Despite the gallery being partially in the open, the smell of smoldering metal was filling the air as more of Jabbas people as well stadium security attempted to breach the door leading into it. Between themselves, Vin, Mary and Alex had more or less dispatched all of Jabbas guards in the room but had no wish to engage those who were cutting through the doors in order to reach their master. The Hutt did not seem the least bit concerned at being unprotected, perfectly aware that while he was alive, the trio had a chance of using him as a hostage if their avenue of escape suddenly disappeared as it seem to now. They could all see the hot rivulets of molten metal rolling towards the stone floor as more and more heat was applied to the doors in the enemy's efforts to open it.
"Weve got to find another way out of here," Mary stated the obvious as she noted the progress of Jabba's guards to reach them. They were less than ten minutes away from having the room filled with a fresh guards and Mary knew that even with Vins Jedi abilities, those were odds she did not wish to face.
Vin went to the edge of the railing and gazed down, measuring the distance between them and the ground. It was at least a fifteen feet drop. Thanks to the Force, he could make it and he might even manage it carrying someone else but it was not an undertaking he wanted to attempt more than once. The spectators in the stands below were scattering having lost all interest in seeing the conclusion of the pod race now that gunfire was erupting overhead. Besides, the outcome was more or less a foregone conclusion now that JD had pulled out of the race. The Corellian dark horse who had appeared out of nowhere was certainly the clear winner.
From across the narrow space between the gallery and the smaller private boxes, Vin caught sight of Chris facing off with the bounty hunter Dengar. The apprentice felt a moment of fear as he saw the Dengar taking aim at his friend and wondered why Chris was not defending himself or making any attempt to move. However, seconds passed and Dengar still had not fired. Vin's confusion was starting to escalate into panic when suddenly, he saw Dengar lowering his weapon instead of firing it. The bounty hunter and the Jedi regarded each other for a brief instant before Dengar turned away and exited the box, leaving Chris very much alone and unscathed. Vin wondered what magic words Chris had spoken to the hardened cyborg to make him withdraw but supposed it did not really matter. Vin saw Chris make eye contract with him across the space before the Jedi made a running start towards Jabba's gallery. He leapt across the distance effortlessly and left Vin in awe at how much experience he would need befo re he attained that level of expertise.
Chris landed on the railing, perfectly balanced as his deep green eyes scoured the area and took stock of the situation. His face became a frown at the smell of burning metal that had become almost stifling. White clouds of billowing smoke was drifting out of the room and dissipating when it reached the open. However, the sting it left in their eyes told them to see how close the doors were to being breached. Vin had a worried expression on his face and Chris immediately honed in on it and understood why.
"There are Imperial stormtroopers behind that door," Chris pointed out.
"What?" Mary stared at him sharply, her worry over their situation had suddenly reached a new degree of fear. Now she no longer concerned about being killed but rather terrified at being caught alive.
"It doesn't matter," Vin said abruptly understanding her fear all too well. "We're getting the hell out of here right now!"
Jabba's laugh rumbled through the air and it was a chortle of triumphant glee that filled their ears as he emerged from the shadows where he had been hiding to avoid being hit by incidental fire. "You're finished Tanner," he rumbled in Huttese, his derision made his worm like face giving him a truly sinister visage. "You'll never leave Tatooine alive and even if you do, I'll hunt you down and kill you. You'll never be able to come near a civilized star system for the rest of your life."
"I can live with that," Vin shrugged it off but could not deny that on some level, Jabba's threat affected him more than he would like to admit. However, he was not about to give the Hutt the satisfaction of seeing that Jabba had hurt him. He would give no one that pleasure.
"Not for long," Jabba sneered.
"Maybe we ought to just kill you now!" Alex turned her gun on him, seeing the silent pain in Vin's eyes and more than prepared to kill this overweight piece of slime just to spare Vin being branded a marked man any more then he already was. "How much do you think you're going to pay anybody if I spray your guts all over the floor?"
