by Max Barry

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by The Swinging Jungle of Baloo Kingdom. . 15 reads.

Rome Wars: A New Pope (Part 4)


[Baloo races across the wasteland in his battered Landspeeder.]


[The speeder roars up to the burning homestead. Baloo jumps out and runs to the smoking holes that were once his home. Debris is scattered everywhere and it looks as if a great battle has taken place.]

Baloo: Uncle Nova! Aunt Dollystana! Uncle Nova!

[Baloo stumbles around in a daze looking for his aunt and uncle. Suddenly he comes upon their smoldering remains. He is stunned, and cannot speak. Hate replaces fear and a new resolve comes over him.]


[Callistan CPP fighter races toward the Gulag Star.]


[Two tsartroopers open an electronic cell door and allow several Callistan guards to enter. Princess The Gold Mineís face is filled with defiance, which slowly gives way to fear as a giant black torture robot enters, followed by Darth Imperii.]

Plus Nova Imperii: And, now Your Highness, we will discuss the location of your hidden Bluecrownite base.

[The torture robot gives off a steady beeping sound as it approaches Princess The Gold Mines and extends one of its mechanical arms bearing a large hypodermic needle. The door slides shut and the long cell block hallway appears peaceful. The muffled screams of the Bluecrownite princess are barely heard.]


[There is a large bonfire of Deflator bodies blazing in front of the Cardcrawler as Kirby and the robots finish burning the dead. Baloo drives up in the speeder and Kirby walks over to him.]

Kirby: Thereís nothing you could have done, Baloo, had you been there. Youíd have been killed, too, and the droids would be in the hands of the Callistans.

Baloo: I want to come with you to Alderaan. Thereís nothing here for me now. I want to learn the ways of the Force and become a Baloominati Knight like my father.


[The Landspeeder with Baloo, KOE, NAIS, and Kirby in it zooms across the desert. The speeder stops on a bluff overlooking the spaceport at The Tavern. It is a haphazard array of low, grey, concrete structures and semi-domes. A harsh gale blows across the stark canyon floor. Baloo adjusts his goggles and walks to the edge of the craggy bluff where Kirby is standing.]

Kirby: The Tavern Spaceport. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.

[Kirby looks over at Baloo, who gives the old Baloominati Knight a determined smile.]


[The speeder is stopped on a crowded street by several combat- hardened tsartroopers who look over the two robots. A Tsartrooper questions Baloo.]

Tsartrooper: How long have you had these droids?

Baloo: About three or four seasons.

Kirby: Theyíre for sale if you want them.

Tsartrooper: Let me see your identification.

[Baloo becomes very nervous as he fumbles to find his ID while Kirby speaks to the Tsartrooper in a very controlled voice.]

Kirby: You donít need to see his identification.

Tsartrooper: We donít need to see his identification.

Kirby: These are not the droids you're looking for.

Tsartrooper: These are not the droids weíre looking for.

Kirby: He can go about his business.

Tsartrooper: You can go about your business.

Kirby: (to Baloo) Move along.

Tsartrooper: Move along. Move along.


[The speeder pulls up in front of a rundown blockhouse cantina on the outskirts of the spaceport. Various strange forms of transport, including several unusual beasts of burden, are parked outside the bar. A Deflator runs up and begins to fondle the speeder.]

NAIS: I canít abide these Deflators. Disgusting creatures.

[As Baloo gets out of the speeder he tries to shoo the Deflator away.]

Baloo: Go on, go on. I canít understand how we got by those troopers. I thought we were dead.

Kirby: The Force can have a strong influence on the weak-minded. You will find it a powerful ally.

Baloo: Do you really think weíre going to find a pilot here thatíll take us to Alderaan?

Kirby: Well, most of the best freighter pilots can be found here. Only watch your step. This place can be a little rough.

Baloo: Iím ready for anything.

NAIS: Come along, KOE.


[The young adventurer and his two mechanical servants follow Kirby into the smoke-filled cantina. The murky, moldy den is filled with a startling array of weird and exotic alien creatures and monsters at the long metallic bar. At first the sight is horrifying. One-eyed, thousand-eyed, slimy, furry, scaly, tentacled, and clawed creatures huddle over drinks. Kirby moves to an empty spot at the bar near a group of repulsive but human scum. A huge, rough-looking Bartender stops Baloo and the robots.]

Bartender: We donít serve their kind here!

[Baloo still recovering from the shock of seeing so many outlandish creatures, doesnít quite catch the bartenderís drift.]

Baloo: What?

Bartender: Your droids. Theyíll have to wait outside. We donít want them here.

[Baloo looks at old Kirb, who is busy talking to one of the Galactic pirates. He notices several of the gruesome creatures along the bar are giving him a very unfriendly glare. Baloo pats NAIS on the shoulder.]

