Trapped in a crate with water slowly trickling in from the seams as he sunk quietly to the bottom of the circulatory pump had not been what Jarric was planning when he signed on for this. Then again, things hadn't gone exactly according to plan, and chances were pretty good that his payment for this job was going to be considerably reduced... though if he'd bothered to check the fine print for any kind of hazard pay he might've reconsidered infiltrating a Republic holding facility, to pull out someone he'd never heard of before they could be interrogated by Strategic Information Services. Taking a slow breath to steady his nerves, Jarric tried to sort through his memory of the job to consider exactly how he'd ended up in this ridiculous situation. At least he'd know why he'd wound up dead at the bottom of a lake somewhere instead of breaking atmo with a pile of credits in his account. The day had started out so normally...
Captain Jarric Harn had arrived on Ord Mantell aboard the Reckless Venture, his Dynamic-Class Freighter, sometime early morning local time. Setting down, he reviewed the contract he'd received from someone working with Corellian Transports and Exports, and pondered how to go about performing the extraction. It seemed simple enough- get into the facility, find the individual in question, walk them out to wherever the rendezvous point was and see to it that no one put a blaster bolt into either himself or the contact between now and then. He didn't know much about the organization, but that didn't particularly matter these days... he'd walked away from his contracts with the Republic when they'd left him to torture and death at the hands of that huntress some time back.
His hand self-consciously went to the scar beneath his newly fit cybernetic eye. The bounty hunter who'd lured him into the ambush where he was captured had been a Tatooinian woman with hair the color of blood. She'd cut him up and stuck him with his new implants... cutting away perfectly healthy tissue and replacing them with 'enhancement slots' with the intent of having him turned into some type of servitor for one of Manya the Hutt's relatives back on Nar Shadda. The day he'd escaped, he'd looked like a freak- more holes and loose wires hanging from his body than a protocol droid in a gundark nest.
Shaking himself to dispel the memories, he had began to focus on the task at hand. Settling down at a civilian starport, he'd rented a large transport speeder and made for the nearest military camp. He had learned how to deal with Republic military during his time taking contracts from them, and so it wasn't a great feat to convince them that he was simply a new recruit with the militia, volunteering to shuttle some supplies between the smaller outpost and the actual military installation a few miles to the north. The sentries directed him inside, where he parked the speeder and made for the local commander- a sergeant by the name of Aizer.
Stepping inside, he affected a sloppy salute, thankful for how much of his appearance was altered since he'd shaved his beard and been outfitted with new cybernetics to fill in the enhancement ports left over from his time in the torture chamber. "Sergeant? My name is Telik... Private Telik. Militia sent me to see if you fellahs needed anything shuttled over to the barracks on Point Kain. Anything I can do?"
Sergeant Aizer eyed the man over, and gave a lazy salute of his own. "Don't know why they bothered. All we've got are some extra plasteel crates from unpacking the defensive turrets. You want to take those and drop those off be my guest. Check 'round back of the latrine, should be a stack of 'em." Jarric gave a quick salute back, turned and made for the latrines. Sure enough there were some empty crates that had been broken down, so he loaded up the sheets of plasteel into the speeder and made his way up the northern road to Point Kain.
The large Republic military facility had been named for General Kasius Kain, some kind of strategic brainiac who'd won the Republic a few battles here or there. Jarric hadn't heard of the man, but mass ground engagements had never really been his thing. A dogfight or some hit-and-run militia raiding, those were his idea of battle... screw these poor idiots decked out in armor and lugging around assault cannons. Most of them would be dead from an artillery shell they never saw coming, and for what? Some hill or forest he didn't care about, had never heard of, and would simply be retaken in the shifting battle lines of war.
The road was relatively secure, and so he hadn't run into much trouble reaching the base. Every so many kilometers he'd had to pass through a checkpoint with a few board looking militia or Republic troops, but nothing more than a nod and a wave onward to the next checkpoint. One of the casualties of spending so much time back behind the battle lines was a man's wariness, and that was what prevented any of them from double checking his credentials. At least that was working for now, though he doubted he'd be able to keep up the front if anyone in the main installation came across him. He'd just have to improvise when the time came.
Sentries at the main outpost waved him inside the gate when he arrived at Point Kain, and he parked the speeder near the large building that seemed to be serving as a base storehouse. Stepping out of the speeder, he hefted a number of the plasteel slabs up over his shoulder and made his way inside. The quartermaster saw him enter and waved him over to the cubby where he was surrounded by stacks of papers and forms, most half filled out. Apparently a lot of items were getting moved through this particular outpost, and inside Jarric wondered if he couldn't make a few credits on the side right here and now, but he wasn't holding out much hope. His last run-in with a Republic quartermaster on Ord Mantell had ended with him having a blaster pushed in his face when he demanded that the rations to the squad he was working with be increased while they were patrolling the forest for Separatist guerilla troops.
