Spies Like Us
Re: Spies Like UsKix Davin returned to the same booth and leaned his back against the plush seating and closed his eyes, oblivious to the commotion that was going on in the tavern. When he opened them, he spotted Val'kia retreating into her office, eyeing the trails of tears that trickled down her hot cheeks. Davin remained motionless for several long moments, then spotted another woman enter. It was the same woman that was here prior, and looking at her features again, he noticed she was an officer. Her stance and demeanor screamed of <I>Imperial</I> and he was sure she spotted him as well.
He felt bad that Val's co-worker perished in the fight. He wished he could had done something to prevent that tragedy from happening, but his priority was in saving his friend. Yeah, Nash wasn't very smart in engaging the Trandos in hand-to-hand combat, but that's how he was. He just hoped Nash would get patched up enough to at least enjoy another drink before he left. The officer pulled his comlink out again and looked at it, still dumbfounded on why the interference was so bad here.
<I>Well, might as well make some conversation while Nash gets looked at,</i> he concluded, pulling his sore body out of the booth and approaching the woman. He sat across for her and introduced himself.
Her name was Wing Commander Jordan Lane and she flew with the Black Paladins. Kix was impressed, especially with a woman among their ranks. She appeared to be working on filing some report.
"Stupid thing won't work," she said through tight lips, her emotions at war with themselves. She needed to let them vent, and Kix provided a convienient target.
"What's wrong? Your datapad not working?" Kix inquired.
Jordan didn't release her grip on the pad, though she relaxed a little. "I'm trying to submit this report but it seems the interference around this place is preventing me from making any contact."
"There's something jamming this thing," she spat. "And I want answers."
Kix looked around to see if anyone had heard her complaint. Satisfied that they were still undiscovered, he replied, "I'm having the same problem with my comlink. I think I may have to investigate this." He raised an eyebrow. "I think I will have a small squad of stormtroopers dispatched here to keep the peace, which will keep our little owner distracted. I can then see what really is behind all this interference. No one will protest the presence of our troops, especially after this incident."
She nodded in agreement. Kix smiled and stood up. "Good. In the meantime, keep working on it and I'll step outside to check on Nash and establish contact since there's no interference out there."
Something illicit was going on, and he was going to find out. Kix stepped out into the outdoors again, brushing against the tough fringer on the way.
Re: Spies Like UsIt wasn't much of a brush, but it was enough to send a stabbing pain through the blaster burn in his side.
"You know, You Imps are supposed to be changed. Not the ruthless Clones Palpatine used to overthrow the republic. You'd think you could apologies for that."
The Imperial stopped and turned around. it appeared he was going to say something, but Soroba, the Dug had stopped pacing around the bar and was now moving into position to cover Vortan.
It was obvious that Kixwas sizing up the situation, but Erc never let him decide what to do. "I guess somethings don't change. No wonder Transport rates are up in Imperial sectors. Keep it up, maybe I'll be able to retire sooner then I was planning. Besides, I love the thrill of the chase." ERc Stood, nodded toward Si, "You got my comm Freq. Call me in the morning, I meant what I said about helping with any arrangements." And then walked by the Imp. with a snot, the Dug fell in behind him, and both left the HyperDive far behind for the night.
It wasn't far that the two had to travel, but they took their time getting there. Both Spacers walked into one of the many alleys that crossed over the entire Moon. This one had the advantage of being one level up, but separated from he HyperDive by a deep Valley of a airspeeder transit route. The site had been picked cause it did give a clear view of the front of the Hyperdive.
Vortan removed the Droid caller from his gun belt, and activated it. With the slight buzzing, what previously looked like a simple metal container suddenly broke open. the top popped forward and lowered along with the front of the box. Both sides also folded flat. The rear had been up against the wall, and couldn't move. As the box opened, an old Trade Federation Battledroid was suddenly coming to life. but unlike the battledroids of old, this one had a dark grey finish, with red "eyes" The standard Battledroid pack had been replaced, this one having 2 tubes leaving the top of the pack, and leading into the base of the Droid's neck. This is what housed the new droid brain. The one that allowed this battledroid to operate without a droid control ship. strapped to it's left "thigh" was a holster, a blaster of some sort sitting neatly in it. a cut down blaster rifle was attached to it's right let, and when the droid completely unfolded, the rifle was in it's hands.
"Nice placement Tiny. Glad to see the container works too. Good Job Soroba. OK, Mission for you Tin head. You are on recon. round the clock. Keep an eye on the Hyperdive. record all comings and goings. And report in to the "Claw's" computer every 3 hours. Emergency buzz for immediate attention if it's out of the ordinary.. You are under orders not to interfere with anything, unless The dug or I instruct you too."
"Roger, Roger" The droid then took a step toward the drop off, and then knelt there. Unlike a living being, the droid would never become uncomfortable, and never move, unless ordered to do so.
"OK, you and I are going back to the ship. IO wanna check the "Claw" out and make sure we are ready to lift off if needed. I have a feeling we'll be heading out to the Graveyard."
"Yes Sir. What was that all about anyway? Why get involved in that fight. It wasn't our fight."
"No, it wasn't but fellow ship captains were involved, and a friend of mine works there. You remember Sionne. I'm not sure what's going on here, but I also wanna see how good some of my old connections with the New Republic are. Time to do a little snooping of my own. After I change this Bacta Patch of course."
Re: Spies Like UsSagging wearily against the side of the turbolift, Val felt as if her limbs were filled with duracrete as she tried to for the third time to place her hand on the biometric scanner that would allow access to her own living quarters. “Finally” she groaned as the lift door slid open to reveal the neat, yet sparely furnished living room.
Walking into the apartment's bedroom, she glanced at her bed and thought for a moment about just collapsing onto it and giving in to oblivious sleep. But even in the state of inebriation she was currently wrapped in she knew she needed to wash away the blood, Cris’ blood, from her body. After undressing she carried her ruined clothing into the kitchen and over to the small door set in one wall that led to the trash incinerator chute and dumped everything in.
With that done, the woman made her way to the refresher, turned on the water as hot as she could stand it and stepped under the spray. After scrubbing for what seemed like forever, she rinsed off the pink-tinged lather and stepped back out to dry. Catching her reflection in the mirror, Val almost didn’t recognize the woman staring back at her. She hadn’t taken anything this hard since Diric had been killed. Another in a line of senseless deaths she'd had to deal with over the years.
Dragging herself back into the bedroom, Navin finally allowed herself to fall on the bed and as she moved to grab the coverlet the painting on the wall across from her bed caught her eye. The portrait had been painted by Cris and given to her as a gag gift of sorts for her last birthday. Done in a very provocative style, Val had laughed uproariously when she’d unwrapped it and told those present that they better get a good look now, because it was only going to be seen by those allowed in her bedroom after that night. Meaning Val’kia alone. The sight of it brought a fresh wave of anguish and she turned her back toward the painting, pulled the coverlet over her head and fell asleep within minutes.
Re: Spies Like UsNash was finally awake as Kix approached his friend from leaving the confines of the <I>HyperDive</I>, the comlink still toying in his hand. A Two-One-Bee medical droid was addressing the seated Imperial soldier as one of its appendages attended to his wounds. As the medication in the hypospray was applied to his left shoulder to course through his veins, it did wonders to his constitution; he could feel the shock and trauma ebbing away as the medication soothed him. The slashes and cuts still ached on his skin, but it was nothing he couldn't endure for a few minutes more.
The medical droid produced a scapel to cut away the sleeve of Nash's shirt, then went to work on his other injuries. Kix winced at the sight of his friend's expensive wardrobe going under the knife. The poor guy was saving to wear that shirt until shoreleave. Now, all that anticipation had gone to waste. Not that it mattered anyway– the shirt was already tattered after the fight. Nash could blame it on the Trandos.
"How you doing?" Kix asked, kneeling down to face his friend.
"I'll live," Nash muttered, "just a few scratches." He bit down on his lip as the droid applied antiseptic on the open wound. He tasted his own blood upon his tongue.
"Hurts like hell I bet…" Kix noticed. "Well, if you're up for it, I'll be at the 'Dive. I'll even buy you a drink."
A wry smile played at Nash's lips. "You better."
"Of course," Kix mirrored his expression. "But after I call down the 181st to secure this area."
"Bringing our boys?" Nash rose an eyebrow.
"Something funny is going on here, Nash," Kix declared. "My comlink won't work near the place, but only when I'm away from it. I need to get to the bottom of that. As well, I don't want another incident with these low-life aliens."
"Excuse me, sir," the droid interrupted. The appendage pressed the tip of a hypospray against Nash's bare bicep. "This will help with the pain." The injection stung momentarily, but the bald, goateed trooper soon felt its analgesic effect.
"I better leave you alone for now." Kix rose to his feet. "I'll be back at the Dive after the 181st arrive. I'll call them down now." He rose the comlink in a gesture, then left to a clear area to open communications.
