Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Josh Barton, Christopher Levy, and Tara McLaren.
Zero years after the Battle of Yavin (35:6:7) in the Essesia system: Permeles (Enkido's armory).
Commander Derek Atio, MEV, Jane Minersha, and Valeria.

Commander Derek Atio bounced up and down in the cockpit of the Gilded Thranta as the Sigma-class shuttle descended into the atmosphere of the planet Permeles, the eight and further from the sun, planet in the Essesia system. Each bump caused a surge of pain to extend through his lower abdomen where his wound was recently healed. "I can't get us any closer," he yelled over his shoulder to the two women he paid to come along to aide him on this cargo run. The icy world was remote enough to attract Enkido, a crime lord who was once notorious in this sector. There were rumors of there being a large weapons cache and if the rumors were true he wanted those weapons for the alliance ... and not some upstart criminal. As the shuttle began to slow his hands went over the controls and the maneuvering thrusters guided the craft down into a rough landing on the planet's surface. No longer wearing his dirty flight outfit, he was instead wearing the cold weather uniform of the Rebel Alliance, complete with matching hooded parka. "It's going to be cold out there..." he warned the two, as he unstrapped himself from his seat and walked to the back of the craft, where he lowered the ramp. There was a harsh snap of cold air that blew snow directly into the ship. He was glad he was wearing an extra pair of underwear on this trip.

Jane Minersha quite enjoyed the bumpy ride. So much so that she was not belted into the seat, and laughed as she bounced from seat to seat. She knew they were going to an ice planet, so she had prepared. Over her thin layer of protective body armor which was slightly thicker than Valeria's thinsuit, she wore slightly thicker pants than she normally did, and a rather cute coat that was all white and fuzzy on the outside. Smiling as they landed, she left her coat open in the front. Regardless of how cold it was outside, inside the shuttle was hot to her, and she was sweating slightly ... at least until she felt the cold air whip into the ship when the ramp was lowered, and it felt strangely good. So good in fact that she did not even zip the coat closed. "You know, we should have brought extra ammunition ... this place may be occupied already."

The medical droid that Valeria insisted on bringing was there. It was likely that the last time Derek had seen him, he had been tending to Valeria's hair. He was here today in an entirely different role, however, that being to monitor Derek's vital signs from the ship. "Please be certain to return, Commander, if you feel it is necessary. I have prepared a triage area in the event you need treatment" The MEV droid used one of its hands ... it had four of them, though two of them retracted into the body ... to stuck one of its thumbs up in an encouraging fashion.

Valeria shivered as she walked down the ramp and out into the snow. Perhaps because of her vanity she had not put on the cowl of the thinsuit, leaving her face exposed. The thinsuit was still able to keep the rest of her body warm, though it was outside of the temperature range that was optimal. Her normal leathers had been enhanced with the additional of fur lining, but that jacket couldn't have been adding much to what the thinsuit was already doing. "We should be alright. Nothing but microscopic indigenous lifeforms were ever found on this planet, there hasn't been communications signals detect in years, and the life signs detector didn't pick up anything."

Derek pulled a scarf in front of his face as he covered himself, unwilling to deal with the harsh climate without adequate protection. He was freezing already, despite the use of his parka and the insulated clothing that the Rebellion had provided him. "Th-this way," he murmured as he looked at the scanner in front of him. He could see the blip about two clicks away, but he wondered how they be able to lug it all back to the ship. There was also the possibility that the facility had already been looted, or that it was booby trapped. Perhaps he would let one of them try the door first, he thought to himself as his hand subconscious rubbed the wound on his stomach. "Two ... two kilometers," he said through chattering teeth as he pulled the scarf in front of his face and hunkered down as he moved out into the snow storm. Only his QuickSnap36T was on his persona. He really was not expecting to encounter anyone, or anything, on this inhospitable block of ice.

The whole experience of breathing in very cold air was both new and familiar to Jane as she walked down the ramp and onto the snow. "Wow! It sure is pretty, isn't it?" she yelled and laughed, leaping up into the air and landing on the snow on her back with a *poof* sound and snow puffing around her. "Oh, two clicks is nothing in this! Its a lot better than being hot!"

MEV raised the boarding ramp after they were out of site. Valeria had informed Derek of his proficiency as a cargo handler. If worse came to worse, the droid would easily be able to transport whatever they found back to the shuttle, provided it wasn't too large. With its foldout repulsorbed, it was capable of exceeding the limitations of its programming when needed. On the other hand, it was rather hard to respect a doctor who moonlighted as both a teamster and a hairdresser.

Valeria smiled over to Jane as she watched her frolicking in the snow. "You seem to be enjoying this weather." As for herself, Valeria was definitely starting to rethink having her face exposed as it was. It couldn't have been good for her skin. Or her hair for that matter. Her long golden-striped red tresses weren't exactly gleaming in the sunlight. On the contrary, they looked like they had already gotten damp and moist. She had packed lightly, taking only her twin blasters for weapons and leaving the thrusters off of her magno-boots.

Suddenly, off in the distance, a rather adorable sight could be seen. Several white furred mammalian creatures, complete with antlers, bounded off skittishly at the site of such strange newcomers. Whatever they were, they had not shown up on the life form scanners. It was possible that this region of the world could play havoc with the sensors ... something that would have made it a preferable site for a crime lord ... but in any case these creatures were not naturally occurring on the world. Perhaps the crime lord had imported the cute fauna in order to make this retreat more scenic. They possessed many of the qualities of a typical lagomorph, albeit with antlers on their heads and weighing about 40 kilograms each. If someone had the foresight to make plush soft toys of the creatures, they could make a mint.

