The Iron Dawn travelled gracefully through the blue mists of hyperspace.
As Kami’atra acquainted himself once again with the sterile environment of spaceflight, he couldn’t help but think that he should have made the crew more aware of his desire to have returned to the sight of their first encounter on Raxus Prime with the restrained bounty hunter left behind. He thought to himself how awful it would be to wake up to that predicament. Kami’atra refrained a silent prayer for the hunter left behind – that he might be rescued and not pass away the terrible death of simple exposure.
Once back inside the ship, Irulan started to walk toward her cabin, but a sharp pain in her side made her gasp. The heat of the fight had most likely hindered her from noticing earlier. Grabbing her left side, she made her way into the medical bay. Yanking out drawers and opening cabinets, she started rummaging around for some kind of drug. But the pain forced her to sit down quickly on the long white table by the wall. "Kam, Kibur!“ she called out into the hallway. ”Can you help me? I think one of my ribs may be broken . . ."
While he walked the cluttered corridors of the Iron Dawn, Kami’atra’s ears arose to the sound of Irulan’s plea for assistance. He ran toward the sound to find her already lying upon the examination table holding her side. He tried his best not to sound patronizing as he entered the room and made his attempts at calming her pained state; "Shhh… Shhh… It’s alright, Irulan, you’re going to be fine.“ Kami’atra took her hand as he inhaled deeply and held his breath for what seemed like an eternity; time slowed, and even the passage of stars seemed to creep by while the vessel remained in hyperspace. He placed his cool palm upon her forehead as one would to check for fever, and soon the pain subsided. ”Are you beginning to feel better, Irulan?" He smiled but did not wait for her response, simply placing her arm at her side and told her not to move. Turning toward the Bacta tank, he thought to himself for a moment; as the crew was currently short on funds, he decided to forego the use of the truly expensive elixir. He pivoted around to face her again as his lips uttered nigh silently to themselves words that would appear incomprehensible to most others on the vessel. "You are right, Irulan, your seventh sinister rib was broken during the encounter at the tower; but you needn’t worry, it was a very clean break and will heal nicely…" With this said, Kami’atra began to assist her in rolling onto her right side in order to take any pressure from the break. Once stabilized, he placed his hand near her side; as the procedure began, his fingers involuntarily stretched outward to their maximum angle of extension to fully cover the site of the wound.
Irulan could feel the rib placing itself together within her thoracic cavity, though her pain had been displaced at the beginning. Erythrocytes and osteocytes flooded the site with a sudden cooling effect as the bone matrix began to compose itself once again. This process continued for several minutes; though Kami’atra’s greatest desire was that his healings could be as nearly instantaneous as those within the study of The Way… He exhaled slowly as the stars regained their visible momentum, and his hand relaxed as he stepped back from the table. "You may sit up now, Irulan… The site is weakened but it will heal swiftly and surely; however, we will wrap it to secure the healing process." He reached for the bandages upon the nearby countertop before turning back toward the Jedi to wrap the sore but healing ribcage.
Once Kami’atra had skillfully finished wrapping her bandage, Irulan slid forward on the examination table and placed both feet on the floor. Tentatively, she shifted her weight to her feet, and was surprised to find that she was able to stand without much pain. "Thanks, Kam.“ she said. ”I didn’t know you could set bones that way. Here I thought I was going to have to drink some whiskey, bite a bullet, and have Kibur snap it back into place.“ She laughed, but winced very slightly, remembering to still be careful. ”Yes, there are a great many things that even the most scholarly of Jedi healers do not yet understand from their seats within the great temple of theirs…" Not wishing to offend, Kami’atra held his tongue from further discourse.
As he put his tools away in the cabinet, Irulan noticed that he was slightly distracted. Watching his countenance silently for a moment, she said quietly, “It’s not your fault, you know. We were in a hurry to get out of there and forgot. He’ll be ok; I can sense it. Someone will find him.”
"Thank you for your concern, Irulan. It is always a blessing to hear a confirmation from someone else’s senses regarding a vision of the future. I too have foreseen the bounty hunter’s release and rescue; however, I told myself that I would come back for him." Kami’atra replaced the bandages within the cabinetry of the examination room, and picked up his satchel which he had thrown to the ground prior to the procedure, hanging it upon a hook near the room’s door.
Meanwhile, back in the main hold, the Lt. checked his weapons and equipment into a storage locker, minus of course his trademark flight jacket and the blaster pistol on his hip. Thinking the droid might need to be checked for potential tracking devices and possible repairs, he escorted it back to the workshop.