<B>One hour later.</b>
A <I>Sentinel</i>-class assault shuttle descended down upon one of the landing platforms on the <I>Hyperdive's</i> level, and settled down, quickly disgorging a small squad of helmeted, armed stormtroopers. Their motivation was simple, their methodology straightforward: keep order and secure the area. It had already been pursued with great success on many worlds, ever since the Galactic Empire had made their presence and determination known to the rest of the developed galaxy. Implacable and humorless, they surged eagerly out of the assault craft, responding to the directives of their squad leaders as they fanned out across the platform in formation.
Lt. Cmdr. Kix Davin was waiting at the foot of the platform, hands clasped behind his back and standing in rigid parade stance; the olive-drab uniform and cap straightened, but stained from the night's events.
"Men of the 181st, I have ordered you down here to secure this level from any trouble as our officers conduct shoreleave in this area," he announced. "As of one hour ago, an incident had occured in which one of our officers was injured, and a human death resulted from an alien attack. As of this moment, your squad leaders will dispatch you on a rotational patrol to secure this level from any more future incidents.
As always, if any suspicious activity is noted that would compromise the security of our fellow officers on shoreleave, you will arrest and detain for questioning. That is all."
The squad leaders in orange shoulder pauldrons quickly took command of their squads and began to fan out across the platform toward the streets.
Kix checked his chrono. There was still time to have another drink at the 'Dive, so he would return there and announce the good news to Val. He would assume she would be content to know that her level and her establishment would now be secure under Imperial vigilance.
He began his route toward the <I>Hyperdive</i>.
Re: Spies Like UsSleep may have come to her quickly, but it didn't last. Even with the self-prescribed soporific of Corel Distilleries' finest, the insomnia that had plagued Navin for most of her adult life kicked in. The nightmares didn't help either.
After tossing and turning futilely trying to reclaim the state of sleep Val had finally given in and crawled out of bed, pulling on a dressing gown before she made her way to the small kitchen to make some tea. Walking back into her bedroom, cup in hand, Val stepped over to her closet and opened the door. Reaching inside she fumbled around a bit until her fingers brushed over a small square recessed area that slid open at her touch. As in the turbolift, it took more than one attempt before the security system would recognize her right to preliminary access of the small safe hidden well within the closet wall.
Once she heard the confirmation tone, Val pushed aside the clothing hanging from the rod and placed her right hand against the now exposed secondary biometric security scanner. The panel indicator light flashed green once the scan was complete and the locking mechanism within disengaged. A small stack of datacards off to one side was what Val was after and she took them out and shuffled through them until she found the one she needed. After replacing the remaining cards back inside the safe she closed it up and reactivated the security measures. Picking up her mug of tea, Val carried it along with the datacard and her secured reader into the living room.
After sliding the card into its slot she entered a series of alphanumeric codes to decrypt the file within. Skipping over the things she already knew about the subject of the file as she sat there curled up on the sofa, Val stopped scrolling once she reached the part that she’d hoped to never be the one to have to access and utilize. Cristoph Denson’s last will and testament. Since he’d named Val executor of his estate, she’d made sure a copy was included in his personnel file along with all the other routine data you’d expect to find.
Cris had no surviving family, so at least she would be spared writing the “We regret to inform you” letter. There were still the funereal arrangements to make though, which Val intended to follow to the letter of Denson’s request. She’d have to claim his body from the morgue some time tomorrow, have his remains cremated, then have Sionne take the ashes to Coruscant then on to The Graveyard of the remnants of Alderaan. Cris had done the same thing for his own father, rest his soul, just two years earlier after he’d died from cancer. As much as she wanted to be the one to take him there herself, Val had the responsibility of running the station as well as serving as case officer for any of NRI’s solo special operatives that were running around various parts of the galaxy whom she had to be available for in case of emergency.
The property Denson had left to bequeath was rather modest. His artwork and other results of his creative endeavors he’d left to Val, with the exception of three works he wanted Alema to have since she’d admired them greatly. A small collection of exotic weaponry were to be given to Sionne and a few rare pieces of Alderaani artifacts were to go to the benefit of the Galactic Museum on Coruscant.
Val gave a deep sigh as she looked over the words again. How many times had she dealt with the death of those she’d served with? And how many more would there be to come?
She needed to pull herself together. Phaeden would have loved to pull her ass out of service and though she’d thought of taking Haddon up on his offer to find her a place in the Administration section of NRI, Val knew she didn’t belong in that environment. Her place was out in a field station, any field station, even this so-called dump of a moon that she considered home for now. She had operatives both here on-station and out in the who-knows-where who relied on her to “Mother” them. Operatives that those like Phaeden would risk and leave hanging in a heartbeat if it served the interest of the New Republic’s political machinations, something Val refused to let happen with what limited power she had.
She ran her thumb over the image of Cris Denson’s serious official file holo and whispered. “Sorry, old friend. You deserved better than this” then shut the reader off, finished her tea, and walked back into the bedroom. Tomorrow there would be so much to do. Seeing to Cris, arranging for Maddren at the Corellian Sector Spaceport for storage of the injured smuggler’s ship, getting the “Dive back open for business. Right now she just wanted to try that elusive sleep thing once more.
Re: Spies Like UsRinehart tilted his head down so as to let the water from the shower nozzle hit the back of his neck. Finally, a chance to wash the accumulated grime off of him. Idly, he wondered if he should shave, but decided against it, recalling the last time he had had to use the dull blade. Damn! he thought, an image of Val’kia Navin forming in his head, why don’t we ever get spies like that where I work?
Back in the rude flat that he was to call home for who knew how long, Rinehart was toweling his head dry when the com unit in his room suddenly chimed. That which is never supposed to ring, has now rung, he mused, then with a shrug, picked up the receiver.
“News stand called. Said they have that edition of the Corellian Times you wuz askin’ about. Says you need to come in right away to pick it up.”
In less than two minutes Rinehart was fully dressed and heading back out into the Nar Shaddaa night.
“Corellian Times, Drall language edition?” Rinehart asked as he entered Joban’s News Stand. “Right this way sir,” the proprietor said, motioning to a back room. After shutting the door, the man activated an interference field to block any potential eavesdroppers, then turned to face Rinehart. “It seems that is a situation that has arisen. There was a bit of a disturbance at the Hyperdive earlier tonight and now we have a batch of stormtroopers moving in on our operation. Last thing we need is for them to muck it up.”
“And it falls on me to keep them from doing that. Fair enough. Back up?”
“Not anymore.” In response to Rinehart’s raised brow, the man elaborated: “We had some Trandoshans we put on retainer. ‘Bout all they’ll be useful for now is belts and shoes. We can track the stormtroopers for you, but that’s all the support we can give you for now. And take this.” Rinehart rolled his eyes as his fellow spy held up a long coat and broad-brimmed hat. Cloak and dagger stuff; he’s got to be joking. The Luxan blaster pistol that was pressed into his hand was no joke however, nor the small data wafer he was given. “You’d best memorize that code there. I’d hate to see what’s left of you if you say it wrong.”
Lurking in the shadows, Rinehart was constantly scanning the traffic and pedestrian lanes when his comlink faintly buzzed. “Kislev!” a voice hissed, “Coming right toward you!” “I see him,” Rinehart murmured, instantly picking out the figure in the dim lights. It was all but impossible to miss: the erect posture and the confident swagger that marked an officer of Imperial military. The figure seemed to project an aura of confidence and menace, as beings of all species hastened to get out of his way. Arming his pistol and with his hat pulled down low, Rinehart moved into the crowd, angling toward the Imperial officer, and just as he passed, Rinehart suddenly pivoted to bring himself directly behind man. “Keep walking,” the ISB agent said as he put his blaster pistol between the officer’s shoulder blades. “Get your hands out away from you, and go where I tell you to.”
As Rinehart forced the Imperial officer along, passerbys regarded him with looks of amazement, pity, and anger: amazement, for no one could be so stupid as to try to strong-arm an Imperial officer and think he could get away with it; pity, for they knew what was going to happen to the fool that tried; and anger, since they knew Imperial retribution was swift and merciless and would fall hardest upon them.
Entering a dank alleyway, Rinehart had the man keep moving forward till they were out of sight of the main drag. “That’s enough,” he said, noting that the man’s body language was showing that he analyzing, calculating, and readying himself for an attack on Rinehart. “You’re a dead man,” the officer suddenly stated flatly, cold and without emotion. “Probably,” Rinehart conceded, “but in the meantime, you’re going to call your troops off.” That made the man pause only for a fraction of a second, and Rinehart used that opportunity to suddenly bark out:
“AT-3 Directive! Code Sigma-Alpha-Epsilon-Actual!”
The transformation that the officer underwent left Rinehart fascinated and just a little bit terrified. The man now stood ramrod straight, eyes staring directly ahead, his face betraying nothing. What sort of conditioning do these men go through? With a mere coded order, they are turned into . . .
“Lt. Commander,” Rinehart said, taking note of the man’s rank badge, “you will order the recall of your stormtrooper detachments. All operations against the establishment known as the Hyperdive are to be terminated and you are to return to your base of operations. Are these orders understood, Lt. Commander?” Rinehart sucked in his breath, clutching his pistol and waiting for the officer’s reaction . . .
