Spies Like Us

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Split shifts suck!

Patience . . .

Leaning back against a support column and relaxing, Rinehart was enjoying the the sandwich he had purchased for lunch. The vendor was expert, preparing the sausage so that it had the perfect amount of greasiness. It had been a long time since he had munched on the familiar Corellian treat.

Slow and unyielding pressure . . .

Rinehart furtively cast a glance at the grimy permaplas of the building in front of him. Yes, there she was, the Twi’lek. Fidgeting, rapidly becoming bored. Silly girl, but wasn’t it the same with all of this younger generation?
They all demanded instant results, immediate gratification. Not one of them seemed to understand that it was the long term view that mattered,
the long haul that would yield the greatest results.

Taking another bite of his sandwich, Rinehart’s eyes flicked up again to spot Aleema’s reflection. Flirting with an acquaintance. Not surprising. As surveillance ops go, the Twi’lek probably thought that this was one of the most tedious assignments she’d received. Follow the new custodian/bus boy, watch him eat lunch, then sit around for a few hours. Borrrring . . .

It was a matter-of-fact that he would be tailed. Navin might be a Rebel, but she wasn’t a fool. Despite all her smiles and assurances, she was going to ensure that her new employee was “clean”, or at least as clean as she could determine. He’d caught a lucky break in that the surveillance job had fallen on Aleema. If it had been that Sionne character, Rinehart’s job would have been much, much more difficult. But Sionne was off to what was left of Alderaan, sending the late Cris Denson off to that ridiculous “Graveyard” to join the rest of those vaporized traitors.

Look at her, Rinehart thought as he polished off the rest of his sandwich, watching Aleema giggle as she spoke with a companion, touched his claw. Wiping his mouth and tossing the napkin into a trash receptacle (a custom that seemed alien to Nar Shaddaa), Rinehart made his move. Smoothly sliding 90 degrees around the column, he effectively placed himself out of Aleema’s line of sight and began a mental count of how long it would take the Twi’lek to notice that he had disappeared.

He was well into the 300s when Aleema came striding by, frantically looking about. “Hello Aleema,” Rinehart smiled. “My break’s not over already, is it?”
“Rab,” Aleema replied, looking somewhat nonplussed.
“Something at the club that needs attention?”
“No, no, no. I was out . . .tending to some errands that Val asked me to take care of.”
“Need any help?”
“No, thank you. I’ll manage.”
“Well, I guess I’ll see you back at the club then. Thanks for lending me credits for lunch.”

The club. Where he had to bow and scrape to any number of disreputable types, a prime example being that oversized lunk of a spacer that had been hanging around there this morning. And have to sit there and take it. No matter. He could deal with the current unpleasantness, no matter how revolting it might be, for the prospect of future Imperial success against this Rebel intel op seemed all but assured.

Three weeks. That should provide a suitable cushion for any doubts or suspicions to be allayed. Three weeks, Ms. Navin; Three weeks of calm before the arrival of the storm front. Heralding its arrival will nothing more than a light breeze, a zephyr barely noticed, lulling you into complacency. The wind will increase in their fury, but you won’t be alarmed, convinced that you have the situation well in hand. And when the typhoon finally strikes, Ms. Navin, I’ll ensure that you don’t go down with your ship. You’ll be cast adrift, a pitiful lone survivor while those around you will have perished . . .

90 minutes left on my lunch. Navin was right; split shifts really do suck. Four more hours of work, bussing tables, washing dishes, cleaning up whatever messes the crowds manage to make. Gad! I need to take a crash course in mixology so I can work behind the bar. Tips are probably better too.

Let’s make that 60 minutes left on my lunch, and head back to the club early. Nothing like earning a few brownie points with the boss by displaying my devotion and dedication to my job.
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New Republic Intelligence<br> I'll kill you with this fraking tray<br>Feles Mala!<br> I <3 Sammiches!

Re: Spies Like Us

The first stop Val made after leaving Cris’ apartment was to Nilz Carvonen’s docking port nearby where Alec Harrp’s ship, the Talella was being kept in storage along with his droid aboard it.  After assuring the ship and it’s content were indeed safe, Val’s next destination was to the optimistically named Corellian Sector Medical Center.  The small infirmary was kept clean and neat though and the injured smuggler was being take care of by competent hands, Navin was relieved to see.

Alec was still unconscious when Val stopped in his room.  She left a note letting him know that the Telella was safe and sound and how to get in contact with her if he needed anything once he woke up.  

After that, it was over to the morgue to claim Cris Denson’s ashes.  The staff member was consoling yet coolly, professionally detached as she’d expected as he handed her the small sealed plasteel capsule containing the mortal remains of one of Val Navin’s dearest friends.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When she’d returned to the HyperDive, Val found Sionne and Alema getting things in order for Cris’ small memorial service to take place within the hour with the help of  her new employee Kislev.   So far the man seemed to be a hard worker, but she still planned on keeping an eye on him closely.  

Carrying the capsule of the ashes back to her office, Val opened a cabinet along one wall and removed a small, intricately engraved metal box and placed the capsule with it before carrying it back out to the cantina and placing it on a small table that Ale’ had already placed a modest arrangement of flowers and some framed static holos of the man on.  One of them reminded her of a holo she’d found in Denson’s apartment.

It was a group of smiling people in battle fatigues. Her SpecOps strike team, her friends, one of them her love all gone now but her. Three of them killed on Algara II, one on Ord Mantell, the latest here on Nar Shaddaa just the other day Val herself, the only one still alive from that group.  

Cris was well liked here on the Smuggler’s Moon as the number of people who showed up to commemorate him attested to that afternoon.  Praise was given for his talent and generosity, his intelligence and his wit and many, many toasts were made in his name as well.  

Val even managed to get along with Vortan the entire time and once it was over and the last of the mourners had left the Dive and she’d let Kislev leave early with pay, Val, Erc, and Ale’ and Sionne gave one last toast before taking the remaining few items needing to be transported to Vortan’s ship.

“Take good care of him the rest of the way, Si.”  Val said near tears as she stood on the cargo bay’s ramp and handed the metal box to Idris.

“You know I will, Val.” Sionne replied solemnly before he embraced her then Alema and turned and headed up the ramp where Erc was waiting.  Val gave Vortan a nod, which the man returned before the ramp rose and the seals hissed into place.  

Ale’ and Val watched the transport take off into the Nar Shadaa night before they turned to walk back to the cantina in a not uncomfortable silence.  

After cleaning up the mess left over from the memorial service, the two agents headed to their respective living quarters to get some much-needed sleep.

Quod Me Nutrit, Me Destruit
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Re: Spies Like Us

Clearing the shield of the Smuggler's Moon, Erc took the ship into a turn and set the course needed for the jump to Coruscant. All this was done in silence. Si sitting in the back of the transport, in the common area. Soroba was in his seat, respecting the human's desire for silence. Just when the navicomputer switched from red to green, Erc pulled the hyperdrive throttles back and the ship made the jump.  

About an hour into the trip, Erc sat down on the bench next to Sionne. "Hey man, about a day and a half and we'll be there. I have an appointment when we arrive, but as soon as it's over, I'm all yours. Anything you need or want. Just ask." Erc handed over a coded Comm unit, a simple one, but the message was clear. if Anything went wrong, he could call Erc and he'd drop everything to help.

After a few hours of small talk, Erc returned to the cockpit. The course he chose was not a common one, ensured there wouldn't be any problems. He had sent a message ahead to Derlin, telling him he'd be calling and they had some talking to do. This was the appointment Erc was talking about. AS he brought the Claw around, orienting to the next course, the comm system lite up. A relayed message came through. a recorded one.

Erc made sure he had a copy stored, sent the signal for the relay to deleted the message, complete with all the passwords and clearance signals and then pulled the handles again.

Now safe in hyperspace again, Erc went to his cabin, and called up the message.

"Upon arrival, Coruscant System, you are directed to report to New Republic Intelligence, forthwith. Delays are unacceptable. No response required."

It was addressed to Captain Vortan, Raptor's Claw. And then something he didn't expect. His old Alliance serial number. This was a message to a soldier. Very odd, seems someone has found out about his in with Intel and was going to close it. One way or another.


The Claw dropped out of hyperspace at the outer edge of the Coruscant System. Still the galactic capital world, the system was always crowded. craft being herded insystem based on it's mission, nature, emergencies, and whether it was Military or civilian.  Erc took the freighter towards the civilian corridors. just as he had a seeming;y endless number of times in the past. he reached the outer marker, and hailed the planet.

"Coruscant Control, this is The Raptor's Claw, requesting approach vector for planet fall and landing. Transmitting cargo and passenger info now."

"You are cleared on a priority vector, follow beacon 1138. Landing platform 6369. it's a floater, I've dispatched a speeder to it, will be waiting for your arrival. Enjoy your stay on Coruscant Captain Vortan."

It all seemed strange, the last priority clearances he'd received was when he was on official business. What was it with this call to goto Intel headquarters?

Once the ship had settled down, Erc helped his old friend off the ship and made sure he had everything he needed.

"I just have to take care of a few things. then we can head to Alderaan. And after that, back to the Moon."

"I'll be waiting my friend. you have the com, right?"

"I have it, thanks man." an unmarked speeder pulled up to one of the two loading points on the floating platform. the second one had another unmarked speeder, this one displaying Erc's name. "That one's mine buddy. I have to meet my friends, then I'll give you a call. Stay safe my friend."

ERc nodded to the Dug hanging out in the entry ramp and then moved to his waiting speeder.

"I'm guessing you know where I'm going. Do it. let's get this over with."

"Yes Sir Captain Vortan. Everyone should be ready for you when we get there."

"Ready for me? you  have any idea what's going on?"

"I'm just the driver."

What the Frell is going on? Erc would know soon enough.

Reaper Rebel Legion Commander
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TK0212 | "The Beast" <br>No, I'm a fucking squirrel!

Re: Spies Like Us

Sitting in the chow hall and eating a breakfast of grainmush cakes, poptree syrup, and dried nerf strips, Kix Davin was finally feeling better after last night's events and binging on alcohol. Now back aboard the ImpStar that orbited over Nar Shaddaa, he shared the table with his friend, Nash Cadman, and a few other grunts that joined them. Shoreleave was still in effect, so Kix had in mind on returning planetside and heading back to the <I>Hyperdive</i>, where last night's troubles brewed.

He had in mind visiting Val'kia to offer his condolences to her lost co-worker. At the same time, he couldn't get his mind off the plant that threatened him. He wanted to relay to his superior about it, but then why would he care? Obviously, he no longer cared in Bastion's affairs any longer and was only interested in carving a niche of the galaxy to call his own. After all, that is what warlords do.

He sighed a bit and took a sip of his caffa.

"Something wrong?" Nash said. He was sipping a mug of parichka across from him.

He turned to look at him. "If I told you something, would you give your word to keep it?"

"Yes, why?" Nash rose an eyebrow, then scratched the side of his shaved head.

"When you were out getting medicated, I was confronted and threatened by an ISB agent of some sort. Not really my business to care, since he is one of ours, but I am wondering what is going on."

Nash looked down at his morning brew. "Ah. I see then. Maybe someone from Bastion that we're butting in his business?"

Kix looked around to see if anyone was listening. Perhaps twenty or twenty-five people were gathered around their table– troops, mostly, though Kix could also see a few officers of various ranks. All of them seemed involved in their own conversations, so he took the risk he was safe.

"Maybe. He wasn't really in the mood to discuss much, especially with a blaster aimed at my back." He took another sip of caffa. "I'm thinking it has something to do with the interference around the <I>Hyperdive</i>."

Nash frowned, searching his memory. "I don't recall you telling me about interference, either."

"Frak," he hissed quietly. "Well, there's something about that place that isn't right. I think that agent plans to expose what it is."

Nash looked puzzled. "So? He's an Imp. We're Imps. What do we care? If he finds out the people there are Rebels, we'll gladly frag the place."

<I>But I don't want Val fragged along with them if that is true…</i> he thought. He finished his meal, then looked away from the table toward the exit that led to the hangar bays.

"Perhaps you're right, Nash," he said quietly. "Still, I need to head planetside to offer my condolences for Val's loss." Damn that sympathetic place in his heart. He finished his caffa and placed it on the tray.

"Should I come along?" Nash inquired.

"Up to you," Kix replied, lifting himself off the table, straightening his olive tunic, and gathered his things. "I'll be at the  hangar bay in one hour to catch the next shuttle down."

He turned his back to his friend and walked away. <I>And maybe I'll see for myself what really is going on down there…</i>

The Kixinator
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Re: Spies Like Us

And he didn't have long to wait. The speeder pulled into the building that housed New Republic Intel and stopped on one of the non public parking areas.

Erc stepped out, and looked around. He'd been here before, even recently, since he took contract work every now and then.

"If you'd follow me sir, I'll take you inside. You will have to check your weapons once we enter the building. All of them."

"I've been here before, never had to check my weapons, this is something new." Erc eyed the driver, hoping to intimidate something from him. Anything to clear up what is going on here.

"The General will explain it all once you're in, please follow me." It had Worked, Whoever set this up was a general. Not Derlin. Could it be Cracken?The man never liked Erc. We shall soon see.

The weapons check indeed was complete. Passing through a weapons detector 3 times (he'd "forgotten" some holdouts) and then a pat down for any edged weapons he might be carrying.  Erc was then escorted by a security type to Derlin's office. Which Erc found odd. There was someone seated at the desk, but it wasn't Derlin. Erc took a seat in front of the desk, put his feet up on the side of the desk.

"So, you the mysterious General that has called me here? what the Frell is going on?"

"Mr Vortan, seems you're as good as I've heard at uncovering information from sources that were under orders to say nothing."

"Captain Vortan, and not your captain. I left NR service along time ago. At best, I'm a contractor you sometime hire. So, let's cut the Dren, what do you say?"

"Very well, let's. My name is Major General Earryk Phaeden.Section Chief with NR Intel Ops. I'm here to make you a deal. You will work for me, and I won't put you into a NR Military prison for trading classified information with a Major in NR Intel."

"You mean my asking for help from Major Derlin? Ha! don't make me laugh. I have higher connections then him in the NR government. I'm sure I could have this beat."

