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Tools of the Trade


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Osetto
06.23.2012 , 02:52 PM | #11
Chapter Nine


“So Reggie is actually the A.I. from that facility?” Zerek asked, gently scratching his chin.

“Correct,” Sebastus replied.

“With his capabilities, I’m surprised he’s being used just for field work.”

“Well, he is sufficiently advanced, but he was built with a greater sense of autonomy than traditional droids or machines. That, along with the fact that his capabilities grow or shrink depending on what he’s plugged into, meant Intelligence didn’t want to go ahead and integrate him into our systems. Plus, ever since I killed Dr. Volun, he’s seen me as his new owner and his procession programming will only allow a transfer to someone of equal or higher rank.”

“I’m guessing you outrank most scientists.”

“Correct. I’d either have to give him up to a Watcher, a Moff, a Sith, the Keeper…”

“And you wanted to keep your hands on him,” Zerek suggested.

“Well, he has provided an inordinate amount of help on recent operations. Even when placed in one of these limited field chassis, his capabilities are astounding,” Sebastus admitted, directing the bounty hunter’s attention toward the series of similar but subtly different shells that sat upon the docking station. “Plugged into a starship, he becomes a more than capable astromech with superior logistics and data processing capabilities. Plug him into a production facility or intelligence system and he’ll become even more proficient. So he’s on an extended field test until we have a greater understanding of his limits.”

“So what happened after you pulled him out of the facility?” Zerek inquired.

“I took the slab containing his brain and left the administrative center,” Sebastus detailed. “Outside I saw a scene of havoc. Power to the facility had been disrupted because Aurek had destroyed the primary generator with the bag of det-charges. The walkway was trashed, but the Seven had regrouped. They had already signaled for Ulterior Battalion to begin their assault.”

“What did you tell them about the A.I.?”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing?”

“Imperial Intelligence is, understandably, tight with its dissemination of information, and imparts that doctrine upon its agents. The Seven had no official place within the military and intelligence hierarchy, so it wasn’t my place to inform them of extraneous details.”

“The machine that was trying to kill them not minutes ago is an ‘extraneous detail’?”

“For them, yes. As a free agent, you’ll technically have access to more information than they did whilst you’re working with Intelligence.”

“How could they be kept in the dark like that?” Zerek wondered.

“That’s just the nature of their occupation.”

“Was that the last time you interacted with them?”

“Directly, yes…” Sebastus hesitantly answered. “I was asked by their Director to later lend my expertise, but I declined.”

“Why?”

“Because I wouldn’t be working alongside them, I would be tracking them down,” Sebastus explained. The agent saw the perturbed face upon the bounty hunter’s visage. “Months after Operation: Techblade, things for the Seven started to… go wrong.”

“What are they doing now?”

“Nothing. They’re dead,” Sebastus plainly answered.

“What happened to them?” Zerek insistently asked.

“Even if I knew, I couldn’t tell you. Wouldn’t tell you,” Sebastus clarified. “Before, when I worried about what connections you possessed to the Seven, it wasn’t because you might have acquired Imperial military secrets, it was because being connected to that Project is effectively a death sentence. It’s been a year since there were any new developments regarding the Seven, but it’s always prudent to keep an eye out for these kinds of things. Fate has a funny way of delivering past troubles right to your doorstep.”

“I’m all too familiar with that,” Zerek confessed.

“That’s right, you spoke of your family and it’s legacy. Well, I know you’ve no personal connections to the Seven, so there’s little reason for their burdens to fall upon you. Therefore, I have no reservations to delivering you to the Imperial capital. However, we will be traveling for a bit, so I’d like to hear more about your past.”

“Look, I said it before, this is who I am now. A bounty hunter. My past is in the past,” Zerek defensively stated.

“Listen, I’m trying to help you,” Sebastus confided. “If you’re going to be working with Intelligence they are going to be asking a plethora of questions. Questions I can answer to your benefit so long as I have the proper details.”

“What, so you’d lie for me? To your peers, to your superiors? Why?”

“Like I said, I’ve been lied to my entire career. That’s not to say I don’t do my own fair sharing of mistruths. It’s in our blood to misdirect, fabricate, and lie in order to achieve our goals.”

“And how do I know you’re not lying to me know just to get information?”

“Honestly? You don’t,” Sebastus plainly admitted. “Everything I said could have been a lie. Maybe I made Operation: Techblade and the Seven up entirely. Maybe there is no position awaiting you at the capital, and it was all just an elaborate ruse to deliver you firsthand to an Imperial prison. But, maybe I’m just tired of seeing genuine talent swept aside at the whims of incessant interferers who don’t know the true value of a man’s worth. The Empire may be strong, but that does not mean it is without its supply of selfish imbeciles. I’ll admit, this is a selfish endeavor. My life will be spared for botching the operation on Corellia so long as I can get a capable bounty hunter to agree to take Imperial targets. I befriended you to save my own skin. However, I respect you. And I sense that you respect me. We know what it takes to carve out a living in this galaxy. We know what it is to prepare and carry out a mission. To succeed. To survive. To know that we are capable individuals. Trust me, me knowing who you are, who you REALLY are, can only help you in the end. I know from experience.”