"Alex," Chris said putting a hand on her arm and giving her a stern look that told her to desist. "We don't have time for this. We need to leave. Vin, take her," he ordered even though he could sympathise how she felt at the moment. Her emotions regarding Vin were easy for him to read and Chris knew that she would have carried out her threat, no matter what the consequences. She cared about Vin that much.
"Yeah," Vin nodded, shaking away Jabba's venomous words because that's all it was, word. He was already a marked man thanks to the Empire and that did not stop his life from taking turns he never imagined possible. Jabba's bounty on his head could not change that any more than the Empire's had been able to.
"Come on Alex," he deactivated his lightsabre and went to the lovely operative. Sliding his arm around her waist, he gazed into her eyes and felt profoundly happy when he noticed she did not pull away. "We're going over the edge," he gestured towards the stone palisade.
"You're kidding!" She exclaimed with just as much doubt as he had shown a second earlier. "We'll be killed."
"No we won't," he said confidently and pulled her up against him, his hand sliding beneath her smooth thighs and lifting her into his arms. "Trust me." He gave her a little smile.
Alex was afraid but complied by sliding around his neck and holding on for dear life. She had little experience with the Force and even less with the Jedi. Putting her faith in the supernatural frightened her but if Vin said they could do it, then she believed him. "Okay," she nodded, trying to hide the quiver in her lip which betrayed her anxiety. "Just don't make us a stain."
"Oh and thank you for that picture," Mary retorted before adding. "Now get out of here you two."
"We'll see you on the ground," Vin called out and glared at Jabba one last time. "Jabba I'll see you in hell."
"You'll see it long before I do," Jabba glowered.
Vin ignored that last jibe and climbed onto the narrow ledge of stone with Alex in his arms and took a deep breath. Without saying anything further, the Jedi leapt off the edge and plunged towards the ground below. Both Mary and Chris hurried to the edge to see if Vin and Alex had made the jump safely. At the last minute, Vin had used the Force to cushion his landing and the two of them rolled across the ground unceremoniously but were unhurt. Mary sighed gratefully for that before she turned to Chris as it was their turn and judging by the spread of heat across the door, they had not a moment to lose if they intended getting away at all.
"I will hunt you all down!" Jabba growled, not about to let them leave without a final parting shot. "I will deliver you to Palpatine Jedi."
Chris Larabee paused and looked up at the Hutt and for a moment, Jabba was frozen into silence by the steel in those eyes. As much as the Hutt liked to think he was in control, for a brief instant the gleam that surfaced in the Jedi's eyes made him regret having said anything at all, that he should have been glad just to see the back of the man. The lightsabre hanging on the Jedi's belt was deactivated and Jabba wondered how long that would last.
"I have a gift for you Jabba," Chris uttered coolly, a smile of equal malevolence as one Jabba had so often used himself to kill countless victims, crossed his face as he regarded the Hutt. "Consider it a preview of your future."
"Chris?" Mary started to speak wondering whether there was really time for such soothsaying but he silenced her with a gesture.
Chris stepped right up to the Hutt who instinctively tried to recoil but could not move fast enough. "Pray that you never cross the path of a Jedi again because the next time you see one of us in the flesh will the last day of your life."
It was true. He did see it. He closed his eyes and saw a future where a Princess would prove quite irrevocably that there were no chains to bind her which she could not use to her advantage. He saw a Jedi, the last of the Jedi standing before Jabba the Hutt in the final hours of his life. The name screamed at Chris with shocking clarity and the face of the future salvation of the galaxy burned itself into his memory.
"What trickery is this?" Jabba snorted in disbelief. "Is that a threat?"
"No," Chris shook his head slowly. "That is your destiny."
And with that, the Jedi swept his lady into his arms and departed, leaving Jabba unable to decide whether he had given the truth about his future or a lie whose power to frighten him was becoming surprisingly potent.
Nevertheless, he was adamant about one thing; a Jedi would never be allowed in the presence of Jabba the Hutt again.