"The provisional council has already been briefed on my intentions here. and they are in full agreement. Right down to reassigning Major Derlin. you're connections are not as high as mine are it seems."

For the first time since sitting down Erc sat up the smile gone from his face. "So this is how you treat veterans of your great rebellion. Funny, every time I asked for help from you guys it was in exchange for helping you in the long run. No wonder I never found a home in this NEW Republic."

"Captain, the only reason you're not in prison now is the fact that everything you have done has in fact benefited us. Now, I know this might seem a little…..heavy handed. but it's your reluctance to actually rejoin that has forced me to have to move this way. That and I've recently lost a man, and need a replacement. And the reports on you tell me you're exactly what I need and want."

"And what exactly do you want, GENERAL?"
 
"I have an operation going on on the rim, in Hutt Space as a matter of fact. the officer running it……well, let's just say I have my misgivings about this officer. I want someone who can add some stability to the situation. And I believe you are that person."

"And what does this officer have to say about all this? And how did you loose this man? I don't do anything blindly."

"No, of course you don't. The Officer hasn't been told about you yet, and I assume the news will not be well taken. Which doesn't concern me. You're friends here have spoken highly of you, and your talents. I need you Captain Vortan, and I am willing to get your help any way I can. As I hope I have proved to you."

"Yeah, including throwing me in Jail it seems. I want full disclosure, right now, I want to know where the Op is, what you expect of me, who the other officers involved are. EVERYTHING!"

"Very well, but you realize you've just committed to either the mission or Jail." The General hit a button on the consul and then looked back at Erc. As the door behind Erc opened, Phaeden continued, "Let me introduce you to the operation's Second in command. Lieutenant Sionne Idris."

Erc had turned around just in time to hear the name as he saw the officer enter. "What the Frell Si. What is going on here?"

"Erc, I couldn't tell you, you know how these things work. And I didn't know about this till I got here. Phaeden told me as soon as I arrived. if I had known, I would have warned you."

"It's OK, I do know how things go, and it does answer a few questions. Puts some things into order now. So, the entire Bar is in on it huh?"

"Thank you Lt. Idris. That will be all. Please wait outside. Captain Vortan, I hope you see things my way right now. Lt Idris was going to be my  eyes on Major Navin. but I suspect you'd do a better job at it, based on all the reports I've received already. Seems you have gotten under Major Navin's skin. I like that. I think it will keep her, and you on your toes, making for a more effective group."

"So, I'll be in charge now? I am a Captain. That's not negotiable. I will be returned to my old official Rank. Or you can show me to my cell."

"You will indeed be retaining your Rank, as a Captain, in the Naval respect of things. But Major Navin is still in charge of the station on Nar Shaddaa. I can't change that. You will be assigned in a……sort of consulting role. not an official member of her actual team, but by circumstance you will be under her command."

"This gets better and better. You realize this whole thing might end with us shooting each other, right?"

"Come now Captain, what would make you think I'd want that?" Phaeden stood and walked around the table. "Now lets go talk to Lt Idris and make arrangements for your return to the planet. Your Crew will be incorporated into this operation, but they are answerable only to you. I do need to send the orders to Major Vavin and her immediate controller. Colonel Bron Haddon. I'm sure Major Navin will take this as a true professional. After a short bit of paperwork, I'll have you and Lt Idris on your way to Alderaan. I don't envy you that task Captain."

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Everybody comes to the Hyperdive

“Hey Rab! They need glasses in the gaming room! Right now!”

“Coming right up!” Rinehart bellowed as shoved a tray of mugs into the dishwasher and kicked the door shut. Business was booming at the Hyperdive tonight. It seemed as if every sentient on Nar Shaddaa had decided to compensate for the night Navin had closed the cantina out of respect for Kris Denson. Now the clientele was swilling down booze as if a prohibition edict was to take effect tomorrow, and Rinehart could swear that he had sent every glass, mug, and tumbler through the dishwasher at least three times.

“Hey, if you’re going that way, take dis keg of ale wit you!”

“No sweat,” Rinehart answered, perching the container on his shoulder and using his other hand, pushed a storage cart along. “Make way! Comin’ through!”

Picking his way through the crowded club, he made his way to the gaming room, where Val’kia Navin stood watching the events at the roulette table intensely.

* * *

Idiot, Val thought, as another pile of credit chips was raked away from the man she was watching. Lonn Norr was one of those wounded vets of the Rebel Alliance who had managed to slip through the social safety net, a highly decorated wiz at demolitions but a complete moron when it came to financial matters. Ending up on Nar Shaddaa with his family, Norr had managed to get himself in hock up to his eyeballs to the Hutt crimelord Damzik, and was way behind on his repayments, naturally. Val heard that the Hutt was threatening to take Norr’s three teenaged daughters as compensation. Damzik, who principal racket was prostitution . . .

With an exasperated sigh, Val wondered why she had seemingly taken on the unenviable task of trying to rescue the galaxy’s downtrodden single-handedly. People like Kislev, for instance, hurriedly pushing a supply cart over to the bar for restocking. At least he’s breaking a sweat, which is something I never saw Fedriss do, Val thought sardonically.

“Nineteen!” Val’s croupier announced, and she winced as another pile of credit chips was raked away from Norr.

“Blast it!” Val grumbled as she headed toward the table.

* * *

“Do you wish to place another bet, sir?” the croupier asked.

“I, I-I” Norr stuttered, looking bleakly at his few remaining credit chips.

“Have you played twenty-two tonight?” Val asked, suddenly appearing at Norr’s elbow. “You should place a bet on twenty-two.”

In desperation, Norr slammed his meager pile of chips on the number 22 as the croupier spun the roulette wheel. “Round and round she goes, where she stops, nobody knows!” the croupier sang out. “Twenty-two!”

Norr’s eyes bulged as a large pile of credit chips was shoved toward him, but in a matter of fact voice, Val ordered him to “Let ‘em ride.”

“Twenty-two. The winner is twenty-two!” announced the croupier as the ball fell into the numbered slot.

Val didn’t even bother looking up from the credit chit she was programming, authorizing payment to Damzik the Hutt and Galactic Starlines. “There’s a transport leaving for Atzerri tonight. That’s your homeworld, correct? You and your family will be on that ship. Don’t make me have to go to the starport to see you off.” With that, Val rose and headed back to the main room of the Hyperdive.

One customer, somewhat disturbed by the events at the roulette table, intercepted Rinehart as he was trundling a load of dirty glasses to the scullery. “Excuse me sir, but just how honest is this establishment?”

Rinehart regarded the being with mortal indignation. “Are you questioning our integrity? Sir, we’re as honest as the day is long!”

* * *

Ale’ma rested her arms on the bar and regarded her boss. “20,000 credits. General Phaeden is going to have a seizure when he discovers the generosity performed on his behalf out here.” The Twi’lek shook her head. “I don’t think Sionne’s going to be able to cover this one up, no matter how much he cooks the books.”

“Don’t worry about it, Ale’ma,” Val replied gruffly. “There’s plenty of loaded Bothans around here for us to roll, and what we don’t get from them, we can make up in squeeze.”

“Mugging Bothans. Again.” Ale’ma did a pirouette. “Look at me! I’m the decoy for the umpteenth time!”

Val didn’t respond to the sarcasm. Instead, her attention was focused on the two Imperials entering the club.

* * *

Trailed by Nash Cadman, Kix Davin strode into the Hyperdive with all the swagger and confidence that was expected from an Imperial officer. Both were dressed in immaculate uniforms, at Kix’s insistence, and the Lt. Commander squashed any grumbling or resentment directed at the pair with an icy, deadly glare.

“Servant,” Kix said, addressing a worker who was clearing a nearby table. “Inform Ms. Navin that I wish to speak with her.” Rinehart mumbled a response, then shambled away, carrying a basin filled with dirty dishes and trash.

“Man, that is one sorry sight,” Nash said as the pair slid into a recently vacated booth. “Humans doing the work fit only for aliens and droids. How the frell can someone degrade themselves like that?”

“I’ll tell you what a sorry sight is, is your lack of female companionship,” Kix said over the din of the club.  “Don’t worry, I’ll put a good word in with Val. Maybe we can hook you up this evening,” the officer continued, grinning at his friend’s discomfiture. “Hey, lighten up. No Trandyshans here tonight!”

* * *

“Hey boss, that Imp monkey-boy over there says he wants to talk to you. Frak, someone needs to tell them they ain’t running the galaxy anymore.”

“Cool it, Rab. I’ll take care of it.”

“I’ll tell Lianna to avoid their table. Their asses can wait a while before they get a drink.”

Val approached the booth where the two Imperials sat, her mouth set in a grim line. Images of Kris Denson and his artwork kept flashing through her mind. Poor Kris, his family, his entire world destroyed by the Empire. And Diric, murdered right before her eyes as leering Imperial officers watched. These two weren’t personally responsible for such actions, but still; after all that had been discovered, all the atrocities made known, how could anyone still swear allegiance to the New Order?

And to think I danced with him the other night, Val thought as she regarded the officer with the close cropped blond hair. Duty, frell! She had done so willingly.Her stomach churned with the memory of that night. Sure the two had helped in the battle with the Trandoshans, and the one with the shaven head had been severely wounded in that fight. But did that even begin to atone for–
“Good evening, gentlemen. I’m so glad you could make it back.”

* * *

“Ms. Navin. Good evening,” Kix said as he hurriedly rose to his feet, shooting a quick glance at Nash who had remained seated. Belatedly comprehending the look on Davin’s face, Nash rose and offered an embarrassed grunt in way of greeting.

“And once again, my condolences in regards to your associate.”

“Thank you.” Associate. Is that how Imperials think? Kris was far more than that. Val doubted that these two would ever understand.

“Please, Ms. Navin,” Kix went on. “If we could enjoy the presence of your company.”

Not tonight, buckethead! “I’m honored, but I’m afraid I must decline your invitation. As you can see, the Hyperdive is rather busy tonight, and there are many other duty that require my attention. Excuse me,” she said, the last in a tone more frosty than she had intended.

Kix picked up on that, and uttered a short, soft, but dangerous laugh. “Whoa, wait a minute. You’re telling me that after the other night, and everything what my friend here went through, all of a sudden you don’t have any time for us?”

“As I said, I have other matters that I must attend to. Please, excuse me.”

Seizing Val by the wrist, Kix snarled, “No, I don’t think–”

“Get your hands off her!”

* * *

Kix faced the new voice. That low-life of a menial, who now stood there with his fists balled.

“Get your hands off her, Imp!”

Kix made a show of releasing Navin, then glared back at Val’s employee, a sneer of contempt spreading across his lips. This was a something new, being challenged and threatened by a bus boy. Hilarious, if it weren’t so pathetic.

“Frakkin’ Imps! Clear out of here before you get thrown out!”

“So, who’s gonna do that, pal? You?”

“Yes.”

“Ooooh, I’m shakin’!” Kix leaned forward a bit, his voice filled menace. “You don’t have any idea who the frell you’re dealing with, do you?”

“As a matter of fact, I do.”

Kix’s eyes widened slightly in instant recognition at the last. The tone of voice the man used, the same as in the alley. That blasted ISB agent his mind yammered at him as Rinehart threw a punch.

* * *

Hand to hand combat was one of the courses of instruction that many of the cadets at Carida relished. Kix had taken to the subject with a passion, honing his body into a lethal weapon. That training served him well as his reflexes easily allowed him to block Rinehart’s clumsy attack and throw a wicked counterpunch that rocked the man back on his heels.

Trying to shake off the effects of the blow, ignoring the shouts of Val and the rest of the cantina’s patrons, Rinehart threw himself at Kix, trying to grapple with him. The storm commando gleefully allowed  his assailant to attack, using the opportunity to pummel him with a rain of vicious blows.

From the other side of the booth came Nash, driving an elbow into the foolish Hyperdive employee. The man had collapsed to the floor and Nash sent several savage kicks into him before someone seized his arm and wrenched his wrist into an odd and incredibly painful angle. His face twisted into a maniacal grin when he saw it was Val’kia, and he was still grinning as the woman delivered a brutal kick to his groin.

* * *

Val put everything she had into that kick, and felt a wicked sense of satisfaction when it connected. Nash turned a frightening shade of white, made a strangled sound, then fell to the floor with crossed eyes.

Turning to Davin, Val threw a quick blow at the man’s temple, which he just managed to avoid. Whirling to face her, he stood with his fist cocked, becoming acutely aware of the blasters trained on him.

“Get out!” Val raged.

Kix’s eyes flicked to each of the armed Hyperdive employees. “Boo!” he suddenly blurted out, causing the female Twi’lek to jump.

“Get out! NOW!”

“I’ll be back , Navin. And there’s not a whole lot you’ll be able do about that, either,” the storm commando said, his voice dripping with contempt. He reached down to haul Nash, who seemed to alternating between grunts of pain and hysterical giggling, to his feet. “Any of you want to get into a battle, I’ll show you a real firefight.”

* * *

“Blast!”

Kix drained the last of the Corellian whiskey from the flask, then hurled it against a building. “What are you laughing at?”

Nash, hunkered down on a hoverbus stop bench, gasped “You. Ladies man.”

“Shut the frell up!” Kix kicked the bench his friend was sitting on in frustration. Who did Navin think she was, blowing him off like that? And that idiotic ISB agent. Well, only the Celestials knew how that goon’s mind operated.

“Too bad . . .not . . .Trandys . . .again,” Nash grunted. “Get ripped . . .open . . . not hurt . . . so much.”

Uttering a feral growl, Kix seized Nash by his collar, ignoring the man’s screech of agony. “We’re going back to the ship. For now. But I swear, that broad’s going to wish she never ever set foot on this blasted planet!”

* * *

“Rab, I’m so sorry this happened.”

Rinehart grunted, wincing as Ale’ma pressed the ice pack down on his face a bit too much. Those storm commandos had certainly done a number on him:  One eye nearly swollen shut, lower lip split wide open, who knew how many loose teeth, and enough contusions all over to make movement a living hell. “My fault,” Rinehart answered, his battered mouth mangling the words.

“I’ll have someone take you over to a clinic,” Val offered, but Rinehart shook his head no.