Re: Spies Like UsKix Davin stared at the Imperial agent for a long time before he spoke. <I>The Empire has been conducting an operation here and none of us were notified?</i> None of the commanding officers aboard the Star Destroyer had told them that any operation was being conducted before they went on shoreleave. Usually they would, so the officers off-duty would avoid certain areas so that any ISB affairs would continue without interference. This time, though, something was amiss and no one was informed. <I>Wouldn't be the first time ISB had done this…</I>
<I>Then again, we don't know this, so would an order from him matter? Does he even have any jurisdiction over us? Or even over Admiral Dodonna?</i> He would have to play this hand right.
The code words he spoke immediately verified he was with the ISB, so to question him would be considered a bad move. The only other option Kix could do was to acknowledge this superior and do as he is ordered.
"Orders acknowledged and understood," Kix said, almost tripping over the words. "I had no idea the Empire was conducting a seperate operation on the same establishment I was going to investigate."
"This operation must not be compromised," he breathed. "You or your men attempt at any interference and there will be consequences." Even though he spoke in whispers, there was no mistaking the chill in his tone.
"Yes, sir," Kix answered after a brief pause. "I will recall the stormtrooper detachment once the area is secure. It will take some time as they have all been dispatched to their posts."
Kix pondered on saluting him and leaving to do as ordered, but his curiosity had gotten the better of him. Thinking he had nothing to lose, he cleared his throat and challenged him. "Sir. You are aware if you order me to recall our off-duty officers and return to our ship, I will have to submit a report as to why this shoreleave was botched. This being the case, my superior, Admiral Dodonna, <I>will</I> have to be notified of this incident and of this operation you are conducting here on Nar Shaddaa <I>without</I> his apparent knowledge."
The agent didn't know what to make of the Lt. Cmdr's pronouncement. His face remained expressionless and rigid as the pistol was still leveled at him.
Kix continued. "I think we can resolve this if shoreleave wasn't cancelled and I just simply recall my troops after a brief security inspection of the area to rid of any… alien threats. You can then conduct your operation at your leisure." A smirk tugged at Davin's face. "Surely, I don't think you would want an <I>incident</I> to ensue with a Star Destroyer above orbit– run by a warlord Admiral who doesn't know your operation exists?"
He now played his hand– he just hoped this agent didn't have pure sabacc when he retorted.
Re: Spies Like UsErc Sat in the excuse for an infirmary that he maintained on the Claw. It wasn't much, some Bacta treatment capabilities, but no Tank to completely dunk someone. Not that he needed that this time. Definitely good enough to handle the burn on his flank. He changed the bandage, made sure there was enough bacta on it to keep infection away, and then went to check out the vest. The hole was not that bad, simple enough to fix, and he knew the person on the moon to do it. He'd take care of that later. Good thing he kept a few vests in his quarters. All lightly armored. But Nothing over the top. Hell, even Stormtrooper grade armor didn't stop a good shot right onto it. Might as well be comfortable.
Walking up to the cockpit, ERc walked around the copilot/Nav Station to the single pilot's chair in the front of the cockpit. Unlike most Corellian designs, the YT-2000 had the pilot and copilot forward and rear, and offset. The Comm station had a blinking light, and Erc sat to get the message. Calling it to the main display station. It was text only, a reply of sorts to the inquire he sent out hours before, when he first returned to the Claw from the firefight.
"You have made an unauthorized transmission to New Republic Intelligence. Please refrain from further contact. There will be no more warnings"
"What the Frell! Derlin should have received this one, like everyone before. What's going on?"
Erc checked the message route, and confirmed he sent it right. Looks like his source has been found and plugged. "Frelling Cracken. Never liked me. Probably gets some pleasure out of doing things like this."
Erc then made a secure connection with Tiny, was briefed on the near nothingness going on there at first, then the arrival of Imperial troops. And a rapid deployment into the surrounding area. "Another heavy handed responce from your friendly neighborhood Empire remnant. Way to go guys. I'm surprised the locals aren't planning a new Battle of Nar Shaddaa with you guys as the target."
The interesting part was it seemed that the troops might be getting ready to leave the planet. but that was speculation. We'll see if it really happens.
Last thing Erc did before getting a first meal into him was to leave a Message for Sionne at the Hyperdive. and left his personal comm freq. so he'd be able to get him anywhere on the moon.
"Ok Soroba, let's eat. You're buying. I let you get the last Trando last night."
Re: Spies Like Us“I had no idea the Empire was conducting a separate operation on the same establishment I was going to investigate,” the stormtrooper officer said. Of course he didn’t know. Classified intelligence was shared only on a need to know basis. Broadcasting information about every covert op tended to negate the “secret” aspect of it, wouldn’t it? Not only that, it seemed like everyone under the sun wanted to try their hand in the intelligence game. A stormtrooper conducting an investigation. Stormtroopers were expected to crush enemy resistance; let intel work in the murky area of covert operations. Still, this man could be of use . . .
“This operation must not be compromised. You or your men attempt any interference and there will be consequences,” Rinehart said, his voice barely above a whisper but he inflected the tone with an unmistakable chill.
It seemed that the Lt. Commander would follow Rinehart’s orders, and notified the ISB agent that he would recall his detachments as soon as possible. Rinehart sensed that something was whirring in the man’s mind, as if curiosity had gotten the better of him. When the stormtrooper officer informed Rinehart that he would be required to inform his superior, the warlord admiral, Dodonna, Rinehart kept his face a cold, unemotional mask. The man then offered up a challenge to Rinehart, backed by the threat of a Star Destroyer’s firepower. Typical of the stormtrooper corps. Subtlety was never one of their strong points. Their idea of being discrete would be to use a torpedo sphere to bombard a planet instead of a Star Destroyer.
“No, the Admiral doesn’t know this operation exists, Commander, and he still isn’t going to know of its existence even after you return to your ship.
You were given an AT-3 directive, Commander. You are required to render all possible assistance to those who issued that directive. I need not remind you that that order binds and swears you to secrecy. However, you and your troopers can and will be of important use; as Rebel targets are identified, your men will have the honor of eliminating them.”
Rinehart allowed the stormtrooper officer to ponder those words, then continued: “And think twice if you decide not to heed my words, Commander. If Dodonna should turn his turbolasers on this planet, don’t think that the Hutts wouldn’t sell him out to the Alliance in a heartbeat. And the Ubiqtorate and the Bureau would do it even faster. It’s been done before, Commander. A Star Destroyer may be a powerful weapon of war, but unfortunately, the Alliance has been able to muster even greater strength. Their 5th Fleet, Commander, some 250 ships. I don’t think the warlord can survive those odds. And to think that a stormtrooper officer would be the bearer of ultimate responsibility.”
Abruptly, Rinehart holstered his pistol and turned to leave. “Finish your security inspection, and continue your shoreleave activities as usual. I
never said that your shoreleave should be curtailed in any case. The more things seem normal, then all the better. When your presence is needed, you will be contacted.”
Re: Spies Like UsThe silence that followed threatened to become tension. Kix said quickly. "As you wish. I will follow orders as stated by your AT-3 directive." His eyes appraised the ISB agent for a few seconds as he left and vanished in the direction he came from.
"ISB goons," he muttered, stepping away from where he was stopped and making his way toward the direction of the <I>Hyperdive</i> again. At least now the agent had confirmed his suspicions: there was something illicit going on at the tavern. Was Val'kia behind it? He shuddered to think that she was involved in any illegal activity, a kind and beautiful woman that she is. Then again, weren't all female agents who played the part beautiful?
Kix was sweating after a dozen steps; the air lay sodden and heavy, without a breath of movement. He took out his comlink and began to dictate orders to his squad units, telling them to only conduct security inspections of the area and nothing more. He then relayed in conclusion when inspections were finished to return to the landing platforms for immediate evac. There. That should keep the ISB agent happy for now until he emerged from out the shadows again to pester him with another order.
He watched the last of the medunits leave the area, which reminded him of where Nash might have went. Had he finally been released and was on the loose again? It would be nice to meet up with him at the bar again and let him know what is happening. Then again, there was that AT-3 directive. Damn.
Kix Davin entered into the cantina again in the same soiled uniform, straightening it again out of pure habit and adjusting his olive-drab cap. It was understandable that conversation didn't cease and heads turn to mark his progress. He could live with that. After all, he was here before. Sionne waved him over toward the bar counter.
As Kix made his way, the tender promptly began pouring liquids into a glass, building a swirly orange-and-blue concoction. He was pretty good, he noted. In a matter of moments, Sionne handed the drink to Kix. "On the tab," he said, his voice low and resonant.
Kix nodded. He took a long, slow, sip and savored it. The first drink after a light fight was the best. After a few more, you wouldn't care.
He had enough swallows to blunt the harsh ending to that night, then settled back onto the booth where he originally sat before, hoping to see Nash emerge back into the bar to join him again.
Until then, he would ponder on how this investigation was going to go down.
Re: Spies Like UsThe tears had dried, but the eyes looking back at Val in her mirror as she splashed cool water on her face were still reddened and puffy. "Frak it." Val sighed, "No one around I need to look pretty for anyway."
After changing into some comfortable clothing, the NRI station head made her way back downstairs to the cantina to check on her staff and anyone else that was still in the place.
