Deus ex machinis

2 ABY – 06 Echo – 33 Zheliday (Ktil). Seeing C4-BL3 stuck in the ravine at the edge of the Thrifty’s clearing, tangled in vines, Cheebs sends a quick command to power down the . He figures if they’re spotted and the blasters start blasting their situation would go from bad to worse. Then, with a bit of concentration and a mighty energetic effort borne of desperation, Cheebs somehow makes the tangled briars around C4-BL3 silently part themselves and fall away from the clumsy . He spies the ominous black probe droid heading east, away from them and behind the hull of the Thrifty – now’s their chance to get away! Freed from the brambles and able to get up quietly, C4-BL3 heads back west into the woods with Cheebs right behind him. But true to form, the apparently distracted droid steps on a dry branch and brings down a tumble of rocks from the side of the ravine, making enough of a racket to alert the Imperials in the clearing.

Four scout troopers appear nearby (a small force of them had arrived earlier on speeder bikes) at the edge of the woods, probing westward and looking for our heroes. Spotting them seems inevitable. Just as one of the troopers spots the deactivated very close by, C4-BL3 tries to connect to the droid to power it up. And finds his comms jammed by the probe droid! But the quirky comm droid was (quite literally) made for this and finds a way through the jamming. The “new old stock” Trade Federation droid thrums to life, powering up its impressive shields and hammering away with all its firepower. The nearest scout trooper disappears in a puff of evaporated body armor. All hell breaks loose.

Taking full advantage of the chaos, Cheebs tries to hurry the comm droid along to where they left the speeder bike. Thankfully it seems no one has spotted them, or if they did, they’re now too busy dealing with the sudden appearance of a fully operational heavy battledroid. A muddled blur of images and impressions washes over Cheebs: escorts screaming overhead. Assorted yells from troopers in the clearing intersperse the sound of many blasters firing. The whine of the ATR-6 Imperial assault transport powering up. An explosion in the sky – a getting vaporized! A turtle-like transport (answering Kiarra’s description of her ship) swooping overhead, blasting away at the remaining TIEs. The ATR-6 taking to the air, and the appearance of a Gozanti-class Imperial transport in the sky as well – the obvious source of the 4 or so TIEs that have been patrolling the area. Also, a strange impression in Cheebs’ mind that Kantarra is quite nearby … then receding.

With C4-BL3 at the speeder bike’s controls, the pair race north through the woods while the sudden firefight is raging. But when Cheebs notices that the ATR-6 has lifted off and the sounds of battle in the clearing have died off, he urges the comm droid to turn around and make a swift raid. C4-BL3 complies, dropping Cheebs off at the abandoned scout troopers’ speeder bikes, then heading over to recover his badly damaged . Cheebs hops on another of the now-familiar Aratech 74-Zs, taking a moment to rip out its Imperial , and guides it to the Thrifty’s open hatch. Leaving it idling, he races back to the engineering crawlspaces and uses the mini-toolkit he keeps with him to hastily remove the ship’s fulstar plate.

As Cheebs jumps back on his new speeder bike to rejoin C4-BL3 at the clearing’s edge, the comm droid has just finished securing the badly damaged to the repulsor pallet towed behind his own bike. They race north again, and as they leave the clearing Cheebs catches a glimpse of the sinister black probe droid on the other side of the clearing. Periodically slowing down and cutting wide zig-zag turns to watch their back for possible pursuit, the Duro lets C4-BL3 take a wide lead. The comm droid returns quickly to the assumed safety of the crater and the Porgatu, finding all in order. Cheebs finds his way back much later, having gotten a bit turned around in his paranoid maneuverings. Although the bulk of the Imperial mothership (the Casisto) has appeared on the horizon, no one seems to have followed them. All is well back at the Porgatu, although C4-BL3 picks up decrypted Imperial radio chatter about planetary bombardment. After an ominous series of deep, distant booms, shipboard comms announce the Imperial message: The site is clear.

Relieved to return to mundane mechanical tasks, the two have at it. Cheebs duly installs the fulstar plate and runs diagnostics indicating their primary hyperdrive is back to 100% function. C4-BL3 and Cheebs scrounge enough parts from the nearby caverns to make a more or less full repair of the savaged , and C4-BL3 turns most of his processing power to that repair job on his beloved minion. They also string together enough cabling for a hard-wired connection from the ship to the surface, where C4-BL3 has again deployed the anthropomorphic battle droids in a passive listening array.

After another heated discussion – which seems to characterize the Duro captain’s dealings with his stubborn new droid crewmember – Cheebs is compelled to pull rank and order the droid to refrain from any active scans or transmissions that could give away their location. The Duro tries to convince the droid (who is obsessed with the idea of recovering R3-M3) that their best and only chance lies in Kantarra’s return, since she had left specifically to recover the sturdy astromech. They agree the best course of action is to finish repairs – C4-BL3 on the droideka, Cheebs patching & welding up the holed main hatch/ramp. After repairs are finished, they’ll wait for Kantarra’s return. Perhaps a day … perhaps more … until they get too nervous that Kiarra, or worse yet, the Imperials will find them in their sheltering crater.

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