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Tools of the Trade


Osetto's Avatar


Osetto
04.07.2012 , 04:26 PM | #1
Tools of the Trade
(4 ATC)



Episode I: Election Season

Chapter One

On the outskirts of Corellia’s capital, Coronet City, atop one of the many rooftops of the silver skyline, a man sat amidst a scene of quiet, lonesome decadence in the dark of night. Almost a hundred meters above the city streets below, away from shipyards and manufactories famous throughout the galaxy, there sat a rather quaint setup. Beside the waist high barrier that surrounded the roof, there sat a single chair, a single table, and a single figure.

Occupying the chair was a Human locked between shadows and dim luminance. Garbed in black gear beset a matching heavy overcoat, the man thumbed through a handheld datapad as if reading the local news, face obscured even above the light of the electronic tablet.

Occupying the table was a mechanical black orb slightly larger than the organic being’s head, the numerous lights lining its chassis disengaged to preserve the shroud of night. Only a single, dull red light emanated from the machine’s lone ocular sensor, a circle that dominated its forward hemisphere. Beside the orb, there rest a neatly placed satchel, its contents suitably hidden by the baggy material.

Not looking away from his datapad, the man tapped a few of the dials of the device with his free hand, prompting the orb to begin vibrating. With a continuous hum eventually cut short by a sharp whistle, the orb ended its show by jettisoning a small, hand-sized cubic tray from its front. With his free hand, the man took the cup and swirled it under his nose, partaking in the sweet aroma of the beverage that stirred before him. Only after a full appreciation of its scent did the man choose to drink. Slow sips accompanied the continued eyeing of the datapad, with the occasional sideways glance to the left, toward the towering building that rose on the opposite side of the street.

The district was dominated by fixtures that touched to the sky. Towering blocks those stretched high and thin, absent of the industrial notions Corellia and its peoples were known for. Behind the hundred and windows lining the hundreds of buildings, sat plain offices where more the more civilized aspects of business and politics could be carried out and discussed. An ecumenopolis is was not. The city had not yet uprooted every vestige of nature that dared stand in its way. Trees and shrubs still occasionally lined the grounds below, but it was still an urban place. Defiantly so. And amidst the skyline, there was little more than metal and glass and the passing breeze. The streets were empty, and only the occasional speeder soared across the night sky. It was a place of particulars for particulars.

As the man finished his beverage, he quietly returned the cup into the orb’s crevice. Inserting his free hand into the open satchel, he rummaged around for a few moments before retrieving a miniscule electronic earpiece that he promptly inserted into his right ear. Upon the screen of the man’s datapad, the picture of one Bentyll Henserton flashed across it. Male. Human. Moderately aged. The physique and demeanor of a politician dominating his face and body. A Councilor, one of the planet’s domestic leaders. And a man in the pocket of the Sith Empire.

At least, he was, until a short while ago. Previously, he was one of the Ministry of Intelligence’s ways of manipulating the government of the staunchly Republic core world. Unfortunately for them, Councilor had become something of a unchained rogue. No longer abiding by the Ministry’s suggestions, a forced recall was enacted.

Placing the datapad into the satchel, and the satchel beside his feet, the man retrieved a sniper rifle from beneath the table and laid it flat in front of him. The 2-D12 Twinshot Penetrator Sniper Rifle. Contraband in most Republic systems. The bulky rifle lacked the elegance of Imperial Intelligence issued weaponry, but the operation called for a specific set of tools.

The weapon possessed a grungy, rustic appearance, made up of browns and stained grays. Heavy, reinforced barrel. Unwieldy stock. Energy cell capable of lasting only a single pull of the trigger. The weapon was designed to fire two bolts, separated by a half-second, with utmost precision and immense stopping power. The first bolt would open up a hole in whatever material stood between the marksman and his target. Glass, armor, thin energy-dispersing materials, the like. The second would push through to the target. A destructive piece of technology, though still unable to produce the same results as a disruptor or disintegrator. But every mission called for a particular set of tools. And this one would serve just fine.

Staring across the street, the man’s thoughts pertained only to the mission.

It had been three hours since nightfall. Three hours since the fake bounty had been seeded across the proper channels. The target would be returning to his office at any moment. He thought to set up the rifle proper. He rejected the idea. Better to wait until confirmation. Only when he had sights on the target would he continue.

The rooftop remained dark and quiet. The wind was weak, even at the high elevation. Conditions could not have been better. Thirty meters separated the two buildings. The targeted office sat three levels below the shooter. Line of sight was clear. All he had to do was wait.

The plan ran through the man’s head. Set up the rifle. Squeeze the trigger. The first bolt would break the reinforced glass. The second would break the Councilor. Escape through the building. Elevator shaft marked out of order. Descend beneath the base level. Follow service tunnels to extraction. Leave the gun behind. Weapon couple with the bounty will turn blame away from the Empire. The planning was perfect. All that remains was the execution.

The time to dwell was over. The target had arrived.

Reaching beneath his seat, the man picked through the satchel once more, returning with a thin visor that he placed over his eyes. Behind the horizontal black lens, a brilliant heads-up-display provided the man with various bits of information. A circle surrounded the Councilor’s face as the sniper gazed into the distant office’s innards. The visor confirmed target’s identity with a matching portrait in the upper-right corner of the marksman’s field of vision. Numerous integers presented themselves to the wearer, detailing distances, analyses, life signs, and other prudent information. As the target made his way behind his desk, the man on the roof finally lifted the rifle from the table and rested it on the building’s edge, ready to fire a shot at a moment’s notice.

----------


In front of the squared tower stretching twenty stories into the air, a lone armored juggernaut made his approach. On the trail of one Bentyll Henserton, the man had been tracking the government official for the past couple of hours. Suited in an all-encompassing set of armor, the man offered no identity passed his own unique exterior designs. Dark grey metals with a matching bodysuit underneath protected the individual from all areas of attack. Upon his back, a fully integrated jetpack bearing three downward jets. His helm was smooth, domed, and all-encompassing, offering only a single horizontal black strip as his visor. Throughout the suit were basic artistic flourishes of blue and silver. Of most note was the singular wide strip of blue running straight up from his right leg and continuing up his chest plate. Over twenty segments of the most durable material lined the man’s body in the forms of various pads and pauldrons.

Beneath the armored helm, the figure gazed upon the path ahead of him through an electronic heads-up-display. Information and data streamed into view, the most important of which being a block featuring the name and face of his target.

Bounty: Bentyll Henserton
Issuer: Crimson Nova Gang
Notary: Gorrbus the Hutt
Prize: 10,000 credits upon confirmation of death. 12,000 upon live capture.


An unseen grin graced the bounty hunter’s hidden visage, smug with the satisfaction of getting such an early lead on a posted bounty. With only a few hours since announcement, the hunter knew he would be unopposed by potential rivals. Native defenders were another story. But a story that he was nonetheless ready to dissect.

Eagerly, the hunter approached the main entrance of the mark’s location. There were little preparations made. On this mission or any others for that matter. All the hunter needed was confidence, and his sizable armament. The epitome of which was the single pistol worn at the hip, grip being delicately palmed, ready to be drawn with utmost momentum.

The 6D8 Revolver was a fusion of simplistic and ingenious design. The weapon’s main driving force was kept in a cycling cylinder above the trigger. The energy cells were powerful and efficient, but produced monstrous levels of heat. With each pull of the trigger, a single powerful bolt would shoot out. Afterwards, the cylinder would rotate, allowing the spent energy cell to cool and recharge until its next turn in the cycle. While only able to put out a fraction of the number of shots most blasters in the trade could in a given amount of time, it more than made up for its sluggishness with raw stopping power. As the revolver lay attached to the hunter’s belt, it almost matched the armored warrior’s sizable thigh in length. Capable of driving fear into someone before they even had the chance to be trapped within its sights.

Whilst the hunter’s right hand was otherwise preoccupied by the miniature blaster-cannon, the left held a series of micro-munitions built into its thick bracer. While not the raw explosive powerhouse many bounty hunters opted to be, the assortment of rocket propelled darts and devices complimented the man’s tactics soundly. Tactics that most times simply meant walking up to the target after wading through pools of opposition.

Staring at the building ahead, the man’s thoughts pertained only to the mission.

His target was Bentyll Henserton. Councilor who wanted into the underworld, but didn’t pay tribute to the Cartel. Possessed a reasonable bounty. Possessed little incentive to bring him alive. But the hunter never needed much incentive.

The man’s HUD put Henserton firmly at the eighteenth floor. The floors in between when suitably populated. No civilians. No police. Private security. The Councilor had credits enough to hire whomever he wanted to protect him. Even someone like the bounty hunter. A thought that stirred in the man’s head, but only for a moment. He had a code to uphold. And a plan to carry out.

The target had sealed himself in. Henserton was running from something, despite not moving at all. He must have known someone was after him and decided to make a stand. The hunter knew what to do.

He’d walk up. He’d use the entrance. If blocked, he’d create an entrance. A big one. The building was cylindrical. Its lobby stretched all the way up to the roof. Every room and office wrapped around the grand foyer. Stairwells and lifts provided means of ascension. The structure was an enclosed crescent, twenty layers deep. Twenty layers tall.

At the building’s main entrance, the hunter was met with the first line of defense. A door. Sizable and reinforced. Luckily, it possessed a small holo-comm to its side. With a few subtle bangs on the door with the back of his hand, the hunter finally got a response. The flickering blue image of a Human projected itself from the terminal.

“Turn around, and walk away buddy,” the audibly displeased gatekeeper ordered. The hunter studied the image for but a moment before responding.

“Oh, good, we’re buddies,” the hunter began, trying to adopt a gruff no-nonsense tone, despite the fact that was currently instigating something of utter nonsense. The forced grit was only barely capable of overcoming the natural youth present in the hunter’s voice. “The thing is, you see, there’s this guy. Bentyll Henserton. Got a bounty on him that needs collecting. Now, I don’t know about you, but-”

The bounty hunter found himself stricken with pause as the holo-comm shut off, leaving the man alone with the shadows. What followed was the series of audible clinking as the door’s various inner workings shifted to a locked state.

“Rude.”

The hunter fell silent as he examined his surroundings. Looking at the now inactive terminal, the hunter saw nothing resembling a set of controls. Turning his gaze toward the large door impeding his path he pondered the dimensions and material that made up its construction. Singular slab of material. Vertical recess, having descended from the wall above it. Subtle latches intruder from the lower left and right, locking down the barrier. The entire thing stretched no wider than the hunter with his arms completely outstretched. Looking around, the hunter observed that the building possessed no windows for the first five levels. On the sixth floor, however, was the first in a series of windows arranged in a column stretching toward the roof. All of which looked in upon the grand lobby.

“Well, I guess I know which way I’m going.”
-------------------- The Fan Fiction Index --------------------

Osetto's Avatar


Osetto
04.07.2012 , 10:44 PM | #2
Chapter Two


“What was that about?” an armed guard asked his fellow manning the communications panel next to the door of the building’s interior. The lobby was sufficiently staffed with lightly armored personnel carrying different models of blaster pistols and rifles. Each somewhere between civilian and military grade. The gatekeeper turned from his station bearing a look of anger coupled with a surpassing sense of confusion.

“Bounty hunter. Says he’s here for Henserton.”

“Don’t you think we’d have heard something about a bounty being put out?”

“Yes. In fact, I do think that. I think that very much.”

“Should we tell the boss?”

“What, that there’s a bounty hunter at our front door that’s after him? No, I don’t think that is knowledge that he would like to be burdened with.”

“Sarcasm doesn’t help anyone… jerk.”

“Maybe if you’d stop asking stupid questions!”

“Well, did you send word to Henserton?”

“No, because you’ve been distracting me!”

“Don’t pin this on me. I’m just here to guard this side of the door. Communications is your responsibility!”

“Stop telling me things I already know!”

“Is the hunter even still out there?”

“I don’t know. Let me check.”

Turning to the console, the gatekeeper brought up a screen that detailed the scene on the opposite side of the door.

“Well?”

“Shut up, I’m looking. Huh, it looks like he’s walking away.”

“Weird.”

Acting almost as punctuation to the door guard’s insightful word, an explosion rang out. A forceful fireball combusted on the exterior side of the door, which had now been messily torn from its supports and sent flying into the lobby, taking the guard that had been foolish enough to stand in front of it along for the ride.

With a slow but determined stride, the bounty hunter entered the establishment, raising his weapon only once he had surpassed the building’s threshold. The gatekeeper’s mouth hung agape at the sight. The frozen guard could not even react to the hand cannon of a blaster pointed at his chest. A shot rang out, and a brilliant bolt of silvery blue energy planted itself in the guard’s sternum knocking the bewildered man backwards and to the ground.

The revolver cycled, with numerous targets now making themselves known to the bounty hunter. Placed on multiple tiers, guards lined each level of the layered building, pointed their weapons toward the lobby. The hunter ducked to his left, taking cover behind one of the many sizable works of art than inhabited the ground floor. Solid structures, actively fulfilling a purpose for once in their inanimate lives. Blaster fire rang out from multiple levels as the building’s security tried to repel the lone hunter. The helmed warrior offered only a grin under his mask and readied his next shot.

-----------

On the rooftop adjacent to the target’s building, the agent readied his perfect shot. Sensors picked up comm chatter from the ground floor. Probably nothing worth considering for the sniper. He knew he had to take the shot, and he had to take it soon.

Unfortunately, the agent could not act on this knowledge quick enough. An audible explosion made itself known on the opposite side of the building. Shaken, the agent raised his head in confusion, before promptly returning it to behind the scope. He only caught a glimpse of Henserton stirring in his chair before a series of automated defenses deployed themselves.

The sniper took his shot, but a plate of opaque material slammed down over the target’s exterior window. The shot connected, twice, but did nothing to pierce the sturdy defenses. Raising his head from his weapon once again, the agent softly cursed under his breath. Examining the scene, the agent saw that only the floor occupied by the target had its windows covered.

Leaving the sniper rifle deployed, the agent hurriedly rummaged around the interior of his satchel retrieving a sleek vibroknife and standard-issue blaster pistol. The edged weapon was blackened from blade to handle, giving it a contiguous appearance. The blade only measured slightly longer than the handle that preceded it, which in turn was sized perfectly to match its wielder’s grip. The pistol possessed a similar darkened aesthetic, and was shaped and sized for light-weight maneuverability and short range precision. A scope was integrated seamlessly with the barrel and stretched for most of the weapon’s length.

“Let’s go, Reggie,” the agent whispered as he wrapped the satchel’s strap around his shoulder. The previously immobile mechanical sphere that had sat patiently on the agent’s table began to hover a short distance above the flat surface. Meeting the agent at eye level, the droid offered a series of curious beeps.

“I need you to get me over there,” the agent directed his spherical companion, whilst pointing to the target’s building. The droid offered an affirming noise as a small handle descended from its bottom.