Settling the plasteel crates against the large cubby in the midst of the cluttered forms, Jarric started to salute but the quartermaster just gave him a dismissive wave. "You the militia kid they said was coming?" the quartermaster asked, then glanced up to look him over before nodding. "Eh, close enough. Do me a favor and sign these forms then throw those crates somewhere. I've got to find a way to convince fleet command to let me store some excess fiber mesh netting in the back of the shuttles when they come in. No excuse filling up a whole shuttle with a half-dozen bodies and not taking some of those worthless nets back with them."
Jarric's stomach turned a bit at that. The prisoners were being taken off-world tonight... that meant he had to get moving on the extraction, or else he'd be working to intercept a shuttle or snatch the contact off a Republic cruiser, and that was no where near his idea of fun. Taking the form he signed quickly using the alias he'd chosen for this assignment, handing it back and making his way back outside to unload the last of the plasteel slabs. He was just reaching into the back of the speeder for the last of the broken down crates when someone's boots crunched up behind him on the gravel and someone cleared their throat. Jarric froze for a second, then exhaled, turning nonchalantly to see a big man with the stripes of an officer on his uniform, smiling down at him.
"Sorry, didn't mean to startle you son. I'm lieutenant Rilo with the 32nd, and someone with command told me you volunteered to get those boxes shipped up here. My boys were going to have to haul all those by foot back up here later this week, and you saved us a mess of trouble, so I thought I'd give you a little thank you, off the record of course." Rilo stated, sounding genuinely grateful and reaching into his belt to withdraw a few credit chips, which he then extended to Jarric. Smiling his thanks, he reached out to take the chips. "I was just doing what I could to help out the Republic sir."
The lieutenant nodded, giving him the credits and started to go, then slowly paused before turning and making an curious expression at the smuggler. "Say, I never asked, but what unit are you with out here?" Jarric did his best to keep his tone even and without missing a beat he pocketed the credits in his jacked and responded with something that sounded about right. "Oh, 51st irregulars out of Worlport, sir." The soldier looked at him for a second then his smile returned. "Of course. Say, I knew a man from that unit- name of Lymbl. You ever meet him?" Inside, Jarric cursed, screamed, and froze all at once. Outside he just shrugged, shifting weight off of his cybernetic enhanced leg. "Big outfit, I haven't met everyone."
Giving a dismissive wave the lieutenant just nodded and headed off in the direction of the mess tent. Jarric exhaled low after the man was out of earshot. This was getting precariously close to complicated, and that wasn't something he wanted with a simple in and out mission like this. Not bothering with the remaining couple of crates, he climbed into the speeder and moved it around to the back of the storehouse, doing his best to make sure it would go unnoticed back there. After killing the engine, he made his way around the building towards the top of Point Kaine. There, he could see the command building, and off to the right was the entrance to the holding area, and across the duracrete was the barracks, where a number of bored guardsmen were no doubt waiting to riddle a curious smuggler full of holes for sticking his nose where it didn't belong. Swallowing his nerves, he made his way nonchalantly as he could up the hill towards the main building.
Pausing at the center of the plaza, he noted the sentries posted at the entrance to the holding area, and decided the direct route wasn't going to work out. Making his way further up, he doubled back, this time moving off to the side of the hill around the perimeter. Just beyond the main sensors, he could see a hatch of some sort hidden amongst the foliage. There was condensation along it- likely a cooling duct for the facility then. He was lucky- had it been cold weather instead of warm the facility would've been pumping head, and the duct would've been as big a threat as bluffing his way past the guards. As it was still warm out however, he was able to place his hand on the cool, damp metal. He glanced around to make sure no one had noticed him before kneeling beside the grate.
Reaching into his belt, he removed a collapsible, all-purpose maintenance tool he kept with him for working on the cybernetics on the outside of his body. Removing the four main bolts carefully, he slid the grate off and placed it quietly to the side of the opening. Inside was a dark tunnel leading down at a steep angle, and hopefully into some sort of maintenance level below the actual holding areas. He placed the tool back into his vest and glanced around once more before creeping into the shaft head first. Scooting on his stomach took time, but he was able to move down into the shaft and arrived in a sub-level with a number of large turbofans blowing cold air through the facility via similar air shafts. Most of them seemed to small to crawl through, so he made for the doorway on the far side of the floor.
Pressing his ear up against the door, he waited and listened for several seconds. Outside was quiet... though with the sound of the fans it was entirely possible that he might be missing something. After several moments he decided to risk cracking the metal door slightly. The hallway extended both left and right in either direction, though to the right it eventually dead-ended at a bare wall, while the other continued around a corner, how far he couldn't tell. Jarric reviewed the image he'd seen of the prisoner once more via his datapad, then tucked it away before moving out into the hallway as quietly as he could. There were a number of reinforced metal doors like he'd come through, but nothing that resembled a holding cell. Frowning, he decided to try his luck with two doors on either side of the dead-end hallway- figuring that at least he wouldn't have to double back as far as he might down the longer one.
