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Slugs and Shells

Well-Known Member
Writer
C I R C U M T O R E
HUTT SPACE


“<Scrub harder, girl!>” boomed Orbaa, the shell hut crime lord, in his native tongue. “<I can’t see myself in it.>”

Inaya did as she was told. Leaning forward, she grunted with effort as she continued to polish the massive set of armor to a high sheen. It was not just any piece of armor; it was Orbaa’s new shell – specially made to fit the form of the hutt that was overflowing his current set. Most would agree that it was not a pretty sight. It was a rare occasion and Orbaa had seen to it that he would have a most memorable celebration to mark it. Circumtore was full of Orbaa’s fellow shell hutt brethren, most as greedy and enormous as he – and though they lacked the size, slavers, smugglers, and rough-sorts called this place home, too. But today, you might not know it, as the hangar and reception area had been made ready to receive guests of all kinds.

The slave girl had been at it all day, working to make the armor presentable. Her small hands ached something awful, but she wouldn’t utter even the slightest complaint, she knew better than that. Inaya knew full well that the shell hutt was standing over her shoulder, so she didn’t chance a glance behind. But, she could tell by the reflection that Orbaa wasn’t pleased. The distorted image before her made the hutt’s sneer all the more spine-chilling. As she braced for more yelling, an attendant interrupted.

It was time for Orbaa to get changed. “<Out!>” Commanded the hutt, and Inaya scrambled out of the room. Once the door was shut at her back, she breathed out a great sigh of relief. Dressed in tattered layers and a ratty knit poncho, the girl was not fit to be seen at such a gathering this evening. Oh yes, she had been told this already many times, but the curiosity was strong. It was well worth getting caught, especially if she could get away with a snack from the buffet. Wiping at her tangled, matted hair, she attempted to try and blend in as best she could. Her thin sandals padded along the corridor, carrying her cautiously forward.

Pausing by the hangar, she stuck close to the wall and peered inside.

Crouching down, she shrank her small form against the wall... hoping to remain out of sight of the men and women heading to the reception space. There were nice ships here tonight; they looked out of place next to all of the usual junkers. For a brief moment, the girl imagined that she was aboard one of those nice ships – being taken far, far away from Cirumtore.

Such luck wasn’t hers, but she could still dream.

[member="Cassius Droma"]
 

Cassius Droma

Jedi Archaeologist
Character
“How do I look, Tee-Four?” Cassius Droma asked, standing in front of the mirror in his quarters on the Stardust Melody. Face freshly-shaven, hair perfectly coifed and combed over, as well as a black suit with gold trimmings and a matching half-cape, he certainly didn’t look like his usual Jedi pilot self. Even his onyx boots had been polished. As much as the young man found the outfit unusual for himself, he couldn’t help but like it.

“Like we’re about to go buy some slaves,” the K-X series droid said in his typical sarcastic drone. Even the droid had been spiffed up – scratches and dings repaired, and an even shine to all of his panels. The Silver Jedi had certainly spared no expense in sending the two of them on this mission.

About a month ago, slavers had been caught trying to bring merchandise into Trandosha. While the local authorities had handled it, the Silver Shadows were interested to know where they had come from in order to stop this particular group from trafficking. They had traced it back to the Hutt world of Circumtore, coming from the crime lord Orbaa. A perfect opportunity to infiltrate Orbaa’s palace and either collect intel or do damage to the operation came in the form of a soiree being put together for Orbaa’s new shell – because that was apparently a thing. Either way, events like this usually had a dual purpose: the actual celebration, and a slave auction held in a back room somewhere.

Since invitations were scarce, only one could go, and Cassius had been chosen as the best man for the job. He wouldn’t deny that he had a tendency to be able to talk, blast, or fly his way out of most situations, but as a Jedi… he wasn’t sure. Cassius had neglected to tell his higher ups, or really anyone, that he felt he was steadily losing his connection to the Force, that his lack of training and practice was starting to take a toll on him. Still, he had both of his weapons, his A180 blaster and lightsaber strapped to his back. He had a feeling that if everything hit the fan, he’d go for his blaster first.