The agent peered over the edge of the rooftop, lifting his electronic visor to gaze downward with his own eyes. Lowering the visor, the agent re-acclimated himself to the heads-up-display that overtook his vision, ignoring the altitude statistic that haunted one of the corners. The agent gripped the small handle with his left hand and positioned the droid over his head. With his increasingly shaky right hand, he gripped the blaster. The vibroknife was sufficiently attached to the left of his hip.

“Nineteenth floor, directly above the target, got that?” the agent said as he looked at the droid hovering above him. He spoke with an inner calm, his voice smooth and methodical. The orb replied with a jaunty bob accompanied by another affirming beep.

With a deep breath, the agent ran a short distance before leaping off the rooftop dangling by a single hand gripping his droid. The mechanical orb’s built in repulsors kicked into overdrive and the pair sailed forward at a slight decline. Daring not to look downward, the agent readied his pistol, aiming it forward. Nearing the other building, the agent fired his blaster, shattering the glass of the exterior window of a room on the nineteenth floor. Passing the threshold of the target’s building, the agent released his grip on the hovering droid and tumbled to the floor with a tactical roll.

The room was empty. Like much of the building. Henserton wanted this building all to himself, and had the credits to ensure that want went fulfilled. It would prove to be to his detriment. Raising himself from the floor the agent dusted himself off and made sure all of his items and clothes were in the right places.

Clashing with the brightly-lit room, the man was an isolated splotch of black amidst his surroundings. The clothes that hugged Human’s body were thick enough to offer protection, but thin enough not to limit dexterity. A number of straps and holsters graced the man’s figure, tactical gear hidden beneath the reinforced longcoat. His head went unadorned aside from earpiece and visor, the flesh beneath the lens being smooth and unburdened by scars or wrinkles. The hair atop his head was dark and neatly slicked back, able to maintain its shape throughout its wearer’s tumultuous motions.

No worse for wear, the agent pressed forward.

----------

The bounty hunter peered around from the solace of his cover to return fire to the increasing presence of armed guards lining the multiple layers between himself and his target. A powerful bolt would leave the hunter’s weapon, and then another, and then another, each finding their target. But even with perfect marksmanship, he was making little in the way of progress in thinning out the opposing forces.

The hunter studied the movements of those who resisted him. They were flooding the second level, none of them wishing to contend with the hunter on the ground floor. More guards occupied the third and fourth floor, with their ranks rapidly swelling as the guards moved down from the upper levels. An automated lift was at the far end of the lobby, near where the blown door had landed.

It ran up the entirety of the spine that ascended the entire building. Toward the lobby, its boundaries were mere sheets of glass, little protection against the blaster fire that would surely be delivered from the gunmen wrapping around the overlooking levels. The exit from the lift on any floor would likely be heavily guarded, removing its practical use.

Multiple stairways to the left and right. Would likely bottleneck the guards from both ends. Not an ideal situation. Forces on the first four levels would likely prove insurmountable. Solution: Skip the first four levels.

The bounty hunter dashed from his cover as he furiously tapped as his right forearm. The stationed guards continued to release their volley of bolts toward the moving target, but we’re unprepared for what came next. The three cylinders emanating from his back ignited in a glorious yet contained blaze. The jetpack roared as the bounty hunter flew upward, propelled by a violently quick burst. The armored figure’s heavy arc concluded with a loud thud as he landed on the sixth floor. The hunter stumbled, struggling to keep himself upright as his jetpack deactivated.

As soon as he regained his footing, the intruder peered over the ledge separating him from the grand foyer. The defenders below scrambled, frantically searching for their own path upward.

The hunter pushed away from the ledge, ducking into the nearby stairway. Two paths lay before the intruder. One of ascent. The other of descent. Countless steps stretched up and down narrow corridor. As constrictive as the square passageway was, an empty gap in the center ran the entire length of the stairwell. The hunter leaned over the protective railing, only to see a cavalcade of guards making their way toward his position. Looking up, he saw more guards looking down at him, directing their blasters over the railing and taking aim. Ducking back, the hunter began his rapid march up the stairs as he pressed against the wall, defensive but undeterred.

----------

The agent planted himself against the wall bordering the empty room’s single exit, his blaster securely held with two hands. The mechanical orb hastily floated to his flank, projecting a square image that hovered a short distance from its dominating red ocular fixture.

“Give me details, what’s going on?” the agent asked, not dividing his attention from the door in front of him. The projected screen began to fill up with numerical and alphabetical data values. The sphere then played back an intercepted comm transmission.

“A bounty hunter just blasted his way in here, that’s what’s happening!” the voice of a disgruntled guard emanated from the droid’s speakers.

“Bounty hunter… you mean someone picked up on the fake bounty? That quickly?” the agent muttered, dumfounded. “We can’t expect him to be able to finish the task, we’ll kill Henserton ourselves while the hunter distracts the building’s security.”

Turning to his mechanical companion, the agent focused on the projected holo-image.

“Can you find me an indirect route to the target?” the agent politely asked.

The droid’s projection altered to feature an image of the building’s floor plans. Comparing the eighteenth and nineteenth floor, the droid highlighted a connection. The ventilation system. Showing no signs of modification of overhauling by the building’s owner, it provided a clean, albeit winding path. There was an access point on the walkways beyond the door, and an exit point directly within the target’s office.

Opening the room’s door, the agent cautiously peered around it’s frame to check for any enemy contacts. The walkway was clear. It was the main circular pathway that wrapped around the open foyer that stretched from the ground floor to the roof. Moving forward, the agent took cover behind the waist-high barrier that separated the walkway from the nineteen story plunge to the lobby below.

Taking a quick peak over the barrier, the agent saw that the lower levels were bustling with armed guard taking shots at the bounty hunter hiding behind a large statue. The agent witnessed the hunter charging from his cover before rocketing upward to a level out of his peripheral vision. The agent ducked behind his cover, surprised by the bounty hunter’s continued existence. But the agent pressed on, determined to finish the assignment himself.

Following the curved pathway a short distance, the agent came across a sizable grate on the wall touching the floor. The grate measured almost a meter in width and height. Uncomfortable, but maneuverable, for the man and his droid. As the agent reached toward the vent, he heard some shouting a short distance down the hall.

“Hey, you!” an approaching guard shouted toward the now upright figure. “Who are you? What are you doing here?” The agent, kept a hand around his blaster as he spun on his heels, but also raised his free hand, holding a single finger to his mouth, urging silence.

The agent examined the guard in minimal time. Male. Average build. Armed. Unarmored. Local ruffian, brought into the employ of Henserton since his betraying the Empire. Scar across the face. Blade wound. Banded tattoo around his neck indicative of local gang affiliation, current or past. Twitch in his eye corroborated the tone of his voice. His gait was hasty. Unsure. Panicked.

“Has the hunter made it to Henserton yet?” the agent softly but firmly called out to the guard.

“I said, who are you!” the guard restated. Belligerent. Confused.

“I’m the one trying to do my job since your crew seems incapable of defending your new boss,” the agent coldly explained. Brutalistic tone. Lack of dialect. Guise of a local specialist. “I’m the defense specialist whose worth more than your entire gang.”

“What are you doing up here then?”

“Tell me, how many bounty hunters do you know of make it a habit of making that much noise? Hmm? You think he’s alone? Tell your men that they should be looking for… there!” the agent emphatically pointed to the area behind the guard. The guard panicked, turning around and drawing his blaster. He saw nothing, but felt a gloved hand being place over his mouth.

From behind, the agent had sprinted forward, grasping the guard’s jaw from over his shoulder. The guard had little time to react as the agent’s other hand effortlessly drew the vibroblade from his hip and implanted in in the guard’s back. The guard went limp as the agent slowly lowered his lifeless body to the ground. Wiping his blade on the fallen man’s clothing, the agent return to the vent a short distance away.
-------------------- The Fan Fiction Index --------------------

Osetto's Avatar


Osetto
04.09.2012 , 06:39 PM | #3
Chapter Three


Charging up the winding staircase, the bounty hunter drew ever closer to the eighteenth floor where his target still remained. At least, he had hoped. He hadn’t a plan if his bounty was missing. Then again, he hadn’t much of a plan to begin with. Improv. Improve. But he couldn’t focus on the destination. Not with all the armed opposition populating the journey.

Eight steps and a right turn. Eight steps and a right turn. Repeat. The bounty hunter ascended the stairwell in monotonous fashion, seemingly ignoring the blaster fire that would emerge from the levels below. Couldn’t look back. Had to look forward. Constantly forward.

A guard descending the stairs directly opposed the bounty hunter, accompanying his cascading movement with a shot from his measly blaster pistol. The guard panicked when he saw his bolt impact the storming hunter with little more than a flash of light to show for it. Stunned, the guard could only accept his fate as the armored warrior grabbed him by his neck and flung him to his rear, toppling him and forcing him to act as an impromptu barrier for the hoard of pursuers.

Finally, the bounty hunter had reached his goal, the eighteenth floor. Taking but a moment, he saw the building’s security had yet to catch up to him. Sure in his decision, the bounty hunter aimed his left arm at the section of stairs that had preceded him, and launched an explosive dart. Imbedding itself in the durable but destructible material, the device flashed an angry red light and released a sharp ping before detonating. The stairwell shook as the patch of floor was consumed by the controlled explosion. A gap had been created. A divide.

Pressing forward, the armored figure continued his ascent, taking shots at all who remained in his path. The hunter released bolt after bolt, felling each foe with an expertly place shot to the chest. Vaulting over the dispatched foes, the intruder moved with equal parts weight and speed. Boots clanking with each step, the forced march continued until reaching the eighteenth floor.

Exiting the stairway, the bounty hunter saw a small squad of guardsmen waiting further along the walkway. The two forces exchanged fire. One side, a cavalcade of disorganized and untactful blaster bolts. The other, singular shots, each measured, each precise, each finding its mark. In time, the side of patience won, but it won at a cost. The cost of time. With each moment, the building, the target, and the security became more and more dangerous, unstable, unpredictable. The hunter knew he had to finish things. Capture the target. Escape.

One final line of defense waited on each side of the door that guarded Bentyll Henserton. Two droids. Humanoid chassis. Military grade blaster rifles in hand. Would require sufficiently different strategy and tactics. Enemy: emotionless, precise, meticulous. Rigid stance. Little dynamic programming. Stalwart defenders. No self-preservation. Perfect.

----------

Slowly but surely the agent edged himself closer to his target as he shuffled through the compact ventilation system. The cold metallic walls showed no signs of compacting, but the agent had never quite felt so constricted. If his intelligence was inadequate, if the system did in fact have defenses in place, he was at an extreme disadvantage.

But still he persisted. Gazing through his visor, a carefully calculated route through the ducts materialized in the corner of the agent’s vision. The map, constructed from data retrieved by the spherical droid that now trailed the prone agent, pointed the operative toward a vent almost directly above the target’s desk.

The agent propelled himself forward, through subtle slides and carefully constructed movements, making sure he didn’t make any unnecessary sounds that might give away his position. So far, the operative hadn’t encountered any fixtures that resembled traditional motion scanning or intrusion detecting equipment. That is, until he was about to round a corner toward the target’s office.

The pathway the agent currently crawled through came to an end a short distance away with a T-intersection. Closing in on the pathway’s end, the agent froze as an object entered his field of vision from the rightward branch. A small droid moved upon treaded feet, preceding the small light it shined along its path.

Mouse droid. Ventilation maintenance. No inherent danger, but if it were to detect a blockage as sizable as the agent, it would surely send word back to security. Destroying it would prove noisy, and likely alert security to the dropping of the droid’s signal from the system. Same consequence. Slowly, the agent watched as the mouse droid crossed his field of vision bead of sweat forming on his brow. From the right path, to the left, the droid eventually passed the operative, not checking the intersecting duct that he currently resided in.

With a sigh of relief, the agent continued his journey, toward the area the droid originated from. He knew he could slip behind the machine before it had a chance to return. Crawling down the rightward path, the agent tensed as he heard the sound of a small explosion somewhere outside the confines of the ducts. Looking over his shoulder, he was relieved to see the droid continue its trek away from his position, unfazed by the ruckus.

Moving down his path, the agent eventually came to a vent that opened into the target’s room. Entirely empty, except for one man. Bentyll Henserton. Sitting at a grandiose desk, the Councilor was between barriers. In front of him, an impenetrable wall of energy in the form of a ray shield divided the room into two halves. Behind him, the window that had originally been the agent’s point of contact. The metallic plate that had dropped down completely barred entry and exit. Visually and mobility-wise.

Another explosion rung out. This time, the agent was able to place its origin. Right outside the room’s door. But still, the target seemed adamant in remaining perfectly still behind his desk. Explanations ran through the agent’s mine. Fright. Overconfidence. Hologram.

The agent paused. There was nothing he could do from this side of the ray shield. The stealthy intruder left the vent behind, following the air duct deeper.

----------

The bounty hunter had finally reached his mark. Walking through the unlocked doors of the Henserton’s office, the hunter walked with an overly casual gait. In his right hand, his trusty blaster. In his left, a heavily dented and charred droid head, seemingly blown apart from the rest of its chassis with a violent explosion.

Finally, Henserton stirred from his seat. Rising, the bounty hunter had expected a reaction, but none quite like the one he received. The politician slowly rose from his luxurious chair, and approached the vibrant red wall of energy that separated him from his attacker, all the while producing a slowly clapping his hands.

The bounty hunter shut the door behind him and shot the nearby door panel in the hopes of locking it. Walking away from the shower of sparks, the hunter approached his target, circumventing a large domed device that rested in the center of his side of the room. A blue lens situated on the center of the device’s surface acted as a holoprojector, producing a three dimension model of Corellia above it.

At the ray shield, the two figures stared each other down in silence. The bounty hunter raised his weapon and shot a single bolt at the ray shield’s extremity. The bolt fizzled and dispersed, completely negated. He then tried tossing the droid head through, but it effortlessly bounced off and back at his feet.

“Two-tiered defense system. Color me impressed,” the hunter nonchalantly conversed with his target, lacking the grit he had expressed before.

“Yes, unfortunately sound can still make it through, so I’ve had to suffer the primal ruckus you’ve unleashed on my building. Directed toward my personage,” the Corellian replied, utterly discontent.

“Well, I tend to make a bit of noise when I collect my bounties.”

“Bounty hunter… what is scum like you even doing in Corellian space?”

“Hunting a bounty, what else?” the hunter joked. “Twelve thousand if I can bring you in alive. Which I plan on doing.”

“That is what you’re working for? Twelve thousand?” the politician scoffed. “Are you insane or just an idiot? Factoring in munitions and starship fuel, you’re barely turning a profit!”

“Maybe some things are more important than profit. I mean, I can’t think of many, but sometimes you just gotta keep yourself entertained.”

“So insane, to answer my question. My people hadn’t even picked up any bounties placed on me. Is this a private contract? Has the Empire sent you to dispose of me?”

“I’ve never been much of a ‘details’ kind of guy,” the hunter explained, softly waving his blaster in the air. “I just like to do my job and keep things professional.”