As they entered, HA-K7 sat on the table and looked out the window, watching the swirling mists. "So… beautiful.“ He turned his one red eye to Lt. Page, sitting in silence for a moment. ”Where are you taking me?"
“This is our workshop; we need to know if you are still being tracked. The last thing I want is to fall out of hyperspace in front of an ambush,” the Lt. responded sternly. Changing his tone, he addressed the droid in a more forgiving tone. "Are you in need of repairs?“ As the droid ran a check on his system, the Lt. activated the intercom. ”When you’re all ready, I have HA-K7 in the workshop. I don’t know about you, but I want to know what’s going on."
In the medical bay, Irulan started at the noise of the Lt.’s voice crackle over the intercom. She smiled at Kami’atra. "I think we’re being summoned. Shall we find out what it is that we went through all this for?"
“Indeed, we should certainly find out what this droid has in store for us. However, we must complete this endeavor with caution… I’ve sensed something much less than benign concerning the future of this venture. Something dark waits for us at our destination, but the visions are more than vague as to what lies ahead… I sense an oppression of my sight. Lord only knows what plot is to be unfolded hereafter.” Gesturing for her to exit, Kami’atra shook his head of the melancholy thoughts to focus on the present; he reminded her that she should take care for the next day or so to not throw herself into crates and the like, also to let him know if there was any recurring pain that could not be subsided by her own will in the Force – though any surfacing pain would likely be minimal. "There may also be some slight bruising at the site, but that is nothing new to a Knight such as yourself.“ As the two left the medical bay and began heading toward the workshop, they nearly ran into Kibur heading the same direction. ”Oh, Kibur, I had almost forgotten to thank you for the rescue back there; I knew you would make your appearance right on time. We all really appreciate your timeliness."
“Not a problem,” said Kibur. "Glad I could be of assistance. Last ditch rescues are a specialty of mine." He pulled out his data pad and looked over it. “Systems all check out. I’ve got us on a course for Nar Shaddaa by way of the Perlemian Trade Route and the Hydian Way. We’ll make contact there with Troba’s agents who can take us to Nal Hutta to hand the droid over to him there.” Kibur held his hand on his holster as they walked, absentmindedly snapping and unsnapping the guard-piece. The three entered the workshop as Bax entered from the engine room. "Let’s see what this bucket of bolts has to say,” Kibur smirked. "That’s biologist… the Dawn muttered through the intercom.
The droid looked around at the four gathered. "I am HA-K7, Human/Cyborg relations. I have, contained within my systems information that, frankly, I don’t know what to do with.“ A hologram projected from the center of his chest, a long, cylindrical object, slowly rotating in a steady arc. ”This is a laser cannon. I do not mean a mere blaster or E-Web. This is a machine of war such as the universe has never known. It is colossal, and possesses firepower unequaled in the history of warfare.“ He studies the hologram carefully before continuing. ”I have calculated the power of the laser to be more than 2.4×1032 watts, with an optimum range of 2,000,000 kilometers and a working range of 420,000,000 kilometers. It would require a massive hypermatter reactor to power it, and uses 64 tributary shafts to generate eight beams that unite to form the primary beam over the central lens of the weapon.“ He turned off the display. ”At this point, of course, it is entirely hypothetical. The materials needed for this would require a galaxy-spanning hunt for a power source, focusing lenses, and something immense to case it all within. This knowledge could bring the galaxy to its knees.“ He looked at the four. ”So I ask you again… Where are you taking me?"
Looking at HA-K7, Page spoke first. “We made a deal with a Hutt, to deliver you to him. Now, I am not so sure we can go through with this.” Alan took a brief pause. "Actually there is no way in Kessel we can go through with this.“ Shifting his attention to the crew, he said firmly, ”We can’t let this information fall into the wrong hands, especially not a Hutt. I recommend we tell him the deal is off."
Turning back to the droid, Page continued, “HA-K7 does the name Troba mean anything to you? And if it does, why would he want what your carrying, other than for its obvious monetary value?”
HA-K7 paused for a moment. "Sir, I am not registering the name Troba anywhere within my databanks. If he is, as you say, a Hutt, he is probably interested in me only for the value of the information I carry."
There was a brief silence. Then Kami’atra broke in. “Well, we must follow this course until the end… Should we not seek out the creator and requisitioner of such a devastating weapon?” He thought for a moment while deciding whether to expose his mentor, who knew a thing or two about militarized weapons – perhaps he would know what to do… No, my connections with Hoole shouldn’t be exposed without his expressed desire to do so, Kami’atra concluded silently to himself with a shake of his head. Aloud, he said, “Perhaps we can uncover this information from Troba or the Hutt’s informants. As for now this is our only lead, unless one of you knows something I am unaware of…” Internally, he possessed great hope that there was another option, yet his heart told him that all of this would lead to the same place, no matter which path they chose.
