This was the time Arden liked most. Everyone else on the Soul was asleep. It was just her, the Soul, and they curtain of stars zipping past as they blasted through hyperspace. The hum of the hyperspace engines was almost hypnotic at these times. The blonde pulled her knees up to her chest, and wrapped her arms around her legs as she watched the stars pass.
After the past few days, it was so relaxing to have this time to herself to think.
Arden’s eyes became slightly glassy, as a smile grew on her face. Soon she would be one hundred percent free of Durga, and nothing was going to stop that.
Suddenly the ship came screaming out of hyperspace. The stars that flew by in long strands of light were now little specks again. “What the hell?” The girl cursed under her breath as she flipped a few switches and pulled on the throttle again. The engine whined, but got nothing in return.
“Aw come on baby.” Arden grumbled to herself as she pulled herself out of the pilot’s seat and threw herself out of the cockpit and into the ship proper. “Don’t do this to us.” Arden sprinted down the hall toward the hyperdrive engines.
As she skidded to a halt, the blonde saw the access plate open wide and a small amount of smoke billowing out from the panel. “What the hell?”
“Gunta!” The curse came from inside of the access plate… inside of the engines. A few seconds later, a small brown figure, covered in grease and stinking of oil-smoke, came rolling out of the hole to land in a shapeless heap at Arden’s feet.
Tiny yellow points of light gazed up at her, then widened with surprise. “Nik ka’ta shek!”
“What do you mean you didn’t do it?” Arden’s arms waived in the air. “There’s smoke billowing out of the hyperdrive and the you come rolling out.” Arden stuck her head into the hole to assess the damage. “If you didn’t do it then who did? Spikey the Womp Rat?”
Nik began chittering very quickly, so much so that only a very fluent Jawa could have kept up with him. Arden was sure she heard the words “bad” and “coil” in their somewhere, and the words “speed” and “better,” but the order would definitely need to be puzzled out.
Arden finally pulled herself out of the engine and turned the face the Jawa, “Slow down!” Nik stopped talking, eyes dimming a little. She took a deep breath again, then asked him, slowly, “What did you do to my hyperdrive?”
“Nik g’kit’t shek,” he replied, equally slow and deliberate. That didn’t seem to help the larger, sand-haired female’s mood much, though. It’s face was turning a very unfriendly shade of red and her arms were crossed, which Nik had learned was a very bad sign from most human creatures. “Ra… Nik telg’kit’kn shek…”
“It was working just fine five minutes ago.” The blonde dug her head in deeper past the Jawa. “And what do you mean about the coil? I just replaced it six months ago. Brand new part too.”
Nik squeaked out a sigh, pulled a pocket torch out of his haversack, and climbed back into the engine. He flicked the torch on and shined it on a still-smoking charred ring attached to the secondary drive coil. As if that answered everything, he let out a “Ta!”, the Jawa word for “do” since they really didn’t have a word for “look.”
Burned out and melted against the coil was a perfectly normal, completely legal, and legally-required hyperdrive limiter ring, exactly the type of thing a space transports mechanic would expect to see when examining a hyperdrive coil. Nik, it appeared, had attempted to remove it. “Ra!?” he asked, pointing at the limiter. “Riita!”
“How the hell?” She reached in for the melted limiter. “You understand it is illeagal for us not to have one of these?” She shook the melted part. “We could get in a lot of trouble not having one of these.”
Nik looked at her as if that was either the stupidest thing he’d ever heard, or if he had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. No matter what she was saying, the human female seemed rather upset at his attempt to fix the ship, which made no sense to him whatsoever. Still, she seemed to really be attached to the little ring that was breaking the hyperdrive, so he pulled out his haversack and began rummaging.
After a moment, he pulled out his shield coil and an old podracer o-ring that bore a more-than-passing resemblance to the hyperdrive limiter, assembled them, and held them up next to the burned out coil, demonstrating a very good facsimile of the destroyed parts, despite a complete lack of functional compatibility. “Ta!”
Arden sighed, and looked at the Jawa. “Very nice… if you’re building a model. But that won’t make the hyperdrive work,” Her initial anger was giving way to frustration and a little despair at realizing just how unlikely it was that they could make it to an inhabited system at space speeds given their complete middle-of-nowhere location.
“Oota!” the Jawa said, expressing his own frustrations at the obvious short-sighted nature of human creatures in general. He began chittering something about fixing the hyperdrive while still allowing the female human to keep her pretty albeit-useless limiter ring, all the while digging through his haversack again.
After a minute, he pulled out a power-converter bypass cable that looked like it came from some sort of capital ship and a pair of connection adapters from an old TX-14 Kuat Light Freighter. Still squeaking incoherently, he mimed connecting the converters and the cable, hiding them behind the engine’s power-conversion unit, and bypassing the fake hyperdrive coil to connect the drive valance to the main drive power intakes.
