Talos had entered the office expecting Marick to be there as per usual, a datapad in his hand. Therefore, he was at least somewhat surprised to see someone else in his place.
"Funny. I didn't expect you," he said to the woman nestled in Marick's chair.
"Good, 'cause you shouldn't have." Ronovi Tavisaen smiled as she spoke, drumming her fingers on the desk. "I must say, though, I could get used to this. Reminds me of my office back when I was a Tarenti..."
"Ronnie? The point?"
"Yes, yes..." Ronovi cleared her throat before leaning back in her chair. "You're familiar with Fly On The Wall, I take it?"
Opening a drawer in the desk, Ronovi retrieved the predicted datapad, sliding it across the transparasteel toward Talos. The screen lit up at his touch.
"Then you're well aware of their surveillance techniques. While the dispersal of their cameras is pretty widespread, many of them are concentrated along the casinos and dives of the Besadii Entertainment District. This is mostly so we can monitor the movement of the other syndicates so as to take note of their behavior."
"Sounds reasonable enough. What's the problem?"
Ronovi sighed. "The problem," she said, "is that sometimes we'd rather that FOTW sort of glance over some proceedings. You see, one young Qel-Droman was sent to relay information to Mal Company under the guise of an agent. Two problems: He wasn't very subtle, and he happened to have the discussion right near one of the security transplants along the district borders. Now, we all like to keep things a little hush-hush regarding our exchanges, and this information happened to be very delicate. Therefore, I'm sure you know what to do."
"Destroy the surveillance footage."
"It won't be easy," added the Exarch. "FOTW's security is tight. They're not kidding when they say they keep their videos protected. But you'll need to infiltrate the facility, one way or another, and find the recording of the exchange."
She paused to reach for a flask at her side. Talos grinned. To see Ronovi drinking in the office of a man who abstained from alcohol entirely wasn't exactly ironic, but it was amusing.
"Well?" she asked after clearing her throat from the rush of whiskey. "Think you can handle it?"
"Please, Ronnie," Talos said. "This sounds like fun."
Mission Type: Infiltration/Exfiltration
Mission Rank: C-Class
Location: Port Ol'val
BRIEFING: You have been instructed to gain access to FOTW headquarters. Your goal is to infiltrate the footage room, find valuable footage regarding a Qel-Droma exchange, and destroy it. You will also be expected to leave the facility with little to no collateral damage. Remember, as with all missions on Ol'val, your Force presence must be limited. Off someone if you must, but try to make it look like an accident, will you?
Director’s Office, 1500 Hours
“And this has everything I’ll need?” Talos Erinos asked as he picked up the black duffel bag from the table and tested its weight.
“No doubt...with what’s in that bag, you could walk in the front door and launch an all-out assault” replied Timeros Entar as he leaned back in his chair and surveyed the young man who had, until recently, been one of his teammates.
“Just…,” the Intelligence Director began but the Galerian Aedile cut the Heragan off.
“Yeah, yeah…bring it all back in one piece. I don’t officially work for you yet. I know, sir.” Talos finished for him, to which he got a slap across the back of the head via the Force.
“Then maybe you should do it sometime..” Timeros chided.
Talos smirked and grabbed the bag from the fine ebony desk and made for the door, throwing over his shoulder as he did so:
“Don’t worry, sir, I’ll be back in a week max and these goodies will suddenly reappear in Operations’ inventory”
Timeros merely sighed and smiled in spite of himself. “They better, Erinos, or you’ll never work here…got it?”
But Talos Erinos was already gone….
2 Days Later
The Ducts, Port Ol’val
Approximately 48 hours after his meeting with Timeros, Obelisk Templar Talos Erinos sat on the (potentially) flea-ridden bed in his second rate room in the even more third-rate motel. Spread across the stained comforter were glossy holo-stills of the area known to Ol’val locals as the “Ducts”, a run-down area that had nothing to show except its rampant poverty.
‘And, supposedly, the headquarters of the Fly On The Wall Private Intelligence Firm ’ thought Talos as he scanned the images, looking for tell tale signs of a false wall, a trap door, or even a holo-projected image.
“Dammit, there’s nothing here!” Talos fumed, chucking his holo-pen across the small room and pacing the length of his dingy accommodations.
“How can Marick set his House up here without knowing exactly where the other major players have their HQs. It goes against everything in the Oblivion Code…and I mean really, how can the Captain think that a multi-million credit private intelligence and espionage company would have their headquarters in this slum. It’s the Ducts for Vader’s sake” Talos seethed, ranting as he paced.
