“I’m sure you can do it for 10” Dash suggested, flashing a smile. “You’ll put our people off coming”.
The dockmaster scrunched his face in protest, but grudgingly agreed, scurrying off to organise the refuelling. Dash did not wait for him to change his mind, leaving the Lasat to sort out the Custodian as he made his way outside the starport.
It had been an empty threat perhaps; the Order could hardly refuse to help those in need. But the dockmaster did not need to know that. Besides, the Knight had burnt over half his fuel travelling this far out. He was not about to lose all his credits too.
Dash stepped out into the street, the dry arid air hitting him like a dragon’s breath. Lasan was hot, that much he had learned already. From what the locals told him, this particular dry spell was unusually harsh. It had decimated the local crops and risked triggering a famine that would sweep the region.
People lost their senses when they were hungry. Lost themselves. Dash had seen it happen on more than one world. The Order had to act fast if they were to help here. If they could get food to the Lasat they could save many lives and perhaps even make a few friends here along the way.
The Custodian’s cargo hold was full of food and supplies for distribution by the local authorities, but Dash dared not try to move them until his companion arrived. The thin drawn faces of passes by revealed how desperate these people were. They would need discretion and tact to get the supplies to the local governor without risking a riot.
Izel wasn't sure why Master Demeric had sent her ahead to notify the honor guard escort of their arrival. She was certainly no diplomat, and the Lasat seemed none too eager to have the strange looking insectoid alien here at all given the stares they threw her way. The only reason she had agreed to go on this mission at all was because she had a readily available knowledge of agriculture that she thought might prove of use. She had no desire to walk into a hostile environment. Yet here she was. At least the honor guard behaved professionally. Not staring at her and remaining upright and machine-like as they marched with her in formation back to the starport.
The civilians on the other hand only seemed to be getting more rowdy. It was clear that they knew something was up with the unusual Jedi presence and tensions were not being helped by the military's arrival. She heard suspicious murmurs among the crowd, and could feel their anger and desperation growing. This wasn't looking good...
Upon returning to the starport and spotting Dash the young Vratix quickly scurried up to him, instinctively reaching out to brush a hand along his arm as she spoke urgently. "The governor is ready to receive us now," She said, the fear plain in her voice. "I suggest we move quickly. We don't seem to have a very favorable reputation here..." She would hope the knight would take charge of the situation with reassuring calm. This was not a good place to be stuck with a teacher lacking confidence and decisiveness. Behind her the honor guard stood at attention, their faces neutral and their form statuesque. They seemed ready for a fight.
Shal could feel the draught in the air, the lack of moisture in it and the sun itself he could feel bearing down him as he absorbed it's light, for him food wouldn't be a problem, staying hydrated would be.
"Then see this as an opportunity to improve that reputation, padawan" spoke a voice from the cargo ramp, standing there was a tree-like being standing a good foot and half above the Vratix and more so above the human.
"I am knight Urlu" he spoke again with a jovial smile "I was sent to help make sure the supplies go to those whom need them the most, so I must ask why aren't giving food out here, directly, to those we see starving in front of us?" Shal's speech was slow but methodical, every word carefully considered before being said. He didn't see a reason to add extra steps to this process and it would quell the desperation in these people, now.
Dash was pleased to see Izel had brought the honor guard back with her. He had hoped the traditional security force would be a reassuring presence for the locals and lend legitimacy to the Jedi's efforts. The fact the Padawan had returned with a detachement of six guards was a very welcome sign.
"Great, good work" he replied, glancing momentarily at Izel's hand on his arm. He had not worked with her before now, but she was certainly a curious soul. Her gentle familiarity was totally at odds with her intimidating physical appearance. "We need to get to the governor as soon as possible". He motioned to the lead guardsman, "form a perimeter for-"
A new voice cut across Dash's instructions and he turned to find a second large character. Knight Urlu would have the look of a two-trunked tree to most, but Dash was well-travelled enough to recognise one of the Neti. He was a Jedi alright, but again not one Dash had met before.
"I share the urge to see these people fed" he said after a long pause "but you're right that we need to get our limited supplies to those who need them most. The regional governor is the authority here; he will know the Lasat's needs better than us".
The Knight hoped Urlu could see the bigger picture. Though he respected long-lived races like the Neti on instinct, he couldn't agree with handing out food here and now. There could be an even more urgent need just over the next rise. Besides, it was not for the Order to interfere in a sovereign people's internal affairs; the Lasat would decide how to distribute the aid.
"Stan" Dash called, glancing past Urlu to the stevedore droid at the top of the ramp. "Bring the supplies down and stay with them". The droid was quick to respond, activating the hover trolley loaded with cargo crates and guiding it down the ramp.
