Tales of the Iron Horse

Beyond the Rim Episode II

Into the Jungle

36:5:5 GrS

Electing the path of swiftness over safety, the Longshot makes a direct jump to Cholganna off the Perlemian Route, and luckily enough arrives in safety. Though Cholganna is surrounded by a nebula, they are able to regain sensors quickly enough to avoid most hazards, and move to scan Cholganna for signs of wreckage. After several hours, they hone in on a 100km area that is likely a debris field of a downed ship.

There is limited space to make a safe landing, so the crew decides to land near the southern end of the debris field and seek out what they believe to be an escape pod. The way is dark and dangerous, and they discover the planet’s perilous Nexu creatures. They are able to shake off the encounter and press forward to the crevasse holding what they see is escape pod 34-Besh. It appears to now be home to a species of stinging insects, which Let Rindo briefly succumbs to after immolating most of them. Once he recovers, the crew investigate the inside of the pod and find the skeletal remains of its former inhabitants. Though Let Rindo botches his attempt to remove the memory core from the console, Jad is able to handily repair the data and call up its last transmission, which indicated the pod ejected without the ship’s orders, and Captain Harsol calling the crewmen cowards. The transmission is cut short by a collision.

Returning to the Longshot for a rest before setting out for further debris, the crew realize they weren’t alone long, as they see the Yiyar’s Nightflyer streaking across the sky, though apparently unaware of the Longshot’s arrival. After brief discussion, the crew decides they have to take them out and blasts off to pursue. With the element of surprise and superior firepower, the Longshot makes short work of the ship with a barrage of concussion missiles. Though the Yiyars put up a brief fight, dropping behind the Longshot to take a few shots, it is not long before the Rodian freighter careens into the forest below, exploding in a fiery plume.

The crew of the longshot have only moments to celebrate before they realize their ship has been hit by a stray rocket, but from where they cannot determine initially. Rindo is able to trace its vapor trail to somewhere on the ground in the middle of the debris field. Jad Slarka sets the computer’s circuits to zeroing in on the location, but in his blind focus, draws too much power from the ship’s computer which begins shutting down, forcing Dash to fight to make a soft landing. They determine it will take several hours to cycle the ship back into operational status, so they set out to search for more debris.

They first find the engine section, which is entirely abandoned, though curiously they see wooden ladders (long-since rotting), but nothing of great use or information in the section. Further down the valley, however, they find the main section along with a nearby camp, now abandoned. Let surveys the camp briefly, finding little evidence of whoever lived here, but he finds something unmistakably recent—a custom blaster known only to be owned by Jundan Draylock. Let is determined to find him, and the group begins exploring the ship at once, but find it almost completely bereft of all its devices. Consoles ripped from their panels, circuits stripped, even chairs are gone. The one thing they find in the bridge, secreted away, is a holocube showing a visual recording of the bridge as the Sa Nalaor made its descent, with frantic bridge officers, a determined and frustrated Captain Harsol, accompanied by an Arkanian woman, just before the ship collided with the surface.

Exploring deeper into the ship, the privateers are soon set upon by more nexu—this time, with cybernetic enhancements. One gets the drop on Jad, jumping from the above ventilation shaft and giving him a harsh shock with its electrified claws. After narrowly scraping out of the engagement, the group head towards where they believe the hold to be, discovering to their dismay that it appears to be buried under tons of rock and earth. At IT-3PO’s urging, and with the sun setting soon, they decide to hole up in one of the ship’s berths for the night. Though there are occasional frightening noises, the night passes without major incident.

The next morning, as the crew look around, they see that there are three large lizard creatures crossing the river directly toward the crash site. Closer inspection reveals that the lizards are mounted by riders, and towing additional passengers on boats in their wake. Once they reach the shore, before the privateers can decide how to react, IT-3PO speaks out, addressing Captain Harsol directly, apparently his owner. Captain Harsol asks the crew to come on down and go back to the Retreat with him where they can talk things over.