“Why not? Rab,–”

“No!” Rinehart said firmly, then looked away. “I’m sorry. Know you’re just trying to help.” He offered a hideous smile. “Guess I’m a better bus boy than bouncer.”

“I appreciate what you were trying to do. Look Rab, I’d feel a lot better if you’d let us take you to a med clinic.”

“Please. I’d just . . . rather be alone for a while.”
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Re: Spies Like Us

Val woke up the next morning seemingly in a bad mood from the moment her chrono went off.  The fact that it had done so in the middle of a bad dream contributed as much to that state of mind as the events of the night before did.   

Damn arrogant Imps nearly starting another fight and just a few days after she’d lost one of her oldest and dearest friends as the result of another conflict.   Some days she hated this job, today being one of them.  Yet she hauled herself out of the comfort of her bed anyway, showered then dressed before heading to the sublevel to check operations.

She had gone to bed later than she wanted to last night after arguing successfully with Kislev that he stay there overnight in the clean spare room off the back of the Corellian Lounge.  She’d kept it furnished with a small, comfortable bunk just for such instances as employees who were too tired to make the trip home…or like in Rab’s case might have someone possibly waiting for him outside with less than good intentions.  She had no desire to take the risk of a repeat of the past few day’s events.

Surpressing a yawn as she stepped off the turbolift, her first order of business this morning was to find some strong caf and get it into her system as soon as possible.  Ale’ wasn’t around as she looked over the downloaded data and transmissions from headquarters and various other senders while sipping from her mug.

 The Twi’lek agent was up and around herself already, keeping an eye on things on the main level in case those two of the Empire’s finest decided to make good on their threat from the night before. Not that Navin expected them to, but it was better to be safe than sorry always.  

The intercepted datastreams were full of rather routine news.  The Hutts were moving a large quantity of black market goods rimward…no surprises there.  Val would pass on some information to interested law enforcement entities along the trade spine concerning the particulars of one of the transport ships she was sure was being used as part of the operation.

From an anonymous informant came information that there was some increase in asset flow between a couple of particularly shadowy corporate financial entities based on Coruscant and one in the Bakura system of all places that may bear further watching.  Her source had good quality leads in the past so she flagged that information to pass along to Intel Analysis back at headquarters for follow through.

And speaking of HQ, her next bit of news came from the man in charge of her section himself addressed to her personally.  As she read through the words scrolling down the screen she felt her face growing hot and her blood pressure, well as her temper rising.

“No frakking way.”  Val spit out in disgust.  “They are replacing Cris with…that…that…arrogant, annoying…man-rancor gone wrong…thing?”  She added, glancing at the chrono on the wall that indicated the current Galactica Standard time on Coruscant before walking furiously over to the high encryption scrambler equipped comm console.  “I don’t care if it is the frakking middle of the night there I am not letting Phaeden get away with this”.  

The fact that there was no answer to her transmission only served to fuel the Major’s anger more and she left her ranking command officer a scathing message about his lousy choices in replacement agents and her intent to put a stop to it happening, imagining that infuriating smirk he’d have on his face as he viewed it.  She kept her voice in a level tone, but the cold anger in that voice as well as the fire in her eyes would be apparent to the General when he saw the holotransmission. It better have that effect anyway, Val thought.

“Frak!  This day just gets better and better.” She said to the empty room, slamming her near empty mug down onto the tabletop in front of her before stalking back toward the turbolift.

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Re: Spies Like Us

Erc finished what he had to at Intel Command and moved quickly back to the Claw. Si had accompanied him. waiting for him to try and explain at least his side in all this. Erc didn't want anything to do with the explanation. Definitely not in the middle of the Heart of the New Republic.

Walking up the boarding Ramp, Soroba was waiting for his captain. The look on Erc's face shut him up. As soon as the seals locked on the boarding ramp, Erc turned to the Dug.

"I've been trapped. It seems I'm now working for the New Republic again. If you want out, and I wouldn't blame you if you do, We're stopping off at Smuggler's Run after we take care of business in the Alderaan System. If you don't want to leave there, Nar Shaddaa is the final destination. You leave, you'll get an amazing recommendation from me to whoever signs you on. They'll be lucky to have you. I'm trapped in this, No reason for you to be."

"Erc man, you have to know I wasn't in on this. I couldn't tell you what was.."
Erc held up his hand. Stooping any further comments from Sionne, who had finally tried to defend himself.

"I would be lying to say I'm happy about this, but I too once fought for this New Republic. I can tolerate working for them again. For now. You have earned my respect, I won't leave you for this." Soroba was scratching his chin with one of his lower "legs".

"Thank you My friend, We'll be leaving in a few, Could you see to the remains, and make sure Spanner has them ready for the ceremony. I told him to prep the port cargo hatch for the launch." Turning to Si, Erc just indicated for him to follow him towards the cockpit. When the cockpit hatch sealed, Erc then looked right at his friend. "Now I know you had a cover to maintain. I'm not going to ask why I'm finding out about all this now. But you do know me and my allegiance to the NR to know you could have told me SOME of it. Even a hint of why we had to come here first. That you WEREN'T retired like I thought."

"If I could, I would have. If anyone knows how these things work it's you. you've done this Dren almost as many times as I have. It depends on security, and the ONLY way to secure this is to make sure as few people as needed know."

"Well, I guess I'm in it now, and someone had to have mentioned me to your boss. The Pa'taqh in there. Must have been a great report, including my file, for him to recruit me like that. And for the purpose of reporting on Navin. wonderful."

"What are you going to do Erc? Val isn't a bad operative. She's had some bad breaks, but she doesn't deserve what They are putting her through."

"I guess I'm going to do my job. As for if I'm going to be his mole in your operation, and yes, that's what he wants me to do, that will depend on my opinion of her ability to do her job. I will follow her orders, and play by the rules as long as things seem to be going the way they should. If I have reason to doubt her motives or operations, I will make note of them. But I am not anyone's Spy. Frell that! If he doesn't have the Mevocks to do this himself, then it's his problem. Navin just better recognize that I DO outrank her. And you too Lt. Idris. Now, get yourself prepped for liftoff. We'll be in the Alderaan System within 3 hours from gear up. And then at the Run within 12 hours of that. If you've never been to the Run, I suggest making sure you have your blaster and are ready to draw it."

"I've never been there, but I do know what to expect. Which Skiff are we going to?" Idris stiffened when he was addressed by rank. The wording was definitely military in nature. But he needed to give Erc time. He knew how he'd have felt being railroaded like this.

"Skiff 3. I'm impressed you know that much. We'll go direct, not Via Skiff 1 like most do. The docking areas are smaller, but it'll be easier in the long run. I need to see someone. Now, go strap in."

The tension was still there the entire trip to Alderaan. Once in system, Erc positioned the Claw for Cristoph's final trip. No one said anything, allowing their silence and reverence speak for itself. Both Soldiers stood at full attention. The usual spacer's clothes were replace on Erc with a Alliance Uniform. What would have passed as a dress uniform back in the day. His Captain's Rank shining. Idris also wore a Uniform, but his the current Dress uniform of the New Republic. Both officers finally saluted. and using this as the arranged signal, Spanner, sitting in the decompressed docking coupler, ignited the small thruster on Cristoph's remains. the capsule launched, ballistically heading towards what has become known as the Graveyard.

"Let all those who come here know, Cristoph Denson, loyal son of Alderaan and soldier of the New Republic, has returned to the place of his birth."

Erc released his salute as soon has he ended the transmission. Sionne followed suit and Soroba, in the cockpit, began moving the ship away from the Graveyard. Turning towards the cockpit, with nothing really to add, Erc finished prepping the ship for the trip to the Run.

By the time that the Raptor's Claw arrived at the outlaw station known as Smuggler's Run, Erc and Si were both back into spacer's gear, Both plainly carrying blasters, and ready for what the Run had to offer.

Erc made the harrowing trip through the asteroid field, cutting in and out of the field, till he was in the center, approaching the rock designated Skiff 3. Erc docked, with less trouble then Sionne would have thought, and he lowered the entry ramp. Standing at the base of the ramp was a petite brunette. She wore a simple dress, and had a towel thrown over one shoulder. Even in this plain outfit, there was a beauty to her. Her makeup was simple. highlighting her features.

"About time you showed up Vortan. I was starting to think you weren't going to show…..again."

"Always a pleasure Inyar. I wasn't expecting you to come and meet the ship. I was just about to treat Si here to a drink at your café. It is still running isn't It? Erc was smiling.

"Yeah it's still here, no one dumb enough to try and take it over from me. You gonna introduce me to this guy?"

"Sionne Idris, This is former Mistryl, former New Republic Commando Anara Inyar.  Anara, This is Sionne, current pain and former Alliance Special Operative. Now that all us FORMER Alliance people know each other, how about those drinks?" Erc was already moving toward Anara, and when he reached her, he leaned down and into her and kissed her.

She kissed back, let him move back a minute and laughed.  "You call that a kiss, you have been in space for too long." She grabbed his  head and pulled it down for a more passionate kiss.

Swinging down from the ship, soroba landed next to Sionne. "They doing this again? will you two grow up. or get a room. Idris, follow me, I'll take you to the café. Her staff will be there, and I'll charge the drinks to Vortan's bill."

"Works for me. Lead the way."

When the two were gone, Erc grabbed Anara's hand and brought her up into the ship. It was honestly the only place on any of these rocks that he trusted enough to be honest with her.

"Seems my little adventures have kicked me in the behind again." Erc said when they were seated in the ship's cockpit.

"What do you mean? I got your transmission and it's been confusing the hell out of me."

"Sionne there isn't a former NR anything. He's currently assigned to Nar Shaddaa, under the command of some female Intel Major. A Major who's not well liked by her commanding General. I've just been threatened into working for their little operation for the time being. I'm collecting a paycheck from the NR again. Not that I'm happy about it"

"No, I wouldn't think you are. Especially with how you left. I take it he knows you're entire record." a nod from Erc confirmed that. "things must be bad there. not a good place for you to be. You need me to come out there and help you out?"

"That's  not needed. I know it'd be nice to have you closer to me. But I don't need your help yet. Be selfish if I dragged you out there just for the company. We discussed this before. Besides if you come with me, how'd you get back?"

"For your information, I have gotten my hands on a slightly used Incom A-24 Sleuth. A nice little scout ship. Not fast, not well armed, but good enough. And I'm getting very good at piloting it. The ship came with a R-5 co-pilot. I have the droid working in the café when not updating the ships systems." Anara stared at Erc, daring him to say something.

"You really need to send me more updates, I had no clue you were taking piloting lessons.  Anything else you're holding out on me?

"For you to find out. But I'm serious, if you need me, send the signal. You know that place can take care of itself. And I haven't been to the Moon in a while, I could use the vacation."

"What kind of place do you choose to live when you call the Smuggler's Moon a vacation spot. But thanks. If it gets bad, I will call. Just try not to crash into anything."

Having hit the button that Anara set for him, The woman, who still moved as quickly and silently was laughing and beating Erc, who joined her in laughing. Carrying her back into the Hold, towards the crews quarters.

The next day the Raptor's Claw departed the run, Si had a headache, not expecting the booze to be so strong, Soroba was smiling, not only knowing that his Captain was happy at any chance to visit with Anara, the woman who wasn't a girlfriend, "Humans!" but knowing that he was responsible for Sionne's hangover. "Humans are so easy sometimes."

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Re: Spies Like Us

With his Imperial Star Destroyer safely hidden behind Nal Hutta and away from Nar Shaddaa's sensor range, Admiral Dodonna resided in his private quarters to review the report. He sat stiffly in a slick lounge chair, refusing to relax in its warm contours. Too much comfort made Dodonna distinctly uncomfortable. His eyebrows knitted together, and his eyes narrowed as he concentrated on every word dictated in the report, taking in what had happened on the surface, as well as the observations on this establishment named the <I>Hyperdive</I>.

Kix Davin and Nash Cadman stood stiffly behind his desk, their uniforms wrinkle free, hands clasped behind their backs. Kix was trying to mask a smug grin of satisfaction, but the expression displayed itself in a small facial tick and the slight upturn of his vanishingly thick lips.

"Will you vouch for the accuracy of this report, Lt. Cadman?" Dodonna questioned without looking up.

"Yes, Admiral, I was there and I witnessed the same observations," Cadman responded without pause.

Kix intervened. "The report is as stated, Admiral. I compiled it all according to what I have observed. Commander Lane was having difficulty transmitting, there is an ISB operative on active duty in the tavern, and this Val'kia Navin is cause for suspicion."

"Are you certain this Navin is conducting some Rebel operation? She could very well be working for some underworld syndicate. If so, I am not interested." The Admiral raised his eyebrows and let his colorless lips frown.

"My assumption is that she is working for the Rebels, Sir," Kix replied, directing his gaze to his superior. "If you permit me, I would like to conduct a covert operation and survey operations outside of her building– maybe possibly acquiring one of her employees for questioning once they step out from there."

"Risky." Dodonna stated. "It could be a hoax, possibly a setup. The Hutts know we are here."

"I don't believe so. Hutts don't have equipment that advanced to jam Imperial transmissions which Commander Lane used. I think this covert survellience I am requesting will clear our questions, once and for all." Davin insisted.

The warlord sighed. "Very well, Commander Davin. Permission granted to conduct your operation, but under no circumstances are you to interfere with the ISB operative. The last thing I need is Bastion breathing down my neck."

"Yes, sir," a smug smile attempted to clad his expression.

"You will follow all surveillance protocol to the letter." Dodonna punctuated the last phrase with an index finger jabbing the air. "Have your team briefed. I want no mistakes. Any sign of exposure and we pull out. Understood? I only want confirmation that this operation is indeed fronted by the Rebels. If so, we will proceed in compromising it only with the coorperation of the ISB operative. Under no circumstances are you to compromise it yourself."

"Understood, sir," Kix saluted.

"Good." He stood up and brushed the palms down the smooth olive-gray of his uniform trousers. "You're both dismissed."