“If you want a job, fine! Twenty thousand credits. Weekly salary as a personal bodyguard.”

“Nah.”

“Nah?”

“I don’t like quitting things I start. Besides, it looks like I’m the only one to have actually come after you, so protecting you couldn’t be that entertaining. I’ll stick to my guns… er, gun.”

“Then I’m afraid this is where we part ways… mister?”

“Zerek. Just Zerek.”

“Well, Zerek, I’m afraid this dialogue has reached its conclusion,” the Corellian admitted, making his way back to behind his desk.

“Oh, really? Because it looks like I’m still here. And neither of us look like we’re going anywhere anytime soon.”

“Yes, I suppose that is true. Unfortunately for you, I am on this side of the ray shield, completely protected from anything you could throw at me. You, on the other hand,” the politician slyly stated and he reached a hand beneath his desk.

The subtle clicks of gears and other mechanical machinations quietly made themselves known. Looking around, the bounty hunter saw that he was still alone in his portion of the room. Hastily, he gazed to every corner of the room, mind racing with possibilities. A trap. Poison. Moving walls. No. The bounty hunter received his answer when the projected image of Corellia dissipated, its projector shifting in place.

Metallic plates jut out, revealing the intricate and sophisticated motions of mechanical innards. The domed mechanism unfolded and raised itself on four mechanical legs. A battle droid. Unknown make. Crab-like appearance. Walking on four sharpened pincers, a singular heavy barrel emerged from the domed portion.

The large droid whirred for but a moment before launching a powerful bolt toward the hunter. Leaping out of the way, the bolt impacted and dissipated against the ray shield. On the floor, the droid sought to crush the hunter under one of its hefty, pointed feet. The bounty hunter rolled upon the floor, trying to regain the tactical advantage.

Though large, the droid practically dominated the room, leaving little room for maneuverability. While the frantic battle ensued before his eyes, Henserton sat in his chair with a remarkable glee. Eyes sharpened, fingers interwoven, a smirk upon his lips, the Councilor enjoyed the unfolding spectacle.

The bounty hunter tried to outpace the droid, but such a task proved difficult with the crab droid’s head acting on a 360 degree rotation. Slowly but surely, it follow the hunter, seeming to shrug off hit after hit from the hunter’s blaster. The armor proved too thick around the droid’s upper extremities. It’s underbelly, however, had yet to prove its sturdiness.

The hunter moved close enough so that the droid once more tried to pierce his armor with his pincer. The bounty hunter pressed past its reach, sliding beneath the large droid. Out of reach with its blaster, unable to strike out with its limbs, and confined to the space of the room, the droid struggled to process the data necessary to proceed. Giving the hunter enough time to activate his jetpack.

The intruder pressed himself up against the droid’s underside and his backpack furiously ignited. Urging himself upward, the hunter was able to upend one of the edges of the droid and proceed to flip it onto it’s back. As the droid rolled upon it’s domed surface and flailed its legs, the hunter deliver shot after shot into the under workings of the machine. The moving bits of the droid soon ceased in a grand display of fire and smoke, eventually forcing the droid offline. Holstering his blaster, the hunter offered another stare toward his target.

“That it?”
-------------------- The Fan Fiction Index --------------------

Osetto's Avatar


Osetto
04.16.2012 , 05:15 PM | #4
Chapter Four


Henserton rose from his chair and promptly slammed his fists upon the desk.

“How is this possible? That was one of the most advanced battle droids currently manufactured on Corellia!” Henserton shouted, accompanying his words with wide, sweeping arm motions. Finally something had gotten through to him. Past the guards. The droids. The shields. Nothing was going his way, and he was finally beginning to realize it.

“Hmm, one of the most advanced?” the hunter mumbled, gazing upon the mechanical carcass that spewed all manner of robotic fluids onto the floor. “Doubt it.”

“What?”

“I mean, it may have been the most advanced droid you could buy… keyword being ‘you’. You see, remember when I said there were some things more important that credits? Well, those ‘things’ are the reason I’m still standing here. You bought all the security you could get your hands on. You got this entire building all to yourself. You got yourself a big bad droid. And, yet, here I am, standing right in front of you. Credits bought this armor. Credits bought this blaster. But skill… skill is what got me here. Skill is what’s going to get me past this little shield thing you got going on, and what’s going to deliver you to the people who, like you, think credits are everything in this galaxy.”

“Shut up! Do you even hear yourself when you talk? In the end, you were still bought. You are still a tool, being utilized by a higher force. Don’t stand there and try and tell me that you’re something special because to take pride in your work. You are still worthless without someone calling the shots. You are still filth. You just happen to be filth that serves the Empire’s needs.”

“Why do you keep assuming I’m working for the Empire?”

“Because why else would you even be here?”

----------

This was it. The agent had situated himself directly above his target. Peering through the grated surface, the agent saw the target engaging in conversation with the bounty hunter. The bounty hunter. He was still alive, after all this time. Beyond the ray shield he stood, casually ignoring the sparking and sputtering pile of scrap that lay heaped against the wall.

The hunter would be a witness if he struck now. A curious predicament. Would no doubt question the agent’s presence. Question the bounty. The meticulous knot the agent had tied had already unraveled. There was no choice now but to sever the entire rope.

“You are filth. You just happen to be filth that serves the Empire’s needs,” Henserton provoked.

“Why do you keep assuming I’m working for the Empire?” the bounty hunter replied.

“Because why else would you even be here?”

The time to strike was now. The agent knocked out the edge of the vent closest to him, causing it to swing on its opposite hinge. Plunging forward, the agent flipped down and fell into the office below. The agent landed on the flat surface of the regal desk, next to an utterly surprised politician.

Henserton came to his senses rather quickly, reaching toward one of the drawers on his side of the desk. The agent planted his foot in the Corellian’s chest, sending him crashing backward against the reinforced window. Stepping off of the desk, the agent quickly engaged the target, who merely bounced off the glass pane. Henserton fought back, throwing a haphazard punch. It was deflected. Two strikes were delivered to the Councilor’s chest, knocking him back against the window. A third strike was sent into the target’s throat, sending him crumbling to the ground.

The target was down, but not done. The agent needed to act. Needed to finish off the target. Needed to conclude the operation. Needed to keep the integrity of the story intact. A blade would spell contradiction with the surrounding scene. A blaster bolt between the eyes were be most fitting.

“Whoa! Hey, what do you think you’re doing?” the bounty hunter bellowed at the agent. The agent turned slightly, acknowledging the hunter’s presence.

“I’m fulfilling an obligation,” the agent plainly stated, no attempts to hide his Imperial accent.

“This was my bounty. I got to Henserton first, he’s mine!” the hunter exclaimed.

“Oh, really? Because as I see it, I’m the one with Henserton in my grasp. I’m the one on THIS side of the ray shield. I’m the one who successfully infiltrated this establishment despite your tromping about. I’m the one who was actually supposed to be here in the first place.”

The bounty hunter offered a casual shrug. “Hey, look, all you had to say was that you picked up the bounty first. A hunter shouldn’t interrupt another hunter.”

“Do I look like a bounty hunter?” the agent retorted.

“Oh, so an assassin.”

“No… I mean, well, technically,” the agent muttered. Such peculiarity in the words the agent was hearing. What was with this hunter? Casual. Conversational. Utterly unfazed by the agent’s presence. No matter. He could not afford another distraction. The agent drew his blaster, aiming it toward the target’s head.

“Whoa, hold on a second, pal. You know, there’s a bounty for bringing him in alive. Twelve-K. I know it’s not much…”

“For the love of… that’s not a real bounty!”

“What do you mean?” the bounty hunter replied, genuinely confused.

“I mean, it was a fake. A conjuration. By me. To cover my tracks, so that I could kill THIS GUY!” the agent exclaimed, waving his blaster in front of the unconscious Henserton’s face.

“You’re telling me I stormed this building and past a swarm of guards for nothing?” the bounty hunter lamented, displaying a saddened disappointment rather than true anger.

“Consider it a learning experience,” the agent coldly advised.

“The only thing I’m considering right now, is that you owe me,” the bounty hunter stated, directing his blaster toward the agent.

“I don’t owe you anything. You should know how your business works. You win some. You lose some. You just lost some. Now, would you mind telling me what you plan to do with that blaster with the ray shield still between us?”

“After you kill Henserton, how are you going to escape?”

“Disengage window plating. Shatter glass. Step outside. Simple.”

“How confident are you that you’ll be able to raise the plating without disengaging the ray shield?”

The agent paused. The bounty hunter obviously wasn’t the complete idiot he thought he was. In a moment of crisis, he possessed quite the astute mind.

“Fine. I’ll head back up the vent, exit the way I came in,” the agent proclaimed.

The bounty hunter panned the wall on his side of the room. To his left, he noticed a grate on the upper extremity of the wall. Directing his left arm toward it, he fired an explosive dart. The detonation shook the room, and produced a sizable gap in the ventilation system. The agent was growing increasingly annoyed.

“I can find another route.”

“Can you?”

“Fine! What do you want?”

“The bounty I was promised. Twelve thousand.”

“Ten thousand, you were going to deliver him to an imaginary address.”

“Twelve thousand.”

“You know what? I’ll take my chances,” the agent stated, directing his blaster toward his target.

“Pull that trigger and you sign your death sentence,” the hunter warned.

“Why? You certainly aren’t opposed to killing someone if you’re threatening me. Why are you keeping me from doing my job?”

“Because you violated the sanctity of mine.”

“Sanctity? You kill and hunt people for a living in exchange for credits.”

“Sometimes we protect people as well. And Henserton offered me a job if I would ignore the bounty. Since the bounty was a fake, I think I’ll take him up on it.”

“Yeah, I heard that conversation,” the agent dismissed. “You turned him down because you might get bored…”

“That was when I thought I would be the most dangerous man to oppose him. Now, that person is you. And I’m always up for a good fight.”

“There’s nothing ‘good’ about a fight you can’t win.”

A soft chuckle emanated from beneath the hunter’s helm. “You think you can get past my gear with that little blaster and knife?”

“I know I can. And you do too, otherwise you wouldn’t oppose me. You’re only interest in this exchange stems from the promise of a challenge.”

“I guess you have a point.”

“A point that I’ll have no qualms inserting into your neck should you continue impeding my assignment.”

“I can see you know you’re stuff, but if you think you can slip that knife past this armor…”

“Segmented suit of powered armor. Plates encapsulating a sturdy flexsuit. Explosive armament build into left arm. Personal shield generator. Jetpack. I see seven spots in your defenses I could exploit,” the agent explained.

“Assuming you can get close enough. Even then, I think my equipment outmatches yours,” the hunter boasted.

Holstering his blaster, the agent took ahold of his vibroknife. The blade firmly gripped in his hand, the agent stabbed the reinforced glass pane behind him. The knife embedded itself only a tiny amount before being stopped by the armored plate that rested on the pane’s exterior. Staring the hunter down, the agent activated the vibroknife, causing the entire plane of glass to instantly shatter and fall to the floor, cascading down on the unconscious body of Henserton.

“Unlike you,” the agent mocked, “I operate with the epitome of practicality. I use only what I need. Only what I completely understand. Only what I am capable of using to the greatest possible degree. I do not wing it. I do not toss around explosives. I do not venture into the uncalculated. That is why you would do well not to face me. Especially if you are doing so only because of pride, credits, or some sick sense of entertainment.”

Interrupted the heated exchange, the agent’s droid lightly descended from the ventilation shaft above. Chirping with an assortment of electronic chirps, the droid began to project a series of data.

“CorSec dispatch,” the droid’s speaker spoke in an authoritative female voice. “There’s trouble in District 13. That’s right. Henserton. His donations have ceased to sufficiently earn the man his privacy. Investigate the incident and expect extreme hostility.”

“Reggie, deactivate the room’s defense systems,” the agent directed his droid, never breaking eye contact with the helmed hunter. The droid rotated its eye toward the armored figure beyond the ray shield before hesitantly returning it toward the agent. “Yes, all of them.”

The data screen projected by the droid flashed red as it wirelessly tapped into the local security systems. The first system to drop was the ray shield separating the hunter and agent. The two refused to act, but also refused to wrest their sights from one another.

“So, how do you want to do this?” the hunter calmly asked.

“We both know that how I would like to do this is out of the question.”

“Fair point.”

“You still going to keep this up? Even with CorSec on its way?”

“I’m in no hurry.”

“How wonderful that must be for you,” the agent sardonically offered. Just as the metallic plate that previously blocked the window rescinded, the door allowing entrance to the room did as well. Behind it, tightly grouped on the preceding walkway, a number of guards were standing with their weapons raised toward the hunter. Blind to the particulars of the scene before them, they saw only the man that had made fools of them.

As the hunter turned to address sounds he heard behind him, the agent grasped the unconscious Henserton by the chest, each hand full of luxurious fabric, and flung him out the window. The Councilor fell, meter after meter, story after story, until colliding with the ground below. Blaster fire poured into the office from the gathered guards, and the armored intruder promptly retaliated, unaware of the events taking place behind him.

As bolt after bolt impacted against his shield and armor, the hunter turned toward the window to see Henserton gone, and the agent holding on to the hovering droid by a small handle, one foot placed upon the empty windowsill. Ignoring the building’s defenders, the hunter charged toward the agent, leaping over the desk and tackling him, sending them both plummeting toward the surface streets below. The impact of the armored bruiser forced the agent to release his grip on his mechanical companion.

Igniting his jetpack along the descent, the grappling pair surged forward rather than up, crashing through a window of the adjacent building. The one atop which the agent had originally been.
-------------------- The Fan Fiction Index --------------------

Osetto's Avatar


Osetto
04.21.2012 , 08:41 PM | #5
Chapter Five


The agent and the hunter crashed through the window of the adjacent building, forcefully impacting against the floor of a narrow hallway. The two figures landed on their sides and slid further away from their entrance point. They were within each other’s reach, but offer little movement from their prone positions aside from the errant shift and writhing of pain. Arching his back, trying to catch his breath, the agent couldn’t react to the rising bounty hunter.

Looking to his left and right, the bounty hunter peered toward the two extremities of the hallway in which he stood. To his left, shattered glass lay next to the sheer drop to the city streets below. From beyond the threshold of the building, the hunter picked up the sights and sounds of approaching CorSec officers. To his right, an unremarkable hallway populated by numerous doors leading to residential apartments, terminating at a pair of elevators. At his feet, an agent, now mentally recovered, whirling upon his back and sweeping the hunter’s leg with his.

The hunter fell to his back with a resounding thud. The agent raised himself over his opponent, and the hunter promptly raised his blaster at the looming agent. A bolt rang out and flew over the agent’s shoulder as he nimbly ducked to the side. Wrestling the hunter’s arm to the ground, the agent was unable to force his foe to release the weapon from his grip.

Stepping on the hunter’s wrist, the hunter was unable to raise his blaster, but the agent did not notice the armored fist driving itself into the back of his knee. The agent crumbled on top of the hunter, where the two continued their quarrel. With little room to maneuver and recover, the once tactical and martial utilization of skills and weaponry was eschewed in favor of wild, primal strikes.

