These ladies have low waistlines and an interest in technology… Left to right, Shaela Niklas-Rann models the Relaxed Tracksuit outfit, Kimber Skylow is in the Relaxed Jumpsuit (sensing a theme yet?). Finally, we have Dr Aphra Dystra, the newest PC, in the Shadowsilk Aegis costume.
What does ‘technology’ mean in a Star Wars setting anyway? This isn’t a bright, shiny utopia like ‘Star Trek’. In Star Wars, you’re fighting The Man, not serving The Man. Guns are big, industrially-ugly fuck-off things, not effeminate little ‘phasers’. There’s no ‘Beam Me Up Scotty’, no MarySue-topia perfect society. Yes, it has starships, amazingly sophisticated droids with human emotions, and ‘hysperspace’… But the ships feel like they’re made of sheet metal, nobody gives a bantha’s ass about the feelings of droids, and nobody even understands what ‘hysperspace’ actually is.
You certainly can’t rely on your technology in Star Wars. We see an R5 droid implode under the crushing weight of its own inadequacy. TIE fighters blow to smithereens the moment bugs hit the windscreen. The planet destroying Death Star explodes spectacularly when a clumsy janitor drops a bag of spanners down the exhaust port. Droids can feel fear, pain, and love, but nobody gives a shit about them and they get mind-wipes rather than medals.
This is technology in a time Long Long Ago and a Galaxy Far Far Away. And you’d sure as Byss not trust it. Almost everything is scavenged and repaired several times over. The Imperial tech looks shiny, sure, but these losers get their asses kicked regularly by primitives with sticks and thrown rocks. An ATAT is brought low by a tow cable. A scout walker is crushed by teddy bears armed with logs and ropes. The supposedly superior stormtroops couldn’t hit a bantha’s ass at five paces. In the Holiday Special, one manages to kill himself by stumbling through a railing, then falling down some stairs, entirely by his own volition. What exactly does that armour protect them from anyway, paper cuts? Certainly not guns or fists.
And this is before we take Force Magic into consideration. An ATAT is simply a telekinetic bowling ball to anyone with Move and two measley Force dice. The Empire would be better off not fielding these things; they do more damage to their own troops than the enemy.
There’s no i-phones folks. The EU gave us the ‘Holonet’ but it’s mostly just pictures of cats. There’s no Wookiepedia, not one you can trust, and there’s nothing remotely like Shadowrun’s ‘Matrix’.
So we’re agreed; this is a science-fantasy setting in which technology sucks.
Let’s meet some gals who love it anyway…
“I am strong, I am able
I spilt milk on your table
Then I cry like a baby
Just to see if you’ll save me…
I am sweet, I am ugly
I am mean if you love me
I'll try hard just to please you
Then I say I don't need you…
I dress up with a conscience
When I think you'll be watching
I say all the right things
I don't know what I mean…
I am ignorant and rude
I am fashionably crude
And sometimes when it's quiet
I'm an angel in white…
When I pose in the mirror
I want everyone near me
I am scared that I'm weird
I'm afraid I am queer…
I am lovely and weak
I am foul when I speak
I am strange when I'm kind
I am frying my mind…”
Sheryl Crow, ‘Am I Getting Through?’
(The ultimate crazy redneck psychobilly gal song…)
“Hey, y’all! Yew wanna see somethin’ rilly scary…?”
Shae is certainly a woman of many parts. She’s the one who shaves her thick blonde mane to fly X-Wings, or dons war paint to fly dinosaurs against TIE Fighters. An expert pilot who is both amazingly calm and crazy-wild, a cowgirl who’s as comfy flying a snubfighter as she is a giant four-eyed space dragon. She’s equally capable on foot as she is in the air, her size and strength allowing her to carry heavy weapons into the fray (or just her double-barreled shotgun-pistol if its more of a stealth mission). Oh yeah, and she hears voices in her head and can throw spaceships with her mind. She’s nothing if not versatile.
Like all the girls here, she focuses on Gunnery, a skill that makes her great at using both vehicle weapons and man-portable heavy weapons. Unlike the other girls, Shae is hefty enough to heave Missile Tubes and Heavy Repeating Blasters into battle. She’s not really much of a mechanic or an inventor, and is just really, really good at using tech, rather than making it. And actually, she does just fine without it, biotically Enhanced with a lance from ruping-back, or smashing things with her telekinesis.
