Era of Rebellion - Navigation

D. Wade Hyde and Christopher Levy.
Zero years after the Battle of Yavin (35:8:33) in the Essesia system: Esseles (The Void).
El-Nay Darr, Tosha Previn, Tycho Starlight, and Major Min Traebor.

The Imperial Troop Transport lumbered up the mountains of Esseles northernmost continent for what seemed like hours. El-Nay Darr was at the controls of the speeder, her eyes alternating between the terrain, and the central control panel on which a blip flashed repeatedly. North ... always north. "I don't think there's anything out here, Tycho. I think the Black Sun is having a laugh..." she said, her wound on her head healed somewhat, and the ringing in her ears from the concussion sustained in the crash and amplified by close proximity to the flash grenade bringing to fade. Her hands had been at the controls so long that they were beginning to ache, until finally she could make out what looked to be an opening in a vulcanized mountain. "I have a bad feeling about this," she said not just to Tycho, but also to herself, as she hit the accelerate and sent the speeder towards the darkened opening in the mountain.

Tycho had been watching her closely, worried because of El-Nay's blow to the head. He'd had to let her drive, for he was unfamiliar with the vehicle. After a while, though, he let his guard down and relaxed. He'd check on her occasionally, of course, but she was doing just fine. He then gave way to boredom, until they were growing close. Then, he became more alert. "No ... the Black Sun are professionals," he said, "they don't play pranks. Somebody's gonna meet us here." When he saw the cave he leaned in closer to the windshield. He agreed with her assessment. There was no way he was going in that cave if he could help it. "Stop about ten meters away."

El-Nay silently nodded to Tycho, as she maneuvered the Imperial Troop Transport carefully towards the opening. As they drew closer it was clearly a manmade structure, but it was not illuminated in any way. It was large enough to accommodate their speeder ... several in fact, but she applied the break when they reached the designated ten meters. Setting the engine to idle, she let out a deep sigh, before turning her head to face him. "So ... now what?" she asked, blinking her steely gray eyes at him several times, as she anticipated his response.

"Now, my young lady, I take a walk to see if I can find trouble while you look after the merchandise. And we're gonna have to talk about that armor. The orange has got to go. You stand out like a beacon." With that, he hopped out of the speeder and headed toward the cave, ducking off into the darkness. He used what cover there was as he slipped around in a wide course that curved up to the mountainside. He didn't know what was going on here, but it stunk. Tycho took in a deep breath and drew upon the strange power that he had learned of. He reached out with his senses as far as he could, feeling the thrum of El-Nay's life force, where the energy of the universe flowed through it. He focused around him, trying to find other presences so that he could see if anyone was waiting for him. On the upside, if he did feel someone, he could always try to hone in on their emotions and see if that might help him determine if something was wrong. The problem was, there was no one there.

There was no way El-Nay was going to change the color of her armor. In her culture the color orange represented her shereshoy, or lust for life, and she had applied the color personally to symbolize this. If Tycho were not an 'aruetyc' he would have known that, but this was not the time for her to get into an argument about Mandalorian culture and heritage. She leaned forward in the speeder, as if the few inches she moved forward would somehow give her a better view of Tycho and the opening in the mountain. "What's the plan, boss?" she asked over the comm, her fingers nervously tapping on the control panel in front of her. She definitely needed a cigarra, she thought to herself, as she began to rhythmically tap out a Corellian ditty to relax herself.

"Scouting the area, but there doesn't seem to be anyone in the immediate vicinity," he said. "Doesn't feel right, though. Don't even hear any animals. Do you?" Of course, it wasn't actually *hearing* he was talking about, but he wasn't about to explain his extrasensory thingy. He skirted closer to the cave entrance and peered inside. Darkness. Finally, he leaned back away from the opening and sighed. "All right, bring the speeder up," he said. "Make sure the lights are on high setting." He waited for her to arrive, then climbed back into the speeder. He got his rifle ready to start blasting people if need be.

