The Iron Dawn

Chapter 1: Raxus Prime

THE IRON DAWN

Episode II

It has been five years since the Iron Dawn was last in the public spotlight. The crew have spent the last few years wandering the galaxy searching for adventure, dealing with the relative peace that has befallen the galaxy after the turmoil they encountered on Naboo.

Rumors of war have begun to spread across the galaxy. Unrest in the Senate has led to some speculating that a galactic civil war is imminent.

On the distant planet of Raxus Prime, the Iron Dawn, piloted by Kibur Blastblade, has recently set down in search of some sensitive material a few Hutts are willing to pay handsomely for.

But the crew are not the only ones searching for this secret item…


The Iron Dawn slowly settled on a pile of scrap metal, shifting unsteadily before finding a foothold. The hatch hissed with hydraulics and opened, lowering onto a solitary patch of dirt. The junk planet of Raxus Prime awaited.

The planet was covered in mounds upon mounds of junk and refuse. Dozens of planets across dozens of systems used this planet as a dumping ground for all their unwanted items. Old speeders, starships, rusted droids and decaying food numbered among the untold billions of items covering this planet from pole to pole. The stench was unmistakable and strong.

A holographic display had been placed at the base of the ramp of the ship by the Hutts, who had told the crew it would activate once they arrived dirt-side. It lit up.

A Hutt, corpulent and slick, was displayed in a small three dimensional image, flanked by a 3PO translator droid.

“Achuta, murishanis,” the Hutt muttered. Greetings, travelers, the droid translated.

“Jee waba chuba ta boska un droi coo sa ree foonta ta je.” His Excellency, Lord Troba the Hutt, desires that you to find a certain droid he seeks on this planet. It is very important to him.

“Mikiyuna sa stuta da droi, an da pogwa soong lust sa ree inkabunga.” Everyone is looking for this droid, and the information he carries is most private in nature.

“Koose da droi ta je, an chuba vopa moulee-rah.” Bring the droid to his Excellency on Nal Hutta, and you will be rewarded.

“Kaa bazza kundee hodrudda.” Best of luck.

The hologram went silent.

Kami’atra glanced around to his companions as a slight smile began to curl the corner of his lips. Without a word, he descended the ramp to touch base with this personally new world. As he reached the base of the ramp, he took in a slow panoramic view of the desolation that was Raxus Prime. Having never been to this world, yet hearing only rumors of the atrocities that accumulated here on the surface and below, he sighed and looked to his feet.

Kneeling down, he retrieved a small scrap of metal that had been half-buried by the Dawn’s landing. As he stood, he tossed the scrap to clitter-clatter among the various remnants of long forgotten machinery and rubble; his smile widened as the sound sent myriad little creatures scurrying throughout the nearby rubbish piles away from the thrower. Though his smile diminished as he took his first deep breath of the thick, foul, stench that was this world’s atmosphere, he took a half-step back to turn toward the crew and nodded in acknowledgement.

“Keep on your toes, friends, but for now it appears safe enough…,” Kami’atra encouraged as he turned to focus his attention on anything that might have been drawn to the landing vessel with less than amiable intentions.

Kibur held a small tracking device aloft, as the small mini-computer cut in and out. The static of the massive collection of metal interfered with the signal.

“We go north,” said Kibur, looking towards a mountain of sheet metal in the distance. “That way, I think…” He began to walk over the piles of trash.

Bax grumbled a bit, throwing his pack over his shoulder, and began to slowly, but deftly move over the rubble. Chattering in binary, “Span” the J-9 Worker droid followed behind his master. Magnetically attached to Span’s back were three bulbous discs with single view-pieces on one end of each of them.

Using all four limbs to move, as his lower limbs touched the ground every once and a while, they shimmered with a pulse of energy. “Why do we do this? He never even gave us a price. I hate Hutts.”

Back inside the ship, Irulan closed the leather journal which she had been reading – the last remnant of her master that she owned – and wrapped it in a scarlet cloth. Quickly gathering her other belongings into her satchel, she hooked her saber into her belt and stepped outside, descending the ramp to where Kibur and the others were waiting.

She began to follow them through the debris, in the direction Kibur pointed.

“Are there any kind of life forms that might actually inhabit this god-forsaken place? And what kind of information do you think this droid contains? Surely nothing good . . .”

“From what I’ve heard, Irulan, this planet is mostly populated by independent droids, immigrated Jawas, and capsulized human industrial colonies. I’m certain we’re bound to run into someone scavenging for parts in this wasteland; it’s not a place I’d choose to stay long… As for the droid, I’d prefer not to delve to deep into the thoughts of a Hutt; I’m with Bax – I don’t trust Troba, but I wouldn’t let you three run this task alone.”

Kami’atra scrambled up to the peak of the nearest of the junk mounds and scanned the near horizon for anything in motion, especially in the direction Kibur had indicated. As the crew moved forward, he continued this pattern of climb and seek, occasionally throwing a small piece of scrap over the next hill watching for movement among the debris.

Irulan paused thoughtfully, brushing her auburn hair away from her face. “I’m glad you’re with us, Kami’atra. But we were told that there are numerous people seeking this droid besides us. I guess what I’m afraid of is that the information this droid contains will prove deadly to someone – perhaps someone innocent. Why else would so many people want it?”

“A worthy question,” a voice responded. Stepping over a pile of rubble stood an alien, its race strange and unfamiliar. “I suppose you’re the ones Troba sent?” He held a cylinder of metal up, igniting it. The lightsaber flashed with light.

“A Jedi? What an honor.” Irulan drew her lightsaber in a flash of dazzling blue, inwardly praying the others have her back in case this bounty hunter was stronger than she predicted. She was not ready to die just yet – so much unfinished business to attend to.

“Jedi?!” the alien scoffed. “Jedi?! I took this blade off the monster who slew my father.”
He drew a blaster pistol from its holster. “The droid is mine. Shall we?”

Bax pulled out his own metal cylinder and ignited it, taking a puff. The fumes from the aluminum tab stick made him smile. With the tube between his teeth he pulled his ion rifle off his shoulder and leveled it at the enemy. “Well, if I don’t recognize what it is, maybe it won’t know what I’m carrying.” Span stood next to him chattering aimlessly in Binary.

Kami’atra glared down at the assailant from his perch atop a nearby scrapheap. His gauntlets sparked to energetic life as he drew blade from sheath and observed the attacker from above, watching for a point of weakness.

“It was unwise of you to be so brash, hunter,” Kami’atra called to the attacker. “What is your name that we may dispatch you honorably, and send word to whom it be appropriate?” he continued, in hopes of drawing the assailant’s attention.

