STAR WARS - THE DARKEST SHADOW
written by Stephen R. Sobotka / 2000-2012

DISCLAIMER : This story is an original prose based on situations, settings, places and themes from the Universe of "Star Wars", by LucasArts Entertainment Ltd. All characters that appear within - with the exception of all original characters created by the author - are the property of said licenses, and are used here without knowledge or permission of same.

This story is the rightful property of the author; all original characters and the plot depicted within are protected by copyright law. This story was produced to entertain fans of the original game, and is in no way, shape or form intended to be published for monetary gain. Please do not sue.

AUTHOR'S NOTE : I wrote this as a gift for a dear friend of mine, who told me once if she was ever to be a character in a Star Wars story, she'd be a smuggler.

This one's for you, Shinga. Enjoy! - SRS

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Chapter Two

# # #

After leaving Seeshamar behind them in a droid-driven taxi, Bossa and Mirik traveled several back-streets on a path that lead them the length of Eriadu's Captial City.

Mirik kept low in the wide compartment of the taxi; only daring to look out from time to time as they passed through much of the industrial district of the city, to retreat back under cover when she spied more constabulary or militia walking by.

From his seat next to her, Bossa sat with a calm air. At one point, when she scrunched down further to hide, he said, "You have no reason to fear, Miss Besel. They are still looking for you back in Seeshamar."

Shooting the Jedi an look, Mirik kept her head down nonetheless. "That won't last long. When they can't find me there-!"

"We will be on board my ship, and long gone from this place."

The taxi bumped over a long, stone bridge, transferring from the end of the industrial district into one of the large areas designated for one of the city's auxillary spaceports. Here, they drove past several hangars and spacecraft berths; all of which were a-bustle with every sort of activity detailing to the launch and landing of ships.

Eventually, the taxi floated to a stop in front of a wide, partially-domed, stucco-walled building. The droid driver made a low, chirping sound, indicating that his passengers should disembark and pay for their fare.

Stepping out of the taxi, Bossa turned and palmed a few credit chips into the currency slot box mounted behind the droid. "Thank you for your service, friend." he said, before turning to help Mirik climb out.

"okeey-dokeey!" the droid warbled. It waited until they were clear, then in a burp of dust, it powered the vehicle away, turning around to head back into the city-proper.

Scowling while brushing the coating of dust from her front, Mirik muttered, "Droids!"

Bossa just chuckled. "You have a sour disposition towards a lot of world around you."

"I don't... well, trust a lot of things," Mirik said. "It's how I've been able to keep out of trouble." She saw his pointed look, and added meekly, "Well, most of the time."

"Indeed. Come, my ship is over there," he said, as he pointed towards the low stone archway; one of several that branched off from the central 'hub of the small building. "This way, Miss Besel," he said as he led the way.

Following along beside the tall Jedi Knight, Mirik gave the surrounding area a hunting glance. The location looked relatively free of the local militia or constabulary, and still she walked with one hand on her blaster, still expecting someone to leap out and stop them at any moment.

"Not to worry," Bossa said, as if he knew what she was thinking. "These spaceports are privately-run, and are only subject to the constables searching them in the most dire of situations."

Frowning, Mirik regarded the Jedi with her teal eyes. "I'll still feel better when we're out of this place." Turning, she started walking backwards alongside the Jedi, sweeping the 'hub with her keen eyes wide as both of them entered under the archway.

"That's understandable," Bossa replied with a good natured chuckle. "It's not everyday that this place is visited by a wanted smuggler." He shot her a wink when she turned sharply at that remark. "I'm sorry. Again, that was in poor humor on my part."

Rolling her eyes, Mirik muttered, "Are all Jedi blessed with your sense of humor, or am I just lucky that I ran into you?"

Bossa just gave her an enigmatic look.

Together, they entered the landing bay, where Mirik got her first look at the Jedi's starship; a wide, flat-looking ship with a side protuberance that held the cockpit, and a pair of nub-naceles that held the twin 'drives that powered the compact craft through space. Strips of red marked the surface skin, along with a single row of identification glyphs that ran down the side.

