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"Perfect Square Act III" Pt. 3


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

 

"Oh my!" Mischa proclaimed, "and I thought Imperial Academies were tough... I- I'm sorry about your friend, that's rough" she trailed off as they continued through the spaceport beyond the customs check, figuring they were headed to a rendezvous point with Kelly and the other trooper.


Kelly and the human soldier were indeed waiting for them further down the hall. While Kelly gave Mischa a friendly smile and waved her over, the other woman gave her colleague a stern stare as she stepped up to him, her armoured boots clanking against the floor with every step. "Private," she nodded to Mischa's duffel bag, currently in the hands of the Twi'lek. "Why are you holding that?" "She was carrying too much, sir. I just wanted-" he began to reply before his superior cut him off. "Are we security escorts or slaves?" "I-I'm a soldier of the Republic," the Twi'lek stammered slightly. "That's right." The woman moved with the lightning-fast reflexes of a warrior who was not just well-trained, but highly experienced as well. One moment, her hand was by her side, the next it darted to her fellow soldier's hip, gripping the hilt of the vibroknife sheathed there. In one fluid motion she drew the weapon and pressed it against the Twi'lek's neck. He dropped the bag instantaneously, the shock propelling him a step back, but the Sergeant merely extended her arm, the tip of the blade still pointed at his throat. "A soldier of the Republic should've been ready to defend against that," she continued to speak at the stunned Private. "I could've killed you right there. They could've killed you. You let your guard down, that's the moment you get your throat slit open. A real soldier carries a rifle, not somebody else's luggage." "Yes sir, Sergeant!" The Sergeant stared at him for another moment before she bent over, picking up the bag he had left on the floor and handing it back to Mischa, "Your ride's waiting outside to take you to the hotel."


As much as Mischa wanted to put the Sergeant in her place, she knew that doing so would risk blowing her cover. Instead she meekly took the bag and - with emphasized effort on the struggle - hoisted it back over her shoulder while juggling all her other items, "I- I'm sorry, he was j- just being helpful" she stuttered; equally meekly as she averted her gaze from the harsh stare of the trooper. With a brief glance to Kelly, she fell into pace with their escort and found a brief opening of eye contact from the Twi'lek to offer a sympathetic smile a silently mouth "sorry".


The Twi'lek trooper hung his head in shame as he walked after them. He gave Mischa a slight smile but quickly resumed his position as his superior glanced back and motioned for them all to move along. As they made their way out of the spaceport, the Sergeant handed the vibroknife back, and the younger soldier quietly sheathed it without further comment. They soon reached a speeder pad where the female trooper flashed her ID at a droid directing the traffic. It pointed her to a comfortable four-seater car with extra cargo space in the rear where Mischa could place her bags. There was no driver's seat as the craft was an automated taxi speeder, albeit a fancy, high-class one. The two troopers slid into the forward seats, leaving the ones in the back for their foreign visitors. The characteristic skyscrapers of Coruscant flanked them on all sides, towering spikes of metal so gargantuan that it was hard to believe they were constructed, and that the surface of this world was once very different. At the same time however, signs of their construction were visible all around them- every once in a while they could see a building under repairs from the damage caused by the Imperial attack.

"So, what should I call you aside from 'security?'" Kelly opened idle conversation on the ride by posing a question.


"I'm Private Chane," the Twi'lek replied. "And that's Sergeant-"


"Sergeant is all you need," his superior officer interrupted him, shutting down the conversation. "We're not here to make friends, Private."


"Formality is not exactly a foreign concept us" Mischa chimed in - seizing every opportunity to align with the young private and continue bringing him into favour, "But if we are to be spending so much time together during our visit here, it surely does not hurt to keep things friendly?" She suggested, keeping an eye on the private to offer a supportive smile. Her gaze drifted towards the Sergeant, "You fought during the battle of Coruscant didn't you... I know this must make our presence here difficult, but you do understand that neither Ms. Haron or myself were party to that. We are simply here to participate in the conference."