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Re: Spies Like Us

The Trip from Smuggler's Run was uneventful. Sionne made some inquiries about what happened while they were at the Café, but Erc just simply gave
him a look and Si backed down laughing. It was obvious that Soroba had told a few stories while they were out of the Claw. But Erc Expected it, and some
light ribbing from an old friend can be tolerated, as long As Erc kept some control.
The approach to the Moon was different somehow this time. And it wasn't the Imperial Star Destroyer hanging around the system. Damn those Hutts for wanting
to gain profit from everyone. Credits are good from both sides, as long as it's a Hutt making the credits. The Shield dropped, and the Claw dropped below the shield.
No, there was something definitely different this time. Erc Was trapped here. He couldn't argue about his "new" rank. It's the Rank he deserved. He was a Ship's Captain.
He'd used that Ship to the benefit of both the New Republic and Rebel Alliance before that. And under normal circumstances, wouldn't mind reporting to a Major.
He'd done it before. BUT THIS MAJOR was a Major pain in his ass.

Erc took an approach a little lower then he'd usually take. And because of this, had to weave in and out of speeder traffic. The Skies were no where near as crowded as
those of Coruscant, but it wasn't a simple matter of just dodging buildings. In fact, at least one Speeder got a blast of Ion drive and lost control for a moment. It recovered,
but the pilot was probably cursing in every language  he, she or it knew. Soroba wasn't enjoying the ride either, he was gripping the controls of the Nav consul with all four
appendages. A similar look on his face as when Erc flies the asteroid field heading to the Run. The turns and dips were not his favorite part of space flight.

Circling once, Erc brought the Claw down to a gentle landing. With a release of gasses and the settling of the struts, Erc powered down, set some systems to standby,
and others where shut down completely. In fact, for a minute, he considered shutting her down completely, since for the time being he'd be tied to the Moon, and his
"night" job. The Ice Queen was probably going to stick him with Bar duty, or somethign else, and watch as her frelled himself trying to make the mixed drinks. or even
better, cleaning the heads. Who the hell knows.

"OK Vortan, Thanks for the Ride, I checked in with Val, and I'm off till tomorrow. I'm going to check my messages and turn in. I haven't slept since we left the Run. And
thanks for that, I'd never been there. Interesting. You have some strange hang outs. But I can definitely approve of the decor." Sionne was holding out his hand, and Erc
took it, giving his old friend a smile. "I'll see what I can do about getting you some part time work, at the least. I know I could use your help on some of the busiest nights."
That last part was for anyone who might be listening in, always something that was possible on Nar Shaddaa. Talon Karrde got his info somehow. Never knew who was
selling what.

"Thanks Man, I'll be staying here, you have the Comm Codes. I'm going to be out for a while. Clear my head or something. You know those long Hyperspace rides."
Sionne left, walking towards the place he kept here. Vortan wouldn't be finding a place to stay, not yet at least. His ship was more then comfortable enough, and Spacers
who didn't include Nar Shaddaa on their routes enough rarely rented a place. Till he'd been hired by Val, "Hired, Yeah Right", He didn't have a reason to have a place on
the Moon.

Wandering around, no destination in mind, Erc moved through the Rodian sector, then through a mixed area. couldn't put a title on who originally set up shop here, but it
definitely  gave a nice effect. This had to be one of the few places on the Moon that didn't have that scummy feeling to everything. It wasn't business as usual here.
Marking his map that Erc had loaded into his Padd, Erc decided this was where he was going to be getting a place to stay, and a Speeder bike, or Swoop to get back
and forth. The Swoop wouldn't be a problem. He knew where an old Bespin Motors Swoop was, It needed alot of work, but the classic lines suited Him.

An hour later, Erc looked around, Definitely the Corellian Sector. Not only that, but, "Frell, Even when roaming I seem to always end up here!" Down the block was the
Hyperdive. seeing the entrance, and thinking about how he'd been hooked into this role here, and the fact that he was being used to keep tabs on a suspected bad Station
Chief, Erc's Temper rose. In fact, alot of pent up frustration over the situation chose this moment to fester to the surface.

Now, walking with a purpose, Erc burst in the front door. Seeing the Twi'Lek behind the bar, Erc stared at her. "Where is she?"

"Ah, Ms Navin is in her office and doesn't want to be disturbed. Can I do anything for you?" She asked.

"You can stay out of my way. And make sure WE'RE not disturbed!" Erc moved, again with a purpose. he weaved in between tables and the spattering of patrons. Just
being in this place reminded him of what pissed him off so much. He'd left the NR because he didn't agree with the direction they were taking. the policies they chose.
Since then, living on the fringe, Erc had come to appreciate his freedom, able to move from system to system, not really smuggling, although he'd taken on some
contraband cargo's, trying to continue to make a difference for some people. but now, that had all been taken away. He was being FORCED to work Intel. to SPY on is
"Station Commander", he was even reporting directly to General what's his name, skipping the Colonel That Navin reports to directly. He was a personal weapon of
some data pusher. Time to vent! And Vent he would.  Erc pushed in the Office door, it slammed open and began it's return trip, sidestepping the door, Erc slammed
it shut, and locked it.  "We got a problem."

"Your Fraking Right we have a problem Vortan. Who the Frak do you think you are coming in here like this?"  The friary redhead behind the desk Said with a
deadly seriousness.

"Well., it seems I'm part of the team now. Lucky me. Must have been a heartbreaking write up you gave me."

"Don't you DARE try to blame me for you being here now!" As she She replied back, a little louder this time  Val had activated the privacy field, from this point on,
the people outside might hear some noise, but the words wouldn't travel through.

"Who should I blame? Me? For trying to help an old friend in trouble? Frell! I should've let you guys fight it out with those Trandos alone. Then roasted a plava nut
on the after math."

"Frack you! How dare you bring that up! I lost more then an employee that night, I lost a friend. You have no idea what that night did to me." Val was now yelling.

"Whatever it did to you, you just had to make mention of me, didn't you? how many others in that fight are going to be ambushed into working here? Should I get a room
big enough for a dorm? You pulled my file and attached it, didn't you?"

"You're Fraking right I did. Sionne filled me in on who you WERE once, and I pulled the file, but if you think I gave you any credit, you've gone space mad. In Fact, I told
them exactly how much of a Annoying Son of a Sith you are!"

"And that's exactly why I've been chosen to be your watchdog. In case you missed it, I do outrank you. Oh yeah, you still command this station, and I report to you, but
Damn, I've been "recruited" to watch you, and spring the trap the minute you make a mistake."

"Damn you, I've spent too long building this place up to have you take it down. I'll kill you first." Val was still standing, but now leaned over her desk, the look of rage
in her eyes, her voices once again deadly serious, almost cool.

"Frell you, I'm not anyones' tool. I'll do what I'm assigned to do, but I won't play any of this political Dren! You Frell up, I'll be over you like stink on a Hutt. You do your job,
and I will too." Erc replied, his words as cold as a retiles blood

"You job is to follow my orders and do what you're told. If you get out of line, I'll beat you back into line." Val stood straight up. "You will hardly be the first hot shot spacer
I've dealt with, or even the toughest."

"By the Force you are sexually frustrated. Why don't you get out of this office and bar once in a while. Get some action of your own." Erc looked around the office "Or better
yet, give that couch a workout. Do something. Cause your tough girl act ain't cuttin it!"

"Just Frak you! FRAK you to hell!" Val was furious now, if something didn't happen, this little encounter was going to come to physical blows. "Get the Frak out of my office!
Don't you come back till Idris is here to keep you away from me. You'll report to him CAPTAIN Vortan. And your Rank means nothing to me, as far as I'm concerned,
Lt Idris is your Superior here. He's put the time in. You're just a Fraking Boot."

There were a hundred things Erc wanted to say, primary among them is confirming his theory that she needed to find someone to be intimate with. But all of them ended
with blasters being drawn. Silently, Erc walked over to Val's Desk, reached into his vest and removed a data card. He placed it gently, as if it was fragile, onto her desk,
turned and moved for the door.

"And what the Frak is this Dren you just left me?" Val asked, still in a rage.

"It's a recording of the ceremony aboard the Claw, in The Alderaan System. I had it recored for you. It's the least I could've do to help you honor your friend." Without
another word Erc left the room, and moved quickly for the door. He never looked back, or looked around to see exactly how many people were staring at him. Doubtless
that most, if not all, heard a fight taking place. Just not what was said.

There was alot he regretted about that "discussion" but it needed to be done. Both of them have issues that need to be spoken, and probably would be spoken again, if
 not all at once like this. Erc continued his walk around Nar Shaddaa for 6 more hours, never once stopping to eat. By the time he returned to his ship, he went right to
his bunk, sealed the room and passed out.

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Re: Spies Like Us

Val watched Vortan’s retreat from her office with her jaw clenched as she sat back down in her chair and tried to get herself back in control again, one hand rubbing the spot between her eyebrows where she felt a headache developing rapidly.

“Frak!  The nerve of that idiot to say something that stupid.”  She thought, tapping her fingers of her other hand in a restless staccato rhythm on the desktop next to the datacard that Erc had placed there. Typical of a droyk like that to make a comment about her sex life being the reason behind her anger and frustration.  Frakking idiot.  She was pissed off to a nuclear level because she had worked with men like him before and knew how they could be.  Always had to be right, always had to have the upper hand.  It was no wonder Phaeden had chosen him for the job…they had so many wonderful qualities in common.  The main one being the need to make her job needlessly more difficult than it already could be.

As if she didn’t have enough to handle right now without Phaeden’s snitch making things worse.  It was almost enough to make her say frak it all, take her transport and just go disappear to some outer rim world. She’d heard Bakura was nice.  But she knew there was no way in the nine hells she’d give the General and his new pal the satisfaction.

Taking one more deep breath, Val picked up the datacard.  A reluctant twinge of gratitude forming at Vortan having recorded it for her, but she buried it a moment later by telling herself it was probably Si’s idea anyway.  Still, she picked up her datapad and slid the card into it anyway and watched the scene play as she listened to Idris eulogize their friend.  His words expressed everything she wanted to be there to say in person herself and with so much emotion in his rumbling baritone voice that it brought tears to her eyes.

Goddess help me, but I’ll just have to keep doing this. If only to honor Denson and the hard work and loyalty he’d shown her all the years they’d been friends and collegueus.  And for the cause they both believe so strongly in during their younger years.  A cause they’d lost so much to fighting for.    All of these thoughts ran through Val’s mind as she sat there trying to compose herself before heading out to find Sionne and rip him a new one for not warning her about all of this sooner.  And if she ran across Vortan on her way to do it, he’d better stay the frak out her way and not say a word.

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TK0212 | "The Beast" <br>No, I'm a fucking squirrel!

Re: Spies Like Us

Kix palmed the hatch, and the inrush of air sent dirt and debris whirling through the cargo bay of the <I>Lambda</i>-class shuttle. The door hissed open wide, leaving a large opening. It was pitch black outside with a few lights peppering the cityscape below. It was a challenge for a storm commando even with night-vision in their helmets. Davin was starting to experience serious doubt for the second time in his life, the first being in that fight last night with those trandos.

"Go! Go! GO!" The pilot shouted. Two of his team eased through the hatch and stepped out. Kix stood back to make way for Nash: he wanted to gather as much gear as he could. They needed the interrogation gear. He grabbed some of the tranquilizer darts.

"Now!" the pilot growled. "We're going to be spotted!"

<I>Frak!</I> The shuttle started to move. No time to frell around anymore. Kix lunged forward and shoulder-charged Nash out of the hatch, grabbing the gear under his arm. It was clear from the stream of expletives that Cadman was not expecting this, nor was he happy about it. Davin heard one last profanity, then both storm commandos hit the roof of the building and rolled.

"What the <I>frak</I> was that about?!" Nash growled, switching on his night-vision, and fumbling to get to his feet. Something flared into brillant white light above them. It was the Imperial shuttle's sublights roaring into the polluted night sky of Nar Shaddaa, back toward the <I>Ravisher</I>.

"Sorry, Nash. Shuttle was going." He replied curtly. Kix got to his feet and checked for the power packs in his belt pouch, then went in search for their intel gear. It hadn't fallen far from them. The other two on his team took positions already and had secured the rooftop.

Kix found the gear at the edge of another rooftop, being poked and prodded by a small band of jawas that seemed fascinated by it. He raised his E-11 and fired a suppressed blaster shot to scatter them. They bursted into angry chatter and ran off, while one stayed behind and charged.

"Oh, come on!" Kix said behind his helmet, cracking the smelly alien on the head with the butt of his blaster rifle. "I've got work to do. Frell off."

Nash and their team approached from behind and one of the commandos took out his datapad and calculated his position. "The <I>Hyperdive</I> is in that direction. We'll set up camp and set gear on the top of that building. It has a straight view down to the tavern. We can monitor chatter that way." Kix and Nash nodded. If only they had a speeder bike, that would be handy.

"Alright, men, let's move out. We've got a rebel to spy on," Kix ordered, grabbing the gear and holstering it over his shoulder. "Any contact or any sign we've been spotted, you take them out, but I prefer zero casualties."

"Copy that," came the replied clips from his team's comlinks.

"Move out!" Nash ordered. Each of them started to move toward their target, avoiding tracks and open spaces.

Kix lugged the gear behind his shoulder and gritted his teeth. He decided then and there to add a portable repulsorlift to his new list of gear to request upon return…

The Kixinator
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Re: Spies Like Us

“Erc Vortan! As I live and breathe!”

“Rosko! How long has it been?”

Not long enough, scumbag.”

The two men embraced, thumping each other on the back. Life as a galactic fringer left little opportunity to develop any deep, or trusting, friendships, but a familiar face was a welcome site in a port. Usually.

“So what brings you to Nar Shaddaa?”

The man known as Rosko only gave Erc an enigmatic smile. “Usual business. the sight of that Imp Star gave me a frell of a start, though. Don’t recall them ever putting in here for liberty.”

Erc grunted in affirmation, but then again, who really know how some these die-hard Imperials acted. “Nearly had a real dust up here not too long ago, from what I hear.”

“You work here or what?” Rosko asked, gesturing about the Hyperdive.

“Let’s just say I have some pull around here.”

“Enough to get me a bottle? Or two?”

“I got the bottle, if you got the credits.”

