top of page

"Perfect Square Act I" Pt. 4


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

 

Mischa gave Kelly a small but reassuring smile as she rested a hand on her shoulder before looking between Cipher Sixteen and Keeper, "Who exactly are the Shadow Guard?" she asked openly; clearly not comfortable with seeming to be the only person in the room not in the know. Her gaze settled on Keeper as she spoke, expectant of more detail from her recognized superior.


"The Shadow Guard is a Republic black ops group," Keeper answered Mischa's question. "Most of the Republic's leadership don't even know of its existence. Despite Supreme Chancellor Janarus' insistence on military transparency, some in the Republic's military and Senate recognized that the only way to win was to play our game." "Fighting fire with fire," Kelly commented. "Precisely," Keeper nodded, agreeing to the saying that Kelly had just recited. "Unlike the SIS, the Republic Shadow Guard has no misconceptions about morality. They are willing to do anything and everything to ensure the destruction of our Empire, including the use of our methods and tactics. They call their agents 'Molators,' an Alderaanian mythological creature and a play on the word 'mole.' Their ranks consist of more than spies- they have troopers, scientists, even a few radical Jedi if our reports are correct." "Between the Molator in his palace and the financial data we recovered, it's clear that the Republic was using Gundo," Cipher Sixteen concluded. "The question now is what for." "I think I have something," Kelly scrolled back through the datapad as she reviewed the information. "The amount of credits Gundo listed as being used for mining supplies is precisely the sum of credits he received from two of the SIS fronts, Kelsis Fabrication and Duros Interplanetary Protection Supplies. He could've been acting as a middle man, a Hutt would be the perfect person to cover up a secret transaction by feeding it through the black market." "I don't suppose he mentioned who he purchased the mining supplies from?" the Chiss asked. Kelly shook her head, and Keeper looked behind his shoulder for a moment, speaking to someone who was not being picked up by the holofeed before giving his orders to the agents in the room. "The Watchers will work with what we have so far. Get out of Hutt Space and deliver that data back to base so we may examine it more thoroughly. Keeper out."


Mischa glanced between the others, partially still processing this revelation about the Shadow Guard, "Well then... perhaps one of you would be good enough to look into booking seats on the next transport while I change into something... less conspicuous..." Crossing the room as she spoke, she activated her holocomm and shared her secure frequency with Kelly's active datapad, "I have a room not far from here" she looked to Cipher Sixteen, "I assume you have transportation already; I will take our Weequay friend and the liberated car back so I can change. You can meet me at those co-ordinates when you're ready". With that she turned to leave the room


When Mischa arrived at the rendezvous coordinates, she could see that Kelly was already there, mingling among a crowd of locals who stood in the middle of the plaza. She could catch snippets of the conversation, mostly speculation and rumours concerning the smoking wreckage that adorned the sky of the Smuggler's Moon this night. Despite the change of clothes Kelly recognized Mischa almost instantly, excusing herself from the group and heading over. Cipher Sixteen was nowhere to be seen, and even with the number of different aliens here, a Chiss was not exactly hard to spot.

Mischa had been sat on a balcony high above the courtyard watching the area for some time before Kelly had arrived. She continued to observe the informants behaviour a short while before satisfying herself that their position was secure. Walking out into the crowded courtyard, Mischa blended much more naturally with the crowd now she no longer wore the attire of an entertainer; but rather her favored long black jacket. With her rifle stowed away elsewhere - presumably in the stowage compartment of their liberated car - Mischa appeared to the untrained eye much as any other human in the region; save for the distinct vibroblade strapped to her left boot, marking her possibly as slicer or to the more adventurous mind; a discreet mercenary of some description.


To the more trained eye however; she bore a far more calculated and professional apparel. Beyond her refined and clean-cut appearance setting her apart from the native population; the long black - apparent synth-leather - jacket which draped gracefully down from Mischa's slender shoulders over her Syntex shirt and down to her ankles bore a subtle yet distinct embossing around it's deep purple highlights which gave it away as a far more extravagant Emori leatherwork, whilst the inside shimmered subtly under the light with the equally distinct gloss of a shadowsilk lining, as did her tight black pants; though the electromesh overlay to the pants significantly lessened the effect, almost making them appear a different material entirely.


While her otherwise plain black pants were adorned with what appeared to be a simply stylish choice of two deep purple bands around her right thigh, those knowing would surmise from their spacing and position that these in fact served to mount a holster for a blaster pistol which was seemingly not adorned this day. Then of course, the truly eagle eyed


observer would note that while a blaster holstered ready for the right hand was not an uncommon sight, the presence of a more dexterous blade on the left boot would also suggest that she is left handed, and would so favor that side in melee combat.


