This thread is where the Run-on for The Neutralization Event for House Scholae Palatinae will take place. Members of HSP will be partaking on a three week long run-on to locate and destroy “The Shadow”, who is the origin and financial backer of the terrorist group “The Cause”. Members should remember to be respectful of each other’s characters and to not godmode this event.
The first portion of this event will take place as an espionage mission. I already have information prepared to be released at a later date, and it is up to the members of HSP to use any means necessary to learn the identity and location of “The Shadow”. When they have progressed far enough, I will release this information in a new post. From there they should focus as a strike team to take down “The Shadow”. How they proceed with both of these mission objectives, is up to them.
My own contributions will only be to move the story forward if it stalls or if no one posts for an extended period of time. I hope that many members of HSP decide to participate in this and make a great and rich story to add to the over all fictional progression of the house. Also please make sure to allow other people to post. Do not hijack the story for your own ends. At least let one other person post before you continue the story. This is an excellent way to earn CIs and I hope you give it your all. For those of you who are not in HSP please sit back and enjoy as this adventure unfolds.
The Imperial Palace
“Our options our limited. Theses riots are out of hand, even members of local police are participating. Our hand is forced, our troops MUST respond.” Xen’Mordin Vismorsus said simply. Emperor Ood the Hardwood stood silently with a pensive look in his eyes.
“There is more we need to take care of then just these riots Xen,” Dante replied in the silence.
“You think I am not aware? I have spent months gathering Intel on The Cause,” Xen snapped, “We are on the brink of Civil War in our own system. If the other houses knew how fragile our hold was at the moment they would over run us. I for one do not plan on kneeling to the Arconans or Tarenti.” Dante nodded. The severity of the situation hung in the air.
The small group of leaders and advisers remain silent for a moment. Finally the Emperor spoke.
“Well Xen... What is your plan?”
Xen sighed and smiled. “We strike with everything... and at once.” With that he hit a key on his datapad. Several diagrams and dossiers came to life on the table in front of the group. With a renewed focus they continued to discuss.
The Imperial Palace
“So that is all the information we have?” Ood asked.
Xen nodded and pointed to several notes. “Six individuals we have to kill or capture. The Cause will crumble. We have enough information we should be able to dispose of them with out too much trouble. However these notes... They skirt around and hint at a larger issue. There is no reason for these attacks. As well we know that The Cause could not have started up so easily. There is something else at work here. Someone is not only funding them, but must have some goal in mind. The General is an idealist, but personality diagnostics indicate he never would have reached this end without someone else’s input. There is a Shadow we cannot see controlling the strings.”
The last several hours had led to a great deal of brainstorming on how to attack The Cause, and eventually the group had focused on one conclusion. The Leaders must be removed from play. With them gone, The Cause would crumble and order would be much easier restored to the Cocytus system. However in all of the discussions, it became clear that there was a larger force in play.
“I don’t think any of us like being left in the dark. We obviously need to find out more information to determine what to do about this outside force,” Archangel said.
“Very well then,” Ood said, “We must move quickly. You know what to do.”
The Imperial Palace
The early morning light was streaming through the open windows of the Grand Imperial Palace. Xen looked out toward the Capital City of Ohmen, smoke was billowing out of sections of the city, and he knew there would be smoke coming out of sections of cities through out the system. The local population had no idea what danger they were really in, and if they knew who the Empire actually was, they would be shaking in fear, not screaming in protest.
Deep down Xen felt a pang of guilt. If he had been more focused on this terrorist group, it wouldnt have gotten this far. But that feeling was quickly removed. He reminded himself this was a problem he had inherited. And he was going to fix it.
Several aids ran by frantically talking about yet another attack, and how local officials were failing to to hold back the rioting. Parading the bodies of those responsible for these attacks would be the easiest way to stop the riots. Xen thought to himself.
He opened the door that stood in front of him. He entered the briefing room. The group in front of him stood at attention. With a wave of his hand they returned to their seats. These were some of the finest Dark Jedi at his disposal. He knew the live feeds in the room would broadcast his message to those Dark Jedi not on Judecca as well. Antenora, Caina, and even the moons such as Barbatos would be focused at attention await their orders.
“Let us keep this simple.” Xen said as he reached the front podium. Stand straight and focused he continued. “You are all aware of The Cause and the damages they are responsible for over the years. They have stepped up their game and as such, we are forced to respond in kind. No mercy no compassion. We will destroy them all. But in order to accomplish this, we have to accept a challenging truth. There is more to their organization then we thought. We know much of their leaders, but there is one who remains in the shadows. To insure they do not rise again, we MUST find out who this individual is and destroy them. This is your task.”
Xen paused a moment to let them all process what he was asking.
“Infiltrate The Cause. Capture high ranking members and torture information out of them. Break into high security Cause buildings and hack their databases. I do not care HOW you do it. You have free reign on how you wish to proceed. Any intel you find should be sent here to me. We will process it all and put the puzzle together. When we have figured out exactly whom we are dealing with and where they are, it will be up to you to eliminate the threat. I can not stress enough how critical it is you accomplish this task. The fate of the Cocytus System and the entirety of the House is resting on your capable shoulders. Do not let us down.”
With that he left the room. There was a buzz of whispering behind him as the door closed with a hiss. It was in their hands to accomplish this task.
It was night on Judecca, mere hours after the orders had been issued. The seedy neighborhood had honestly never seen better days, being home to the working poor and shiftless deadbeats as far back as anyone cared to remember. Small homes were tightly packed amongst the dingy tenements, garbage clogged the gutters, and the glowlamps that were actually working were dim and dying. After all, why spend money improving a depressed area that looked better in the dark?
A few workers wandered through the night, heading home or to a dive bar to drown their sorrows. Hookers and pickpockets stalked the night, safe in the knowledge that local law enforcement only braved that part of the city during daylight hours, and only to collect their bribes. A perfect spot for disaffected rebels.
A dark sinuous shape floated down the street, keeping to the shadows. No one noticed, or if they did they simply declined to let on. After all, making eye contact with the wrong being could be a deadly mistake. The shadow wafted its way past the homes until it got to the cantina. The ground floor was the service area, with rooms above for rent, paid by the month, week, or hour. The mysterious void meandered to the back and found its way up a rickety flight of steps and paused a moment at a locked door until a sharp snap and a scream of squeaky hinges ushered him into the clapboard structure.
The ratty carpet in the hallway stank of urine and vomit, the walls stained with blood and blaster scorches. The shadow slowly hovered, a light creaking of old floorboards betraying his presence. He checked the doors one at a time, stopping at the third from the last. Moaning and grunting sounds echoed from within.
The cheap door slammed open, then shut. The room was poorly lit, the center of it an old durasteel-framed bed sitting, its patchwork quilt thrown carelessly on the floor. The shadow watched the burly man, covered with a sheen of sweat, face down on the prostitute. Her legs were wrapped around the thug, her moans fake, her disgust radiating out through the Force.
"Get out of here, you kriffin' perv," the man strained. "I'll slice yer guts out."
The man suddenly flew off the [Expletive Deleted] and into the wall, the impact sending a grunt of pain from his lungs, while the woman, wide-eyed, stared at the nothing standing in front of the door. Her head careened to the side with a loud crack, and her slack body dropped to the saggy mattress. The man, still pinned to the wall, worked his mouth like a beached fish, words failing to form.
A spear of yellow light flashed forth once, twice, thrice. The man's arms and legs dropped to the floor, the stumps cauterized by the laser. A squeak of agony and terror slipped his lips as the shadow leaned in and materialized.
The man wore all black, a hooded cloak over a combat suit. He had green eyes and dark brown hair and beard. A jagged scar flashed from his left ear down to his jaw, disappearing under the muff. A glint of evil lit his eyes. "Let's have a nice chat about the Cause, shall we?"
It was late afternoon. Xantros entered one of the most luxurious hotels in wealthy disctrict of Ohmen. He was dressed in very expensive clothes, suggesting him to be rich trader, who wished to stay in the hotel. They were not very comfortable, but necessary to make sure that his cover would work. He could not let anyone discover his true identity before the action was finished.
All other Dark Jedi needed time to find and interrogate their own targets. Xantros was also well aware of the fact that he could not let his own target realise what was happening. The matter was far too dangerous for the House to allow the man to get away. He could raise the alarm and alert all other people involved in the recent activity of the Cause. Xantros could not allow this to happen.
The Dark Jedi Knight knew where his target was staying. The only problem was the policy of the hotel. It required its clients to book rooms at least two weeks before arrival. However, Xantros managed to override internal protocols of the hotel, booking a room next to the one, where his target stayed in, but leaving no evidence of breaking in to the system.
The Dark Jedi checked in and was led to his room by a bellboy. He tipped the man twenty five credits, which was typical sum in such hotels, and let him go. Xantros immediately checked if there were any bug devices in the room. Fortunately, it turned out that it was clear. Xantros smiled with relief and changed his clothes to something more comfortable, but still reflecting his economical status.
The Dark Jedi wished to deal with his target as soon as possible, but he was aware of the importance of patience. There was going to be perfect opportunity to interrogate the man during the party this night. It was just necessary to wait couple of hours. In a meanwhile, Xantros order a meal to his room annd installed small camera on the door, when closing the it.
Indeed, around 9 p.m. local time, Xantros noticed his target going downstairs. The Dark Jedi Knight smiled with satisfaction and left his room as well. He had already dressed up into party clothes, he just had to make sure that his plan was going to be succesful.
