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"Perfect Square Act I" Pt. 3


An even longer time ago, in a galaxy just as far away...

 

"Alright, work quickly; I've got you covered. But let us not waste any time in getting out of here and honoring our agreement to rendezvous with the others." she nodded as she turned to face away and keep a watchful eye on their surroundings.


Kelly worked away for another minute or so, typing on the terminal. Once she had finished, she knelt down to the access panel she had shot open earlier, reaching in and forcefully pulling out a datachip. She pocketed it and stood back up, turning to Mischa. "That should be what we needed. Let's get-" she paused for a second as she turned back to the terminal, now displaying a schematic of the palace with parts of the bottom portion flashing red. "Oh...that's not good."


Mischa rolls her eyes with a 'why does it never go smoothly' look on her face as she turns to face the terminal, "What have you got?" she asked somewhat hesitantly.

"The palace's anti-gravity mechanisms are damaged, probably from the shooting," Kelly replied. "It's still got limited propulsion and it looks like they're trying to crash-land it without destroying the buildings below but...this thing isn't meant to land. It doesn't have any landing gear, not to mention its massive size, so we don't want to be here when it goes down." Kelly bent down to pick up the rifle she was carrying as she half-sprinted towards the exits to catch up with Mischa, who was closer to the doors that led out of the maintenance section


"No time to waste then" Mischa nodded calmly to Kelly as she approached before turning - rifle at the ready - to lead them back along the main corridor and to the elevator which would return them to rendezvous with the others. "I trust you managed to get what you need still from the servers?" she asked as they casually waited for the elevator to arrive.


"I got what I could," Kelly said as she stopped at the elevator as well. "We'll see how useful it is once we...well, get a moment to look." A mechanical groan and a thud announced the arrival of the elevator. As the door slid open they could see two individuals inside, but before Mischa could properly identify them, Kelly had already opened fire. Only two bolts came from her rifle, each striking the head of one of the occupants of the elevator. Both of them were slammed back against the elevator wall by the force of the shots, slowly sliding down until they sat motionless on the ground with their backs to the wall. The bodies were clearly that of palace security, as they wore the distinctive armour of Hutt Cartel personnel. Kelly walked coolly into the elevator, letting Mischa select their destination as she knelt down in front of the fallen guards. As they began to ascend, she ejected the depleted power cells in her rifle, replacing them with the fresh ones remaining in the rifles dropped by the guards. When she was finished with her own rifle, she stood and handed Mischa the spares.


"Thank you" Mischa said as she replenished her own power cells, glancing down at the two bodies behind them briefly before looking back to Kelly as she shouldered the rifle for the duration of the elevator ride, "Not bad" she nodded, clearly impressed as she turned to face the door; hands folded patiently behind her back. Unseen to Kelly, a playful smirk hinted across her face as she idly tapped her fingernails against the metal embroidery on her belt to the cheesy music.


"Thanks," Kelly smiled as she held her rifle casually, awaiting the elevator to reach its destination. A chime, followed by the thud of the lift stopping announced their arrival. As the doors opened, they were met with a scene of complete carnage- the hallway was filled with the bodies of guards, droids and a few other unfortunate enough to be caught in the crossfire. The blaster-scorched body of the Wookiee could be seen by the entrance of a large circular room, laying atop two guards with his hand still firmly grasping one of their necks. He had gone down with quite a fight. The other prisoner, however, was a different story. As they stepped into the entrance of the circular room, a blaster bolt flew between the two, missing both and leaving yet another mark on the wall behind them. Kelly raised her rifle but did not fire back as she watched the Weequay scramble out from behind a corpse, arms raised in the air. "Thank the stars it's you!" he exclaimed. "I never thought I'd be happy to see Imperials!" Without warning, the palace suddenly tilted dramatically, causing all the bodies to slide to one side of the room. The Weequay lost his balance, stumbling and landing right in the pile of corpses with a grunt. Kelly, too, was taken by surprise, being knocked into Mischa by the pull of gravity as the two tumbled into the entrance arch. As their surroundings began to stabilize, Kelly got back to her feet, muttering a quick "sorry!" as she did so. "Wow you really messed this place up," the Weequay commented before looking to the two. "Okay, look, if this palace goes down it's going down in flames. I can fly all sorts of things, even won some swoop races a few years back. Don't shoot me and I'll get you out of here in one piece and keep the Hutt Cartel off our backs, deal?"