Derek slapped the side of his scanner aggressively as he saw the creatures flee. Why were they not appearing on his scanners, he thought to himself, as he saw no activity on the motion scanners. He stopped dead in his tracks in the snow and turned to Jane and Valeria, shaking his head in disbelief. "It's no use!" he yelled over the howl of the wind that was blowing through the valley they currently occupied. He placed the motion scanner away and began walking forward against, feeling they had traveled about half the distance to their goal. The overweight, middle-aged man's heart began to beat rapidly in his chest and each foot step seemed to weigh heavily on him. He was getting too old for this, and he could feel the tightness begin as he huffed and puffed on his determined quest to get to the weapons cache.

"I absolutely *love* this climate! Its so ... comfortable!" Jane said happily as she got up to her feet. She very rarely got to be in any arctic climate, and she found that it seemed to agree with her. From what little she had been able to find out on the Chiss, Csilla was a planet not unlike this one, maybe a little cooler. Now that she thought about it, she remembered something else about herself and half of her parentage that might come in very useful. It had a tendency to give her headaches, but it would prove quite invaluable since their sensors seemed to not work. Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath and opened them again. Now, they were glowing a dark red, and she did not see quite as she had before. Looking around, she was fascinated by the varying degrees of cold and heat she now saw, her eyes having shifted into the Infrared spectrum. "Woaah ... now this is awesome!" She looked over to Val and Derek, taking a step back quickly. They were practically *glowing* with heat! "Woah!" she giggled like a maniac and headed to the front of the group, looking all around them as she did so.

Valeria laughed softly as she watched Jane playing in the snow. "Haven't experienced that before, have you?" She pointed off in the direction where she and Derek had saw the bouncing, hopping creatures. "Signs of life. Maybe this crime lord imported some friends to keep him company." She wrapped her arms around herself, glad for the additional insulation her temporarily fur-lined leather jacket provided. "They don't look dangerous, though. Probably herbivores." Still, Valeria did check the settings on her blaster pistols, making sure they would be functional in case they were needed.

Derek climbed up onto the next rise, his snow shoes keeping him from sinking into the snowdrift that threatened to consume his portly frame. In the distance he could make out the outline of Enkido's stronghold. It looked to be quite exposed to the weather ... perhaps someone else had already gone through it all. He attempted to wave on Jane and Valeria, but instead fell down the drift in a rough tumble. "Ugh" he groaned as he rolled down the hill, getting compacted with snow as he rolled endlessly. When he finally came to a stop he was at the entrance to the facility, whose large metal doors seemed to have been forced open ... from the inside. As he stood up he began dusting the snow from his cold weather uniform, attempting to make it look like he had planned it all along.

"Oh, I have ... just not in an arctic environment before, and not for very long. Too long an' I start getting headaches. I think the cold is helping to kind of stave it off though." She looked in the direction she pointed at and saw a pair of erratically bouncing heat signatures shrinking into the distance. "Whatever they were, they're gon- mine!" she shouted as she ran as fast as she could, half sliding, down the last bit, and she nearly ran into the half open door, but stopped short and put her hand on it, removing her glove even. "I, Jane Minersha, privateer and acquirer of at least semi-legal merchandise, hereby claim salvage rights to this facility and everything inside!" She laughed and did a little dance on her way to Derek. "I got a snow base, I got a snow base, I got a snow base!" she half sung as she wiggled her hips, and almost tripped.

"Don't forget he hired us to help him loot this place, Jane." Valeria giggled slightly as she saw her dancing, doing a little wiggle herself as she watched her. It was only for a moment, however, before she noticed the damage to the door and placed her gloved hand on it. She wondered what could have done something like this. "You might have a bit of, er- damage ... to repair." The smuggler shuddered, but despite the cold, she didn't seem like she wanted to be the first one to go inside the facility. For a moment it seemed like she was considering braiding her hair and putting on the cowl and mask that her thinsuit came with, but vanity won out. She just brushed back her hair to let the snowflakes fall off of it.

The howling of the wind suddenly changed, a different tone to it momentarily. It sounded almost like that of a creature, but it was probably just their minds playing tricks on them. This was a rather inhospitable planet, and while the antlered lagomorphs they had already witnessed were able to survive, few other creatures would be. Shortly after the howl faded Derek's communicator would receive a message, provided he had remembered to bring it. Someone was trying to make a call to him.

Derek pulled his comlink out of his pocket and dusted the snow off it. It seemed he had a transmission and he pulled away the scarf to reveal his mouth and spoke into it. "This is Atio," he said weakly, the cold wind snapping at his face serving to remind him painfully of the conditions of the inhospitable rock in space.

Jane heard that sound, and yelped. There was a reason she liked droids more than animals, and that sure sounded like no trick of the wind... "What the hell was that..?" She heard the comlink start making noise too, and suddenly this nice, snowy place seemed not so nice. Gulping hard, she drew her blasters. Maybe she should not be so carefree ... not until they had secured the place. She began to feel a headache coming on and she shrugged herself out of the infrared spectrum and into the visible light spectrum. Blinking a lot, she felt the beginnings of that headache almost cry as it walked away, unable to get a grip on her brain. Looking to Derek as she switched both safeties off of her blasters, she grinned. "You first! Your mission!"

The sound came in somewhat clearly over the comlink transmission, the voice belonging to the MEV droid that Valeria had insisted on bringing along during this journey. "Excuse me, Commander, but I thought you might like to be informed..." The droid seemed rather non-plussed, but that was probably a good quality in someone ... or something ... that needed to stay calm while providing battlefield triage. "...I was running checks on the ship's systems ... my counterpart has been working on improving my technical skills, you see - and it seems your shuttle main communications have been disabled. I am using a comlink I located in the emergency survival kit, but the range seems to be adversely affected by the weather. Do you wish me to exit the craft and perform a visual inspection of the component?"