But no sooner had the former Black Ops agent let those words leave his mouth then he stopped in his tracks and stared dumbly at his bed, at the map of Port Ol’val. In a literal blur, the Equite was back on his bed and with his holo-pen summoned to his hand with the Force, he began to trace out the path that the Ventilation Passage Ducts, the air system that provided the slum with fresh air as well its name, letting nothing but the Force and his own hunch guide him.
30 seconds later, Talos thrust his hand up in triumph as he circled where the headquarters of FOTW could be found; in the dead center of the Ducts region, naturally protected by the asteroid’s natural stalactites and stalagmites, and on paper protected by the area being grayed out with the word “Redacted” typed across it in small letters.
“Sithspit, I was so stupid,” Talos groaned.
Despite his victory in ferreting out FOTW’s headquarters, Talos’ brain was already whirling, attempting to sort out the information and turn it into a concise and precise plan for the rest of his mission.
‘Right, I know where their HQ is, but it’s well hidden and any di’kut who’s seen climbing into the ventilation ducts is going to arouse a lot of unwanted attention, and I’m sure that FOTW has eyes on the ground. So I’m going to need a distraction – a big one – to buy myself enough time to slip into the base and get to the Data Processing Room and delete that footage. And then there’s the matter of getting blueprints for the HQ…I’ll be totally blind and I can’t exactly take an employee hostage and interrogate him…however, knowing what I do of secret intelligence installations, the data processing room will be smack dab in the middle of the complex. Fekking typical’
With these kinds of thoughts zipping through the young spy’s head at a million miles an hour, Talos was up till the early hours of the morning but when he finally stripped off his shirt and stretched out on his bed, he had a plan.
Now that all was left was the actual mission…naturally, the riskiest part of the whole job.
The Docks, Port Ol'val
Day 4, 1014 Hours
By mid-morning the next day, Talos Erinos was hard at work crafting the perfect distraction for his infiltration into the headquarters of the “Fly On The Wall” Private Intelligence Firm, which would occur this evening at exactly 2359 hours. Said distraction was, or at least planned to be, the synchronized remote detonation of four fragmentation charges that would be heard and felt throughout the Docks and Ducts Districts, cause mass panic, and send both Mal Company enforcers and FOTW security agents and their droids, running to the Docks.
At the same time, four military-grade EMP charges would go off, completely blinding the FOTW-operated holo-cams that lined the shadowport. The result would, hopefully, be a window of time in which Talos could infiltrate the FOTW headquarters, gain access to the Data Processing Room, and erase the video evidence of Qel-Droma’s presence on Ol’val with little trouble and little loss of life.
Having borrowed (without asking or intent to return) the uniform of a Dock District Maintenance worker, Talos had gained access to the docking shelves for Port Ol’val’s more “VIP” style clients and was currently located in the uppermost levels, doing what he used to do best, before becoming an Oblivion Agent,…planting bombs.
Suspended some hundred feet above the ground by a rappelling cord, the Mandalorian carefully wove the red and blue wires of the EMP charge around each other before getting them ready to connect to the charge itself. But when he saw the charge itself, he stopped and purpled the air with a series of Mandalorian curses.
“You’ve got to be kidding me…that Bothan sold me the charge in Boccese? I don’t understand Boccese….Basic, Corellian, Mando’a, sure. But Boccese?” Talos said after he had vented his anger and leaned back in his harness.
Stymied, the Templar merely stared at the charge and its two wires, and wondered if the Force would look favorably on a haphazard guess.
‘Probably not,’ Talos thought sourly, ‘I can always call him…he knows Boccese like he knows Coruscanti. But he’ll never let me live it down…oh stuff it, Clan before self.’
Even as his internal debate raged, Talos gingerly reached into the pants pocket of his “borrowed” uniform and withdrew his encrypted comlink. Punching in a frequency from memory, the Shadesworn rolled his eyes and waited for the other side to connect.
“Hello?” a crisp voice with a distinct Coruscanti accent said after a few moments.
“Hey Dralin, how goes?”
“Talos? Haven’t heard from you in forever, thought you’d be busy on Eldar or with Army stuff. Congratulations on your promotion, by the way…Captain” the voice of Obelisk Prelate Dralin Fortea, former Oblivion Agent, said with surprise evident in his tone.
Talos thanked his friend for his congratulations, before cutting to the core of the matter:
“Uh yeah, I have been busy on Eldar, with Celahir away helping out on the hunt for Dash Kuatir, and I’m just taking a breather here on Port Ol’val”
“Right, well don’t breath in too deep or you’ll see a grave and not your desk,” Dralin quipped. “Now is there something I can do for you?” he continued.
