tasu Leech, walking out of a gaping hole in the hull. His torn clothes were covered in alien blood, its colour matching the fluids on his High Frequency Machete. Slung over his back was a huge quad smart missile launcher. His eyes were wide with madness as he saw the Guavian Gunship chase after Chewbacca, the blue bubble of the Wookiee's shields blinking as some autoblaster shots hit him in the back.
"YOOOUUU GUAAAVIAAAN DOOOOOGS!" he screamed.
He shouldered the launcher, and aimed it at the gunship.
"HAN SOLO IS MIIIIIINE!"
The multipurpose missile flew towards the Gunship's rear, trailing white exhaust behind it. It found its mark, right into the pursuing gunship's main engine.
The craft briefly erupted into flames, showering flaming metal panels below it, but it was still mostly intact, chasing the trio down the main street as if it was the last thing it would do. The Droid and the Wookiee made a dash for it, but Rey, lacking the former's built-in rockets and the latter's powerful long legs, quickly lagged behind.
"Wait!" Rey gasped desperately. Don't go.
Chewbacca looked back, and his eyes widened: The gunship was about to crash nose first behind Rey. "Get down!" he snarled, but it was too late. The crash caused one of its fuel tanks to explode, and the resulting shockwave knocked Rey and Chewie down, and as predicted by R2-D2, cracked the ground, enough for it to break down completely. As Rey tried to get up, the cracks widened and elongated towards her...
"Oh no..." she muttered.
Meanwhile, Bala-Tik'S Gunship moved in to try and cut off Chewbacca's escape. A dozen panels on its side opened, each revealing a cybernetically enhanced Guavian Security Soldier, each one of them clad from head to toe in lightweight red armour, armed with TL-50 HEAVY REPEATER assault rifles and stun sticks. They dropped from four stories high, miniature repulsorlifts grafted into their bodies slowing down their fall to the ground. Slowly they marched, towards Chewbacca, who was struggling to get back up.
A pit widened beneath Rey, and horror dawned on Chewbacca's face as he realized what is about to happen. He began to run towards her, but the soldiers were already upon him, smacking him down with their stun sticks. The cracks widened even more, the stone gave way beneath Rey, and she fell into the depths of Firwirrung, crying out to Chewbacca to help her.
Razoo's eyes opened as he gasped, galvanized into consciousness by a splash of water on his face. He took stock of his situation: he was hanging by his parachute from one of the dreadnought's many sewage drains, which was spilling relatively clean sea water upon his head. A gust of wind pushed him, and the piece of synthetic fabric keeping him from falling into the water far down below tore up just a little. The tangle of cables attaching him to the parachute couldn't be climbed.
Faced with that situation, there was but one thing Razoo could say. "Well, Peck."
Fortunately, he noticed another nearby sewage drain, some distance below and in front of him. He pulled out his VT7 "Serpent" High-Frequency Machete from his thigh sheath, and with a blade in hand and its cord secured around his wrist, he began to swing himself back and forth towards the drain. When he had enough forward momentum, he pressed the machete's trigger, swung the humming blade over his head to cut the wires, and propelled himself towards the opening. Immediately, he let go of the blade, freeing his hand to better grab on to the stone ledge.
One of his hands slipped.
"Peck, Peck, PECK!" he swore, feeling as though the water below was getting further away. At Standard G, and at that altitude, the sea might as well have been concrete. The sudden stop at the end wouldn't have been pretty.
Summoning his strength, Razoo managed to regain a second firm grip on the edge, and pulled himself up. He breathed a sigh of relief, took a moment to catch his breath, and pressed a button on his wrist commlink.
"Razoo to any Klubber out there! Do you read?"
Only static responded.
"This is Razoo! Is anyone out there?"
Finally, something came on the radio channel: the insane laughter of Tasu Leech, before being drowned in blaster fire and screams... then more static. Razoo sighed, and switched his commlink off.
"I guess not," he said, shaking his head. "Damn you, Tasu... You should have listened to me!"
Razoo shivered under the rain, and looked behind him for refuge. The drain's bars were too narrow for him to fit through. Thankfully, a VT7 was rated for metalwork, and after a good swing, the bars clattered into the flow of brackish water, both ends red hot. Razoo stepped over them, peering into the dark and seeing nothing, not even the shadows moving around the corner.
What a wonderful smell I've discovered, he thought, wincing as his nostrils took in the scent of... it wasn't quite sewage, but it was definitely disgusting.
He reached for a slow burning signal flare on his bandolier and ignited it, the resulting crimson light bathing the wide passage. Razoo found no one and nothing else. The way illuminated, and with no one to call upon and nowhere else to go, the gangster proceeded forward...
Rey's body lay on the bottom of a pit some ten stories high, amidst pieces of rubble made wet by both the rain and the streams that poured out of broken pipes above her. She groaned in pain: miraculously, the fall neither killed her nor broke her bones, at least not completely. She was, however, badly bruised.
From above, a Porg flew down and perched itself on a jagged piece of rock, and stared at Rey with the black soulless pools that were its eyes. Through magic or science, the Porg transmitted what it saw to the Firwirrung's Core Room, where Verthandi stared into her orb. With a gesture, the vision inside the orb changed into the image of Aisa.
"The girl has fallen into the catacombs," she said, "and she is alight with pain. Go, go before she wakes and evades you."
Verthandi switched the orb's vision back, just as something with eight legs jumped at the Porg's eye.
It was the purple spider.
The leaping arachnid landed right onto the Porg's face, and the round bird took flight in an attempt to shake off the insect. Suddenly, it fell like a rock behind a piece of debris.
Awful sounds emerged from that spot, with clawed shadows stabbing and cutting. After a moment of gnashing and slurping, all was quiet, and the Spider stepped into the light, looking none the worse for wear. It even let out a tiny burp.
It leapt and bounced towards Rey, landing on her face, and attempted to wake her up by tickling her nose. Her eyes fluttered open, before focusing on the tiny creature.
It loomed over her left eye, and waved at her. Hello there.
"Hey..." she groaned back. "Ooh! Oh... I hurt all over."
Rey did not bother to get up as she reached for the medkit on her belt and pulled out a small one-use healing stim. She injected it in her arm, and in seconds the bruises on her skin began to shrink. She sat up, tested the motion of her arm, and winced.
