arden_avNik was crawling through the bowels of the Princess… again. Even he had to admit that this was getting old, but he hoped the deflector coil that he had sticking out of his haversack would at least settle things with Jenks and let him get on with finding a new rock to hide under.

He wouldn’t be falling through the ceiling this time, at least… not by choice, of course. He preferred the ceiling for the most part… people tend to ignore thumps and scratching in the ventilation ducts as poor maintenance. Unfortunately, the sudden arrival of a maintenance crew in the space bay he’d been “shopping” in had forced him to take the first available escape route.

So, Nik was under the floor panels this time, which meant things were a lot trickier. There were no clear paths, it wasn’t as roomy for someone of his stature, and he had to worry about the occasional run-in with a live cable or two.

He’d managed to survive the trip, though, at least as far as he needed to go. After a good half hour beneath everyone’s feet, had found the loose panel in the floor of the maintenance bay. He may not be able to sleep in his escape pod anymore, but he’d hopefully have time to grab his last couple of nutrient pouches and stash them somewhere else before sneaking off to join Jenks.

“Ni’ta!” he exclaimed quietly as he got the last bolt loose and raised the panel.

“Did you hear that?”, a voice asked.

As quick as a shadow, Nik lowered the panel back down until there was barely a crack through which to hear. “Think that was… um… it?”, a second voice asked in reply.

“Don’t know… but after the incident in the spa, the Lieutenant wants this situation put to rest, ay-sap.”

Nik frowned behind his face-clothes, muttering an almost silent, Utinii!” as he listened. There would be no chance of getting his food, now. He’d be lucky to avoid capture for the next couple of days, much less eat. Slowly, he turned the loose bolts back to hold down the floor panel enough to pass a quick inspection.

No sooner had he completed his work than the panel sunk almost imperceptably as a foot pressed down on it from above. A muffled voice pushed through the panel. “I think it came from over here.”

Nik stopped breathing. If the guard heard him now, the jig was really up. All he had to do was sit still, remain perfectly silent, and wait for the human to move on… just a few moments…. From somewhere in Nik’s sack, something let out a loud chirp.

“I definitely heard that.”


“He’s under the floor panel!”

Nik began to scramble wildly, caring less for stealth at this point than survival. “Utinii, utinii, UTINII!”Reaching the nearest wall, Nik slipped his legs into a crack and let himself slide down a level. The impact on the next floor down was more unfriendly than usual, but he hadn’t really taken his normal time in making the descent.

The commlink chirped again, and Nik fished through his haversack. Finding the thing, he was about to throw it as far from him as possible but then remembered the very, very scary man that had given it to him. “Utinii!” he spat, then sat down in a secure corner and clicked it on.

“In’ta!?!” he asked in a harsh whisper, his voice a little more rash than he intended, given the dangerous look of the man he assumed was on the other end.

The voice on the other end, exactly the voice he’d both expected to and feared to hear, gave him the name of a room on the ship. Actually, it seemed more of an order, especially given the rather emphatic “Now!” that had punctuated it.

Nik sighed, then clicked the commlink on again and returned a quick, “Ish Nik’a ta’ki,” has he began to rapidly scale the wall he’d just slid down. Hopefully, security would already be on their way down to ‘head him off.’ He would have smiled as he thought about them searching the lower decks while he was up above them, if he still remembered how to turn his lips in that direction.

Fortunately, the maintenance storage bays and Pursers’ lock-ups were on the same side of the ship… only a few decks apart. The faster he got this over with, the better his chances of survival… at least until security found him. At least the scary Mandalorian wouldn’t have reason to kill him.

Less than a minute after the armored human’s commlink had chirped to life, Nik was pushing up a floor panel into a room he’d never bothered to enter before, staring at a set of heavy boots centimeters away from his face. He looked up at the towering suit of armor, still annoyed at the way the chirp had given away his location.

The armor looked down at him, and Nik immediately reconsidered the snarky comment he’d come up with during the climb. In a less-arrogant tone than he’d practiced, he called up form the floor. “In’ta rill ti’ka?”

Bralor crouched down, leveling his visor to those two glowing orbs hidden in the shadows of the Jawa’s hood. The gold light reflected in the black T across his helm. He looked down into the hole in the ground that the stowaway poked out of. This was why he had called him first. He’d been over the schematics of that room back and forth and upside down. There was no way any of them, even Arden, could have slipped down through the nooks and crannies to freedom.

“Door’s locked,” he thumbed over his shoulder to the big steel roadblock between them and their freedom. “from the wrong side. No juice coming through. I need you to pop onto the other side of that steel and get it up and running again.”

The jawa pulled himself up into the room and turned towards the door, waddling away from the scary, armored man. “Ka il’ka shel,” he said with a bit of “oh, is that all” attitude as he stopped to one side of the door. He dropped his haversack to the floor and pulled out a few tools before beginning to quickly disassemble the wall.

All things considered, the scary, armored man seemed less likely to pop him out of an airlock at that moment than the ship’s security team, so it looked like helping him would be a better idea than suddenly discovering a sliver of courage. Exposing a small junction panel in the wall, Nik pulled a micro-generator out of his haversack and hooked it to two of the door’s central relays.

Restoring power to the door controls on this side of the wall was the easy part. Working those controls during a lockdown situation was going to be more of a challenge. He glanced over his shoulder at the room’s occupants and, seeing their looks of impatience and concern, albeit concern for their freedom rather than concern for what was going to happen to him once they were done using his skills. Nik was, understandably, more concerned with the latter.