Kibur drew his blaster, ducking behind the empty hull of a Z-95 Headhunter. He could feel the sticky warmth of the air clinging to him as he took a deep breath, popped up from behind the scrap and fired. The shot hit the bounty hunter in the shoulder, momentarily causing him to stumble backwards.

“You killed a Jedi, huh?” While Tel recovered from Kibur’s shot, Irulan closed her eyes, trying to control her anger. There is no emotion, there is peace. But the image that rose in her mind, unbidden, was her last sight of her master. Green eyes snapping open, she sprang forward and swung at him with her lightsaber, but he swiftly ducked and avoided the blow. As he moved forward in retaliation, she rolled beneath a rusty, overturned airspeeder.

Bax rushed forward and dove behind a Generator closer to the alien, shooting his ion gun around the hunter’s feet to provide cover fire for the others.

Kami’atra lowered his blade to his right and behind him as the planet’s noxious winds begin to swirl around him. Extending his left arm out toward the hunter, he began to mouth ancient words in his native tongue under his breath. The wind descended into the junkyard beneath him with a resounding clatter and emerged in the surrounding proximity of their assailant. As the whirlwind rose from the enemy’s feet, the winds intensified and began assaulting him with myriad scraps of metal and earthen material; the furious flurry of shards continued to accumulate until the crew’s attacker could hardly be seen through the tempest that consumed nearly four meters around the hunter. Kami’atra internalized a deep breath before taking a few small steps to take cover behind the heavy arm of a long forgotten ore lifting crane.

The whirlwind pummeled the bounty hunter, whipping around him. His lightsaber had gone out when the whirlwind first began, but now a snap-hiss was heard and a blue glow shone through the cloud of debris. He fired a shot in the dark, wildly missing any of the crew.

JEDI!!!” he shouted.

Kibur, seeing the glow, came up over the Headhunter and fired again. The red flash and shout as the bounty hunter was hit gave him a grim satisfaction. He dropped back down below the ship, and shouted in the general direction of the others. “We need to keep moving! If he’s here, there are bound to be others looking for that droid!” He pulled out a datapad and began typing across its surface.

“You called?” Irulan’s eyes narrowed fiercely as, rolling to her feet, she aimed another furious slash at the bounty hunter. This time, he slid swiftly out of the way. The voice of her master sounded clearly in her head in sharp rebuke. Focus, Irulan! What is wrong with you? He’s not worth this.

Bax slowly moved forward step by step as the ion rifle burst upon the ground around the enemy. “We need to move or fight, what are we gonna do?!” he shouted over the din.

“We have to take care of him, Bax, or he’ll only be a threat to us!” Irulan shouted out.

Kami’atra continued to focus upon the whirlwind he’d created to surround the bounty hunter. Scrap metal concentrically beat upon the hunter as the winds swirled and thrust the space about him.

“You’ll not escape this encounter with your life, hunter . . . today is not a good day for you to die. I am no Jedi, but I promise you that my companions will destroy you if you make the choice not to surrender,” Kami’atra recited to the crew’s attacker. Earth and metal persisted in tormenting the assailant to the point where what little of the nearest star could be seen through the dust and dim atmosphere of Raxus Prime all but vanished to the eyes of their aggressor.

“Although it may seem fruitless, I will offer you the choice to yield this unwarranted attack or I’ll allow you to succumb to and be condemned by this silent darkness that you are now experiencing.”

The only sound heard was the whipping of the wind and metal on metal. Then, through the noise, a voice gasped, “Please! Just make it stop!” In the moments of clarity through the whirlwind, he could be seen on his knees, an arm outstretched.

Seeing the figure on the ground, Irulan suddenly felt her heart wrench within her. “Kami’atra – stop it. Please. He’s surrendering to us. Couldn’t we stun him, or at least take him prisoner?”

There was pity and compassion found upon Kami’atra’s countenance; however, he knew that the whirlwind was not meant to destroy their attacker and had not delivered terribly much damage to the hunter…

With a voice of suspicion ringing in his tone and continued winds scraping shards against the assailant, Kami’atra spoke to him through the bellowing tempest, “Discard your weapons over to us, hunter – all of them – that we may hear your plea in greater faith.”

Kami’atra looked toward each of his companions individually to observe their perceptions of this potential turn of events. Regardless, as he was well aware of the treachery that individuals such as their current attacker were stereotypically capable of, Kami’atra returned his focus to the kneeling, submissive figure within the winds.

“Anything!” the bounty hunter shouted through the gale. He threw his lightsaber through the whirlwind. It skittered to a halt a few feet away. The blaster followed. The wind began to die down.

“Lay down with your face to the earth, hunter, and your hands behind your head. You will be treated well for having surrendered so freely.” Cautiously, Kami’atra began to step toward him, waiting for Tel to either submit to the request, or, as Kami’atra assumed, he might attempt subterfuge and escape. As he approached, Kami’atra perceived and unwound a length of syntherope from around a fallen 8D smelter droid; he tested its tensile strength in both hands before preparing it as a restraint. “If you should resist, my companions have their implements well trained upon you and this will all be over before you know it.”

While he awaited the hunter’s reaction to these conditions, Kami’atra looked to his companions for their thoughts and responses to this course of action he seemed to have implemented. As he looked to his companions then back to the rope in his hands and the bounty hunter standing meters away across this partially self-destructed planet, Kami’atra began to wonder to himself regarding how far he had fallen from his life of medicine and religious outreach. Then he smiled as he returned to look upon the dear friends that surrounded him; all of them from myriad walks of life yet drawn together for this purpose by some unknown design.

His smile resigned as he swiftly returned his thoughts and focus toward the task at hand. Countenance solemn, he fixed his thoughts upon the hunter before him, and all too patiently awaited the actions of all around him.

Irulan nodded at Kami’atra, stepping forward with lightsaber extended, as he prepared to bind their prisoner.

“What do we do now? If we take him back to the ship, we may lose precious time . . . but if we take him with us, he may prove more a hindrance than a help. Should just I take him back, while you three continue on? And then I can try to catch up with you?”

Kami’atra looked to his satchel and remembered that which he had brought with him; he deftly considered formulae for producing a sedative/anesthetic from the medpacks within his bag. As he ran through this mental exercise, Kami’atra took a look around for alternatives, such as a place to hang or bind the bounty hunter from or to until they returned from their task.

Irulan watched with growing impatience as Kami’atra spent what seemed to her an eternity deliberating on how best to quiet their opponent. Finally, she walked around behind the bounty hunter, paused briefly to consider, then brought down the hilt of her lightsaber hard against the back of his skull. He fell forward to the ground, unconscious.

“There. Now you can tie him up,” she smiled very sweetly at Kami’atra.