All that greeted him at the first door was pitch blackness. He moved forward slightly however, and a sensor must've tripped that activated the interior lighting. The room flickered into sight, and Jarric immediately regretted trying this door. It resembled a doctor's office... but altered in all the ways that could possibly turn a place of healing into a place of pain. Various metal instruments sat on gleaming silver trays around the room, and there was a single long chair at the center with loose leather straps dangling from the sides. Clearly this was an interrogation room, and the memories of his recent torture made him shudder. Stepping back he punched the button to close the door and moved to the next, taking a slow breath and hoping that what was behind it was less disconcerting than the interrogation chamber.
The door slid open and he was greeted with a lit room, at the back of which stood two shimmering energy fields. These were clearly containment cells of some sort, and he moved forward cautiously. The guard's desk was empty at the moment, a stroke of good luck at least, but the cells both contained various humanoid figures. The cell to the right contained two figures, one serpentine and thin- a lamproid, and its cellmate, a burly aqualish thug. Jarric knew the contact wasn't either of those species, so he moved to the next cell. There were three individuals here, a ragged looking a pair of humans- one male and one female, and an agitated devaronian man. If he was right, the human male was the one he'd been sent to make contact with, so he stepped closer to the energy field between them and stood there silently until the man finally looked up at him.
"You here to take me to the chair? I already told ya, I ain't with these two and I don't know nothing about this damn war." the man stated gruffly, leaning forward and rubbing his face in his hands. The other two in the cell looked at Jarric curiously for a moment, before the woman spoke up. "You're not Republic... not with the militia either, or you'd have spit at us. You some kind of merc they brought in to help with the interrogation? Republic too busy to interrogate its own prisoners?"
Jarric shrugged. "I'm just here for him. Some people need to have a chat... Prasu, right?" He looked at the man, and as he watched the man's eyes brightened with realization. Standing, the contact made his way to the shimmering blue barrier, nodding. "That's right. They sent you didn't they? I knew they weren't gonna leave me to rot here! Hurry up and get this cell open and we can get out of here."
Nodding Jarric turned and made his way back to the desk, a little surprised by how smoothly things were going. He'd just have to convince the contact to slither up through the ventilation ducts with him and then-
His thoughts cut off at the sound of heavy boots coming towards the door. Eyes wide he dove towards the wall, crouching down in the corner beside a wall locker. He watched nervously, hands resting on the grips of his blasters as a pair of guards entered, a well dressed officer following just behind. The group approached the cell on the right, and to his credit Prasu did his best to look nonchalant inside the adjacent one. The guards and the officer seemed to have interest only in the aqualish and the lamproid.
"Well, well, well. Bendel the Crusher and Urg'am'lat. You two are some of the most sadistic murderers in the whole damned Separatist movement. They say you tore every man, woman, and child in Lenden's Stead apart when you came through. Gonna look forward to the day they let us just shoot scum like you, instead of waiting for the courts on Coruscant." the officer spoke, glaring at the two in the cell as the guards on either side stood tense, blaster rifles resting but apparently ready to be aimed and fired at a moments notice. The two aliens were mostly silent, but slowly Jarric saw the aqualish raise his head.
"You bastards got the wrong guys. We're refugees. We survived the butchering of that town hiding in a cellar- we didn't kill nobody!" the aqualish protested loudly in his native tongue, but the guards simply sneered. One of them growled "Yeah, and that's why we found you and your buddy there covered in gore, hiding out in some family's basement. That blood just happened to show up all over you huh? You accidentally tripped over those corpses down there with you?" The aqualish threw up his hands in frustration.
"My colleague is a lamproid- they're carnivores. He had to have the meat to survive... and those bodies were all we could find. I got covered helping him search for-" one of the guards cut him off by depressing a button on the control pad near the cell, causing an arch of electricity to discharge through the small enclosure, shocking and eventually stunning the two aliens into a cowed, quivering silence. Jarric ground his teeth, and hoped they'd just leave now, so he could finish this contract and get going. His legs were cramping underneath of him, and the cybernetic implant would begin to make a whining, grinding sound if he kept it tensed for too terribly long- meaning they'd hear him, and he'd be forced into a firefight.
