The Drunken Dianoga
Kieran looked across from his opponent, a neutral expression on his face. This sort of confrontation called for nerves of steel and a quick mind, and though he had more of the latter than he would care to admit, the events of the past few days had worn the former down to as dull a point as one could imagine. True, this sort of task wasn't nearly as dangerous as the one he had been wrangled into performing, but, like that task, it was something he often enjoyed doing, even if he was only able to do the former in the arena of his mind.
That would change soon, however, and while he was waiting, he decided to pass the time by indulging in one of his more popular pastimes: cleaning other people out of their credits.
The nearby interference field fluctuated, shifting the cards in his hands. Looking down at his hand, he saw that, in addition to Queen of Air and Darkness and the Two of Flasks he held in the neutral field, he now held Demise and the Three of Coins.
"Stars' End!" The Twi'lek to whom Kieran's gaze had been directed threw down his cards in disgust, having obviously been dealt a hand that had caused him to go over twenty three. Taking his glass, he downed the contents in one gulp, got up from the table and walked off.
Kieran fought hard to keep the smirk that threatened to form on his face from appearing as he watched the man depart, taking the opportunity to look down at his cards. The hand he now held equaled twenty. In order to win the Sabbac pot, which contained the majority of the credits into which the players had put their bets, he would have to get either a positive twenty three, a negative twenty three or the much more rare Idiot's Array, which was the ultimate hand one could obtain in Sabbac and would automatically trump any other hand the other players had, even if any of them managed to get a Pure Sabbac.
Kieran placed the Two of Flasks and Three of Coins into the table's neutral field, handing his remaining cards back to the CardShark droid bolted above the table. Cards that were placed into the neutral field had their values frozen and would not change the next time the interference field pulsed. By giving up the higher valued cards in favor of the lower ones, he was taking a big risk. In the next round, players would be able to call the hands of the others, so if any of them took that opportunity, his only chance of winning would be if he was dealt the Idiot this round.
It was a high risk gamble, but if it worked...
The remaining players made their choices on which cards to hold and which to return, and the CardShark began the next round, dealing them all their new cards. Kieran picked up the cards he was handed, discovering that he now held the Four of Sabres...and the Idiot!
Kieran couldn't believe his luck, and immediately called the hand. Placing the Idiot down beside the two cards he held in the neutral field, he calmly declared, "Idiot's Array."
The other players grumbled at what had just transpired, two of them getting up to leave, clearly seeing that their luck had run out. Kieran collected the credit chips, indifferent to what they thought. This was the fifth game he had played in the past day, and he had won as many credits as he had lost, but he was having fun. Almost as much fun as he knew he would have when Halcyon arrived, and the real game started.
Moving to sit down beside her uncle, Beth took notice of the credits he was collecting as several other individuals began to arrive. "Ori'jate, Uncle."
Kieran looked up at Beth. "Speak in Basic, Beth. You know I don't like it when you let Mando'a slip into your vocabulary. I thought I taught you better than that."
"You taught me to survive, Uncle," Beth said, hand patting her holstered blaster. "And I think I've managed to do that quite well, even if I had to run with the Mandalorians for a while."
"Glad you had the smarts not to get involved with something like what happened at Galidraan," Kieran replied, as the CardShark dealt the players their cards. "If anything else, I can be glad to say that I taught you not to stick your neck out on some dangerous undertakings."
Beth knew that was a jab about her role in getting them into the situation they now found themselves involved in, and made her feelings about that known. "Would you rather be back in that prison? Can't imagine they get any fresh lum or opportunities to shukur other people in Sabacc on a regular basis."
"I dunno," Kieran sighed, discarding a card into the interference field and giving two others back to the CardShark. "The Podracing usually gave the prisoners a good reason to come to blows over badly made bets."
Beth could only imagine the sort of altercations that her uncle found himself in while in prison. If any of them resulted in serious harm, it apparently didn't show. Then again, there were other ways to hurt somebody. Like keeping them locked away in a high security wing of a prison asteroid.
Beth had been ten years old at the time it happened, and his capture has especially hurt her, since she considered Kieran to be as much a father as her actual biological father, a man she knew little of and cared even less to learn about. That had been one of the things she had learned during her time with the remnants of the once proud Mandalorian clans:
Aliit ori'shya taldin. Family was more than blood.
Her family had its heart cut out long ago, and she had wanted nothing more since than to get it back by whatever means necessary. So when she and the small group she had formed over the years to cause trouble wherever the solar winds blew them had been contacted by the man named Tyranus to free her uncle, she had jumped at the opportunity, at no point bothering to consider the consequences that might occur when Kad Ha'rangir decided to sweep in and enact change on the galaxy, as the ancient Mando'ade deity was known to do to its eternal rival, Arasuum, in order to keep the warrior culture from succumbing to self inflicted destruction. Even when Kieran had gone off on her, saying he was wondering why she would be foolish enough to do something so incredibly risky, Beth had stood her ground, saying that nothing really mattered to her as long as he was free.