‘Force-sensitive Pilot’ is a fairly common Star Wars theme, but she breaks a few stereotypes. Her ‘Sense’ and ‘Enhance’ powers certainly help her in dogfighting in space, but they’re equally useful in personal combat too. Her ‘Pilot’ specialisation allows her to be the calm, collected, professional team-player that gets so many commendations, and is in fact the reason Karae Palladane asked for her in the Crimson Phoenix. The ‘Hotshot’ spec gives the ‘wild and crazy maverick’ dogfight abilities, for those moments when her commander lets her off the leash and let’s her go crazy. ‘Beast Rider’ does what it says on the tin, allowing her to live out her Heavy Metal covergirl fantasies and ride flying dinosaurs naked into battle. ‘Recruit’ gives her basic training and a good grounding in all combat skills, including the infamous ‘kill stormtroopers with a spork’ talent. Lastly, as a new graduate of the Emergent Project, she can Enhance her fighting or dogfighting skills, Sense things around her and smash enemy fighters with Move. Of course, hurling starships around is less useful in space than on the ground, where there are heavy objects like a planet’s surface to throw them into. It’s tricker to throw two TIE’s into one another, but possible, and throwing them into a much bigger ship is simplicity itself.
That’s the upsides. The down side seems to be… well, some Force users start seeing things that just… aren’t there… at least to other people. Shae’s imaginary friends seem helpful, but she’s beginning to spook some of her companions. She says she knew Kandria Valouri, even that she was a classmate, when there’s nobody of that name in the System’s Alliance databanks. The incident that saw the young Ms Valouri telekinetically murder her tutors and classmates is, after all, highly classified…
Physically, Shaela plays up the whole ‘psycho hillbilly’ look, with her smudged make-up, twin-tails and sexy Saxet cowgirl drawl and slang. She’s cheery and scary by turns, friendly with all of her comrades and completely enthusiastic in both combat and the most energetic shore-leave shenanegans. Shaela isn’t exactly as dumb as she plays it, but she’s never going to be accused of overthinking anything either. Morally and ethnically, she’s complex; a Neutral chacter overall. She joined the Alliance because she had useful skills and wanted to help ‘the little people’ against tyrannical scumbags like the Empire and the Jedi. On the other hand, she has no problems with those missions that are just spray-painting the walls with Imperial blood, the ones they don’t tell Katie and Tallisbeth about. And she supports the Alliance whether it’s right or wrong and never questions orders. Those Imperials who have survived facing her in battle are absolutely terrified of her. She certainly has a wild and untamed side, but she’s also a model soldier when it comes to following orders, and she’s incredibly professional when she’s not being incredibly crazy.
Shaela just keeps on reinventing herself, and nobody really knows what could possibly come next.
“I walked alone, I never tried to stay in line
I didn't know what I was doing half the time
I didn't know that my life would ever change
I didn't think that anybody'd felt the same way
And then you came…!
I said I wanna try it all without regrets
I wanna meet the kind of folks I never met
Skipping school and smoking cigarettes
We hadn't even really gotten started yet…!
Let's go driving…
'Cause there's nowhere to go…
We're in hiding…
They're telling our story on the radio…!
I fell in love with being defiant
In a pickup truck that roared like a lion
And when you're with us
You don't have to be quiet no more!
People said we'd have to make it on our own
We never thought there'd be another hand to hold
We didn't care, we never did what we were told!
They couldn't break us, they could never turn us cold
You and me, we are never growing old…!
And I see you now, we talk about the way it used to be
When we were brave, we misbehaved
Yeah, you know what I mean!
And you know why our battle cry always comes back to me…”
Lissie Maurus, ‘Cuckoo’
(The perfect ‘wildflower’ song for country gals… I can see Jena and Kimmy singing this one while driving some landspeeder at top speeds down open, dusty desert trails…)
“I'm with the person I love, helping those in need. I couldn't imagine a better life.”
Piper Wright, Fallout 4
There are strengths in keeping things simple. Kimmy is my own GM PC, created to initially help the Krayt Dragons, but ultimately to be side-kick to Jena ‘Laera’ Cross, whose player lived abroad and can only play via email. I wanted a simple ‘everywoman’ character, so Kimmy is no special snowflake, touched by destiny and the Force. Or rather, she is, because everyone is, right? There’s nothing special about Kimmy, which is what makes her special.
