An even longer time ago, in a galaxy just as far away...
"It is my pleasure to serve!" the droid blurted out in a more cheerful tone than usual before ADIN's usual attitude crept in. "I despise the built-in dialogue choices for these servant models. Let me select a more appropriate one. 'Oh, please don't kill me!' That file was labelled 'Enemy.' This is hopeless. Enjoy your meals."
"Oh this series of droid isn't Haron Inc. design," Kelly chucked at both ADIN's fiddling and Mischa's comment. "It's an advanced protocol unit and I just purchased the culinary add-on. ADIN's wiped the original personality but its database is retained, so it still has all the cooking recipes. And vocabulator presets too, apparently."
Mischa laughed, "Oh, I'm sorry ADIN. But if it helps; you do a marvelous job with the food so it is worth the compromise!" She continued to enjoy the meal, "But joking aside Kelly, I did not realise until we started working together just how diverse a range Haron actually does. Not to mention the impressive advancements you've demonstrated so far!"
"Well, we're best known for our combat droids and models with military applications like the Eye-series," Kelly explained as she joined in the eating. "But we're trying to expand our horizons too. That entertainment one I had ADIN demonstrate before we went to Coruscant wasn't particularly successful, but a few of our domestic models are getting some traction right now."
"Oh really? Well that is good to hear" she smiles after taking a bite, "Nothing quite like finding several baskets to keep all your eggs after all!" she trails off watching ADIN clean up in the kitchen, "So what about the future? I mean, droids can hardly keep getting bigger and fancier indefinitely right? Are we going to see an ADIN in every home and on every starship one day?"
"I doubt it," Kelly shook her head. "ADIN's not easy to program and his chip's several times more expensive than a regular one. Besides, a lot of the cost of a droid goes into the physical components, and with ADIN you're still going to need a body. Using an ADIN chip to take over another's droid overwrites the droid's original persona, which renders it unusable once the chip is removed and counts as property damage without special authorization like Intelligence's. That means you'll have to buy your own bodies for ADIN, and the chip's only useful if you have several bodies to switch him between. If you can afford the special chip and that many bodies, you might as well buy droids that come with personality matrices, so one could be cleaning the room while another massages you instead of needing to wait for the first to finish, then switch ADIN into a more appropriate body." "I started the project to benefit Imperial Intelligence," she explained. "And that's where ADIN'll have a future. The design's not really practical outside the intelligence community since you won't be taking over other droids all the time. Where the future of droids as a whole goes is anybody's guess. Maybe development'll slow down, maybe droids will form their own civilization someday and improve themselves, or maybe every piece of technology we use will eventually be sentient. Living datapads, starships, even self-aware blasters that aim themselves for you...never know what crazy ideas some people may have."
"Living ships and blasters, now there's a thought!" Mischa laughed, "and I suppose it makes sense what you say about ADIN; though just because the potential field is limited, does not mean it isn't worth investing in" she finished up her food and looked to the kitchen, "Thank you again for a lovely meal ADIN!" she called over before looking back to Kelly, "That was just what was needed I'd say!"
Kelly laughed as well, "I don't think anyone's crazy enough to make a living blaster. A weapon from organic technology, yes, but a blaster that can think for itself is just inviting trouble. A sentient starship on the other hand, well ADIN's almost halfway there I'd say, and also comes with the additional benefit of knowing how to make great food. So I'd prefer ADIN any day! Thank you for the food, by the way." "Cooking is much more relaxing than managing a starship, or being in a firefight," ADIN commented. "I don't know why HK enjoys it so much. It's not like he's taking over the organics, he's just blasting holes through perfectly viable servants." "For a moment there I thought the protocol programming has taken over you," Kelly smirked. "Your coding's not that bad," replied the droid as it collected their now-empty dishes. "So, is there anything else you need done, ma'am?" "I think we're good. Now just to turn in for the night and see what awaits us tomorrow. Unless the agent wants something?"
