At the end of the inclined corridor, they find an ornate room decorated with wall hangings and a plush carpet. There is a door on the opposite side, and the path to it is lined with pedestals, each bearing a display piece. When Renci sees the contents of the chamber, her eyes light up. “Fair winds follow a storm!” she cheers.
Renn looks around, and a chill runs down his spine. He supposes some of these items could be considered jewelry, but it is the creepiest collection he has ever seen… and that is coming from someone who is wearing a necklace of teeth and claws.
Renci looks over everything. “What can I fit in my bag?” she mutters to herself. She unclips the backpack and sets it on the ground. In her haste, it falls on its side, and a small spherical piece of equipment rolls out, then settles on its flat base.
“How’s it all working out for you?” a tinny voice asks from the device. “I was wondering when you would set this up. Wow, field work at last! Hey, your driver’s ship has great comm range.”
“Wha… what? Boulder?!” Renci sits back on her heels as Renn steps past her to examine the closed door at the other end of the room. “Boulder, what did you put in this backpack?”
Lights flash and a little grabber protrudes to give Renci a thumbs-up. “It’s my prototype… far-seer? No, that’s a lame name. Let’s call it the BoulderBot.”
“But… how’s your signal getting through? Mine are all jammed.” Renci pulls out the scanner and double checks that it is still awash with energy.
“It’s a newly developed spread-spectrum technique. I jump the frequency around so often that jammers can’t block out every packet. And it’s super redundant. You wouldn’t believe the power this draws! On both sides. Sheesh! Speaking of which, is the BB unit hot to the touch? Hey, can I see the scanner? You said it wasn’t working?”
“Sure, have at,” Renci says. “There are more important things for me to be looking at right now.” She drops the scanner down near the device and then steps over to the pedestals. Which of these could help with JT? The BoulderBot stretches its tiny appendages toward the scanner but cannot reach it. It tries instead to claw its way across the floor to get close enough to see the readouts.
Renn turns away from the sealed doorway, back toward Renci. “Something isna right here,” he tells her, rubbing the back of his neck uneasily.
“A lot of things aren’t right. I’ve got to find something that is.” She picks up a collar of sorts, tarnished silver with a black band, red crystal spikes lining the inside. It looks like it would be painful to wear. She holds it out to Renn. “What do you think? Not your style?”
“Ya want me t’ examine it?” He reluctantly comes over to join her. “It doesna really look positive….” She presses it into his hands and steps to the next podium. “Speakin’ as a jeweler, it isna that good.” Does she want him to try to feel something about it? He tries to summon the peace of the jungle, but it is hard in this unnerving place.
Renci moves from pedestal to pedestal, talking to herself as she looks for anything that might be like the crystal on Dathomir. “Oskara said it was grayish but had a green glow to it. The large bowl of liquid also admitted green bolts of light….” She pauses on the other side of the room in front of a skeletal hand that bears a gold ring inset with a small green gem. The stone seems to have a yellowish glow, or maybe it is just reflecting the light in the room. “That’s dark. It’s associated with death… we might have a winner.” She removes the ring from the display and considers putting it in one of the backpack pockets. No, those are tear-away pouches; I can’t trust them. She slips it on her finger.
The BoulderBot swivels its camera around to Renci in time to observe this. “You’re not taking that for yourself, are you?”
Renn sets the collar back down where Renci found it, shaking his head. “It’s just a piece of jewelry,” he tries to convince himself, “no matter how eerie it is.” He turns to see what that little droid is asking Renci about. “Is there something over there ya want me ta look at? This here is creepy, it is, but I canna tell anything else about it.”
“No…,” Renci says, drawing it out. She sounds tired, drained. “I think I’ve found what I’m looking for.”
Renn does not like what that implies. He crosses the room to her side. “These things are all dangerous. What did ya find, and what did ya mess with?” he demands.
She holds her fist up at him, almost threateningly, and Renn gets a clear look at the ring she is now wearing. “Don’t tell me what to mess with. I’ll do whatever it takes to save my Muffin.” She deflates then, letting out a tired breath and dropping her arms to her sides. “I think we should just move on to the next room and continue the mission.”
Renn glances over his shoulder and sees that the door he had examined earlier is now open. We must’ve done something this place wanted us ta do. That isna good. He turns back to Renci, a knot in his stomach. But outwardly, he tries to project calm, companionably putting his hand between her shoulder blades to usher her towards the exit. That hand is for misdirection, to distract her from what the other one is doing, which is sliding the ring off her finger. When he touches the metal, he feels a sharp jolt, and his disquiet increases. Renci shrugs him off, as he knew she would, and waves him away. But she does not notice the ring is gone. Renn tells her, “Aye, sure, lead the way.”
That sounds too agreeable. Renci turns and looks at Renn closely. He seems very uncomfortable, on edge. She is the leader here; she needs to reassure him. “Don’t worry, we’ve got Boulder looking out for us. Has Mira seen anything?”
Renn does not want to move his perceptions from this room. Renci might try to grab something else. So he simply tells her that Mira has not noticed anything else yet. She mutters about bases and X-Wings as she goes to scoop up the BoulderBot with her other gear, but then she just gives the BB unit a light kick to knock it off its base and get it rolling. Once she has stepped out of the room, Renn slides the ring back onto the skeletal hand. He then enters the next hallway himself, taking a moment to check Mira’s perceptions. That ship is getting closer, and a flash inside it shows rappelling gear. “People are approachin’ in a ship, and this place is full of dark energy,” he tells Renci when he catches up to her. “We shouldna stay here.”
“Fine,” she wearily agrees. “We’ll look for a way out… Maybe we can take their ship.”