“I’m telling you, Risha, wormholes typically suck people in and they either never return, or they come back changed.” “Then why are we investigating it for the Republic?”
The duo of Prindrohi and Risha, smuggler and queen-in-exile, were currently in their ship, the Boundless , outside Junkford Station, where a strange, blue-white wormhole had suddenly appeared.
“Because we happened to be here at the right time, because there aren’t any Republic science vessels in the area, and we have those enhanced sensors from the search for your dad’s treasure.” He listed the reasons, counting them on his fingers.
“He’s right, Miss Risha.” Corso Riggs, Prin’s best friend and first mate, supplied while calibrating the sensors for wormhole scanning. “You know how much of a magnet for weirdness we all are, this ain’t any different.” Prin stared at the wormhole, as a red-colored junk-hauler swerved around the wormhole to avoid getting sucked in.
“Hey, Deryn!” Emeldir poked his head through the archway onto the bridge of the Phoenix , meeting Risha’s disgruntled look with a quirked eyebrow. “Did you plug in the right coordinates?” She asked once she had his attention, fiddling with the navcomputer on her left.
“Of course I…” Before he could so much as voice the thought that he had of course plugged the coordinates in correctly Risha jabbed a finger at the viewport and his eyes followed, widening at what he saw. “ Oh . That’s...I don’t think that’s supposed to be there.”
Swirling outside in front of the XS Freighter was a blue-white anomaly, a wormhole of sorts, and it certainly had not come up on the sensors. “No, it’s not supposed to be there.” Risha agreed tartly, fixing him back with the ‘damn it Emeldir, we have a problem’ look he had come to know so well. “And it’s messing with all our sensors, I can’t get the nav computer to recalibrate.”
Hopping into the bridge and sliding into the captain’s seat he leaned over the navcomputer as well, ducking his head to fiddle with some of the system preferences and buttons that were easier for him to reach. “Nothing’s out of the ordinary here, it should work…”
Just as their luck would have it, and the streak of trouble that seemed to follow them everywhere, the sensor alarms on the Phoenix began to pulse and beep. Risha swore, reaching over him to flip some switches on the control board. “Whatever this thing is, it’s got too much gravity--it’s pulling us in!”
Cursing, Emeldir ducked under Risha’s arm to lunge for another row of switches and levers. They worked like a well oiled machine, despite being in a position that most would consider in the other’s way--reaching over and under each other to reach various parts of the control board as though it were the natural way to do it. “I’m going to activate the back thrusters, see if we can swing away from it.”
“The gravity well coming from this thing is too strong!” Risha slammed a hand down on the controls for the alarms, effectively quieting its’ shouting. “I know, I know, we’re drifting towards an unstable anomaly in the middle of nowhere, I get it .” Slipping under Emeldir’s arm she darted out from the bridge with a shouted: “I’m going to go divert power to the engines! Get ready to punch it!” over her shoulder.
Emeldir nodded, hands flying over the controls as he worked to pull his ship from the gravitational pull. While he moved somewhat, the ship now perpendicular to the wormhole instead of straight on, the thrusters were still whining with the effort, even when he switched to the fore thrusters in an attempt to back out. Reaching over the slapped the intercom button, shouting; “Risha, it’s not working! Should I punch it?”
Her voice came back swift and loud through the intercom, brokering no argument. “Don’t you dare punch it. We go into hyperspace now and we blow the engines and the hyperdrive. It’s taking up too much power, they’re overheating.”
“Oh, Taqq’s never going to let me hear the end of this, getting sucked into a wormhole…” He muttered to himself, turning a worried look to the fast approaching wormhole and tapping the intercom again. “Buckle up Risha, I think we’re going in one way or another.”
Risha’s sigh was audible, crackling over the intercom. “Diverting power away from the engines to prevent damage. Deactivate the thrusters so we don’t blow ourselves up.”
By the time Emeldir deactivated the thrusters, the Phoenix idling on low power so that the energy fluctuations from the wormhole wouldn’t damage the delicate sensors and fine equipment of their ship, Risha was back on the bridge next to him, glaring at the wormhole like she could make it retreat. If he was the wormhole he would have already disappeared. The wormhole, however, had other plans.
It was all they could do to throw themselves into the captain and co-captain’s chairs and strap themselves in before the white-blue light overtook the nose of the Phoenix . Time seemed to stretch and distort, as did everything else. Emeldir let his forehead rest on the edge of the control board, knotting his heads over his head and doing his best to push down feeling of his stomach crawling up his throat. “I hate this, do you feel weird?”
Risha’s voice was drawn out and slow, as if she was speaking from an audio recording twice slowed down. “So help me if we die, Deryn.”
Then the light overtook their ship completely, and time warped around them...
“OK, Captain, sensors are ready to scan the wormhole.” Guss Tuno, Jedi washout-turned-badass medic, reported from the circuitry bay.
“Akaavi, have you secured any and all loose objects?” Risha spoke into the intercom. “I don’t want to have our haul of gemstones for construction lasers be damaged in any way.” “Yes, Miss Drayen, they are secured tighter than Corso’s undergarments.” “Hey!”
“Bowdaar, are any other ship systems being affected by this thing?” Prin said. “No, not from what I can ascertain.” the Wookiee replied from the main hold’s holoprojector, currently displaying a ship system readout.
“Good. then prepare for initial scan in three, two, one…” Prin clicked the button on the scanning device, and a thin blue beam shot out from the underside of the bridge module, towards the wormhole.
*BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP* Suddenly, alarms began blaring all over the ship! “Captain, the wormhole’s fluctuating! It seems it didn’t respond well to our scan!” Corso reported, trying to translate the technical readings into Basic for the benefit of everyone else.
“Miss Drayen, we are caught in the gravity well, and are starting to drift towards the wormhole! Engaging evasive maneuvers on your signal!” Akaavi shouted from the engine room.
As Prin looked worriedly at the approaching wormhole, trying to figure out how the scan might’ve upset it, Risha began trying to divert power to the engines to try and break free of the wormhole’s gravitational pull.
“Guys, the sensors are going mad! I’ve gotta turn them off, or otherwise we might get ourselves fried!” With that, Guss shut down all but the shortest-range sensors and fled the circuitry bay, smoke billowing out from behind him as he coughed and hacked.
“Everybody, hang on, I’m gonna try the Turbo Boost option-- and yes Prin, this is an emergency!” Risha then slapped the big red button in front of the navicomp. The engines made a groaning sound and seemed to glow brighter, but the Boundless continued to drift out of control towards the wormhole.
“Are we even sure that booster thing is working?!” Guss asked frantically, trying to clear the smoke from the circuitry bay, as Bowdaar rushed in, fire extinguisher at the ready. “We purchased it from a CEC service bay, they’re a normally reliable brand!” Bowdaar said, trying to activate the circuitry bay’s fan, only to find the motor had been damaged.
“The turbo boost has had no effect, the gravity well is too strong!” Akaavi reported from the engine room, sounding worried (a rare emotion for her). “Should we try to jump to hyper--”
“NO!” Risha shouted. “We’d have to be suicidal to try that! The RCS thrusters aren’t working, there’s no way to correct our tilt!” As the ship by this point had turned almost all the way upside-down, making Prin and Corso feel kinda queasy. “Thank the Touchstone for artificial gravity.” Risha muttered.