"Don't worry about it" Mischa smiled as she dusted herself off looking to the Weequay, "I already promised you we would deliver you safely from here if you helped... I will not go back on that." She glances around the tilted room with an upnod towards a door on the far side, "The car I arrived in should be just through there; you get us out of here and back on solid ground in one piece; then you may consider us even" she smiled to him as she began to work her way around the upturned room and towards the door regardless of his reply, offering a hand to Kelly once or twice as they traversed the carnage.


Kelly traversed the room with ease, clambering over fallen tables and sidestepping corpses as if it were natural instinct. The Weequay followed them after picking up the pistol he had dropped, having much more difficulty as he bumbled over the bodies and objects that were in his way. He quickly picked up his pace as the palace was taken by a series of increasingly violent shakes, rushing for the speeders. As they neared the speeder pad, they could see that it too was littered with the dead. Here, however, the fighting was still ongoing. Three guards ran from several droid pursuers, firing back as they fled. One was torn down by multiple shots, collapsing instantly to the floor. Another took a hit to the leg, dropping to one knee while the third, a large Trandoshan, came to her aid, firing a blaster cannon at the droids. Under cover of the explosions, he jumped into the nearest speeder car, dragging his wounded comrade inside as well. For a few seconds, it appeared like they had made their escape, until a volley of blaster bolts lit up the sky from somewhere above the pad, turning the vehicle into a streak of fire that plummeted into the depths of the city. "Uhh...is that gonna be a problem?" the Weequay glanced up with a concerned expression. Kelly shook her head, "I set the palace defences to target just the guards. We'll be fine." With the guards gone, the trio proceeded safely onto the speeder pad. Most of the droids had been destroyed or damaged by the heavy cannon fire, and the few that survived relatively intact completely ignored them, as Kelly had promised. The Weequay did not even look towards Darnel's speeder, immediately making for a sleek, red and black car with four seats. He climbed in and set to work prying open the vehicle's control panel. His hands maneuvered through the snake-like wires skillfully, contrasting his clumsy navigation of the palace halls. In only a few seconds, the engine fired up. "Good work," Kelly commented as she got in. "Not the first time I've done that," he replied as their speeder lifted off once everyone was on board. "Not on an Imperial world, of course. Just so you know." Kelly chuckled at the Weequay's nervousness before looking over her shoulder at the doomed sky palace behind them. The massive floating structure was attempting to land on a platform which was the conjoined tops of three buildings. Its speed had significantly slowed from what was a natural descent caused by gravity, but its propulsion systems were clearly working overtime as evident from the electric sparks that fell from the bottom of the palace and the large billowing cloud that followed behind it. It did not crash with a spectacular explosion, but instead managed somewhat of a landing as it first skidded along the platform before both the palace and the platform began to collapse. It happened slowly as the palace crumbled in on itself until the uppermost levels of the three buildings that supported it became a single, amorphous wreck, a crumbled ball of debris that sat on the skyline of Nar Shaddaa. "Am I the only one who really wished Gundo was home?" the Weequay was the first to speak after witnessing the fall of the palace. "I can live without an angry Hutt coming after me for revenge," responded Kelly. "I think I've had enough of angry Hutts for a lifetime..."


"Not the subtlest extraction I've enjoyed" Mischa commented as they sped away to become lost in the sea of neon lights that was the smuggler's moon, "But I shan't complain at a successful mission completion." Turning to Kelly, "So where are we heading? The next priority must be to re-establish contact with Sixteen."


In the distance, the flashing lights of the Hutt Cartel's enforcement vehicles could be seen speeding towards the crash site. Soon, the entirety of the area was illuminated by spotlights that circled around the remains of the palace, the contrast between the rising black smoke and bright shining lights drawing all attention there despite the best efforts of the colourful and elaborate signs across the moon. It was as if a light show had been put up on the wreckage, a final testament to the glory of the Hutt that once inhabited it. "The next priority is getting the frag outta here," the Weequay cut in before Kelly could answer. "The Cartel's going to be looking for who brought down Gundo's palace and we don't want to be their space for long." "I don't think they're giving us a choice," Kelly replied, pointing to a holographic broadcast at the side of a building. The speeder slowed as they all observed the feed. It appeared to be the view from one of the crafts around the crash site, providing a bird's eye view of the ruins. The bold Aurebesh text beneath the video stated the obvious- that Gundo's sky palace had gone down and the crime lord was suspected to be dead. However, a smaller line beneath gave the news they had feared to see- that the Hutts had currently locked down the spaceports as they investigate the incident. "We need a place to stay low," stated Kelly, looking to Mischa. "Do you know any Imperial safe houses on this planet?"


