Saturday, October 22, 2016

Star Wars - Episode 51: "A Princess Lost"

As the New Jedi Order and the Antarian Rangers arrived on the Wookiee resistance colony of Muaagra, they were greeted by swarms of cheering Wookiees shouting Lowarra's name. Lowarra quickly gathered her comrades and encouraged her people to chant their names as well. Then their friend Han Solo, who had come with them to Muaagra to help his friend Chewbacca reunite his mate with their son, looked around and realized that there was someone missing from the celebration. Where was Princess Leia? C3PO also wanted to know where his mistress was. As the group members realized that she wasn't with them and no one knew where she had gone, it also dawned on them that she had last been seen standing in a location that would have been crushed beneath the AT-AT when it fell. Luke Skywalker searched his feelings and told the others that he was certain she was still alive, as he would have known had she died.

With a heavy heart, Neri reported Princess Leia's status to Mon Mothma and explained Luke's certainty that Leia still lived, which Mon Mothma accepted without question. Han Solo immediately planned to reach out to some of his smuggler contacts for information, and Luke intended to seek out other sources. The Jedi and Rangers were ready to start searching for her at once. They decided that Point Nadir would be their rendezvous location and they would leave messages with Dexter Vex there.

Dash suggested that Han accompany the Jedi/Ranger group, but he declined. He also wanted Chewie to remain on Muaagra with his family, who were grieving the loss of his mate's father, but Chewie was torn between his desire to be with his family and his concern that Han would be in greater danger without him. Lowarra had a chat with Chewie and encouraged him to go with Han. Neri then approached Chewie's mate Malla and asked her if she would be willing to let him go. It was Malla who told Chewie that he should go with Han. Chewbacca then picked up Han and half-carried him aboard the Millenium Falcon, with Han complaining all the way that Chewie's fur would clog the environmental system.

Neri found it difficult to choose between meeting with the Rebel Alliance and going directly to Point Nadir. To help her decide, she retreated to her quarters aboard the New Hope and searched her feelings for the right decision. She found that both options were equally likely to lead to success. She also discovered that she couldn't sense Leia, but it was as though something was blocking her from finding Leia's signature within the Force. The only reason she could find for this was that Leia was in the clutches of either Darth Vader or the Emperor, or perhaps both.

After communicating this to her friends, Neri decided that they should split up. She and Taanar would meet with the Alliance to give a report on the action at Kashyykk and return C3PO, while Lowarra, ADX, and Dash would take the Sky River Venture to Point Nadir to talk to Dexter. ADX was concerned that the princess might be in the hands of Vader or the Emperor, worrying that this could be part of a trap and that the Jedi and Rangers couldn't out-think someone as experienced as either Palpatine or his pet Sith Lord. Lowarra gave Neri a huge embrace, and even hugged Taanar before they parted, while Dash warned Neri not to get herself killed as Dash still owed her. Neri and Taanar then took the Mithrim Montes to meet the Rebel leaders. Just before they departed they had a brief meeting with Kanan Jarrus, who had reunited with Hera Syndulla and had decided to go with her and Phoenix Squadron. Neri was glad that he had decided to stop isolating himself.

When Neri and Taanar arrived at the Alliance headquarters, they were greeted by an honor guard and escorted immediately to meet with Mon Mothma and General Hutsell. In the past Hutsell had been antagonistic toward the Venture crew, but now he agreed with Neri when she expressed the opinion that the Alliance should publicize their success on Kashyykk. Mon Mothma revealed that there had been no public announcement from the Imperials about Leia's capture, nor any news about what had happened on Kashyykk. She worried that if he Rebels spoke about the action there, the Empire would then reveal the news about Leia, which would be a huge blow to Alliance morale. Neri argued that this was war and Leia was a soldier, and that sometimes soldiers are captured or killed in warfare. Mon Mothma concurred that this was what Princess Leia would want, but was still uncomfortable with letting the rebel troops know that Leia was missing.

In the meantime, the Venture arrived safely at Point Nadir and the three companions let their friend Dexter Vex know about their mission. He had no information about secret Imperial detention centers where Leia might be held, but he told them who might know: bounty hunters. And who but the best of the bounty hunters would be the most likely to know? The three friends knew that this would mean making contact with their nemesis Boba Fett and risking that he might try to claim the bounty for capturing them, but they decided to take the risk. They went to the Bounty Post to leave a message for Fett.

At the Bounty Post, Lowarra learned that the bounty for her had been increased to 25,000 credits, while the bounty on Neri was still only at 20,000. The bounty for ADX's former identity, ARD, had been removed, as he was believed destroyed. Perhaps this would be an advantage for the group, as they assumed that Boba Fett wouldn't know about ADX or Taanar Ryl. The message they had left told Fett to meet them where he had last encountered them, which was outside of Jabba the Hutt's palace near Mos Eisley on Tatooine. They let Neri know what they had arranged, and she and Taanar flew to meet them at Point Nadir before the whole group traveled to Mos Eisley.

Once the Venture had taken a docking bay at Mos Eisley, ADX and Taanar went out to do some reconnaissance. Almost immediately ADX was attacked by some Jawas firing ion bolts. The Jawas tried to grab Taanar, but she pulled free. Though she asked that ADX try not to kill the Jawas, he fired his heavy blaster rifle at one Jawa, killing the little scavenger and leaving its burning corpse on the ground. This didn't seem to deter the rest of the Jawas, so Taanar used the Force to stun one of them, which had more effect. The surviving Jawas fled. After ADX and Taanar returned to the Venture, Taanar discovered a message chip in her pocket that hadn't been there before. When played, the chip told them to meet at the Cantina two hours after sundown.

The group arrived at the Cantina at the appointed time, and Neri bribed the proprietor to allow ADX to accompany them inside. He pointed them to a table in the corner, where they found Boba Fett waiting for them. ADX and Taanar hung back while the others negotiated with the bounty hunter, though it now seemed likely that Fett knew more about the newest members of the group than they had expected. Neri asked Fett for information on secret Imperial detention centers. In exchange she offered the iridium chip she carried, which had the potential to give him nearly unlimited funds. Dash tried to persuade Fett to help the Rebel Alliance and then retire on the proceeds from the chip, but the bounty hunter wasn't interested. He didn't want to choose sides, nor did he have any interest in giving up his current occupation. He also not only knew about ADX and Taanar - he knew that the New Jedi Order had acquired the Banking Guild head's secret contingency funds. The group overlooked this disturbing revelation to focus on finding out where Princess Leia was being held. Fett told them that he didn't have that information himself, as he didn't know where she was, but he did know someone who could probably tell them: an architect who had designed several secret detention facilities for the Empire. The architect's name was Golas Aram, a Senitene who had since retired to a compound near the city of Kai Pompos on Irudiru. Fett warned that Golas Aram didn't like visitors and they would probably "have to beat the information out of him."

When their negotiations had concluded with Fett agreeing to ignore the bounties on the group and not report his meeting with them to any Imperial contacts, Fett placed a remote detonation trigger on the table. He explained that it would help them to disarm the explosives that had been placed around the docking bay where the Venture was housed.

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