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The crew of the Amelia was huddled around the central holoterminal when Elgyn arrived from his quarters. His hair was a bit disheveled, having just turned to from his rack. Groggily, he scanned his team. “We almost there?”
“[we’ll be in orbit around belsavis soon boss!]” Tinker belted out proudly, stuffing his parts bag with ordnance.
“Careful with those grenades little guy, parts for those are expensive,” Elgyn warned. “So, can someone explain to me why we left Corellia? There were a lot of lucrative contracts there worth a whole helluva lot of money and those Sith ‘tards pay cash.”
“Your deadline to Typhaon is coming up again silly,” Aerean reminded him. “We’re no closer than we were a month ago, so we need to get another extension from the Sons of Korriban.”
Blix crossed his arms in indignation, “Yeah, remember that guy who promised to kill you and anyone close to you -- the one you conveniently forgot to mention to me before I signed on? That’s the one we need to avoid being in the bad graces of.”
“Yeah, yeah, “Elgyn dismissed. “An extension means a favor; a favor means a job. So, what’s the job?”
The jawa flipped on the holoterminal, showing a diagram of Belsavis. Aerean went to the controls, “While you guys played war on Corellia, I did some searching on the Raven Cross -- lots of encrypted files there with government-level strength. Since they’re labeled as fugitives, I cross-referenced some of the holotags we’ve seen with public records and found a link to the Republic’s correctional facility database. They keep it offline, so all we need to do is break into their prison information center, slice into the computer, grab intel, and exfiltrate.”
“Your basic shadowrun,” Gulen summarized. “Security will be right, but if we go at night, we’ll face mostly automatons, and those are easily dispatched. The gang activity usually lightens up too, so that can be a plus. Building’s not that tall – four stories – but we can’t drop down without attracting too much attention.”
“Look, getting’ in ain’t gonna be a problem, I can handle that much from range. When those droids pull the alarm and the cavalry arrive to lock the place down, you all are gonna have a hard time getting out intact,” Blix warned. “Anything I do when that occurs gives up my position, and I get flushed out.”
“We’ll use the gangs,” Bastion suggested in his usual stoic manner.
“I’m sorry? Say again?” Blix asked, surprised. The comment immediately drew everyone’s attention to the houk.
“The prisoners in Belsavis are always hungry to get at the guards. We can incite a riot if we can prove a weakness in the Republic’s infrastructure. They are like sharks, and the smell of blood on a wounded foe only entices them further to take a bite.” Bastion had been stuck on Belsavis for too long. “I cannot go alone. They will not listen to one man. Blix shall accompany me.”
“Whoa, whoa buddy. I don’t remember signing on to have my face shot off by some spiced-up Gamorrian punk. If you want to feed a clan of Trandoshan criminals by throwin’ yourself on a spittle, that’s your prerogative. Don’t get me involved.” Blix was livid when forced into confrontations that occurred within normal viewing distance.
“They will not listen to humans. Humans symbolize the Republic and their captors,” Bastion explained.
Elgyn decided to put a stop to this before it got out of hand. “You heard Toadsworth. As soon as we get in, you scram with him and go to the gangs. You’ll have maybe fifteen minutes before the E-R-Ts arrive, so better take the Tirsa.
“Tinker and Gulen, you guys will be the tip of the spear on this. Let’s try to be subtle.”
“[you got it boss!]” The jawa agreed excitedly.
Gulen popped his knuckles. “No problem. Let’s go get suited up. We’ve got maybe two hours before we land.”
“More than enough time to eat some chow. I’m hungry,” Elgyn replied optimistically.
Blix was the first one to be dropped off from the Tirsa Bastion drove. Elgyn tossed the devaronian his flare gun. “Use it if something goes wrong so we know to bail.” Blix holstered it on his belt, and picked up his sniper rifle from the Tirsa.
“I’ll be right back,” Bastion promised, and Blix went to set-up his position.
Elgyn activated his earpiece, turned to a local encrypted frequency. “T1-V0, you copy?” The 2V-R8 droid’s response was a bunch of radial clicks. That restraining bolt did wonders. “Good. Keep Amelia toasty for us. If things get hot, you know what to do,” Vriess reminded, as if droids had any capacity to forget. The speeder bike and Korrealis parked in a lightly forested area just shy of the installation’s purview.