Stepping off of the ramp, he took a second to look at the freshly cleaned Stardust Melody. He usually liked to keep it clean himself, but it had been given a thorough scrubbing once he was green-lit for the mission. Apparently, there weren’t any other nice-looking transports available. Either that, or Jyoti was just being stingy.

Turning with a small flourish of his cape, he walked towards the main entrance, T-4D4 right behind him and to the left. Cassius took note of the various dignitaries and crime lords posing as dignitaries congregating at the line to the entrance. His cover was that of a successful tibanna salesman from Balamak, one that would be invited, but not too heavily scrutinized.

As he stepped in line behind a rather robust Rodian, a small shiver went down his spine. Not one of fear, but one of apprehension. The Force was trying to tell him something – if he were a stronger Jedi, he might have been able to pinpoint just what. It was almost as if eyes were watching him from somewhere. Furrowing his brow, he took a look around, and suddenly locked eyes with a small girl standing in a doorway a little far off. She certainly didn’t look like an attendee – she looked more like someone who didn’t want to be here. Like a slave.

Before he could do or say anything, T-4 tapped him on the shoulder. It was his turn in line. Stepping forward, he brandished his invitation, eyebrow raised, a faux air of superiority about him. The droid guard quickly scanned it, then motioned inside.

He was in.

[member="Inaya"]
 
Well-Known Member
Writer
Inaya’s gaze finally left the ships and traveled along the long line of party guests. They were clad in expensive fabrics, they wore polished shoes, and they all looked like they belonged somewhere much nicer than this. But, Inaya had seen their type before – they looked this way to impress. Flaunting their wealth and power was the norm, and Orbaa charged them top credits for slaves. Yes, this was a fact that she knew well, for she had seen it.

And then, her dark eyes met with orbs of green.

Locked in the gaze for a long moment, she blinked. But then it dawned on her – she’d been spotted. Her sandals slid as she scampered quickly towards the reception area, using her small size to her advantage. Easily lost in the sea of people, she used the full skirt of a woman to sneak by the guards at the giant archway that marked the entrance to Orbaa’s gathering.

Winding her way through the crowd, she knew that she’d have to be careful. The shell hutt would have eyes everywhere, especially tonight. Slipping to the side of the room, she hid in the curtains that draped down against the wall. Clutching at the plush velvet, her thoughts traveled back to the hangar, where she’d seen the sharply dressed man and his droid companion. Was it possible that someone could feel different than others? Inaya wondered silently if this guest was different – it was a feeling that she couldn’t send away.

Parting the curtain only just, she peeked out. Inaya searched the room --perhaps for the man she’d seen in the hangar – maybe she wasn’t even sure what she was looking for. But the smell of delicious food made her stomach growl, accompanied by the painful pangs of an ever-empty stomach. Pressing her lips together, the girl got up the nerve to stick her hand out towards the table… but withdrew it quickly as a member of Orbaa’s hired hostesses brought in a new group of guests.

A close call.

[member="Cassius Droma"]
 

Cassius Droma

Jedi Archaeologist
Character
The party was certainly lavish. One would have thought that Orbaa had wanted to make his guests feel catered to, but Cassius knew better than that. For the Hutts, it was all about them, and the party guests were merely the audience for the show of wealth and splendor. Reds, golds, and whites dominated the décor, so Cassius felt slightly out of place with his black suit. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves though, an entire cacophony of aliens and humans in increasingly interesting yet weird garb.

As he stepped down the velvet steps into the larger sunken mingling area, he couldn’t help but think about the little girl he’d seen peeking at him in the hangar. That was who he was here to save, certainly, but why couldn’t he shake the thought of her? He’d seen the poor and the destitute before, as well as slaves. Even before he was a Jedi, he was chasing around slavers in the Outer Rim near Rinn. So why was this different?

Regardless, Cassius scanned the room, visually and with the Force, and didn’t see Orbaa the Hutt just yet. Perhaps he was still squeezing into his new set of armor. On another pass, he spotted little feet dashing along the curtains next to the walls – maybe it was the same girl as before. If he could somehow gain her trust, maybe she could show him where the rest of the slaves were being held. It was excellent intelligence-gathering opportunity.