“Uhh, does anyone else feel… stretchy? ” Corso asked. “I feel it too.” Guss added. “We’re nearly into the wormhole itself, it must be a side effect….” Prin found that he was slowing down, like he was a rubber band being stretched thin.
Everyone’s voice was turning slow and deep, and their actions were delayed. “This is… remarkable.” Bowdaar was making sure to record this on his MyComm for later review. This would be of immense scientific interest.
“Time is slowing down….” Guss could toss a laser scalpel into the air, and it took its’ time in coming back down-- or up, as the ship’s artificial gravity also seemed to be malfunctioning!
“Strap in, and hang on!” Prin managed to buckle up as the Boundless completely entered the wormhole……
Time. Space. Gravity. All seemed to be messed up more than a wino on meth. Two smugglers, two queens, two ships. They met in-between, in the wormhole’s nexus…..
“Ugh…” Prin felt like he’d just had a bad canny trip (wouldn’t be the first time). He unbuckled the crash webbing, and struggled out of his chair.
Carefully Emeldir opened one of his eyes, moving his hands from his head once he felt like he wasn’t being stretched in twenty different directions. The ship was still intact around them, he could still see Risha in his peripheral vision...he grinned. “We survived, Rish!” Then, something distinctly off struck him about his ship and he paused his momentary celebration and stood, wobbling over to the way off the bridge. “Does something feel..off to you?”
“OK, next time we take on an assignment from the Republic concerning some crazy anomaly or whatever, we turn it down.” Prin muttered to himself as he walked out of the bridge…
….only to collide with another person. “OOF!”
“Frag, Guss, you gotta… wait a second, where’d you come from?” Prin got up and stared at the stranger. “Did you stow away before we left? Did you sabotage the scanner?” He made sure his Merr-Sonn IR-5 pistol was powered up and ready, just in case this guy tried anything stupid.
Emeldir knew the Phoenix like the back of his hand, so when he made to step off the bridge and instead ran into something..no, someone, he nearly jumped out of his skin. “What the..?!” Immediately he grabbed for the blaster at his belt, eyes narrowing at the stranger he had run into. “What do you mean did I stow away, this is my ship!” Glancing up, the defensive remark died as soon as it fell. This was not his ship. “Or...it was my ship.” Shaking off his shock, he narrowed his eyes in a glare at the guy standing across from him with a blaster leveled at his chest. “Who are you?”
“Prindrohi Candaren, Captain of the Boundless , aka the Voidhound. You might've heard of me.”
Scoffing, Emeldir planted a hand on his hip. “Sure, and I’m a fluorescent yellow nexu wearing a fancy hat. I’ve never heard of you, and unless you killed a different Voidwolf than I did, then buddy, I hate to break it to you, but you’ve got a false title.” Turning his head back to the bridge, Emeldir’s brows drew together. “Risha, you all good up there? I could use some backup.”
“Wait, how do you know…” He trailed off, as two Rishas emerged from the bridge connector, one in a green shirt, the other in a leather jacket.
Then all four people screamed. “AAAAGGGGHHHH!”
Thoroughly freaked out, Emeldir looked at Risha, his Risha, the Risha that was staring back at him with some mixture of utter confusion and the same ‘what the stars is going on?’ look that he was sure was on his face. “Okay, not to alarm you Risha, but there’s two of you. What kind of weird wormhole did we fly through?”
Her scathing look and bitingly sarcastic tone was a small comfort in all the weird. “Oh, good . I’m glad you see her too Deryn. I thought I was having an out of body experience. What is going on ?”
“Risha, did you clone yourself? I know we’re rich, but that type of tech would bankrupt us!” Prin said to the green-clad Risha. “No, Prin, I did not. It’s obviously that damned wormhole that’s caused all this.”
“Hey Captain, what’s with all that screaming….” Corso then saw the double Rishas and the third guy (Deryn, was it?) He then reached for the intercom and pressed the button. “Everybody, to the main hold. We’ve gotten ourselves into another mess.”
Soon, everybody was gathered around the holoprojector, the two Rishas with their respective smuggler on one side, the rest of the Boundless crew on the couch, just kinda staring and moving their heads back and forth.
“So… what’s your story?” Prin said to the other smuggler. “You claim to be the Voidhound too, so let’s compare notes and see what happens.”
Standing on one side of the holoprojector--he and Risha on one side, the other captain (Prindrohi as he had introduced himself) and his crew that was Emeldir’s crew but not on the other--with his arms crossed, Emeldir muttered, “I’m feeling a little outnumbered Rish, this is weird even for us.” Then he sighed, trying to accept the fact that this was, for now, their new weird situation, and resolved to try and be helpful in figuring out what happened. “I’m Captain Emeldir Deryn and well, skipping sappy life story things, and me and my crew spent the past three years tailing the Voidwolf through some pretty crazy things...all after some scumbag stole the Phoenix on Ord Mantell.” He gave the other smuggler and his crew a suspicious look. “Please tell me your ship wasn’t stolen too.”
“That’s… pretty much my whole story-- got my ship jacked, teamed up with Corso, got it back, found Risha onboard…. This isn’t making any sense.” Prin shook his head, like he was in denial of what was currently happening.
“I would hazard a guess, but, the wormhole is to blame for this?” Akaavi snarked.
“Right, of course...couldn’t be some weird coincidence that we’ve both found ourselves being called the Voidhound.” Emeldir muttered, running a hand through his hair and glancing over at Risha. She just shrugged and frowned with a suspicious glare around at their eerily similar counterparts.
“So, if there are two counterparts to Mr. Drohi and Miss Risha, then, why aren’t there any counterparts of us?” Guss asked. “I hope our counterparts haven’t been killed or anything.”
“What? Killed? No, no…” Emeldir shook his head vehemently at that, looking spooked at the idea. Speaking his thoughts out loud--maybe something would suddenly trigger a lightbulb of an idea?--Emeldir started talking. “Rish and I were heading back home to Coruscant, our crew is out on leave for a job well done. So that means your counterparts...stars that sounds weird...just didn’t get pulled into that swirling wormhole with us.”
“OK, then, that means we don’t have a trail of dead bodies floating out the side of the ship-- wait a minute, are we still in the wormhole, or…?” Prin then bolted off to the bridge.
Green Risha then said “Well, at least we both have Coruscant homes-- how much did you get yours for? We got it cheap, on account of a bunch of rowdy demolition derby racers living below and constantly shaking the whole building with their engine experiments.” She made a mental note that, once they got back to their own reality, call those drivers and tell them to knock it off.
For a moment Emeldir contemplated running after Prin, but thought better of the idea. He’d rather stay right where he was, where he knew he wasn’t going to get sucked off into a third reality...hopefully. While he tried to piece together how exactly they could all have ended up here, Risha--the Risha standing next to him, who was decidedly less visibly spooked than he was, or just better at keeping her cool--humored the conversation.
“We got ours for a good deal, we’ve got an apartment over by the Senate district and Emeldir knows people that got us in for a good price.”
Looking up, Emeldir nodded. “Uh, yeah, I’m from the area so I had a few old family friends that ended up in the business and lent a hand. Our neighbors aren’t quite as interesting as a bunch of derby racers.”
“Lucky.” Risha muttered. “Anyway, Prin is from Chandrila. Yes, I’m serious. He grew up in a small town and one day, some smuggler came in for some reason, but got arrested for parking his ship without a permit. Prin saw a chance, took the ship himself, and he went into the smuggling business.”