“Shift change is in about half an hour,” Aerean informed as the crew unpacked their weapons and supplies. “Once the day crew leave, the droids will come online. We won’t have long before the sentries get outside, so we need to get through their perimeter fence quickly.”
Bastion rubbed his chins ponderously, “Above is a lot faster than through.”
“I like the way you think Toadsworth,” Elgyn commended.
Night has set clearly before a few dozen technicians and security guards left the facility in a military convoy. Proximity lights remained on to give a watchful presence of the structure in the crumbling prison planet. When the convoy disappeared, it was time to make their move.
“In position and ready to go,” Blix said over his earpiece. “Wait for the flash.”
Elgyn raised his holorecorder and zoomed in one the sentry towers. One by one, a deep blue bolt singed through the air to strike down the observation droids within.
“Alright, let’s go,” Elgyn whispered. On his word, the five of them rushed towards the fence where the massive houk kneeled, cupping his hands together and aided in propelling Gulen into the air in an acrobatic somersault that arced over the fence.
“[Next up is Tinker!]” The jawa exclaimed. A strange delight filled Bastion’s face as he stooed and grabbed the diminutive alien and launched him over the fence, parts bag and all. “[Utini!]” Tinker cried before the Mandalorian caught him.
Bastion faced the other two, and Elgyn’s defiance immediately sprang forth. “Oooh no, you’re not tossin’ me over a ten foot fence like a goddamn jawa!” Bastion stood up, and before he knew it, Elgyn was soaring through the air in a most ungraceful way, limbs flailing, and landed on his back with a terrible thud and accompanying “oof!” Aerean likewise was heaved, although in a much more delicate manner.
Gulen pulled Elgyn to his feet, and the Zabrak gave his launcher a scowl. “Get to Blix. You’ve got ten minutes,” he told the houk. “If you’re late, we’re either going to die, or Amy’s gonna come screechin’ in here like a banshee and lighting this whole place up. I enjoy fireworks as much as the next guy, but I’d rather not be the fuel, ya’ dig?”
“Don’t worry about me,” Bastion reassured him.
“Yeah, worry about me instead,” Blix suddenly interrupted on the line. “Also, stop leaving your earpieces on passive mode. It’s distracting.”
As Bastion broke loose and made his way to the Tirsa to pick up the devaronian, Aerean and Gulen were patching into the building to bypass the security locks on the main entrance. Tinker and Elgyn were quick to follow when the jawa caught his attention by extracting a spherical object from his rucksack. “[Hey boss! Tinker made new Booma-Ball! He calls it a Sith Ball. Can’t wait to show boss!]” As if the fates granted him this wish, a spark shot from the panel, causing the column doors to lift, and half a dozen droids stood in formation to begin sentry duty. “[E chu ta!]” Tinker activated the grenade and tossed it over. The resulting detonation caused a voltaic surge of lightning to expand in the area like a cloud of chaotic energy, frying into the circuitry of the robots. From this state, they were easily put down.
Floodlights immediately flared up from the sentry towers and the doors slammed shut. “The droids must have been connected to a centralized mainframe. Fragging them must have triggered an automoted defensive security measure. The building knows it’s being attacked,” Aerean said frantically.
‘T-minus ten minutes until my ass gets so stay here for good this time’ Elgyn thought. “Aerean, re-open that door!”
“I-I can’t!” She sounded a bit more panicked than normal. “The terminal’s already been sliced. There must have been some sort of override on the doors their system turned on. Oooh, this is starting to look like a bad idea. . .!”
The ever ingenious jawa reached into the sack, pulling out a canister as tall as he was, and popped open the top. “[Tinker knows what to do! He’ll knock on the door!]”
When he slid a missile down, Elgyn realized what it was. “The little bugger brought in anti-armor! Fire in the hole!”
The strident screech of the outgoing ordnance eclipsed the sounds of the natural environment, and the explosion and plume of the fire from the impact could be felt a hundred yards away. When the smoke cleared, the jawa had busted down the fortified doors with enough force to shake the very foundation of the building.
“[Tinker do good, right boss?]” He asked unapologetically.