A simple kid from a nowhere colony, Kimmy wanted to see the world, and has lived her dream the first moment she started travelling. A jill-of-all-trades, she is master of none, though she can get by with a smattering of many different skills. She’s a kind of travelling space-gypsy, able to drive a fast bike or grav-truck, fix up a droid or someone’s power system or mend a damaged speeder. Her eclectic background gives her a smattering of useful things to know, and she’s learned a bit about surviving and scavenging in the wilds. Able to speak a dozen different spacer languages and know her way around skirting the underworld and unsavoury spaceports. She’s excellent at haggling and loves to barter and trade, able to spot a bargain a mile off. She has a ready wit, a bright smile, a glib tongue and she’s very quick on her feet. Sometimes that’s all you need to be a hero… or at least, the sidekick to a hero.
She’s an excellent co-pilot, having studied the space lanes, and is one of the few organics who is skilled at Astronavigation - a gruelling and dreary task that most delegate to their droids. But Kimmy loves maps and journeying, and likes to wander for the sheer joy of seeing what’s over the next hill, or beyond the next planet. She’s no Alliance Ace, but she can fly a freighter with decent competency, and is pretty good at a gun turret too. Unlike Shaela, she’s too slight to handle the Cumbersome weapons, but she lacks skills in small firearms. So her weapon of choice – when she can’t get to a vehicle weapon or a tripod-mounted E-Web – is the Saktek ‘lightning gun’, which targets using a pull-up screen like a shipboard torpedo weapon. It only causes an electric shock to stun a foe, rather than kill them, making it completely legal to carry around unlike, say, a flamethrower or rocket launcher. She’s tinkered with hers a fair bit to give it that extra kick, too.
In terms of ‘alignment', Kimmy is broadly ‘Chaotic/Good’, a rebel without a cause, but with a big heart and a sincere desire to help those whose paths she crosses. She’s a classic’ wildflower’; a country-girl non-conformist, who loves to drive free and wild, making her home wherever she lays her kit-bag. Heavily-tattooed and multiply-pierced, she’s the classic ‘white trash’ kid who loves music, recreational drugs and driving really fast in open country. She serves as Laera’s helper and side-kick, flattering her ego, holding the camera for her show, and warming her bed at night, whether in the cramped confines of a two-hander scout ship or under the open stars.
Much to Laera’s surprise, the amoral and selfish explorer has found that Kimmy gets under your skin. It took a long while to admit that she was in love, but now she’d never wish to be with anyone else, relishing Kimmy’s youth and wildness. The cynical, middle-aged explorer feels spiritually rejuvenated, happily embracing a life of exploring, wild partying and living life large. The galaxy may burn, but she’s determined to spend her remaining years drinking Whyren’s Reserve neat, smoking spice, getting naked, making out and disturbing the peace. And when civilisation gets too stuffy, they can always sail away on a sea of stars to new horizons.
Sometimes you don’t have to be the one who blows up superweapons. Kimber is living her dream, living her life just the way she always dreamed it could be. And that’s victory, any way she sees it.
Dr Aphra Dystra
“This was a triumph…
I'm making a note here: huge success…
It's hard to overstate my satisfaction…
We do what we must, because we can…
For the good of all of us –
- except the ones who are dead…!
But there's no sense crying over every mistake
You just keep on trying 'til you run out of cake
And the science gets done, and you make a neat gun
For the people who are still alive…”
Jonathan Coulton & Ellen McLain; ‘Still Alive’
(There are very, very few songs about amoral female scientists… This might even be the only one, but it’s AWESOME… The cake is a lie!)
Very little is known about this sarcastic, thirty-something woman who serves Savan Sizhran as her personal technician. A brilliant engineer, she claims to have studied in several universities of higher education, none of whom admit to have ever heard of her. She’s undeniably a technical genius, though she doesn’t care much for organics, preferring to spend her time tinkering with her toys. That doesn’t mean she cares for droids in the slightest – she sees them merely as interesting tools, rather than living beings. She’s mostly comfortable when repairing or upgrading weapons, or hacking databases, but she can be surprisingly charming, if caustic, when she wants to get her way. Alignment-wise, she is 'Neutral/Evil' - not a complete psychopath like Red or Reya, but totally amoral, loyal only to money and her own opportunity. Unlike Tess Aurora, she has no special loyalty to Savan, let alone Black Sun, but is happy to serve as long as she gets paid and gets to tinker with shiny new toys.