Valeria smiled a little bit nervously, before she pushed aside the doors and entered. Derek's mission or not, he had a call to take and they had been hired in part as escorts. Not that she wasn't nervous - the weather had her a little on edge. She preferred the type of weather one could safely go naked in whenever possible, and that had nothing to do with her being an exhibitionist. She drew one of her blasters and activated the GloLong glowrod attachment beneath the barrel. GloLong was a pretty reliable company, and the energy cells were charged. It should be able to provide them all illumination for as long as they needed to be there.

Derek cursed as he stomped his foot into the snow angrily. Could anything ever go right? he wondered silently to himself as he listened to Valeria's MEV droid over the comm. "No. No. Just stay inside the ship. We'll fix it when we get off this rock," he said, as he put the comlink back in the pouch on his jacket and followed Valeria into the compound. It had seen better days as there were many openings to the environment visible where snow had caved in. It seemed no regular maintenance had been done since the fall of Enkido ... understandable. He did not feel comfortable, however, and his hand hovered over his QuickSnap 36T blaster carbine. "Let's see if there's anything left," he encouraged the duo of hired mercenaries. He could not care less if Minersha wanted to move into the compound ... his primary concern was retrieving what supplies remained.

Jane furrowed her brow and whined a bit, but she took up the rear. Maybe if she took a few pain inhibitors before she switched over to her infrared vision, she could prevent the pain from bothering her, or even forming. But, even in the low light provided by Val's glowrod, the other side of her heritage came into play. Even in the low light, she could see pretty decently. She could see better if this place had any power and maybe overhead lighting though. Most of her nervousness seemed to pass, but she still had this nagging feeling that something was wrong. The odd noise, the condition of the door, the state of absolute disrepair ... and the damage. "Lets just find what we can find and get out. I can claim my fortress later... "

Valeria allowed herself to fall somewhat behind the other two, the better to cover them with the light her blaster's glowrod was giving off. "If we had access to this place's layout we might be able to find out which parts were reinforced, focus on those.." She ran her tongue slowly along her teeth, trying to stay her normally cheerful self despite the unpleasant cold they found themselves in. Without moving her blaster she would then reach her other hand up towards her mouth, activating her wristcom with her tongue. "Yeah, just stay put. We can always do a space walk once we're..." Valeria trailed off in her attempted communication to her droid as she realized it wasn't being transmitted due to the interference. With a frown on her face she looked up to her comrades in front of her. "Well, coms are out."

At the moment Mini would receive something of a shock. Up ahead in the corridor they were currently traveling through, beneath a section where the ceiling had collapsed and allowed snowfall in, something rose from the ground. Perhaps due to the snow providing cover for its warm, or else due to other factors, that something was not visible in the infrared. Unfortunately for everyone else, it wasn't just a shock to Mini. Both Valeria and likely Derek would probably be more than a little disheartened to see that they were now sharing that corridor with a three+ meter tall white-furred humanoid...and that it was charging at them from less than 25 meters away. It moved with amazing speed for its size, and the blood which decorated its stark white showed its ill intent. That and the fact that it seemed to be intent on eating them right now.

"Get down!" Derek yelled towards Minersha as he attempted to chivalrously push her out of the way so that he would take the full brunt of the wampa's initial onslaught. If successful, he would now be in a position between the creature and the diminutive smuggler. His right hand hovered over the QuickSnap 36T carbine, but he was not exactly a fast draw and it took him a moment to withdraw the bulky blaster. He leveled the weapon with the rampaging creature and he pulled back on the trigger, but nothing happened ... the safety had been carelessly left on. Damn, he thought to himself as he flicked the safety into the off position and then fired off a couple of wild shots in the direction of the creature.

Jane did what was very appropriate in a situation like this. When faced with something almost twice your height, probably several tons heavier than you with big bloody teeth that looked quite hungry, and said large, heavy, seemingly hungry animal was charging directly at you ... needless to say she screamed. When pushed out of the way, she looked around quite quickly for escape after shouting a few select expletives that a Corellian pit crew at an after hours bar would blush at. As she looked, she already had her blasters out and even though Derek was sort of in the way, she crouched and leaned against the wall, aiming up at the charging beasts head. Quick thinking, though, had her aim at the ceiling between Derek and the charging wampa. Maybe if this place was in as bad a shape as she thought, the section of ceiling might collapse between them and the creature, buying them some form of time. She squeezed off half a dozen blaster bolts at a pair of concentrated points spaced about a meter apart horizontal to the corridor. If it was unsuccessful, she was quite prepared to run.

Valeria was fairly fast on the draw, but she'd never been one to practice fire control. She drew her second blaster and moved to fire at the creature haphazardly, not bothering to take time to aim given just how close it was. The smuggler was rather pleased that Jane was thinking creatively, even if it was the kind of direct approach she was employing. Valeria was starting to think she wanted to get off this rock before her skin turned from pink to white.

The wampa didn't break stride as it continued its charge. One of Derek's wildly placed blaster shots did impact it in its shoulder without slowing it, and at least one of Valeria's blue blaster bolts hit it directly in the chest to seemingly little effect. Jane's quick thinking, however, did the job of collapsing a portion of the ceiling directly above the massive charging beast. A section of ferrocete landing on the things head, with more sections landing in front of it. Mostly what that served to, however, was slow it down. By the time it reached the three of them it seemed like they might have been done for. Instead of taking the time to claw any of them, however, it...ran past them? The wampa hit Valeria with a driving shoulder, sending her skidding across the ground. The Commander received a backwards swipe of a meaty hand, strong enough to send him into the nearest wall and perhaps bruise some ribs. The creature didn't stop, however, to gloat about its victory. It kept running in the direction from which the three had entered, off into the fading darkness. They would have a few moments to keep firing on it as it ran.