Soon, Xantros cought up with the man and started a friendly chat.
“Sir, are you going to take part in the banquet?”
“Yes, sir. This hotel is well known of its parties.”
“I heard so, but I am staying here for the first time. The main issue with such hotels is the way the organise parties. They never know how to make good ones.”
“Yes, there is always something wrong.”
“I can assure you that parties here are really wonderful, sir. If you were so kind to accompany me, I would introduce you to local celebrities.”
“I do not want to bother you…”
“Do not worry, I will be glad to do so.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Xantros smiled. The man made his mission even easier…or it was a trap. Still, Xantros had to proceed with his plan. He followed the man, discussing with him. Soon after, they entered the ball room. They walked to the bar and ordered drinks. The Dark Jedi discreetly put small amount of a poison to the drink of his interlocutor.
Couple of minutes later, the poison affected man, who felt weak. Xantros immediately offered his help and led the man to his room. He closed the door and pushed his prisoner on the bed. He injected an antitode into man’s vein, took out and activated his lightsaber. He grinned nasty, proud that his smile was as nasty as always.
“Now, we shall talk…no screams…no shouts…just quiet conversation. I shall be asking questions…and you shall be answering them. Remember, there are so many body parts that might be cut off, if your answers are incorrect. Also, if you die because of poison, we can blame unfresh food and drinks, served at the banquet.”
Reman's TIE model drifted slowly in the outer reaches of Brutus' caustic atmosphere, hidden beneath the layers of gas and clouds in a free-fall, all non-essential programs and devices offline to ensure that no sensors could pick up its presence. Reman himself shifted uncomfortably in his space suit, having long ago grown anxious as he awaited his prey. After the recent transmission from the Aedile of Scholae Palatinae, Xen'mordin Vismorsus, had instructed the members of the Royal House to hunt down, capture, interrogate, and kill all high-ranking members of the terrorist organization known as The Cause, and the young Jedi Junter was more than willing to do so, seeing yet another opportunity to prove himself and gain favor with the Summit. Once his objective was clear, he had vigorously gone about investigating the recent terrorist attacks throughout the Cocytus System, and his determination had rewarded him with the finding of a buried report about suspicious activity by small vessels in orbit around Judecca's second moon. He came to the conclusion that laying in wait for whoever the mysterious beings interacting over Brutus would undoubtedly lead him to The Cause, and, after gathering the neccessary clearance and supples, went about laying his trap. After spending three days in his cramped cockpit, however, he was beginning to reconsider his plans.
"Kriffing space suit! Always riding up the crotch," he grumbled, tugging at his belt while observing his cockpit's monitors, trying to pick up on any possible activity nearby. "Still nothing? Great.. I'd prefer a dogfight or a hail of blasterfire over this snorefest."
Just as he finished griping to himself, a small blip appeared on his radar, causing him to sit up straight and erect in his seat, quickly running his hands over the TIE's controls as three more blips appeared. Firing up his ship's twin ion-engines and weapon systems, he blasted out of Brutus' orbit and towards the four R-41 Starchaser models gathering just several dozen kilometers away.
"Hah! Found you.. Here's the fun part."
Lighting up the first two ships with blasts from his Defender's ion cannons, he buzzed through the group with incredible speed, his already-impressive piloting skills enhanced through his connection to the Force. The two remaning ships not disabled by his pinpoint strikes quickly swooped in behind him, lighting up the vast blackness of space with streaks of crimson laser-fire. Dipping and swerving with deft movements of his TIE's control stick, his ship managed to avoid being destroyed by the storm of red energy heading towards him. Grinning underneath his helmet, he would suddenly yank back on his control stick and twist it to the right, sending him in a spinning flip that would once more align his weapons with the rebel ships. His grin would quickly fade, however, as the Starchasers swerved in unison to drop out of his line of fire, avoiding his ion rounds, and as five E-9 Vigilance Interceptors would drop out of hyperspace nearby.
"Kriff! This isn't going to end well.."
The diffused sun shone down through the atmospheric haze on the light industrial area. Grime clung to walls and permacrete streets while a permanent yellow-brown pall hung over the entire area, caused by the older manufactories still burning wood and coal to fuel their foundries. A couple of the local cops, whose guts strained their food stained black uniforms, stood in the lobby of a medium sized tool and die shop. They barked out guttural laughs in front of the cringing foreman, whose fist was wrapped around a handful of soon-to-be-gone credits.
The black cloaked figure walked in through the irising portal. Upon taking in the scene, Draco Maligo hissed briefly, and the two uniforms turned around.
"This doesn't concern you, buddy. Turn yer ass around and walk out of here before we find a reason to run you in," the one cop said, his fists planted on his hips.
The Krath stared at the man a moment, snatched the hilt off his belt, and ignited his lightsaber while slashing it across the cop's neck. The body collapsed to the floor, the impact jarring the loose head off it's perch and sending it on a couple of rolls toward the reception desk. The Twilek female behind the desk screamed and fainted and the foreman dropped the credits to the floor.
The other cop backed up, his hands waving in front of his body. "Sorry, we didn't know who you are," he said, voice quavering.
"Did you also not know you are taking credits from a Cause cell?" said Draco, his green eyes boring into the officer's wide brown orbs. "Perhaps if you'd done your jobs instead of lining your pockets you would know what's going on in your patrol district. I have no patience for corrupt nerf-herders." The yellow laser flashed out again, then disappeared as a second body dropped and a second head rolled.
Maligo walked up to the terrified foreman, who was in the process of soiling himself. The Krath grabbed two fistfuls of denim shirt and pulled the ruddy face gone pale close to his. "Grifth Manx is dead. Before he died he told me all about this place. If you want to live you are going to tell me where I can find the plant manager, Fend'r Olssenn."
Ric sat back in his chair as Dante filled him in about the fresh wave of violence from the Cause. It had been a while, but he remembered the last time they had reared their ugly head and it had almost caused the Royal Palace in the center of Ohmen to fall. Enough damage had been done that work crews were still rebuilding sections and the attack had happened years ago.
"So that's where we are at the moment. I know that you used to work in Intel and you have experience in this work, so I'm going to let you do what you do to get results," Dante was finishing up. Ric had been on a leave of sorts and had only recently returned, having dealt with some issues that had been plaguing him.
"I need any information that I can get to start with and then I'll get started," Ric checked his data pad as Dante uploaded what he had to it. He scanned the known contacts and hangouts as well as the suspected member list. He remembered well going after the rebels just before being called in to go back to Antei by the Dark Council. 'Had it really been that long' he thought wearily.
Excusing himself, Ric went to his private quarters and got his gear ready. He knew exactly what he needed and where he was going to start. First he had a call to make and a friend to meet. Going into this alone wasn't in his plan and he had a contact that wasn't afraid to get his hands a little dirty.
People. Hundreds of them. Maybe even thousands Screaming, shouting, waving banners.
Just your everyday protest crowd against anything. Or in this case, two protest crowds and three additional parties.
Jorm pulled the collar of his Nerf leather jacket tighter. It was cold in the large storage hall which bordered on the spaceport's main landing pad. Typical for both Caina and the surface levels of Daemon, or so he had been told.
He was part of the crowd, but kept to the edge and gained an overview. The crowd he stood in cried for freedom and firewood - Jorm identified them as pro-Cause.
The other crowd, which shared a battleline with his, demanded for the Emperor to put down his foot and erase The Cause - they were clearly the loyalists.
The other parties were made up of the local Police Forces, Spaceport Security and spacers scattered all over the place. The former two tried to keep the protesting crowds from damaging structures, cargoes and each other, while the latter group demanded the immediate disbanding of the protests. Not out of political reasons, but because they were delaying business. Up to this point, no group had gained the upper hand, but things hadn't gotten violent yet. And while the Police and Security had a fair amount of the typical riot equipment, the sheer mass of people against them evened the odds.
Jorm dismissed them from his thoughts for now. He didn't search for protesters or Police, he was looking for agitators and beneficiaries. Right, over there. A small group of people, mixed species, calm demeanor. They kept close to the edge of the pro-"Cause" crowd as Jorm did, and they seemed to wait for something. He noticed them bein close to the landing pad access. Jorm smiled. Criminals. He didn't need more than a passing glance to spot his own kind.
He had been looking for such a group for a while now. Their behavior made him sure they were thieves, and the number one stolen good over the past week had been vehicles. The increase in vehicle theft had been the result of harsher background checks forr potential buyers in the aftermath of The Cause's latest actions. It was almost as hard to buy a vehicle as it was to buy high-powered weaponry. And when many of the stolen speeders and cars had turned up in The Cause's hands, it was a no-brainer to suspect them behind the latest thefts.
Time for his plan. He moved closer to the edge of the crowd and scanned the Police Officers on the far side. Yeas, there was one with tear gas grenades. A brief moment of focus on Jorm's behalf stole one of them from the officer's bandolier, primed it and dropped it into the crowd. Within seconds, the encounter of protesters exploded into a full-blown riot. Jorm's target group moved towards the landing pad as expected, so he followed suit.
Outside, they split up into teams of two. Jorm followed a young Devaronian and a mid-aged human who ran towards an older YT-series light freighter. He was faster than them, and tagged both with the Malacia technique as he took them over. As they stumbled and bent over, he sprinted ahead and started to slice the acces panel on the sealed hatch. Troubled by the effects of the Force technique, the two failed to notice him. He was still at it when the two arrived.