Mischa nodded, looking to the Weequay, "Head for the Corellian Sector; these co-ordiantes" she said as she tapped on the console to program in a destination for the landing pad at the informant's domicile building. With that done she turned back to Kelly, "Once we are there - and I'm out of this getup - we need to run through your protocols to re-establish contact with Sixteen"


Kelly gave a nod of acknowledgement and sat back as the speeder continued down its path. Originally headed for the spaceports, the vehicle instead arced over its initial destination, moving further along the same direction towards the Corellian Sector, named so due to the number of humans with Corellian descent living in the area. The informant had likely chosen to settle in this sector to blend in, as he too was a human. This worked to the advantage of the two Imperials as they stepped out of their speeder, looking entirely at home here. The Weequay did not stand out either among Nar Shaddaa's diverse population, and the three stayed beneath notice as they made their way through the streets.

As they neared the unspectacular building they were headed to, Kelly turned to the Weequay, "It might be best if you stay outside. We might need to contact our superiors and discuss sensitive materials, and well...you haven't been cleared by Intelligence."


"Yeah, yeah, you and your top secret information," he shook his head. "Wouldn't interest me even if you dumped your whole database on me. Too much reading. I'll keep watch out here and hit the building alarm if I see Cartel security rushing in or something."


"Thanks," Kelly gave him a friendly pat on the shoulder as she left him at the entrance and stepped inside the building.


Proceeding down a narrow corridor into a rusty elevator, Kelly let Mischa walk ahead and lead the way as she was the one who suggested this location and knew the safe house. Lacking automatic music like the extravagance of the Hutt's abode, this elevator groaned unpleasantly as it headed up to the floor of choice. It opened to yet another hallway, slightly wider this time and with doors to either side.


It was evident that something was not right when they approached the informant's room. The door automatically slid open, which none of the other doors along the hall did as no resident of the Smuggler's Moon was foolish enough to leave their homes unlocked. It was as if someone inside had been expecting them. Indeed, upon first glance, the informant Tanric Mallis appeared to be sitting peacefully on his couch with his head bowed, awaiting their arrival. However, even with strands of hair drooping over his forehead, the hole burnt through it was unmistakable. The room was more or less the same as it was when Mischa had left it, and there were no signs of a struggle. This was an execution.


The silence of the realization was broken as something shifted from behind the shelf on the other side of the room...


With a silent nod from Mischa serving both as confirmation of the facts at hand and instruction to proceed, in one for Kelly to prepare herself; Mischa could just be seen reaching around to the back of her belt to retrieve her trusty blade as she activated her stealth field generator and flickered out of view, leaving Kelly to entrench herself by the doorway. Slowly and cautiously, Mischa encircled the room with a focus on the suspect area of shelving until she was close enough and at a favorable angle for her to see anyone or anything out of place and be poised to pounce should the need arise.

Kelly raised her rifle, her sights set on the shelf, ready to fire at the next sign of movement. When Mischa was at an angle to see behind the shelf, something shifted once again and Kelly instantaneously pulled the trigger, the blaster bolt impacting a spherical device that was thrown into the air. A electromagnetic pulse rippled through the room and her rifle overheated, forcing her to drop it as she could no longer maintain a grip on the scorching barrel. The wave of energy hit Mischa, giving her a mild shock as her stealth field generator overloaded. As Mischa came into view the lights cut off, leaving them in total darkness. When the backup power kicked in and Kelly had regained her composure, she realized that Mischa was not the only one that had become visible.

A man stepped out from behind the shelf, tossing away a sizzling mechanical belt which appeared to be another overloaded stealth device. Aside from the overheated blaster pistol holstered on his hip, the figure appeared to be unarmed. The pale blue complexion and red eyes of the individual made him recognizable as a Chiss to those who knew the species. An isolationist government, the Chiss Ascendancy remained largely in their own space, occasionally offering support to their Imperial allies. As a result, most Chiss encountered in known space were generally affiliated with the Empire.


As they neared the unspectacular building they were headed to, Kelly turned to the Weequay, "It might be best if you stay outside. We might need to contact our superiors and discuss sensitive materials, and well...you haven't been cleared by Intelligence."


"Yeah, yeah, you and your top secret information," he shook his head. "Wouldn't interest me even if you dumped your whole database on me. Too much reading. I'll keep watch out here and hit the building alarm if I see Cartel security rushing in or something."


"Thanks," Kelly gave him a friendly pat on the shoulder as she left him at the entrance and stepped inside the building.