Jarric watched anxiously as the three figures moved to the next cell. The officer spoke with a busy, bothered sort of tone. "Alright you rabble. We'll be questioning the three of you individually, and see if we can't get a bit more useful intelligence before you're taken to Coruscant for a speedy trial and a faster execution." The two guards moved to either side of the cell, with the officer standing back slightly, and Jarric saw the man on the left go to the control pad. The one on the right pulled his gun up and snarled. "Any of you makes a wrong move, we'll electrify the floor in that cell and turn you all into quivering piles of jelly. So keep your hands where we can see 'em and nobody make any sudden moves. We'll start with you... yeah, you, the human in the back."
Cursing inwardly, Jarric drew his blasters out and prepared to move. He didn't feel good about killing guards just doing their job really... but he had a job to do and he couldn't afford to have the contact compromised now. Hesitating, he reconsidered swiftly and turned his cybernetic eye towards the control panel and gave what he hoped was the signal shutdown. His efforts were a little too successful it seemed, as the fields flickered and the panel shorted out, followed by the lights flashing and going into pitch black- the light from the hallway giving the only illumination as the guards raised their guns and the prisoners rushed out, cries of alarm filling the darkness.
The fight was quick as prison riots go. Jarric had pulled back behind the cabinet as best he could, as the two guards both opened fire at the same moment the prisoners in the cell slammed into them. The officer cried out and made for the exit, but something hit him and Jarric saw his form disappear straight down as if he'd had his legs torn out from under him. By the contact's cell, there were a few flashes from the two blasters, but they stopped swiftly and were replaced by the sound of the prisoners assaulting the guards. Jarric fumbled his way along the wall until he reached the power conduit beside the door, and after some fiddling he managed to get the lights back on. Quickly, he pulled up his blasters and turned to take in the situation.
The guards had been beaten to unconsciousness, and the devaronian and the human woman stood over them, having relieved the two of their blasters. In the adjacent cell, the aqualish had taken an unlucky blaster shot to the head, and lay still beside a bloody pool on the floor. Jarric looked around but couldn't find much of the officer... but his curiosity was tampered by the lamproid skittering down from the ceiling. Its bloody maw turned towards him, nodding once in thanks then shuffling its centipede-like form over to the others. The contact looked none the worse for ware, having ducked behind the edge of the cell's entrance, and as he hesitantly came out Jarric motioned for the man to join him.
The moment that Prasu started forward however, the two other inmates turned their blasters up. The woman had hers trained on the man's back, and the devaronian never wavered from the smuggler. Clenching his jaw a moment, Jarric contemplated his odds. "Look, I got you people free... just hand over my buddy there and we'll get out of your way. You can go run through the hills picking flowers for all I care, but if you want to make it out of this room with your lives you back down now." He put some extra emphasis on the now, flicking the safety off on his blasters and keeping them trained on the two figures. Prasu's eyes were wide, and he could tell this was going to get ugly... which was why Jarric was so surprised when the man pulled a makeshift sap from behind his back and smacked it into the woman's rifle. She must've been just as startled, because she reeled back and Prasu was able to slip off to the side.
Jarric prepared to riddle the two escapees with blaster fire when a loud noise caught the attention of everyone in the room. Eyes drifting over slightly, all three of them took in the scene. The lamproid, having scampered back from feasting on the unlucky officer, held in its numerous arms the figure of Prasu. It had wound itself around him, and the contact looked absolutely terrified as the aliens razor sharp maw clicked and snapped near the man's throat. The noise they'd heard had been Prasu's attempt at a scream as the lamproid's body curled around his mouth. Suddenly, a low voice whispered in his mind, and from the widened eyes of the others he thought perhaps he wasn't the only one hearing it.
"You will take us... all of us, with you human. Or I will feast on this one's blood and make a tent of its flesh. Now, all of you, lower your weapons or we will all die here."
A chill went down his spine as Jarric realized it was the lamproid speaking. He'd never cared for some of nature's more disgusting inhabitants... but aliens who'd evolved from what looked like leeches or some kind of intestinal worm were definitely pretty low on his list of things he wanted crawling around inside his brain. In his head, he forced himself to add up what he was getting for this contract, and with a slow breath he returned his blasters to a relaxed position. The two by the cell did the same, looking between the lamproid and the human who'd released them. His options for getting out of here were getting narrower by the second, so he decided he'd have to cut a deal.
"Fine." Jarric spoke, nodding towards the door. "I have a ship waiting and can get us all out of here... but you'll need me to pilot it, and I'm not leaving without Prasu. Anything happens to him, and you're all dead or worse when the Republic gets hold of you." He looked at each in turn, and got a nod of affirmation- or the closest thing to it in the case of the lamproid. Motioning for the two with the blasters to come with him, he moved towards the entrance. Prasu came as well, the body of the lamproid now entirely wrapped around him, making it difficult to move, and nearly as hard to speak. Still, Jarric had to hand it to him... if something like that had wrapped around his body and said it might tear him apart bit by bit, he doubted he'd have kept his composure so well.