Sighing, Talos recited the Clan rally call of ‘Arcona Invicta’ in his head before speaking into the comlink:
“There is. By any chance, do you know the Boccese words for ‘Red, Blue, and Power’?” the Aedile asked and he listened as his former teammate recited the words.
“Thanks a million, Dralin, I owe you. I’ll buy you a drink sometime, yeah?” he said and he was just about to end the call and get off scot free when the Coruscanti cut him off.
“Or you could save your credits and tell me what you’re doing?”
“Eh, nothing. Just eyeing the cred tables and wanting an understanding of the words”
Fortea didn’t buy it. “Barzul (Boccese for bullsh*t),” he spat, “You’ve never been a gambler, Talos. Now tell me what you’re really doing on Ol’val, or the next visit I pay to Eldar won’t be a pleasant one.”
As all good Mandalorian commandos know, Talos knew when he was defeated, and also like all Mandalorian commandos, he hated to admit it.
“I..er..I may be planting a bomb. Somewhere in Port Ol’val…to umm..to create the necessary distraction for me to gain access to a certain building.”
“And why do you need my help? You were the 2IC of the Black Hammer Brigade, a Heavy Assaulter, if your file is legitimate.”
Cursing his spymaster of a friend, Talos fessed up. “I may have been a di’kut when I was buying an EMP charge and accidently bought one that was written in Boccese. And I..er, don’t understand Boccese”
To his credit, Fortea managed not to laugh. “Well, that wasn’t so bad was it, Talos,” he chortled, “At any rate, I know what to get you for the next Exodus Day. Anyhow, glad I could help, but I’ve got a meeting with the Lord Voice so I’ll see you when I do. Nothing is true…”
“Everything is permitted” Talos replied, finishing the Oblivion Code and hanging up his comlink.
Knowledgeable now in at least three words of Boccese, the Erinos went back to priming his last charge. “Well now I know what to get you for the next Exodus day,” he whined, mocking Dralin.
“Mir'sheb” he finished as the EMP charge flashed green and blinked to let him know it was ready for remote detonation.
Utinni Motel, Rooftop
The Ducts, Port Ol’val
2345 Hours, Day 4.
“T-14 minutes until operation activation” the pleasant female voice of the holo-computer said, splitting the general “buzz” of the poverty-stricken district far below.
“Thank you, but I can tell time” Talos snarled rhetorically, something the computer didn’t get as it/she replied.
“My apologies, Asset Erinos. I was just trying to be of assistance”
Talos rolled his eyes at the DIA-registered device and thought of Timeros, who had personally packed his mission kit and had, no doubt, specifically chosen this holo-computer.
Shaking off his moment of annoyance, the Erinos turned his back on the smartass device and unzipped the black duffel bag that contained the rest of his kit. Lying on top was a round silver cylinder that would have appeared identical to the piping used on capital starships, had there not been a large hook at one end and a heavy-duty magnet on the other. Turning the cylinder over, Talos found the label on the side and rolled his eyes once again. The label read:
‘Urban Infiltration Device Mk. III (UID3). EXPERITMENTAL – Property of DIA R&D’
“Oh thank you, Timeros, for sending me into a hive of criminals with an experimental toy. Much appreciated” he muttered, smiling in spite of himself.
“Asset Erinos, you have 7 minutes until operation activation” the computer chimed in. Surprisingly, the tone of Talos’ reply was soft, one could even say kind.
“Thank you for that” he replied sweetly and without further preamble he began stripping off his civilian clothes right in front of the computer screen, which, he had no doubt, was a one-sided holo-cam with a live feed being beamed right back to the Dajorra Intelligence Agency. The agent watching the Dark Jedi, smugly waiting for him to kark up, was probably going into a state of shock.
Nude save for his smallclothes, Talos reached into the duffel and withdrew a folded black garment, which he quickly shook out and stepped into. Wincing ever so slightly from the sting of 52 needles lightly puncturing his skin, the Human went through a quick series of stretches, smiling as the Spectre Armor proved to be just as flexible as it had been 2 months ago, when it had been the uniform of Vice-Captain Talos Omerta, Oblivion Brigade deputy.
“5 minutes, Asset” the computer reminded him and though he didn’t reply, Talos realized that time was getting away from him.