The Knight risked a glance up and down the street, again motioning to the honor guard to form an escort around the supplies.
Dash glanced at both Izel and Urlu. "Shall we get going?"
Izel was quite surprised and intrigued by the Neti before her, a species she had very little knowledge of. She started to move forward to touch the strange creature but stopped herself as Master Demeric spoke. She quickly nodded along with his conclusion.
"I agree with Master Demeric," She said respectfully to the newly arrived Jedi Knight. "Our mission is not simple charity but to see to it Lasan is recovered from this famine. Resources are precious few and we can't just hand them out to the first hungry faces we see. We must ensure the supplies are used to revitalize the crops, so that the whole community may be fed." She looked over her shoulder at the gathering crowd outside. "Not to mention... The people here are very much on edge. If we start handing out food we could potentially start a riot." She looked expectantly between the two knights, still somewhat nervous herself. She hoped that they could lead her through this place without falling victim to the mob. She came here to help the farmers, not fight starving innocents.
Shal understood their reasoning but he knew that these people were still people, no matter how desperate they were but he would go with the consensus, as he merely wanted them to consider their actions before doing them, as it is important to know why you are doing what you are doing.
"I understand and will follow behind"
Shal would wait until the Repulser trolley passed him and walk a few meters behind it using his height advantage to get a full view of the situation around the trolley. should he need to intervene in a situation whatever should that be, though he hoped things wouldn't resort to violence and thing would go peacefully.
Dash was pleased the others saw the sense in his approach. He was no utilitarian, but they had to keep the broader picture in mind and not be distracted by the emotional scenes in the street. Padawan Thral seemed to agree and Urlu, while less committal, also took up his station at the rear of the group.
The Jedi nodded to the honour guard captain and their small band began to head out, heading north up from the street from the starport. The governor had arranged to meet with them at the Regional Granary, where their goods could be secured and distributed. It was on the far side of the settlement.
The main drag was narrow, with high-sided buildings on either side, some fronted with stalls selling what little produce remained. The pathway was thick with people, most of them sullen and emaciated from the sweeping famine. They watched the cargo convoy pass by, dead eyes looking knowingly at the supplies on the trolley.
Some of the Lasat were slow to move aside and one the honour guards exchanged harsh words with a couple up ahead.
Suddenly, Dash’s senses flared in warning and a rock the size of a dinner plate when sailing past his head. "Look out!" he shouted. Other items followed, small chunks of rubble thrown from the back of the crowd. One of the honour guard was struck on his helmet and staggered, being held up by a comrade. Three of the others hurried into the crowd to apprehend the culprits even as the trolley kept moving forward. Dash drew closer to Stan, feeling a duty to protect the stevedore droid from any more missiles from the desperate.
They were still moving, but things didn’t feel good.
Izel kept her Force senses on high alert as they began the long march to the granary, she didn't want any surprises. The young Padawan could feel the misery and desperation of the crowd. It was something hard to ignore. She felt a rising urge to go along with Master Urlu's original suggestion and give something to them, even something from her own supplies. But she forced these thoughts down and stuck to the plan.
But as they moved on she felt something begin to rise and fester in the Lasat around them. Anger, envy, hatred. Something very bad was about to happen. Even before Dash voiced his warning Izel ducked, barely avoiding a rock as it was hurled towards her. More came soon after, but she reacted quickly, knocking them aside with her staff. The attacks kept coming. She saw one of the honor guard get hit, and three of their allies separate into the crowd.
"Wait!" She shouted, and then looked towards Dash, the fear rising in her. "Master Demeric?" She asked, clearly lost on what to do next. It was clear just continuing on their current path wouldn't end well if the mood of the crowd continued to deteriorate and their allies became divided.
The situation was quickly becoming out control, as the crowd was turning againest them and pelting them with rocks, a few of which struck Shal, though he was fazed little as they make contact with bark that was his skin though he certainly felt them hit.
Not seeking to hurt the crowd, Shal closed his eyes and raised his hand, around the group surrounding the trolley the wind began to pick up, quickly turning into a whipping whirlwind, pick up the dust from the ground and obscuring the vision between the crowd and the escort. For those inside the cyclone, it was relatively calm much like in the eye of a storm.
"I should be able to keep this up until we reach the granary should we need but if so one of you will need to help guide the droid to are destination" he announced to the group. Hopefully, the display of this ability would dissuade the crowd from any further form violence.
The sudden appearance of a dust devil on top of the trolley scared the crowd, creating a stampede of people running from their location, something Shal hadn't expected.