Walking into the main room she spotted Sionne behind the bar chatting with the bearded man who had first helped Alec when the Trandos attacked the spacer. The Imperial officer, Davin, was seated at one of the booths nursing a drink and looking as tired as she felt. His eyes met Val's cooly before directing his gaze to the front door of the 'Dive. She didn't think much of it, chalking it up to fatigue and worry over the condition of his friend and fellow trooper.
Sionne's friend Vortan was nowhere in sight as Navin walked behind the bar and gave Idris a weary smile. "Si, I’m sorry about earlier." She told her second in command quietly. “I had no business taking this out on you.” The big man said nothing at first, just embraced his commander in a comforting hug and held her like that for a few moments. “It’s okay, Val.” He told her in a low voice. “I’d rather see you emotional over losing one of us than be some cold, unfeeling bitch who sees something like this happening as being part of the job.”
It makes being stuck on this rock and doing the job mean something. So ease up on yourself for once, will you.”
“Thank you Si” Val said gratefully giving him a hug in return. “Where’s Alema?”
“She’s upstairs. I told her to go home and get some sleep.” Si replied, pouring Val a much-needed cup of caf and handing it to her. “Here, you look like you really, really need this.”
Val took the cup and gave him another grateful smile. “Thanks, Si” She pulled the datapad out of her pocket and handed it to Idris. “I’d like you to look over the eulogy I wrote for Cris. I want to have some type of memorial service for him, before you take his ashes back home. If you and Ale’ have anything you want to do or say, please do.”
Cris left some things for you both in his will as well.” She continued. “Tomorrow, well later today actually, I’d wondered if you’d mind coming to Cris’ apartment with me and help me pack up some things he’d like taken to Coruscant to be donated to the Galactic Museum.
“You know, Vortan’s sent a message to me offering to provide transport services if you want him to.” Idris said. “I’d rather do that then take the Hard to Get just in case you or Ale’ needs it.” Seeing the face Val made at the mention of his former squadmate’s name he added. “Val, he’s really not that bad. And he more important, he can be trusted.”
Val gave him a rueful smile at reading her so well. “That guy just rubs me the wrong way. But I do appreciate his offer. Let me think about it first though.” She leaned against the bar, looking around the room at the few occupants engaged in their own preoccupations and chatting more with the lieutenant, mostly reminiscences about Cris. It was getting extremely late, but at least they would be closed to patrons for business this day.
day release trooper 1217 & the same muckThe streets looked somewhat cloudy. Hazy. Turning. Times extraordinarily intensive. Nash wasn’t so sure where he was, but he was walking on air. Familiar sight in Nar Shaddaa’s intrails—one more lone figure that’d seen better days. Just those with comparable injuries were normally down in the gutter, robbed and unlikely to see the next lighting up in the murky stench; Too many beings around were specialized on waste utilization.
This waste, however, was walking. And patched up to the state in which bodies plain simply don’t realize they ought to be dead, or somewhere close in the next sick-bed. The droid had protested, repeatedly pointing out it was a clear offence against his programming, and already the last shot had been an irresponsible dosis—Kix, however, knew his way with pails, as he knew Nash had kept on at him about a prematurely stopped shoreleave for months. At the very least. So by now the latter was on his way to the dive. No longer sentient, and grinning.
What again made him a suspicious view. Something, every onlooker sensed, was out of the order with this guy who walked the night in his torn jeans, ripped up shirt, swathed in bloodied bandage over both ears—and grinning. So even your average burger-devouring Quarren gave him a second glance before he stuffed the remaining food into his pocket.
Attracted by an animal scream and the noises of rubbish suddenly re-located the unit of troopers rounded the corner just in time to see… a zombie? .. rushing at a tentacled and actually pretty dumbfounded creature. Quick glance left and right, hemmed in between hunters in white and a ressurrected mental, the Quarren did what he wouldn’t admit to his chums. He was fast, and the armor not made to catch an Altagak running. A few stun bolts trailed behind. Of course, it appeared he had been attacked—yet you should never forget, he was tentacled.
Now as for the other freak? Obviously in no condition to quickly change his arrangements his insane run eventually ended—in a big heap of garbage. Lieutenant Noors grimaced under his visor. What the frell? And gestured to two of his troopers to gather in and examine the dude who, judging by his looks, must have been stealing glitterstim from a cantankerous Hutt’s private reserve. Two grabbed the man, urged him his feet and to answering their questions in their genial, well-established routine. While another nearby muttered something about fucked-up druggies, blast the lot and their fraggin’ grandmas.
The bigger the Lieutenant’s dismay with the report of the picked up’s statement. ‘TK1217, 181st Commando Detachment.’ A fellow trooper? Putting on that unpardonable display? That’s impossible! He wore no uniform at that. A flicker of hope suggested it might just be some stonemite making himself guilty by unauthorized assumption of authority. What, however, had implied another, possibly worse state of affairs. So, stepping closer, yet unable to make much of the badly beaten up features under the bad light and layers of slipped bandage he frowned.
‘You claim to belong to the 181st?’ his mechanized voice threatened from under his bucket.
‘Yes, damnit, dya have mynocks on the line?’ it came stroppy. No Imperial, and actually a pretty cheeky way of response, yet years of dealing with obnoxious citizens and lesser beings had made him immune against the prick of their pitiful impudence; Once apprehended by his squad they never laughed for long, anyhow.
‘Do you have anything to underset your assertion?’ He asked coldly. The professional way.
‘We had the same muck this noon, like yesterday and last Katunda.’
A number of his men chuckled. ‘All too true,’ one whispered.
Noors scowled, and while he didn’t like the ragged one’s sloppy way in the least, the factual accuracy of his answer needed investigation. One or the other way. ‘Alright,’ he said, half to himself. ‘So… should we assume you were one of our men, ununiformed on shoreleave for some frivolous reason..’
‘Eventually get it. I’m headed for the ‘dive just when you kept me.’ He made a testing step ahead from between the two troopers who still held him loosely by the arms. ‘Sir?’ One of them addressed Noors, unsure of how to react.
‘Sir, trooper. Trooper, Sir.’ Cadman aped. ‘Davin’s waitin’ for me, I’m on shoreleave..’ he drawled and emphasized the word’s every syllable as though to explain it to a retarded kid. ‘So would ya please go ahead.’
Re: Spies Like UsJerva smiled in a slightly crooked and drunken fashion at the man behind the bar. He blinked. Or was that two men behind the bar. He eyed the liquor that had appeared in the glass while he was at the bar, and then downed it with a gulp.
He swayed, and then slurred drunkenly, “Keep ‘em coming, boss.”
He downed the next shot of whiskey. And the next. And then a third.
He looked at the man behind the bar and wagged a finger at him. “This is the good stuff. I could drink here all night.”
He laughed and grabbed the bottle, taking a swig of the Whyren’s reserve directly from the container. He raised the bottle and made a toast. “Here’s to Trandoshans! May they keep me in liquor forever!”
Kutac took several hefty swallows from the bottle of whiskey, then paused to draw a breath. He took another several swallows, savoring the woody bite of the fine Corellian whiskey.
He raised the bottle again, and drained what remained of the expensive liquor. He set the empty bottle on the bar, next to the other one that he’d drained, and then smiled at the man, standing behind the bar.
“Give me another bottle of that, that, what was that? What ever it was,” Kutac abruptly stopped talking in the middle of his sentence. “Whatever, whatever, I think I’m going to need a new ship after this binge.”
He yawned, and rested his head on his arm, on the bar, and within a few seconds was snoring quietly.
Re: Spies Like UsKix Davin had seen a number of sights in his years serving with the Empire on assignments and taking shoreleave on various planets. To the best of his memory, however, he had never seen a patron sitting alone in a cantina drinking himself to the point of passing out on the counter, just in one sitting.
He remembered the customer as he was the one that got sucked into that fight outside with the Trandos. Kix didn't blame the guy for drinking himself to oblivion. It had been a night of hell in which he had seen death, and the injuring of his friend, Nash. The officer sighed and took the last sip of his drink, attempting to do the same but the alcohol content wasn't enough to get him toward that drunken state he was waiting to achieve. Passed out at this booth would be a good way to spend this evening. In the arms of the 'Dive's owner even better.
Kix continued to observe Jerva. Even though there was no expression in his passed out state, Kix got a distinct feeling of melancholy from the smuggler. And still, Nash had not shown up. Val'kia wasn't around from what he could see, either. Just the tenders cleaning up after the mess outside.
<I>And I should be calling it a night. It's late and I should head back to the shuttle, which is probably where Nash went. I should have known better to wait here again for him to show up. I wouldn't bother coming here after something he went through,</i> he mused.
"Well, frak," he said quietly, as he set his empty drink on the table and slid out from the booth. Straightening his dirtied olive tunic and cap, he subtly stumbled around the chairs and tables of the tavern and gave a mock salute to one of the tenders.
"Well, I'm off like a dirty shirt. I'll see the likes of you in the mornin.." he slightly slurred, then staggered his way out the exit. The tender's eyebrows went up. This <I>was</i> something unusual– an Imperial with a sense of humor. The tender poured himself a drink– Johrian whiskey. He sipped it, watching Kix with interest as he stepped outside.
