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Old 01-19-2006, 08:14 AM   #32
JasraLantill
No One Liners
 
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Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Scotland, UK
Posts: 2,387
Current Game: SWOTR
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Chapter 7

Bastila was alone in the cockpit, sitting in front of the navigation station double checking the Ebon Hawk’s progress to Jantessa, when she felt a pair of warm hands gently grip the back of her neck.

“You’re tense,” Rade said as his hands began to gently massage her.

“I have a feeling that something isn’t right,” she said, relaxing slightly under his touch. “That this mission involves more than just finding and returning this relic to the Jantessans.”

“I know what you mean. I feel it, too.” Rade intensified his efforts steadily moving his hands gently across her shoulders. “Where’s Carth?”

“Engine room. He muttered something about double checking a coupling and left a few minutes ago.”

“Good.”

“Good?”

“Not good about the coupling, but good that we’re alone,” Rade clarified. “This ship seems a whole lot smaller with the addition of just two people. We haven’t had a moment to ourselves.”

“Well, a Jedi’s life is sacrifice,” Bastila said coyly. Rade ran his thumbs up and down her neck in a fluid motion, causing her to let out an unintentional moan of pleasure. “Oh, that feels good,” she whispered gratefully.

“I was thinking,” said Rade. “After our passengers disembark, I’ll maybe take the new ‘guest’ quarters as my own. You know, convert them into the captain’s quarters.”

“Don’t you think that’s a bit extravagant for a Jedi?”

“Not really. There are occasions when a captain needs privacy.”

“Such as?”

“Well, for example, it would be helpful to have someplace private to conduct negotiations.”

“Negotiations with whom?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Rade mused. “Maybe the captain of another ship, or a diplomat, or….” He worked his hands down her spine a bit, soliciting another involuntary moan.

“Yes, I… can see… how that might… be beneficial,” Bastila said, between the pulses of his kneading fingers.

Rade grinned. “Glad you agree.”

Rade heard a purposeful cough, then heavy footsteps approaching. His hands immediately stilled, coming to rest lightly on the back of Bastila’s chair. “So, how long before we reach Jantessa?” he asked her, as Carth entered the cockpit.

“Nineteen hours and seven minutes,” Bastila said, straightening herself in her chair. “Everything all right, Carth?”

“Yeah, everything’s fine,” Carth said, taking his seat and purposefully ignoring their proximity to one another. “I was just getting some odd fluctuations from a sensor near the intake coupling. I might have to do some adjustments when we dock, but it doesn’t look like it’s a big problem.”

“Good,” said Rade.

“You might want to check on HK though,” Carth said to Rade. “Mission mentioned he was acting a bit strange.”

“Strange? How?”

“She said he was too quiet.”

Bastilla snorted. “That sounds like an improvement, not a malfunction.”

“Yeah, well, I think it’s a bit more than that,” said Carth. “I believe her exact words were, ‘He sorta sounds like he’s kinda depressed or something.’”

“Depressed?” Rade’s brow wrinkled with doubt. “I wasn’t aware droids got depressed.”

“That’s why you might want to take a look at him. I would’ve done it myself, but, well, you know how he is.”

“I’ll take a look.” Rade gave Bastila’s shoulder a gentle squeeze before turning to leave.

“Oh, and I think you were right about our innocent-looking young guest,” Carth added. “Jolee told me Ithra’s been asking a lot of questions about the crew.”

Rade paused. “Oh? What kind of questions?”

“Specific questions about backgrounds, skills, experience… those kind of questions.”

“Ah,” Rade said knowingly. “Well, maybe HK can shed some light on that as well. After all, he’s been waiting on our guests.”

“And you wonder why he’s depressed?” Bastila commented under her breath.

********

Mission, Canderous, and Zalbaar were still playing Pazaak when Rade walked in.

“Did Carth send you to check on HK?” Mission asked.

Rade nodded.

“Good,” said Mission. “He’s acting really weird. He came in and told us to move so he could put his weapons away in one of the lockers. When we asked him why, he said something about ‘unnecessary functions,’ then went and stood in the corner.” She pointed to where HK stood inconspicuously behind some cargo containers.

“And he refuses to run any fight sims,” Canderous added.

