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Old 01-21-2006, 06:13 PM   #36
JasraLantill
No One Liners
 
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Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Scotland, UK
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Current Game: SWOTR
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Chapter 7--part 2

Ithra followed Berland into the port dormitory. Once the door was closed, she shouted angrily, “Berland, you promised!”

“No,” he said between clenched teeth. “I said I would try.”

“Oooh!” she bellowed furiously. “I can’t believe you *did* such a thing in my presence!” she said, pacing angrily across the dormitory floor. “How could you!”

“I’m sorry, Ithra,” said Berland, wincing slightly from his bruises as he sat down on one of the beds.

“You have no idea how disturbing your little exhibition was to me, do you?” she said, pointing an accusing finger at him. “No idea! None at all!”

Berland sighed. “I said I was sorry,” he repeated. “But the opportunity presented itself and I had to take it.”

“You know how it makes me feel when I reflect someone using the Force that way!” she continued to rant. “You knew, and yet you continued anyway! It felt like… like….” Ithra shivered and hugged herself with her arms while she paced. “Ugh! It felt like my skin was crawling with a million and one Dylwyn Ants!”

Berland rubbed the arm that had borne the brunt of her reflecting his Force Lightning attack upon himself. “I can assure you, Ithra, it didn’t feel very good on my end either.”

She paced a few more steps, then shivered again. “I need a bath! A long, hot bath! And when Prefect Keel hears about this he’s going to…!”

“Now, now,” Berland firmly interrupted. “You know that the confrontation had to take place. Agreed, it was unfortunate that you were in such close proximity, but you know as well as I do that it had to happen eventually.”

Ithra’s jaw set. A moment of silence passed. “All I can say it that your plan had better work.”

“It will.” Berland smiled. “Now, when we reach Jantessa, there’s something that I want you to do….”

******

The Ebon Hawk jolted slightly as it came out of hyperspace.

“Well, there it is,” Carth said. “Jantessa.”

Carth and Bastila set about orbiting the planet, while Rade went to inform Berland and Ithra that they had finally arrived.

“It’s lovely,” Bastilla said admiringly about the planet. “Purple and blue seas, swathes of green across the continents….” Her forehead wrinkled with puzzlement. “What’s that shimmer?”

“That would be their shields,” said Carth.

Suddenly, an alarm began to bleep. “What’s happening?” Bastila asked. “Are we too close?”

“No, just an outgoing transmission,” said Carth, just as Rade was returning. “You were right,” he said, turning to Rade. “Looks like our ‘guests’ are sending a coded transmission to the surface.”

“Figured they would as soon as I left them alone. Have you made contact with the port authorities yet?”

“I hailed them, but so far no response.” Carth looked at Bastila. “Maybe a Jedi would have better luck in getting an answer.”

Bastila cleared her throat, and then pushed the button for the comlink. “This is Bastila Shan of the Jedi Order on board the Ebon Hawk,” she said in a clear but lofty tone. “We require immediate shield clearance and docking instructions. Send them now, or I shall be forced to inform Prime Keeper Ithra and her envoy. I can assure you they will not be pleased about the delay.”

A brief moment passed, and then the panel in front of Carth bleeped twice. He looked at Bastila askance.

“I downloaded what little information there was on Jantessa from the Jedi Archives before we left,” Bastila explained. “From what I could extrapolate, they prefer specific and direct instructions, and have a high regard for position and authority.”

“Bastila, if you had told us that earlier,” said Rade, “it might have made our journey a bit more pleasant.”

“Well, it was difficult to extract any useful information from the files,” Bastila said hesitantly. “Most of the records I encountered were… instructions.”

“Instructions for what?”

Bastila hesitated. “Food preparation.”

“What, like recipes?” Carth stifled a laugh. “You mean you spent all this time reading through a Jantessan cookbook?”

“Like I said,” Bastila said crossly, “there wasn’t much useful information in the archives. But the recipe instructions were very precise, and there were several references to ‘official’ and ‘authorised’ ingredients.” She paused. “I don’t really know much about cooking, but some of their ingredients seemed quite strange. I mean, I’ve no idea what Essence of Vercoumna is, do you?”

“What was it used for?” asked Rade.

“I believe it was for some sort of ritual bread. The recipe said to add the Essence to a mixture of ground grains and fermented fungal extracts, and then to expose it to a slow rising temperature over a period of three days while…”

“All right, everyone hold on,” Carth interrupted. “We’re passing through the shield corridor.”

Travelling through the corridor was like sliding through a kaleidoscope—the shield shimmered and danced with all the colours of a rainbow as the Ebon Hawk descended through it. Suddenly, there was a loud boom, and the Hawk lurched violently.

“What was that?” Rade asked Carth.

“Think we might have grazed the outer edge of the shield,” Carth said, as he struggled to keep control. “They sure didn’t give us much room to manoeuvre.”

Another boom and a lurch. Finally, the Ebon Hawk broke through into the atmosphere of the planet where they were met by two Jantessan fighter escorts, similar in design to the Republic’s, but smaller and much more streamlined.

“You will follow us to the designated landing area where you will receive further instructions,” ordered a static charged voice over the comm.

“Just do what they say,” Bastila said to Carth as he opened his mouth to protest.

“If your course deviates, you will be fired upon,” the fighter escort voice continued. “You will not be cautioned. Do you understand?”

Bastila hit the com button. “Yes. We understand.”

The ‘designated landing area’ for visitors was located just outside of the Jantessan’s capital city of Aru. As the Ebon Hawk approached, Ithra wandered into the cockpit. Rade frowned at her.