“Ra?” he asked, not really expecting the sand-haired female human to understand. It was, after all, a very simple way of bypassing the thing that was breaking the hyperdrive and allowing increased power while still keeping this person’s precious ring in place and allowing it to pass all but the most thorough inspections… far too simple for the over complicated mind of a human… especially one of their females.
Arden looked at what the little Jawa was pointing at. Her head cocked slightly to the side. It all started making sense. The little sand rat was wanting to bypass the broken part, but make it look like it was still there, in case they got boarded. This could almost double the Soul’s speed. “Oh I get it.” A smile crept across her lips. “Well let’s see if you can do it.”
“Uuta,” he said, a bit insulted at the word “if.” He took his collection of junk and crawled back into the engine and began to Jawa-rig the hyperdrive. The first thing he did was replace the coil and ring, shaving off a bit of rust to make it look as new and realistic as possible. Once the fake repairs were complete, he began to work on the actual bypass.
There was a sudden flash, a shower of sparks, and the smell of burnt flesh and burlap, echoed immediately by a shrill “Utinii!” A small face, completely covered in black cheesecloth with amber points of light for eyes poked out of the engine, still smoking, and chittered something about the blonde creature not disconnecting the power converters interspersed with a series of squeaks that Arden could only assume her Jawa curses.
A stubby, charred and gloved fist popped out and pointed to two relays that were well out of his reach, then slowed down his speech as he explained in what he clearly thought was plain language that he would be pleased if the female human could kindly disconnect the primary and secondary power relays so that he could get back to work.
“Well If you had just said that in the first place.” Arden clicked her tongue against the back of her teeth as she disconnected the power converters. “There, happy?”
Nik nodded inside of his smoking hood. “Uuta!” he replied as he sunk back into the hyperdrive. Arden could hear clanking and cranking mixed with the squeaking of what she could only assume was a Jawa working song, catching occasional glimpses of the hooded figure darting about the cables and hardware as he worked.
After a moment, Nik K’tik came clambering out of the hyperdrive engines and climbed up to the primary power relay, reconnecting it. As inelegantly as one could possibly imagine, he dropped down to the floor and grabbed the secondary power coupling relay. Realization hit Arden suddenly as Nik moved to connect the secondary power relay. She had tried to restart the hyperdrive a couple of times… but she hadn’t turned it back off.
“No wait!” she called out as she reached for the scruff of the Jawa’s robe, but it was too late. The power relay made contact. With a sudden lurch, the Soul screamed back into hyperspace at speed beyond which she had previously been capable. Arden scrambled to grab ah old of the engine mount, just missing the scruff of Nik’s neck as he went rapidly bouncing down the hallway.
“Utiniiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!” he squealed as he rolled into the far wall, finally stopping up-ended with his head on the floor, yellow eyes glaring accusingly at the sand-haired female human. “Gunta! he cursed, loudly, and rubbed his rump. Bits and pieces of his collection lay scattered about the hallway, his half-empty haversack still around his shoulder.
“Come on!” Arden grabbed the little Jawa by the arm and dragged him through the ship into the cockpit. She threw him into the cockpit seat as she slid into her own chair. The blonde flicked a few switches and then gave a slight squeal of delight. “Almost double! Wow this is amazing! You’re amazing!” She threw her arms around the little Jawa. “You do stink though.” She pulled back from Nik.
Nik scurried back into his seat as far as he could once the female had released him. “Gunta!” he exclaimed, brushing his robes as if to straighten them, but leaving them more wrinkled then they’d already been. He sniffed the air quickly, his eyes dimming. Stink? he thought. It thinks I stink!? he asked himself, incredulously. He would be a week getting that sickeningly-sweet odor off of his clothes.
“Ra?” he said, looking back at the sand-haired creature. “Nik kiil riil shek tel’ritta.” Crossing his arms in front of him, he sat sharply down on the seat as if to emphasize his point. He raised his head in a “harumph”-esque gesture, then looked out at the stars. Free. He was finally free.
He cast his most surreptitious glance at the sand-haired human, which for anyone but Nik meant it was a pretty obvious glare, but his eyes brightened ever-so-slightly. For a human female, this one had some qualities that weren’t entirely repulsive. It was a shame she was just so damned ugly. Even so, he supposed her usefulness outweighed her appearance. He supposed her acceptance into the ship’s tribe wasn’t entirely without merit.
Dropping down to the floor, he rubbed the greasy palm of his right hand on his burlap robe, only succeeding in making both the glove and robe a little dirtier, and extended it towards Arden.”i’Jal’ta?”
Arden looked down at the little Jawa. Something inside of her softened a little. Arden smiled and took the little alien’s hand. There was something about this stinky little pest she actually liked.”i’Jal’ta.”