Kibur surveyed the scene, looking down at the Bounty Hunter. “Well, that certainly sped up the process.” He turned to Irulan. “Nice job, jedi. I think I’m rubbing off on you.”

He pulled his datapad from its holster and began punching in more information. “The droid is thataway,” he said, pointing towards a strange, large metal tower.

Kami’atra’s countenance changed to profess his displeasure in Irulan’s hasty actions toward a surrendering foe; her efforts on behalf of the crew did take care of the immediate circumstance; however, it undermined his statement of the hunter being “treated well” for his surrender – at least as far as Kami’atra was concerned. Although he had been trained to resist holding grudges, he did consider it immaturity on the part of this young jedi he’d joined ranks with.

He imperceptibly shook his head in response to Kibur’s remark; he thought it best if certain of his qualities were kept to himself. Kami’atra sheathed his blade and began to bind the hunter with his arms behind his back: (1) securing the syntherope to the hunter’s left wrist, (2) around his right arm above the elbow, (3) upward from beneath this loop to form a circuit around his neck, (4) down to encircle his left arm above the elbow, (5) downward from above this loop to secure the hunter’s right wrist, (6) lashing both hands together at the wrists.

Irulan grinned at Kibur as she clipped her lightsaber into her belt. Turning, her smile immediately vanished as she looked into Kami’atra’s stern, disapproving face. She bit her lip and turned back around.

Kneeling by their unconscious enemy, Irulan closed her eyes. She slowly moved her right hand across his temple, left to right. Breathing in, she stood up and turned back to Kami’atra. “There. He won’t have a headache when he wakes up. Is that better?” She shouldered her satchel and started following Kibur in the direction he had pointed.

With a heart of empathetic sympathy for those who had lost their way by ill-tempered fortune, Kami’atra reminded himself that people were all found without a teacher at some point in their lives. He prayed that although Irulan had become a Jedi Knight, she might one day find another mentor of her force-path who would help her hone her abilities and attitude toward honor.

In one motion, Kami’atra lifted the bounty hunter to a kneeling position and tied the loose end of the syntherope between his feet, encircling both feet to complete the circuit of restraint. Gently, Kami’atra leaned their prisoner’s head back against the remnant hull of some Ubrikkian skiff that protruded from a nearby mountain of rubble, hoping that the bounty hunter would not hold this against them and harm himself with this restraint when awakened.

He momentarily turned his attention toward Irulan, “You needn’t seek my approval, Irulan, I am not your master but a simple companion; do as you’ve been instructed in training and search yourself for what is right and wrong, regardless of the response presented by those around you – even myself.”

“Wake in peace, brother, we will return for you when this is over,” Kami’atra whispered to the hunter before standing. Brushing the dust from his hands and knees and looking toward the sky, he prayed that the crew would be able to return before the bounty hunter was allowed to perform much harm to himself or was taken in by exposure.

Seeing his companions departing afoot, Kami’atra joined them as they marched toward the beacon of which they sought. He continued the pattern he had begun when they left their vessel – climbing up and across the high mounds of waste to oversee the land that lay ahead of them. He allowed himself to scan the near horizon for others that might hinder their progress in this desolate place.

As she reached the top of a hill of scrap metal, Irulan turned to look piercingly at Kami’atra, climbing behind her. “Of course I know you’re not my master. And it’s thanks to scum like that bounty hunter that I’ll never hear his voice again. The only right I know is to make sure his death wasn’t meaningless. Perhaps Kibur’s right about me; we can’t all be like you after all.”

Irulan stopped short. Then, after a moment, she looked up pleadingly at her friend. “Oh, please don’t be angry with me; I simply can’t bear that reproving look of yours. Please, let’s be at peace.”

Nodding to Irulan in acknowledgment of her feeling of loss, Kami’atra passed her atop the hill and began to descend toward another. Memories began filling the tranquil void of his central mind; fond memories of an older generation telling long forgotten tales depicting the heroic, honorable, compassionate, and self-sacrificing Jedi of another era. To him, Irulan was not far from this idyllic icon; it was a terrible shame that she lost he master – he too knew this feeling of loss and betrayal.

“I am not angry with you, Irulan, nor have you ever given me reason to be. We four are a crew of a very patchwork design, led together by Providence, and currently entangled in this particular task. We will find this droid together and from there follow in The Way toward the next step.”

“Peace is all anyone can offer to each other amidst these turbulent days. With that said, I offer you an apology for having upset you for a time. We have no room on this mission for disputes amongst ourselves,” he said, then pointed back toward the bound bounty hunter behind them. “We are offered plenty of quarrel from without to be caught up in all of that.”

As he continued on, Kami’atra glanced over to Kibur and Bax who seemed to be leading the way, “Shall we press on then? The droid cannot be far now.”

The journey was arduous as they climbed over mountains of rubble, the oily air clinging to them. In the distance, fires were burning, pouring black smoke into the atmosphere. The metal tower came closer into view. It was made of the scraps of a thousand ships, speeders, buildings and droids, merged into a monstrosity of a creation.

“It looks like he’s up in there,” Kibur said, looking up toward the building skeptically. “I hope that place holds itself together once we’re inside…”

Irulan paused beside Kibur, surveying the view of this peculiar, unwelcoming edifice. “It looks like something out of a nightmare,” she said softly. Closing her eyes, she tried to focus her concentration and sense any vibrations in the force, friendly or otherwise, coming from inside the building. Then she looked over at Kami’atra, to see if he could sense anything amiss.

Silvery-white tendrils of electrical energy sparked from his gauntlets as Kami’atra held the hilt of his blade away from his center and crouched down with his right palm to the earth-covered metal plates beneath him. He lifted his head to just above parallel with the ground and began breathing deeply as he focused his current efforts on fore-scouting the tower for lifeforms. As the ashen air from the nearby pyres filled his nostrils, Kami’atra believed he smelled the faint scent of droids at work within the tower; however, unless the droids were at least partially composed of certain organic compounds, he wouldn’t be able to distinguish between the scents of active or remnant droids among the abounding scrapyard.

Kami’atra stared in wonder at the severe ramshackle construction of this spire that arose before them; he couldn’t help but compare this sight to the elaborate memories he possessed of the priesthood’s compound and tower back home. Structural integrity was of grave contrast here, but still he felt that despite its appearance, this tower was built for a purpose and it would stand the test of their combined weight… at least for a time.

He stood as he completed his scan of the tower and mentally compiled the result of his effort. Kami’atra readied his hand on the hilt in preparation for a quick draw as he took a few steps toward the tower without a word.

Just then, the comlinks flared to life as the sound of blasterfire and static erupted from them. “This is Page!” a voice shouted through the noise. “I could use some help!”

