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Old 03-01-2010, 12:50 AM   #1
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Freedom

The office complex of the Corellian Engineering Corporation was quiet at six in the morning, for most of the engineers and designers on staff preferred to keep late-night schedules. A few scattered individuals were hard at work, but only one of them saw the tall, grim-faced young man with cold eyes enter. And she only saw him because he approached her directly.

“I'm looking for Deitra Prasanna's workstation,” he said quietly.

“Deitra's not here,” she told him. “She's on vacation for the week. Is there something I can help you with?”

Sighing wearily, the man nodded. “There is. Deitra is dead. My name is Slade. I'm her brother. As I understand it, you were her supervisor.”

Wide-eyed, Thal Brek turned fully to face him. She couldn't believe her ears. Deitra was dead? Swallowing hard, she barely managed to ask, “How did it happen?”

A flicker of pain touched Slade's eyes and he shook his head. “The detective I spoke with wouldn't tell me any details. Please, Ms. Brek. You were her supervisor, yes?”

Blinking back tears, Thal nodded. “We were good friends too.”

“I'm sorry,” Slade murmured. “I'm here to retrieve her things.”

Slowly, Thal's mind registered what Slade was telling her. Finally she nodded. “Of course.” She rose to her feet and then suddenly remembered proper procedure. “You don't mind if I confirm this with the police?”

Slade shook his head. “That's fine, Ms. Brek. Do what you need to do.”

Ten minutes later, Thal had confirmed Slade's report and his identity and she turned back to find that Slade had disappeared. Her eyes narrowed and she rose, moving swiftly toward Deitra's workstation. The young designer's workstation wasn't far from Thal's own, but when she reached it, Slade was still nowhere to be found. Panic clamped down on her and she swiftly accessed Deitra's workstation, hoping beyond her wildest dreams that this mysterious brother of Deitra's had not taken anything Deitra was working on for the CEC. It took several minutes of intense searching before Thal was satisfied. Then, she checked Deitra's desk. Her personal items were cleared out, but again, there was nothing CEC-owned that had been taken.

It was only after confirming this that Thal called the police again. This time, she was put directly through. “He's gone,” she said. “He must have run off while I was speaking with you the first time.”

The image of the detective scowled. “That is not good news, Ms. Brek. Slade Prasanna is a very dangerous man. You should not have turned your back on him.”

“He didn't harm anyone,” Thal protested. “All he did was exactly what he said he'd come to do. He cleaned out his sister's personal items. Nothing more.”

“He killed his sister,” the detective shot back. “Bet he didn't tell you that, did he?”

Thal's mouth dropped open in horror and she whispered, “No.”

The detective nodded. “The team I sent should be arriving at any time. When they do, you will tell them everything you've just told me. They should be able to pick up his trail, even now.”

– --- – --- – --- – --- – --- – --- – --- –


Slade purchased five tickets off Corellia using five different aliases. Some were known to Imperial Intel; others were not. Of all the people they'd trained, Slade was one who took to it most effortlessly. And so, he knew that though they would not expect him to leave Corellia after such a pointed display of his various identities, they would also have eyes on every single one of those flights. Instead, he hitched a ride with a smuggler, one who'd had plenty of experience getting around Imperial patrols. All he asked was that the smuggler ask him no questions. Given the outrageous show of Imperial strength, the smuggler had no issues with that deal.

He carried Slade to Imperial Center and there, they parted ways. Slade had a lead to follow as to why his sister had been caught in the middle of an illegal weapons deal the Empire was looking to shut down. To do this, he ventured down into the underlevels of Imperial Center and found himself in a small mechanic's shop. But the young woman seated behind the front desk with her heels kicked up on its surface was not at all who he was expecting. She eyed him lazily for a moment, then stood.

“Somethin' I can help ya with, stranger?” she drawled. He recognized the accent. She was Corellian. Cute, too. But he shook his head.

