Chapter Fifteen: Pirates of the Gordian Reach

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Olulm had joined Ishti in the medbay after he'd set up the autopilot, but it was clear the other man didn't want to talk. So they sat there in silence for an hour, doing nothing to pass the time but look through the information that Gan had given them (the item was a red box, not a magic duck), and think. When the tank bleeped, and they brought Da'bral out of it, and Olulm left them alone. Ishti sat next to him while he waited for him to wake up, studying his injuries. His left eye was ruined, milky and dull, with a line running down the middle. Ishti winced as he remembered he bright it had once been. Around the eye were several other lines, pink and intended, crisscrossing around one side of his face. They had wrapped a cloth over it, but the image was branded into Ishti's mind. All he could think about was how he was going to explain that he still wanted to keep Nyron around, but when Da'bral woke up, he still didn't know what to say.

"What?" Da'bral exclaimed when Ishti told him. "Can you see my face? I haven't, but it doesn't feel good, and oh yes: I can't see out of left eye."
Da'bral's words were venomous, and Ishti struggled to find an acceptable justification for his decision.
"I can't just kill him, not in cold blood."
"He killed Karlien! And Merich! Yes I know I said he didn't, but after this, I'm not so sure. If you can't just kill him, just drop him off on some backwater!" He dropped himself down on the circling sofa in frustration, and Ishti joined him.
"I - He's useful, okay? You know as well as I do that we're doing badly. Once we build up enough credits, we can dump him, but for now: we need him, Da'bral; but I promise you, he will not harm you again."
Da'bral shook his head in resignation, and smiled sadly.
"I'd rather be poor and just with you, than rich with that maniac for any time at all."
"Is Nyron really that good? He's seriously worth this?" Asked Olulm dubiously as he walked in.
"You should see him in action." Ishti remarked.
"Yeah, I saw those bottles he was throwing. Anyway, I came in to tell you we've arrived, and the pirates are already here. They're moving slowly, but hurry!"
"Thanks!" Called Ishti as the Duros left. "You up for hacking their systems, Da'bral?"
"Yes, I'd love to." Da'bral grinned, and so did Ishti; it would be good for him to do something was good at.

As he left, Ishti picked up a stim plug for Nyron, who was still asleep on the floor, and jabbed it into his arm.
"We're gunning, Nyron. Give 'em hell."
Nyron started muttering in his sleep: "Earth. Fire. Water. Air. ATTACK!"
Then he leapt into the air, and zoomed to the lower turret. Ishti jogged after him, taking the upper one, silently mocking the "inferior" Durosian technology as he got the feel for it.
"Hey, Da'bral!" He called into his headset. "You got any information we can use yet?"
"Crew of five, with simple weaponry! Much worse than ours!"
"Oh, this'll be easy!"
"Let's shoot the hyperdrive!" Yelled Nyron, making Ishti rigorously turn the volume down. "So they can't escape!"
"Good idea." He winced. "Blast the drive and prep to board!"
The headset reluctantly transmitted Nyron's raucous laughter into Ishti's ears as they both shot the pirate ship's hyperdrive, destroying it quickly as the no doubt drunken pirates stumbled to their own turrets.
"Board de vessel, me maties!" Ordered Nyron with a chuckle, as he saw a section of the pirate ship burst in flames, which the headset registered with a satisfying "boom!"
"They're firing back you idiot!" Said Olulm. "If you don't take out those cannons, I will damage you as much as they damage my ship! Or if you're lucky I'll just make you pay for it!"

Ishti shuddered thinking about all that money, and hurriedly spun round to face the other ship's cannons, shooting as quickly as he could, relaxing slightly as he heard Olulm engage the shields. He felt that he might have been a little too happy when they took out the other ship's weapons in a matter of seconds.
"Done!" He shouted. "How's that?"
"Well, they took the lower turret and our hyperdrive, so yeah, you owe me." Olulm complained.
"Just bring us along side them, will you? Nyron, let's go."
Ishti hurried down to the boarding tunnel and waited impatiently as Olulm brought them parallel, wondering what in the galaxy Nyron could be doing. He realised that he shouldn't have when Nyron came in with a bottle.
"Alright Da'bral, try and box them in, let's board this ship! Olulm, get your Duros ass over here!"

Ishti placed a charge on the door, stepped back, and rushed into battle. He shot the first pirate he saw, a Weequay woman diving though a closing blast door - Da'bral had found a way to stop them running away - and hooked a Human man in the ribs. Nyron took a swig from his bottle and smashed it over a Twi'lek's head before stabbing him in the stomach, leaping forward to find a new target: a Rodian who managed to get a glancing shot to his shoulder before she was mowed down. Olulm's jaw dropped in astonishment, and halfheartedly finished off the Twi'lek with a shot to his chest. Meanwhile, Ishti was still struggling with the Human, who had managed to injure him through his exosuit with a vibrosword. He subdued him with a whack round the head, and slumped to the floor, smiling.
"Bring the Human back to the ship, he told Olulm, "He might be useful. Also: ouch!"

Nyron looked around disappointedly: there was no-one left to fight. And so, for good measure, he took out his pistol and shot the ceiling. The other two were heading back, and he wanted to see what this treasure was before anyone else; if he wasn't meant to touch it, then that was exactly what he wanted to do. No, it was what he needed to do. He took a charge and placed it on the blast door, stepping through them once they broke open. Ishti rolled his eyes as he heard an explosion - Nyron no doubt. But then he heard what he thought was an escape pod launching, and he began to worry. Had Nyron abandoned them with the item? Was he really that evil? His fears were alleviated when he saw Nyron return. But he was tossing something in his hand.

The red box.

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