"What the..." blurted the human as he came to a skidding stop.
"Mpfff!" was the only thing coming from the Devaronian as he crashed into his partner's back. Surprisingly, none of the two fell.
"First dibs. Look for another prize." Was Jorm's reply. He still worked the access panel.
"But... that's our ship!" came out of the Devaronian, who had caught himself and looked quite helpless. Jorm looked up from the panel and punished him with his best don't-fool-me stare. It worked. The Devaronian's red skin got even more red, and he looked to the floor.
His partner looked over his shoulder and spotted Spaceport Security.
"No time for the chit-chat." He eyed Jorm. The Guardian had drastically restyled himself for this trip, wearing leather clothes and turquoise contacts in addition to blond, brown and green colored dreadlocks. He also carried a rather large blaster pistol, model DE-10, on his left tigh. Alltogether, he gave the impression of a far-traveled rogue spacer, and it seemed to leave an impression. The human made Jorm an offer.
"We should form a temporary alliance. You get us out of here, and we get you into contact with people who have mighty deep pockets and a need for talent like you."
"And as topping, none of us gets caught by the Secu's back there and nobody snitches on no-one. Is one of you any good at slicing?" was Jorm's reply.
The Devaronian stepped forward and presented a modified datapad. Jorm gave way at the hatch.
The Security detail had spotted them in the meantime and approached. The human crouched down and produced a small hold out blaster. Jorm drew his DE-10 and took cover on the other side of the ramp.
"Name's Gil. That's Echo" introduced the human.
"Nate" was Jorm's answer, introducing one of his various identities. Then they opened fire on the Security detail and drove them into cover, effectively halting their advance. They had played this game for only half a minute when Echo reported success, confirmed by the hiss of the opening hatch. The three of them wasted no time to enter the ship. While Jorm sealed the hatch, Gil took the cockpit, and with Echo's help they got off ground in less than a minute.
Just a couple of minutes later, Jorm was fully convincedof Gil's talent as a pilot. After a flurry of wild maneuvers and feints, they had lost all pursuers and touched down in another warehouse. Echo had announced their arrival over a secured channel, so Jorm wasn't surprised to find himself surrounded by suspicious figures with blasters when he left the ship. With a sardonic smile, he kept his hands away from the blaster and turned his palms outwards. A well-dressed human male with a datapad in hand approached Jorm and pierced him with his eyes.
"Echo has announced you... Nate. Let's see who you are, shall we?" He took a picture of Jorm with the built-in camera of his Datapad and added a few notes. Nobody spoke.
A silent minute later, the datapad beeped. The Bossman, as Jorm had silently christened him, began to read from the screen.
"Nate Cussen. Born on Nar Shaddaa, yadda, yadda, uninteresting... ah, here it is. Vandalism, burglary, vehicle theft, assault, suspected murder, suspected piracy, multiple cases each, spread over a handful of systems. Status: Wanted. And your... trip wih Gil and Echo prooves that you're on the right side of the law."
Of course. Jorm had used this identity before, when he was a pirate infiltratior. His police file was all real. He silently congratulated himself on using this well-established identity again.
The Bossman spoke again.
"As Gil told you, I could need talent like you, and I pay well. Tell me, what are your thoughts on freedom?"
Jorm had to fight a laugh; this was almost too easy. "Good for business. Less police, less controls."
"Are you willing to do some dirty work for those benefits? And the aforementioned good pay?"
"What a question. Of course."
The Bossman smiled and extended a hand. The mobsters around relaxed.
"Welcome to The Cause."
Infiltrate. Decimate. Dominate. One down, two to go.
A journey of a thousand kilometers starts with but a single step. And only several steps into his journey to find The Shadow, Draco Maligo stood concealed in darkness watching the door across the alley. The Cause was obviously a well-organized group, with the various cells in a state of near ignorance of every other cell. Each cell leader had contact with only one member in each of two other cells, minimizing damage from a blown cover. It made it slow to disseminate information and plans, but it was great for defense. To dismantle the organization you had to just about destroy every single link in the chain.
After forcing Olssenn to give up his contact, Maligo flew to Teyr to catch up with Nudric Neeson, a waiter working in a high class restaurant. Good for spying on the political leaders who would occasionally dine there. Neeson was due to attend a cell meeting, and the Krath was waiting for the other members to arrive. The waiter wasn't the cell leader, and Draco needed to get the leader to move along the stream of rebels to find The Shadow. Patience isn't normally a trait common to the dark side, and a desire for blood-stirring action made it difficult to wait.
As the various low-level members filtered down the alley and into the back of the speeder repair shop, Maligo collected video of each being for later identification. Just then a large armored speeder hovered slowly into view. The side windows were smoked, preventing a visual ID, and when the dark Jedi switched to various infrared and ultraviolet views, the beams were blocked with anti-spying devices. Must be a big wheel of some sort. Such speeders didn't come cheap. A far cry from the usual poor disgruntled member the Cause relied on.
The speeder waited for a moment until a rising durasteel door permitted entry, then slid into the well-lit garage as the door slid down. Guessing that the speeder would have anti-tracking protection, the Krath used a hand gesture and his knowledge of sorcery to tag the vehicle and its occupants in the Force, doubting that the owner would be strong enough in the Force to notice it and counter it. Despite his desire to stride into the shop and destroy ever rebel in the place, Draco knew to follow the money. After all he had video views of the other members and could wait until later to track them down and inflict justice.
"Everybody, drop your work and come down here!"
The shout was audible throughout the warehouse which served as The Cause's hangar on Caina.
Jorm stopped working with the hydrospanner and looked for the source. There it was - the Bossman, head of this detachment. He looked grim.
Jorm put his tool aside and jumped off the ship he had been working on. Next to him, his comrade Gil put down a plasma torch. The young sclicer Echo came down the ramp. As a group, they headed over to the growing circle of people which had formed around the Bossman. The latter looked around and seemed to count heads, then nodded satisfied and began to speak.
"Bad news, folks. The Mechanic, chief of The Cause's... Engineering Section, has been killed by those damn Imperials. Rumor has it that a Dark Jedi was involved."
The last sentence caused quite some anxiosness and swearing. Jorm was one of those who swore, although for other reasons than the rest of the crowd. Damn, missed my shot.
Bossman lifted his hand and called for silence.
"Given that he was killed here on Caina, I don't think our operation here is safe anymore. My superiors think the same. Therefore, we have been ordered to break up and reinforce other operations on multiple worlds."
He searched the circle for someone and stopped when his eyes met Gil.
"Gil. You're one of The Cause's best pilots. That's the reason why your presence has been demanded on Judecca. Get that YT you stole last week ready and load up on cargo, I'll tell you later which crates. Pick anyone you want for the crew, now."
Gil looked surprised, but caught himself quite fast. He looked around the circle and considered potential crewmembers. After a few moments, he announced his choice.
"Echo, I want you for the systems. Bela, as far as I know you're a good shot, so I want you in the turret. Nate? You're my co."
Nate was Jorm's identity here, an identity built over the course of years while he was a pirate. The adressed man nodded his consent. The four of them then headed back to the ship which the three men had been working on.
It was an YT-1930 with center-lined cockpit and wedged cargo bays at the rear. It was about Jorm's age and had seen the usual smuggler's modifications, including a second turret on the ventral hull. Some hull panels stood open where the men had checked, maintained and improved systems. Jorm had been fine-tuning the sensors while Gil had beefed up the sublight engines. Echo had been working inside the ship, where he had adapted the software to the updated hardware - an important step considering the infamous regularity of failure which was common for heavily modded ships, like the Millenium Falcon. And although their own Radamanta was far from her cousin's level of modding, she still was beyond her constructor's imagined limits.
"Nate, how's the progress on the sensors?" asked Gil.
"I was just bolting everything down again. Everything's smooth."
"Good. Help me with those engines when you're done. Echo?"
"Yes...? Oh. The software is updated, just a few panels left to close. I'll have to do the fine-tuning on the trip, though."
"Fair enough." Gil turned to face their new member.
"Bela, go inside and check the weapons. I sure hope we don't need them, but I also sure hope they work if we do."
The young woman nodded and boarded the ship behind Echo.
Jorm finished his work in less then five minutes and then went to assist Gil. When they worked on the engines, a few loaders started to haul crates into the Radamanta's holds.
"I don't want to stress the clichée, but I have a bad feeling about this trip. What about you, Nate?"
"Wouldn't be my first time to be shot at. But as long as we can keep the youngsters frosty, we should be able to fight or escape whatever comes at us."
"Good that you feel that way", Gil replied when he started to put the hull plates back into place.
Suddenly and with a whining sound, the ventral turret began to spin. Jorm saw Bela hanging in there and checking the contrrols. She spotted him, gave him a smile and a thumbs-up, and continued. Gil nodded to himself.
"Good, looks like we're done here. Go check the Cargo, I'll warm her up."
Jorm whent inside and checked on the cargo holds. A quick look into the crates made clear where parts of the cargo of the Palatinaean weapons freighter, which had been raided two weeks ago, had went to. Holy Hutt, what an arsenal. He made sure the crates were properly secured before he left. Then he decided to visit the gunwell. When he reached the ladder, Bela was just climbing down from the dorsal turret. He had no chance to miss her remarkable backside. She let herself drop to the floor and turned around, noticing him. The smile he had seen on her earlier returned.