“Oh, I think it’ll be on the house, once you hear what I have to say. Lissen, on my approach in . . . .”

* * *

“Trouble, toots.”

Val’kia looked up from the datapad she was studying, reviewing the intelligence collected from the previous night. “Shove it, Vortan.”

“I’m serious,” he said as he flopped down in a chair and kicked his feet up. “Hit the bubble.”  Val’kia glared at Vortan, but did as he said, activating the disruption generator.

“What the frell are you talking about?”

“The Imps have set up an eye in the sky. Or at least on the ‘scrapers nearby. Surveillance post.”

“Birdwatchers?” she asked, suddenly tense.

“My source says troops in armor, but he doesn’t think it’s our familiar boys in white.”

“TAMs maybe? Frak!” The only logical explanation–that Davin character must have more p.o.’ed than she thought. The Imps would have to be cleared out; they couldn’t have anything compromising their operation here.

“I suppose we could all line up and moon them, let ‘em know that we know that they’re there,” Erc said, but one glance at the look in Val’s eyes told him that she was planning something else. “Don’t tell me, you want to do it the hard way.”

“You bet I do,” Val shot back, her blood lust up.

“You never cease to amaze me. All right, I’ll start scoping, pulling our assets together.”

“Fine. You do that. Just make it clear that I’ll be in command. And leading.”

“Blast it, woman! You–”

“Major.”

Despite the muffling effects of the disruption sphere, the other members of Val’s team know that their leader and Vortan were going at it again. Sionne and Aleema could only roll their eyes, while the more cynical ones opportunistically placed bets on how long the argument would last this time.

Finally, Vortan came storming out of Val’s office, only to nearly run down Rinehart, who was lurking in the hall way.

“Blast it, Kislev! What the frell are you doing?”

“I’m cleaning up. Like I’m supposed to do.”

“Well, why don’t you make yourself more useful and try cleaning up somewhere else?”

“You don’t sign my paycheck. I take my orders from Ms. Navin.”

“Rab!” Val’kia shouted. “You quit your mouthing off. Last time you gave somebody some lip, I ended up having to save your sorry rear end. Did you put that coat of gloss on the dance floor like I told you to?”

“No Ma’am.”

“What, your arms broken or something? Get to it!”

“Yes Ma’am,” Rinehart gulped before scurrying away.

“That didn’t look to hard, Val. Following orders,” Erc sneered. “Why can’t you do that?”

Navin’s response was to let loose a stream of oaths that even made Vortan’s eyes to widen in shock.

* * *

“Lookit that. What kind of ale do you think they’re drinking?”

“Don’t know. If I was down there, I wouldn’t care what kind it was. Just so long as it was cold.”

“What the frell are we doing up here anyway? I could do surveillance on that cantina a lot better if I was inside it.”

“I heard Davin and Cadman went there a couple times already. They got some broads there that–”

“Shhh!”

Both of the commandos scrambled for their equipment as Kix suddenly appeared, but the look on his face showed that he wasn’t fooled by his troopers ' seeming diligence. Davin made as if to move past the surveillance post, then like a wraith, was at the napes of the commandos’ necks.

“The next man found shirking his duty,” Kix hissed dangerously, “will be dealt with by me personally.”

The two commandos kept their eyes riveted on the Hyperdive as Kix stole away silently.

Kix was still in a foul mood when he reached the enclosure that served as the detachment’s bivouac. The Imperial officer found his lieutenant there, stripped to the waist in an attempt to find some relief from the day’s humidity.

Nash Cadman dug a last morsel out of the combat ration he was munching on as Kix recounted the incident involving the lackadaisical troopers, then gave his shoulders a slight shrug.

“You’ve got to admit, Kix, that this isn’t what those troopers were trained for. Ask them to shoot up the Hyperdive, sure; have them spy on it, hardly. I mean, you can only lie in ambush for so long before . . . you get distracted.”

“When I issue a command, I expect it to be followed,” Davin seethed. “And it's nothing that I wouldn’t do myself.”

“I know, Kix, but maybe, just maybe, this is a job better suited for Intel. Frell, maybe even for the ISB, if they can get over their fetish of snooping on us.”

“I don’t give up on a mission, Nash, and I don’t expect the men under my command to do so either. Especially my subordinates.”

“Am I supposed to take that like you think I’m supposed to?” Nash countered hotly.

“Take it any way you want, Nash.”

* * *

“Aleema, where’s Ms. Navin? I haven’t seen here at all this evening.”

“She won’t be here, Rab. Some business to attend to.”

“Okay. I’ll talk to Sionne then. He can–”

“Uhh, he won’t be here tonight either.”

“So if something comes up tonight, who are are we to go to?”

“What do you think I am, Rab? Chopped liver?”

The undercover ISB agent took a step back, holding his hands up in a placating manner. “Okay, okay! Take it easy! Sheesh! You’re gonna be in charge tonight!”

“Yes I am. And of this moment, you take orders from me. Did you make sure the bar was fully stocked?”

“Yes, I did it this afternoon. Tapped a couple of fresh kegs, too.”

“Good. You know, you’re going to see what the Hyperdive can be like when I’m running things.”

“So, you’ll be out and about, circulating as official hostess then?”

“I’ll be around,” the Twi’lek said somewhat cryptically.

As Rinehart left to do some last minute prep for the cantina’s evening opening, his mind worked furiously. No Val’kia, no Sionne. And no Erc Vortan maybe, for that matter.  The Hyperdive possibly left in the hands of a fairly inexperienced Twi’lek. Rinehart hadn’t planned on starting operations against the club for a few more days, but here was an opportunity too good to pass up.

The Imperial agent worked through the crush of the initial crowd, and when a lull in business set in, Rinehart began to spread the word that he needed to “bail out for a bit to take care of something.” As he expected, the info filtered down to Aleema. The Twi’lek soon appeared, looking rather peevish.

“Rab, what’s going on?”

“I hate to do this to you tonight, Aleema, but I really need a favor.”

“To do what?”

“To take care of something.”

“What kind of ‘something’?”

“Umm, kinda personal, you know?” Rinehart said, managing to look rather embarrassed.

“Rab,” Aleema said, but already starting to vacillate. Her opinion of Kislev was that he seemed to be a real stick in the mud, and an odd one at that. Who knew what he had got tangled up in on Nar Shaddaa.

“I’ll stay late, to make up for the time that I’m gone,” Rinehart offered.

“You’re starting to act just like Feddriss, you know that Kislev? All right; go! But the minimum you’re going to have to work is two hours extra.”

“Thanks, Aleema. I’ll be back as quick as I can.”

Sprinting through the humid Nar Shaddaa night, pushing his way through the teeming crowds, Rinehart reached the decrepit tenement which ostensibly serve as his home. In the lobby, he entered the turbolift and punched in a special code, which took him down to the deep cover Ubiqtorate cell that Rinehart reported to.

“Captain VonToma. This is a surprise.”

Rinehart eyed the system cell leader. “Yes Sir. But my operational plan has been moved up. I’m commencing action against the Hyperdive tonight. I need to be wired,” he said, already stripping off his shirt.

The lone operative from Tech was efficient. Within minutes, the man had crisscrossed Rinehart’s torso with a number of monofilament wires, all connected to a small recorder that was concealed in the ISB agent’s underwear.

“You have any bugs handy that I could plant? Passive?”

“Coming up.”

“These won’t be detected?” Rinehart asked when the Tech operative reappeared with several nano-devices.

“They’re the best we can offer against the Rebels.”

“Not good enough. Can’t risk them being found.” Rinehart grimaced, recalling the times he had seen Navin wandering about the cantina. Inspection, frell! She was sweeping the Hyperdive, sanitizing it against any devices employed against her. But if you removed the bugs before she could conduct her sweeps, and access the stored data . . .

“Putty!” Rinehart shouted.

“That putty stuff you guys use. Bring me a wad.”

* * *

True to his word, Rinehart had hustled back to the Hyperdive as quickly as he could, and had ended up being absent for slightly less than forty-five minutes. Despite this, Aleema insisted that he work an additional three hours. Rinehart made a show of bellyaching, but put the time to good use.

He placed ten bugs throughout the Hyperdive, concealing them in the dun-colored putty that he had demanded of the Tech operative. All of them were planted as Rinehart did his work, bussing and cleaning tables. Keeping the bugs hidden in his cleaning cart, one deft motion of the hand would smear the putty (and the device) on the underside of the table as Rinehart wiped the top. Most everyone would mistake the putty for a wad of chewing gum, thoughtlessly placed there by some ill-mannered sentient. And of course Rinehart, good employee that he was, would be there to remove first thing in the morning, before Ms. Navin could discover it. As to the wire he was wearing, that could be tricky. The device was most efficient, but if the off-chance that he was discovered with it . . .

Rinehart put such pessimistic thoughts aside. Once his shift was over, he would report back to his handlers and have the readings downloaded from the recording device. And whatever sort of equipment Navin had in this place would soon be used against her.

Too bad, Rinehart mused,that that had to happen to such an attractive woman. Must have been a real spitfire back home. But she’s got what’s coming to her.

A sudden commotion from the crowd broke Rinehart’s reverie, as all manner of beings began to press against the front permaplas viewport. All eyes were fixed on the disturbance occurring on the ‘scrapers above.
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New Republic Intelligence<br> I'll kill you with this fraking tray<br>Feles Mala!<br> I <3 Sammiches!

Re: Spies Like Us

Couldn’t they let just one discussion go by without it turning into a frakkin argument?  Apparently not.  

That was all Val would allow time for on any thoughts concerning that subject before going to work mobilizing her network of resources on the moon.  She was furious that the Imps were scoping out her place, but not entirely surprised by it.  She’d suspected those two Imp boys were going to end up being trouble after their last visit to the cantina.  

Wheeling around to her comm, Val entered a series of numbers and waited until the party on the other end answered in a reedy voice,  “Varkins’ Place”

“Put me through to him, Doyleina.”  Navin replied.  “Wh…” the female on the other end started to ask before Val cut her off.  “He’ll know who it is.” She said, sharply as she pictured the eye-rolling expression on the other woman’s face.  Nothing else was heard until a male voice with an oily tone came over the receiver.  “Hello, Val.  To what do I owe the pleasure of this transmission?”

“No pleasure, V’rail just business.”  She answered patiently.  “I’m having a little pest control problem, well some really big pests actually,  and I need to contract out some help in chasing them away. You’ve always been the go to man for such issues, but if you can’t handle it let me know.”

There had never been the need for much time-wasting dancing around the issue between herself and one of the Corellian Sector’s more discreet minor crime lordlings since she’d come to Nar Shaddaa and he’d tried, unwisely, to muscle in on what he thought to be her business dealings.  Since then, she and V’rail Varkin had developed a friendship of sorts based on mutual professional respect and reciprocal favors, even if Val was loath to admit it.

“No, no my dear.  I’d be happy to help.  I’d just prefer that any such assistance I provide cannot be traced readily back to either of us in case these pests decide that some retaliation is in order. This moon is a much more interesting place with you on it, Navin.” Varkin said smoothly. “I have an associate who knows a few Weequey, freelancers who have been hanging about looking for an opportunity to impress someone into taking them into their full time employ.  He may be able to convince them that this is just such the job to do it.  But before we get to the details, let’s discuss the most important matter of all.  What’s in it for me?”

Val could visualize exactly how V’rail appeared as he was saying this, the mercenary gleam in his cool gray eyes set in an otherwise unremarkable face. “Credits of course, you know I’m good for that.  And if things go well I can also guarantee that the shipment you are expecting in from Falleen as well as the one going out to Tallaan will have no problems getting through customs on either world.”

“Gods dammit woman! One of these days I swear you are going to have to share the names of your info brokers with me.” He laughed. “Alright, the terms work for me with the addition of one more.  Have dinner with me the first free night we both have.”

“No to the first, possibly to the second.” The intel officer replied. “I want these guys to look like locals, V’rail.  Not mercs. Have them carry their own weapons.  I’ll reimburse them for all power packs they need to deplete. I’m sending you the coordinates of the location these little mynocks have set up their nest in. I’ll meet them there at 2200.” Punching in another set of encrypted numbers she sent the necessary file his way before getting ready to sign off adding first.  “And V, make sure you pick somewhere decent this time.  You know I’m not a big fan of Twi’lek cuisine.”

After concluding her business with Varkin and leaving her office, Val went straight upstairs to change into something more suitable for taking on the little nest of vipers watching over her station.  Once she was suited up she commed Si to grab Vortan and meet her in the lower level of the building.  When the turbolift door opened she noticed her second in command was very much alone.

“Where the frak is Vortan, Si?” Val asked as she strode out of the turbolift and looked around the docking bay.

“He said he had to run to his ship and arm up.  I tried to tell him we had everything he needed here but…” Idris replied with a slight apologetic shrug.

“Let me guess, he wouldn’t listen. Big surprise there.” Val glanced at her wrist chrono, biting back another remark about Si’s old pal.  “We need to head out to the rendezvous point.  If he makes it on time, good for him if not I won’t hesitate to file a report on his stubborn ass.  I’m not about to make this easy on him or on his new buddy, Phaeden.”

Idris was about to speak on Erc’s behalf, but a quick look at Val’s face made him decide to keep it to himself.  After checking over his blaster pistols once more, he inclined his head toward the exit door.  “Let’s go mynock hunting, bosslady.”


Meanwhile aboard the Raptor’s Claw

The moment he and Navin ended there little discussion, Erc Vortan left the cantina.  Ignoring his friend’s recommendation to grab some gear from the lower level armory, Vortan preferred to put his trust in his own equipment that hadn’t let him down over the years.  He also preferred to arrange a little back-up plan of his own.  While he thought the intell crew here may be capable enough, there was nothing wrong with have a plan B…or even C in this case.

If the Imps thought Navin and her cantina were a front before, the fact that she and her mere employees were taking on the Empire’s finest was going to be one hell of a dead giveaway. She was protective of the place, and of her people.  He could grudgingly find no fault in that, but he still didn’t trust her and who knows if he ever would.  Right now it was about doing the job he’d been forced into doing by NRI.  And about helping an old friend in spite of who he chose to work for.  He shook his head again at that last thought.  Damn he’d always believed Idris smarter than that.  