Irulan yanked the comlink out of her belt. “Page – where on earth are you!?”

“Irulan, currently level 3 maintenance wing B, engaged with unknown number of hostiles,” Lt. Page stated quickly and efficiently over the comlink as he took suppressing fire shots at his aggressors and resumed cover behind bulkheads and equipment.

“I can hold these oversized trash compactors down, but get here on the double; they currently have me pinned down. There is one door to this room and they have control of it, but from the looks of their position in the room you should be able to take them out from behind. Or at least distract them long enough for me to take them out. Over.”

Upon hearing Page’s exclamations, Kami’atra ran toward the tower’s main entrance with blade now in hand. He wondered slightly to himself as to how Lt. Page became so far ahead of the rest of the crew, but then reminded himself of other occurrences of the good lieutenant’s brashness and consoled himself with the fact that they must retrieve him now without fail.

As he reached the entryway, Kami’atra deftly signaled to the others that the entrance was clear before proceeding within and following the sounds of metal footsteps and blaster-fire. As he entered the deep corridor, he began by searching for any means of ascension to the third floor – uncertain whether an elevator would be such a good idea in this shaky structure… but anything to save a friend.

Furrowing her brow in concern, Irulan ran to catch up with Kami’atra. She shivered as the cold air inside the entrance to the tower engulfed her. “Do you see a way up?” she said quietly to Kami’atra, while looking around.

As he continued down the seemingly endless corridor, Kami’atra searched near and far for some signage to determine the best route to follow in order to come up behind the droid-blockaded doorway in question. In doing so, he continually listened for the inexorable sound of metallic footsteps on the well-worn plates beneath their feet.

Kami’atra first came to a stairwell across the hall from an elevator shaft. He pondered the diverging paths for a moment and came to the conclusion, based mostly on the flickering chatter of the lights and switches within the elevator compartment (and the relative safety of the steps before him), that the stairs would be the obvious choice. Also, as no one could be certain where either of these choices might open up on the third floor, he thought it best not to be completely surprised if a door opened to the sight of untold numbers of scavenged droids droning toward them, like a race of the living dead seeking their flesh.

He shook his head of the grimacing thought as he motioned and called down to his companions from the base of the stairwell, “I’ve found a path to the third floor, I believe it to be the safest and swiftest route.”

Kami’atra nodded for the attention of Kibur at a distance, “Have you been able to ascertain the location of the droid we’re after in this nightmarish tower? I’d hate to think that we may have to split up in order to find it and save Page in the process; even he’d hate to leave here empty-handed.”

Kibur plugged his micro holoprojector into the pad. A graphical holoprojected image of the tower sprang from the device. A small red dot blipped near the top of the tower. “The target appears to be at the top of the tower, twelve floors up.” He punched a few more details into the pad. “It looks like our friend is a protocol droid of some type.”

A secondary light appeared on the displayed tower. “Page is getting boxed in here. It’s on our route, and if we clear them up fast enough, we may be able to catch up to them…” He indicated a third dot lighting up the tower halfway up. “That appears to be another group of enterprising folks also interested in our target. Let’s get going.”

Kami’atra nodded acknowledgement to Kibur. “Then we certainly must carry out this first task with haste – quickly, to the third floor!” he exclaimed as he opens the door to the stairwell and began racing up toward Page and the undeniable sound of blaster-fire. The steps did not seem terribly shaky, but he instinctually clung to the sides of the staircase with no desire to throw caution to the wind.

He slowed his pace as he neared the doorway to the third floor and peered out the small window into the corridor. There was the imminent flash of blasters from the left and two more droids “running” (at a very slow pace within human standards) from the right to bolster the diminishing forces that were barraging the good Lt. in the next room. From here he could not envision at all how many droids were blocking the concerned doorway; however, based on the tempo of the fire-fight, it couldn’t be too many – perhaps a half-dozen or so.

After the droids passed from the right and proceed down the hall, Kami’atra reached for the door’s control panel to open it slightly, but he was immediately shocked with little more energy than a static charge. His mind flashed to a good memory of doors back home with hinges, handles, and NO electrical circuits… He reached for the controls again, and although he wasn’t shocked, the door wouldn’t open.

Kami’atra called down to Bax in as quiet a tone he could manage in the echoing stairwell, “Bax, I seem to have run into a jammed doorway here; I need your expertise! Page’s assailants are just down this hallway and slowly gaining reinforcements.” He watched what he could through the window while he awaited his friends’ approach. He remained with blade in hand for the slim possibility that they may be discovered through the racket of the attack.

After exchanging banter and blaster fire with his mechanical adversaries, Lt. Page resumed communication with the team, this time with a little more anxiety than the last time. “Not to be rude or anything, but you guys can show up anytime now! I’d sure hate to bring down the party myself,” he stated, while gripping a frag grenade off his belt and smiling a little to himself.

Irulan raced up the stairwell and stopped behind Kami’atra. “There’s no time for expertise! Page needs us!” she said impatiently, yanking her lightsaber from her belt and turning it on. She stabbed it straight into the door’s control panel and received a terrible electrical shock, causing her to reel backwards against the wall. The control panel sizzled and hissed, but the door remained stuck.

“I think,” she said rather shakily to Kami’atra, “you may be right after all. Bax?”

Bax came loping down the hall, all four limbs slapping the metal flooring. His lungs panted heavily. “Damn security droids!” he shouted. “Watch my back!” Galloping on only three legs, he lifted his satchel off his shoulder and whirled it around, lobbing it ahead of him. The bag slid toward the door and violently bounced off the metal surface.

The satchel practically exploded with life as three St-00Ge class pit droids popped up and out of it. Behind Bax, the J-9 Worker droid L-Span-G78, or “Span,” came tumbling around the corner with red lights dazzling around him. A single shot grazed the droid’s cheek and sent his head spinning on axis.

The three St-00Ge droids began to wander around aimlessly. “M-0!” Bax shouted. “Let’s get that door open!” The leader of the three little droids started chattering in binary. Over their shoulders, even through the gunfire pinning the heroes against the door, the binary chatter of Span could be heard in response. Bax slid up to the door and tore open the satchel, pulling out a hydro-spanner. “You three better watch my back if you want this door open,” Bax said to Irulan, Kiber and Kami’atra.

Bax gave his instructions to Span, who talked back to Bax through M-0. Then, Span took hold of the consol and slowly, carefully pulled it out of the wall, wires still attached. Bax reached in with the hydro-spanner and pulled it back out as sparks flew. “Joppa!” he slammed an angry fist down on the top of Q-lee, closing the small droid into a bulbous disk, and shoved the disk into the wires. Then he turned to M-0. “Looks like we do this the hard way. M-0, tell Q-lee to find the Phonic Resonator.” The small droid started chattering in Binary again.

