The Banshee is a sleek and luxuriously appointed Baudo Class Star Yacht, nearly as striking as her captain, Sirona Okeefe. A light blinks on the console and Sirona pushes a lever, causing the whirling blue to be replaced by a million stars streaking back into place. After another hour the outcasts arrived at the beautiful blue and green world of Alderaan, and “Crash” responds to the planetary hails to plot a landing route towards Aldera, the capital. As the ship cruises over grassy fields and valleys and countless seas, the outcasts are quite impressed by how pristine and clean the world looks. Most settlements are quite difficult to see from the air because they are well integrated into the natural terrain. Aldera was a small city built into a beautiful mountain valley. Its tallest buildings are rounded and sweeping, mostly with gleaming metal casings. Aldera’s spaceport control tower cleared the ship to land at the Royal Palace’s landing pad. The Banshee landed on a small pad as it descended upon the beautiful landscape under the cover of dawn.
The outcasts disembarked and were immediately greeted by several Alderaanian honor guards in robes and steel clasps and one of Bail Organa’s servants. He introduced himself, “I am Col, it is a pleasure to meet your acquaintance, the senator has been eagerly expecting your arrival.”
Col began to lead the outcasts towards the palace and into the soaring grand hall, several hollow torsoed labor droids stomped towards the Banshee while one of them gave the outcasts a quick turn of its head as it passed by and continued on its way towards the ship. Guided by Col everyone was gathered onto a small balcony where there were a few droids setting up an assorted array of pastries and other refreshments. Motioning towards everyone they all took a seat as they each gazed around and took in their surroundings. It was a rare honor to be invited into the palace of an Imperial Senator and famous diplomat such as Bail Organa one that none of them were taking lightly.
As they all sat the doors to the Grand Hall opened revealing a middle-aged man with a well-kept goatee wearing Senatorial robes, easily recognizable as Senator Bail Organa he smiles and nods to the servants before joining the outcasts on the balcony.
“Welcome to Alderaan,” he says. “I had hoped we might meet under more pleasant circumstances, but unfortunately the Empire makes almost unpleasant. Still, I am glad to se e that the…difficulties at the spaceport above Brentaal didn’t impede you too much. Come!” He motions with his hand to guide the outcasts into a small theater style antechamber.
“I’ve asked you to join me today because Maya, my agent, seems to think you can be trusted. By the way, she is safe now in her quarters resting here on Alderaan. Since you worked hard to help her, I believe I can put my fait in you as well. I have a task that needs to be completed, but unfortunately my status as a Senator prevents me from taking care of it myself, or even from sending someone directly associated with the Royal Family –I realize I need to be more cautious in the future.” As he says this he activates a holo, causing a planet to appear.
“The Planet Felucia was ravaged during the Clone Wars, but once the fighting was over, the Empire set up some permanent facilities on the world. This is the one that concerns me,” he says, zooming in on a dot near the equator. “Nothing Large, it used to be a communications facility. Now it’s just a small garrison where they could keep prisoners out of the way, a rendition facility. Some months ago, I was contacted by an Imperial Admiral who was disillusioned with the way the Empire had twisted the once-great Republic, and he began feeding me sensitive information. A little over a week ago, that communication stopped. My agent, who you just brought back from Brentaal, has just told me tat the Admiral has been taken to Felucia, where he is being held against his will. I’d like you to learn what has become of him, and rescue him if you can.”
For a moment there was a silence while everyone contemplated all the information they had just been told. Breaking the silence the Jedi Padawan Tal spoke first, “Who is this admiral you speak of?”
“Admiral Gilder Varth is a veteran of the Clone Wars and an honorable man. He commanded one of the ships at the Battle of Coruscant and was promoted for bravery. His loyalty to the Empire seemed unwavering, but once you’ve seen what he has seen, it changes you…He was on the planet at the Ghorman massacre.”
Gaph looked up from the holo of Garth and asked, “What kind of Imperial presence is there?”
