Welcome, readers! Or, for those who read my last post, welcome back. The crew of the Last Call has now made it through their seventh adventure, so I am here to post an update on what they (we) have been up to since the story last left off.
In this installment, the crew is once more set on a mission by Thakba Diori, but what initially seems to be a simple courier mission turns into an action-filled venture with its share of danger and suspense. Moreover, Kothtri’s mysterious backstory is exposed as a foe from her past makes an unexpected appearance. Read Chapter 7 (as a note, our longest chapter to date) below, or enjoy the whole story from the beginning here in the updated Silk & Durasteel pdf.
As always, your faithful lawninja, and without further ado:
The Last Call heads off to Sleheyron, a volcanic planet rife with factories, to meet with Thakba Diori. After sending a transmission to Thakba, they are invited into the port, where they are greeted by Gammorean guards and again escorted into Thakba’s throne room.
Kyra first approaches the Hutt, making diplomatic assurances, and Bren presents five thousand credits, which Thakba accepts. He then requests a favor of the crew: a simple courier mission. A package, which Thakba’s droid assures them is his rightful property, requires retrieval. The ship on which the package is currently located is the Dauntless Fortune, and it has a transponder that has been smuggled onboard. The Dauntless Fortune is a CR90 Corvette owned by the Huurlek Clan. Thakba promises to forgive the crew’s entire debt if they return the package intact and undamaged. The contents are fragile and should be kept encased for their protection. As a final aside, Thakba’s droid notes that any squabbles between the Hutt’s contractors (such as Kraton Talonspire) are none of the Hutt’s business so long as such squabbles do no further damage to his property.
Travel to the Dauntless Fortune takes a few days; as they approach the beacon, the crew notices that the ship is stopped in a remote location, and there are echoes of a recently terminated distress beacon. As the Last Call emerges from hyperspace, the crew sees that the Dauntless Fortune is extremely close to a planet and is severely damaged. Headhunters painted in either red or grey hues circle nearby, firing at one another, with the grey apparently prevailing. As the Last Call quickly approaches, it becomes more evident that the Dauntless Fortune is missing large pieces of its hull, and flimsy shields having been thrown up to hold in the oxygen.
The Last Call’s approach attracts the attention of several Headhunters, which immediately begin to fire, dealing heavy damage to the hull. Kothtri stops the ship near the Dauntless Fortune long enough for Bren to jump out before hightailing it out of the line of fire. Aboard the Dauntless Fortune, Bren locates the cargo bay in time to see a squad of Klatooinians attempting to abscond with a crate of dimensions suspiciously similar to that described by Thakba’s droid. He engages the group, but they ultimately prove the better of him and flee with the package through an escape pod. Bren barely manages to escape with his life as the ship is pulled into the planet’s atmosphere. Meanwhile, the rest of the crew works on regrouping and repairing the ship before returning to the planet to rescue him.
The planet, Zinneon III, is the only habitable world in the Zinneon star system. Scans reveal it to be an iron/silicate world covered by a breathable atmosphere, with a temperate environment filled with nearly untouched flora and fauna. A large hydrosphere covers nearly half of the planet’s surface and is teeming with aquatic life. After crash-landing his escape pod, Bren salvages what he can from the pod, including a short-range emergency commlink with which to communicate with his comrades once they arrive. He takes advantage of the shelter of the pod and hunkers down for the night.
The Last Call returns to Zinneon III to find the ship and pirates gone. A new crater has emerged on the planet’s surface, acrid smoke pouring out of it into the atmosphere. A passive comm scan picks up a simple distress message being broadcast from the planet. Sidara also picks up an odd ambient signature around the planet apparently caused by a highly charged ionosphere. Following the distress signal leads the crew to Bren’s pod, he is patiently awaiting their arrival.
The crew flies over the planet looking for anything out of the ordinary and notices signs of life and metallic objects on a small island near the Equator. However, there are no detectable radio transmissions in the area, and Sidara is confident that the ship was not detected on its approach. The crew quickly lands in a discreet spot to investigate the site further. They step out into the humidity and take in the prehistoric rainforest-like environment, avoiding the nightmarish red-feathered creatures flying overhead. As they navigate toward the base, the crew sees a variety of paths leading inward through the trees and diverse races of sentient beings working in the area (using only low-techtools) with a listlessness that conveys an utter lack of enthusiasm for their occupation. Scouting from afar with binoculars, Bren sees no visible hangar but does notice an area to one side that has been covered in netting. Stopping a little closer in for more scouting, he sees more machinery (including hover vehicles) as well as several small bottle-sized objects sticking out of the ground along the inside of the fence.
