The Heist, part 2 of 2
Coruscant Security HQ, High Security Vaults
"Your meddling does not bode well for you, cretin," the normally stoic Quintus snarled as he glared down Nayar while briefly clutching three small wounds on his side. "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.
Nayar caught the grapple, twisting the knife from Q's hand to fling it across the room before disengaging himself from the agent. "C'mon, egghead. Fight like a real man, and leave that toothpick in the corner." Nayar grinned at Q, putting his fists up in a ready position.
"That 'toothpick' would merely have hastened your silencing," Q chuckled as he put his own fists up. "Come, swine."
Nayar grinned as he flashed a quick jab at Q, who readily blocked the blow. Nayar stepped in close, his elbow coming in at a hard swing. Quintus took the blow to his wounds, then hissed in pain. The second he somewhat composed himself, he unleashed a swift uppercut. Nayar barely caught the fast blow, his forearm stinging from where Q's blow bounced off. Nayar stepped back, then leapt up, unleashing a spinning heel kick at Q's head. Q barely managed to dive and dodge this blow before he unleashed a roundhouse kick of his own.
"Bit off a little more than you can chew?" Q mocked.
"If I had cred for everytime I said that to a woman, I wouldn't need this holocron!" Nayar joked, rolling backwards under the kick. He drew his blaster, and aimed at Q, only for a click to sound. "Of course, I'd be out. TR, you little- OOF!" Nayar let out a grunt as Q's foot smashed into his chest, sending him sprawling backwards.
"Bringing a gun to a fist fight now, are we?" Quintus growled as he assaulted Nayar with another kick.
"I'm just surprised you actually took the bait," Nayar snarled, catching the kick on the ground, then twisting Q's leg to make him fall. "I guess Imp Intel doesn't really focus on that second part, huh?!"
"Heat of the moment," Q retorted as he grunted in pain, got up, then swept a barrage of jabs at Nayar.
"And here I thought it was just my winning charm!" Nayar stumbled back as he tried to fend off Q's ferocious assault, three solid jabs landing of his chest. At last he countered, grabbing Q's last jab and pulling him in close to jab his elbow into Q's neck. It connected, with Q hissing in pain.
"No, just your mere dumb luck." Quintus rolled behind Nayar and unleashed a quick kidney punch.
Nayar stumbled back, and Quintus saw his opportunity. He grabbed the back of Nayar's suit, spinning him around to repeatedly smash his face into the pedestal. Nayar brought his elbow back to stop the slams, but Q overpowered him, slamming him once, twice, thrice, four times into the pedestal. Q let go after the forth blow, where blood had splattered over the holocron's holding.
Nayar fell, pulling himself up just enough to flip himself around, sitting with his back against the pedestal. He was breathing hard, and looked at Q with the one eye he had open. Q smirked, leaning down to cup Nayar's chin. "Foolish cretin. Now to take care of your friends." He stepped back, and spun once more, his foot flying out to smash into Nayar's face, knocking him to the floor. Quintus then fixed his labcoat, retrieving his knife before leaving the vault, limping as a result of the blaster wounds and Nayar agitating them.
Security Headquarters, Coruscant
As quickly as their injuries allowed, Maneera and Serlynne made their way to the ground floor along the emergency route Serlynne had mapped out after her first trip through the building. Taking advantage of blind corners and infrequently used corridors, the two were able to find and leave through a side door.
Maneera managed another few steps before stumbling to lean heavily against a wall. She turned, wedging the holocron between her back and the wall, and began rooting through her pockets. "Give me some cover here, okay Az?"
"Sure," answered Serlynne, reluctantly turning her back to Nerama and starting looking around for any sights of chasers or shadowing. "I hope you realize that your boss made a stupid move which in the end may cost him his life?"
"Boss doesn't take stupid risks," Maneera snarled. After a moment's search, she pulled a small tube of adhesive from one of her pockets and flicked off the cap. Holding the tube in one hand, she reached the other through the tear in her shirt to press the wound closed. "He did what he did because he weighed the odds and made the best call he could." She carefully ran a bead of glue along the cut in her side, pressing the flesh back together until the adhesive set, then repeated the process with the shallower cuts on her legs before tossing the empty tube away. "There. That'll have to do for now."
"Let's go, then," said Serlynne. "We should get you to your ship before any more hostiles will find us."
Maneera shook her head. "Better if we split up. I can make it back on my own." She pushed herself off from the wall, holding one hand beneath her to catch the holocron as it dropped free. Tucking the holocron against her unwounded side, she pulled her coat closed; the fabric hung heavily around her, hiding the cube from view.
