The Heist! Part 1 of 2
Republic Security Headquarters, Coruscant
The duty officer at the first checkpoint stepped forward, blocking the entryway as a man and two women approached — all three well-dressed and looking grim. "I'll need to see some identification," he said, holding out his hand expectantly.
"Identification? Do you not recognize the woman who checked your security not two days ago? Spice
, no wonder this place is having such trouble," the man swore, reaching into his left pocket with a feigned nervousness to reach for a cloth to wipe his forehead. "You can't even tell who your allies are when they've helped you before
"Oh, calm down, Alecs," said Serlynne and smiled to the guard. "The officer is just doing his job." She handed her ID to the man. "I am Aziure Lyris, security inspector. I have been monitoring your systems since my first visit and have detected that someone gained an unauthorized access to your mainframe a few days ago. I am afraid I have to check your security systems again, but more thoroughly this time. And, of course, I'll need to see the artifact itself." She gestured towards her companions. "These two tech specialists are here to help me."
The officer nodded as the second woman passed him her ID. "Thank you for your cooperation, Inspector Lyris. You're on the list for today, so as soon as I can check your assistant's identification, you can head on in." He glared at Alecs as he continued, "I would have expected an SIS subcontractor to understand basic security protocols."
"You would also expect Coruscant Security Officers to be competent at their jobs. The last few days? Not a good indicator," Alecs smirked back.
"You're welcome to your opinion, of course," the officer replied, returning the ladies' identification to them. "Doesn't change the fact that no one's putting one foot past this checkpoint till I see your identification." He crossed his arms, settling in to out-wait the surly technician.
"Here, take it, Officer. Can I do my job now?" Alecs angrily grumbled.
The officer looked over Alecs' credentials with leisurely thoroughness, taking his time before finally handing the documents back. "Don't bother putting it away," he said as he stepped out of the way, allowing the three to pass. "You'll need to check in again at the entrance to High Security."
"What the hell, Boss?" Maneera whispered once they were out of earshot. "Were you trying
to get us kicked out?"
"Think of all the crazy crap that's happened here recently. I needed to gauge exactly how alert they were going to be, and the analysis doesn't look good," Nayar responded grimly. "They're on high alert status, and its better to know that before we're too deep to back out. Things need to be crystal smooth from here on in to avoid suspicion."
"Oh, that's just great," hissed Serlynne. "So your idea of checking how alert the man is to annoy him so he could become suspicious of your person in particular. Wonderful. Let's just stick to the plan, okay?"
"Don't sweat it, Az," Maneera replied. "We made it through, and now we know a little more about what we're dealing with than we did when we started out. It's all good." She quickened her pace a bit, pulling ahead of the others to lead the way to High Security.
"Ner, is it really the best idea for you to run ahead?" Nayar slyly pointed out. "I think it's best to let our new friend handle the guards. They'll be too busy staring at her assets to notice us."
"Oh, you're volunteering to bring up the rear?" said Maneera, grinning. "Prince among men, Boss." She fell back into place between Serlynne and Nayar, watching the assassin's hips with decidedly more than professional interest.
Nerama's look hadn't escaped Serlynne's notice, but she ignored it, just like she always did, while smiling inside. After all, this was one of the main reasons the Hutts had picked the girl to carry out their death sentences — while people often did gaze on a beautiful woman, they almost never expected her to turn into a death machine in a blink of an eye, while those who had seen the transformation never lived to tell about it.
And that was just the way Serlynne preferred it to be. Besides, she liked when other people saw nothing in her, but admired her natural gifts at the same time. It made the assassin's following actions much more satisfying.
You can stare all you like, sister. And you, Alecs, whatever your real name is. For one day it's gonna be my turn to look into your eyes and see your last surprise as all life flees from your dying body.
Of course, mostly only the men looked at Serlynne like this, but she didn't care one bit. Everyone was entitled to have their own likes; as for Serlynne, well, she didn't need anyone at all, not since the orphanage on Nar Shaddaa.
- Don't worry, Sheila, I'll take care of you. Come closer, don't be afraid. I won't hurt you, I promise.
- What? Are you insane? Leave her, you idiot, can't you see how weak this girl is? Here she's a goner, for sure!
- Shut up, Sairus! Don't listen to him, Sheila. I swear, I won't let anything happen to you.
