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A Pressing Rescue
The rain had started shortly after he arrived home. It pounded against his transparisteel window in driving sheets threatening to smash it open. Dash was in no mood for rain. In fact, he was sure the rain was beating down only to mock his black mood. Kay would always find a way to cheer him up when he was feeling this way.
Kay'rashal, was his best friend for as long as he could remember. Through childhood they shared every trial and every joy. When his world seemed like it was crumbling around him Kay was always there for him. Except Kay wasn't here now. She was more than half a galaxy away on Shikaakwa, the planet in the Tython System where Dash grew up. His mother's promotion into the Imperial Military forced Dash to move to Balmorra, a factory world in the Colonies region.
He didn't have any friends here, well at least none his age. As a Twi'lek he stood out like a sore thumb at the Imperial Secondary School in Bin Prime, the planet's capital. Bin Prime was many times the size of his home city and the mostly human children and teachers were xenophobic towards non-humans. Even within the few other Twi'lek's he had seen none of them had been lethan, a subspecies with his distinctive red-colored skin.
Dash's comm buzzed in his pocket and with Kay on his mind he flipped it open fully expecting to see the blue Twi'lek girl's smile. It was just a marketing message from Kragg's Burger Joint. With an ache in his heart he flipped the comm closed and let the hot tears roll down his cheeks. Communications across star systems was highly restricted and expensive to boot. There was no way Kay would be able to send him anything and no way he could send anything to her. With the war against the terrorist cell groups the Imperial government had closed most passenger travel as well. He wasn't sure he would ever see her again.
Dash wiped his eyes as he thought about the rebels. It seemed like every star system from Coruscant to the Outer Rim had its own rebellion. The Empire sought more and more control every day. Even Bin Prime had its own rebel cells operating within its borders. At least, that's what the holonews had said.
Dash thought about one so-called rebel, his friend, the Baron Swift. The Baron was unlike anyone Dash had met before. He was a kind man with blond hair and piercing gray eyes that seemed to see things Dash couldn't see. He often had his Zeltron Lute with him and would break into little ditties about snowmen and Bantha's. Dash didn't always catch the hilarious references but when he did he detected a sense of subtle seriousness behind the Baron's words. A wry twisting of prose. A sense of urgency usually crept into Dash's mind as he listened to the songs. It was as if there was a shadow looming overhead, ready to crush his free spirit. It made him think of the twins from his home world and Dash shivered in response. The twins were brother and sister bullies that had terrorized Dash and Kay for years and had culminated in Kay being mercilessly beat. He hated them still. Sighing he closed the comm and flopped down on his bed as he let his thoughts wander.
A Chance Encounter
Dash thought back to when he first met the Baron. He was nothing like what the holonews portrayed the rebels as. When Dash had first met the Baron he was riding his anger and frustration out on his new Starhawk swoop bike and had almost missed seeing him walk out from behind a parked town speeder car.
Dash hit the emergency breaking system and as the swoop lost its repulsor grip it skidded sideways narrowly missing a surprised looking man. Feeling like a complete idiot Dash hopped off the bike and ran over to see if the man he just side swiped was hurt.
For a moment Dash thought the man was going to explode in a scathing tirade but instead he said. “Nice thrust nozzles, boy. Are those custom Kerrus RX nozzles?”
Dash's jaw dropped to the duracrete pavement. “Uhh, yeah sir. I installed them last night. Uhh, are you OK? I'm so sorry, I didn't see you there.”
“No worries, just a bit of dust in my hair.” The man said, shaking off his cloak. With a big grin he stuck out his hand and said. “The name is Baron Swift. Yes, just like royalty.”
Not sure if he was joking Dash uttered a half laugh and said. “Uhh, Dash Ryo, sir. That's my name.”
“So, those nozzles, you installed them yourself? And here I thought your parents would have just bought them for you.”
Dash fought down the urge to defend his skills. “No way. You should have seen my last swoop. I had it totally apart and put the whole thing back together in my father's shop.”
“I don't see many shops attached to houses around here.” The Baron prodded gently.
“No, we just moved here from off world. We live over on the south side, near that funny statue of the guy waving his hand in the air.”
“That's Kuat of Kuat, CEO of Kuat Drive Yards. Maybe you've heard about him in school?”
“Oh yeah. My father talks about him all the time too. But it was my mother that was transferred here to work at the KDY factories.”
