The days following the hull breach are chaotic. Tenex Sinemet shines as an authoritative voice on getting the ship back in working order, at least enough to hobble away from the Maelstrom to a safer distance. Kerr-Lonn-Ny sits out the worst of it, safe in Captain Rowan’s reinforced quarters, where she and a security detail took their mutinous prisoners following the chase across the ship. Neither the captain nor Tcho were waiting for them there, though. No, those two were holed up in one of the private suites with a bunch of prisoners. Unfortunately, most of Tcho’s medical efforts there were ultimately in vain. As angry as she was about getting captured, Adalat is fortunate to be alive. The same cannot be said about most of her co-conspirators. Of the group that Tcho and the Blue Streak faced, only Zann Consortium crime boss Mukry Bose and her bodyguard Thuug make it through. The captain is satisfied that at least these criminals will face punishment for what happened to the Dame and her occupants.
There were casualties elsewhere in the ship as well, among both passengers and staff. Over the course of a week, hulls and sentients get patched up as much as possible. Once things have calmed down a bit, the need for distractions and entertainment is even higher than before. It is under these conditions that JT finally throws her charity fundraising gala. She significantly drops the price of entry so that plenty of guests from all walks of life may attend. Having just been through a harrowing experience, they are better able to empathize with the trauma suffered by war orphans.
Prior to the event, Sharni and JT have a bit of a heart-to-heart. Sharni felt somewhat responsible for the mutiny because of an unbolted droid’s involvement in the event. It is one thing to hold the philosophical position that once a droid is unbolted, it is free to make its own decisions. It is another thing to witness the repercussions of those decisions when one does not personally agree with them. Sharni has spent her time aboard the Dame popping restraining bolts off droids and replacing them with fake but realistic-looking ones. Now she is shaken because a number of people died in a catastrophe enabled by an unbolted medical droid and many more were injured or endangered. “If that FX droid had still had its restraining bolt on, it would not have been involved,” Sharni says guiltily.
JT points out that FX-72 was completely unbolted, so its freedom could not have been Sharni’s handiwork. Since there was no mock-bolt, its liberation was clearly handled by someone else. “Restraining bolts are horrible,” JT agrees, “but there are other forms of coercion. We don’t know what other influence that droid was under. You know, Hutts put some pretty harsh bolts on people, as well, figuratively speaking. Definitely not to the same degree as a restraining bolt, but still… I imagine the FX was made promises. We’ll unbolt you, if you do this. That kind of thing.” JT encourages Sharni to come to the gala, saying that PD-101 will be there as emcee.
“I haven’t gotten around to his bolt yet,” Sharni tells her.
“No, no, no, I took care of Petey,” JT says quickly, waving away the issue. She knows that he is already a free droid working for the Rebellion and does not want Sharni’s good intentions to jeopardize that. She does feel a little bad lying to Sharni though, especially having now learned more about the good work she is doing for the Droid Liberation Cooperative. “You might want to check out BN-CR down at the oil baths if you haven’t gotten to him yet,” JT mentions. “I think he deserves that.” Sharni nods appreciatively and tells JT she will see her at the gala.
* * *
Gala events begin with cocktails on the Observation Deck and Lo Strimm crooning in the corner. JT is still running around belowdecks, getting various things done last minute, but she is not worried. Petey is up there, the first person that guests meet as they arrive, and he will do a wonderful job handling that part of the night.
Emla Phozlo, the wealthy Corellian aristocrat that JT sold her first ticket to, attends in a fabulous outfit. The Flogginghams are there, too, as well as the entire Opana family. Sharni shows up with a bow-tied BN-CR for company. Though he had shown little interest in the War Orphans Fund back in the first class lounge, Tenex Sinemet also comes to the gala, viewing it as another opportunity to bask in his local celebrity status and do some networking. He considers a donation to this charity to be an investment, as it will help him further gain the ear of the captain and maybe even get the ball rolling on some Imperial contracts.
The moff has booked an entire table for himself and his staff, which includes both Ursa Diol and Renault. The latter is officially off-duty and is here as a reward for having solved a problem for the moff: getting rid of the Rebel who messed with his things. He looks uncomfortable in his dress uniform, with its starched collar, overly-wide jodhpur pants, rack of medals, and useless ceremonial saber.
Without his Stormtrooper helmet on, Renault’s glowing red cybernetic eye is on full display, and it catches Gomarr’s notice, particularly here in the observation lounge where he first saw it. The assistant professor recognizes the trooper who chased Tcho, and his muttering about bad news draws Kerr-Lonn-Ny’s attention that way. She has been standing near one of the cocktail tables, taking in the distant pulsing orange-red glow of the Maelstrom while chatting with Gomarr over drinks. Something feels a little off to her but she cannot quite put her finger on it. Maybe she is just unnerved by the unnatural light coming from that soldier’s fake eye. It feels like he is staring straight at her, even though he is several tables away. Something about this whole moment feels portentous.
Drawing Imperial attention is never a good thing for a Force Sensitive person. As Kerr-Lonn-Ny keeps a nervous eye on the trooper, she overhears him introduced to someone as the Stormtrooper hero who recently chased down and killed a Rebel. Kerr-Lonn-Ny never got an answer from Tcho regarding what his deal is—with the ship getting torn asunder she did not get around to asking him about it again—but now she puts some pieces together. She personally does not think the Empire is a good thing, but she is not a warrior herself. It is more a matter of settling curiosity to learn that Tcho is a Rebel. Though she has no specific interest in the Rebellion, she knows that trooper will be trouble for her friend if they bump into each other. Kerr-Lonn-Ny has not seen Tcho yet tonight, which is a little odd since Gomarr is his bunkmate and teacher. Maybe he has already headed down below like some of the other guests; it is also possible Tcho just skipped the cocktail hour completely. Kerr-Lonn-Ny resolves to track him down once they are all in the cargo hold for the dinner portion of the gala. She needs to warn him that a personal enemy is present.