The Rogue could not take much more of this.
How he had managed to hold his ship together in this maelstrom was beyond his ability to explain. Gravitational forces tore and pulled at the Correllian freighter as siren songs of differing frequencies tried in vain to lure the Rogue into the many singularities of its heart. The freighter was still maintaining its distance from the soul crushing destruction promised by the black holes it could not see but felt with every second that lumbered torturously by. It was a battle between David and several Goliaths with David prevailing so far through of sheer will and stubbornness of refusing to be defeated. The ship's battle was not just with the singularities inside the Maw but also had to contend with avoiding everything else that was being pulled towards it.
Buck Wilmingtons arms were strained and aching after hours of wrestling with his controls to keep his ship on its preprogrammed course. They were almost out of the perilous area but the Maw was not going to let them escape easily. Now that they had crossed its expanse, it almost felt as if it was becoming harder and harder to navigate, as if the Maw was consciously aware that their escape was eminent and was marshalling its forces in one final desperate act to ensnare them. The Rogue was screaming from a thousand wounds and yet the craft was still holding its own despite the fact that it was being subjected to stresses it was never designed to cope with. Behind him, his passengers had become strangely quiet since their journey through the Maw had began, which was just as well. Buck did not think he had the patience to deal with their histrionics and what was surrounding his ship as well.
Even his patience was not that infinite.
Unfortunately, with it becoming evident that they would soon be escaping the Maw, the Rodian and the Gammorean were finding their voice again. With Nardo, the typical bluster that Buck had come to know and loathed surface with a vengeance with the Rodian attempting to hide that he ever been afraid at all, even though Buck knew only a fool would not be afraid of being inside the Maw. Still, that was Nardo he supposed. Selkik was a little more reflective and clearly affected by his close proximity to what would have been a terrible death indeed. The Gammorean was rather reserved with his claims of having no fear. Buck himself was rather amazed that they had come as far as they did and was not entirely convinced that their safety assured yet.
"How long until we are clear?" Selkik asked. The enforcer was trying to keep his voice neutral but Buck recognised the underlying thread of fear in it nonetheless.
"Another ten minutes," Buck answered offhandedly, keeping vigil over the gauges on his cockpit control panel. "Were passing the last of the singularities. The gravitational fields have started to ease up a bit. Just as well," he sighed sweeping his gaze across the stern of his ship, secretly glad that she had held together as well as she did and somewhat astonished that she had not been pulled apart. There was a point when he was not entirely certain that the Rogue would not buckle under the gravometric pressures. "My ships taken all that shes going to take on this trip. I hope your Grand Admirals pets were worth all this."
"It was not that difficult," Nardo grunted arrogantly. The familiar bluster was returning to his tone and Buck rolled his eyes in disgust.
"I think you make yourself look like a great pilot by claiming it is so difficult to cross," Nardo continued his derisive words. "Any pilot worth his salt could manage it."
"Well," Buck felt his anger get the better off him and snapped his eyes over his shoulder to glared icily at the Rodian. "I guess you wont mind taking centre seat. Ive been at it for the last few hours, I could use someone taking the helm for a while. Since you seem to think that youll have no trouble managing it, I dont see why you couldn't get us out of here."
The Rodian turned a shade pale at the idea and barked back at Buck, hating that he had been caught but seeing no other way out of it. "I would not presume to try and fly this bucket of bolts of yours."
"Of course not," Buck retorted sarcastically and turned back to the controls, satisfied that he had put Nardo in his place. However, something else was concerning him now that they neared the edge of the Maw.
Buck began to wonder what Jabba had planned for him once they left the Maw. There was no guarantee that the gangster would release JD and with two of his hired thugs on board, Buck had no assurance that Nardo and Selkik would not kill him either. In fact, he had a feeling that part of the reason that Nardo had agreed to go on this insane mission through the Maw was because killing Buck Wilmington would be his ultimate reward. Buck and Nardo had crossed swords enough in the past for the Rodian to find that to be more than adequate compensation for risking his life in a venture as dangerous as crossing the Maw. Despite himself, Buck realised that he had better start thinking of a plan or he was going to be no safer out of the Maw than he was in it.