She was hanging out by the buffet table – he didn’t blame her. He wasn’t even starving and yet the food looked absolutely appetizing. Slowly, he made his way over to the long table, only pausing briefly to acknowledge a few people as he passed by. T-4D4 stayed close, his sensors working in overtime to identify and categorize every face and weapon in the room. Roars of laughter, the clinking of glasses, excited conversation – it was hard to believe all of these people were criminals.

Positioning himself between the table and the wall, he grabbed a sweet roll from a silver platter and quickly placed it behind his back. The motion and look of his arm seemed natural, and he even picked up a stick of some sort of cheese with his other hand to distract from it. The roll would now be in full view of the girl, ready for her taking. He even wiggled it slightly, so as to make it obvious.


[member="Inaya"]
 
Well-Known Member
Writer
A sliver of light made its way between her curtains; Inaya watched the party progress from her hiding spot. It was such a sight, the lively space before her was hardly the Circumtore she knew. But, after a day or two, things would be back to normal – just as sad and grimy as it always was. The girl’s brow furrowed for a moment, for she realized that the vast amount of dishes out in the party space would be hers to wash. The mess left behind from the party was going to be huge. However, that thought alone wasn’t quite enough to put a damper on her mood.

As her light disappeared behind the shadow of a man, Inaya quickly shrank back against the wall and clapped a hand over a small gasp.

She remained still and quiet for a long moment, but as she pulled the curtain open a tiny bit, she saw that there was a tantalizing sweet bun behind the man’s back. Inaya’s mouth started to water almost immediately. And, as if she needed another sign, the bun wiggled in his hand – an open invitation. A small hand gingerly pushed past the velvet, and then snatched the bun with surprising speed. Holding the sweet bun up to her mouth, she ate greedily. How she wanted to savor the sweetness, but the hunger that gripped her was strong.

As she stuffed the last piece into her mouth, she pondered the man standing just outside her curtain. It was surely the same one from before. She could tell, even without having the confirmation of seeing his face. He knew she was there, and he had offered her food. Could it be that he truly wanted to help? Or was it simply pity? Inaya wasn’t sure, but she knew one thing: she would take advantage of this situation.

“T-tank you,” her small voice spoke up, unsure if she’d gotten the words right.

She parted the curtains just enough to let him see, should he turn around. Her index finger rose and pointed silently in the direction of the meat skewers, hoping the man would oblige.

[member="Cassius Droma"]
 

Cassius Droma

Jedi Archaeologist
Character
She’d accepted his gift – good. A part of him feared the interaction would end there, but she even showed her appreciation in broken Basic and asked for something else, in her own way. Poor thing – if her Basic was that bad or at least that heavily accented, she had probably been in servitude her whole life, at least during her developmental stages. She’d probably been around Hutts for too long, and only understood their brash, disgusting language.

He immediately decided to oblige her request, but a particularly hefty Gran stepped up to the table. He gave a hearty laugh as he scooped up a large meiloorun and nearly ate half of the entire fruit in one bite. Stepping to the side a little, Cassius plucked two meat skewers from the table. He scanned the immediate area to make sure no one was looking, but instead spotted something else. There was a stone archway that, if Cassius’s study of the interior plans for the building served him well, led to a hallway that eventually went out to a balcony.

So, instead of passing the meat skewer through the curtain like he had before, he headed for the archway. Before passing through, he looked through the space between the wall and the curtain and spotted the little girl, motioning her to follow. If she was quick enough, she could zip out of the curtain and get into the hallway before anyone saw. T-4D4 stood by as well, to cover the view of the girl from behind if she followed Cassius.

The hallway was one for the servers, and while Cassius got a few strange looks, the way he carried himself demanded that he not be questioned. Eventually, there was a sharp right turn and the small balcony opened up. He stepped to the side of the door and leaned against the railing, waiting for his new friend, delicious meat skewers too good to pass up. Maybe he could ask her a few questions, with T-4D4 translating if need be.

[member="Inaya"]
 
Well-Known Member
Writer
Inaya’s eyes grew wide and a smile appeared on her face as the man moved towards the meat skewers, but the grin disappeared quickly as an alien approached the buffet. Shrinking quickly back into the curtains, she watched as the Gran had a very hearty bite of fruit. Peeking out again, she spotted the skewers in the suited man’s hand.