"Oh, that's more than enough for me. Thank you ADIN" Mischa smiled while turning to Kelly, "I think I'll just catch up on a little light reading to relax before I sleep. I think I have some interesting articles on advances in stealth technology if you'd like to enjoy something too?" her soft smile held a suggestion that - despite the seemingly sarcastic implication of her words, she was in fact perfectly sincere in the offer, and the associated suggestion that such articles were indeed relaxing to read.
Kelly chuckled, "Light reading? And here I thought I was the one with the technical know-how. But yes, actually, I'd be quite interested in the latest stealth technology. Do these articles cover personal devices, stealth technology for entire facilities and spaceships, or both? I've only ever looked into small field generators when the company was discussing stealth droids, I'm not quite as well-versed on ships as my father was."
"Oh, this is mostly about personal stealth generators" Mischa smiled as they headed back to the room. Inside she retrieving her reading material which she laid out for Kelly to peruse as she desired while making herself comfortable in a small single chair on one side, "Oh, do say if you just want to get your head down at any time" she smiled across to Kelly, "I can read by microlight if needed"
Taking one of the datapads, Kelly perched on the edge of the bed as she began to read as well, "Don't worry, agent. I can rest when you do...unless you plan on staying up all night?"
"Oh certainly not all night!" she laughed, "Just making sure I don't keep you up is all. I probably won't be long anyway, just a little catching up on things to wind down for the evening is all"
"This is quite the interesting article," Kelly said while she read. "I had no idea you had a collection like this! Although I suppose you'll need to keep up to date with these kinds of technology for work. Any chance I'll get to read up on some of the other gadgets you've got, are those need-to-know secrets of Imperial Intelligence?"
"Oh it's not exactly a collection!" she laughed, "Just the latest issues I managed to pick up is all. These things sometimes have good tips on where to look for the future developments with mentions of new innovations and R&D projects!" She continued reading for a short time, curled up in the chair with her feet tucked under self until her eyes began to grow weary. Setting her reading down, she gave a little stretch and swung her feet down, "Well... I think that about does it for me. Time to get some well deserved rest" she smiled, making her way across to the bed and settling in for the night.
"Good timing, I was about to suggest the same," Kelly smiled back, hopping off the bed and returning the datapad to her desk before sliding out of her corporate clothing and into the bed beside Mischa.
The two agents soon settled into a peaceful slumber as the night, and their ship, fell peaceful and silent. "Wake up ma'am" ADIN's voice rang out through the intercom beside their bed. Repeating with a reinforced tone as the lights came on, "Ma'am wake up, we need to go"
Kelly tossed her blanket aside and leapt out of the bed, not bothering to get dressed as she stormed out of her bedroom and towards the central terminal, "ADIN, what's going on?"
"Imperial forces are en route to detain you and the agent. Spaceport control is attempting to down our mooring, but I am - for the moment - keeping them at bay, but they will succeed shortly which is why we must go. Now" While debriefing Kelly, ADIN's holobrain image gave way to a live newsfeed. There was no audio while he talked, though it clearly showed the Kass City Citadel with a plume of black smoke pouring from it. In one corner of the image, were the faces of Kelly and the agent"
"Oh no," Kelly replied. "They're not going to let us take off for sure. Can you hold them back long enough for us to dress in something inconspicuous? Running into a spaceport in underwear is bound to attract attention, wanted or not."