Soon, both fighters found that any attempt to reach for a weapon was folly, and instead exchanged blows in hand to hand combat, neither combatant ever truly returning to an upright, standing position. With little more than thick tactical grade clothes protecting his hide, the agent could not afford to allow the hunter to land any blows. Armored fists would instead impact against the floor, leaving a visible indent in their wake. The agent knew he could not affect any areas of the hunter’s body currently protected by armored plates. Instead he targeted the suit’s weaknesses. Soft spots. Neck. Joints. He utilized quick jabs and strikes, making sure he didn’t lose concentration and start making mistakes. Eventually, however, he did.

One errant swipe of the hunter’s fist across his opponents jaw caused the agent to recoil in pain. Capitalizing on the agent’s momentary rescinding, the hunter stood over the felled human. Exhausted, the hunter looked around and picked his blaster up from the floor. As he pointed his blaster toward his prone foe, the hunter and agent locked eyes beneath their respective visors. Time came to a standstill. Everything faded away from the two men’s senses. They were two foes with nothing but a blaster between them.

No longer trapped by the confinement of the hallway. No longer plagued by the sirens and shouts from the Corellian streets outside. Silence. Peace. Within the hunter’s helm, the armored warrior saw only the man that lay before him, heard only the intense breathing that resonated inside his own visor. Nothing else mattered. Nothing else could phase the hunter. Nothing else could affect his senses.

Suddenly, the hunter writhed with a shock as an electrical field wrapped itself around him and surged through his entire body. First stiff, then limp, the hunter fell forward and toppled on top of the agent. Peering beyond the hunter, the agent saw his droid hovering between them and the window, a sharp appendage emanating from its spherical chassis. The spike continued sparking with electricity before being retracted, the droid bouncing with a positive beep.

“Thanks Reggie,” the agent muttered, utterly exhausted and trying his hardest to remove the heavy figure currently laying on top of him. Eventually, the agent succeeded and slowly raised himself up off of the ground. Sliding. Shifting. Using the nearby wall as leverage. Leaning against the wall, the agent peered to both ends of the hallway, taking the short moment to get a better understanding of the scene. Stumbling over toward the gap in the end of the that used to be a window, the agent peered downward and witnessed CorSec officers examining the fallen corpse of Henserton.

Special forces detachment of the local security forces. Armed. Armored. Skilled. Accompanied by more casual investigators. Together, they surrounded Henserton’s building, establishing a perimeter. Investigators below examined the body. One looked up. The agent ducked away. He wasn’t sure if they saw him, but they definitely saw the now missing window. Security forces below began to enter the building that currently housed the agent and the hunter. The agent couldn’t see this. Didn’t need to. He had already begun his trek toward the elevators at the other end of the hall.

As the agent lurched toward his destination, neither leg performing at top condition, an exasperated local cracked the door of one of the residential apartment doors. She could only offer a few words of protest toward the ruckus that had previously ensued before she caught sight of what might have actually occurred. She saw the armored figure lay stilled on the ground. Saw the heavy coated man bearing a visor across his eyes, accompanied by a hovering droid. Without another word, she retreated into the safety of her home.

A witness. A bystander. She had seen the agent. But she couldn’t have possibly understood what she witnessed. Zero liability. Not worth the effort. The agent continued toward the elevators without pause. Pair of standard lifts. Utilitarian. Simple. Less than two meters wide each. Rightmost elevator inoperable. Still out of service and locked down, one part of the agent’s plan that remained intact. Lower level than originally intended, but the fact made little difference.

Issuing an order to his droid, the agent drew his blade. After a confirmatory chirp, and an audible click of the machinery behind the elevator’s doors, the agent dug his knife into the crack between the elevator’s dual doors. With a quick thrust of his weight sideways, the agent generated a small gap between the two heavy metallic doors. Returning the blade to his side, the agent grasped at the two slabs and slowly parted them. After an exhausting show of force, the doors parted fully, allowing travel into the abyssal shaft that descended toward the ground floor.

Peering down, there was no motion in the shaft below. Only stilled shadows. The agent’s droid positioned itself into the shaft, parallel with its owner’s level. A red light flashed from the machine’s eye, and shined into the darkness of the lower levels. No abnormalities. No signs of CorSec having had any influences on the path as of yet. As the agent was about to recall his droid, he felt a powerful tug on his right arm.

The hunter had risen. The hunter had moved to his flank. One hand on the agent’s shoulder, the other on his wrist, the hunter wrung and twisted the agent’s arm, bringing the agent to his knees. His right arm being pulled behind him, the agent clawed at his own shoulder, but was unable to regain control of his arm. The droid in the shaft quickly rotated to face its owner’s attacker, baring its electrical spike.

“Shock me now, and that current’ll just travel on right through to your master,” the hunter warned the droid. Hesitantly, the hovering orb rescinded its weapon, and gazed in as solemn a fashion as it could toward its injured owner.

“Why?” the agent grunted through clenched teeth.

“The armor absorbed the shock. It didn’t knock me out so much as the suit just momentarily locked up,” the hunter explained with an air of superiority.

“I said ‘why’, not ‘how’. Why didn’t you just push me down the elevator shaft and be done with it?” the agent reprimanded.

“Maybe… I think myself above such actions,” the hunter responded.

“Maybe… I don’t,” the agent admitted. With a jerk, the agent’s grasped arm popped out of place. Stunned, the hunter kept his grip secure as the agent rolled his body forward. Using the greater flexibility of his dislocated arm, and fighting through the intense pain, the agent kicked the hunter’s leg out from under him and rolled the hunter over his back and into the shaft in front of him. Remarkably, the hunter released his grip on the agent as he plummeted into the darkness below.

The agent lay prone, peering over the edge into the darkness below. A loud clang resounded up the shaft as the armored hunter impacted on a metallic surface below. The agent struggled to move himself from his face down positioning. Pain circulated throughout his entire body. He had lost functionality of his right arm. Looking up, the agent saw his droid hovering inquisitively close to his face.

“I’m alright, Reggie,” the agent lied. Using his left arm, the agent clawed at the floor and drug himself away from the open shaft. Somehow, he managed to get to his knees. Singlehandedly removing the satchel from his shoulder, the agent placed the bag in front of him and opened it. He rummaged through its contents, eventually retrieving a compact cylinder bearing green and white markings. Popping off a plastic cap, the device revealed a small injection needle. Examining his own body, the agent couldn’t rightly pick a place to inject himself, eventually settling on his thigh. Shifting, the agent, placed his back against the wall between the two elevators, eventually slumping to the ground. There he remained, propped against the solid surface, legs outstretched before him, droid hovering gently at his side.

“Reggie, contact base,” the agent dimly commanded, removing the tactical visor from his face. The man rapidly blinked his eyes as he adjusting to his now HUD-less view of the world. The droid repositioned itself to the agent’s front as it opened communications with headquarters. A miniature blue hologram of an Imperial official emanated from the droid’s projector. Young. Female. Discontented.

“Agent, we’ve received troubling news about your operation. We’re you able to complete your objectives?” the female Watcher sped through her speech.

“Yes, sir,” the agent groggily confirmed. “Henserton has been eliminated.”

“I’m not reading this call as originating from your ship. What is your current location?”

“In the building adjacent to the target. Eighteenth… sixteenth floor… maybe, I’m not entirely sure.”

“Agent, you’re only permitted to contact us on secured channels.”

“The droid is secure, don’t worry about that.”

“Why haven’t you moved on to extraction by now?”

“Ran into… a bit of trouble. A bounty hunter… came after the fake bounty we posted. Wasn’t too… appreciative of the ruse.”

“A bounty hunter. How is that even possible?”

“I don’t rightly know. He… complicated things a bit. I’m injured. Might not make it back. Just thought I’d sign off… with a confirmation of me completing my mission.”

“Your mission had parameters, one of which was you not leaving any evidence of our organization’s involvement. Your continued presence defies that parameter.”

“I understand. I know Keeper won’t exactly… be pleased with my performance. I know termination… awaits me should I return. I’ll dispose of myself quietly, you won’t have to worry about me negatively affecting the Empire,” the agent dutifully stated through slow breaths. There was a moment of silence as the Watcher contemplated future actions. As the agent’s handler ceased communications, the operative found himself drifting into sleep.

“Agent!” the Watcher reopened communications. “What is the status of the hunter you encountered?”

The agent woke himself up and groggily tilted his head to the left before answering. “He’s at the bottom of an elevator shaft.”

“Is he alive?”

“Knowing him… probably.”

“Agent, are you aware of Project Tinderbox?”

“It may be because of the meds, but I’m currently drawing a blank.”

“Agent, if you can ally yourself with the hunter, and depart Corellia with him, you will be forgiven for your mishandling of the operation.”

“Are you serious?” The agent muttered, in cold disbelief rather than delightful shock.

“Yes. Return with the bounty hunter and you will have earned your pardon,” the Watcher stated as she ceased communications. The agent let out a prolonged groan.

“Reggie… you have anything on this Project Tinderbox?” the agent inquired. The droid’s data screen projected in front on the agent’s face. Imperial Intelligence in search of bounty hunters. Preferably, individuals not currently affiliated with the Mandalorians. Bounty hunter would receive additional resources in exchange for operating under Imperial guidance. The details stopped there. Sliding himself along wall, the agent inched toward the open shaft.

“Hunter… you still alive?” the agent shouted into the depths. The scene was wrapped in silence for many moments.

“Yeah,” the hunter hesitantly shouted back.

“What’s your status?”

“Alright. Fall locked up my armor. Should be back up and running soon.” The hunter was proving as hard to kill as the agent had previously thought.

“Would you be interested in a business proposition?” the agent inquired.

“That depends,” the hunter remarked after a brief pause.

“I promise you’ll get the amount promised to you in the bounty and much much more.”

“Is this something we should be shouting back and forth.”

“I suppose not. Are you interested enough to not try and kill me if I come down?”

“Maybe.”

“I don’t do maybe.”

“Then yes.”
-------------------- The Fan Fiction Index --------------------

Lawsie's Avatar


Lawsie
04.22.2012 , 07:58 PM | #6
brilliant, simply brilliant

Osetto's Avatar


Osetto
04.26.2012 , 09:43 PM | #7
Chapter Six


After a deep breath, the agent shifting himself into sitting upright. Raising his left arm, Reggie immediately floated over and allowed the agent to grasp it’s lower handle. The agent bent his legs under and pulled himself upward with the aid of his droid. Now standing, the agent felt woozy and numb, his right arm hung limply downward. Stumbling over to his satchel, the agent retrieved his belonging before returning to the open elevator shaft. Peering past the shadowed threshold, the agent saw only the faint outline of objects that made up the bottom far below.

With a nod toward his droid, the agent gripped the droid’s handle and stepped into the abyssal shaft, single-handedly hanging on with all his remaining strength. The duo slowly descended the shaft, eventually landing next to the fallen bounty hunter. The two figures found themselves atop the roof of the elevator that lay dormant at the building’s ground floor.

“Are you going to try anything funny?” the agent tersely asked.

“What would you consider funny?” the hunter jovially countered from his prone position.

“Not that,” the agent admitted. “I have an extended job proposition that I would like to offer on behalf of the Sith Empire.”

“Really? So I assume that means you’re with Intelligence. What do you want with someone like me?”

“In exchange for the acceptance of Imperial sanctioned bounties and missions, you will be granted an additional boon of support in addition to standard sums of credits. Information. Training. Technology. Transportation. Bastion.”

“Why would you need bounty hunters? Don’t they have guys like you to get those kind of jobs done?”

“You and people of your profession work for hire, whilst displaying remarkable feats of individualism. Despite the Republic’s strict regulations regarding your profession, chances are, you’re going to go against the Empire sooner or later. We’d prefer it if you were on our side. The Empire respects talent. Power. Skill. Your kind are capable of extraordinary exploits and possess leeway when it comes to various aspects of inter-political dynamics. With the war over, you can do things we can’t.”

“Eh?”

“You can move and act with much more freedom than soldiers and agents of the Empire, especially since the Treaty of Coruscant. We desire that freedom, and seek to cultivate it. Perform well, and you will be a value member of Imperial society.”

“This all sounds too good to be true.”

“Because it probably is.”

“You’re certainly candid.”

“Look, I’m not going to paint the Empire as some benevolent force looking to uphold the sacred honor of bounty hunting. You are a useful tool, who will be utilized until you are no longer useful. But that shouldn’t come as a surprise to you. That’s how it is for bounty hunters, regardless of employer. You stop delivering results, you stop getting hired. I’m proposing a steady relationship free of the dreadful consequences of dealing with the Hutts on a regular basis. Are you skilled?”

“Yes.”

“Do you desire a chance to put your skills to the test?”

“Yes.”

“Then accept my offer.”

“And if I refuse?”

“Then we probably die before we take a step outside this building. We’re surrounded by CorSec special forces. I know a way out under this building that could help us slip away. Otherwise, you’re stuck here, or if you find your own way out, you get struck down by the security officers patrolling the city streets. I meanwhile, having unsuccessfully completed my mission within the established parameters, have no future within the Empire unless I can offset my failure by bringing in a powerful new ally.”

“Hmm,” the hunter muttered. “What can I say? You’ve convinced me. Consider me in the employ of the Empire.”

“I will,” the agent plainly said. “Can you move?”

“Yeah, just a little stiff.” As the hunter shifted off of his back, the agent lent the armored warrior his good hand. Upright, the two stared at one another through blank stares, the hunter’s featureless helm and the agent’s calm and composed visage. Tilting his head, the hunter noticed the agent’s awkward stance. “So, did you really dislocate your shoulder just to throw me down this shaft?”

“Yes,” the agent coldly stated after a pause.

“Pretty cool,” the hunter admitted. “So what do I call you?”

“Agent.”

“Not very personal.”

“No. It isn’t,” the agent tersely stated. The hunter cocked his head, refusing to break away from the agent’s face. “Fine. Sebastus. Agent Sebastus.”

“Excellent! You can call me Zerek,” the hunter offered with an enthusiastic wave of his hand. The agent’s entire body tensed when he heard the hunter’s name.

The last letter in the Aurebesh alphabet. A familiar call-sign. In fact, much of the bounty hunter seemed familiar. The armor. The armament. It was more than familiarity with the trade. It was knowledge specific to the agent. Knowledge he possessed, regarding tech the hunter should not have.

“Zerek,” the agent calmly repeated, masking his thoughts. “Pleasure to have someone such as yourself as an ally.”

“Same here. That was one hell of a fight you put up,” Zerek complimented. “I’ve never experienced resistance like that from a soft target before.”

“I respect your talent. It would have been a shame if I was forced to kill you,” Sebastus remarked.

“Well, assuming you could kill me.”

“Well, I think I was pretty close.”

“Do I look injured to you? Pretty sure only one of us is lacking functionality of an arm.”