"Ack!" she cried. "I guess this stuff takes time to work..."
Rey looked up, trying to estimate how far she fell, and thus how far she'd have to climb. It was a long, long way up.
"It's a miracle I'm alive..." she took a deep breath, preparing to shout, "CHEWIE! ARTOO! ARE YOU UP THERE?"
Rey noticed the spider crawling on her knee. She cupped her hands near it, and the spider leapt onto her palms.
"Hey you. I had almost forgotten about you..."
The Spider nodded.
"You're with me for the long haul, aren't you?" she said, bringing the creature close to get a better look at it.
The Spider nodded again, smiling with its big eyes. Unlike the Porgs, the two larger ones that dominated its face seemed more... alive, somehow. They were just as black and glistening as the fat birds', but they had gold irises, making them appear almost sapient.
"I guess I ought to call you something, then. How about... how about Peter?"
The Spider shook its head, and frowned.
"Hm, you're right, you're a lot smaller than the one in those storybooks... how about Cuddles, then?"
The spider looked up, pondering if being called Cuddles for the duration of its existence would suit it, then nodded.
"Cuddles it is!"
Rey put Cuddles on her shoulder, then noticed her makeshift Lightsaber Pike on the ground a few meters away. She reached out to it, pulling at it with the Force, but only the tip of the staff moved, as if the Force could only affect the lightsaber stuck on it. Thus, the weight of the staff slowed Rey's telekinetic pull quite a bit. It made her way into her hand, if a bit awkwardly, dragging the other end of the staff on the ground.
That made a lot of noise.
"Cuddles?" she asked. "Have you seen my blaster? It's... black, with a mag on the side." As if a spider would know what a blaster is, she chided herself.
She needed not worry, for Cuddles understood, and bounced a couple of times on her shoulder before jumping off. Rey got up, and found her ankle still aching. Leaning on her staff for support, she followed Cuddles to her weapon, and upon seeing it she reached out with the Force, just as she did with the Pike.
The pistol did not move.
Rey was puzzled by this, but tried again, and that time it barely moved. Frustrated, she picked it up by hand, and put it back into its holster.
Suddenly, heavy footsteps echoed through the wide sewer pipes above. They were heavy, and steady, and accompanied by the sound of shears opening and closing.
"Giiiirl..." the elder crone's croak seemed like it came from everywhere. Rey gasped at the sound, as the frightened spider jumped into her hair and hid between the strands, quaking with fear. "Wheeere are yoooouuuuu...?"
Frantically looking for a way out, Rey only found a passage amidst the rubble that would lead her deeper into the catacombs. She ran to the mouth of the dark passage, peered into it, and hesitation stopped her...
"There you are!"
Rey looked up, and glimpsed the Crone's mass of tattered black cloth coming through one of larger broken pipes. Her fight or flight instincts took over, choosing flight, and so Flashlight in hand, she ran — limping! — deeper into the passage.
Aisa leapt off from the broken mouth of the sewer pipe, her landing heralded by the cracking of stone and the splashing of water. She gave chase, and while she was slow, her strides were long, steady, and loud...
...And no matter how far she ran through the catacombs Rey, was stalked by the sound. Against all sense, the direction it came from seemed to change, as if the large, elder crone could go from one place to another in an instant.
The passages were almost labyrinthine: interconnected corridors of finely carved rock, inlaid with the bones of the city's dead. Rey tried to maintain a straight course, using her flashlight to look ahead and avoid dead ends. But always, the steady footfalls hounded her.
The footfalls... and the shears.
Rey looked at the flashlight, and something occurred to her.
The plates of barnacles on Aisa's legs cracked and popped as they tapped each other, their slithering proboscises reaching out for food even as she strode through the passages. Her shears' blades ground against each other menacingly - the promise of a gruesome death. Progressively, the halls ahead became brighter with the light that Aisa had been using to track Rey. The strides became faster, the shears grind harder... Could it have been that easy? Was the chase over already?
No, Aisa realized, as her sea lice-infested toes tapped the light projecting cylinder, their inhabitants opening a nail to see what could possibly be so bright, only to retreat in fear of its intensity. A hand, covered in a gauntlet of hardened coral, poked the portable light with a taloned finger out of curiosity, then picked it up.
"Clever girl..." croaked Aisa, before coughing up a sea parasite. "Clever, clever girl." Aisa held up the flashlight, and smiled.
Rey limped rapidly through the passages, Dagonian skulls set into the walls grinning at her all along the way, dimly lit by the blue glow of the Pike in her hands. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea, she thought. There won't be any looking down a passage for dead ends anymore, she knew. There was the echo of a croak as Aisa called for aid, and the sound was answered by the same snarls and screeches that had dogged her and her friends back on the Star Galleon.
"Oh no..." she muttered, frightened.
Rey hurried, but winced in pain, the stim having yet to reach her damaged ankle, or her bruised lung. There's got to be a way out, she thought desperately. There's gotta be!
Rey limped down a passage, and suddenly the blue light illuminated a wall.
A dead end.
The snarls were getting closer...
Rey was beginning to despair. "No, no, no..."
The wall was made of solid stone, but something had cracked it a long time ago, to the point that there was a visible hole in the wall, the center of a web of fractures. Something was barely visible behind it, but that did not matter: the wall wasn't as thick as the Temple's walls, so Rey attempted to cut through the rock with the lightsaber...
It was taking too long.
The snarls were getting closer...
Desperately, Rey stopped cutting, and shoulder checked the wall. Some chips of stone fell off, and she burned herself on the white hot stone, but the wall held.
She tried again.
The wall did not yield.
It held, and she could imagine it defying her, taunting her with her impending doom. It had a voice, sampled from her head, and that voice was Unkar Plutt's.
And the snarls were getting closer, and turned into eager hissing.
Suddenly, Rey's eyes flashed gold, and a power borne out of fear and blood welled up in her heart, and surged out of her throat:
"BREAK, DAMN YOU!"
The Force Scream's shockwave hit the wall almost point-blank, and the stone shattered outwards, opening the way to an entire Undercity at the core of the Temple District. The floor was only two stories down, and Rey leapt, not thinking twice about escaping her pursuers. The snarls turned frantic – the prey was escaping!