Her mouth agape, Mirik could only think of one thing to say at the sight of it: "What, a, piece, of junk!"

Bossa merely shrugged. "She's not designed for looks, like a Nubian cruiser. She'll make lightspeed easily, and she's tougher and just as maneuverable than most starfighters."

Planting her hands on her hips, Mirik frowned at him before her gaze slid over the surface of the ship once more, pausing as she came to the I-D glyphs. "'Brighthope'? What kind of name is that for a ship?"

At that, Bossa looked at her with a touch of darkness on his face. "That... was the name of a ship, owned by my mother," he stated, his voice broaching no apology as he stared down at her.

With a weak defensive laugh, Mirik replied, "Ahh, I see... it's a good name, then. It... suits her."

With a sigh, Bossa shook his head. "We can talk about ship's names later," he said. "For now, let's get aboard-." He stopped in mid-step. "Wait."

Mirik looked at him oddly. "Wait... for what?"

"Get down!" Bossa whipped his robes aside, as his lightsaber sprang into the air from his belt with a blaze of yellow-gold.

"Stop them! Open FIRE!"

Mirik dove for the ground, looking up just as a score of stun bolts crashed down onto the floor of the landing bay around them. On one of the catwalks that hung from the bay's ceiling, the figures of several armored militia men could be seen in the backflash of their blasters.

As Bossa smashed aside several close shots, he made a shoving motion with his free hand as he moved himself in between the soldiers and herself. Several of the militia men stumbled backwards, tumbling off of the catwalk with cries of alarm.

"Blast it!" Mirik grunted as she rolled to avoid more shots from another group that had appeared on another catwalk behind them. Whipping her tail of honey-red braids out of her face, she rolled into a crouch that put her partially behind a large metal crate. Drawing her double-barreled blaster, she tried to aim at the militia but Bossa spun into view; his body blocking her. "Move, Jedi! I can't get a clear shot at them!"

"No, I can't expose you to getting hit!" Bossa shouted over the whine and explosions of weapons fire, his eyes focused on the network of catwalks and gangways overhead. They were beginning to boil over with more militia troopers; bracing behind what cover they could find as they fired continuously at the two fugitives.

"Well, you can't cut them down with that energized flyswatter from here!" Mirik shouted, wincing when one shot came too close to her.

"I won't need to!" With a nudge of the Force, he drew a second lightsaber and added its blade to that of the first one. As Mirik watched, he deflected several of the shots directly back at the militia to force them to duck back deeper into cover.

Mirik breathed. "That's a nifty trick."

"It will only suffice for a short time. We can't stand up to a prolonged fight, anyway," Bossa shot back, twirling his sabers in a wide arc. "Get to the ship, now!"

Another blast bolt whipped past Mirik's face. "Just hope you can get that bucket of yours airborne!" Mirik back-crawled under the lee of the overhanging edge of his ship, before turning and sprinting for the open hatchway. Blaster fire rained down around her, but none of the shots hit her as she scuttled inside.

"Stop them! Don't let them get aboard!" came the call from above, and the militia started pouring their fire on the lone Jedi below.

In response, Bossa locked his lightsaber on and spun it around with one hand to create a makeshift shield, as he started backing towards the ship's hatch. Before the troopers realized his intent, he used a portion of the Force to propel himself backwards into the hatch, where he landed in relative safety on the floor inside.

A cry from a militia officer followed him inside,"They're going to blast off! Disable that ship!"

Bossa closed down his lightsabers before he reached up and slapped the hatch seal. "Miss Besel! Where are-?" Before he could finish his query, he heard the distinctive whine of the Brighthope's ion-engines spooling up to full power. "Wonderful!" Pushing himself off the walls of the access way, he staggered towards the cockpit. Reaching the small chamber, he spied the pirate woman leaning halfway across the pilot's seat; frantically jabbing at buttons and pulling levers.

Mildly surprised, Bossa asked, "Are you schooled in piloting this kind of ship?"

