(( Related: . The following follows my SWTOR Smuggler, Captain Jacqueline “Jackie” Rees. ))
The bright, surrounding white of hyperspace lit the cockpit. The communications console was silent, unable to receive transmissions at lightspeed. A lone timer ticked down the final minutes till the ship’s destination. The pilot was absent, letting the ship slice through space on a predestined track while she worked elsewhere.
To Jacqueline, the destination seemed familiar, inevitable. Readying herself in the ship’s armory, she worked in a steady routine. Her uncharacteristic grin was gone, replaced with a deep austerity foreign to her face in recent memory. She shed her captain’s jacket and attire, replacing them with reinforced black leggings and top. A tap of her datapad activated her suit’s wiring, the two syncing together in tandem. Fitting her holsters, datapad, and vibroblade to her belt, Jacqueline took in an old sight from one of the ship’s reflective surfaces. Her appearance only made her expression darker and with a turn of her heel, she returned to the cockpit and took her ship out of hyperspace.
A glistening blue planet jumped into view before her. Even at this distance, the serene oceans sparkled from the light of this system’s suns. It was a singular blue orb in space orbited by three spherical moons. The captain ignored the magnanimity and dove directly into the planet’s atmosphere, the hot air of entry lighting the view port of the ship. The serene oceans came into closer view along with innumerable chains of small, mountainous islands peaking from its azure surface. Without even glancing at her navcomputer, Jacqueline flew directly toward one, her ship like an arrow on a straight path.
She was unperturbed as a battery of anti-aircraft turrets opened fire at her. Her ship juked and wove, weaving through the heavy line of fire, driving downwards to its destination. She shut off the comm as threats in multiple languages screamed at her. She jammed the console silent as the ship blared system warnings. Downward she went, plunging toward the ground, the rocky outcropping finally revealing her target: A durasteel bunker lined with turrets and defensive towers. Taking quick inventory of her foe, Jacqueline latched onto four quick targets and released four simultaneous proton torpedoes. They pealed from her ship, swerving mid-air and leaving jagged smoke trails as they screamed towards their targets. The explosions were immediate and blinding. Jerking the yoke of the ship, the Gunstar swerved through the fiery debris with ease, still boring down on its target.
A submerged fifth turret lifted from the shoreline and shot across the ship’s nose. Jacqueline’s grin momentarily returned. “Heh.” Noting no more torpedoes left in the bay, she spiraled the ship out of the turret’s range. Kicking the right floor pedal and punching the emergency latch, the ship flipped on its side. An escape pod deployed and unceremoniously plowed into the target. The explosion was a far cry from a torpedo but rendered the target as equally useless.
Enemy fighters deployed, each a gross marriage of Imperial and Republic technology; pathetic attempts to employ the greatest strengths of each. Jacqueline dove into the fray, three-on-one, expertly taking out the first in her opening barrage. The surviving pilots peeled from their pursuit, regrouping and retaking their foe with more caution. Relentless and allowing them no time to breathe, she drove them down in a pursuit that mirrored their every desperate move. No matter how they banked and dodged, she copied and took them, her movements swift and ruthless. Finishing off the last of her foes, the Gunstar had barely concluded its landing sequence before she jumped from the ship and barreled toward the bunker entrance.
She was met with equal resistance on the ground. Taking up her blasters, she returned fire before rolling into cover. Taking a deep breath and closing her eyes, she counted the shots. One, two, three, four guards, judging from the amount of blaster fire. Twenty meters. Unhooking a flash grenade from her belt, she hurled it upwards, drawing their fire. As incompetent as their air predecessors, the ground guards’ fire trained upward and ineffectually at the grenade, leaving them blinded as it unleashed a searing white light and a loud bang.
Jacqueline wasted no time and closed the distance between them. Opting for fists in close quarters, she disabled each of them in turn. As one clumsily attempted to turn his blasters toward her, she raised her own and fired a headshot. He dropped to the ground.
She searched the bodies, only some of them still breathing, locating what she needed. Swiping a security card at the door, she fired directly into the open doorway then headed inside. A felled guard rolled at her feet. She walked the hallway with familiarity, bypassing security with casual swipes of the card and shots of her blaster. Neither paused her stride. As one guard managed a grazing shot to the thigh, Jacqueline whipped her head towards him and followed through with her blaster so thoroughly, little recognition of him remained.
Another door opened and she descended into the final chamber. As the door lifted and locked into place, Jacqueline was met with dead silence. Her blasters leveled at the darkness inside, she proceeded slowly, her footfalls echoing against unseen walls. Narrowing her eyes, the captain listened for the tiniest of movements or breaths, waiting for the dark to finally betray her foe. It came not as a whisper but as the unmistakable activation of a lightsaber.