“Hey, I wanted to tell my own story.” Prin groused, returning from the bridge. “But I’ve checked, and we don’t seem to be in the wormhole anymore, at least I don’t think-- but it still doesn’t look like normal space. We aren’t anywhere near Junkford Station, that’s for sure.”
Looking around the ship, or what he assumed was Prin and his crew’s ship as it was lacking the little quirks that made Emeldir’s model his , he nodded, impressed. “Well, if this is the ship you got then it’s a real fine ship. I got pulled into the business by another captain, Rielay Taqq.” He paused. “You guys don’t know a Captain Rielay Taqq, right?”
“Stars help them if they do.” Risha muttered, before turning back to the business that Emeldir had jumped away from. “What do you mean ‘doesn’t look like normal space’, where’d this wormhole dump us?”
“Well, firstly, I’ve never heard of a... Relay Tak? I dunno. Second, just… come down to the bridge.”
Emeldir and his Risha promptly followed Prin and their Risha to the bridge, and saw…. What looked like normal space, but all sorts of colors seemed to be shifting and changing, making it look (again) like a bad drug trip. “That is not normal.” Prin said.
“Close enough, and that’s a relief. Kind of...it also means that we’re definitely in some reality mash and that’s really weird to think about.”
When Emeldir and Risha followed Prin to the bridge, they both stopped dead at the space that was swirling just outside the viewport. “Whoah. That is...not normal.” Emeldir agreed, baffled by the swirling colors, like everything had been hyper saturated.
“I’ve never seen anything like this.” Risha agreed, fascinated. “What did we fly through?”
“Something screwed up, that’s for sure.” Prin said. “I can’t even get any sort of signal from the HoloNet, much less on my MyComm.” holding said device up.
“Wait, what’s a MyComm?” Prin handed it to Emeldir. “It’s a holocomm, datapad and spot-on locator mashed into one simple device. I guess it must not exist in your reality.”
“Well, I wish it did.” As Prin stood up, he realized how short he was compared to his alternate counterpart.
“So, uh, you want anything to eat? We’ve got a fully-stocked kitchen.”
As Emeldir inspected the MyComm, turning it over in his hands and commenting on how useful it was, Risha turned her attention back from the swirling colors of space to their ragtag team of mixed-reality crews. “I think we’re good, I couldn’t eat knowing that that ,” she gestured out towards the space outside the viewport. “Is there.”
Meanwhile, Akaavi was inspecting their cargo for potential damages, but it seemed that the merger of the two alternate ships had also resulted in a mixture of their respective cargos; half the crates weren’t full of gemstones, but rather an assortment of datapads, guns and survival equipment.
“So, if our two ships have somehow been time warped together and we’re all stuck in some mixture of realities, then where does that put us? Are we in some non-linear place where we’re just stuck or is time still passing here or back home?”
Risha rolled her eyes at her husband’s musings, pausing in her poking at a datpad while trying to get it to read any actual numbers instead of jumping around. “I think we have bigger problems then the state of time, Emeldir. Like figuring out how to come back to our reality when there doesn’t seem to be another wormhole that I can identify.”
“For all we know twenty years could have already passed back home, c’mon you can’t tell me you’ve never seen those kinds of stories Risha.”
“We can sort out any time crisis once we’re out of this crisis. One problem at a time.” Risha quipped back.
“Well, the chronometer is currently displaying a rebus puzzle I can’t make out, so that’s not of any help to us.” Corso said, putting away the unit.
“What we need is a way to separate ourselves and fly around until we find something.” Bowdaar said. “That way we can cover more ground.”
Guss’ eyes widened. “I’ve got an idea!” He then rushed off, returning in a few moments with what looked like a glowstick. “This is a Power Stick, we got it when this alien kidnapped us and forced us to run her Maze.” Emeldir and his Risha just looked at each other with baffled expressions. “Long story. But, maybe this could help us; it gives off some sort of energy, but the scanners here on the ship can’t make heads or tails of it.”
“You guys get up to some really weird things.” Emeldir said, looking at the so called Power Stick with wary confusion. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a Power Stick, or some weird alien maze, but if it helps, it helps…”
“How do you suppose we use it?” Risha broke in, inspecting the Power Stick with interest instead of confusion or wariness. “If we’ve never seen it I don’t think the Phoenix ’s scanners could make any more sense of it, but do you think the energy could somehow help us split our ships?”
“ Without blowing the ships up.” Emeldir added as an afterthought, thinking back to all the times he and Risha had nearly blown the circuit boards on the Phoenix trying to make additions. “Or blowing us up.”
As if it was listening to them, the Power Stick suddenly split in two! Emeldir immediately took one and handed it to his Risha, and they started feeling weird and shaky.
“Wellllll, itttt’s ddoinngg somettthinggg.” Emeldir reported.
“Maybe we should wear rubber gloves when we handle them.” Guss thought out loud. “I think it something to do with their not being from our universe-- the Power Stick must realize that it’s not supposed to interact with them! Like when you put two magnets together, they repel each other!” Prin said excitedly!
“Well, it’s definitely doing something , and I don’t know if it’s a good thing!” Emeldir retorted to the excited thinking of the Boundless crew. He contemplated dropping the glowing stick that was making the entire ship around him start to shake wildly--or maybe he was the one shaking wildly, he wasn’t so sure at this point.--when the controls of the bridge started to shift, like he was seeing double, until he could kind of recognize his own ship on its own. “Oh! I think I can see my ship!”
Leather!Risha’s eye’s darted back and forth, as if she was making sure she wasn’t hallucinating. She grabbed their half of the Power Stick from Emeldir’s hand, and immediately she started shaking (much to Em’s relief), and she could now see the bridge of the Phoenix as opposed to the Boundless.
“Looks like your theory was right, Prin.” Green!Risha said, flashing a warm smile. “And good on you Guss, your idea of using the Power Stick looks to have panned out.” “Any time, Miss Risha.”
The odd double-visioned shaking of the ships continued in front of Emeldir and Risha’s eyes but the voices of the Boundless crew started to distort, like they were being heard through the audio of the Phoenix ’s main holoterminal! Then everything stilled just as fast as it had been shaking and they found themselves standing back on the bridge of the Phoenix .
Looking around to make sure that he wasn’t just imagining it and finding everything stayed solid and unshaking, Emeldir looked to Risha with a big smile and swept her into his arms, spinning them in a circle. “We’re back on our ship!”
They both laughed, more than a little relieved to be back on familiar ground before Risha caught sight outside the viewport and dropped her head to Emeldir’s shoulder. “We still have our colorful version of space outside the viewport, Deryn.”
He looked over his shoulder to see the vibrant colors still swirling around them, but he could see the shadow of the Boundless alongside them and some of his relief dimmed. They may be back in their ship, but they were still stuck in the middle of who-knows-where space. “Do you think I can page them on the holoterminal so we can figure out how to get out of here?”
“Two steps ahead of you guys.” Prin and his Risha promptly shimmered into existence, though it seemed the strange colors were also affecting holograms, as their image constantly shifted hues, as opposed to the normal blue.
“So now we need to see if there might be other wormholes around here, or barring that, at least some sort of structure or planet or moon we can set down on for a while.” Boundless!Risha summarized.
“Right,” Risha immediately went to the Phoenix’s scanners and controls, running preliminary and base level scans of the area while Emeldir started checking the systems of their ship to make sure they hadn’t been damaged in the wormhole or the split. “The scanners seem to be working better now that our ships are separated, though they aren’t running at peak efficiency.” She flipped some settings and scowled as it just returned an error message to her. “I’m not picking up on any wormholes, but there’s some manner of formation showing up on my scanners that might be a planet or a moon.”