“The Imperial presence on Felucia is light. The facility itself is a secret, accessible by air and surrounded by swamps and jungles. They do not advertise its presence with large numbers of troops, and it is far from other settlements. Our knowledge of the facility’s existence is our greatest advantage. Additionally, you shouldn’t be going anywhere near the planet’s major cities, so you should be able to travel largely undetected. There’s just one thing, we believe this facility has a roof turret guarding it. You can’t land on or near it.” Hilliard stands up abruptly, “Okay so say we do agree to do this, what is in it for us?”
A slight smile falls across the senator’s face, “Each of you will receive 2,000 credits up front, out of which you can secure provisions and keep the rest. If things go well, I will guarantee more work when you return. Additionally, if the Admiral has as much information as I believe he does, this could be an excellent chance to strike a blow at the Galactic Empire!”
All the outcasts stand up, look at each other and nod in a silent agreement and turn to the senator, Tal asks, “How are we going to get there?”
The Senator claps his hands together, “Ah, I’ve arranged for transport aboard a vessel owned and operated by my longtime friend, Sirona Okeefe. Hello Sirona,” he gives her warm embrace. “As you already know Sirona knows her way around the galaxy. She’ll take good care of you.
The Senator shakes everyone’s hands with a strong handshake as the door opens. Col points to his chronometer and Organa nods. “I’m afraid my shuttle has arrived and I must go now. Thank you for your help so far, and I’ll look forward to our next meeting.” He waves farewell around the room and exits swiftly. Gaph, Tal, and Hilliard all look to Sirona who is now standing where Organa just was as she begins typing on the controls of the holo. “The Banshee isn’t an assault ship, and the turret will prevent our landing near the prison facility. That means you are going to have to get in and get out with the Admiral on foot.” Zooming in on the holo, she points to a long and deep canyon that cuts across reasonably close to the canyon.
“We can ever here, out of the facility’s sensor range,” she says, “The canyon should hide us from their sensors on our approach. We’ll put down here, at the closet point to the prison. I’ll wait there for your transmission. You can bring him back by foot.”
Understanding the mission that had been laid before them the outcasts began to board The Banshee after taking their credits to buy much needed supplies for the journey ahead. A courier droid moving Switch’s cargo was hovering nearby quickly swiveling its head to look at the approaching group. After acknowledging who it was it moved over to Hilliard and handed him a credstick that had 600 credits in it which was divided amongst everyone for a job well done. Before boarding the ship Jack approached speaking to Gaph, “Do you need assistance in this mission, sir?” Unsure of whether or not to actually trust Jack Tal asked, “If you want to I am sure we could use all the help we can get.” Jack stands up tall, “Excellent, then I require the same amount of credits as everyone else, 2,000 was it?” Hearing the absurd amount Jack requested of them for his service they were quick to turn around and say that his help would be missed but they can’t pay him that much.
Obviously not happy about the news Jack quickly turned around and headed back off to the palace. After securing the last of their cargo they were about ready to leave when Jack finally returned. “Ah, the Senator has agreed to pay me for my services as well it seems I will be accompanying you after all, sir.” Everyone finally boarded the Banshee where they were greeted by an obviously frazzled Crash. “Oh no oh no oh no, we have to travel with them again, I just got my plating shined.”
Plotting a course that mostly followed the Parleman trade route, which makes the long journey to the outer rim faster, but it is still a long journey nonetheless. On approach to Felucia, Sirona tells everyone to strap in at battlestations, as a precautionary measure. The proximity alert sounded and the ship jumps out of lightspeed, and Felucia fills the viewscreen. Its atmosphere seems covered in iridescent haze, making it hard to distinguish the sea from the land, and there aren’t many lights. Sirona flips a few switches to mask the transponder and cuts her engines, and doesn’t start them again until the ship is already caught in the gravity well. The Banshee descended, punching through clouds and rain until the canyon is spotted amid the lush and brightly colored vegetation. Sirona heads for it and the outcasts feel a squeeze as she dips beneath the walls and pushes the ship down the slot. “Hang on! This could get tight, really fast!”