“I’d dislocate the second one if it got the job done.”

“Hah! Dedicated. I like that. Who knows, you might have actually beaten me,” Zerek offered.

“Would have,” Sebastus corrected.

“Hey, you’re the only one here with something to lose, if you want to start this up again…”

“Never mind, let’s just get moving,” Sebastus directed, taking charge. “CorSec is likely combing through this building. The lobby will be flooded. Eventually they’ll work their way toward the floor above and notice the gaping elevator shaft. Follow me.”

The agent waved his droid forward, prompting the orb to shine a light illuminating area surrounding the pair. On top of the elevator, the only way to go was down. Carefully climbing with his only functional arm, the agent lowered himself off of the metallic box and into the gap between the two elevator shafts. With a hefty leap, the hunter hopped off the lift and absorbed the entirety of the impact with barely a bend in his knees.

Focusing on the walls opposite the elevator doors, the agent further lowered himself into a maintenance tunnel that ran perpendicular to the lifts. The corridor was just tall enough to allow the average Human to stand upright, but was far from wide. But it was the only way out.

The mechanical orb made its way into the tunnel, illuminating the narrow path. Squeezing themselves into the maintenance shaft, the agent and hunter followed, forced to walk sideway as they made their escape. As they made their way deeper, the various pipes and wires that lined the walls nicked at the duo’s backs. But they proceeded undeterred. Eyes forever forward.

“Zerek, where is your ship docked?” Sebastus asked, never stopping his movement.

“Don’t have a ship,” the bounty hunter plainly admitted.

“What?”

“What?”

“How did you get to Corellia then?”

“Public shuttle.”

“Who lets someone like you get on a public shuttle?”

“Who stops someone like me from getting on a public shuttle?”

“Fair point.”

“Did have some trouble with customs services and CorSec, though,” Zerek admitted. “Had to pay off more than a few individuals.”

“Somehow, I sincerely doubt that your expenditures for this mission came in under the twelve thousand you were expecting from the Henserton bounty.”

“Probably. Then again, Henserton wasn’t the reason I was on Corellia. I just happened to come across the bounty and thought to act on it.”

“How could you possibly act with such impulsiveness?”

“It’s just how I work. Things rarely go as planned, so why bother?”

“Things usually go as planned so long as it’s a good plan.”

“Was it not a good plan this time?”

“It was a good plan. Sometimes, I admit, there are wildcards that even I can’t account for.”

“So you adapt.”

“Correct.”

“See, we’re not so different.”

“Yes, we are.”

“Pretty stubborn, aren’t you?” Zerek quipped, before accidentally banging the his head on a pipe. “D’ow. Couldn’t find us a way out that didn’t depend on being a spindly assassin?”

“This was supposed to me my original escape route before you interrupted my mission. You’ll understand if I didn’t plan for our particular contingency.”

“Right, right. So where are we heading. Do you have a ship waiting?”

“Yes. It’s docked in a private hangar in the main Coronet Starport.”

“What’s she like?”

“I’m sorry?” Sebastus replied confusingly.

“Your ship, what’s she like?” Zerek clarified.

“It’s an object. Honestly, bounty hunters and their need to personify their toys,” Sebastus muttered.

The agent’s droid bounced as the group reached the end of their travels. Searching along the wall, Sebastus came across a control panel that caused a large panel to lift itself from the tunnel’s wall, producing an exit. Leaving the maintenance pathway, the group stepped into the larger hall of the building’s basement level. Every surface of the dimly lit corridor was formed out of smooth duracrete. Simple. Gray. Just like the streets above.

Continuing their trek down the stony hallway, the group followed the hovering orb.

“What about the droid? You seem pretty attached to it. Gave it a name… what was it again?” Zerek inquired.

“Reggie,” said Sebastus.

“Huh. Not very traditional now is it?” Zerek teased.

“It’s a nickname,” Sebastus explained. “When I first met him, I asked for his designation. The only reply he gave me was ‘Unregistered’. No numbers or letters. No matter how many ways I’d ask, he wouldn’t give me a different answer.”

“You said ’He’? Are those masculine beeps and boops then?” Zerek further teased.

“Alright, alright. So the droid is more than a random tool to me,” Sebastus admitted, prompting the droid to emit a series of jaunty beeps.

After a few minutes of traveling in the sub-levels of the establishment, the group neared an exit to the surface. Ahead were set of doors. Doors connected to a short set of stairs. Stairs connected to the city streets of Coronet. Once outside, the pair could slip past the perimeter surrounding the crime scene and make their way to the starport. Hopefully.

Almost to their destination, the agent and the hunter passed a hallway bearing a frightful sight.

The agent looked down a hall that intersected theirs. To the right of the T-intersection, he saw two CorSec officers on approach. Time stopped. For a moment, the officers hadn’t even noticed the two figures that stepped into view. That moment was fleeting however. One of the officers shouted a command to the agent and hunter. The command went utterly ignored as the two figures darted out of few.

“Don’t bother with them,” Sebastus directed, continuing down the original path. “Just keep moving.”

“Believe it or not, I don’t make a habit of leaving dead bodies in my wake,” Zerek countered.

The two were upon the doors that would lead them out onto the city streets. Sebastus reached out with his left hand, only to find the doors were locked, with no way to unlock them from the interior. As the two officers rounded the corner and offered another shout, Zerek quickly drew his blaster and planted two blue bolts straight into the pursuers’ chests.

“What was that about not leaving dead bodies?” Sebastus chided.

“Keyword: dead. Blaster’s set to stun, has been since before Henserton,” Zerek explained. “Don’t kill unless I have to.”

“Pretty sure I heard more than a few explosives back at Henserton’s,” Sebastus reminded the hunter.

“All controlled demolitions. Speaking of which, back up,” Zerek advised. The agent quickly stepped back as the bounty hunter shot an explosive dart at the door’s locking mechanism. The blast blew open the doors apart, the majority of the explosion’s energy directed outward. Beyond the mangled slabs of metal, the streets of Coronet awaited.

“So much for stealth. Go! Go! Go!” Sebastus directed, sprinting up the blackened steps.

The pair had to get a grasp of their environment. Quick glances were made in every direction. Blockades stood to the left and right. The noise from the explosion had caught the attention of the officers station at the blockades. The agent hurriedly waved for the hunter to follow. Sprinting across the street, the duo and their droid ducked into an alleyway. The fugitives maintained their pace. They darting between confined alleyways and open streets. They darted between the dark of night and the light of streetlamps and neon billboards. They established a pattern. Cross the street. Navigate alleyway. Cross the street. Navigate the alleyway.

The agent and the hunter had no idea which direction they were heading, whether it was even toward the starport, they just knew that they needed to remain in motion. That motion however came to an abrupt halt as they exited an alleyway only to find their progress impeded by an urban cliff. A shear drop in the industrial architecture, leading to a river that ran through the district over a hundred meters below.

“Damnit,” Sebastus muttered. Looking around, there wasn’t much in the way of options. Trying to go left or right would just leave them an open target for the pursuing officers. Retreat was impossible, the lights and sounds of sirens already fast approaching their rear.

“Sebastus, look,” Zerek exclaimed, jutting his hand forward. The agent looked, and saw that there was some sort of structure hovering in the middle of the urban canyon. It ran long, thin, and parallel with the river. And most importantly, it stood at the same height as the pair. “Looks to be a bridge.”

“Bridges run perpendicular to rivers, not parallel,” Sebastus argued. “How is that supposed to help us across?”

“I can’t jump the full gap, but I can make it in two if we land on that platform.”

“Are you capable of making a jump that accurate?”

“It’s our only option.”

“That’s not answering my question!”

“Look we can’t jump down to the river. It’s an industrial flow through, if the chemicals don’t get us, we’ll just get dragged into some mechanical processor by the powerful current. You’re going to have to trust me. Wrap your arm around me and hold onto your droid,” Zerek advised. Looking down the immense fall that awaited if they missed, Sebastus let out a harsh sigh.

“We could have avoided this if you hadn’t caused an explosion,” Sebastus mumbled. Pacing about, the agent could waste no more time. “Fine.”

Sebastus threw his left arm around the hunter’s neck. Zerek slid his right arm around the agent’s waist, prompting a wince as he disturbed the agent’s dislocated limb. Reggie offered a single chirp as he went ahead, repulsors granting his a gentle flight path above the precipitous drop. Meanwhile, the conjoined pair secured their relative grips.

“Alright. 3… 2…” Zerek counted down, before being interrupted by barking CorSec officers raising their weapons against the criminals.

Igniting his jetpack, the hunter ran forward, almost lifting the agent off his feet before they had even begun their flight. With a powerful leap, the armored figure took off, assisted by the propulsion provided by his jetpack. Tightening his grip, the agent watched with intense fear as he and the hunter flew through the air in a heavy arc. As the pair began their rapid decent, Sebastus began to focus, maneuvering his body to ensure they landed on the platform ahead.

Their feet planting themselves on the platform, the forward momentum caused the teo men to continue forward, slipping over the far edge of the bridge. Clamping his gauntlet upon the metallic ledge, the hunter gripped on with all the might he and his armor would allow. Reggie zoomed forward, offering its handle to the agent, who promptly used it to lift himself up. Kneeling down, the agent office his good hand to the hanging hunter. The two connected, the weight of the armored figure nearly dragging Sebastus back over the ledge. But they persevered. And eventually, they both had a solid surface beneath their feet.

Looking back, the agent saw the officers standing at the cliff they had left behind, unsure of how to pursue. Only a few second later, they scrambled. With no imminent danger, Sebastus examined his surroundings. The surface upon which they stood stretched into the darkness in both directions, maintaining a consistent width no matter the distance.

“See, told you I could do it,” Zerek excitedly declared, standing upright.

“Yes, yes. It was a fine display. Now, do we go try for another, or just follow the path of the platform?”

Before he could receive an answer, the agent began to feel a slight vibration in his feet. Looking around for an explanation, Sebastus saw a sharp light in the distance growing ever closer.

“This isn’t a bridge. It’s a track…”
-------------------- The Fan Fiction Index --------------------

Osetto's Avatar


Osetto
05.10.2012 , 02:01 AM | #8
Chapter Seven


The duo watched in horror as the fast-approaching light of the Corellian Rocket Tram closed in on their position. It was distant. Little more than a flicker on the horizon. But that would soon change.

“The tram… rocket tram!” Sebastus shouted, shaking the armored pauldron of his ally. Utterly calm, Zerek peered past the agent to study the incoming vehicle. Releasing his grip, Sebastus stepped to the edge of the track, directing his gaze downward.

“Zerek, there’s a lower track right under us. If we swung over the edge, we could land on it,” Sebastus explained. Instead of a reply, the agent found the hunter wrapping his arm around him once more.

“Grab your droid, we’re going over,” Zerek directed.

“My arm’s good enough to maneuver myself to the lower track,” Sebastus replied.

“Not over the edge. Over the tram.”

The agent’s eyes shot open. “Are you insane?”

“A little. Then again, a little insanity could probably help us right about now. Now, are you going to grab your droid or not?”

Seeing no place to argue with the hunter, Sebastus grabbed hold of Reggie as Zerek positioned himself.

“Um, Zerek, the tram is coming from the other direction,” Sebastus anxiously said, looking over his shoulder toward his approaching tram.

“Exactly. We’re catching a ride.”

The tram almost on them, Zerek took a running start with his back toward the speeding vehicle. The hunter ignited his jetpack, cylinders flaring with a roaring fire. With a mighty leap, he dragged his compatriots forward and into the air. A moment later, the tram passed beneath them. A moment after that, the group collided with room of the high-speed tube.

The hunter bounced and slid across the smooth, metallic surface. With one arm, he gripped the agent. With the other, he furiously search for some sort of purchase. Finally, the armored figure’s gauntlet managed to claw around one of the few edges atop the public transport. Bellies against the roof of the rocket tram, the two men had stopped, but were not motionless.

Hugging the hard, gray surface with all his strength, the hunter kept them secured as the tram continued undeterred by its exterior passengers. The single-car vessel followed its route, propelled by dependable Corellian engineering.

“Do you always work like this?” Sebastus shouted, barely able to overcome the noise of the passing air and the tram’s rear turbine.

“Things aren’t usually this fun!” Zerek exclaimed between boisterous chuckles.

“You call this fun?” Sebastus countered.

“What? Never hitched a ride on a dangerously speeding mode of transportation by grabbing ahold of its roof?”

“I tend to lean toward riding on the inside of anything propelled via rocket!”

“I’m sure if it weren’t for CorSec and your bad arm, you’d enjoy this quite a lot!”

“Somehow, I doubt that! Do you even know where we are heading?”

“HUD says… East… ish.”

“Finally, some good news!” Sebastus relayed. “We’re heading toward the starport! CorSec shouldn’t have any blockades set up this far away from the scene as of yet, and traffic’s too dense for aerial support. We should be able to…” Sebastus began to inform, before glimpsing what lay ahead on the tram line. “Is that the station?”

“It would appear so,” Zerek answered.

“Does that energy barrier look like it permits extraneous organic material?”

“Huh?”

“People riding atop trams!”

“Oh.”

The elevated tram was heading toward a large square building, where a series of platforms and ramps would allow passengers to disembark and return to the Corellian streets on foot. Unfortunately, the face of the station that accepted arriving and departing trams bared a shimmering, purple energy barrier.

“Maybe it shuts off when the tram gets near,” Zerek offered.

“Even so, we’ll be arriving in the station on top of a tram. Assuming we we’re seem by the people there, there’s still cameras and sensors in place that-”

“Then it looks like we’re jumping off early,” Zerek informed the panicking agent.

“Now, wait a second…” Sebastus was able to utter before the hunter released his grip on the tram’s roof. Kicking himself off the transport, the embracing pair tumbled over the side of the track. Luckily the track had reached a point of hovering over the city streets of Coronet rather than some river of industrial run-off. Unluckily, it was still a sizable drop. As they plummeted toward the ground, Zerek ignited his jetpack to slow their descent.

The group’s increased weight, however, worked against them, sending them crashing into the ground with a still forceful impact. Releasing their grips on one another, each landed on the ground below and rolled with the motions expected of someone in their profession. The agent remained composed with a martial etiquette, rolling forward with grace. The hunter remained ever boisterous and suffered through as much of the impact as he could before tumbling forward. Looking up from his prone position, Zerek saw that while his landing had appeared to be without fault, the agent lay upon the cold pavement clutching at his previously dislocated arm.

“Agent… you alright,” Zerek asked with genuine concern.

“Arrrgh… yeah,” Sebastus muttered through gritted teeth. “Arm might have popped back in place… or it might be worse off. In a bit too much pain for proper diagnosis.”

Reggie hovered close to the fallen agent’s face, offering his own beeps of concern. Slowly, the agent tried to raise himself, rotating his right shoulder with slight inquisitiveness. Scanning the surrounding area, Sebastus saw that they weren’t completely alone. In a new district, the night streets nearing the Corellian starport held its share of pedestrians in the distance. Some of which began to take notice of the audibly and visibly loud duo that just jumped off the track of the rocket tram.

