[Screenshots] SWTOR – Ashara + Arcann

Vector also returned in this patch, but my Agent isn’t able to get him yet so I’ll try to get her through her chapters later. Still busy trying to get sewing projects going though!

More importantly though, Malavar’s long-lost girlfriend is back! I love that it kept her customization too, so she looks right in this scene.

And Arcann finally became available as a romance. Zamarra is always willing to see the good in people, so she’s a good choice for him. (Until Zenith comes back, I guess.)


[Story] Smuggler Crew – Rishi

“There you are, Major, all fixed up.” The twi’lek medic had finished applying a medicated mesh, and injected the area around the site with a kolto infusion. “I’d tell you to keep off of it, but I know you won’t, so just try not to overdo it.”

Kazta’s upper leg had taken a pretty bad hit from the pirate leader’s blaster, while her armor had absorbed much of the force of impact, there was still enough to discolor her thigh into a nasty black-purple bruise. The actual wound looked bad, but once cleaned up it should heal without any problems. Not that she was going to take his advice about staying off it, either. There wasn’t time for that now. She was aware of the pain, but it wasn’t overwhelming, rather it seemed to anchor her back to the reality of the situation — one of their team was missing, and she’d left him behind. That stung far more than any blaster injury ever could. She kept replaying it over and over in her mind, searching for something she could have done differently. She could have stayed on the dock with Draiik, jumped down from the shuttle ramp, distracted them, something. Instead, they’d opted to get the slaves to safety and left the captain to fight them off alone. While she had some faith in his ability to shoot, the odds were against him. And she’d just left him there.

“Major? You feeling okay? You look a little pale.” Kif’s voice shook her from her thoughts. No sense brooding on it. What had happened had happened, now they needed a plan. Kazta nodded, sliding down from the makeshift table and stepping back into her armor. The twi’lek looked as if he was about to protest, but thought better of it.

The slaves they’d got out of Rishi were a mix of twi’leks, mirialans, humans and zabraks. Kazta had seen to it that they’d been fed, and after a trip to the refresher most of their moods seemed brightened. They were excited to leave Rishi behind and begin new lives, though they worried about others that they know. Kazta wanted to promise that she’d get them out too, but she didn’t want to mislead them. It had been difficult enough to move these ones without losses — she and Kif had left them behind while they returned to the camp to look for Draiik. They hadn’t found him, but they had found a recording of him being roughed up and then loaded onto a shuttle. And more importantly, they’d found Shani, safe and relatively unharmed. Kazta still didn’t feel any better about abandoning her, but she was thankful that Shani was back with them. One of the slaves said that he’d been working on a project in Tattooine, but he couldn’t remember any more detail than that.  It was at present the only lead they had, and Kazta was willing to search every inch of that sandy hell-pit if she had to.

Still, they needed more than just a name. Kazta had spent her free hours combing through her old reports — something about that pirate leader had seemed naggingly familiar. She hadn’t realized it then, in the heat of the moment, but after replaying it over in her head, it wouldn’t leave — like a catchy song. He’d been a beast of a man, huge and broad, well equipped with both heavy armor and firepower, in addition to a shield generator and who knows what else. The way he’d scowled when he climbed up out of the infested water, blood streaking over his wild grimace, jarred a memory in Kazta. On Rishi, he’d called himself the Enforcer, but she couldn’t find that in her records. She did, however, find a report from Belsavis. Kazta didn’t remember much of that mission, but there had been one prisoner who’d rallied an entire wing of his prison into a vicious combat force. Kazta’s squad had been called in to deal with the situation after the guards had taken some serious losses, and once they got there she understood why. The man was cunning, ruthless, and determined. She had no doubt that whatever he was tied to wouldn’t be unravelled easily. And now he had Imperial backing, likely Hutt as well. The compound on Rishi hadn’t been some temporary camp — they had turrets, walkers, ships, and a lot of manpower. Kazta knew that it had to be something big for them to spend credits like that. The slave, Carlo, had said it was a weapon. What kind of weapon would have to be hidden in the middle of a desert planet? And what kind of plans did they have for it? Now their crew, down one captain, had to try to stop them.


[Story] Smuggler Crew – Luck

“Looks like you lose again, kid.” Sergeant Wells smirked, leaning back in his rickety chair. For just a moment, Kazta wished it would collapse and dump him and his smug face into the dirt. She overlooked her cards, in the hope that maybe she’d added them up wrong — but no. If she didn’t know any better, she’d almost believe the other guys were cheating. But it didn’t seem possible; they were in a makeshift camp playing pazaak on top of an old shipping crate. Maybe her luck was just that bad.