"Not really, but," she growled, shoving herself upright to glance at him. "Any nerf-herder with a brain should know how to power up a leviathan like this-!" She paused when she caught a flicker of movement through the view port ahead, then added with a note of trepidation, "However.. ah, you could help me here, before those troops knock this bucket out of commission!"

Bossa took one look; seeing teams of militia troopers moving to set up a pair of heavy blast-cannon in front of the ship. "Move. Strap yourself in there." He nodded to the small jump seat behind the two pilot seats, as he slid in behind the control console with a grunt.

Taking the indicated seat, Mirik pointed towards the troopers. "What are you going to-?"

Bossa found a set of controls near his left hand, and manipulated them with short, quick stabs of his fingers.

From somewhere underneath the ship, the whirr of servomotors could be heard, followed by the crackle of a stun-cannon array firing bolts of electric-blue. Outside, several of the troopers fell to the ground, senseless.

With a nod, Bossa continued to flip switches and pull levers. In seconds, the whine of the engines rose into a rolling growl which rumbled through the ship's space-frame.

"You are going to take off? Soon?" Mirik asked as she finished strapping herself tightly into the small jump seat.

Watching the readouts, he snapped three levers forward, before he took hold of the control yoke and pulled it back, making the ship tilt towards its rump briefly. "Now!" He jammed another lever forward, and with a growl, the Brighthope surged upwards; her backwash knocking the grounded militia troopers down as she rocketed into the open sky above.

# # #

Watching from the shielded point on the gangway, the militia officer in charge of the spaceport unit grimaced as he followed the starship's progress into space.

"Sir!" a trooper reported, having spoken with a traffic controller over his comlink. "We're tracking them. If they clear the orbital boundary, they'll jump to hyperspace for certain!"

The officer turned and glowered at another trooper. "Contact our Picket Command! Dispatch interceptors, at once!"

# # #

The sound of the Brighthope's engines rumbled through the starship's massive frame; as the ship clawed its way out of Eraidu's atmosphere.

As the vibrations rumbled against the back of the small jump seat, Mirik grimaced. She didn't normally mind space travel - since most of the time she was the one flying the ship - but she hated being in a passenger's seat, because she had no control sitting there inside the starship, rather than guiding it through the galaxy. Taking a deep breath, she looked out through the front of the cockpit and asked, "Did you have to cut it that closely?"

Keeping his eyes on the ship's readouts, Bossa replied, "Those soldiers simply didn't wish to cooperate on that matter." Looking through the view screen ahead, he added, "Still, we did make it, hm?"

"Barely!" Mirik scowled. Leaning back in the jump seat, she reached up and rubbed her hands against her cheeks. "I just hope you can pilot this thing as good as you fight, Jedi."

Bossa said, "When we're clear of Eriadu's orbit, we'll make the transition to light-speed as soon the NAVA-Computer has the coordinates programmed."

"How long with that take?"

Before Bossa could reply to that, a high-pitched razz blared out from one of the control panels beside him.

Mirik snapped her head towards the panel with a frown.

"Proximity sensors." Bossa reached out and tapped a key, scanning the readout tied into the now-silent alarm. He then reached over towards a bank of six switches; snapping each one on with a flick of his fingers. "Interceptors, closing up fast. I'll try to evade them!"

Mirik reached down and tugged the seat restraints tighter around her slim frame. "I'm guessing you can't use some new Jedi hocus-pocus to get this bucket to jump into hyperspace now?"

Bossa shoved the three drive levers forward, as the ship's engines deepened in pitch. "We need time for the computer to complete jump calculations!" He snapped another control over, grimacing as he watched the approaching ships on the monitor. There was a bright flash outside the view screen; a burst of white light that rocked the ship as it passed close by.

"Chuunda!"

"Ranging shots! Deflector screens at full power... hold tight!" Jerking the control yoke, he put the ship into a sharp, banking turn; sending it howling into the black, star-dotted field beyond them.

Outside the Brighthope, four small snub fighters spread out into a herding formation as they closed in; bracketing the fleeing starship as they extended their maneuvering wings for greater control. Coming closer, the lead ship's pilot snapped off three more warning shots across her bow; making a trio of explosions burst against its wake.