"Tycho, sometimes I worry about your senses," El-Nay said, surprised that he wanted to take the transport into the opening. She still thought they should check the cargo, and perhaps run off with it if there was any value to be had in it. Her hand reached to the control panel above her, and she toggled the switch that activated all of the external lights on the transport. As she hit the accelerator she crossed the threshold into the opening, and as they moved forward the lights revealed that it was not a cave at all, but instead a massive hangar bay that had been carved deep inside of the mountain. Unfortunately for them, it was clearly of Imperial design, and after they had entered the opening sealed behind them. Before she could react, there was a loud hum and a bolt of ion energy was released, disabling the speeder. All of the internal systems went dead, the external lights failed shrouding them in darkness, and finally, the repulsors deactivated causing the transport to fall to the surface of the hangar with a loud *clank* of durasteel on durasteel.

The merc wasn't sure what to think about that comment, so he said nothing. He leaned out of the speeder, blaster at the ready, and watched for trouble. The moment the doors behind them sealed, he knew everything had gone very bad. A hidden Imperial base? There was a blast of energy and circuits fried, dropping them to the ground. He vaulted out of the machine and ducked down to find cover. He toggled an option on the computer screen in his gauntlet and his helmet viewscreen went to night vision. He might not have used targeting systems like El-Nay, but his helmet did have some useful options. He spotted the turret in the ceiling that had disabled the vehicle and fired three precise shots, disabling it with a little explosion of shrapnel and electrical disturbance. "We need to get the fuck out of here," he said, stating the obvious.

El-Nay Darr was jarred slightly as the transport crashed on the deck, but as it had been her most pleasant of crashes this week she did not seem to mind. In an instant her orange helmet was back upon her head, and she had moved from the cockpit to the exterior of the speeder. Her left hand swung above her head to bring her targeting scanner down, while her right hand gripped the handle of her heavy blaster pistol. The darkness had no effect on her targeting scanner, but there was nothing for her to target. "I got nothing, boss," she informed him from beneath her helmet, as she spun herself in a 360-degree turn to see if she could glimpse anything. Her heart was racing, her breathing was become erratic, and a great unease soon filled her. She felt she had driven right into a trap and this would surely be the end of her.

The sound of clapping filled the darkness. It was not of boisterous applause, but rather that of a single person clapping slowly. Next a light appeared in the ceiling of the structure and cast down upon a large holoemitter. An instant later the blue, flickering image of Tosha Previn appeared to the duo, who was slowly applauding the for their efforts in a mock gesture. "Welcome to Esseles," she said, teasing them, before offering a polite nod of her head. "Now, where are my crates?" she asked, knowing they had them, but still going through the motions. Her arms folded in front of her low cut dress, while her foot tapped impatiently. "I'm waiting..." she whined, as she mockingly checked the nonexistent chrono on her wrist.

Tycho's eyes narrowed. "You know full well that they're here," he said. "I'm upholding my end of the bargain. I don't suspect you intend to uphold your's. Why don't you just give us our credits and we'll leave this here. We can end on good terms." The mercenary reached out with his senses, as he had been training himself to, but sensed nothing but himself and El-Nay. There was no other life here. Droids? Maybe. There was no way to know. He spoke over the internal comms in his and the Mandalorian girl's helmets. "I don't think anyone else is here, but we're going to have to find a way out in case someone's coming."

El-Nay was none to pleased to see the image of the Black Sun agent who had ordered her beating, and a shiver of dread went down her spine. "Let's give her the shit and get outta here," she insisted as she moved to the rear of the transport. Her hand moved to the controls that activated the emergency release, and with a small blast the cargo door fell open. Grabbing hold of one of the crates, she began to pull it as best she could, but found some difficulty in doing it alone. "You gonna make me do this by myself?" she asked Tycho, before falling to the ground once the first crate spilled out of the rear of the transport.

"Hold it," he told her, holding up a hand, while the other arm cradled his rifle. "This transport isn't going anywhere ... it's dead. Leave the crates with it and let's get out on foot." He paused and looked at the holoimage again. He scowled behind the visor of his helmet. Though he couldn't be seen, it carried through in his voice. "Pay us and we'll leave your stuff here. I'd hate for your cargo to get destroyed." Tycho reached down to his belt and came out with a thermal detonator, holding it up to show the image.