"I know," the Sergeant nodded. "And our job is as much to keep an eye on you as it is to protect you from any angry citizens on Coruscant. Those are my orders, and I'll carry them out to the fullest of my ability. My experiences in the war have nothing to do with that." Their surroundings darkened slightly as they entered a massive building, though the passage they went through was still well illuminated by several advertisements holos and directional signs as well as the lights of other speeders around them. Kelly looked around to enjoy the view, while the Twi'lek glanced back and forth a little confused before he leaned forward and examined the taxi's terminal. "Don't worry, your hotel's in the upper levels of the city," the trooper finally said. "We're just passing through a tunnel." "Are the lower levels really as dangerous as they say?" Kelly inquired. "Oh, yeah," the Twi'lek affirmed. "Worse now after the damage of the war. You ever been to Nar Shaddaa?" Kelly replied with a quick nod. "That's pretty much what it's like down there. I don't suggest going there, even with us around it's probably not safe."


"Good to know" Mischa said with a flash of an appreciative smile while nudging her glasses back up on the bridge of her nose, "Though I don't imagine our business here will afford much opportunity for sightseeing, it is nice to know the places to avoid should we get any such opportunity" she said throwing a somewhat hopeful and optimistic glance Kelly's way.


"Certainly," Kelly agreed. "I don't see any reason for us to head down to the lower levels, so we should be fine. Thanks for the information."

Just as the Twi'lek promised, they emerged from the tunnel into the sunlight, turning into another skylane before their speeder finally came to its destination, a skyscraper with a massive holographic sign in Aurebesh letters reading 'NOVOS LUXURY HOTEL.' Smaller words on the side of the building informed them which landing pads were for guests, and they touched down on the nearest one. The troopers stepped out first, leading the way into the hotel's lobby.


"I'll go speak with the front desk," the Sergeant stated. "Stay with them, Private."


She approached the counter, taking a datapad and sliding it over. After some inaudible dialogue, one of the receptionists stepped aside and spoke to the trooper in the corner of the room, allowing an impatient pair of Muun behind them to check into their room. The Sergeant continued to converse with the receptionist for a few moments before returning to the rest of the group.


"Your room number's written on here," she handed Kelly a keycard. "This'll also let you access the gym, the pools, the restaurant, all the fancies. You can go there whenever you like, but you don't leave hotel property without us. They've programmed our comm frequency into your room's communicator, so you call us when you want to head out and we should arrive within fifteen minutes. Understood?"


"Absolutely" Mischa nodded, "Thank you for the assistance. Your courtesy to out of state visitors should be commended to your senior officer" she smiled, clearly directing the praise at the Twi'lek before turning to Kelly, "If it pleases, Ms. Haron; I will see our things to the room and do what I can to get things settled in there for you"

"That sounds good. I'll make some calls, see to it that our droids arrive intact," Kelly said as she gave the keycard over to Mischa. "Take our things and set it up, you know how I like it." Mischa would find their room at the top floor of the hotel. It was by no means the tallest building on Coruscant, but it was tall enough that at this level it afforded a clear view of the surrounding cityscape. From up here, the planet was both busy and serene; being the biggest capital world in the galaxy its skies were filled with never-ending lines of speeders, yet despite the chaos of a trillion inhabitants its tall, sleek towers radiated a beauty and elegance that was a dramatic contrast to the uniform Imperial architecture and lightning storms that covered Kaas City. The room itself was without a doubt designed for luxury; aside from the grand windows, well-trimmed potted plants, modernist paintings and fish tanks decorated the large space. Stylish chandeliers hung from the ceiling, and though it was not night they were turned on, shining like crystals glimmering in the sunlight. A circular dome opened up the roof to the sky, allowing even more illumination to stream in during the daytime. It was not just the aesthetics that were impressive; for utilities the hotel provided a more comfortable variant of everything that was needed.

The furniture was all quality material, the computer terminals were ergonomic and the bathroom possessed both a simple shower (which was already wider than what Kelly had on her ship) as well as classy bathtub fully stocked with fragrant soaps and perfumes.


Mischa allowed herself an impressed smile as she took in the room. Dropping their bags next to one of the sofa's near the centre, she casually worked her way around the suite; inspecting the decor, testing the facilities, admiring the view and so on. Of course, while this would appear to be the casual inspection of a new corporate visitor to the suite, Mischa was in fact conducting a systematic high level security scan so that she could identify any audio bugs or surveillance equipment, capturing any findings silently on a datapad which she could present to Kelly and make her aware of the situation without blowing any cover initially.