"Enjoying the view?"
Sure he did. She was a human woman, around 5'1" tall, slender, dark-haired with blue eyes and with nice features. She appeared to be in her twenties.
"Would be a shame if I didn't. How are her teeth?" He motioned for her to follow him to the cockpit, and she obliged.
"Good. Her dentist gave her a few sharp ones." she replied.
"Although the guns are still single-barreled, they're linked directly to the power core, and the bore has been enlarged. They also have a second set of capacitors, increasing the cadenza despite the higher energy drain. Those guns maybe don't look like much from the outside, but they can ruin someone's day in no time."
"Good, very good" said Gil as he spun around in his chair. He had obviously heard the last part of their conversation. Echo sat on the port auxiliary station, right behind Gil, and went through numbers.
"Bela, take the starbord aux station and keep an eye on the sensors. Nate, with me." ordered Gil.
Jorm took his place to the right of Gil and ahead of Bela and checked the ship's registry. It was a masterpiece of forgery and made the Radamanta appear like a small freighter registered on Judecca. There were false logs and a flight plan, all created and installed by the late Grax Von Kepper. Reaching Judecca would be easy.
As they passed the pre-flight and worked out their flight plan - they wouldn't head directly towards Judecca, but follow their official, forged flight plan - Jorm spent a few thoughts on the time after. He would have to make contact with his superiors in the House. If he was lucky, the Aedile or someone else would sense his presence and seek for a meeting
"All green, ready for take-off" came Gil's announcement. Jorm focused on the controls and helped his comrade with the start. As the sky got darker and stars began to shine, Jorm could barely hide a smile.
Judecca. Let's see what you can tell me about he Shadow.
Xantros left the hotel room with a smile of satisfaction. He gathered all the information he needed to move on with his part of the investigation. The source of information…the source of information was not going to tell anything…anytime…anyone…The poison Xantros used left no traces, as it quickly vanished from man’s blood and everything suggested that the man died because of a heart attack. An advantage of bein member of the Dark Brotherhood.
Xantros informed the hotel service about the situation, pretending to be frightened and worried with it. After making few calls, the police officers appeared in the hotel half an hour later, so Xantros could testify very soon. It did not took much time, as Xantros came up with a convincing story, what was a natural gift of his race. Soon, he was released and allowed to leave the hotel. Xantros did so, revoking his stay there and justfiying his decision with his personal comfort. He did not want to stay in the hotel, where one of its guests died.
Such situation allowed Xantros to disappeared and to continue his part of the investigation. He had his luggage transfered to one of the hotels that belonged to the House and he walked into the darkness of the night, once again dressed up in his black suit. He moved to the disctricted of abandoned warehouses and shabby pubs.There was going to be a metting of the Cause going to be held and Xantros was going to participate in it…unofficialy, eavesdropping and gathering additional information about this criminal group.
Thanks to the information, he gained from the man in the hotel, he easily found th proper warehouse. Xantros managed to sneak into it, hoping to arrive earlier than the members of the Casue. He wished to plan some recording devices. Fortunately, there was no one inside. The Dark Jedi Knight was sure that the criminals were going to check if there were any such devices in all accessible areas of the warehouse, so he had to be a bit smarter. He used the Force to sense surroundings and to see places beyond the reach of the criminals, but which would still be suitable for planting the devices.
Soon, Xantros found three promising places, which seemd to be fine and managed to plan the devices with the use of the Force, just before the members of the Cause arrived. In the very last moment, Xantros jumped on tho high pile of boxes. It was a bit too high for a typical jump, but the Dark Jedi Knight used the Force to leap on the boxes. He lied down and turned the transmitters and the receiver on. Faint sound of activated devices seemed to be very loud in the silence. Xantros prayed not to be heard. Fortunately, amidst of commotion, which was caused by the criminals, entering the warehouse, no one paid attention to the sound. The criminals started intense discussion.
“I don’t think the riots today served our cause.”
“We do not know who, or what, and why caused the riots. We need to investigate the matter.”
“Don’t worry. Our plan is well-thought. The riots shall not affect it.”
“It’s interesting that an outsider helped our comrades to escape. His name is Nate."
The man describe this Nate as wearing leather clothes and having blond, brown and green colored dreadlocks. He had turquoise eyes. He was also told to carry a large blaster pistol, model DE-10, on his left tig, giving the impression of a far-traveled rogue spacer.
Could that man be Jester? Strange look suggested him. He could use contacts to hide his natural colour of eyes. It had to be Jester! Only he could be so mad to ignite the riots in order to get into the ranks of the Cause! Though it might be useful later, his trick did not make it easier to gather the information. If they focused on the Guardian, they might not discuss what they were supposed to. Xantros could only hope that they were not going to change the agenda of the meeting.
"What shall we do with him?”
“We know nothing about Nate, but he proved himself to be valuable for us. We shall observe him, but we need to discuss different matters.”
The man seemed to be the leader. His voice was calm and silent, but definite and imperious. The man however was hidden in the shadow and Xantros could not see his face. The criminal continued his speech. It was fiery, revealing strong beliefs of the speaker. The Dark Jedi Knight realised that if he was not a member of the Dark Brotherhood, he might decide to follow it.
The speech and the discussion continued for some time. The members of the Cause, assemblied in the warehouse, decided to move to headquars on Judecca, where the General hid. They were ready to protect him no matter of the cost. Xantros waited until they left the warehouse and contacted his superiors, informing them about the situation. Now, he could only hope that Jester was going to find the location of the headquarters of the Cause, so they could appear there and make the final blow to the Cause.
The journey to Judecca had been rather uneventful. As planned, they had left the Cocytus system and re-entered it on a different flight path. Due to the dimensions of such a maneuver and the neccessity to avoid suspicious hyperspace travel, it had taken several days. According to their official flight plan, they had been thoroughly checked by the Imperial Customs Service in the system they seemed to come from, so the ICS here just let them pass and cared about the next ship in line. If he had been on this flight alone, he would have probably died from boredom.
But lucky him, he had his shipmates, who he had got to know better on the flight. Gil, his captain, had turned out to be a former test pilot for no lesser company than the Corellian Engineering Corporation. He had no sympathy for the Empire, but even less for the New Republic, which he described as 'false' and 'insincere'. He also turned out to be almost fifty, which was a surprise considering his lively appearance - although he had a few grey streaks. He seemed to work for The Cause mainly because they paid him well.
Echo revealed that he wasn't even twenty.He was a native on Caina and grew up as gutterscum. His proficiency with computers and electronics was the result of a fellow slicer's mentorship. His reasons to serve The Cause was his desire for adventure. He spent the flight on his consoles, fine-tuning the systems and learning more about CEC ships. He was so focussed on his task that he just nodded when Bela asked him to switch cabins on the second day.
As the only woman aboard, Bela had one of the three cabins for herself, as Gil had because of his captain status. The last cabin was shared by Jorm and Echo. Now, Gil and Echo had each a cabin of their own while Bela bunked with Jorm. This arrangement made the time worthwhile for the both of them. Very worthwhile. During their shared time, he did not only find out that the height difference between them didn't matter, but also that she was an anarchist and notorious would-be revolutionary. A pity; she could have turned out great in any field if she could just channel her energy.
The final landing sequence shook Jorm from his memories. He was needed here and now. They touched the ship down in yet another warehouse, as if they hadn't seen enough of those already. Through the viewport, he could see loading crews and equipment waiting for the hatches to slide open. He also saw several dozen of smaller ground vehicles of various types, all of which had that specific 'privately owned' look. When he left the cockpit and opened the hatches, he could make out a fanatic glare in most of their hosts. He began to make his way towards the office to properly announce themselves and get further orders.
"Okay, listen up!" came a shout from ahead and above. It turned out to be the local variant of Bossman, in this case he looked like something low-class-manager-ish, on a balcony leading to the warehouse's office. His suit was to wide for him, and his fanatic eyes were underlined by dark rings. He moved with great gesture and waved a datapad over his head. He looked like he had trouble holding his balance - just two steps away from a two-story-ride down the stairs.
"THIS" - some more waving with the datapad - "is the plan. Each of you gets the crates assigned to him and his destination from me personaaaaaaaaaaaHHHHHH!"
Unnoticed by the bystanders and without a gesture, Jorm hat hit him with the Strike technique and sent him falling down the stairs. A series of wet snaps and the awkward angle of his neck as he hit the ground at Jorm's feet was enough to tell everyone the story. Jorm waited a moment, then shook his head and picked up the datapad. Luckily, it had survived the slide. And it's contents were already neatly decoded...
He turned around to the people who were in various states of shock or surprise.
"A damn shame. It's a pity to lose a trusted man like that just before the revolution."
He shook his head again.
"Let's not delay; it wouldn't be in his interest, not either is it in ours. Get that cargo out."
His quick action put him in charge of the cargo distribution. He assigned drivers to crates and destinations and didn't forget to make a discreet copy of the datapad's memory core. Still in my business, oh yeah.
Two hours later, there was nothing left to unload or assign. Gil joined him as he scoured the datapad for further information.
"Have you found new orders for us?" asked the older man.
"Yeah. We're ordered to hide the ship on a forest clearing near Lyon and stand by for further orders. And there's a note... it says we should teach her" - he gestured towards the Radamanta
- "to run as fast as possible."