As the momentary tinnitus faded, a stunned Elgyn was mouth agape. “I thought I asked for subtle.”
“Subtle stopped the moment the alarm triggered,” Gulen informed. “C’mon. We’ve got a job to do, and the clock’s ticking.”
The others snapped out of their daze, and together, the four of them entered the complex.
Gulen’s jetpack ignited, propelling the Mandalorian warrior forward into a group of droids. He brought his techstaff down on one as he landed, crushing its cranial case and sending it down. In a single fluid motion, he swung it around, pivoting on his left foot, the pneumatic sensors thrusting force against the shattering chassis of the impacted second droid, blowing pieces from the hit. Activating his spring-loaded wrist-mounted vibroblade, he thrust it into the core of the third while his left gauntlet let loose a stream of napalm on the final bot, frying it to inoperation.
Elgyn wondered how he could be that agile in such heavy armor, and articulated his thoughts as thus: “Holy shit dude.”
Tinker loaded a new power cell into his rapid-fire pistol. “[Not much time boss. Too many droids. Let Tinker and Manda handle metal people.]” Indeed, they’d fought their way up three stories, and taken out two dozen robots. It seemed an inordinate amount for the facility, but it was effective at delaying them.
“You’re right buddy,” Elgyn agreed. “Aerean, you and I need to split off while these two cover as a distraction.”
She nodded, much to the jawa’s delight, who began to reload his missile launcher in earnest. “[Tinker make big distraction for boss!]”
“You two better leave,” Gulen warned. “Things are gonna get real heavy here soon.”
Elgyn and Aerean found their way to the top floor, finding it odd he couldn’t think of a single building ever with a single centralized staircase. He also wondered why they just didn’t scale the building. He paid ten thousand credits for that stupid grappling hook and there it was hanging on his belt like a stupid novelty and. . .
“Hey,” Aerean interrupted. “I think this is it.” She lead him to an office where a large console was pressed against the wall, connected to a busy-looking mainframe. She slid her holo-ID into it, and her face lit up. “Bingo bango baby. Jackpot. This database has every criminal record the Republic has kept since colonizing Belsavis. I’ll run a slice to grep the data relating to the Cross and pipe it to my scanner, but it’ll take some time.” Her efficiency to accomplish these tasks as she described doing them in real time nevertheless fascinated Elgyn to a borderline between envy and infatuation.
“No droids on this floor,” Elgyn observed out loud. “I better go see how the boys are do—“ was cut off by what had to be a second missile hit, but from within the building. The whole floor shook, and Elgyn stumbled to a window to see smoke billowing up the side of the third story, with flaming remains of heavy-duty droideka security units spilling onto the ground.
“I swear! Can we ever go some place nice for once – or at least leave a building intact when we leave it? We’re all gonna be fugitives of the Republic after this,” Aerean complained.
Elgyn looke dup. He could see approaching hovercrafts, and one of the Republic carrier tanks with a shuttle on the horizon. “Guys, we got company. You better get up here,” he said into his earpiece.
Downstairs, Tinker had entered a forensics lab, with Gulen right behind him who answered the call with, “Yeah, I saw them. We’ll be right up. Tinker found something interesting.” In the lab was a species neither of them had seen before, dead on a metal slab. Near it in a case, was labeled as “Rakata Cryonic Device.”
Tinker pushed against the glass, inextricably fixated. “[Tinker like this thing. He make one like it.]” The jawa pulled out his customized diagnostic scanner and began to download technical diagrams of the machine’s innards.
“You’re saying you can reverse-engineer Rakata tech? I don’t think that’s ever been done before,” Gulen doubted as he watched schemata flash on the device in the jawa’s hands. “But I suppose if anyone could, it’d be you little guy.”
“[Tinker make harder stuff than this],” the jawa replied dismissively. “[Sith ball take lots of tries. Lightning in bottle easy; lightning in ball much harder]!” His glowing eyes flared up slightly, surely the sign of some genius epiphany.
“Guys. Now,” Elgyn called over the earpiece. Upstairs, he witnessed dozens of Republic soldiers, to include heavy commandos, undocking from the walker and securing the perimeter fence. The shuttle flooded the area with illumination from its searchlight. ‘We are hosed,’ Elgyn thought to himself.