Landing with far more grace than she had thought possible, Rey found herself in the center of a wide street, with thousands of buildings on each side of it, each one taller than the last the further from the main street one went, giving the impression of waves of stone, brick and tiles about to crash into each other. Everything was very faintly lit by the blue gloom of countless orbs of light, which were mounted on tall, elegantly decorated lamp posts on every street, or set to light fixtures atop arches or the sides of pillars.
Switching off her lightsaber, Rey ran into the dark, and found a place to hide, in the shadows of storage boxes in front of some shop. What that shop sold, Rey couldn't quite tell, but the jars filled with semi-opaque liquid did not inspire confidence in her.
Suddenly, Aisa stepped through the broken wall, her weapon hidden beneath her tattered, hooded cloak.
Behind her, a dozen shadows moved, then stopped, awaiting her commands. They were much shorter than she was, and lacked her deformations. Their slender, athletic bodies were covered in worn, hooded cloaks, beneath which the glow of their reptilian eyes could be seen.
These alien humanoids, with the features of men, lizards and fish, were the Reavers.
Suddenly, Aisa raised her hand, and spoke in her native tongue.
T'leth, the ikhthýs word for 'light'.
The glow within the lamp spheres of the Undercity brightened, and together glowed as bright as the moon. In other places, such as the markets, the lamps glowed a bright pale yellow...
The contrast between the blue gloom and the yellow light... Rey found it beautiful, but only for a split second, as the surging lamps nearly flushed Rey out of her hiding spot in the shadows.
"Spread out," said Aisa. "Find her."
The Reavers growled, and pulled out their daggers – a similar design as the one Rey saw on the altar - and moved as blurs across the Undercity... They were not as fast Nona, Rey realized, and wondered how she knew the creatures' name. No matter, she thought, as she watched Aisa approached a nearby canal, and leap into the water.
There was a splash, and Aisa didn't come back out.
Rey found another hiding spot, behind another stack of crates, and a Reaver was on the other side. She winced; her wounds were getting better, but had not yet healed.
The Reaver moved closer, and Rey instinctively went for the Bryar, in spite of knowing that with her health, getting into a fight with one of those monsters was suicide.
As her hand gripped the weapon, the world spun and stretched, and vomitted itself into her eye... taking her elsewhere, and elsewhen...
Scarif. A world of jungles and beaches.
It was all quick flashes, but Rey saw outside herself as she watched the Mercenary – his face covered in a dark tactical helmet with a gold T visor - stalked Stormtroopers right outside an Imperial facility built in the jungle, evading searchlights, flashlights, and the narrow gaze of troopers.
"Too many," whispered Jyn Erso. Wait how do I know her name Her hair was blood and copper, and her eyes bright and blue. "How do you want to do this?"
More flashes. Crouchwalking behind cover. Waiting for the right moment to move. To strike. Stabbing a man in the right spot to kill him and prevent him from screaming at once. Chokeholds. Takedowns.
These were memories of a killer.
The best of all killers, forgotten, redacted, erased.
"Stay in the shadows..." replied the Mercenary. His voice, it was low and warm and Rey liked it. "Avoid the light... and follow my lead."
Stay in the shadows, avoid the light. Whatever Rey retained from these visions, it would be this, at least. She shook the vision away... and felt the Witch's presence right besides her, whispering something in her ear:
Move as he once did. Embrace the shadows... and these creatures shall be your prey.
Rey gasped, and whirled around. The Witch was nowhere to be found.
Hearing the gasp, the Reaver moved in, and just as he was about to catch Rey... she moved quietly around the large crate, keeping it between herself and her stalker. Eventually he looked away, and Rey took that opportunity to make a dash for an open window.
Through it all, she felt oddly calm.
Another Reaver stepped steadily in front of another well-stocked store, its eyes scanning left and right for Rey as it passed by a shadow cast by a large Obelisk in the center of the Undercity. The footsteps of the Reaver became more distant as it moved away from the shadow.
Rey stopped holding her breath, and she emerged from the shadow, up to that point completely hidden from the Reaver's unfriendly eyes... as if by magicks.
The next reaver stoked the light within a crystal lantern framed in steel... not that he needed to, as the lights of the undercity's marketplace were numerous. Still, there were many little hiding places among the stalls, casting little shadows, and a light could have served him well.
Rey stalked him, keeping any cover between herself and the light, and thus... staying in shadow, and in doing so, stayed unseen.
A Porg looked on from above, and failed to see Rey... but it did see the group of four Guavian soldiers coming through the plaza, moving in formation, scanning the area down the holographic sights of their TL-50 Repeater carbines. They stopped by a large fountain, stone statues of the three priestesses of Ssi-Ruuk erected at the center. Rey was watching them from afar, hidden in shadow.
"Scout team four here," said their leader into its helmet's integrated commlink. "We've found a whole CITY down here. Sending automap data. Nothing that looks like treasure so far. Over."
Rey could not hear the response.
"We checked out the fires," continued the leader. "Someone was cooking a whole bunch of fat birds, for some reason... No, didn't eat them. Sorry, by cooked, I meant incinerated. We may have a pyromaniac on the loose, or something."
Suddenly, there was a sound coming from the statue, a lullaby, hummed so gently even a killing machine like the Guavian was pulled in. One of the soldiers approached the fountain, and peered into it, staring at his own reflection overlaying the shallow surface of jade chips.
"See anything?" asked his teammate.
Two black blades, wreathed in a dark red aura, splashed out and came together, digging into the soldier's neck... but not quite beheading him, not yet. Aisa's immense form rose from the water, hoisting the soldier up as the obsidian shears drained the life out of the cyborg, his very life turned to red streams of energy that Aisa drank from her skin... and the many living orifices on her shell.
"HOSTILE!" the lead Guavian screamed. "OPEN FIRE!"
Repeater bolts, hundreds of them, impacted with a dull thud upon Aisa's living armour, leaving her unbothered. "Flesh and Clockwork, working in accord?" she said, curiously, admiring the cybernetic man caught in her shears, pondering the possibilities of such a combination. "Fascinating."
Aisa lifted her shears and opened them, sending the Guavian soldier flying up, before closing them again, slicing him in two as he came down. His two halves turned to dust.
Rey watched in horror as the soldiers kept pouring Repeater fire into Aisa, whose hardened skin barely buckled from the barrage. At least the younger crone had at least reacted to being shot. Rey did not stick around as Aisa sliced another Guavian in two, and took advantage of the distraction to get away into an alley, running like a bat out of the Maw.