Derek could not believe how strong the beast was, but before he had time to react he was sent surging forward by the creature's attack. He let out a loud groan of pain as he slammed face first into the nearby wall. His ribs were bruised by the impact with the rough surface, but the greater damage was to his wound, which had been agitated with the collision. "What was that?" he exclaimed loudly as he turned to look at the large and fearsome creature as it disappeared into the darkness from which it came. He had an opportunity to shoot, but he felt as if he would only be wasting ammo. It might even cause the creature to turn and attack them again, he thought as he would check on the condition of Jane and Valeria.

How Jane had avoided the rampaging wampa was ... well ... she did not care. She had avoided it, but Derek and Val had not. She kept her blasters drawn and was about to fire on the fast, apparently retreating wampa, but again, she had to think. That thing could have eaten them alive ... the ceiling collapse did little to it, and she did not think a blaster would do much either, even blasters as good as hers. Since Derek seemed alright, she went over to Val quickly and went to a knee beside her, looking back the way the wampa had come ... what was it running from? she thought as she looked back to Val. "You alright there, Pinkie?"

Valeria was knocked hard by the wampa, hard enough to cause her to skid across the ground. Somehow she managed to alter her movement mid-skid, however. Much like a dancer on a slick floor, she changed her movement into a spin. While she had obviously taken a serious hit from the wampa, it had not caused her to drop her blasters. She kept firing and firing as he vanished into the darkness, out of the range of her glowrod. Her pistols were still giving off smoke from excessive heat generation when Jane would move to comfort her. " just fine...aside from...what may be a dislocated shoulder." So now the smuggler was talking about herself in the third person? More likely she was a tad annoyed at being called Pinkie. "What was that?"

Derek dusted himself off and placed his left hand on his wound as he stood there with the two smugglers. "Let's not stand around and wait for it to come back!" he ordered, as he slid his carbine back into his holster and proceeded deeper into the compound. He moved into an open room that had what looked to be a Bith in it, though it was hard to tell because three quarters of it had been apparently consumed by the wampa. Disgusting, he thought to himself as he moved towards some of the crates. "This is what we came for," he said, in a satisfied tone as he marveled at the crates of credits. "Gather what you can," he said, as he picked up an entire crate filled credits that could undoubtedly bankroll the Rebellion in the region for quite some time.

Jane grinned as she offered Valeria a hand to help her get up. "Just checking to see if you were knocked silly!" She grinned, but that grin turned back into a frown as she looked from Valeria to Derek, than to where the wampa ran to, and finally to where the wampa ran from. "What was he running from... " she thought aloud. The thought worried her. "I don't think our blasters will do much to that thing if it comes back, unless we manage to shoot it in the head at the same time a few times ... or we get a gun that can take down something that big quickly. Maybe an E-Web blaster or six."

"I'm having a little trouble moving my arm. Jane, could you look at the tag on my lining?" She gestured to her her jacket, indicating the back of her collar with her gloved hand as she was helped up. She kept herself close so Jane as she walked over where Derek was, noting the boxes of credits. "Heh. Kinda of makes us wish we were full partners in this venture rather than security, huh?" She holstered one of her blasters, the one held by the arm that was currently suffering under limited mobility, before picking up a case of credits. The other one kept its weapon with the light on, unwilling to go without any security. Once they made it back to the ship the MEV droid could assist them with the rest of the job.

Jane did as she was asked at the tag on the jacket lining. Her eyes widened as she saw it. She would ask about it later though as she followed Val to where Derek was ogling boxes and boxes of credits. Her eyes lit up, almost literally, as she saw them, but she was more concerned with the shoulder. She safetied her blasters and set them in their holsters. "Val, I'm gonna fix that, c'mere." She frowned and put both of her free hands gently against her bad shoulder. "Move your arm as high as you can without pain."

"It's going to a good cause," Derek assured them all as he began carrying the crate filled with credits. His gloved hands struggled to hold onto the heavy crate ... somewhere in this facility there had to be a repulsorsled. "I'm sure there's got to be more in this facility. Let's keep moving," he said to the duo, as he began moving deeper into the compound. As he made his way he found more old, desiccated corpses that seemed to be years old. "Let's not end up as lunch for whatever did this," he said nervously, trying to lighten the mood, but the truth was he was growing very concerned.

Valeria raised her arms slowly, wincing as she did so. Thus far it had seemed that the girl was not enjoying that cold. "I think I know what you're about to do, but all I wanted you to look at was the tag on my jacket's lining." Her large silver-blue eyes narrowed as she waited for what was to come, even though she was pretty sure about what was about to happen. She observed the corpses that Derek indicated, biting her lips as she prepared herself for the pain. "If we could bring up a schematic of this place I bet we could find the armory."

Jane winced a little herself as she groaned. She did not quite want to do this, but it would be better in the long run for all of them. She sighed. "I'm sorry," she said as she got behind her and touched her forehead with the back of her head for a second, then pulled away and with a swift motion, popped that shoulder back into place. It made a pretty bad noise, but it was muffled by the coat, the armor, and the liner, the tag of which she now looked at. "Washing instructions..." she said to herself, but Val could hear her. "100-percent genuine wampa fur..."

"If we could bring up a schematic of this place we'd already be back on Esseles by the pool relaxing..." Derek said in response to Valeria's comment. "You two ladies picked a lovely time to leave your astromechs behind," he said, rolling his eyes as he sarcastically chastised them. "This place is truthfully a lot larger than I should it would be. Ideas, Valeria?" he asked, as he braced himself against the wall, still struggling to hold up the crate of credits.

Valeria let out a primal scream, which was rather amusing coming from a 1.57 meter tall humanoid female that looked better suited to be entertaining people in a Hutt's palace than hunting someone in a jungle. Her eyes glazed over briefly before she gave a nod of thanks in her fellow hybrid's direction "I thought it was wampa fur. That must be what these things are called. Come from the planet Sloth I think. Maybe Bloth?" She shook her head, the details escaping her. "Jane's a better slicer than me, I think. We find a computer terminal and get it running, we can take one our datapads and try and find where this guy stored his guns."

