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Esther Hadrana
Feb 18th, 2016, 09:42:48 PM
JAKKU

All the water in the galaxy had to be elsewhere. It was like Tatooine, only worse; in that at least Tatooine had vaporators to condense water. She hadn't seen anything similar to that on Jakku.

"Where in the galaxy have you found yourself now, Esther?" she asked herself, staring out over the wreckage of countless starships.


***


"Wherre jin the galaxjy arre you now, Estherr?" Cirr asked, a small grin on his face. Esther's returning smile was more muted.

"Ogem. Just calling to check up on the kids," she said, leaning back against a bulkhead. Cirr's smile dimmed.

"Bad luck, that," he sighed. "Denton and Fran are gone. Been two months now."

"Oh," Esther said. Two months? "Oh, right. School. Denton went to Dac, didn't he? And Fran got accepted into..."

"Correlljian Planetarrjy jInstjitute of Engjineerrjing. Fast trrack to CEC. jI can send jyou thejirr frrequencjies jif jyou want. Denton was thjinkjing of drroppjing out, though."

"Of course, please," she answered. As Cirr bent to manipulate the controls to the comm, she filled the silence. "He talked with you about it? Well, I'm glad he did. I would be horrible. Don't know a thing about higher schooling."

"jYou'rre hjis motherr. Even jif jyou djidjin't, hje wouldn't jignorre jyourr opjinjion."

Esther smiled a bit patronizingly.

"He talked with his father, yes? And you? That's all I need to know to be sure he got the feedback he needed."

"jYou'rre a much betterr motherr than jyou gjive jyourrself crredjit forr."

Esther shook her head again.

"So, how are you? Lyanie? Amarra?" Rather than relive her short abortive attempt to stay in one place, she changed the subject. The past was past.



***


"Did you know the kids are in school? It seems so quick."

He smiled and shook his head.

"Esther, you disappear for weeks to months. Time passes like that, you know. I don't know how many birthdays you've missed. I've stopped counting the anniversaries."

She smiled back, her stomach flipping only slightly at the sight of his roguish grin and the lack of judgement in his voice. He was the stable one, and she was the rambler. They'd gone into their marriage knowing that. Still, she knew she was lucky.

"I received the artefact, by the way. The elders are gonna flip when they see it."

Esther shrugged.

"It deserved to be somewhere it could be appreciated for more than its historical value. I also found that lost planet Ben described. The one with the sleeper ship? Turns out there are sentients down there. The cutest little reptiles. C-4P3-R was over four moons when he realized that their calls were 'in fact part of a structured language!'"

His brows rose.

"No kidding? Send me the data on that. Maybe we can send some people over there and check it out."

There was a knock on her door.

"I've got to go."

"Happy birthday," he said, ignoring her. "You don't look a day over thirty five. Or is that the holo resolution?"

She stopped, mentally counting out the days.

"It is my birthday," she laughed. "I forgot. I already sent you your gift. It should arrive in time."

"I'll look for it," he winked. "The best gift though would be you."

Her smile dimmed a bit.

"I think you're right," she said, finally. His head cocked to the side curiously. "I think it's about time."

"I won't say I'm not thrilled, Esther. But I'm also sure you'll find something to pull you out again."

"No," she answered, looking down at the pages she'd scribbled on detailing the Battle of Jakku, and a printed picture of a red-hued twilek woman wearing now nearly forgotten Imperial Knight armour and clothing. "I think this will be one of the last ones I go on."



***


Esther frowned underneath the light cloth she'd wrapped around her head to protect her from the heat, sand, and searing sunlight, and looked back down at the datapad.

"So she was with the fifty-fourth who were deployed here. And they finally surrendered over there."

Esther looked up and squinted, trying to reconcile the texts, diagrams, and maps with the landscape in front of her with no little difficulty. Retracing the steps of over five thousand men to find the lost tracks of one woman was a task most would give up on, but Esther could see the end of her galactic hyperlane coming, and wasn't keen on stopping just yet.

"Where are you, Palara?"

Eluna Thals
Feb 18th, 2016, 10:33:08 PM
Esther's archaeology partner seemed far less put-off by the harsh climes of Jakku. She wore no head wrap, nor a balaclava and mask like so many other scavvers. She didn't even squint her eyes as she looked in the direction of the sun's slow descent to the horizon. Her clothing wasn't chosen for it's utilitarian value. Were it not for signs of wear and use on the denim vest and striped long-sleeve top, it might have even seemed like day tripper's attire. The wind picked up gently, and the woman's loose array of shoulder-length red hair moved with it.

"This is Republic forward observation base Acklay. Or this is where it was."

It was clear that the sand had swallowed all by the most sizeable of the military relics. The roofs of prefabricated barracks could be seen half-swallowed by a dune. The picked-clean skeletons of an ancient turbo tank and a trio of flash speeders had met their fate long ago by scavenger parties.