“Alright, setting course. Our engines are running decently, how do yours check out?” Prin reported.
Emeldir hummed thoughtfully as he ran through the system checks, taking mental notes. Luckily their ship had made it mostly unscathed through the ordeal. “All our systems are running decently, the thrusters are a bit spotty thanks to overheating in the wormhole but they don’t seem to be in danger of blowing out.” He reported.
“Setting course for the formation.” Risha said, before glancing over at Emeldir in exasperation. “One of these days I’d like to fly this ship without breaking any of the systems I put in.”
“It’s not broken.” Emeldir returned with a small grin. “There’s just a bit of tweaking we’ll have to do back on Coruscant.”
“A bit ?”
“OK, so we’re doing pretty well. At least there aren’t any Imperials or space pirates or whatever else to blast us like crazy.” Prin quipped.
“Yes, but we still don’t have a way to get back to our home reality.” Risha reminded. “I’m trying to be optimistic here.”
“Guys, fight and/or make out later. We’ve gotta concentrate on investigating that structure out here.” Corso said, checking that the scanners were still functioning, though long-range stuff was still offline (they’d have to hit up a repair bay at Port Nowhere for the stuff they needed to fix those enhanced sensors).
As they flew closer to the structure the scanners began to identify it easier, some semblance of normal functioning returning to the system. “It looks like we’re approaching some sort of small planet.” Risha noted, tapping the control board to get Emeldir’s attention away from calibrating a few of the systems while flying. “Deryn, make sure we’re going in slow, I still can’t get a read on the surface and if the thrusters aren’t working at full capacity then I don’t want to blow any of the other linked systems.”
“Got it, we’ll go in slow. Hopefully there’s something solid down there to land on.”
“Hang on, we’re checking.” Corso’s static-y voice replied. “Uh… yeah, there is a solid patch of ground there, but considering we’re two ships with people and cargo, I’d suggest caution for the landing procedure.”
“Alright, do you guys want to go in to land first? “ Emeldir asked, preparing his ship for a slow landing.“ “Sure, we’ll test out the strength of the area, we’ve got more weight in total than you guys do. Those gemstones are small, but they add up in density.”
“We’ll circle up here and try to get more a read on this place while you guys land, that way we aren’t cluttering up space.” Emeldir said, glancing over at Risha to confirm that they were all set to keep flying. She nodded, prodding the scanner system some more to try and get it to read more without getting an error code. “Let us know what the conditions are like down there so we don’t accidentally skid into you guys when we land. I’d rather not take any risks after what our ships went through.”
“Alright, commencing landing procedure.” Prin and Corso then lowered the landing gear, and activated the rarely-used grav-stability projector, to try and minimize any effects on the surrounding ground or whatever it was. For a few seconds, all they focused on was lining up on a relatively clear area. Then then felt the THUNK of the landing, and the subsequent compression of the legs, meaning they were in the clear, for the moment.
“All right, we made it down safe!” Corso cheered. “OK, Phoenix , it’s your turn.”
“We good to land, Risha?” Emeldir hesitated as Risha wrinkled her nose at one of the readings their ship was giving them but when she offered a--and maybe it was his slightly paranoid about his ship imagination, but was that tentative?--thumbs up he grimaced and started the procedure anyways. “Starting our landing procedure.” Looping the Phoenix around to an open area near the Boundless he activated the landing gears, which ground out of their protective alcoves and lowered the thrusters. It wasn’t the most perfect landing, with the entire ship landing a little harder than intended when the thrusters sputtered out a few seconds off Emeldir’s crew, but they were on the...ground...intact. “And there we go.” Emeldir said with a sigh of relief. “What was with the face, Risha?”
“Getting off the ground might be an experience.” Risha brushed a hand through her hair, tugging it a little in aggravation. “I can’t get a decent read out on some of our tech and I don’t like having the full picture, especially now.”
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.” Emeldir reassured, well, more like put off the inevitable.
Meanwhile, Prin and Risha were busy trying to wrestle their EV suits out of a storage closet. “Argh, we gotta put these in a more accessible place.” Prin grunted, pushing crates and assorted junk out of the way to get to his dark blue and silver suit. Risha had wisely kept her purple suit on a hook right in the front. “OK, gotta remember to wash these when we get back home, I don’t think we’ve used these in, like, a year.” Prin wrinkled his nose at the stench.
Corso was busy looking out the viewports at the terrain-- it looked like rock, maybe this was a big asteroid?
With one last glance out of the viewport as the dust--what he assumed was dust--settled, revealing a rocky looking surface around them with the stars speckled ahead, he jabbed a thumb out towards the main area of their ship. “We should probably catch up with our ah…”
“Temporary partners.” Risha supplied helpfully when he stumbled on exactly what they should be calling their other-reality counterparts.
“Yeah, that works.” Emeldir agreed before making his way into the cargo hold to poke around some of the storage spaces that were implemented into the walls instead of just being laid out in the boxes across the floor. “I swear we have some regulation equipment somewhere in here, even though we’ve spent so much time on friendly planets.”
“Redefine friendly, I think half the planets we’ve been on were worse than what this can be.” Risha griped, popping the removable plate off of the wall to reveal a smaller storage spaced stocked with their various gear. “We moved it when we had that big shipment for Alderaan, remember?”
Humming in agreement, and remembering now that day that had been spent shifting their cargo all around, he helped in pawing through their various equipment that would work for this unfamiliar atmosphere and...planet? Asteroid? Moon? “Tatooine heat equipment, cold weather gear for Hoth…” He muttered, before finally he found the right gear and pulled it out with a flourish. “There we go! This will work.”
Risha pulled hers out with a grimace. “Great. I don’t think we’ve worn these...ever.” Still, they pulled on the bulky gear and tried not to laugh too hard at each other and went over to the the Phoenix ’s airlock.
“OK, here we go, opening airlock!” Prin pulled a lever, and he and Risha floated off the boarding ramp, onto the surface of the asteroid. Since the gravity was low, it was like floating on a moon, meaning Prin quickly went off course, having the time of his life. “C’mon Prin, stop goofing around!” Risha yelled after him. “Risha, don’t deny it, float with me!”
Pressing his palm into the control for the airlock Emeldir let it hiss open and the ramp lower. Not that the ramp was much needed, as soon as they hit the low gravity of the surface they were on they started to partly float, like their feet weren’t entirely anchored to the ground. “I haven’t even stepped off the ship and I hate this.” Risha groaned, even as Emeldir had a hand locked on her shoulder as if she would keep him from floating into the expanse of space--neither of them had experienced this sort of feeling outside of their own ship in the occasional anti-gravity well and neither of them could say they liked it.
“Not to rain on this low gravity parade.” Emeldir said. “But I think I definitely prefer it when my feet are on the ground where they’re supposed to be .”
Clinging to each other like they were stepping off a cliff, Emeldir and Risha left the relative safety of their ship, and stepped to the ground. Or mostly landed on the ground. Above the ground? Thinking too hard on it just made Emeldir even more worried.
“Whee!” Prin flew by, his Risha chasing after him, trying to keep him on task. “Hey guys, this is awesome! We need to land on uninhabited asteroids more often!” Risha tried to tackle him, but he darted away, and Risha drifted into a small crater instead. “YEAH!” Prin was busy literally bounding off the Boundless , spiraling through space.