Straightening up, she watched as he then proceeded to take the food away from the table, and towards an archway. Inaya saw his signal, a quick motion that beckoned her to follow. Her dark eyes darted, and then she slipped out from her cover. Small feet carried her swiftly; she was pretty good at moving about without being noticed. Skidding into the server’s hall, she paused to look around for the man. She doubted very much that he’d gone deeper into the servant’s area, so she went out towards the balcony.

And there he was, leaning up against the railing.

The girl paused there for a long moment, clearly conflicted. Should she trust this person? Would she be scolded extra harshly if Orbaa found her keeping a party guest company? But the lure of another bite of food was too strong.

“Da's che je?” She spoke in Huttese, inquiring if the second sewer was for her. “Give me?”

Stepping out into the open air of the balcony, she joined the man in the black suit. However, she stood at an arm’s length, eyes on the food. Inaya was tempted to reach out at snatch the skewer, but she suppressed the urge. Instead, her hand fidgeted with a hand-made bracelet that hung around her opposite wrist – a black twine macramé with a wooden bead; at one time it had been fairly attractive-looking, but now as rather worn.

[member="Cassius Droma"]
 

Cassius Droma

Jedi Archaeologist
Character
He could hear her little feet scampering behind him as she followed. Now he was really getting somewhere. As he got out onto the balcony, she looked at him with an almost hopeful face. He could tell that she was still leery of him, but he was offering her something no one else would: kindness.

Leaning down, he offered one of the meat skewers out to her. Part of him wanted to give her both, but he remembered something that a medical officer told him once: don’t give too much food to people that were starving. It could do more harm than good.

So, he kept the other skewer for himself, in order to make it seem like they were enjoying a meal together rather than him just tempting her with food. Taking a bite, he had to admit that the meat was quite savory. The Hutts truly paid no expense when it came to gluttony.

T-4D4 stood at the door to the balcony at the ready, blocking the view of anyone who might pass by. Confident that no one would disturb them, Cassius leaned over to the girl. Her Huttese had sounded better than her Basic, but she at least seemed to have a grasp of the common language. Cassius figured he could try and brush up on his Huttese… he’d learned some of it while patrolling the Outer Rim.

Doth hee baua bacaka uba?” Cassius asked. “Are there others like you?”

Jee banag bai yauma uba,” Cassius continued, Jee banag bai yauma hoohah.”

“I want to help you. I want to help them.”

[member="Inaya"]
 
Well-Known Member
Writer
Inaya gladly accepted the skewer and nibbled at it with a wide grin. Unlike the bun, she took her time and savored every small bite. There was little chance to re-enter the party and take some more, and she knew that there would be only the tiniest scraps left by morning. Orbaa, like his fellow shell hutts, had enormous appetites. Glancing up every now and then, she smiled at the blonde man as they ate together. It was a rare thing to share a meal with someone else.

Dark eyes shifted towards the doorway, her shoulders tense for a brief moment. It was only the droid, and it almost looked like he was standing guard for them. The girl relaxed and continued to eat, pushing the cooked meat down to the bottom of the skewer and finishing it off in a single bite.
Blinking, she fixed her gaze on the man. He’d spoken to her in Huttese.

Inaya gave a small nod to his question.

Indeed, there were many like her here on Circumtore. Orbaa had quite a collection of slaves himself. The girl stared hard for a moment, watching closely – and using her feelings, too. Sometimes, she felt strange when people spoke to her, almost like she could feel their lies. But this time, there was no such sensation. Inaya came to realize that this man really had come to help; he was the person that she had been waiting for.

“Please,” She would say, eyes lighting up with hope.

But before she could utter another word, the voice of Orbaa came booming from inside. The mighty shell hutt had arrived in his new (and very shiny) set of armor. Seized by fear at the sound, Inaya’s small form went rigid. Swallowing hard, she looked to her savior. Her small finger pointed past the droid and straight down the hallway – the slave quarters.

“Jee-jee, hurry!” Inaya whispered, mixing her Huttese and Basic.

