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Aronoke’s hands were sweating slightly on the hilt of his lightsaber.  He stopped to wipe them on his robe.  He tugged at the helmet of his suit, which felt awkward and uncomfortable bunched down about his neck.  Too bulky.  He felt unpleasantly conspicuous without the hood of his robe to conceal his face, but told himself that this was no time to be worrying about that.

The hold of the pirate ship was filled with all sorts of equipment its narakite owners doubtlessly found useful in plying their vicious trade.  Grappling guns and welding torches.  Laser cutters, vibrosaws and robotic jaws to cut their way into the ships of uncompliant victims.  They were slavers, as most of the nomadic space-faring narakite clans were, and blocks of carbonite were clamped to the walls of the hold, each containing an unfortunate captive.  Aronoke had thought of Hespenara immediately when he saw those, and wondered anew what it felt like to be frozen like that.

You wouldn’t feel anything for very long, he thought.

“Follow my lead,” said Master Caaldor, directing Aronoke’s attention back to the matter at hand as the blast door into the main part of the ship slid back.

“Yes, Master,” Aronoke hardly had time to say before Master Caaldor was moving, running into the passageway beyond.  Aronoke followed behind him, not too close.  They had not fought side by side before, and he had no desire to get in Master Caaldor’s way.  To accidentally hit him.

Blaster bolts suddenly blazed from an open doorway ahead.  Most were deflected harmlessly by Master Caaldor’s swinging lightsaber, but one caught him in the side and he staggered, dropping to one knee.

For a heartbeat Aronoke hesitated.  This was an inauspicious start to his career.  He could see a possible future playing out in his mind’s eye.  Master Caaldor killed.  Himself quickly overwhelmed and taken prisoner by these pirates.  Frozen in carbonite like Hespenara.

No time for thinking like that.

Then he was sailing past Master Caaldor, parrying more blaster bolts with his own blade.  Covering his master and giving him time to recover.  He swung at the pirate in the doorway and cleaved through the blaster the narakite held.  There was an abrupt smell of ozone, hot metal, and something else.  Cooking flesh. The pirate cried out, part of a hand falling away with the blaster.  The rest of him fell back through the doorway out of sight.

Aronoke took cover behind the doorframe, feeling momentarily sick because of the pirate’s hand.  He swallowed hard and looked back at Master Caaldor.

“I’ll be fine,” called Master Caaldor, picking himself up and waving Aronoke forward.  “Take point.”

Aronoke peered cautiously around the edge of the hatchway without exposing himself.  He wondered nervously how many pirates were waiting in ambush there, besides the one he had injured.  Suddenly he realised that he had his senses clamped down tightly under control, just like he had during his early initiate trials.  He was running blind out of habit.  Behaving like a skimmer instead of a Jedi.

“Gundark piss,” he muttered, allowing his Force-senses free.  He could immediately sense the little knots of life in the Force-net around him.  Three pirates then, including the injured one.  Those were not moving, so they were watching, waiting for him to make a move.  Four further back, actively doing something.  He risked a glance around the door frame, drawing a few blaster bolts.  The further clump were hauling a mobile turret into position, were still setting it up.  That was the place he should strike.

As Master Caaldor limped towards his position, Aronoke swung around the doorframe, lightsaber ready, and flung himself along the corridor straight at the turret.  Blaster bolts pinged off his lightsaber blade easily.  He hardly had to think about parrying.  His force senses kept him safe, allowing him to react seemingly faster than was chissly possible.  Automatically.

All those practice routines had paid off.

One blaster bolt escaped his guard and scraped over his shoulder melting a patch of his suit.  Perhaps, he thought belatedly, he should have left that in the hold.  It would hardly be airtight now.  He would have to find another to get back to the ship.  Then his blade arced down through the turret.  Sparks shot out everywhere, cascading over him and the pirates, spattering against his suit.  The sparks quickly excalated into a small explosion, but Aronoke was ready.  The pirates were flung backwards, smashed into walls.  Aronoke staggered but kept his balance, the heat washing harmlessly over him. Unpleasantly hot, but not burning. Behind him he could hear a cry from one of the other pirates and then Master Caaldor was there beside him.

“Good work,” said Master Caaldor.

