The trip from Hutta to Dromund Kaas is no simple journey. Kaliyo and I are in space for a week, with only a handful of stops, before reaching the Imperial Fleet. The stay at Vaiken Spacedock is necessary to process our identities and clearances before gaining permission to travel to the Imperial Capital. This process bothers Kaliyo greatly, but in her consternation she doesn’t notice that I have to do the same paperwork. We are in the middle of our fifth round of drinks in the central bar when we are summoned to the shuttle for Dromund Kaas. We are STEPPING INTO THE HANGAR to embark our transport when a uniformed Duros with no visible rank or identification asks if we’re traveling to the Capital homeworld. Considering this particular entrance leads ONLY to Dromund Kaas departures, I do not bother to answer. The Duros proceeds to claim *I* have a reservation on an Imperial Gage-class armored transport called The Black Talon.
The shuttle we were about to join will traverse along trade routes up the spiral arm that hosts the current location of the Imperial Fleet, cross over to the next spiral arm through heavily-traveled space, then work its way back down the next arm over to the Imperial Capital. The Black Talon, instead, will jump directly through the mostly-empty space between the adjoining spiral arms. We are promised a journey of hours instead of days, and better quarters; but at a risk: a small, armored-but-lightly-armed Imperial transport is a prime target for pirates, Hutt mercenaries, or Republic smugglers.
I would target a ship like this, too; if I needed to make some quick credits. I have no doubt Kaliyo HAS. In fact, I am slightly disturbed by how excited Kaliyo is by this offer. I presume she is already figuring out how to take over the ship, sell the contents, ditch it, and STILL make it to Dromund Kaas for our meeting with Keeper. Without me knowing, or with my help. Fun, I suppose; if you’re in to that kind of thing. I am MUCH more concerned that this conversation went from “asking us if we were going to Dromund Kaas” to “oh, someone has made you reservations on this ship, and I totally knew that before I talked to you. No, I can’t tell you who made the reservations, it’s, uhh….IT’S CLASSIFIED. Yes, says right here it’s classified.”
I swear to all the gods Kaliyo can smell an ambush and seeks them out for fun. She drags me onto the ship.
My confusion only increases when we find a welcoming party just beyond the airlock. Lieutenant Sylas confirms that I, specifically, not only have a reserved room; but the arrangements were made by “MY” factotum droid. He boarded the ship at Geonosis, but only informed the command crew of MY arrival AFTER the ship reached Vaiken. I’m not sure if I find the story more unbelievable, or the fact that the Lieutenant seems to believe it. I am, however, relieved that clearly NO ONE was expecting ME until I showed up. Maybe they just need a warm body, whoever “THEY” are; but I doubt this to be the case. There was some sort of selection criteria at work, and I had probably better find out what made me so noticeable.
The droid in question waits in a conference room at the end of the corridor. Once again, I note the Empire’s disdain for doors or gap shielding. The droid starts speaking before I can initiate any kind of privacy protection. WHY DOES NO ONE IN THE EMPIRE WANT THEIR CONVERSATIONS TO BE PRIVATE? The droid introduces himself as En-Ar-Oh-2, an advanced protocol droid specializing in murdering and lying. I take a step back and reach for an ion grenade. Kaliyo steps FORWARD with a huge grin, but I notice one hand is in her overcoat. Half-a-second before the droid’s abilities are put to the test, he activates a holo on the desk and tells us his master wishes to speak with me.
A smug-looking man wearing a red braid across the chest of his Imperial-grey uniform appears. My world comes crashing down. Of all the luck, an Imperial Grand Moff has grabbed me for some personal adventure. Second only to being noticed by a Sith Lord, the Grand Moffs may be less capable of killing you where you stand, but are infinitely more likely to be chasing some foolish errand of waste, destruction, and mass murder. They adore building rare, overcompensating superweapons that are ridiculously easy to destroy. They initiate system-wide pogroms whenever some backwater functionary jokes about a local legend of a prophesied warrior. And they have massively-inflated views of their own importance and power, considering they are basically high-tier middle managers.
However, a Grand Moff would have access to information that would have identified an Imperial Assassin (as far as he knows) returning from an Intelligence mission to the Capital. I am satisfied that’s all it took to choose me for whatever wacky hi-jinks are about to ensue. NR-02 was given the criteria to look for, and access to the Spacedock’s embarkation and departure logs. The Duros was sent to grab me on the way to the Dromund Kaas shuttle. And I just heard the sublight engines kick in.
Kilran rattles off a list of honorary (and not so honorary) ranks and titles. His face is scarred by either battle or disease, although I would bet on the latter. I sense a wisecrack coming from Kaliyo and head it off with my own less-than-polite response. I’m in no mood for Moff Games…I should have already been asleep on a journey up the spiral arm. Kilran makes his pitch: Only a few hours ago, the Republic initiated a skirmish on the edge of Imperial space. A Republic ship, the Brentaal Star, raided an Imperial ship for a VIP the Republic is calling “The General.” The ship I’m on, The Black Talon, sitting right in the middle of the Imperial Fleet, is THE ONLY SHIP CLOSE ENOUGH TO INTERCEPT THE BRENTAAL STAR. Kilran claims he has no idea who “The General” is, but if the Republic thinks this Imperial personage is important, Kilran wants him back. Err, dead or alive.