And it didn't hurt that the price they had been asked to tender for their help was something that she knew would interest Kieran greatly, even if it meant having to be a cog in the large machine of someone else's plan instead of his usual position as head of the whole operation. The ease with which he decided to go along with the plan indicated that this reason alone was the one that told Kieran to go along with it. Beth knew that her uncle would never have gone along with it otherwise.
Well, if their information was correct, he should be arriving within the next day or so. And when that happened, both of them would have their opportunity for revenge. Both of them took what had happened personally, but as much as Beth knew it hurt for Kieran, it was worse for her. She knew that if she had the opportunity in the next few days, she wouldn't hesitate to take the life of the one who had taken her uncle away from her.
After all, he certainly hadn't hesitated when he took him away from her.
Inferno Engine Room
Willow tried to shield her face from the shower of sparks being flown in her face, an act made more difficult by the fact that the rain of melted metal fragments was of her own doing, the fusioncutter she held in her right hand one of many tools she was attempting to use as she worked feverishly to try and repair the hyperdrive, which had malfunctioned for the third time on the trip. It wouldn't have bothered her all that much if it wasn't for the fact that they were only two hours outbound from Bothawui, which didn't give the redhead all that much confidence that the three of them would be able to make it there in one piece.
Still, the experience was rather thrilling to a Jedi with a high aptitude for mechanics, and Willow knew that if she could get a worn down and malfunctioning R5 astromech back to proper working order (though she knew that there were those who often questioned what exactly was "proper" about the normal workings of a R5), she could put a hyperdrive motivator back together, even if she had to do it by the seat of her pants.
"OK, R5," she told the droid as it trundled over to help. "See if you can't stop the alluvial damper from overheating while I try to keep the paralight system from blowing itself apart."
The droid twittered a reply and got to work as Willow set about her task, a faint memory from somewhere in the distant past coming to the surface as she set the fusioncutter down and reached for the hydrospanner.
"Willow, you're doing it all wrong."
Willow looked up from her latest attempt to fix the malfunctioning holo imager set up in the Temple spire to the bright eyed face of Anakin Skywalker looking down at her, the look on his face indicating his displeasure at what she was trying to do.
"And how would you know?" she retorted indignantly, almost regretting her act. After all, Anakin was as intuned when it came to mechanices as she was, so if he thought that she wasn't doing a good job, then that indicated a lack of skill on her part. And if there was one thing that frustrated her most, it was not being good when it came to mechanics and how to fix them.
Anakin knelt down beside Willow and picked up the multitool from among the scattering of instruments lying near the open toolbox beside her. He got to work resetting the focusing lenses on the projection panel, and readjusting the controls. With a smug grin on his face, he pressed the activation controls, the image of the Battle of Lehon, the conclusive battle of the Jedi Civil War nearly four centuries prior, previously fuzzy and grainy due to reglect, appearing as clear as if it had been recorded the previous day.
"How did you do that?" Willow asked. "It would have taken me hours to figure out what was wrong with the projection systems."
"Just gotta know where to look," Anakin replied, the faint smile on his face indicating that it really was as easy as he had made it, making Willow's attempts to fix the problem look foolish by comparison.
Willow held onto the scrap of memory as she went back to work. She remembered Tara talking about the nine year old boy that Master Qui-Gon had found on Tatooine shortly after the Battle of Naboo, and how he had helped her to see past the fear she felt about potentially losing her then Padawan. Since then, Tara had made it a point to keep abreast of his progress, perhaps seeing in him the same thing she had seen in Willow when they had first met: a strong potential for good that, nurtured in the right way, could bring about balance to the Force.
If the ancient prophecy of the Chosen One was true.
Of course, Tara said that she didn't envy Obi-Wan, who had the unfortunate task of doing that, in the slightest. Tara had told her that if Anakin had been anything like Willow had been during her apprenticeship, then Obi-Wan was likely to have his hands full.
And she had been right. Though Anakin often displayed the same tendencies as Willow did, going beyondthe rules whenever it suited him, he had become as much the model Jedi as Willow had become herself.
But there were times that Anakin truly irritated Willow, and she could feel that, no matter how much both she and Tara tried, there was no way that she could ever be friends with him. Aside from the fact that Willow feared it could lead to something more, there was the fact that Anakin was always closed off from the world around him, moreso than a Jedi should normally be. He never really liked to talk to most of the Jedi at the Temple or consider them as either an equal or a friend, and he didn't exactly get along all that well with those he did talk to or consider his peers, even his own Master.
And besides, she didn't think of him in...that way. After all, Willow had successfully won Tara's heart, even if she had to keep their relationship a secret. She wasn't about to throw that away over somebody like Anakin. After all, he was becoming more and more like Tara used to be every day, and she didn't really want to assoicate with anyone who reminded her of how Tara used to be. She was different now. And that was the way that Willow would always see her.
