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Jan 30, 2023 1:06 PM
One obstacle stands between Kina Skywalker and freedom: The Boonta Eve Classic. Also Darth Maul.
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It's time.  Kina Skywalker is going to put the finishing touches on her podracer, and race for her life in the Boonta Eve Classic.  So, having done what she can for her White Sun friends, she heads for the junk dunes where her racer is concealed.

She doesn't expect anything to need tuning up or fixing, and the Force doesn't think that anything but the race itself is going to be dangerous - but that's no excuse to not check.

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Well, if it didn't need fixing before, it does now!

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....

Jar-Jar gets her most incredibly disappointed face as she stands directly between him and her racer protectively.  "Remember what I told you in the shop, Jar-Jar?  Do you want to feel your muscles seize and your heart stop as you touch a live wire and all the power of a fusion reactor grounds out through your tongue?  Do you want to get splattered to paste by a turbocharged engine, or fried to a crisp in exhaust?  No?  Then don't touch the machinery.  It can be very dangerous, especially this kind.  This is your last warning to think first, to ask first, when you can, before just touching things, or I'll tie your tongue in a knot next time I catch you at it.  And I really don't want to do that!  And you don't want to have it happen!  So unless you've been specifically asked to cause chaos..."

Huh, there's an idea.  "Actually, if you could ruin Sebulba's day, that might even be helpful as well as slightly, what was it, cathartic.  I'm pretty sure that if it weren't for the fact that he'd owe Watto money, I'd've suffered an 'accident' from the stuff he sneaks into his racer that no-one actually calls him on, just for daring to be good."

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"My no tryen to messen yous skeebeetle," says Jar Jar. "Yousa no hafta bein so mui moppo." He sulks away, rubbing his tongue.

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"...I just want to make sure you don't die.  And not being careful with machines causes a lot of deaths.  And maybe I'm a little bit overprotective of my podracer because she's my podracer that I have put many hours of sweat, tears, and blood into, and a bit frustrated at whoever raised you for not teaching you things that I've helped teach human three-year-olds, and that...leaked out.  But I really just...want you to not get hurt, okay?"

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Jar Jar nods. "Meesa berry sorry for da boopjak daree."

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"Kina, there you are," says Qui-Gon, striding towards them. "Padmé told me about your plan to bring refugees with us to Coruscant. Unfortunately, while I quite agree that slavery is a despicable institution, there are treaties between the Republic and the Hutts that we cannot infringe upon. As such, no representative of the Jedi Order or of the Naboo can allow them onto our vehicle."

He eyes her with a slight smile.

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"It's okay, Jar-Jar."

Then, Qui-Gon shows up.

Hmm.  He's smiling.  But he's not horrible.  That means there's a trick to it.  No representative of the Jedi Order or the Naboo can allow them on, which means he can't, and Padmé can't...but there's someone who can, or he wouldn't be smiling.  He'd be sad.  ...Kina is losing what respect she had for the Republic, because if it has "you may not do the right thing" as a policy that actually gets enforced, that sort of thimg needs to be thrown out the window.  Into a sarlacc pit.

"...Those are some very specific phrasings!  Say, Jar-Jar, you don't officially work for the Naboo - government, I'm guessing?  (And isn't Naboo a planet?)  Want to go invite some of my friends to visit the ship you rode in on?"  Kina grins.  "And of course, forget to mention that there's people in some out of the way room - probably the infirmary, but actually, there's people who're better at actually organizing things like these than I am that're coming, listen to them please - until we're under way?"

With Jar-Jar hopefully causing chaos aimed directly at the Hutts, Kina muses over something.  "...So, are Jedi agents of the Republic or servants of the will of the Force, anyway?  You framed it like listening to the Force was the one Jedi thing, but you have to listen to the Republic for...some reason?  You can't do both.  Not at the same time.  Unless the Republic is run by the will of the Force somehow, but if that's true, it shouldn't be sitting there all clogged up with 'trade disputes' when there's slavers over here and nobody already in a position to stop them."

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As a result of some strange coincidence, Qui-Gon was standing next to the very loud podracer engine and was unable to hear Kina tell her plan to Jar Jar, although curiously enough, he did manage to hear the question she asked afterwards. "We're not exactly a branch of the Republic, but given that it controls the galaxy, we generally do what it says."

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Kina eyes him strangely.  "Then why do they acknowledge Hutt Space as powerful enough to sign a treaty with, if they control the galaxy?  If they're powerful enough, the Hutts should be trying to ingratiate themselves, not...do this, ne?"

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"I think it's mostly that the Republic would prefer not to start a war? There isn't much of an army besides asking for individual planets to supply theirs. Most politicians don't want to support something that would impose costs on their own planets, even if it is relatively minor compared to the suffering caused by the Hutts. Actually, this is also part of why the Republic hasn't shut down the Trade Federation yet."

