2 ABY – 06 Echo – 33 Zheliday (Ktil). Having agreed on a plan, Cheebs & C4-BL3 don’t even have a chance to begin repairs before the array of battle droids detects the Casisto … falling out of orbit like a rock. Suffering some mysterious and sudden drive failure while in very low orbit, the light cruiser falls to earth somewhere near the (now cratered) site of the Thrifty, shedding almost a dozen escape pods as it falls. C4-BL3 monitors Imperial comm chatter as the cruiser explodes spectacularly on impact. An Imperial shuttle has appeared (from … somewhere) as well as the Gozanti-class ship they’d seen before; these immediately begin rescue operations. Comm chatter indicates a priority given to recovering the pods containing the “director” and “operations chief.” It also reveals that the now-infamous “Storm Rider” assault transport has ridden its last storm, plowing into the earth still attached to its mothership.
Suddenly the battle droids chatter about a “friendly” droid appearing nearby – the Imperial probe droid! C4-BL3 hastily commands them to open fire. While the comm droid continues monitoring the lively Imperial search & rescue chatter, Cheebs hops on a speeder bike to head for the surface, fearing the worst. But when the smoke clears from the sudden eruption of blaster fire, he sees the probe droid’s wreckage – and that of one of the battle droids. Momentarily tempted to try hacking the probe droid himself, Cheebs thinks better of it and trades places with C4-BL3. The adept comm droid hacks the probe’s droid brain, discovering to everyone’s relief that it had been in autonomous mode and hadn’t reported anything back to its (now destroyed) command ship. Meanwhile, the battle droids tip them off to the sound of a speeder bike passing nearby. Sure enough, Kantarra (dressed as an Imperial scout trooper) soon comes sailing over the lip of the crater! In her Zephyr’s sidecar is a familiar and fully operational orange & yellow R3 unit.
Reunited after what feels like weeks (in reality just a few days), the party catches up Kantarra and R3-M3 on what they missed and vice versa. Although taken and probed by the Imperials, R3-M3 gave them no useful data – because her memory banks no longer contained any useful data. She had shrewdly off-loaded it all to C4-BL3 before her capture. While C4-BL3 duly restores her memories and data, Kantarra briefs Cheebs on her infiltration of the planetside Imperial camp. Disguised as a scout trooper, she survived the firefight in the Thrifty’s clearing and was evacuated to the orbiting Casisto. There she eventually found R3-M3 and used an escape pod to make planetfall again. Before leaving the Casisto, R3-M3 had triggered a Republic-era command forcing the (ex-Republic) light cruiser to completely shut down its drives for an ad hoc and permanent “dry dock” on Ktil. Mystery solved.
2 ABY – 06 Echo – 34 Benduday (Ktil) The next day, the group works together to finish patching the holed main hatch. An Imperial Star Destroyer appears in low orbit to complete rescue operations for the wrecked light cruiser. C4-BL3 & Kantarra continue to monitor Imperial activity while R3-M3 (now back up to speed on the intervening ship modifications and repairs) works with Cheebs to fine-tune their new targeting computer. Although everyone is nervous about the heavy Imperial presence nearby – the Star Destroyer looming a mere 50km away – they turn their thoughts to departure. The hold is now stuffed full of cargo crates, spare droid parts, recharging equipment, speeder bikes, and miscellany. Cheebs dismantles one of their stolen Imperial bikes completely to save space, and everyone pitches in to secure the hold. Cheebs considers attempting to wire the salvaged Ginivex’s deflector array into the Porgatu’s systems but thinks better of it; this is no time to get hip deep in a new project.
Time blurs until the Imperials leave. With the Star Destroyer, shuttle, and Gozanti class transport all departed, the comms fall blissfully silent. The last transmissions indicated all ships were bound for hyperspace. The party spends a few hours anxiously monitoring the silent comm and sensor arrays … then buttons up their ship and prepares to launch. The engines whine, the old shuttle comes to life, gives a mighty shudder … and settles back into the crater. After the fussy R3 unit grumbles and quickly rewires the repulsorlift system, they have another go of it. This time the once-agile craft protests but lumbers skyward, its mangled stabilizers lowering only to horizontal instead of their usual graceful decline. The wounded Porgatu slowly breaks atmo, then – finally – escapes the accursed planet’s gravity.
The nervous crew finds the skies above Ktil clear. Cheebs happily plots a course for Kirian. Some of his characteristic optimism restored, the Duro gives his customary cry of “ban-san!” (‘lucky’ or ‘luck be with us’) as he presses his favorite button – the Hyperspace actuator. The starfield blurs. A few parts fly off the ship … but nothing important. They hope.