As they approached the door, Jarric leaned over to peer around the side... and immediately regretted the decision. A blaster bolt scored the side of the wall, and within moments he heard the distinctive sound of more boots coming down the hall. In all the commotion he must've missed the guards in the facility being alerted. No doubt they had mere seconds before the rest of the facility went into lock down- standard military procedure if he remembered correctly. Biting off a curse he pulled back inside, taking a quick tally of the number of guards moving into the hall. Turning to the group he frowned.
"We've got company... if we all want to make it out of here, we need to work together. It's going to take one hell of a lot more firepower than we've got to take out that many armed guards. If anyone's got any ideas, now would be an excellent time to voice them."
The group looked at one another. He was lucky they hadn't all turned on one another yet, much less getting them to work together to get past a trained and well armed squad of Republic troops. Glancing at Prasu, he raised his arm as best he could, and Jarric gave the lamproid an annoyed glare. The alien loosened its coils around the man after giving a warning hiss, and the contact was able to speak again. "I... I handle, some of the tech for my employers... I should be able to rig something up if you buy me enough time. And if somebody will let me use my arms." Prasu gave the lamproid a wary look, but the creature obliged after a moment. It didn't release him fully, but rather adjusted itself to ride atop his shoulders, more like a backpack or a fanged, homicidal scarf than a mummifying clawed monstrosity.
As Prasu moved over to the cells and began ripping out portions of the field emitter, Jarric turned back to the door. They were pinned down, and from the sounds of it the group outside had more guards en route. He didn't particularly want to get made if a firefight ensued- it was bad enough that the Hutts wanted his head on a platter, without involving the Republic as well. There was also the matter of working jobs for the Republic in the future- something he doubted they'd allow him to do if he was locked up in a brig somewhere. And if any of his old contacts found out he was still alive, much less a prisoner of war...
No. A shootout simply wasn't acceptable, though that didn't mean he had to let the guards figure that out. Without moving outside the doorway he popped his blaster around the corner and released a volley upwards, hoping to rain debris from the ceiling down and hopefully cause some confusion amongst the ranks of the guards. He jerked his hand back just before a volley of blaster fire came barreling in, scoring the wall and edges of the doorway. The two other prisoners recoiled, taking a step or two back, but didn't look like they were ready to lay down arms... just not ready to jump into a firefight with the large group outside.
A loud voice came over the facility's speaker system. "Attention! Prisoners are attempting to escape. The facility is going into lockdown... all armed personnel are to report to their posts. Prisoners, lay down your arms immediately, or we will respond with appropriate force." The female prisoner snarled and spotting the nearest speaker put a blaster shot through it. "Screw you!" She yelled past the doorway, and was met with another round of blaster fire, causing her to leap back, though Jarric could tell the woman's back was up now... if they didn't find a way out of here, someone was probably going to try something stupid, and he wasn't in a particularly stupid mood today.
Prasu, as if in response to his concerns, trudged back over with the lamproid wrapped around his shoulders, its multiple clawed appendages digging into his ragged clothing as he handed Jarric what looked like a miniature shock stick. He couldn't help but give the contact a confused look, but Prasu grinned. "It's not pretty, but I believe that will do as a makeshift concussion grenade. Lob it out there and the flash of energy and force of the emitter overloading should put those guards on their backs long enough for us to beat feet. Unless you've got a better plan, that is."
Jarric shook his head, moving towards the doorway as he spoke. "Nope, and I'm guessing we've only got about one minute before they have this entire base locked down. We'll need to make for the maintenance room, so stick close to me." The others stayed close to him, though the two with the blaster rifles made him nervous... if they decided to try anything funny, there wouldn't be room to swing around and fight them. No time for worrying about what he couldn't prevent though. Jarric crouched slightly, and lobbed the improvised explosive out into the hallway. The guards gave a short cry of distress when there was a reverberating sound that made his ear's pop even from inside the room, and a flash of blue energy that lit up the hallway. "Alright, come on!" he shouted, and moved down the hallway as fast he could manage.
The two with the blaster rifles could've outpaced him, but to their credit they stayed close, though he was sure they were contemplating picking off a couple of the incapacitated guards. On the ground, the guards writhed and kept their hands planted on their eyes, a few even seemed to have some blood coming from their ears, eyes, or nose, but Jarric didn't have time to worry about that. He hadn't had to kill any of them, and he hadn't been made so far... things were looking up. The group made it to the maintenance room, and everyone slipped inside. As soon as Prasu cleared the doorway, Jarric punched in the control to close off the door, then blasted the console. He was just starting to feel a sense of relief when he heard them.