Aronoke felt a wash of pleasure at the compliment and told himself to stay focussed.  He looked ahead and saw an intersection.  Beyond was a heavy blastdoor that probably led to the bridge.  Aronoke could sense little knots of life waiting there on guard.

“Two more down that passage.  Four behind the door,” he whispered to Master Caaldor.  He knew his master’s senses were not as sharp as his own.  He was beginning to understand that he was unusually sensitive to minor fluctuations in the Force, more so than most Jedi.  Especially the fluctuations in living things.

“Let’s go straight through,” said Master Caaldor, and without further preamble he leapt ahead down the passageway.  He wasn’t limping at all now and moved very quickly for an old man.  Aronoke knew that Jedi didn’t age like other people, but it was still difficult to not have natural preconceptions.

Something rolled out of the passage to the side as he passed it.  A grenade, Aronoke saw, hissing green bilious smoke.  He clamped his mouth shut and held his breath, covering Master Caaldor as he drove his lightsaber into the control panel of the blast door, drawing a cascade of sparks.

The door remained stubbornly sealed, but very little could hold up to a lightsaber for long.  Aronoke knew that Jedi could hold their breath for a very long time, although he had never tested the limits of this personally.  Green gas was disspating through the corridor, the probing fingers of smoke spreading evenly to fill the air around him.  He concentrated on controlling his body’s need for air with the Force, but was beginning to feel dizzy.

“Do you think they’re down yet?” came one pirate’s voice from back around the corner.

“Are you crazy?” said the other.  “Can’t you hear that?”

That was Master Caaldor’s lightsaber cutting through the door.  Making slow progress.  Aronoke was glad when the door crashed open, the middle cut out of it.  He lost no time in following Master Caaldor through the opening into the space beyond where he could breathe normally again.  Between them they made quick work of the four pirates beyond.  One lost part of an arm and then the others were falling back, throwing down their guns.  Surrendering.  Aronoke sliced their dropped weapons in half and quickly swung his lightsaber through a rack of blasters and vibroblades that hung on the wall.  You didn’t leave your enemies armed, or even potentially armed if you could help it . Even as he cut through the guns, his skimmer self noted their destruction with mild dismay. How wasteful it all was!

“Quick thinking,” noted Master Caaldor approvingly.  “Stay here and guard these prisoners, Padawan, while I take the bridge.”

“Yes, Master,” said Aronoke.  He stood watching the prisoners, glaring at them with his best skimmer scowl, while Master Caaldor moved onto the bridge.  There were sounds of his lightsaber swinging through the air, a little blaster fire, a squeal and then nothing.  He had met little opposition.

“Bring them in here,” he called a minute later and Aronoke waved the pirate prisoners onto the bridge to join the others that Master Caaldor had captured.  He herded them into a little group with his lightsaber openly drawn.

“Good. Keep an eye on them while I contact the Perspicacity.  Perhaps we can make some kind of deal.”

The Perspicacity was the refugee ship that the pirates had attacked.  Where many of them were still located, looting and terrorising the refugees.

Aronoke nodded, keeping his Force-senses open to watch for the two pirates who had ambushed them with the gas grenade from the hallway.  They had fallen back, but he did not trust them to stay away for very long.

“Captain Krondark,” said Master Caaldor, speaking into the short-range holocommunicator on the bridge.  “As you can see we have defeated your men and taken your ship.”

“I already know you’ve taken our ship, Jedi scum[1],” said Captain Krondark.  “My men have been keeping in contact with your exploits.  Just don’t think you’re keeping it.”  He was a big, intimidating narakite with plenty of cyberwear, who reminded Aronoke of Careful Kras.

“I believe we can come to some sort of amicable arrangement,” said Master Caaldor.  “Say, your ship and crew in exchange for the refugee ship and the refugees.”

“Listen here, Jedi,” said Captain Krondark, leaning closer.  “You might think you’ve got us strung up over a rancor-pit, but you haven’t.  Not even close.  You’re a Jedi, see.  We know your kind.  You’re soft, like Bantha fat.  Get off our ship or we’ll start slaughtering some of these refugees.  There’s thousands here – no one will miss a few hundred or so.  Like these ones I have just here.”

He gestured, and one of his underlings swung into view, holding up a frightened young kubaz.  The pirate’s vibroknife was biting into the hostage’s throat.  Aronoke could see a trail of blood seeping down the young alien’s neck.