When Kix walked out of the tavern, it took his eyes several moments to adjust to the dimness of the area from the harsh lighting inside. As his vision cleared, he saw that the streets were mostly deserted, until his sights spotted a lone figure approaching him.
On impulse, he stumbled toward him and clapped Nash on his shoulder. "About time you frellin got here, Imp," he slurred. "But I was already heading back."
"And by the way it looks, you're going to need help getting back," Nash shot back, looking over Kix's drunken state.
"Don't think so," he replied. "I can 'andle myself."
"Right… " Nash smacked Kix's face lightly. "Just like I did with those lizards."
"Good point…" Kix nodded, then stumbled to the right. "Where da hell were ya?"
"Superiors were giving me flak. Let's get back to the shuttle, Kix," Nash suggested. "I'll explain while I walk you there."
Both figures proceeded to head toward the vicinity of the spaceport to finally end the night's events.
Re: Spies Like UsVal walked out of the gaming room, relieved to see the retreating back of Kix Davin as he stumbled out in to the street outside. Glancing at the chrono over the bar she noted that it was far past the usual closing time, but after the previous evening’s events that was understandable.
Since she’d stayed up this late, Navin figured she might as well make an all-nighter out of it, but first she wanted to clear out the cantina and send her remaining staff home for some much needed sleep.
“Si. I think it’s time for last call.” She told the lieutenant, glancing pointedly at the loudly snoring Jerva. “Make sure this guy gets back to his ship without any interference. I don’t want a repeat of what happened with the spacer…and Cris so please be careful.”
Idris nodded at his commanding officer, “I just hope this guy can remember where the frell he docked his ship.” He said, finishing off the contents of his own glass. “Are you going to be okay while I’m gone?”
“Don’t worry, Si. I’m going to hang out down here until you’re back and get some work done. I doubt I’ll be sleeping any time soon. That doesn’t mean I don’t want you to though, got it?”
“So that’s an order I take it?” Sionne said with a mock salute.
“I’m glad you still recognize my authority after hanging around that old buddy of yours.” Val said with a smile as they walked around the bar and over to the obliviously inebriated Kutac. “Speaking of Vortan, I’ve decided to take him up on the offer you mentioned earlier. But we’ll get all of those details worked out tomorrow. Right now let’s get this guy home safe before he drinks up all my best stock.”
Alright handsome.” Val said, shaking Jerva’s shoulder. “Time for you to sleep it off somewhere more comfortable than the top of my bar.”
Kutac sat up surprisingly abruptly at the sound of Val’s voice considering his condition. A little too abruptly in fact and would have fallen back off the barstool if Si hadn’t been there to keep him upright. “Thank you….for your hospi…tality, ma’am.” He slurred out, a wide grin on his face. “I’ll be sure…to stop in again…sometime.”
“And I thank you for what you did to help out that spacer tonight, you’re welcome here anytime. “Val’kia said with a smile of her own. “Although I doubt you’ll remember me saying that whenever you sober up.”
“Oh I don’t think…I can forget you…beautiful.” Jerva replied with a wink before nearly slumping over again.
“Okay, my friend.” Idris said, helping the dark haired, bearded man off the barstool. “Let’s get you out of here before you make the lady say something she’ll regret later.”
Val helped Sionne assist the stumbling Jerva across the floor of the ‘Dive and out through the front door, then watched for a moment as the two men headed to the nearby docking port before she walked back inside the cantina, locking the door behind her.
She went into the empty kitchen and made a big pot of caf, poured herself a cup and headed back to her office to work on getting things in order for the day ahead that would be dawning far too soon.
Re: Spies Like UsReturning to the Hyperdive for his mid-morning interview, Rinehart looked much smarter than the sorry, squalid appearance that he had presented the night before. Last evening’s little escapade had been a good enough excuse to spend extra time in the shower, though Rinehart’s cheeks burned in irritation from having to shave with an obsolete razor that had dull blades. His choice of clothing was a deliberate attempt to make him appear as one of the galaxy’s innumerable drifters: threadbare shirt, too-short denyms that left Rinehart’s ankles exposed, a jacket some twenty years out of fashion.
Approaching the cantina, he stopped short when he encountered evidence of a vicious brawl out in the street. There were scorched Trandoshanian scales, claws, and fangs scattered everywhere, along with dried ichor. The Ubiqtorate’s mercenary muscle; so much for outsourcing Rinehart thought acidly. There was human blood as well; splatters all in front of the Hyperdive and a huge bloodstain out in the street. No wonder Davin and his men were snooping around. Idly, Rinehart wondered who had bought it as he lightly tapped on the front door of the club.
“What is it?” a dark-skinned man demanded when he opened the door.
“I was here last night,” Rinehart stammered. “The owner said that there was a possibility that I might be able to get a job here.”
“Oh yeah, I remember now.” The man’s expression softened. “Sorry, but things are pretty low around here right now. Come on in.” Motioning to Rinehart to wait, the man entered the club, paused to speak with a female Twi’lek. “Feddriss hasn’t shown up again? Frak!”
Rinehart had been waiting scarcely a minute when the man reappeared. “All right, Ms. Navin’s agreed to see you. She’s over in the Coronet Lounge. Excuse me.” Moving off, the man yelled for the Twi’lek. “Alema! Get hold of Feddriss. Tell him he’d best be gettin’ his sorry rear end in to work now or his ass is grass!”
“Ms. Navin?” Rinehart asked as he approached the table where the redheaded female sat slumped. He was slightly taken aback when Navin raised her head to reveal a sickly, pale face, and red-rimmed eyes framed by dark fatigue circles. “I was here last night. You said that there might . . if this is a bad time, perhaps it would be better if I came back later?”
With a sigh, Val said “No, it’s all right Mr., Mr.?”
“Kislev,” Rinehart supplied helpfully.
Sitting up and rubbing a hand across her face, Val took note of the club. What a mess, don’t tell me that idiot Feddriss is a no-show again. And didn’t Alema give me something about this guy last night? “Excuse me for a minute would you,” Val said as she stood up, somewhat unsteadily. “I just need to step into my office for a minute.”
Rummaging around her desk, Val found the flimsies that Alema had given her last night. Even with her mind operating at a somewhat sluggish state, Val realized that something wasn’t quite right as she scanned the text. Blast it, Alema, what kind of a half-assed datacheck is this? This barely covers his history on Drall, and almost nothing after that. With a grunt of exasperation, Val flung the printout onto her desk, eyed a still open bottle of whiskey, “Ah, what the hell,’ she said as she took a slug.
“So, why don’t you tell me something about yourself, Mr. Koslef.”
“Kislev. Well, I’m from Drall originally, Meccha, and my family ran an export/import business, dealing in forest products and foodstuffs: pulp, fragrant wood, saps and syrups, nuts, berries, and the like. When I was sixteen, we moved to Corellia and settled in Tyrena.” Quite true; the real Kislev family had engaged in such commerce, and had resided in the places that Rinehart spoke of.
“However, I left Corellia when I was 18. After Senator Bel-Iblis was killed,”–Rinehart noted that a pained expression quickly flitted across Val’s face– “I saw how much Diktat Thomree was becoming a P-Imp stooge. Once he started his mass conscription program, I decided that it would be real smart if I made myself scarce. It was during this time that my family disappeared. I tried to contact them, but never got any reply. None of our neighbors or friends would say anything either. In fact, they acted as if they didn’t even know me.” True and not so true. Yes, the Kislev family had been detained, but Rab’s departure from Corellia actually involved him entering the spiritual realm. Foolish boy, trying to resist the ISB agents. In deciding to fight, the boy had signed his family’s death warrant. In dying though, Rab had proven incredibly useful to the New Order. As no record of Rab’s death existed, his identity was free for the Empire to use as needed. As an added bonus, Rab and Rinehart shared a number of physical traits. Uncanny, wasn’t it…
“One time though, when I was in a comm center, my message kept saying it was in ‘TRANSMIT’. Guess what? The ISB shows up outside. I got out of there as fast as I could and decided it would be best to avoid the Imps all together. ‘Cept that isn’t as easy it sounds.” Rinehart looked at Val steadily. “Have you ever been held as a hostage? Are you familiar with that concept?”
Val grimaced, utterly familiar with the infamous Imperial practice, having been part of one such hostage group herself. Once on Algara II, Val and her strike team of covert ops had been swept up by a battalion of Imp army troopers that the Bothan Spynet, geniuses that they were, had managed to overlook completely. “The Imps round everyone up,” Rinehart continued, “and hold them as a guarantee against Rebel activity. If nothing happens, they let you go in the morning. But if there were any attacks, they would execute the hostages in reprisal. At a 10-1 ratio.” Rinehart looked away. “They quarantined the liner I was on . They didn’t care who was on board; human, non-human, young, old, male, female. Second time, they didn’t even wait for curfew. They just grabbed people. But you know, the most frightening part was that last hour. An Imp officer comes in, and you don’t know whether he’s going to let you go or select you for execution.” Val had been one of those spared, but her commanding officer, Captain Nabira, and several other members of her team had been selected and shot in front of the other hostages. Oh, Diric, Lants, Samm ‘n’ Aeryk, bless your souls.