Voices. And shuffling from nearby. Looking past the fans he saw the maintenance hatch he'd slipped down through, and heard someone, or more likely a group of someone's, coming down towards them. He had to think fast, and so he scanned the room, his eyes finally falling on another door near the far side of the room. Motioning for the others to keep quiet, he moved towards it as quickly and quietly as he could manage, his knee implant whining slightly after the sprint down the hallway. Opening this door revealed a large, dead-end room that went inwards for several yards. The left side of the room seemed to be a lowered water circulatory passage, that seemed to be activated by a control station standing next to it. The only other thing were the stacks of crates, similar to those he'd brought in earlier.
They all slipped inside, the dim light giving everything an odd yellowish tinge as the female prisoner shut the door and pressed close to listen for anyone coming towards them. Moving further into the room, he began searching for some other way out, since his original entry point had now been compromised. There seemed to be only two ways in or out- the main entrance that they'd now sealed off, and the exit hatch for the water system- this would likely lead down into a purifier pump where waste and impurities would be pumped out somewhere outside smelling range of the main base. It might be possible to slip out that way, but he didn't know about his companions abilities to swim... not to mention how disgusting swimming through a pump that sifted human waste sounded to him.
A blaster shot startled him into turning around. The devaronian turned, along with his female companion and Jarric saw them level their blasters on him. Of course, now they'd choose to go all back stabbing Separatist on him. It was the woman who spoke. "Didn't recognize you at first, but I'm sure you're the one. The cybernetics were a nice touch, but you aren't leaving here, Jarric Harn. They say you killed Manya the Hutt in cold blood, and her family has a price on your head so big the one to collect could get set up real nice. Some place far away from this pain in the ass planet. We'll take you out and swim out to the run-off area, then make our way back to the Separatist camp by ourselves. Shouldn't take much proof to show we killed you... maybe we'll leave the ears intact." The devaronian just glared, and Prasu started to move back, the lamproid making a confused clicking sound. The woman's rifle moved faster than anyone could react and a blaster bolt seared the side of the lamproid's head, causing it to thrash and knock Prasu down to the floor before it skittered away.
"We'll take care of you as well, you damn bug." The devaronian growled, keeping his weapon aimed at Jarric. The woman put him in her sights as well, and Jarric rested his hands near his weapons, taking a slow breath. He tried to clear his mind, to prepare himself for the firefight about to erupt. Their standoff was shattered by the loud rumbling and metal grinding as the wall beside the canal in the floor opened up and water rushed in. It wouldn't have been that big of a deal, except for the lamproid standing over the controls, issuing the command to close off the exit for said water and tearing the control panel off its stand. The wall of water that had rushed in immediately washed over them, bringing the water up above their ankles and beginning to rise rapidly. Prasu gasped, dragging himself off the floor as the water soaked him.
Jarric didn't have time to hesitate, even as the two by the door gaped at the water he drew his weapons and let fly with a barrage. The devaronian took the brunt of the hits, bolts tearing him down in moments. The female, who'd stayed closer to the door, was able to dive behind some of the crates, taking only a wing along her arm. She had dropped her gun though, and that was enough for him- he had a job to do here. Grabbing Prasu he rushed for one of the crates even as the water started to rise above their knees. He glanced over, but there was no sign of the lamproid. Dragging his contact over to one of the crates he holstered his guns and hoisted over one of the big boxes, dumping out the contents- mostly cleaning supplies and the like.
"Here, get in one of these... when this room fills up it'll start to run out into the maintenance room and then the hallway... someone's bound to activate the emergency controls somewhere and we'll be able to ride suction out of this place!" He was already grabbing his own crate when he saw Prasu just starting at him. After a moment the man blurted. "You're insane. And an idiot, but mostly insane. How do you even know there are emergency controls!?"
Jarric shrugged. "I don't. But it's better than trying to hold our breath until someone notices... and if we're lucky these crates will be air tight." He climbed into his own, and Prasu reluctantly did the same. Curling into a ball he activated the controls to seal off the container, and the lid popped neatly into place. Sounds were muffled, but he thought he heard the woman yelling something... then there was just sloshing and the feeling of water rising around him. Luckily the added weight of the crate, as cramped as it was, was keeping him anchored enough that he didn't float far. The box shifted and he felt it slam into something, but he had no way of knowing what.
That had been the point when he'd first felt the dampness. Water was slowly seeping in through the bottom and he cursed under his breath. He tried to shift so that he could plug the leak, but he must've been lying on his arm strangely because it was tingling and starting to feel numb. Craning his neck to the point it was starting to ache, his cybernetic eye could pick up a darker liquid mixing with the water in the pitch blackness of the crate. During the volley of shots he'd fired his adrenaline had been pumping, but now, laying still in the crate he was finally aware of the small opening on his arm where one of the enemy blaster bolts had opened up a wound. A wound that was slowly trickling blood in the cold water. His own comfort was that the water would soon be cold enough that his arm wouldn't be aching for long.