“You forget, Captain,” said Master Caaldor calmly, “we also have hostages.  There’s only so many crew members you can afford to lose before you won’t have enough to man your ship.  And I already know the refugee ship is heavily damaged.  You won’t be leaving on that any time soon.”

“Pfah,” said Captain Krondark.  “You won’t hurt my people.  Not if they have surrendered already. What about your famous Jedi code?”

“The Jedi code is overrated,” said Master Caaldor evenly.  “Jedi protect the galaxy from threats.  From people like you, Captain. You’re on the wrong side to think you or your men will be protected by that.  Aronoke, bring one of those prisoners here, where the Captain can see.”

Aronoke picked one of the prisoners, grabbed her by the back of her tunic, and pushed her forwards to the holocommunicator, his lightsaber still drawn in his other hand.

“We’re not going to slaughter them all again, are we Master?” he said in a not-so-low voice as he reached Master Caaldor’s side, playing to his Master’s bluff. “The Council was upset last time.”

It was not really the Jedi way to mislead people in this way, Aronoke knew, although it was very much the skimmer way.  But these were pirates and there were thousands of refugee lives at stake.  He didn’t believe Master Caaldor would actually slaughter or hurt the hostage, although he might scare her.

These pirates could do with a good scaring.

“If the Captain forces my hand I am given little choice,” said Master Caaldor, with malicious glee.  “Even the Council will see that, if it even finds out, which seems unlikely.  Now, Captain, we can still come to some sort of arrangement, reluctant as I am to deal with your kind of piratical filth.”  He stepped closer to Aronoke’s prisoner, angling his body to block Captain Krondark’s view of her momentarily.

“You are frightened,” said Master Caaldor softly, gesturing with his hand briefly in front of the prisoner’s face, and the prisoner obliging gasped in terror.

“I’m frightened,” she said.

“I think you know what your Captain does not,” continued Master Caaldor smoothly, walking around the frightened pirate.  “Jedi are the blade that cuts away the rotting flesh, removes the infection, so that the entire galaxy may be healed.”  He gestured to Aronoke, indicating he should go ahead.

Aronoke brought the humming blade of his lightsaber closer to the prisoner’s face, allowing it to hover close to the woman’s cybernetic implants.  He could feel her trembling in his grip and felt sorry for her.  He remembered clearly what it had felt like to have a lightsaber poised so close to his throat.

“I suggest you think quickly, Captain,” Master Caaldor was continuing.  “My padawan was a slave himself once.  His patience with your kind remains dubious at best.  An unfortunate if useful shortcoming.”

The Captain hesitated and muttered something about conferring with his officers.  He was playing for time, Aronoke thought, and wondered why.  He let his senses drift out beyond the bridge, where he could sense a small group of pirates coming down the hallway outside, with another supporting group further back.  He pushed the woman prisoner back towards the others, hard enough to make her stumble, and stepped out of sight of the holocommunicator. Catching Master Caaldor’s eye, he angled his head towards the hallway where the pirates were approaching.

Master Caaldor pointed at Aronoke and then at the hallway.  An obvious signal that Aronoke should deal with the threat.  Aronoke nodded.

The problem with blasters, Aronoke reasoned, was that it was difficult to shoot at someone in the middle of a group of your friends.  Such as someone with a lightsaber.  Close quarters was the safest place for him to be.

He ducked through the hatchway and rolled along the hallway into the midst of the approaching pirates, avoiding a few startled shots that blazed over his head.  Coming to his feet, he swung his lightsaber at the meanest looking of the three, a tall narakite with a strange cybereye. The narakite shouted and dodged, and Aronoke only caught him a glancing blow along one arm.

“Get him!” yelled the one he had hit, but it was as Aronoke had hoped.  The ones further back couldn’t get a clear shot at him without shooting their friends.  He kept moving, twisting, narrowly missed a thin narakite wearing a big red-and-gold badge, and parried a woman trying to hit him with the butt of her blaster rifle.

