Republic Strategic Intelligence Service Agent Merok, formerly Cipher Nine of Imperial Intelligence, crouched outside the hut and squinted, his blood-red Chiss eyes working to make out anything inside the building. He couldn't see anything; it appeared the person inside had added sun-reflectors to the windows.
"Report," Merok said.
A Republic soldier in full combat armor crouched beside him. "Sir, the ambassador is currently being held in Room One," he said, motioning to a holographic display of the hut. "He's guarded by two thugs. Thug One is wearing a red combat vest and black trousers, wielding a Balmorran blaster rifle. Thug Two is dressed more casually, a white shirt with a gray vest and pants. He's got a DC-15 blaster pistol."
Merok examined the situation, and as he did he thought back. He was still, technically, an Imperial Agent, since SIS had him in the Empire posing for them still, but he occasionally came out to help the Republic in situations like this, when other SIS agents were occupied.
The thugs could easily shoot the ambassador if they just tried breaking and entering. More, they wanted the thugs alive to find out who had hired them. There were three likely suspects at this point; Empire, Hutt Cartel, and Dread Masters. Merok, personally, was betting on the Hutt Cartel.
"How's the rest of the layout?" he asked.
"Room Two holds two more thugs," the trooper said. "One had a green combat vest and a vibrosword, the other a full suit of durasteel body armor, and twin blaster pistols, probably N-110 Power models."
Merok nodded. "Anyone else?"
"Only one. Main Room holds who we assume to be Thug Leader. What we see suggests he's in full Mandalorian armor, with a Balmorran Bunker Buster heavy cannon, and two Balmorran Hand Cannons."
Merok considered. "Imperial?"
"No, we don't think so," the soldier replied. "Otherwise we'd have a ransom threat by now. This is almost certainly a Cartel operation."
Merok nodded. "Okay."
"What do you want to do, sir?"
He paused a beat. "Hand me a loudspeaker, Captain."
"Yes, sir." The trooper complied, and then motioned for his troopers to flank the house.
"What are you planning?" Kaliyo asked.
Merok glanced up at her. She was in white-and-gray armorweave, a face-exposing helmet snugly fit over her head, a powerful blaster rifle cradled in her arms. Behind her, Temple readied her pistols. Vector and Lokin would be on the other side of the house, Merok knew, and Scorpio was with the troopers hidden a fifty meters from the front door.
"I'm going to talk him out," Merok said.
"If you can't?"
"Then we go in."
Merok tugged at the collar of his orange jacket and raised the loudspeaker. "Unidentified kidnappers, the is Republic SIS agent Merok. You are surrounded! Come out with your hands up and you will not be harmed. Do not fire on the ambassador!"
A moment later, the door slid open. The Mandalorian stepped out. He was clad in red-gold armor, his helmet held under one arm. His head was shaven and a nasty scar ran from the base of his skull across the top of his head until it reached the top of his right eyebrow.
"What makes you think we'll talk?" the Mandalorian demanded.
"You don't want to die," Merok said. "Or you wouldn't be talking now."
"What if we just kill your ambassador? Then you fail, too."
"No need for that," Merok said. "We can work this out with no one harmed."
"You don't understand us, do you?" the Mandalorian spat. "We live for battle!"
"But being surrounded and cut down isn't honorable."
"No surrender, Republic scum."
The Mandalorian reentered the house without another word. With a sigh, Merok turned to the Republic captain. The captain slammed his helmet on.
"You have a sniper on the room with the ambassador?"
"Don't let the thugs kill him."
"Tell your men to move in." He turned to Kaliyo. "Let's go."
He, Kaliyo, and Temple charged down the hill silently. Kaliyo reached the door first and kicked it down. There was a surprised yell and Kaliyo opened up with her rifle. Merok and Temple squeezed in behind her. The Mando was nowhere to be seen, but Thugs Three and Four had charged out, weapons in hand. Suddenly the back window blew open, and Vector engaged Thug Three blade-to-blade.
Merok raised his rifle and fired at Thug Four. The durasteel armor absorbed the shot and he fired with his twin pistols. Raina shoved Merok to the ground, the shots barely missing him. Merok fired from the floor, cleanly shearing through his head. Vector finished Thug Four.
There was a commotion in the back room. Merok knocked the door down. Three Republic soldiers were in the room. Thug One was dead, and two of the Republic soldiers were detaining Thug Two while the third freed the ambassador.
"The Mandalorian?" Merok asked over his comlink.
"He ran out the back door!" the captain replied.
Merok took off, determined not to let him get away. They had to interrogate at least a few prisoners; they had one now, they needed another. He sprinted up the hill after the Mando. When he reached the top of the hill he saw the Mando approaching an Aratech speeder. Kneeling, Merok sighted up and fired. The bolt blew the engines apart. The Mando whirled, enraged. Merok threw a flash grenade, but the Mando's self-darkening visor prevented the man from being incapacitated. Merok took advantage of the opportunity to leap in. Before the Mando could react, Merok fired a stun dart at his opponent's neck seal. The Mando grunted and collapsed.
The captain, who had caught up, panted. "Good job!"
"Mission accomplished," Merok said simply. "Now, we'll be returning to Imperial space to continue our subterfuge. Have Command call me when they identify who the kidnappers were working for. Kaliyo, Temple. Gather the crew; let's go."