“Ahh, in the administrative offices I presume?”
“Close, she does something top secret with the security details. I don't even know what she does anymore.” Dash said glumly.
“Ahh.” The Baron said, satisfied with Dash's answers.
Blinking Dash paused and said. “I'm really sorry, sir. You're sure you're not hurt, right?”
The Baron smiled. “Absolutely not! But there is one thing I think you could help me out with.”
“Uhh, what's that?” Dash hesitated.
“Come to the Reactor Core cantina tomorrow evening. I'm performing a show there and I'll give you front row tickets if you'd like. Invite your parents too. My good friend Tor will be there and he would love seeing a souped up Starhawk like you have.”
Taken back by the Baron's lack of anger at almost being run over Dash managed to stammer out. “Uhh, sure, sir. Yeah I'll be there.”
“Great! It's settled then. I must be off now. Perhaps Fate has chosen our meeting and someday we'll look back over a cup of ale and remember the adventurous path that led us there.” The Baron flourished his hand and an invitation token appeared between his fingers. Handing it to Dash he swept his cloak around him and headed off down the street.
Dash shook himself from his daydream as his comm was buzzing again. With another sigh he flipped it open and almost dropped it. It was from the Baron! It was a short cryptic message telling him to come down to the cantina for something urgent. He grabbed his vintage Republic era vest and walked softly to the top of the stairs. It seemed dark in the main living areas so he assumed his parents were already in bed. As quietly as he could he crept down the stairs and out the side door. Before starting his swoop Dash checked the storage compartment that held his x-30 Lancer blaster pistol. Dash had found it in a forgotten storage box before they moved to Balmorra. Apparently it was his great-grandfather's pistol he had used during the Shikaakwa civil war decades before Dash was born. Dash had hidden it in his things during the move and kept it a secret from his parents. He was pretty sure he would be grounded for life if his parents ever found out about it. His great-grandfather had impeccable taste in firearms though. The x-30 was optimized for long range shots with it's sleek long barrel and packed a pretty big punch when fired. Dash had taken it out to some abandoned lots in Bin Prime to test it out. If only he would have had it when Kay was in trouble back on Shikaakwa. Although, he wasn't sure he could have stopped himself from killing the twin bullies that had assaulted her. In fact he was pretty sure he would have put a blaster bolt between their eyes. Maybe it was a good thing he didn't have it then. He wasn't even sure it was a good idea to have now.
Dash started the ignition on his swoop and made sure quiet mode was engaged. He eased out of the driveway and onto the street before revving up the engine. He didn't want to wake up the neighborhood and especially not his parents. He checked his chrono. It was 23:01 and most of the houses were already dark. He gunned the throttle and kicked the bike into gear.
Dash pulled up behind pub and took a quick glance around. It was a usual Friday night and the pub was already busy. He ducked in through the back door and entered the back room. Notes from a Zeltron lute floated through the air. Sure enough, Baron Swift was sitting there playing a hauntingly eerie tune.
Tor-nenko was there too. A tall, thin human with white hair, Tor was also an excellent mechanic. Dash liked him and often chatted about various speeder modifications and upgrades with him. Dash waved and found a seat at the table. He didn't say anything, not wanting to upset the Baron's music.
That's when Sprend Stormflight, a red-eyed Duros with a wide-brimmed hat, walked in followed by Damaria Marsand, a lithe red-haired human woman. Sprend was silent as usual but the scar running down the side of his face seemed extra angry tonight. With a scowl he propped his huge rifle against a spare chair and sat down, facing the front door. While Sprend was certainly impressive in his bulky trench coat it was Damaria who held the room's presence. Dash avoided making eye contact with her as her gaze swept from person to person.
Just then Marv came in through the front door and shut it firmly behind him. Baron Swift let the last tones hang in the air as he stopped playing. Without a word Marv placed a datapad on the table in front of them.
With a graceful gesture the Baron picked up the datapad and began reading. “Chulo and Grexi Takka are local dissidents who own and operate a printing press in downtown Bin Prime. Their office was raided this morning, but the Takkas were thankfully not present. The Imperials are planning a second raid on their apartment complex late tonight. Damaria, Sprend, you are designated as Red Squad and your mission is to locate and rescue Chulo and Grexi and discretely return them here. Try to recruit them as their expertise is invaluable. Tor and Dash, you are designated as Gold Squad. Your mission is to go to the raided office and disassemble the printing press. You'll need to occupy the posted Imperial guard and recover any sensitive information you find there. Bring the press back here as well.”
