Taking Dugan’s Hand

2 ABY – 09 Golf – 8 Benduday () Kantarra, Cheebs, and C4-BL3 contemplate the remains of Epsilon, the huge droid of terrifying aspect who seems to have been caretaker of the Dugan's Hand's mysterious Force temple. C4-BL3 has taken its head for future data exploration, and Cheebs has removed a strange battery from its back. The group decides to vacate this temple since Epsilon had issued a cry for help before it perished under Kantarra's fire. They take the turbolift up a few levels to the “Feretory” – Cheebs' best guess as to the source of emanations he still can sense. While C4-BL3 examines the controls of the intimidating blast door they find just outside the lift, Cheebs takes a moment to examine Epsilon's “Force battery.” He opens it up to discover a 3cm crystal inside, coruscating with green, yellow, and orange light, and a feeling of conflict in Cheebs' mind. He closes it again as C4-BL3 unlocks and opens the thick blast door.

Inside, the group explores another temple-like room with 8 large alcoves lining each side – and another dauntingly large (but thankfully empty) throne at the far end. Five of the alcoves each contains a suit of red ceremonial displayed behind a case containing an unusual weapon. Kantarra tests these, finding them to project a lightsaber blade from one end and fire a stun blast from the other end. She helps herself to one and C4-BL3 grabs two more while Cheebs examines the . Some of the alcoves further down the space are empty, but one of the furthest contains a unique and even more imposing – and flashier – set of . Kantarra tries it on and finds it fits! She also trades her strange new weapon for the one contained here, with a strong green “blade” and a heavy 's emitter. Cheebs meanwhile recovers several more crystals, some similar to the one in Epsilon's “battery” and 4 more of a different type, blue in color. Completing their search of this Feretory, they retreat to the turbolift, pondering who or what could be wearing the missing suits of (possibly 7 of the lesser suits and 1 of the heavier, fancier design).

They take the lift up one more level to the top deck and head aft into a room marked “Sanctum.” They find themselves entering behind what seems to have been an altar at the end of another long room of ceremonial aspect. The remains of several guards wearing the same red ceremonial from the Feretory are on the floor, apparently perishing where they stood at their posts. Lying in state on the altar itself is the body of another humanoid wearing yet a different unique suit of ceremonial . THIS is the source of what Cheebs has been sensing! Although he agrees with Kantarra to focus on reaching the bridge, the newly Force-sensitive Duros can't resist his urge to lay hands on the dessicated exposed flesh of the guardian creature on the altar. When he does, an image like a hologram of this humanoid springs to life in the air above the altar! Its words are utterly foreign (even to C4-BL3, who records this monologue for later study). But Cheebs nonetheless receives some meaning of the words in his mind: “This is the Light … The Light has passed … The Pontifex has passed … The Light can no longer protect.” Then the image vanishes. Overcoming his fear and revulsion of this ancient corpse, Cheebs reaches underneath it and recovers another “Force battery,” this one containing a crystal emanating bright white light and a feeling of purpose. He balks, though, when he considers removing the corpse's helmet, which is the strongest source of its Force emanations.

As they proceed through this “Sanctum” Cheebs & C4-BL3 notice that the chamber's ceiling decorations are asymmetrical, and the overall design seems to be some kind of stellar route map. Slating that for possible future investigation, they keep heading aft through the “Narthex” and into a large security facility. This was apparently not just a control center but also a bunk area with lockers and racks full of and . The armor seems to incorporate some kind of stealth suit technology, of great interest to Kantarra. But they keep moving aft, to another turbolift which can take them into the bridge superstructure. They bypass the next level (tantalizingly identified as the “Armory”) and steel themselves for resistance – they head up to the Bridge.

Stepping out of this turbolift into sort of an antechamber, they are greeted by the remains of more red ceremonial guards – and by the sound of Omicron's booming pirate voice, which they haven't heard since their battle with “the .” This time his garbled piratical ramblings seem to be welcoming them – “at last!” The blast door opposite them (presumably leading to the bridge) shows signs of attempted forced entry. Apparently unsuccessful, as it is shut and appears intact. C4-BL3 ports into the door controls and is surprised to find the door unlocked. They cautiously proceed into the large bridge.

The space is scrupulously clean but devoid of crew – except for the humanoid in a captain's chair facing away from them. Cheebs calls out, “Omicron! Omicron?” but gets no answer. Kantarra cautiously approaches the chair, ready for a fight. When she reaches it, she sees that the … captain? … in its lavish purple and gold armor and helmet is motionless; another biological crewmember that has been dead for centuries or millenia. Peering behind the many control consoles to the sides of the room, Cheebs spots a motionless figure that is at once familiar and unfamiliar. It could be the twin to Epsilon, but purple instead of red, and the multitude of spiky tentacles on its back are all plugged into data ports behind it. As Cheebs takes a few cautious steps toward it, it gasps out its last garbled message: “…ye have bested me in honorable combat…[gleep glorp//sunspots//error//etc.]” … and the purple luminance goes out of its eyes.