Jacqueline ducked as a flash of red cut the air above her. She lashed out with her foot, hitting something with an audible pop, then abruptly dropped and rolled. The thermal detonator she left behind exploded seconds after, sending her and her presumed foe towards opposite walls. Coughing from the impact and dust, Jacqueline felt the familiar taste of iron in her mouth. Flashing a grin, she trained her blasters toward the sound of her enemy’s impact and fired a flurry of shots. She heard an audible snarl, hiss, and then silence along with the familiar smell of burning flesh.
Her blasters still trained on her felled foe, she slowly closed the distance between them. Debris fires cast just enough light to outline him sitting slumped against the wall, lightsaber deactivated. Five meters away and with one blaster still locked on him, she conducted a quick med scan. Her datapad beeped a warning the same time the Force user raised a hand and she flew backwards against the wall. The impact dazed her but soon became the least concern: Clenched by unseen hands, she felt her feet lifted off the ground and throat tighten. Choked of air and already lightheaded, her vision blurred as she attempted to line up her blaster for a shot. Another sweep of the Force knocked it from her hand. Her attacker limped to her, eager to close the space between them, face twisted in a grotesque expression of glee. Adding his own hand to her throat, he resumed choking with his own physical strength.
Lungs burning for air and gasping, Jacqueline still managed a flash of a grin. “Thanks,” she mouthed to him, and dropping a hand to her datapad, her suit activated and an electrical charge hit them both.
The Sith dropped, writhing. Jacqueline similarly hit the ground, gasping for breath but otherwise insulated from the current that surged through them both. Between her coughs, the captain wasted no time retrieving her blaster and aiming directly between her opponent’s eyes. Her enemy dispatched, she lay for a few recuperating moments, listening to the silence of the bunker that was punctuated only by the crackling of dying debris fires.
Rolling painfully to her feet, she drew to a console and worked over the keypad. A map readout appeared: Multiple cells in what was presumably a crudely made detention block. A single cell lit on the readout, indicating a lone occupant. She moved painfully but deliberately to the cell, drawing to the window to confirm the contents inside.
A young girl with dark hair laid in the corner tied up, but otherwise unharmed. Her back was to the door but her shoulders moved in visible sobs, clearly terrified of the noises of the battle just outside her door. Jacqueline immediately moved to open the door then stopped. She stood motionless, watching the helpless girl inside, her expression breaking from its austere mask. Bracing a hand against the door, a steel divider between them, the captain leaned heavily against it with her head bowed, a silent conflict raging within. One side winning, she turned and slumped against the door, leaving the girl undisturbed and unaware of a rescue so close.
Keying her comm, she rasped, “Got her. Sending you coordinates. Come by for a pick up.”
The minutes felt like hours. Jacqueline waited in silence, blaster trained on the entrance of the cell block as she slowly regained her breath from her throat’s near collapse. Within the cell, a terrified child huddled and cried while her unseen rescuer rested against the door, gaze turned upwards and eyes shut tight against tears.
A man arrived, his rushed footfalls signaling his approach long before he entered the block. He was older, hair thinned but his body no less capable of sprinting to her.
“No! Are you…?”
“Dead?” She coughed. eyes opening and grinning. “Not really. Just resting. Besides, dumb question. Supposed to be dead, remember?”
“Oh yes,” he breathed, snatching her into an embrace. “I know, I know.” He clutched her like a person lost to time, the emotions strangling his voice. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. They came so suddenly. We didn’t have time to hide. I don’t know if they know, but they knew who she was. They –“
“S’alright. Bound to happen,” she breathed. “Couldn’t go on forever.”
“Will you see h –“
“No,” she interrupted him, shrugging off his embrace and wincing to her feet. “Leaving. Better this way. Get her and get out of here. I put plenty of credits in the account to start somewhere new.”
The old man eyed her, his dark eyes so similar to her own but face forty years more lined. He managed a sad smile. “I have a place in mind,” he told her, almost reassuring. “It’s time to start her at a proper academy.”
“Old enough already, huh?” Jacqueline whispered. Fully rising to her feet, she began to depart. Not enough distance was behind her to drown out him calling her name. She stopped and listened.
“How much longer?” His voice echoed down the cell block.
“Working on it,” she muttered, and left without turning around. The bunker left in smoking ruins, Jacqueline retreated to the Gunstar and flew a patrol pattern until his ship departed, it too bearing a resemblance to hers but older in model. She watched its trajectory for long moments till it finally disappeared against one of the planet’s suns. Wordlessly, she turned her own ship toward her latest home.