“OK, we’ve gotta find a way to--” Risha suddenly trailed off as she saw something shining over a nearby ridge. “I see something over there, let’s go!” Prin heard, and immediately declared “First one there’s a Hutt!”
“Are we going to follow the weird shining space light on this weird rock?” Risha took one look at Emeldir’s expression, still wary but now set in determination, and dragged a hand across her mask-covered face with a sigh. “Of course we are.”
“We don’t really have a choice, now do we?” Emeldir quipped, giving Risha a gentle nudge with his shoulder. Unfortunately he forgot that they weren’t quite as stable as they were on their home planets and his small nudge sent her stumbling through the air.
“Dammit Emeldir!” She snapped, working to right herself and activate the thrusters on her suit so she could keep herself somewhat more controlled.
“I forgot okay? I’m not used to this low grav stuff.” he retorted, albeit with an apologetic look, activating his own suit’s thrusters. Together they flew towards the object and not-his-Risha and Prin.
“If you’ve got any other ideas, I’m open to hearing them.” The purple-suited Risha said, reaching the other side of the ridge. She saw the shining object, still too far to see what it was exactly. Prin then soared overhead, his suits’ reaction thrusters propelling him like a superhero towards the object. “Alright, I’ve got the whatever it is in my sights.”
Prin then came to a landing about 10 feet away. He took out a field scanner, and pointed it towards the object, only to suddenly zip forward, as if he was suddenly magnetized! “Whoa, hey! Lemme go!” He slammed into it, though the EV suit managed to protect him from the brunt of the impact, It still hurt like hell, though. “Ugh…”
He staggered up, and saw the object-- it looked like a clear, double-sided pyramid, surrounded by some sort of multi-colored, vertical ring structure. Prin saw what looked like a cloudscape in between the ring and pyramid.
Before Emeldir could go to land near the object, intrigued by it’s pulsing light, Risha’s forearm slammed into his chest and he noticed that Prin had been dragged towards the object. “Don’t follow immediately.” Risha snapped. “I swear by the stars you are like an incredibly curious, debatably stupid akk puppy sometimes.”
Making a face at the comparison, Emeldir chose instead to call out to his fellow captain. “Prin, you good?” They flew closer, though warily, to the object.
“It kind of looks like one of the holocrons the Jedi and Sith use.” Risha noted. “But more colorful.”
“Depends on what you mean.” Prin said, sounding winded. Suddenly, the pyramid began emanating horizontal rings, as if transmitting something. Then he realized he’d accidentally grasped the object for support! “Uh-oh.”
Then, the ground began to shake, and a huge structure suddenly appeared out of nowhere! It appeared to be a large purple stage of some kind, with the ring-pyramid in center, flanked by two rounded towers which appeared to be sending out weird light beams. Another pair of towers rose up nearby, and their light beams linked with the others.
“Oh for f-- ” Risha started to growl while Emeldir scrambled for the blaster that was usually on his belt and wasn’t not, the one time he very much would have liked it--though would it even have worked here? He didn’t know, but he’d rather have had the option to fire at the strange, glowing object than stare at it.--and floated back a few paces.
“What is that?” Emeldir looked up at the odd structure with something caught between bewilderment and a bewildered fear. “Why is there a stage in the middle of this asteroid?!”
“I dunno, maybe an extragalactic arena?” Prin yelled, as the ring-pyramid glowed in the whole spectrum of colors-- and the stars around them seemed to be linked. “Wait, I think this thing is connected to our surroundings!” Risha looked at him, then at the towers. “Well, maybe those tower things has a control panel or something! I’m heading to the northeast one!” She activated her thrusters and sped to it.
Risha reached it, and found what looked like an odd control terminal-- physical buttons and switches mixed with touchscreen controls and random objects, as if whoever had constructed this had been in a hurry, or someone else added this thing on later. She tried pressing a button marked “MTS”, and suddenly, music began blaring from all sides, scaring the crap out of everyone! She hit the button again, quieting the noise to a low level. “OK, gotta figure out what these buttons do.” She was sweating in this thing from sheer nerves, and she hazarded a guess her counterpart was much the same.
“Right, an extragalactic arena. Because that’s something we see every day.” Emeldir was frazzled if he was to downplay it and he was this close to going back to his ship and trying to hyperspace his way back home, where things were decidedly less weird.
“We don’t, they might.” Risha supplied before elbowing him in the side lightly. “Relax, Deryn, this isn’t the weirdest thing that’s happened today. “
As the music continued (a lush sounding piece incorporating guitars, orchestra and synth), Risha found Prin on the tower across from her horizontally. “I found another control panel, Rish, this one has “VIDEOS” on it. I’m looking through to see if there’s anything involving multiversal travel.” He commed.
“I’ll head to the opposite tower, see if that one’s any different.” Before Emeldir could protest, and he did protest as she activated her thrusters towards the other tower, she was already landing on the metal platform in front of the mismatched controls. These controls weren’t labeled, instead it was just a panel of flashing green--and sometimes red--lights. “I think I found the system board, or at least where it shows if they’re functional. I don’t know what they’re linked to.”
Flying to the panel opposite his-Risha’s, Emeldir ghosted his hands across the control board. “None of this stuff is familiar either, I can’t make heads or tails of it but there isn’t anything stored on this end. What is this?”
“Looking through mine still, these controls are a pain in the-- wait, I think I’ve got something!” Risha exclaimed. A menu appeared, reading “MULTIVERSAL CAMERAS”. She brought up the most recent camera feeds, and one was the wormhole outside Junkford Station! The other appeared to be in random space, presumably her counterpart’s universe. “I’ve got a lead!”
“Wait a minute?” Prin said as he landed next to Risha. “So, someone, or something’s been watching us all this time? I feel…. mildly violated.”
“We’ve been being watched?” Emeldir parroted, definitely not happy with the newfound information, while Risha at the same time sighed in relief had having any information at all.
“Right,” she said, not sounding as perturbed by the idea of cameras being on them as she should be. “So something’s been keeping an eye on us for some reason. Maybe that’s why we’ve been sucked out here through the weird wormhole..? This is kind of out of my area of expertise.” She glanced over at Emeldir, who looked at her and shrugged in the universal ‘ I have no clue what’s going on and I can’t even fake it’ gesture. “ Our area of expertise.”
“Well, there must be something that’ll give us a clue as to--” Prin trailed off, and began turning a dial on his earpieces. “I can hear something on some obscure frequency…” He twiddled the dial, trying to isolate the sound. Then, he listened, and a grave expression appeared on his face.
“We’ve gotta go, now . As in, right now before some creepy extradimensional surveiller captures us for his collection!” Prin was freaking out again. “Well, wait a minute, what are you talking about?” Risha demanded.
“I tuned to that frequency. I suddenly heard stuff in my earpiece. It was someone muttering about “They aren’t supposed to be here, they’re wrecking all my systems! How am I supposed to capture them!” That doesn’t sound good at all.”
Suddenly, the ground rumbled again, a strange booth suddenly popped out of the ground, and a humanoid figure clad in an sickly yellow-green EV suit stepped out. “So, you figured out my plan!”
“Whoah, whoah, whoah,” Emeldir yelped. “Some weird frequency? Collection? What the hell is happening?” His intensely worried and very much unhappy look snapped to Risha when she grabbed onto the puffed out material of his spacesuit hard enough to catch his arm underneath, a wide eyed look of shock and uncertainty on her face as she fiddled with her earpiece as well.
