Managed to retrieve the archaeologist, the Republic insertion team now tries to escape the clutches from the Hutt. Speeding away in their transport, they have to reach an archaeological dig site, hopefully retrieving more information. The dusk is setting in, but will they reach it safely? Find out in the latest episode of Friend or Foe.
Ordo drove in stiff silence throughout the day, his jaw clenched. The day was turning gently into dusk. The fight for our lives earlier wasn’t what was getting to him – it was the archaeologist. He’d been in a moody and sullen silence since he’d seen her. It was the most remorse I’d ever seen him display about his vocation – wasn’t sure he had it in him.
“Why do you look as if someone snuck dinko toxin into your juma juice?” I finally dared to ask.
“I don’t generally see my contracts after delivery. Well, sometimes — once they’ve made it into a body bag.” The man shrugged in unconvincing casualness. “It won’t be a problem if she doesn’t make it a problem.” His tone clearly meant that was the end of the discussion. But it wasn’t to me.
“That’s not good enough. The archaeologist is mission-critical. If you’re going to be a problem for her, you’re a problem for me,” I said severely.
His eyes widened. I’d spooked him, apparently.
I sighed. “I’m Republic military. I’m not going to fire you with a firing squad. But if you’re going to become a liability, we don’t need to leave Tatooine together.” The man looked relieved, but unconvinced.
“I need to know one more thing. Why are you here?” I said with stone-cold eyes.
He looked away, silent for a long moment. “Revenge. Plain and simple,” he finally replied.
“Revenge is never plain and simple. Trust me, I know,” I said. “But revenge on whom? For what?”
“Honor,” Ordo said with pride. “I want to avenge my honor. Your Jedi friends might have figured it out already, but I…”
Someone knocked on the cockpit door. I turned to see Arako’ant standing in the entrance. She looked past me, at the bounty hunter.
“Are you sure about this? Do you want to tell him that? Because once you do, you cannot pretend your motives are otherwise. And we cannot afford revenge on this mission. Even Kaydein cannot focus on that,” she said, meeting my eyes briefly.
The man nodded. “He has to know. I am a descendent of Canderous Ordo, the Mandalorian companion of Revan. I want to honor my ancestor’s legacy and take revenge on those who have used us.” He said with force. “Centuries ago, during the Mandalorian war, the Republic wasn’t our real enemy, the Sith were. Even though we wanted to fight head to head with the Republic, the Sith used us for their own purpose, turned our struggle for honor into fuel for their treachery. We are not pawns to be used for their gain, or anyone else’s. Our motives, our victories, belong to us, not them.The Republic gave us a fair fight, a real head to head, without false pretenses. You didn’t like us, but you were a trustworthy adversary, even with your weaknesses. The Sith abused, distorted and defiled our battle honor. And I want vengeance for it.”
Part of me didn’t want to believe that Ordo’s motivations were so… pure. But from what I knew of Mandalorians, it made sense. And at least it was motivation enough to keep him from betraying us.
“Well, as long as your personal desire for vengeance doesn’t become something that interferes with what we’re doing, we can use your blasters. So unless it becomes a problem, your motivations are your concern. Now, is there something we need to worry about in this part of the world?” I asked, feeling somewhat better now that I was beginning to get a grip on the man.
“Besides the ones you just pissed off?” the man said with a small grin. “Well we have of course the Sand people. Nasty buggers that can overwhelm an unprepared group. Our group however…” he looked past me and the Twi’lek, “we shouldn’t be in too much trouble. As long as we don’t trample over one of their sacred burial grounds or something. Nobody really gets what provokes the Sand people most of the time.”
I looked outside. Only an hour ago, we broke out of the Hutts jail. The stars and moons were starting to creep up, an advantage and disadvantage at the same time. The otherwise harsh, blistering environment now was quite cold. But in this light, it was strangely beautiful. The Twi’lek woman was standing next to me, lost in thought.
“I’ll find her, I promise,” I said to her. She looked at me with eyes beyond her age.
“Yes, you did and you will again. But it… may not be how you expect,” she whispered. Ooh great, Force foresight. I rolled my eyes, before I realized she’d meant it as a comfort. I was ashamed that I was just whisking away a kind gesture.
A shout from O’Crave broke me out of my contemplation. “We’re being pursued, sir! A large group of speeders are coming our way. Think it’s safe to guess where they came from!”
