2.03: Binaros – Plant Food

DS Day 126-136

Where: Binaros

Sapella looked as though it too was on its way to a new era. With the efforts on Timbra Ott, and on Sapella, it wouldn’t be long before the Tition Trade Route extended into the Outback. It would bring a new era of prosperity to the region.

Reports were coming back that the third ship may still be intact, floating derelict somewhere in space. The Farstar crew helped in forming a search mission for the ship and supplied them with two defenders for the search. With that done, the Farstar prepped for departure, destination Binaros.

The snowstorm that delayed the Farstar’s departure was finally blowing over. This gave B’Dorbeck time enough to finish up his work and rejoin the Farstar. The ship was as he had left it, like a second home. He was glad to return to her, because he did not look forward to returning to the Noble court of Gandle Ott, and married life was not turning out to be all it was cracked up to be. Arranged marriages never work, anyway.

Sapella system was left behind, and the ship was enroute to Binaros. Lofryyn was proud of his work in the last few weeks, and proudly reported that the ship was at its best operations level ever. According to the wookie, the ship was at 95% operation level. The captain shrugged and asked for the remaining 5% to be taken care of.

The captain sat in her cabin, reviewing the mission goals, and analyzing the intel reports. From all she could tell from what Loh’Khar and Gorak has supplied her, Binaros was a meaningless planet. However, from her lessons from the past, that usually means Sarne had an interest in it. It was a jungle world, flourishing with plant and wild life. She made a note to plan a food re-supply run if the scientists found it edible. The questioned remained… what was an Imperial Probe droid being sent for. Presumably, Sarne had already had it surveyed. But even if he hadn’t, why survey it now? It was obvious it was more than a survey trip, especially because their probe droid stopped transmitting 1 hour after it landed. That probe droid was protecting something, if it was indeed a probe droid. It might be worse, as she thought back to Project Death Hunter.

A day and a half into the trip to Binaros, the Farstar lurched out of hyperspace. Samarion was wakened from his first sound sleep in months, feeling ill. Something in hyperspace just wasn’t right. Ship’s sensors agreed and pulled it out of hyperspace. They dropped right into a well-orchestrated trap.

Four heavily armed freighters, all with the same identifying markings, were vectoring in for attack. The captain didn’t recognize the markings, and neither did anyone else. There was a strange look on Gorak’s face, however.

Gorak fumed, as he recognized the ships. A message had been secretly piped into his own private channel, using codes only he and his former business partner knew. “This is to remind who the new boss is…” Gorak only allows one double-cross per customer… used to be he didn’t allow one, but he has been getting soft lately.

Two YT-2400 attacked from opposite sides, while the other 2 freighters took positions for longer-range attacks. Gunners and fighter pilots scrambled to their station on the Farstar. A new battle was engaged.

Only a few seconds into the battle, when the bridge erupted with Samarion screaming as if in pain … “Alien vessel dropping out of hyperspace. Coordinates….” The starwolf rattled off the coordinates as Thyte redirected the ship to give the turrets a better angle of attack.

Something blurred its way into real space… something big and ugly. Neither Samarion nor Dervious recognized the ship as one of their species’. Constant beam energy weapons swept across space slicing through the first ship it came to, one of the Farstar’s assailants. In a matter of seconds, the enemy ships were sliced pieces of space debris, smoldering as the last remnants of life support gases and fuel exploded in the dead of space. The alien ship then turned to the Farstar. Sensors of the Corellian Corvette were monitoring the power levels. Several tense moments passed.

The crew watched the alien ship intently. It was bulbous and spiny at the same time, almost organic. It almost looked as though it stared back at them, breathing heavily from the effort of the battle. No power levels were peaking yet. Thyte had his thumb on the jump lever.

“WEAPONS POWERING UP!!!!” came the sensor crewman.

Thyte through the lever before he heard the order from the captain. The blur of hyperspace brought a sigh of relief. Sensor detected no pursuit.

*****

Binaros loomed in the viewport. They had never seen so much green. Even the oceans were green. As the Farstar came in, they picked a faint distress call from a New Republic channel, identifying itself the Night Terrors, a NR SpecOps team. A stranded group of soldiers apparently strayed from the Minos Cluster and ended up on Binaros. It looked like the crew was going to have to make some room.