The crew moves in to stealthily explore the compound, but Kothtri and Sidara are spotted and retreat before the armed responders can reach them, eventually making their way to the group’s rendezvous point. Bren and Kyra see a Headhunter fly overhead, apparently searching for their comrades. They continue their exploration in hopes of discovering the stolen crate but don’t see anything overt. Inside the fence, they notice a waterfall seeming to lead into the compound, with a river flowing outward into the jungle. Bren swims in to find that the fence extends down to keep unwanted intruders from breaching the perimeter. They retreat back into the jungle to rejoin the other half of their crew. On the way, Kyra is spotted and pursued by armed pirates, but she manages to give them the slip. However, she is hit by the Headhunter as it strafes the surrounding jungle, and she immediately goes down. The pirates, satisfied that their quarry has been eliminated, return to the compound. The rest of the crew retrieves Kyra’s beaten body and goes back to the Last Call to render aid.
Bren and Kothtri go out to hunt a Klatooinian they had spotted earlier, but they are unsuccessful, instead happening upon a group of pirates. Their leader, Sergeant Kreig, is an intimidating figure, big and burly, sporting a heavy blaster rifle and various battle scars. He leers knowingly at them, particularly Kothtri, and she makes a run for it, signalling Bren to do the same. Kreig bellows with joy, yelling “Azira” at the top of his lungs as he takes off after her. Bren takes a fusillade from the pirates before joining the chase. While Kothtri takes a slight lead by dodging through the underbrush, Kreig incapacitates her with a series of well-placed stun blasts. Meanwhile, Bren gets away and is picked up by Sidara in the Last Call.
Kreig recovers the unconscious Kothtri, binds her, and carries her back toward the compound. As Sidara and Bren attempt to find them for a rescue mission, they see a pair of Headhunters emerge from the waterfall and head their way. Manning the scanners, Sidara notices a large hanger area behind the waterfall with additional Headhunters, various electronic signals, and humanoid movement inside. Recon complete, they try to lose the active Headhunters by flying up into the asteroid belt. The ships pursue the Last Call; Bren takes one out with some impressive gunnery work, but the second one outmaneuvers and ultimately disables the Last Call. When the pirate pilot starts to board, however, he is handily knocked out by the able crew members. Sidara then takes on the laborious task of repairing the ship.
Kreig “escorts” Kothtri to a nice-looking but spartan private room, ensuring on the way that she has no opportunity to escape. When she comes to, she finds herself chained to the ceiling, Kreig’s imposing figure before her. He menacingly displays an array of torture tools, including a long, serrated vibroknife. He spends the next several hours torturing her about her family’s whereabouts. She holds out fairly well at first, giving out only minimal information. Even after his methods become more brutal, cutting deeply into her flesh, she refuses to tell him all the details of her secret information network. In a rage, he cuts off her ear, promising to return and take more if she remains obstinate. He leaves her whimpering in pain as she dangles limply from the ceiling, barely clinging to consciousness, fur matted and dripping with blood.
Back on the Last Call, Sidara scavenges the Headhunter for parts to get the ship up and running and patch up some of the holes in the hull. While working with the enemy ship, she discovers information on the existence of a Gozanti transport on which the ship regularly docks – the Jade Harlot. This type of ship is generally a civilian-grade cargo vessel that is heavily armed and armored but has poor speed and handling. Sidara determines that the Headhunter is designed to interface with the Jade Harlot, but it has been several weeks since the ships hooked up. Working vigorously over the course of several hours, she manages to fix the damage to the engines to the point that they are fully operational.
Meanwhile, Bren and Kyra (still grievously injured) take this time to talk with the captive pirate, Galen Hansol. They learn that he is terrified of his current employers, especially Mr. Kreig and Captain Rath Torsin. Torsin is reportedly a ruthless pirate who hires the worst of the worst using a combination of blackmail and threats. He works extensively with Surge, a computer hacker and blackmail artist. Kreig, a former Imperial soldier, runs the planet’s day-to-day operations and has a very nasty disposition, to say the least. Galen also discloses that Kreig is displeased with Torsin and feels he would be better suited to running the entire operation. In exchange for turning on his employers and helping the crew, he wants them to eliminate all the blackmail information Torsin has on him, which he believes is kept in Torsin’s room in the base. The crew agrees to help, and Galen reveals that Torsin is on the Jade Harlot and away from the planet right now, so it is a prime time to make a move on the base. He also mentions that, in Kyra’s current state, Kreig will likely kill her if they come face-to-face.