So that was it. Somewhere along the way, all his carefully laid plans and fast reflexes had lead him to the brilliant plan of sinking to the bottom of a water pump, curled up and bleeding inside a plasteel crate, hoping that his contact made it out alive as well. He had no idea what had happened to the woman or the lamproid, but a small part of him hoped she was alright... even if she was a back stabber, he'd never thought of drowning as a particularly pleasant way to go, and she deserved better than that. The strange alien didn't, but had a notion that something that creepy looking would be too mean to drown like a decent person.
Somewhere amidst his thoughts, an alarm sounded and he heard distantly, quietly the voice of a woman say something in a mechanical tone. A droid? He wasn't sure, but the water was up to his ear now and he could only hear out of one. The crate suddenly shifted and he felt himself being drawn across the ground. Jarric wasn't sure how long he'd been lying in the crate, but he was thankful to be moving... at least until he felt himself enter a free fall and the entire world became a violent, turbulent whirlpool of motion that had his stomach doing barrel-rolls of its own.
Then he crashed. The crate slammed to the bottom of something, and he could hear something loud pumping- like the heart of some great leviathan come to swallow him up, crate and all. The water rose dramatically and he realized the lid was starting to come unsealed so he gulped in what air he could, and activating the combat piston in his knee implant, he slammed his foot into the top of the crate. The lid flew off and water rushed in so fast he felt like someone had punched his chest, and it was all the cramped smuggler could do to keep the breath held in his lungs. His cybernetics were thankfully proofed for submersion, though he didn't know for how long or to what extent, so he decided it was best not to stick around.
Pushing out of the crate, he found himself in a large, circular room with blue lights along the bottom. Up top, a massive black pump had raised for its next push, as the water was pushed around by several large jets. He spotted a figure coming out of the crate near him, and realized slowly that it was Prasu, and the man was already swimming towards the bottom of the pump. He wasn't sure, but figuring the man was more mechanically inclined than himself he followed just in time to hear the pump shoot up and much of the water get sucked out of the room. For a brief second he tasted air- foul, putrid, unfiltered air filling with an even more putrid waste product and whatever chemicals the Republic had for breaking down such compost. Then the pump shot back down and what water was left, the waste, and the two human were blasted straight down into a small opening in the floor that flowed like a water slide and shot them out onto a nearby beach.
Jarric landed face first in a mound of slime, and found himself coughing and sputtering for several moments. He wasn't sure when, but Prasu eventually made his way over and started slapping him on the back, helping him to clear his lungs. Shakily pushing himself up to a sitting position, Jarric looked himself over and winced. His arm was bleeding, he was covered in muck he was happy to never know the identity of, and the cold water had drenched him to the bone. Even in the warm weather, he was starting to shiver and he knew they'd need to find some dry clothes and a fast speeder soon. Prasu chuckled at him. "Well, I'll give you this. Your rescues aren't pretty, but you get the job done. Let's get out of here." The contact offered him his hand, and Jarric took it wearily, pulling himself up to his feet.
Looking around, he could see they were on some sort of beach... he didn't think they were anywhere near an ocean, so it was likely just a very large lake or some sort of inlet. He didn't have time to worry about the geography of the place though. Turning he looked around and saw a marked path leading back up to the top of Point Kain. He knew they'd take too long traveling by foot, and so he was going to need to slip up there and get that speeder if they wanted to make the rendezvous on time. Glancing over he pointed Prasu towards some brush and debris. "You wanna wait here while I get the speeder? I'll have an easier time slipping in if it's just me, and I don't want any of them recognizing you." Prasu just nodded tiredly, wandering over and collapsing off to the side. Jarric took a breath and started a trudging walk up the hill to fetch the speeder.
It took Jarric a good 10 minutes of walking to reach the base. The place was swarming with guards, which would've been an issue but the sentries quickly recognized him as the militia soldier who'd helped out their boys, and were happy to wave him inside. Once there he did his best to act nonchalant and walk over to his speeder. He was just climbing into the pilot's side when someone cleared their throat near his head. Jarric had to force himself not to jump out of his skin as he turned and saw one of the officers looming over him.
"And what do we have here!? You're dripping wet... let me guess, you damned irregulars were using the showers again, weren't you? Stealing hot water from my men. I should have you locked away... let me tell you something friend, we don't take kindly to that sort of thing around here. What's your name? Hm? Oh never mind, I'm sure this vehicle is registered. You can go but you better believe I'm going to have a long chat with your superiors!" The man's nasally voice prattled on as Jarric just watched him, mouth gaping as the officer stormed off towards the mess tent. After the day he'd had, he couldn't help but laugh. Of all the blasted things to be in accused of, that one hadn't been on the list.