Walking up the boarding ramp to the Claw,  he called for Soroba before heading to his small personal quarters where he began grearing up.  

“You still keep in touch with those Dug pirate pals of yours? The one’s working for that Huttling who owe you that favor from when we…uh…you helped them out the last time we were here?”  He asked his co-pilot.

“I can get word to them, Captain.” Soroba answered in his heavily accented Basic. “Why you need them for, boss?”

“Let’s just say I’d like a little extra insurance to make sure the plan to chase away those Imps who are watching Navin’s place goes well without much damage to our side. I figure, let the Imps think they’ve gotten caught in the crossfire between our people and your pirate buddies.  Think they’ll go for it?” Erc asked the Dug.

“For you, no.” Soroba replied. “For me, eh…they might.”

“Just make it look like it was all your idea and that’ll help, I’m sure” Vortan told him, ignoring the “tell me something I don’t know” expression on his face. “I’m sure if you add that they get to shoot at some Stormies and a couple of other humans, it may sway them to consider it too.”

“’Kay, Vortan.  I do this for you, not for that girly.  I don’t know nothing about her, yet.” The Dug grunted. “She the reason we stuck on this damn rock now.”

The two of them made there way back to the cockpit where Vortan gave Soroba the details to pass along to the pirates, should they deign to assist them.  One last thing to do, he programmed some commands for Tiny to follow as a last resort, worst-case scenario, aka Plan C.

“Allright, lock up the Claw, contact the pirates, and signal me when they reply.” Vortan told him as he walked down the ramp, lit cigarra between his teeth. “I’ve got a big date with a hot redhead.” He said with a laugh, thinking of the reaction Navin would have to hear him say that.  Too bad she wasn’t close enough to hear it.

Quod Me Nutrit, Me Destruit
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Re: Spies Like Us

Vortan settled in at the rallying point. He thought about heading back to the bar, but decided he'd just get the inevitable fight over with here, and use the frustration in the battle.

And sure enough, when the time came to rally, Navin walked up with Si. Behind them was an assortment of Weequey. The weaponry was assorted enough not to look organized, but Erc still didn't like this direct approach. The battleplan was sound enough, and if done right, no witnesses, but Erc never liked the direct approach.

"Vortan, where the Frak have you been and what in the name of the goddess are you wearing?" Navin was looking Vortan over, gone were the spacer's clothing he always seemed to be wearing. In there place he wore an all black outfit. The pants looked Imperial in nature, As did the almost knee high black boots he wore. His usual Gunbelt was missing, and a Black one with a decidedly Imperial Holster replaced it. In the Holster was what looked like a Standard DH-17 Blaster. Used by just about everyone. But the shirt was what made things so difficult, For no better comparison, it looked to be the same Top that Jedi Master Luke Skywalker used to wear. double breasted, Military in appearance, but not really used by any Military. Finishing the look was a pair of tight fitting black gloves.

"I thought the plan was to rally here and then assault the target. I just cut out meeting up in your place.  This seemed better to me. As for what I'm wearing, you like it? I thought it fitting." The Cigarra shifted a bit in Vortan's mouth, and there was a definite smirk on his face. The Weequey stood, not sure what was going on, but ready to do what they had come to do. all looking identical, except for the rag tag appearance of their clothing and the armor  they had each decided to strap on. All very individual.

Si moved to hand Erc a blaster rifle, but he turned it down."I'm going in with just the pistol. I'm playing a role. Don't want to break character."

"You're going in with a role? This is a assault, not a Holovid. You better have your Frakin head on the Mission Vortan. and remember, this is my command!" Val was furious, she wanted to beat some sense into this guy right here and now, but that wouldn't solve the bigger problem. "Here's the plan. Si and Vortan will provide  security on the flanks. You're job is to make sure nothing gets out from the sides. I'll lead our friends here on the main charge, we go in from what will be the observation team's left flank. We should get them by surprise, but even if we don't we charge through them."

Erc smiled, again, very sound strategy. On it's face, Erc couldn't find any fault with it. except maybe not being too subtle enough for his liking. Frell, maybe it was just cause she's doing the planning, and not taking any advise on anything.  Assaulting from the left wasn't what Erc had anticipated. The Dugs would be coming head on into the Imperials. That's how he had instructed Soroba to direct the Dugs. But then again, they are pirates in nature. This should be interesting.

Val took the lead, with all 4 Weequeys positioned around her in a classic cover position. Erc looked pasted them and saw Si, the professional Soldier, moving with his blaster rifle in the ready position. Erc moved the way he'd been taught as a boy, Blaster held next to his head, elbow bent, as if appearance meant more then tactics. Val looked over and shook her head, "He actually looks like an Imperial standing over there. But somehow he's keeping cover between him and the real Imperials. "

They were on the Observation post now. Val took some recordings of it, It seemed like 2/3 of the troopers were on duty, with 1/3 resting, not asleep, but resting. Standard Military procedure during active times.

Tapping the lead Weequey, Val initiated the attack. Blaster fire poured out from the Weequeys, With All three NR operatives adding theirs.

To their credit, the Imperials Rallied quickly. And turned some serious firepower back at the strike team. It seemed they had been well equipped in case of an assault. But the strike team had an edge, it had taken the initiative and kept it.

The weequeys lead the assault, laying down an impressive amount of firepower. 2 Imperials took blaster hits to the chest. That seemed to even the odds and make the Imps take a look around. the Flanking fire from Erc and Si helped keep their heads down. The weequeys had enough, they began a full out charge.  Val wasn't happy, but helped lay down covering fire.  The Imperials were taken back at first, but the Weequeys had broken cover, and were in the open.  The lead Weequey's chest suddenly erupted in fire as the beams from 3 Imperial rifles hit. the being was thrown back bodily and struck the deck with a thud.

The remaining weequeys stopped, and began scrambling for cover. 2 made it, the third, was hit by a Blaster shot. Still firmly behind the cover of their position, the Imperials now had a stand off. Si and Erc had an angle on them, but not enough to root them out. Definitely not quick enough to end this soon.

That's When Erc's plan B came into play. 7 Dugs, in various degrees of armor, and all heavily armed came in from Erc's immediate right. they  had attacked right where he asked them to, right in front of him. Not good for a human to be near, especially since these guys hate all Humans.  They began to fire on the Imperial Team immediately. But when they realized most of the combatants were human, fire was spread towards everyone.

This was it, a free for all, no one assaulting anyone anymore. Erc fell back a bit, not wanting to look like the easiest target. and in his new position, he saw 2 Imperials jump from their position. "Frell! We have Runners!!!"

Erc took the best route possible to chase the runners. And it seems 2 of the Dugs decided to follow.

Erc traded shots with the Imps, hitting one in the leg, the Imp went down and decided to cover his friend. Laying there, he poured on all the fire he could. And kept it up until a blast from a Dug Concussion rifle killed him. laser blasts impacted all around Erc and the remaining Imperial. There was no choice, to survive, the Imperial and Erc would have to stop shooting at each other and kill these Dugs. Erc began to spin, dropping to a knee and returned fire on the Dugs. As he spun, one of the shots hit him in the left side. The entire area immediately erupted in pain. it wasn't a direct hit, otherwise the blaster shot would have burnt him more severely. but it was enough. Erc fell, forgetting what was going on for a few seconds. Fortunately the Imperial didn't. The Imp's Blaster pistol shot a blast that hit one of the dugs in the head, fortunately, it was the one armed with the concussion rifle. And the shock of seeing his partner's head explode made him hesitate.

Which gave Erc a chance to regain his senses, and put a blast into his chest. it didn't kill the Dug, no, the Imp's shot did that. but The Dug had been aiming for The Imperial as well. Wounded, not killed. The Imperial hit the deck. Both men lay, facing each other, and at the moment, not able to take aim at each other.

For what seemed like an eternity, the two men just looked at each other, and without saying a word, began moving, as best they could away from each other. "Frellin Dugs!"

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Re: Spies Like Us

The whole survellience operation had gone sour. After uploading their last progress report to the <I>Ravisher</i>, Kix had ordered his men to start taking shifts as it seemed things had been quiet for some time. So much for making assumptions. Now his unit was in the middle of an assault by some unknown force and the Dugs were giving them hell. From the comm chatter, he noted he had lost some of his team already. Yep. This mission was frelled.

<I>And how the hell were we spotted?</i> Kix mused as he squatted behind the remains of the shattered rooftop, a waist-level row of bricks and twisted rebar the only protection against the Dugs' blaster and concussion fire. They couldn't see him or Nash but the foul alien running the gun could probably pick up some heat leakage from their black commando armor, and every now and then the squatted alien would pop off a couple dozen blaster shots in their direction. <I>Not only is this operation frelled up beyond all recoginition, I bet that ISB agent is thrilled this is happening at his doorstep. Hope Bastion won't be pissed if his cover gets blown…</i>

"Sithspawn!" Nash said. "Fragger's got us pinned down!" He raised his head to ascertain the situation.

"Maybe not," Kix offered. "Dugs don't have much cover on this rooftop. I can launch a flash grenade in the right spot, it'll blind those pieces of shavit. Then we got their ass."

Three rounds of blaster fire clipped a couple of centimeters of brick off the top of the wall over Nash's head. He squatted lower. "Frak! I think they got Nik and Sila when they ran. I also saw someone else there. Looked Imperial, but not sure."

"Can't worry about that now," Kix said, "here's the play. You scoot down about twenty meters, put your weapon over the wall, and blast those fraggers. I'll circle around behind and plug them while they're potting at you."

Under the black storm commando faceplate of his helmet, Nash frowned. "Why me?"

"Do you have a better idea?" Kix countered.

Nash shook his head. "What the hell. Let's do it. Gimme a signal when you're ready to dance."

"Copy," Kix said. His voice was crisp in the helmet's comlink. The link was standard Imperial military tightbeam and scrambled, so the geezers who assaulted them couldn't hear, or even if they could, they wouldn't be able to understand what they were saying. Nash moved off, keeping low. Every so often the Dugs would cap off a few more shots.

Kix lit a low-heat flare and dropped it. WIth any luck, the Dugs' equipment would think it was a suit leak and zero in on it. While they were doing that, he would blow them away. He moved off. He was good, one of the Empire's best commandos, and damned if he was gonna get blasted by some alien filth with a blaster.

When he got into position, Kix said, "Do it!"

Thirty meters away, crouched behind a big chunk of rubble that was probably once a speeder lot, Nash whipped his E-11 over the top and triggered it full auto. He waved it back and forth, so the Dugs would take notice. They would have found it pretty quick anyhow, but he didn't want to take any chances. Blaster bolts spanged off the wall, chopping it away. They knew he was here, all right. Nash pulled his weapon back so it wouldn't get hit.

Five seconds later, two things happened: a flash grenade went off and the blaster rifles stopped shooting.

Nash grinned. "Yeah! Way to go, Kix!" Davin must have rammed one grenade right up the Dug's drain pipes. Hell of an enema.

Ten seconds went past. "Kix?"

"You're buying the drinks tonight, pal," came the reply.

Nash stood. A blaster bolt exploded near his head.

"Oh, frak!" He ducked low.

"You got that right," Kix said, rounding the corner dragging a wounded Nik behind him, his leg shot. "Not sure who is left out there, but we're goners."

"You guys suck." Nik said through clentched teeth. "Sure, you gave us cover fire when me and Sila began running, but you missed the other Dugs who came from the other side." He gritted his teeth again in pain. Kix pulled out a stimshot and jabbed it into Nik's arm.

Behind Kix, Nash leaned over to the wall next to them and looked out. "Did you see a human? He looked Imperial."

Nik, a short blonde man with his hair in the standard spacer buzz, nodded. "Yup. We ended up shooting the Dugs instead of each other. Real learning experience. He made you guys look like bantha dung."

Nash frowned. "Hey–"

Kix cut in. "Knock off the chatter. We need to get back to the safehouse. This mission's been scrubbed– we need to lay low and request immediate evac."

"But what about our–"

"That ISB agent will take care of it," Kix finished. "Right now, Nik is down and we lost three men. You think whoever pulled this on us are going to play by some kind of rules the next time?"

Nash and Nik exchanged glances, then to Kix. He frowned. "Move out, men. We'll get our revenge at a later time. First is the safehouse and finding out how the frak this went down."

The squad moved off, grumbling.

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New Republic Intelligence<br> I'll kill you with this fraking tray<br>Feles Mala!<br> I <3 Sammiches!

Re: Spies Like Us

“What in the name of the frakkin Force happened out there, Si?” Val paced back and forth in the rear of the secured docking bay of the building the intel station was located in, arms going out in a wide sweeping gesture as she looked between the entry door and her second in command.  “Dugs.  Frakking Dugs! Where in the nine hells did they come from?”  She didn’t really expect Idris to have the answer to that question, but she hoped he did know the next one.  “And where the frak is your pal, Vortan?”  she ran one hand through her mussed hair in a classic gesture of frustration and impatience.  

“This had to be his stupid idea.” She continues her pacing as Sionne, knowing his commander well from past experience, wisely kept quite as she ranted.  Knowing fully well once she got it out of her system and wound down, Val would be much easier to deal with.  “It was supposed to be a simple operation.  A little lightfight.  Chase off those Imp boys.  Give them a few minor wounds to make them go back home and think over frakking with my place, but no your buddy couldn’t keep it uncomplicated.  Had to be the big man in charge and call in outsiders without even clearing it with me!”  

“But we don’t even know if…” the tall man started to speak in Vortan’s defense before Val’s glare cut him off without another word and he leaned against the duracrete support column behind him and just watched as she resumed her pacing and bitching. “Trust me, Si.  I would bet on it that he was the one to bring them in.  Frak!” She stood still for a moment, hands on her hips with the blaster she was still holding dangling from her right hand, its power pack depleted from the shootout.  She’d taken a graze to her left arm and may even have other injuries, but her adrenaline and endorphins were going at full blast due to her agitated state and she barely noticed the pain as she looked up at the bay’s ceiling in anger.  “And what the frak am I going to tell Varkin about his mercs?  I saw one of them go down for sure.  As for the others…”

“I saw one of them take off, Val. But where the other one went…” He shrugged apologetically. “No idea.  Hell I don’t even know what happened to Vortan.  Last time I saw him he was in the middle of a shootout between one of those pirates and one of the Imps.”

