"Captain?" Mie's voice crackled through the overhead com, the tone telling Harpon it wasn't the first time.
The stream of profanities from his crew in their separate cots of the shared cabin confirming that suspicion.
He rolled wearily and stumbled to the wall panel, slapping the button with all the rage he could muster. It wasn't much.
"What's the problem?" He tried to say, although his ears heard only undignified baby noises. "Um, there's something you should see?" Mie said, getting the general gist of his mouth noises.
"Five minutes," he managed to annunciate, before more stumbling down the short hall of his ship. Not, however, to the cockpit.
The head first, Harpon said to himself, with discomfort building in his bladder. Otherwise you won't compute a thing she says.
After relieving the needs of his body, and washing his face with cold water,
Harpon Jal former Grand Republic Army Lieutenant and current exhausted mercenary captain for hire stared at his reflection for a while. He barely recognized the Zabrack staring back.
The skin was too pale of a pale blue. the eyes too dark and sunk to be his. Even the short horns sprouting from the sides and ridge of his head looked out of place.
"Your own fool fault," he muttered to himself.
"What beelaf headed merc takes a job in a quarantined system? This quarantined system?" Harpon was half tempted to blame Barret, his sort of second in command during field ops.
It was that kriffing Mandolorian's contact that got us the job, he thought bitterly. But I'm the captain that said "yes."
After another minute of self loathing, captain Harpon made his way to the cockpit.
Mie was at the main controls, scanning the sensory arrays, making sure no one had followed them from their mad dash off of Meoda VIII.
"Scans look clear," he said, peering over her lavender lekku. "Nobody picking us up," she confirmed, her accent making every word sound almost as if she'd sang it.
"But, we're picking something up." Mei pointed to a softly blinking telltale. I'm more tired than I thought, he berated himself. Can't even see a flashy light.
"Where exactly in system are we?" He asked, even though he was already scanning the scopes. "Sixth planet, opposite side of Seven, and in Eighth's blind spot.
No satellites or com buoys around this planet at all." She explained, and as always she was right. "So," Harpon said, dragging the word into three syllables. "We're line of sight then.
With the source of, um, that." He pointed at the telltale, blinking ominously at him, like it was pointing back. You see me, I see you. It seemed to say. Go ahead and answer, see what happens.
Mei nodded slowly, "I circled around the planet," she said. The captain opened his mouth to protest but she beat him to it. "In orbit, we're barely hotter than a rock. And nobody sees.
So shut up about it." He smiled, Mei's fiery temper always flared when he was second guessing. Mostly, he supposed, because she always knows what she's doing.
Better than you, if the last seventy two hours are a good judge. "As soon as we left LOS, lost the signal. Soon as were back, signal back." Harpon scratched his chin. "Did you.." "No."
She barked, "Wasn't sure if it was a tracker or trap or something." Harpon squeezed his eyes shut with his fingers till it looked like stars were exploding behind his pupils.
Just leave it be, he told himself sternly. It's just more trouble you're going to step in. But he was going to step in it. "Play the damn thing." He sighed out, "Let's get it over with."
If there's an ocean of bantha podo, by the gods I will wade into it, fool that I am.
The holo feed sprang to life with the image of a robed human, his hood laid across his shoulders. "My name is Larz Calrick, Jedi Knight." Yup, the LT told himself. Neck deep, every time.
Harpon held the holo com in his palm as the distress beacon played again for the crew. "My name is Larz Calrick, Jedi Knight.
I was stranded after my craft was shot during an escape attempt from a nearby world in system. If this message is received, please retransmit to Coruscant or Taris Jedi Temples."
The human, Larz apparently, looked young. Not even twenty five standard, Harpon guessed. Too young, it seemed to be on Jedi missions in Meoda.
But, the captain had fought by Jedi when this very system was his battleground. He knew what they were capable of. Sergeant Barrett had fought here as well, and seemed less impressed.
"You woke me up after an eighteen hour fire fight," he said, gravelly voice dripping with venom. "To tell me there's a dead Jedi on Meoda six. I could've told you that.
But I'd have the decency to wait till you were awake."
Barret was a short man, even by human standards, coming up to Harpon's chin. He was also, however, nearly as broad as he was tall.
He was in his undergarments now, and the muscles and tendons were like cables moving under skin that was more scarred than not.
His grey eyes narrowed from a short forehead topped with buzzed thinning blonde hair, And the facial expression made the scar running from temple, through cheek and lips,
to chin pull that side of his mouth into a sneer. Or maybe he was just always sneering, Harpon couldn't ever tell with the Mandalorian.
Jamal and Jamar were the exact opposite. Twins, their dark shaved heads were two meters from the floor.
Jamal boasted of being a half centimeter taller, but Harpon couldn't tell the Koroni apart when they weren't in armor.
Their sister, whom they all called Tama, even though that only meant "tank" was just as big. Bigger, across the hips and shoulders.
She could've passed for a triplet if the captain hadn't known that wasn't the case. Her figure and the braids pulled tight to her scalp were the only differences.
All three had the same short broad faces on thick necks and long frames. Harpon had hired them not only for their prowess in battle, but for their bloodline.
Koroni had a natural force sensitivity, and their instincts for danger had saved his neck more than once.
"He's a Jedi, if anyone survives that jungle, its him." Harpon said evenly. Barret's eyes stayed their steel gray, but something deeper went dark.
"Plenty of Jedi got wacked down there.I saw them go down Harpon, I was there." The short man's rough voice was starting to fill the small cabin. "On that blasted world. In the bush, Harpon.
If he's been there six standard months, like you say, he's cat food. And, good riddance." "Good riddance?" Jamal asked his eyes flashing with anger.
Some Koroni had a belief their ancestors were crash landed Jedi. And the trio's particular group of Koroni paid a great deal of homage to their ancestral line. "I was there too, Sergeant."
Harpon said keeping his voice even, but adding some emphasis on their respective former military ranks. "And I saw a lot more live, and save our hides than die."
Barrett had already spun on his heel and was staring Jamal in the eye. The Koroni was maybe two heads taller than the sergeant, but Barret outweighed him by at least ten kilos.
And if it came to it, the Mandalorian could probably take them all on. "You must've had your eyes closed, LT. And as for you, boy," Barret growled.
Jabbing his finger into Jamal's solar plexus "Our littles skirmish on the last planet was a youngling playing tag compared to that. You and your kin hear will be play toys for the cat men."
Jamal, stared down, unflinchingly. "Be moving that hand, you." He said, his thick accent and cadence falling down like the sound of war drums. "Or maybe be keeping it, me."
The tall man smiled, feral, all bared teeth and no mirth.
"Enough!" Harpon barked in his old commander voice. "This isn't a democracy. I'm not asking for a vote or an opinion." He stared at the two men.
"If that Jedi lives, then he will pay us for his safe return. If not, maybe we get paid for bringing his remains to be buried properly, as he deserves." He was staring straight at Barrett now.
"And sergeant if you're too frightened to step into the bush. You can stay and guard the ship." Harpon half expected the sergeant to leap at him and plant his face to the floor panels.
Instead, he grinned, a vile half sneer on his scared face. "What?" He said the bass now gone from him, only a harsh whisper left. "And miss out on prince charming getting gutted by the Cat men.
Not. On. Your. Life." Every word coming out a sentence in itself. a promise.