“Get out of the way, so we can shoot him,” yelled one of the pirates from further back and the ones near Aronoke tried to obey.  Aronoke parried another blaster shot, lost part of one of his boots to a blast from a skinny narakite as the latter retreated, shooting at Aronoke’s feet as he passed, and spun around to strike again at the one with the cybereye, who looked like the leader.  He had intended to take out the man’s weapon or possibly his arm, but had misjudged his position.  He felt the lightsaber travel all the way through the pirate’s body and smelt the deluge of guts as they tumbled to the ground.    There was a hiss of steam and smoke from burning blood.  Aronoke saw the man’s astounded expression as the rest of him collapsed a moment later.

“Bantha crap,” said the nearest pirate hysterically.  “I’m not fighting no Jedi.”  He threw his blaster down, cringing against the wall of the ship.

Aronoke swallowed hard against his own nausea.  He had never actually killed anyone before, although he had threatened to often enough during his career as a skimmer.  Had seen enough people die. He knew this man had been his enemy and wouldn’t have hesitated to kill him, but that didn’t make it much better.

Now was not the time to have a fit of hysterics.  Master Caaldor was counting on him.

He used his Force control to school his body’s reaction to the shock.

“Throw down your weapons!” he commanded.  The thin young Narakite threw down his rifle.  So did the woman who had struck at him.  Two of the others in the back group threw down their guns as well and put up their hands to show they were surrendering.

The youngest two at the back were looking shocked.  Aronoke looked at them and recognised the nearest one with a pang of disquiet.

It was the narakite from his vision.

“Come on!” yelled the other and together they dashed away down the corridor.  Aronoke tried to slam them against the side of the corridor with his Force powers, but he was too slow and unpracticed and they disappeared around a corner.  He considered for a moment and decided not to give chase.  He had to take control of these other prisoners.  Doubtlessly the two young pirates would join the others or hide somewhere.  They could be dealt with later.

He herded the other four onto the bridge.

“Ah,” said Master Caaldor, speaking on the holocommunicator again.  “Here is my Padawan having dealt with some more of your men.  Bring one of those new prisoners up here, Aronoke.”

Aronoke grabbed the woman who had swung at him with the butt of her rifle, and pulled her in range of the holocommunicator.

“Captain,” gasped the woman, still shocked from seeing Aronoke cut down the man with the cybereye.  “It’s no good. He cut Lieutenant Thurian in half!  His guts fell all over the floor.”

Aronoke tried to look mean, although he felt almost as shocked as the woman was.

“Cut him in half?” said the Captain, eyeing Aronoke uncertainly.  Something he saw seemed to decide him.  “All right, Jedi.  You win,” he growled.  “You’ve got your deal.”

“Good,” said Master Caaldor cheerfully.  “Aronoke, see to restraining these prisoners while the Captain and I discuss the details of the exchange.”

“Yes, Master,” said Aronoke.  He took the skinny narakite with the large badge to locate some restraints.  The man seemed to recover some of his composure while they walked through the ship.

“It’s not fair,” he complained to Aronoke.  “You Jedi are so powerful, how is anyone supposed to stand up against you?”

Aronoke shrugged. He was barely coming to terms with it himself.  Not long ago he had been just like this man, a normal person, or so he had thought.  Master Altus had seemed like a god.  Now Aronoke was training to become like Master Altus, in possession of abilities that he still didn’t fully understand. It seemed impossible.  Today seemed extra impossible.  Aronoke had not thought he would be doing things like this so soon.

“Here’s the restraints,” said the man bitterly, opening a locker.  “All best quality durasteel, blaster and vibroblade proof.”

Aronoke nodded, and gestured that the narakite should pick them up.  He escorted him back to the bridge where he made certain the prisoners were securely fastened out of reach of each other.

“Very good,” said Master Caaldor, when they were all chained up.  He looked more closely at Aronoke’s face.  “Are you all right?”

“Yes, Master,” said Aronoke a little wearily.  “I’m okay.”

He was not sure that he really felt okay, but he knew there was still work to do.  People to rescue.  Now was not the time to go to pieces.

“I suppose we should find ourselves some new suits,” said Master Caaldor reluctantly, looking at the hole in the side of his own suit and the missing boot of Aronoke’s.

“Yes, Master.  There were two more pirates that got away,” Aronoke told him.  “I think they escaped across to the other ship.”

“Ah well,” said Master Caaldor.  “That should make little difference.”