“If that frakkin, thickheaded, son of a Hutt were here right now I swear I’d shoot him myself.  He’s probably high tailed it back to that ship of his and if he has any small amount of frakkin sense he will stay there and the hells away from me.” She kicked at a small metallic object near her right foot, sending it flying halfway across the floor of the large room before turning back to her lieutenant.

“Okay, here’s the plan.” She started in a voice that still held only a modicum of calmness compared to the tone she’d been using since they made it back from the shootout.  “Go and change your clothes, see if you can poke around and find out where that nerfbrain ended up and when you find him, tell him to haul his sorry ass over here to see me.  I’m going to go make some comm calls, first to Varkin and then to a couple of other people. I’ve got some damage control to cover.”

“A minute ago you said you wanted him to stay the hell away from you, Val” Si said, giving her a look that only he could get away with.  The one she gave him in return would have withered a lesser man, especially one who didn’t know her like he did. “Let’s just say I realized I’ve been yelling at the wrong person and I would really like to rememdy that.” She told her agent.  

“Apology accepted, bosslady.” Idris replied in semi serious tone as they headed toward the turbolift, he thought about adding a sketchy little salute to match, then realized he’d better not push his luck.  Val could reload that blaster faster then most anyone he knew and he did not feel like being knocked to the hard floor by a couple of well aimed stunbolts from her.  The aches he was feeling from the earlier skirmish were bad enough without adding to it by his own stupidity.

Neither of them spoke on the ride up through the building, but Si could feel the restless anger still radiating from Val in waves by her body language.  When the lift stopped at the floor he needed to exit from. He gave her a brief nod before stepping through the doors as they slid open soundlessly.  “Hey, Si. Be careful out there.” He heard her say haltingly as he turned back toward the Major. “I can’t afford to lose anymore friends.”   Idris didn’t say a word in reply, but he didn’t need to.  The second nod and the look on his face as he did so was enough as the door slid closed again just as quietly as it opened and the lift ascended two floors higher.  He stood there briefly looking at those doors before turning and walking into his living quarters to change so he could carry out Val’s orders.


As soon as the doors of the lift had closed, Val sagged slightly against the wall of it next to her, one hand going to the spot over her eyebrows where she felt a headache of rancor sized proportions threatening to form.  “Stupid frelling…” she grumbled to herself as the door opened once again to her own floor. Walking into her bedroom she stripped off the sweaty, blood stained garments and dropped them in a pile on the refresher’s tiled floor.  She examined the wound to her left arm, just beginning to throb as her body’s own painkilling chemicals started to wear off.  She cleaned it and bandaged it before combing out her tangled hair and changing into something clean and presentable.

Getting back in the lift, she headed back down to the cantina hoping that maybe the big annoying Coruscanti NRI operative had made his way back to the ‘Dive while she’d been ranting to Sionne in the docking bay. But no such luck.  Neither Alema, Kislev, or any of the cantina’s other employees had seen him since he’d left before the shootout took place.  “Frak” she swore to herself before heading back to her office after giving Ale’ instructions to send Vortan right back to see her if and when he did come in.

Sitting down at her comm station after activating the disrupter field generator, Val made the first of several transmissions of what promised to be a very long night.

Quod Me Nutrit, Me Destruit
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Re: Spies Like Us

“Rab, you’re sure Erc hasn’t stopped in here tonight?”

“I’m sure, Ma’am. At least he didn’t while I was here.”

“Yes, I meant to ask you about that. Why are you still here? I didn’t authorize any overtime for you.”

“I had to make up a few hours. I cleared it with Alema,” Rinehart said with a shrug.

“Where’d you go?”

“It was a personal matter.”

Val’kia grumbled something, then retreated to her office. The Imperial agent noted that Navin seemed more exasperated than worried about the burly spacer’s absence. Idly, Rinehart wondered just what had occurred on the nearby ‘scrapers. That a skirmish took place was evident; maybe Navin and her gang had ended up getting their asses handed to them by their opponents. No matter; Rinehart had more important things to do than fret over the fate of some NRI operative.

After swiping his employee identichip through the chrono, Rinehart exited the Hyperdive and melted into the mass of sentients still gathered on the esplanades outside. The firefight had attracted quite a crowd, and a fair number of beings were still milling about. Keeping his hand firmly over his wallet, Rinehart wended his way through the crowd, making for the Smoky Places tenement building, site of the Ubiqtorate’s deep cover intelligence cell.

Located deep within the tenement building’s foundations, with access by turbolift strictly controlled, the agents assigned to the cell did little actual field work. Instead, they served as handlers and analysts for the agents Bastion dispatched. And it was to them that Rinehart reported the results of his surveillance probe.

“Excellent, Captain VonToma. Was that shootout opposite the Hyperdive your doing?”

“No Sir,” Rinehart replied as he removed the sensor wire and module strapped to him. “It did provide ample distraction though, and allowed me to get a thorough scan of the cantina. And all the bugs were placed as well.”

The Analysis tech took the sensor module–an updated version that had as its genesis the surveillance system emplaced within the RA-7 spy droid–and plugged it into a datapad. As Rinehart watched over the man’s shoulder, the tech grunted and grimaced as he studied the readouts.

“Where’d your boss get her equipment? From the security shack of a department store that went out of business?”

“That bad?”

“I’ll say. We aren’t talking low-level energy emissions here; it’s just energy emissions. If it were a fluidic system, she’d have leaks all over the place.”

“Can you identify the specific type of equipment?” the cell leader asked.

“Yes Sir,” the tech responded. “This readout matches that of a BlasTech Search Scan 2 unit. A 2! Imperial forces were using the 4 unit what, 15 years ago? Here’s a Fabritech 8150 energy scanner.” The analyst shook his head. “Unit’s supposed to study other energy readings and here we are, scoping it out.”

“I find it odd,” Rinehart ventured, “that the New Republic would equip such an operation with obsolete material.”

In response to the disapproving glances he received for using the term ‘New Republic’, Rinehart’s mouth curled back in a sneer. “Oh, come off it! It’s a government that exists in fact, and done a good job of kicking our Imperial asses halfway across the galaxy. Using euphemisms isn’t going to change history. Things like our operation here, and in a multitude of other places, will bring about the restoration of the New Order. Now, as I was saying, it doesn’t seem right that an intelligence operation would be deliberately given such useless equipment to carry out their mission.”

“Unless someone wanted that mission to fail.”

That caused Rinehart to chew on his lip in thought. “No,” he said slowly, “their leader is far to competent to be sacrificed like that. She’s tougher than doonium. It wouldn’t make any sense.”

“Nevertheless . . . “

“Wait!”

The Analysis tech pointed to his screen. “Look at this.  We were getting readings on this TC-40 Padlink when we got scoped!”

“By what?”

“Insufficient data for a positive ID.”

“Maybe someone gave our opponents a little gift before they went on this assignment,” Rinehart murmured.

“In any event, we’ve got a good idea of the Rebels capabilities. Some simple countermeasures should nullify any attempts at eavesdropping-”

“Begging your pardon, Sir,” Rinehart said, “but maybe we should give them what they want.”

“Explain.”

“Imagine, this little operation, with its hand-me-down equipment, manages to intercept the orders for a clandestine Imperial supply convoy that is en route to Hutt Space. NRI headquarters would surely be pleased.”

“The Empire cannot sacrifice a convoy of Star Galleons for–”

“But,” Rinehart interrupted, holding a finger up for emphasis. “It will end up appearing that my counterpart made a critical error. And that error will allow our ships to avoid an ambush. Oh, she’ll get plenty of kudos for the getting 99% of the data right; she’ll catch even more hell for the 1% that she got wrong. And then it will start to go downhill the rest of the way for her.”

“That’s if the Rebels fall into the trap.”

“Well, we’ll just have to make sure we have a nice, juicy morsel as bait.”
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TK0212 | "The Beast" <br>No, I'm a fucking squirrel!

Re: Spies Like Us

"Hang on, Nik," Kix urged him as he dragged him toward the safehouse. "There will be plenty of painkillers back at our place."

"Gah!" Nik cried out in alarm. "Those frellers did this to me. How the frak will I explain to Admiral Dodonna getting shot by a bunch of squatted aliens… and Dugs, of all creatures?" Nik shuddered at the thought; the pain in his leg was nothing to the verbal lashings they would endure should they return to their ImpStar and brief their superior officer on their failure.

Kix's mind raced frantically, looking for a way to salvage this disaster. <I>Don't panic</I>, he ordered himself. <I>I can still turn this around. Nobody needs to know what happened tonight and I can go out immediately after patching up Nik to hunt for that figure in black and use him as a scapegoat.</I>

The Imperial squad arrived quickly at their hidden location: a broken-down building in a rundown corridor of Nar Shaddaa, not far from their last location near the <I>Hyperdive</I>. Decades of smog and soot had blackened every centimeter of the structure's dingy exterior. The building was made to appear to have been deserted for some time. A group of Jawas loitered on the steps of the old building, but Nash chased them away with snarl and a flash of his E-11 blaster rifle. Glitterstim vials shattered beneath Kix's boots as he assisted Nik up the steps and staggered through the entrance.

Minutes later, Nash flicked on a switch as Kix and Nik stepped through the door. The safehouse had only a few sturdy metal chairs and tables, weapon racks on the walls, and several neatly stacked crates of power packs. Nik planted himself in an uncomfortable plasteel chair while Kix hustled up some painkillers. He retrieved a couple and handed it to the wounded Imperial commando.

"These will keep you sane for a while. Nash will contact the <I>Ravisher</i> for immediate evac," Kix said.

Nik quickly applied the hypo to his leg and breathed easier. "And what do you have in mind?" he glared to his superior.

"You're staying with Nash here until our ride comes," he instructed Nik, "while I head back out and hunt down the bastard who did this to us." He quickly changed into dark civilian clothing, removed a pair of knives from the weapons rack, then sheathed them, along with a few fresh power packs for the blaster he concealed. "In fact, if I am not back by the time the evac comes, you leave without me. I'm probably dead already."

"How are you going to find him?" Nash asked him. "Nik only described him dressed in black along with his facial features. That could be anyone." He shook his head. "No, it's too risky. We can conduct revenge at a later time. We need to get out now– together."

"And we are– " Kix declared. "I know where he might be." He secured his weapons, then quickly left the room without saying a goodbye.

***

An hour later, Kix was dripping wet, the rain trickling in shivery fingers down his neck and giving him the shakes as he turned onto the <I>Hyperdive's</i> street. The feeble glow from a solitary streetlamp threw out rain-fractured light. The commando wiped wet out of his eyes and blinked. No one around, the rain washing the drunks away. Fantastic. Kix ducked into a narrow alley that was more pothole than duracrete. The alley was squalid with mushy garbage that squelched beneath his boots and reeked enough to make him gag. But the alley was good because it was blind and windowless and, at the end, a bonus: an assortment of dented refuse cans and one industrial-size rubbish bin. All the better to dispose of a body who probably was responsible for this ambush.

Quickly, he stooped, ran his fingers along the slimy bricks, then smeared muck through his hair and over his face. He slipped the blaster into the right pocket of his spacer jacket, cupping the stippled grip in his palm, his right index finger in the trigger guard. Lolled back against the wall.

He heard footsteps leaving the <I>Hyperdive</i>. The sounds were so indistinct and irregular, so textured by the hiss of rain on duracrete, he nearly missed them. Nerves tingling, Kix waited, mouth dry, pulse tripping in his veins. Ten steps more, then five, and now he saw the bobbing black finger of a shadow through the fringe of his lashes. <I>There he is…</i>

A blaster shot too close to the <I>'Dive</I> would spark suspicion from Val'kia. Better to use the knives he took from the safehouse.

Five steps more, then four, three… and as Erc Vortan came alongside, Kix hauled up his head, just another drunk dragging himself out of a stupor. "Say, fringer," he slurred and tottered forward a step to close the distance. "Say, can you spare some–"

"Frag off!" Erc quickly went for his blaster to scare him off. Kix acted. There was the unmistakable <I>snick</i> of metal against metal, and the last thing Erc saw was something very bright, a steely arc. And then it didn't matter because, by the time his brain translated– <I>knife</i>– something cut across his chest, going right to left. Vortan was too surprised to feel pain and he was just about to level his blaster when there was another flash, this time left to right, that sliced across his wrist, forcing him to drop it.

"What the–?"

The NR agent's blood spun from the blades in teardrops. Another flick of the wrists and each blade sunk inside him. Erc bit down on his tongue. He felt something warm, brackish. Blood. The agent looked down at the double-breasted black tunic, red now with blood and rain. He then looked to the one who stabbed him.

Kix's eyes were cold; his face expressionless. "That's for ambushing my squad and killing three of my men." The blades withdrew quickly from his chest and retreated back into its hidden sheaths, secured inside Kix's jacket.

The agent crumpled to the ground. Whether he was dead or still alive, Kix no longer cared– he avenged his men and his mission. He grabbed Erc and dragged him across the mucky ground to the nearest rubbish bin.

Seconds later, his body was tossed over and the Imperial commando quickly retreated back into the shadow of night, heading back to the safehouse.

The Kixinator
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New Republic Intelligence<br> I'll kill you with this fraking tray<br>Feles Mala!<br> I <3 Sammiches!

Re: Spies Like Us

It had been two days she had waited, searched, and yes even worried, about Vortan’s unexplained disappearance following the altercation with the Imps and the pirate gang. Then word came in from the Corellian Sector authorities that the body of a human male matching his description had been found in an alley between two blocks of buildings several clicks away from the covert intel base and her worst fears were realized.  Vortan may have been a pain in the ass and she hadn’t been about to trust anyone personally appointed by Phaedan as far as she could throw them, but the fringer had been an old friend of her lieutenant and his loyalty toward the New Republic as well as his readiness to jump into the battle with the trooper and the fight with the Trandoshan thugs days earlier had been more than commendable.  Navin also appreciated the handling of Cris Denson’s celestial internment in the Alderaan Graveyard as well as the touching gesture of providing her with the recording of the simple ceremony.