So much for them being the prey... she thought.
She spotted a door, leading into the basement of a house. It was ajar...
...Rey carefully closed the door, then quietly locked it. She breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, a place to hide... she thought.
She leaned against a wall, and crouched into a sitting position.
"Let's rest a bit," she told herself.
Just as Rey let her head fall on her knees, she heard the whirr of a sawed-off blaster carbine loading a photon shot.
"Hands in the air," said the Kanjiklubber.
Rey sighed miserably as she looked to her left, and saw a Kanjiklubber with a double crest hairdo holding said blaster, some three meters away, the barrrel aimed at her head. The carbine was wrapped in cloth, which she found suspicious. Besides that, she saw no other weapon, not even the blade that was supposed to be in his thigh holster. His bandoliers' sockets were empty, too. Odd, that.
He was also obviously wounded: there was blood on his face, mixed in with the sweat. The source? Cuts and bite marks; the latter had to come from small creatures... Porgs, Rey realized. Of course they bite, the little—!
The Kanjiklubber raised his pistol, prompting her to get up.
Rey got up, and put her hands in the air. She knew the drill. Constable Zuvio had frisked her at gunpoint enough times for the procedure to stick.
But wait, this isn't a search! "I mean you no harm!" she said. "I-I'm not with those red guys!"
The Kanjiklubber shushed her, angrily, looking at the windows nervously.
"Turn around," he commanded as he approached.
Rey obeyed, and found herself being gently kicked in the back of the knee, then forced down before the brigand relieved her of her Bryar, her staff, and her sack. He kept frisking her for any hidden weapons... even in her hair. She felt Cuddles' weight lifted, and smiled.
"Who are you?" he demanded to know. "Which gang are you with?"
"I'm not with any gang!" Rey protested.
"Guess you're with Han's crew, then. Any reason why I shouldn't just waste you right now?"
"I got exactly one."
"You're not my t— URKH!"
The Kanjiklubber's eyes rolled up as he gurgled, while Cuddles removed his little teeth from the man's neck. The poison wasn't strong enough to kill the man, but he fell flat on his face and into unconsciousness all the same.
Cuddles leapt back onto Rey's shoulder just as the man fell.
Hidden from view, R2-D2 made his way down a street until he arrived at the Library, a large imposing building in which the Guavians had set up a temporary headquarters. It wasn't quite the same as the temple – less ostentatious, but far more erect and imposing looking, with more windows.
The droid spied Chewbacca being brought into it under guard. Several cyborg soldiers were also being brought in on stretchers, either in bad need of a mechanic, a medic, or both.
Inside, on a lower mezzanine suspended below an atrium that went up all the way to the roof, the soldiers forced the Wookiee on his knees in front of Balak-Tik, his face partially covered by a bacta patch to treat the wound from Rey's earlier shot.
Chewbacca's hands were tied behind his back by high-tensile strength carbon cords. He wouldn't be throttling the young Guavian negotiator any time soon.
"Where's Han Solo?" Bala-Tik asked, trying to hide his frustration. This job had not gone according to plan.
Chewbacca snarled defiantly, so Bala-Tik shocked him with a stun stick.
"Where's the damned treasure?"
More snarls. More shocks.
"Where's Han Solo?"
On and on it went. It was almost as if Bala-Tik did not really care, at first, simply looking for an excuse to torture the Wookiee. Eventually, Bala-Tik lost patience.
"Where is it?!" he shouted. "That old fart wouldn't get out of bed if there wasn't a payday in it for him! He wouldn't come out here unless there was a fortune somewhere! TELL ME WHERE IT IS!"
Meanwhile, a bored Guavian soldier examined one of the many books on the shelves. He skimmed through it, unable to read the alien script… and casually tossed it over his shoulder.
The book landed in a puddle with a thump, its pages ruined by the water.
Of course, as always, a Porg was watching, and elsewhere, Aisa let out a low, long growl. "Defilers…"
She turned to her Reavers, wiping a Guavian off her shears. "Keep looking for the girl. I have an infestation to cleanse."
Aisa walked to a fountain, and vanished into its water with a splash.
Outside of the Library, R2 kept waiting for an opportunity to present itself. To do what, he wasn't sure, but he just could not bear to leave Chewbacca behind. After all, they had been through so much together. Turned out they had both served in the Clone Wars, and they had never gotten the chance to share war stories.
Suddenly, the droid picked up a commlink signal.
"Chew... D2? Is anyone...?"
R2 compensated for the interference, and Rey's voice became clearer.
"Rey?" The droid transmitted in binary, relieved. "You're alive!"
"Oh, stars! You're alright! Where are you? Is Chewbacca...?"
"Chewie's okay! They've taken him prisoner and into what looks like a library..."
"A... a what?"
R2 couldn't believe his audio processors, but reminded himself that Rey was apparently raised on a planet with no major cities, nevermind a library. "A place with lots of books in it," he explained, trying not to sound too condescending. "The Guavians have taken it over. Where are you?" He checked the signal's direction. "Underground?"
"Yeah, and I honestly have no idea where I'm going. If I had a map, I could..."
"A map?..." R2 wondered where he could find one, and remembered. "Wait!"
R2 accessed the holo-projector inside his recharging rack, and quickly sifted through the data he had re-organized.
"Rey, you're in luck. Guess who's been exploring this place between fugue states?"
"Got it in one! Open up your commlink - incoming download!"
In the house in the Undercity, Rey adjusted the Kanjiklubber's commlink on her wrist, as she received a map of Firwirrung. The tiny holo-emitter displayed the city in some detail, and it was haptic-enabled, allowing her to manipulate the image. After a while, the Obelisk she passed by earlier caught her eye.
"So..." she started to mutter, "...that means I'm here...which means... yes! I'm going the right way.
Oh, thank you, Luke!"
"See that building?" asked R2 over the channel. "According to Luke's logs, it's a station for a public hover tram system."
"A small vehicle that will take you up to the library's underground station," R2 explained. "You'll get here in minutes."
"But it's so far!" Rey protested. "And I'm surrounded by monsters! How am I going to get there on my own?"
"You're gonna have to figure that out – can't do much else from here. I'll be waiting for you. R2 out."