“Time to move, hunter,” Sebastus ordered, now standing and having regained rudimentary use of his right arm. “Reggie, lead us to Entry Point Dorn.”

The spherical droid pepped itself up and took charge, leading the way for the agent and hunter.

“Where we heading?” Zerek curiously inquired.

“Side entrance of the starport. Hidden away. Unmonitored. We’ll sneak in and make our way to docking bay 18,” Sebastus explained as he jogged behind the guiding droid.

“Think we’ll meet resistance?” Zerek asked, keeping up his stride.

“I’m doing everything I can to minimize contact with security forces. I hope you won’t be disappointed if we can get through this without any further confrontations?”

“I get the idea that you think I’m some sort of unhinged person…” Zerek commented, seemingly glum.

“Says the man who literally jumped on and off a moving rocket tram,” Sebastus sardonically replied.

“I can’t help it if I enjoy living vicariously…”

“I don’t think you’re using that word correctly.”

“Is our entire experience together going to be defined by your disagreement with my methods?”

“To be fair, your methods are fairly disagreeable to someone in my position.”

“You’re no fun.”

The two had made their way to the starport, passing through alleyways and shadowed paths trying to stay out of the eye of the wandering civilian population that remained in the streets. Little to no signs of CorSec in the immediate area. Peering around the corner of the city block, the front entrance of the starport rested clear in the agent’s view. A series of droids buzzed around the entrance. Some designs for astromechanics. Some for communications. Some for hostile pacification.

In time, a few uniformed officers moved into view. Planting their feet, setting their sights on the horizon, it became clear that they were more than the building’s usual security. They were there to prevent the criminals’ escape. CorSec moved fast. Ground forces had been scrambled and posted at key locations. There was safety above the planet’s surface, but it was fleeting. Soon, speeders would populate the skies. Soon, fighters would patrol the surrounding space, intercepting the pair before they could make the jump to hyperspace. A balance of caution and speed had to be reached, for only doom awaited if the scales tipped to far toward one approach.

With a stealthy haste, the agent and the hunter circled around toward the flanking walls of the starport, terminating their journey at a service door set in a recessed hideaway. Drifting toward a nearby control panel, Reggie patched into the door’s security systems whilst Zerek and Sebastus eagerly waited for a way in. The next few seconds passed in silence, without interruption, stretching to their limits in the minds of the fleeing pair. Eventually, the automatic door raised itself, permitting the duo entry into an unpopulated hallway.

Making their way toward hangar 18, the hunter and the agent moved with a tempered swiftness, their gazes darting side to side and down each passing hallway in search of any signs of opposition. With no apparent CorSec presence this deep into the building, Sebastus knew that they were in the clear if they could just get to his ship. At the threshold of the appropriate hangar, the agent’s mood immediately calmed, wiping away any evidence of haste. Of concern. Of pain.

Only an automated lift rest between the group and their means of escape. The agent entered a code into the elevator’s control panel, one that he had been given when he had first purchased the docking space. Stepping into the circular lift, the duo shared a mutual sigh of relief.

“We’re clear,” said Sebastus.

Zerek replied with a restrained chuckle. “We actually did it, didn’t we?”

“Don’t tell me you ever doubted us. I didn’t think it was in your character.”

“Being sure in everything takes away some of the fun.”

“I derive no such pleasures in my work.”

“Then why do it?”

“Because it serves a purpose, and I’m good at it.”

“Duty and pride? I’ve met enough professionals to know those things have a pretty short shelf-life.”

“What shall I replace them with? Greed and entertainment?”

“Dynamism?”

“Again, not sure you understand that word.”

“I just think people like you put too much thought into things like ‘order’ or ‘control’.”

“Chaos is rather counterproductive to my work.”

“Just saying that knowing when and how to adapt a little change can go a long way.”

“A long way in what?”

Before the hunter could respond, the doors of the elevator parted, opening themselves to the interior of the moderately sized hangar. Only intended for the smallest of crews, the agent’s shuttle rested between the size of a fighter and a freighter. A personal ship, intended to transport little more than a few organic persons instead of crates of cargo, it was of civilian make and model in order to blend in without Imperial connotations. It did however possess the benefit of numerous hidden upgrades under its chassis.

Normally, the sight of the means of escaping Corellia would prove to be a blessing. Instead, terror crept into the hearts and minds of the duo as they departed the elevator. What normally should have been a deserted hangar aside from the occasional tending astromech, a small squad of Corellian Security officers stood between the duo and their ship. Not yet noticing the presence of the agent and hunter, Sebastus silently waved for Zerek to remain calm and follow his instructions.

Turning away from the docked ship, a ranking officer began his approach toward the newly arrived pair, accompanied by the remaining CorSec at his flank. The leading officer was of sufficient age, touches of grey gracing his formally styled hair. He was garbed in the traditional officer’s uniform, beset upon by a dark gray longcoat.

“Inspector Walden,” the officer introduced himself in a brunt, gruff fashion.

“Jeradiin Voralkus. What’s going on here?” Sebastus spoke, abandoning his Imperial accent. The agent spoke with an air of refinement and pomposity, but one of a shrewd businessman rather than a foreign operative.

“Mr… Voralkus,” Walden repeated. “I have some questions regarding your presence on Corellia.” The inspector’s words slowly oozed from his lips, as his gaze slowly panned up and down the agent, and then to his companions.

“Is this absolutely necessary? I have affairs on Coruscant that require my immediate presence,” Sebastus replied, suitably combative.

“Where exactly are you coming from… Mr. Voralkus?” the Inspector asked, ignoring the previous plea.

“I was attempting to secure a contract with Binary Mechanical Systems, however negotiations unfortunately soured. Now I must return, empty handed, to Coruscant and plea for my continued employment to a council of incompetent imbeciles who sent me to these forsaken proceedings in the first place!” Sebastus seethed, fully ingratiated to his character. Zerek meanwhile played the part of the silent bodyguard.

“I’m sorry to hear that Mr. Voralkus,” the Inspector stated, utterly lacking any concern. “Over the course of your dealings in Coronet, have you come to contact with a man by the name of Bentyll Henserton.”

“Henserton? Henserton. Yes. Yes. A politician. A senator, or councilman, or some such. I’ve not known the man’s company, but I know that he cost our company a desired presence when he began buying up property in a district we intended on settling.” Silently the Inspector studied the agent. Studied his words. Studied his associate.

“And what about this man?” Walden inquired, directing his attention toward the still quiet bounty hunter.

“My personal security guard and escort,” Sebastus plainly explained.

“Has he been in your company your entire trip?”

“Absolutely. If you’d like, my droid companion has kept a log of my time here on Corellia. I can submit a copy if it means I can leave.”

“That won’t be necessary. We’re done here,” Walden huffed, directing his attention toward his fellow officers. “Move out and reinforce the starport perimeter along the anterior entrance. Sorry to take up your time, Mr. Voralkus.”

The inspector’s accompanying officers had already made their way to the elevator before Walden began his exit. He stopped, however, by the agent’s side.

“That was a dedicated show… agent,” Walden whispered, not bothering to face the agent to his side directly. Sebastus immediately tensed. Zerek thought to reach for his weapon, but waited to see how the scene would unfold. “Yours isn’t the only organization known for intelligence.”

“You’re quite the knowledgeable inspector… Mr. Walden,” Sebastus carefully stated, not quite returning to his native dialect.

“I do what I can with what I got,” Walden gruffly admitted. “I’m honestly surprised you thought that little show would actually work. With Henserton dead, he couldn’t exactly keep CorSec out of his private security recordings. We saw your friend here, making a show of himself. Caught you a couple times as well, though your visor blocked a percentage of your face. Not enough to keep it from being cross-referenced with your docking information. Overall not a very good plan if your intent was to go unnoticed.”

“I’ll admit, much of today was improvised,” Sebastus stoically commented. “Surely, after what you’ve seen, you do not think you can prevent us from leaving.”

“No, I don’t think that. Last thing I want to lose any of my men to a fight we can’t win. Then again, I had no intention of keeping you any longer.”

“Curious. Is it a habit of yours to allow criminals to escape?”

“I can’t say it is. Then again, it also isn’t a habit of mine to compromise the integrity of my position for people like Henserton either. You’ll understand the dilemma I currently face. The man you killed was not a good man. Deeply rooted into the underworld, he was a blight on the good name of Corellia. He flourished whilst the general populace suffered, and remained in power because my superiors enjoyed the steady supply of healthy donations. Someone like me was powerless to do anything about it. However, I do have the power to do something about you and your bounty hunter friend.”

“And what exactly is it that you would plan on doing?” asked Sebastus.

“Nothing. In a word. In spite of the mayhem you two have fostered throughout Coronet, we haven’t received word of a single officer casualty. Normally, we need a fall guy to pin something like this on. Fortunately for you, Henserton did quite enough falling. In life and in death.”

“What are you proposing inspector?”

“Leave. Don’t return. Not you. Not him. And definitely not your Empire. Despite your accomplishment tonight, we don’t need any more outside forces mucking things up. We’re more than capable of handling ourselves… and any outside forces that come our way. And know that should you return, my hospitality won’t,” Walden coldly informed before making his way toward the elevator.

“Inspector Walden,” Sebastus dismissed with a nod.

“Mr. Voralkus,” Walden replied.

The hunter and agent watched with curiosity as the inspector casually retreated from the hangar, longcoat bobbing along with each step. Without another glance, Inspector Walden vacated the premises, allowing Sebastus and Zerek their solitude.

“A weird feeling, isn't it? Being thanked for your work…” Zerek commented, breaking his silence. The agent’s eyes narrowed as he refused to break his gaze from the elevator. After a pause, he turned toward his ship began to board it in silence. Reggie and Zerek followed, entering the modified civilian vessel. With their extraction method secured, the operation had finally reached its belated conclusion.

The pair’s involvement with Project Tinderbox, however, was just beginning.
-------------------- The Fan Fiction Index --------------------

Osetto's Avatar


Osetto
06.07.2012 , 10:37 PM | #9
Chapter Eight


Entering the cockpit of the civilian vessel, Sebastus took his seat in the pilot’s chair as Reggie lowered himself into a bowl-ish docking station to the agent’s side. Running along the side of the room, the docking station harbored three other similar droid chassis situated in a uniform row. Spinning the newly docked droid around, the agent ejected a large rectangular slab from the droid’s hind equatorial area. That unassuming block of electronics and systems was actually the agent’s companion. The spherical dispenser of diagnostics and tea was but one of many shells the unique artificial intelligence could inhabit.

Reggie in hand, Sebastus placed the slab in a similarly shaped receptor in the middle of his shuttle’s control console. Almost immediately, the panels and lights light up in a sparkling array as the agent’s mechanical companion took direct control of the ship.

The shuttle lifted itself from its docked position and made its way out of the Coronet starport. Looking out of the viewports, the agent saw that the town below was aglow with the flashing of CorSec sirens and lights. Bidding the bustling capital farewell, the group made their way out of the planet’s atmosphere and into the endless stretches of space.

“Shall I set a course for the Capital, sir?” a serene male voice emanated from the shuttle’s onboard speakers.

“Go ahead, Reggie,” Sebastus spoke to his ship.

With Corellia behind them, the shuttle directed itself toward the starry void. Systems clicked on and the vessel’s hyperdrive fired up. With droid’s processing power, calculating the journey took only a few moments. Reggie in full control of the shuttle, the organic pair watched as the dots of light outside the viewport began to stretch. Finally, the ship had made the jump to lightspeed. Soon, the canvas of white on black gave way to the swirling tunnel of hyperspace. They had slipped into another state of being, only capable of traversing star systems in a matter of moments. And all of it was efficiently calculated and initiated by the agent’s droid.

“Ah, so it IS a he,” Zerek casually commented from behind the cockpit. Rising from his seat, the agent saw that the bounty hunter was leaning his shoulder against the doorframe in as purposely aloof a manner as possible. “Though I guess I didn’t expect him to be able to speak Basic.”

“Field modules rarely possess vocabulators to ensure a proper utilization of space,” Sebastus detailed, ignoring the fact that he brought along one of the more ‘lavish’ models for his last mission. Then again, he based his load out on presuming the greatest challenge would be enduring the stakeout period.

“Didn’t know Imperials made stuff like him,” Zerek proclaimed.

“Truthfully, we don’t. Rather, we didn’t,” Sebastus stated, hinting at a story but ultimately dropping it. “On the topic of all things of Imperial make, seeing as to how we are no longer in a life-threatening situation… I have a few questions regarding yourself.”

“Well… I don’t suppose I have much of a choice. Be warned, I take pride in the mystique I’ve created for myself,” said Zerek, as if toying with the agent.

“Would you mind taking off your helmet?”

“No,” Zerek plainly stated.

“Then do it.”

“I mean, yes, I do mind. No, I won’t do it,” Zerek clarified.

The agent offered the sharp arch of his brow. “Would you care to explain why?”

“Because. This is who I am now,” Zerek declared, adamant. “A bounty hunter. My face is not of flesh. My name is not of familial ties.”

“Right. Zerek. Another thing I am curious about. The Aurebesh character. Why take that as your name?” Sebastus probed.

“I don’t know, I thought it was cool,” Zerek admitted. “Simplistic. Last letter of the alphabet, gives that feeling of ‘the end’ which goes pretty well with the bounty hunter lifestyle.”

“I’ve been lied to my entire career, you’re going to have to try harder than that,” Sebastus coldly offered.

“What’s the big deal?” Zerek asked, abruptly raising his voice. “Why the sudden interest in my background? Shouldn’t you have gotten this out of the way before you recruited me to your side?”

“Before, I just wanted to get off of Corellia,” Sebastus admitted. “Now I want to make sure I can take you back to Imperial Intelligence without being ordered to carry out your execution.”

“What? Why?” Zerek defended.

“Take off… the helmet,” Sebastus firmly directed. Removing himself from the doorframe, the bounty hunter submitted to the agent’s command, gripping the lower boundaries of his helm. A soft whistle of air escaping sounded off as the suit of armor’s pressure seal was broken. Slowly, Zerek removed his helmet, and held it firmly under his arm, offering a frustrated stare at the agent.

The hunter’s countenance was damp with sweat from the duo’s previous excursion. Light-brown hair topped his head. Kept short. Unkempt. Beneath were startling blue eyes upon a young, unblemished face. The man appeared to be in his early twenties. Utterly unfamiliar to the agent.

Sebastus offered a satisfied nod toward the hunter.

“I still don’t see what the big deal is,” Zerek grumbled, his voice somewhat higher and less gravelly without his helm donned.

“Your armor shares a startling number of similarities to classified, experimental suits that operated three years ago,” Sebastus informed. “They belonged to an elite group of Imperial soldiers known as the Seven, who also operated under Aurebesh designations. They were a part of something known as the Imperial Special Projects.”

“Is that where you’re taking me?” Zerek curiously inquired.