Dash's pulse quickened as it sank in that he was to go on a real mission. This wasn't just training or talk but real field work.
“Officer Madar, the Imperial in charge of the raid earlier today, is currently out front drinking everything he can get his hands on. He seems to be celebrating his victory. And thanks to you, that will hopefully be premature.”
Sprend grunted. “Alright. Damaria, grab the coordinates and let's get this over with.”
Marv cleared his throat. “Sprend, err, no dead bodies. I've got a taxi waiting for you out front.”
“Right. Of course.” Sprend grumbled as he and Damaria got up and walked out of the back room.
Dash turned to Tor and said. “Hey, I think I have a way we can get into that office.”
Tor turned to Dash with an upraised eyebrow. “You do?”
“Well, see, earlier tonight I may have had a run in with a certain General Stonebren down at the factory my parents work at.”
“Dash, you did what?” The Baron did not sound pleased.
“No! It's OK. I talked my way out of it. Really! I just have to do some filing work for him for the next couple of weeks. He thinks I was just there being some dumb curious kid. As for my idea, why don't I tell Officer Madar that the General sent me to get orders to pick up the press? I could get his signature and everything!”
“Hmm, that just might work.” Tor mused. “I'll draft up a phoney work order.”
“Well Dash, I'll need to know what happened at that factory, but we don't have time for that now. You're confident you can get Madar's signature?” The Baron asked.
“Yes, sir!” Dash replied impishly, giving Baron Swift a mocking salute.
“Oh get with it then.” The Baron sighed, shaking his head. Turning to Tor he added. “Make sure the kid stays close to you tonight.”
Tor nodded and handed Dash his datapad.
Dash took a deep breath and pushed through the door into the noise of the front room. Officer Madar was at the bar laughing with a young female recruit. Madar's gesturing with a mug in one hand revealed that he had more than one lager tonight and was intent on having more. Approaching the officer as confidently as he could Dash tapped him on the shoulder.
“Sir. I have orders here from General Vekis Stonebren.”
Madar turned towards Dash and said a little too loudly. “Ahh, old Stonebren. Yes, my closest colleague! My dear friend. Asking me for a favor, is he?”
Dash reeled with the stench of liquor emanating from Madar's breath. “Yes sir. He congratulates you on a successful mission and has sent me to help with the cleanup. I just need your authorization to release the printing press.”
Turning towards the young recruit Madar slurred. “See, Recruit Brenko. The General's deferring to me now. You stay close to me and I'll soon be on top of the chain. A general within a year tops!”
Dash pushed the tablet in front of him and Madar signed his name with a flourish. Dash saluted smartly. “Thank you sir.”
“Now scratch gravel kid. Recruit Brenko and I have some personal matters to discuss.”
Dash turned and walked away weaving through the crowd and finally ducking into the back room.
“Did you get it?” Tor asked. “Or are you stuck cleaning his offices for the next month too?”
Dash held the datapad out triumphantly. “I don't think he'll even remember what happened tonight. He's had quite a few drinks.”
“All right kid. Let's get going.” Tor headed out the back door.
“Stay safe.” Baron Swift called to them as they left.
Rescue in the Rain
Dash carefully backed up his speeder bike as Tor brought the repulsor sled out from shop attached to the pub. Firing the tractor hitch Dash said. “All ready Tor. What's the address of that office and what route are we taking?”
“Take the main roads tonight. We're going to try this one official-like. Do you still have that old blaster of yours? I hope we don't need it tonight, but …” Tor left the sentence hanging.
“Yeah.” Dash replied pulling the x-30 Lancer blaster pistol out of storage and strapping on the concealing holster under his vest. He tried not to think of what would happen if he had to actually shoot someone.
Tor hopped on the back of Dash's speeder and said. “Let's go!” Dash gunned the engine and shot out into the night.
Dash restrained himself from passing various slow-moving speeder cars on the main thoroughfares. He didn't want to get pulled over by a public security officer, or even worse, an Imperial guard. The rain increased in intensity as well soaking them both though. Approaching the office Dash slowed and finally stopped directly in front of the door. He could see the Imperials standing guard under the awning. Tor hopped off the bike and started walking towards the guards.