Kazta got up from her chair, brushing the dirt from her boots. “All right,” she said. The other guys were still snickering. “I want a rematch later.” She fetched the bucket and scrub brush and stalked over to the parked walker, resting in the grass like some enormous grazing animal. Gambling for credits was against regulations, but the rules didn’t say anything about wagering other things. Loser of this game had to scrub down the walker, its long limbs and joints splashed with mud. Despite the humiliation of losing, Kazta didn’t really mind the job itself. There were much worse things the Sergeant could have made her do. And she knew there wasn’t any real malice behind their laughter; they were picking on her because she was knew. It’s just the way things went. Sergeant Wells cared about every one of his team, even if had an odd way of showing it sometimes. She was eager to go into the field again, and prove herself to him and the others. Their arrival on Taris had gone well enough, they’d repelled some Imperial droids from a farming settlement and constructed some water storage towers to replace the ones that had been destroyed.

Sergeant Wells had been killed on their next mission, a sniper’s bolt snuffing out his life in the blink of an eye. In the chaos, a togruta soldier they called Stripes was bitten by one of those wild, scrabbling humanoids that infested Taris. He was feverish and pale, even after the medic saw to him, and he had to be taken out by shuttle. They were told that he was sent home, but Kazta and the rest of the unit believed otherwise. Was it only bad luck that took Stripes and Wells, or was there more to it? Had she been spared and they taken for some reason, or it was it — like the draw of pazaak cards — just chance?

The memory of that game on Taris returned to her as Kazta looked over her cards on Draiik’s ship. While she would have preferred to pass the time in a more productive way, they’d insisted she join the game — and the ship wasn’t going anywhere until the upgrades were installed, anyway. There was still the war droid to be cleaned and restored as well. She lost most of her hands in this game, too. Even after all those years, her luck at pazaak hadn’t changed. But her luck — or whatever it was — in battle had kept her alive, at least thus far. Kazta couldn’t help but worry what lay ahead of them. Their odds were long, and she wasn’t sure how prepared all of them might be for an intense situation. She’d seen the Captain and Shani handle blasters, but cantina shootouts weren’t exactly the same as being under assault by a full Imperial force.

They wanted to talk, too, about their pasts and where they’d come from. The idea made Kazta uncomfortable, not because she didn’t want them to know, but because she didn’t feel there was much to be told. She didn’t want to talk too much about the fear and pain of those days before the Republic arrived, how they’d hidden in the dusty warehouse and eaten withered old rations and believed they were going to die as the shells exploded outside. She had stories from her missions, of course, but they were always edged with a hint of sadness, for those who had been lost. Some were lost on the field, killed or MIA, others had been sent to other units, on remote planets, and they’d just drifted apart. It wasn’t easy to keep in touch once they went their separate ways. But she enjoyed listening, though she believed they might be just a touch exaggerated for effect. Sitting around throwing cards and telling tall tales, it was almost like they were a real unit, at least for a little while. Kazta couldn’t help but worry, then, what their next mission might have in store for them.

[Story] SWTOR – Xarlo’s Meditations

This time, hardly anyone came. That’s not too surprising, Knights and Masters probably have better things to do than listen to lessons. But even a Master can learn new things. Mine used to say that, and so did the one hosting last night, Bron. I tried not to think about what kinds of things they were doing. Probably fighting off the Eternal Empire’s droids or protecting innocent farmers from Sith. I wish I could be doing that. Not that I don’t enjoy the lessons, because I do.

There was a girl there, a mirialan. The good thing is that she is a padawan too! She doesn’t have a Master either, so we have a lot in common. I really hope she comes again, so we could talk more. I’d like to at least have someone to practice my saber strikes with. It’s easier for someone to see where you’re making mistakes than when you’re doing it alone. One other person was there. Can you guess which one? The former Jedi. She didn’t come with any of her friends this time, so it wasn’t quite so bad. Also, I think her presence must have some purpose. I think she’s meant to show me what would happen if I lose track of my training and my progress. So in that way, she’s really valuable and I’m glad she was there.