Inside, Mirik felt each of the bursts as they buffeted the the deflectors shielding Brighthope's frame. "Ouch!"

Just then, a voice came over the small comm-set on the master control panel; "Brighthope, this is Enforcer Unit Ki. Power down your hyperspeed-engines, and return to the planet at once!"

Bossa grimaced as he glanced at another readout screen. "They're flying Incom starfighters... old models. Apparently, this outpost had to fall back on surplus ships," Bossa said coolly. Jamming the controls down sharply, he twisted the ship as they rocketed away from the pursuing fighters.

Mirik blinked. "I guess I should be thankful they're not using TIE-Fighters!" Another volley of blaster fire rippled across the cockpit viewpoint, making her flinch.

The ship raced along, breaking clear of the atmosphere amid more bursts of blaster fire as the four Interceptors closed in. As fast as the Brighthope, though they were all pushing the upper limits of their performance limits, the fighters fired round after round of crimson energy at the fleeing ship. Bossa juked and twisted his ship, relying on his skills and the ship's stronger defensive systems to hold the fighters off. They needed time to make it out of this trap... but the Interceptors were making short work of every second that passed.

Catching more bursts of destructive energy along the one side, he growled, "Surplus fighters... but still effective!"

"Too effective!" Mirik hissed, as she rocked from side to side in her chair. "Can't you turn around and fight them off?"

Another rolling burst pitched the ship sideways, making Bossa struggle with the controls to bring the ship under control. "I'd rather not go through a head-on confrontation. This ship was built for peaceful transit, not a head-on assault," Bossa explained.

Mirik stared at him in shock. "Does that mean you can't even fight back?"

Working the controls to twist them through more blaster and laser fire, Bossa replied, "This ship does have some weapons, including an aft laser turret."

Mirik gave Bossa a sour look. "Let me guess... you can't fire it and pilot the ship at the same time?" Unstrapping herself from her jump seat, she shook her head.

Hearing the clatter of the metal parts of a seat harness being flung aside, Bossa shot a quick look over his shoulder. "What are you-?"

"What does it look like! Someone has to save our skins. I'll man the turret," she said, struggling to her feet as she staggered towards the cockpit's exit. "Just point me in the right direction!"

Bossa said sharply over his shoulder, "Beyond the common room, the end of the access way! First hatch aft! It has it's own gravity well, so watch yourself!" With that said, he returned his attention to evading the militia fighters.

"I'll keep that in mind!" Mirik said crossly as she made her way down the access way; bracing her arms against the walls as the ship rocked from several near-misses. "Damn it... maybe I should have let the militia catch me back there!"

She emerged into an oval shaped compartment - the common area - but paid little heed to it, as she was flung sharply across the length of the room by a seriously violent jolt. Landing on her belly against the hull-metal floor, her breath leaving her body in an explosive huff, she snarled and recovered her balance quickly, scrambling towards a round, locked hatch on the far side; flanked by two yellow-colored hand grips and an access switch. Slapping the switch, she paused just long enough for the hatch to open - four spiral segments opening like an iris - before grasping the hand grips to lift her legs up to swing them into the opening.

Beyond it, the tingle of a gravity field wrapped around her limbs, holding her in mid-air as she plunged into the shaft beyond, which opened out into the turret proper; a small, spheroid apparatus that was filled with twin compact control panels, mounted on a single gunner's seat.

Slipping lithely into the seat, Mirik sought out and found a utility headset on the chair's tiny, padded headrest. Clipping it over her ear, she tapped the side control switches on the one panel to power up the turret's systems. "Okay, I'm in!" Mirik groused, hastily strapping herself in. Before her, the gunner's targeting view screen winked on; covering her face with a greenish glow. Reaching out, she took the control levers in her hands, manipulating them to get a quick feel of the turret's speed and responsiveness.

Bossa's voice came through the headset: "Powering weapons... you should have full function in-"

"I have it already!"

