“I got those blues…”
JT opens her eyes and is back in her cell with a renewed sense of purpose. She needs to get out of here and find Tcho. “That was a really great set,” she tells Lo Strimm. “Music really touches people.”
“Yeah,” the drunk woman drawls back. “It just helps you chill out, doesn’t it?”
JT inquires after Lo Strimm’s availability the night of the gala. The Kel Dor is oblivious to her own schedule but asks for more details. JT tells her about the event and the charity, then says it would be great to have a crooner like her perform at it. “It would really mean a lot to me if you’d be able to donate your time to sing at this event to provide entertainment to the guests who are going to be donating funds.”
The idea of donating a performance seems novel to Lo Strimm, but she still has some follow-up questions. “Is there oxygen at this event?”
JT thinks Lo’s singing sounds just fine through her breath mask, but she does raise a good point since it is a dinner, after all. Her mind starts racing with possible solutions. “Uh, if we can, we’ll have a section for non-oxygen breathers to enjoy the event in full.”
“I mean, I can enjoy a lot of things with my breathing mask on, don’t get me wrong,” the Kel Dor chuckles. She agrees to perform and insists that JT just call her Lo. “It was nice to meet you! Well… kind of meet you,” her voice continues from the other side of the padded wall. “Where were you that you got put here?”
JT downplays the events that led her to the lock-up. “Oh, I just had a meeting with somebody, kind of a heated conversation, and we both decided to take it easy for a bit.”
“But you’re the only one who came in. If they broke up the fight, where’s the other—”
“It wasn’t a fight!” JT insists, though there was some hand slapping and the moff did try to shove her. “Well, nobody got hurt,” she clarifies.
“‘Cause they broke it up too soon, right?” Lo needles her.
“Only feelings got hurt.”
“Isn’t that always the way?” Lo asks reflectively, and then she launches back into her blues number.
With the sound of the singing for cover, JT turns her attention to busting out of her cell. There are no organic guards around to manipulate with the Force, so that means a more physical escape. However, she cannot host her gala smoothly if there is any suspicion hanging around her. It would be best for it to look like someone else sprang her or that she was legitimately released. First, though, she needs to get out of these bindercuffs. While she does still have her shoulder bag—it was trapped on her arm when the moff slapped the binders on her wrists—she cannot get into it with her hands stuck together this way. JT examines the manacles with an eye to removing them, but she is also trying to think of how to use them as a tool to help her with the door itself.
JT calms and centers herself. Elaiza has admonished her that she gets worn out by their workouts because she tries to jump herself, rather than letting the Force jump through her. Here in her cell, her connection to the Force strengthened by her recent interaction with Val Isa, JT opens herself. She mentally envisions herself with huge muscles straining against the confines of her pantsuit. She feels the Force all around her, flowing through her, particularly through her muscles, and she lets it augment what little natural strength she possesses.
There is a loud snap, and JT opens her eyes to see that the lavender-skinned Cerean in the cell across from hers has snapped the buckles of her straightjacket sleeves. They have closed ends, so she is not able to access her fingers, but her arms are now free to swing around. She is rambling about being innocent and claiming that she does not use drugs.
Unbeknownst to JT, her pair of bindercuffs is one that Tcho sabotaged while she was caught in the repulsor web. JT squeezes her hands as far closed as possible and tugs them back into the cuffs as far as they will go. Then, with her strength enhanced by the Force, she opens her fingers, applying pressure to the cuffs in just the way Tcho intended. Both manacles spring open, and the binders go flying, skittering across the foyer and through the bars of the Cerean’s cell. JT’s first impulse is to just move them back to herself with the Force, but she decides that would be too obvious. The Cerean, strands of her disheveled white hair haloing her face, laughs gleefully and picks up the binders.
JT scoots up to the front of her cell and whispers across the way, “I help you, you help me?” She keeps her voice low so that none of the orderlies will hear. “Just toss those back, and I’ll get you out of here.” Maybe she can make it look like the other woman broke out first and then released JT instead of the other way around.
The Cerean seems oblivious to JT’s offer. She bangs the binders against the padded bars and then starts throwing herself bodily against them. “The medical droid!” she shouts. “The medical droid did it. It shot me up, pumped me full of juice. Unbolted!” She hurls herself at the bars again.