With her surveillance sweep complete, Mischa proceeded to take their bags and unpack them into the suites storage lockers & secure lockboxes. Satisfied that she had fulfilled both her cover and her true objectives for settling in, she decided to indulge in the amenities of the suite and ran herself a luxurious scented bubble bath where she could truly relax and wait while Kelly took care of business with the droids.


Having prepared the perfumed bubbles to her own elegant tastes and swapping out her corporate attire for a fluffy white robe, Mischa smiled as she basked in the opulence of her surroundings - a rare indulgence for any in their line of work. Climbing the few steps up to the raised platform which housed the inset bath, she admired the view of the Coruscant skyline beyond the window - for which the bath was perfectly aligned for it's user to enjoy - slipping the robe off her shoulders to drop casually to the floor as she slipped into the fragrant water, "mmm.... now this is a level of assignment one could get used to..." she mused happily to herself as she immersed herself in the bubbles.


As she enjoyed the amenities of the bathtub, a doorbell rang through the room followed by Kelly's voice, "Jana, are you in there? You've got the only key, so I may need you to open the door for me..."


Once Mischa reached the control panel, the door slid open and Kelly stepped inside, still wearing the corporate uniform she had the whole time. She was not alone as expected, and a small grey astromech droid trailed in after her, giving a series of chirps and whistles as its head spun around to scan the area. Unlike the X2 model common in the Empire, this droid's head was not conical with a flat top, but a circular design more akin to Republic astromechs. However, it stood apart from those as well, with the head terminating in a wide dish antenna, making it somewhat of a misshapen backwards dome as if it were a parody of Duwani's T7 series.


"I thought I'd activate one of our models to help out with the logistical stuff," Kelly explained. "So, meet I1-P2! I'm not sure if you're familiar with it; our Eye series isn't on the public market, but it's very popular with Ziost's law enforcement troops, especially their cyber-crimes division. It's the best astromech I brought, not the most useful assistant...but that's why I have you around!"


Mischa smiled, still tying the fluffy white robe around herself fully as she had simply wrapped it when first exiting the bathroom to answer the door, "He's a rare little fellow indeed, Ms. Haron!" she replied, crossing the room to retrieve the datapad where she had recorded her surveillance findings and handing it to Kelly, "You'll be pleased to know that everything has been setup just how you like it" she added, handing the datapad to Kelly.


"Thank you so much, Jana!" Kelly smiled back appreciatively as she took the datapad.


She scrolled through the device for a moment, reading through its contents. Then she glanced around the room, seemingly admiring the decor and checking out the fish tanks and computer terminals, though she was actually examining the locations and angles of the cameras Mischa had pinpointed. Once that was done, she chose a spot on the edge of the bed and sat down, her body blocking any shot of the datapad as she started to type on it.


When she had finished, she handed the datapad back and left to change, leaving Mischa with the message which said: "The SIS and Shadow Guard are definitely keeping an eye on whatever we do through the hotel's HoloNet, but we get a private connection via the droid. Remember what I said about cyber-crimes? This model's not just good at preventing them, its equipment can just as easily carry them out. It's got the ADIN chip right now of course, so you should find its slicing subroutines very handy."


Mischa took the datapad and sat down on one of sofa's, tucking her feet up under herself as she snuggled in the corner with the luxurious robe wrapped around her. Sat comfortably she began to work at a leisurely pace on the datapad and continued for some time while Kelly was changing. Once satisfied with her work, she called the droid over. ADIN arrived with an inquisitive chirp, "I have finalized your itinerary for the show" Mischa explained with a flash of the datapad, "I am also trusting you to keep an eye on our security while we sleep; we saw earlier that we are not very welcome here and so must keep safe" The droid gave an affirmative chirp and opened an access port to receive the datapad. Mischa leaned over to insert it, not wanting to sacrifice her comfortable coccoon of fluffiness. Upon accessing the datapad, ADIN received encoded instructions to begin a remote slice if the SIS databanks regarding the recent crime spree and report back with his findings in the morning, under the maintained rouse of monitoring security in the suite


The night came and went without incident, and when the sun had risen for an hour, the astromech droid that previously sat quietly in the room began to beep loudly. Once the occupants of the room had been roused, it remained silent for a few moments to allow its masters to wake fully. After Mischa had gotten out of bed, ADIN rolled over to her, a datapad attached to its access port.