“We really have two options here,” said Kibur, looking at the group. "We can either turn this droid over to the Hutts, or, as Kam says, get information from them; or alternatively, we could turn the droid over to the Republic and suffer any hardships the Hutt Crime Syndicate decides to bring down on us."
Kami’atra nodded. “I have no personal qualms with disgruntling the Hutts – there is no integrity in them, no honor… I haven’t any idea how we got ourselves entangled with them in the first place; but now that we find ourselves herein, I must say that I find no faith in the Hutt Syndicate, and only very little within the Republic itself. It seems to me that the lesser of two evils seems to be to surface this information to the Republic.” Kami’atra thought to himself for a moment or two as he glanced around at the members of the crew. As his vision passed the Jedi among them, he voiced his opinion on the matter. "If we are to take this droid to the Republic, might I suggest we approach the Jedi with this matter? If we were to choose the path leading to the Republic, and as we’d be headed to Coruscant, the Jedi Temple would be an obvious choice to one such as myself. What do the rest of you think?"
Unnoticeable to anyone but Kami’atra, Irulan’s posture changed very slightly at this last suggestion.
"One minute you’re scoffing at the Temple, and now you want to go to them for counsel?“ Her eyes narrowed mildly. ”I agree – we can’t take it to Troba. But we made a deal, which means he’ll be on our tail as soon as he finds out what we’ve done. That is, if he hasn’t already."
"It’s the Senate that really needs to know about this, but there’s always the risk of informants within it. So I guess the Temple is our best option, though I don’t really know what we expect the Council to do. But I’d like to go back; I have some . . . matters to attend to."
Lt. Page sighed, as if he were about to say something crazy. “I would agree, taking HA-K7 to the Jedi is the wisest choice. We need to find out why Troba wants this droid. As Kam stated, Troba is our best lead. Agreed, the droid needs to be safe, but I think a small group of us need to meet Troba, or at least make contact with him or his agents.” The Lt. laughed a little to himself with a smirk on his face. "He’ll want us dead sooner or later, why not use this chance while we still can?
“An interesting thought, Lt.,” Kami’atra said. “The Hutts are always seeking power, whether that power is tangible or intangible in nature; they’re always dealing in information as well, though, in recent decades, even the Hutts are serving someone more sinister. I believe that I may speak for all of us when I say that we ought not to bring the droid to Troba now that we know what the droid is in possession of; and if we are to be hunted by Troba either way, why should we split ourselves to approach the devious Hutt?”
Feeling as if his point was entirely missed by his companion, the Lt. restated it while shifting his weight forward and leaning toward Kami’atra. "Kam, this is our last chance to contact the Hutt before he knows we have double-crossed him. I recommend we take advantage of it and get as much information as we can."
“I see your point, Lt., who do you suggest placate the Hutt while the rest sort out the decision of the droid?” Kami’atra certainly recognized that he’d stepped on some toes by dodging the idea of splitting the group to attempt an interrogation of a Hutt on its own field; he apologized to Page for doing so while, more subtly, standing the ground of his own decision. “I will most certainly perform my utmost for the decision that the crew arrives at, to whatever end… as would we all, I’m sure.”
“Oh boys – don’t bicker,” Irulan said, watching the tensing of the two men in front of her. "We won’t split up the valuable members of the party. I’ll go,“ she smiled lightly. ”You all take the droid to the Council. Kibur can drop me off in Hutt Space, and I’ll find a way to convince Troba that we never found K7 at all. I can be very persuasive." She looked to her friends, her chin tilted in quiet determination.
Shocked at her desire to volunteer, Page realized he should have expected her to come between him and an argument, as she had often done in missions past. He decided that he needed to put the breaks on this fast. "Irulan, before we decide who’s going, we need to decide if it is worth the risk." He backpedalled further, attempting to keep the young Jedi from getting too far ahead of herself, and also realizing that he had several steps already planned in his head on how to get to the rendezvous, letting the crew go on to the Temple and protect the droid.
With a long sigh the Lt. looked at each member of the crew and said, "I have saved this crew many times over, but I have almost gotten us killed a fair number as well. If someone leaves knowing this could get them killed, then I’ll go."
“That won’t be necessary, Alan,” Kibur said firmly. “We need you to protect the droid. He is, after all, what this mission is all about.”