Taking her time, the Banshee pushes through a bizarre landscape of giant flowers, tendrils and bloated fungi. The vegetation makes the canyon much tight than it appeared on the map, and sometimes the orange overcast sky disappears in the tunnel. Strange flying creatures bump and splat against the windscreen in the rain. Rounding a corner, the slot opens wider, and Sirona accelerates down the straightaway, gliding easily over a cluster of orange mushrooms larger than the ship. “We’ll set her down over there,” she said pointing to a ledge. Just as she says that one of the massive mushrooms balloons up to twice its size and rockets upwards, trailing a cluster of tendrils underneath it. “What the…” Sirona says being cut off by the gasbag exploding covering the ship with orange dust and slime. “Brace yourselves!”
Firing the engines hard the ship lurched forward, shedding much of the slime and dropping the cloud behind it, even as the altitude dips. Sirona points the nose clumsily at a soft and large shelf mushroom near the lip of the canyon and fires the engine hard again. The Banshee arced upward and its apogee slid it to a lurching stop on the fungus.
Stepping out of the ship, the outcasts sink a little into the squishy biomass. The air smells fertile. The landscape was indeed bizarre. The membranous vegetation was translucent, oversized, and colored brightly. The air is hot and humid as insects flew and crawled all over. Gaph turns to look at Sirona who seems to be eyeing the damage of the Banshee, “Anything broken?” he asked.
Sirona shook her head, “The damage isn’t bad. The repulsors need to be cleaned of that pollen before we can fly again, and I need to get the carcass off the ship.” Eyeing the remains of the gasbag draped across the ship like an orange balloon Gaph just nodded and began gathering his equipment. Saying their farewells to Sirona and crash, Hilliard, Tal, Gaph, and Jack start to walk through the forest of mushrooms unsure what lurks around every corner. Everyone seems to be able to navigate the jungle well enough avoiding a few sinkholes and razor mushrooms along the way.
After traveling for about 5 hours Hilliard, not paying much attention, walked up to an exploding mushroom as its toxin spread across his body. Jack turned back to Hilliard and simply said, “One must watch where one is going, fleshy biped.” After another hour of travel the outcasts came across what looked like a sort of swamp. The area was covered in a pool of disgusting looking water that went up to the calf when walking through it with a mixture of islands scattered about. Tal looks ahead and spots a strange object in the distance. He goes to investigate a bit closer to find that it is a dead scout trooper impaled upon a spear as if it were a makeshift scarecrow. While looking at the figure Tal sensed a group of sentient beings sneaking up on them for an ambush. Jumping out from their hiding places amongst the islands. Tal was taken by surprise when the creature used some sort of force power on him that he didn’t recognize; luckily he was able to avoid it. Hilliard took a shot at one of the charging creatures and landed a successful shot right in its head as it crumpled to the ground with a loud splash. Just when another was about to spear Gaph from behind there was a voice that shouted across the battlefield. “Peace! Please, stop fighting!”
In the distance there was a middle aged man with a scared face and long stringy grey hair riding a kybuck through the swamp, the creatures stopped attacking as did the outcasts. The man rode forward and started to speak with a loud and clear voice. “You do not look like you are with the Empire, am I right in my assumptions?” A few looks were exchanged until finally Tal spoke first. “No, the Empire is no friend of ours.”
The man let out a loud and deep laugh, “Ha, I like you already, come it isn’t safe to talk here, come back to the village!” Reluctantly following the man close behind everyone started making way through the overgrowth, which was so thick you couldn’t see two feet ahead of you. Just when they thought they were being lead to their death the overgrowth parted to reveal a clearing under the cover of a giant mushroom. Beneath this mushroom there are several buildings and more of the creatures gathered around the area, obviously being their village. All of the Felucians looked at the group curiously but cautiously at the same time unsure of what to expect from these strangers in their village.
One of the smaller Felucians ran up to Hilliard tugging at his pants and smelling him but quickly it is intercepted by a larger Felucian which brings the child back to the cooking fire which rested in the heart of the village. The man corralled his Kybuck with the others off to the side and returned to the outcasts with a smile on his face.
“My name is Mandrake, Vazus Mandrake. I was stranded here on Felucia during the Clone Wars after my mercenary unit was destroyed by Clone Troopers. It’s where I got this Scar. I managed to crawl off into the jungle, and they didn’t execute me. The war ended, and I nursed myself back to health, making my home here among the Felucians. I tend a small herd of Kybuck, it’s one of the only things I have left from home on Corulag. What are your intentions here on Felucia?”