Rey sighed, and looked around. The house wasn't very large, but it was very well furnished... if a little humid. She entertained the thought of simply waiting here forever, but... No, those creatures would find her eventually, and even with her weapons, she'd get overwhelmed.
She looked at her prisoner, and thought: What the heck. Worth a try.
Razoo Qin-Fee was enjoying the bliss of near non-existence when he felt the sting of a slap across the face, forcing his mind to surge out of the depths of unconsciousness and emerge into the real world.
"Wake up!" a voice commanded shortly after. It was feminine, and had that Dromund Kaas accent.
Razoo shook his head, tasting something odd and cotton-like in his mouth. He took stock of his situation: He was sitting in a very well furnished — if uncomfortably moist — living room, on the second story of the house he had ran into to escape from those damnable birds. The source of the voice, as it turned out, was a tall, slender girl with Corellian features: Big brown doe eyes, dark hair and pale skin, with freckles across the nose. She sat in front of him on a wooden stool, her gun back in its holster. There was an empty small medkit on the table besides her, next to a couple of spent ampoules marked 'DETOX' and 'TRAUMA'.
Also, he was bound up tightly against a — very comfy! — leather couch by sheets of linen, taken from the windows. Not smart, he thought. Someone or... something could see us.
"Feel better?" she asked.
"I suppose I should say thanks for the bacta?"
Razoo, spitefully, did not say thanks; instead, he made a point to look at a strange device on a commode. It was a box with an engraved metal cone on top, with a needle set onto a disk. Passive-aggresive spite made way for genuine curiosity. What the Peck is that supposed to do? he wondered.
She held up Razoo's carbine, without the cloth. It's obviously too damaged to work: the heat sink, a cheap tibanna pump, had blown apart due to stress.
"Clever, by the way," said the girl, tossing the useless weapon at his feet.
Razoo looked at the gun, then smiled at the girl. A silent taunt. Fooled you.
"I need your help," said the girl.
Razoo quirked his eyebrow. "You have a funny way of asking."
"Was that you?" She points at something else in the room. On the floor was a Reaver, with Razoo's HF machete sticking out of its face. The creature was covered in scarred-over cuts and blaster holes, and appeared to be dead.
"Yeah, that was me," Razoo sniffed, then smirked. He was proud of that kill: running from the Rathars Han had unleashed on his band had been... emasculating. Taking down that strange, but powerful creature had done wonders for his mood. "What?" he taunted. "Friend of yours?"
"No, but if you're good enough to kill one, then I'm definitely going to need your help. I've got a map that can lead us out of here. I'm thinking you want out, too."
"Is that right?" Razoo eyed her warily. "Where is this map?"
"Up here," she said, tapping her forehead. "There's a... tram station that leads to the... library." The words felt so alien to her... Yep, definitely some hick. "I've got a friend there," she continued. "The Guavians have taken him prisoner and—"
Razoo interrupted her. "I take it your friend is either Han or that walking carpet of his?"
"His name is Chewbacca!" she corrected, clearly offended.
"Heh. No deal. The Wookiee can rot, for all I care."
"Right, well, the alternative is me leaving you to rot here."
"Go ahead. My friends will find me eventually."
"No, they won't. Your friends are all dead."
Razoo's eyes widened. "What?"
"You came with that Star Galleon, right? I've been through it. It's empty; the crew's gone. The ship itself is full of holes and the reactor's so cold it'll take a day to restart it. The skies are empty."
Razoo shook his head. "...Doesn't matter. I'll find my own way out. There's got to be a working ship somewhere."
"You'd be shot down by those lightning cannons immediately. You're just not getting home. Unless..."
She got up. "Unless we disable those guns, and do you know how we do that?"
"The central tower. We take that over, we control the guns and we might even ride this city ship right out of the system."
"Right, and then Han shoots me in the back first chance he gets."
"... He won't," she said, and her expression turned sad. "He can't."
"Because he's dead."
Razoo laughed. "Really? How?" The brigand just had to know. Whatever it was, he hoped that it hurt, and hurt real good. Solo had taken so much from Razoo's people.
"His son killed him on Starkiller Base."
Razoo was struck silent. Kinslaying. That... that was not how Razoo wanted Han to go. That wasn't even how Tasu wanted him to go. Shot in the gut, maybe. Fed to a Rathar, definitely, but... dying at the hands of your own son? Well, it didn't surprise Razoo in the least: Solo definitely did not look like 'father of the year' material, but... "Peck." Razoo finally said. "I mean, Peck. I'm... I'm sorry."
The girl did not know what to make of that. She waited for the other shoe to drop, a cruel final remark at Han's fate... but it never came. Razoo meant what he had said.
Razoo considered the offer. Refusing would leave him stuck here, and betrayal... no, that would not get him anything either. He hated to admit it, but the girl looked like a survivor, too, and he'd need all the help he could get leaving this place. And with Han dead... "Well, if the old scoundrel's not a factor any more..." Hello, Life Debt.
"We're wasting time..."
Rey approached the Reaver's corpse, and took the machete out of its head, and its finger twitch went unnoticed by her. "This is the deal. I guide you out, you watch my back, at least until we find a way out of here." She moved right besides Razoo, blade in hand. "Deal?"
"Deal. Get me out of these things."
Rey cut Razoo's bonds. "I didn't catch your name..." she asked.
"Razoo Qin-Fee," the kanjiklubber replied. "Yours?"
That was when the not quite dead Reaver leapt up at them.
Outside of the house, the thin windows of the upper floor barely muffled the screeching, screaming and shouting coming from all parties inside. A flash of blue light, and the Reaver - missing an arm - burst out of one of the glass panes, a lightsaber blade coming out of its back. Rey followed it out, closely, holding the pike by both hands.
The Reaver's corpse broke Rey's fall as they landed on the street below. It let out an agonized wail as the blade of the lightsaber finally ignited its flesh, and it burned to ashes. Its brethren heard its dying cries, and responded in kind, announcing their intent to avenge him.
Razoo's head poked out of the broken window. He looked down below, his blade dripping fresh Reaver blood. "You're a kriffing JEDI?!" he yelled out.
Rey got up, and dusted herself. "Well..."
Razoo demonstrated some of his free-running skills by making his way down. The Reavers howled again, announcing the hunt, and the two unlikely allies began to sprint.