Proceeding down a narrow corridor into a rusty elevator, Kelly let Mischa walk ahead and lead the way as she was the one who suggested this location and knew the safe house. Lacking automatic music like the extravagance of the Hutt's abode, this elevator groaned unpleasantly as it headed up to the floor of choice. It opened to yet another hallway, slightly wider this time and with doors to either side.


It was evident that something was not right when they approached the informant's room. The door automatically slid open, which none of the other doors along the hall did as no resident of the Smuggler's Moon was foolish enough to leave their homes unlocked. It was as if someone inside had been expecting them. Indeed, upon first glance, the informant Tanric Mallis appeared to be sitting peacefully on his couch with his head bowed, awaiting their arrival. However, even with strands of hair drooping over his forehead, the hole burnt through it was unmistakable. The room was more or less the same as it was when Mischa had left it, and there were no signs of a struggle. This was an execution.


The silence of the realization was broken as something shifted from behind the shelf on the other side of the room...


"Did he even get the chance?" Mischa challenged offhandedly as she stood and regained her composure, pouting some at the overloaded stealth field generator, "And was that /really/ necessary? I liked that generator!" she chuckled. As she focused her attention on the Chiss, she could see the slight hint of perplexity on his face as he surveyed her also - most likely due to her conspicuous attire, "Just... don't ask..." she said while folding her arms across her chest, "Now that you are here as well my objective is satisfied, and it sounds like your business on Nar Shaddaa is concluded too?"


"I prefer to be completely aware of my surroundings," the Chiss said before looking to Kelly. "Did you manage to retrieve the information we came for?" "No thanks to you, yes," Kelly retrieved the datachip she took from the palace's computer core, handing it to Cipher Sixteen. The agent waved her away, "We can't afford to transmit this here, not when the Hutts are still looking into Gundo's death. Examine it first while I establish communications with Keeper. See if there's anything on there worth mentioning and the Watchers will handle the rest once we get the full data back." Cipher Sixteen moved to the Dejarik table, kneeling down beside it and adjusting its inner workings to allow it to function as a communicative holoprojector once again. This took much longer than when the informant had used the device as the electromagnetic pulse had short circuited the systems, which was visible from the sparks occasionally emitting from exposed wires. The flow of electricity around him did not seem to affect the agent, who seemed as emotionless as ever; he was either very confident in his mechanical skills or simply devoid of fear altogether.

In the meantime, Kelly settled on the other side of the room where Mischa was at, retrieving a large datapad from the shelf. She first powered it up and ensured its security before inserting the chip. The screen flickered for a moment as it processed the information before a list appeared on the screen. Kelly made a selection and data began to stream down its surface- a long and detailed financial record of Gundo the Hutt's transactions in the past month.


"It's as we suspected," Kelly spoke after looking through the information. "Gundo was bought out by the Republic. He's been doing business with Agri-Core Exports, Kelsis Fabrication, Duro Interstellar Protection Supplies, all known fronts used by Republic SIS."


Mischa watched Kelly unveil her findings with an acute curiosity whilst keeping a cautious eye on the Cipher as he established the secure channel, "I see now why HQ held such a vested interest in him" As she noticed Cipher Sixteen finish his work, she moved over to his side; that she may also report to Keeper, adjusting the dancers tiara she still bore through the back of her hair to stand with confidence as she passed him a cursory glance while waiting for the holoimage to appear.


As Cipher Sixteen stood back to his feet, the hologram of Keeper flickered to life before him. The director of Imperial Intelligence looked first to the Cipher Agent, then to Kelly, who was approaching the Dejarik table as well. After discerning that these two were indeed the missing members of his organization, his gaze settled on Mischa.

"Good work, agent. I see your ability to use disguises has been beneficial to us once more," he commended her before focusing back on the highest ranking member in the room. "Cipher Sixteen. Why were you off the radar without notifying us? Was the mission a success?"


"The situation altered my mission priorities," the Cipher explained. " I identified a member of the Republic Shadow Guard while undercover. Attempting to intercept him may have informed Gundo of our intentions and resulted in Haron's capture, but neutralizing the Molator was the higher priority."


"You could've at least been nice enough to give me a warning to run," Kelly joined in, crossing her arms.


"Unless your title is Keeper or Darth, you don't tell me how I work," Cipher Sixteen shot back. "Operatives of the Shadow Guard are not to be taken lightly. You making preparations to leave may have tipped the scales in their favour and caused not only a mission failure, but both of our deaths."


"He's right," Keeper agreed. "We have never faced an enemy as skilled and as relentless as the Shadow Guard. Every Molator agent must be captured or eliminated whenever the opportunity to do so presents itself."






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