He sighed under his mask when he realized that the fastest way out involved frying one of his favorite toys, but his instinct for self-preservation won out. A second later, his left hand held the central processor of an astromech droid… a little something he’d programmed for a single function… for times when he needed to get away from the authorities fast! He hooked the droid brain to the door controls, then turned to face Bralor.

“Nik ta shek’t, riil lek Nik shel siip?” {I do this, you get me off ship?}

He may have used fear and intimidation as a tool, but he wasn’t above being fair. He wasn’t sure how T3-E7 would take adding the Jawa to their crew, but he knew how potentially handy the little mechanical monkey could be. Behind the blank face of his helmet, Bralor’s eyes rose to where Trey leaned against the wall, barely holding consciousness. “Deal.”

Nodding, Nik flipped up a button cover and pressed the contacts underneath. The moisture of his sweat on his glove completed the circuit, and the door slid open with a quiet woosh. Then with a loud”gunta!”, he dropped the droid brain as it resonated a loud pop and hiss, a few sparks emitting from the contacts followed by a stream of black smoke. Nik sighed, and gave a resolute little shrug.

With the open ventilation, the gas dissipated swiftly. “Not bad,” There was a notable amusement in the Mandalorian’s tone.

“Come on. We gotta get Arden out of the box and split.” He crouched beside Trey, slipping his arm under the theif’s shoulder and helping him up. “We ate up that lead time we had.”

Trey coughed as he fiddled with the box’s lock. “Not a problem,” he managed to spit out between coughing. The floor hatch popped open, revealing their pilot surrounded by boxes of loot. “C’mon. Arden. Gotta move.”

The jawa by the door chittered nervously, keeping an eye out for security. It appeared that Nik had fallen in with thieves, and while that might distract security’s attention from him should they arrive, it would also put a quick end to his one surefire way off the Princess. So he just kept one eye on the corridor in the direction of the nearest security patrol and the other on the small group of humans with whom he’d thrown his lot.

“That sucked,” she said with a sigh of relief as the boys pulled her from the tiny safe, “I feel like Oseon pretzel.”

“We don’t get you two back to the Flame and off this boat fast we’re all going to be looking like Battaglian cheese.” The soldier picked up two of the heavy, money laden duffles and slung them across his shoulders.

“Well then,” Arden winced as she stretched, “by all means, let’s get the hell out of here.”

Kyra blinked. This couldn’t be happening. She closed her eyes again to try and blot out the sight from her mind. She didn’t really see what just happened. It was all a stress-induced hallucination, it had to be. Or maybe opening the safe had released some sort of gas and she was dreaming all of this while tucked into the Soul’s med-bay, being treated for inhalation.

The sick smell of burnt cloth and charred flesh brought Kyra out of her attempted denial. She opened her eyes slowly. The hallucination turned out to be very real – and very dead. She looked at Krynn,”Are you out of your mind!?”

“No.” With a cold calmness Krynn bent over and picked up his duffel. “The man saw you. We could not risk him informing any authorities as to who you are and who you were with.” The strap fell across his shoulder and he slipped the heavy bag along his back. “It would put us all at risk.” Really, it would have put the Diva at risk.

The redhead stared. The Chiss’ logic was inarguable, but… She shook her head. It wouldn’t do to lose it right now. She’d have to wait until they got back to the ship; they only had two rooms left, after all. Letting out a calming breath, Krya attempted to center herself. It probably wouldn’t do any good to tell Krynn just who it was he’d gunned down. “Okay, this isn’t a problem…” She knelt down, grabbing the man by the ankles. “Give me a hand here. We’ll put him in his bed and hope no one comes looking for him until we’re in hyperspace.”

The Chiss nodded, dropping his bag to the couch. “Agreed.” He stepped over the dead man, squatting down to his shoulders to help heft him up.

The two carried him back into the bedroom, slipping him into the turned down bed. Kyra stole an extra second to neatly close the safe and return the room to its tidy appearance. Kyrnn returned to the living area and adjusted a chair over the dark, wet stain on the floor.

She returned as he was shouldering his bag. “Let’s go.”

Cautiously, the pair stepped back into the empty hall of the executive suite wing. Kyra’s urge to bag the rest of the rooms they were supposed to hit was nearly as strong as her urge to shove Krynn out of an airlock. Unfortunately, the Chiss still had a part to play, and his status as the Diva’s pet put the redhead at a disadvantage.

Kyra checked her chrono while Pal’s slicer worked it’s magic on the entrance to the next suite. They might have time for one more room before the end of the concert and the mad dash to “steal” the Flame. The luck that had taken a holiday in the last room, seemed to have caught up with them once again. The pair was able to sack the next two rooms without another incident.

Stepping back into the corridor for what she hoped was the last time, Kyra shouldered both bags. She eyed Krynn warily, “Alright, we’re done here. With any luck, we’ll all meet up at the rendezvous point.”

She turned to leave, but the Chiss grabbed her by the shoulder. Kyra spun, and in the blink of an eye the lightfoil was activated. It bathed Krynn’s blue skin in an odd silver light that was reflected in his red eyes. “There was no other way.”

He didn’t move, even with the ignited blade so close to his face. Kyra felt a cool chill that was becoming uncomfortably familiar sinking into her. Her stomach knotted, but while reluctant to agree she found herself nodding. “Yeah,” the blade dropped back into its hilt, darkening the space between them. “There was no other way…”

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