Around the corner five security droids appeared, blaster rifles at the ready. Their massive forms made them look like plus-sized R2 units with arms and legs; mindless automatons built only for killing.

As he prepared for the combat to ensue, Kami’atra stepped protectively, Kami’ken in hand, between the security droids and Bax. Kami’atra then recited, in Miralukese, an apothegm calling for Divine protection over his companions as he steadied his grip on the hilt of his blade in defense of the technician at work behind him.

“Team, report! What’s going on out there?” the Lt. yelled to his companions over the comlink.

“Alan, I’m afraid to say that we’ve run into an obstacle in the stairwell next door to your compartment. The door is locked and we’re under attack as well. We’ll make quick work of these automatons and free you momentarily!!” Kami’atra replied in swift oration.

On both sides of the door the droids opened fire, laying down a hail of blasterfire, pinning the heroes in place. A few shots impacted against the wall near Bax, who kept working. Page was forced to duck behind a heavy crate to avoid getting hit. All of the shots were wide, but not by much.

The Lt., gripping his custom repeater in one hand and a frag in the other, said to himself, “There is no way I can use a frag with the team so close, not to mention it might bring the whole place down around our ears. I for one am not interested in dying for some credits.” After pondering for mere seconds, the Lt. re-clipped the frag to his belt. “I guess we’ll do this the old-fashioned way.” Gripping his repeater securely with both hands, he quickly moved out of cover and surveyed the room and the position of his assailants, then resumed cover in his original position. He observed five droids in a sloppy cover formation.

After observing the battle ground, the Lt. crouched and ran to the flipped table in the middle of the room, while taking fire from the droids closest to him. After reaching the offensive position, he took aim with his repeater on “number five” and sent a barrage of blaster fire at the puny machine, reducing the enemy to mere scrap.

As the droid’s blaster-fire careened past him and narrowly missed Bax while he worked, Kami’atra adjusted his position accordingly to shield the busy tech. In a swift redirection of energy as the droids’ attempts failed, he slashed the air in the direction of the nearest four attackers in the stairwell. The Force flowed single-mindedly toward his desire from the arc of the Kami’ken, striking the droids with Force energy and dispatching them toward the downward stairway.

“My soul has dwelt too long with ones who hate peace. I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war!” Kami’atra exclaimed out of the overflow of energy and adrenaline from within him. “We must make quick work of these foes if we are to assist in the Lt.’s escape and complete this task.”

Irulan drew her lightsaber and attempted to advance towards the droids, but weakened by the force of the electric shock, she stumbled backwards in dizziness as blackness threatened to enclose her vision. She rested momentarily against the wall, recovering.

On Page’s side of the door, two droids moved up to the rubble closest to him, while two others advanced to the spot of the fallen one. The droids all fired, one shot hitting Page across the chest, though his armor dissipated most of it.

On the other side of the door, Bax continued to work furiously at opening the door, as Kami’atra threw the droids back, knocking them down the stairwell. One could hear the clattering of them falling down the stairs, one on top of the other.

“Let’s pick it up, Bax,” said Kibur over his shoulder. “They’ll be back soon.” He put his comlink to his mouth. “Page, old buddy, you doing okay?”

After sustaining the blaster impact to his chest the Lt. steadied his breathing and replied to his old friend. “Kibur, I’m still here! My party is in full swing and I am dancing in close quarters with these droids. Currently engaging them with suppressing fire, but I have two droids three meters away on the other side of a bulkhead and another two in flanking position on my left. Get through that door and you will have perfect position on them!”

Meanwhile, Kami’atra turned to Irulan with a compassionate visage. “I am sorry that I hadn’t the chance to recover you sooner, although I am proud of your attempt to fend off our foes in your shocked state; very brave of you, Irulan.” He stretched out his hand to help Irulan steady herself.

As Kami’atra grasped her forearm, Irulan could feel strength flowing steadily back into her. Steadying herself once again, she smiled gratefully – “Thank you, Kam. Brave, and stupid. Leave it to the girl to stick a lightsaber into an electric socket.”

Kibur began grabbing some rusted barrels and pushes them towards the stairwell. “Gimme a hand, Kam.” Kami’atra turned back to assist Kibur in his task. Kibur grabbed another barrel and placed it beside the others; Kami’atra retrieved another in like fashion.

Just then, Bax’s small droid came wiggling out of the crawl space with a burned out . . . object. “Give me that!” Bax cried. He pursed his lips and stared at it for a moment.
“Wait. No! This is a. . . Ugh! I’ll do it myself.”

Bax placed both gauntleted hands inside the panel, and put his other limbs against the wall, heaving with all his might. The entire panel tore off the wall with a scream. The panel on the ground, Bax stared into the space, then, with one swift motion, thrust his hand deep into the wiring. He let out a little yelp as a shock ran through him, and with a twist of his wrist, the door shuddered open a few inches, and stopped.

“Why you piece of absolute junk!” Angrily, Bax raised his ion rile and fired it into the wiring. An explosion of smoke spewed out of the wall and the door popped and heaved itself open 18 inches more.

“There,” Bax said. “Exactly what I wanted. I overrode the Firelocks to act in reverse. They open if danger is detected instead of closing.” He paused. “I wouldn’t stand in the doorframe for too long though. I don’t know how long it’ll last.”

“Way to go, Bax!” Irulan said. Darting past him into the room, she ducked behind the overturned table nearest the door and paused for a moment. Then she pushed to her knees and opened blaster fire on the two droids on the side of the room.

Her shot hit the first droid with force, blasting its robotic head from its trunk. It spun around wildly for a moment like a chicken with its head cut off, before crumpling in a heap on the floor, electronic parts hissing and popping.

Irulan slid back down, her back to the table. “Page, are you ok?!” she shouted across the room.
Taking advantage of the final droid’s surprise of watching its partner reduced to a headless pile of scrap, the Lt. lined up his repeater and quickly dispatched it before it could aim its blaster. The droid stumbled backward, and with a sense of satisfaction, the Lt. blew on the front of his weapon, as if to remove a small amount of carbon from the barrel.

He placed his back against the bulkhead and called out to Irulan, “Glad you could make it. I’m doing great,” he said sarcastically, as he lightly touched the blaster burn on his armor. “Watch yourself, there are two more droids in here!”

Bax slinked in the door and raised his ion rifle at one of the droids. The shot fried all the electrical circuits in its cortex. Its legs buckled and its trigger synapses fired wildly, riddling the droid next to it with blaster shots as it fell to the ground.