Esther Hadrana
Feb 19th, 2016, 12:49:22 PM
Esther followed Eluna's own look and sighed.

"Between landing and the surrender of her soldiers, she disappears from the records of the battle. Most of the Knights do. All that were left were the Shistavanen, the Kaleesh, and some others. And then the Order was disbanded by the Treaty."

"If only we had first-hand accounts of her during the battle, we could use those to make some search grids. But as it is, the area is too large."

Pulling down the face wrappings, she lifted her canteen to her lips and drank from it. The vaporator technology in it would ensure she wouldn't be without water, even if it was only a couple drops. Resealing it, she dropped it and let it zip back up to hug her hip and pulled up diagrams of the battle once again.

"That," she pointed out at the massive hulk of a Star Destroyer in the distance, "is the Inflictor. Given where it is, and the lines of battle being as horribly out of uniform, we could probably tag spots where we know other Knights were and use those to pinpoint where she wasn't. Process of elimination; wherever is left should be where she likely was."

Eluna Thals
Feb 21st, 2016, 07:39:03 PM
The android turned her attention toward the long-derelict hulk of the Inflictor, already well aware of it's grid coordinates and spatial layout on the battlefield site. The probability was not in their favor, but Esther's plan at least seemed to align congruently with the doctrine of the now-defunct Empire.

"It's possible. The Empire preferred to use the Knights in a force multiplier capacity, and their leadership became essential as more of the senior officers corps were killed in the war."

Eluna took a few lengthy strides in the direction of the derelict, then paused to look back.

"Are you still okay to travel?"

Dehydration in this place was a certainty. The only question was the degree of it one could subject themselves to.

Esther Hadrana
Feb 22nd, 2016, 10:37:20 PM
"Please Eluna," Esther said, following the redhead to their speeder bikes. "This isn't the first desert planet I've ever been on. Have I told you about the Sarlacc debacle on Tatooine? I'm pretty sure I have. I still have plenty of water in the canteen, a couple of camping water kits in case things get dangerous, I have a beacon and there's someone at the ship in case things get desperate. We went over this before we left, stop worrying so much."

Their speeder bikes sat in the shade of a dune; leaving them on top was asking for scavengers and the like to steal them. They weren't fashionable, high end racing bikes either, but larger rugged models with added spaces for travel gear and a hitch for trailers. Esther's had the trailer attached, and Eluna's was loaded with scanner gear and other higher end tech she could use much more easily than the Alderaani woman to search for the tiny clues that hadn't been or couldn't be erased by the sand. There were still craters of glass that hadn't been filled in the rockier parts of the battlefield, AT-ATs were still prominently casting shadows over the dunes, and the skeletons of starships were in some places so crowded that scavengers living there called them "Skeleton Cities".

Anywhere in that maze and alternately that featureless horizon could be where Palara met her end.

"Let's get to the Inflictor, and we'll set up a grid system to find the most likely places. How does that sound?"

Eluna Thals
Apr 21st, 2016, 11:40:36 PM
Stop worrying so much.

Eluna's concerned expression remained on Esther a moment longer before her features softened. It was excessive, sure. Esther Hadrana had proven she was as resourceful as Ben Merasska, and tougher by far. It wasn't that Eluna doubted her, but rather that she had a well-curated database for exactly how cruel and capricious the galaxy could be. So too did Esther. She was the heir of her family legacy and their communal tragedy.

The Girl within could afford to be infinitely more introspective in a fraction of a second, but refrained. Sometimes the most human thing to do was simply not to dwell. Move on. You're never guaranteed a tomorrow. So she handed the baton to the Machine, which weighed Esther's suggestion empirically.

"It makes sense. The location is centralized and generally intact. If the tube infrastructure is intact, we should be able to ascend to the conning tower."

She smirked.

"And if not, we'll improvise."

The Star Destroyer Inflictor dominated the three kilometer approach like an artificial mountain. The fact that she had plowed into the badlands with her keel largely intact was later determined to be due to an abortive attempt to scuttle the ship in the waning stages of the battle. It was a blessing and a curse. With little damage, it would be one of the easier wrecks to negotiate. That also meant that it would have been easy for scavengers to pick the bones clean years ago. The chances of finding anything of value there were low. Of course, what they were looking for wasn't merely valuable garbage. It was something less, and yet far more.

Esther and Eluna arrived at an exposed length of Inflictor's equatorial hull section. The dunes around the ascent had swelled, but it appeared that enough wind had passed in the course of years to expose that part of the hull to air once more. Ahead of them, raised out of the sand by two meters, was a docking port.

"That's the main starboard egress." Eluna pointed out, noting the heavy door was sealed shut.

"I doubt there's power to open it, but a portable module jacked into the control box might do it. That is, if the box itself wasn't looted."