“Just a couple more minutes,” Aerean updated, furiously pacing as she watched a status bar fill. “Hopefully they don’t cut the external power.” She checked the plasma cell on her scoped pistol. “Any word from those two buffoons?”
“Girl, you’re on the same channel I am,” Elgyn replied. He always seemed snarky whenever he got stressed out. That’s how Aerean realized things were serious. Dread stole his sense of humor. The searchlight flooded through the windows, and Elgyn instinctually sought cover from it. “They’ve got to have snipers out there. Keep from that light so they can’t take a shot.”
When Gulen and Tinker entered the room a minute later, the Mandalorian dived behind a desk to avoid the blaster shot marked for him, legitimizing Elgyn’s fears.
“[Tinker no like bright light. He make it go away],” The jawa promised, loading his final missile. Tinker activated his personal shield generator, the translucent force field humming around him, and made his way to the window. Before Elgyn or Gulen could stop him, hisshield absorbed half a dozen blaster shots from Republic snipers. The shuttle lowered to the level, its searchlight pointing directly at the waylaid jawa. Tinker simple raised the launcher over his shoulder, shouting, “[E chu ta!]” and fired. The missile flared off, shattering through the windshield and detonated inside the cockpit, sending the shuttle into a short spiral, where it crashed against the fence and exploded into rubble.
[“Light’s off now!]” Tinker exclaimed, happy with himself, yet oblivious his actions had given intent and ability, causing the Republic prison guards and commandos reason to storm the facility, made all the more easy since the door had been graciously blown in.
“It’s finished!” Aerean unplugged her scanner and spike, and ejected the disk. “We’ve got the data. Let’s get out of here.”
Elgyn made his way to the console. “One more thing,” he said, accessing the database and locating Bastion’s record. “I want you to corrupt this file. We’ve got to fully liberate Toadsworth.”
Aerean inserted another spike, “I can fuzz the data. Simply deleting it will allow it to be recovered. By fuzzing its memory and delinking its striped mirror, it won’t be able to be restored.”
“How long will that take” Elgyn asked, now intimately aware of the commandos infiltrating the building.
“It’ll just take a minute,” she answered, and began furiously typing on the console to access low-level raw data.
It had never occurred to Elgyn to check the jawa’s infamous ‘parts bag,’ as it had been such a staple of Tinker’s apparel and personality, but when Gulen asked, or rather told the alien that it was time to ‘set the booms off,’ Elgyn’s eyes were stuck like glue to what a dire and grim realization was two seconds away after noticing how grumpy and light the bag had become.
“You didn’t. . .” Elgyn feared.
“You didn’t think we’d actually be going out the way we came, did you? I told you the plan changed,” Gulen asserted. Elgyn began to reconsider just who was in control of the crew. It certainly wasn’t him sometimes. “Tinker, give ‘em trouble!”
The jawa unveiled a comically small red box with a lever. He placed both hands on it and whispered, “[Boom-ba!]” and presased the plunger down, lifted it, and pushed it down again. Elgyn would later learn the first pump primed dozens of explosive couplets placed along the elevators, staircases, and main passageways to a remote link, and the second detonated the grenades and mines in unison.
The side effect of the explosions – the main ones being chaos, death, dismemberment, disorientation, collapsed staircases, inoperable elevators, and rubble blocking the hallways – was the tremendous structural damage to the building. It shook and moaned, like the wailing of a sinking ship.
Aerean unplugged her spike. “It’s finished. Let’s get out of here!”
“Well, going down is out of the question, so we’re going to have to go up,” Elgyn surmised. He activated his earpiece. “T1-V0, plans have changed. We need Amy down here for pickup. Hot LZ. I repeat, hot LZ. Bring some snacks and be ready for a show.” He activated his bracer, priming a fusion-tipped missile, and aimed it up, launching it into the ceiling. “Alright, everyone. We are leaving.”
“Good thinking,” Gulen commended, jumping the height easily, and pulling himself up to the roof.
“[Boss always have great adventures!]” said Tinker as he used his grappling gun to sling himself up.
ELgyn turned to Aerean, and helped her reach Gulen’s hands by hoisting her up, and once along, fired a single shot from his pistol into the console, fragging it. He activated his jetpack, and floated up to the roof.