Since there weren’t many people, Bron decided to postpone the talk about sages, instead he wanted to talk about lightsaber strikes. Now that’s something interesting! I made sure to pay close attention to all the ones he talked about. The mirialan girl volunteered to go up in front of everyone and demonstrate how to do them. I wanted to, but what if I do it wrong?  My Master used to say we learn more from mistakes than from successes. Which might be true, but I don’t want to do them in front of everyone. Bron talked about the different strikes and what they might be used for. Some of them were awful and dangerous, and he said it means that you’ve given in to anger. I can’t imagine just cutting someone’s whole leg off or something. I hope I’m never in a situation where I have to do that.

I also asked about how to defend against Force attacks that aren’t weapons, like groundquakes or lightning. I think Bron liked my question, so that was good. He explained how you can use your saber to divert or absorb energy sometimes, or shielding techniques. It was all really interesting. I hope I’ll get a chance to practice some of them soon — I mean, not cutting people’s legs off or anything like that, but the regular moves. I don’t know if I want to holo that mirialan girl, she’d probably think it was weird.

[Story] Smuggler Crew – Tattooine

Major Kazta was accustomed to chaos, the ebb and flow of a hot battlefield. Beneath the disarray, one could observe patterns and tides, make predictions about what might happen in the next few seconds. Of course, there were always surprises, unexpected obstacles or outcomes, tech failures or gun jams, but that was part of what made it exciting — being able to adapt and create a new strategy on the fly. However, the past few days had been nothing like that. Before, she’d had her squad at her back, people she’d known for years and trusted implicitly. They could communicate with nothing more than a word or signal, read each others’ gestures and body language, knew each others’ strengths and weaknesses in any given situation. They were a well-oiled machine, and she was in the driver’s seat.

Not so with this crew. The Captain had a lot of contacts, and each of them seemed even more erratic than the last. She’d already seen more than she wanted to — smugglers, spice dealers, pirates — and the operation hadn’t even really get off the ground. But she couldn’t back out now, knowing what was at stake. Neither would her pride allow her to admit defeat without at least giving it a shot. It was going to be a hell of a rough ride though.

Going to the port with the Captain for ship parts, she’d had a taste of the old days again. Under siege by pirates and mercenaries, they would have to fight their way through. To her surprise, he was cool under fire, and responded well to her instructions. He might actually make a decent soldier one day, if they all survived this. Their contact was a mon cal, but he was nowhere to be found. Spooked by the fighting, or perhaps changing his mind about the deal, he’d taken one of the escape pods. The Captain extracted the coordinates from a remaining pod, sending them to Tattooine. It was not Kazta’s favorite place. The heat was unbearable despite her armor’s cooling system, and once the sand got in, it was nearly impossible to get rid of it. She’d found it for weeks after her last trip there, despite the ship droid’s best efforts.

As the sandy horizon drew into view, she couldn’t help but remember her first trip there, not long after she’d enlisted. She was eager to help — as well as to prove herself — no matter where they were assigned. The reality was a lot less glamorous, mostly they were keeping the enormous desert lizards out of the water farms, not to mention the endless battle to keep sand out of everything. But for the first time, she’d felt part of something larger, something more important. She might only be one person, but she was confident that united, they could make a difference.

In the Anchorhead cantina, the Captain was able to make scrambled contact with the mon cal, and he sent a signal out to the others for backup. They began to arrive shortly, some that Kazta recognized, and some that she didn’t. What were their motivations for being there? It was impossible to guess, but she doubted it was out of Republic loyalty. It was bad enough they had a spice dealer aboard, but he’d at least agreed not to move any while on the ship. If she knew smugglers, though, he’d surely find a loophole. Kazta was reminded of the saying about herding nexu cats as she followed the group through the dunes and canyons. She would have preferred to have a strategy, some sort of plan, but that wasn’t looking likely. They were joined by a chiss youth, which came as another surprise. Though they were usually allied with the Empire, this one was wandering the desert alone, and he approached them — which meant he probably didn’t have ill intentions. Unless, Kazta reasoned, he was a spy. Had the Empire been tipped off by someone at the port? Did they truly have eyes and ears in Coruscant, as she’d feared? If he was a spy, he was convincing — the kid took a blaster shot to his shoulder while they were trying to negotiate the mon cal’s escape, and his fear and surprise looked real. Despite his species, Kazta felt a twinge of sympathy for him, just a kid in over his head — like she’d been, not so long ago. She’d have to ask Kif to look him over, that is, if he hadn’t disappeared back into the desert.