Zalbaar uttered a series of repetitive grunts and a growl.

“That’s right,” Mission said to the Wookiee. “He hasn’t called us ‘meatbags’ once. Not once,” she repeated emphatically. “It’s like he’s depressed or something.” She shook her head with disbelief. “Weird.”

Rade raised his eyebrows. “Indeed.” He walked over to the rusty red combat droid. “Hello, HK.”

“HK-47 is ready to serve, master.”

“HK, how are you?”

“Statement: All of my systems are functioning within established parameters.”

“I have some questions for you.” Rade waited for a lippy comment or quip to follow, but none came. “Erm… aren’t you going to ask if I need something killed?”

“Statement: Master, there is no logical reason to ask a question when the answer is already known.”

“I see. HK, I notice that you don’t have your blasters. Was there something wrong with them?”

“Answer: My blasters are functioning perfectly. They are currently stored in the weapons locker.”

“Why?”

“Answer: Blasters are of little use to a protocol droid not actively involved in defensive activities or aggressive negotiations.”

“Uh-huh,” Rade said slowly. “And how are our guests faring?”

“Answer: Envoy Berland and Keeper Ithra are in perfect health and appear to be content.”

“So you haven’t had any problems with either of them?”

“Answer: No, master.”

Rade frowned. HK hadn’t yet made a single contentious comment or used the word ‘meatbag’. “HK, has anyone performed any recent maintenance on you?”

“Answer: Routine system maintenance was last performed on me by Senior Technical Officer Seri Ollana in the Jedi Temple’s maintenance bay.”

“And has anyone attempted to access or alter your memory core?”

“Answer: Other than yourself, no, master.”

Rade rubbed his chin. “HK, how did Berland react when you went to inform him that you were sent to serve him and Keeper Ithra?”

“Answer: Berland was calm, master.”

“He didn’t seem surprised to see you?”

“Answer: Berland did initially enquire if my purpose was to terminate him. But once I assured him that I had been specifically instructed to ignore my previous protocols, he did not pursue the issue.”

“Did he say anything else to you?”

HK was silent for a moment. “Answer: Yes, master.”

Rade rolled his eyes. “This is like pulling teeth,” he muttered under his breath. “What did Berland say to you?”

Again, HK took his time in answering. “Answer: Berland expressed his appreciation for the nuances of my programming and superior skills. He also wished me to pass on his thanks to you for placing me at his disposal.”

Rade let out an annoyed sigh. “I see. Thank you, HK.” He left to go speak to Berland himself.

*********

Rade opened the door of the port dormitory without waiting for permission to enter.

“My apologies for barging in like this, Keeper Ithra,” he said, as he barrelled past her. “But I need to have a word with your envoy. Alone.”

Before Berland could lodge a protest, Rade grabbed him by the back of the neck, and making certain that Berland’s long braid of dark hair was securely entangled between his fingers.

“Ahh…ow!” Berland uttered, as Rade drug him down the corridor, around the corner, and into the old cargo bay, which was now outfitted as the male dormitory.

“Now then,” Rade said, releasing Berland with a shove. “I think you’ve got some explaining to do.”

“How dare you!” Berland seethed. “How dare you treat me in such an obscene manner!”

“As you pointed out earlier, I’m the captain of this ship,” said Rade, blocking the exit. “I can do what I want.”

“Ah, but you’re a *Jedi* now,” Berland said condescendingly. “You’ll do what the Jedi Council tells you to. And rest assured they will not be pleased by how you are treating a diplomatic envoy who is in your care!”

Rade snorted contemptuously. “You know, even though my memory has been altered, I still seem to have a *slight* problem with authority.” He flashed a quick grin. “Now, what have you done to my HK droid?”

“I am a diplomat, not a mechanic. I have never laid a finger on your droid.”

“Not physically, you haven’t, but you have done something to him.”

“If your HK droid is malfunctioning, I would suspect it is due to some incompetent Jedi technician,” Berland sneered. “I imagine they are quite unfamiliar with the *unusual* protocol functions your droid seems to possess.”

Rade’s jaw set. “You’re smooth, Berland,” said Rade. “I’ll give you that much. But what I won’t give you is continued unrestricted access to my ship or my crew. I’m confining you and Keeper Ithra to your quarters.”

