5 BBY – Jedha – Qardin sets the Kestrel down at the bustling spaceport on the outskirts of Jedha City. He does not like the situation. The Imperial presence seems more… dense. Shuttles and patrol craft are moving about, Stormtroopers and uniformed commanders are conducting spot checks on the ground and a handful of small capital ships are in orbit, which is all a bit odd for a largely neutral site. The party confirms its academic clearances on a datapad, grabs their gear and heads out. Once the research team and Arya are clear of the ship, Qardin raises the ramp and leaves the security of vessel under the capable paws of Tuk Tuk.
The party encounters its first checkpoint at the exit of the spaceport, which is clogged with both pilgrims and traders. They wait in the queue for processing and eventually reach an Imperial customs agent who is flanked by several Stormtroopers. The bureaucrat methodically reviews the clearances, taps something into a terminal, pauses for about 15 seconds, nods and authorizes the group to pass. Two Stormtroopers step aside to clear a path and the party exits toward the city. Although she has no logical reason to think otherwise, Arya is surprised to see that the academic credentials to visit the Temple appear legit.
As they approach the city and its outer environs, Arya and Qardin note that the atmosphere, while busy, is very subdued. The dense Imperial presence is having a chilling effect over everything. It seems like everyone is looking over their shoulders and expecting the worst. Unfortunately for some, expectations and reality converge. Down a few side alleys, Arya spots small Stormtrooper patrols harassing and arresting civilians. The situation is definitely not good. People are keeping their heads down and shuffling about in hushed haste. Seeing what Arya sees, Qardin keeps the group moving. The party eventually ducks through an archway on their way toward the Temple.
“Halt!” shouts a Stormtrooper who cuts off the exit by stepping into the archway behind them. Surprised, Arya quickly scans the area. Counting the Stormtrooper who is blocking the archway exit, there are no less than three Stormtrooper regulars now surrounding them and likely a couple covering from above, too. They have stumbled into a classic ambush checkpoint. A Stormtrooper squad leader steps forward and takes a long look at the party.
“You do not appear to be local. Present your credentials” orders the squad leader. As before, the party presents a datapad and hands it to the commanding Stormtrooper. He looks over the academic research authorizations and appears to communicate something to command. After their Imperial run in on Coruscant, Arya is trying to be a bit more cautious. She projects calm and attempts to appear unthreatening. No Stormtrooper is leveling a weapon at us. Good.
After about 10 agonizing seconds, she starts plotting an escape by taking note of exits and places to duck behind for cover. Unfortunately, the party's odds do not look good — this is a well chosen ambush point. She hears some indiscernible helmet chatter and then notices subtle movements among two of the Stormtroopers. They start adjusting their grip on the standard issue blaster rifles. This is not going to end well, she thinks to herself.
A hush falls across the group as the silent standoff makes everyone tense. The normal stoic presence of Qardin is giving way to side glances. Arya surmises that he, too, is trying to come up with a way out (and likely not succeeding either). She suspects that one false move could turn this situation into a firefight. Except for periodic servo noises, even the protocol droid is keeping uncharacteristically quiet.
More seconds pass. Arya reads the body language of the lead researcher and quickly becomes alarmed; she is showing signs of irritation that made the trip in hyperspace so taxing for everyone. The researcher appears to be agitated and annoyed with little concern for the gravity of the situation. Arya guesses that her patience is wearing thin and now expects her to blurt something crass out at any moment. Arya slides her hand into the set of concealed vibroknucklers under her cloak just in case.
The silence is suddenly broken by the distinct noise of a bucket head speaker. “You are clear,” proclaims the squad leader. “Move along.” The Stormtroopers stand down and melt into the shadows.
With newfound urgency, the party proceeds down the alley and moves away from the ambush zone. Not much further, they reassure themselves. The researcher mutters something under her breath. Ahead beyond the myriad alleys and streets looms the Temple.