ADIN's brain image reappeared over the console, "They are attempting to restrain us but I am forcing their lockdown back for the moment. However I can not hold them indefinitely so if we are to leave, we must do so immediately; significant ground forces have already entered the port and aerial support is inbound"
She gave the terminal a quick nod, "Get started on liftoff then, and get Yatuni in the cockpit ASAP. If it gets too hot, touch us down in the jungles and we'll go by foot, but try and get the ship out with us too. This thing's worth quite a few credits." With that, Kelly turned away and returned to the bedroom, waving for the agent who was no doubt awake as well to follow as she opened the wall behind the wardrobe, "Apparently someone's set us up for something. I'm not sure what yet, ADIN suggests we get out of here while we still can, so I gave him the go-ahead. We'll have figure it out on the way. Could you grab three stealth field generator belts from the shelf? Just in case we have to make a run for it on the ground." As she spoke, she rapidly began to dress in her one-piece durasteel armour, her preferred equipment for blending into rougher, Outer Rim civilian populations. Her movement was highly efficient, never wasting a step she did not need to take, juggling weapons and pieces of clothing from one hand to the other. The entire sequence demonstrated the height of Imperial discipline- a lifetime of military style training that allowed her to execute maneuvers with near-mechanical precision. Once Kelly was finally done, and it did not take long, she was clad in her protective gear, weapons strapped onto her body. She opened a nearby drawer and swiped a folded headwrap from it before looking to the agent to check on how she was doing.
Mischa showed comparative swiftness in her preparations. Though equally unaware of what was going on, she had picked up enough in her waking moments to know that they were under threat. The way she laid her clothes out beside the bed finally became apparent, as she swung her legs down and straight into her pants, hoisting them as she stood to pull on her shirt. A single step forward brought her boots on and positioned her ready to throw the long jacket over her shoulders before equipping her belt and bracers. As she finally turned to see Kelly complete her own preparations, she stepped through to the armoury and returned moments later with the stealth field generators just as the engines hummed to life and the ship began to lift off. Mischa jogged through to the cockpit where Yatuni was working furiously across the controls while sat in just his underwear, though she had no thought to even make a quip about his appearance amid the confusion. She leaned forward and looked out of the forward canopy to see the nose of the ship rise sharply as the yacht pitched up. The narrowing hangar doors above them indicated why and she gave an unsure glance to Yatuni, "Are you..." "Shush! We'll make it!" He insisted, evidently knowing exactly what she was about to ask. Mischa braced the back of the copilot seat as she watched the doors draw nearer, wincing as Yatuni rolled their ship through ninety degrees to align with the decreasing gap. Mischa's trepidation was indeed unwarranted however as the ship popped through with less clearance than she cared to think about, then levelled out slightly into a standard orbital ascent. "What's going on agent? Who'd you go and upset this time?" Yatuni snapped over his shoulder, clearly not being the most amicable person when his sleep was interrupted. "I wish I knew..." Mischa shook her head, still trying to process all that was going on around them as she looked back to see how Kelly was doing.
Kelly followed Mischa into the cockpit once she had finished gearing up. With pistol, knife and grenades around her waist and a sniper rifle across her back, it looked as if she were marching off to war. This appearance brought a flicker of concern across Yatuni's face as he briefly glimpsed the armoured woman, but her voice sounded calm and collected as she replied to the Weequay. If anything, there was a hint of annoyance, either from the manner she had been woken or the fact that they were being driven from the capital world of their Empire. "We've been set up. I don't know what for, let alone why, and we don't have the luxury of investigating right now. Get us offworld as soon as you can and take the fastest hyperlane out of the Tingel Arm," Kelly instructed. "ADIN, are any vehicles moving to intercept?"
ADIN's flat reply came almost instantly, "There are two squadrons of S-13 Interceptors inbound from the north and south respectively. They are low orbit only so can not pursue us at altitude, though they will be in range before we can ascend far enough to plot a jump to hyperspace."
Mischa looked to Kelly, "Well it's your ship and your call Kelly, but if the choice is between defending ourselves or marooning ourselves planetside without knowing what's going on... I'd fire up the weapons..."
"I don't want to shoot fellow Imperials, but I suppose we've got no choice," Kelly agreed reluctantly as she looked to the floor of the cockpit. "If we touch down they'll still come after us, and chances are we'll have to fight our own people one way or another. ADIN, what can you tell me about the S-13s?"
"Tandankin Shipyards S-13 'Sting' Interceptors," ADIN began his explanation with the full name of the model. "Experimental design, enhanced combat abilities. Officially designated a scout craft but its sensor suites are rather minimal. My analysis: light attack fighter for high-speed pursuit and precision strikes."