They may not have seen eye to eye on just about everything since the moment he walked into the 'Dive, but he was starting to earn her grudging respect in spite of his attitude and in time they may possibly have become friends.  Or at least more trusted allies.  But now he was dead as she had verified with her own eyes in the CSPD morgue.  “Gods, I swear they need to give me my own entrance to this place the number of times I’ve had to come here lately.” Val had thought to herself as she approached the nondescript doorway to the building. She’d not said it aloud to Sionne as walked up the short flight of steps beside her, a wise idea considering his response to the desk clerk’s comment when he recognized Navin as she walked over to the desk.  “Seems being a friend of yours is a dangerous thing, Ms. Navin,” the corpulent male Twi’lek remarked with a wheezing chortle.  Prompting Idris to growl a string of Huttese curses questioning the man’s parentage in reply, only the presence of his commanding officer’s hand as she grasped his arm prevented him from reaching across the counter and snatching the clerk off his feet.

Instead, Val walked over to the reception counter herself and leaned across it slightly. “They don’t pay you to make stupid comments here, Ma’bua” Val said with a baleful glare as she dropped the volume of her voice until it she could only be heard by the Twi’lek and no one else in the small office behind him. “And neither do I.  So if you want to keep earning those little extra creds that help finance your little predilections, start using your brain along with your mouth.”   The clerk gave her a toothy grin in reply.  “Come on Navin, you know someone needs to keep their sense of humor around this place.  You should try it yourself sometime.”
                            
“Just cut the comedy and show me the body,.” She replied almost wearily, the beginnings of a headache developing seemingly behind her eyes.  “Come on, back” Ma’bua grunted, pushing open a half-door set into the very end of the counter and leading Val and Sionne through another door, down a short corridor then left down a longer one before coming to the a sliding door marked “Viewing Room”.  The Twi’lek swiped the badge he had clipped to his clothing through a reader and the doorway slid aside as the green light came on next to it.  

To spare the more sensitive, a room was set up in the Corellian Section Constabulary’s Morgue as was the practice in many other jurisdictions galaxy-wide, where family members and others who came to identify decedents could do so via holo monitors set into one wall of the room. Painted in serene colors and furnished with comfortable couches it was a place where the bereaved could mourn in respectful surroundings once they’d identified a friend or loved one.  Val stood grim faced as the clerk entered some information on the console set into the wall next to the holoscreen and a moment later the unmistakable features of Erc Vortan appeared in peaceful repose.  Almost appearing asleep, if you ignored the palor of his skin and the already obvious signs of death as well as the very beginnings of the incisions created by the forensic staff as they performed the autopsy on the man.

“What killed him?” The grim, focused look hadn’t changed one bit as Val perused the image of Vortan on the screen. “Multiple knife wounds” The Twi’lek replied.  “Bled to death.” Val held out her hand in an expectant manner and the clerk handed her metal clipboard with all the necessary forms she was required to sign along with a flimsiplast envelope which she opened, quickly flipping through the contents.  Pathologist’s report, holostills of the scene and his wounds, and what few personal effects he’d had on him at the time of his death.  She only glanced at the material briefly before tucking it back in the envelope and nodding to Idris who produced an envelope of his own from within the jacket he wore, handing it to Ma’bua who counted the credits within it with a practiced eye before making it disappear within his own jacket as if it were some magician’s trick.

“Have the body placed in a good casket, none of that cheap fiberplast crap you stick the indigents in.” She turned to walk out of the room as the two men followed.  “I’ll be sending Sionne back to pick up him up once your people have processed all the necessary paperwork to transport a body off-world for burial.”

Once they were out of the building, and out of earshot of anyone within it, Idris asked the first obvious question on his mind. “So where am I supposed to be taking him exactly? Not back to Coruscant.”  

"No, Si.” Val replied, climbing into the passenger seat of the speeder.  “You’re going to take him to Smuggler’s Run and to the woman you told me about that he knew there.  His own ship’s crew left the moon sometime overnight without even filing a frakking flightplan so I have no damn idea where they took off to, but it’s likely there are heading there themselves and will just as likely inform her that he’s gone once they arrive.” She glanced over at her lieutenant, seeing his sad nod of agreement.  She’d almost forgotten that Sionne had known Vortan, had been friends with him.  Compatriots. For a lot longer than she had known the man. “I’m so sorry, Si.” She told him gently. “Vortan and I didn’t see eye to eye on damn near anything, you know that.  But he was honorable, and loyal and more importantly he was your friend and that’s why I think it best for you to handle his final voyage to the place you told me he regarded as more home than anywhere save his ship.”

“I know, Val.” Sionne said with another nod. “And thank you, I’m sure that’s what the big guy would have wanted.” He smiled slightly for the first time since the news of Erc’s probable death reached them before turning deadly serious again.  “I do want you to promise me one thing though, that you will find out who did this and do whatever you can about it, in or outside of the law.”  

“You know I will, Si,” She patted the envelope on the seat between them. “First chance I get I’m going to be going over everything in here, and I’ll likely take a look at the scene myself to be sure there was nothing missed.  I want answers just as badly as you do.  Vortan may have been a pain in my ass, but no one frakking does this to one of my people and gets away with it.  No matter how long I worked with them or how I felt personally.  Outside of Phaeden that is.”  That last statement was enough to elicit a fleeting smile on the man’s face as they approached the front of the Dive.

 Idris was about to pull passed it and to the docking bay door when Val’s comm went off, an alert from Ma’bua that the body was ready to be released.  “Damn they must be having a slow day around there.” Val muttered.  “I’ll drop you off at the door, bosslady then park this thing and take the cargospeeder over there.  Navin nodded in agreement to his plan and got out of the vehicle.  “See you back here when you’re done.  I’ll get to work notifying spaceport authority…and contacting Haddon with the news.”

“I think I got the better end of the deal here, Val” Idris said without a trace of humor.  The brass wasn’t likely to take this well and Phaeden especially since he’d assigned Vortan here himself. Frak. There may not be station posting to come back to once he returned from Smuggler’s Run if the General had his way.  Shaking his head, Si watched his commanding officer walk into the Hyperdive, unable to ignore the dejected set of her shoulders as she moved.  “Dammit, Val.  I hope you have some pull with the higher-ups still.” He thought before pulling away and heading back to the morgue yet again.


She felt two sets of eyes upon her as she walked through the bar area, Alema’s of course who knew what her CO’s hasty trip out of the cantina had been about and Kislev’s who had his own questions about it himself.  She only acknowledged the Twi’lek’s gaze with a quick, near-imperceptible nod of her head which was answered by a stricken look from the younger woman before she covered it up. “That girl’s going to have to learn to hide her expressions better if she’s going to make it in this business.” Val thought to herself, face a mask of neutrality as she walked over to her.  “I’m going to be busy upstairs, Ale’ taking care of some paperwork. Could you please make sure I’m not disturbed for a little while?”  

“Is he really…?” The junior agent asked, unable to complete her question without her voice cracking.  Erc had been nice to her, and he was Si’s friend as well.  “I’m sorry” she said when Val nodded her head in answer to the question.  “I’ll fill you in later.” She told her in a low voice when she noticed Rab had moved a bit closer as he swept the dancefloor nearby.  Nodding her head in reply, Alema went back to her position of pretending to be a bartender, sadness still obviously apparent in her amber eyes while Val went about her own pretending of heading for her apartment, instead taking the turbolift down to the control center several floors below.

Taking a deep, frustrated breath she sat at the tight-beam scrambled holocomm console and entered the necessary security codes for the office in headquarters where her boss was likely spending a late night waiting to hear from her regarding Vortan’s status.  Sure enough, there he was in all his beady eyed glory as the transmission went through and was picked up.  “So? Was it him?” Curt and right to the point, that was the section chief’s way. “Yes.” Val sighed.  “It was Vortan alright. Homicide.  No doubt about it.  I’m forwarding everything I have so far and I’m going to scope out the scene myself later and submit a report on my findings, Sir.”

“Don’t bother, Navin.  I’m sending a team there myself to…” He started to say, that same familiar sour, suspicious look on his face that never seemed to change whenever he talked to her before his words were interrupted by another familiar voice.  “Don’t be an ass, Earryk.  Is such a use of manpower really necessary?  She can handle the investigation on her own.” Even if she didn’t recognize the voice, there was only one person she knew who could talk to Phaeden like that, cut him off as well, and not have a word said in return. “Hello, Colonel Haddon.” Val said once he’d stopped speaking, suppressing the urge to smile as she heard his greeting in reply, formal yet still conveying warmth in it’s tone.  Unlike the reptile on two feet sitting across a desk from him.

“I’m sure she can handle it, Bron.” Came Phaeden’s response.  “What I don’t think is that she can be trusted to handle it…honestly.”

“What the frak are you implying, General.” She said the man’s title as if it were the foulest curse word any Corellian spacer himself ever uttered. “I’m not implying anything, Major.” Phaeden’s tone was just as cold.  “Just that I’d like to see your station start producing something besides dead agents for a change.” He smiled icily at the pained reaction on her face before she could recover the mask of smoldering anger. “And unless you do just that, I will shut you down and see you transferred back here and demoted to some desk jockey position in the fourth sub-basement of headquarters if not run out of the service entirely.  Am I making myself clear, Navin?”  

If there hadn’t been tens of thousands of light years between Nar Shaddaa and Coruscant, between her fists and Earryk Phaeden’s face she likely would have been on the edge of losing her job…or getting a medal.  Or a least a pat on the back and a few drinks from her fellow agents for knocking the man’s teeth down his throat. “Earryk that’s enough” she heard Haddon’s voice, sharp and disgusted in the background.  “I’m very sorry for your loss of another agent, Val’kia.” The dear face of her former direct commanding officer came into view over the screen. “The General is just concerned about how this reflects on the SOS in the face of certain questions coming from the Military Council Committee.  You know how these political types are. It’s all about budgeting and results and…well you know the rest only too well.” He finished with a sigh that almost match the one she gave herself.

“We have produced results with the station here and he knows it.” No need for her to elaborate on the he she was referring to. “But there has been no good intel being picked up in this sector lately.  At least nothing that seems to have been useful to Analysis Section.  And it isn’t as if I have a huge staff and the latest equipment to work with.  Hell they should be damn well satisfied with what we have been able to provide at times.” She could see the agreeing sympathy in his eyes, but she also knew the cold hard facts as well as Haddon did.  A station that wasn’t producing wasn’t worth budgeting and neither were it’s agents.  

“Oh for frak’s sake, Bron stop coddling her” Phaeden’s voice and image cut in. “I’m giving you four standard weeks, Navin.  That’s it.  You either start getting me better intel I can take to the higher-ups to validate your excuse for an existence, or everything’s getting pulled.  And I want some answers about Vortan as well.  Verifiable through the local law enforcement entity there. Such as it is.” He added, scorn in his voice. “Not that I think I can trust them completely either, but what choice is there?  Got it.  Four weeks.” He cut off the transmission abruptly from his end as Val sat there seething.  Resisting the urge to hurl the nearest heavy object at the screen in frustration.

Frakker. She swore, not for the first time, that the bastard set her up to fail from the start with this posting. Something she was not about to let him win at. Forcing herself to calm down, her next order of business was to go over the contents of the envelope Ma’bua had given her and she wanted a clear head for that in order not to miss anything important.  

The holostills first.   Vortan’s body had been found in a rubbish bin by the sanitation crew where were getting ready to dump it when the noticed bloodstains on the side of the container, looked in and saw an arm sticking out.  The first holo was a shot of pretty much what the workers had seen. The alley was dark, situated between two rather tall buildings situated a couple of long blocks away.  It was between the Dive and the docking bay where Vortan’s ship had been berthed until recently. The flash units from the photographer’s camera lit the scene in a cold manner. There were no signs of blood spatter on the nearby walls so his body must have been dumped there.  

She looked at the autopsy holos next with a detached, critical eye.  Two deep puncture wounds to his chest had likely killed him quickly and painfully.  There were also slashing knife wounds across his wrists deep enough to cut through tendons and muscle.  Likely used to disable him from shooting his assailant.  The strike was clean, fast and vicious.  This wasn’t some thug out looking to rob the first poor sucker than came by.  The frakker knew exactly how to kill a man and quickly.  She’d have to ask around some of her less than legitimate contacts in the sector as a first step. Damn she hated dealing with many of those types almost as much as she did with her boss.  

She read through the report from the autopsy next. It confirmed the obvious cause of death.  There was no foreign DNA on Vortan from what they had analyzed so far, but he did have what appeared to be traces of residue from the walls of the trash bin under his fingernails.  Was he still alive when he was dumped and struggling futilely to get out?  Rifling through the stack of scene stills again, Val studied the interior shots of the garbage bin more closely.  Damn if only the lighting had been better in some of the shots.  Carrying two of them over to the nearest computer terminal, Val scanned the stills and then brought them up on the monitor, adjusted the resolution and boosted the lighting enhancement enough to make out the images more clearly.  In the shot taken before Erc’s body was removed from the container, near his outstretched hand there appeared to be something too clearly defined to be just random stains.

“Frak me.” She muttered.  Was he trying to leave a message in his own blood as he died?  Knowing that big tough bastard it was entirely possible he was attempting to do just that. But what?   Damn she could barely make it out, but not clearly enough to be sure.  It might have been a K or an H.  Better to make a trip there herself to be certain.

 Sighing again she leaned back in the chair, eyes falling again on the envelope.  Picking it up she shook out the remaining items inside.  Not much.  A rather new wrist chrono, the edge of its strap nicked, likely by the same knife that had cut Vortan in that area. A few credit notes. A wallet containing a few more along with two still holos.  A beautiful dark-haired woman in both, one of her alone in a gown that flattered her spectacular figure and one with Vortan’s arm draped across the petite woman’s shoulder as he hugged her to his side.  Both of them dressed in combat gear and grinning broadly at whoever was taking the shot.  “Dammit you big stupid fringer.  What the hell happened?  Were you going back to your ship after the firefight…or were you coming back here?” Whatever it was, I damn well intend to find out.”

Quod Me Nutrit, Me Destruit
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