"I'm sorry!" Jane apologized quickly, knowing how painful reconnecting a disconnected shoulder could be. She reached into one of her many vest pouches and pulled out a small bottle. Popping the lid off, she pulled out a small pill and handed it to Val, and took one herself "Here, that should kill the pain." She took the one she got for herself and pulled out a third before replacing the bottle in its pouch before she walked to Derek. "I can use a blaster pack to power a console for about ten minutes if we can't find an alternate power source ... but with that brute still around, and who knows what else ... I'm not sure we can spare the ammunition.

"We don't have much choice," Derek said as he dusted the ice and snow off a nearby wall console. With a sigh he unholstered his QuickSnap 36T blaster carbine and pressed the power pack release. It fell into his hand and he offered it up to Minersha for the greater good. "It's not like I'm that great of a shot, anyway," he said to her, as he shrugged at them both. "Besides. If there's anymore more like those creatures around here it won't matter much," he explained, as he stepped away to give her access to the console.

Valeria grinned as she popped the pill Jane gave her like a pro. It wouldn't be surprising to learn that Valeria had more than a little bit of experience in unnecessary medication. She would hand Derek one of her blasters with the admonition to return it, before stepping back and giving the blue-skinned female some room to work. "You can do it. Just imagine Sprocket is here helping you." Valeria would begin rolling her shoulders as she tried to regain motion in both arms.

Frowning, Jane took the power pack and pulled out her datapad and an adapter cable. "I can slice most independent systems, especially ones as old as this." The computer panel on the wall looked old. She recognized the model, and unless it was modified, it should use the same encryption as the others... which was simple. Attaching the power pack to the cord, and the cord to the power port, than the datapad to the dataport of the terminal. Lifting up a small panel beside the power port, she pushed a dull orange press button near the power port which was a manual power shunt in case of main power failure. It completely drained the power pack of energy, and the panel sparked and fizzled a moment before the terminal came to life. She worked on it quickly since the power would not last too long. The system, since it had been disconnected for so long, did not even have any aftermarket encryption. Within three minutes flat, she had all the necessary data on the facility, an overlay of the area, Blueprints, and most importantly, or so she thought to herself, the directions to the main power room and the security office not too far from it. "Says here that there is a security room, and sentry blasters. If we can get power to the rest of the facility, we can get those sentries activated, and tell them to shoot that brute on sight."

Derek frowned as he heard the power pack wind down and realized they were running low on ammo. "I just want to get out of here, Jane," he said aggressively as he looked over her shoulder at the overlay of the compound. "What's the fastest way to where they store the weapons? Let's get as much as we can," he encouraged them as he put a hand on Minersha's shoulder and squeezed it reassuringly, realizing he was beginning to feel a little out of sorts after the encounter with the monster. The silence in the facility and all of the corpses had combined to set an eerie scene that had instilled fear into his soul.

Valeria was standing facing the backs of the other huddled in front of the console, her blaster's glowrod being used to provide light for Jane's impressive display of slicing skill. The smuggler was very happy now that it looked like they were going to find themselves out of this cold pretty soon. "He's right. Once we get to those weapons we can be a lot more comfortable here. I'd like to see how a wampa stands up to a man portable concussion missile-" And then her words suddenly stopped. By the time they would turn back to her she was gone, and her remaining blaster was falling to the ground, the forward portion of it crushed into uselessness. Apparently the wampa was not only fast but incredibly stealthy as well.

Jane turned around just in time to see that blaster hit the ground. For about a second, she did not do anything but stare in disbelief. That thing had come and taken her friend ... and the blaster... "Valeria!" she shouted in despair. Growling, she fought back tears as her fingers moved in a blur across that datapad. There was still about 30 seconds worth of power left on that console, and she was not about to let it go to waste. She calculated a route to the armory, took an inventory of what was in there, and also downloaded every scrap of information in the memory banks, which was not enough to fill even a tenth of the memory storage on the pad. Disconnecting just as the power on the console died, she reached down, picked up that half-destroyed blaster and tucked it into her vest near her chest. "Lets go," she said in a voice that sounded as cold and angry as the arctic climate. For all she knew, one of, if not her absolute best friend was now being eaten alive, and she was not going to let that go unpunished. "Keep up or fall behind." And with that, she took off at a fast walk on her planned route, ready to make any detour necessary to get to the armory. To Mustafar with the sentries, she thought, this is *personal*.

If the comm unit was not down he could have called in a squad of Rebel commandos, but unfortunately that was not an option for them at this point. He could not believe how fast the creature have moved and how easily it had made off with Valeria. He feared what the creature might be doing to her. "I'm right behind you, Jane," Derek said as he unholstered Valeria's DC-17 ... like it would actually do anything ... and chased after the blue-skinned hybrid. "Are you sure you know where you're going, Jane?" he asked, having not had a chance to look at the map himself.

At this point only a minute had passed from the time Valeria had disappeared. None of were experts on arctic predators, but there may have been a chance she was still alive. During her time in the base's database Jane would have been able to see the exterior of the compound was wired with cameras. When she would make it to the armory - powering up the door would probably require the sacrifice of another power pack ... she might be able to access the cameras in order to catch a glimpse of what was stalking them.

It was not too far to the armory, and the path was unobstructed. The door, however, was another issue. It was one of those big, secure blast doors. It looked like it had claw marks all over it, and had been beaten more than a few times, but it still seemed secure Not even hesitating, Jane took the power pack out of the damaged blaster, since it was not going to fire without repair anyway and hooked it up to the door. Running through the same procedure she did with the console, the doors opened enough for the two of them to get in, but not much wider. Three feet across. The wampa still would not be able to get in without pulling the door open farther. "Inside," she said as she took the cord and pocketed the spent power pack before going inside of the armory. No snow had fallen inside and no bulkhead breaches could be seen.