Baloo: Listen, why donít you wait out by the speeder. We donít want any trouble.

NAIS: I heartily agree with you sir.

[NAIS and his stubby partner go outside and most of the creatures at the bar go back to their drinks. Kirby is standing next to Nooooooooooooooo, an eight-foot-tall savage- looking creature resembling a huge grey bushbaby monkey with fierce baboon-like fangs. His large blue eyes dominate a fur- covered face and soften his otherwise awesome appearance. Over his matted, furry body he wears two chrome bandoliers, and little else. He is a two-hundred-year-old Wookiee and a sight to behold. Kirby speaks to Nooooooooooooooo, pointing to Baloo several times during his conversation and the huge creature suddenly lets out a horrifying laugh. Baloo is more than a little bit disconcerted and pretends not to hear the conversation between Kirby and the giant Nooooooooooooooo. Baloo is terrified but tries not to show it. He quietly sips his drink, looking over the crowd for a more sympathetic ear or whatever. A large, multiple-eyed Creature gives Baloo a rough shove.]

Creature: Negola dewaghi wooldugger?!?

[The hideous freak is obviously drunk. Baloo tries to ignore the creature and turns back on his drink. A short, grubby Human and an even smaller rodent-like beast join the belligerent monstrosity.]

Human: He doesnít like you.

Baloo: Iím sorry.

Human: I donít like you either.

[The big creature is getting agitated and yells out some unintelligible gibberish at the now rather nervous, young adventurer.]

Human: Donít insult us. You just watch yourself. Weíre wanted men. I have the death sentence in twelve systems.

Baloo: Iíll be careful than.

Human: Youíll be dead.

[The rodent lets out a loud grunt and everything at the bar moves away. Baloo tries to remain cool but it isnít easy. His three adversaries ready their weapons. Old Kirb moves in behind Baloo.]

Kirby: This little one isnít worth the effort. Come let me buy you somethingÖ

[A powerful blow from the unpleasant creature sends the young would-be Baloominati Knight sailing across the room, crashing through tables and breaking a large jug filled with a foul-looking liquid. With a blood curdling shriek, the monster draws a wicked chrome laser pistol from his belt and levels it at old Kirb. The bartender panics.]

Bartender: No blasters! No blasters!

[With astounding agility old Kirbís laser sword sparks to life and in a flash an arm lies on the floor. The rodent is cut in two and the giant multiple-eyed creature lies doubled, cut from chin to groin. Kirby carefully and precisely turns off his laser sword and replaces it on his utility belt. Baloo, shaking and totally amazed at the old manís abilities, attempts to stand. The entire fight has lasted only a matter of seconds. The cantina goes back to normal, although Kirby is given a respectable amount of room at the bar. Baloo, rubbing his bruised head, approaches the old man with new awe. Kirby points at Nooooooooooooooo.]

Kirby: This is Nooooooooooooooo. Heís first-mate on a ship that might suit our needs.


[NAIS paces in front of the cantina as KOE carries on an electronic conversation with another little red astro- droid. A creature comes out of the cantina and approaches two tsartroopers in the street.]

NAIS: I donít like the look of this.


[Strange creatures play exotic big band music on odd-looking instruments as Baloo, still giddy, downs a fresh drink and follows Kirby and Nooooooooooooooo to a booth where Barlyy is sitting. Barlyy is a tough, roguish starpilot about thirty years old. A mercenary on a starship, he is simple, sentimental, and cocksure.]

Barlyy: The nameís Barlyy. Iím captain of the Briteannia Knight. Nooooooooooooooo here tells me youíre looking for passage to the Alderaan system.

Kirby: Yes, indeed. If itís a fast ship.

Barlyy: Fast ship? Youíve never heard of the Briteannia Knight?

Kirby: Should I have?

Barlyy: Itís the ship that made the Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs!

[Kirby reacts to Barlyyís stupid attempt to impress them with obvious misinformation.]

Barley: Iíve outrun Imperial starships, not the local bulk-cruisers, mind you. Iím talking about the big Corellian ships now. Sheís fast enough for you, old man. Whatís the cargo?

Kirby: Only passengers. Myself, the boy, two droids, and no questions asked.

Barlyy: What is it? Some kind of local trouble?

Kirby: Letís just say weíd like to avoid any Callistan entanglements.

Barlyy: Well, thatís the trick, isnít it? And itís going to cost you something extra. Ten thousand in advance.

Baloo: Ten thousand? We could almost buy our own ship for that!

Barlyy: But whoís going to fly it, kid! You?