Back on the other side of the door, Kibur took the barrels and shoved them down the stairs, hearing them crash and clatter over the droids at the bottom. “That should keep them,” he muttered. He turned and headed for the blast door.

Just as he reached it, it slammed shut, cutting him off from the rest of the group. “Blast!” he shouts. He picks up the comlink. “You guys are going to have to go on without me. I’ll work on getting this door back open and catch up.”

Irulan smashed a fist against the metal door.

“Kibur! We need you!” she shouted, momentarily forgetting that he couldn’t hear her through a wall of solid iron. Sighing, she pulled her comlink out. “What level did you say the droid was on? And . . . hurry. Please.”

Kami’atra keenly peered around the doorframe into the room that the others had so feverishly ambushed and successfully defended. The smile, which had at once crossed his countenance at the efficient relief of the Lt.‘s attack, swiftly faded as Kibur’s message passed through the comlink; the beam of his visage now replaced by a clear, stern glower.

He turned his attention to the Lt. as the room had been cleared, and the team began stepping over fallen droids on their way toward the door. “Glad to have you beck Page… although how you arrived up here before us I may never understand; yet the past is past, isn’t it? We’d best get back on the trail of our quarry before more reinforcements arrive; however, let’s try to avoid too many more of these mechanical entanglements, shall we?”

Glancing back and forth down either direction of the corridor and observing no further droid ambushes, Kami’atra returned his focus to his companions in the room. “Now… Page, did you happen to see a path upward in your scouting of this facility? We’ve another nine floors to ascend as swiftly and quietly as we can manage.”

“Kami’atra, one must take this journey with a little mystery” the Lt. stated, shaking the hand of his companion and nodding to Irulan and Bax. “Glad you could join me my friends, now let’s talk options on the best way to proceed”

Page raised his comlink. “Kibur, option one, I have some explosive gel that will open that door, and may not bring this tower down, and we can move up together. Option two, Bax stays and attempts to get this door open, by the time he does we will hopefully have the droid and we can get out of here. Option three, you make your way back to the ship and meet us at the top of the tower, and we exit from the top. I argue for option three, the less time we are in this tower the better.” As he finished his speech, he replaced a heavily used power pack, checked his weapon and rested it on his shoulder, awaiting his companion’s reply.

Kami’atra smiled at the Lt.‘s take-charge personality and the oration of like manner – although, he already knew in his heart of hearts that Kibur would follow his own path, which sometimes directed him perpendicular to sound suggestions or authoritative advice. As he awaited Kibur’s reply, Kami’atra began to slowly pace to and fro within the divergent corridors of this hall in which he and his companions stood; he appeared to be looking for a method of ascension within the grid of this makeshift tower.

He returned to his friends with an inspired look upon his countenance. “While you make your decision, Kibur, the rest of you may note that there are a few options before us in regard to our impending climb. At each end of this T-junctioned corridor there is a potential mode for getting to level twelve, where Kibur affirmed the target droid resided.”

Motioning to the right corridor path, he said, “There is another stairwell at the end of this segment – I’d have you know that although it would prove our safest route, it would cost us considerably in time lost to the other pursuers of this prize.”

Directing their attention to the left, he added, “An elevator of sorts will be found roughly halfway down this hall. The lighting nearby the elevator is flickering heavily, as you can see, and the door currently rests slightly ajar, but as to the technical stability of the mechanism itself, I am certainly no expert, as Bax could attest.”

“The central corridor ahead of us possesses what appears to be the most sound of our elevator possibilities; however, there is what looks to be a security camera assembly directed at the elevator’s entrance. The choice is up to the team, but as we all know, time is of the essence.” He nodded in the mean direction of his companions in conclusion of his oration, which seemed as well-practiced as the recitation of a veteran Alpherides dragoman.

“You move on,” said Kibur from the comlink. “I’ll go grab the ship and meet you at the top. Level Twelve. Keep your heads down.” Kibur saluted the door, then turned to head down the stairs, blaster at the ready for the droids below.

Irulan clipped her lightsaber back into her belt. “You’re right, Kami’atra – we need to hurry. Let’s take the elevator that’s straight ahead. It’s not like they don’t know we’re here, anyway.”

She began to head towards the dark elevator shaft directly ahead of them. As she approached, the security camera slowly turned, until it was pointing at her. She pressed the pad to the right side, and the door slid noiselessly open. Stepping inside, she turned and looked back to her companions, holding the door. “Shall we?”

Kami’atra considered to himself as Irulan continued past the security array with an overconfidence widely beknownst of younger human Jedi. “You never know who is watching you through those facilities… It’s not necessarily the droids that I’d consider our greatest threat on this largely unknown sphere.” If his thoughts had been at all available for penetration, his strong distrust in sentient misuse of technology would have become highly evident.

He nodded to Irulan as he smiled past Bax and Page before looking upward with a focal concentration that seemed to gaze well beyond the tower itself; through steel and rubble, mechanic and organic alike, Kami’atra lifted his ‘eyes’ unto the celestial hills well beyond. He inhaled deeply and held it within for a moment that seemed an eternity, imagining the air as a silver ribbon swirling within his core — a simple meditation among his tribe that would certainly have been considered by the vast majority of star systems as ascetic and esoteric in nature.

Kami’atra encouraged his remaining companions with a comradely pat to the back of Page’s shoulder and an ardent smile and nod to Bax and his droidlings. “We shall, Irulan, we shall…”

As he arced speedily toward the open elevator, he scraped the metal of his gauntleted fingers across the length of the corridor’s wall with a slightly audible screech. Just before he arrived at the elevator, Kami’atra stopped beneath the camera and watched as it seemed to swivel back and forth seeking him out. He smiled as he reached up and pulled the wire connected to a nearby outlet. The lights atop the security camera slowly dimmed as the camera itself whirred to a halt and slowly hung its visage in disconnected shame at even attempting to track the Crew of the Iron Dawn’s whereabouts. With this, Kami’atra stepped into the elevator beside Irulan with a knowing smile and nod to her as he passed, and waited for the others to arrive.

The Lt., slinging his repeater across his shoulder, began slowly following his companions while straightening out his old flight jacket as he entered the elevator. “Ready when you are.”

The elevator began to rise, grinding and scraping against the metal within the shaft. The rust was practically audible, screeching in protest. The light inside the elevator flickered on and off. Slowly and steadily the elevator rose. The silence in the air was palpable.

The elevator grinded to a halt on the top floor. Slowly, the door opened to a large room, one hundred feet wide in all directions. The walls were pieces of scrap metal piled around each other, some bolted in place. The whole room was very dark, but for the single bluish light shining down in the center of the room on a single droid. Its head was slumped down. It was thin, a skeletal frame, white enamel covering its metal casing. Slowly it looked up, a single red eye in the middle of its face. It shuddered slightly; its light flickered.