To say “I have questions” is putting it mildly.
Lieutenant Sylas said they picked up Kilran’s droid at Geonosis. Geonosis is a quarter of the way around the outer rim, and in a different arm of the galaxy. That had to have happened days ago at least, even if they made a direct shot from Geonosis to the fleet. There are hundreds of more capable ships all around us that are just as close to this Brentaal Star as The Black Talon. Many have better hyperdrives and could get there faster. On top of that, the Empire is supposedly missing a “General” or some other VIP, and NOBODY can account for that? Kilran knows what ship this person was on, knew where it was, and knew the outcome of the raid. But this “General” is a blank? I’m sorry; I don’t believe it.
The answer is the droid. The droid is on this ship, and has been on this ship. Kilran’s droid was put on The Black Talon inconspicuously. The Talon was meant to intercept the Imperial craft hosting “The General,” probably peacefully. Most likely here at Vaiken. The droid was then to assassinate “The General.” The Republic raid to capture or rescue this “General” has banged up the plans a bit. The Brentaal Star now must be intercepted and counter-raided, but NR-02 is an assassin, not a special forces squad. Kilran can’t get a raiding squad here quickly enough, and he can’t officially requisition ANYTHING without drawing attention to his actions. That’s where I come in, AND why he can’t use a different ship.
Additionally, as Kilran adds, the Captain of The Black Talon refuses to act on Kilran’s orders. Unwise…a Grand Moff can easily reach out and touch an Imperial Officer. But with Kilran only represented by the droid, Captain Orzik feels empowered to ignore the Moff. NR-02 likely could have killed the Captain already, but the crew would likely revolt. How many could NR-02 take out before he succumbed to blaster fire? More significantly, the droid’s actions would then be reported.
“ASSASSIN DROID CLAIMING TO BE PROPERTY OF GRAND MOFF KILRAN GOES BERSERK ON FLEET TRANSPORT. MURDERS CAPTAIN. MOFF DENIES KNOWLEDGE OF DROID; CLAIMS SETUP BY HIS ENEMIES.”
The clock strikes midnight, and I know what is going on; and why I’m here. I desperately want to shoot the droid and walk off the ship, but I know we’re already underway. And in the end, my overarching mission is to clean up the Empire’s messes…both as an Intelligence Agent *and* as a Chiss Expansionary Defense Force infiltrator.
I could have been asleep by now.
Sigh. Step One: assume command. The bridge crew takes me a bit more seriously than the droid or a hologram of a Grand Moff.
Lieutenant Sylas seizes her field promotion with both hands. I’m almost surprised she didn’t loot Orzik before ordering his body removed. I’m starting to like her. “Captain” Sylas orders the jump to light speed…I’m surprised the coordinates are only minutes away. The current borders between the Empire and the Republic are certainly inconsistent; essentially frozen following deep raids into enemy space by both sides. But this is only a few systems away from Dromund Kaas. Kilran’s information indicated that, following the raid, the Republic drove the Imperial ship away with superior firepower; but monitoring in the system shows no hyperspace jump. Either the Republic ship was damaged or they’re making a tactical error.
When The Black Talon leaves hyperspace, the Brentaal Star is waiting, and ready. Turbolaser fire appears within seconds, and I see fighters already incoming. OPS reports escape pods launching from the Brentaal Star. Captain Sylas assumes they are abandoning the Republic ship and directs the gunners to ignore them.
Idiot. Even I can deduce what is about to happen. The extraction of “The General” by necessity required boarding parties. The Brentaal Star clearly had trained boarding squads on board, and only a fool would assume they’re “all used up” by now. Indeed, as I walk to the rear of the bridge, dozens of ship-rattling slams hit the vessel. Sylas is panicked and confused. I look back, “They were boarding pods, you moron. Not escape pods. They will go after engineering first. *I* will take care of the boarding parties; I doubt anyone else on board is capable.”
No one ever expects stealth. As reports come in of an attack breaking out in engineering by “sabotage” droids, boarding pods full of Republic assault droids burst into the corridors leading to the lower engineering levels. Oddly, they seem stuck on “attack anyone who enters the corridor.” They’re not moving, just looking around. What they were going to do after the engines were disabled, I cannot fathom.
Fine then. We bypass the poorly-programmed droids and take the lift down one deck. Once in engineering, I contact Sylas and have her seal the aft port corridor. Flood it with corrosive gas or something, I don’t care. The odd behavior continues as we progress: droids wait to be attacked; we sneak by. At the entrance to the reactor, we see a large, humanoid-shaped droid the Republic has sent to…just beat on the reactor bulkhead? I guess that would work. Eventually. I send Kaliyo to flank while I sneak up behind the giant. Just as I step forward to drive a shiv into the droid’s hip joint, our luck runs out and both our shields fail. The huge sabotage droid spins around and I just barely manage to swipe at its knee.