[member="Cassius Droma"]
 

Cassius Droma

Jedi Archaeologist
Character
The girl seemed excited at his confession that he was here to help her, and those like her. Now that he had his inside man (woman… girl?) the plan was… what, exactly? He’d just made a promise to this girl, that he would set her free. He wasn’t about to go back on that. In all honesty, he could probably just take her back to the Stardust right at that moment and just fly away. However, he knew he could do better than that.

He needed to bring the whole house down.

Noticing that the girl flinched, Cassius was about to ask her what was wrong, but then he could hear the booming voice of a Hutt. Orbaa, he could only assume, her master. Applause could be heard emanating from the party area where they had just come from. He had missed the grand reveal – too bad. If anything, it gave them time. If Orbaa was out in the main hall, then the auction wouldn’t be until later.

The young girl pointed down the hallway, presumably where the other slaves were held. Nodding to her, he squeezed past T-4D4 and continued down the hallway. The further they got, the less activity there was, the darker it got, and the more the ambient noise of the party faded away. It was almost chilling, the transition from lavish party to seedy underbelly with just a few steps.

With a squeal, a Gamorrean guard revealed himself in a doorway. Snorting at the black-suited Cassius, he inquired as to what he was doing down here. “Oh, sorry… I just got a little lost…” he began to say. Before the guard could even raise his axe to block them from going further, Cassius reached out his hand, concentrating with all of his might on the primitive mind on the Gamorrean. Sleep, he commanded, and the guard crumpled to the ground.

Cassius took a deep breath. That took a lot out of him just then, and it shouldn’t have. A Gamorrean’s mind was so simple. Still, he looked to his new friend, hoping she could guide him further.

[member="Inaya"]
 
Well-Known Member
Writer
Indeed halls like this were Inaya’s home. They were dark and oppressive; the walls seemed to close in the further they went. Here, the grime and filthy living conditions became a reality – this was a place that the pretty party decorations just couldn’t reach. All the while, the girl’s eyes shifted warily, and her hands clutched the front of her poncho.

Jumping as the Gamorrean appeared, Inaya automatically cowered. The guards were simple, but they were mean. This she knew from experience. Peeking, she stood in quiet awe as the suited man made the guard fall to the ground. Inaya’s dark eyes flickered from the man and then to the Gamorrean, this was power unlike anything she’d seen before. As the guard drew deep, sleep-induced breaths and pushed out a snore… Inaya looked down at her own palm, she could only dream of such abilities.

“We go,” She said, knowing that they couldn’t linger.

As she continued down the hall with her new friend at her side, her strides were just a bit more sure and straight. Inaya’s small steps guided them down the corridors, until they reached a place most dark and depressing. It was a large chamber with make-shift beds and shabby sleeping mats. Multiple sets of wide-eyes turned in their direction. Some of the slaves relaxed upon seeing it was just Inaya, but others remained cautious of the stranger at her side.

“This friend,” Inaya wanted to reassure the others and gave a nod to the suited man, whose name she didn’t know yet. Na-nam…. is?”

“Mine,” She gave her chest a pat. “Inaya.”

She stepped between a few of the mats on the floor, until she reached a sad-looking corner sleeping place. There were thin blankets and a rolled up towel for a pillow, but very little to give any cushion against the stone floor.

[member="Cassius Droma"]
 

Cassius Droma

Jedi Archaeologist
Character
The hall went on, worn stone that was probably once pristine and white now looking brown and moldy. His nostrils instinctively flared at the smell that was becoming stronger and stronger. Luckily, there was no more resistance as they reached the slave quarters, and Cassius’s face fell into a frown. He looked upon them with just pity and guilt. How could people live like this?

His new companion assured the rest of them that he was not here to harm them. It might have been confusing, considering how he was dressed like those that oppressed them. He was asked his name, after the girl offered hers: Inaya. His eyes locked with hers again. This girl… did she know anything of compassion, love, or happiness? Did she, or any of them, know what it was like to go to sleep in a bed that was comfortable, and with a belly that wasn’t hungry?

Inaya would know. They would all know, because they were leaving with him tonight.

“Cassius,” he said. “My name is Cassius.” He pointed to himself. Looking to the rest of the slaves, he motioned for them to follow. While he was supposedly a Jedi Shadow, Cassius knew that there was no way he could sneak this many people out of here without running into some sort of trouble. If the blaster bolts starting flying… someone might get hit.