The Longshot’s crew reluctantly agrees, and follow the river back on foot, all too aware of the forest’s dangers—apparently kept at bay by the large reptillian creatures in the water. The Retreat, it turns out, is a ramshackle camp made from wood and the stripped parts of the Sa Nalaor. Once led inside, they are watched carefully by all of the camp’s residents. “Why aren’t they dead?” one demands of Harsol, who rebuffs them nonchalantly and leads all into the camp’s headquarters, where they ask several questions of the Longshot’s crew, such as how they found the ship and what news of the Empire. Upon learning of the Rebellion, many of the camp are intrigued, but Harsol reminds them that the Empire’s reach is long, and they are safer away from its gaze. Many begin openly challenging Harsol, but his harsh rebukes silence the outbursts, and he quickly dismisses them for the night, wishing to question the newcomers in private.

They soon meet Cratala, whom they recognize as the Arkanian woman from the holocube, and learn she is a cybernetic scientist who once worked for the Republic before defecting to the Separtists. The Sa Nalaor was carrying her and her team. When the ship crashed, Harsol decided their best bet would be contacting the black market, namely Ropok of Isotech—Reom’s father. But the beacon was lost for years and the survivors’ only option was to remain in hiding—according to Harsol, anyway. Determing that this is tech is what Reom was truly after, the privateers decide her tech would be of more use to the Rebellion. But their options are limited for the moment, and the crew spend the night under guard at the headquarters, though otherwise comfortably.

Cratala gives them a tour of the camp in the morning, including her laboratory, sporting many cybernetic advancements, and all manner of cybernetically enhanced creatures. She is reluctant to reveal her true feelings, but the crew are eventually able to learn that while she appreciates Harsol’s protection, she would prefer to be advancing her work elsewhere, if the Empire could be avoided.

She then takes them to visit a hidden prison, holding other treasure seekers who have landed on the planet. Including, Dash is shocked to see, Pirx, the Chiss archaeologist for whom he once worked. His time her has not left him well, and the horrors of the jungle seem to have driven him to madness. With no sign of Jundan, and with Cratala prepared to aid the Rebellion, Let Rindo is determined to confront Harsol and overthrow his iron grip of the camp.

Before they can, however, the camp is disturbed by the sound of a large ship landing, and the familiar cadence of well-ordered troopers marching down a gangway. They soon recognize a familiar nemesis Malau Jocaos. His vengeance is shortlived, however, when Dash dispatches him with well-placed blaster fire.

Harsol makes a brief attempt to place the blame at the feet of the Longshot’s crew and their sudden arrival, but with the camp being overrun by stormtroopers and the residents in panic, Harsol resorts to rallying his own people against the invader. The firefight is destructive and chaotic, but with the privateers’ skill and Cratala’s creatures, the camp is able to eventually overwhelm the troopers.

Determined to see the survivors off this planet, the crew begin rounding them up to board the Imperial ship. Rindo, fed up with Harsol’s deception and iron fist, demands of him what happened to Jundan. Harsol reluctantly admits that they had to let him go, as he proved too great a threat to the camp, though whether he survived the horrors of the jungle, could not be said.

Using the Imperial ship, The Deep Dark to search the area, they eventually find the crashed location of Rindo’s beloved Iron Horse, in need of much repair but otherwise intact. A holocube in the cockpit fills in the gaps:

“Well, Let…if you’ve found this, I guess I really bit it. I’m going after the big one. The Sa Nalaor. Yeah, I know. It’s crazy. But we’ve done crazier, right? Well…I came in a little hot and ran into some meteoroids. Brought me down a little harder than I’d have liked. But she’s around here. I know it. Hopefully you’ll never see this. Hopefully next time I see you, I’m rubbing your nose in piles of credits. But if I don’t..if you do find this..well, she’s all yours pal. She was always yours. Take good care of her.”

With some resignation, Let sets to repairing her, leaving the Deep Dark to Jad and the Longshot to Dash.

The crew of the Longshot was no more, each going their separate ways. The Galaxy had many struggles yet to endure, and each would play their own part, but for now in their own way. But maybe, they each hoped in their quieter moments, they’d be given a chance to fly together again….

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