Sensors also picked up some artificial structures in a the northern hemisphere, opposite the Night Terror’s landing zone. The captain also deemed it necessary to check the flora and fauna for food sources. Three teams were formed. The most heavily armed were split between the rescue mission and the structure investigation team. Gorak formed the teams with Kl’aal’s help, and soon the shuttle was dropping teams off.

*****

Senior Lieutenant Zebin Moyato was relieved. He had taken 8 casualties since he came to this Maker-Forsaken place. This place was lethal. The plants seemed to be all carnivorous, poisonous, venomous, or otherwise deadly in some way. The seas alone were covered in this thick seaweed that devoured anyone that tried to walk on it. His men were able to clear an island of the menace, but he wasn’t sure how long it would take to grow back.

When the shuttle arrived, his men were more than willing to join up. At least it would get them off here, and maybe back into some action. He had heard of Sarne and his tricks. In fact, he had dealt with them before. That’s what brought him here in the first place. He owed the good old Moff a visit.

His men climbed aboard the shuttle and soon he was off that world and back on the solid floor-plating of a ship. Not a bad ship either….

*****

The jungle was even denser than Kl’aal had imagined. They all spread out to search for the structure, in pairs or threes. He trudged through it, sniffing out anything that might smell like man-made. He caught onto a trail of something better… meat. He ran deeper still, following the trail of some mammal he knew nothing about. He leaped into a small clearing only to have one of the blasted plants spray a cloud of dust all over him. It must have been a defensive mechanism. He lumbered further. Suddenl, he becamse aware of a new smell; the smell of competition. A low growl came from nearby bushes. The beast had eight-legs, and was remotely feline. It had huge fangs and look to be a challenge. Kl’aal loved a challenge.

The brawl was long and brutal, but once over, the beast lay dead; another trophy for Kl’aal. But the prey had escaped. Too bad. However, something else caught his senses… something smoldering in the underbrush. He approached it with caution. It appeared to be the Farstar’s probe sent out to investigate the Imperial probe droid detected here. It was blasted, as they had suspected. He wondered if the probe droid was near. Perhaps it took a hit too.

He heard a call over the comlink that Dervious and the others had found something. He continued his hunt.

*****

Gammer was already tired of this planet. They had been attacked earlier by these living vines hanging from the trees. It had grabbed him and another in the party, and in the struggle, he felt something like little worms inserting into his skin. He clawed at his face to get them out, but they just want deeper. The med-pac didn’t seem to do any good. They both weren’t feeling well after that. He was going to report to the doc when he got back.

They found a clearing, about a kilometer wide. The clearing was odd though. No life within it existed. It was also a perfect hexagon. This was not natural in anyway. They followed a beaten trail to an edge of an embankment. Below, they saw an old temple.

Ever since he had arrived here, Hasslock had not felt right. Ever sine he has been on-board the Farstar, anytime they came to a planet that had been touched by Darkstryder, he felt ill. His life in the several years had something about Darkstryder in it, including his former Rebel cell that was wiped out by some strange bio-weapon Sarne used. Now he stood above a temple that made him almost double over in pain and nausea. Something was in there. It was calling to him.

Sooni was not any better. He had an odd feeling ever since he heard the words Nuniok Dak. He first heard it on his homeworld, as the name of a demon that caused Sullustans to get lost. Now, it is the name of some Sarne Project, and judging by the last one, he didn’t want to know what this one was all about. Now, the name couldn’t leave his head. When he reached this world, he felt the effects for the first time. He felt lost.

The door to the temple was open and led into a dark foyer. The stone was old and the plants looked as though they were recently burned away. Each tried to step in, only to stop. Unda entered with no problem, as did Gammer the old scout. They began to search the room.

The primary chamber was a worship area with some kind of altar. It was small, so it had to be a temporary worship area or an area for the high priests of whatever religion. In the rear of the chamber was stone door, which they forced open. By now, the other had gotten over their fears and went in. It was disturbing the looks they had on their faces. Even Dervious looked like he had seen a ghost.

*****

STS Comm station began to light up with alarms and warning. Thyte looked over at the crewman at the station.

“Sir, we have detected another distress call, this time in the asteroid field on the other side of the system. It’s pretty faint. A good distance away. And, sir… this time it’s Imperial.”

“Send Gorjaye…”came a voice in the direction of the captain’s quarters. Dammit, she must have shut off that droid “captain on the bridge” whistle again…Thyte thought.