Kibur turned back to Irulan. “You forget that Hutts are not so susceptible to Jedi mind tricks. Their minds are as slick as they are. If they catch you in the lie, you’ll be in grave danger.” He looked back at Page, Kam and Bax. "Here’s the plan. We can stop at Concord Dawn and split from there. The three of you take the Iron Dawn to Coruscant; Irulan and I will find alternate means of transportation from there. Ill be with Irulan the whole time in case things get hairy."
“I can take care of myself, thank you very much,” Irulan looked pointedly at Kibur, but his raised eyebrows were sufficient answer as to his opinion on the matter. "Fine. It’s settled then. Let’s go." Spinning on her heel, she marched out of the room towards her cabin to get her things together.
“So be it… The LORD bless you and keep you both. It will not be too soon when we see you two returned safely…” Kami’atra most definitely did not enjoy the idea of the group splitting up, especially with one group facing the deception of a Hutt known particularly for its personal ruthlessness, and the other facing a sense of uncertain darkness at their destination of Coruscant. But the group had decided, and he would serve that decision to the best of his ability. Kami’atra turned to Page and gave him an encouraged nod that carried with it a feeling of utter preparedness, and a desire for them to help get Irulan and Kibur ready and to re-plot a course to the crew’s port of separation, Concord Dawn.
Glad to have swayed the Jedi’s mind, Kibur left the workshop, and headed for the bridge to recalculate the coordinates. “Dawn,” he said, looking up. "Change of plans." "Oh?“ the Iron Dawn said. ”We’re splitting up. You’ll be dropping Irulan and me off at Concord Dawn and then continuing on with Kami’atra, Alan and Bax to Coruscant." "You’re breaking up with me?“ the ship asked in a mocking manner. ”It’s not you, babe. It’s me." He arrived on the bridge and dropped the ship out of hyperspace to recalculate the route. All around them was silent darkness. The stars continued in their stately dance through the heavens. There were no nearby stars or planets, just dark matter and pinpricks of light.
Back in the workshop, the Lt. leaned with his arms against the wall and his fists clenched, letting out a sigh of disappointment at Kibur’s decision. A moment passed, then Alan walked past the others hastily. "Give me a minute," he stated as he headed toward the bridge after Kibur. Once inside the bridge, he turned around to close the door behind him. “Kibur, fine – you want to pursue this lead without me, that’s your prerogative. You and I have faced the Hutts before; she hasn’t. Kibur, although Irulan is a Jedi, she can be brash and quick-tempered…” he paused, remembering that was something he always liked about her. "I’m asking you to reconsider your decision and take either Kam or me; if something happened to her or you, I’d never forgive myself." He looks at his companion piercingly, hoping to remind him of the years of history they’d had on this ship, fighting and working together for the good of the galaxy.
Kibur turned in his chair to the Lt. “Page,” he said, then paused a moment. "Alan…" He indicated a seat for Lt. Page to sit in, and sighed. “I can see this isn’t going to be resolved soon, so let’s talk.” Alan took the offered seat and leaning toward Kibur with his hands on his knees. As Kibur spoke, he continued to punch in calculations. "I understand your concerns. But the fewer we have going into the mouth of the Sarlaac, the better. If there are only two of us, we’ll get out easier in a bind.“ He finished his calculations. ”I know how you feel about her, but you can’t let that cloud your judgement.“ As he pulled the lever, the ship stretched into hyperspace. ”In the end, I can’t force you to leave us and go to Coruscant. But I can ask you."
The Lt. paused, processing his friend’s bold statements about his feelings toward Irulan. "Kibur, this is not about my feelings toward her…" He closed his eyes and leaned back in the chair before continuing, with an aggravating sigh of frustration at being caught actually showing his feelings for her. “What it is about, is that you may both be fully capable members of this team, but I am telling you this is probably not a good idea.”
“Come on, Alan,” said Kibur, standing up. "You know me. My life is full of bad ideas. What’s one more?“ He smirked. ”Trust me."
Frustrated, Alan stood up and pointed his finger at his seated friend "Fine, Kibur – if you think you and Irulan can pull this off, than go. But if you guys get into trouble, I’m not coming after you." Finishing his statement, the Lt. opened the door. As he stepped into the hall, he felt himself already calming down from his outburst. With a quick look back, he added sharply, "Take care of her!” He walked back down the hall to begin cleaning his Repeater.