Zerek let out an intense sigh, running his hands through his messy hair. Then, the subtle nodding of his head.

“My name is Izek Dresker," Zerek informed. "The ‘Dresker’s were a minor noble house on Alderaan. Neutral for the most part. I was a child when the Empire invaded Alderaan around twenty years ago.”

“I would have thought you’d show more reservations toward allying yourself the Empire then,” Sebastus admitted.

“It was war. I understand the motives,” Zerek confessed. “The purpose of the invasion was to strike at the Republic’s morale by disrupting the ‘serenity’ that everyone thought of Alderaan. Except we were never serene. People think that just because a planet has pretty mountains and a lasting government that it’s ‘peaceful’. It was a facade. An illusion. One that couldn’t be upheld after the Empire came. We advocated peace because we were privileged. Isolated. We get attacked, and all of that gets thrown out the window. We suddenly become bloodthirsty. We rejected the Treaty of Coruscant. Because we couldn’t fathom turning our cheek toward the people who had dared to attack Alderaan. So we turned our backs on the Republic, becoming independent. Then, chaon. The houses divided. The monarchy crumbled with the deaths of the Queen and her heirs. Parliament was and still is ineffective at restoring the throne, each noble house vying for more power. Bickering turned to murderous plots. Assassinations began to take place. The Dresker house held little political power, but none the less, we were targeted to eliminate any tiny influence we might have had in the future. Soon, I was the only one left. I had taken an interest in bounty hunting years prior. The profession, the ideals, the prizes. I had already sunk credits into it as an interest, but I knew that my time on Alderaan would be coming to an end. I liquidated my house’s assets and fled. I purchased small workshops on various world, hopping from one to another until I was sure the rest of Alderaan had forgotten about me. As the last Dresker, I effectively killed off our family when I became Zerek.”

“A fascinating story. Do you have any idea who it was that wanted your family dead?” Sebastus asked, intrigued.

“No. We were dealt with by an intermediary house of assassins, House Rist. Who hired them, I’m not sure. I'll probably never know. Don’t need to. Like you said, the more I know, the worse it’ll probably be for me.”

“Well, I know that the Empire still has interests in Alderaan, but I can assure you that we haven’t utilized the services of the underworld house. But still, you’ve completely turned your back on your family?”

“Of course not. I loved my family. But they’re not back on Alderaan. They’re in my heart. The only things left on my homeworld are bad memories and a broken system of noble pride. Would my family be dead if the Great War had never happened? Probably not. I suppose I could blame the Empire for destabilizing the system, bringing to the surface the chaos that rested beneath the veneer of serenity. But they also confirmed the truth that I had always believed. I am not a nobleman. I’m too firm in my belief of action, of dedication, of purpose. Things I would have never seen realized had nothing upset the ‘peaceful balance’ of nobility. I was ready to move forward. Alderaan wasn’t.”

----------

As the two continued to converse, the vessel eventually exited hyperspace. The agent immediately took a seat in the pilot’s chair and began to examine the ship’s consoles. The bounty hunter stood by his side and took a look outside the starship’s viewports. He gazed upon the dark blue orb, fascinated by its dark beauty.

“Zerek, welcome to Dromund Kaas.”
-------------------- The Fan Fiction Index --------------------

Osetto's Avatar


Osetto
10.17.2012 , 06:38 PM | #12
Chapter Ten


Zerek watched with unbridled curiosity as the tumultuous nature of Dromund Kaas passed by the shuttles viewports. An unending landscape of dark forests and the dark paths between them. Like a bright jewel nestled within the rough, a city seemed simultaneously at ease and at battle with the surrounding nature that seemed intent on engulfing it. However, the city seemed just as capable of engulfing the surrounding wildlife.

“That… is Kaas City. Capital of the Empire. Home of Imperial Intelligence and some of the most dangerous Sith and military minds the Empire has to offer,” Sebastus detailed.

“Is that where we’re heading?” Zerek curiously inquired.

“Technically… no,” Sebastus blatantly answered. Seeing the confused look on his partner’s face, the agent took in a deep breath as he prepared to explain. “That is where you’re supposed to believe we’re heading. In actuality, we’re going to be landing on the outskirts of civilization, at a military outpost. That is where we will disembark, meet up with another agent and 'incapacitate' you. Then you'll be taken to a secret facility where your abilities will be gauged and your compatibility with Project Tinderbox will be evaluated. That’s the official name of the program you will be participating in whilst you are bounty hunting for the Empire.”