The two men shared a look.
"Do you think what I think, Nate?"
They did as they were ordered and hid the ship. While Echo powered down the systems, Gil and Bela pulled a camo-net over the hull.
Jorm's part was the planting of several portable sensor arrays as early warning system against intruders - a job which took him over a hundred meters away from the ship and effectively isolated them from his mates. The best opportunity to contact the House in ages - a fact which was very aware to Xen'mordin Vismorus.
Jorm smiled. He actually sensed the Battlemaster before he saw or heard him. Without any doubt, the other man had sensed him far earlier. It was the best - and only - explanation why the Aedile would be right here, right now anyway. Jorm stopped his work and turned to face Xen.
Jorm smiled down at the smaller man. Xen'mordin looked strained. Sure, his clothes were clean and neat, but something in his body language told Jorm that the Battlemaster was on edge. As Xen scrutinized him, Jorm couldn't help but notice the rings under his eyes. It was only after his inspection that Xen spoke up.
"I can't deny a certain interest for your whereabouts and activities during the last week, yes."
A short pause.
"Since we have received reports about an individual who matches your current description I'd like to know... are you still working for us?
Jorm laughed softly, and his face expressed honest amusement.
"Yes. I told you I'd go undercover, didn't I?"
From Xen's expression, Jorm had not - or Xen hadn't got the hints Jorm had dropped. Oops.
Jorm shook his head and got serious again, although he failed to wipe the smile off his face. Under Xen's watchful eye, he produced the copy of the Cause datapad he had made earlier.
"Here's a little something for you. Names, addresses, material. Even com frequenzies and dead-letter boxes. I guess this will make your job a bit easier."
Xen took the data chip and plugged it in his own datapad. His eyes flew over the content, and he nodded. Reluctantly, but with a certain degree of satisfaction.
"I think you are right." He looked Jorm into the eyes again. "What else do you have?"
"We" - Jorm gestured towards the ship, invisible behind all the trees - "have been ordered to lay low and stand by for rapid departure. My captain and I share the suspicion that we're either an escape option or a bait. Money's on the bait."
Xen had flinched when Jorm had said the word 'captain'. Now he thought about Jorm's last words and nodded slowly.
"This does compute." He narrowed his eyes. "What about those... 'captain' of yours? And other crewmembers, if you have any?"
Jorm didn't respond immediately. He chose his words wisely and reconsidered what le knew about his comrades.
"After that time with them, I can tell you they're no fanatic Cause members. They're part of the business end of the organization, they do reliable work for money. No serious interest in politics. They're good material for smugglers, though."
Xen looked at Jorm for a while before he spoke.
"I wouldn't like to waste them. They have real talent in their fields. My suggestion is to turn them into privateers or contacts of our Intelligence Division. They're already pissed that they're most likely the bait for someone else's escape, so it wouldn't be much trouble. In fact get me somee general amnesties or letters of marque, and I'll turn them within three days."
Xen seemed to give that thought serious consideration.
"I will contact you about that soon. You... stay sharp. And don't leet them do anything foolish, or any chance for that deal is dead."
"Sure thing. In fact, our slicer, Echo, has mentioned something about 'hating to be the bait' and 'tracking down those bastards mid-flight'. Something with the com traffic, but beyond the normal tracing routine. I'll encourage him with that, with a little luck it's ready when the whole show goes down."
Xen nodded again.
"Make it so. In the meantime, I will call the House's members back to Judecca. I will inform them to stay clear of your... operation here. The circumstances require my departure now; you proceed as you see fit."
Xen turned around and vanished between the trees. Jorm returned to his work, smiling to himself.
Guys and Gals, thanks to a work-induced LoA this will be my last post for a while. When you get to crush The Cause before I return, deliver my best greetings - a wicked right straight
It had been a long time since Xen had felt so tired. Sleep was a luxury he could not afford. Since the riots had initially broken out days ago he had only managed a few glorious hours. Stepping through the quiet halls of the Imperial Palace, as most of the staff was with The Emperor in the underground shelter, Xen muttered to himself. Every now again ideas such as giving up or turning to The Cause to over throw the Emperor cropped up. But they didnt last long. With his mind mostly whole, such thoughts never lasted long. Control in his mind was just as key as it was here in the Cocytus system.
For a brief moment he had been worried about Jorm, while the others had regularly checked in and sent whatever information they had found, Jorm had disappeared. Yet in the end he had provided some very valuable information. Unorthodox in strategy, it worked.
Xen arrived at his new temporary office one of the large meeting halls of the palace. His normal office was too small to look at all the pieces of information that was filtering through him. Several aids were busy pouring over new pieces of information. Slowly a grander picture of what was happening was forming.
What Xen knew for certain is that “The Cause” had always been means to an end. The goal was to overthrow the house’s grip on the system. In different iterations it had tried several times before nearly reaching its goal. Baby steps as it were.
With the beginning of the riots, all started by Cause members, things escalated. If they system tore itself apart it would be too easy to come in and pick up the pieces. Luckily with these strong strikes against the leadership of “The Cause” things were going back in the favor of Scholae Palatinae. The Empire would rule stronger than ever.
However, for as much as Xen knew about “The Cause”, there was much that bothered him. Small pieces of information laid out like puzzle pieces in front of him had to point to who this “Shadow” was and why they went to the trouble to try and over throw the system.
Hours passed in near silence, nothing more then the hum of computers, clicks of keys and the shuffling of papers echoed in the hall. Reading and rereading everything he had Xen was on the verge of a breakdown. Yet suddenly something clicked.
Xen grabbed several pieces of intel and quickly reread them. Together they showed something obvious and terrorfying.
“The Shadow is a Hutt...” Xen muttered under his breath, eye wide with worry. With a leap he shot up to send this information to the Emperor, to the rest of the summit, and to those in the field.
The large, three-story mansion rose above the tilled fields like a glowing white jewel laying atop a burlap sack. The morning sun shone brightly, giving the low-lying plants their vitality and the house its pearlescence. From what he could see during his recon, the Priest noted that they were predominantly various capryl pops and resinous shrubs. Too little cover to go in covertly. It was a large farm, with a bustling population of droids and natives, as well as an above-ground hydration system, with somewhat regularly placed bulbous sensors rising above the elevated pipe-work.
The communicator throbbed with a barely audible hum, and Draco checked the message. A Hutt. Stinking bloated worm. It was information, but of limited usefulness. Though Hutts rarely left their home system, still it was not unheard of, and with the right equipment a ship could get through Judecca's defenses and deposit a huge rancid carcass in any sparsely populated area.
Which, of course, the Krath now found himself in. He followed the wake through the Force that the armored speeder had left after the clandestine cell meeting broke up, followed it to the plantation out in the barrens. He had left his speeder bike a couple of kilometers away, and approaching using his Force cloak made his way through the brambles of the arid land. It wasn't good for much agricultural production, but did have a propensity for growing certain incense and savory herbs that various beings wanted.
And having grown up on an orchard, Maligo felt like he was on home ground. He could easily spot the over-the-top security, a mix of human, droid, and remote sensor, rather poorly designed to blend into the rustic setting. Beings with talent could overcome any one of the three, but the techniques needed for each were easily countered by the use of the others. Plus there had to be a command center coordinating patrol patterns and checking up on the guards. Every ten minutes, or so, Draco saw several of the "farm hands" talking into their collars.
The Force cloak wouldn't work. The droids no doubt had thermal sensors and would detect his heat signature. An attack would require a battalion of troops with air support to seal off the area and prevent flight. And even if he did manage to outwit the security precautions and gain entrance, it was a large mansion, and searching it for the Hutt would take too long. If even the Hutt was actually here. Despite the need for backup, Draco hesitated.
One, he liked to handle problems himself. And two, if The Shadow wasn't here it would be a huge embarrassment. Just because the owner of the plantation was involved with the Cause didn't mean he was a leader. Perhaps just a rich brat bored with his life and seeking excitement. Unsure of what the best step to take, the Krath sent a burst-transmission report to the summit.
Xantros followed the members of the Cause. At the beginning, they indeed moved in the direction of General's mansion. However, something made them change the route. Xantros suspected that the men wanted to mislead any pursuit, but he soon realized he was wrong. They stopped in front of a farm, surrounded by vast fields of herbs, which were probably grown for sell. The Dark Jedi Knight had no idea why did it happen. He tried to come up with an idea, but only guess he could make was that something important happened.
Couple of minutes later, he learnt that he was correct. The Aedila of Scholae Palatinae informed all members of the House, involved in the mission, that the General was captured by Kael Fayne. That explained much, but even more was explained by the other information. The Shadow was a Hutt. Nasty, slippy, greedy worm was the most polite way, Xantros could describe most of the Hutts, he had ever met. Hutts were one of very few species Xantros could say he simply hated. The fact that the Shadow was a Hutt, was not going to help the sponsor of the Cause.
Basing on his knowledge about the situation, the Dark Jedi Knight made an assumption the the Shadow was in the mansion. "All right, but what to do now...?" asked Xantros himself. He could sense Draco Maligo nearby. He contacted the Krath Priest and discussed possible options. Thanks to Draco's observation, Xantros had enough information to come up with bold plan.