"Just in time. They're closing fast!"

As if to punctuate Bossa's warning, several green flashes of light shot by the turret's tiny view port. A rumble of explosions rattled the frame of the ship, filtering down into the turret with a plethora of harsh vibrations.

"Chunda!" Mirik shook her head, before glaring squarely into the targeting screen. Watching as one of the quartette of blips slipped in between her sighting brackets, Mirik jammed both of her thumbs over the firing buttons on her controls. Outside, streams of crimson energy erupted from the triple-blaster mount on the aft side of the ship. Knifing through the formation of starfighters, three of the blasts clipped the left-most ship along its portside engine.

There was a crackle of raw energy escaping the crippled ship, just seconds before the entire fighter blew apart in a blue-white fireball.

From the cockpit, Bossa watched the fighter's demise and said, "Good shooting!"

Mirik smirked, then frowned. "Save the celebrations! There's three more fighters out there!"

"Actually..." There was a pause, before a sudden maelstrom of shock waves and star bursts rocked the Brighthope. "Actually, there's three more that have joined the chase now," Bossa added, when the bursts tapered off.

Mirik rolled her eyes, before firing the blaster cannons again. "Please tell me there's going to be some good news soon?"

Bossa replied, "Actually, there is!"

"What?"

"We can lose these interceptors, if I can fly us into an abandoned ship foundry, directly ahead of us!"

"We don't have time to run millraces, Jedi! We need to jump!" Mirik snapped, making the turret swing left and right, cannon blazing at the pursuing foes.

"We still don't have the coordinates from the NAVA-computer!" Bossa shot back. "Putting the hulk between us and those fighters should give us enough time!"

Mirik ground her teeth together in frustration, only to have her temper cool when several blaster bolts raked across her viewpoint; the deflector screens just barely keeping the hits from getting through. "Fine, just do it! Quick! These munge-eating bastard's are swarming all over us!"

The Brighthope raced towards the space-borne derelict Bossa had indicated. Drifting in a high orbit above the planet, it had once been used to build the massive war machines of the Imperial Empire, only it floated along as a dark, lifeless hulk. Several portions of the formerly-utilitarian platform were now open to the vacume of space; gaping, ugly holes that lead into the dead interior.

"This will get a little rough!" Bossa called out, tightening his grip on the controls, as he pointed the nose of the ship towards one of these holes.

Darting inside, the starship slipped around several massive, aging metal pylons, before rising upwards into a massive compartment - one of the derrick's hollow holding bays. Screaming in behind, the six interceptors tried to blast the Brighthope, but their shots skewed wide when the pilots had to juke around the pylons to avoid crashing into them.

All the while, Mirik kept firing. One fighter, having spun around into a corkscrew-motion to keep up with the fleeing ship, ended up pierced through by a hail of red blaster fire. Its fellows kept up the chase; engines howling, blaster cannons barking as they nipped away at the starships shields.

The Brighthope popped out into a narrow passage above the holding bay - a long, flattened affair that seemed to extend forever into the distance - and raced through it, swerving between jutting metal beams and protruding hull plates. One such obstacle clipped her port-side, sending her wobbling forwards until Bossa could recover control. Being smaller, the interceptors had less of a problem maneuvering in such tight spaces, and they began to gain ground on the fleeing ship.

Mirik maintained her rate of fire; her knuckles nearly white from the strain of holding the fire triggers down, as she swept the blasters from side to side. "These militia... pretty damn good pilots!" she grunted, as the cannons fired at the fighters coming up close.

A moment later, one of their attackers boiled up in a red-orange explosion.

"Well, some of them, anyway," Mirik muttered.

In the cockpit, Bossa shook his head as he watched the fighters in his scanner display. Reaching up, he slapped three controls in succession, watching as a readout near them winked over from red to green. "We need to get on top of things!" With that, he jerked a trigger on the control yoke.

From four, recessed ports in the nose of the ship, a quartet of concussion missiles burst forth on bright, blue-white plumes of flame. Rushing forwards, they sought out a point on the roof of the passage and slammed home in a cacophony of thunder and flame.