It felt odd being on the bridge of Mary Travis' ship.
Ezra Standish had never aspired to commanding a warship even though his instructors at the Academy claimed that he certainly had the talent for it. In truth, the responsibility of so many lives, depending so much on what he did was too daunting for a young Ezra Standish whose greatest fear at the time was failing those who might come to mean something to him. Of course things changed, they almost always did and he was not so young and responsibility was something he had been accepting a great deal of late. He was commander of an entire outpost on Cordoba and somehow, he had become responsible for keeping the rebel cell in Wild Space safe from the notice of Imperial authorities. It was puzzling how one could unconsciously become that which had been avoided all throughout one's life without even being aware of it until the deed was done.
Ezra certainly felt that way as he sat on the bridge of the Purgatory, keeping watch on the area of space which would be the most likely venue the Rogue would emerge once it crossed the Maw successfully. Even though many of the bridge crew did not believe that the Rogue would ever be seen again, especially after witnessing the awesome fury of the phenomenon themselves from this safe distance, Ezra had faith in Buck's ability to pilot through this maelstrom. Even if he did not, he was not about to demoralize his temporary command by showing them that he had lost hope in their mission. Such behavior could be as devastating as a fleet of warships waiting to vaporize them into solar dust. No, Ezra decided, he could not show doubt in regards to Buck's continued existence and he would not.
Besides, Ezra was gambling on the Corellian pilot because if there was anyone who could tame the Maw, it was Buck Wilmington. Even if Ezra had no faith in anyone's ability to survive the phenomenon, he had absolute faith in the fact that Buck was the best damn pilot he had ever seen and there was not an inch of space that the man could not master. Ezra refused to believe anything else because he had no wish to entertain the possibility that he might have to go to Inez and tell her that he had failed to save Buck. Ezra tried not to think too deeply about the concern he had seen in her eyes when she worried about her former husband. He tried not to think about it because he had seen something that gave him the ominous feeling that Inez's affections for Buck was more than that of an ex-wife for her one time spouse.
"Captain!" One of his junior officers cried out from his station.
Ezra turned to the attention of a young female ensign who had just come on shift less than an hour ago. "What is it Ensign?"
"I am detecting a ship at the extreme range of our sensors." The human female directed her gaze to both Chano and Ezra, her eyes wide with her discovery.
"Boost your signal by switching to a narrow band," Chano instructed automatically, trying not to be over eager about the order even though he wanted very much to believe that it was Captain Wilmington.
"Aye Sir," she responded and let her fingers fly over her station controls as both officers waited impatiently for her to glean further data regarding the ship they all hoped was the Rogue. Even though it was a matter of seconds, it felt like an eternity before she spoke up again.
"It a freighter," she answered firmly with more than a little growing enthusiasm in her running commentary. She alternated her gaze from her commanding officers to the readings on the screen before her as she continued to ply them with information. "And Correllian."
A swell of pleasure seemed to ripple through the bridge at the first positive news they had received since embarking on this mission to find the rebel hero. Buck Wilmington was one of the best pilots in the Alliance and his exploits were a thing of legend, a legend which had since become all the more glamorous now that his crossing of the Maw was a matter of public knowledge. Especially now that they all had seen for themselves what the Maw actually was and how difficult it must have been for Buck to cross it safely.
"Can you get a fix on its type?" Chano inquired, trying to maintain an air of professionalism even though the mood was extremely optimistic about the craft they had detected being the Rogue.
There was a slight pause as the Ensign sought to answer him. Everyone's breath including Ezra's was held as they waited with the seconds ticking by so loudly in their ears that it was deafening even though nothing was actually audible. There was an air of anticipation that even Ezra was unable to escape from. He too hoped that the ship was indeed the Rogue, he would hate for the crew to be disappointed when it felt that they were so close. Ezra was trying to main a professional demeanor about all this even though personally, he hoped that the ship was indeed the Rogue. Buck Wilmington was one of his closest friends and for a man who did not have many of them, Ezra did not wish to lose the few he had.