Tosha was incensed when she saw the mercenary produce the thermal detonator, and glowered at him through the flickering image. "Open the crate, and you'll get paid," she informed him, offering a firm nod of her head. "You came a long way to deliver these two crates. Across two star systems," she informed him, as she had been monitoring their progress the entire way with assistant from her 'friends' in Imperial Intelligence who helped construct this facility. "If you want to get paid and get on with your budding romance, then open the crate," she instructed, speaking in a deliberate voice, before tilting her head to the right to examine the man and await his next move.

Tycho said nothing to her remark about the budding romance, finding it rather annoying. He put the thermal detonator away, reached into a pouch, and brought out a scanning device. He tossed it to El-Nay. "Scan those crates ... see what you can find out," he said. "Adjust the intensity and wavelength enough you should be able to scan through the crates. I'm not opening those until I know they aren't gonna kill us when we do." He looked back at the hologram of his employer. "I don't like the way you do business, lady."

El-Nay caught the scanner and went to work examining the crates. "Nothing organic, boss," she said, as she moved towards the other one to confirm her findings. "Nothing explosive either. Nothing with a power cell. Nothing with a fuel cell," she continued, running down a list of things that it was not, but still having no clue what it might be. "It looks like each crate contains 50 small objects, but I can't tell without opening it," she said, before putting the scanner down, and eyeballing the holographic image from beneath her helmet.

"That's why they call it work, Mister Starlight," Tosha said, growing increasingly impatient with the delaying tactics. "I pay you to do things you don't like doing. Then you have the credits to do the things you want to do. It is the way our society is built," she said, going on a capitalist rant, before catching herself and stopping. "Yes. I can assure you that *you* won't be killed when you open the crates. But, I can assure you the hangar door will remain sealed until you do. Thermal detonator or no thermal detonator," she added with a snicker, as she evaluated the man, studying his speech, his mannerisms, his tactics ... everything about him.

Tycho found himself glad that he hadn't slept with the dirty bitch. Thanks for that El-Nay. He didn't trust the woman as far as he could throw her, which was to say not at all, since he couldn't pick up a holographic image. He didn't like that she was throwing in a surprise. It wasn't good business. On the other side, however, if he didn't comply, they'd be trapped her. Even if he could blow open the door with the thermal detonator, he'd still bring down the ire of the Black Sun, and probably the Empire too. "Open one of the crates, kid," he told El-Nay.

El-Nay dropped to one knee next to the crate that she had pulled from the crash transport, and began to work on opening the magnetically sealed crate. "We should have done this earlier," she muttered at Tycho, before managing to break the seal that opened it. The lid of the crate flew open and a cloud of harmless mist began to flow from it, caused by the buildup of condensation. When it cleared, El-Nay was a bit confused by what she saw. She reached into the crate and pulled out one of the small items and examined it to confirm her suspicions. "Oh, you're not going to believe this," she said, in complete irritation, before throwing the item towards Tycho. It was a 100-credit chit. They had been carrying nothing but their payment the entire time.

"Hindsight is 20/20, doll," he told her, but nonetheless felt that she had been right in this instance. He waited, feeling a bit of anxiety as El-Nay opened the crate. When he caught the chit and looked it over, there was confusion, yet more suspicion. "So if we've been carrying our payment, what the hell has been the job this whole time?" He asked, almost afraid to hear the answer.

Tosha laughed at their surprised reactions, and almost immediately resumed clapping slowly in amusement. "You know. No matter how many times I see this, it never gets old..." she mused, a wide grin on her lips, before her tongue slithered out from her mouth and ran across them like a predator. "The point, as you are too obtuse to realize, is to test you. To gauge your methodology. To see if you can be trusted. This was a test, and you have passed. You have been paid the agreed upon amount and *you* may go," she said, speaking to Tycho, as she raised her arms in a mock gesture of victory.

Slowly, he turned to look at El-Nay. Was Tosha saying what he thought she was? Did she mean to keep El-Nay? "*I* may go?" He repeated. "And what of her?" He nodded his head in the direction of El-Nay. Something felt wrong. It suddenly struck him. There were people, and a sudden feeling of dread. This whole thing had been an ambush for El-Nay? But why? He moved back to join El-Nay, grabbed her roughly by her shoulder and shoved her toward the cargo compartment. "Get inside, girl!"