Unsure of whether or not to trust this man, Tal didn’t want to reveal too much information about the mission so he simply said, “We were looking to obtain something from the local Imperial Communications Facility located nearby on the planet’s surface.” Mandrake nodded, “Aye, I know just where that is, it is a stroke of luck indeed come with me I have something to show you.” Leading them to his hut next to the Kybuck chorale he invited them inside as he reached under his bed to pull out a small footlocker. Within the footlocker was a small square box with a timer on it. “Do you know what this is?”
Gaph took a closer look at the footlockers contents; he was able to identify it as an explosive of some kind but not much else about it. A rush of excitement came over Mandrake as he slapped Gaph on the back, “Ha! a smart boy aren’t you, I made this explosive charge myself. Back in my Mercenary days I would have already blown up that god damn Imperial base but in my old age I couldn’t make the trip, let along break into a secured facility, plant an explosive and get out with my life. If you are going to the same facility and are no friend of the Empire perhaps you could do us all a favor and blow it sky high!” Gaph agreed to set the explosives in the communications center of the building. According to Mandrake’s recon he determined that if an explosion happened in that exact location in the facility it would overload the mainframe, and in turn blow the reactor taking the entire facility with it.
After packing the explosive safe away and learning from Mandrake how to operate the timer everyone exited his hut and gathered back around the fire. As they were standing there an older looking Felucian came walking out of a hut in the distance. All of the other Felucians seem to make way for him. The elderly Felucian had a black and withered arm as he slowly navigated through the crowd, patting a Felucian child with his good arm. This Felucian was obviously the village chief. He stops in front of the outcasts and begins studying each of them with an intense glare. He moves down the line but finally stops in front of Tal. Excited the chief reaches out with the force and begins floating a small rock a few inches above his good palm then calmly throws it to the side. Tal didn’t understand the chief but he could tell that what he was after was more knowledge of the force thinking he was a full fledged Jedi Master. Unfortunately he was just a Padawan and told him that he didn’t have the skills to teach the chief anything about the force.
A little disappointed the chief begins to walk back to Mandrake and gives him a nod. Just then Tal felt this strange disturbance in the force that felt like pain and discomfort emanating from a small hut nearby. Going to investigate he learns that the hut is filled with very sick Felucian children. They were literally too weak to get up, their bodies were failing them. Using what knowledge he had of medicine Tal spent a good 8 hours with the children tending to them. Finally he was able to cure the disease that plagued them. They were already starting to look a lot better. The chief then ran up to Tal and bowed down to him in respect. Sitting down in a meditative position he began to reach out to Tal with the force. Once their minds were connected he began showing Tal the force power that the Felucians had used against him before. He finally understood it now and was able to do it himself after that.
The chief spoke and Mandrake translated, “Many of my people have disappeared while hunting in the wilderness. All of them were near the vanishing place. It is an evil place where my people go missing and also get really sick like the children you helped. We sent some of our shamans there to investigate but they had to leave quickly before they were overwhelmed with pain. I know my people are still alive and are being held in that building the empire uses. The pain mostly originates from the west side of the building.”
The outcasts listened closely to the words Mandrake translated. Tal was overwhelmed with wanting to help the poor Felucians in any way he can. Hilliard was reminded of the pain and suffering his family still endures as slaves on Tatooine and wanted nothing but to help liberate these Felucians captured by the Empire, though they are not his family he knows their pain all too well. Gaph was curious about what sorts of technology he might come across in the facility but also wanted to help in any way he could. Suddenly a unnatural sound emanated from the jungle in the distance. The whirring sound of a poorly maintained repulsor engine could be heard. When everyone turned to look they saw a scout trooper riding off into the overgrowth on a speeder bike.
“No! They found our village, please, you must stop them before they report its location to the main facility! Take my Kybuck they are just as fast as a speeder bike and are trained to accept riders. Hurry!” Hilliard, Tal, and Gaph turned and looked at each other, with a quick nod they ran toward the chorale where the Kybuck were kept.