“One of them was the narakite I saw in my vision, Master,” said Aronoke.  “The one I told you about, that I had during my trials.”

“Oh, now that is interesting,” said Master Caaldor.  “What do you think you should do about it?”

It was exactly what Master Altus would say, and Aronoke felt a pang of sorrow, reminded that the mirialan Jedi was still missing.

“I’m not sure, Master,” he said at last.  “It would be good to be able to talk with her, at least.”

“Yes, I think that would be a good idea,” said Master Caaldor mildly.  “We shall have to see what we can arrange.”

“Yes, Master.”

Aronoke had not heard exactly what arrangements or threats Master Caaldor had made, but they were unhassled as they crossed over to the refugee ship.  Two suited pirates crossed back to the pirate ship at the same time.  None of the ship’s guns made any attempt to shoot at them, although Aronoke felt nervous at the thought.  If there was a good time for treachery, surely this was it, while they were dressed in suits passing between the two vessels.  Master Caaldor evidently had the same thought, for they lost no time making the crossing.  It helped that the pirate ship was very close to the refugee vessel, presumably to facilitate loading the pirates’ newly gained loot.  The guns could not easily swivel to aim at them there, and would be likely to damage the pirate ship if they did.

Once inside the refugee ship, Master Caaldor removed his helmet and Aronoke followed suit.  He was hit at once by the odour of a thousand unhappy sweating bodies confined within a vessel whose life-support and filtration systems were suffering serious liabilities.

They had not progressed far inside before they met a large group of the Narrakite pirates on their way back to their own vessel.

“Jedi,” said a large narakite that Aronoke recognised as Captain Krondark. He said the word like it was an offensive term. The pirates carried bundles and bags, doubtlessly containing the loot they had pilfered from the refugee ship. “You have a lot of nerve interfering with our business. You’ll pay for your interference one day. You might have got the the drop on us now, but there’ll be another time. You and your freaky alien sidekick.”

“You have to realize that this is only business, Captain Krondark,” said Master Caaldor, unperturbed. “I would think that someone like you would understand that. Now, we have a deal, and I mean to see that you keep your side of the bargain. It seems to me that as soon as you are back on your own ship you are in a good position to take revenge upon either us or these refugees. I’m willing to overlook those trifles you are carrying with you, but in exchange I want three hostages as insurance against your good behaviour until the refugee ship is ready to leave.”

Captain Krondark made a growling noise.

“I’m not going to let you harm any more of my people, Jedi,” he snarled, but Aronoke could see he was already peering at his companions as if he were deciding whom he would leave behind.

“They will not be harmed,” said Master Caaldor. “They will be left on the asteroid’s surface when we leave, with all their weapons and possessions. Padawan, choose three of the captain’s men and see that they are looked after.”

Aronoke had already seen the narakite from his vision amongst the captain’s men. She stood at the back of the group, angry and smouldering, glaring at him as though he were a demon. Aronoke picked another of the pirates first – an old hand with a wrinkled face – then the narakite who looked like Ashquash, and finally another young one, a scowling young man.

“These will do,” he said.

The pirate captain grumbled and Aronoke thought that these were not three pirates he would have chosen himself, but he seemed too intimidated by the Jedi to not comply.

Aronoke removed the three pirates’ weapons as their colleagues moved away towards the airlock.  Even as they stood there, he could sense the great unhappy bulk of refugees massing around them.  The vessel was large, but even so, it was crammed with thousands of passengers, many of whom were sick or injured.  Aronoke could see kubaz faces appearing in doorways along the hall.  Could hear the buzz of their conversation echoing through the metallic passageways.

The kubaz language was meaningless to him, but occasionally a recognisable word was repeated:  “…Jedi…”

Aronoke gestured that the prisoners should follow Master Caaldor and trailed along behind to make sure they behaved.  They had not moved far when the kubaz began to appear.

“Ah, Jedi, yes?  You save us.”  The kubaz version of basic was buzzing and distorted but understandable.

“Yes,” said Master Caaldor.  “I am Master Caaldor of the Jedi Order, and this is my padawan, Aronoke.  I need to find someone in charge of this ship.  Are you part of the crew?”

“The crew, yes,” said the kubaz.  “The bridge.  Go to bridge, see there.”