As they crept through the hall, Cassius pulled out his A180 blaster from behind his back and handed it to T-4D4. “You’re going to need this,” he whispered, and then retrieved his lightsaber from the same place on the small of his back. “Do you even remember how to use that?” T-4D4 asked, and Cassius tossed him a sideways glance. It had been awhile since he’d practiced, yes. “Yeah – but don’t stand too close so I don’t lop one of your legs off.”

Leaning down to Inaya, he asked, “Is there another way out? Mocma doueha? Sneaky way out?”

[member="Inaya"]
 
Well-Known Member
Writer
The eyes of all in the room were on the man that had just introduced himself as Cassius, Inaya’s brown orbs fixed him in a particularly hopeful gaze. There were murmurs exchanged between slaves, their faces displayed a mix of confusion and quiet awe. As he motioned for them to follow, it was clear that they were unsure. The punishment for getting caught would be severe – it might even spell death for some. At that moment, Inaya felt as though the seconds began to stretch out before her.

Could this really be her time to leave? Would this be the last time she was called slave? It had to be.

As Cassius began to move, she quickly threw her sleeping mat to the side to uncover a small linen pouch. Her only worldly belongings were enough to fit inside, and the pouch, in turn, fit perfectly into the palm of her hand. Inaya’s feet padded swiftly along the stone floor, fast enough to catch her up with Cassius and his droid. The girl watched as the man drew a strange weapon from the small of his back, and she craned her neck to see it as he brought it forward.

Inaya’s young heart skipped a beat.

Blinking, she paused as Cassius addressed her. It took a moment for his words to register, but her face lit up with understanding. “Tagwa!” She confirmed, “Dis way.”

Taking a turn, she brought them down a small staircase that ended in another set of corridors – dank and dimly lit. It was the way to the kitchens, evident by the aromas left behind from preparations of the banquet. This passage was meant for servants and was traveled by very few others; the Shell Hutts in their largeness would be hard pressed to fit inside these walls. Inaya went this way on occasion, whenever she meant to nick a bite or two from the meals being made.

Once inside the kitchen, she led the way, tip-toeing over the food scraps the lined the tile floor. Passing through, they were met with another service hall on the opposite side. Trash was usually taken out this way.

“Ship… place,” She pointed down the hall, hoping that he would understand she meant the hangar. “It is go back… tah doe party.”

This way would bring them dangerously close to where Cassius and Inaya had first entered the party, but if they were lucky… all attention would be on Orbaa.

[member="Cassius Droma"]
 

Cassius Droma

Jedi Archaeologist
Character
As far as freeing slaves went, this had gone pretty smoothly. In his old piloting days, Cassius would no doubt be rolling out of the way of a concussion missile right about now, deftly moving around in order to fire on pirate starfighters. Now, he’d already made friends with a slave, and was leading the rest of them out of the building.

Maybe things were just easier on the ground.

Inaya was already so helpful, he was already thinking of maybe keeping her around. Someone had to teach her how to speak proper Basic, right? For now, though, he had to focus on the mission at hand. This was only a small number of slaves out of the entire population of Circumtore, he knew that, but it was better than leaving empty-handed. The real problem was much more nebulous, and couldn’t be hacked at with a lightsaber or shot at with a blaster pistol.

As they were lead down different corridors and past the kitchen area, Cassius made sure to stay right next to Inaya, ready to get in front of her for defense if need be. A few of the service workers gave them strange looks, but Cassius gave them hard stares and placed a finger over his lips. Nothing to see here. Move along.

They finally reached a hallway where the ‘ship place’ was nearby. He nodded to her, and motioned for her to stay put while he scouted ahead. Creeping along the stone wall, he eventually came to a metal door. With a push of a button, it quickly slid open, revealing the hangar bay to him. It certainly was an out of the way kind of entrance – no one would have thought to come in through here.

Peeking his head out to get a better look, he grimaced as he spotted the main entrance where he had come in just minutes before. That meant that they would be visible to any security droids if they went to his ship, which was on the opposite side of the hangar. There were also a few droids patrolling around the vessels, no doubt some of them private security from the guests.