“You’re pretty awful at keeping secrets,” Zerek chuckled.

“I’m just keeping things simple. We don’t need this cloak and dagger nonsense. I’ve already brought you to our capital. Any hunter worth their weight in credits could take control of this ship and fly it to whomever they could readily sell the hyper-jump coordinates to. The actions I’m expected to carry out are all to instill a fear of our organization in your mind so that you’ll integrate with our operations better.”

“And you oppose this?”

“No. I just know a person with no sense of fear when I see one. I’m saving us all some trouble.”

“So, what exactly are we going to do at this outpost?”

“We are going to dock. I am going to lead you to a checkpoint. You are going to be knocked unconscious. You will be dragged to an ‘undisclosed location’. You’ll wake up. Enter a combat simulator. Fun for all.”

“You’re stoicism is almost unsettling.”

“You can resist electrical shocks right?” Sebastus inquired, ignoring the bounty hunter’s words.

“Yeah…” Zerek hesitantly admitted.

“I’ll have Reggie give you a jolt at the exchange. You pretend to be unconscious and let them take you to the staging area, and we can save us some of the hassle.”

“They’re not going to mess with my stuff are they?”

“They shouldn’t. Part of the test is your ability to properly utilize your own personalized set of tools.”

“Well, that’s all I need to know. Don’t want to go in with an unfair advantage.”

“You realize if you don’t pass the test, you’ll be executed to prevent you from disrupting operations on Dromund Kaas.”

“You Imperials aren’t stingy with your executions,” Zerek joked.

“No. We aren’t,” Sebastus coldly affirmed.

Watching over the various dials and displays of the shuttle’s displays, the agent sat back as his droid handled most of the work piloting the ship. Banking away from the Imperial capital, the vessel kept a low trajectory over the sprawling forests and jungle ravines that dotted the terrain below them. As they ventured further from civilization and closer to their actual destination, a ping rang out on the ship’s communicator. A red light signaled an incoming message.

“You’ll probably want to keep your helmet on from here on out,” Sebastus advised as he readied the ship’s communicator. Pressing his thumb against the apparatus, he opened a dialogue with the officers at the outpost. “This is Agent Ulren Sebastus of Imperial Intelligence.”

“We read you, agent. It is to our understanding that you have in your company an off-worlder, correct?” a voice shot back through the speaker.

“Correct. He's a bounty hunter and an applicant for Project Tinderbox.”

“Understood. You are cleared to land. Please meet with operatives on scene for further details.”

“Aye. Ending communications,” Sebastus declared as he lifted his finger from the comm switch. “Convincing, aren’t they? So few words. So much information.”

“What do you mean?” Zerek asked, cocking his head to the side.

“Our occupations are dominated by codes. Secret languages. They are a useful tool as much as any weapon. ‘Off-worlder’, ‘applicant’, ‘operatives’.”

“And what do those mean?”

“It depends on juxtaposition, inflection, time of day…” Sebastus listed to a sufficiently disinterested bounty hunter, prompting a subtle sigh from the agent. “Basically, they’re particularly interested in you. Your actions have certainly caused waves. Wondrous how fast news can travel across the galaxy. Then again, I don’t think we could call ourselves Intelligence if we missed something as loud as what happened Corellia.”

“They’re interested in me? Is it a good interest, or a bad one?”

“They’re rarely separable. Exposure can lead to both positive and negative outcomes simultaneously. You should know how that is, being a bounty hunter and all.”

“Fame. A blessing and a curse.”

“For an agent… rarely a blessing.”

The shuttle fast approached a large clearing amongst the thick jungle, where there existed a small shuttle port a various military installations spread around it. Nothing sizable, mostly compact permanent buildings fortified and defended from the surrounding wildlife. Rarely would one of the fixtures reach above the neighboring trees aside from the errant signal tower or communication system.

“This is what I’m supposed to believe is the capital?” Zerek proclaimed alongside a hearty chuckle as he looked out the cockpit’s windows.

“To be fair, I’m not supposed to let you near the viewports during transportation,” Sebastus explained. “It doesn’t look like much, but most of it is subterranean.”

Setting down within the shuttle port, Sebastus began to shut off the various systems of the vessel. Zerek looked out the window to see the bustling movement of various military and civilian personnel around the shuttle. Removing Reggie’s core from the console and placing it into the shell from the previous mission, Sebastus vacated the cockpit and made his way toward the rear of the vessel, the hovering orb following close behind. Standing at the shuttle’s exit, the agent shot a look to the approaching bounty hunter.

“Ready?”

“Ready.”
-------------------- The Fan Fiction Index --------------------