El-Nay did not understand the intended meaning of Tosha's statements, and therefore became visibly confused by Tycho's reaction. "She said we could take the money and go. She said we passed. I don't get it..." she said, tilting her T-shaped visor in his direction, as she attempted to understand what was going on here. "Get in the transport?" she asked, sounding even more confused, before ultimately believing he meant the other crate of credits. "Oh. Yeah. The other five grand!" she said cheerfully, turning on the heels of her boots to move back inside the transport to work on the other crate.

"Her? I didn't hire her..." Tosha told Tycho, as a laugh begin to build deep inside her belly before erupting from her mouth in boisterous laughter. "Oh don't tell me you have feelings for her. Isn't that just perfect?" she said, bringing up her right index finger to wag at him, as if to say 'naughty, naughty'. "After the incident at The Speakeasy I did a little checking on her, and it turns out my benefactor has been looking for her. Thank you so much for bringing here safely. I feared when we gave up your shuttle to the command ship she might have been killed," and with that, her faux sweet demeanor vanished, and a serious look came upon her face, as she clapped one final time.

In that moment a large blast door opened and scores of Imperial Stormtroopers clad in their white armor began to enter the hanger. There were too many count, and they were armed in a variety of configurations, with some relying on the standard E-11, while others were configured with the T-21 repeating blaster. In their company were a series of battle droids, relics of the Clone Wars, that had been saved away by the Neimoidian who ruled the oversector as Vigo for the Black Sun. Leading them all was a woman with striking feminine features, raven black hair that covered half of her face, and an olive-grey uniform that indicated she held the relatively high rank of Major. She was Min Traebor of Military Intelligence, who had collaborated in secret with the Black Sun on this facility to check the growing power of her rivals in the ISB. After meeting El-Nay Darr aboard the command ship she had taken special interest in the young woman. Not because of any particular skill set or importance, but because of some unexpected information that she alone had accidentally come in possession of. "Leave us," she ordered to Tycho, as in unison nearly three dozen blasters of different varieties were aimed at the man.

Tycho had managed to get El-Nay into the back of the thing and his hand was resting on his thermal detonator. He'd figured that if he could throw that into the enemy crowd and get inside and close the door in time, things would work out. They didn't. He simply didn't have the time and they had the numbers and surprise advantage. He could walk away. He *had* to walk away. He held up his hands and backed away from the transport. "You got it, boss," he said. "Listen... I'm gonna need a way to get my crates out of here..." He paused, then just waved that away. "I'll let you talk. I'll just be outside, Major." He did just that, leaving the hangar and moving a respectable distance away. He found a lower ranking officer who didn't seem to be up to much. "Hey... excuse me. I don't want to get in the way, but will you guys be able to give me and my cargo a ride to wherever you're going?"

Four Stormtroopers moved forward from the company, and moved into the rear compartment of the transport where El-Nay had been temporarily stowed. A moment later they had dragged her out, kicking and screaming, before throwing her unceremoniously to the ground below. "Ungh," she groaned from beneath her helmet as she roughly impacted on the ground, putting her hands down in front of her in order to push up and get a better look at what was going on. The lights in the hangar activated giving her a full view of the company of Stormtroopers and battle droids, and the Imperial officer that she recognized from somewhere, but could not quite place. A moment later she felt herself being grabbed, and forced onto her knees in front of the woman, but before she could regain her balance the helmet was ripped from her head revealing the scattered and bruised face below.

