Star Wars: Treasures of the Force – Bonus Ch 1

Zindiana was certain of very few things in life. That the Sisters of her Order were not going to let her live down her present circumstances was one of them though.

“Should we leave her up there?” Sister Morcross asked, toying with a vibro-blade rather than severing the cord which was holding Zin aloft by her ankles.

“I don’t know. Do you think the extra blood rushing to her brain will help her learn from this?” Sister Aglaia asked in turn. She could have worked the winch beside her which would also have lowered Zin to the ground, but Aggy was too busy looting the bodies of the smugglers they’d dispatched.

“It’s not the blood that rushes to her brain that gets her into these predicaments,” Sister Olono said with a note of weary aggravation in her voice. Despite that, she at least did something to help by tossing a crash pad beneath Zin’s dangling body.

“This is not my fault,” Zin said, trying and failing to stop herself from spinning. “I saw a chance to find where they’ve been hiding the Kraytich Cache.”

All of the other Sisters laughed at that in unison.

“You saw a chance to find out what that smuggler lass had hiding under her blouse is more like it,” Sister Morcross said.

Zin bristled at that. Yes, okay, Malwina had been disturbing attractive. And sure, the easiest method of getting her to talk had been to approach her as someone interested in something other than the Kraytich Cache. And, yes, this wasn’t the first time a dangerous and pretty lady had gotten the better of Zin. It was arguably a personal failing on Zin’s part, but without bad decisions how would you ever really know that you were making good ones.

That literally none of the rest of her Order subscribed to that philosophy should possibly have suggested that there were issues with it, but Zin felt there were benefits which were often overlooked.

Thoughts of the previous night danced in her head before a quick fall dropped her onto the crashpad. Her head appreciated that less than the memories she’d been indulging in but nothing was broken so she couldn’t complain too much she supposed.

“As I was saying, I wasn’t just having fun,” Zin said. “I was doing the Orders work there.”

“I don’t know if euphemisms can stretch that far,” Sister Aglaia said, not bothering to hide a sardonic smile.

Zin shook her head and sighed. Her days of not being taken seriously were looking farther away all the time.

“They’d got the Cache hidden below the Graltz Shipyards,” she said, knowing that nothing else she could say would change the topic of conversation.

“Oh, do they now?” Sister Olono said. “And how did you get your paramour to tell you that?”

“Are you sure you want the answer to that question?” Morcross asked.

Zin ignored her, in this case because the answer wasn’t particularly salacious.

“I checked her data scrib after we fell asleep,” Zin said.

“What kind of smuggler forgets to set a password on their data scrib?” Aglaia asked.

“Why would you think she forgot to set a password?” Zin asked, offended at the very notion.

“Let me guess, you cleverly teased that out of her too?” Morcross asked.

“I know you’re very very old Sister Morcross, but you are aware that we have slicers to get around little things like passwords don’t you?” Zin asked. That Sister Morcross was one year older than Zin hardly qualified her as ‘ancient’ by human standards, but Zin used what ammunition she had available.

“Very funny,” Morcross said. “So what was up with these guys?”

Zin looked at the two dead smugglers who her Sisters had dragged into Malwina’s room.

“Must be other members of the gang,” Zin said. “Malwina had mentioned having some guards nearby. She must have left them outside so that I couldn’t get out if I came to before she got back.”

“Things didn’t go well last night I take it?” Aglaia asked.

“Malwina was happy enough that she went to sleep in my arms,” Zin said. “Not sure how we got from there to her drugging me and hanging me by my feet. It’s almost like someone else alerted the gang that someone was on their trail and Malwina decided to play things safe, but I know no one would have done anything like that when we were under strict orders not to engage in hostilities unless necessary.”

“Yes, um, about that…” Morcross began to say.

“There was an altercation last night,” Olono said. “After you left for your tryst, a small group of the smugglers went to conduct a bit of ‘side business’. We had to intervene, and that may have gotten back to your paramour.”

“What sort of ‘side business’?” Zin asked. She didn’t want to have to shoot Malwina, but anyone involved in the sort of dealings which would force her Sisters to intervene almost certainly needed to be stopped.

“Trade in cultural relics has a restrictive list of potential clients. Trade in stolen medical supplies on the other hand has a much broader market,” Olono said. 

“That’s not usually something we involve ourselves with though…?” Zin asked.

“In this case, we had to.” Olono said. “The supplies in question were plague vaccines for the Tamdani Pox outbreak on Crystellia.”

“Tamdani Pox is bad. Melts the victim over the space of month,” Aglaia said. “And the only ones who the current vaccine works on are children.”

“Any delay in the shipment arriving would mean hundreds of dead kids,” Olono said. “So we had to intervene.”

“I suppose that’s why you came to check on me?” Zin said.

“Among other reasons,” Olono said.

“Those being that you missed your first two check-ins this morning, and your locator beacon was off,” Morcross said.

“The beacon might have been what gave Sister Zindiana away,” Aglaia said.

“Oh, no, sorry. I turned it off. Because it could have given me away,” Zin said. “It seemed safer since I knew you’d be able to find me without it.