“Yes, I thought as much,” said Master Caaldor.  “I will make my way there.  See to the prisoners, Aronoke.”

“Yes, Master,” said Aronoke.  He turned to address the kubaz as the older Jedi swept off down the dark flickering hall.

“These are our hostages,” said Aronoke.  “They need to be imprisoned somewhere to ensure our safety, and the safety of everyone on this ship.  Do you understand?”

“Yes, prisoners,” said the kubaz.

“Are there some cells where they can be safely locked up?  Where they can’t get out, and no one can hurt them?”

“Follow,” said the kubaz, gesturing blatantly to illustrate.  “I show.”

They moved through the dark bulk of the ship.  More kubaz gathered inquisitively, still too cautious to approach Aronoke and his prisoners closely.  Around them the buzz of “…Jedi…Jedi…” rose as Aronoke’s little group passed.

“You needn’t have bothered with hostages,” said one of the pirates, the eldest one.  “The captain’ll keep his word.  If he makes an agreement with you, he’ll keep it.”

“Unless there’s ithorians involved,” said the youngest.

“There’s no need to mention ithorians,” said the eldest irritably.

“If your captain is so honourable,” said Aronoke, “than you need have no fear of him abandoning you here.”

“The captain wouldn’t abandon us,” said the youngest one stoutly, although the other two exchanged worried glances as if Aronoke had voiced an unspoken fear.

“If you Jedi weren’t so unfeng powerful you’d have never got the better of us that way,” grumbled the old pirate.  “You and your lightsabers and your mind powers, smacking people into walls.”

“He chopped Thurian in half,” said the pirate from Aronoke’s vision.  “I saw it.  Clean in half.”

“Like a demon,” said the old pirate, shaking his head.  “With blue skin and glowing demon eyes.  What are you anyway?”

Aronoke did not answer, but gestured that they should continue after the kubaz.  He had a job to do. Soon they arrived outside a series of stout cells and the prisoners were locked inside.  Aronoke took the passkey to the cell doors and put it inside a pocket for safekeeping.  Then he headed off in the direction of the bridge in pursuit of Master Caaldor.

His path was not unobstructed now.  As word of the pirates’ evacuation spread, the refugees and ship’s crew began to emerge in fource.  A woman rushed up to Aronoke and clutched at his robes with one hand.  In the other arm she cradled a small kubaz child, which lolled there, limp and pale.

“Her baby is sick, very sick,” said the kubaz crew-member accompanying Aronoke.  “She begs help.”

Aronoke looked at the baby and could sense that its life signs were weak.  “I’m sorry,” he said gently.  “I’m not a healer.  There must be a medical officer on this ship somewhere.  There is a med bay?”

“Yes,” said the crew-member.

“Then let’s go there,” said Aronoke.

They escorted the woman to the medical bay, which was already overwhelmed with casualties.  The chief medical officer was very busy, but directed one of his assistants to take charge of the baby, and took a moment to speak with Aronoke,

“Ah, Master Jedi,” she said.  “Thank you for seeing those scum off our ship.”

“You’re welcome,” said Aronoke.  “Do you have everything you need here?”

“The situation is desperate.  Supplies are short, and all our skilled staff are already overworked.”

“Our ship is small and we don’t carry many supplies,” said Aronoke.  “But I will see what can be done.  It might take a while, but I expect supplies can be brought in.”

“Thank you,” said the medical officer.  “And now if you’ll excuse me…”

“Of course,” said Aronoke.

The next few hours were hectic and tiring.   Aronoke found Master Caaldor on the bridge, speaking to those of the ship’s officers who had survived the encounter with the pirates and had managed to return to duty.  Their numbers were despairingly low, but more arrived as the ship began to return to some semblance of normalcy.  Aronoke was kept busy patrolling the ship and helping to restore order.  He helped cut the ship’s second-in-command out of the storage locker he had been locked in.  He settled disagreements between the refugees and ship’s crew.  Everywhere he went, he could hear the interested buzz of kubaz voices, their words uninterpretable, save for the constant rejoinder of “…Jedi…..Jedi….” repeated here and there.

“You had best go back to our ship, Padawan,” said Master Caaldor after some hours had passed.  “Get some rest.  I’ll take a shift here, and you can spell me later.  It’s probably best if you take our hostages back with you.”