From behind, Mirik felt her bones rattle painfully amid the maelstrom of the detonation's shock-waves. "What the Deuce-?"

Bossa ignored her outburst, nudging the controls upwards with iron control to guide the ship through the massive hole the missiles made. Shooting through, the Brighthope was now on the very top surface of the platform, back into exposed space. "Nothing fancy!" He hauled back on the controls, sending the starship arcing overhead in a high-powered loop. Swooping back towards the surface - and the hole - he cut power to slow them down... just in time to see the remaining interceptors emerge from the exit he just made. Not giving the militia pilots time to react, he jammed the firing control down once more and sent four more missiles vomiting out of their launchers.

None of the pilots targeted by the projectiles had any chance to avoid them. In seconds, a rippling, rolling ball made of a chain of exploding craft filled the space above the blasted hole; leaving only a quick-dissipating cloud of gases and debris for the Brighthope to fly through.

Blinking, Mirik looked at her targeting screen. "What happened? What-?"

"The fighters are gone," Bossa replied, his voice laced with a touch of relief as he sighed. "This chase was becoming most disagreable, so I took care of them."

Mirik slumped back down into her gunner's chair in disbelief. "But, how-?"

"Even in these days of promising peace, there is wisdom in having some deterrents for any aggressors." Just then, Bossa paused before prompting. "Come back to the cockpit, Ms. Besel. The jump coordinates are locked in."

Surprise filling her features, Mirik none the less hurriedly unstrapped herself as she replied, "I'm on my way, but don't wait on my account!"

A chuckle filled her headset, followed by Bossa's voice, just as she removed it from her ear; "As you wish."

Moving clear of the dead space-borne platform, the Brighthope seemed to gather herself and, on a sudden, brightening glow from her engines, she snapped forward as if swatted on her aft-side. In the blink of an eye, the ship was nothing more than a single line of matter against the vast curtain of space... and then, she was gone.

# # #

Taking one last look at the automated systems, Bossa let out a deep sigh before relaxing back against his seat. That... was almost too close! he told himself. The ship's deflectors were just seconds away from failure before his last-ditch effort removed the threat of the Interceptors. Had he waited just seconds longer... Well, hindsight is always seen with perfect vision.

Quickly collecting himself, he half turned when he heard the sound of Mirik's boots clumping along the passage way behind him. Looking over the back of the seat, he watched her slow to a stop just inside the entrance; pushing back some stray locks of honey-red hair from her face as she leaned against the hatchway frame.

"Are you all right?" he asked.

Flexing her hands, which felt slightly numb after clutching on the gunner's controls so hard, she replied, "For now, I am."

Nodding, Bossa replied, "Good. We're fortunate those defense fighters don't carry long range hyper-drives. If they did, we probably would have faced another fight, before reaching Yavin."

"Are you Jedi always so bi-polar?" Mirik scowled. "One minute you're as optimistic as an old nanny-droid, and then-!" Getting a grip on herself, she closed her eyes and let out her exasperation in a slow breath, before stating, "I shouldn't be lashing out at you."

"Hm, anger isn't one of the most healthy of human emotions," Bossa said sagely. "But, I do not take any offense. You are well right to be upset with what you've been through."

"Still, it's not something I should be tossing onto your back," Mirik admitted. She looked up at him and nodded slightly. "Thank you, for all your help," she offered.

Bossa said simply, "It is my duty to serve."

Rubbing her arms as she slipped over to sit in the jump seat once more, Mirik just nodded. "So... now, we wait until we reach Yavin, right? Why do you have to go there?"

Bossa leaned against his seat and said, "There are friends there. I promised to return, after I had recovered something... something that I've been searching for." He glanced down at the pocket of his robes, then stated, "The journey will not be a lengthy one. Once we arrive, I will speak to Master Skywalker, to arrange to have you returned to your people."

"'Master'?" Mirik cocked her head, curious now. "You mean to say, you have someone that you serve? I thought all the old Jedi were extinct."

