Gariss trotted at the front of the long line of refugees as sweat glistened off his reptilian forehead. He was strong and capable of enduring a great deal of hardships, but after everything he and the others had just been through he was near exhaustion. He hated the fact that he’d lost some others in his unit, and he was even more frustrated that it was really his fault they had gotten mixed up in this whole affair. It definitely hadn’t been worth the credits.
Behind him Par’kiss fought to keep up as he continued to monitor the sensors. “Hold up!” he cried suddenly bringing the Barabel’s attention back to the Devaronian. “I’ve just picked up on some life forms at the edge of sensor range. One, two, three…ten total.”
Gariss considered this a moment, but even as they spoke between breaths they continued to trot along keeping the line flowing at a steady pace. “It looks like the Jedi was right. We’re coming up on some scouts from the other base.”
“It’s about time,” said Hodge, another member of the Daragald’s Blight mercenaries. “My legs are about to fall off, and most of these other people were not built for this kind of thing.”
“If they want to live they’ll keep moving,” was all Gariss said, and he continued on to an intersection ahead. “How soon are we going to encounter these people?”
“It could be about ten minutes if they start heading in our direction,” Par’kiss reported. “It’ll be twenty if they don’t.”
“How’s our droid situation?” the Barabel leader wanted to know as they moved in the direction Par’kiss pointed towards.
“Still being pursued by some three hundred droids, but it seems their progress has been slowed. We should lose them by the time we reach the others if we keep up this pace. She must have done the trick,” Par’kiss reported.
“Great,” said the leader, and for several long moments he turned his focus back on making it through the passages.
“They’re moving,” Par’kiss said after a minute or two had past. “And I’m also picking up on some droid signals off to the east of our location. There’s a whole lot of them.”
“What are they doing?” asked Gariss.
“They seem to be keeping to their own sections,” Par’kiss replied.
“Good,” said Gariss. “Let’s hope they stay there.”
Suddenly, Jarith, the human soldier and scout of the group raced up to the front panting heavily. “Sir…we can’t keep going like this…people…passing out.”
Gariss didn’t even stop to glance back. “Keep them moving Jarith. We’re all tired. Pick the weak ones up and drag them if you have to. Just keep with the group. We won’t lose the droids behind us if we don’t.”
Jarith nodded then stopped to allow people to pass by him so he could both catch his breath and get back to the rear of the column. The entire group of nearly a thousand refugees continued on through the darkened passages moved more by their own terror than by anything else.
At last Gariss reached a corridor where three passages intersected, and Par’kiss finally announced, “That’s it! We’re beyond sensor range for the droids. We’ve lost them.”
Gariss didn’t stop. “Just keep moving a little further then. We don’t want them to accidentally find us just because we decided to stop too soon. We’ve worked too hard for that.”
And so they ran until they came face to face with Satchal, Nyarchagga, and the others that followed close behind. As soon as they entered the corridor with the Phantom Hunters Gariss at last called for a halt.
“Where’s Ivanna?” Satchal demanded before any formal greetings could be exchanged.
“Nice to see you too,” said Gariss gruffly. “If you’re talking about your Jedi Master she stayed behind with Captain Krastil and his team of security troops to keep the droids back so we could make our escape.”
Par’kiss added, “If you want to go help them I’d say you’ve got about three klicks between us and them, maybe four.”
“I wouldn’t waste your time,” Gariss continued. “They were up against an onslaught of droids. We had a good thousand to fifteen hundred droids bearing down on us. We had almost double the number of people with us that we do now, and I’d say if they’re still alive they won’t be long. They were fighting a pretty overwhelming battle.”
“I want their location,” Satchal said desperately.
“Here,” said Par’kiss, and he threw Satchal a data card with the information on it. “Good luck.”
“Wait just a second,” said Gariss as Satchal was about to run off to follow the map. “We’ve got to get these people back to your hideout before we’re discovered. Someone needs to take us there.”
“This many people with you will stick out like a sore thumb on sensor scans,” said Brin’tac in alarm. “You can’t hide all these people in our small hideout. There’s no room.”
“What would you have us do?” Gariss said. “Besides, we’re not going to be staying for long. We’ve got to make some sort of united final assault soon. The droids have been gathering poisonous gases to unleash into the lower passages of the city. In just a few days they’ll have collected enough to filter it through the whole city. It’ll wipe out every person that breathes! We’ve got to hit them before that happens even if we haven’t got a chance of success.”
Satchal suddenly remembered Ivanna’s warning. Now he understood what she’d been trying to say to him during the vision. She wanted him to warn Avatar that the droids were going to poison the city and kill everyone just in case she and the other refugees weren’t able to make it back. He felt kind of foolish now that he hadn’t even tried to warn base of such a threat before he continued to go after his friends.
“How do you know all this?” asked Brin’tac curiously.
“Par’kiss is a genius,” Gariss replied with a grin. “You should know that by now. He tapped into a back door in the mainframe of the system and just monitored their transmissions and movements. He also picked up on your virus. Very clever thing, but the droids also figured it out too. They’ve been trying to stop it, but Par’kiss says the way it works causes it to shift from one file to another if located. The droids infected immediately turn on all other droids in the area wiping out as many as possible. Usually these are mostly refitted protocol droids or maintenance droids, but they do some damage at least, and the number of droids has thinned considerably.”
“This is great news!” said Geldar, “but we really must be on our way. We can’t wait any longer or we may be too late. Satchal’s two companions here can go back with you to the base while we continue on. Just give us one of the sensor units, and we’ll be out of your way.”
“Glad to see you all still alive,” Gariss said with a smile. “It’s nice to know we have a few people with a million lives to spare still walking around. Good luck.” Then he motioned for the column to continue as the entire river of refugees reluctantly picked themselves up and left the Phantom Hunters alone in the dark.