Sister Olono bapped her in the head.

“We’ve been looking for you for two hours now,” Olono said. “Do you know many times over you could be dead in two hours?”

“One?” Zin said, which drew an ireful raising of a fist from Sister Olono.

“Now, now,” Aglaia said. “There’s no need for that. Sister Zindiana won’t be making that mistake again. Not after she does her debriefing with Mother Clarity.”

Zin swallowed.

In all of her scheming she had somehow forgotten to consider that she would need to file a detailed report with their Order’s commander.

“You could just string me back up if you like. Forget you ever found me. That would be fine,” Zin said.

“Oh, certainly not,” Aglaia said. “Not after you went to all this trouble to find where our quarry is hidden.”

“Oh, bah, it was no trouble at all,” Zin said. “And if I’m not here when Malwina gets back that will raise suspicions won’t it? Clearly only one choice we can make. You’ll just have to leave me behind. Tragic loss and all that.”

Morcross laughed at that.

“She thinks that would be enough to get out of a debriefing. Oh I remember being that young and foolish once.”

“Also, not to point out an obvious flaw in your plan, but the dead bodies here will probably raise a touch more suspicion that you being missing,” Agalai said as she stuffed the first dead smuggler into the apartment’s small cleansing stall.

Zin’s hopes and shoulders sank.

“That’s the spirit!” Morcross said.

“Did you find out anything else from your girlfriend’s scrib?” Olono asked.

“There’s at least three doors to get to the old Royal Crypt where they have their treasury stored,” Zin said. “They keep someone on duty inside the Crypt at all times, and there’s usually a few other people in their to keep the guard company.”

“Enough to be a problem?” Morcross asked.

“For all of us? No,” Zin said. “Sounded like more than I’d want to try to handle solo though.”

“Or else you would have slipped off and tried to get the Cache back yourself,” Aglaia said.

“Only after receiving the proper orders,” Zin said.

No one looked as though they believed her, which Zin had to credit as being fair. Victory tended to buy a lot more forgiveness than a good idea bought permission in her experience, and the others were all too familiar with her belief in that.

“We’ll need something to get us out once we have the Cache,” Olono said.

“Probably want to plan on carrying more than that,” Aglaia said. “We know the Cache’s worth, and if they managed to score a relic of that caliber there’s a good chance we’re going to find more worth taking once we’re there.”

“What did you have in mind?” Olono asked.

= = =

“You know, I’d expected that you were planning to get us a bigger ship,” Olono asked as they crashed out of the Royal Vault in the opposite directions that they’d crashed into it.

“I thought we’d solve the getting in and getting out problems at the same time,” Aglaia said, steering the Ultra-Speed Earth Borer through the wall of the next building over.

Zin wasn’t sure about the level of property damage they were doing, but she had to admire the efficiency of simply blasting a path directly to the vault and then back out of it. Also the cargo room in the Borer was breathtaking thanks to the tunnel support segments they were dragging befind them. 

The comm in front of her beeped for an incoming message. It was on Zin’s scrib id and there was only one person on the planet who wasn’t riding in the Borer with her who had it.

“Hi Mawina,” Zin said opening the comm channel in spite of the horrified looks on her Sister’s faces. “How’s your day going? You didn’t stay around for breakfast.”

“I’m so sorry there,” Malwina said, her accepting sending little tingles along Zin’s nerves. “I had a small pest problem to deal with. Inventory is loss is such an issue in my business.”

“That doesn’t sound like a fun start to you day. Were you tied up with that for long?” Zin asked, amused to see how long they could go without making specific accusations of what they both clearly knew to be true.

“The tie up didn’t go on as long as I’d expected,” Malwina said. “The inventory problems do seem to be getting worse though.”

“I’m guessing that means you won’t have a chance to get together again tonight?” Zin asked.

There were all sorts of traps Zin could set if Malwina was intent on revenge more than slinking off into the shadows. Of course the same was true in reverse as well. Which was what made the game so fun.

“Oh, I’d be delighted to see you again, but I don’t think I’ll be quite up for it tonight,” Malwina said.

“Your inventory problems are that bad?” Zin asked. “Anything I could help you with?”

“I suppose that depends where you are now?” Malwina asked.

The comm like clicked off, Zin’s mic having been disabled from another station.

“Don’t you dare answer that,” Morcross said.

“Perhaps she should,” Olono said.

“We don’t really need to fight the whole gang at once,” Morcross said.

“We won’t have to,” Zin said, seeing the plan that was taking shape in Olono’s mind. She flicked the switch to activate her mic again. “I’m on Kestrel Avenue. No, wait, make that Dindar Boulevard. Or, no, hope that was an empty building. Okay it looked like it was. Anyways I’m at the spaceport now. We’ve got some loading to do, but I don’t think that will take very long at all.”

“Excellent. See you soon then,” Malwina said and cut the connection.

“Us and the planetary Navy which is doing drills here,” Zin said, wondering if she’d at least get to have one last dance with the woman who was pretty certainly set on trying to kill her.

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