“Prin is right, we’ve got a problem.”
They both looked balefully over at the booth that popped out of the ground, putting all speculation to an end. In a wry mutter, Risha said: “Well, at least now the problem has a corporeal form.”
“Weird booths and evil plans we can take. That’s manageable.” Emeldir sounded like he was trying to convince them both before he lifted his chin and glared at the figure complaining about ruining his plan when really he had dragged them all into this mess. “A plan, of course. And what was your plan that required all of us here?” He cut his eyes over to Prin and the other Risha. “Different realities and all.”
“I am working on behalf of a cabal of individuals who are trying to manipulate the space-time continuum for their own ends. I go under the codename AM-16, which you may address me as.” The figure spoke haughtily. “As it stands, my intention-- of using you and various others in both your realities to create twisted shows for our pleasure, as displayed on this stage-- has been derailed, when my wormhole inducer malfunctioned, accidentally taking you here and forcing me into a direct confrontation.” AM-16 grunted. “I will be having a talk with my temporal technician soon.”
“Well, why’d you choose us?” Prin asked, fed up at this sick bastard. “I’m pretty sure that your bosses won’t be happy that we’re going to be blowing you to bits shortly!” He then activated the commlink. “Corso, warm up the ship, we’re gonna need heavy firepower!” “On it, Cap’n. But I’m not sure if this place will let the weapons function right.”
“Anyone who calls themselves AM-16 is already setting themselves up for failure.” Emeldir scoffed, eyes narrowing; he was fully fed up with this grumbling bastard’s plans and foiled plans. “Listen buddy, you don’t want to mess with us and you’re toeing over the line now. You aren’t getting any of your warped realities today. Or any other day if we have anything to say about it.” All but snarling angrily at AM-16, he cut his eyes over to Prin. “Need the Phoenix too? One of us can jet back?”
“Or if we think we’ll need the extra firepower, have one of your crew take her.” Risha offered, giving AM-16 a glare that should for all intents and purposes have him dropped dead to the ground, ignoring Emeldir’s affronted look.
“We only have the two EV suits, that’s not an option.” Risha responded, warming up her thrusters. “I’ll go, Prin-- take out the trash .” She growled. Prin grinned. “ Gladly. ” He then activated his thrusters and flew towards AM-16-- he diverted power into his gauntlet (a feature intended to help break up obstacles), and threw a punch at AM-16’s chin, knocking him into a tailspin!
Emeldir, clued in, quickly flew over and performed a powered flying kick at AM-16, knocking pieces off his EV suit. “Argh!”
Risha activated the thrusters of her suit, looking over to Emeldir with a nod as he did the same. “It wouldn’t be a party without some arrogant baddie smashing, right?”
“It wouldn’t be a normal Tuesday without that Rish, don’t lie.” Emeldir quipped back before launching himself at AM-16 after Prin and taking out a few pieces of his armor. As he recoiled, dodging a grab the humanoid made at his leg, Risha ambushed AM-16 from the side, catching a few new loose panels of the suit off, seeming to either make the guy angrier or more worried. It was hard to tell.
“Here comes the Twister!” Prin launched himself skyward, and then twirled back down, using his thrusters to spin very fast. At the same time, energy was diverted to his boot. His foot impacted right into AM-16’s chest, causing a big shower of sparks to fly and AM-16’s EV suit to be punctured! “Agh, NO!”
“Hah! Not so invincible now, are you?” Emeldir said, whacking one of the floating pieces of AM-16’s armor that came floating towards him while Risha--getting a hang of low-gravity fighting--caught another loose piece of their opponent’s armor and sending it flying with a cracking sound as it came loose. “What do we want to do with this guy? Think he knows how to separate our realities again?”
Suddenly, a bright light spotlighted them-- the Boundless had arrived, turrets aimed at AM-16. “Alright guys, just say the word and I’ll blow this bastard straight to hell!”
Suddenly, the ground rumbled again, and AM-16 began chuckling! “Hah! Did you fools not realize how much machinery is embedded in this asteroid?! This structure is rigged to detonate if fired upon!” Prin’s jaw dropped, and Corso cursed. “Damn it! Guess we gotta do this the old fashioned way!” Emeldir said, before putting AM-16 into a headlock!
At AM-16’s cackling Risha gave a curse vehement enough to put the pirates of Rishi to shame, all but snarling: “Well there goes that plan. Of course this place is a bomb, what else would our luck have?”
“Well, we gotta do something!” Prin said. Then he began thinking-- “Maybe if we find that wormhole thing this bastard mentioned, we can use it to hold open a wormhole to our respective realities!”
“He did say it had malfunctioned to bring us here.” Risha mused, thinking on the spot while Emeldir did his best to keep the writhing and spitting angry AM-16 from causing more trouble my escaping. “If we can find it and even boot it up again long enough to open another wormhole maybe we can get back to our realities!” She scanned the looming structure for where it could be hiding. “What do you think a wormhole machine looks like? Probably pretty big, right?” Glancing over to AM-16--who just glared at her in return--she arched a brow. “Unless you’d like to volunteer any information? You aren’t getting anywhere in your position.”
“I will not tell you anything-- AUGH!” Boundless!Risha promptly kicked him right in the crotch, causing the vile moron to crumple into a heap. “Now, unless you want my girlfriend here to deliver more ball-busting blows, I’d suggest you spill the beans.” Prin said in a low voice.
“Make the pain…. Stop….” The time-twisting bastard said, now merely waiting for the world to stop spinning and for the incredible groin pain to subside.
“Nice move.” Phoenix!Risha muttered in praise to her counterpart before crossing her arms, cocking her hip, and staring daggers at AM-16 that offered no room for argument. “I wouldn’t take Captain Prin’s threats lightly. First thing’s first: location of this machine you mentioned. Now .”
Shifting her intense look quickly to Emeldir, who had moved away from AM-16 as soon as the time breaking humanoid had dropped like a sack of potatoes, and gestured towards the structure. “Deryn, grab the machine when our friend finally decides to start talking.” At his affirmative nod her glare turned back to AM-16.
“Ugh… fine. You bastards have got me. The machine is over under the stage, there’s an access panel on the side of the big staircase. Now I have to go put some ice on my tender parts--” Prin grabbed him by his neck. “Oh no. You’re not getting away that easily. Guys, I’ll stay here, keep an eye on this crafty son-of-a-Hutt.”
“Got it.” Emeldir said, reactivating the thrusters on his suit and speeding towards the stage. He went over to the staircase and ran his hand along the edge, under the main lip at the edge of the stairs until he found the latch for a removable panel. Pulling it off and setting it aside Emeldir narrowed his eyes at the rather dismal opening before squeezing in with some wiggling and muttered curses. When he popped back out, machine tucked safely under his arm he was covered in asteroid dust, but no rigged traps sprung out, which he considered to be a win.
“Well, here’s the machine itself.” He held up the machine as he got closer, looking at it inquisitively until Risha tugged it from his grasp, turning it over in her hands. “It’s not very impressive.”
“It looks like something short circuited in the last run cycle.”
“Well, maybe we should pop it open, see if we can fix it.” Prin said, floating over, dragging AM-16 behind him. “We have the guy who uses it right here to tell us if things go south….”