Mean and Zero had been quietly waiting for something to happen for quite a while. Zero saw two people go out a side door, unusual as the only people she had saw use that door was a deliveryman earlier. One of them was holding her side, as if injured. Then, Zero thought she caught a glimpse of what appeared to be a cube shaped object.
, she thought. "Mean, I think I have found the target." She nudged him and moved her head ever so slightly toward Maneera. "You recognize her?"
"Ya, that’s the chick from earlier who broke out of the drunk tank. Must have been busy scouting out the location. I don't know the person she is talking to."
"An accomplice, most likely. Irrelevant. Our objective is the holorcron, not their capture. Besides, they seem to be splitting up." And why is that
, she thought. Safety in numbers goes a long way in an event like this. Chances are they are both criminals. Perhaps they don't quite trust each other? Interesting.
"Okay, here's the plan. I am going to follow the one with the holocron. Even if spotted, chances are they won't perceive the skinny Chiss female as a threat right away. You, go to the Club Vertica cantina. If I lose her, that will have to be where she goes to get paid. We can pick up the trail there." The two got up and departed, Mean making his way to the bar while Zero took up an out of sight position standing at a nearby bus stop, as if she was simply waiting for it.
Meanwhile, Serlynne quickly turned to Nerama, genuinely surprised by her words. "No, splitting up is unwise," she said. "We don't know how many people are looking for us right now. No matter how skilled you are, it's obvious to everyone that intercepting you on the way to the ship is the easiest way to get the holocron. I can't let this happen, so I am going with you."
Maneera glared at Serlynne. "Fine." After a stumbling start, she took off at a quick walk. "Just try to keep up."
"Will do", replied the assassin. As long as I don't need my left hand for it
. She began to follow Nerama, carefully maintaining a distance of few meters between herself and her companion, while looking for any potential threat that could lie ahead.
Zero noted that the two seemed to change their minds about splitting up Smart. But it makes my job harder. One person unaware, I can take without much problem. Two people, one of which looks rather heavily armed, will be much more difficult.
She followed the two, carefully maintaining a long distance between them. She also looked around aimlessly, as if she was lost.
Quintus proceeded as far as his wounds allowed him to go, having mapped out his own quick escape route using a combination of the security cards and schematics of the complex, leaving from a side door. He proceeded down relatively the same path Maneera and Serlynne did, but took a higher path to ensure greater stealth. He passed a speeder which he was capable of hijacking, but decided against it.
Subtlety over speed gives greater results.
Slightly clutching his wound, the operative reached into his coat pocket and brought out a kolto medpack and proceeded to spread its contents across his wounds, ensuring they would seal up. Once done, he continues to walk until he spotted two women below his rise, one of them being Maneera, and the other being the assassin who foolishly interfered earlier. Quintus stealthily hid among buildings and objects among the rise he was on and set his eyes on Maneera.
This miserable woman will know pain for stealing my victory.
Maneera's brisk pace slowed to a halting, uneven stagger. She fell behind Serlynne by a few paces, then hustled to put herself back in the lead, over and over again as the pair traveled down side streets and back alleys on their way to the spaceport. Each time, Serlynne was able to pull a little further into the lead, and it took Maneera a little longer to catch back up again.
Zero noticed Maneera's walking pattern as she followed, resorting to peeking around corners and hiding behind walls to keep from being spotted Trying to get away, are we? Not a bad method to go about it. It might even work. Let's see if the other criminal is smart enough to pick up on it.
It took Serlynne some time to figure out her companion's strange behavior, but when she did, the assassin nearly burst out in anger. This schutta! She is trying to lose me even after I explained why we must stick together!
It was the last drop. First a Force-user messing with her mind (by that time Soleta's influence had effectively worn off, and Serlynne had little doubt about who she should blame for her strange amnesia), then Alecs deciding to play hero against all odds, and now Nerama behaving like a spoiled child. So be it. If some smart mercenary or Imperial agent gets her and takes the holocron, I'll just have to track it and take the artifact back.
After stopping and giving Maneera a death glare, Serlynne abruptly turned and headed for her personal shuttle, and never bothered to look back.
Serlynne's glare was met with a grin and a cheery little wave as Maneera turned sharply to proceed down a narrow, trash-strewn alley. Careful not to overstress the glued-together tear in her side, she reach back under her coat and drew out her scattergun, folding it out into firing configuration with practiced ease. She kept her back to the wall as she side-stepped through the alley, alert and watchful.