The Last Call, guided by Galen, approaches the pirate compound to find signs of damage to the waterfall entrance; it appears partially caved in, and smoke pours out from inside. In all the chaos, Sidara is unable to clearly discern any of the energy signatures within the base, but she is able to get a fix on Kothtri’s location. She also figures out that there are no signals leaving the base, suggesting that no one is communicating with the Jade Harlot. Galen attempts to radio the base and gets the impression that there is an unknown group in the hangar and there is chaos as the pirates try to figure out what is going on and who is attacking.
Inside the hangar, the Headhunters appear to be shooting at the pirates. An acrid smoke fills the area, water spouts everywhere, and pandemonium abounds. Meanwhile, Kothtri hears the sounds of distant gunfire coming from the hallway, and she see a message glowing faintly in the room’s mirror as it fills with smoke, directing her to the Imperial Center in Coruscant. Somewhat emboldened, she attempts to free herself, but she is ultimately unsuccessful. Kyra brings the Last Call in to a relatively safe location in the hangar, and Galen uses the ship’s guns to lay down covering fire that obliterates a nearby group of pirates. The crew sees a Klatooinian strap a package to one of the Headhunters before jumping inside. He fires, trying to get past the large ship in his way, but he ends up disabling his own ship, which goes crashing to the hangar floor. Bren and Sidara jump out of the ship to engage the Klatooinians trying to abscond with their mission cargo, and Sidara’s precision shots quickly tear through their targets. They swing deftly over to the Headhunter to try and retrieve the package, avoiding the electrified water below, which has completely disabled the enemy ship. In their ensuing struggle with the remaining Klatooinian pilot, they manage to free the package.
The crew sees Kreig coming toward the hangar from the armory area toting a nasty-looking weapon and pointing it at the Last Call. A loud explosion sounds in the enclosed area as several missiles emerge and hit the ship’s hull, causing some cosmetic damage. Cursing, he angrily throws the weapon to the ground, slipping in the water and momentarily losing his bearings before taking cover from the ship’s gunfire. He storms back to the room where Kothtri remains trapped, grabs her, and begins dragging her back toward the hangar. On the way out, she manages to get her hands on one of the torture tools still strewn about in the room, and she uses it to disarm Kreig and make a run for it. An increasingly pissed off Kreig grabs his heavy blaster rifle and takes a shot at her, missing but quickly closing the distance between them.
As Kothtri bursts into the hangar, Bren is still struggling with the Klatooinian (and taking some friendly fire from Sidara, whose aim seems to get progressively worse as the combat continues). Bren throws Kothtri one of the ropes leading up to the ship, and she grabs hold before Kreig blasts her in the back, sending her sprawling, unconscious, onto the floor. Kyra leaps down heroically to her rescue, sweeping the wounded Bothan safely into the cargo hold as Galen turns the ship’s guns on Kreig. As he disappears under a torrent of debris, the rest of the crew make a fighting retreat into the ship, with the angered Klatooinian still hot on their heels. They all manage to get out and away from the planet, albeit a bit worse for wear.
Once safe in the ship and on the road to recovery, Kothtri tells her shipmates about her true identity: Azira Irys’trem, daughter of a senator who was supposedly executed by the Empire for treason after allegedly conspiring with rebel forces. She tells them that, in reality, she and her parents escaped into hiding and have lived under assumed names ever since. Though she has not seen her parents in over a decade, they have been able to keep in touch periodically through an intricate network of informants and intermediaries: a network that must be dismantled now that it has been partially compromised. She also tells them about the message she received within the base, and they resolve to head to Coruscant.
The crew delivers the package to Thakba, who is overjoyed to see it. Inside are two Hutt funeral masks, which he proceeds to gleefully destroy with his bare hands. Afterward, he makes good on his promise, assuring the crew that their debt to him is forgiven, and they take their leave, once again on good terms with the Hutt.