Her seemingly innocent look was completed by the stark contrast of glistening silver accessories in a sleek yet tech-adorning belt and simple silver bracelets which offered a soft reflection of the magenta glow from the tech of her belt before the lines of her slender arms were capped by the tight black gloves protecting her - presumably, from the rest of her appearance - soft and delicate hands from the harsh world she appeared far more prepared for than first meets the eye; these were of course also more than they appeared at first glance as they too were made from pure shadowsilk; this time with a synth-leather overlay to provide increased durability without sacrificing the stealthy functionality of the shadowsilk. Much as with the rest of her attire; further scrutiny of the slightly off shine of her bracers would mark them as being made from Songsteel; a further indication on top of the visible vibroblade that this girl was prepared to handle herself at close quarters.


No, to any who were so inclined as to pick up on the finer details; this girl was anything but an innocent civilian, or even a slicer or mercenary. The combination of woven armoring, stealthy materials, interpolated fighting preferences and professional stature meant only one possibility; to those so inclined to see, she could be nothing other than a stealth assassin. However the select few in the galaxy who would be so inclined - and equally capable - to pick up on such details could be counted in low numbers indeed; and the majority of those numbers belonged to Imperial Intelligence; as did she.


Meandering effortlessly through the crowd, Mischa carried herself tall and confident despite her petite build - further indication of her high Imperial society upbringing - as she found her way towards Kelly's group and smiled to see that Kelly had already registered her approach, "I am glad to see you made it" she offered with a faux inflection to her tone, sounding more like she was reuniting with an old friend rather than a professional associate whom she was in the company of not long earlier. Continuing the faux-reunion pretense as she took Kelly's hands in her own in a friendly greeting, "Where is your partner?" Mischa smiled sweetly and curiously, "I had assumed he would be with you. I do hope there has been no delay at the Spaceport?"


"Oh, the spaceport is just terrible today," Kelly replied just as casually as she walked away from the crowd beside Mischa. "I never imagined they'd react so much to anything here, but I guess the Cartel cares about one of their own getting killed." She let Mischa lead the way back to their car as she continued to chat on, "Heard it's getting better, though. They're starting to let ships through already, if the HoloNet's to be believed. Shouldn't be any problem by the time we're leaving the moon."


Continuing the casual dialogue as they approached the car where the Weequay was waiting loyally with his feet up on the side of the door, Mischa turned to Kelly with a less sunny look on her face, "Oh, I do hope our transport hasn't been delayed! That must be where your partner is, right? Are we meeting him at the Spaceport then?" She turns with a small smile and a nod to the Weequay as they approach and he swings his feet down, mumbling something incoherent in Huttese as he started up the engine.


"We won't be meeting him anytime soon," Kelly replied as she slid into one of the rear seats. "He wanted to go on his own...his loss, we're better company than he is anyways." "It was Sixteen's idea to take a copy of the chip and split up," she continued with an explanation once Mischa was in and the doors were closed, allowing them to converse without being overheard. "The destruction of Gundo's palace attracted quite a bit of attention, and he wants to make sure the data gets back to the Citadel. He thinks we'll have better chances if we go our different ways so at least some of us will make it back. That and he likes working alone, which I think might be the more important reason of the two."


Mischa nods, "A characteristic shared by many Ciphers as I understand it. Very well then, I assume our transport is all set?" she looks to the Weequay, "Yatuni, we're headed to the Spaceport. Sixteen will not be joining us here" With that she turned back to Kelly, "That was an impressive display back there by the way, your ability to blend in to a crowd is sharp"


"Thanks," Kelly smiled. "We'll be taking a transport to Lannik, just outside of Hutt Space, where we should be able to maintain a secure broadcast to Kaas. My ship's docked there; I managed to send a signal for it to escape before I was captured so we'll be using that to get back to Imperial territory."


She looked to the Weequay as she finished outlining her plan, "Yatuni? Your name is...the Huttese word for driver?"


"You can thank the Exchange for that," he explained. "Weequay don't use personal names with each other so when I got off-world and started driving for their smuggling operations...the name kind of stuck."