Zero saw the two separate on what looked to be rather bad terms. Excellent. That makes my job easier
Before Zero could act, Maneera ran down a dark alley. Clearly she is trying to smoke out anyone following her. Smart. Were I the common criminal trash she expects to attack her for the holocron, that might even work.
Zero flipped over to a wall just around the conrer from the alley, taking out a hand mirror, one any woman might be carrying for makeup, and used it to look around the corner without Maneera seeing, watching her to see what her next move was, and waiting for an opining.
Quintus continued to stalk Maneera, now that Serlynne has left her. Good...with no one else interfering, she and the holocron are mine. But I would be of low intelligence if I ambushed her right this second.
The vengeful operative instead elected to continue to stealthily track her back to her ship and perhaps ambush her there.
Just before the end of the alley, Maneera scrambled up to the top of a pile of garbage, putting herself into position to climb up onto a fire escape landing. After a moment's pause for consideration, she tightened up the belt on her coat before shuffling the holocron around to rest at her back. There, back to being mostly hands-free.
She climbed up the rickety metal steps for a couple more stories before tucking her scattergun against her back and stepping out onto a narrow ledge of ornamental stonework. Carefully, Maneera tiptoed along the ledge, her bloodied fingers leaving smudges along the stone where she clutched at whatever hand-holds she could find, until she dropped down onto an awning, and from there to the ground below.
Zero thought. Going to be hard for me to stay unnoticed if I follow her doing moves like that.
Zero took out her holopad, checking a local map she had downloaded on the way to Coruscant. Let's see... if I circle around out the alley onto the connecting street from where she is going to end up, I may be able to catch up with her as she continues.
Without any further hesitation, she quickly began circling around to Maneera's location.
Maneera continued along her winding path, spending as little time actually on the street as she could manage. Sometimes she ducked through buildings, passing in one door and out another. Sometimes she climbed, edging carefully along open balconies. She took a few moment's shelter on a bus, until the driver noticed she hadn't paid her fare and kicked her off again a few blocks later. By the time she reached the spaceport, she had traded her coat for a short, battered jacket and a watchcap which she tucked her hair into, pulling the bottom down nearly low enough to cover her eyes. Drifting around the edges of the crowds of disembarking passengers, she cautiously made her way toward the Hawk
"Organic = bad clothes // Why?" TR beeped as he bumped into Maneera's leg from the side, indignantly whistling at her. "Organic = take too long // Other organic = back already."
"When did Boss get back?" Maneera demanded, crouching down so she was eye-to-lens with TR. "Is he okay? Did anyone follow him?"
"Organic = arrived 4 minutes, 53 seconds, 21 milliseconds // Organic = alone // Organic = bruised face and angry," TR beeped timidly, not expecting Maneera's question assault. "Organic + waiting = ship ready."
"Good." Maneera let out a heavy sigh of relief as she stood. Visibly relaxed, she strolled alongside the droid to their hangar.
Meanwhile, Meanken had been running around the city, trying to locate the cantina Zero told him to stake out. Eventually, he was informed that the cantina he was looking for did not exist on the planet. Annoyed, he quickly looked the place up on the holonet, only to find it was on Nar Shaddaa. Now extremely annoyed, he figured he would go to the spaceport. After all, if the woman wanted her pay, she was going to have to go back to Nar Shaddaa at some point. He called Zero to fill her in, not really caring what she was doing.
Zero had managed to lose Maneera after she jumped on a bus. The agent was also annoyed, but she had also respected her target's skill at losing tails. Not many would be able to lose Imperial-trained agents like that. She got a call: "Honey, how did it go? Why are you calling?"
"The bar we agreed to meet at is not on this planet. It is on Nar Shaddaa."
Oops. That was a rookie mistake. But, if it is on Nar Shaddaa, then...
"Okay, honey, let's meet up at the spaceport then." She has to go there to get her ship. I will pick up her trail there.
She hung up and started making her way to the spaceport.
Inside the spaceport, Quintus rolled into the hangar with Maneera inside and found what he guessed what is her ship and an astromech, using a stealth field generator and nearby crates to shroud his movements. He froze upon spotting the astromech.
That astromech is going to be a liability...ah well.
The operative reached into his labcoat, grabbed an EMP grenade and a throwing knife. With his left hand, he threw the knife in Maneera's direction while casually activating the EMP grenade and bowling it towards the astromech with his right. "Where are you going?"