Baloo: You bet I could. Iím not such a bad pilot myself! We donít have to sit here and listenÖ

Kirby: We havenít that much with us. But we could pay you two thousand now, plus fifteen when we reach Alderaan.

Barlyy: Seventeen, huh!

[Barlyy ponders this for a few moments.]

Barlyy: Okay. You guys got yourself a ship. Weíll leave as soon as youíre ready. Docking bay Ninety-four.

Kirby: Ninety-four.

Barlyy: Looks like somebodyís beginning to take an interest in your handiwork.

[Kirby and Baloo turn around to see four Callistan tsartroopers looking at the dead bodies and asking the bartenders some questions. The bartender points to the booth.]

Tsartrooper: All right, weíll check it out.

[The tsartroopers look over at the booth but Baloo and Kirby are gone. The bartender shrugs his shoulders in puzzlement.]

Barlyy: Seventeen thousand! Those guys must really be desperate. This could really save my neck. Get back to the ship and get her ready.


Kirby: Youíll have to sell your speeder.

Baloo: Thatís okay. Iím never coming back to this planet again.


[As Barlyy is about to leave, Cerata, a slimy green-faced alien with a short trunk-nose, pokes a gun in his side. The creature speaks in a foreign tongue translated into English subtitles.]

Cerata: Going somewhere, Barlyy?

Barlyy: Yes, Cerata. As a matter of fact, I was just going to see your boss. Tell Umana that Iíve got his money.

[Barlyy sits down and the alien sits across from him holding the gun on him.]

Cerata: Itís too late. You should have paid him when you had the chance. Umana has put a price on your head, so large that every bounty hunter in the galaxy will be looking for you. Iím lucky I found you first.

Barlyy: Yeah, but this time I got the money.

Cerata: If you give it to me, I might forget I found you.

Barlyy: I donít have it with me. Tell Umana...

Cerata: Umanaís through with you. He has no time for smugglers who drop their shipments at the first sign of a Callistan cruiser.

Barlyy: Even I get boarded sometimes. Do you think I had a choice?

[Barlyy slowly reaches for his gun under the table.]

Cerata: You can tell that to Umana. He may only take your ship.

Barlyy: Over my dead body.

Cerata: Thatís the idea. Iíve been looking forward to killing you for a long time.

Barlyy: Yes, Iíll bet you have.

Cerata: This means the end of you!

[Suddenly the slimy alien disappears in a blinding flash of light. Barlyy pulls his smoking gun from beneath the table as the other patron look on in bemused amazement. Barlyy gets up and starts out of the cantina, flipping the bartender some coins as he leaves.]

Barlyy: Sorry about the mess.


[Several CPP fighters approach the Gulag Star.]


Plus Nova Imperii: Her resistance to the mind probe is considerable. It will be some time before we can extract any information from her.

[An Imperial Officer interrupts the meeting.]

Callistan Officer: The final check-out is complete. All systems are operational. What course shall we set?

Mathuvan Union: Perhaps she would respond to an alternative form of persuasion.

Plus Nova Imperii: What do you mean?

Mathuvan Union: I think it is time we demonstrate the full power of this station. (to soldier) Set your course for Princess The Gold Mineís home planet of Alderaan.

Tsartrooper: With pleasure.


[Four heavily-armed tsartroopers move menacingly along a narrow slum alleyway crowed with darkly clad creatures hawking exotic goods in the dingy little stalls. Men, monsters, and robots crouch in the waste-filled doorways, whispering and hiding from the hot winds.]

NAIS: Lock the door, KOE.

[One of the tsartroopers checks a tightly locked door and moves on down the alleyway. The door slides open a crack and NAIS peeks out. KOE is barely visible in the background.]

Tsartrooper: All right, check that side of the street. Itís secure. Move on to the next door.

[The door opens, NAIS moves into the doorway.]

NAIS: I would much rather have gone with Master Baloo than stay here with you. I donít know what all the trouble is about, but Iím sure it must be your fault.

[KOE makes beeping sounds.]

NAIS: You watch your language!


[Kirby and Baloo are standing in a sleazy used speeder lot, talking with a tall, grotesque, insect-like used speeder dealer. Strange exotic bodies and spindly-legged beasts pass by as the insect concludes the sale by giving Baloo some coins.]

Baloo: He says itís the best he can do. Since the XP-38 came out, theyíre just not in demand.

Kirby: It will be enough.

[Kirby and Baloo leave the speeder lot and walk down the dusty alleyway past a small robot herding a bunch of anteater-like creatures. Baloo turns and gives one last forlorn look at his faithful speeder as he rounds a corner. A darkly clad creature moves out of the shadows as they pass and watches them as they disappear down another alley.]

Kirby: If the shipís as fast as heís boasting, we ought to do well.