Kantarra, Cheebs, and C4-BL3 now find themselves alone on the bridge of a huge but highly automated capital ship. Thinking the situation has changed, Cheebs suggests that C4-BL3 try jacking into the bridge's computer system. “Roger roger … Here goes nothing!” as the droid connects and finds no resistance and no trace of the malevolent intelligence that had been blocking him and attempting to counter-hack the comm droid earlier. That threatening intelligence must've indeed been Omicron, despite his obvious malfunctioning. C4-BL3 starts a deep dive into the ship's computers starting with the captain's logs while Cheebs tries to decipher the ship's systems.

C4-BL3 stitches together a rough history of the ship. The oldest details are lost and the story is garbled, but it seems the Dugan's Hand's original mission was opportunistic and included salvage and . Somehow it had found its way to this system and discovered the unique ore in the asteroid belt which could be used for a cloaking device. The ship parked here and mined enough ore for an experimental cloaking unit. But when it was switched on, it damaged or destroyed most of the computers and control systems onboard. Possibly at the same time there was a catastrophic depressurization event which killed the great majority of the crew. (The captain survived, and apparently his name was Dugan. It was his body the party found in the captain's chair. But Cheebs found nothing interesting about the creature's hands.) The droids Omicron & Epsilon, whatever their original functions were, expanded and changed their roles over time. It took centuries, maybe even millenia, to repair all the ship's systems and automate it sufficiently to allow Omicron to operate the ship himself. Meanwhile, the radiation from the rare element in the surrounding asteroids was slowly driving Omicron mad. It was only in recent months that Omicron was able to bring the ship back online, at which time he began conducting “honorable” pirate raids on whatever ships came his way, damaging them and stealing cargoes but letting them escape. But operating the cloaking device continued to drive him increasingly mad. Then “rival pirates” (the Imperials, with their secret base and their cloaked fighters) appeared, just a month or so ago, and Omicron observed them destroying curious salvagers outright. Their dishonorable behavior couldn't be tolerated, so he destroyed what he found.

With no further resistance and in apparent control of the Dugan's Hand, the four (now including R3-M3, who has joined them on the bridge) begin to plan a course of immediate action and discuss future possibilities. They agree on getting the ship fully spaceworthy and under their control using C4-BL3's data to translate the control systems. Fearing imminent reprisals from Imperial navy forces, Cheebs suggests the sensor systems take top priority followed by , though Kantarra makes a good point in suggesting that sublight and hyperdrive systems may be even more important than , allowing for “flight” rather than a “fight” response. Comms (to reach out to General Syndulla, perhaps) take last place on their list because the Porgatu's comms could be used instead. Cheebs agrees to work on sublight and hyperdrive/nav systems while Kantarra focuses on systems and R3-M3 on sensors. C4-BL3 will assist the others as much as possible with control translations.

What might the future hold? Cheebs tells the others his news (discovered after the big payout as they were leaving The Back Door) that they're already in a position to fully pay off the Porgatu with their considerable ship's slush fund, plus Cheebs chipping in extra from his personal savings to gain a controlling interest as captain. Kantarra seems, in her quiet way, to be excited by the prospect of having the full might of a capital ship at their (her?) command … though it's dawning on everyone that a 5000+ year old alien ship that has been repairing itself all that time and that wasn't intended for extensive automated control probably can't stay operational for long. Do they offer their prize ship to their new friends in the , indebting the Rebels to them (and making the alien ship their problem)? Do they strand the ship in deep space somewhere, possibly with its cloaking system engaged one last time, to serve as a secret base for the party, and maybe for the Rebels as well? Cheebs voices his growing concern that his own family's businesses and operations – not to mention his family themselves – may be put in danger of Imperial reprisals, especially if the Porgatu's crew strengthens their connection to the Rebels and starts actively opposing the Empire. Perhaps this huge ship could also serve as a safe haven for his Duros family, if they're willing. And of course the party has yet to reach Mon Calamari to unravel the mystery of Lorik's contact there. And what about this strange Force temple onboard the Dugan's Hand and the crystals, , and armor they've discovered? And the route map on the ceiling of the ship's Sanctum – where could it lead?

If the story of our unlikely band of protagonists were a movie, the credits are now rolling as their first movie comes to a close. “To Be Continued…”

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