“I'm lookin' for Elias Bord,” he said, once again picking up the Corellian accent he had ditched while going through covert ops training. He hoped it would catch her attention and make her more willing to cooperate with him.

Only the slight flicker of surprise in her eye told him she'd noticed his accent. “I'm Katlyn Drea,” she said. “I run this place. Mr. Bord only owns it, and he's never here.”

“Where is he, then?” Slade asked. “I'm an old friend. I'd like to see him again.”

But Katlyn Drea was a perceptive little firecracker and she shook her head. “Friends don't come lookin' for their old friends without warning, nor do they come lookin' with a spark in their eye that speaks revenge.”

Slade laughed. “Revenge? Oh, not that, lil' Kat. He owes me more than he could ever repay, but I have a job for him, a ship that needs to be built.”

Displeased at being called “lil' Kat”, she scowled at him. “You must have been out of touch with him for quite some time. This isn't a shipyard.”

“For the right project, Elias Bord will agree,” Slade told her confidently.

But she wasn't convinced. “Show me.”

Grinning, he obliged.

– --- – --- – --- – --- – --- – --- – --- –


“Absolutely out of the question!” Elias Bord raged. “Katlyn, you were absolutely right not to lead him to me. The man is dangerous.”

“But the ship,” Katlyn protested. “The ship!”

“I don't care if he wants a flying palace,” Bord snapped. “He's not getting it from me.”

Kat scowled. “Except it's not exactly your decision. You left me in charge of your shop.”

His eyes widened in astonishment. “You wouldn't dare!”

She gave him a cold smile. “Watch me.”

– --- – --- – --- – --- – --- – --- – --- –


It took a week, but Elias Bord finally agreed to meet with Slade, though he dragged his feet every step of the way. Slade was waiting in the shop with young Katlyn Drea, who seemed to be warming up to him. The sight made Bord's blood boil, but there was little he could do about it. Slade Prasanna wasn't the sort of man you threatened if you wanted to live longer than a few more seconds.

Seeing Bord approach, Slade immediately got to business. There were no pleasantries he could offer Elias Bord that would change the old man's mind, so why bother?

“I assume lil' Kat here has shown you the ship I want built,” he said. “What I never told her is I expect to fully compensate you for it. You may owe me a number of favors you'll never repay, but I simply can't afford to care right now. Name your price.”

Bord knew Slade Prasanna had very deep pockets and he didn't really want to know what the younger man had done to earn them. But he did want a piece. “Six billion.”

Slade laughed. “Do you think your outrageous prices are going to astonish me after all I put you through? You can have six billion if you start right now and have the ship ready for test flights in three weeks.”

Katlyn Drea's mouth dropped wide open. “Six...” she mumbled.

“Billion,” Slade answered, turning to face her. “Problem?”

She was too stunned to reply.

“Damn you, Prasanna,” Bord growled. Then he turned to Kat. “Authorized. I'll have preliminary materials and a work crew down here in an hour. This is our only job right now, understand?”

Wordlessly, Kat nodded, wondering who in nine Corellian hells could drop six billion credits without even flinching.

– --- – --- – --- – --- – --- – --- – --- –


One hour later, three full work crews turned up in the work area. Minutes later, pre-fashioned framework pieces of various shapes and sizes were delivered and the work began. At times, the three work crews seemed disoriented and people were always getting in the way, but by the end of the first day, they had each settled into comfortable positions and work progressed unhindered.

The next morning, the mysterious Mr. Prasanna came to watch them work and Kat attempted to learn a little more about him. It was a waste of time; he had tighter lips than her boss, who, when she had asked what line of work he'd been in before had answered, “I can give this job to someone else, you know.”

Slade at least was a bit more straightforward. Scowling faintly, he said, “My background is not open for discussion.”

“What about your future?” she asked bluntly. “Why a ship like this? And why my boss?”

“If you don't know,” he answered, “then it's best if I don't enlighten you.”