"Why didn't you say you were a Jedi in the first place?!" Razoo yelled. "My people owe a Jedi their lives and freedom!"
"I-I'm just a trainee! And how was I supposed to know!"
"A Padawan?! What's a Padawan even doing here?!"
"I'm here to rescue Luke Skywalker!"
"Are you kidding me?! THAT'S THE JEDI THAT SAVED US!"
"Well I didn't know, okay?!"
"How much further, Trainee?!"
"A few more blocks; keep running!"
Rey led Razoo through the maze of streets, evading and sometimes killing their pursuers... right up until they came across a steep impasse of rubble.
Rey stopped, about to curse, while Razoo simply kept going, using his acrobatic skills to scale the rocks. He noticed that Rey wasn't keeping up with him, and once he was on top of the pile of rocks he reached out to Rey.
"Come on!" he urged.
Rey took a running start and jumped up, catching Razoo's hand. He pulled her up.
"Thanks!" she said.
"I thought Jedi could jump?!" accused Razoo.
"Trainee!" Rey insisted.
The station was yet another testament to the local masonry and architecture, an open platform of stone that served as a berth to several automated Hover Trams. Each one was a perfect copy of the other, a small train car made of smooth dark green steel and tarnished with brass, all topped with a Glossair ring engine. Briefly, Rey wondered where those things were even made.
The place was lit up by powerful golden lamps, the light of which Razoo found comforting. Rey, however, having grown accustomed to the dark, winced, and lamented the lack of hiding places.
The unlikely duo ran up the stairs. Rey was showing clear signs of exhaustion, but Razoo, who was a much better athlete, was barely winded.
They went for the nearest Tram, and Rey hurriedly made her way into it by forcing the sliding doors open with her pike.
"Tell me you can work this thing," said Razoo.
"Sure I can," she replied, looking for a joystick on the main control panel at the front of the vehicle. Finding none, she pulled the large brass lever.
"That's just pecking great," cursed Razoo.
"I can fix this! I can fix this!"
Rey knelt, and popped open the maintenance panel under the control console.
"It's out of power!" complained Razoo, gesturing at the inside of the cabin. The lights were not on.
"Look around you!" Rey shot back, gesturing at the lamps outside. "There's plenty of power! There's a bypass in there, I know it! I just-"
Suddenly, the lights began to flicker. Razoo took that as a bad sign. "How much longer?" he whispered, wary for danger.
"Not long!" Rey whispered back, feeling her way around the parts. There was a distinct lack of wires, which she found odd, but her instincts guided her hands.
The lights on the platform were getting dim, while the glowing surfaces of the adverts lining the roof of the tram lit up. Razoo went in.
"Hurry up!" Razoo hissed.
"I can't rush this," Rey hissed back.
The lights went out.
The Reavers — six of them! — dropped onto the platform from the open ceiling, announcing their presence with a war cry. Curved daggers in hand, they hid in the shadows, and silently approached.
"Hold them off!" Rey commanded. "I need more time!"
Razoo could hear more Reavers coming. His machete was deadly, but he knew Reavers were just too tough. "I'll need a better weapon!"
"Here!" Rey yelled, tossing her pike at him.
Razoo's eyes widened, and he smiled."Oh heck yeah," said Razoo, grasping the weapon with both hands. He had always wanted to wield one of these lightsabers. Not as a pike, but at this point, there was no point in being picky.
Razoo stepped out of the tram and stayed close to the door. Before him, three Reavers appeared from the shadows and walked into the pale glow of the blade, viciously waving their knives, thinking they could scare the Kanjiklubber.
"Let me show you what a pit fighter can do, lizards!" he taunted them back.
Razoo exploded into action, the pike's shining blade a blur of motion as he cut the first Reaver apart with shocking ease. Rey looked up from her work, and saw Razoo rapidly pummel another Reaver into submission with the pike's metal shaft before impaling it through the heart. The last Reaver attempted to stab Razoo in the back, and the Kanjilubber responded by back-kicking it in the groin, opening it up for a beheading swipe of the Pike.
Rey had to admit, she was impressed.
Three more Reavers appeared, and just as they were about to attack, their fallen brethren ignited in blue flames. They recoiled in fear.
"Afraid of a little fire, you pecks?!" snarled Razoo, before engaging them.
As Razoo assaulted them, Rey worked out a bypass, and the tram's computer came to life:
"Hello!" the voice, pleasant and feminine, spoke in ikhthýs. "Welcome to the Firwirrung's transit system, please insert proper coinage to continue on your wonderful trip!"
"What the hell did that thing just say?!" Razoo yelled as he kicked a Reaver in the groin.
"Err..." Rey, for reasons mysterious even to her, was an omniglot... but even she found the Dagonian language difficult to grasp. "It wants something called 'coinage'... I think!"
Razoo couldn't believe it. They were going to die because they didn't have exact change. "You're kidding, right?!"
"I don't think it's trying to make me laugh, no!"
Just as a Reaver fell from one of Razoo's acrobatic counter-moves, he heard the clanking of coins. There was a sack of it on the new corpse's belt. With a deft swipe of his machete, the purse was cut from the belt, and Razoo kicked it towards Rey. "Here!" he shouted. Convenient! he thought. The bag fell next to her, coins spilling out. She stared at them, utterly confused.
She'd never handled hard currency before.
"What am I even supposed to do with those?!" she complained.
Razoo would have gotten exasperated, had he not been busy fighting for his life. "Put them in the slot, you stupid hick!"
Rey grabbed the sack and looked for a slot. There was a box with one right by the sliding doors.
She tried a large piece... it did not fit.
"Too big," she muttered.
She tried a small coin. The box spat it out.
She tried a medium-sized coin... there was a click, and a ding.
She added more coins, until the machine was happy. A holographic map of the city's stations appeared from the box, and the computer spoke again. "Thank you. Please select your destination."
Razoo swung the Pike, and missed his target as the Reaver leapt back, wise to his moves. Razoo tried again on another Reaver, but heard the whirr of a charging Bryar behind him. He looked back, and saw Rey pointing a gun at his head.
"Get down!" she yelled.
The charged shot flew right over Razoo's hair as he ducked, piercing the chest of one Reaver then continuing on through the flesh of two more. They fell, screaming, as Rey's gun went into cooldown mode, hissing coolant vapours.