Jarric pulled the speeder up to the side of the lake as fast as he could, looking around for Prasu. He didn't immediately spot him, so he tried to be patient but his nerves were still on edge and he was still pretty damp from the earlier adventure, so he stomped over through the muck towards where he'd told the contact to stay put. The man was nowhere to be seen. The clacking sound was the only warning Jarric got to dive out of the way as some thing whizzed by his head. Rolling he spun around, guns drawn. The lamproid stood atop a mound of debris, hissing and clacking its toothed maw at him. Jarric immediately tried to fire off some shots, but the water must've shorted out the energy cells in his blasters... they weren't firing.
With a groan he just stared at the alien. "So what? You're pissed because you got wet earlier? That's no reason to come after me man. Let's just put all this behind us and move on you stunted k'lor'slug ..." There was a moment, then he felt the sensations creep over his skin and the alien's voice entered his mind. An intangible air of menace surrounded it as Jarric heard the words in his head. "No... not over. Who told others you were Harn? You were wanted? Was me. Was me, human. I am Urg'am'lat, bounty hunter. I collect. I feast. You will die."
The alien's thoughts weren't as articulate as last time, and he wondered privately if the creature's blood lust had something to do with that. Like its animal nature just taking over. Whatever it was, it was pissed and had coiled up ready to spring, and he was completely without his blasters for the time being. "Well alright then you son of a bitch. Let's dance." He did his best to take on the fighting stance he'd been taught in the militia on Dantooine, and hoped there'd be a miracle, because between its multiple arms, clawed hands, hooked beak, and probably poisoned stinger, things weren't looking so hot.
When it happened, it happened fast. First the lamproid launched itself off the mound of debris, causing it to shift and throwing off the creature's aim ever so slightly. Jarric feigned a leap right then weaved left and brought his right knee up- but he'd forgotten how he'd used up the combat piston busting out of the crate. He did his best to land a decent kick anyhow, and he did manage to keep the thing from tearing its beak into him, but then a stabbing, sharp pain tore into his leg. Jarric cried out, but managed to slam the butt of one blaster down onto the alien's head with his left hand, causing a satisfying crunch. The lamproid screamed in rage, as much telepathically as vocally, and Jarric fell back, the centipede form crashing down on top of him. He lay there, waiting for the feeling of a hooked beak tearing into his flesh when there was a loud crash and the lamproid's weight shifted, then went still.
He finally opened his eyes, and his vision seemed blurred. Prasu stood over him holding a large tree branch covered in gore. He was dragging Jarric somewhere, whispering something... but his face looked like he was yelling. The smuggler's head swam and he found himself falling into sleep. When he opened his eyes again, they were in the speeder heading somewhere at top speeds as Prasu piloted it through some dense brush and around burned out defense emplacements from long-since shifted battle lines. Jarric mumbled something, but after a couple of tries he must've gotten through because Prasu glanced at him. "Hey, you still with me? Look, I, uh... sorry, about that. I didn't know what to do when that thing showed up, so I hid. I think I killed it, but not fast enough. Its stinger must've nicked you somehow. Everything below your implant is... er..."
Prasu's voice trailed off and Jarric just felt dizzy, but he managed to look down. His foot was fine. He didn't know what Prasu was so upset over, his foot looked marvelous. His nice shiny boot and the shoe laces and... he blinked and realized there was only the one. Jarric's face paled and he passed out once more. When he came to, they were stopped. Prasu must've injected him with a stim of some sort because he felt a little more coherent. When he looked up, Prasu did his best to smile reassuringly. "Yeah, sorry for the dramatic reveal... but those aliens are highly poisonous. The implant in your knee was all that kept that poison isolated, but I had to chop off what was left beneath that. You're getting paid for this, right? I'm sure you can get a cybernetic leg... or something."
The man turned away and Jarric just looked down as his amputated leg in stunned silence. It was true the reward would probably cover some kind of medical cybernetic replacement... but still. It was his freaking leg! He shook his head and laid back, content that he'd at least completed his contract. And at the end of the day, that was what mattered right? Do the job, get the credits, try to be a decent person about it, and don't get shot. He took a steadying breath and turned towards Prasu. "You know the price of doing business Prasu?" The man blinked and looked at him a little puzzled. "What's that?" Jarric laughed maniacally for a moment, then smiled pleasantly at him.
"An arm and a leg." Prasu just blinked, then furrowed his brow. "Maybe you need more drugs..." Jarric just laughed as the contact injected him with something, and before long his eyes drifted closed and all was darkness, and that darkness started to look like space, then the hyper-lanes. He knew he was dreaming, but in his dream he was whole, and piloting his first ship through a space battle, sure that this was the end of the line for him. But it never seemed to be. You fought like hell, sometimes you lived and sometimes a giant damned centipede came up and tore your leg off. Just the price of doing business.