Spy, she thought. He had to be a spy. But shortly after that brief discussion, he left the work crews to their duties.


The week passed without another visit from Slade and Kat gave up on him. Instead, she plunged headfirst into the work of bringing his ship to life. At the end of the week, the framework was in place, with just a few finishing touches to be added. Their deadline was inching closer and Kat was growing concerned. If Slade wanted a quality ship, three weeks would not be enough time.

Two more days passed without any sight of Slade. When he entered, halfway into the second week, Kat pounced on him.

“You're insane,” she spat. “Do you really expect a ship of high quality if you rush the workers?”

“Tell me what you want,” he said calmly.

“Dismiss two of the work crews and push the deadline out another four months.”

Slade shook his head. “I don't have four months. Can do one and a half total. Can you make it happen in one more month?”

Kat almost winced. “I don't-”

“I'm giving your employer six billion credits,” Slade interrupted. “Do whatever it takes. I need the ship complete in a month.”

“How much of the money have you given him thus far?” Kat asked. “Because the kind of effort you're asking for costs more than I have access to.”

Slade nodded. “Get Silas down here again.”

– --- – --- – --- – --- – --- – --- – --- –


Silas Bord was an extremely unhappy man, but he came and took on the title of “overseer”, demoting an outraged Kat to supervising a fourth team he brought in. However, as the ship began to take shape, Kat couldn't stay upset for long. She had seen the beauty in the design when Slade first showed her the schematics, but to see it taking shape in real life was almost breathtaking.

Two more weeks passed, with Slade visiting the construction site almost every day. With the addition of Kat's crew, he actually seemed impressed with their progress, but she constantly warned him that he would need a seriously competent engineer to iron out the inevitable kinks in such a rushed job. He promised her he'd take that into account.

Late in the third week, they began the work of stretching the hull plates over the framework. While two crews worked on that, the other two began fitting pieces of technology brought in by Slade into their respective places, according to the schematics he'd brought in for them to follow. Among these pieces, there was a rather unusual power source, the likes of which Kat had never seen.

“It's a self-sustaining system,” Slade said when he found her staring at it, just a few hours after a specialized team came in to install it. “Fill it with some sort of chemical cocktail and it just recycles itself over and over, putting out a decent power supply while it's at it. Can't say I know all the details myself.”

From that point onward, device after strange device were installed. Many of the exterior installations were clearly weapons, but then there were the internal ones whose usefulness eluded even a bright engineer like Kat. There was one that had something to do with the water supply, and another got hooked up to the shield generator. A third looked like a simple metal box, but it got connected to the computer system.

“What is all of this?” Kat finally asked Slade when the crews were nearly finished with their work. “How is it useful for more than weighing you down?”

Slade only shook his head. “Some of it even I'm not sure of. What I am sure of is that this will be a starship like none other.”

Kat had to agree with that. But Elias Bord was getting more and more reluctant with how long his little repair shop had been monopolized for the building of this strange and beautiful ship. To speed things up, he bought a Class 1 hyperdrive and ordered a rush on the install. By that point, he'd cut the work crews down to two and placed them both under Kat's watchful eyes. When the hyperdrive installation was completed, Bord insisted the work was finished and that he wanted the ship out of his shop.

“We don't even know if it'll run properly,” Kat protested.

“Besides, Class 1 isn't good enough,” Slade put in. “I need at least a 0.5.”

Kat scowled. “Then you really need computer test flights,” she said.

“I'll have none of it,” Elias snapped. “Prasanna, you may have given me six billion for this job, but the job is done. Be on your way.”

Slade frowned thoughtfully. “So be it.”

Kat cringed. “No, you can't!”

“Let me explain why I'm so willing to trust this ship,” Slade said. “The design is one of my sister's, and she never did things halfway. She got so far on it as to work out full schematics, which means she knew without a doubt it would work that way. Why she never gave this one to her superiors at CEC, I'll never know.” He chewed on the inside of his lip for a moment, and then shook his head. “I'm leaving, Ms. Drea. If you want to be certain I don't lose my life, why don't you come along?”