Aronoke nodded.  “Yes, Master,” he said. The mood on the refugee ship was grateful but tempestuous.  Certain elements amongst the refugees could not be trusted to stand by the Jedi’s agreement with the pirate captain and would doubtlessly kill the prisoners if they found them.

When Aronoke returned to the brig where the prisoners had been locked up, he noticed another prisoner sealed in a tank full of liquid further down the hallway.  It was a kubaz, whose snout only just reached above the level of the water in the tank.  The tank was locked, so without further ado, Aronoke cut through the hatch,  jumping aside as water gushed out.

The prisoner lurched gratefully out and dropped to sit on the floor.

“Thank you… thank you, Jedi,” the kubaz wheezed.

“What were you doing locked in there?” asked Aronoke dubiously.  “Did the pirates lock you up?”  He didn’t remember seeing the kubaz there when he had locked the prisoners up, although perhaps he had not noticed him.

“No… not the pirates,” said the kubaz wretchedly.

“Oh.  Your fellow passengers then?”

“Yes.  But, I swear,” said the Kubaz, crawling forward to catch at the leg of Aronoke’s suit, “it was all a misunderstanding.  I didn’t do anything wrong – I was trying to help!”

“Trying to help, how?” asked Aronoke, sceptically.  “Let me guess – you cut a deal of some sort with the pirates and the others have taken exception to it?”

“Yes,” said the Kubaz sadly.  “But that was not my intention.  I was trying to help everyone!”

“Hm,” said Aronoke.  “Well, it seems that your colleagues do not see things that way.”

“Please don’t leave me here!”  gasped the Kubaz, clutching at Aronoke’s boot.  “They’ll kill me.  Please, take me with you, or lock me back up!”

Aronoke shook the kubaz free.  “Stop that!” he ordered.  “Get up. I suppose you can come with us.  As a prisoner, mind you, until we work out what’s going on.”

“Oh, thank you!  Thank you!”

The kubaz obviously wouldn’t be safe left on the ship by himself.  He would probably be killed.  Aronoke turned his attention to freeing the pirates and kept a close eye on them as he gestured them out towards the main corridor.  He herded them and the kubaz ahead of him, so he could keep a close eye on them.

“So what are you going to do with us now?” asked the old pirate as they made their way through the refugee ship.  The young male one was sullen and gloomy, while the other one still looked angry and shocked.  Very like Ashquash, Aronoke thought, remembering his clan mate from when he had first seen her in the Jedi temple.  “I suppose it was all a trick really.  You won’t really let us go.”

“This ship needs to be repaired,” said Aronoke.  “Until it’s able to continue on its way, we’re stranded here, and so are you. We’re obviously not going to give you up until we’re ready to leave.”

“The captain wouldn’t go back on his word,” said the youngest one fierily.  “Not if he made a deal. Not unless there were ithorians involved.”

“I told you before, Rakskrak, there’s no need to mention ithorians,” said the old pirate testily.

“Where are you taking us?” asked the one who looked like Ashquash.

“Over to our ship for safekeeping,” said Aronoke.  “Master Caaldor thinks it won’t be safe for you to stay here, in case the refugees get their hands on you.”


“I suggest you stay close and keep quiet,” said Aronoke.  “The refugees aren’t too happy with what’s happened.  Things could get nasty if we’re swarmed.”

“You’re going to get us killed!” said Ashquash’s lookalike hotly.

“I don’t fancy going anywhere without my blaster,” said Rakskrak.  “Where’s our weapons?  When are we going to get them back?”

“At the end,” said Aronoke.  “You’ll be left on the surface for your captain to pick you up, and you’ll be given your weapons then.”

They were all silent for a time.  Perhaps, like Aronoke, they had noticed the dull, irritable murmur of the nearby kubaz who had noticed their party passing.  Perhaps they were busy wondering if their captain would really bother come back for them, and what would happen to them if he did not.

Aronoke did not see who started it, but he was aware for some time that the kubaz were following them in considerable numbers.  That the refugees were growing ever more resentful.

“Make way,” he said.  “These people are prisoners of the Jedi Order and under my protection. Move aside, please.”