“You shouldn't be here. Move along.” One of the guards spoke to Tor.
Dash, feeling nervous, slowly moved his hand towards his vest. If the datapad didn't hold up he was pretty sure this would devolve into blaster fire. His other alternative was to leave Tor by himself, but he would be dead or worse for sure if he did that. The Baron, in fact the whole team, depended on him to keep his cool and he didn't want to let him down. Taking a slow deep breath he could just make out Tor's response over the pounding rain.
“We've got our orders right here. Gotta pick up the printing press and bring it over to the warehouse.” Tor handed the guard the datapad.
“Hmm, nobody said there was supposed to be a pickup tonight. Let's see. Officer Madar! Yeah, that makes sense. He changes his mind every second day. Well, it's inside, have at it. I really don't want to be standing out in this rain anymore.” The officer walked over to the door and unlocked it for Tor.
Tor turned and motioned for Dash to come and help so he hopped of the bike and unhooked the repulsor lift. Pushing it in front of him he walked past the guards. He tried to look as bored as possible but every single muscle of his was tense. He felt like a coiled spring that was about to unwind but. The guard looked just as bored and hardly paid Dash any mind as he walked to the door. Taking another deep breath, he glanced over at Tor.
“Hey, haven't I seen you before?” One of the guards asked Tor.
Tor and Dash froze in place unsure of what to say to the guard.
“Yeah, you fixed up my blaster a while back, right? I thought I recognized you. Thanks by the way. It was shooting off-center and now it's pretty much a straight shot.”
“Uhh, thanks. Glad I could help.” Tor mumbled as he strode through the open door. Dash followed close behind unsure what to make of that exchange. They walked into the inside office as the guard closed the door behind them.
“At least we're alone now,” Dash said, realizing he was holding his breath. “What was all that about a blaster?”
Tor flicked on the lights. “I'm not sure. I guess it's nothing to be concerned about. Let's see what kind of work we got ourselves into now.”
Dash looked around the small office room. It was cramped with a few desks off to one side. An old flimsiplast filing cabinet stood against one wall. The other side of the room held the press. Outdated as it was it still intrigued Dash how it took all those moving parts just to spit out some printed flimsiplast. A cloned datapad would have been much simpler for distributing a message but would leave a digital trail that could easily be followed by the Imperials. Inspecting it up close Dash realized it wouldn't be as simple as just loading it on to the repulsor lift. It would have to be dismantled piece by piece. Even though he did accept going along with Tor for this mission with the adrenaline of the moment subsided Dash really didn't look forward to an evening of turning hydrospanners.
“So, uhh, what do you need me to do exactly?” Dash asked.
“You know, I think this will be fairly easy to unhook. Just a few bolts. Why don't you go check around for something that might be incriminating to the Takka's.”
“Sure thing.” Dash said, relieved. He stared poking around the desks, lifting flimsiplast proofs. Finding nothing he turned to the cabinet. “Ugh, there's a lot of files in here.” He grumbled to himself. Dash sighed and started rifling through various folders of work orders, proof prints, and invoices. He glanced over at Tor and saw that most of the machine was in pieces already. He decided he better hurry up in the searching processes when a name jumped out at him from the top of a file. In large block letters it read 'Baron Swift'. Opening it up he saw page after page of invoices and work orders with the Baron's name and address on it. Stuffing the folder in his backpack Dash continued searching. At the bottom of another cabinet drawer was a small satchel with 59 credits in it. Figuring the Imps wouldn't miss credits they didn't even know about he put the satchel in his backpack as well.
Just then Tor called. “Dash, I'm done here. Help me load this on to the sled.”
Together they loaded the pieces of printing press on to the sled and secured it down.
“Now we just have to get it out of here. So far so good. I hope Damaria and Sprend are having as easy as a time as us.” Tor mused.
“I sure hope so. I wasn't exactly sure what to expect here. I guess I'm glad this part was a bit boring.”
“Boring is what we want, kid.” Tor said, hauling the sled through the doors. The guards looked relieved that they didn't have to help out too. “We're all done here.”
“That was fast.” One of the guards said.
“Yup,” Tor replied. “I just wish they could schedule these things during work hours.”
“Ha!” The guard laughed. “You wish. We have to be here all night!”
Dash and Tor took the sled into the pouring rain and hooked it up to the swoop. Stowing his backpack in the swoop's storage compartment Dash hopped on and started the engine.
