Star Wars: Treasure of the Force – Ch 17

Nix wasn’t certain where she was going but she could feel the direction safety lay in and, as Kelda had suggested, she was double checking that with her head to put together a plan to get them all out before the assassin’s caught up to them.

If only Ravas Durla wasn’t still hanging around.

The ghost wasn’t doing anything overtly menacing, but her mere presence was like a colony of screech bats. Annoying. Distracting. And somehow mildly rage inducing.

Except Kelda loved her.

Which suggested Kelda had lost her mind at some point, probably before she died, but Nix felt a kinship with her. Nix still loved Sali after all. Not quite as a romantic partner, but the pirate queen was adorable in her own horrible manner. 

Ayli had scary, sharp sides as well, and Nix wasn’t even trying to hide the fondness she felt for her wife, from herself or anyone else anymore. 

So she could cut Kelda some slack with Ravas. People had many different sides. If Ravas only showed her aggressive side to those she was haunting, it didn’t mean there weren’t other parts of her she refused to let anyone see. Or anyone except Kelda.

Nix let her gaze linger on Ravas for a long moment as she rewired the comm panel to output a map of the facility onto the display beside it.

Hate radiated from the ghost, her eyes bleeding red light.

They did terrible things to you, didn’t they? It was a purely internal observation but Ravas seemed to hear it nonetheless and it stoked her rage even higher.

But only for a moment.

The fire within the ghost sputtered and she turned away a snarl of discomfort on her lips and wariness in her eyes as she cast a glance back at Nix.

“You’re taking us to the morgue?” Zindiana asked, tracing her finger over the display which illuminated a path from their position to the coffins which awaited them.

“That’s the plan,” Nix said. “We’ll get fitted for some coffins and flown out on one of the disposal ships. No one bothers those.”

The assassins were getting close.

Nix cranked the gravity control on the elevator car as high as it could go and scrambled the button feeds. Knowing where their quarry’s location wasn’t going to do the assassins much good when the elevators all choose random floors to travel to.

That would hold the assassins off for another minute.

Which meant Nix needed another stratagem to get everyone out safely.

And that was a problem she’d solve later on.

Without wasting anymore time, she started marching towards the morgue.

“How did you know this place had a morgue?” Ayli asked. “And how did you know it was down here?”

“Honestly? It just felt like there was something useful down here,” Nix said. “I worked out what it was on the elevator. Galvus station isn’t that big from what I’ve heard, so one full medical station seemed like the max it would have. And where else do you bring dead bodies than medical stations?”

“Airlocks,” Sali said.

“System maintenance hates that,” Nix said. “Cleaner, and safer to collect them in a proper facility. Bacta tanks are good, but plagues still happen when people aren’t careful.”

“And you knew it would be down here because…?” Ayli asked.

“Lucky guess?” Nix said. “The underlevels on a station are usually the last to get built out. Everyone wants the real estate near the docks. Morgues are great for low rent areas, so I figured that was probably where we were heading.”

“You sound like one of the Jedi in those old dramatizations from the High Republic,” Zindiana said. “Ever had any training?”

“The Jedi went extinct before I was born,” Nix said. “Though I guess at least one survived right?”

“Probably more than one,” Ayli said. “I heard all kinds of stories about them when I was a kid. I think there were at least a few working with the Rebellion. They kept a low profile for obvious reasons though.”

“Wouldn’t mind having a few on our side now,” Sali said.

“Worried about the bounty hunters?” Zindiana asked.

“Not this lot,” Sali said. “Still too early for the good ones to be showing up. But they will.”

“Remind me to thank you properly for that when this is all over,” Ayli said.

“Hey, I’d planned to help you fake your deaths properly,” Sali said. “Probably still our best bet in fact.”

“I doubt we’ll need to,” Zindiana said. “Once the other cartels work out how weak the Klex are, there won’t be anyone left to pay the bounty.”

“You know you’re a lot more familiar with how criminal enterprises work than I’d expect the average nun to be,” Sali said.

“My order encourages Sisters to have a wide array of skills,” Zindiana said.

“No vow of poverty though,” Ayli said.

“Easier to help people when you’ve got a ship’s hold full of credits,” Zindiana said with an amused smile.

“Well, at the moment we’ve got some fittings to take care of,” Nix said, waving the others into the morgue.

A droid waited for them inside, switching to life as they entered the surprisingly spacious chamber.

“Welcome,” the droid said, swiveling on the fixed base at its waist and clasping its two hands together in a respectful gesture. “Are you here to pay respects to a loved one, to claim a loved one’s body, or to perform an authorized inspection of one of our current corpses.”

“None of the above,” Nix said. “We need you to fit us for coffins and place us on a disposal ship which will depart immediately.”

“I am afraid your request cannot be processed,” the droid said. “Only nonliving sapients are placed within coffins, and no disposal ship is schedule for departure for the next two standard rotations.”

“May I access your terminal? I can call up the work order you’ll need there,” Nix said. 

“Certainly,” the droid said.