"Get in!" she beckoned Razoo. The Kanjiklubber ran into the tram as Rey loosed another charged shot, keeping another six Reavers at bay by piercing two at once. The hover tram's sliding doors closed behind Razoo, and the craft itself lifted itself away from its berth as soon as Rey punched in the destination. The glossair rings glowed brightly, leaving a trail of light as it flew towards a tunnel entrance in the Undercity's ceiling.
The duo breathed a sigh of relief together.
"...Can I have my lightsaber back, please?" Rey asked, after a moment.
"Sure." Razoo's eyes turn murderous, and aims the blade right at her head.
"Get down!" he yells, pushing her away before stabbing the window behind her, and piercing the heart of the Reaver beyond it. The creature loosened its grasp on the tram, and screamed as its body fell to the undercity below, turning into blue embers and ash.
Razoo sat down, catching his breath. They were safe, at least for now. "...Here you go," he said, handing the Pike back to Rey.
"I thought you were—" she began.
"—going to betray you?" he finished, chuckling, as he wiped the sweat off his brow. "You don't know us Kanjiklubbers very well, but understand this: A deal is a deal."
There was a chime as the TRAM docked with the underground Library tram station, and its doors opened. Rey and Razoo stepped out, wary for more danger, but the place was clear.
Rey activated her commlink.
"Hey!" Razoo whined. "That's mine!"
Rey ignored him. "Artoo? Are you there? Is Chewie still okay?"
After a moment, R2-D2 responded, "Rey? Something's wrong. The inside of the Library's gone dark.
I'm not picking up any lifesigns in there anymore..."
"Oh no, Chewie..." Rey muttered, horrified.
"Don't lose hope: Sensors aren't one hundred percent reliable. He could still be alive." He paused. "Where are you?"
"At the Library station."
"Good, be careful on your way up. There's a soldier guarding the top of the stairs, and six of his friends are guarding the entrance to the library proper. Lots of floodlights, too, but I can take care of that. Think you can handle the guards?"
"Wait, who's we?"
At the top of the station's stairs leading up to the front of the Library, there was indeed a lone Guavian soldier on guard, apparently talking to helmet's mic. Rey and Razoo peeked at him from behind cover, stacked up against either side of the stair's lower entryway.
"I don't know what's crawled up Bala-Tik's datajack, either..." said the Guavian, his voice flanging. "Yeah, I agree, it's almost as if he's scared of the old geezer...Any news from the scout teams?...Crap, we need to get out of this city..."
"Oookay," Razoo whispered to Rey, well out of earshot of the Guavian. Apparently, enhanced hearing wasn't part of their augmentation package. "How do you want to do this?"
"Cool. Still got those coins?"
"Yeah...?" Rey said, handing Razoo the coins.
"Get ready to jump him..." He said, dropping the sack between them. The coins scattered, making a lot of noise across the stone floor, the kind that would get anyone's attention.
The Soldier approached, carefully stepping down the stairs, his helmet's ring optic staring down the sight of his TL-50 carbine. Just as he crossed the threshold, he caught sight of Razoo, and aimed his gun at him. "Freeze!" the cyborg yelled.
Instead of attacking, Razoo merely put his hands up. "Whoa, there! You got me!"
Rey made her move and attacked... by bonking the soldier over the head with her staff. Being a cyborg with a helmet, the Guavian Soldier took the hit, but didn't go down. Still, the blow did give Razoo the opportunity to shank the Guavian with his machete. After a few lightning-quick stabs, the Soldier's redundant bioware failed, and he finally died.
Razoo knelt besides the dead body, intent on despoiling it. "The hell was that?!" His tone at Rey was disbelieving, and angry.
"I was trying to knock him out!" Rey explained.
"He's a pecking cyborg! They don't go down with a tap to the head! With Guavians, it's kill or be killed!"
"Well, I didn't know, okay?!"
"Oh, whatever! Let's just loot him before his friends show up."
Quickly, Razoo took the dead soldier's Repeater and a few grenades.
"Let's see... damn rifle's front heavy, no front grip, crap at close quarters...Grenades... Couple of Cryobans and helloooooo incendiaries!" He smiled, fitting them onto his bandolier. "My favourites. Ooh! A handkerchief!" He pocketed the embroidered cloth.
"You'd steal a piece of cloth?" Not that Rey was any stranger to looting, but a handkerchief? "Really?"
"Pieces of cloth are handy," said Razoo, smiling meaningfully.
Rey and Razoo emerged from the stairs and quickly hid behind the cover of a chest-high supply crate. The Guavians had set up barricades around the entrance, making a field base out of the Library's lobby. The duo spotted two Soldiers trying to get into the building, before the rest of their squad ran up to them, alarmed.
As R2 reported, the place was lit up by floodlights.
"Damn it, Bala-Tik!" shouted the first soldier. "Open up! This isn't funny!"
"His network signal's faint," said the second soldier. "But he's there."
"AAAAAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGHHHH..." The scream, muffled by thick walls and glass, came from inside the Library.
The second soldier shook his head. "...Nevermind, he's gone."
"Guys!" yelled the third soldier. "Giles is off the network, too!"
"What?!" exclaimed the first soldier. This job was getting worse all the time. "Where was he?!"
The fourth soldier pointed towards the stairs, with Rey and Razoo in the way. The soldiers moved in, guns drawn.
Rey felt her adrenaline surge, galvanizing her heartbeat. "Kill or be killed, right?"
Razoo nodded, resolute. "Right."
Rey took a deep breath, and activated her stolen Commlink. "Artoo? Lights!"
"Close your eyes!" Artoo warned.
The generator feeding the lights surged, and the bulbs became miniature suns. Rey and Razoo caught the warning in time, but daylight still filtered through the skin of their eyelids.
"What the kark?!" shouted the first soldier.
The lights exploded, and darkness spread. For a while, all that Rey and Razoo could perceive was the scattering of glass, as their eyes needed time to adjust.
The Guavians, as it turned out, had no such problem. "Infrared, now!"
The ring-shaped visors on the Guavians helmets glowed as they reached in the dark to perceive heat.
"Hostile!" shouted the fourth soldier. "Klubber behind that crate!"
"Aw, crap, crap, CRAP!" cursed Razoo, who could barely see anything. "Rey?" he called out, but she did not respond. "Rey!"