Reinforcements had arrived. An entire battalion had moved in on their position, it seemed. This was apparently not a sleight they were willing to let go.
“What’s the plan now? They’ve got enough guns to shoot Amelia down,” Aerean asked, concerned.
“Yeah, but they won’t be shooting at that hunk,” a familiar voice answered on the comm. “I thought I told you to turn off passive mode?” A bright flare fired a hundred meters from them, illuminating the treeline, where all could see near a hundred of Gamorrians, Trandoshan, Nikto, Wueequay, Houk, and other assorted alien gangs with all sorts of weapons and a very savage look about them. Before them, Bastion and Blix stood regally.
“Come brothers, the first blow has been dealt,” Bastion entered soliloquy. “Drive the Republic back and this planet is ours!”
“How – how did he get so many?” Elgyn asked no one in particular.
The guttural, tribal warcries of the gangs were overwhelming as they charged the Republic lines firing into them. Assault cannons took down dozens when the zabrak’s ship roared down, launching a salvo off missiles into the firing line to give the aliens cover to tear into their captors.
“Tinker, pop a flare to give T1 our position,” Elgyn ordered.
Te light was a beacon, and the ship maneuvered to hover along the edge of the roof, and extended its brow to gather the four. Elgyn, Gulen, and Aerean immediately assembled on the bridge, where the zabrak took control. “Oooh baby, am I glad to be back inside you,” he swooned.
Under Elgyn’s masterful control, the good ship Amelia swooped down to retrieve her final two wayward sons. As it began its ascend to the upper troposphere of Belsavis, the surprised calm was broken by uproarious laughter and celebration.
They had pulled it off.
Elgyn and Bastion sat at the bar in the Lower Promenade, nursing liquor in silence. It had been a week since the caper, and the holonet was still broadcasting the fallout of the ‘prison riot’ in Belsavis that destroyed a Republic facility claiming an unknown number of lives. Imperial news outlets were having a heyday with it, but no one was the wiser to the truth. Elgyn felt things would be better off this way. He was loud, but he wasn’t stupid.
Blix and Aerean had gone to decompress at the casino, no doubt losing their figurative skirts in the roulette wheels and sabaac tables. Tinker was staying on Amelia, troubleshooting the IFF targeting subsystem on the newly installed proton torpedo launcher with T1-V0 acting as communicator. This left the zabrak and houk together, drinking and waiting for the hand-off.
The silence between the two broke when the houk, staring into his glass, softly muttered, “I never said ‘thank you’ for what you did for me on Belsavis.”
Respecting that this was more a statement of fact rather than a solemn act of gratitude, Elgyn took what he could get. “What? The record thing? Don’t worry about it man. Can’t have a wanted felon ridin’ around with me, y’know? You’re a free man – houk, whatever – now, with a clean slate. Time to leave the past behind Toadsworth.”
Bastion finished his drink. “Still, that was the second honor you have paid me. If I was a wookie, I’d be forever at your side.”
Elgyn laughed. “Don’t sweat it dude. Just stick around and enjoy the ride. I ain’t never done you wrong yet, ‘ay?”
Bastion grunted, though Elgyn regarded that as close to a laugh as a houk could get. “Just remember, I’m no wookie. I owe you nothing.”
Elgyn emptied the rest of the liquor into his belly and sighed. “Let’s go make the drop and get off this planet. Huttspace always gives me the heebie-jeebies.” He paid the tab for both of them, and together they caught a taxi to the Duros Sector.
“Why did you agree to meet in such a place?” Bastion asked, describing the seediness of the district.
Elgyn shrugged. “We had to get out of CoreSec, so that was out of line. For sure wasn’t going to Imperial sovereign space; no reason to give those bastards the upper hand, and there’s way too much conflict in the outer rim. Huttspace was kind of our only real out.”
The taxi dropped them off at a small club, decorated in neon lights outlining twi’lek dancers. Every door and window along the block was tinted black and barred to prevent vandalism. Vagrants and homeless aliens paced the sidewalk, and the streets were drenched in the scent of erotic filth.
Elgyn entered the establishment fearlessly – although desperately may be more fitting – with the cautious houk in tow. Flashing lights, swirling through the ceiling from the stage where apathetic female slaves titillated scum from their money. The lights went inward, shrouding people’s faces.