As they were driving back to the safe house Dash's comm lit up.
“Gold squad? We need help here! We're under a lot of fire. I don't know how long this taxi is going to hold up. Can you come to us?” Damaria's voice sounded stressed.
“What? Like blaster fire? For real?” Dash said incredulously.
“Of course blaster fire you dolt. I'm sending you our coordinates now. When can you get to us?”
“We're almost at the safe house with the press. Should we just ditch it here?”
“No, just get it unloaded and head out right away. I think we'll be able to hold on. But hurry, OK?”
“You got it. Tor, hold on.” Dash pushed the bike as fast as he could with the press attached to the back. “Home, this is gold squad. We're coming in fast and need to unhook this thing quickly. Did you hear from Da.. err red squad?”
“Yes. We're waiting for you.” The Baron's voice crackled over the comms.
Luckily for them it was only a few more turns before they arrived at the safe house. Pulling up, Dash saw the Baron and Marv waiting near the shop entrance with the large doors open. As he activated the swoops emergency stop the repulsor coils whined as they skidded to a stop.
“Kid, detatch the tractor!” Marv shouted and Dash complied with his order.
“Dash, I've sent you their location.” The Baron gestured with his comm.
“Got it!” Dash yelled. “Let's go Tor! Hold on!” Dash punched the accelerator and cranked the handles, pulling a tight turn on the spot. The repulsor coils kicked up spray from the puddles and completely soaked both the Baron and Marv. Baron Swift gave Marv a wry grin while shaking out his dripping coat and they headed back inside.
Dash punched up the speed on the swoop using a technique taught to him by Kay's older brother Zhar. No! He couldn't afford to think about Kay now. The rain pelted his forehead as he whipped through the streets. The blinking dot on his nav-computer was slowly getting closer. Flying at breakneck speeds Dash wove in and out of speeder cars crawling through the late night. At the next intersection a taxi speedercab jumped the signal change and pulled ahead. He slammed on his brakes and attempted to drift behind it when he noticed a large transport truck hurtling down on them. Cursing into the night he flicked the handlebars up and caused his speeder to angle up and away. Spinning it around he had to reorient and descend back into traffic. He was losing time. Would Damaria and Sprend be OK?
Proceeding with a little more caution Dash pushed onwards. He was completely soaked through at this point and hoped that Tor wouldn't think he had received his license at the Drunken Mynock School of Instruction. Deciding on a shortcut he turned into a connecting alley and attempted to merge back in at full speed. Losing control Dash caught the edge of a trash canister at the mouth of the allery. Pain blossomed up his leg as he crunched into the side, denting his bike.
“C'mon Dash, enough of this. Let's get there already!” Tor sounded frustrated. Dash guess his leg would have been crushed along with his.
“Sorry!” Dash yelled as he spun up the engine again. At a slower pace he turned onto the street and rounded the corner. He did not expect to see what came next. A taxi speeder lay in ruins at the T-Junction of connecting street. It was burning, the flames licking up the side of the duracrete building. Damaria was there with an older human male and three Rodians. One was just a kid!
Dash slowed to a stop and Tor jumped off the bike, running over to one of the Rodians who was being half dragged by the man.
“Tor take this!” Dash shouted as he tossed his handheld comm over to him. Tor grabbed it and knelt by the Rodian. Tor seemed almost unaffected by the pouring rain. His jumpsuit seemed to shine in the streetlight. How does he do that? Dash wondered. Rain dripped off of his lekku and down his back and he shivered.
Looking up he saw Sprend near the burning taxi. He was running at top speed towards them. Dash wasn't sure what was going on until a speeder bike shot out of the side street and exploded in a ball of flame beside the taxi.
Shielding the Rodian child, Damaria pushed it and what appeared to be its mother towards Dash. “Take them to the pub, Dash. Get them out of here. Get the repulsor sled and head back this way. We need to get Chulo out of here. We can hold off any attacks for now but hurry back. We'll be OK. Go!”
Dash assumed the Rodian was Grexi Takka. Helping her up onto the speeder seat behind him he said. “Hold tight now. We'll be out of this rain in no time.”
Grexi clutched her child in front of her as Dash gunned the speeder in a tight arc and drove back towards the cantina. He took it a little easier this time, not wanting to make the same mistakes as before.
….this is a continuing story….
….check back at a future time….