An accurate description of a notoriously effective pacification method, Rinehart mused. He had participated, even supervised once, such operations. “And call me cynical, but I wasn’t exactly thrilled the way the Rebellion operated either. Once or twice, Rebels would show up in system and start agitating, getting people all excited and the next thing you know, they’re running off to attack an Imperial patrol. The Imps send a warship in response and guess what? Our Rebel friends haul jets out of there, leaving everyone else holding the bag! Anyway, that’s when I decided to be like the Pinacists, just find someplace out of the way, hunker down till it was all over, then pick up the pieces of whatever’s left. Only there’s not a whole lot left for me.”
“Went back to Corellia, discovered other people living in my family’s home. They called the PSS on me. That’s right, no more CorSec,” Rinehart said in response to Val’s quizzical expression. “Tried to get help from the New Republic office, but they didn’t show too much interest. Probably never will be. I think that if there was an investigation, the New Republic would find that a lot of their people in charge of things now are former Imps with blood on their hands. Doesn’t help that the situation on Corellia, well, it sucks. There no work for anyone. Treasure Ship Row’s all but abandoned. And everyone–Drall, Selonian, Human, you name it–hates each other. I managed to scrape up enough credits to book passage to Nar Shaddaa, and here I am.”
Val was shocked, and terribly saddened by what Rab told her. The Corellia of her youth had been such a wonderful place to grow up on, yet she was not all that surprised that such conditions hadn’t been widely reported. Corellians, by nature, were private yet proud, and to have dirty laundry like this made public was an anathema to her people. It’s nobody else’s business, Val’s father used to say. If there’s a problem, we Corellians will roll up our sleeves and take care of it ourselves. Still, perhaps it was inevitable that Corellia would sink to such a low level, considering what the Empire had done to the planet: Ubiqtorate and ISB agents snatching people from their homes in midnight raids, COMPNOR crazies running amok, stormtroopers strutting about and all but daring people to confront them. The illness had been there, but maybe some Corellians had refused to see it for what it really was . . .
“What sort of jobs have you held, Kislev? Your work experience?” Val asked, deciding to turn the interview away from the dreary news about Corellia.
“Some manual labor,” Rinehart replied easily. “Did contract labor–forced labor is more like it–in the Corporate Sector. I’ve got some mechanical maintenance work experience, as well building maintenance work experience.” No lies here. Rinehart, as a repulsorlift driver in the 201st CompForce Assault Regiment, had prided himself in keeping his vehicle in topnotch shape. And the CompForce NCOs had been exacting in ensuring that Rinehart and the rest of the troopers had kept their barracks in pristine condition. And as for manual labor, digging defensive positions counted, didn’t it?
“In the Outer Rim, a lot of people don’t like or can’t afford droids, so people do the work.” Looking around the club, Rinehart said “ I can deep-clean these carpets, polish that dance floor to a mirror shine, and get the tables to match.” Rinehart jerked a thumb toward the front of the club. “I even do windows,” gesturing toward the permaplass, smudged with the outlines of human and Trandoshanian faces being rammed into it.
“What about, I guess they call it the hospitality industry now, working in a place like this?”
“Actually, my first job, outside of my family’s business, was when I worked at a Gold Beaches resort the summer I turned 16. You’ve been there haven’t you? Of course you have. Who on Corellia hasn’t?” Rinehart smiled. “You can always tell a Corellian by their accent. Anyway, I waited on tables, was a busboy, but I wasn’t a Cabana Boy. I really did have a lot of fun that summer. We got to use the resort’s facilities on our days off, us teenagers were always having parties, I even had one of those silly summer romances . . .”
Rinehart felt the fool, blathering on about Rab Kislev and his ridiculous summer job. Val was barely listening to Rab though. She was remembering all the vacations at the Gold Beaches that her family took there. Days of swimming, sailing, sunbathing, and at night, wonderful dinners and dances. And then there was the summer she first met Diric Nabira. Tall, tanned, his hair tousled by the wind, she had blushed like a silly schoolgirl when he introduced himself down at the sailboat dock. And that night, when he asked her to dance at the Summer Ball, she had all but fainted into his arms. So strong and stouthearted, yet noble and idealistic. Diric, I loved you so . . .
“Excuse me, Ms.? Ms.?”
“I’m terribly sorry. Please continue.”
With a frown, Rinehart said “Actually, I guess that’s it.”
Well, so much for Feddriss. “Mr. Kislev, I need someone to start now. The only opening I have now is a split shift, working from 10 in the morning till 2 in the afternoon cleaning up the club, then from 5 in the evening till 9 at night for the happy hour and early crowd. I know splits are kind of lousy, but you do get a long lunch break. Are you–”
“I’ll take it.”
“Will these wages be acceptable?” Val asked, writing a figure down on a napkin.
Silly New Republic and their ideas of ‘living wages’. Altruistic idiocy. “Perfectly acceptable, Ms.”
“Fine. I’ll have someone show you where everything is.”
“Well then,” Rinehart said with a grin. “I guess I’ll get to work.”
Re: Spies Like UsDawn, well at least as close it ever came on The Moon hit and hit hard. Erc had received word from Si that he should stop by the Dive sometime today. Obviously, Navin is going to take him up on the offer.
It's all good. Well, the current situation is never good. What was he talking about? Who the Frell knew. All he knew was things were heating up again.
"Just like the old days. Oh Joy."
So far, things weren't going great for him. Hired to transport Slaves, and not bargaining to upgrade the weapons systems in the Claw. The Verpine behind the desk was being stubborn. More so then was required. Erc was providing the weapons. He already had then stowed in the cargo hold of the Claw. The twin nose Blasters from an old Y-Wing. Erc wanted them mounted on either side of the cockpit. In what would be the Cargo Mandibles on most other YT Freighters.
But knowing Verpines, this guy would want to rewire the entire ship. And it's hard enough to keep the Droid brains communicating. Solo had the falcon wired even stranger. Erc will never understand how that pile of Corellian parts ever powers up.
"Tell you what, I'll be back. I have a few other places to check, and might even contact Starforge. Thanks for your time."
Without waiting for a response, Erc turned and moved out of the building quickly. What is happening to this place. I know they refused to join the New Republic, and have gone independent since the Empire moved out, but Damn, nothing like it used to be.
That's the problem though, nothing was like it used to be anymore. When he was young, all Erc could think about was leaving Coruscant and getting out from the overbearing Imperial Father. Then he just wanted to join the Rebel Alliance. The alliance gave Erc a new goal, and a mission. People he cared about, fighting, and surviving. not that it was easy. but it was something he truly believed in. Then Endor, and victory after victory.
And the New Republic. a compromise of what the Alliance stood for. In Erc's opinion too much of a compromise. Erc lost his faith. lost his focus, and since then he's turned to the Fringe. Now, even that was changing.
Back to business. A run to the Graveyard of Alderaan. Looking around, Erc smiled at realizing he was already moving towards the Dive. hitting a few switches on his comm, still attached to his vest, HE signaled for his battledroid to return to the Claw. the night of surveillance over.
Stopping at the front door, Erc looked around and nodded. "I'm not here to fight, I'm gonna do what I can for her, no matter what. For Sionne and his friend. Another friend he's got to bury. Maybe a real job isn't so bad after all."
He walked in and looked around.
"Is Sionne here?"
"No Sir, but we've been waiting for you. Let me get Ms. Navin." The Twi Lek behind the bar said. She stepped out and went into the back, where The Redhead's office was. a few seconds later, the Twi Lek appeared, "Have a seat, She'll be right with you."
"Thank you." Erc moved to one of the smaller tables and sat, he declined a drink, having had too many of them last night. A habit after a light fight.
A less then stellar sight emerged from the office. Although the hair and outfit were well maintained and clean, the eyes gave everything away. Too much drink, no sleep, guilt, hate, fear. Everything he's seen in every commanding officer who lost a subordinate. THAT didn't make sense. neither did the fact that this was the first thing Erc noticed.
"Why am I thinking of her as a commanding officer? and not just a boss who lost an employee?" He thought to himself.
Mr Vortan, thank you for coming so soon. I'd like to hire you to handling some arrangements. I'm sure we can come to an agreement on price. It's a simple Run. Even you can handle it." She said, not exactly matter of factly, but definitely expecting the hostility last night to continue.
"We're already at an agreement on price. No charge. I offered my services last night. I meant it. And I'll leave here before I accept anything for this. Now, what do you need? and who's coming with me?"
Re: Spies Like UsWatching Kislev walk away to start getting to work straightening up the ‘Dive before heading back to her office, Val’s mood seemed to fall from bad to worse. The memories that had been brought up during the course of the conversation with her new hire were the culprit. Not that it was his fault, the man had no way of knowing the things he’d mentioned in trying to identify with her as a fellow native of the Corellian system would make Val think of events and of people she’d tried to forget. Right, like she ever really could.
All of the deaths she experienced or witnessed over the years weighed on her even if she’d tried to deny it. Her parents, her first love Diric along with the other members of their team, other agents she’d worked with, and now Cris. All those buried painful memories surfacing again. Putting her hands to her head, Val massaged her temples as if that would help before glancing over at the bottle sitting near her desk.