Derek took a deep breath and held in his considerable stomach as he entered the armory. He barely managed to fit in between the opening of the door, but he did manage. He was close behind Minersha, letting her take the lead. She seemed personally invested in rescuing Valeria and he wondered how close the two had become over the short time they had all been working together. "Let's see what's in these crates," he said as he began going through some of the weapons. To his amazement he found a Clone Wars era Verpine shatter gun. "Wow. Haven't seen one of these in about 20 years," he said, as he tossed it over towards Jane. It was a definite upgrade to their firepower, he thought, as he was content to use Valeria's DC-17 for the time being. Based on the amount of weapons here it was decidedly worth their trip to this frozen rock.

The armory was decidedly well equipped. It also seemed to double as a security room in an emergency, and thus had terminals set up to receive feeds from the exterior of the facility. Jane or Derek ... well, it was probably going to be Jane ... should have little difficulty in accessing the feeds.

Jane put her datapad away and caught the weapon that was tossed to her. "The Verpine who sold me the Insectoid droids had a pistol version of one of these..." she looked the weapon over as if she'd owned it most of her life. She checked the magazine load. Technically, it was a slugthrower, but it could fire just about any metal object, hell, possibly a small enough stone, almost completely silent. Setting the rifle aside, however, she looked for more useful things. It did not take her long to find what she was looking for: a portable fusion generator. "I am going to activate the security systems with this. Maybe we can use it to find out where that bastard took Valeria." Within a minute, she had hooked up the small generator to the console on the far wall. From what she could activate that was still intact was a datafeed from multiple cameras around the facility. There were a number of cameras offline, but the ones that were online she managed to datalink wirelessly to her datapad. All she had to do was activate that datalink and she could see the cameras from wherever they were.

"Do you see her, Jane?" Derek asked excitedly as he watched the woman skillfully slice the terminal. He knew his way around a ship's engine room, but when it came to slicing he was a novice ... at best. He was amazed he could program a ship's food processor ... that was enough for him. He started grabbing grenades from a crate as he prepared himself for battle with the creature. Suddenly finding Valeria had taken a back seat to grabbing the weapons, credits, and other supplies that were still remaining in the compound.

Easily half of the cameras were disabled, either from age, lack of maintenance, or simply from the weather. As long as theories were being concerned, it was even possible that the wampa had disabled some of them. Eventually Jane would be able to cycle to a camera that would have the image she sought. She would have to pump it up to its greatest magnification, but eventually she would be able to bring up the horrific site. The wampa was moving at a steady pace away from the facility, nearing a cliff. Its lair must have been nearby. It wasn't alone, however. Being dragged behind the three meter tall beast was a small female humanoid clad in black thinsuit. Her blood trail was slick across the ice and she was being dragged by that waist length gold-striped red hair. It was hard to say what Valeria would be most upset about, were she conscious. At the distance the camera was monitoring the wampa from, it wasn't clear whether she was still breathing. They'd have to run to catch the wampa, and it would be a sprint.

Jane saw the camera and looked at the facility overlay. It showed the facility and a few kilometers around it at minimum magnification. Probably the most disturbing sound that she had ever made was heard from her at that moment. A low, feral growl emanated from her throat. No words were spoken as she set her pad down calmly. The display on the terminal showed the camera, zoomed in to where the blood trail was, and it showed Val being dragged by her beautiful hair. Walking calmly to the crate that the shatter gun came from, she pulled out a roll of utility tape she kept in one of her many vest pockets and filled her arms with as many magazines of shatter gun ammunition she could carry. Dumping them on the floor, she set the magazines back to back, overlapping a bit as she wrapped the tape tightly around them so she could fast switch if necessary. She did this to about ten of them and after making sure they were loaded, she loaded one magazine into the shatter rifle, pocketed the rest, committed the route to memory, took another pain pill, and ran. Derek had no hope of keeping up as her legs pumped under her. That rifle, fully charged, fully loaded and ready to go did very little to slow her down. That thing was dead. Its head would be hung in her ships lounge, its fur would be her new blanket, and its bones would decorate her quarters.

"Jane! No!" Derek exclaimed as she ran off without any thought or plan. The young woman easily outpaced him, who did not even try to keep up with her. He ran about a quarter of the distance before he felt a twinge in his chest and had to stop to catch his breath. He wished he could reach Valeria's MEV droid on the comm, but he was well out of range. The best he could do at this junction was to return to the ship at the best speed he could maintain without further injuring himself. The man was a pilot ... an engineer really ... not a commando.

By the time the exited the facility the wampa would practically be out of eyesight, but could be viewed through macrobinoculars. Luckily, the snowstorm seemed to have died down, which allowed for superior visibility. Jane had managed to make up some time on the wampa, who did not know perhaps that he should have been hurrying. Valeria, or her corpse, was still being dragged across the rough ground as the wampa approached that cliff.

It really was not that hard to track them. After all, red blood against white snow was not too hard to see. Jane shifted her eyes between light and infrared as she spotted the wampa. The associated headaches were staved off by the pain pill she had taken earlier, and it did not take her long to figure out that the wampa was more easily visible in the light spectrum. She had made sure the weapon was loaded and ready before she ran out, and now she shouldered the rifle and looked down the scope. She made very minor adjustments as she zeroed in on her target ... the wampa's neck. Breathing out, she pulled the trigger, and sent out that supersonic projectile. The wampa was tall enough and Valeria was being dragged low enough that she was quite certain that Val would not be hit.