The man yelled to his subordinates. “Load weapons!” A lot of movement went around in a small thing so fast. The soldiers were readying their guns and the snipers were taking position at the opened windows. “Fire at will,” the sergeant said.
The archaeologist dropped to the floor instinctively. I could hear her whimpering and muttering obscenities. Two shots were fired off from both of the scouts and two speeders went up into a flaming pile. The dying screams of our chasers turned the scene from beautiful to horrific. But there was a sound coming from afar that was far more ominous than the fleet of speeders. A large barge was coming from the dusk, as fast as it could. My eyes were wide. I’d pissed someone off big time.
“Open the backdoor!” I yelled. “Jarsons! Get that massive gun of your spinning and do some damage against that barge. We can’t have it run over us!” The sergeant and the heavy gunner looked at me with disbelief, but the sergeant recovered quickly. “You heard the man, move it, move it, move it! Bounty hunter! Get that ramp open!”
Ordo’s response was a press of the button and the backdoor opened up, which caused a drag on the sandy ground. Dust was making it difficult for the speeders to keep gaining us from behind. They left the direct approach and started to split up on our right and left side. Jarsons’ hesitation was gone however, and he fired away at the massive land vessel. Red flashes slammed into the front of the ship – but it didn’t make a dent. Two front ports slid open and gunners started to fire at us.Ordo swerved the transport at almost the same moment and we narrowly missed their shots. O’Crave directed the snipers at the gunners to get them out as fast as possible. The barge smashed against our back, pushing us forward.
At the same time, speeders were closing in. I tapped on Ordo’s shoulder to make him aware of the threat. When the barge subsided again, he banked the transport immediately into the grunts, doing to them what the barge was trying to do to us. Our transport rammed the speeder, knocking us all of balance, but plowing the much smaller vessel into the ground. I watched through the stern side and saw more speeders getting close. I drew my gun to fire at the goons, but their lighter vehicles easily maneuvered out of our range. Poodoo. I whistled to O’Crave and pointed at the side. He nodded and directed one of the other soldiers to the threat. We both fired at the group of four speeders.
The two Jedi watched the scene unfold, seemingly immobile. Osam looked like his muscles were straining. But then I saw his master nod to him and both of them walked to the ramp.
“What are you doing?” I shouted.
“Trust me, captain,” the Twi’lek said. She tapped Jarsons on his shoulder. “Jarsons, can you fire a missile at the front of the ship?” she asked.
“I hope so. We haven’t managed to get a dent in it with usual means. I just hoped we managed to soften it up.” He positioned himself better, typed the code in and a rocket flew to barge. A large explosion at the front was more directed at the side due to the look of the ship, but did make a hole in it.
The Jedi stood on the edge of the ramp and jumped at the opening that Jarsons made. The snipers took out the frontgunners before the two Jedi entered. Two flashes of light went up from the lightsabers and I could hear the battle going in inside. Dammit, why didn’t they stay here? I kept on shooting at the speeders that were swarming like a flock of Kashyyyk Gnasps. I managed to take one down, but there were plenty left shooting at us. The transport ship was shuddering with the damage taken. It wouldn’t last much longer. The massive barge that was leading the charge was getting quieter. Less shots were being fired and it wasn’t ramming into us anymore. The Jedi were doing their work, alright. Smoke filled the top of the barge. With the Jedi taking care of the barge, we could focus our fire.
“Aim at the speeders!” O’Crave shouted, coming to the same conclusion. The soldiers went to work. Smoke began to stifle the air behind us, and the barge began to shutter to both sides, bumping against two speeders, making both of them tumble into the sand. The two Jedi were standing at the top of the barge. Osam waved to let us know they were okay and wanted to enter the transport again.
“Ordo!” I shouted. “slow down! We have two friendlies incoming.”
With a giant leap the Mon Calamari and the Twi’lek landed back on the transport, and the nose of the barge was going into the sand.
Another speeder overheated and exploded somewhere to my right. The only two left alive retreated hastily.
“Was it the Hutt?” I asked the Jedi. Osam nodded. “Yes, however he wasn’t on it. Maybe because he knew he would hinder the pursuit.”
“Or he knew we would beat him,” retorted Ordo, a little glee on his face.
“Let’s just hope that the dig site is safe,” I responded.
To be continued…