“Confine us to….!” Berland protested. “May I remind you that we are guests, not prisoners!”

“Exactly,” said Rade. “We’ll be arriving at Jantessa in about nineteen hours and for your own safety, it would be best if you were confined to your quarters. If my HK droid is malfunctioning, I don’t want to have any accidents being blamed on his *unusual* protocols.”

Berland’s eyes blazed with anger and he raised his right hand as if contemplating a Force attack.

“You really don’t want to do that,” Rade warned. “HK did tell me that one of the reasons he chose you as my assistant was because you were weak in the Force.”

Berland slowly lowered his hand, but his eyes still burned. “Weak, am I?” His left hand suddenly struck out, sending Rade burling across the room and slamming into the bulkhead.

Rade quickly shook it off, and countered with a Force Wave of his own. Berland flew backwards and skidded across the floor, hitting the opposite bulkhead with a loud thud.

“*Former* Sith, eh?” Rade said, sending a Force Whirlwind Berland’s way.

To Rade’s surprise, Berland easily repelled the attack. Bolts of Force Lightning streamed from Berland’s fingertips, narrowly missing Rade as the Jedi deftly dodged and rolled to the left. “*Former* does not mean *weaker*,” Berland sneered, as he prepared to deliver another jolt.

“Stop it!” Ithra had appeared in the doorway, horrified at the Force duel that was apparently taking place. She pointed a finger at Rade. “That’s enough, infidel!”

Taking advantage of Ithra’s sudden interruption, Rade attempted to throw Berland back with a Force Push, but to his surprise, he found himself launched back against the wall instead.

Berland, too, tried to take advantage of the girl’s sudden arrival. With a malicious snarl on his lips, he stretched out his hand. Force Lightning again leapt from his fingertips, but the bolts contorted and curled back on themselves, targeting Berland instead. He howled as his body spasmed with pain, but instead of Rade, his gaze was focused on Ithra.

Bastila and Juhani soon appeared in the doorway next to Ithra. “What’s going on!” Bastila demanded.

Rade stood up, slightly confused at how his Force Push had landed him against the wall and how Berland’s Force Lightning had turned on him as well. “Our *former* Sith decided to show his true colours,” he said.

“You goaded me, Jedi!” Berland snapped. “Admit it!”

“I said enough!” Ithra shouted. “Both of you!” She folded her arms angrily across her chest. “I will not tolerate such blasphemous use of the Force in my presence!”

“Forgive me, my lady,” Berland said, rising slowly. He glared at Rade. “I lost my temper when the Jedi said he was confining us to our quarters.”

“What?” Ithra’s eyes narrowed as she met Rade’s gaze. “Have we done something to offend you?”

“Your envoy has damaged my droid.”

“Liar,” Berland hissed.

“And I understand you have been asking a lot of questions,” Rade continued.

“Very specific questions,” Bastila added.

“Yes, I have,” Ithra calmly admitted. “Berland thought it was a good idea for me to practice my conversational skills with the outlan… with the crew.” She turned to Juhani. “Up until this very moment, I thought I was doing well.”

“I don’t think Ithra’s meant any harm,” Juhani said to Rade as she moved to stand next to Ithra. “She is just curious, that’s all.”

Bastila snorted. “Yes. Very curious,” she said quietly.

“I have no objections to being secluded in our quarters,” said Ithra. “Especially if it will calm any ‘historical’ tensions between us.” She gave a quick glance at Berland. “So, if not the droid,” she asked Rade, “who will be attending to our needs while we are confined?”

“I’ll look after you,” Juhani offered.

“Juhani, are you sure?” Rade asked.

Juhani nodded. “I think Ithra and I have a better understanding of each other now that we’ve talked.”

“Fine,” said Rade. “Well, Berland, I’m glad we’ve had this little chat. I think we have a better understanding of each other, too. Don’t you think?”

Berland’s mouth twitched. “Oh, most definitely.” He straightened his tunic and pushed his way past Bastila and Juhani. “Come, Ithra.”

Ithra eyed Rade over before following Berland back to their dormitory.

“Juhani, be careful,” Rade said. “They’re up to something.”


Veni, Vidi, Velcro. (I came, I saw, I stuck around)
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