Thanks to Jester's presence among the crew of the ship, which was probably going to serve as a rescue ship for the Hutt, members of the House could risk full scale assault on the mansion. Even if the Shadow managed to run away, Jester might be able to convince the crew to kill or to capture the Hutt. Either way, the mission would be successful and threat of the Cause would be deposed. All people involved in the actions of this criminal group would be punished for their crimes.
Still, Xantros was aware that there had to be more members of the House to make sure that the assault would be successful. He and Draco, despite being skilled Dark Jedi, would not handle the guards and the droids on their own. They needed help to make his plan come true. Xantros immediately contacted the Aedile of the House and briefly described his plan. Then, he waited quietly for the leader's decision.
Xen had listened carefully to the plan laid out before him. It would get the job done, there was no doubt of that. Yet at the same time, he didn't want the effort to be for naught. There were indications that the Shadow was indeed in the mansion, yet at the same time Xen had a list of other very high likely locations of the Hutt. On this list there were all of the major planets of the system, a personal ship that was in constant movement and much to Xen's amusement “Thran's butt”. And there was remarkable intel on that last one was well.
Obviously there were some disgruntled members.
Despite the evidence that the hutt could be in this mansion, something deep down told Xen that this wasn't the case. It felt too easy, but after the blows they had dealt to The Cause over the last few weeks, it was clear they couldnt hid as they did before. The Shadow was the only piece left to be removed. With him gone, there was no more threat, the Cause could not return.
“Do it, but exercise caution. I have a very bad feeling about this.” Xen told the team.
"Uhm... guys? Could you come have a look at this hatch, please?"
Bela sounded uneasy.
"What's it?" replied Gil, shouting over the shoulder.
He and the other two men of the ship - the slicer Echo and Jorm in his disguise as Nate - had been working on Echo's tracking system. Now, they exchanged what-the-hell-glances, got up and headed to the rear. What they found was nowhere near expected, though.
"What the h..." muttered Gil.
"Emperor's b..." came from Jorm.
"Hmpf!" was Echo's contribution to the swearing as he crashed into Jorm's back.
The two leading men stood frozen. Gil had his hand on his blaster, Jorm had his DE-10 already half drawn. What had stopped them was the sight of four blaster carbines pointed at them. The people behind the blasters wore black Scout Trooper armor. Jorm spotted two more of them a little behind, keeping Bela in check. She kept her hands in the air and threw her mates an apologizing look. Awkward silence fell over the whole scene. After a few moments, one of the Troopers said a single word.
Footsteps on the ramp confirmed the message's reception. A man entered the ship. He wasn't tall, but held his body straight like a flagpole. He wore the uniform of a Major in the Imperial Army, and his whole expression underlined this. His cold, blue eyes set on Bela, then wandered over the three men before they finally settled on Gil.
"I presume you are the captain of this ship?"
Gil silently nodded.
"Tell your shaved Wookiee" - his eyes glanced at Jorm - "to relax. I have no intention of shedding your blood. On the contrary." He motioned with a heavy suitcase in his hand.
Gil and Jorm exchanged a quizzical look. They communicated without words. A slight shrug and an equally slight nod later, Jorm let his half-drawn weapon slide back into the holster. Both man faced the Major again. The intruder looked mildly satisfied.
"Good. I like reasonable men. As a sign of mutual respect, I suppose we all keep our weapons. Preferably holstered. Would you please sit with me in the ship's mess?"
Gil nodded reluctantly and signed Echo to lead the way. The nervous Devaronian got accompanied by one of the Troopers, who, despite the shouldered carbine, looked menacing. The rest of the crew and the Major followed suit, always surrounded by Troopers. Gil, Bela and Echo settled to one end of the semi-circular couch at the holotable - which still displayed Gil and Bela's latest Dejaric game - while the Major took place on the opposite end. Jorm, by far the largest man around, chose to stand by his captain's side. His move was mirrored by one of the Troopers.
"You are wondering how we found you. Your younger member's faces are quite clear on that" began the Major.
Gil and Jorm eyed Bela and Echo, who both blushed.
"Let me assure you that your camouflage work is excellent. I hate to admit that we found you more by luck than by skill. We have changed the orbit of several surveillance satellites due to the Cause threat, one of them spotted you when you touched down. At it's next pass, you had already hidden the ship. Congratulations."
Liar, liar, pants on fire! Jorm knew better. This guy had certainly been sent here by Aedile Xen'mordin Vismorus. But he had to admit that the Major's story, as simple as it sounded, preserved his own cover.
Good job. I'll tell him later.
"Thanks." he said on behalf of the crew. The Intruder nodded and went on.
"Now to th purpose of my presence. Let me start with a presentation..."
He opened his suitcase and produced several holodisks, which he passed around. Each one showed a captured - or dead - individual and it's name.
"As you can see, all of these people are high-ranking members of The Cause. In fact, it's the entire leadership. Save for one."
He looked eacvh crewmember straight into the eyes.
"I don't have to do the math for you. The Cause is toast. And you are terrorists on the edge of getting caught or killed. In fact, There's a flight of bombers in range, right now. Waiting for you."
The tension in the room suddenly jumped from 'uneasy' to 'volatile'. Nobody made a move for their weapon, but subtle changes in expression and balance marked a dangerous situation. Jorm calculated his chances of getting out alive if the violence erupted. The conclusion didn't please him.Even if he used the Force, he'd need a lot of luck.
Gil was the next to speak. He spoke slowly, chosing his words wisely.
"I assume you aren't here to intimidate us for no reason. What is it you want from us?"
The Major smiled and produced a file. A classic, cardboard-and-paper file.
"This is what we know about the last missing leader of The Cause."
He passed the file to Gil, who immediately opened it. Jorm read over Gil's shoulder, while the Major wrapped up the contents.
"We call him The Shadow. There are only two secure facts about him. First, he's the hand that feeds The Cause. Second... he's a Hutt."
Gil and Jorm exchanged a look.
"Bait." they said in unison. None of them had any doubt in their voice.
The Major lifted an eyebrow.
"You care to explain yourselves?"
Gil motioned for Jorm to do the speaking.
"When we were ordered to hide here, we were also ordered to get as much sped out of the ship as we could. We concluded that we're either the escape ship, or a bait."
He looked around and shuffled around a little to illustrate how narrow te ship was.
"Given that this ship is mighty small for a Hutt - and we didn't load the usual Hutt snacks - we suppose we're the bait."
The Major smiled again and nodded.
"Reasonble and smart. I think you will like what I have to say next."
He opened his suitcase again and produced two stacks of highly official looking documents. Jorm glanced at them and nodded impressed. Gil's reaction was similar. The other two made wide eyes, to te point the unexpecting spectator would have feared for their eyeballs to drop out of their skulls. The Major petted the documents.
"Lady and Gentlemen, I proudly present: your ticket out of this mess."
He picked up one stack.
"General amnesties. Put in your name, and whatever you have done in Imperial space will be forgiven and forgotten."
He put the amnesties back and pointed to the other stack.
"These ones wouldn't be on the table if you hadn't already proven to be smart. They are Letters of Marque. The very moment you put your names on the dotted line, you'll become sanctioned privateers of the Empire. Already signed and sealed by his highness, Emperor Ood B'nar Scythe-rae."
In the following silence, a dropping pin could have been heard falling. The Major waited for them to catch their breath. Jorm was the only one not shocked by these news, he had suggested such an offer to Xen after all. His position allowed him to hide his lack of surprise with minimal effort. Finally, he broke the silence.
"What do you want us to do in exchange for all this?"
The Major's expression lost all signs o amusement as he leaned in.
"I want you to stay here and wait for your orders from The Cause. As soon as the Shadow flees, I want you to tell us where he is. I want you to assist in pursuing him. And if you get the chance, I want you to blast him out of this world and right through the next. I want him gone, and I want you to make sure he goes in the unlikely event we fail at that. In exchange, you get your freedom, amnesty and even the right to commit crimes which strengthen the Empire. That's a damn good deal, and I suggest you accept it. It's more than anybody could even ask for."
He leaned back into the couch again.
"So, what's your answer?"
Jorm and his mates shared a few silent looks. His own loyalties were clear, but they needed a little longer to figure out what they wanted. Finally, each of them signed his or her approval, as he did. Gil swallowed and turned to the Major.
"On behalf of my crew, I accept your generous offer."
The Major nodded. "Good. I will leave you my suitcase, containing the documents. It is secured against theft with an acid charge. You will need a code to open it, which will be submitted to you upon completion of your task. Do not try to slice it, for your own good."
He got up to his feet.
"Well then, my task here is complete. I will return to my post now. You know what to do. Farewell and good luck."
He and his Troopers were gone before any of Jorm's mates fully realized it. A moment of silence snuck it's way in.
Then, everybody started to talk the same time.
"What the..." "I thought..." "Uuuugh..." "Well, now..." and so on.
Jorm went to the fridge, hiding his satisfied expression from his mates. He was pretty sure that the Major would report to Xen'mordin abou this meeting.
I love it when a plan works out. Before long, my mission will be complete.
[OOC: Don't let the RO die after all the effort that you chaps have put into it!]
The tinkle of glasses and the warm sound of light conversation filled the large space that served as Kalak’s ballroom. The wealthy and the powerful, all had come to one of the famed parties hosted by the Falleen, including members of the House Summit. Xen was keeping a group of nobles entertained, animatedly gesturing with his hands as he repeated one of his many life stories. In another room however, a more quiet and sober affair was taking place. Kalak’s study played host to seven beings in addition to Kalak himself, comprising three Muun, two Hutts and two humans: the financial giants of the Cocytus system. Sitting behind his large wooden desk, the Krath clasped his hands together.