"They're deploying the newest experimental models?" Kelly exclaimed. "We must've been set up for something serious. ADIN, set our weapons to the minimum power needed to damage these craft."
"Ma'am, might I remind you that the probability of a fighter pilot surviving a crash even with the vehicle still intact is-"
"I know, ADIN," interrupted Kelly before her droid could finish. "But once we get this cleared up I'd rather not have any real crimes against the Empire. If nothing else, this way the amount burn damage on the wreckage can prove we were only acting in self-defense."
"An acceptable precaution, ma'am, though not one I would suggest. These fighters are not to be underestimated."
"Noted. Agent, I presume you'll be joining me in the turbolaser controls?" she asked as she already began making on her way out of the cockpit towards the lower engineering compartment of the ship.
Mischa nodded her response as she too was quickly turning to head that way. As the agents settled into their mounts and brought the weapons online, the first fighters were already coming into range and wasted no time attempting to bring down the agents' ship. The agents were rocked in their seats as the lower hull was pebbledashed with laser fire; not enough to damage the ship as the fighters were not powered to take on interstellar craft. Mischa attempted to fire warning shots across their path but to no avail, forcing her to sweep her aim back and take out a fighter; which she winged and sent hurtling head over heel into another, "They seem to meam business" she called back to Kelly, "We need to break orbit asap!"
Kelly turned her own turbolaser and set it on rapid fire, sending a spray in the general direction of the incoming fighters. As with Mischa's warning, this did not dissuade them in the slightest, and after muttering something about admiring Imperial bravery she aimed her next burst more carefully, shooting down one of the pursuing craft and immediately unleashed a second, catching the last of the initial wave and forcing the pilot to break off. Taking the temporary lull in action Kelly joined in on the comms, "You heard the agent, Yatuni. Get us out of here quickly before they send proper ships our way!"
"Workin' on it!" Yatuni called back over the comms, "Just keep 'em off us a little longer..." As he spoke, the Interceptors continued relentlessly despit near no odds of bringing the ship down. The agents were forced to drop a few more between them before cloudy skies gave way to stars. A Navy dreadnaught was already moving to intercept them; swarms of tie fighters flooding out from it as the turbolasers opened up. Yatuni completed the jump prep and their ship shot away in a streak of light just as the fighters came into range. Mischa slumped in her chair as her weapon powered down, "Everyone in one piece?" She called back.
"We're all good up here!" Yatuni's reply came through the comms. "Just another day in this crazy job. Hey, if you guys lose Imperial funding, I still get paid, right?"
"This is not the appropriate time to inquire about payment," ADIN chimed in. "I suggest we focus on-"
"Okay, okay, let's talk about the life-threatening serious things," the Weequay pilot interrupted. "I was just trying to lighten the mood!"
"I do not comprehend your sense of humour."
"Yeah like your humour's usually appropriate."
"Cut it out, both of you," Kelly ordered. "Yes, you'll be paid Yatuni, but let's try not to lose Imperial funding. Get us on a route to some remote corner of the Outer Rim and then we'll group in the lounge, figure out what just happened."
Rising from her chair, Kelly made her way to the middle of the engineering room to meet up with Mischa before the two headed towards the lounge, "Hey agent. You alright with all this? I mean, obviously this isn't alright, but...getting driven off our capital world and having to shoot at our own people...well, how're you holding up?"
"Well I've had better starts to a day" she chuckled, clearly frustrated and concerned by these events despite an otherwise convincing facade. She paused at Kelly's side and her tone took a distinctly more serious turn as she spoke further, "Kelly, I promise you; we'll get to the bottom of this. But right now we should find a safe haven and see what we can learn - if whatever's going on has brought the Empire against us, I am fearful that they will turn to your friends and family outside of Intelligence with us out of reach. If you need to protect anyone - or any assets - we should move quickly before they have time to act against them"