Outside in the main hold, Irulan saw Kami’atra leaving the workshop, and walked swiftly to catch up with him. “Kam . . . wait,” she said, taking his arm. “I know what you’re thinking – that this is a bad idea. But Kibur knows what he’s doing; I’ll be safe enough with him. Please don’t worry about us. ”You and I share a ‘connection,’ after all. You’ll know what’s going on with me the whole time. And if we’re in trouble, you’ll know. Same goes for you. I know I’ll be able to sense how you’re doing, even from that far away. We’ll still be able to watch out for each other, as always. "I have to go get my things ready. Do you think you could meet me in a few hours, in the port lounge? There are some things I feel I need to tell you, before you go to the Council. And I think . . . perhaps this arrangement is best, after all. I think it is best that you see them, and not me." Kami’atra told her warmly that he would meet her at the appointed time and that he knew that they would complete their task among the Hutts without fail – he knew that she would be alright and that they would keep in touch. He wished her well in preparing, both physically and mentally, and reminded her to pay close attention to her healing but currently bruised ribs as they might give her trouble during this mission. As they parted, Kami’atra smiled to her and assured her that all would be well in the end – he thought eschatologically yet spoke temporally. He left her to her preparations and headed to his domicile within the medical bay to check on supplies and to put everything in order prior to his meditation.
Once everything was replaced within the room, Kami’atra reached for his satchel and drew from it the simple leathern tome within. Opening the codex to a very familiar and well-worn passage, he read the words silently yet with lips moving and with hand motions, as if he were the one speaking. As he finished, he placed the still-open tome upon the examination table, after opening it to a different passage corresponding to a very different period of time. He stood with his back to the door and stretched out his hands with palms upward; his mind’s eye closed to all sights and sounds that blurred and hummed about the cabins and corridors of the Iron Dawn, and he focused himself deeply within the blackness then found in the silence. All time and space seemed to sift and shift away as he considered the paths before the crew, in particular the darkness that he’d foreseen for them at Coruscant. It was difficult to foresee this particular section of time for some reason, although prophecy had always been a common practice for him and his brethren at home as they maintained Oracle status for that region of space. Thankful for the gift of foresight, he prayed for the ability to uncover more about this dark presence that he felt and saw.
The room was utterly silent. Then, without warning, Kami’atra snapped out of his vision, his head thrown back. His knees buckled as he fell to the floor. A cold sweat enveloped him.
Irulan made her way to her chamber. Quietly closing the door behind her, she hung her long brown robe neatly over a chair, and then pulled out a book wrapped in scarlet cloth from under her bed. Opening its cover, she flipped midway through to a spot marked with a leather cord, and she began to write something in the top right-hand corner. Hearing a slight tapping at the door, Irulan shut the book and hastily slid it under the bed, then stepped towards the door and listened.
“Mistress Jedi? Are you there?” a slightly electronic voice murmured.
At the sound of the droid’s voice, Irulan opened the door. “Come in, K7.” She motioned politely towards the seat at her desk, even though she knew droids didn’t really have to sit down. Seating herself on the edge of her bed, she looked at their new friend inquisitively. “How can I help you?”
“Please, Mistress Jedi, call me Hak,” the droid said, "most do.“ He walked into the room, standing there, looking about. It seemed he didn’t notice Irulan’s gesture to the chair. She could almost see him inventorying things, as a machine with such brain power would. He finally stopped, and looked at Irulan. ”I wish to… thank you. For doing this. Who knows what the Hutts would do to my central processors in an effort to extract this information…" He ran his hands across the carbon scoring of his chest, near the holoprojector unit.
“Hak, then,” she said. "And you’re welcome. However – if you had simply showed the Hutts the information, as you did with us, then you wouldn’t have suffered any damage. Are you loyal to the Republic, then? "There’s another thing I still want to know. What happened to you, before we got to you in that tower? How did you get there? And how did that monstrous . . . thing get there? You must know who put this information inside you in the first place."
“Mistress Jedi,” Hak said, "to be quite truthful… I don’t know. I remember nothing of my previous history, leaving me to assume my memory has recently been wiped. The only things I remember are the horrible tortures I received at the hands of the droids in that facility. Hours upon hours as the restraining bolt held me in place, they would take saws to me, arc wielders… trying to do what, I’ll never know. I don’t know if the information was in me in the first place, or whether they placed it there.“ He looked at her with his single eye. ”I do not know if I am loyal to the Republic. But you and your people have saved me. I am loyal to you."
Just then, Kibur’s voice came in over the intercom. "Attention, passengers: we will be dropping out of hyperspace momentarily. Stand by." The sounds of the sublight engines kicking in and the hyperspace engines dropping out echoed through the ship. They had arrived at Concord Dawn.