“I know I should be in my quarters, but… is it all right if I look out the window?” she asked him rather shyly. “I wasn’t able to do so on the outbound journey, and I’ve never seen the city of Aru from this far above.”

Rade’s frown softened, and he shrugged a shoulder. “Sure. Just go stand over there.”

Ithra moved to stand to the side of Bastila. Her eyes widened as she gazed down at the approaching planet surface. “Aru looks so tiny from up here. Even the Haven looks small.”

“The Haven?” Bastila asked, turning her head to face her.

Ithra cocked an ear toward Bastila but kept her gaze fixed on Aru as they descended. “See the Five Spires? There?” She pointed. “The Haven is the tallest—the violet spire right at the edge of the waters of the Northmere. It’s where the Prime Keepers used to live.”

Bastila’s gaze followed to where Ithra was pointing. At one end of the city, she could just make out the five tall spires near a body of calm violet-blue water. Each one was the centre point of a large pentagonal building, surrounded by smaller buildings and patches of deep green. “Where they *used* to live?”

“No one lives in the Haven now,” Ithra said distantly. “Not since the Contamination. Most, like me, live in the Priory now. That’s the silver spire to the south. And next to it, is the Matrix, where the Great Hall is. And on the other side, the Refectory.” She sighed. “I think I will appreciate the meals they serve there much more after my experience with what you seem to want to call food.”

“What’s the building on the end? The one with the black spire, set apart from the rest.”

“The Foundry.” Ithra paused. “There are a few who live there, but it is forbidden to speak of them.”

“Why?”

Ithra turned to Bastila. “Because,” she said matter-of-factly, “they are infidels and traitors.”

Bastila frowned. “It’s a prison?”

Ithra shook her head. “It’s a place where one is sent to be… re-educated.”

Rade lifted an eyebrow at her comment. “Re-educated how?”

Ithra didn’t answer his question. “Has Prefect Keel contacted you yet?” she asked him instead.

“No. Why?”

Ithra gave a non-committal shrug. “Berland sent word to him about your… previous visit,” she confessed. “Upon our arrival he will ask to meet with you, alone. It would anger him if you refuse his invitation.” She turned to leave, then stopped just at the entrance to the corridor. “A word of advice, Rade Chano.” She paused for a moment, as if considering how to continue. “Our laws permit an arbiter to accompany one when being summoned in front of a Prefect.” She flicked her eyes towards Bastila. “I would suggest you select Bastila for the task. Prefect Keel has a weakness for beautiful women.”

“Why are you telling me this?” Rade asked suspiciously.

Ithra snorted with disdain. “Because it would displease Berland, and I am angry with him at the moment. Why else?” With a flourish of her cloak, she quickly turned and left.

“Hmmph,” Carth snorted. “Now *that* was an interesting display.”

“Yes, it was,” Rade agreed. “Bastila?”

“I didn’t detect any intent on her part to deceive,” she said. “But…, she is hard to read.”

“Look, even I could tell there was something important she wasn’t telling us,” said Carth.

The Ebon Hawk suddenly shuddered.

Rade looked over Carth’s shoulder at the control panels. “What now?”

“They’ve locked a tractor beam on us. Probably just guiding us in to the docking port.”

A cheery sounding chime came over the com. “Welcome, visitors. You are now approaching the decontamination field,” said a pleasant, automated female voice. “Please disengage your drive systems while you are guided to the quarantine docking platforms.”

“See?” Carth began to initiate engine shutdown. “Nothing to worry ab….” Carth suddenly frowned. “Uh-oh.”

“Please disengage your drive systems while you are guided to the quarantine docking platforms,” the voice repeated.

The Ebon Hawk shuddered more violently and the engines started to whine.

“Problem?” asked Rade.

“Erm…you remember that power coupling that was giving me some erratic readings?” Carth asked, as he pushed more buttons.

There was another hard jolt, and Rade grabbed the back of Carth’s chair for balance.

“Please disengage your drive systems while you are guided to the quarantine docking platforms,” the voice repeated.

“Carth, just shut down the engines,” Bastila said, her voice sounding slightly worried.

“That’s what I’m trying to do,” Carth said, frantically pushing more buttons and pulling more levers. “The intake is stuck wide open. I can’t power down!”

“Bastila, see if you can make contact with the port authorities,” said Rade. “Tell them we’re having a problem.”

“Please disengage your drive systems while you are guided to the quarantine docking platforms.”

The shuddering was getting worse. Everything was vibrating and the hull began to make strange creaking noises.

“They’re not responding to our hail!” said Bastila, clinging to the comm panel for support. “And our escorts have just left us!”

“Please disengage your drive systems while you are guided to the quarantine docking platforms.”

Another sudden jolt. Sparks showered from one of the panels near the star chart and Rade shielded his eyes. “Damn!”

“If I can’t get the engines shut down,” Carth said, his voice sounding staccato from the vibrations, “this is going to be a very, short, mission!”

“Please disengage your drive systems while you are guided to the quarantine docking platforms.”

Carth wiped sweat from his brow. “If… I... can… just… get… the….”

Quite suddenly, the shuddering ceased. The lights dimmed, and then a blue light filled the cockpit. Everything was deathly quiet.

The blue light vanished. “Thank you,” the automated voice said, breaking the thick silence. “Decontamination complete. Your co-operation is appreciated.”

Carth let out a sigh of relief. “That was close. Let’s just hope they allow us to do some maintenance before we leave.”

The tractor beam guided the Ebon Hawk through to a docking bay, and as the ship touched down, the bay door quickly slammed shut.

“Docking complete,” said the automated voice. “Please disembark and await further instructions.”


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