The other girls of Black Hole Sun tolerate her because she mends and upgrades their gear, and her hacking skills get her into places that they otherwise couldn’t go. That’s just fine by her. While she’s no great shakes in combat, she rather likes field work, as it gives her the opportunity to field-test her new gadgets. She has a number of speciality weapons that are easily modified and upgraded, as well as a small starfighter that is highly customable at very short notice, one that she can rig for a specific battle in minutes rather than hours or even days. Of which we shall discuss at a later date
As an Outlaw Tech, Aphra prefers to tinker and jury-rig and otherwise endlessly modify, rather than invent from scratch. She can build things from a schematic, or even just off the top of her head, making it up as she goes along… but she prefers to work with what she has, making it much better than it was before. She also oversees and upgrades Savan’s personal fleet, as well as the ships belonging to the Veiled Sorority, making sure the mismatched pirate fleets are well-equipped to take on the might of the Empire or the Zann Consortium. On those rare occasions when she bothers to talk politics, she admits to a dislike of the Systems Alliance and a marked preference for Tarkin’s Imperium. She doesn’t elaborate, and doesn’t seem to particularly hate aliens, being casually dismissive of humans equally.
She also likes to make use of various technological implements in battle, from rivet guns to arc-welders or hydrospanners – it’s amazing what performance a skilled weaponsmith can coax out of industrial tools when you violate the manufacturer’s warranty and safety protocols
Something Really Scary
Aika Ulnar frowned slightly as she tapped in the codes to the Alliance database. Perhaps only half-a-dozen people had access to this sealed information, the very core of the Systems Alliance protocols.
This is where all the skeletons are buried, she mused to herself. I’ve buried some here myself.
She was skilled in using the ancient machines, and swiftly discovered what she was looking for. The name of the planet jumped right out at her: Dantooine. Aika didn’t believe in coincidences. Something was happening, and she didn’t know what. She intended to find out.
“My lady? You asked to speak with me in private?”
She looked up, absently turning the database off as she rose to greet her visitor, here in the private rooms of her flagship. Ben Kenobi was still a handsome man, though most of the gold had turned to grey. He was still a warrior, still vital though no longer young. They had that much in common, she mused. She reflected that she would have gladly entertained him in her private sanctum, but he had turned down even Kirana. He clung to the past, to his lost Selonian woman. Even Aika knew better than to try her luck with him.
“You know why I have called you here?” she asked.
He mused for a moment.
“Dantooine, I would assume,” he grimaced slightly. The memory of it still hurt him. The only failure, disastrous as it was, of the Emergent Project that they had placed so much faith in. Ten years ago, a frightened girl pupil had torn her tutor and her classmates apart in a telekinetic display of ferocious intensity. And against all odds, had somehow escaped and made her way off-world and into legend. He hadn’t been there, but he had lost good friends, some of the original Emergents he had personally trained. High Command had buried it, physically and officially, pretended it never happened. Fewer each year remembered it, and those who did were sworn to secrecy at the highest level. The Valouri girl had never been found; not officially at least. The last intel placed her in the employ of their allies in the Shadow Collective, working for Savan Sizhran. He had heard tales of outlying settlements burned to the ground at half a dozen planets; gungans, lothar, bardottans. Women and children butchered where they stood. The order was to watch and wait; he hated realpolitik, and wished it didn’t concern him. But someone was collecting lost Jedi artefacts, and it was clearly driving the demons within this girl. But his hands were tied.
Aika nodded slowly. “Yes. Specifically Shaela Rann.”
She walked slowly, in the dim light of her private garden. Overhead, the majesty of the space-scape shone, the glowing nebula of the Hydian Way. He followed her dutifully.
“The latest admission and graduate of the Emergent Project,” she mused. “Not a child; a grown woman in her mid to late twenties. Several years service at the highest level. Designated an ‘Ace’, someone born with ‘twitch’ reflexes beyond what normal humans would have… but she was tested, and showed no signs of Force sensitivity…”
“That’s unusual, but not unheard of,” he told her. “Sensitivity can develop later; sometimes it’s unnoticed in childhood, but manifests later in life, often under stress or duress. For millennia, the Jedi have attempted to harness the secrets of early discovery of sensitivity… to little avail,” he scoffed. There was little love left, she mused.