But most of the kubaz did not understand basic.  They only understood their own language.  Perhaps they simply chose not to listen.  The mood of the crowd was growing ugly, and then someone threw something.  An empty canister of some sort that narrowly missed the youngest pirate and bounced off the wall near Aronoke’s head.

“Get back!” ordered Aronoke, trying to be stern and intimidating.  “These are my prisoners.  You will let us pass!”

But the kubaz were too angry to listen.  They charged forward, attacking the pirates with makeshift weapons and their bare hands.  Aronoke was grateful that they did not carry blasters and vibroblades.  The pirates were grouped close around him now, pushed back by the crush of kubaz bodies.  One of the pirates cried out in pain.

Aronoke drew his lightsaber, raising it high above his head before he activated it.  He swung it into the low ceiling above himself so a cascade of hot sparks rained down on the crowd.

“Get back!” he ordered again.  “These are my prisoners.  You will return to your quarters and let us pass!”

The result was instantaneous.  At the sight of the yellow blade of light, the kubaz scattered and fled, disappearing into the depths of the ship.  Aronoke kept his lightsaber ready for a time, but there was no need.  The mob had dissipated as quickly as it had arisen.  He turned his attention to the eldest pirate who was cradling one arm.

“Are you all right?” asked Aronoke.

“I think it’s broken,” said the one who looked like Ashquash.  “He needs a medpac.”

“Probably best to treat it back on our ship,” said Aronoke.  “Best to get you out of here as quickly as possible.  Help him along.”

The pirates seemed shaken and did not protest.  They were eager to hurry through the corridors to the ship’s cargo hatch, where they found suits to make the crossing over to Master Caaldor’s ship.  Aronoke ushered them intside where he had them remove their suits.

“Master Aronoke!” said a droid, appearing beside Aronoke as he herded in the prisoners.  “Master Caaldor called ahead and said I should prepare some cells in which to incarcerate some prisoners.  I thought you should know that they are ready.”

“Thanks, PR,” said Aronoke.  PR-77 was Master Caaldor’s ship’s droid, responsible for keeping the ship tidy and well maintained.  He was also a comptent mechanic and pilot, was fond of holochess, and kept a collection of holorecordings of different types of star­ships.  Aronoke had not been certain how to treat PR at first, but was beginning to appreciate his capabilities and grow accustomed to his presence.  As Master Caaldor said, PR already performed many of the minor menial tasks that might otherwise be considered appropriate duties for a Padawan, so his presence on the ship freed Aronoke to concentrate more heavily on his training.

Not that there had been a great deal of active training yet.  Master Caaldor seemed to be of the opinion that Padawans learnt best by doing rather than studying.  Still, there were a lot of things Aronoke hoped they would study more formally when there was an opportunity.  He did not know most of the Force tricks he had seen Hespenara and Master Altus perform. He was not very practiced at hurling pebbles through the air, let alone people.  He did not know how to trick people’s minds.  Still, it was early days yet, and he schooled himself to patience.

Aronoke escorted the pirates to the two cells PR had prepared, which had served more recently as storerooms.  Despite the fact that Jedi did not collect personal possessions, Master Caaldor’s ship seemed to have accumulated a large quantity of equipment and oddities over the years and was quite full of things.  Aronoke’s room had needed to be cleared of some of them when he first arrived.  These rooms were obviously designed  to be cells, despite their more recent function.

After a little thought, Aronoke put the pirate who looked like Ashquash in a cell with the kubaz.  She would be easier to speak to that way, when he wanted to question her later.  He put Rakskrak in the other cell by himself, while he tended to the older narakite’s injuries.

“I’m sorry about your arm,” said Aronoke, as he fastened an immobilising splint around the broken limb.  “I’m no expert at this sort of thing, but the scanner shows the bones are properly aligned.  Hopefully it feels better.  It should heal well.”

“I probably shouldn’t say this,” grumbled the pirate, “since it was your fault we were there at all, but I’m glad you were there to send off those refugees, or we’d all be dead by now.”

Aronoke nodded.  “I’ll check this arm again later,” he said.  “Best to get some rest.”

He locked the pirate in the cell with Rakskrak, instructed PR to keep an eye on things, and went off to get some rest himself.


[1] Scum was not the actual word Captain Krondark used.  He said something in the Narakite lingo that would have made Aronoke blush, had he understood the meaning.