Razoo's eyes widened as they adjusted and it had seemed that Rey had completely vanished. The Guavians did not give him time to process this, as they peppered the crate covering him with blaster fire, keeping him suppressed while the fourth among them moved in to flank him.
The Lightsaber ignited with that unmistakable snap-hiss, its faint blue light outlining a shadow shaped like Rey just before she stabbed the flanker in the chest. Instantly, the saber extinguished itself, and she became practically invisible once more.
"What the?! Cloaker!" the first soldier warned his fireteam.
"Switching to EM!" shouted the third. "...I don't see him!"
"NINE O'CLOCK," barked the third. "SUPPRESSIVE FIRE!"
The soldiers sprayed at Rey's last position, their Repeater's muzzle flashes briefly piercing the dark, but they hit nothing. She reappeared elsewhere, and beheaded the second soldier, only to vanish just as quickly.
"NOOO!" screamed the third soldier. "Damn it all, it's a JEDI!"
"We need help!" shouted the first soldier, and they were quickly reinforced by another fire team.
The pressure off, Razoo took short controlled bursts at the newcomers, and when they moved into for cover, Rey killed the third one. To Razoo, the sight was unnerving - Rey was practically a ghost, only visible when it was time to kill something.
A couple of the soldiers attempted to take the high ground with a combination of their powerful legs and repulsorlift implants, but Razoo perforated them both, one mid-jump, the other just as it landed on a balcony.
Eventually, it was down to one, and he panicked, firing wildly into the air, and a shot managed to get a lucky hit on Rey's shield. The shield bubble stood out in the backdrop of darkness, allowing the last Guavian to focus its spray blaster bolts at it .
"TAKE COVER!" shouted Razoo, but Rey did not listen, and recklessly charged the Guavian. Fortunately for her, the shield held, while the Guavian's Repeater overheated. Within the second that cyborg took to switch to his pistol, Rey had already stabbed him in the heart. Even with his cybernetics, the soldier's body could not tolerate a seven hundred Kelvin rod of energy dumping its heat inside of it. He fell over, dead, steam hissing from the wound, smelling of cooked meat, both synthetic and real, and molten plastic.
All was quiet. The power came back to the one floodlight that hadn't blown. Rey was just standing there, staring down at her handiwork, illuminated by the flickering light.
Razoo walked up behind her. "Huh," he said, admiring her handiwork. "Not bad at all... For a trainee. Could have been useful back when we were facing those lizards earlier, but hey..." Razoo paused, and saw Rey's expression. "...First time?"
'What?" Rey responded, almost dazed. "No, I've..." she recalled that lone Stormtrooper in the forest close to Maz's castle. "I've killed before." It hadn't really hit her before. I've killed before. I shot a man dead before.
Shouldn't I be feeling awful, or guilty, or something?
Razoo got more specific. "First time killing someone up close and personal?"
"...Yeah," said Rey, after thinking about it. She nodded. "Yeah, It is."
"... need to puke, or something?" Razoo's concern, much to Rey's continued puzzlement, was genuine. "No shame in it, you know. It's not the same as blasting someone from afar, after all. It's a lot more personal." He crinkled his nose - the Guavian had just relaxed his bowels. "Smells worse, too."
Rey shook her head. It smelled bad, yes, but that was not what bothered her. "... No," she began. "I'm just... shocked. It was so easy. In the dark they were just... prey."
The last word echoed in Rey's head in the Witch's voice. She knelt, and was about to remove the dead Guavian's mask.
Razoo grabbed her wrist, stopping her. "No. Leave it. You don't want to see his face... It'll stay with you forever." This was the voice of experience speaking.
"Yeah..." Rey responded, dully. "Yeah, okay."
That was when R2-D2 came out of hiding from behind the floodlight's generator, and approached the two victorious humans, amidst the many corpses of cyborgs. "Whooaaaa..." he whistled. "That was... that was something," he beeped. R2-D2's main sensor fell on Razoo, who was looting whatever he could carry.
The Kanjiklubber cursed, unable to find a firearm ideal to his preferred stance. All of the Guavian's guns were unbalanced, the price of power. Not that it had bothered them, thanks to their cybernetics. Sloppy, Razoo thought.
R2-D2 beeped, "Huh. Made a new friend?"
"Kinda," said Rey, kneeling before the droid. "Are you okay?"
R2 whistled in the affirmative.
"So are we gonna rescue that walking carpet already?" Razoo asked, impatiently.
"Is Chewbacca still in there?" asked Rey, worried.
R2-D2's dome swiveled. "I honestly don't know. The Guavians have been trying to get back in for the past ten minutes. The door and walls are almost as thick as the Temple's - breaking in will take a while."
Razoo approached the main doors, knocked, made a half-hearted attempt to get open it, then shrugged. "Oh well, we tried." he sighed. Goodbye, life-debt."
"Oi!" protested Rey, standing right besides the crook. "We can't give up now!"
"What? You heard that scream earlier. Something probably ate him, killed him, or worse... and besides: look at that thing!" He gestured at the building. "That's warship level construction, right there!"
"Well, what about those?" she pointed at his bandolier, then snatched one of the many incendiaries he had looted from the dead nearby.
"Those?! Those are napalm, not thermite! That's good for paper, wood, flesh, and a droid's insides maybe, but that?" He pointed at the massive metal double doors, with its redundant locks. He began to walk away, saying, "Forget it, let's find the Guavians' ride. Maybe we can save ourselves, if not Luke."
Rey put the incendiary grenade in her pack, and put on her googles. She didn't care if it took hours - she'd get through that door and save Chewbacca, imagining him all alone and despairing. And abandoning someone, anyone, like... her parents did, so long ago. No. NO! I WON'T!
Razoo walked up to R2-D2, and asked, "Seen their gunship anywhere?"
The droid was moments from shockprobing Razoo right in the nether regions for that insult to Chewbacca, before he saw Rey stab the double doors with her makeshift spear. "NO!" the droid screamed, causing Razoo to turn around. Just as the energy blade was about to touch one of the locks, the doors opened wide into the dark interior of the building, swung inward by an unseen force, the same force that was now pulling the girl in.
"HELP!" Rey screamed as she flew in. Razoo ran to her, reaching out, but it was too late.
The door was shut, and would not yield.
Rey was trapped inside Aisa's Library.