With a soft smile, Bossa said, "All Jedi serve someone... even me, though the 'Master' I refer to is more of an equal than my superior. As well, you are right in that all the Old Order are gone." His face took on a sad expression at that admission. "All of the old Jedi are gone."

Seeing his pain, she said, "I... I'm sorry."

"It is not-." Bossa's reply was interrupted by a heavy tremble that vibrated the deck underneath them. Eyes widening, he turned back towards the controls. Another deep rumble shivered along the length of the ship's frame.

"That didn't feel good," Mirik muttered.

Slipping straighter into his seat, Bossa started flicking his eyes over the various readouts, just as a third, more violent shudder rippled into existence; making several alarms activate around the cockpit.

"That certainly doesn't sound good!" Mirik said sharply, her cheeks turning pale as another vibration - the strongest one yet! - raced along the deck plates beneath her feet, making her fall back into her seat. It was a sound she remembered her father describing to her, years ago when he himself nearly escaped being killed once by-!

"Resonance flutter!" she cried out. "Shut it down! Shut the hyper-drive down, or the ship will shake itself apart if-!"

Before she finished, Bossa was quickly shutting down the hyper-drive and pulling back on the ship's controls. As the stars returned to their normal state outside the view screen, the Brighthope's engines dwindled down to a muted rumble, bringing the speeding ship down from its star-streaking course across the cosmos.

Letting out a deep sigh, Mirik said, "That, was too close for any comfort!"

"Agreed," Bossa replied, slumping back into his seat before he looked at her. "Are you all right?"

"Shaken... but nothing a few night's rest won't fix," she replied.

Nodding, Bossa gripped the sides of his chair and pushed himself up to his feet. "Resonance flutter isn't something to be taken lightly," he said under his breath.

Mirik watched as he slipped past her to walk out of the cockpit. She rose and followed him out into the access way. "I don't suppose... you'll need any help?"

"A Jedi always knows when to ask for assistance," Bossa replied, looking back at her with a nod and a smile. "Together, we might be able to find the problem, and fix it. Otherwise..."

Nodding as she realized his line of thought, Mirik said, "We'll be looking at being stranded out here... wherever that is."

# # #

However, finding the source of the hyper-drive's problem was only the start of their troubles.

"It's worse, isn't it?"

Looking down into the wide pit in the floor of the Brighthope's engine room, Mirik sat on the edge and watched as Bossa tinkered with one of the engine's exposed engine components.

The Jedi didn't respond at first; his grunts echoing up from the pit as he shifted around.

Puffing out her cheeks, Mirik asked softly, "I'll take that as 'Yes'?"

"You... may presume to believe that," Bossa replied at length. He pulled something to him, rising up slowly as he backed towards the edge of the pit. "It couldn't be more worse," he added, turning to place a large, dome-shaped piece of machinery on the floor beside them. "The casing and some of the internal systems of this hyper-drive motivator are extensively damaged."

The young smuggler whistled low as her eyes swept over the device; her eyes picking out the visible cracks in the round surface of the motivator's top part. "That would explain why we were experiencing resonance flutter," she murmured. "Can you fix it?"

"This, and several other parts will need to be replaced," Bossa said, grunting as he pulled himself up out of the pit to sit next to her. "If not, we're in for a lengthy stretch of travel, until we reach an inhabited system."

Nodding, Mirik asked, "So, where do you keep the spare parts on this tin-can?" When the Jedi didn't respond right away, she added, "You... do have spares on your ship, right?"

"I would, usually," he stated with a sigh. "However this type of ship is hard to find spares for." He lifted himself to his feet and stood up. "Parts like that would be almost-vintage, and in these turbulent times..."

Mirik groaned and shifted herself onto her knees. "Parts like that are hard to come by!" Shaking her head, she asked, "So, what do you propose we do?"

"We'll need to find a nearby system," Bossa stated, "and, hopefully they'll have a starport where we can find the necessary parts, or at least the facilities to make enough repairs to allow us to get underway again." He moved towards the hatch that led out of the engine space, motioning for her to follow. "Come," he said as he stepped through, "we can use the computer in the common room."