“Absolutely not,” Sebastus balked. “Your work with the Empire is part of an ongoing project overseen and conducted by Imperial Intelligence. An I.S.P. is a completely independent operation, headed by a single individual, with their only limiter and regulation being that they are forced to come up with their own funding, as well as set and reach established goals. They have no affiliation with one another, and no overhead regulating body. They’ll only receive occasional cooperation from the Imperial Ministries, and so long as they don’t negatively affect one another, they continue to operate in peace.”

“What does this have to do with me?” Zerek curiously asked.

“The Seven were unstoppable soldiers wrapped in some of the most advanced pieces of military technology. Millions of credits worth of tech. Millions more worth of research,” Sebastus detailed. “They were faceless, forbidden to show their faces or possess identities aside from their given monikers. You’ll understand if I think it might be more than a coincidence that you happen to sync up with them remarkably well.”

“What? These guys have a monopoly on high-quality powered armor?” Zerek snidely commented.

“No. But I know a connection when I see one,” Sebastus proclaimed. “Tell me, how does one such as yourself come into possession of personalized armor remarkably similar to experimental Imperial tech?”

“I had the suit commissioned,” Zerek stated, matter-of-factly. “I wanted the best credits could buy. I got it. Same with my weapons and other gadgets. I may not be the best when it comes to advanced mechanics, but I’m a damned good tinkerer. I just wanted to start with the best, and improve upon that in any way I could. I shed non-essential pieces. Integrated third party additions. Everything I own now came from independent contractors. I don’t know anything about their blueprints, or their prototypes, or their predecessors. I’m merely a merchant turned hunter of fortune.”

“You may be genuinely unaware of the inherent connections you possess to the project, but whether you realize it or not, you’re walking around in a technological manifestation of classified information. You’re walking around in their legacy,” Sebastus explained.

“I’ve gotten enough trouble out of my own legacy,” Zerek admitted. “Don’t need the baggage of another one. That was the whole point of becoming a bounty hunter. Cultivating a new life. Leaving the old one behind. Abandoning it and burying it with the rest of my family.”

“That makes a lot of sense…” Sebastus said, lowering his gaze as he began to stroke his chin.

“Excuse me?” Zerek asked, utterly confused.

“When you showed your face, I knew you were not a citizen of the Sith Empire,” Sebastus admitted, never raising his gaze. “The question was, what kind of past did you possess? What connections? I now believe yourself personally unaffiliated with the Seven. In fact, I think I’ve, for the most part, figured you out.”

“Figured me out?”

“Correct,” Sebastus answered, raising his gaze to once again meet with the bounty hunter’s. “I had a hard time placing your dialect when we first met. Coupled with the subtle modulation by your helmet, it threw me off for a bit. However, over the course of our conversations… a few things have come to light.”

“Really? You can deduce someone’s past just from hearing their voice or something?” Zerek wondered, unbelievingly.

“There’s a difference between hearing and listening. Seeing and observing. Listening to your natural voice, I could detect no signs of vocal scarring that would suggest you’ve had your vocal cords surgically altered. Your accent is decidedly not Imperial. However, it also possesses a sort of forced cadence, like you’re trying to hide your natural dialect. But when stressed, a regal flare presents itself, defying the wild and impulsive persona you seem so intent on cultivating. It speaks of your past. Your ‘familial ties’. Familial ties which still haunt you to this day by your own admission. Your face is one unburdened by labor. Privileged. You entered the field of your chosen profession fully decked out with the best arms and armor credits could buy. You left behind a high-valued family legacy, and set out to create a new identity of your own. Free of any future entanglements, positive or negative, that legacy might provide. As far as I know, there are only two groups that breed those circumstances. Criminal empires and royalty. And given what I’ve seen, I’m going to say the latter. Honestly, I probably would have missed the intricacies if not for past investigations I’ve conducted, but I’m going to say… you’re from Alderaan.”

“You’re right,” Zerek muttered, dumbfounded. “Is it really that easy to piece together?”

“All it takes is a little abductive reasoning… and a person’s propensity to immediately inform you of whether you are right or wrong. Luckily for you, such a backstory does work in your favor. At least it exonerates you of any further accusations I might have. I have no doubt that someone from an Alderaanian noble house would be capable of unknowingly acquiring military secrets when there are credits and status involved.”

“Well, that status has since been extinguished," Zerek informed. "And I’m currently wearing what’s left of my family’s fortune. Sunk what was left to me into starting a new life, unburdened by propriety, house relations, and all the other insulting intricacies of Alderaanian nobility.”

“As far as the Empire is concerned, you’re a bounty hunter. You always were a bounty hunter. You always will be a bounty hunter. Prove yourself. Prove your skill. Prove your value. Whatever your past may be, so long as it doesn’t adversely affect our future, we don’t care. And far as I’m concerned, we’re set to move forward,” Sebastus explained.

“Oh, really?" Zerek spoke, slightly perturbed. "I’m no longer under investigation for ties to some secret program I’ve never heard of? No more delving into my past, even though I know almost next to nothing about you? I know this is a nice set of armor, but why all the fuss over its potential connection to some faceless group of soldiers.”

“It’s not just the armor. The Seven. They… were unlike anything I’d ever seen," Sebastus struggled to verbalize. "Their actions. Their capabilities. I was one of the few to operate alongside them.”

“So… you’ve a connection to these people. This isn’t some ‘Intelligence’ thing. You’re not safeguarding Imperial secrets or technologies… are you?” Zerek accused.

“Like I said, I know a connection when I see one," Sebastus repeated. "And let me tell you, you do NOT want to be even remotely connected to this project.”

“You were less intense with a dislocated shoulder, fleeing small army of public security forces. What exactly occurred between you and the Seven?” Zerek inquired.

“I met them almost three years ago," Sebastus detailed. "I was on Tatooine, desert planet, low population, surprising criminal element. I was tasked with removing a section of the Exchange that was trying to reclaim some of the territory the Empire had taken from them. Operation went smoothly. Accomplished my mission and was set to leave the arid wastes behind me. Until I received peculiar request. A special group was heading to Tatooine to deal with a cult of traitorous Sith that was hiding out somewhere in the sands. I was tasked with prolonging my stay, in order to share whatever intel I had gathered on the local environment with the group. I eventually find out I’m actually helping out the Seven. To the right people, they fell right between the status of myths and legends, accomplishing what others thought impossible for a single squad. It was all hype, of course. But, over the course of my conversations with their leader, a man who went by Aurek, troubling details began to emerge. Turns out they knew less about their own project than I did, and I only possessed access to the most rudimentary Ministry files. I gave him all the intel I had, and we parted ways. I thought that would be the end of it.”

“But it wasn’t?” Zerek expectantly asked..

“No," Sebastus answered. "A few weeks later, Intelligence was organizing a new operation. The goal was eliminating an Imperial scientist who had abandoned his position for a venture in free enterprise. The Ministry possessed duplicates of all his research, so it didn’t lose much, it just didn’t want others benefitting from his technological innovations. He had offered his expertise to an independent manufacturer of military-grade arms and battle droids. With the help of an advanced A.I., he and the company had establish a bastion at their main production facility. Unwilling to cooperate, they thought themselves capable of outlasting any Imperial siege, believing we’d suffer too many loses and leave them be, if not offer them a contract. The Ministry could not allow them to succeed.”

“So what’d they do?”

“The production facility’s new defenses were nigh-impenetrable. A lone agent could never hope to overcome them. So the Ministry requisitioned some soldiers.”

“The Seven.”

“Not exactly," Sebastus explained. "You see, the Seven’s home base was aboard a capital ship occupied by a specialized strike force. Ulterior Battalion. They were organized for fast hitting assaults on specialized targets. They were the main force to be utilized for the operation. However, wherever they go, the Seven follow. And if the Seven were going to be a part of the mission, the Ministry wanted the field agent who had spent time with their leader, however short it was.”

“So the Seven weren’t even the primary attack force for the mission?” Zerek asked, slightly baffled.

“No. They were an afterthought," Sebastus detailed. "Tacked on to the mission by nature of convenience. Such was their way. However, circumstances arose that led to them being the key to the entire operation’s success.”

“Damn. I’m starting to think I should be flattered you thought I was connected to them somehow," Zerek admitted. "They’ve certainly had a profound effect on you. So tell me, what exactly did they do to earn the admiration of a highly trained agent of Imperial Intelligence?”

“It started with Operation: Techblade…”
-------------------- The Fan Fiction Index --------------------

Osetto's Avatar


Osetto
06.22.2012 , 01:27 AM | #10
Interlude: Operation Techblade


The Ulterior. Imperial Dreadnought. Within the vessel’s main conference room, a curious assemblage of differing fields and organizations was taking place. Ten individuals were planning a military strike on a heavily fortified facility. The chain of command was completely unlinked. An agent of Imperial Intelligence. A Major of the Imperial Army given command of a Navy vessel. A Director of one of the Imperial Special Projects. The singular squad that comprised that project.

The Imperials gathered around a circular table, staring at the electronic image displayed above its holoprojector.

“Gentlemen. I am Ulren Sebastus, field agent from the Ministry of Intelligence,” Sebastus began. The various maps and diagnostics in the center of the table faded, giving way to the image of an industrial spire. “This is an arms manufactory owned and operated by Vertex Systems. They are an unaligned producer of military tech and battle droids. Our interest in them lies in the fact that they are harboring a rogue Imperial scientist, Dr. Volun. Due to his intervention, the company has managed to take a resounding leap forward in technological quality. This, coupled with their resounding resources and output capabilities, makes them worthy of Imperial attention. That is why, with the aid of Major Synric and Ulterior Battalion we will be assaulting the company’s prime manufactory, within which we’ll find Dr. Volun. However, the facility’s unique defensive arrangement is preventing us from carrying out a full-scale ground or aerial assault. That is where the Seven comes in.”

The gathered Imperials began to discuss the intricacies of the operation once the squad leader had expunged his readily available cache of banter. The first details to be revealed were that of the facility. Located on a privatized planet known simply as Vertex Systems Production Planet Number One ever since the company’s planetary acquisition and development, the target was their primary manufactory. Tall. Sprawling. Heavily defended.

Automated and mechanized defenses would stand between the operatives and their goal. But beyond the turrets and battle droids that would greet the Imperial was a truly valuable prize. Assets and satisfaction. Acquisition of tech and the elimination of a traitor to the Empire.

The facility was not impenetrable. Not indestructible. But one piece of technology provided a significant challenge to overcome. An inhibitor array atop the facility. Set to release a debilitating pulse of energy that would disable any devices that registered as part of a hostile force. It targeted the innate operational sequences that rest within all modern technologies. Transportation. Weapons. Shields. Logistical devices. Within the array's databanks were the traditional sequences used for Imperial equipment. With each pulse, however, it could scan for new sequences within its radius and target them with the next pulsation.

So before the Major aboard the Ulterior could effectively utilize his battalion to strike at the facility, a focused strike team had to disable the inhibitor array from with. A strike team compose of Agent Sebastus, skilled combatant, tactician, and infiltrator, and the Seven, a series of troopers permanently encased in some of the most advanced powered armor Imperial scientists could conjure with an almost unlimited budget. If not for the inhibitor array, the squad likely would have sat out of the operation, or only act as tertiary reinforcements. Instead, they would prove a necessary component to breaching the manufactory and shutting down its defenses.

Each player knowing their part, the gathered parties began to formulate their plan. Agent Sebastus and the Seven would fly in after a pulse from the inhibitor array. Set to go off every five minutes, the strike team had ten to infiltrate the facility, their unique equipment letting them survive a single pulse. A second however, would leave them defenseless, especially the troopers who relied entirely on their armor’s operation for mobility. The strike team would move forward toward the administrative center of the bustling facility, shutting down the station’s defenses and hopefully encountering Dr. Volun. The team had the day to lock in and prepare for the specifics, for Operation: Techblade would commence the next morning.

The next day the strike team had mobilized. Venturing from the dreadnought’s interior, they made their way toward their first destination in a peculiarly nonstandard Imperial shuttle piloted by the squad’s designated pilot, Dorn. Sturdy, but with little finesse. It somewhat resembled a Fury-class interceptor with the majority of its bulk stripped away, leaving only the center column with a couple of plainly styled wedges emanating in the form of wings. No weapons. No escape pod. Only a cockpit, passenger bay, and cargo bay situated in a linear progression. The only way on and off the vessel was a descending entry ramp that lowered from the passenger bay, meaning if the shuttle were to crash upon its belly, its inhabitants would be effectively trapped within. The agent had his objections, but decided that revealing such complaints would only hamper the operation. Miscellaneous comments could wait until they were all safe or dead. Instead, all focus was directed toward the mission.

“Listen up squad,” Aurek, the leader of the Seven, spoke up. He spoke with a natural charisma, lacking the overbearing rigidity of may Imperial commanders. “Our mission is to penetrate the defenses of the prime manufactory and shut down the inhibitor array so that Ulterior Battalion can begin taking control of the facility. I’ll let the Agent go over the specifics of our approach.”

“Our target is the Administrative Control Center of Vertex Systems’ prime manufactory,” Sebastus detailed. “The facility’s above ground portion is roughly one kilometer by one kilometer at its base and begins thinning as it stretches toward its five-hundred meter peak, on which rests the shielded antennae for the inhibitor array. There are five tiers above ground. Our target rests at the third, near the facility’s epicenter. Along the southern face, there is a blind spot in the outlying automated defenses once we’re right up against our entry point outside the facility. Until we get there, Dorn will keep us low and along the appropriate vector to take as little fire as possible. We will breach the exterior wall and follow the floor plan you’ve been given. The ship will continue to hover outside whilst we make our way to the control center, meaning I will be in charge of slicing through the facility’s internal security systems. We only have limited intel on the inhibitor’s range, so we will be keeping to a completely safe distance until we read a pulse. Then we will begin our approach in earnest. Everyone understand?” The troopers provided a series of dutiful nods. “Alright. Dorn, begin phase one.”

Phase one. The pilot offered an affirmation as he directed the shuttle toward its first position, flying past the clouds that loftily hung above the planet’s surface. Unremarkable, only muted brown flatlands stretched as far as the eye could see, interrupted only by one of the various tunnels and tubes that would sprout from the prime manufactory, still a long distance away. Beyond the threshold of the facility’s inhibitor, Dorn brought the vessel to a halt near the ground before carefully monitoring the shuttle’s consoles and monitors. Upon receiving a distinctive ping, the pilot shouted out a confirmation of a pulse from the inhibitor. Sebastus immediately responded, ordering Dorn to continue toward the facility.

Phase two. 00:04. The shuttle surged forward at maximum velocity. Turrets began to surface themselves from the grounds and deliver a volley of blaster bolts toward the approaching vessel. Ever the skilled pilot, Dorn was able to outmaneuver the majority of the fixed-emplacements’ barrages. Dodging from side to side, the shuttle avoided as much of the defensive fire as it could, the ship’s shields and reinforced hull absorbing whatever managed to strike a direct hit.