Since I can’t win this fight with stealth, I go for my utility belt. I slap corrosive gel packs on the droid’s knees and set off an ion grenade. I hack joints at every opportunity. Once the knees weaken I can finally go after the power pack on its back. More gel, more ion damage, and a vibroknife shut it down. I doubt the whole fight took twenty seconds, but it felt like hours.
Back on the bridge, COMS reports an incoming message from the Republic, definitely for us; and not from the Brentaal Star.
Why can’t anything be simple? Since going to work for the Imperials I have been noticed by a Hutt, a Sith Lord, a Grand Moff, and now a Jedi Grand Master. I’ve heard her name before. Shan is from a prominent line of Jedi Masters who tend to overachieve. She claims sixteen Republic warships are on their way loaded with Jedi…but curiously mentions nothing about the Brentaal Star being loaded with Jedi, or even having Jedi on board. The Jedi are very big on the idea of “a Jedi being around” scaring people off…the Sith tend to hide their presence until it’s too late. It’s a sign of overconfidence both ways, but I think the Sith are being a bit more honest.
I tell Satele to go sit and spin and cut off the transmission. A Jedi doesn’t scare me: sixteen Republic cruisers and a squad of Jedi against an Imperial transport, on the other hand, makes me want to leave immediately. But we have some time: there is no way the Republic snuck an entire fleet anywhere near Imperial space without anyone knowing. They’re probably hours away.
The plan is simple. I, Kaliyo, and a squad of troopers and droids will board the Brentaal Star. The math says all their fighters are engaged. Their troops are clearly unprepared for stealth. A Thranta-class like the Star has little internal space. I figure I can do this in fifteen minutes.
I disable security as I sneak my way through the ship. This apparently prompts panic; NR-02 checks in as I reach the last few areas of the ship to search to let me know REAL escape pods have fired. I’m now racing against time to prevent “The General” from evading…um, capture or rescue; whichever this is. A Special Forces Commander with the name of Ghulil, which I wouldn’t even know except he keeps shouting about it, is equipped with a stealth field scrambler. Our fields fall as we reach the door he is barricading. He is, however, just as susceptible to poisons and gas as the sabotage droid. More so, I would imagine.
Down the next hallway, the door leading to the escape pods refuses to open. Or rather, the door TRIES to open, but appears to be held by some invisible…force. Damnation. There is at least ONE Jedi on this ship. Indeed, after blowing the door, we are confronted by a rather angry Jedi Padawan. Her righteous anger would be cute if she wasn’t wielding a laser-sword she barely knows how to use. But, thank the gods she has so little experience, and also lacks a stealth field scrambler. Kaliyo distracts her by leaping to the side; I activate my stealth field. When the Padawan tries to track me, Kaliyo goes into stealth. From there the results are predictable.
We find “The General” waiting by the escape pods. He’s holding his guts in; a casualty of the on-going battle. He is only steps from a functioning escape pod, which makes me both cautious and curious. The Padawan slowed me down enough that he *could* have made his escape. From the ship, at least. With no more defenders, we could have hunted him down at our leisure. But here he stands. He *is* an Imperial General, or was, at least. He has been working for the government in procurement; and arranged a defection to the Republic. The motive, he claims, was to “level the playing field:” he knows so much about the plans of both factions, he figured he could prevent further war by sharing everything he knew.
I see the hopelessness in his eyes, though; and I hear it in his voice. He doesn’t believe it. He is a man trying to salve his wretched conscience before death takes him.
“The war is inevitable, General. It took more than one person to start it; it will take more than one person to end it. You and I mean nothing in the end, as far as the Empire and the Republic go.”
It is my benediction for him. A kinder thing than I do for most. He sighs. Perhaps he accepts. Perhaps he is at peace; I don’t pretend to know. I send a blaster bolt through his heart. I’m not carrying him back through this damned ship.
Upon returning to The Black Talon, we are greeted by NR-02…and no one else. COMS, OPS, Security, and dammit, even Lieut…CAPTAIN Sylas, are all dead, blasters drawn and held in lifeless hands. I *liked* Sylas; she had potential.
I get in the droids face, despite knowing it does no good. “Talk. Now. Before I get more angry.”
The droid claims; well, long story short an ensign tried to lead a mutiny to take back the ship while I was raiding the Brentaal Star. Captain Sylas objected, and before NR-02’s very own photo-receptors EVERY SINGLE PERSON ON THE BRIDGE MANAGED TO KILL EACH OTHER.
Once again, I doubt.
I suspect the only reason I am currently alive is because Kilran believes that I will be missed. He believes it enough that he wasn’t willing to blow up the Brentaal Star with me on it after I confirmed “The General” was dead. I check the security logs. All wiped. I have Kaliyo watch the droid and go to the navicomputer.
“The course for Dromund Kaas is ready to execute,” NR-02 offers.
“You have nothing to fear from me,” he adds. “The Grand Moff guarantees there will be no questions asked when we reach orbit at the Capital homeworld. The spaceport will send a shuttle. They are already expecting us. Or we could return to Vaiken Spacedock, if you wish.”
I believe him. Almost. But I won’t feel safe until Kaliyo and I are on the surface of Dromund Kaas.
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