In a matter of 35 seconds, he donned the rest of his uniform; first, the Spectre Visor’s frame, then the gauntlet of his Hidden Blade which he slid on to the bare flesh of his left forearm (something Talos was unused to, as he had cut the sleeves off of his Spectre Armor since he last wore it).
Finally, the Shadow Disciple attached the two pieces of supplemental armor he always wore, one plate for the right forearm and the other for the groin, and finished the ensemble off by strapping a tactical holster to his right thigh and slipping a set of bone-white throwing knives through his belt.
Suitably equipped, Talos picked up his SSK-7b medium blaster pistol from where he had left it, checked that its unique clip of ‘Hangover’ nonlethal ammunition, powerful knock-out darts, was in place and slid it through the tactical holster.
“Computer, exact time till activation…go” he ordered as he walked to the edge of the roof, brought down his Spectre visor, and magnified the ventilation duct that eye level with him, albeit across the wide chasm of the Ducts District.
“3 minutes, 27 seconds, and 3 miliseconds…no 2 mili-..wait 1..now 3 minutes, 26 seconds, and 59..no..58..” the computer began to spit out a series of numbers as it tried to keep pace with Time itself and, as evidenced by the blowout that followed, it failed.
“I don’t need you roaches watching me” Talos muttered of the DIA agents who were now, completely blind to what he was doing.
‘All the better,’ he thought as he picked up the “Urban Infiltration Device” and returned to the edge of the roof, ‘Seeing as I may have to use the Fifth Freedom or even the Force, despite being advised against it’.
Talos checked his datapad, the digital numbers flashing 2:43:09, and he knelt down at the edge of the roof, first aligning the UID3 with the distant ventilation duct and then withdrawing the detonator for the four fragmentation and four electromagnetic charges he had laid at the Docks earlier in the day, he waited for his timer to hit 0:00:00.
After what felt like an eternity, but was really 2 minutes and 39 seconds, the timer hit 0:00:00 and the operation was green. Moving with experience gained by performing black-op missions in the double-digits, Talos depressed the first button on the detonator and braced himself as an impressive explosion resounded through the asteroid, coming from the Docks District, which as planned, sent the inhabitants of the Ducts running to see what was going on.
90 seconds later, Talos depressed the second button on the detonator and quickly retracted his Spectre Visor, lest the EMP blast that was now rolling through both the Docks and Ducts fry its wiring. As soon as he felt it was safe, the Shadesworn reactivated his visor and peered over the edge of the rooftop. Seeing that the security camera mounted across the street from the Utinni Motel had been rendered inoperable, he smiled.
And then, he was moving, first stomping on the detonator and then aiming the Urban Infiltration Device Mk. III.
Talos fired the UID3 and nearly fell over as the powerful grappling hook shot across chasm of the Ducts, lodging securely in the rock wall of a stalagmite while the heavy duty magnet secured itself to the Motel’s roof access door. Moving his hands from the trigger to the cylinder itself, Talos muttered:
“This had better work Timeros…if I fall I will haunt you endlessly from the Abyss”
With that silent threat established, Talos used an invisible hand to hit the “Go” button and he was gone, rocketing across the chasm separating him from the FOTW headquarters access hatch. Coming to a (none to gentle) stop on the far side, Talos set to work on the vent with a fusion cutter, slicing a sloppy but workable hole in the grill.
By the time the first security cameras had come back online (4 minutes after the explosion), the Mandalorian spy was gone, crawling through the ventilation ducts so fast that when the second set of security cameras, the ones panning the central area where Fly On The Wall kept their headquarters, were rebooted (13.5 minutes after the explosion), Talos Erinos was already inside.
FOTW Headquarters, Corridors
The Ducts, Port Ol’val
0025 Hours, Day 5.
Talos knew that there were a lot of people in the galaxy who let their senses lead them places; for lovers, it may be the heart that shows them to a secluded place, for a gambling addict, it may be the eyes being blinded by the bright and gaudy lights that leads them to a casino, and for a fat child, it could be the smell of a fresh slab of ujj cake that showed him to the kitchen.
For Talos Erinos, a skilled assassin despite his young age, it was years of difficult covert missions and near-death experiences that forced him to let his SSK-7b blaster pistol lead the way down the austere corridors and sharp corners of Fly On The Wall’s headquarters, even when he was sure he was alone.
There were two definitions for what Talos was experiencing; the first was being overcautious and the second was operation paranoia. The people who put stock in the first definition all had one thing in common…they were dead. The people who believed in the second definition, and used it without letting it use them, also had something in common. They were alive.