During the crew’s hyperspace travel to this forsaken planet, Kami’atra had, in very general terms, foreseen the entire encounter leading up to this moment. As the elevator doors opened wide, his expression produced a visage in similar fashion; he realized at this moment that he had overlooked or otherwise been obstructed from bearing witness to this room and what would take place therein.

As he reigned in the self-shame of having not the foresight to perceive what would transpire, his countenance became stalwart as he sheathed the Kami’ken and struck his gauntleted fists together. Upon clenching his white-knuckled grip on their inner-casing, Kami’atra’s gauntlets flared to life with bluish-grey strands of vibrant energy which served the purpose of lighting the area around him (as well as proclaiming their ‘stunning’ affect on all who would befall their grip). Kami’atra then lifted his hands above his head so as to provide further illumination and to not perchance blind his companions with the sudden light source.

He strayed not far from the elevator’s heavy door, but continued to peer about their new environs as his companions made their own perceptions about the room they found themselves within. “Beware, friends… I sense malevolence afoot, yet I know not from whence it shall arise. The look of this metal cyclops is foreboding; however, it may not be the only threat herein. Take care to uphold your defenses.” He glanced slightly back toward the elevator, “Do you feel it also, Irulan?”

As the robot looked up at her with its solitary red eye, Irulan felt a sudden cold creeping down her spine. She closed her eyes, focusing – trying to read the force energies surrounding them in the darkness.

“Kam . . . something’s wrong here. I can’t explain it. It . . . it feels like a trap. But we have no choice – we’ve come this far; we can’t stop now.” She pulled her lightsaber from its clip, and with a humming sound it flared to life. Slowly but deliberately, she stepped out of the elevator shaft and approached the droid.

The droid was scanning the room, but the minute Vendalion stepped forward, it snapped to face her. A silence fell over the room. The droid spoke only three words. “Please… Help me.”

Immediately the Lt. raised his weapon in preparation to defend his young Jedi companion, but in hopes of keeping dialog open, he left his trigger finger on his repeater’s trigger guard. “Help?” “Help with what?” he stated with a quizzical, yet sympathetic tone to what appeared to be a plea for mercy.

Full of compassion, even for this mechanical being, Kami’atra continued lighting the way forward until he reached the edge of the illuminating circle of the overhanging bulb. He then lowered his arms and gently, cautiously, placed his hand upon the hilt of his sheathed blade before awaiting the response to Page’s inquiry. His vision scanned the room – searching, scouring, but for what? Life, movement… anything that might pose a threat to the team.

At the sound of the droid’s hopeless plea, Irulan lowered her blade slightly. She hated it when sub-human creatures, whether animals or droids, were abused and treated like garbage.

“Can’t you see? He’s been . . . damaged; he’s in bad shape. I wonder if someone has already tried to ‘extract’ whatever information he may have, with little regard for the droid himself.”

“It’s allright – we won’t hurt you," she said gently, approaching the robot. “Who has done this?”

Without taking his eyes off the droid nor lowering his weapon until he could tell the droid was not a threat, the Lt. decided to make use of his two “fore-seeing” companions. “Irulan, Kam, do you sense anything or anyone nearby?”

Kami’atra stared into the crimson depths of the droid’s transfixing oculus; his ‘vision’ faded, blurred, refocused, and redefined the environs of the room as he gazed through the droid and obtained perspective on the 360 degree surroundings that he found himself within. Standing near the center of the room, Kami’atra could now envision the near entirety of the room save for the very edges and where crates or columns might provide cover for foes.

“Lt., I see no other movement in the room, but no one would stay within plain sight for long in these conditions.” He inaudibly smelled the cool air of the room before responding further to the inquiry, “I sense ambush, though whether it be by attack or malevolent deception, I, of yet, know not. The droid appears harmless and even pitiful, but its tone and demeanor belie another motive altogether.”

He looked back toward Bax with a slight nod as the Dug stood near the elevator, before inquiring further of the droid, “What is it you need assistance with, droid? What torments you herein and to what sinister purpose?”

The droid looked at Kami-atra. “I am designated HA-K7. I have information vital to the safety of the Republic. They have tried to take it from me, but…” he paused a moment. “Look out!”

Alan immediately reacted to the droid’s cry and spun around to face any would-be adversaries to him or his companions.

A nearby pile of junk crumbled away, as an enormous form emerged from the heap. Rising was an enormous droid made of a mish-mash of parts. Its head appeared to be the cockpit of a Firespray-31-Class Patrol and Attack Craft, while mounted to its massive arms were Taim & Bak KX9 laser cannons, pulled off a starfighter. Its hydraulics and gears groaned with size and age. From within the darkened glass of the former cockpit, two blue lights of eyes flashed on, looking down on the heroes. It stood over 50 feet tall, hulking and rusting.

Irulan’s heart skipped a beat at the sight of this monstrosity. But with only a second’s hesitation, she darted to the center of the room towards HA-K7, placing herself between him and the huge droid. She pulled out her blaster pistol and aimed it unwaveringly. “Get behind that desk – come on!” she shouted at HA-K7, not taking her eyes off their new enemy.

“Madam, I cannot. I’m afraid this restraining bolt on my chest impedes me from assuming locomotive capacity.” The droid gestured to the round knob fused to his chest.

With little in the way of conscious thought or experiential paradigm for this event, Kami’atra ran toward this monstrous behemoth of wreckage with a gleam in his visage without remembrance. He darted to one side of the epic creation as his clenched gauntlets ignited to true life and he scoured the beast’s hull for a weakness in wiring or exposed circuitry.

As his swift feet brought him ever nearer the mechanized wonder, his lips mouthed unutterable linguistics of a foreign tongue. He scraped his fingers along the sides of a crate tossed aside in the droid’s wake before clenching his teeth and leaping upon the leg/base of the mechanical menace, clinging to its edges and conduits.

The massive mishmash droid behemoth began moving, shifting around the room, steadily lumbering. He didn’t notice Kami’atra climbing his side; his weapons charged with energy, before firing off a powerful starfighter blast at Irulan and the droid in the center of the room. It missed the two, but buckled the ground from below them and threw them in different directions: Irulan away from the hulk, the smaller droid into a scrap pile.

Irulan crashed to the ground, landing hard on her side next to a pile of metal crates. Grabbing a thick cord in the wall next to her, she winced at the effort, but pulled herself to her knees, keeping cover behind the crates.