“You see, my friends, these persistent attacks on our facilities can only serve to lower your own profits. The request to track and freeze the assets of “The Shadow” comes directly from His Royal Highness, the Emperor and the esteemed Grand Marshall. I assure that such a service to us would not go unrewarded, lucrative deals are sure to come any who provide compliance in such troubled times.
The Muun glanced at each other and one coughed. “Milord, it is not a case of unwillingness on our part, it is a case of principles. When our clients bank with us, they expect full discretion and excellent service. To freeze the assets of this being would be to compromise this.”
“Two points here. Firstly if “The Shadow” does indeed bank with you – which you have not yet confirmed – and you have not done anything about it, you will have consorted with a known criminal. This would make your position extremely tenuous. Oh, I have utter faith in you, my dear chap, but I fear that the people would not take the same view. They can be such a fickle body. Secondly, we would be more than happy at first – more sherry?” Kalak stopped and refilled glasses. “-for you to merely freeze his assets without actually disclosing his identity. Our…investigators are already on the case there.”
Before the Muun could reply, one of the Hutt’s, a larger than normal specimen with a lazy eye, gurgled “We would be honoured, Augustus, to assist in any way possible. We shall contact our mid-level firm immediately and launch a full investigation to discover whether or not this ghastly rival has any connection to us. *cough* I assume that we will be seeing your Minister for Business about that complex that your government wanted to deny us.”
The Falleen gave a warm smile “Of course, Councillor. In fact, don’t leave tonight before I’ve introduced you to the new Permanent Secretary to the Business Department.
The Human nodded their assent and the Falleen turned back to the Muun. “My friends?”
“Lord Ragnose, we shall not risk our prospects with the Cocytus government by turning down your request. If we discover any assets belonging to this being, we will freeze them and report it to the Grand Marshall.”
Kalak smiled graciously and thanked them profusely “I can tell you that the Xen’Mordin himself has personally taken an interest in this meeting, and I will be pleased to tell him how cooperative you have all been. Now please, don’t let me stop you from enjoying the party.”
The bankers nodded and began to leave. “Esteemed Councillor Krazula, might I have a quick word?” The Hutt with a lazy eye slowly slithered back towards the desk.
“Please forgive my blunt tone; I felt that it was necessary to make the government’s position clear. Have you had any luck in discovering to which Hutt Clan this “Shadow” belongs?”
“I have no clear evidence, but I believe that it may have been someone from the Odominic kajidic. I have spoken to their leader and he denies all knowledge of it. I cannot be sure that he is lying however.”
“Thank you, I will be sure to pass this on to my superiors”
The Hutt hesitated “May I ask why it is you that held this meeting? You have no position in the government anymore, yet you are dealing with such an important matter. Can we be sure that your promises are valid. You talk about reprisals but we are capable of them as well.”
The Falleen chuckled as he brushed a piece of lint from his silk robes “I work outside the government for the Emperor in matters such as these. I speak for the leaders, do not fear.”
The Hutt gurgled in affirmation and wriggled his way out of the room. One of the bookcases swung open to reveal Xen, a glass of wine in his hands and looking slightly flushed. “Well?”
Kalak briefed him and Xen nodded. “Good, I’ll let the House members in the field know.”
Xantros smiled with satisfaction. Xen'Mordin approved his plan and dispatched other members of the House to help Xantros and Draco. Now, they just had to wait for their arrival. Using the opportunity, Xantros once again thought his plan over, trying to find any weak point in it or any possibility to improve his tactics. There was no room for any mistake, as it could result in the failure or cause unnecessary casualties among the Dark Jedi of House Scholae Palatinae. As a Krath and in accordance to his fighting philosophy, Xantros always made his best to avoid such situations. It was not only important to achieve a goal, but also to make so efficiently with as limited casualties as possible.
The plan was relatively easy to make it happen, but it required assistance from other members of the House. In fact, they were not going to launch the full scale assault on the mansion. They just had to cause mess big enough to make the Hutt run away, if he was in there. If necessary, they would proceed several assaults, each from different direction, in order to make the impression that the threat is really significant. Also, such tactics would force the defenders to spread their forces or to risk a breach in the security. "Yes, it is risky plan. Numerous droids and guards make it dangerous to attack. Still, we have to risk." thought Xantros. "If we do not uproot the Cause, it shall return...stronger...more dangerous. On the next time, they can achieve their goal and to take over the system. We cannot allow this to happen."
Soon after, Xantros sensed that more members of the House appeared nearby. All of them were Dark Jedi Knights or higher ranked Dark Jedi. Xantros was glad with this happening. It meant that all of the Dark Jedi involved in the attack were fairly experienced and wielded full-power lightsabers. That was necessary in order to make the mission successful. Now, there was enough of them to attack. Several Dark Jedi silently entered the estate, ready to bring chaos, destruction and death upon their enemies.
Kalak nodded in approval as he strolled up to the mansion, flanked by his apprentice, Aesir. Catching sight of Xantros on the perimeter, he smiled, feeling the Knight’s desire to throw himself into the fray being suppressed by the knowledge that it was his duty to ensure that everything was coordinated before he could lead the team in.
“Patience, Xantros. You will have your chance to demonstrate your skills.”
The Knight’s head shot up in surprise as he received the telepathic message. Kalak and Aesir made their way over to him and Xantros bowed. “Archpriest Ragnose, Knight Aesir, how may I be of service?”
“The Summit has sent me to oversee the operation, to ensure that this whole business is performed efficiently and quickly.”
Xantros’s face fell and anger rose inside him. “This is my operation, sir, and with respect you’re not known for your saber skills.”
Kalak raised an eyebrow and rapped the Knight with his cane. “You forget yourself, boy. I should advise you that the Summit believes that the Hutt is in all likelihood not here. Should this be the case, you will be needed elsewhere and I am to make sure that there is no delay. You sh-”
The Falleen’s lecture was cut short by a beeping from Xantros’s commlink.
“Sir, all teams in position. Waiting on your arrival or orders.”
Xantros looked at Kalak, whose face was unreadable. “May I go?”
“Take Aesir with you. I will join you shortly.” Kalak gestured at his apprentice.
“Keep an eye on him and let him take the lead. The Summit were very clear that they wanted him to take the lead on this.”
“Yes, my Master.”
The two Knights hurtled off to the courtyard and the Falleen settled down to meditate.
Xantros, accompanied by Aesir, walked on his position. When they reached it, the Dark Jedi Knight sent last orders before starting the fight, as he wished to make everything clear.
"All right, Dark Brethren. You know the plan. We are here to make some noise and to scare the Shadow away, if he is here. As it is uncertain, if he is here, we may be necessary somewhere else. So, be careful and don't get yourself seriously wounded or even more seriously dead. I wish all of us to leave this mansion alive, so when the order to retreat is given, fulfill it immediately. Fight in groups and cover each other, so you do not get cut off from the others. Now, let's move on and bring death upon our enemies!"
While activating his own lightsaber, Xantros could see others doing the same and leaving their positions. The fight has begun and few seconds later, there were first victims. Surprised guards had no time to react properly, before they got killed. The droids were a bit faster, but the blaster shots were easily reflected by the Dark Jedi, destroying some of the droids. The others were destroyed by deadly lightsabers held by the Dark Jedi.of House Scholae Palatinae.
However, more of the guards and sentinel droids joined the fight. The Dark Jedi were heavily outnumbered, but yet managed to reflect all blaster shots and forcing their enemies look for possible shelters from the returning fire. However, they could not get through the guards and droids. There were simply too many of them. Realizing that further battle could result in first casualties on the side of the Dark Jedi, Xantros ordered others to retreat steadily. All the Dark Jedi slowly moved outside the mansion, reflecting all of the blaster shots and split into several teams.
Xantros quickly analysed the first attack on the mansion. Fortunately, there were no casualties, neither wounded nor dead, among the Dark Jedi, who took part in the fight. However, more attacks were needed to make sure that the Hutt was going to be scared away, if he was in the mansion. Xantros could not hope that there would be no casualties among the Dark Jedi. It was going to be hard task to avoid them, as the security of the mansion was alerted by their first attack. They had to surprise the guards somehow. Xantros had already prepared another scenario of the second attack and now, he explained it to all other Dark Jedi.
"I'm glad that no one got wounded. It proves that we all are skilled Dark Jedi. However, we must make sure that the Hutt consider it too risky to stay in the mansion. That's why, we must make an impression that we really want to get into the mansion. I believe that the best way to do so is to attack from different directions. This will force our enemies to separate their forces, as they will leave an unguarded passage to the mansion if they do not strike all of our assault groups. We shall split into teams, each of five Dark Jedi. If any of these teams manage to get into the mansion, do so and infiltrate it. However, be particularly careful during this assault and leave as quickly as possible. We want no casualties among us."
Echo's shout caused Gil to start up from his nap in the pilot's seat. The shaken senior man spun around to the com station and stared down on the Devaronian.
"WHAT THE... You can't yell like that while I'm sleeping!"
Echo blushed. At this moment, Jorm and Bela burst into the cockpit, greasy and dirty from maintenance work. Gil silently counted heads, then threw another stare at Echo.
"What are you waiting for? Put it on speaker!"