JT frowns. A droid being unbolted isn’t wrong; that’s the way it should be. But her curiosity has been piqued. As J4-1L clomps down the hall to see to the Cerean, JT looks closely at its chassis, verifying that this medical droid, at least, does indeed have a restraining bolt.
J4-1L loads a sedative shot and reaches through the bars with one of its extensions. In soothing tones, it tries to calm the passenger. “Now, now, Kerr-Lonn-Ny, organics must take responsibility for their own actions. Every medical droid on board has a restraining bolt and is simply following proper protocols for the best treatment of organics.” The Cerean swiftly backs away from the bars, moving as far into her cell as possible and freaking out at the sight of the needle. She clutches the bindercuffs in front of her, using them to bat away the injector whenever it gets close to her.
Although this medical droid seems forthright to JT, the whole scene reminds her of Killjoy and his quest to destroy organics. I hope we don’t have another Killjoy incident going on here. I got all the pieces, right? I’m pretty sure I got all the pieces. That droid endangered DRS personally on several occasions and came close to wiping out all life on Cloud City, but it also infected her friends R4-W9 and CH-1 with its murderous personality. I swear I got all the pieces this last time.
JT considers the resources available to her right now. “Hey, Lo Strimm, can you sing me another line?” The Kel Dor resumes the mezzo tones of her bluesy number. “I want to know the full range of your capabilities, though,” JT says. Lo starts over, contralto this time, then pauses to clarify whether JT meant her vocal range or the styles she can sing. JT had initially meant the latter, but an interesting possibility has now occurred to her. JT encourages Lo to do scales, hoping that there will be a particular pitch that can be of use against J4’s sensors.
As Lo Strimm moves up through her high notes, JT watches J4-1L closely, looking for the twitching that will indicate an overload of some kind. Shortly after the tones exceed those which JT can actually hear, she begins to feel a burning in the small cosmetic cybernetic component implanted in her own thigh. Through gritted teeth, she tells the Kel Dor, “Right there, yeah, that’s perfect.”
J4-1L is equipped with many ways to calm unruly organics. Some are hyposprays, but others are actual liquid injections. The resonances created by Lo’s singing cause some of these to shatter. The small explosions send shards flying, and Kerr-Lonn-Ny grows even more upset, feeling under attack. A small piece of glass nicks her cheek, and J4-1L himself grows agitated, conflicted that he has now hurt the passenger he was supposed to calm down.
JT cringes inwardly. She did not want to hurt the droid; he is just doing its job. But he is kind of in the way right now, and sometimes you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. She reaches out with the Force, wrapping her awareness around J4-1L and tugging the droid so that he stumbles away from Kerr-Lonn-Ny’s cell and falls onto his back. His injector attachments wave around under him. “Sorry, pal,” JT whispers.
With the droid out of the way, Kerr-Lonn-Ny lurches forward, returning to the bars. She wedges herself as much as she can between two of them, trying to push them apart with her shoulder and leg, but she cannot make enough space to get through. Then she tries throwing her whole body at the bars and whacking them with the binders. Her hands muffled by the sleeve ends, she loses a hold of the cuffs and they slide back across the foyer.
“Thank you!” JT snakes a hand through her own bars and snatches up the bindercuffs. She turns them over, examining them to see how she can use them here. They are fully mechanical with no computerized components. She supposes she could try cracking them fully open to try to use internal parts as picks, but lockpicking is not one of her strong suits. JT looks across at Kerr-Lonn-Ny’s cell door and notes the combination lock. She accepts that the bindercuffs will be of little use to get her out of her cage, but she does not regret the work she put into getting them off herself. Accessing her shoulder bag is much easier now, and who knows, they might come in handy later. As she slips the cuffs inside her oversized purse, she roots around inside it for anything that could be useful here. She has her hydrospanner, of course, but that would be too obvious. People might dismiss Kerr-Lonn-Ny’s ravings about her droid conspiracy theory, but JT does not want her adding Jedi into the mix.
Her hand hits upon a small tube that Renci gave her, saying that JT might find it interesting. Renci called it something like burn-everything gel. JT reaches her arm through the bars to apply the gel to the lock from the outside so it will look like someone else sprung her. She gets a little scorched in the process and gripes about the safety label as she steps out into the foyer. The tube is totally depleted, so she will need to find some other way to get Kerr-Lonn-Ny out. Maybe I can get the combination from J4.