Pulling out a miniature toolkit of sorts that either Risha or Emeldir carried when they were on missions (most often used for when their rented speeders went haywire. They had learned their lesson after Tatooine.) she worked open the main panel, finding a mess of wires. “What did you do, toss some some tangled up cables in here and hope for the best?” Her questioned was directed towards AM-16 with a curl to her lip as she began to pick apart the most tangled mess of wires. “Can’t even tell what goes to what.”
“I didn’t build it, my bosses in the Cabal contracted someone else to, I just use the damn thing!” AM-16 protested. Prin just smacked him on the back of the head. “Well, tell us what you were doing with it when it malfunctioned, then!”
“I don’t care if you weren’t the one to build it.” Risha snapped. “You must know how to use it. What did it do when it malfunctioned?”
“What you were doing with it would also be good to know.” Emeldir agreed with Prin, a bite in his words. “Just in case we should worry about it going crazy when we do get it booted back up.”
“Uh, I was seeing some alternate timeline, one where… well, some fools named Johnson and Abrams were busy making really stupid stories and forcing the public to watch their holofilms, when suddenly, something broke and turned onto your universes! It must’ve accidentally activated wormholes and sucked you people in!” AM-16 recounted, clearly nervous that he would be assaulted again.
Risha scowled, fiddling with the machine and its wires some more. “You mean you weren ’ t intentionally hunting for our universe?” The machine sparked and whirred under her hands and with wide eyes she held it out to arms length until she was certain the whirring was the software booting up. “Think I got something.” Delicately clicking the panel back on she twisting it in her hands, revealing a face with flickering buttons. “Now we just need to sort out the interface.”
“No, we like to meddle around in other timelines and universe to make money, or just because we feel like it’ll be fun.“ AM-16 admitted. “You people are petty. ” Prin said, shaking his head.
“Uh, guys, I’m getting some strange energy fluctuations here. I think that thing might be making more wormholes!” Corso exclaimed.
Distracted from his scowling at AM-16--which deepened with each layer of explanation the bastard revealed about his use of the machine--by Corso’s words, Emeldir glanced between their group and the shadow of the Phoenix back where he and Risha had left it. “Making more wormholes is either going to be good for us or that’s going to be a big problem. Rish, should I go bring our ship in by the Boundless ? The last thing we need is getting vacuumed up by a wormhole and tossed out into space without it.”
Just as concerned by the reports of energy fluctuations without seeing anything starting to appear around them, Risha eyed the machine in her hands warily and nodded. “That’s probably a good idea. Try not to get killed from point A to point B.”
“Well, I think we might be able to operate this thing ourselves.” Boundless!Risha commented. She then turned towards AM-16, who immediately began cowering. “Now, as for you ….” she said, venom in her voice.
“Shouldn’t be too hard.” Risha agreed, twisting the machine around some more and catching the glint of faded Galactic Basic numbers over some of the buttons. But she paused in her investigation to glare at AM-16 right alongside her counterpart. “Now, we can’t have you running around with this fun little gadget once we’re gone can we? What to do with you…” She let the comment hang, watching AM-16 cut a nervous look between both Rishas.
Meanwhile, Emeldir had gone off to startup the Phoenix . It was rare that he was alone in flying it-- there was just a void where Risha would normally sit. Half the controls were left out of his reach without his wife manning them (and nitpicking them to adjust later) and he kept glancing over. As it lifted off the ground, he sighed. “Well, maybe I shouldn’t, but…” He then scrambled into Risha’s normal seat, piloting from there. “Heh, I know Risha’s gonna yell at me later for this.”
The Phoenix lurched forward, before sliding into position next to the Boundless . (Thankfully they didn’t have to parallel park their starships, or else there would’ve been a fair amount of dinged and scratched body panels.)
Risha sighed in relief when the Phoenix flew in, off the ground smoothly and seeming to be in mostly functioning condition despite the beating the freighter had taken. With so much odd chaos going on their little group separating felt like asking for trouble. ‘ All set up here Risha, we shouldn’t have too much trouble flying out of this .’
“Good, wouldn’t want to crash as soon as we’re home.” Risha sighed before tilting her head at AM-16. “Two ships, one and a half crews...you’re very outnumbered. I would just take your word that you won’t cause even more damage as soon as we turn our backs, but somehow I don’t think your word means much. What do you guys think?”
“Yeah, I wouldn’t trust this greasy bastard as far as I can throw him.” Prin crossed his arms. “And in this gravity, I can throw him no problem.” “And after what he’s done to us and who know what other timelines and realities… I say, we let him burn. ” Boundless!Risha said, almost growling.
Emeldir had become fairly accustomed to his Risha’s intensity over the years but that intensity squared was...an adjustment. “Wait we should what ?” He yelped, holding his hands up in a placating gesture even though sitting in his ship it wasn’t visible.
“Em--” Risha started, irritation lacing her voice before Emeldir cut her off, rattling off what must’ve been a common disagreement between the two of them.
“‘Emeldir, this isn’t the time to be an upstanding Republic citizen, I know . But we’re at 100 with this guy right now and we need to scale it back to at least an 80.”
“OK, so does anybody have any ideas that don’t involve this guy being torched by our engines?” Prin asked. “Maybe… force him to… no, we don’t have the equipment for that .”
“We could…” Emeldir started to say before faltering, looking around the Phoenix ’s bridge around him and imagining the rest of his ship--all very unequipped to handle someone who very well could try to kill them if brought back into their reality. Or even on the way to their reality. Shoulders slumping he muttered, “I’ve got nothing.”
“Look, we don’t have many options.” Risha said as placatingly as she could manage, knowing full well that the captain of the Phoenix wasn’t easily settling for the option put in front of him. “We don’t know the nearest planet we could ditch him on or anything around here.” Sighing she waved a hand out towards the Boundless pair. “You guys are the experts in dealing with crazy people with weird plans, I think this is your call.”
Suddenly, AM-16 wriggled free! “Ergh, I cannot let these worms control this any longer, or else the head of the Cabal will have my head!”
“Hey, get back here!” Prin raised his arm, and a grappling hook intended for use in scaling objects shot out, snagging AM-16 by the ankle, causing him to fall flat on his face!
“Oh no you don’t!” Risha growled, bounding after AM-16--quite literally with the low gravity--and reaching him just as Prin’s grappling hook yanked him to the ground. “Nice shot Prin.”
AM-16 then pressed a hidden switch on his boot, and a wormhole suddenly opened, whisking him away! Prin’s hook automatically detached-- “NO!”
The whole asteroid then began to rumble! “He must’ve activated the self-destruct function!” Risha cried out in alarm!
Emeldir cursed audibly over the comm system, looking around wildly for either the source for the self destruct mechanism or a place he could hover the Phoenix to get his Risha on board. And then do...something, they still didn’t have their way out of this mixed reality.
“That sneaky bastard!” Risha cried in frustration, glaring at the spot where the last glowing remnants of the wormhole were fading. “Of course he has a self destruct on this place. We need to get off it asap.”
“Corso, we need emergency pickup now!” Prin and Risha promptly linked arms, blasted off and headed towards the Boundless ’ opening walkway as it hovered above the unstable surface!
“Deryn!” Risha cried, activated the thrusters on her suit and flying towards the Phoenix .
“Got you Rish.” Emeldir replied back--keeping most of the relief that she had elected to come back to their ship instead of trying to find AM-16’s location instead (It was his job to have the stupid ideas after all) as he lowered the ramp for her to squeeze in. “You in?”