“But an otherwise exemplary pilot makes a standard supply pick-up on Dantooine, of all places… and several months later, manifests biotic abilities for the very first time. I don’t believe in coincidence, Ben.”
He nodded slowly. “Nor I, my lady.”
They were silent for a time.
“The facility was thoroughly dismantled,” she said slowly. “Wardings were placed. You personally did all you could to… quell the energies that were unleashed that day.”
He shrugged. “Places of great death – be they battlefields, murder sites… often exhibit anxiety in sensitives. The Dark Side is strong there; such places can even become vergences, sites of dark power…”
“So tell me, Ben: is Dantooine haunted?” she asked.
He shook his head.
“No,” he said, but not with his usual surety. “Not, at least, that I could see. But nothing about the Force is fully understood, not even by the Jedi or the Sith. Some swear to have seen ‘ghosts’ – spirits that linger…”
“Do you believe them?”
“I have never seen it myself… Those who swore they have seen such, some of them I hold in high esteem and would trust their word. They most certainly believed they saw something.”
He sighed. “The Jedi… there are rumours… of what some of the ancient masters did, fearing death… Stories. There is no proof of it.”
“You did not know the specifics?”
“I was a general,” he said wryly. “A warrior. I fought, I led their clone troops. I wasn’t privy to the secrets of the High Masters. Any more than your generals know your own mind, my lady.”
She smiled slightly at that.
“And so… a highly decorated pilot, a fully-grown woman not given to flights of fancy, makes a brief stop on a mission to Dantooine, and… what, Ben? You tell me. She exhibits Force powers, and claims to have a voice that speaks in her head? A young child, a girl? She claims to know Kandria Valouri, who’s very existence and identity is known to perhaps a dozen people in the galaxy? Is she possessed?”
"There’s no easy answer to that… As well you know.”
“Many Sensitives are… eccentric. Being so connected to the Force… it requires a tremendous dedication to stay focused. Even for me. Those who become Sensitive later in life… even more so.”
He sighed. “The Jedi spend their lives in seclusion, learning and honing the arts. Shaela Rann had a six month crash course, and we called it good because now she can fight better and break Imperial craft like children’s toys. Of course there will be scars.”
He shook his head. “I don’t disagree with the Project. Even after Dantooine. We have no choice. One half-trained Emergent isn’t the equal of a Jedi… but they can break a lot of enemy ships. Win a lot of battles. But let us not kid ourselves there won’t be some burnouts and mental damage involved. I’m grateful that Dantooine was our only catastrophe to date…!”
“You examined and trained her yourself?”
“You’ve read the reports, Aika. She’s strong-willed, and graduated with above-average capabilities. She needs years, even decades of careful training to reach her peak. But if we absolutely have to throw her into battle immediately, she’ll cope reasonably well.”
“So explain what we’re seeing here?”
“She landed planetside on a supply drop, a continent away from the facility. She doesn’t even know it ever existed.”
“But she knows the name of Kandria Valouri, and apparently she’s channelling one of the girls who died there. I want answers.”
“I don’t have any,” he said quietly. “If she is… haunted, possessed… whatever you’re implying… there’s nothing I can sense. She’s no more attuned to the Dark Side than any of the other adepts we put on a crash-course and then send out to kill for us.”
She sensed the anger simmering beneath the surface. He took this loss personally, she knew.
“I have lived with the Force all my life,” he said, at length. “It is... home to me. It is natural to me. It is like my own flesh and blood. And I know enough to understand I will never fully understand it...”
“And my life has always been shadowed by it,” Aika said softly. “I… I often envied my daughter… all the power at her command… but I feared for her too. It’s something… ancient… it allows us to toy with it… Flirt with it, perhaps… But it was here long before we were, and will be here long after we are gone. And it cares for us not at all.”
Far away, in the empty barracks of Whisper Base, Shaela Niklas-Rann looked up into empty space.
“Hey girl, what’s up? Where you been?”
She sucked on the long strand of straw, the one that reminded her of the farm on Saxet. “How’s our friend doin’? Good, yew say?”
“What’s that? Do I wanna see somethin’ rilly scary…? Shure, honey. Show me.”