“Don’t even think about it. That’s it. I’m pouring that damn thing out.” She told herself crossly. “Right, stupid woman. You run a cantina so there’s plenty more where that came from. Think straight already and get your act together, damn it Val.”
A distraction, in the form of Alema, thankfully took away any remaining temptation she may have had.
“Val, that friend of Si’s, Vortan, is back and is asking to see you.” The Twi’lek agent announced apologetically as she entered the office. “You want me to tell him you’re busy?”
Rolling her eyes at Alema’s news, Val shook her head and sighed. “Thank’s Ale’. Just tell Vortan I’ll be out in a few moments. Frak.”
Deliberately taking her time in the hope that Erc would get tired of waiting and leave, Navin carefully filed away some of the flimsies on the top of her desk, placing the ones containing the less that adequate background check on Kislev away in her locked drawer reminding herself to talk to Alema about it later.
Standing and getting herself together to the best of her ability considering her current mood and the circumstances, Val walked out the main room of the ‘Dive where she saw the tall, broad-shouldered fringer relaxing casually in one of the booths. She wasn’t able to check her expression at the sight of him. A look that didn’t improve under the keen gaze he was observing her with as she walked over to him.
"Mr Vortan, thank you for coming so soon. I'd like to hire you to handle some arrangements. I'm sure we can come to an agreement on price. It's a simple run. Even you can handle it." She said, not exactly matter of factly, but definitely expecting the hostility of last night to continue.
"We're already at an agreement on price. No charge. I offered my services last night. I meant it” Vortan replied.” And I'll leave here before I accept anything for this. Now, what do you need and who's coming with me?"
“Well I guess you better be leaving then because I don’t plan on accepting charity from you.” Val’kia answered testily. “There are other options available to me for this job. But thank you anyway.” She finished dismissively before turning away to return to her office. There was no way in the seven hells she’d take him up on his offer., knowing their may be some contigency to it in the future.
A man like him would most likely see a way to hold the favor over her head, friendship with Idris non-withstanding and Navin had no intention of letting that happen. Better to just make arrangements to hire out a commercial service at the closest spaceport and be done with it.
After Val walked away, Erc sat back down shaking his head. “Damn that woman is infuriating. How the frell does Si work for her?” he thought not for the first time since meeting her. Catching the lithe, pretty Twi’lek's attention he waved Alema over “If it’s okay, I’d like that drink after all. And maybe some lunch as well.” He said with a smile.
“We’re kind of limited on the menu today, Mr. Vortan. Val’s keeping the ‘Dive closed for business because of …you know.” Ale’ trailed off sadly. “But I’m sure there’s something I can bring you from the kitchen.”
“That’s fine and very kind of you. “Erc said "I’ll just have a Nubian ale and whatever you can scrounge up. And please, call me Erc.” He wondered how Alema enjoyed working for such a harpy of a boss as well, but thought better than to ask as the girl walked back to the kitchen.
She’d returned with a roast nerf sandwich and a side of tuberchips and set it down along with his ale before excusing herself to go back to whatever work it was she’d been doing before he’d interrupted.
Erc sat enjoying the good ale and simple meal, watching a nondescript man who could have been older or younger than himself in slightly shabby dress as he moved around the place cleaning up the previous night’s mess. Another poor soul doomed to work for the witch.
He was just finishing up the ale when Val walked back out of her office, putting on a jacket but stopping when she saw Erc still sitting there. The redhead glared laser bolts at him before walking over to talk to Alema in a low, but agitated voice. Apparently he was the subject of much of that conversation judging by the looks he was getting from women. Alema’s expressions being those of apology and almost puzzlement about Val’s attitude toward him, while Navin’s looks were mainly of annoyance that he was still in her place.
Erc caught her eye during one of those glances and just winked at her impudently, making the woman’s eyes blaze as her brow furrowed. He thought about telling her it did absolutely nothing for her looks, but decided it would probably be a bad idea. They had finished talking and Alema walked into the back again as Val stood there, looking at nothing in particular but as if arguing over something with herself and reaching a reluctant conclusion.
After a few moments of that Val walked back over to Erc’s table and he just leaned back and waited for the onslaught, a contrived casual look carefully arranged on his face.
“Alright, Mr. Vortan. I’ll accept your offer.” Navin said with the same tone you’d expect to hear her use in agreeing to become the personal entertainment at a Hutt coming of age celebration. “You can hang around here if you want or stop back by later. I have some business I have to attend to, but I’ll return in an hour or so and we’ll get the details worked out then.” Goddess she really hated to have to deal with this arrogant nerfherder, but she thought that if he were to be the one to do the job at least it would keep him out of her place and be one less annoyance in her life. And she had no intention of responding to any future favor he may ask of her in return. Of that Val was certain.
“Thought you’d see it my way, sweetheart.” Vortan said as he pulled a cigarra out of his vest pocket and stuck it in his mouth, not wanting to miss a single opportunity to grate on the nerves of the woman in front of him. “I’ll see you in a couple of hours then.”
Val gave him a look she usually reserved for the worst kind of criminal scum who’d try from time to time to cause trouble around the 'Divebefore turning away and heaing for the door. “See you later Vortan . And try not to get your damn ashes on Mr. Kislev’s clean floor please or bother Alema too much please. She has my permission to shoot sithspitting mynocks who irritate her.” Navin called back before heading out the front door of the cantina to meet Sionne at Cris’ apartment to pack up the dead agents personal effects.
Re: Spies Like UsErc had to smile. It had to hurt to give in like that, especially when she was so ready to walk away from him. Sometimes it was the little things that got him to smile. "She's probably cursing all the way to wherever she's going." Fortunately he'd get a chance to talk with Sionne and see what it is about her that got him so loyal. It wasn't like him to give that loyalty so lightly.
Finishing his food, Erc sat back. Admiring the Twi'Lek. She was a pretty girl. No denying that. The slight frame gave away that she might have been a dancer at one time. But that could just be a stereotype. She could just be in good shape. The blaster on her hip almost seemed out of place. Almost, except for every movement she made accounted for the weapon. It was almost like an act. A rookie with a Blaster on the outside, but a being used to carrying one and probably using it on the inside.
"Damn, I wish I had time to check out every one of her employees the other night. Coulda just held back and watched reactions." Then again, at that point, things seemed normal enough. No reason to think about observation. Frellin hindsight. Always better then foresight.
"Hey, sweetheart, one more Ale, and I'll leave you and the clean up crew for a while. Unless you have time to sit and talk." Alema smiled, drew the ale from the dispenser and brought it over. "Ms Navin would be quite upset if she knew you were grilling me for information Mr Vortan. Are you trying to get me in trouble?"
"And what makes you think I'm not just hitting on you? You are an attractive woman. It's not out of the question."
"I'm not stupid Mr Vortan. You're trying to size us all up. Have been since you arrived. Had you shown this interest the night you walked in, I would have believed it, now, it's flattering, but not likely."
"You're very good at this. Better then most bar keeps I've known over the years. Any sort of military background? Or dancing near a Barracks?"
"Still searching for answers. And yes, I'm very good at this. You know how much training Twi'Lek Dancers are given. To be in a room but not be in it, to not get in the way."
"Dancer, My Mevochs!" was all Erc was thinking. Again, all signs were pointing to an operation and not a bar. "Damn I have to calm down. Maybe I should take that slaver job, just for the chance to do some straight shooting at bad guys, stop jumping at bartenders." He thought next. "Well, I guess that explains it. But don't sell yourself short, You'll be getting more then enough attention. Especially here on the Moon. You better know how to use that little thing, or find yourself a bigger one. I can help there, you know."
"Thank you for the offer Mr Vortan," Alema said while moving back to the bar, "But I'll be OK with my weapon. I practice with it alot."
Erc sat back and took a long draw off the ale. "Yeah, I bet you do. Been carrying it a while, very used to it." Erc said, too low for Alema to hear. He pulled out his Comm, and tried to raise the Claw. The only response he got was a static burst. "What the Frell? Always when I'm in here."
Getting up, Erc moved to the door, stepped just outside and again tried the reach his ship. still static, but he could see it lifting. He crossed the walkway and found the static gone. "Soroba, Prep the ship for lift off. Tell Dal in Flight control to put us on an immediate lift off position. no estimated time, but log the destination as either Alderaan's Graveyard or Coruscant. We'll be hitting both locations on this trip. And max out the fuel load. I want Weapons checked too. Not sure what the Frell is going on, but I won't be caught unprepared."
"You are being paranoid, but it will be done. I'll have her ready when you return."
Switching off Erc added to no one "Paranoid has kept me alive this long. I'm not stopping now." As he entered he noticed Mr. Kislev cleaning near the table Erc was sitting at. "I'm just about done man. I'll be out of your way soon enough."
"Thank you sir, I was wondering if you were going to come back."
Erc Grabbed his drink, finished it, walked back to the bar, winked at Alema while at the same time leaving her a large tip. "My comm freq and code is on this card. Have Sionne or Ms Navin contact me when she's ready. I'm adding my docking bay, if they want to meet me there. Just have them tell me. And good luck. The guys are going to love you here on busy nights."