The round from the Verpine shatter gun impacted the snow beast directly in the neck. Blood sprayed from its neck as the creature was spun around, letting go of the hair of its catch and dropping hard onto the ground. It was not clear whether it was the force of the impact or the beast's death that had caused it to drop. In any case, it lay there on the ground, and did not immediately make a move to rise from the snow. That had to be have been an unusual experience for a wampa, and perhaps its last, being hit by an unusual rifle made by an insectoid species which resided primarily in an asteroid belt on the other side of the galaxy. Not something that an apex predator from a desolate ice world encountered every day. Its body had landed close to the cliff it had been heading for. They had gotten a good view of its claw before ... it was probably planning to climb down the cliff to wherever its lair was.

Valeria was no longer being dragged by the creature. It was not immediately clear that it mattered, however. She had a long blood slick across the snow leading towards where the creature had just dropped her. If that hadn't killed her, the prospect of getting a lot of her hair yanked out might have done it. The smuggler was a rather vain sentient, after all. After Jane saw the wampa drop, however, she would see a brief rise in Valeria's chest ... or at least that was what it looked like at the distance she was at. She seemed to still be alive. The wampa wasn't moving.

======Scene Break======

By now, Derek had made his way about outside of the compound on the way back to the Gilded Thranta. He stood on a snowdrift outside the facility looking down at his shuttle, wishing that the comm system had not failed them at this critical junction. He shook visibly when he heard the Verpine weapon fire and wondered if that marked the end of Jane Minersha. Why had the girl foolishly ran off after the creature, he wondered silently to himself. If he had gotten both of these smugglers killed trying to make off with a few credits and weapons he would never forgive himself. If only they had not dropped their cargo on Ralltiir the other day ... then maybe this trip would not have been necessary. He tried to catch his breath, but realized time was of the essence and began stomping through the snow towards the ship.

======Scene Break=======

Jane ran quickly towards the wampa and Valeria, but she stopped a good thirty feet short ... if this thing was clever enough to snatch Valeria away so quickly, than it was smart enough to play dead. She shouldered the rifle once again and took careful aim from closer than she was before. This time, she aimed once again at the big beasts head. She could do without the trophy if she messed the head up. She fired two more shots, and hopefully, they would just leave neatly torn holes in the beasts head and not totally shatter its skull.

The beast moved just as soon as the sound of Jane's feet moving through the snow ceased. It had indeed been lying in wait for her. Unfortunately, it wasn't fast enough to totally avoid the shot, which impacted it as in moved to rush Jane. The creature had been wounded by their previous hits on it, but it apparently had some life left. It was wanting to take Jane with it in order to have a more complete feast, it seemed. It claws were bared as it charged, giving Jane only a small amount of time to keep shooting at it. Judging by the length of those claws, it could potentially kill someone in one swipe. The best hope was that a few more shots would managed to do it in.

Derek moved at his best possible speed, which was average for a normal in shape individual. He pulled aside his scarf and yelled over icy wind onto the comlink. "Open the hatch, MEV. And get the ship prepped. Valeria and Jane are in trouble!" he exclaimed, so that his voice could over the ambient noise. He was growing very concerned about what was going on back in the compound. Was he already too late, he wondered silently to himself as he waited for the droid to let him back aboard.

The response he got back was garbed, but it sounded like an affirmative. Indeed, by the time he had the Gilded Thranta in sight, he could see that the hatch was opened and the engines were warming up. Perhaps the medical droid had undersold his skills, or maybe this was just a sudden burst of competency under pressure. In any case, the vessel was ready when the Commander arrived. As a curiosity, the Commander might have noticed that the external portion of the shuttle's communicator had been damaged by what resembled claws...but that was impossible. The creature could not have known what the device was, could it?

Jane had fired four shots. She had four more in the current magazine, which she did not quite need to aim very well to fire. Her finger squeezed the trigger as fast as that gun would fire, and as soon as the fourth shot left the magazine, she triggered the release, flipped the taped back-to-back magazine around, and slammed it home. Pulling on the charging rod to load the first round, she let out a very animal growl and scream, and ran towards the beast as she fired. She knew she had very little chance of overpowering the wampa ... but she planned on the moment of its swipe, she would dive forward between the thing's legs. If all went to plan, she could dive, slide, turn around, reload and resume firing before the beast realized she had gotten away.

It did not quite go as planned for Minerha. All four of the rounds did indeed hit home, however. The wampa was interrupted in mid-charge, the ferociousness instantly fading from its eyes as life escaped it. In fact, even her gambit of moving between the thing's legs would have worked...if it did not fall down dead right on top of her while she was in mid dive. It was a heavy beast, all three meters of well fed muscle and sinew. Thankfully, she was already on her stomach when it landed on her. Despite its weight, she could probably crawl out from under it.

Jane could see Valeria from the position she was in. She was also lying on her stomach, her head facing away from her fellow hybrid, pointed towards the cliff she had nearly been dragged over. There was some slight movement to indicate that she was still breathing, but whatever major injury she had suffered must have been on the side of her body that was pressed against the snow. Her scalp was bleeding slightly, probably somewhat from being dragged by her long hair. but more likely from being cuffed in the head by the massive paw of the beast.

Jane's primal anger moved quickly to panic as she squeaked and tried to dive out of the way towards Valeria "Oh Shi- oooof!" was what she managed to get out. She had managed to toss her rifle aside and not under the beast. The wind was quite thoroughly knocked from her lungs, but she was full of adrenaline now. She had only now just realized how stupid she was and how bad things could have gone. She was happy to be alive, and she quickly dug and wiggled herself free. Ignoring the now thoroughly dead wampa, she scrambled over to Valeria and struggled to inhale as she very gently checked to see if Valeria was alive. She had very few medical supplies on her, so she simply took off her furry coat and laid it down over her. She took her head gently and elevated it, scooping snow beneath her head to do double duty ... making the wound cold would slow the bleeding and swelling, and elevating her head would make the bleeding slow. "Val..! Please wake up ... Val!" She looked at the side of her that was in the snow, checking to see how bad the bleeding was.