Kazta retreated to her own ship — which unlike the Captain’s, did have a vac chamber, and a refresher she wouldn’t have to wait in line to use. She did her best to get all of the sand out, then cleaned and buffed her armor, ensuring there were no scuffs or compromised areas. She’d taken her rifle out to oil and clean when she heard her holo calling.

“Hello, love!” The faces were too close to the screen, and Kazta smiled back at them.

“Hi mom, hi dad. How are you?”

The connection wasn’t great, the colony where she’d grown up was remote and not well supplied. This was probably the same holo she’d bought for them with her first credits from enlisting. Yet they’d wanted to remain, and Kazta couldn’t really blame them. One day she’d go back to see them, when all of this was over. “Are you eating enough? You look skinny.”

She didn’t think she was, but she wasn’t about to argue with her mother and father either. “I’ll eat more,” she promised.

“Where are you?” asked her father, the hologram of his face peering around her ship.

“Tattooine. I’m working with some new people.”

Her mother frowned slightly. “You be careful. You know some people are dangerous.”

“I know, mom.”

“When are you going to come visit?” asked her father.

“And bring home someone?” added her mother.

“Soon,” Kazta said, though she didn’t know the answer to either of those. She wasn’t sure of the scope of this thing with the privateers, let alone how long her superiors would indulge her interest in it. And as for the other matter… she had a feeling that day was a long way off. She tried not to wonder too much about her last team, whether they were still alive and kicking, if they ever thought about where she was — no, it was foolish.

“Love you,” she said, waving as the connection closed.

[Story] SWTOR – Hidden

The fading afternoon sunlight cast a golden glow over the camp, a warm spring breeze ruffling the trees overhead. The soft grass tickled the bottoms of Zamarra’s feet as she ran after her brother. Malavar, older and taller, held an empty whiskey bottle and paused to let her catch up.

“Look, there’s some,” he said, and she followed where his finger was pointing to the little dancing specks of light. Except, as Malavar had explained, they were actually little insects. He proposed that if they caught some inside the bottle, they could bring it inside to keep their tent light enough after dark. It might take a lot of them, they were so small and the light so dim. But perhaps together, it would work. They flitted and zipped so quickly over the grass, no matter how quickly they ran, the bugs always darted away at the last moment.

They both flopped down on the sun-warmed grass, defeated. Maybe it was for the best, Zamarra reasoned. The bugs probably wouldn’t be very happy stuck inside a bottle. They belonged out here in the late spring evening, free and unburdened. Yet at the same time, she didn’t want her brother to be disappointed. He always sat near the opening of the tent while he was reading, waiting until the last possible sliver of light was gone. They weren’t allowed any holos, but Malavar found old paper books thrown out in the trash heap sometimes. Usually they were damaged, or pages were missing, but he read them avidly all the same.

Sometimes she could make things move, if she thought about it really hard. It was just a thing she did sometimes to amuse herself, but she hadn’t told anyone else. Likely they would just scold her for trying to play a trick. Could she also make something stop moving, as well? She watched one of the little light-bugs, focusing intently upon it. She had to be gentle, it was such a fragile little thing. Holding her breath, she willed it to stop moving — and it did, hovering perfectly in place just above the grass. Zamarra took the bottle from Malavar and scooped the bug inside, clapping her hand over the mouth. Her concentration broken, the insect began to move again, bumping against the glass walls of its cage.

“Zamarra, how–” Her brother’s face was wide with both awe and shock.

“I caught one for you!” she said proudly, holding the bottle up in front of him.

“But you — you made it stop moving.” Unlike her, he had some idea of what that meant. “We have to go tell Mama.”

Zamarra frowned faintly, watching the bug inside the bottle as she followed her brother back toward their tent. Why wasn’t he happy?

“Master Zamarra?” Thisiri, the little cathar girl, nudged Zamarra again. “Master Zamarra, are you all right?”

The twi’lek blinked, suddenly aware of her surroundings. “Yes,” said Zamarra, giving the girl a comforting smile. “I was just remembering a memory.”

“Was it a good memory, or a bad memory?” Thisiri asked, snuggling closer to her side.

“A bit of both, I think.”