Palara Iscandar
Apr 30th, 2016, 01:55:16 AM
"Captain. Report!"

"Company Seven is currently in combat in canyon, M-R-B-1435," the Stormtrooper's voice was already tinny due to the vocalizer, but the sounds of combat and explosions were intense and riddled the transmission with noise and connection issues aside from the standard encryption format. "AT-AT is heavily damaged, AT-ST support is destroyed, artillery defences are not breached, I repeat, the artillery defences are not breached."

She breathed a sigh of relief. The Alliance had done its work well in the intervening years of peace, it seemed, but with Imperial Knights leading the Legions on the ground, the Stormtroopers and Imperial Army were holding their ground.

"We see the Alliance command structure. It is currently out of artillery range. We will secure the canyon and move the artillery forward."

She nodded. Whomever was her counterpart was too well trained and tactically inclined she couldn't allow him or her to keep their artillery out of position.

"Secure ze canyon, Captain," she assented. "Companies Four and Eight will move to positions 'ere and 'ere," the Stormtrooper Captain's form dissipated into a holographic representation of the geography of their battleground. "To keep ze Alliance from support ze elements directly opposing you. Ze artillery must be in position. If you cannot do zis, we will 'ave to wizdraw. The Forty Fourth Legion is moving forward now, taking much of ze Alliance's attention away from us. We will use zis opportunity. Our opponent will likely be waiting for just such an attack. If resistance is stronger zan anticipated, keep pressure up and contact me."

"Sir," the Captain bowed and cut off his connection.

Esther Hadrana
Apr 30th, 2016, 02:21:53 AM
"No different than doing it in the black then, eh?" She replied cheerily. "Other than the suits of course."

She went to work with an ease that could only be had through experience; the micro-generator was pulled from Eluna's speeder, the wires were hooked into the access panel, and almost jauntily Esther activated the doors. The doors then seemed to scream in pain.

Esther turned off the generator, her face pale from the sheer pitch of the metallic screeching.

"Lovely," she muttered to herself. "Jammed. Figures. I suppose thinking years of exposure to sand and the sun wouldn't have affected the doors was wishful thinking. We'll need the pry bars."

The 'pry bars' were in fact a single thing: a machine, heavy but still portable enough for a woman in her forties and a human replica device, an engine of sorts drove two arms with flat ends pressed together as if in prayer; the 'pry bars' resembled nothing more than a large accordion strapped to an engine with an unwieldy metal protrusion out of the front of it. The metal protrusion would be inserted into a gap and when the 'pry bars' were activated, the machine compressed the jointed arms, pushing the 'hands' apart and opening jammed doors.

"Eluna? Be a darling and grab them would you? I would, but I'd need a good three hours' rest afterward and we need to make good time."

Eluna Thals
May 8th, 2016, 05:02:03 PM
"On it."

Eluna hopped down from the equatorial hull outcropping, her boot heels plying the sand with ease as she let inertia carry her back to the speeder in a controlled slide. Hoisting the fifty kilo apparatus was easy enough, and she moved to negotiate the ascent once again when a glint caught her attention on the sandy horizon.

Eluna paused, carefully tilting her head to see if it was a coincidental passing. The glint flicked once, twice, then another three times in rapid succession. It wasn't chance or happenstance. It was intentional.

Esther Hadrana
May 30th, 2016, 12:21:57 PM
"We've got two people around the big one."

"So? That was one of the first things picked clean, mate."

"It's huge. There's no way that thing is clean yet."

"They trying to squeeze a Kiff?"

"No one's tried since Mikkel last season. Plenty of time for someone to get desperate."

"They don't look like us. It looks like they're offworlders. Not rich though, at least not dumb rich. They got some good tech with them however. And that redhead is picking up something at least half again her weight. Emperor's damned soul, she's gotta be a monster or something. And they've cleared a door from the dunes. I don't think anyone's been through it yet."

"Well? What do we do?"

"Let's go say hello and see what's up. If they're trying to squeeze a Kiff, we'll knock 'em. Otherwise we might get some good loot out of the deal."


***


"Eluna," Esther called, pulling the wires from the access panel. There was little she could do with it, but maybe Eluna could work some mechanical magic and get some juice flowing so they wouldn't bend the arms of the pry bars. "Will we need to bring the stuff in, or are we good with leaving it out here while we look inside?"

Eluna Thals
May 30th, 2016, 12:48:47 PM
"I think we're about to have company." the droid commented as she bounded up the berm with the pry bars in hand. "Local scavvers, possibly. Looks like they tried to flash a signal in our direction."

Glancing at the access panel, Eluna quickly began to cross-reference the wiring pattern with imperial schematics. Pulling a soldering gun from her vest pocket, she worked quickly to bypass the controls to an alternative power lead.

"If they're not the friendly sort, it might be a good idea to get the gear inside."