Min stepped forward towards El-Nay slowly, and seductively brought her left hand to her mouth where she bit at the gloved finger and slowly pulled the glove off. She knelt down in front of El-Nay and with that exposed finger she gradually ran it across her face, taking delight as she squirmed in the grasp of the Stormtroopers. "What did we tell you about leaving the area?" she asked, nodding her head directly in front of the young girl's face. "Don't leave. But you just couldn't help yourself, could you? And what has it gotten you? You should see yourself," she said, as she raised herself back up, so that she was now towering over the girl. She turned her back to El-Nay and pulled a small, saucer like item from her pocket, before dramatically moving back towards the Mandalorian. A moment later it was placed directly in front of her face, causing El-Nay to squirm harder and attempt to pull away. It was only then that she activated the device and projected a stationary holoimage of a figure in distinct black armor. "I believe you know this man. I believe you've had recent contact with this man. I *want* this man," she snarled, each statement coming faster than the last. "Your life for his. Math so simple even a Corellian should understand. Because that's who you *really* are, aren't you?" she asked, mockingly, before clutching away the holoemitter.

El-Nay's rage at the situation was eclipsed by the anger she felt towards the man in the holoimage. "Yeah. I know him," she said, angrily, glowering at the image with a sense of anger she had not before exhibited. He was the first male bounty hunter she had ever worked with, and he had screwed her out of a bounty well ... by screwing her. She had reconnected with him in the sector to pursue the highest bounty of her career, only to seemingly be cut out of the deal yet again after they had captured the target. She would love to have revenge against the man, but she had long since put it out of her mind. "He's better than me," she said, coldly, as she looked up at the woman. "I'd kill him without remorse, but I wouldn't stand a chan-" she said, before being interrupted by a surge of electrical energy. One of the Stormtroopers had applied a stun baton to her neck, causing a flow of energy into her body causing her to spasm without control, and once again urinate upon herself, until she ultimately collapsed into the arms of the Stormtroopers unconscious.

"Let this be a lesson to you, boys. The power of positive energy!" Min said to the Stormtroopers, making an awful pun. "This little girl was just being too negative, and look what it got her," she said, before once again dropping to a knee in front of the disabled girl. She took her exposed hand and grabbed at her face, clawing it until her lips were pursed together. Min then moved her own head in close pressing her lips to El-Nay's, and gently sliding her tongue into her mouth. She then produced a small datadisk from her pocket containing all of Intel and Black Sun's combined information on the bounty hunter, and placed it into the girl's belt. As she rose the Stormtroopers released the Mandalorian, causing her unconscious body to fall to the ground. Eventually the Stormtroopers moved out of the hangar, with the droids flanking them, and Min well secured in the middle. As they passed Tycho they stopped, for the briefest of moments. "You may collect the rest of your payment unhindered. And the girl. She'll need you now more than she knows," the Major said coldly, before they headed towards the shuttle from whence they came.

The officer flat out refused him any kind of transport. That was that. He'd be hoofing it, so he'd have to work out the logistics of packing all those cred chits. Why the hell couldn't it have just been credits digitally uploaded onto a single chit instead of individual ones. They were easier to spend, sure, but a hell of a lot harder to move around. So, he had passed Black Sun's test, but what did the Empire want from El-Nay. Perhaps insultingly, he didn't see anything special about her, really. He could sense fear, elation, cruel amusement, and a number of other things from inside. He thought there was something about another man ... was she being questioned? He frowned deeply, waiting to see what El-Nay's fate would be. He couldn't help her now ... but if she was captured instead of killed, he could try to get her back, on his terms. He waited until finally the female Imperial officer arrived. He gave her a succinct nod, deciding silence was the best answer. Once they were departing in the shuttle, he walked back into the abandoned base and knelt down to check El-Nay. She was out like a light. He spent the next twenty minutes staring at the credits, then at the downed girl. He was trying to work through it in his head how he could come out of this with credits and her. He didn't know how long she'd be out, but her being unconscious with a concussion was a dangerous mix. If he waited for her to wake, it might be a long wait. He had to concern himself with her health, thanks to all the wounds she'd sustained. She needed a doctor, and had before they'd even gotten here. It was either leave her to die, or at least abandon her, and walk away 10,000 richer, or forget the credits and carry her on foot. He didn't like either option. Finally, he stuck a few handfuls of credit chits into his pouches and pockets, then picked the girl up and slung her over his shoulder, groaning and grumbling. "Shouldn't've fucking brought you ... too complicated ... no money..." He grumbled on as he carried her along through the valley. He could only hope she'd wake somewhere along the trip so that he didn't have to carry her the whole way.

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