Willow knew that he would do something one day that would impact against the rest of the Order, and she hoped that when it happened, she and Tara were light years away and out of danger.
"How go repairs?" she heard Villie say over the ship's com system.
"Fine," Willow grunted, trying to tighten the few loose bolts back into place as R5's repair work showered sparks in her face. "We should be back to normal in a few moments."
"Or at least as normal as it will be before it breaks down again," she thought to herself.
Villie watched as the hyperdrive readouts lowered steadily from the red zone back to the comfortable green zone and breathed out a sigh of relief he didn't even know he held. "Ah, that better." He leaned back against his chair and looked out the viewport, the mottled sky of hyperspace beyond, turning slightly to look at Nejaa, sitting beside him with a sour expression on his face. "What? I say hyperdrive not work as well as it used to before you come onboard."
"I know that," Nejaa admitted. "But did you have to keep the ship going while Willow worked on it?"
"You said you wanted to get to Smuggler's Moon quick," Villie shrugged. "Best way to go is nonstop without any time for layovers."
Nejaa acquiesced, turning to look at the readouts. He had intended to keep from speaking to the Devaronian for the whole of the trip, but there was something gnawing away at the back of his brain, and it just wouldn't shake loose, no matter how hard he tried to forget about it.
Villie spun around to look at Nejaa. "What?"
Swallowing, Nejaa tried again. "Why did you decide to come with us? You seemed so adamant on not going to Nar Shaddaa that you had to accept..." He stopped himself from speaking about what Willow had said before, once again thankful that it had not come to pass, and continued, "And then you come onboard saying that you'd not only fly us there, but make sure we don't get hurt. I wanna know why you changed your mind about that."
Villie shifted uncomfortably, and Nejaa could immediately tell it was a topic that deeply concerned him. That was troublesome enough, for there were few things that could trouble an individual of his reputation. "Blonde woman came up to me, told me I had to do it."
Nejaa sighed, realizing who it was that Villie was talking about. Despite what he had said, Tara still felt the need to get involved with this. He was thankful however that, at least in this case, it had actually turned out for the better.
But something still felt wrong. "You wouldn't have changed your mind that quickly. What did she do?"
Villie turned to look at Nejaa with an expression that the Corellian could clearly see as one of concern and barely restrained fear. "You have dark moments, Halcyon. And I walk into dangers that scare hardened criminals. But that woman..." He trailed off, finishing in a hushed whisper, "She dangerous, Halcyon. You Jedi say you have no emotion, but she living proof of how wrong that statement is. Villie don't want to be on receiving end of her bad temper."
He turned back to the controls. "That why Villie accompany you. Have to make sure you two be safe, otherwise I feel her wrath. And that not something I wish on worst enemy."
Nejaa sat back in silence, going over what it was that he had just been told. He had been thankful for Tara's interference in this manner, happy that it had adverted a rather embarrassing situation that he wouldn't have felt comfortable having to explain later. But the manner in which she had done so clearly disturbed him. In all of their years together, she had never really shown any real hint of negative emotion. That was, perhaps, the entire reason why she had closed herself off after learning of her parentage. She didn't want to feel strongly negative in a situation that clearly didn't call for it.
But she had, in this case. And although it had turned out for the best, it was still wrong. Lashing out emotionally in that fashion was the first steps towards the Dark Side, and if there was one thing that Tara feared more than the thought of confronting her father, it was succumbing to that which she hated most.
He was glad that she had seen reason and had decided that it was for the best not to accompany them. If how she had acted towards Villie was any indication, it was a sure testament to how the current situation was affecting her, and it would make anything she decided to do an act based on not thinking things through and not seeing clearly.
Nejaa promised himself that after this trip was over, he and Tara were going to have a long serious talk about that. Being that influenced by negative emotions wouldn't help her in the long run, and would only lead to her doing something that she would later regret.
Trader's Nest Spaceport
Tara stepped down the ramp of the YT-1300 freighter, hood upraised to conceal her identity from any passersby. She was thankful that the captain of the freighter had decided to take her without asking for payment, saying that he had business on the planet anyway and that he would be happy for the company while en route. She was also thankful that the ship had been heavily modified so that it could get to the moon in half the time it would have taken other ships.
By her accounts, Master Halcyon and Willow wouldn't arrive for another few hours. Time enough for her to blend in and get comfortable.
The Drunken Dianoga
Beth reached for her comlink as it chirped, putting the sabacc cards she held face down so as to hide their identities from the other players. "Go."
A person Kieran couldn't hear spoke something that caused Beth to break out in a smile.
"What is it?" he asked.
"He's here," Beth replied.
Kieran smiled. At last, the object of his revenge had arrived. Giving his cards back to the CardShark, he got up from the table. "Sorry, folks, but I've got another high stakes game to play. And it's time to collect my bet."