As instructed, ADIN had sliced into several SIS systems and the device contained an organized compilation of information that had been retrieved. Much to Mischa's dismay, she would realize that there was little more than the local investigation reports that Laesa had already dug up. There were several side notes on the Corellia case that indicated the SIS had some suspicion about the deceased, but aside from that it seemed the Republic spy organization was almost entirely unaware of what was going on here. Of course, ADIN could not bypass the hardest security layers, so there could still have been intel locked away, and the droid made that clear in a disclaimer line at the bottom.


There was however, something even more interesting in the technical data just beneath:


Penetration of SIS security extremely difficult without direct connection / advanced equipment.

Access only achieved through backdoor located (with no small amount of fortune) in HoloNet slice.

Backdoor previously employed only 36 Galactic Standard hours before this usage.

Security response in systems accessed through backdoor unusually minimal.

Possibility of another slicer having accessed and altered documentation = Very High

Authenticity of retrieved data = Unknown


Mischa thanked the astromech for a job well done and pocketed the datapad while she set about orgamising some brekfast for herself and Kelly.


When Kelly joined her a short while later, room service had delivered a fitting breakfast which Mischa was already enjoying, "Good morning Ms. Haron, I hope you slept well" she greeted, "I have I-1's report from the night's security watch for you. Though we may need to find a hard connection if we want him to fulfill this duty to maximum efficiency" she added, sliding the datapad across the table for Kelly,


"I did, thank you Jana!" Kelly responded as she lowered herself into a seat opposite Mischa, taking the datapad. She set it beside her plate, reading from the device casually as she ate her breakfast, occasionally moving a hand over to scroll or type. Her food was only half done when she finished, and she slid the datapad over the table.


"Hmm...hard connection you say," she mused. "What kind of connection are we going to need? We'll be heading out to the convention site later today to start setting things up, could we find something on the way or maybe when we're there?"


When Mischa looked to the datapad, it was set to a page meant for writing and its screen displayed a short message: "Could ADIN track down the other slicer who used the backdoor?"


"I would expect there to be something suitable at the convention site" Mischa nodded while tapping away on the datapad, "But we will only know for sure once we get there". She finished up her breakfast and left the table, walking around to Kelly and returning the datapad, "I have your itinerary for the day, if you approve then I will contact our escort to take us to the convention site. Reading the data pad, Kelly would see that her itinerary consisted of the message, "hardwire might allow it but uncertain. Field trip may be needed to access at the source"


"Looks good," Kelly nodded after reading through the datapad once again. "Might I suggest this one change?"


She slid the device back over the table, and as expected it displayed a new message: "How big of a field trip are we talking about? Are we going to need our new friends off our backs?"


As Mischa read, her partner finished the last bite of her breakfast and stood, giving a passing comment as she took her dish away, "If there's nothing else that needs to be planned, give our guards a call and tell them we'll be waiting for them in the main lobby."


Mischa nodded and pocketed the datapad after clearing the last message, "I'll make the call" she nodded.


A short while later their preparations were made. as the two made their way down to the lobby where their escort should be waiting for them, Mischa nudged her glasses up the bridge of her nose, "Oh by the way Ms. Haron, I did a little research for you and that idea we were looking at for the source data; we will definitely need to do as you suggested. If you like I can make the necessary arrangements, but first I think it would be most prudent to focus our efforts on the convention today"


"Right, we need to get our convention displays set up as soon as we can," Kelly agreed. When they reached the lobby of the hotel, the two troopers had not yet arrived. Kelly sat down on one of the couches there and after a minute of waiting, the familiar shapes of two white armoured individuals stepped in and beckoned for them to follow. They led the way to a speeder, the same four-person taxi model; it would appear to be the same car if not for the numbers on it side that designated it as a different vehicle belonging to that taxi service. "We're going to need to take the droids," stated Kelly as she glanced over their ride. "Your assistant mentioned you were going to the convention site," the Sergeant replied. "The hauler should be here soon. If you want to see to the droids personally..." "I do," Kelly confirmed before she could finish. "Could the Private take Jana and the astromech there first to take a look around the place?" "Thought you'd say that. Private, go on ahead. Keep a good eye on the droid, and don't play assistant again." "Yes sir," the Twi'lek slid into one of the front seats of the car, keying in their destination as Mischa and ADIN boarded.