"It's an Incom Corsair!" She finally exclaimed with an almost triumphant tone in her voice.
"Yes!" Chano cried out in an uncharacteristic show of emotion as he forgot himself. A second later, he was straightening the collar to his uniform and scrambling hard to maintain the front of the professional soldier once again.
"Sir?" He turned to Ezra unable to suppress a grin. "What are you orders?"
"Move to intercept of course." Ezra returned that infectioua smile but was still restraining himself even though the news was so positive. "Take us to maximum speed."
"Sir?" Chano met his gaze in question because they were already cruising at an adequate speed that would see them intercepting the Rogue in a matter of minutes.
"Captain Wilmington was coerced into taking his ship across the Maw," Ezra spoke up, not only for Chano's benefit but also for that of the bridge crew. "It is highly likely that the parties acting on behalf of Jabba the Hutt's are still on board the Rogue with him. If we should suddenly appear, they may react badly. Worse yet, the Rogue is still far enough away from us at this point to jump to light speed if those parties attempt to abscond. The only way we can ensure that the Captain is no longer subjected to the Hutt's ministrations is to take the Rogue quickly, before they have a chance to think. Once we have taken the freighter, it would be far more expedient for them to negotiate with us if they had a hostage and alive one at that."
Chano could not fault the commander's logic and once again decided that Mary had chosen well in turning command of the Purgatory to Ezra Standish. "You know something Commander?" Chano remarked with a little smile in a softer voice beyond the hearing of the others. "I'm going to hate to see you go."
"Thank you," Ezra said somewhat surprised and genuinely touched by Chano's words. "Commanding this ship has been interesting."
"You're very good at it," Chano pointed out honestly. "I actually think you might be better at it than playing spy."
"I might not be playing spy for very long if I am caught," Ezra muttered under his breath, allowing himself for the first time since this all began to think about what his disappearance these past days would do to the already growing suspicions that Julia Pemberton had about him. No doubt, when he returned to the Cordoba base, she would ply him with a dozen questions in trying to ascertain his whereabouts. Julia's tenacity was something that not even Chano's formidable wife Claire could keep at bay for very long. "The time is fast approaching when I think I will have to make a choice about my associations with the Alliance. A smart man knows when to gamble and when to take one's winnings and run. I am starting to feel that I should be thinking of the latter."
"Commander!" Someone called out worriedly and kept Chano from asking Ezra any more about his prophetic words. "There's something wrong with the Rogue!"
The Rogue shuddered again, sending tendrils of fear throughout its passengers. Emergency lights that had been silent since the ship left the Maw suddenly returned to life once again with a vengeance. Across Buck's cockpit control, warning lights blinked continuously as the shrill noises of warning danger screeched in their ears. The same powerful jolt that had cut short their euphoria at escaping the Maw repeated itself with enough intensity to cause the superstructure of the craft to groan in protest at the rough handling. The forward momentum of the vessel was disrupted and suddenly the Rogue was no longer on course but drifting.
"What's happening?" Selkik demanded, polarized by the idea that they could be in jeopardy so soon after escaping the Maw. Somehow it felt like a cruel trick of fate that they should survive the trip across the Maw only to lose their lives upon returning to the relative safety of normal space.
"It's an engine core overload," Buck snapped, not at all happy to be answering questions when he had bigger problems to deal with at this juncture. The cockpit was bathed in crimson glow of the emergency lights and it seemed to be a rather ominous shade considering the nature of their troubles. "I told you my ship was going to get torn apart going through the Maw!"
"But we emerged fine!" Nardo quickly accused, refusing to believe that they were in trouble, not after surviving such a trial already. "We made it!"
"We made it because my ship held together long enough for that to happen!" Buck glared at the two passengers behind him. "But she's been through a beating and a massive failure like this was just a matter of time."