Of course Sairus was right. He even turned his words into self-fulfilling prophecy later, when he killed Sheila on a whim, after Serlynne refused to hand over to him the most needful thing in that place. But it didn't make his own death at Serlynne's hands later feel any less sweet.
Come to think of it, he was my first victim. First big victory. Oh, the irony...
Serlynne smiled while thinking about her past accomplishments and all the way she had come since, and kept smiling till she reached the lift to the High Security Section.
"And the creepy-*** smile appears," Nayar muttered to himself as they all turned to stand on the lift. "And whenever the creepy-*** smile appears, me, you know that said person is probably not thinking about how adorable Kushiban are."
The lift doors opened onto the receiving area for the High Security section, and the three shuffled their way off the lift. Once again, Maneera maneuvered herself to stand between Serlynne and Nayar, even though her attention had drifted onto the bank of unmanned computer terminals beyond the reinforced window. She crossed her arms tight, holding in a shiver.
The man at the checkpoint leaned heavily against his counter, a hand to his temple, face contorted in pain. "I'm... ughh..." He shook his head, then seemed to regret the action as he winced, forcing himself to look up at Serlynne. "I'm gonna need to see some ID." He fumbled at one of his pockets, pulling out a blister pack of small white pills. He popped out three and swallowed them dry.
"Rough week, sir?" Nayar queried, carefully handing over his "documents" for verification.
"Huh? Oh... no, I..." He peered down at the documentation, trying to focus. "Headache just kinda snuck up on me."
Still looking through the window at the empty banks of terminals, Maneera passed her identification across the counter. "Where's the rest of your crew?" She fought to keep her tone light and casual. "Everyone up for a caf break?"
"Rest of... they're..." He winced again at a fresh stab of pain. "No, it's... short shift today. Just me on the clock. Just me."
"That's too bad," said Serlynne, handing her ID to the officer. "I'll have to speak with your top brass about proper organization of workers' schedule, because right now it doesn't improve the security of this place like it normally should. Now let us inside, we must check everything here."
While her calm and confident tone gave no indication of it, Serlynne herself started feeling a little nervous. I have a bad feeling about this. Is it possible someone else is already trying to steal the artifact?
"Of course." The officer handed back all three sets of identification, then reached under the counter to flick the door control switch. There was a heavy metallic 'clunk' as the blast door slid out of the way.
Maneera dropped back to walk beside Nayar as the three of them passed by the deserted computer room and entered the High Security vaults. "Things are gonna get real bad, real quick, Boss," she whispered, quietly enough for only him to hear.
"Do I need to take care of our friend then?" Nayar glanced at Serlynne, "or should I ready my blaster for who's ahead?"
"Priority on the blackrobes," Maneera whispered her reply. "If she's with them, I'll deal with her." Tense and watchful, she moved back into position between Nayar and Serlynne.
The corridor was eerily still and silent as the trio advanced. The steady electronic hum of surveillance equipment was hushed to a barely perceptible whisper. Rather than panning to track their movements, the cameras overhead remained fixed as they passed. The faint smell of ozone threaded through the air; midway down the corridor, sparks of electricity flickered from a scorched control panel.
Nayar drew a small pocket-blaster from inside the pristine suit he wore. "Lyris, I don't know if you have any other special talents, but we're going to need them in the next minute. Mans, take the left side, spark the panel. I've got right."
Serlynne didn't fail to notice a brief exchange of words between her companions that took place a minute ago, but right now she had more pressing concerns than to worry about its meaning. Like, preparing to fight with an unknown enemy, whose presence here was now obvious.
"Oh, don't worry, buddy," replied the assassin, swiftly drawing her twin blasters, "I have plenty of them. Just don't get in my way." And don't even think about striking me in the back.
Maneera nodded silently as she circled around to kneel in front of the control panel. After prying away the scorched cover, she carefully picked out two frayed bits of wiring, wincing as stray sparks leapt to sizzle against her fingertips. She looked over her shoulder to Nayar and, at his nod, brought the ragged ends of the wire into contact.
The blast door slid slowly open. The room beyond was dark; the light from the hallway and the dim, lavender glow of the holocron revealed two silhouetted figures gathered at the pedestal in the center of the room.