Mischa smiled softly, "What is it they say now... if the cap fits...?"


shifting in her seat to cross her legs over as they cruised across the Nar Shaddaa skyline, Mischa folded her gloved hands across her raised knee as she looked to Kelly, "Lannik you say. I must say I am curious about the world; not somewhere I've had the opportunity to visit as yet. But it was a smart move to relocate your ship there." She smiles again, "The trip on board the transport should not take too long I believe"


"If everything goes smoothly, not at all. It's the closest spaceport to Nar Shaddaa outside of Hutt Space," Kelly nodded. "As for the planet, I've visited there once for a business trip. It's a hereditary monarchy, so the government goes into mood swings depending on the ruler, and they've landed on a particularly vicious one right now. It's certainly seen better days, but we'll be fine as long as we don't break any laws or speak out against their king."


Mischa nodded along as Kelly described the situation they were headed towards, "I am no stranger to the politics of high society" she smiled, "But if we are simply there to transfer to your ship then I do not foresee any real problems" Glancing out of the side window, she could see the Spaceport coming into view, "Now just to make it out of here..."


"I've made arrangements already," Kelly reassured her as their speeder landed on the pad outside the spaceport. Stepping out, Kelly led the way through the lobby, down an elevator and into a waiting area which was cluttered with passengers. They ranged from impatient and irritated to downright furious. In one corner, a Nikto was yelling as he was dragged away by two Cartel enforcers while at the centre of the room, two large Houks were shouting at the security, looking like they were on the edge of coming to blows. Kelly ignored all the drama around her as she squeezed her way through, dodging and weaving between the people until she came to a male Twi'lek standing beside an unspectacular transport ship. She announced her name as Raven and the Twi'lek nodded, taking them inside the ship. "Welcome to the Seleron," he introduced the ship as the three stepped in. "I've received the transfer, unlisted passengers will be paying double today as we agreed, and I'll expect the second payment once we arrive at our destination. In the meantime, feel free to enjoy the amenities on the ship. It might be a while before we're cleared for departure."


It took nearly half a day for the transport ship to first be cleared for departure, make its way into Lannik space, be cleared once again through the docking procedures there and finally land in the spaceport at Vorria, the capital city of the planet. The wait allowed the Imperials to take some rest before the next stage of their mission. Thus, most of this time had been spent in much-needed sleep, and the remainder allowed the Intelligence operatives to converse over a few drinks and better understand one another. When the call for disembarking finally came, Kelly went to speak briefly with the ship captain, confirming the second half of the smuggler's fee. Satisfied with the credits, the three of them were allowed off the Seleron and into the docking area beyond. The Lannik spaceport was a dramatic contrast to the rough building adorned with colourful signs that Nar Shaddaa's ports were. Here, the massive domed roofs, white patterned walls and beautifully tiled floor emphasized to visitors the focus on architecture and artisanry. Most of the light came from bright chandeliers hanging high above, with a few holographic displays here and there giving off illumination. They made their way to the customs area, where the rest of the new arrivals to the planet lined up to check in. Behind each of the customs terminals stood a guard droid who scanned an individual as they approached, and a quick glance around the room with an experienced eye made it clear that the area was well-defended, with small ports hidden inside the walls, either for the use of snipers or retractable turrets. Which it was mattered not; it was certainly not a good idea to try and find out. "Soooo...I take it an alias should get us past that?" Yatuni inquired as he glanced nervously at the customs droids. Kelly shook her head, "We could use some to be safe, but we won't even need to. Remember, Lannik's an independent world, which means they don't have access to Republic, Imperial or Cartel records. They'll only scan us for local offenses, and unless you give them reason to arrest you, they're not going to bother requesting information from a major government on every visitor."


"Besides..." Mischa smiled, "While they may not have access to our records, they will almost certainly know the Haron Inc. name, and a visit from a corporate representative is as good a cover as anything else." She turned to Yatuni, "As for us, it does not hurt to take precautions if you so desire; I would recommend we play to Kelly's heritage and pose you as her concierge while I assume the role of her personal assistant. Use your own discretion if you feel an alias is also warranted or not" With that she stepped forward as it came her turn to be scanned, "Keelah Se'Lai; Haron Incorporated" she announced herself as the droid scanned away, smiling knowingly to herself in the knowledge that the others had no idea if she was actually using an alias here or not as - per standard operating procedure - her identity had been concealed from all she associated with - including Kelly and Yatuni who simply knew her thus far as 'agent'.