In the explosion, her gun had been thrown out of her hands and had landed 15 feet away from her in a scrap pile. Holding out her right hand, she summoned all her energy and focus. The blaster pistol quivered in place for a moment. Then, it flew through the air and into her outstretched palm.

With one swift motion the Lt. pulled a blade from his boot and popped the restraining bolt off HK. "One problem solved. Now, stay hidden but move if he gets past us.” Seeing Irulan thrown by this machine had brought out his aggressive feelings and quickly focusing his anger, he aimed his repeater, firing at the eyes in the cockpit.

After swaying back and forward again with the kick-back of the iron giant’s massive laser cannon, Kami’atra continued ascending the beast’s leg and up across its back. While he climbed its torso, his eyes began to follow a conduit that appeared to be the spinal column of this unwarranted fiend. This duct was heavily armored, but even as Kami’atra placed his hand upon it he could feel the ebb and flow of fluid encased cables and circuitry beneath its piping. He continued until he reached the neck of this seemingly droid-built tactical armor; once there, the giant reeled its head backward as the good Lt.‘s blaster-fire assaulted its makeshift face. An expansive and metallic groan emanated from within the beast’s upper torso.

Kami’atra clung to the central conduit as the giant staggered with the impact; in doing so, the armored casing loosened from its attachment, a milky-grey solution issuing forth from the opening. Without thought for safety or time spent in concern, Kami’atra charged his stun gauntlet and released its energy as he delved his hand into the duct and, grabbing a fistful of wire and circuit board, wrenched the mass from the conduit.

The giant’s limbs spasmed slightly at first; however, as Kami’atra tossed the mass of circuitry to the ground below and placed his electrifying grip upon the now exposed and no-longer-liquid-insulated switching circuitry of the foe’s upper-torso, the left arm of this mechanical marvel dropped limp and unusable at its side. Meanwhile the right arm began to convulse wildly with interspersed short-burst laser-fire from its cannon into the ceiling above. With its wild-eyed firing, holes became exposed in the roof of this uppermost level of the tower, inadvertently creating small skylights that seemed to cast an even more eerie light upon the now dust- and smoke-filled room.

The massive droid shuddered, its head twitching and continuing to fire randomly throughout the room. CHAKOOM! CHAKOOM!

The sound was deafening. Blasterfire took out scrap piles and blew holes in walls. The beast spun, trying to identify the danger on its body, and fired a shot, blowing a large hole in a nearby wall. One could feel the entire building shuddering and buckling. Within minutes, the whole structure would collapse.

The droid held up his arm with his other hand, detached from the shoulder. “Mercy me, I appear to have disengaged components. This is cause for concern…” He looked up at the massive droid pulverizing the building, before turning to Lt. Page. “You must listen to me, human. The information I contain within my core is far to important to be destroyed by a malingering malcontent such as this cybernetic colossus.”

Just then, a loud whine was heard as the Iron Dawn swooped in, visible through the holes made in the wall.

KRRRK “Hey, kids, you miss me?” KRRK Kibur’s voice chirped over the comlinks. KRRK "Let’s get a move on! KRRK

The droid turned and opened fire on the Iron Dawn, firing a shot directly at the cockpit. The shot knocked the ship back as it banked to keep from crashing.

KRRK “Whoa, whoa, whoa!” Kibur shouted. “What in the hells is that thing?”

The ramp begins to lower on the ship. KRRK “Let’s get you guys out of there! Move it, on the double!” KRRK The ship was still about ten feet from the side of the building, though luckily, Kibur was able to get the ramp to extend to the front of the ship.

The damaged droid turned to Lt. Page. “I suggest an expeditious retreat,” said the droid, pointing to the ship which could be seen through the hole on the north wall. “Your friend will manage to cover our escape,” he said, pointing to Kami’atra. “He seems to have things well under control.”

“We’re not leaving him behind!” Irulan shouted at HA-K7. “Kam – can you get out of there?” She grabbed for a handhold as the building shook beneath them, nearly throwing her out of the massive hole in the wall next to her. “Come on!”

“Kibur! Glad you could join the party!” Lt. Page called through the comlink. “Whatever you do, don’t shoot at it. Kam is on that thing!”

Running to Irulan’s location, he yelled, “Irulan, take the droid and get out of here. I don’t know what he’s carrying but it better be worth it, Kam and I will be right behind you.” Then, focusing on his attention on trying to find a speedier way for Kam to come down. he drew his grappling hook and fired.

The hook shot directly into the center of the massive droid, almost exactly where he had been hoping not to hit it. He secured himself behind a bulkhead and quickly called to Kam, “Slide down so we can get outta here!” I really hope this works, he thought to himself.

Kami’atra struck once more into the exposed circuit board of the massive machination, causing the giant to stagger backward and away from the Iron Dawn; the shock caused the beast to collapse onto its haunches as Kami’atra smiled and leapt from his perch toward the now taut grappling cable. He grabbed hold of the line with both hands and slid swiftly down its angle of descent toward Page and the rest of the crew.

“Thank you, Lt. Let’s move!” Kami’atra exclaimed as he noticed the flooring beginning to crumble under their feet at the impact of the now-sitting iron menace behind them.

Kami’atra motioned to Page as he passed the bulkhead where he was taking cover. He continued running toward the awaiting Iron Dawn, as he saw that Irulan and HA-K7 had already boarded the vessel in preparation of a hasty escape from the ramshackle tower that had housed them. As he and Page jumped aboard through the ramp, memories of the tied-up bounty hunter they had encountered filled Kami’atra’s thoughts. Almost to himself, he said, “We must go back for him now that we have the droid in our possession.”

“Kibur, we are all on board. Unless there is any other pressing matters to attend to, I say we get off this rock!” Alan exclaimed, with the first sound of rest in his voice since landing on the planet.

“All right, folks, let’s go!” said Kibur. The ship banked sharply, arcing into the debris-filled yellow and orange sky. Behind the ship, the tower slowly collapsed in on itself, crumbling to rubble. The ramp on the ship steadily rose.

“Welcome aboard, Lt. Page, Master Kami’atra, Master Vendalion, Mr. Asana,” a female voice said in a slightly digitized voice throughout the ship. “I’ll prepare your rooms for you immediately.”

“I’ve made some recent upgrades to the ship,” said Kibur over the intercom. “I’ve installed vocabulators throughout the ship, giving the Dawn a little personality.”

“Kibur, I’ve always had personality, you were just too dense to notice.”

“Unfortunately, she’s got a little too much personality.”

Breaking the atmosphere, the ship headed for escape velocity. Rapidly punching numbers into the astrogation computer, Kibur plotted a course. And within minutes, the ship hurled itself into hyperspace.

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MarkMeredith

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