"I'm sorry, that holocron? It belongs to me. So if you'll kindly hand it over. . .?" Nayar lightly threatened, lifting the small blaster, flipping a switch so the gun made a high-pitched whine before receding to a lower-leveled hum.
Quintus lifted his own blaster and primed it as well. "I'm afraid this holocron will see better days."
"Oh, I am quite sure it will," agreed Serlynne, while quickly aiming both of her weapons at the man's head. "But you won't."
Maneera pulled a clip from her hair, using it to pin the frayed ends of the wire together, holding the door open. Pressed as tight to the wall as she could manage, presenting as small a target as possible, she stood and eased her rifle out from beneath her coat. There was a pair of faint clicks as she folded the stock and power cell into active position. With her eyes closed and her forehead lined in intense concentration, she watched and waited for the moment to fire.
Inside the vault, Soleta stepped forward, stopping halfway between the pedestal and the door. "Gentlemen, ladies," she said, her voice warm and welcoming. "I'm sure we can all work through this situation like reasonable, civilised beings. Let's just set our weapons aside for the moment, shall we?"
"Normally, I'd agree to such a request from a lady. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any such woman here, so I'm afraid I'll need to rephrase my earlier statement: That holocron you're holding? Belongs to me now. So, kindly hand it over, and everyone leaves intact." Nayar lined up his shot on Quintus.
"My, aren't you the charmer," Soleta replied, grinning impishly. She turned slightly, gesturing toward the holocron; a faint purple haze surrounded the cube as a Force shield shimmered into place around it. "And I was so looking forward to a nice, cosy chat," she added, her voice echoing in the vault as she faded from view.
"As were we all," Quintus mused, chuckling as he reached into his labcoat with his free hand and held onto a flashbang grenade, "unfortunately, neither civilization nor intelligence rubs off on everyone." Without warning, the operative activated the grenade then tossed it to the ground that is mere inches from Nayar.
!" Nayar yelled as he punted the 'nade away from him. A blaster shot discharged from his pistol, a loud burst of energy that surged out if the small firearm as Nayar leapt backwards, shielding his eyes. His shot went wild, passing a good two feet above Q's head, impacting the ceiling above.
Serlynne instinctively dived aside to get away from the grenade, made a quick somersault, got on one knee and opened fire from both of her blasters, still aiming for Q's head.
As the grenade detonated, Maneera darted into the vault, letting the sudden, brilliant flash wash out the "normal" portion of her vision. If she concentrated, she could still make out the pale lavender glow of the holocron and Q's hazy form where he stood half-concealed by the pedestal. She sprinted forward, ducking low out of the line of fire.
Q noticed the stray shots hitting the ceiling and blaster bolts coming for him. He instinctively rolled behind the holocron's pedestal to cover until he saw Maneera sprinting towards him and the holocron. Smirking, the operative unsheathed a profoundly honed vibroknife and took a swift slash at Maneera's legs.
Maneera stumbled as the knife sliced across her thighs. She threw herself at Q in a clumsy tackle, swinging her rifle up to club him across the chin with the stock.
Nayar stumbled to the floor, his ears ringing loudly from the blast, his eyes temporarily blinded. He discharged the core of the blaster he was using, the charged shot having wasted its energy. His hand fumbled in his belt for another shot, grabbed it, and slammed it in by touch just before his eyesight returned. He charged for the holocron, his hand out to snatch it from where Q and Mans were struggling.
Soleta re-appeared as a sudden burst of Force energy pushed Nayar away from the pedestal. "Your friend needs you,"
she said, planting the impression of a gasping cry of pain and a splash of bright arterial blood splattered against Q's spotless white coat.
When Q disappeared from her sight behind the pedestal, Serlynne's stopped firing and run to the opposite corner of it, intending to attack the man from behind while he was fighting Nerama. However, when Alecs was thrown back by now-visible Soleta, the assassin had to switch her attention to a new, more dangerous threat. So Serlynne turned to the Sith woman and opened fire, aiming for her head with right blaster while the left one was pointing at Soleta's legs.
Quintus continued to struggle with Maneera, clearly somewhat dazed from the clubbing he received earlier. Merely seconds after Soleta reappeared, Quintus launched a barrage of vibroknife assaults, intent on bleeding Maneera and getting her off him.