Looking back, he motioned for the rest of the group to join him at the exit. Cassius looked to his tall droid as he walked up. “Tee-Four, take them to the Stardust. Blast anyone you have to. I’ll distract them for the meantime. It’s going to be a bumpy ride out of here, so… you know what to do.” The droid gave a curt nod. The shields and cannons would be the first thing to be powered up on the ship. Kneeling down to Inaya, Cassius said. “You go with droid. Friend,” he pointed to T-4D4.

“Alright, go,” Cassius waved them out, and the Jedi ran, more towards the center lane of the hangar where it was cleared. They were halfway across the hangar bay before the droids took notice and immediately started to target them. Blaster bolts started flying, but Cassius firmly planted his feet. Emerald blade humming to life, Cassius began to deflect the bolts coming their way in order to provide ample cover.

Part of him was glad that he still had some shred of Jedi in him, but for the most part, it took every ounce of concentration to bat the glowing needles of doom away.

[member="Inaya"]
 
Well-Known Member
Writer
Nodding, Inaya kept hidden in the hallway when Cassius motioned for her to stay. She gave a small glance over her shoulder at the others; they were quiet now, but seemingly hopeful. Their eyes watched the suited man. But she could tell that there was worry, she could feel it somehow. Some of these slaves had been on Circumtore much longer than she; some had even attempted escape before. No matter the nerves, Inaya knew that this was well worth the risk – they all knew it.

Watching closely, Inaya and the others spotted the signal to move.

Keeping close to the wall, the group went swiftly as they could, only the sound of shuffling footsteps to give them away. Luckily, it was muffled sort of sound that wasn’t heard over the din of the party. There was music still flowing out into the surrounding halls, but the sound faded as they arrived at Cassius’ location. Inaya clutched her small linen pouch tightly in her palm, listening as the man had an exchange with the droid.

She hadn’t quite caught what was said, however, she paid extra attention when Cassius knelt to speak with her directly. Looking into his green eyes, she knew that she could trust him. Letting her eyes track towards the droid, she gave a tiny nod. Inaya felt hesitant to leave the man’s side, but she would follow his direction.

“We go,” She said, looking to the others.

Following on the heels of her new droid friend, she hurried towards the ship. However, the startled cries of the others made her pause momentarily. Security droids had spotted them. Inaya felt a swell of fear hit her hard, watching with wide eyes as Cassius stepped forward. But much to her surprise, he was able to block the bolts fired. This man was certainly different from any she’d met before.

Inaya felt a hand grab for her sleeve and pull her across the gap and to the ship’s ramp.

“Hurry, hurry!” She called, in a frightened tone.

Back in the banquet hall, heads were already beginning to turn towards the hangar.

[member="Cassius Droma"]
 

Cassius Droma

Jedi Archaeologist
Character
The blaster bolts began to come with increased frequency as more security droids crept into the hangar. Even the personal bodyguards of the guests began to pull their blaster pistols and join the fray. At the moment, Cassius was twirling this way and that in the center row between all of the ships. The droids and other guards were slowly advancing from the main entrance, sure to keep their distance. They knew what Jedi were capable of.

Cassius turned his head towards the Stardust Melody, just in time to watch T-4D4 blast an incoming droid at near point-blank range. Pushing a button on his arm, the tall droid triggered the loading ramp of the YT-1000 light freighter. He ushered everyone else to run up the ramp while he covered them. “The turrets will be around the corner and to the left, if anyone wants to cause some collateral damage,” T-4 called out as the now freed slaves rushed by him. Perhaps it wasn’t exactly what Cassius would want, but blowing up some of these other ships and maybe even a few of the more deplorable guests would be welcome.

A blaster bolt zipped right by Cassius’s face, close enough that he could feel the heat from it as it passed by. With one more step, he managed to hide behind a small shuttle, giving him the chance to catch his breath. The blasting didn’t let up though, and the thump thump of bolts hitting the bulkhead next to him was louder than he thought it would be. Peeking out for just a moment, he could see that they were advancing more now. He heard a disgruntled growl come from the entrance. A bulbous Hutt, in shining new armor, slithered his way towards the door, his seething glare visible through his helmet.