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"...so, they pretend there's a unified force controlling the galaxy but it's actually a bunch of squabbling Hutts in a trenchcoat, plus the occasional compassionate person who somehow manages to be born in exactly the wrong place and land in the big chair with the moisturizer."  Padmé is a good example of this, right?  She's totally some noble lady!  "And the actual Hutts are racist enough to pull together against the Republic, while the Republic says lots of pretty things that mean almost nothing to most people because, again, it's made of squabbling Hutts that don't even have the decency of looking the part or being honest that they care about only their dot on the map.  I wonder if politicians would be better people if they had to do business as giant slimy things.  Or whatever form they were least comfortable with.  Anyway.  That explanation of politics makes more sense.  Isn't better, but it makes more sense.  And it explains why 'bleeding heart' is so often a 'backhanded highborn insult'."  Kina wasn't expecting anything more, really, but she's still unutterably disappointed.

Kina finishes tightening one last bolt with a heave of her wrench.  "Let's get this over to the starting line.  It starts soon enough we'd need to rush if we didn't leave soon, and something tells me that being alone out here is asking for trouble, though I couldn't tell you why.  Not that it won't try and find us anyway."

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When Kina arrives at the race, Sebulba is already waiting. He snarls a few insults to her, then gets back to work installing flamethrowers. After screwing them in, he tosses the wrench into one of Kina's engines, then hops into his podracer.

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Far above the race, Jabba slides into an announcer's box, as the crowd bows. "Chowbaso!" he says, and begins introducing the racers, starting with Sebulba, who receives quite a few roars of praise, not least from Jabba himself, who has a bet riding on him.

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Kina looks at the wrench in her hand, shaking out her palm, then at Sebulba, then back at the wrench in her hand, then back at Sebulba.  She quirks an eyebrow in polite defiance.  "Thanks for the wrench!  Ooh, it's adjustable."

Kina's not above sabotage, when it's to sabotage the sabotage of others - so while Jabba does the introductions, she sits in her cockpit, the image of polite, professional, somewhat excited focus, and reaches out into the guts of Sebulba's racer, a metaphorical spanner in the works to go with his literal attempt upon hers.  She pulls wires, snaps control circuitry, resets disengaged safety limiters, drains fuel tanks...and, while that fragment of her mind, long-since honed to fidget with things, is idly unpicking what Sebulba just worked, the vast majority of her attention casts itself forwards, to the race ahead of her.

She is, just a bit, going to have fun with this.

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And the race starts! Gasgano takes an early lead, followed by Mars Guo, Ratts Tyerell, Aldar Beedo, and Kina Skywalker. Sebulba, on the other hand, feels one of his engines explode, and is catapulted into the stands, to the shock of most of the watchers.

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SOMEONE WILL FIND THEMSELVES IN THE SARLACC FOR THIS.

Honestly, he's not sure who. He can probably just throw his latest protocol droid in, that usually makes him feel better.

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The racers find their way into a cavern, where Tyerell is caught by a stalagmite and crashes into the wall. As they emerge, another racer, Mawhonic, pulls up next to Kina, and their lines begin to tangle.

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Kina's engines are humming right along at their sweet spot; neat, efficient.  If she zoomed off into the suns-set right now, the Hutt would notice, and that would be...bad.

And then Mawhonic's line starts tangling with hers...so Kina grins, flips up a cover, and hits the button that sets it loose, replacing it with the same purple electrorepulsion that steadies the pods themselves as she swerves up the side of the canyon to cut around the third-placer, catching and replacing the cord blowing in the wind (and sparing her further power constraints from the computation and electrical load) with her hand as she operates a joystick with her teeth.

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As the second lap begins, most of the racers have fallen behind, leaving only Gasgano, Beedo, and Kina in the lead, neck and neck... and neck.

Perched on the cliffs above the race, a pack of Tusken Raiders watches, waiting for the racers to come through the cave and into the sights of their rifles.

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Kina edges ahead, slowly but surely gaining a lead, engine dials nudging a bit further up the scale, as she approaches the dread cliffs...and then, right as the sun glints off a rifle scope and trigger fingers start to tense, punches it, zooming in a swaying, serpentine path that looks like it could have been the result of sputtering thrusters if you can't see how Kina's hands twitch.

It's not like they've got very good aim or well-calibrated scopes, and some of them outright drop their rifles or miss their window whether from surprise or because of Kina's interference...but every little bit helps.

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Qui-Gon watches the race, anxiously. Kina is visibly in the lead, pulling around the track with Gasgano close behind her. At this point, it looks as though she has an easy win... so why is the Force screaming that something bad will happen?

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Elsewhere, Darth Maul mounts his speeder, lightsaber hanging from his side, and flies across the Tatooine dunes towards Mos Espa.

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As the third lap starts, Gasgano pulls to the inside of the track, swerving around boulders and ending up back ahead of Kina.

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And Kina hits the boosters in a flare of supplemental rockets as she soars over those boulders, and Gasgano, her racer leaping over the rocks in a burst of motion that she lined up just so!  That danger is on the horizon; she doesn't need to worry about it now.  She needs to zoom across the finish line.

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The rest of the race is pretty smooth, with no one else managing to pass Kina. There are a few more shots fired by the Tusken Raiders and a thug Sebulba had hastily hired, but none of them manage to land.

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