Gorjaye, who was coordinating patrols around the system, got the order and was more than happy to leave “this old crate…” She hopped into her X-Wing and was off in a matter of minutes. The deck crews angrily shook their fists at her as she left, because of her recklessness.

She had a 3-hour flight to the rendezvous point. She the auto-pilot to the proper coordinates and programmed her sensors to lock on the distress signal and warn her when it had more information about it. Then she laid back, and slept.

*****

The temple’s main chamber lead to a burial chamber with six coffins. Dervious looked on three with a sudden coldness. It was as though the carvings on them had special meaning.

“Over here!” cried the old Soccoran scout. He had found a modern-tech switch imbedded in the wall. Dajus and Dervious were first to arrive. The switch opened a swivel door. On the walls inside the circular chamber were codes. Dajus read them… “Project Plant Food”. She seemed to vaguely remember that one.

The swivel chamber turned after everyone got in, and opened to a turbolift. This turbolift took them down several meters, and opened to what appeared to be a communication and operations room for some kind of research facility. And a booby-trap. A mounted repeating blaster hit Gammer in the chest, but her was fortunate it only grazed. They all backed into the turbolift. Unda slipped by the firing arch, and approached the weapon. It switched off easily.

Beyond the smell of burnt metal wall, another sickly sweet smell filled the air. There was also a dripping noise coming from somewhere, and an odd moss all along the corners of the room. The group scattered about to investigate adjoining doors and terminals, Dajus found an access to a terminal, and pulled up minimal power. It was abandoned not too long ago. She searched the files for anything salvageable. The other searched rooms. The place was a tomb. Gammer found the executive officer’s room, while Hasslock wondered off into another chamber. Samarion arrived outside the temple and investigated a burned area nearby. It appeared to be a landing area. He also found a derelict speeder bike.

Jessa Dajus was searching through the system files when she discovered one with her ID on it. She pulled it up… a communication log, dated back when she was still working for Sarne. She didn’t remember talking to anyone here. She watched as the data streamed by.

———- ———-

Lt. J. Dajus: “Abandon the base.”

Sec. Officer: “…And the scientists?”

J. Dajus: “Release the specimens on them. Make sure they are all infested. Then get out. Sarne needs all the fighting men he can get now.”

Sec Officer: “Ma’am, we can fit them all on the shuttle.”

J. Dajus: “Liabilities now. They know too much.”

———- ———-

The transmission then closes. She scrambled to delete the file after downloading it to a datapad. She had to make sure no one saw it. At least until she either remembered actually giving those orders or find out who fabricated them.

Other data others found suggested this was a first phase project to test the integration of Darkstryder into living matter. They had many experiments on record. This world may have been a result of these experiments.

The other rooms contained various degrees of the moss. They found some scientist cocooned on a room filled with the moss. The moss seemed to have a corrosive effect on the walls. There were also small spidery-plant things running around. The seemed to multiply all at once. Soon rooms were getting filled with them. It looked like it was time to leave. One last door was opened, and in walked a huge version of one of those plants. They group scrambled for the turbolift. As Dervious made his retreat, waiting for everyone else, with Unda as back up, the Mandalorian left a trail of T-Dets.

*****

Gorjaye was just reaching her destination, and reported back all that she could. Sensors picked up an Imperial shuttle, floating in space with very little power, and faint life signs. She recorded all she could. The captain called back, explaining her plans to utilize their new-found friends, the Night Terrors, in a zero-G rescue mission. She sat and waited for the Aegis shuttle, which would be carrying the Night Terrors to the rescue target. She noticed that the shuttle had Sarne’s seal on it.

*****

Samarion was standing outside the temple after getting a good look inside. He also seemed disturbed by the carving on the coffins. The silence was suddenly rocked by the sound of thunder. Then, his comrades came streaming out of the temple, followed by a bellowing cloud of flame and smoke. He knew now it was time to leave. Something was wrong with this world, and with their story, he knew what is was. This planet was infested with Darkstryder enhanced planet life.

*****

Kl’aal looked up from the bloody meat he was feeding on when he heard the thunder. Thermal Detonator explosion… he thought. He picked up the hide of the animal he killed, which he had knitted into a satchel. Inside it was something heavy. It was what they came for…the computer core of the Imperial Probe Droid. He had found it not far from the temple.