Valeria was lying face down in the snow, and she had a blood slick trailing her that seemed to go all the way back to the facility. When she was flipped over one could see what was causing all the bleeding ... three huge claw marks that had gone straight through her armorweave-reflec blend thinsuit and into her stomach. That might not have been what had caused the most damage, however. She looked like she had her head squeezed hard by one of those big wampa paws ... this was something which would probably take at least one long dunk in a bacta tank to heal. Her eyes were half-lidded as she seemed to show some awareness that someone else was present. One of Valeria's hands was clutched around something in a death grip, but once she was flipped over she seemed to loosen up her grip on it. It looked like one of the air filters for her thinsuit. Perhaps before she had lost the ability to reason she had been planning on letting a jet of oxygen blast the wampa's face to distract it. That probably wouldn't have worked out too well.

The MEV droid having successfully primed the ship, Derek activated the repulsorlift engine that shook the ship free of its snowy birth and violently lifted it off the planet's surface. His hand moved over the throttle and the shuttle accelerated through the storm towards Enkido's abandoned compound. He attempted to find a spot to land through the icy storm that was obscuring most of his view. "See if you can find them on scanners, MEV," he said to the droid, as he slowed the shuttle's engine and began circling the compound. A flick of his wrist activated lights on the ship, which he hoped would afford him a better view of the terrain below.

"Located." The droid was a rather calm and efficient co-pilot, even if it lacked a great degree of skill in what it what was doing. Ultimately MEV had brought the two it was looking for up on scanners by the details the Commander had provided. There were only so many nearby geographical features which fit the bill. While it used two hands to operate the ship, it was notably preparing for a medical evacuation as per its primary programming. The repulsorbed was already folding out of its rear compartment as its other two hands retrieved the medicine and tools it would need from its storage compartments.

Jane did not have any pressure bandages, any wrapping. With her coat off, and the storm kicking up again, she did not have many options and she was beginning to get cold. She would endure though. Just as the tears began welling up in her eyes as she thought she was going to lose her, she heard over the wind the sweet sound of repulsors and looked up to see the ship. Laughing in desperation and relief, she brought her hand to Valeria's cheek and smiled. "You're going to be fine. The ship is here, you're going to make it!" She gave the injured woman a kiss on the forehead and stayed very close to her to try and keep her warm.

"...think I...dropped my other...blaster." Valeria smiled a bit, her teeth red with blood. That wasn't a very good sign, but her being able to joke about it was. On the other hand, she was very attached to her possessions. It was entirely possible that she'd consider that the most important thing in a crisis such as the one she was in. The wounds on her torso did look a bit odd. Though the claw marks were only several minutes old, the wound look a few days old, with some healing already taking place.

Jane laughed and put a hand to her cheek, tears were falling at this point, but she was smiling as she pulled out the blaster that she had dropped and held it up in front of her for Val to see. "I have it here," she said, still smiling. She was still so afraid to lose her that she dared not move from her side until the droid came to get her, or until the ship and Derek came.

The compound began to shake as Derek used the coordinates provided by the MEV droid to land the shuttle directly adjacent to where Jane and Valeria were. Once the vessel was touched down next to the compound, he moved to the turret where he quickly fired a low intensity blast to put a hole in the wall so that he could easily access them. He quickly hurried down the ramp and back into the maddening cold of the planet's surface, before re-entering the compound. "Jane?! Valeria?!" he cried out, as he stepped inside, pulling the scarf away from his face. He was startled by what he saw. The wampa appeared to be dead and Valeria looked to be in bad shape. "This way, MEV ... this way!" he shouted, before rushing towards Valeria and Jane.

The MEV droid quickly outpaced Derek. For one, this had nothing to do with him being overweight and out of shape. When it needed to be, the droid was faster overland than Jane or Valeria could even hope to be, mostly due to its design as a droid meant to haul wounded warriors off the battlefield. It was only a few before the medevac droid had arrived next to Valeria's prone body. With its four arms it swiftly fetched her up and placed her on its repulsorbed, providing treatment while it moved her. Obviously it had some kind of gravitational field on that repulsorbed to keep her stable during its zoom. While it jabbed various medicine in her arms and began treatment it would speak calmly to both Jane and the Commander, even as it had almost already left earshot. "Prognosis is good if you can rendezvous with the Caritas Ascendant shortly. While you were exploring, I conducted a temporary repair which you should be able to contact my counterpart with. He will meet you at coordinates you specify." By now Jane and the Commander were likely familiar with Valeria's R3 unit, which was evidently who MEV was talking about. Apparently he could operate her ship by himself in a pinch.

Jane held onto Valeria's hand tightly until the MEV took her away too quickly for her to keep up. When he said that the prognosis was good, she could not help but fall to her knees and put her face in both hands in a mixture of relief and grief. She was not able to protect her ... but she was able to exact revenge for the pain suffered. It was about that time, when she saw Valeria go into the shuttle, that she realized the truth. She was in love with Val. The thought terrified her and excited her all at once, and she looked up to Derek from where she was kneeling. "Get the ship ready to go. I'll only be a minute," she said softly as she jogged over to the wampa and retrieved her rifle. It was still cold, but she did not seem to notice as she looked at the wampa again. It was dead. And to make sure, she growled and dropped the rifle, drawing her combat knife, she grabbed the wampa's fur at the top of its head and began cutting. With her anger at the wampa still, it took all of 60 seconds before she was jogging calmly up the ramp. In one hand, she had the Verpine rifle that had taken out the wampa, whose head was now held by the hair in her other hand. "Now we can go..."

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