Once ADIN was secured in the back, Mischa slid into the back seat alongside him and started shuffling through all her notes briefly before setting them down on the seat between her and the astromech - satisfied that everything was in order, she sat back crossing one leg over and staring out at the Coruscant skyline whizzing by. She sat for a few minutes before looking to the Private, "I hope you didn't get in any trouble just for being kind to me yesterday. I'd feel just terrible if you were made to suffer for it! I... I feel like I should do something to make it up to you" she said with an obvious nervous disposition as she wringed her finely manicured hands together and her cheeks flushed; a deliberate use of subtle body language to display an interest in the young Private. To complete the effect she slid her crossed leg up to get more comfortable and 'inadvertently' show more of her thigh should the Twi'lek turn to reply.


"Oh no, don't worry about it, I was just...being a silly kid trying to do the right thing," the Twi'lek shook his head, glancing to Mischa as he responded to her. The movement swung his eyes by Mischa's exposed skin and his gaze lingered for just a moment too long and their speeder charged ahead at the vehicle in front of them which was just slowing down to make a turn. Reacting quickly, the trooper stopped the vehicle in time, albeit with a rather heavy jerk. This sudden halt forced the speeder cars behind them to do the same, resulting in a chorus of loud honks and beeps from frustrated drivers. "Sorry!" the Private shouted, first at those around him but when he realized that they could not hear him above the traffic, he lowered his voice and turned back to Mischa, his cheeks flushed a dark green, "Sorry, I didn't mean to...I hope that wasn't, uhh...you alright?


Mischa smiled back sweetly, "I- I'm fine" she affirmed while leaning forward to retrieve all of the datapads which had been propelled forward off the seat, "Just a little shake up!" She added, nudging the glasses back up her nose before tucking her hair back behind her ear as she set the datapads back. As they began moving again and all was settled, she looked again to the Private, " And I don't care what your mean Sergeant says; you were nothing short of being a true gentleman yesterday - a trait far too rare in these uncertain times between our people. Honestly I don't know how you put up with it!" She trailed off clearly implying the comment as thinking aloud but also letting it hang as bait for the Private to respond to.


"Thanks, I guess," the Twi'lek trooper replied, slowing down their speeder for another turn. "They say the Sarge is like an Imperial drill sergeant, especially with rookies. I've been told people in the Empire aren't too nice, I mean...I don't mean to presume or anything; what we hear is probably a little biased. But do you, you know, get treated poorly back home?"


"There is no denying that life in service of the Empire can be... unforgiving. But I was fortunate enough to have possessed the right family connections that I could get out sooner rather than later and take the position with Haron Inc." She smiles thoughtfully, "I suppose both sides tend to tell horror stories of one another though. For example I am pleased to report that you are far more pleasant than my old instructors would have had me believe!"


"I think our government's a little more, uhh...forgiving. But life in the Republic isn't always great either," the Private admitted. "Definitely not if you're the little guy, but I suppose that's true for just about anywhere. What exactly do your instructors say about us?"


"Oh, you know... t- the usual slander about 'Pub drones and Jedi Zealots; like I said though it is one's own opinion which truly matters and, your Sergeant not withstanding, I must confess to being pleasantly surprised by Republic hospitality" she replied offering another sweet smile


"The people you've met, hotel staff and all, they've been trained to act professional," explained the Twi'lek. "I'm sure lots of them are nice people off duty as well, but if you go deeper into Coruscant into the older markets and lower residences, there's going to be a lot of people that won't be shy about hating you just because you're an Imperial. The locals here have lost a lot during the invasion, and so have most people in the military, like the Sergeant. That's why I'm- why we're being assigned to you. Make sure you don't cause any trouble, yeah, but you don't look like the type to; I'm more keeping my eye out for anyone here that wants to cause trouble for you." He slowed their vehicle again, pulling it to the side for a turn, though this time he did not accelerate after the movement. This meant only one thing- they had reached their destination. They had broken off from the main stream of traffic and were heading towards not one, but two towers currently conjoined by a skybridge. Both were of the same design, being tall, pillar like structures, but while the building on their left stretched up towards the sky, the one on the right stopped at the height of the bridge. As they drew closer, it became clear that this was not an aesthetic choice and was instead due to construction (or possibly reconstruction) work being done on the second tower.