With that, Erc turned and walked out into the streets of Nar Shaddaa.
Re: Spies Like UsIt wasn’t a very long walk to the building Cris Denson had resided in during his posting on Nar Shaddaa and by the time Val reached it most of her irritation resulting from the discussion with Erc had burned away. And a feeling of sadness and dread took its place as she entered the front door. The building itself was a rather modest multi-storied warehouse typical of the Corellian sector’s spaceport district, some parts of which had been converted to residential use. What had drawn Cris to it was the wide-open space he’d decided to make his home out of on the top floor and the fact that it was situated in a way that allowed more daylight into the place, by Nar Shaddaa standards, than any other building in the nearby vicinity was ideal for Denson’s beloved artistic avocation.
She’d always hated this damn rickety freight turbolift you had to take to get to the loft. This visit was no exception, but it was made worse by the fact that he wouldn’t be there to greet her, make her spiced tea, and then show off his newest work in progress in between reminiscing over old war stories. Instead it was Sionne, one hand hovering over his holstered blaster as the turbolift’s gate noisily clanged open.
“You know you don’t have to do this, Val. I can handle it alone if you need me to.” Idris said at the look of sadness on Navin’s face as she stepped off the lift and gazed around the large room. “Thank you, Si. But I have to see to this myself, see him home as well as I’m able.” She replied.
“The two of you were close for a long time, so I can understand. I hope you can do the same for me if the need ever arises.” Idris said, immediately regretting it at the pained look that flitted briefly over Val’s face at the thought of losing another friend and ally. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that.” He added apologetically, at which Val smiled and assured him that no such statement was necessary.
“It looks like you’ve been hard at work here.” Navin said as she walked around the main studio area of Cris’ apartment. Artwork that had hung on the walls had been taken down and carefully packaged in protective wrappings. Some of the unfinished canvases as well as the completed works Denson had never gotten around to displaying were stacked nearby awaiting their turn to be put into some plasteel crates she and Sionne had purchased to store them in.
The small, rare, cherished collection of artifacts from Cris’ vanished homeworld were set to one side to be carefully secured for transport to Coruscant and their bequeathment to the Galactic Museum’s Alderaan wing. It always amazed Val how Denson had held onto the beautiful relics for so many years and from posting to posting, but knew these things didn’t just represent his planet of origin, but his lost family and dreams as well. They were the greatest treasures he owned and that he’d entrusted her with their care now was not something she took lightly. “I spoke with your friend Vortan.” She said his name as if he were the lowest form of wretched slimy mynock, making Sionne chuckle. “And?”
“And we worked out a deal that I suppose I can live with. If only to get him out of my hair for a few days. I don’t like that attitude he has, as if he’s always looking below the surface of everything and trying to figure out what’s really going on. You know we truly don’t need that. It’s bad enough that I was picking up those same vibes from those Imps that were in the ‘Dive last night too.” Val said with a frown.
“I think it’s the equipment.” Idris said. “The newer stuff doesn’t leak interference- causing signals like the current monitoring devices we’re using. Maybe while I’m on Coruscant I’ll stop by and see Filkmin at TechOps about requisitioning some better toys.”
“And wish me luck getting Phaeden to approve it. “Val said with a derisive snort. “He’d like nothing more than to see everything here go to the seven hells just to prove himself right about it being a waste of resources.”
Idris gave her a grin. “Who says the head honcho has to know anything about it. Mirshill Filkmin is a friend of mine and he likes making a hobby out of getting around idiots like the General whenever he can. He’ll be happy to do what it takes to help.”
“Just don’t go getting yourself in trouble, Si.” Val told her lieutenant as they carefully wrapped up the porcelain and metal statuary and other items bound for the capital.
“What about those?” Idris asked as they finished that task, pointing to several beautifully crafted old edged weapons on the wide wall of the loft’s living room area. “Aren’t they to go too?’
“Actually, according to Cris’ will those now belong to you, Si.”
“I can’t accept a gift like that Val. You know that.” Idris answered with a vehement shake of his head.
“You can, Si and you will. That’s an order, Lieutenant.” Navin replied, giving that no arguments look and tone that she knew her second in command would take seriously. “Cris knew you’d appreciate them more than anyone else in the universe ever could. He left some things for Ale’ for that exact same reason as well at to some of the civilians and regulars at the ‘Dive and if they try that ‘I can’t’ poodoo with me I’ll tell them the same. Now you go get them down off that wall while I go and see what else needs to be taken out of here in case some flarging glitbiter comes in after we leave looking for something to steal.”
As she walked into Cris’ neatly kept bedroom Val swore under her breath at the sight of the stacks of canvases in one corner. “Denson, did you spend every waking hour off duty painting?” She said with a ghost of a smile as she walked over to go through the works. Some were landscapes, Val assumed the subject of which were Cris’ memories of Alderaan, but many of them were portraits. Most of which were done in a candid, from- memory style that captured the personality of the subject depicted in loving detail. There was one of Sionne looking so noble, loyal and strong. Another two were of Alema, her graceful beauty and fierce intelligence shining out at the viewer. Every fleck of color in her beautiful amber eyes realistically reproduced.
There were several of people Val knew to be Cris’ family. His mother Lareen so beautiful and serene in her carriage, warmth shining in her cobalt eyes. Two sweet faced, young flaxen haired children, a boy and a girl. Cris’ younger siblings Tesa and Joren. All three killed instantly when the Empire turned it’s most formidable weapon on their homeworld, reducing it to dust. His father Dailan, handsome face shadowed by the grief and guilt he’d carried with him until his own untimely death. There were more of them in groups of two, four and in one, the entire family depicted as they were together back on Alderaan. Val smiled at the happy look on the younger Cris’ Denson’s face surrounded by his loved ones.
The next few on the pile made her lose the smile and choke back tears instead. Lants Mi’iriw’s pensive dark-eyed gaze stared back at Val. His strong features lovingly reproduced in every brushstroke. He’d been Cris’ soulmate and had been lost in that same ill-fated mission that had killed the subject of next painting. Seeing Diric’s face in front of her was nearly too much for Val as she ran her fingers over the image of the dark-haired, brown eyed man who had been her first love and her last. The only person she had ever been free to be completely herself with. No cover story, no lies, no secrets. He’d known all about Daiman, everything, but had loved her anyway.
She still remembered the first time she’d laid eyes on him back during one of her family’s trips home to Corellia for the summer. Corran Antilles, her closest male friend and first boy she’d ever kissed had introduced them. The Nabira family having just moved to their neighborhood near the Gold Beaches and Val was smitten at first sight. They spent the rest of the summer together and when Val had to leave for school on Coruscant in the fall they parted with the promise to reunite at the first chance.
But that chance didn’t come until over 8 years later. The death of her parents and her subsequent years on the run and with the Alliance kept her away from Corellia and from Diric until fate intervened and he became her rescuer when her mission on Anaxes had ended badly. In the aftermath he became her guardian angel, her commanding officer, and her lover.
Val and Cris had both lost their loves that day on Algara II, but while Cris had dealt with his grief by channeling it into the creation of exquisite works of art, she had chosen a path leading to near self-destruction. Until she ended up being charged with the set up of the Nar Shaddaa station, saving what was left of her career and her life. Now the one person who understood her better than anyone was gone.
Setting Diric’s portrait down gently, she looked down on the next one, her breath caught and the tears fell in spite of her best efforts to control them. Her own image, a tall red-haired woman alone on a beach, the white gown she wore glowing in the near sunset. A single nebula orchid blossom tucked behind one ear, while a spray of the same fragrant flower was clutched in one hand at her side. She was gazing out over an ocean the color of which nearly matched her sad eyes, a look of longing and loss conveyed in her features. He’d gotten the image of her wedding gown perfect by the description she’d remembered giving him sometime in the past as well as the details of the setting it whould have happened in…if things had gone different.
When Sionne came looking for her, Val was still sitting there on the floor of Cris’ bedroom holding the last two portraits and crying over them silently.
“Hey, Val. What’s wrong?” The big man asked with concern as he crouched down next to her, eyes flitting over the paintings spread out around his CO “Sorry Si, just reliving some old times thanks to Cris.” She replied trying to smile as she wiped the tears from her face furiously. “And when we get back, I want you to take Ale’ aside and tell her exactly how you feel about her. Understand?” she told him, trying not to laugh at the ‘what the frell’ look on his face that faded as he looked down at the paintings she held and just nodded his head in understanding.
“Here” Idris offered Navin a hand to help her to her feet. “I’ll finish up here, you go ahead and check up on that smuggler Harrp at the hospital and then go collect Cris’ ashes and we’ll meet back at the ‘Dive when both of us are done.”
“You giving me orders now, Si? Val managed to laugh. “Yes, ma’am that I am.” He winked and Val winked back. “Don’t get too used to it. Thank you ,Si. For everything” she turned serious again and gave her fellow agent a hug before heading back to the turbolift, “And remember what I said about Ale’. Don’t think I won’t ask her either.” She called back as the lift’s gate closed, Sionne’s chuckle following her down as it descended toward the ground floor.