"How massive?" Selkik grunted the brow over his porcine face furrowed and he exchanged a nervous glance with Nardo. Even though he was not usually shaken, Selkik could not deny how powerless he felt when in the Maw and hated the resurgence of that same futility right now. The Maw had taught him how truly fragile life was out here and the Gammorrean had no wish to die in a vacuum filled void. .
"I can't shut it down!" Buck explained frantically. "I need to be able to land to do that. The shut down connections for the core is on the outside of the hull. I'd have to go out there to do it and we don't have the time!"
"We're light years from a landing site!" Nardo cried out, the tension in his voice indicating that he was just a hair's breath from full blown panic.
"We have to abandon ship," Selkik stated with some measure of finality as if it were a decision he had deliberated upon heavily and no made on the spur of the moment.
"I'm not leaving her!" Buck shouted angrily. "I'm not leaving my ship!"
"You can stay but we are abandoning ship!" Selkik retorted, caring little about the pilot's attachment to his ship. It was after all an inanimate object. If Wilmington want to die here, that was his business. Selkik had no intention of ending his life here. He had seen the life pods on Buck's ship and had to confess that the pilot equipped his craft with the best. Any one of the two pods were more than capable of taking them back to civilized space.
"I need your help to get this thing under control!" Buck pleaded as Selkik and Nardo leapt out of their seats, already moving out of the cockpit.
"You can stay and die with your ship if you like," Nardo said cruelly. "It makes no difference to me." If the Rodian could have smiled, Buck was certain he would be seeing a broad grin on Nardo's face by now.
"What about your cargo?" Buck called out to but seeing only their backs as they pushed their way out of the cockpit.
"We can get some more," Selkik shouted as his enormous bulk passed through the doors with Nardo in tow.
Buck stared after them and suddenly felt confused. After everything they had been through, Selkik was willing to simply abandon the yslamiri to their fate? Suddenly he was revisited by everything that Selkik had told him about a Grand Admiral being involved in all this. What was the point of this entire exercise in the first place? Buck did not have long to ponder the situation closely because he faced the cockpit controls once again; he saw the signal lights for one of the life pods on the Rogue blinking its activation. The pods were a completely autonomous system from the rest of the ship, allowing initialization to be engaged in the event of significant damage to the cockpit. Buck registered two life forms entering one of the pods before the detachment sequence was initiated.
"Look I need your help!" Buck implored into the ship's speaker, making a last ditch effort to stop his passengers from leaving the Rogue.
A burst of static preceded Nardo's curt response. "See you in hell Weelmington, too bad you'll get there first!"
With that, the docking clamps on the pod was released, the sound of explosive locks detonating through the hull with a sudden bang. In a matter of seconds, the small capsule was surging away from the Rogue at top speed. Buck watched its progress on the small-digitized console before him. Their departure was little more than a green blip on a dark screen. A slow smile stole across his face as he started disengaging the systems he had sabotaged in order to give the appearance of danger. Lights stopped flashing and the klaxons fell immediately silent. No more than ten minutes after all the pandemonium had sounded, Buck found himself in total command of his ship again, with no hint of the danger that had sent Selkik and Nardo scurrying off the Rogue like frightened children.
"That was almost too easy," he chuckled.
"I don't understand," the ensign stared at Ezra and Chano in confusion as the readings on her terminal altered radically. "A minute ago I was reading a multiple systems failure on the Rogue. I am almost certain that the freighter was nearing a core implosion. Now everything is functioning at nominal." Her blank expression was followed by a unfathomable shrug of her shoulders.
"I take it these systems stabilized shortly after the life pod was ejected?" Ezra asked, trying to keep a straight face because he had a good idea what Buck had just done. It was just the sort of thing the rogue (and he did not mean the ship) would do.
"Yes," Ensign Ferra nodded mutely, having the feeling that this was a punch line to a joke she did not understand. "Almost immediately."