“All set, we might need to punch it out of here, things are going south fast.” Risha’s voice came from the entry hatch and he nodded, muttering: “Of course it is. Boundless, you guys good?”
“Yeah, we’re ready, punch it Corso!” Prin yelled as he and Risha struggled to get their EV suits off. The Boundless promptly swiveled towards the wormhole as it began fluctuating, randomly changing colors and switching sizes! “Oh man, this place is going up more than Bowdaar after the torch incident!” Corso commented.
The Boundless and Phoenix followed each other into the wormhole-- and just in time, as the stage began collapsing in on itself, mini explosions dotting the asteroids’ surface! In the wormhole, Akaavi was manning the engines again as the entire ship tremored with the force of the explosion! “Akaavi to bridge, what’s happening?!”
Emeldir yanked his ship around to the wormhole, cursing again under his breath as it went haywire. “Well this is going to be a fun ride. Were you getting bored of normal flying?”
“Not really, no.” Risha yanked the bulky gloves of her suit off and taking to the other side of the control board with vengeance. “It’s going to be a rough flight, things aren’t running as well as I’d like for this sort of jump.”
Explosions were starting to pop up across the asteroid's surface in the Phoenix’ s viewport and while Emeldir cut his eyes over the the indicator lights that were less than ideal with a grimace and made the split second decision to punch it anyways. “Get out of here first, worry about that later. She can take the jump. I hope.”
The wormhole opened around them, leaving the asteroid behind in a swirl of raging colors and the duo breathed a collective sigh of relief until the ship rattled around them.
“ Boundless to Phoenix , we’ve gotta gun our engines, the wormhole generator’s gotta be history and we can’t be trapped in the wormhole!” Prin shouted in a panic as he and Risha strained their engines to the limits! “I can see the end of the wormhole coming up!” Corso supplied.
“Noted.” Emeldir called back, voice strained as he tried to keep his own ship together against the strain of the wormhole. Risha pushed back from the control board and took off down the hallway towards the engine room, dropping more cumbersome parts of her suit along the way as she shouted back, “I need a visual on what we’re dealing with, keep this thing flying!”
“What am I supposed to do, use sheer force of willpower?” Emeldir snapped back before pushing the ship a little harder with a wince as the systems protested.
“If you had to!” Her voice echoed down the hall and he rolled his eyes before registering what Boundless!Corso had said. “The end of the wormhole? I hope that’s a good thing.”
“Alright, all hands, brace for impact! Exiting wormhole in three, two, one! ” Prin closed his eyes as he started feeling the stretchy sensation again. “Please let us survive this.” He prayed silently.
“How’re the engines looking?” Emeldir waited with baited breath for a response, trying to keep rising panic down at the fact that they were hurtling through unknown speeds in their freighter that was reaching the end of it’s line for conditions it could withstand.
“Left engine that was compromised is overheating and not looking too good, keeping us in hyperspace much longer is really pushing it.”
Hissing out a sharp breath between his teeth, he nodded in affirmation even though Risha couldn’t see him. “Right. Brace for impact when we exit this thing--I don’t know where it’s dumping us.” He started to feel the stretching sensation tugging on him again and he reluctantly settled down in the pilot’s chair to strap in, keeping his hands steady as they could be on the controls with the nervous shaking that had made itself known. “Exiting in three, two, one…” He counted down, bracing to either pull up quick or try to avoid an impact.
Prin opened his eyes, to see Junkford Station, and that red-colored junk hauler that they’d seen before getting into this whole mess. He smiled. “Guys, we made it!” Corso whooped! Risha pulled Prin in for a kiss. “I knew we could make it, Prin.” she whispered.
Prin sat back in his chair, relieved, as the rest of the crew entered the cockpit. “So, we’re back home now?” Guss asked. “If we are, I would suggest we report this incident to the Republic science team immediately, they’ll want to know.” Akaavi advised.
“Hey, look-- the Phoenix’s holocomm address is still in the memory. I wonder if it still works…” Prin wondered. He pressed the connect button….
The Phoenix hurtled out of the wormhole into--into Republic Space. As Emeldir made the jump back down from hyperspace the navcomputer blinked back online, displaying their original coordinates to Coruscant and that they were well within range of its orbital stations. The main holoterminal beeped its incessant tone for an incoming call and he let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding, pressing his hands up through his hair before standing and crossing into the holoterminal’s room in a few strides. Risha met him halfway, crashing into his arms with a relieved: “We made it!”
They looked at each other and laughed before Emeldir ducked down to kiss her. “Of all the stupid shit we’ve done--”
“--this by far ranks one of the top?” Risha supplied before pulling him down by his jacket collar for another kiss. “By the stars am I glad we made it out of this alive.”
“Did you ever doubt me?” he teased with a grin that only widened when she rolled her eyes.
“Despite the fact that we’re going to be grounded for days fixing this thing up...no, I didn’t. Except for a minute, maybe three.”
At his mock-offended gaping she glanced at the terminal, whose beeping had ceased just to start up again. “Someone must be desperate.”
Keeping an arm around Risha, like he was making sure they weren’t going to get sucked through any different wormholes, Emeldir accepted the incoming call. The short but cross form of Captain Taqq blinked into existence and she threw her arms out wide.
“Finally, kid! So nice of you to pick up. It’s only been--” She must’ve checked her chrono because she paused and then continued on. “Several hours since you said you’d contact you’re crew, local time and they’ve taken to contacting me . What the hell happened?”
Emeldir and Risha looked at other, to Captain Taqq, then back to each other. “It’s a long story.” Risha said.
“I’ll patch the crew in. You guys might want to sit down, it’s a lot to explain…” Emeldir added.
Suddenly, another image shimmered into existence, pushing Rielay’s image off to the side. It was Prindrohi! “Hey, it does work!” He said excitedly! “Sweet, now we can communicate between realities!” Rielay just stared at the other holoimage. “Okay, I sense this guy’s a part of your story.”
“Yeah, uh, a big part of it, Taqq.” Emeldir stifled his laugh at her weirded out look, unable to mask his own surprise at Prin’s sudden holo--appearance. “Hey Prin.”
When the rest of the Phoenix ’s crew finally picked up the call, crowding around one holocamera’s frame the ship’s display was hard pressed to keep up. “ Hey Cap’n! Nice of you to finally show up!” Corso said before pausing. “Who’s the third person here?”
“Yeah, Emeldir ,” Rielay said pointedly with a sharp look. “You’ve got a lot of explaining to do.”
In a dark room, AM-16 was led by a pair of guards into a conference room. “Well, I see you have returned. You know, I thought you died at the hands of those smugglers.” A voice commented.
“I managed to escape and activate the self-destruct.” AM-16 explained, sounding on edge.
“So, you destroyed one of our key tools in manipulating the timelines and realities, all because some unimportant people accidentally infiltrated the void-- because of a mistake you made.” the voice turned threatening.
“It wasn’t my fault, I-I-I didn’t---” “SILENCE!” The figure roared. “Get this weakling out of my sight, or I will force him to.. be a contestant on Celebrity Bucket Kickers!” The guards then lead AM-16, now begging for mercy, away.
The figure brooded. “Between him and those Johnson and Abrams people, it’s a wonder more people haven’t discovered our meddling yet. But hopefully we can proceed unimpeded, at least until several millennia down the line for them.” The figure began to chuckle evilly in the dark room….