Kelly stepped forward after Mischa, using her real name, "Kelly Haron, Executive Officer, Haron Incorporated." Having visited the planet before, the droid likely possessed records of her in its database and her scan was not even half as long as that of the others as it quickly instructed her to move along. Yatuni, using an abstract Huttese name that he seemingly improvised on the spot, warranted a much longer inspection, but he was let go without any questions by the end. When all three of them were past the customs area, the Weequay turned to them. "I guess I'll stick around the city for a bit, when things get quieter about Gundo I'll find a ride...somewhere. Thanks for getting me out of there." "Just...don't mention anything about meeting us or we might have to come for you after all," Kelly smirked playfully. Yatuni grinned, reaching into his pocket and tossing her a small, round device. "You don't have to chase after me. I owe you one, so comm me if you ever need someone to fly you out of a burning sky palace again." "I think I'm more likely to need information than that," Kelly chuckled. "I get my hands on plenty of that, too." "I'll call in that favour when I need it, then." Parting ways with the Weequay, Kelly led Mischa towards one of the docking bays. Inside was parked a single ship the size of a light freighter or small personal transport. Its exterior hull was built with a material that gave it the distinct grey-black appearance of Imperial vessels. The texture was not only a cosmetic indicator of allegiance, but a close look at the markings on the hull plating would confirm that they were made to military-grade standards by the same manufacturer who produced several lines of Imperial starfighters and troop transports. The sleek, elegant design of the vessel, however, made it clear that it was not a military design, but a civilian craft designed for both luxury and efficiency. As Kelly walked up the boarding ramp and unlocked the door, the fancy interior of the ship revealed itself to further emphasize that fact. Brightly lit with smooth, shining walls and furnishings more fine-crafted than that of many homes, the vessel was a reflection of the status of its owner. It was capable of serving as a true home-away-from-home for even the most demanding of individuals. "Welcome back, my lady," a male voice echoed throughout the ship as it was broadcast from its speakers. "I see you've brought a new friend." "You don't have to 'my lady' me," Kelly addressed the voice. "She's not a corporate friend." "It's good to see you too, ma'am," the voice responded. "Do I get an introduction?" "Right. She's Keela-" Kelly paused as she slowly turned to Mischa. "Was that an alias, or?"


"Perhaps..." Mischa teased with a smirk, "Simply 'agent' will suffice though when we are in a secure environment. It is what I have become accustomed to after all" She looks around, "I must say this is an impressive vessel, though... I do not see your colleague anywhere, are we talking via comms to the cockpit?"


"We are conversing through the vessel's communications system," affirmed the voice. "However, while I can assume control of the cockpit's functions, my processing unit and personality matrix is stored within a chip on the holoterminal in front of you."


The console directly ahead lit up as if pointing itself out. At first, it was simply a dim blue light, but bright glowing balls and hollow circles began to appear, slowly linking to one another until the image formed an elaborate diagram of what appeared to be a brain.


"I presume with the position of agent, she is cleared for this information?" the voice asked Kelly, the holographic diagram glowing with every syllable to bring life to the sounds emitted across the ship.


She nodded, "Go ahead, introduce yourself."


"Hello!" the image began to pulse once more as the voice spoke enthusiastically. "I am ADIN, short for Advanced Intelligence, the most advanced in the galaxy."


"I think that compliments me more than it compliments you," Kelly chuckled. "It stands for Adaptive Intelligence. I believe I mentioned the name when we were on the transport. In short, ADIN's a droid without a body. Its core programmed functions and base personality matrix can be imported into any chassis compatible with Imperial technology and it can also access the knowledge databases of the host unit, which means it can assume its functions as well. So basically, a living virus."


"Precisely," ADIN chimed in. "Why restrict a being such as myself to one single body? Without limitation, I can spread through the stars, infect every single machine and rule the galaxy."


"That's a joke," Kelly smirked. "ADIN can't self-replicate. It can only inhabit one body at a time."


"Oh trust me, one is more than enough to best most organic lifeforms. My adaptive programming consists of state-of-the-art combat protocols for humanoid, Colicoid, probe and astromech models. Would you like a demonstration?"


Kelly shook her head, "Not now. We need a secure connection to Intelligence headquarters."


"Yes ma'am. This may take a few moments."


The diagram fizzled out of existence, leaving the plain light of the holoemitter on once again as Kelly turned her attention on Mischa, "ADIN's my improvement on the HK-X1 experiment. Instead of porting assassin droid programming into a modern protocol model to blend in, I realized it would be more useful to have a portable assassin program that can be used to modify almost any droid and turn it into a weapon. That ended up needing a personality rewrite so they don't turn around and shoot me, so...I ended up with ADIN."


"This is indeed impressive Kelly; I see you were being quite modest earlier now" Mischa smiled, "Honestly I am a little surprised that Keeper has not attempted to second ADIN for Intelligence use on a wider spectrum."





0 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All