TR gave a panicked squeal as he wheeled back and away from the grenade. Maneera dropped into a low crouch and kicked at the grenade as the knife clattered to the floor behind her. "Thought I'd take a quick walk around the block," she called back as she dove for the knife.
Mean and Zero met up at the spaceport. The two started to walk around the spaceport, seeing if they could track down the ship. As the two were walking around, Zero heard a sound. "Hold it. Did you hear that? Sounded like a grenade. Come on." The two ran to the entrance of a hangar, where they saw Maneera and Q. "There she is. And who is that attacking her? I feel like I have seen him before." Mean shrugged in response. "Oh well, let's wait, see what happens. No reason to make a move too soon."
"Mockery becomes you," Quintus sneered as he gripped onto another knife. "Taking a quick walk and thwarting my plans?"
"Nothin' better to do, figured I might as well give it a shot." Maneera rolled to huddle behind TR. "Go get 'im, buddy," she said, elbowing the droid. There was a low, grinding whirr as TR leaned forward, straining to move, and then fell still and silent. "Thanks, canner," Maneera muttered. "Couldn't have picked a better time for it."
"I'm going to suggest you drop the butterknife, Skulker, and move your hands up real slow," Nayar drawled, pressing a blaster into Q's back, his targeting visor strapped to his right eye. "This little eyepiece I got here? I could hit you dead between the eyes across the spaceport riding 150 klicks on a speeder if I wanted. So. . . drop the butterknife.
Mean groaned, "How long are we going to wait?"
"Okay, move in now," Zero replied. The two drew their guns and walked in, pointing at Nayar's back. "Funny, I was about to say something along those lines to you as well. Drop your weapons, you and your accomplice, unless you want him to take a few shots to the back of the head."
Still hunkered down behind TR, Maneera slowly held out the knife she had picked up, then tossed it aside, sending the blade skittering across the floor away from Nayar and the agents. "Just calm down, sweet cheeks. No one's gotta shoot anybody today." With the same cautious motions, she pulled her scattergun from the back of her jacket and slid it toward the knife. Stupid pulse bomb probably fried it anyway.
As Maneera moved to surrender a shot rang out in the air, the visible blur of light passing mere centimeters from Zero's face. The shot was no miss, and clearly deliberate. Accuracy only an obvious professional could muster.
"Weapons down, Chiss." An amused voice called, its smug tone echoing off the hangar's walls. "Quickly now, before I put a hole in the female's face. And you, Cowboy." The sniper turning its call to Nayar. "Be a pal and collect them for me."
Zero raised her hands, not about to press the issue. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter which criminal scumbag gets the holocron. We know exactly where they are going.
"Okay, okay, let's be civil about this. Mean....." Meanken showed no signs of lowering his gun. After Zero glared at him for a moment, he groaned again and put the gun on the floor next to Zero's. "I hope you know what the hell you are doing," he grumbled.
Nayar looked for the source of the voice, failing miserably as he tried to to keep an eye on Quintus as well. "Wait, wait, wait, hold up, I'm confused. The new guy's on our team? No four-way standoff?" He gave a questioning look towards Maneera.
Maneera stood, shrugging widely before hooking her thumbs into her beltloops. "Hell if I know, Boss," she replied. "Not gonna look a gift sniper in the mouth, though." Keeping a close watch on Quintus, she began slowly sidestepping toward her rifle and the thrown knife.
"This would be much simpler had you cretins not touched the cube," Quintus sighed as he dropped his knife and held his hands up. "But at the end of the day, the holocron will not remain in the hands of vermin."
"Yeah, yeah, keep whining, Skulker. Oh, and by the way. . .?" Nayar commented as he holstered his blasters, confident in his hidden sniper's aim. Nayar spun Q around, and delivered a hard punch to the side of his face. "And for the record, I would have won the last fight if I hadn't been distracted!"
"So you think," Q growled as he reeled from the hit. "But so was I." The operative stomps his right foot, revealing a hidden blade in his boot, which he used to kick at Nayar in retaliation.
Zero had been trying to place where she had seen Q before, and she finally remembered. The shuttle. He was there, in the next seat over. Based on the stance he was holding that knife in, and his general manner of speech, he must be an Imperial. An agent, perhaps? He had a partner as well. Perhaps if I can stall them, she will find us.
She was about to start stalling when the other agent attacked. Well, that works too.
Nayar caught the boot in his hand, grimacing as the blade punched through his skin, before wrapping his arm around Q's leg. "Big mistake," Nayar bit out as he drew one of his blasters, jammed the barrel into Q's previous gunshot wound, and fired, having Q collapse.