JT crouches down alongside the droid in crisis. “Calm down. I’ve done droid repair my whole life,” she reassures him. “You’ve just been damaged. Let me take a close look, okay?” The droid is in no condition to respond and continues twitching on the floor. JT repeats her message in binary, whistling to the droid. She really does want to help J4, but first she accesses his memory banks to see if she can pull up the combination to Kerr-Lonn-Ny’s cell. When that proves a bust, she triggers the emergency reboot into self-diagnostic mode. That will keep the droid oblivious for a while, while also ensuring that he heals.
JT then steps up to the Cerean’s cell. “It’s not his fault. He has a restraining bolt,” she points out.
“They don’t all! They don’t all!” Kerr-Lonn-Ny cries.
“He is a good droid; he’s just doing his job,” JT says. “But right now, he’s taking a nap, and he’s going to wake up in about fifteen minutes. Do you still want to be here when he wakes up?”
“I don’t want to be here at all! They’re plotting something. I heard them talking, and then he turned around and he stabbed me!”
JT leaves that alone for now. She looks around for something that can give her leverage. Her hydrospanner is too short, and she is certainly not going to dismantle J4… “Come up close to the bars and turn around,” she tells the Cerean. JT then undoes the latches on the back of the straightjacket and helps her shrug it off completely. Whoa, this woman is jacked! JT thinks when she sees Kerr-Lonn-Ny’s bare arms. She must work out as much as Renci.
Yanking herself back to the matter at hand, JT wraps the empty straightjacket around adjacent bars, and the two women work together to twist it. The bars bend in towards each other enough for Kerr-Lonn-Ny to squeeze through. She staggers as she comes free, and JT catches her, “Whoa, whoa, take it easy!” Given how unsteady she is, there must still be drugs in her system. JT drapes the straightjacket around the other woman’s shoulders. “I’ll just escort you out since they’re having some droid malfunctions at the moment.”
Before JT leaves, she confirms Lo Strimm’s participation in the gala. Then she and Kerr-Lonn-Ny exit the detention zone, the sounds of blues drifting out with them. To the droid now at the reception desk, JT says that J4-1L released them. The droid accepts this information and clears the two of them from the system, but JT is not quite done yet. “And J4-1L reported he was having some mechanical difficulties. You might want to check on him.” She casually looks over this droid; it also has a restraining bolt. Did Petey? she wonders. Probably not; he’s a Rebel operative. Maybe he has a fake one. That would be pretty impressive; it would have to transmit something convincing. The droid in front of her nods in acknowledgement, and JT rambles a bit further. “Yup, just checking out. Again, thank you so much! Nice rooms, but you might want to do something with the ambient lighting next time. That might really help people out. You’re doing great. And J4-1L,” she slaps her hands emphatically down on the counter, “he did a great job. He did all the right things. He deserves an oil bath, though, definitely. Tell BN-CR that he should get the good stuff. None of that synthetic blend!”
With a final wave, JT steps away from the reception desk. She holds her shoulder bag close to her side with one hand and pulls Kerr-Lonn-Ny along with her other. JT decides to head first to her room. She has to get the still-drugged Cerean somewhere safe, and she might need her full Blue Streak outfit to deal with whatever has happened to her friend Tcho.
* * *
Across Dame Metropolis, Tenex Sinemet gives his statement to one of the moff’s functionaries, providing a vivid physical description of the man he tried to detain. “I saw him grab a Snowscape coat from the bench over there, so he is a thief too, whatever other crimes he has committed. And he attacked your sergeant barehanded! Whoever this is, he is a trained combatant in addition to being very light on his feet and quick with his hands.”
Tenex continues on, dispensing advice on how to search a ship of this size. “Containment! That’s your best approach. This ship is built with a number of vacuum-leak containment mechanisms. You can lock it down into quadrants. How many of our good men in white do you have with you? It’s a big ship, but I’m sure we could get through it.”
The clerk makes notes on his datapad as he listens, reflecting that this Gran is proving far more helpful than that useless woman Ms. Diol brought to the moff.