Talos had been in the base for roughly twenty minutes, in which time he had made his way down from the roof with no trouble, not even from a camera.
‘It’s apparent that FOTW is so confident in their security that they focus only on external security and monitoring.’ Talos thought to himself, finding it both stupid and useful. Smirking ever so slightly, the Shadesworn filed that bit of information away.
After another 15 minutes of carefully walking through the deserted corridors, the agent finally found something useful, a sign with words in Aurebesh that read:
Senior Offices ^
<< Stairwell to Data Processing (key card required)
“Keycard, leycard” muttered Talos as he followed the sign, moving a bit quicker now that he had a destination but never once letting his finger stray from the trigger guard of his sidearm.
“Huh, who’s there?” a thick voice said from the other side of the Mega-X personal blast door that separated FOTW’s Data Processing Room from the rest of the headquarters.
“It’s Mason.” Talos lied, adding a Coruscanti lilt to his otherwise more Mid-Rim brogue.
“Uh, Mason. Garter Mason. New guy in the Security Agent division…just got hired last Friday” the Dark Jedi replied, fearing that the uncrackable reputation of FOTW’s personnel was actually true.
He need not have worried, however:
“Oh right, right! I heard about you. What can I do for you, Agent Mason?” the door said.
“I need data-footage from the cameras in the Docks for the past 2 weeks. Management wants to review them, try to isolate POIs in today’s attack”
“Oh ok, sure. Tell the bosses that the holo-feeds will be in their dropboxes in twent-“ the door began to reply, before ‘Garter Mason’ cut him off.
“That’s not going to work, I’m afraid. Management thinks this may be the start of a port-wide attack; they don’t want to put anything out on the HoloNet feeds where they can be seen by outsiders. I need to come in myself”
“Psh, tell Management not to worry. We’ve got the most secure HoloNet connection in the shadowport. I’ll send ‘em up the regular way” the door replied, and in his voice, Talos could hear a growing suspicion.
So he switched to a different tactic. Desperate pleading.
“Sir, please, I’m just the messenger and the new guy. They always say don’t shoot the messenger, and I really need this job. So can you please just let me in, get what Management wants, and get back to them? I can’t mess up on my third day here.”
Whether it was being addressed as ‘sir’ or Talos’ pleading tone, a moment later the blast door cycled open, revealing a rather fat man in a fine Tapani dress suit standing there, fiddling with a ashen handlebar mustache.
“Oh come on in. Nice clothes by the way, but I thought SA’s had to wear sui—ack!” Handlebar began but a quick “pfft” from Talos’ SSK-7b shut him up, as a thin dart pumped an almost dangerous amount of weaponized anesthesia into his neck.
Stepping over the unconious data miner, Talos allowed himself a moment of appreciation for Fly On The Wall’s technology…it truly was state-of-the-art. Glittering monitors rotating images of literally every alley in Port Ol’val, large displays with constantly moving lists of “People of Interest” to the firm, and even 5 screens that showed no camera-feed but rather the sound levels, inflections, and most probable emotions of people talking near the district borders.
That was what Talos was here for. Closing the blast door behind him with the Force, Talos settled himself into one of the plush chairs in front of the “Sound FX” monitors. Immediately upon touching the screen, a box popped up asking for a password.
Alas, the password wasn’t very hard to crack, it was "Bug-Boy", no doubt because the Management of the Fly On The Wall Private Intelligence Firm didn’t expect anyone with malicious intent to actually make it as far as the Data Processing Room.
“Ah well, that’s a perk of being a Dark Jedi. We look normal, but we really aren’t” Talos gloated as he scrolled through the lists of exchanges and found one of interest, labeled “Possible Foxtrot Uniform?”, the military/intelligence designation for “Force User”.
Hitting ‘Play’, the Templar leaned back in his chair, expecting to hear a strange and unfamiliar voice. He was to be disappointed…the voice that came out of the speakers was very familiar.
It was the voice of Vargas, a Sith Protector in House Qel-Droma.
It was the voice of Vargas,…his apprentice.
“Oh, my young apprentice, we are going to have a serious discussion when you return from Lyspair. Oh yes we are” Talos seethed as he jabbed at various keys until the sound-clip was utterly erased, deleted even from FOTW’s back-up network.
The Equite was still seething as he stalked across the Data Processing Room and so he raised his pistol and fired another dart into the already-prone form of the fat, ridiculously mustached FOTW employee.
His anger slightly abated, Talos Erinos made ready to extract himself from FOTW’s headquarters. His work here was done.