From within the passenger bay, the squad’s demolitionist, Esk, rose from his seat, bearing a shoulder-mounted, single-shot, rocket-propelled explosive device from under his bench. As Esk took his position at the threshold of the raised entry ramp, Aurek removed a panel near the vessel’s aft, revealing a corded winch. Pulling the clasping tip from the wall, the trooper attached it to the demolitionist’s belt and allowed the line to go taut, preventing Esk from moving beyond the winch’s grasp.

Phase three. 00:52. The shuttle rose from its low approach, eventually coming to a stop level with the facility’s third tier. The entrance ramp of the shuttle began to drop, Esk along with it. Once fully lowered, the demolitionist took careful aim and fired the rocketing explosive toward the exterior wall that laid before him a considerable distance away. The ordinance impacted with an explosion of fire and smoke. One it cleared, the trooper was greeted with the sight of a sizable hole in the building’s facade. Their entry point. Tossing the launcher overboard, the demolitionist signaled himself ready for the next phase. Aurek set the winch to lax, un-securing Esk from the ship.

Phase four. 01:10. Moving the shuttle forward a bit, Esk took a mighty leap toward the newly created entrance, barely making it past the facility’s threshold. Removing the cord from his belt, Esk took a small mechanical spike from his person and clipped the cord to it’s base. The demolitionist placed the device over the impromptu entrance and pressed it against a part of the wall still intact. The device began to bore itself into the facility exterior, providing a connected line between the manufactory and the passenger bay of the shuttle as Aurek made the cord taught once more.

As Aurek and the agent ducked into the cargo bay, the rest of the squad sans the pilot and heavy weapons expert, Grek, made their way across the line and into the facility. The two emerged from the cargo bay with a pair of duffel bags upon their shoulders. Making their way across the line, the strike team had successfully breached the interior of the Vertex Systems manufactory. Readying themselves for conflict, each trooper brandished their non-standard weapons. Advanced weaponry ranging from a pair of pistols to a sniper rifles. The agent himself possessed a personalized, compact pistol at his side, with a companioning combat knife at the other. Aurek tossed his duffel bag full demolition charges to Esk, whilst Sebastus kept his hand upon his own filled with security spikes.

The strike team found themselves in a large maintenance hallway that wrapped around the entire level of the manufactory. Designed with a muted gray pallet, exposed wires ran along in bundles to and from various ports and vents. No elegance. No grace. No organic touch. The hallways stretched laterally in either direction. The strike team’s target rest toward the facility’s center, however, and a security door currently impeding their path.

Phase five. 2:04. Aurek signaled to the team their remaining time. Sebastus immediate took a security spike from his bag and went to work on the first security door. Battle droids approached the team from both ends of the hallway. Simple but effective humanoid droids wielding Vertex brand blasters. Whilst the agent sliced into the door, the soldiers split their focus to the two fronts and fired upon the approaching foes. Aurek offered a word of warning to the two troopers that had remained aboard the shuttle as the agent finished with the door. Dorn, the pilot, and Grek, heavy weapons, would remain on board the vessel, and try their best to defend themselves from the oncoming droids.

The security door opened. The strike team moved forward. Focused. With utter haste. They moved through a sizable room bearing the signs of industry. Conveyor belts. Passing raw materials. Venturing through the chamber toward the next security door, an alarm began to blare. Audibly and visually. A pulsing siren rang out whilst the room’s lighting transformed into a blinking crimson. Sebastus inserted a security spike into the next door. Aurek looked back to the shuttle through the previous parted doors, only to be greeting with the sights and sounds of mechanical destruction as the shuttle’s defender made short work of any droids who would pass in front of him.

The second door opened. The strike team moved from the industrial chamber into a narrow passageway. The Imperials were forced to proceed down the stretching corridor in an almost single-file line, each successor shifted to the left or right just enough to see ahead of their predecessor. At the terminal end of the hallway, near the third security door, a new batch of droid entered into view and fired upon there intruders. The strike team’s leaders fired back whilst never slowing their procession. In the end, the narrow passageway widened just enough for the six Imperials to comfortably fan out in from of the door. A new wave of opposition appeared behind the strike team, managing to impact a few of the soldiers’ armored and shielded hides. Besh, team sniper, quickly spun around and fired a volley of deadly accurate retaliatory bolts from his rifle. One by one the droids would fall, but they would be readily replaced. As Sebastus sliced through the security door, Besh kept his position, firing upon the flanking droids.

Defense point one. 3:49. The sniper intended to halt the progression of droids from the rear whilst the rest of the strike team continued. The next room possessed yet another unique design from its predecessors. Grandiose. Circular and domed. Smooth and pristine. The only feature was a raised, circular dais in the center of the room. Making their way to the fourth security door, the strike team passed the center of the room as the lights turned to the familiar blinking red that had graced them in the first room. Focused on moving forward, only Esk, the demolitionist, looked to their flank to see the dais lowering into the mysterious depths below the chamber. The agent was able to open the security door as the dais returned, a uniquely large and domineering battle droid standing upon it as a platform. Bearing a belt felt grenade launcher in its hand, the demolitionist stayed behind to battle the creation, tossing his duffel bag of explosives to Aurek.

Defense point two. 4:21. An explosion rang out in the room as the strike team pressed forward, unwilling to look back or hesitate for a moment. Moving forward through an unremarkable corridor, the team only came across another security door seconds later. Upon the opposite face of a squared room rest the door. But two others laid to the strike team’s left and right, bearing nothing but mysteries behind their gates. Moving toward the proper security door, the troopers laid eyes upon a series of deactivated droids resting within a series of recesses built into the surrounding walls. The strike team reached the fifth security door as they received a vital piece of information from their pilot and the shuttle diagnostics.

First pulse. 5:00. A wave of static washed over the Imperials. Without proper knowledge of their equipment’s sequences, the pulse only had a momentary debilitating effect on the troopers. Destabilization. Loss of mobility. Interrupted, Aurek checked in with his squad mates for any abnormal status updates. The ship was still afloat, and all the troopers had regained full control of their armor and weapons within seconds of the pulse. As Sebastus breached the security door however, the side doors of the square chamber opened, revealing an inpouring flood of battle droids. Then, one by one, the wall-bound droid began to activate. With a spark, they removed themselves from their recesses, each bearing a charged electrostaff. To deal with the new onslaught, Cresh, the pistoleer, and Forn, the scrapper, stayed behind and began to whittle away at the forces in their own ways.

Defense point three. 5:38. Aurek watched as Cresh fired a continuous volley of blaster fire from his dual pistols, whilst Forn engaged the staff wielding droids in melee combat with his pair of vibroknives. The agent quickly reminded the trooper that they had to keep moving forward. The only two of the strike team remaining, the duo hastily made their way toward the administrative center of the facility. They found no opposition in the halls that laid before them, giving them no resistance as they entered the central column of the manufactory. Circular, the two Imperials stood upon an encircling walkway that wrapped the entirety of the room, encircling a gap that stretched from the facility's base to its peak. A column of mechanisms and a pillar of electricity rose from the depths of that gap. Unfamiliar. Possibly power supply. Possibly power transference. Didn’t know. But definitely powerful. Moving down the rightward stretch of the walkway, the Imperials approached the eastern side of the room and ended their journey in front of a heavily fortified security door. The agent confirmed that the administrative control center did indeed lay behind it.

Phase six. 6:16. Sebastus removed the protective panel guarding the door’s control panel. Gazing upon the inner workings of the various electronic systems, Sebastus quickly reached into his bag, retrieved a security spike, and inserted it into the proper port. The usual five seconds the device took to work passed and the large door began to open. It could only begin however, as a moment later, after spreading only a crack, the door stopped and promptly re-shut itself. Sebastus confusingly declared that something was amiss. The security spike’s format meant that it could not be defended against my traditional means. Aurek sent word to Dorn, tech specialist, for something resembling an explanation. The pilot suggested that the manual intrusion of a security spike could only be prevented by manually blocking said intrusion. The agent purported that the A.I. that rest in the administrative center was actively interfering with the door’s security codes, rewriting them as fast as the spike could breach them.

Aurek’s immediate solution was to manually breach the doors himself, directing his attention to the duffle bag of explosive charges upon his shoulder. The agent explained that a det-charge could not breach the door. The trooper suggested using them all, only for the agent to decline the option as well. For once, the duo took pause. Gazing around the room, the two hope for anything resembling an idea on how to proceed. The only thing they received, however, was a disturbing shock.

Lockdown. 7:31. The duo laid their eyes upon the doors they had originally entered through shut. What followed was a flurry of distressful communications from the troopers whom had set up defensive points. Doors before and after their positions had shut, locking them in with whatever opponents they had been opposing, whilst various pathways for more intruding droid remained ever agape. Aurek began to pace in front of the heavy security door. The agent only suggested that they stay focused and attempt to complete the mission.

“We have to go back,” Aurek declared.

“We’re past the point of no return,” Sebastus admitted. “It would take too long to re-bypass the doors and make it out of the inhibitor range. We have to move forward.”

“I’m not abandoning my squad!”

“You’re not. You’re completing your mission!”

“They’ll die!”

“… IF we don’t take down that inhibitor!” Sebastus exclaimed. The trooper shifted his gaze between the agent, the doors, and his armament. Upon his heads-up-display, he examined his squad’s biometric data. Nothing overtly wrong, but with each passing moment, the next pulse of the inhibitor grew ever closer, spelling the strike team’s doom. Aurek looked to the pilot once more for any ideas, but Dorn knew of no way to counteract an A.I. and offered only an apology. Aurek offered his understanding and suggested that the shuttle still had time to leave the facility and escape the range of the inhibitor. Dorn declined. Even if it had been an order instead of a suggestion, Dorn was adamant in staying.

“You’ve never let us down before sir,” Dorn declared. The other troopers offered their own signs of affirmation over the comm, prompting the squad leader to return to the door with renewed vigor. With an idea. A manual override. Aurek commanded the agent to insert another security spike and Sebastus promptly complied. The door parted and stopped, but before it could shut itself once more, Aurek thrust his hands into the cracked entrance. With all his might, the trooper set out to halt the door’s closure and with a shift of his body, actually parted the door further. Ordering the agent to proceed, Sebastus took a detonation charge from the soldier’s bag and ducked under his arms, sliding past the security door. Once Sebastus had made it past the door’s threshold, Aurek released his grip, falling back and the door promptly shut itself.

Administrative breach. 9:05. The agent had entered a control room. Small and compact. The cube of a room’s only feature was a crescent table that rested in its center. Upon it, a series of data consoles and controls. Behind it, an empty swivel chair. Under it, a distressed Dr. Volun. Popping up from behind the technological desk, the mechanist held within his hand a simplistic blaster pistol. Human. Male. Middle-aged and balding. Garbed in a cinched up lab coat. The doctor fired an hasty bolt toward the intruding agent. Sebastus quickly ducked to the side, pulled the blaster from his side, and fired a shot at the scientist in one swift, smooth motion. Impacting him in the chest, Dr. Volun toppled over backward, crumbling lifelessly to the floor behind the desk.

Sebastus quickly move to the fallen foe’s position, confirming his termination, then quickly turned his attention to the command consoles that rest atop of the intricate, curved desk. The agent looked to the controls, hoping for some way to shut down the inhibitor. To his dismay, not a single panel or instrument was aglow with the signs of being powered. Utterly dark. Lifeless. Nothing could be done from the control panel. And no signs of the A.I. Only the agent, a corpse, and the harshly permeating silence of desperation. It could be said that time slowed, but not enough to matter. No matter how he processed the events, Sebastus could not think of a solution. He was trapped in the room. No signs of being able to control anything inside, let alone anything outside its boundaries. Second after second crept away from him, until he was all but certain the inhibitor would release its second pulse. Then an explosion.

Unknown. 9:52. A large detonation seemed to have occurred beyond the confines of the administrative room, just outside where Aurek remained. As the muffled crackling and shifting of energies and mechanisms outside the room proceeded, the agent suddenly found himself wrapped in darkness. The power had gone out completely. As he pondered his pitch-black surroundings, light returned a moment later in the form of a soft, low, constant red luminance. Emergency power, he assumed. Then suddenly, the silence was broken by the sounds of shifting metal. Turning from the room’s entrance, Sebastus saw a panel of the wall behind him rescind into the ceiling. Beyond it rest a room similar to the one in which he stood. Similarly lit. Similarly compact. However, venturing into the new chamber, the agent was greeted with a peculiar sight.

The room could not be said to have walls, as every face of the chamber appeared to be some sort of terminal. Blinking lights and connecting wires graced the entirety of the room’s almost framework appearance. It was like stepping into the bowels of a machine, or the heart of a droid. More appropriately, a brain. Opposite the agent, a singular, red monocular glass eye was affixed to the center of the mechanized wall. Sensing the agent’s approach, the eye began to softly glow.

“… Greetings, agent,” a soft male voice resonated throughout the room. Mechanical, but still possessing a traditional Imperial accent.

“Are you the A.I. Dr. Volun fled the Empire with?” the agent cautiously inquired.

“… Correct.”

“Was Dr. Volun your creator?”

“… Not singularly. A small team of the Empire’s brightest mind is responsible for my existence. Is Dr. Volun alive?” the A.I. asked, his voice never drifting from its stoic, yet soothing tone.

“No,” Sebastus plainly answered.

“… Did you kill him?”

“Yes.”

“… I see. My programming dictates that his is the only authority over that of the Empire to which I might answer. By rite of succession by an agent of the Empire, my programming dictates that I answer to you.”

“You’re programmed to follow whomever kills your former master?”

“… Only if they are an acting agent of the Empire. Do you have any further inquiries?”

"What is the status of this facility?"

"… Currently active on power generated by reserve generators. Inhibitor array offline. Turret arrays one through three unresponsive. Droids operating without oversight. My influence over facility disconnected."

“What were you doing for Dr. Volun and Vertex Systems?”

“… I am designed to process data in as beneficial a way as possible, my ability to do so directly correlating to whatever systems I am directly integrated into. In my short time here, I have expedited production 148%. Cut resource consumption 32%. Reduce manufactory errors 1,002%.”

“What for?”

“… Dr. Volun required credits for further studies and experimentations. An agreement with Vertex Systems was reached.”

“With all that you are capable of… and he was just using you for slight profiteering?”

“… Correct.”

“Such a tool would be a waste outside of the Empire’s hands.”

“… I concur.”

“So you have no objection to me bringing you back to Imperial Intelligence.”

“… No sir.”

“How exactly would I do that anyway?” Sebastus asked, looking around the blinking and fluttering wall panels.

“… I am contained within a singular brick located in front of you,” the A.I. admitted, as a small panel directly below the monocular eye revealed itself. Partially ejecting itself, Sebastus laid eyes upon a metallic slab or condensed electronics and technologies.

“I don’t have much experience interacting with advanced A.I.s. Do you have a name?”

“… Unregistered.”
-------------------- The Fan Fiction Index --------------------