The first order of business was not the fabrication of the work order though, but rather the falsification of a break-in at the armory on the spinward side of the level.

“Should the alarms be going off like that?” Sali asked.

“The decompression hatch just sealed over the door too,” Zindiana said.

“Clever,” Ayli said, nodding in appreciation at Nix.

“For your safety, please remain within this room,” the droid said. “We are rated as a Class-3 shelter and will maintain atmospheric integrity independent of Galvus Station.”

Nix raised another alarm, and fought the down the malicious spike of glee at the misery the assassins were about to endure. It was Ravas’ fault she was feeling so mean today. Right?

“Intruders have commandeered the armory and are now to be considered Armed and Dangerous,” the droid announced. “Security forces are being mobilized and will be stunning all potential hostiles on sight. Please remain indoors, and remember Buzzco Brand Numb-Numb Sticks are Station Approved for treating headaches, fevers, and other biological maladies, for most sapient species!”

“Corporate stations suck,” Sali said.

“They have their uses,” Nix said, dearly glad that the morgue had the usual abysmal lack of security, and that Galvus Station used the kinds of off the shelf systems she was familiar with.

“A new work order has arrived!” the droid said. 

“Claimed,” Nix said and sent a few more commands to the stations monitoring systems so that it would report the presence of four active life signs in the armory to give the assassin’s something to chase after for just a little too long. That station security was also going to show up at the armory was going to be someone’s problem, but not Nix’s and at the moment that was all that mattered.

“Please place the bodies for transport on the fabrication bed,” the droid said.

“I’m liking this plan less and less,” Sali said.

“We’ll be fine,” Ayli said. “These things will have plenty of air in them for Goldie to pick us up.”

“And they’ll be air tight?” Sali asked.

“They have to be,” Nix said. “Otherwise you’ve got biocontamination issues to deal with.”

“And there’s the smell,” Ayli said. “Most species don’t rot into flowers and sunshine.”

With a last few commands at the terminal, Nix prepped the disposal ship to take them away,  keyed it to move to the coordinates she’d sent to Goldie, and, when it got there, dump it’s cargo. 

As plans went it was a great one. Not foolproof certainly, but they didn’t have to do any fighting and everyone was too distracted to figure out where they were until it was far too late to do anything about it.

“I’ll go and hold them off,” Ayli said, plunging Ravas’ lightsaber into the door and starting to cut an opening in it.

Nix stared at her, not quite processing what was happening.

Not until she saw Ravas’ ghost sunk in close, guiding Ayli’s every move with the lightsaber.

“We don’t need anyone to hold them off,” Nix said, taking a step towards Ayli.

She would have gotten closer but Ayli spun, the lightsaber in her hands not intentionally threatening but between them nonetheless.

“If they catch up to us while we’re in those, we’ll be defenseless,” Ayli said. “I can keep them distracted until your safe. Then you can come back for me.”

It sounded reasonable. 

To someone with a malicious ghost whispering in their ear. A clever malicious ghost.

Ravas is preying on your concern for us, Nix wanted to say but she knew the words would land flat. Ayli knew Ravas was pushing her own agenda. That didn’t change the fear Ayli felt which was deep enough that she was willing to sacrifice herself to be certain the others escaped safely.

I’m not preying on anyone, Jedi. Ravas’ voice boomed in Nix’s mind.

You want her alone. You want her away from me, Nix said, aware of the current flowing between herself and the ghost.

She wants you to be safe. And I want her to be safe, Ravas said. I have no other, have had no other for longer than you can imagine. You cannot protect her. Not like I can. You are but a padawan still. 

Nix had no idea what a padawan was, but the context was clear enough. 

We can protect her together better than we can alone, Nix said, her senses screaming that there was nothing but danger in interacting with Ravas Durla, ghost or no. Her senses were probably right, but she chose to ignore them and look for side of Ravas that Kelda saw. The side that was more than a malicious supernatural threat.

You seek to cast me out, Ravas said. You will destroy me and destroy her in the process.

Images of conflict and destruction crashed through Nix’s mind. She was on a burning ship surrounded by enemies. She was standing before a tribunal. She was exiled. She was alone. She was a small girl being taken from her family. She was running from an lush blue orchard under a clear starlight sky, her heart shattered in her chest and her tears washing away every hope and dream she’d ever held.

That last one wasn’t one Nix was supposed to have seen. She felt Ravas draw back and saw Ayli blink as a red fog in her eyes grew thin and wispy.

I will protect you both, Nix said, not needing to understand how Kelda could love someone like Ravas to understand what Ravas had lost and what she needed most.

You are too weak. You cling to teachings which failed before you were even born. You have no passion. No strength. No power.

Nix brushed the lightsaber aside without making contact with the blade.

With both hands she cradled the sides of Ayli’s face and pulled her in for a long and unreserved kiss. Ayli sank into the sensation with Nix, the lightsaber toppling to the ground as Ayli’s arms dropped to her sides in stunned acceptance.

“I’m not leaving you behind,” Nix said and the matter was settled.

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