They were within the shelter, built of intertwined branches from the dense surrounding jungle. With enough layers of leaves, it was enough to keep out the endless rains. Another layer of leaves kept the floor dry and mostly free of mud, but it was still no place for children. The planet on which they had hidden was uninhabited, which was much safer but it also meant no buildings or ruins of any kind. Zamarra fretted, but the children seemed to have adapted just fine. They took turns gathering sticks for the fire, fetching fresh branches and leaves for the shelter, and picking up fallen fruit from the ground. The two boys had even speared fish from the stream. Sometimes, the rain let up a little, and Zamarra would practice their lessons outside, otherwise they would stay within the cover of the shelter. She was thankful for their company, delighted to see their progress, but she still felt that she could do more for them. Was there somewhere else they would be safe? Possibly, but she could not take the risk of putting them in harm’s way, not after all they had already been through.

She wondered if Malavar worried about her, whether he even still lived at all. It seemed so unfair to finally find him again after all these years, only to be separated again. Was he seeking them? And if so, would the Empire follow? Every night, she watched the skies for anything unusual, but so far had seen nothing. There could be others looking for her too, though, others who might be able to help. Though he was mostly talk, Zamarra thought of the smuggler who’d been so eager to win her trust. Would he be able to help them now? It was something she had considered, but it was too risky to try to contact him. Besides, he could just as well be missing — or worse — as well. Though she tried to sense both Kif and her brother, she could not be certain whether they lived or not.

[Story] Smuggler Crew – Supply Run

Major Kazta’s head throbbed as she made her way through the brightly-lit streets of Nar Shaddaa. She’d slept well enough, the bunk in Captain Draiik’s ship by far wasn’t the worst place she’d ever had to rest. Of course, it wasn’t the best either. These past few days had been a whirlwind of trouble — and from the looks of things, it was just beginning. After being ambushed in a cantina and a resulting shootout — which the Major still needed to file a report in — they’d found an Imperial ID on one of the guys. She was on the right track, but she got the sense that it ran deeper than either she or the brass suspected. The Captain’s words from the previous night came to her again — the Hutts working with the Empire, right in the heart of the Republic. Kazta didn’t spook easily, but that idea frankly terrified her. They were woefully undergeared for a threat like that, but she’d managed to get at least a small requisition approved.

Nar Shaddaa didn’t have much in the way of Republic presence, but there was an equipment hangar. She didn’t know the condition of any of the gear, but it had to be better than nothing — at least, she hoped so. The rodian at the desk inspected her datapad with what seemed to be surprise. It was difficult to tell with rodians.

“Lot of stuff on this,” he said. “Not sure we have everything.” He glanced over the list again. “What’s all this for, anyway?”

Kazta had put on her field armor that morning, a welcome change from the twi’lek’s borrowed clothes. Without it, she felt exposed and vulnerable, though she had to grudgingly agree that it drew attention from the wrong people in certain places. She’d have to find something functional soon, especially if they were going to be under fire — which was likely. “That’s fine,” she assured the quartermaster. “I’ll take what you’ve got. And it’s a special forces op.”

“Oh,” said the rodian, sounding impressed. “This way.” He led her over to a stack of dusty crates. This wasn’t promising.

The datapad beeped as he scanned items and checked them off the list. “You got your blasters in that one, and uh–” he lifted the corner of one of the crates. “Looks like some flashbangs and shocks, couple of ions…”

Kazta removed the cloth covering the pile of crates and peered into a few herself. This was hardly the quality — or quantity — that she had expected. “Isn’t there anything else here?”

The rodian looked around thoughtfully. “Oh! Almost forgot.” He hurried over to a corner, where another canvas was draped over something, but it didn’t look like crates. He pulled the dusty cloth off with a dramatic flourish.

“It’s a droid,” said Kazta.

“Not just  a droid,” said the rodian. “A war droid. The pinnacle of Republic engineering.”

Kazta tapped the droid’s metallic hull, which evoked no response. It was rusty and it looked like there were cobwebs in the joints. “Are you sure this thing works?”

“Uh,” the rodian said, scratching his head. “I mean, it probably just needs a little cleaning and a recharge. I’m sure.”

This wasn’t looking encouraging, but maybe the Captain knew someone who was good with droids. Kazta shrugged. “I guess I’ll take it.”

As she waited for the shuttle to come take the pickup, she thought back to something else they’d discussed — a medic. She’d worked with many over the course of her career, but lost touch with most of them. It also might be difficult to talk many of them into a mission of this nature, she admitted. But there was one she’d worked with briefly, when they’d been helping clear out gangs here some years back. Another privateer, Kazta was fairly certain that he’d be interested in this sort of thing, especially if there was the promise of credits. She took out her holo, hoping his frequency was still stored in it.