As much as Cassius wanted to run his lightsaber through the disgusting slug, getting away was more important. Making a break for it, Cassius ducked his head as streaks of red flew by. He could already hear the engines starting up as he raced up the ramp, making a hard right turn and heading for the cockpit. T-4D4 was already in the co-pilot’s chair, priming everything and getting the shields activated.

“I hope everyone’s found a comfortable seat…” Cassius muttered under his breath as he lifted the ship off, quickly retracting the landing gear and turning the ship so it was lined up with the mouth of the hangar. More blaster bolts pelted the ship, but the just-activated deflector shields rendered them harmless. Just a few more seconds, and the engines would be ready to blast them out of here…

[member="Inaya"]
 
Well-Known Member
Writer
Clustered behind T-4D4, Inaya and the rest of the slaves watched as the droids took notice. Wide-eyed, Inaya could only squeeze the small pouch in her hand. But, the droid-friend was quick to protect them – just like the man in the suit. It was surreal to such young eyes. Things like this did really happen, not just in stories. As Inaya was ushered towards the ramp of Cassius’ fast ship, she knew that this day would live on in her memory forever – and in stories, too.

Some of the others rushed inside and went immediately to the turrets. However, their hands were hesitant to touch anything. Wringing her own hands, Inaya stood conflicted. She knew what these things did, they could kill people. Was it so wrong if bad people were harmed?
Stepping forward, Inaya’s small finger touched against the trigger.

Jumping as a single round shot forth, Inaya’s mouth dropped open as it hit a rather fancy ship. Gritting teeth, she was thankful that she hadn’t hit the shuttle that Cassius was using for cover. There were murmurs behind her, and then a whisper near her ear.

Orbaa…”

Even now, the mere sight of the hutt made blood run cold.

Pressing her lips into a thin line, Inaya suddenly stood tall. Her young mind was made up. As she saw Cassius bound for the ship, she swiveled the turret and fired. The shot would glance the shiny hutt shell, sending Orbaa back against the wall. The girl knew that the shell hutt would live to see another day, for his armor was built for just such an occasion. But, she was pleased to see that she’d left his newest set dented and scorched.

As the ship began to lift off, Inaya went to find Cassius. Though she did not know the layout of the ship, she found that she could follow her feelings – she felt where he was. After making it to the end of this unseen trail, she stood in the doorway of the cockpit.

“Whoaaa,” Her mouth opened to whisper.

Freedom was so close now.

[member="Cassius Droma"]
 

Cassius Droma

Jedi Archaeologist
Character
Suddenly, there was a loud boom… a turret fired from their own ship. Whipping around, he followed the trajectory of the blast as it smacked into the Hutt that has slithered up to the hangar. Looks like someone wanted to see Orbaa get squashed. Without paying it too much mind, Cassius raced up the ramp and into the cockpit.

“Someone on the turrets?” Cassius asked as he slid into the seat and began prepping on his own side. T-4D4 shrugged dismissively, and Cassius shot him a look.

With a deep electronic whine, the Stardust Melody swung into place, the soft p-tews of blaster bolts echoing throughout the craft. Hopefully, their new friends had found their way to the lounge area and sat down securely. This was certainly no passenger craft, but it would have to do for their purposes. Cassius watched the engine status with earnest as he boosted power to the shields.

The little girl, Inaya, soon joined them in the cockpit. Cassius shot a glance in her direction and nodded to one of the seats, urging her to sit. Once he was sure she was secure, he pushed the thrust forward. With a thunderous roar, the blueish white engine bar of the ship ignited and propelled them out of the hangar. Cassius immediately pulled the ship up, hoping to avoid any sort of turbolasers that the palace might have been armed with.

“Go ahead and punch in the coordinates for the jump, Tee,” Cassius said as he pushed the throttle to its near-maximum in order to break the atmosphere. The familiar heaviness on his chest from the G-forces were present, and Cassius hoped that his passengers weren’t too sensitive to space travel.

Once the sky changed from blue to black and speckled with light, Cassius had his hand on the silver hyperdrive handle. Clear of the gravity well of the planet, he eased it forward, and the stars streaked around them until they entered the endless blue tunnel of hyperspace.

[member="Inaya"]
 
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