The courier decided to ask the tender of the rundown looking bar. “Hey,” he called to the kubaz handling out the watered-down swill. “The name’s Elgyn, Elgyn Vriess. I’m here to deliver a package. Anyone expecting me?”
The alien reflected on the question, as if holding out for a bribe, then motioned back, “[Vriess? Yeah. VIP room for you buddy.]”
Elgyn gave Bastion an approving grin, and strutted over to the ‘VIP area’ that sectioned off into a cove of private rooms, two of which still had police tape condemning their use due to ongoing investigations.
Elgyn entered the only unlocked one, and was dismayed to find it noy only superbly under lit, but empty. As he made his way to find a seat, he heard a loud ‘thwack.’ Elgyn turned, his eyes only having enough time to process Bastion’s body face down on the floor before he found himself elevated against the wall, and choking.
The strangest feeling of déjà vu washed over him as his eyes adjusted. The sharpened nails, the mucus-colored skin, the fang-filled maw, scar-covered face, and ritualized tattoos did not beguile the twi’lek. The sinister, serpentine slur of “Vriess” fully gave way to a malicious grin.
Xyklessin threw him to the ground, rolling several feet, and he coughed to regain his breath. “How are you so strong for being so damned scrawny?”
The twi’lek was on him quickly, pulling him up by his hair. “I’m going to enjoy killing you Vriess. You’ve been a blight to Lord Typhaon for far too long.”
“But-but,” Elgyn stammered. “I’ve got an offer! I’ve got an offer!” He pleaded, before his face was slammed into the floor.
“The time for offers is over, Vriess. Your life was already forfeit. I’ve just come to collect our due,” Xyklessin said gleefully. “I’ve waited three months, Vriess; three months to kill you.”
Elgyn could hear the humming of that twi’lek’s familiar baton, swinging around, cutting air as he twirled it. “This time, I’ve got something good.”
“Too late, Vriess,” Xyklessin promised. Unbeknownst to him, the apparently thick-skulled houk had regained his consciousness, and upon finding his bearings, barreled through the room, slamming into the twi’lek and driving him into the wall.
Xyklessin literally ran up the wall just before impact, flipping behind the houk and pressed the baton against the back of his neck. “You ally with him? Not a good decision.” Every word was an exasperated whisper all too loud.
Elgyn used this opportunity to stand up, and reach for his datapad. “Look man, we’re not trying to fight. I’ve got somethin’ here that I know Big Red is gonna want to see.”
Bastion shoved off the wall with enough strength to send Xyklessin sliding back. He turned, producing his massive techblade. “If weapons are to be drawn, let us not keep you lonely.”
“There is nothing you could have that would interest Lord Typhaon,” the agent claimed. “You delay the inevitable, Vriess.” He rushed forth, meeting the flurry of strikes the houk thrashed against him with blocking maneuvers, gaining slightly more momentum on Bastion until he executed a feint to blast the back of his heel against the swordman’s head, sending Bastion sprawling.
When the twi’lek turned towards his primary target, Elgyn tossed the datapad at him, and activated his jetpack, blasting back to divert powerful exhaust at the charging agent. This sent Xyklessin hard against the wall, and justifiably irritated him.
“Why do you persist in these games, Vriess? Why do you resist your fate?” Xyklessin sounded honestly perplexed.
Elgyn was about to reach for his gun, where a voice in his head pleaded for him not to shoot Xyklessin, as it would just make him angrier. “Dude, just read the datapad already!”
The twi’lek relented, picking up the object and activating it. His dull, sullen eyes widened when a familiar symbol appeared. Elgyn grinned, and made his way over to help Bastion get to his feet.
“Where did you find this information,” Xyklessin demanded.
“Don’t worry about it,” Elgyn answered. “Take it to Big Red and tell him I need one more month.”
Xyklessin glanced back and forth between the datapad and the zabrak, his temples knotting in conflict. He gave into his frustration, pointing his index finger towards Elgyn in utmost forboding dread. “This isn’t over Vriess,” he prophesized, and just like that, disappeared – no smoke or mirrors included.
Elgyn sighed, both thankful and relieved. “Nothing ever truly is anymore.”