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Authors: John Jackson Miller

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BOOK: Lost Tribe of the Sith: Purgatory
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Jaina reached the hatchway and, not waiting to hear the rest of Lando’s order, raced down the rivet-studded corridor beyond. She still had no idea what the Sith were planning, but she
was
going to stop them—and not only because the Jedi Council needed to know everything she and Lando could tell them about the Lost Tribe of Sith. Over the years, Lando had been as loyal a friend to the Jedi Order as he had to her parents, time after time risking his life, fortune, and freedom to help them resolve whatever crisis happened to be threatening the peace of the galaxy at the moment. He always claimed he was just repaying a favor, or protecting an investment, or maintaining a good business environment, but Jaina new better. He was looking out for his friends, doing everything he could to help them survive—no matter what mess they had gotten themselves into.

Jaina reached the forward hangar bay. As the hatch opened in front of her, she was surprised to find a bank of floodlights already illuminating her battered StealthX. At first, she assumed Lando had ordered the hangar droid to ready the
Rockhound
’s fighter complement for launch.

Then she saw what was missing from her starfighter.

There were no weapon barrels extending from the wingtips. In fact—on the side facing her, at least—the cannons themselves were gone. She was so shocked that she found herself waiting for the rest of the hangar lights to activate, having forgotten for the moment that the
Rockhound
did not have automatic illumination. The whir of a pneumatic wrench sounded from the far side of the StealthX, and beneath the starfighter’s belly, she noticed a cluster of telescoping droid legs straddling the actuator housing of a Taim & Bak KX12 laser cannon.

“What the …”

Jaina snapped the lightsaber off her belt, then crossed twenty meters of tarnished deck in three quick Force-bounds and sprang onto the fuselage of her StealthX. She could hardly believe what she saw. At the far end of the wing stood a spider-shaped BY2B maintenance droid, her thick cargo pedipalps clamped around the starfighter’s last laser-cannon while her delicate tool arms released the mounting clips.

“ByTwoBee!” Jaina yelled. “What
are
you doing?”

The pneumatic wrench whined to a stop, and three of the droid’s photoreceptors swiveled toward Jaina’s face.

“I’m sorry, Jedi Solo. I thought you would know.” Like all droids aboard the
Rockhound
, BY2B’s voice was female and sultry. “I’m removing this laser cannon.”

“I can see that,” Jaina replied. “Why?”

“So I can take it to the maintenance shop,” BY2B replied. “Captain Calrissian requested it. Since your starfighter is unflyable anyway, he thought it would be a good time to rebuild the weapon systems.”

Jaina’s heart sank, but she wasted no time trying to convince BY2B she had been fooled. “When Lando issued this order, did you actually
see
him?”

“Oh, I rarely
see
the captain. I’m not one of his favorites.” BY2B swung her photoreceptors toward the hangar entrance, and a trio of red beams shot out to illuminate a grimy speaker hanging next to the hatchway. “The order came over the intercom.”

“Of course it did.” Jaina pointed her lightsaber at the nearly dismounted laser cannon. “Any chance you can reattach that and get it working in the next minute-and-a-half?”

“No chance at all, Jedi Solo. Reattaching the power-feeds alone would take ten times that long.”

“How’d I know you were going to say that?” Jaina
growled. She turned away and hopped down onto the deck. “All right—finish removing it and prep the craft for launch.”

“I’m sorry, that’s impossible,” BY2B replied. “Even if we had the necessary parts, I’m not qualified to make repairs. The specifications for this craft weren’t included in my last service update.”

“I flew it
in
here, didn’t I?” Jaina retorted. “Just tell me you haven’t been mucking around with the torpedo launchers, too.”

“This craft has
torpedo launchers
?” BY2B asked.

Jaina rolled her eyes, wondering exactly when the droid’s last service update had been, then rushed over to a small locker area at the edge of the hangar. She activated the lighting, flipped the toggle switch on the ancient intercom unit in the wall, and stepped into the StealthX flightsuit she had left hanging at launch-ready.

A moment later, Lando’s voice crackled out of the tiny speaker. “Yes,
Jaina?
What can
I
do for
you?

Jaina frowned. The voice certainly
sounded
like Lando’s. “How about a status report?” she asked, pushing her arms through the suit sleeves. “My StealthX is really messed up. No use taking it out.”

“My, that is
too
bad,” Lando’s voice said. “But don’t be
con
cerned. Ar-en-eight has
near
ly sorted out the sys
tem
problems.”

“Great.” Jaina sealed the flightsuit’s front closure and stepped into her boots. “I’ll head aft and check out the hyperdrive.”

“Oh.” Lando’s voice seemed surprised. “That won’t be
nec
essary. Ar-en-eight is running diag
nos
tics now. I’m sure the Em-Nine-O and his crew can
han
dle any
nec
essary re
pairs
.”

And
his
crew. If there had been any doubt before, now Jaina
knew
she was talking to an imposter. Not long ago, Lando had confided to Jaina that the only
way he had survived all those solitary prospecting trips early in his career was to close his eyes whenever one of the
Rockhound
droids spoke and imagine she was a beautiful woman. He would never have referred to M9EO as a male.

Jaina grabbed her helmet and gloves out of the locker, then said, “Okay. If you’ve got everything under control, I’m going to stop by my bunk and grab some shuteye before my shift comes up.”

“Yes, why don’t
you
do that?” The voice sounded almost relieved. “I’ll
wake
you if anything comes
up
.”

“Sounds good. See you in four hours.”

Jaina flicked off the intercom switch, then started back toward her StealthX, securing her helmet and glove seals as she walked. Gullible, no Force-presence, and a terrible liar—the Voice definitely belonged to a stowaway droid, probably one sent by the Sith. That made enough sense that Jaina felt vaguely guilty for not anticipating the tactic in time to prevent the sabotage. The only thing she
didn’t
understand was why the Sith hadn’t just rigged the fusion core to blow. A
living
stowaway they might have valued enough to work out an escape plan—but a
droid?
She could not imagine that any Sith deserving of the name would give a second thought to sacrificing a droid.

Jaina reached her StealthX and found BY2B standing behind the far wing, holding the last laser-cannon in her heavy cargo arms. Jaina did a quick visual inspection of the bedraggled starfighter, then asked, “Is she ready to fly?”


Ready
would be an overstatement,” BY2B answered. “But the craft is capable of launching. I
do
hope you checked your flightsuit for vacuum hardiness.”

“No need—it’s not
me
that will be going EV.” Jaina ascended the short access ladder and climbed into the
cockpit. As she buckled herself in, she asked, “ByTwoBee, have you seen any new droids around here lately?”

“No,” the droid said. “Not since departing Klatooine.”

“Klatooine?”
Jaina’s stomach began to grow cold and heavy. “Then you
did
see a new droid before we left for the Maw?”

“Indeed, I did,” BY2B replied. “A Rebaxan MSE-6.”

“A
mouse
droid?” Jaina gasped. “And you didn’t report it?”

“Of course not,” BY2B said. “Captain Calrissian had warned me just a few minutes earlier to expect a courier shuttle delivering a new utility droid.”

Jaina groaned and hit the pre-ignition engine heaters, then asked, “And I suppose he told you this over your internal comlink?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact,” BY2B replied. “How did you know?”

“Because that
wasn’t
Lando you heard,” Jaina said, speaking through clenched teeth. “It was a sabotage droid programmed with an impersonation protocol.”

“Sabotage?”

BOOK: Lost Tribe of the Sith: Purgatory
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