Nayar quickly looked to where Mans struggled, his blaster aiming at Quintus to shoot, but froze when the image of Mans in his head contrasted with the reality of her fight. The images warred within his mind, until with a shout, Nayar turned and open fired on Soleta as well, blood dripping from his left eye after fighting off the Force persuade.
Maneera jabbed at Quintus' stomach with the stock of her rifle, hopping back out of his reach. She spun the scattergun back around into a firing position and snapped off a quick, unaimed shot that caught him high on the shoulder. Circling around to position herself between Q and the holocron, her back pressed against the pedestal, she launched a spinning kick at his hand in an attempt to force him to drop the knife. This barely missed.
Now under fire from two angles, Soleta pulled a thin shield of static energy around herself. The lightning bubble around the holocron dissipated with a gentle 'pop' as she drew power into herself, sparks beginning to dance across her fingers.
Nayar continued to fire as he slowly got up, only stopping to swap yet another clip with the burnt-out core of his pistol. He slowly inched towards the pedestal where Mans was fighting, then reached out, snatching the holocron from the small pillar. Immediately, alarms blared throughout the entire building, Nayar having triggered a pressure plate on the pedestal.
Serlynne's face twisted in frustration when she heard the alarm.
Great. The last thing we need is Republic security officers attacking us from behind... assuming these two haven't killed everyone here already.
She began to move slowly towards the exit from the room, while still firing at Soleta and trying to keep an eye on Quintus at the same time.
Startled by the sudden noise, Soleta let loose the power she had been gathering together, the lightning crackling as it arced at Serlynne. She turned sharply toward Nayar, drawing up a vortex of dark energy to surround him, holding him in place. "I thought
you had everything powered down," she said, glaring at Quintus.
Quintus made a quick grab for Maneera and slashed towards her torso, hoping to bleed her once more as he turned to Soleta and grunted, "Well then, apparently not. Who was it that insisted I keep moving when I said the slicing was nearly
Maneera bent out of the way of Quintus' grab, but the following slash of his knife slid in under her ribcage as she turned to call to Serlynne. Biting back a scream of agony, she yelled, "Az! Get Boss out now
!" She brought her rifle to bear on Quintus and fired again, focusing the spray at his center of mass.
Serlynne attempted to leave the trajectory of upcoming Force energy, just like she was once taught, by jumping to the side and landing on her chest. Unfortunately, the energy was moving too fast — while Serlynne's torso didn't catch it, the lightning enveloped her left hand. For a moment that seemed to last an eternity, it felt like Serlynne's hand was burning from inside, then it went numb, hanging lifelessly from the woman's shoulder. I really hope its only a temporary effect.
Serlynne quickly got on her feet and continued to retreat, but not before resuming to shoot at Soleta's head with the blaster in her right hand.
Soleta's shield dissipated under the sustained fire from Serlynne. Her concentration shattered, the Sith acted on instinct, pulling back the energy of the vortex and using it to cloak herself. Invisible once again, she moved swiftly and silently to the edge of the room, following the wall until she approached the open door. She nudged gently at Serlynne's mind, pushing memory of her presence to the back of the assassin's consciousness.
Serlynne froze for a moment, uncertain what was going on. Her left hand was still numb and now the assassin had a strange feeling that she had forgotten something extremely important. Then she noticed Alecs was holding the holocron.
"Alecs, grab Nerama and lets get out of here!" shouted Serlynne and started shooting at Quintus.
Nayar fell free of the constraining Force, before reaching up to Mans, grabbing her shirt collar, and yanking her away from Quintus while shoving the holocron into her grip. "No. Both of you, back to the ships. I'll hold off our knife happy friend."
Maneera stood still, tucking the holocron against her side as she watched Nayar. "Damn it, Boss," she muttered, "come back safe." She turned and, with one hand pressed tight against the wound below her ribs, ran clumsily from the vault.
The guy wants to play hero? Well, it's his funeral, not mine.
Serlynne gave the room one last look and followed Nerama.
"Your meddling does not bode well for you, cretin," the normally stoic Quintus snarled as he glared down Nayar. "My associate abandoned me, you allow them to escape with my prize, this will not be quick," the operative vowed as he made a grapple at Nayar, with a knife in hand.