“Out of the question,” Bord said quickly. “Ms. Drea runs my shop. I'll not have her leaving with the likes of you, Prasanna.”

Kat turned a full death glare on Bord. “As if it was your decision.” She turned to Slade, death glare still raging and growled, “Right now, I don't much care if you live or die, but that ship will not leave Coruscant without the best mechanic I know, and that's me.”

Slade Prasanna actually smiled as he extended his hand to her. “Well then, lil' Kat, we'd best be going.”

She shook his hand and her death glare faded to a scowl as she ordered don't call me that.”

Grinning, Slade turned to Bord. “Well Elias, looks like you'll have to be doin' more of your own work. Good luck down here.”

Bord was angry, but he wasn't going to try anything with Slade Prasanna so damned close. With Kat gone, Bord would likely have to shut his little shop down. Then, a thought struck him. Six billion. It had been an insane month and a half, but he was rich. A goofy smile appeared on his face and he held out his hand to Slade.

“Six billion,” he said, giggling just a little. “I'll never have to work again.”

Slade nodded. “You have three billion now, yes?” He pulled out a datapad and tapped a few keys. “There. Your full six billion, Bord. Have a nice life.”

As Slade turned to go to his new ship, a very happy Elias Bord sobered up just enough to offer one last warning to Katlyn Drea.

“I think it goes without saying that Slade was a spy,” he said. “But he's gotten out of the business. And he's done it in the worst way possible. Ms. Drea, your new captain is a fugitive. If you still mean to go with him, please be careful. There's no telling what they'll send after him.”

Kat's blue eyes flickered almost gray and she smiled serenely. “That will not be a problem, sir.”

Something about her expression made Elias Bord decidedly uncomfortable and he hurried away as quickly as he could. The further away he got, the happier he became and soon he had no more concern for Katlyn Drea or Slade Prasanna.

– --- – --- – --- – --- – --- – --- – --- –


The ship rested quietly within the now abandoned repair shop, simply waiting. Slade and Kat stood side by side, staring at the finished result. During their conversation with Elias Bord, a team of painters had done a hit-and-run job, rendering the ship finally finished, both inside and out. Slade drew in a deep breath and released it slowly.

“She's bigger than I'd have imagined, given my sister's design schematics,” he said finally. Looking over at him, Kat realized the sadness she'd heard in his voice had also found its way onto his face.

“What happened?” she asked gently. A flash of emotion, then nothing.

He opened his mouth once. Twice. Then, he shook his head and opted for a completely different subject. “If you're going to be the mechanic, you need to know her inside and out. Granted, you practically built her, but...” he fished a datapad out of his pocket. “Here. This is the manual.”

Kat took it, nodding slightly. Then, she nodded to the ship. “What will you name her?”

For a long time, Slade didn't answer. At length, Kat looked up at him. To her surprise, there were tears in his eyes. He caught her looking and turned away. With another deep sigh, he turned back to the ship and nodded, the decision made.

“She's Freedom.


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Old 03-03-2010, 11:22 AM   #2
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I enjoyed reading this piece Writer. I think you nicely presented your main character while at the same time keeping a little bit of mystery involved to make the reader want to find the answer to the question of why he was doing what he was doing.

The name of the ship is appropriate as well and relates to Slade's motivations for leaving his former profession, and I love the picture of it. Very slick looking little vessel.

I did notice that you abruptly changed Bord's name in the middle of the story from Elias to Silas which I'm sure was a typo and easily fixed.


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Old 03-08-2010, 02:21 PM   #3
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Whoops! Thanks for noticing, Athos. Throughout the story, I was wavering between naming him Elias or Silas. I thought I'd settled on one, but I guess my subconscious had other ideas mid-story


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Old 03-10-2010, 10:48 AM   #4
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Read.


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Old 03-18-2010, 04:10 AM   #5
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