Halfway to her discarded weapons, Maneera stopped for a moment, her posture becoming tense and wary. When she started moving again, she circled cautiously around Nayar and Q, staying well out of their reach. Picking up her scattergun, she took aim on Zero. "I think now would be a really good time for you two to get your blue butts out of here."
"This confrontation is costing more time than we can afford,"
Quintus heard from somewhere just behind him. "We need to regroup and tend to your injuries."
We can always jump them later,
Zero thought. But, I shouldn’t make it too easy. They may wonder why we just walked away so easily after all the trouble of getting to this point.
"I am afraid I can't do that. We have a job to do, and I fully intend to do it." Mean leaned over and whispered in her ear. "Much as I would relish a good fight after this long *** wait, she does have a scattergun pointed at your face. You sure it's smart to push her?" Zero frowned, annoyed at Mean "Do I need to remind you who is in charge of this operation? I have it handled"
Another shot passed inches from Zero's face again. "Enough talk, take the lady's advice and scram." The sniper was clearly no longer amused. "Don't make me count to ten." He warned. "You do not
want to know what happens when I get to ten."
Ugh, I've wasted too much time. I cannot win,
Quintus thought as he clutched his wounds. Knowing that he no longer has a chance of winning, Q stumbled out of the hangar and onto a nearby speeder, going the opposite direction. Either way, the holocron will be out of the hands of the cretins eventually. It's just a matter of time.
"Okay, okay, calm down, trigger happy. We are going. Come on, Mean." The two walked out, grabbing their guns and hiding them as they left. Zero turned to Mean once they were a good distance away. "The man, the one attacking the targets? I think he may be Imperial."
"No, really? What gave it away, the condescending attitude, the knife style most Imperial agents use, or something else?" He rolled his eyes. "Now, they are going to Nar Shaddaa, yes? I took the liberty of getting us two tickets off this planet to Nar Shaddaa on the way here."
"Huh, good foresight. Well, no time to waste. We need to get there as soon as possible. We will not have any restriction on Nar Shaddaa, so long as we stay clear of the Hutts." The two started walking toward the transport landing pad.
Back in the hangar, Maneera watched the agents go, not moving until they were out of range of both sight and sound. Still tense, she circled around to TR, kneeling behind the droid so that he sat between her and Nayar. Though her eyes were tilted down toward TR as she opened an maintenance panel on his chassis, she kept careful watch on Nayar. "So... yeah. You okay?"
"Nothing generous applications of kolto can't handle," he grimaced as he flexed his left hand, where Q's shoe knife had punched a hole straight through. "Canner's gonna make it. He wasn't in the kill radius of that EMP." Nayar stepped away from TR, looking around for their mysterious sniper. "So, Sir Miss-a-lot, I'm going to take a guess you're here for 'cron. Right?"
"Partially," came the response.
The sound of a jetpack roared as the sniper made his location known; he quickly flew down from his perch in the storage racks near the rear of the room, landing directly in front of Nayar and Maneera. He was tall and covered from head to toe in what seemed to be charcoal and red Mandalorian armor.
"I am to ensure your, and the package's, safe arrival in Nar Shadaa." Their unknown savior allowed as he removed his helmet, his attractive face marred by a large burn scar down his right cheek. "Name's Dredd, Dredd Kal." He forced a weak smile as he extended his unarmed hand.
"Oh... okay. Sure," Maneera stammered. Her hands shook as she reached into TR, pulling out irreparably baked components and setting them aside. "You're passing on your shot at the prize out of what, the goodness of your heart?"
"So, your boss knew we were grabbing the artifact? That's some serious resources he's got. That, or the Force." Nayar drawled, suspicious.
Dredd retracted his outstretched hand, a scowl replacing his poorly acted smile.
"You would be surprised, Cowboy." He stated as he slung his rifle over his shoulder, unwilling to divulge any details. "However, it would be unwise to mistrust me now. You have the artifact, you want the money. I'm here to make that happen."
"Fair enough. Let's hit the hyperlanes then," Nayar grumbled, turning down to TR. "Stupid Canner. . ." He bent down, picking up the astromech, slowly lugging TR back to his ship.
Maneera stopped to pick up Q's knife as she followed Nayar; by the time she had stood back up, the blade had disappeared. She scurried anxiously up the gangway and onto the Hawk
, not letting Dredd out of her sight till the hatch had closed behind her.