Echo blushed even deeper and did as he was told. Crackling from the speaker announced the transmission, then a hoarse, excited voice became audible.
"...lly Point Guardian. I repeat: Our planetside installations have come under attack by Imperial troops. Some of the attackers hve been positively identified as members of the Royal House. The big boss has ordered a full retreat. All ships, get spaceborne and rendevouz on Rally Point Guardian in fifteen minutes tops. Latecomers will have to fend for themselves. Nal Hutta Kwee-Kunee, out."
The speaker crackled out.
A moment of silence was cut short by Gil swiveling towards his control board and Jorm taking the co-pilot's seat. While Gil powered the ship up, Jorm plotted a course and issued orders.
"Echo, establish a secured channel with our contcts at Imperial Intelligence. Also, keep the Imperial combat frequencies at hand, we might need them. Bela? Close those maintenance hatches, then take the top turret. I will take te other one soon."
hat about the camouflage net?", the woman responded. Gil signaled his refusal to her question with a waving gesture.
"We will get it later."
She nodded unseen and went to complete her tasks. Jorm projected the course data on Gil's screen.
"There it is. A few hundred clicks north of the capital, just out of the atmosphere"
"I've got it. Help me with the launch sequence, then take the turret."
Hand in hand, they woke the ship from its slumber. Finally, Gil lifted it off the ground and pushed the thrust lever porward. The once quiet clearing in the forest shook under the Radamanta's engine exhaust. Mere seconds later, everything was quiet again, disrupted only by the falling camouflage net.
Jorm abandoned his console and made his way to the gun well. As he slipped down the ladder, he shot a quick glance upwards to see Bela already strapped into her seat. He followed her example and put on the earphones while he deactivated the safeties.
"Bottom turret manned and loaded. Echo? can you patch through the sensore readings and ship IDs once you have them?"
"Exactly what ship was the transmission from again?" asked Gil.
"Kinda sounded like an infection." was Bela's dry reply.
Jorm rolled his eyes.
"Nal Hutta Kwee-Kunee. Loosely translates into Queen of Nal Hutta or more literally into Queen of the Glorious Jewel. Typical pompous Hutt name. I suggest we just call her Queen"
"Good to know, kids. Stand by for rendezvous in... four minutes."
Jorm turned his turret and eyes ahead and started to toggle through the sensor contacts as they appeared. Apart from Imperial contacts further from the planet, there was just a group of ships at the rally point.It were about a dozen of transports of different, but common designs, dominated by two luxury yachts of SoroSuub's 3000-class. One of them was the Queen which had relayed the rally order. Now she transmitted again.
"Time's up, folks. We will send you the coordinates of the nearest NavPoint, run your own calculations. Whatever happens to you, Nal Hutta Kwee-Kunee must make the jump to lightspeed, or there is nobody to sign your paychecks anymore. The Imps probably already know that our paymaster is aboard. Protect her at all costs." The transmission was closed.
Gil pulled the Radamanta around and in position to the far right of the Queen. Jorm saved her in his targeting system's memory.
"Data sent to Imperial Intelligence." said Echo over the com. "They already replied. According to them, the Imperal forces have been briefed to consider us as allies."
"Thank your gods for that." commented Gil. Echo laughed, but suddenly grew quiet.
"New contacts. Fighters of mixed configurations. looks like almost three squadrons. They just dropped out of hyperspace, close to us."
A brief moment of silence and swearing.
"They belong to the Cause and are taking escort positions. Thirty-two craft to my count."
Jorm could see them through his viewport. They were older, but still venerable models, with a large percentage of X-Wings and Supa Fighters and the odd A-wing or Cloakshape. They joined the formation, which took a roughly conical shape with fighters on the edges and the transports in the center.
The Cause flottilla moved out with the speed of it's slowest member. Ironically, it was the other luxury yacht.
Up ahead, the sensors picked up a few Imperial ships en route to intercept. The largest one was a Majestic-class cruiser identified as Basilisk, next in line was an unidentified Escort Carrier which spat out TIEs - a lot of Interceptors and a full squadron of Defenders. The two other capital ships out there, two Corellian Gunships, seemed too far off to join the battle instantly. And the battle was about to errupt.
The TIEs closed in at murderous speed, currently in a tight formation, but Jorm suspected them to break up before they reached weapons range. A full squadron of the Cause's escort fighters also accellerated and shot forward to face the enemy and break up their line. As espected, the TIE Defenders accelerated too. Gil cleared his throat.
"Okay guys and gal, here's the plan. We stick close to the Queen. Nate, Bela, try to shoot the Imps and hit the others. Echo, see if you can get us a little escort of our own, or at least a flight of fighters ready to assist should we need them. As soon as she's exposed, we'll screw her up. Anyway, we'll keep her from jumping. Prepare for turbulences."
Ahead, the first explosions of missiles and fighters sparked into life. Just a few tense seconds later, the T/Ds hit the formation, and Jorm hit the trigger of his guns. Their strafing run hit the whole bunch of transports, even the Radamanta took a few passing laser hits. Some Cause fighters held formation, others turned to pursue the T/Ds, as the TIE Interceptors arrived and sprayed even more doom. Only the timely arrival of two more mixed Cause squadrons prevented an instant massacre, as the TIEs were forced to react to them. Jorm stopped shooting, he hadn't hit anything anyway.
"Transports, gather tighter! We must create a wall of fire to hold those fighters off!" came the call from the Queen.
A real classic in anti-starfighter tactics, and it worked. A pair of interceptors learned that the hard, explodey, way.
The only drawback was the increased vulnerability against large scale capital fire. And the Basilisk had just entered weapons range.
"Transmission from the heavy cruiser over Intelligence channel! They demand the Queen's course and speed data and order us to stay between them and stand by for evasive action!" Echo sounded like he was close to panic. Gils reply was much cooler, calming.
"Then do so. And stay cool, you'll really need it."
Echo gulped and did as he was told. then he spotted another ship coming over the horizon of the planet.
"New contact. It's the Excidium II.
When the Basilisk fired, it didn't look like much at first. But this was due to the range. When the wall of turbolaser fire became imposible to overlook, and the first warnings came from the com, it had already traveled three quarters of it's way. The Nal Hutta Kwee-Kunee had no line of sight to the stream of fire which came their way, as the Radamanta was in the way - over com, Gil even refused to see what the others saw. When he spun the ship around and pulled it out of harm's way, it was already too late for the other Cause ships. The salvo hit the whole formation, claimed three transports immediately and tossed the others around like toys. Jorm had a first-row seat to watch the spectacle as a Muurian Transport crashed into the second yacht and both exploded in a fireball which rivaled the turbolaser blasts in brightness. When the firestorm passed, the primary target had lost a great deal of it's shielding and the formation was scattered. Of course, the fighters didn't pass up on this opportunity. Pairs of Interceptors and Defenders quickly finished off two more transports. The Cause flotilla had lost more than half of her ships already, but the Queen had almost reached the navpoint - until Jorm took her in his sights. A steady tream of laser bolts crossed the distance between the two ships and perforated the yacht's starboard engine nacelle. A violent explosion sent the ship spinning out of control. The very next moment, a pair of T/Ds shot by and launched concussion missiles. One missed. The second hit the other engine nacelle. The third annihilated the cokpit. The fourth warhead hit the main hull square and tore the ship a literal new one.
Gases streamed from the large rift and instantry froze into a stream of ice crystals. They were suddenly cut off, just to start spilling again as the obstruction was blown into space.
"Gil! Slow down! Hit the floodlights!" shouted Jorm.
The strong floodlights on the Radamanta's hull flashed into life and illuminated the 'obstruction'. It was nothing less then a full-grown Hutt.
The giant snail looked like spilled intestines in water, beaten and battered by the hits his ship had to take. He was still alive, but obviously struggling for air - in vain. The chill of space froze him from the outside while the decompression bloated him up. His eyes exploded outwards, illuminated from the glow of his exploding ship. Then his frozen skin ripped up, and blood seeped out. The frozen drops kept close to their owner, flying with him like the petals of some strange flower.
Jorm threw a look on his guncam. Made sure it had captured the whole scene. Touched by the moment, he needed a moment to clear his throat.
"Echo? Take the last minutes from my guncam and transmit them to Imperial Intelligence. Gil? I think we're done here. Drop me on Caina please, I still have business there."
He would tell them later that they shouldn't wait for him. For now, he just leaned back in his seat and stared at the dead Hutt a little longer. When Gil set course for Caina and acellerated, Jorm snapped out of his trance and started to plan his return.
Xen'mordin Vismorus smiled at the guncam video which had been relayed by Imperial Intelligence.
Over. The chase was over. There was no doubt about the Hutt's identity.
He felt the burden fall from his shoulders and suddenly couldn't help but to laugh out. Silent at first, but growing louder and louder until he had to bend over and hold his ribs from too much lauching. Admiral Ai'len Summetra, CO of the Excidium II, stood by in silence.
Xen'mordin struggled for his breath, regained his posture and wiped a tear from his eye.
"Admiral, please track that rogue freighter, Radamanta, and send a shuttle after her. One of the House's agents is aboard and will surely appretiate a pick up. Just tell the crew to keep a discreet distance, he will approach them. Then mop up the rest of the Cause's forces."
He turned to the main viewport and watched the pinpoint explosions of the remaining forces.
"This... uprising has ended. Get that fact into their heads."