****

The food gathering expedition went well. Hasslock’s team of scientists, headed by Varel DeVay, was able to collect a large load of vegetables and fruits for the hydroponics bay. The other teams were regrouping and heading back to the ship. Devay had heard that there was some concern about this world and it lethalness. One of the other teams must have found something dangerous. What else is new in this corner of space….?

The ship was loaded with the last of the cargo, the last of the Night Terrors were brought on board, and soon the ship was out of Binaros orbit. The Captain watched as the green planet faded away behind them, imagining how beautiful it might have been if it wasn’t for Sarne.

The Doc and the other scientists and medical staff were busy clearing crew and cargo of all contaminants. He stored Gammer and a few others in cryo-beds to get them to med lab. The little plant-worms seemed to have moved up to the victim’s brain, and he was convinced that surgery was the only way. The Force better be with him when he did this.

*****

The Farstar rendezvoused with the Aegis shuttle and Gorjaye’s X-wing, and brought an Imperial survivor on board from the shuttle. He was barely alive, and the bio-readings were off the scale when reading infections. He was sealed in a cryo-tube, and brought to med bay.

Thyte ordered a jump point to be calculated and prepped the ship for it’s next destination, Jangelle. They were heading out to the deepest end of the Binar system when, yet again, they received a distress call, this time from a larger ship. Sensors read it as a light transport, on the edges of the system. It was severely damaged, from weapons similar to the ones they saw used by the alien craft they encountered earlier. There was another odd glint of recognition in Gorak’s eye as he saw the ship for the first time, almost as though had had just seen a best friend die. Adrimetrum formed a search party, Gorak in lead, and the Night Terrors to back up. Bifzik was sent to crack the log, despite Mayato’s insistence that his hackers could handle it. Trust what you know. In pressurized Envi-Suits, the team shuttled over on the Aegis shuttle.

Gorak told the captain that he knew that ship and was familiar with its layout. Interesting they would meet it out here. Another piece of Gorak’s mysterious past. Maybe what Gunthar had told me was true, thought the captain. The ship had the same markings as the ships that had attacked them earlier and Loh’Khar had identified them as slavers.

The ship was slowly disintegrating around them, but the scattered about the ship searching for answers. Samarion want to the engineering section, while Bifzik and Kl’aal scouted out the bridge. Slave and Sooni went to the Cargo areas, where several life signs were detected. The ship’s crew was all dead, floating about in the hallways, or outside in space, some whole, while others weren’t. Primary systems were down, with back-up systems barely able to come on-line. Bifzik, after determining that their was no one on the bridge alive, evacuated the of it’s atmosphere, which was sealed up by several doors.

The modular cargo-bay was also sealed, but had an air-lock between them Sooni and a few others entered with care. The manifest read that they were carrying live cargo. They opened the inner door to the bay to see several dozen rows of specially designed Cryo-hibernation tubes. Inside each one was a Sullustan, and each had the markings of Project Nuniok Dak. Sooni nearly fell to the deck when he began recognizing some of them. When he found his parents, he wept openly. There were about 100 others.

*****

Samarion sat in the engineering deep in thought. If anything was coming through hyperspace, he had to know about it. Since he had come to the Kathol sector, his unique tuning to hyperspace had failed him a few times. He wondered if it could have anything to do with the Rift, or perhaps something else.

Meanwhile, at the same time, he was trying to maneuver the derelict ship out of the asteroid field it was in. The ships sublight systems were in shambles, but her as able to time the jet bursts with the tumbling of the ship to get it maneuvered out.

A sudden twinge of pain shook Samarion out of his concentration; a pain he was coming all too familiar with. It was that alien ship again. Only that ship actually caused him pain. “Something is coming. We’re going to have company!!!”

Soon after, everyone was concentrating on releasing the modular cargo container off the derelict ship, and hooking it up to the Farstar. The alien ship, seeing the slave ship maneuvering out of the asteroid field, concentrated its fire on that ship. The boarding party made a mad dash to abandon the ship, some leaping across open space to get to the Farstar. Debris flying in all directions, it was amazing that they all survived. The Farstar pulled away from the destruction with the cargo vessel in tow.

“What do you plan for those captives?” A booming synthesized voice came over their comm.

The Captain thought, and responded…”We plan to free them.”

The ship turned away, and disappeared.

They loaded the Sullustans onto the Farstar, making room in the hangar bay. They were left in their containers for fear of contamination. The Doc would look at them when he was done with his surgery.

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