Ezra and Chano exchanged a look and both men smiled knowingly at each other before Chano turned to Ferra once more. "Can you get an accurate reading of the life signs in the pod?" Both he and Ezra knew what they were going to find but it did not hurt to confirm it nonetheless.
"Yes Sir," she replied facing front momentarily as she called up the information. "It looks like Rodian and Gammorean."
Another smile crossed Ezra's face and this time, he did not bother to hide it. "Ensign are we in tractor beam range of the pod?"
"Yes Sir," she answered.
"Good," Ezra eased back into his command chair and responded. "Lock on to the pod and bring it on board."
As Ezra gave that order, Chano went promptly to his station and flicked a switch. "Security, I want a detail in the landing bay to secure two passengers on the life pod. Expect a hostile reaction. Passengers are most likely armed. Use whatever force necessary to restrain them."
On the large viewing screen that afforded a panoramic view of the stars before them, Ezra saw the faint shape of the Rogue coming into view across the nose of the Purgatory. Despite the chaotic readings earlier, there was no sign of any of the malfunctions that had caused Ensign Ferra's concern earlier. In fact, the Rogue's trajectory and speed was somewhat leisurely as if its pilot had recently unburdened himself of some great weight. Seeing the craft infused the bridge crew with a deep sense of relief at knowing the party for whom they had made this journey was in one piece.
"The Rogue's hailing us Sir," one of the officers announced happily.
"Put it on screen," Ezra answered and was rewarded with the image of Buck Wilmington's face.
"Ezra!" Buck exclaimed with surprise at seeing him on the bridge of the Purgatory. "You're a long way from Cordoba. What are you doing on Mary's ship?"
"Well apparently someone had to come and retrieve you Captain," Ezra grinned, genuinely pleased to see the smiling face on the screen. "However, it does appear that you are quite capable of handling your own retrieval."
"Oh don't feel too bad, it's the thought that counts," Buck said cockily before adding with a sardonic smile. "Although I could have used you guys a little earlier. Hey any chance of getting my life pod back?" He asked.
"The Purgatory's tractor beam already has it," Ezra replied quickly, putting to rest any questions Buck might have regarding the duo that had just left his ship. "Might I inquire whom our security team will be greeting when it is brought on board?"
"Yeah," the Corellian grinned rather pleased when he imagined the look of Nardo and Selkik's faces when they emerged from his pod to find rebel guns aimed in their face. It convinced him that there was a higher power guiding things and it had a good sense of humor. "A smuggler named Nardo and Jabba's enforcer Selkik."
"Charming," Ezra retorted. "I imagine some time in the brig will do them some good. Perhaps keeping them might be a preferable solution then cutting them loose later on. Considering how things have transpired, it may be more merciful then releasing them."
"Seeing how this caper has gone down, I would love to be a fly on the wall when they have to explain to Jabba the Hutt how they managed to get taken by an rebel warship," Buck chuckled.
"Commander," Chano who had been called away to the communications station during Ezra and Buck's conversation returned with news to report. "Captain Wilmington," Chano stared at Buck through the view screen. "It's good to see you."
"Thanks Chano," the pilot said graciously. "It's good to be seen."
"I've got some news for you," Chano continued, aware that this would be of great interest to Buck. "We've just had word from Commander Travis that Ensign Dunne is safe and sound. Chris Larabee and Vin Tanner rescued him from Tatooine."
Buck let out a relieved sigh at the news of JD's well being and eased back into his chair. "That's good to hear," he said softly, glad that he could finally discard the fear he had felt over JD's continued well being.
"Well Mr Wilmington," Ezra took a deep breath, satisfied that things were more or less resolved with the receipt of that intelligence from Tatooine. "I think it's time we went home, unless of course you would like to take another trip to the Maw."
"I think I'll pass," Buck gave him a look and then added. "Still," he grinned with an utterly roguish smile. "It's nice to know I'm still the best. I would love to be a fly on the wall when they have to explain to the Hutt how they managed to get taken."
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