"Why not? There's little I can do here," Mirik admitted, clambering through the hatch after him.

"You may be able to help plot a course out of our current predicament, Miss Besel," Bossa stated. "With your knowledge of trading routes-." He paused when he heard her stop in the passage way behind; turning to see the vexed expression on her face. "Is something wrong?"

"Do you Jedi always have to be so formal?" she asked sourly.

"I was only being polite," Bossa said.

Mirik sighed. "It's not that I don't appreciate the courtesy... but," she said, looking at him pointedly. "I don't think being polite is going to get us back to civilized space any quicker, okay?"

Bossa nodded. "Very well. Shall we see what we can do about getting out of this... situation, then?" He stepped aside and indicated she should precede him.

With a soft snort, she said, "Fine." Moving forward, she slipped by the tall Jedi and stepped out into the common room beyond the hatch.

# # #

Once they were both inside the oval-shaped compartment, Bossa wasted little time starting up the remote computer terminal; a boxy, triple-screened setup, mounted in the bulkhead near what had to be a compact-yet-cozy looking sleeping area.

Seated on a small chair, the burly Jedi's fingers flew over the keyboard. Bringing up the navigation system maps from the main computer, he paused and pointed to one of the screens. "This is our relative position... here. Somewhere just beyond the reaches of our friends on Eriadu."

Standing to the side, Mirik peered at the display for a moment. "Far enough to suit me just fine, but where are we exactly?"

Bossa tapped a series of keys. "Somewhere near this side of the Vivinda Sector," he replied.

Mirik frowned. "That's close to Dorvalla... but, we might have a better chance getting to Bespin," she said slowly. Reaching out to trace her finger along the image on the screen, she added, "That's right near the Ison Trade Corridor."

"A good chance we could find some help there," Bossa agreed.

Mirik suddenly brightened. "Wait!" she said, moving her fingertip over another part of the star map. "Here! We should go here instead!"

Looking at where she pointed, Bossa asked, "Karabet?"

"Yes," Mirik replied. "I know that system, and it's perfect to help us with what we need!"

Bossa peered closer. "That's a system I never heard of."

"With good reason," Mirik replied. "Karabet isn't supposed to be on any Imperial star charts, because it's home for one of my family's personal caches." She looked at Bossa's face, seeing his surprised expression. "It was part of my father's planning. We set up several, uncharted planets with hidden caches of stores; food stuffs, parts, fuel... whatever we'd need, in case we found ourselves driven off the regular trade routes by Imperials, other competitors, bandits..."

Arching one eyebrow, Bossa said, "Your father sounds like a resourceful man."

Mirik's face fell slightly. "He was." She shook her head and stated, "Karabet was one of the ones he set up out here in the Outer Rim. Can this ship make there, you think?"

Bossa leaned back in thought for several moments. "Under sub-light speed, it will take a few days time... but, we should be able to reach this Karabet before our fuel runs out."

"Oh, don't worry about refueling," she said, "there's enough fuel stored there to power a Star Destroyer. Though... we may have to pump it by hand."

He looked at her pointedly, "Labor is good for the body, but... I'm just wondering if your father's cache will still be intact, after all this time."

Mirik smiled. "It should," she said. "It will be there, trust me."

Nodding, Bossa reached out and tapped a sequence of commands into the keyboard. "Very well then, Mirik," he said. "I just need to upload the coordinates to the NAVA-Computer, and we'll get underway at once."

Mirik nodded, then she asked, "Now I'm wondering. How is it your computer has Karabet in its database?"

Pausing, Bossa gave her a slightly-smug look. "When I was last in the Core Systems, I purchased a smuggler's map set from... well, a rather reclusive trader."

Mirik blinked, then gave him an arched look. "A Jedi, using information from a disreputable source?"

Rising, Bossa stated, "Knowledge is power, Mirik. Much like the Force, it comes from many sources." He reached down and finished sending the information to the cockpit computer, before adding with a nod. "Now, let us get underway. We've got a long trip ahead of us."

# ### #